Thursday, May 31, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday- Changes

I didn't keep up with my blogging routine last week for a few reasons.
1)  I was packing up my classroom
2)  My classes were transitioning from ending one assignment and immediately jumping into another.
3)  I was trying to get the 2 murals and native plant garden that we have been working on since January closer   to completion
4)  I was being lazy and felt burned out from all of the changes that are happening.

I love my routine.  I love how reliable and predictable it is.  But I love change, too.  I love the newness it brings.  The past few years I've been feeling stuck in life (on and off).  As I've described in an early post, I felt like I was running really fast, but not moving anywhere.  I have been feeling burned out at work and have come to realize that next year will be my 10th year of teaching.  TEN YEARS!  That just blows my mind that it has been that long.  I still feel like I'm only in my 4th or 5th year.  But change comes at a great time. 

My classroom is room U-2, which I love because I love the band U2.  I have a Bono poster on my door welcoming my students to my classroom.  It is in a great location and is very large, but the storage is lacking.  Next year I'll be in a new room, which is bitter sweet, but I'm excited about the amount of storage I'm going to have.  Plus, my schedule is changing.  I'm a bit sad I'm giving up my intermediate/ advanced drawing class.  It is my baby that I've developed over the past 6 years, but it is time for a new challenge.  I'm trading in my class for intermediate/advanced/ AP studio art.  I feel a little nervous about this step, but I feel ready for it.  I'm going to have to make adjustments to the way I teach, especially since I was diving into illustration type lessons that coincided with my personal goals of illustrating.  I know I can make this work.  The future is beginning to look very exciting. 

The SCBWI summer conference has a great illustrator intensive this year about writing for illustrators, which is exactly what I need right now.  The yoga retreat inspired a new book idea and allowed me to finally let go of things that have been hindering me.  And I just received an email from Mira Reisberg saying I won a Skype critique with her!!!!   This is really exciting!  I have been using one of her children's book with my beginning students for years.  I love that my journey has connected me to her.  It makes the world so much smaller. :) I am also signed up for her online art course.  I just realized that it will begin on Monday.  She is having a sale on the course if you are interested.  Here is the link:

I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason.  Right now, it feels like all of the planets in my individual universe are aligning perfectly.  Could it be that after all of the tears, tough obstacles, nonstop hard work, and determination to keep moving forward that it is beginning to all pay off?  I go into all of this with an open mind with only one expectation: to come out of this a little bit wiser.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Influences-Fernando Botero

 About 10 years ago, I was walking out of a store and saw that they were selling reproductions of famous paintings.  They were the usual Monet's, Picasso's, still life of flowers, and landscapes.  But then I saw this painting of a couple dancing.  I had never seen this painting before.  I immediately fell in love with it.  I can't say for sure why.  I loved how round their bodies were.  I loved how they didn't portray the perfect people.

I remember asking who the artist was and the title of the painting.  Afterwards, when I would look for the painting I would only find the dancing couple with the woman wearing the red dress.  I liked it, but it wasn't quite the same as the first painting.

The more I looked at his work and learned about him, the more I fell in love with his work.  I seem to have a fascination with artists who create reproductions of famous works, but add their own personal twist to it.  Here are some of Botero's:

I saw some of his artwork at MOLAA (Museum of Latin American Art), but only a few pieces.  When I attended a lecture there, the gift shop was having a sale on their street banners.  As a surprise, my ex had bought me the Botero banner of the couple dancing (woman wearing the red dress).  It now hangs in the corner of my classroom, which stirs up many student questions about why the artist paints "fat" people. I love having the discussion with my students about what was considered beautiful during the renaissance times v. current day, and how there is a beauty in Botero's figures. Sometimes, just sometimes, it gets my students to think about what society considers beautiful and what should be valued as beautiful, but is overlooked.

In 2009, the Bowers Museum had an exhibit on Botero.  It was the largest body of his work that I have ever seen all at once.  I learned a lot of his art had political messages to them.  This delighted me.  As an illustrator, I love artwork that has a message or tells a story.  It appeals to my imagination.  It appeals to the storyteller inside me.

I think his work appeals to me because it reminds me of images from my childhood.  The roundness of the faces remind me of Cabbage Patch Kids or Garbage Pail Kids, both of which were favorites of mine.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Influences- Nebrensky women

Since I began these posts about my influences, I have come to realize that a lot of my favorite artists or types of art are strongly influenced by the women in my family: Grandma, Mom, and Aunt.  Each one of them has had an impact in my life.

My Grandma shared with me her favorite artists like Claude Monet, Maurice Sendak, and Andy Warhol.  We attended museums.  She took me to the ballet, and always encouraged my artistic abilities.  She wasn't a painter or a drawer, but her art was sewing.  She loved making quilts and dolls.  She loved attending her quilting groups and making quilts for organizations that donated them to shelters or hospitals for children. 

Grandma and me with the sock doll she made :)
My Aunt played with me all of the time.  She played with me all of the time, always encouraging my imagination.  My family likes to say that I was her human Barbie doll.  She loved taking me out shopping for outfits. Like the rest of the Nebrensky women, my Aunt began sewing.  She made us aprons for Christmas one year.  Mine had cats all over it.  She has become a different source of inspiration for me.  She is a single mom.  She has also been a source of strength when my life seemed to fall apart.  As an adult, I have noticed how much closer my family is.  The women of this family have a really strong bond.  We share a love of crafts, art, and creating! 

Grandma wearing an apron my Aunt made

I have another Aunt, who loves to paint rocks.  She is the craftiest of all of us.  She loves making the random door stops and odd ball objects.  Her latest passion has been making desserts.  At first, we banned her from experimenting on us.  She had many failed attempts at food items.  But she has really made some amazing desserts.  My favorite is the white chocolate with walnuts and cranberries.  Although, she has moved on to biscotti.  She is open to trying new things and is willing to try it out.  We talk painting, baking, and walking/running whenever we see each other.  It is always a fun time.

On the left- my mom :) 
The middle and right- my 2 aunts :)
I love this photo!  They look like they are ready to kick butt!

The last Nebrensky woman I'd like to talk about is my mom.  She has been such an amazing influence.  I'm lucky to have a mom who encouraged my artistic abilities.  She loved to paint and draw in high school.  For a short time, she was an art major in college that is until she had me.  She never did go back to school to finish her degree.  Nor did she ever paint or draw again.  She did a lot of sewing when I was little.  She made a lot of my outfits when I was younger.    I don't know if she ever regrets becoming a mom at such a young age.  I do know she has always been a strong woman.  She taught me to me independent (too independent, sometimes) and that no matter what family is always there.  She is my rock in this storm of life.  She is my best friend.  We are always laughing and creating.  She loves to knit and crochet.  Sometimes I crochet with her, but my stuff is simple compared to her work.  I've always wondered why she stopped drawing, but when I ask her she simply says "I was never as good as you."  I disagree!  When we were moving, I found her drawings.  She wanted me to throw them away.  I snuck them into my own portfolio of work.  Here is the work she did during 1976-1978. 

This painting hung in my Grandma's apartment.
 I got it when she passed away.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday Agglomeration- Spring Yoga Retreat :)

This week yoga was on my mind.  It is always on my mind, but this week in particular because of the yoga retreat I went to this past weekend at the White Lotus Retreat Center in Santa Barbara, CA.  It was beautiful and amazing!  It changes you.  To get away from facebook, twitter, TV, texting, and just technology in general is a great sensation.  You are forced to look at your surroundings, and more importantly, yourself. Samantha and Alexis were our group leaders.  They are both amazing people!  If you ever get a chance you need to do a retreat with Samantha and Alexis (  They were extremely encouraging and inspiring.

Sometimes life is funny how it all works out.  The past few months I have been feeling stuck.  The only way I can truly describe it is that I feel like I'm running really fast, but I'm not moving anywhere.  I am just suspended while I run and watch everyone pass by me.  It is a horrible feeling.  This retreat came at a perfect time in my life.  I've had a lot on my mind.  I have been thinking about my personal goals as an artist, illustrator, author, and teacher.  Changes are happening at work...bitter sweet changes, but it has put my personal growth into perspective. I have different goals for each aspect of my life and many times they are not leading towards the same path.  I have also, been thinking about my divorce.  It happened three years ago, but clearly there was something unfinished since I was dreaming about my ex.  I had no intentions of dealing with any of these thoughts on the retreat.  I didn't know what to expect other than doing some yoga, and enjoying the scenery, but the events only brought those thoughts to the surface and confirmed what I have known to be true in my heart.  On the last day of the retreat, we had to select a mediation card with our eyes closed before our yoga practice.  This is the card I picked up.

I have always told people that my divorce was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.  I'm not saying my ex was horrible because he isn't.  We were just really wrong for each other.  But that was the critical moment in my life that became the rock that fell into the water and created a multitude of ripples.  Those ripples were guitar lessons, fitness kickboxing, attempt at surfing, running, cooking, my master's degree, illustrating, children's book writing, yoga, blogging, gardening, and rediscovering my love for simple things like sunsets, the beach, waves crashing, trees, rain, and walking in the rain.  It took getting lost in order to find myself again, but walking backwards sometimes is the best way to see yourself with new eyes.  It has been an amazing journey so far.

The retreat challenged me physically.  We did a lot of partner yoga, some acrobatic yoga (which was probably my favorite), and we danced.  I haven't danced in such a long time. It was a lot of fun!

 I did poses I would have never thought was possible for me to do.

My best friend sitting on me like a chair.
I'm doing a shoulder stand on my friend's knees.
A few weekends ago, I had talked with my illustrator's group about feeling stuck.  I told them that at this point I was just playing with drawings until I was inspired.  They agreed that I should just continue being creative because it could help inspire me. One of the illustrators loved my Mizzle yoga pin that I made from the Shrink-a-Dink paper.  She recommended that I continue to create drawings of my mizzles in yoga poses.  I thought this was a great idea. Here are some of the drawings I created this week.

 These were inspired by the retreat where we did partner yoga.

My yoga instructor called this the double scoop.
Child's pose on top of child's pose
This she called backpack.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

Yoga, Yoga, Yoga!  I am so excited for this weekend.  My first yoga retreat! I am not allowed to bring any electronic devices, so my Sunday Agglomeration post will show up late Sunday evening, or Monday morning.  But I hope to have many photos and drawings to share!

Okay, back to my story.  For as long as I can remember, I have always been a runner.  I mean, my parents' favorite story to tell is about how I was 4 or 5 and started jogging 1 mile on Sunday mornings with my dad.  Their favorite and most detailed part of the story is about my blue jogging suit and my running shoes.  Running has been an on and off again form of exercise for me.  I was never a fast runner, but I have great endurance.  In high school, I ran long distance track and cross country.  I had stopped running for a long time.  Somewhere in my life I found myself in a relationship that encouraged laziness.  There were also some events that had happened which caused me to become unhappy with myself and I just didn't care.  Actually, I never realized that I stopped caring until I left that relationship.  I was at my heaviest weight and felt insecure in my own body.  As part of my personal journey to rediscover myself, I needed to feel healthy and happy again.  I began by taking a fitness kickboxing class.  I took this class for a little over 2 years.  I loved it.  But I started running again.  Things were going great until I did one of the moves in fitness kickboxing and pulled a muscle in my lower back. This put me out of commission for a month and when I slowly tried to go back to my routine, I would re-injure myself.  I was miserable.  I began walking.  Then, I received an email from about an offer for yoga classes at Freeman Yoga ( Now, I was one of those people who did think yoga would feel like workout, or made the typical "om ..." meditation jokes that are made by people who only know yoga as how it is portrayed onTV.  But at this point, I thought yoga would be great to help strengthen my back muscles.  My goal was to strengthen my back muscles so I could return to running.  I admit my first yoga class was awkward.  I felt so out of place.  People are grabbing blocks, blankets, and belts.  People were stretching in silence.  There was a small group of people who were talking, but it was extremely quiet.  And as a notorious people watcher, I felt so on the spot because it was completely obvious I was people watching! But something amazing happened, I left class feeling relaxed and encouraged in a way I have never felt before.  Also, I never realized how I clenched my shoulders when doing various activities.  When I began, I had this small bulge that stuck out of my sports bra around the back of my neck.  It was more noticeable when I wore my bikini.  After a few months, it disappeared.  I noticed I would pay more attention to how I held my posture while standing, sitting, and walking.  With every class, I became more flexible and often times would surprise myself when I attempted a more challenging pose.  My body had changed so much.  I am stronger than I have been in a long time.  I can run again, too!  I haven't been running every day as I did before, but I have been participating in 5k's and I ran one 8k.  People notice and mention the changes they see in me.  I see the physical changes, but I think the emotional ones are the most important.  I love the way I feel!

At Freeman Yoga, there are different instructors and they each have their own style.  They are all great, but there are only a few that I absolutely love.  I think it is the energy they bring to the class. My favorite instructors are Jennie, Denise, Samantha, and Glen.   Of those, I enjoy Samantha's classes the most.  I think it is because of her personality.  She is like an artist with her medium.  She likes to play and explore with her poses.  I truly respect this being and artist.  I also understand it.  She is encouraging, but she also encourages you to laugh and have fun...especially when you fall out of a pose.  This makes it very non-threatening for a beginner.  I have learned quickly to trust her.  She guides you through each pose giving you great detail verbally how to move, and what the pose should feel like.  Usually by the end of our practice, I feel like superwoman because of the many challenging poses she guides us through.  Last week, we did the splits.  I have never in my life been able to do the splits, but I trusted Samantha would guide me into it successfully.  I was pleasantly surprised how close I was to doing the full splits.  My favorite part of her practice is the reading.  She reads a passage or quote from a book at the beginning and end of the practice.  She somehow always picks a theme that has been on my mind that day or week.  It resonates deeply with me, which creates a further calm in me because it is like the universe is reminding me that everything is going to work itself out.  If you ever get a chance to take her class, I high recommend it.  Here are a few of her websites:

This weekend she is hosting a yoga retreat.  It presented itself at a time where I needed to do something for myself.  Three days in Santa Barbara doing yoga with one of my closest friends ,one of my favorite yoga instructors, and new friends.  I'm so excited!  I have a feeling I'm going to be refreshed and inspired in a much needed way!  I am taking sketchbooks, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, glue sticks, scissors... my usual creative kit.  I might take a Mizzle with me...or buy socks there to make a Mizzle from this trip.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Influences-Maurice Sendak

Now that I'm deeper in my journey of illustrating and writing, I wish my grandma was still around so I could thank her.  I have always known the impact she has had on who I am, but I don't think I truly acknowledged that she is the essence of my creative existence.  Without her, I would have never been influenced, inspired, or encouraged to be the creative being I am.  She exposed me to a variety of art and activities to build my creative skills.  She introduced me to Claude Monet, but she introduced me to Maurice Sendak first.
 When everyone hears his name they immediately associate it with his book Where the Wild Things Are. Oddly, this is not my first thought.  I don't remember reading that book until my sister was born, although I'm pretty sure someone in my family read it to me.  I do remember looking through her book The Art of Maurice Sendak. It was, and still is, my favorite book to look through.  These were my favorite pages to look at:

When I was in middle school, my grandma bought me his book, Dear Mili. I loved his illustrations, but I admit I didn't appreciate the story.  It wasn't until a few years ago, when my grandma passed away that I went back and read it.  I cried, partly, because I love my grandma so much, but partly because the story was so beautiful.
 This is my favorite illustration from the book.
A little something to watch.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Agglomeration- Mother's Day

This is a painting I began.  I was feeling inspired and am letting the canvas speak to me.  I have no plan or idea of where this will go.

First of all, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!  Make sure to hug and kiss your mother for giving you life!  My mom is pretty amazing.  She is my best friend and we always manage to have lots of laughs.   My younger sister and I are cooking her a wonderful lunch!  In addition to that, I made her this painting.  It is a mixed media collage of my grandma.  It will go with her collection of family drawings I've done over the years for her.
Mixed Media collage I made for my mom. There are photos of my grandma.  The two flowers are ones we saved from her memorial service.
I decided to frame this piece and give it to my aunt.  She is an amazing single mother, who was a big influence in my life.  She is a very strong woman and this kind of reminded me of her.

Also, I had a student ask if I could make a Mizzle for his mom for Mother's day.  I named her Rufaro. 
Rufaro means exuberance and joy. 
She is like the Energizer Bunny, who never seems to stop.
She is from Africa, but likes to tell people she is from Narnia.
Always on the go, she loves to finish any incomplete job.
She spends a lot of time as a conflict mediator
 on most elementary school play grounds,
where her Ph.D. in pig latin comes in handy.
 In her free time, she enjoys typing with her eyes closed
 and tap dancing in bathrooms.

This week we suffered the passing of Maurice Sendak, who is a major influence on the children's book world.  I don't think any person can say they haven't experienced Where the Wild Things Are.  As I contemplated what to draw this week, I began to think "what if the Wild Things and the Mizzles were friends?"  And this is what happened:

Wild Things and Mizzle sleeping

Wild Thing and Mizzle sharing ice cream

Here the Wild Thing is teaching a Mizzle how to flap its arms
 There must be something in the water! Or it is just that time of the year when students begin to act out.  It has been an upsetting week.  I had students who decided they were not going to work, or decided to walk out of class early.  Again, there must be something in the water because it wasn't just my group of "lovelies" who were acting out.  There is an epidemic going on.  Let the count down begin: 25 more school days before finals!
This is how I felt...or possibly what I looked like

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Random Thoughts Thurdays- Mistakes

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."
-Scott Adams

That is my favorite quote. But in my class, I like to call mistakes in art "happy accidents."  When you are able to allow your creative mind to be free to explore various possibilities, then you are limited by nothing; not even by a so called mistake.  It is easy for us to get caught in the details of a drawing or painting and attempting to be as accurate as possible.  I see this happen to my students all of the time, especially when faced with an abstract or loose style drawing assignment.  A panic attack almost occurs because they don't know how to just let go and embrace the "not knowing" feeling.  

I discovered a cute little book called Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg, which has enhanced my Ink Blot assignment.  I love this book and how interactive it is. 

I had my Intermediate/ Advanced Drawing class sit in front of me on the floor and I read to them. We talk about how it feels to make mistakes in art.  I explain that weith a flexible mind, an artwork can often times be saved.  The day before school starts I take a bunch of cards and drip, splatter, and spill ink onto them. This is the fun part for me. I've contemplated taking tea bags or coffee to stain them, but I always forget and stick to the ink.  After reading the book and showing them a few other images that were created from ink blots, I lay out the cards and have them pick the one that "calls to them."  They are to turn it into a fun drawing.  There are no rules about what they can draw.  Secretly, this is my test of their imagination.  After looking at their results, I can usually tell who will struggle with assignments that are based strongly on ideas.

Here are some of their Ink Blot Drawings:

I feel people fear making art because they fear making mistakes.  They look and compare themselves to others, which is only a good thing when you are using them as inspiration, not a measuring stick. In general, mistakes are critical in life.  You learn to recover from the mistakes, but you also learn how to not make the same ones. I'm going to be 33 this year and lately I have been looking back at my life...mistakes included.  I like who I have become.  I know that without the mistakes I've made along the way I would not be where I am now. 

Embrace the mistake!