Fourth place goes to…

Evergreen Park!  Definitely not fourth place in my heart, however.  I always loved my cousins’ home, and was happy to live there for a short while.  My childhood memories start to become a little clearer – we lived there from 1955 to 1956.  There were two, out of a future five, Heneghan cousins at that time (now collectively known as the “Henegirls”), and my uncle’s job took them to Baltimore for a year or so.  While they were gone, and while our neighborhood in Chicago was being built, we lived in their beautiful home in Evergreen Park.

While living in this house, I started kindergarten at the ripe old age of 4.  I had my tonsils out.  I remember when I came home from the hospital, I was allowed to sleep in the big bed on the first floor.  Someone presented me with a Jack-in-the-Box that scared the hell out of me.

The years that followed included family parties and sleepovers, running through the “prairie” when we were told to stay away from there (it was actually just a vacant lot between houses, but we thought it was wonderfully exciting and dangerous), running away from snakes (there were a lot of garden snakes in Evergreen Park!), playing all the usual outdoor games, standing outside my friend’s house yelling, “yo-o-o Maureen” in that universal sing-song voice.  At this house, we had our combined eighth-grade graduation party.

My favorite memories of this house are of my cousin’s teenage bedroom, which included the dormer in the front of the house, and a “secret passage” behind the paneling.  We sang into our rat-tailed hairbrushes, and danced to “Walk Like a Man” by the Four Seasons. I learned how to do the stroll and the cha-cha.  I learned how to smoke.  We were both in the Brother Rice High School senior class production of Oklahoma, which meant I was able to spend more time sleeping over, since they lived a few blocks from the school.

My uncle designed this home, and it was sad to leave it behind when he moved the family to Wisconsin.  But the memories never fade.

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Next stop, 80th & Kildare in Chicago…

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Saturday in the Park

Saturday was our regular Urban Sketchers Chicago monthly meeting day, which coincided with the 43rd Worldwide Sketch Crawl day.  USk Chicago met at the Lincoln Park Conservatory.  It was a gorgeous day, temperature in the 60’s near the lake, and we had a great turnout.  I entered the conservatory with another sketcher, Alex, hoping to find something interesting to sketch.  Less than a minute later, I was heading for the door – I needed air!!  There is a reason those places are called “hothouses.”

Outside, I decided to sketch the little bridge and tunnel located a safe, and much cooler, distance from the entrance to the Conservatory.  I sat on a small rock wall (for nearly two hours!) and sketched away.  Soon, a little girl was playing peek-a-boo with me from behind the nearby water fountain.  I was wishing I could sketch faster, and better, to capture her.  Meanwhile, her parents were having 10,000 fits trying to get her to leave – but she and I were laughing and having too much fun!  One of the most interesting aspects of sketching in public is interacting with a wide variety of people.

Case in point.  A man who was walking by admired my work in progress, and told me that he, too, enjoyed sketching.  I said, “Well, you should join us!  We are on Facebook, and we post our photos…”  Before I could finish, he declared that Facebook was owned by The Government.  As were most of “those social media things.” They are trying to control our lives. He continued to talk, while I smiled and nodded and mentally went somewhere else for a while.  Finally, I noticed that his monologue was winding down.  He ended by saying that Facebook, Twitter, and two other things that he mercifully could not remember, were, in “reality,” the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  He bade me a cheery good-bye, and set himself up near the entrance to the Conservatory, where he played the tin whistle beautifully!

I love hearing the tin whistle, and as I sat on a rock wall, and sketched a rock wall, I could almost imagine that I was in Ireland.  It was magical!

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Sketched with pencil, Staedtler pens, watercolor, Conté pencil, in a S&B Zeta sketchbook.

Bar Mitzvah

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As an Irish Catholic person, well, Irish anyway, I have never had the opportunity to attend a Bar Mitzvah.  This past Saturday, my husband and I attended our nephew’s son’s Bar Mitzvah.  I knew photographs were not allowed, so I sat in the back row and did a little sketching.  It was a beautiful ceremony, and David made his family proud.  We were honored to share in this major life event.  Mazel tov, David!


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Sketchbook Project – Remembering Michael

I finally finished my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project 2013 and mailed it out yesterday.  You can see all the pages here, (or click on the tab above) in their proper order.  My theme was “memoir,” and was all about my son, Michael.  I did not have the time, or the fortitude, to create enough pages to fully explore Michael’s too-short life.  But, the whole process was cathartic for me.  It was therapy.  And it’s finished.  I will either go to bed for a week, or I’ll start a new project – I haven’t decided!

My book is a mixed-media creation – I used watercolors, pencil, Micron pens, charcoal, water-soluble pens, Photoshop text, and a photograph.  Most of the music was copied from sheet music, but there were some songs I could not find sheet music for – for example, “Sweet Zoo,” and “Irish Heartbeat.”  I sounded out the tunes and wrote out the music the way it sounded to me – but not with the proper notes or bars, etc.  But, hey, it’s art!

This book contains some cherished memories, but it is also a statement about mental illness.  As parents, we may do everything right when we raise our children – despite our human foibles and failures, of course – but when mental illness insinuates itself into the life of an adult child, all we can do is…nothing.  I hope this will change.  But there is no easy solution.  Meanwhile, I prefer to remember the good times.  I prefer to remember my Michael.

Year of the Tiger

Our daughter, Renee, always sends out New Year’s cards.  Now that she has a son, he is always prominently featured on the card.  The year of his birth was the Year of the Rat – little Ben was pictured in a photo (by me) with a stuffed animal mouse.  Ben was dressed in a little kimono – it was very cute.  His second year, 2009, was the Year of the Bull.  Renee took an amazing picture of Ben running toward the camera, with the Wall Street bull sculpture behind him, looking like the bull was chasing him.

This year, the Year of the Tiger, we tried, unsuccessfully, to get pictures of Ben at the zoo with a tiger in the background.  The tigers did not cooperate.  They were sleeping and completely oblivious to all the spectators who were waiting for them to awaken.  I thought perhaps I could do a watercolor of a tiger that Renee might be able to use.  I researched on-line images of tigers, and finally found one that I liked and could possibly copy.  This is the resulting image.

I use mostly M. Graham watercolors – I like the fact that they are made with honey, and they can be re-moistened even after a very long time of disuse (which is very good for someone like me!).  The colors are amazing.  I did this painting on a 5×7 watercolor pad.

Renee was very happy with the results, and she used it, along with one of my photos of Ben, to make this year’s card.  I had edited the photograph in Photoshop by taking Ben out of a picture and placing him on a plain blue background.  Again using Photoshop, I added the grass around his feet, and some around the tiger to tie them together.  This is the image that ended up on her final New Year’s card.

Happy New Year!