Let Your Light Shine

Author: dnesbitt (Page 1 of 17)

Happy Hostess

A mixed media collage completed for Cody Miller’s class at the McConnell Arts Center. You can see the little town of Blaine where the story took place on the section of the map between the three cars.

I’ve been making birthday cards and it reminded me of a silly thing that happened when I was five.

My mom was in the hospital for the birth of daughter number four, my sister, Kathy. Joyce, Carol and I were at home with Dad or a relative available to babysit while he was at work. I didn’t totally understand what was going on, so I kept busy doing things like giving myself a haircut. Who knew blunt-tipped scissors could really cut hair?

One afternoon when my seventh grade cousin, Madelyn, was babysitting I shared a bright idea with her. We could have a birthday party for my mom! I knew the date, which was about six weeks away. I had a plan. Madelyn would walk me to one of the little grocery shops down the hill (Kaspers or Hoyo’s) to buy Hostess cupcakes and we would have a party!

Now I may or may not have tasted Hostess cupcakes at that point, but I knew I wanted them because they were advertised on Romper Room and served to the kids who got to be on the show. The Hostess cupcakes were key. The birthday was probably just a good excuse.

In a few days Mom and Dad brought Kathy home from the hospital. There was a christening a few weeks later and life moved on with those long days that you only get when you’re five years old.

Then one evening when Mom was working in the garden (a necessity, not a hobby), we were in the house watching the Donna Reed show. A car pulled up in the driveway and then another and two more. Surprise! It was a birthday party for Mom and no one was more surprised than me! Dad’s whole family showed up with a cake and ice cream and even presents. Mom was a bit grubby from the garden and the house probably wan’t company-ready, but when people bring the party to you, you adjust your expectations.

Uncle Rudy had a bakery so he supplied the cake – delicious as always, even if it didn’t have the trademark cream filling or the chocolate icing and squiggle like a Hostess cupcake. We saved some cake for Dad who was working afternoon shift. The rest fueled the cousins who ran around catching lightning bugs till it was time to say goodnight.

I had no clue that anyone remembered my idea, but evidently Madelyn told her mother, my very sweet Aunt Mary Ann. I can only imagine the phoning and planning it took to pull it off.

Moral of the story: When you put an idea out there, it may take on a life of its own!

Catching Up

It’s time to reboot my blog after a really long hiatus. Life happens. Once you get out of the writing habit, it’s hard to get back on track until a friend tells you that she misses it. In this case, it took the encouragement of a faithful reader. I had no idea anyone cared. Thank you, Ann.

So here we are at the beginning of 2023. Where have I been creatively speaking? One place I’ve been spending time is at my sewing machine. I love it. It’s a beauty with all the bells and whistles. I’ve been making baby quilts to give away. It’s a good use of legacy fabric from my Mom.

Last fall I was invited to a quilt retreat with my cousin, Emily and her quilting buddies from Pennsylvania. A few days of fun in Amish country I thought! And that’s exactly what it was. We stayed in a refurbished old house next to a quilt shop in the little hamlet of Charm, Ohio. The first snow of the season added to the atmosphere.

I worked on some projects I needed to finish for Christmas and my fellow campers brought projects of their choice- a huge quilt, some knitting, paper piecing, a table runner, etc. We filled in the gaps with good food and a mystery jigsaw puzzle.

Christmas gifts for my four sisters- each with a special embellishment on the heart in the place of their birth order.

There were still grapes on the vines below the windows. Noelle, one of the quilters, captured a photo of a cardinal who stopped by. I was inspired to turn it into a piece of fiber art (below) for a mixed media textile class and then a watercolor (shown above). I hope you enjoy it.

Getting Motivated with Micro-Moves

Sometime last fall I tried to compose a painting by creating an abstract value pattern to paint some wildflowers. I did a value sketch and a little study in watercolor so I thought I was well prepared for an oil painting. It just never came together. I kept going far beyond the time when I should have thrown in the painting rag. I left that painting on the easel . I took me a while to realize that its ugliness was keeping me me from starting a new painting.

I was doing very little art work and that’s never a good thing for my spirit. In order to keep an art practice going during the winter I started to draw a face each day. Some days I found a famous face online. Some days I copied pictures of family.

I focused on value and shape without really caring as much about likeness. I just wanted to improve my ability to see and reproduce accurately. It was relaxing because there were no expectations. In my reading about creativity I’ve come across the idea of doing just one small thing. Some people call it micro-moves. What’s the smallest action you can take to get moving on something you need or want to do? Sketching faces was my micro-move.

Here is a sampling of the work. Names have not been included to protect privacy and to add plausible deniability if the person or their family member doesn’t think I’ve captured the likeness. So let’s just say these are studies of faces.

The micro-moves had done their work. They kept me active and eventually inspired me to get back into painting. I found the girl in the straw hat particularly interesting, so I decided I needed to paint her portrait in oils. I liked the shadows caused by the hat. I also found her features very pleasing.


I started with an underpainting and intended to build up layers by glazing. I did that with the blue shadows and some yellow, but I kind of lost my way so I went to more direct painting.

First glaze

As usually happens, I start to lose some of the information that was included in the underpainting. You can see changes in the shape of the eyes as I added highlights. I spent small amounts of time over a number of days getting more specific with shape and color.

I’m in the middle of another painting, but here’s a glimpse. This little girl has tormented me for years. She’s a cutie but I can never quite capture what makes her the delightful little creature that she is. Here’s my latest attempt from a picture that’s several years old. Maybe this time…

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