Tag Archives: RAF

Christmas Bride

Santa mug flower arrangement

“Gift for the Giver”, based on a Random Acts of Flowers arrangement, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I lit a cinnamon-roll scented candle and put a CD into the player the other day as I was about to start this painting, and was transported back to 1964.  At the first “DooWaaaaah” from the Ray Conniff Singers (yes, DooWaa’s are a major feature of their version of “White Christmas”), I was surrounded by a sea of Harvest Gold shag carpet, and I could feel the pressure of knowing that I should be doing my homework or folding the laundry instead of daydreaming about Christmas weddings.

Our stereo was a huge colonial-style maple edifice that occupied one entire end of the living room.  I cursed it every Saturday morning as I dusted the half acre lid, but when I opened it, I always felt like I was getting away with something slightly naughty. You had to be about 14 years old before you were allowed to actually play a 33 rpm record (play a record – doesn’t that sound archaic?), so it was kind of a Big Deal.

Sliding the Christmas with Conniff record out of the well worn jacket took coordination and hands big enough to span from the center label to the outer edge.  Heaven help you if you actually touched the grooves, and trust me, such things did not go unnoticed.  There was a special velvety brush and a tiny bottle of liquid for removing fingerprints and dust, always applied by my father with a stern lecture to the offender.  About the only thing worse you could do was to not put a screwdriver back in the proper hanger on his workbench…

I don’t know much about music, my own musical education consisting of about 4 piano lessons at age 8 from Mr. Fox, an old man with a huge nose that he actually powdered.  But “Christmas with Conniff” was a beloved family Christmas tradition, and without intending to commit it to memory, I know every note, anticipate every cheesy call of “Hey, kids, wanna build a snowman?”  Only from Conniff have I ever heard calypso guitar, drum brushes, harp, tambourine, Irish tenor, and cowbell all in the same song: “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” never had so many minor falls and major lifts…

I remember listening over and over one year to the song about being a Christmas bride… “Santa, make me his bride for Christmas…” But that never happened, the jerk didn’t propose.  My little brothers put their allowances together that year and bought me a tiny diamond pendant necklace for Christmas.  Very uncharacteristic of boys who usually showed their affection for me by feeding my date’s hat to Heather the Disappearing Airedale.

My own kids have endured the album (…and the tape, and now the CD…and me singing along!) with relative good humor for their entire growing up years.  My daughter is about to become a bride for Christmas, and I’m lobbying hard for “Christmas Bride” to be on the wedding dance tape my son has promised to produce.  My grandson, who is considerably cuter than me, is lobbying just as hard for, “Who Let the Dogs Out”, so we’ll see how much clout me and Mr. Conniff can still wield!

Step by Step: The Next Wave of Bouquets

It looks like it’s a “GO!” to put together a series of Random Acts of Flowers Bouquet Paintings for greeting cards!  With that in mind, here are a couple of insights into the current process for creating the paintings.

The bouquet-creation process is described in detail in my previous post at http://www.gallerynouveau.biz/index.php/2014/09/arranging-flowers-not-so-random-acts-of-volunteers/.   That is the social part of the process for me, and being there as the bouquets are created gives me a powerful motivation for painting.  I don’t just get to play with flowers and chat with the other volunteers as they work their magic.  I witness the inspiration and inner workings of the organization,  like I did this morning: the door opened and a dripping woman appeared out of the driving rain, pushing one box through the door and going back for another.  “These are from my daughter’s wedding this weekend,” she said, “and since your kindness touched me so deeply two years ago when I was ill, we wanted to be sure these came to you.”  She had already made most of the flowers into small arrangements, the ideal size for an RAF delivery.  The few loose ones were scooped up almost immediately by delighted volunteers who needed just those two daisies or that one piece of greenery to finish off their bouquet.  Recycling flowers and smiles at its best!

So here are the steps to a painting:

Step 1.  Show up.  (Woody Allen maintains that this is the key to success no matter what you’re doing.)

Step 2.  Photograph some of the Fabulous RAF Bouquets – not fancy photos, I’d say they are more like utility photos to use as memory aids.  There are WAY too many  bouquets to choose from and they show up on the back shelves at a fast and furious pace, so this requires mostly good timing to snap the shot before they get loaded into the delivery van.

Step 3.  Go home, and start with a quick and loose “underpainting” in watercolor, based on memory and the photograph.  A glass or two of chardonnay is useful for encouraging what we artists like to call “spontaneity” at this stage.

Step 4.  Draw in some detail, usually in waterproof ink.

Step 5.  Optional:  Add more detail with whatever media works.  For a spattered, textured look, start flinging paint, or soak an old toothbrush in juicy paint and pull your thumb down over the bristles.  Or, grab the nearest three-year-old, take cover, and let him do it!

Step 6.  Scan or photograph the painting, process it in PhotoShop as needed.  I’ve begun adding a green border to the paintings to add some consistency to the format.

Et Voila!  The two bouquets in this post were created at RAF on Tuesday, September 29, 2014.

 

Arranging Flowers: Not-So-Random Acts of Volunteers

sketch of coral roses

“RAF Coral Roses”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

Tuesday morning the Random Acts of Flowers office was a sea of roses and leafy branches, bordered by dozens of vases and rolls of ribbons – a flower lover’s Disneyland!  After my flower arranging class a couple of weeks ago, I had worked up the nerve to volunteer.  The other volunteers were cinching up aprons and diving in to the blooms as my new friend Lorraine showed me the ropes (and scissors, and wires, and even how to de-thorn roses using a little flexible plastic soap dish!)  Many of the volunteers were seasoned regulars, and by working with them, I learned all kinds of interesting tips and tricks.  The most important thing: shop the entire room, plus the cold room, plus the vase warehouse, because you just never know what treasures lurk beneath the tubs of blossoms.  Treasures like dried cattails, bunches of those little red or pink berry thingies,  a clear coral-colored lucite vase, probably vintage 50’s ( I managed to snag that one!)  Or three velvety deep burgundy callas, ever so gorgeous and elegant, plus a metallic 80’s-style vase which coordinated perfectly with them, which became the inspiration for this arrangement by another volunteer:

sketch of metallic vase and flowers

“RAF Gorgeous”, mixed media with digital manipulation by Kerry McFall

Time flew past as we all chatted and clipped and consulted.  I was in my “arting happy place,” that same place I find myself when I draw or paint: completely oblivious to anything but what is before my eyes and in my hands.  Noon already!  And I was thrilled to look up and now see wave after wave of carefully arranged flowers, each one unique to the arranger’s designs and whims, each one including a Random Acts of Flowers card with the name of a sponsor or donor.  The flowers had come from weddings, events, florists, families; some arrived in perfect conditions, others needed serious de-constructing and trimming and rehabilitation in a fresh water bath.  Another set of volunteers had accomplished all that earlier on Monday.  Still other sets of volunteers spent hours washing and counting vases (recycled or donated), cleaning up after everyone else, and finally delivering the arrangements, delivering the smiles.

It occurred to me only as I was too tired to really do anything about it, that I should photograph some of the arrangements and paint them.  Another volunteer was talking about making prints of photos or paintings and doing cards or a calendar, thus giving the arrangements an even fuller life.  Hmmm… great idea!   So as a possible proof of concept, here are two paintings, the first one based on my favorite arrangement that I put together, the second one based on one of the volunteers’ favorites that hadn’t already been put on the delivery van by the time this inspiration struck.

What could be better inspiration?  All the flowers and arrangements and creative arrangers that I could possibly imagine, a fun group of volunteers to work with, and smiles all around.  I’m liking Knoxville!

Technique Notes:  I photographed the arrangements in the workshop – not the best lighting, but a good tool for remembering details.

Back in my “studio” (aka the dining room table,) the first painting was lightly outlined with transparent watercolor, spattered with a toothbrush all over, then lines were drawn with ink.  Several more layers were then painted using both opaque and transparent watercolor, and highlights were emphasized with wax pencil and white Sharpie marker.

The second painting was done using the same sequence, only more wax pencil to make the batik-type white edges.  BUT after all that fuss and bother, it wasn’t as colorful as the original, and I didn’t like the proportions – wonky vase, flowers not big enough, etc….  So I fired up my Photoshop and messed around until I had it closer to what I originally intended – ain’t technology grand?

flower arrangement

Random Acts of Sunflowers

 

We hit the ground running when we arrived in Knoxville and were invited to attend an award ceremony honoring our son Larsen Jay.  He founded a charity called Random Acts of Flowers about six years ago, dedicated to recycling and repurposing flowers and delivering them to people in hospitals and care facilities who might not otherwise ever get flowers.  Or visitors.  Or know that someone cares.  (Back Story: he broke every bone in his body falling off a roof.  He got a lot of flowers while in the hospital.  He took them around to other patients, and was amazed at the response. He wanted to pay it forward.)   He received the Innovation award from the Healthcare Heroes organization at the luncheon.  Kind of a Big Deal. 

Later that evening, I was lucky to be able to attend one of RAF’s special flower arranging events (photos below), where you learn from a pro PLUS you get take home an armload of flowers.  The RAF staff were so welcoming, the snacks and wine were terrific, and for a newcomer to town, it was a great way to meet like-minded people.  The arrangements I made are not going to change the face of floral design (it’s way more complex than I ever imagined!) BUT they made great fodder for a couple of paintings/sketches!  I’m hoping to volunteer to do some arranging and delivering for RAF while we’re here – it’s like Arts in Healthcare that I did in Corvallis:  you experience firsthand the fulfillment of giving.  No thank you cards, no fancy plaque, but giggles and smiles and handshakes and hugs.  And the occasional tears. 

Technique Notes:  The big bouquet is apparently known as “hand tied”… it was a huge handful of flowers, and my tying was fairly arthritic, but the good news was there was a big vase to hold them all, so tying was kind of a moot point.  For me, the whole point was the camaraderie, and the painting to come.  I began the painting with some big sloppy shapes painted with opaque watercolor, which makes a nice bright base.  Then I used brown ink, and added transparent watercolor washes.  Oh, yes, and spatters of opaque.

The smaller bouquet was made in a 4” glass cube.  A bit of chicken wire was folded over the top, then a big square of burlap was tied around that.  Flowers and a small cabbage were stuffed into the holes in the wire – okay, that’s the short version of what happened.  But it didn’t have to be the same on all sides, it didn’t have to be symmetrical, and it was still “hip.”  Worked for me!  This one was done just with transparent watercolor, no opaque.