Tag Archives: painting

Pretty as a Picture!


The area we have been sailing this past week is as pretty as a picture.

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The views are stunning…

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Well-deserving of a portrait.

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So, on Wednesday afternoon we pulled out the brushes, paints and easels we packed, in preparation for our planned painting party.

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We usually plan a craft or two when we vacation together and as we were planning this houseboat vacation Lana suggested we bring supplies for everyone to paint a memory of this houseboat experience. So, we each gathered the plethora of supplies we have acquired as a result of our kids’ membership in mural club, and planned an afternoon painting party on Norris Lake.

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Tyler, still chasing down fish, opted not to participate,

But everyone else gathered on the top deck to paint.

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The scenery inspired creativity.

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Some opted to paint the views from the upper deck of the houseboat,

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While others chose to paint a particular favorite memory from this vacation.

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It was fun to watch everyone work and see their personal artistic styles unfold on the canvas before them.

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Here are some of the finished works of art:

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What a perfect way to memorialize a wonderful week with friends!

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Pancakes and Painting Party



As part of our co-op’s bi-weekly gatherings, Miss Corrina planned a second, amazing activity for our group.

Our co-op has evolved so much over the last decade as the needs in our group changed with the passing of time. As our children grew out of the early elementary years and into middle school, and then high school, our vision for the co-op evolved as well. We no longer needed the holiday parties and structured classes that were so important when they were little. Last year it was decided we had outgrown the co-op’s original function and now our needs were more social. Last May we retired a part of our life that was such a keystone of our week for so long. Unwilling to walk away from the co-op family that had become such an integral part of our life, we opted to adjust our vision for the group.   Rather than meeting every Wednesday for lessons, we decided to meet every other Friday for a learning/social activity. Each mom signed up for a month. This gave everyone a break for the other 7 months of the school year, while also allowing each mom to get creative and plan two activities built around her family’s interests/and or desires.

It has been a lot of fun seeing the wide variety of activities and field trips planned throughout the year, each one so different than the one before, and each fun and engaging in their own unique way.

Miss Corrina was our March mom. Her first planned outing was a historical tour of Darlington. For her second planned activity she went in a completely different direction with a hands-on art activity.

It was held at our old co-op building and the activity was a painting class taught by Corrina’s sister-in-law who teaches these “ladies’ night out” painting classes professionally.

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When we arrived, the lunchroom was set up with easels, canvases, paint and paint brushes allowing us all to participate as we were guided through the step by step process of painting this sample painting:

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Our group was comprised of elementary students up to grandmothers and everyone had a blast putting on their artist hat and getting creative.

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We were led through the steps in a way that lifted the intimidation of trying to create such a complicated piece of art,

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And everyone had a blast painting while visiting with friends.

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The process took 90 minutes and the end results were as varied as the artists themselves.

It was so much fun seeing everyone’s finished products.

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Our activity concluded with a pancake lunch and play time with friends in the gym before it was time to head back home to get the last of our school assignments done for the week.



The Art of Hearing



What does sound look like?

If you were to turn the sound of dogs barking

Or raindrops falling

Into a visual work of art, what form would it take on the canvas?

It is an interesting question…

One I had never given thought to until last Friday,

But these ponderings have consumed my thoughts ever since, sparking within me a desire to put color to canvas and create.

Friday night, following an enjoyable day at the Erie Art Museum, Grace and I kept the prevailing theme of the day going with an evening at a local art show. Gracie heard about this particular artist from her ASL teacher. She came home eager to share news of this show with Molly and I, along with an invitation to join her.

The story behind this artist was as compelling as the artwork itself. Here is her story as told through an article published by The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

“The darkness in these paintings represents the quiet.

Bright colors portray loud sounds.

The dots show sound being transferred … sometimes broken up … between the inconsistent noises.


Artist Andrea Echavarria, who is deaf, has a cochlear implant, an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the inner ear and provides sound signals to the brain. It’s allowed her to explore another world when it comes to her paintings.

Recurring shapes in her art signify the cochlear implant, which allows her to hear things after spending most of her life in silence.


She’s now hearing loud sirens, dogs barking and the calm of her mother’s voice, which has inspired her ideas for artwork to help her express what she hears.

She’s created a collection of these expressions ­— “The Art of Hearing: Works by Andrea Echavarria” — for a show from 6 to 9 p.m. April 13 at 448 Studios, in Etna. The 30 pieces will be for sale.

“I want to let people know that deaf people can do many things,” Echavarria says via Eileen Noble, a certified American Sign Language interpreter from Harmarville. “I can express myself through my art. It really feels awesome inside. It’s my passion.”

Echavarria says she couldn’t do it without the assistance of artist Tom Mosser, whose work has been featured at sports venues across the U.S. He was her first art teacher. Mosser describes himself as part mentor, eccentric uncle figure, goofy friend, buddy, part life coach, speech coach, big brother and fellow artist. He often writes inspiring messages to her on the studio walls and works daily on learning sign language.

“Any time I’m bumming out over a sore knee, or a sore elbow or something, I only have to look across the studio floor and I see what hurdles she overcomes daily,” Mosser says. “I’ve had a giant metal ruler for years. Every so often it will fall on the floor with a huge crash. Before the implant, Andrea would never move. Now, when it happens, she kind of jumps. And that makes me smile. I’m a much better artist and person for having been around her and her family.”

“Tom has been a blessing to her,” says Andrea Echavarria’s mother, Laurel. “She would never have expanded who she is as an artist without him. He pushes her in a kind and loving way. He tells her not to be afraid to make a mistake.”

Echavarria, 29, who works in oils, watercolors and acrylics, attended the Western PA School for the Deaf in Edgewood and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and says she always knew she wanted to be an artist.

“I like being really creative and I have been using sounds I hear in my paintings,” she says. “I am a deaf person and I am proud of that. Hearing sounds is also an awesome thing.”

The transition to the implant in 2009 at age 21 wasn’t easy. It was overwhelming at times and she needed to turn the volume down on the implant.

“When I got the implant, I was wondering what I would be able to hear,” she says. “I was hoping to hear something. I didn’t know what to expect, after not hearing for so long. I began to hear sounds. I didn’t know what they were yet, but they were my dog barking, cars swooshing by on the street, my family’s voices, people talking, the telephone ringing.

“It’s hard to explain. It’s different than what you hear. Sometimes I get a headache if there’s a lot of noise. I wasn’t used to all the loud noises. I was used to a very quiet life before. I’m more confident around people now because I can speak a little now. And I just feel more connected to the world around me through sound. Technology has been a great thing for me to communicate and for my art. ”      -JoAnne Klimovich Harrop of the Tribune-Review

After driving home from Erie, Molly prepared for work, disappointed that she would be unable to join us. It was unfortunate that Molly couldn’t tag along, as I know she would have enjoyed the event, but these unfortunate circumstances allowed Grace and I to get in some fun one-on-one time.

The studio was located in Etna. Tucked behind a large warehouse, we found 448 Studios.


Within its walls we found inspiration in the form of paintings by Andrea Echavarria.


We wandered wall to wall soaking up the sight of sound as interpreted by this talented artist. The artwork was moving…affecting…powerful.


And we found ourselves drawn into the artwork.


While enjoying the art, Gracie ran into fellow classmates and teachers from her American Sign Language classes, and it was fun to step into Gracie’s world and watch her communicate so naturally and joyfully with others in ASL.

Our conversation on the drive home revolved around the things we had seen at the show. Inspired by the art of another, we both left feeling the desire to create.

I suppose that is one of the hallmarks of a true artist…

They make you look at the world in a new way,

They affect you on a personal level,

They pull from within a raw, emotional reaction,

and they touch the artist that exists within each of us, leaving us with a need to go out into the world and create our own art.



A Blessed Saturday


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Toby was home on Saturday so it turned into a project day. It was cool and rainy, giving us the perfect excuse to hunker down and work on some house projects.

Number one on the list was painting. Over the last few weeks Toby has been working to patch and sand the many holes made in the drywall over the last year as a result of little boys raging. The bulk of the damage was in Ozzie and Tyler’s room but we also has a few other spots through the house that needed patched. Toby was all done with repairs so everyone pitched in to repaint Tyler and Ozzie’s rooms and touch up the other spots.

Now given the instability of things around here lately, I do recognize the efforts may be futile, but for now the walls are beautifully pristine. 🙂

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While we were in painting mode we decided to tackle another project that has been sitting on the back burner for the last year. A while ago we were given an old set of school lockers that we thought would be cute in Tyler’s sports themed bedroom. They needed painted so they have been sitting in the basement waiting for some TLC. We finally got around to the task last Saturday. We let Tyler pick the colors he wanted to spray paint the lockers with the understanding that Mom and Dad had veto power. Tyler’s first pick was neon pink. When that was vetoed he chose red, green, and yellow for the doors and chalkboard paint for the sides so he can draw on the lockers.


He loved helping prime the lockers. I think maybe he enjoyed it too much.

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He declared with glee, “I feel like one of those bad boys who color on buildings!”

Beware world: if you see the following image tagging the buildings and bridges of Pittsburgh then you will know Tyler has turned to a life of crime!


In the afternoon we loaded everyone up for errands. Molly needed to be dropped of at work so we all tagged along.

Work is going well for the girls. They are thriving as Pretzel Factory workers. In fact they are doing so well that they received a personal call from the district owner who has noticed the girls’ work ethic and diligence and called to inform them that they will both be receiving a raise. She said that their store’s sales have increased significantly in the last quarter and she credits Grace and Molly’s work with the increase in the store’s profits. The girls were thrilled…not only for the pay raise but for the recognition.

After a trip to Home Depot and Walmart we headed over to Ellwood City. Rusty had heard news that the comic book store in Ellwood City was having a “Free Graphic Novel” day. Every customer who stopped in could pick from a selection of free graphic novels. Rusty loves graphic novels and asked if we could go check it out.

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We arrived and found a large selection of books to choose from. Rusty was in heaven. The kids searched through the pile of choices looking for the one they wanted. Toby and then previewed possible choices, making sure the content was age appropriate.

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There was something for everyone! Who knew my girl Janet Evanovich wrote graphic novels?!

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Everyone left with some new bedtime reading.

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When we returned home Toby gave the boys haircuts while Grace and I had her weekly one-on-one time. She chose to make fudge. She found a recipe for cookies & crème fudge on Pinterest, so that is what we made. The rainy weather made baking a perfect Saturday afternoon activity and the results of our labors were then enjoyed the next evening as our Family Night treat.

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We are all adjusting to the new normal of having Grace gone more than she is at home. Between two jobs and school she is a girl on the go, but is thriving and loving life. She has fully embraced her new status as college student and is loving her classes. In addition to school changes Grace has transitioned from being a young woman at church to a young adult. She no longer has early morning seminary or Wednesday night youth group. Now her Wednesday nights are spent at institute (church classes for college aged students.) This past Sunday was also her first Sunday attending church down in Pittsburgh at the young adult ward where the congregation is comprised of 18-30 year olds. It is a chance for her to get to know, socialize with, and worship with like minded peers… and also happens to be where Toby and I met 20 years ago. It was a bit surreal sending her off to our old stomping grounds for church. It feels like I was in her shoes just yesterday. How can we be old enough to have a daughter that age?!

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But I am also excited for her. That was such an exciting, sweet time of my life and I am thrilled she gets to embark on such a grand adventure. Week one was a huge success. Grace loved it. Now the rest of us just need to get adjust to being a family of 6 at church. It has been especially challenging for Molly, who has had to get used to not having her best friend/sister in Young Women’s with her.

This seems to be the season of change for our family…both good and hard.

We are still working to get Ozzie in a good place and appreciate all of the prayers said on his behalf. We have felt the sustaining power of the many prayers lifting us up these past few weeks and we are very grateful. When we have a better idea of where we are at and what needs to happen next we will share but until then, thank you for your prayers.


Drumroll Please….


Of all the decisions that had to made during our school bus conversion none created more debate than the question of what colors to paint the bus.

Everyone had a different vision of what they thought our home on wheels should look like. Some wanted to keep it subtle (namely Toby) while others wanted to embrace the uniqueness of living in a school bus with a unique paint job.

For a year we have talked, sketched, weighed and debated everyone’s suggestions. We made a list of twenty possible names, knowing that until we decided on a name we couldn’t decide on the paint job… since they go hand in hand.

The name of our bus was inspired by our dashboard figurines.


Once we decided on the name of our bus then we need to make decisions about paint colors and design. On one Sunday evening we made the decision once and for all with a design contest. Knowing the theme for the bus, we gave every family member an outline of a school bus and a pile of colored pencils and instructed everyone create their vision on paper. Once everyone’s drawings were completed we voted on our favorite.

The winner was…


with his “Rolling Gnomes” design.


Once we had decided on the design, the bus was prepped and the paint was purchased, and  it was time to paint!

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We chose a day last week when everyone’s schedules were wide open because this was an “all hands on deck” project. Matt came over and helped as well.

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The first task was to tape off the bus. The little boys helped Toby and I with this job…

which can be interpreted as: Toby and I followed the little boys around the bus re-taping over their tape. 😉

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While we did that the big kids and Matt scrubbed down the roof and prepared it for the blue paint that would cover the top half of the bus.

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Rusty designed the paint job around three primary colors: blue for the sky, green for the grass, and brown for the ground.

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It took us 8 hours to get the bus painted.


We painted from top to bottom using brushes and rollers.

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It was a hot day but everyone pushed through and worked so hard. At the end of the day our big, yellow school bus was transformed into this:


We let the paint set up for a few days and then Grace and I had the job of adding the details…those touches of whimsy that would transform the bus into “The Rolling Gnomes.”

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Grace took on task of hand painting gnome silhouettes on the panels where Toby had covered the windows with metal, while I hand painted blades of grass. Then we worked together to add mushrooms to finish the design.

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We are proud to present our converted school bus:

“The Rolling Gnomes”

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Mural Club Outing – Part 3 “Painting with a Twist”


After a fun afternoon at Hershey

the fun continued..

We drove back to the hotel where we had dinner in the lobby. On Wednesday evenings the hotel offers a “Manager’s dinner.” They were serving free pizza and drinks for their guests from 5:00-7:00. It worked out perfectly. We enjoyed a free dinner and had enough time to get to our final activity of the day:

Painting With a Twist!

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When we saw this sign down the road from our hotel we decided to go online and check it out. We discovered that they had openings for their Wednesday night class, so we decided to sign up.

When we arrived we were greeted with this sign:


Sounds good! 🙂

We found our seats. Before us lay a white canvas, paints, a glass of water and a small and large brush. We put on painting aprons and prepared to paint.

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Our teacher, Jeffrey, was a great teacher. He led us through the creation of a landscape, one step at a time. He made the process fun and it wasn’t the least bit intimidating.


The class lasted two hours with breaks along the way to allow for the paint to dry between steps.

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It was so much fun! When we finished our paintings we commented on how different each of our finished paintings were. It was fun to see the variety in our paintings when we all sat through the same class.

Everyone did a great job.

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When the class was over we drove back to the hotel where we stayed up late visiting in bed. The girls wanted to play “Truth or Dare.” It turned into a game of “Truth” as they girls took turns asking the moms questions about their teenage years and we reciprocated by asking our girls questions about their hopes and dreams. It was a wonderful way to end…

“The Best Day Ever!”

It made me grateful to have such a special daughter and such wonderful friends.

“Today was a good day to have a GREAT day!”

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”


It has been said that:

“The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.” – Uchtdorf

Others would argue that they are NOT creative, that there is not a creative bone in their body, or that the talent of creativity was not one that they were born or blessed with.

But I disagree.

I believe that within each of us there is a hidden desire to create, to build, to design or discover that hidden spark within ourselves. I believe when we pursue a creative outlet…

 Whether through painting, baking, photography, sewing, singing, interior design, drawing, gardening, writing, mothering, serving, loving…

we flame that small, quiet spark within and the flames of passion burst forth…

and our soul then whispers, “Yes, this is how I ought to feel!”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said:

“You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and don’t require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano.

Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before- colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of the critics paralyze you- whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.

As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.”

On Monday we flamed those creative sparks and we created!

There is a group of girlfriends I get together with regularly to make cards with. On of the ladies in our group sells “Stampin’ Up” products and teaches our card making class. Another friend in our group is a minister’s wife and she opens the doors of her church to us monthly so that we can gather together. It is one of the highlights of my month. Everyone brings food and we enjoy a few hours of eating, laughing, sharing and creating together.

This month rather than make cards our project was a perpetual birthday calendar.


Earlier this month my girls came to me and asked if in lieu of birthday parties they could have a painting party with their friends. They thought it would be fun to get their co-op buddies together and do a Bob Ross painting class together. We embraced the idea and started planning…

Then the winter weather hit. Snow storms and deep freezes left our driveway impassable so it was suggested that we move the party to the same night as the card night and just set up the girls in another section of the church. Perfect!

The preparation for the party began weeks before hand as we scoured the internet looking for great deals on canvases, brushes and oil paint sets.


The girls wanted to make goody bags for their friends. In addition to the purchased painting items they decided to make all the girls painting swatch bookmarks,


and paintbrush treats, using rice krispie treats dipped in colored chocolate.


The day before the party we went shopping for food. The girls wanted “art gallery” food for their party so we bought sparkling grape juice, cheese and crackers, fruit, and chip and dip. This food was set up near their class so they could munch while they painted, although they also joined us downstairs and had soups and bread with us (moms) for dinner.


When we arrived I helped the girls get set up before joining my class downstairs. We covered everything in paint tarps and the Bob Ross video was projected on the wall.


The girls had a blast. We could hear them laughing from downstairs. The sound of their laughter and the smell of their paint thinner carried through the church. 🙂





At the end of the night, as we were finishing up our craft, the girls came down to show off their finished products. It was so neat to see how the same art instruction video could result in such different final paintings.


After cleaning up, and saying our goodbyes, we headed home. The girls enthusiastically shared about everything that had happened . When I asked Molly which final painting she liked best she answered,

“Well I don’t know. I like them all for such different reasons. Some I liked because of the colors used, others I liked how the trees turned out, and others I really liked because of the texture. I don’t think I could pick just one because they all had things about them that made them really good!”

I suppose like all creative pursuits there is no ONE right way.

As Bob Ross so often says, “Any way you want it to be, that’s just right.”

The night was about creating. We created useful, and pretty calendars. We created unique and beautiful paintings.

But we also created a lot more…

We strengthened friendships, we made memories, we encouraged creativity, and we taught our girls that the most magical days often end with the dirtiest clothes. 🙂

That is one “Happy little tree!”


The last few days have been wonderful. These lazy, post-Christmas days are the best. Everyone has spent the last few days in PJs enjoying the fact that we have had nowhere to go and nothing on the calendar. The kids have had fun organizing their rooms, putting away their gifts, and enjoying their new toys. Everywhere I look there are kids either curled up reading new books, building Legos, or being creative.

Molly making survival bracelets.

Molly making survival bracelets.

Rusty's completed Minecraft Lego sets.

Rusty’s completed Minecraft Lego sets.

Grace has been busy with another project…

Last October Toby and I dressed as Bob Ross and his “happy little tree” for Halloween.

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Our kids did not get our costume at all. This led to a conversation with our kids about the old Bob Ross painting show that was on TV when we were kids. When Grace asked for painting supplies for Christmas I got thinking about how she would enjoy his instructional videos. We were able to find one of his kits online. It came with the video, the paints and brushes, and we bought her a few canvases to go along with the kit. She was thrilled and eager to start painting, so a few days after Christmas she locked herself away in the playroom for the day.

Grace painting with Bob.

Grace painting with Bob.

After working all morning she emerged to show off her completed oil painting.


Needless to say, we were amazed. It was beautiful!

Bob Ross is one amazing teacher! 😉


Way to go, Gracie!

and Happy New Year to you all.

See you in 2015!