Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


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Chang’s Elephants…

In January of this year, I had a unique experience of setting up an art show in my community library. Along one wall were the paintings of my father and in a glass case would be my collages and handmade books. This was a large case with four shelves. The bottom shelf was quite low and my work that needs to be standing up really could not be viewed well from that vantage point. At the last moment I decided to open some old sketchbooks of my father’s to lay flat on the shelf and they could be seen perfectly. In fact there was quite a lot of comment at the artists’ reception about the uniqueness of the sketchbooks. When I took down the show and took everything home I realized that the sketchbooks I had there were just the tip of the iceberg. So I cleaned out a cabinet and gathered all that I have together and went through them. My stack of notebooks also included a mock-up of a children’s book my father must have put together in the early 50’s. It was called “Bobby Goes To The Circus”. I thought there was a story line there and I wanted to share the wealth of sketches with Chang’s descendents.

In March, I got to visit Portland where they had a baby elephant born last November. On a lovely day with my niece, Katura, I was able to shoot video at the zoo and I enlisted her to record a soundtrack narration for me.

The Bobby in the title of the story is my big brother Bob. There is a sketch of him from the back discussing the anatomy of elephants. There are two pictures of me (young, thin, and with long hair) from 1974. They were taken by my father (always in black and white and printed 8″x10″) and are from the first year I was married and the first year I lived in Redlands, California. My parents came out to visit and since there was a small circus on a vacant lot just outside of town we took Jed, Bob’s son at around one years old, to see his first elephant. Jed’s son, Jesse, is the narrator of the story. Katura, Bob’s daughter and Jed’s sister, who is an artist in her own right contributed some sketches of our day at the zoo and helped to get a recording of Jesse reading the story. Jesse has an impressive, expressive reading style and is a premier blooper comedian. I do believe he has a career ahead of him as a voice-over artist.

I had to shoot through glass to get video of Baby Lily, so I apologize for stray reflections, but we were so lucky to see her momma perform for a little kibble dessert. Only one chance to get that shot! You should know that being a baby elephant is some kind of hard work and sometimes you just have to plop down wherever you are. Some of the pages of the sketchbooks have yellowed with age but they are a treasure I wanted to collect to share with you. Any relatives wishing a copy on CD to store in trunks in their attics…just let me know.

The lights have dimmed, the spots have come up. The ringmaster has come into the tent. Children of all ages…have some fun!


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Craft on…

Walking through Portland with my niece Katura is not a high-pressure experience. Not an amble, really, because a lot of analysis and intent went into her map decision planning, but there are a lot of pauses. Katura makes quick sketches and I take photos. Spouses along on the walk have long known to adapt their pace of walking to the reality of this characteristic locomotion.
We spent our morning in an art store and we knew we would end at the zoo. In between was an elephant in the park (because there are never too many elephants) and…oh, wow, a craft museum. And it was a fine, fine museum at that.

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Of course, we had to investigate the texture of the elephant before walking around the corner to the Museum of Contemporary Craft.

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The main show in the gallery was titled “We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live.” The featured artists are characterized as sharing a precarious relationship between fact and fiction.
Oil paintings by Stephen Hayes riding the line between abstraction and representation…

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Analog photos by Akihiko Miyoshi. He places tape over the lens of his camera and shoots into a mirror.

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Block prints by Daniel Duford…

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“Painting the Ingredients of my Painting” by Sang-ah Choi…

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Also, an exhibit of bowls…

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Bowls can be plastic or little slices of paper. Notice how the bowl that the attendant graciously flipped for us changes color…

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This exhibit had some wonderful examples from my favorite artists when I was learning to be a potter. A great time was had experiencing this vibrant museum.

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Art Show…

I hung an art show January 2 in the Art Gallery of the Orinda Library. It will be at the library for the month of January. It was an interesting experience deciding what I would include and it was fun including the work of my father. I had to reorganize once I got the paintings to the library. The large paintings behind glass with solid wood frames were quite heavy and I got nervous about hanging two on the same wire so I could not group the paintings by subject. But it got done thanks to husband Terry’s brawn and I only hit him in the chin once with a frame. (Luckily, he is still talking to me!)
Here is your invitation to the artist’s reception on Sunday, January 27, 2013, from 2:00-4:00. If you are in the neighborhood of the Orinda Library please join us for lemonade, popcorn, and peanuts. (Another section of the exhibit space has photographs of the digging of the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel. Quite dramatic!)
My work is in a glass case and many of my father’s pictures and lithographs are framed behind glass, so once again I apologize for reflection but hope you get a sense of the exhibit.
My collages, ceramics from my distant past, photographs, and travel journals…

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I included sketch books of my father’s because I find then fascinating…

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This is the wall of my father’s art…

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One of my friends asked if the walls of my house were bare now…ah, but no there is more, much more…

This link is to an article that was in the local paper The Orinda News. It starts on page 2.


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Oltrarno

South of the Arno River is the Oltrarno Neighborhood, a little less touristy than the middle of Florence. Although the Ponte Vecchio doesn’t classify as less touristy, there are other bridges on which to walk across the river.
Ponte Vecchio

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This is the way to go to the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. But if you go to the next bridge down (Ponte Santa Trinita) you can skirt all that.
A view from the bridge

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We liked the Untours trip that we were on. Besides taking care of the lodging and our arriving in Florence it gave us an orientation meeting and dinner which occurred over in the Oltrarno. Our leader, Mary Jane Poole, walked us through taking the #12 bus over there, which was invaluable info later in the week. Our dinner also included an art walk led by Marta Mandolini an art student who also works for Florence Design Week
It was a great tour even though I could not get very good pictures due to no light, but I did have reference points for later in the week when we went back to the district.

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I loved that there was this paper dress in a window

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And this art on the barricade around a construction sight

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We also signed up for a walking tour of artisan shops with Context Travel.
Our tour guide was Luca Santiccioli

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He is an art historian and a super fast translator…fun to watch him in action. First he took us to the studio of silversmith (argenteria) Donato Zaccaro.

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The next artisan was Carlo Cecchi who does metal work. If you walked into Gumps in San Francisco and bought a silver business card case he would have made it here in Florence. (No web site, you will just have to go to Gumps or the Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella where his pierced metal potpourri containers reside.)

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Pressing a euro to make bracelets for those of us on the tour

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Lost wax casting

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Metal stamping

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We passed by Santo Spirito Church

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So plain, you ask? It just never could be decided what kind of facade to put on it. Inside, however,
(no pictures allowed) is the most amazing Brunelleschi interior with column after column of serene stone-the grey-blue stone makes it look like a grey-blue forest. Also a crucifix made by Michelangelo at seventeen. His thank you gift because the mortuary allowed him to dissect bodies and learn anatomy. And a spectacular trompe l’oeil ceiling in order to save money.
Over to our third artisan, Gianni Raffaelli, a copperplate etcher at L’Ippogrifo.

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The copper plate

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Warmed up ink being added (his wife does the printing)

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Well done!


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Print Break…

Used my image of Okenagon Lake to create a silk screen for a break today. I put the original image through the Toon Paint app. Then, I printed it on an inkjet transparency so I could expose the screen in the sunlight (EZ Screenprint). Developed it in tap water and printed it with heavy bodied acrylic. Added color with colored pencil. I think I will print it on water color paper next and use water colors for the next version.

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This is the original that I posted two days ago.

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24 hours later: I printed the image on water color paper and used water colors to add color. I’m liking it!


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The elephant in the room…

or, as it is known in some circles, pondering the pachyderm…

“When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.”
Abraham Lincoln

I spent a lot of time in front of the elephants at the Oakland Zoo a few weeks ago. Since then, I have been thinking about them often. I have early memories of circuses and zoos as my father would take us as kids along¬† (with his sketchbook) to any circus that came through town. Many family day trips were to the Griffith Park or San Diego Zoos for him to catch up with his animal keeper friends and get some drawing done. I think I associate sketchbooks with the smell of hay and peanuts. After I entered school and questions like, “What’s your favorite color?” became pressing, when I asked my dad what was his he would say: “elephant’s breath grey.” (When I was an art teacher I often thought that the name should be submitted to Crayola for their boxes.) Even though his name was Charles, my father had gotten the nick name of Chang when he was in art school. The name came from an elephant in the zoo that was his favorite to draw and he was always known by the name afterward. He kept a record of every elephant’s history that was in the United States and wrote articles and a book on circus history. So, when I ponder elephants, I really ponder elephants from a long family history.

My parents on an early date…………….Wait for it…

My dad is just off camera holding the pole. Even though he took her into a lion’s cage, my mother married him anyway!

The “elephant in the room” is always very literal with me because I have so many on my walls…

A watercolor from 1940 of raising a circus tent:

My father also made lithographs.¬† (During World War II he was stationed in Texas for Officer’s Training School where he learned lithography from Merritt Mauzey.) When he got out of the war, he purchased a lithograph press with a war bond his brother gave him. (I think in celebration of them both having survived the war.) That press was always stored in our garage.

“Circus Sunrise” 1942

Babe and Jenny, 1952.

In the 60’s and 70’s he loved doing acrylic ink dry brush paintings. He used to rave about the way he could build up the tone with layers of ink. He did a lot in black and white ink, but some were in color. He also painted in oil, but I do not have any elephants painted in that medium, lots of clowns in oil, though.

The top of my piano also includes the death-defying Stella griping a rope by her teeth and a porcelain elephant sculpture by my good friend Jan Mrozinski Crooker (before she was a plein air painter she worked in porcelain).

When I was a production potter, back in the day, I often used the circus as a theme, also.

Photos of old porcelain boxes with new application of iPhone alteration.

It was a natural thing for me to use an elephant as the subject of a collage for a class I have been taking on-line from Misty Mawn.

I used every “elephant’s breath grey” paper I could find around here for the elephant plus a photo of a bird house I own that is shaped like an elephant and a photo of an exotic yellow bird I took at the rain forest exhibit at the Academy of Sciences last week. Of course, once I had taken the iPhone photo of the paper collage, I just had to start layering it with other images in my files. First with a photo of a side of a barn plastered with circus posters announcing the date of the next circus…

Then with a photo of a wheel of a circus wagon…

“Words are cheap. The biggest thing you can say is ‘elephant’.”
Charlie Chaplin


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Christmas Eve, 2010…

Last year, on the day before Christmas, I shared some artwork by a master printmaker who had been a friend of my father’s. Each year Harold Doolittle sent a card to my parents that contained a small print he had created and a hand-lettered greeting. In 1958, the card contained a definition of the Christmas Journey and included this print:

and this inscription with its beautiful gold-leafed illuminated letter.

and, again, in 2010 peace and joy on your journey.