Art and Positive Thinking

Welcome to my Renee Loves Art blog!

My focus is exploring, creating and reflecting upon the positives of life and connecting them to my art whether it be photography, pen and ink drawings, watercolour paintings, mixed media, digital media or any other possible media I dive into!

I hope you join me on my art adventure!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Life is Positively Full of Changes

This weekend my father in-law celebrated his 80th birthday.  He has seen a lot of changes in his life, a lot of them not so easy to live with, others exciting and new.  It couldn't have been easy for his mom to raise him during the Great Depression, also called the Dirty Thirties.  Money was scarce, food limited and jobs hard to find.  He claims he remembers sleeping in a drawer as a baby.  True or not, it wouldn't have surprised the people who had to make sacrifices at the time.  This time found people saving everything and many people became hoarders of everything from string, old newspapers, empty boxes, old stockings, anything that may become useful in times of adversity.

The next decade he found himself growing up with his father being involved in the war head on in England.  His father had different jobs, but one that my father in-law talks about is his father being an ambulance driver/nurse.  He tells of his dad listening for buzz bombs and the fear he experienced when suddenly the buzzing stopped.  That meant that the bomb was about to hit nearby.  I couldn't imagine that type of stress or fear.  

When his dad returned, things had really changed, and he found himself in a family that had changed.  Bop's parents separated, their differences could no longer be tolerated.  Bop tells of all of the jobs he had. One story is of him being a newspaper boy trying to cross the train tracks that separate downtown, east and west, and jumping the fence and getting caught, literally, after being warned not to by the CPR cop.  He also tells of delivering telegrams in a blizzard that told their families very sad, life changing news.  He also remembers when people would stop and offer him a ride when it was too snowy for him to deliver the telegrams in the snow on bicycle, and he felt safe enough to accept the ride.  Boy have things changed.  Now we would run from anyone who would offer a ride, scared that their intentions are not pure.  

Bop, a nickname we call my father in-law, is a great storyteller and tells of the good times he had playing on the streets of Medicine Hat.  Medicine Hat is full of mighty long hilly roads.  He tells of the times he and his friends would slide down the steep hills on both carts in the summer and toboggans in the winter.  I can imagine them sitting at the top of the hill, looking down, taking a giant deep breath, and then magic would occur.  That feeling in your stomach when you fear the unknown, but can't wait to find out what the adventure will bring.  Dreams of  races to see who could go the farthest, and who would make it to the very bottom alive would fill their heads!  Now we have to almost bribe our youngsters to get outside and play, and our fear of the unknown has lead to very cautious, non-adventurous  indoor lumps.  

Bops also tells of waiting for the ice wagon.  Ice would be delivered to families via a wagon and horse.  The ice would be cut from the river and then put into straw.  The straw would insulate the ice and keep it from melting.  Some families would store the ice in a cellar, while others were lucky to have ice boxes.  Now, we simply have to fill an ice cube tray and pop it into our electric freezers!

He frequently reminds use that in school all got along and there was no bullying. He brags about everyone accepting everyone else, regardless of what they were wearing, or who they were.  He can only remember one fight that was legendary.  The two boys started the fight at the top of the hill at their school and it lasted until they were half way down the hill and ended up at church.  Truth?  Exaggeration?  Whatever it is, he is proud to say that people respected each other and were more tolerant. 

I really have a hard time believing his version of the story, as he grew up during the war and I know full well that many Germans and any other children who happened  to have parents from any of the axis countries didn't get treated that well.  Even people who were born here had difficulties being accepted.  A Metis elder (Metis means she had a Native American mother and a European father)  that I was fortunate enough to have met, told me that when her husband was off fighting in the war, she found herself and four children homeless.  She told of going door to door looking for a home for her family.  As soon as the landlords saw that she was Native and had children, she was told there were no vacancies.  Even though her husband was helping us, she was disrespected.  She had to move her young family and "squat" in a park near the train tracks with many other Metis families.  The people were good enough to grow magnificent gardens for everyone, but not good enough to live in their neighbourhoods!   Perhaps, my father in-law is remembering from a naive child's perspective, wanting to remember the good old days, while things are so wacky throughout the world now and change is even more rapid than when he was a child?

It would be very difficult to accept so many changes in one life time, look at all of the changes in technology in the last ten years?  Imagine how you would feel if you have lived through all of the changes since 1934?
Since Bop is a lover of music, let's take a moment to think about how listening to music has changed since he was a boy...the Victrola wind up record player, listening to am radio, portable record players and transistor radios, jukeboxes, televisions, eight tracks, cassettes, walk-men, cd players, and now computers, MP3 players,  i-Pods, satellites radio, cell phones, ...

Which brings me to the gift below.  What does one get an 80 year old man who welcomes some change, but rejects other change?  Why something from the past of course!  Let's begin with the wrapping paper.  Last Friday we were in Big Sandy, Montana.  There we visit a roadside antique store each year on our way to Great Falls.  In the back of the store, I discovered an old suitcase with many, many Canadian and American maps.  There was a sign that made this woman's heart thud with excitement, "Free Maps! Take as many as you wish!"  Yippee, I am always on the look out for gorgeous maps to use in my art work, so I felt FREE to oblige.  We also spotted a beautiful little record player.  It was in perfect shape and the sound was still good. It was a white/beige colour and it had silvery threads woven in the speaker fabric! Sold!  I can't believe I didn't take a picture of the actual player, but here it is all wrapped.

A glimpse from my new art desk

When we got the record player home, I just had to play my 78 records that I received from my grandma on it.  Oh, how wonderful it was to hear the old time music, static and all.  I had a hard time with the idea that I couldn't keep the little beauty.  When it was time to wrap the record player, I discovered that I didn't have any wrapping paper, what would I use?  I didn't want to use newspaper, as I didn't want to risk getting ink all over the player...What was I going to use.....?  I got it, a map!  Fortunately, I found an American map in my new stash that has the location of the destination of the plane ticket we helped purchase for him!  Tada, instant free wrapping paper! Voila!

Isn't the wrapping paper the coolest thing?  It also matched the hand-painted watercolour card I used.  I just love it when everything accidentally comes together!

On the front of the card I wrote Bop, Happy Birthday, and then attributes that we admire about him!  This is the last remaining card that I made last year.  I will have to make more, these cards have some in so handy for so many occasions.

Since this post is about changes, I thought I would also include my recent entry in my Sketchbook Skool journal.  Our homework was to use coloured pencils to draw an item.  The only coloured pencils I have besides my watercolour and pastel pencils are CRAYOLA pencil crayons left over from my classroom.  So I thought, what the heck, let's give it a try.  We were to select a simple subject, so I chose a cherry!  The task was to layer and show patience.  I have never used coloured pencils in this manner before, but I am glad that I tried.  It is very therapeutic, and was amazed at how realistic the results can be if highlights and shadows are carefully observed and included.  A trick is to use complementary colours to add depth, and interest.  Crayola pencil crayons aren't that easy to sharpen and keeping them sharp at all times was a challenge.  I watched  a video on sharpening them, and it was suggested to not turn the pencil crayon in the sharpener, but hold the crayon still and turn the pencil sharpener.  I will have to change my technique and try it out!  I wonder if higher quality coloured pencils are easier to sharpen?  Hmmm, I think I just thought of what I can buy with the Michael's gift card I received from one of my students!

Well, I have got to go!  I hope the changes in your life are positive, and if not, something positive can be learned or taken away from it!

Wait a minute, I just spotted a change scampering through my yard.  I will be back in a moment....

Horses, have you seen the red fox? Yes, the fox just wandered through.

Cocoon, have you seen the fox? Yes, it just said hello.

Kitty, have you seen the fox?  Yes, it woke me from my sleep.

Jacques, have you seen the fox?

Yes, it is over there!

I hope it doesn't catch me spying!

It caught me.  Off it goes to the newly raked hay field.  I tip toe through the road apples, passed the cat, through the marsh in my flip-flops, and...

Peek a boo, the fox pokes its head above the hay and...

Off it goes!

I just love the little quick changes around here!  Life is full of positive instantaneous changes!


  1. Hey, happy birthday to your F-I-L! My mother will be 80 this December. What a life. Lovely to read your story of him Renee. Also, wonderful to get to use that gift card!

    I was walking in the field this evening (evening in E already) and a muntjac deer jumped out in front of me and we both scared each other to pieces. He then ran away barking his head off. Boy can those little things be loud. Right now, there is a fox out there somewhere. I can hear him screaming. Who ever said something about a quiet country life was probably a city boy! :D Big hugs to you. Hope your week is coming along nicely.

  2. Beautiful and interesting story about your father-in-law. I love the thoughtful present, and what a treat to just get these maps for free! Your cherry looks so lifelike, well done!

  3. such a fun and interesting post
    what a great gift for him
    i also love wrapping gifts in maps
    your fox story is fun too
    so many wonderful critters
    i agree, awesome cherry!
    happy birthday Bop!

  4. Lovely post and a very happy birthday to your father in law. You write beautifully and create wonderful imagery to match your lovely photographs. X

  5. Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments. I really do appreciate them.


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