Monday, July 26, 2010

Living in the Dark Ages

Dear Readers,

After some much needed time away I am coming to you from my iPhone because I haven't had Internet access since Friday night. I am hoping it comes back soon (before the cable company is scheduled to come here on Thursday)!

I have some fantastic guest posts planned from some seriously fabulous bloggers but I can't get online. Frustration central.

Please bear with me. In the meantime, I invite you to read the archives!

Thanks for visiting!


Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dear Readers,

Due to a personal matter there will be no new posts this week.

Thanks for visiting.


Bookmark and Share

Friday, July 16, 2010

Olivia's Birds - Save the Wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico

Happy Friday! We're finishing off another week of guest posts on Chessa! with something truly inspiring. Visit Nadine Bouler's Blog to
learn more about her daughter Olivia's efforts to save the Gulf's wildlife.

Olivia Bouler

Olivia Bouler: 11 years old and willing to help is how she described herself to the Audubon Society when she contacted them about the tragedy in the Gulf. Aspiring ornithologist, artist, and saxophone player, my daughter Olivia wept when she heard about the oil spill in the Gulf Coast, a place where she spent many vacations with her cousins and grandparents who live in Louisiana and Alabama. Knowing birds were going to suffer during migration and nesting season, she knew she had to take action. Inspired by her hero James Audubon, Olivia wrote to the Audubon Society about her fundraising idea; she wanted to give bird drawings to those who donated to wildlife recovery efforts, setting a goal of 500 originals.

olivia portrait

What started as a way for Olivia to feel she had some power in this catastrophic situation, creating drawings to raise money, actually exploded into an example of the healing power of the painted image. The response has been incredible, raising over $160,000 for a variety of organizations helping wildlife in the Gulf region through her AOL Artist Page and having over 25,000 people sign up for her Facebook fan page: Save the Gulf: Olivia’s Bird Illustrations.

Why the response? Olivia’s drawings, beautifully rendered watercolors based on scientific field guides and first-hand observations, are more than a child-like gesture of innocence. Her images tap into art’s long history of reminding us of what’s important in life— the sublime in a profane world.

Nadine Bouler

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sandra Leidholdt - Photographing Moms and Their Babies

In honor of Monica and her new little love, I decided to share with you some of my favorite images of babies and their moms from photographer
Sandra Leidholdt. There is nothing quite so perfect as capturing a new life, is there?

The Lil Bee

The Lil Bee

The Lil Bee

The Lil Bee

The Lil Bee

About four times a year, my husband and I donate to Save A Sato, one of our favorite animal rescue organizations. This year, we’re giving to the Humane Society and The Audubon Society, too, in support of their efforts in Haiti and the Gulf. It’s harder than ever for people to donate right now, but charity should never fall off our list of priorities—these animals and so many other worthwhile causes need us.

To Monica and baby L: huge kisses and hugs! Thank you for having me here.


The Lil Bee {} + Feather Report {}

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Your Photos in Your Home

Today I'm really excited that Megan, one of the two
Bon Bon Rose Girls, is making a cameo on Ciao, Chessa!


Hi guys, I’m super stoked to be here while Monica is off cuddling with the adorable Lucia! That is one gorgeous bambina! Well we all know the apple doesn’t fall far…

Last year my husband and I moved into a new home. After living in the heart of Washington, DC for several years we decided to relocate to Annapolis. It’s been a great change that’s meant more green space, farmers markets and smiling waitresses. I’m not kidding, imagine smiling waitresses everywhere you go! So freaky to a city girl!

The change also came with a lot more square footage and even more wall space! So much so that I was a little intimidated. I like to make each space personal and I want people to walk in our house and feel our personalities, but as a couple we can only agree on so much artwork! What’s a girl to do?! However, we found that one great and fairly inexpensive way to fill the space beautifully has been through using our own photography as art. Sure, Monica is super talented and has amazing photos, and even my own husband is a photojournalist with fab shots, but these days you don’t have to be a professional to get out the camera and take frame-worthy shots. Sometimes just a simple walk can yield amazing images of bright flowers and shimmering blue skies.

We do have a photo printer at home but it only prints up to 11x17. Rather for large oversized shots we take the image to a specialty photo shop, which will typically run about $100 for a poster size foam-mounted print. Nearly every city has one and if you’re in the DC area we use Chrome in Georgetown.

Megan - BBRG

Then while shopping I keep my eyes peeled for frame deals. Sometimes that means frames like this one that I picked up at Michaels for a mere $20, and other times it might mean looking at a great frame and realizing that I can swap out the image for my own for a steal.

Regardless using your own photos will bring a magical touch to corners of your space that would otherwise be left feeling a little blah. The best part is they are easy to switch out and when friends ask who the artist is you can point to yourself!

Megan - BBRG

Megan - BBRG

ps – Don’t forget to sign the matte, after all you are the artist!

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

5 Ways to Teach Your Child About Art

One of the things that inspires me as an artist, and a father, is the creativity that courses through the veins of our children. There's a wonderfully vibrant sense of awe and astonishment, as well as accomplishment, that radiates from children when they see that they have created something beautiful and thoughtful with their own hands. It's art in it's purest form.

Flawless Technique

As artists, and art lovers, we adults can often lose sight of that pureness. That shouldn't blind us from ensuring that we work to incorporate as many artistic journeys in the lives of our children.

Getting Our Hands Dirty

Is Creativity and Art Important for Children?

You bet it is. Art teaches a number of crucial skills. Here are a few from Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. As referenced by Sapiens Tribune:

  1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

  2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.

  3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

  4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

  5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

  6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

  7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

  8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

  9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

  10. The arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.

None of this is new nor is it news.

That doesn't make it less important and it certainly doesn't make it less noteworthy. What it may, however, do is help to bring forth ideas and actions that can help you harness the arts in ways that can teach your children life long skills that will better equip them to excel in life.

Here are 5 ways you can harness the arts in your child's life:

Museums and Galleries

Show them art. Everywhere. Let them look and talk about and ponder the art that surrounds us in our daily lives. This is easily done. But a step further, one that can truly help to spur further creative thinking in your child, is to take them to museums and art galleries.

Art Galleries and Museums are not just for adults! There are many museums who have special areas or even wings devoted to teaching children about art. We have a "Children's Museum" in the town I live in and we often seek out other children's museums when we go on vacation. Our kids absolutely love them. The children's museums are often filled with hands-on activities and play areas that are designed to stimulate learning and creativity.

Many art galleries also have special tours for children so it's simply a matter of checking out their websites or giving them a call. Ask them when the best times to bring children are and they'll most likely help you plan a trip. We find that taking our kiddos in the middle of the day in the middle of the week is best (in our town) as it's less busy and we can talk with our kids and answer the questions that they have without disturbing anyone. Be courteous. If one wing or area has a few people in it then see if there is another wing that doesn't. Being able to have the freedom to let your kids talk about what they see is worth the extra hassle of working around the other art enthusiasts.

Bonus activity: Once you are back home with the kiddos give them a chance to further explore their thoughts and feeling on what they saw. Give them some paper and crayons/paint/whatever and let them go to town. The art is fresh in their minds.

Art at the Park

Art at the park can be as simple as taking an easel and some paints to the park and letting your child go wild. They can use their hands, feet, brushes, whatever! Put them in some old clothes and let them be free.

Looking to be less messy? You can do sidewalk chalk or take butcher paper and spread it over a picnic table with a handful of crayons.

The idea though, is to get them outdoors away from their "normal" environment. Their minds will be stimulated with fresh ideas and you'll be able to hang some wonderful "landscapes" on your fridge.

Be kind to the environment. This is an opportunity to teach your child about the arts AND about our environment. If you are using paints seek out biodegradable and non-toxic paints as they are bound to soak into the ground. Here are a few sources:

Environmentally friendly art supplies

Earth friendly art supplies

EcoArt Works

Scavenger Hunt Collage

This is a project that was a HUGE hit for our kiddos. Super simple and super fun.

Put together a scavenger hunt for your child to collect things from the outdoors. These can be leaves, flowers, twigs, grass, etc. Help them collect and help answer questions about what they're finding.

After they've collected all of their "finds" you can take them home and put it all together in a collage. Help them paste the objects on a heavy paper or cardboard and you've got a wonderful work of art that captures an entire day's worth of fun.

Children with Cameras

Because children are smaller and have little preconceived notions of how art is "supposed" to look they often turn out to be stellar photographers. They see things so differently than us normal adults do. Harnessing the little shutterbug in your life is easy and can be as inexpensive as you wish.

Point and shoot and "throwaway" film cameras are pretty tough and can withstand the jostles and bumps that a child will put them through. They are also very inexpensive. The bonus is that with film you will have actual prints for the children to hold and admire and kids really need that feedback.

We did opt to get our child an age appropriate digital camera (Fisher Price Kid-Tough in Pink) even though they tend to be gimmicky and not of very good quality. The upside is that they can snap away without any thought of running out of film. The downside is that you will need to put in a little extra effort to get those images on your computer and get them printed. I find that many people don't do this with their own cameras so I have doubts that the average person would do this for their child. If you go this route please prove me wrong. Your kiddos will thank you.

Give Them Gallery Space

Once you've started incorporating so many artistic journeys into your child's life you'll no doubt end up with tons of their artwork all over your home. That's a good problem to have!

While most parents reserve the refrigerator as a space for showing off their child's accomplishments why not give them a proper gallery space to show off their artwork? It would be easy enough to designate a wall in their room for this purpose.

I think a better idea would be to designate a space outside of their room if your house can somehow allow it. Think of it as their first chance to put their artwork in a public display.

It could be your room in a special corner or perhaps the hallway would suffice? The idea is to help them be proud of the work that they do.

They can help manage the space by deciding which pieces will stay and which will have to come down to make room for others. Involving them in these types of decisions teaches them about scarcity and other grown up decision making processes.

Teaching your child about art will do one big bonus for yourself: You'll re-discover how to look at life and art through the eyes of a child. There is no greater gift that a child can bestow on a parent than to teach that parent how to be more like a child.

Damien Franco is a contemporary artist in the heart of West Texas. While not fending off tumbleweeds and oil tycoons with his camera he also edits and writes online photography tutorials and camera tips.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 12, 2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

Julie Blackmon

This guest post is brought to you by the fabulous

Julie Blackmon

Julie Blackmon (born 1966 in Springfield, Missouri) is a photographer who lives and works in Springfield.








Julie Blackmon uses digital techniques to intensify the color and collage elements to create staged scenes of family life. As the oldest of nine children and mother to three, Blackmon uses her own family members and household to "move beyond the documentary to explore the fantastic elements of our everyday lives."

Ms. Blackmon is currently represented by the Claire Oliver gallery in New York. She is in the permanent collections of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, and the Photographic Center Northwest, Seattle, WA.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Hello everyone, I am Leigh Viner from over at
Create and am honored that Monica asked that I could help out with a few guest posts while she is enjoying some time with her new bundle of joy :) Congratulations Monica and Douglas!!

Photo: Anke Merzbach

For this post I thought I would share one of my favorites that I posted on my blog last year. A great inspirational photograph that I came across from Anke Merzbach and a short film that I felt was relative in so many ways. A beautiful and telling story of a couple and their relationship with a bird and what that bird may represent to them. Day to day simplicity's and the feelings that arise with change.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Garance Dore

And today we have a wonderful guest post from the always fashionable and fabulous Kristin from Bon Bon Rose Girls...thanks, Kristin!

When Miss Monica asked me to guest post on Ciao, Chessa!, I was elated and crazy nervous at the same time. If you read her blog, then clearly you know how incredibly brilliant and talented she is. Oh and not to make ya'll jealous, or anything, but I've had the pleasure of meeting her in person and she is just as sweet as she looks! So, in spite of the fact that I'm a tad jumpy over Monica entrusting her beloved blog to me...I'm going to attempt to do her justice here.

I'm not overly knowledgeable when it comes to photography. I know what I think is pretty or interesting, and therefore what I like, and that's about the extent of it. This is why artist/photographer Garance Dore is right up my alley. Not only is she a magnificent fashion illustrator,

but she captures gorgeous real life looks and displays them on her delicious blog. La blog is both pretty, interesting and so much more. I could spend hours pouring over the images. Here is a little sampling of my favorites...

Did I mention that she is half of a fashion photog blogging super couple? In case you didn't know...the other half is this charming fellow!

All images via Garance Dore

Can you just imagine the creative genius that the offspring of The Sart and Garance would possess? It boggles the mind!

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Photodiarist

Hello. Monica has asked me to be a guest blogger on her wonderful blog while she figures out the world of new Mom stuff.

My blog is The Photodiarist. In my spare time, I love to wander around New York, the city in which I live, photographing people and things of interest to me. Over the past three months, I've been enrolled in a photography course at the International Center of Photography. The focus of the class has been the development of a personal project during the course of the class. For my project, I chose portraiture. . . but with a twist.

I forced myself to stop people in the street to pose for a portrait. Fortunately, not one single person I approached said no, which really surprised me. This coming Saturday is the day that I show my work in total to my class. In this post, I'd like to give you a peek at what I plan to show, although I must admit that many of these photos are also on my blog. So here goes:











Note from Monica

I LOVE these images! And, I must say that it is so very brave of the Photodiarist to approach strangers and ask them to pose. I'm much more of a renegade shooter...randomly choosing my subjects while trying to hide from their view. I have just been inspired to try this! Thanks, Photodiarist!

Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 05, 2010

Purple Muse

Well, friends, I am officially on maternity leave! This month there will be a series of wonderful Guest Bloggers here on Ciao, Chessa! I cannot express how thrilled I am to have them here taking care of my little blog while I enjoy some time away with my brand new girl. I promise that sometime later this month I will definitely properly introduce the meantime, please enjoy these fabulous and creative posts from some of my favorite bloggers from around the web.

Hi!  I'm Lisi from The Beauty File blog and I'm so honored to be filling in for Mon as she takes some well deserved time off! I don't know about you, but summer is definitely my favorite season. I grew up right near the beach on the South Shore of Long Island. Days were spent building sand castles, nights were spent in hooded sweatshirts turning cartwheels until I couldn't stand up straight. Some of my favorite memories include dinner on the beach and my hair turning bright white from the summer sun.

I fell in love with these photos by Purple Muse, from the Iconology site.

The series is called, "I Wish I Could Be Young Again." How appropriate?

What are some of your favorite summer beach memories?

All photos via iconology, copyright Purple Muse

Bookmark and Share