VOTE!

On August 18th, 1920, a mere 96 years ago, women got the right to vote.

This year TWO women are running for president and their sisters are going to vote because their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness depend upon it.

As usual my alter ego Pumpkin, aka Miss Bindergarten, says it best!vote

VOTE!

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VOTE!

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VOTE!

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VOTE!

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VOTE!

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See you at the polls!

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Going to School

I’m honored to be a 2016 Picture Book Month Ambassador…

along with this amazing company: Kwame Alexander, Kevan Atteberry, Phil Bildner, Elizabeth Bluemle, Alyssa Satin Capucilli, Laura Gehl, Matthew Cordell, Pat Cummings, Doug Cushman, Erzsi Deak, Josh Funk, Marita Gentry, Paul Hankins, Verla Kay, Lester Laminack, Minh Le, Adam Lehrhaupt, Sylvia Liu, Ralph Masiello, Laura Lowman Murray, Carmen Oliver, Todd Parr, John Parra, Jan Peck, Alexandra Penfold, Jeanie Ransome, Isabel Roxas, Jodell Sadler, and Andrea Pinkney.

In company with these friends and fellow creators, I’ve been invited to speak my mind about the importance of Picture Books.

On my day the theme is School! My  PiBoMo essay isn’t about school-it’s about risk taking.

But I have plenty of thoughts about school too, since I’m probably best known for illustrating books by Joseph Slate about a talented kindergarten teacher named Miss Bindergarten, based on my 1st border collie Pumpkin.

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Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

It’s always been easy to be enthusiastic about the kindergarten year of school.

I believe it is where a child learns to love school-a good year can set the stage for a great school career– a bad one can make a child wary.

While illustrating these books I studied the traditions and common elements of modern kindergarten very closely, which led me to wonder how long kindergarten, as we know it, has been an institution.

It was created by the German born Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) Kindergarten in Froebel’s vision meant both ‘a garden for children’, where children meet with environment and also ‘a garden of children’, where they play together and express themselves in a smaller garden world by means of play with their age group.

He believed that “children are like tiny flowers; they are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers.”

My dad, born in Germany in 1916, carried a leather “rucksack” on his 1st day of school.

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His class of 19 appears to have all the same kids you remember: the Class Clown, little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, Mister Hyperactive, the Inseparable Buddies and the Teacher’s Pet.

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Kindergarten had been well established in Germany for close to 100 years when my dad attended in 1921. He is 2nd from the right.

Kindergarten was a great idea and spread around the world, including to the US in the 1850s.

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Me, as a Vermont kindergartner, circa 1961

I went to Mary Hogan Elementary School  about 100+ years later. My teacher’s name was Miss Vondle. Kindergarten is so important in a child’s life that I bet most people can remember the name of their teacher.

My sons went in the 1990s.

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My son Brennan as a California kindergartner, circa 1992. He carries a vinyl backpack. His teacher’s name was Miss Beck.

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My son Rowan as a California kindergartner, circa 1995. He is 3rd from the right, top row–clearly angling for class clown status! His teachers’ names were Ms Ramet and Ms Vaughn.

My, how many things have changed, and how many stay the same!

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What is Handed Down?

My grandfather Dr. Paul Wolff was a well known German photographer.

His son Klaus drew and painted watercolors, Klaus’ daughter draws, paints, illustrates and takes pictures, my sister and sons draw too, though they don’t enjoy it enough to practice much.

A propensity towards written and visual creativity seems to run in our family.

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The cover of a 4 page brochure about photographing children created by my paternal grandfather Dr. Paul Wolff.

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Paul Wolff using a huge view camera, before he was introduced to the new, hand held Leica.

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My grandparent’s wedding in 1914. Helene is 2nd and Paul is 4th from left.

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Paul Wolff published at least 6 books of his photographs. They are mostly written in German, so I have not read all his commentary.

Paul Wolff took fascinating photos of a huge range of subjects. Thorsten Overgaard wrote an essay about one of his photos that is great reading. My favorite quote from this article makes my grandfather come alive for me.

“In his book “My Life with The Leica” Walther Benser recalls the period where he would assist Dr. Paul Wolff. Benser was a Leica employee who had gone through the full technical training in Wetzlar and later spent many years traveling with the Leica Slide Show. He recalls:

“Dr. Paul Wolff had skills which I found myself envying. Without any optical aid from the Leica viewfinder in the new (Telyt) reflex housing, he could dissect the surroundings with his naked eye in the search for a suitable subject and position. He invariably picked out the perfect spot for taking the picture with the focal length he had already selected”.

“He was a master at keeping his photographic intentions undetected for as long as possible. He never carried the camera in front of his body in the usual manner but kept it, suspended on its strap, hidden behind his back with his right hand. This had become second nature to such an extent that he kept his right hand behind his back even when he was not holding a camera”.

I’ve chosen just a few of my favorite images of his to share, focusing on ones that remind me most of the way I, too, see the world.

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I can see where I’ve acquired the habit of framing a view with foreground objects, and my fascination with close ups of nature.

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I love the shallow focal field in this photo of my Dad at play as a child.

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This one-lit by car headlights-is my all time favorite. Oh, to have snows like this again!

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I never knew my grandfather. He and my grandmother divorced and he and my father became estranged. I did learn that he went on to marry a fellow photographer Annette Beiger and they had another son in 1943. If anyone reads this and can put me in touch with my half uncle Stephen Wolff and his family I’d be grateful.

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Is it Home Yet?

I hate moving.

In the past 16 months I have moved my mother twice and myself five times. One would think I’d gain mad organization skills and each move would be easier, but no.

Somehow I managed to get everything mixed up and scattered and actually bought a few new things to add to the pile. Now I am moving from a rental into my new, not-close-to-done, year-round house in Vermont. I’m not going to share current pictures of the chaotic process.  These vintage watercolor paintings from 1988 will have tell the story.

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SkaDaMo~2014

Why draw?

for practice, for fun, for history and remembrance, to be in the moment–all good reasons.

Add one more.

To be part of a pop-up, temporary community of kindred spirits during a very dark, very chilly month.

I may not be present  and accounted for on every day this month. but I will try to do SkaDaMo 2014 with as much verve as possible.

My first weekend of November was spent in Florence, MA with dear RISD friends: Barb and Maureen. We spent happy hours in Maureen’s kitchen, which sports an impressive pot and pan collection.

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Barb enjoys her coffee black.

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Maureen grows her own thyme.

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I look forward to the rest of this month.

#SkaDaMo

Pumpkins

Pumpkin was an affectionate nickname in my family, so I chose it as the name for my 1st Border Collie.

I love the word Pumpkin-how it fills my mouth and suggests the shape of the fruit.

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Yes, a pumpkin is a fruit- actually a berry. It is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with melons and cucumbers. The rule of thumb to tell fruit from vegetables is that: if it has seeds, it is a fruit, no seeds, it’s a vegetable.

As with every experience, Pumpkin stands in for me and is able to do things I can never do.HalloweenMaskweb 

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Lately, I have found a new, black, love object named Baby Bear. He is enjoying every bit of autumn in Vermont, especially the pumpkins!

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The Painted Door


This summer my dear friend Barb took me on a field trip to The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

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In the summer of 1900 a boardinghouse for artists began operation in the quiet shoreline town of Old Lyme, Connecticut. For the next two decades Miss Florence Griswold’s house on Lyme Street was home to one of the most famous art colonies in America and critical to the development of American Impressionism. — Hildegard Cummings, independent art historian and curator

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The story of Miss Florence and this house is fascinating, but what intrigued me most were the painted doors. Her summer guests were an elite group of American Tonalist and Impressionist painters including Childe Hassam and others.

Miss Florence allowed her favorite artists to paint on her interior doors.

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I’m a door painter from way back. I started in the 1970s, painting rural trompe l’oeil on close to a dozen barn doors at Doolittle Farm in Shoreham, Vermont.

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Painting these gave a me a local reputation and I did several more barns before leaving the state in 1980.

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Like William Henry Howe, who painted this Normandy Bull on Florence Griswold’s door, I made portraits of animals, children, and random chickens.

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This busy scene on a barn in Shoreham needs only the kitchen sink to make it complete.

And this one is a faux door–painted to match the real one next to it.

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The nice thing about doors is that every house has some. You always have a canvas if you want to try this at home!

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