Never Have I Ever

As my year in Bremerhaven Germany comes to an end, I want to remember some unusual experiences.

Never have I ever lived three blocks from chimpanzees.

My neighbor from the Zoo Am Meer in Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
My neighbor from the Zoo Am Meer in Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Also, the rest of the zoo, but the chimpanzees have a lookout area above the zoo fence so I see them most days hanging out looking at the human zoo that is Bremerhaven.

Never have I ever lived somewhere that didn’t have air conditioning in the summer or screens on the windows. Oh my God, y’all, so happy there are not a lot of mosquitoes.

In Lubeck during one of 2018's heatwaves. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
In Lubeck during one of 2018’s heatwaves. Photo by Andreas Muenchow

Never have I ever had my haircut by people who didn’t speak my language.

A nice haircut, but not what I was expecting. Ha ha. Selfie by Dragonfly Leathrum
A nice haircut, but not what I was expecting. Ha ha. Selfie by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever seen artwork from my favorite artist Hundertwasser in person.

Being in the spaces Hundert Wasser created and touching the walls instead of looking at photos in a book was an incredible experience. Vienna Austria. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Being in the spaces Hundertwasser created and touching the walls instead of looking at photos in a book was an incredible experience. Vienna Austria. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever eaten smoked eel. It looks horrible, but is actually very good. I’ve also never eaten so many potatoes in my life. Andreas likes to cook and his repertoire is slightly limited.

Christmas food shopping from the farmers and fish market for visiting family. The eel is the black object in the fish box. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christmas food shopping from the farmer’s and fish markets for visiting family. The eel is the black object in the fish box. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever eaten peanut butter flavored Cheetos. Yum, addicted to them. I was introduced in the bar on the research ship which brings me to..

Why do I like these? I really don't know.
Why do I like these? I really don’t know.

Never have I ever seen snow on Labor Day, an iceberg or a glacier. Also,

Never have I ever spent four weeks living on the ocean.

In the Arctic Sea aboard the FS Maria S. Merian. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
In the Arctic Sea aboard the FS Maria S. Merian. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever consumed so much Pilsner and Riesling. Not in copious amounts, it’s the only type of beer and wine Andreas likes to buy here.

It doesn't get more local that looking at the vineyard through the wine glass. Lunch in front of St. Joseph's Church in Beilstein on the Moselle River. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
It doesn’t get more local that looking at the vineyard through the wine glass. Lunch in front of St. Joseph’s Church in Beilstein on the Moselle River. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever had this much time to focus on my artwork. I’ve had a few months here and there in my life when I’ve attended workshops or been between jobs, but never a whole year to slow down and focus.

My little studio desk with the portable art supplies. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
My little studio desk with the portable art supplies. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever exhibited my paintings abroad! Wow, that was cool.

Watercolor and colored pencil works ready to go to the gallery. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Watercolor and colored pencil works ready to go to the gallery. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever eaten gooseberry (Stachelbeere) or rhubarb (Rhabarber) pancakes.

Andreas cooks pancakes every Sunday. This is his first rhubarb pancake. Yum! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas cooks pancakes every Sunday. This is his first rhubarb pancake. Yum! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever traveled by train so much or been without a car for so long.

Almost home after a long trip by train. Our adventures with German rail have been frustrating at times but I appreciate being able to travel almost anywhere without a car. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Almost home after a long trip by train. Our adventures with German rail have been frustrating at times, but I appreciate being able to travel almost anywhere without a car. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever had a “destination wedding” back to my house.

Home in the states for a week to get married. Andreas calculated that we need to plant approximately 50 trees to offset our carbon footprint from that trip. Photo by Glenn Davies
Home in the states for a week to get married. Andreas calculated that we need to plant approximately 50 trees to offset our carbon footprint from that trip. Photo by Glenn Davies

Never have I ever spent hours in an immigration visa office. Thank God Andreas can speak German. I feel really bad for all of the others there who didn’t have a native speaker with them.

Not a bad neighborhood to live in. Bremerhaven, Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Not a bad neighborhood to live in. Bremerhaven, Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

All in all, a wonderful experience. I accomplished most of the goals I set for myself and I think Andreas did too. We’re looking forward to visiting again soon.

I think we checked off most of the steps in the book.
I think we checked off most of the steps in the book.

Guest Artist in Bremerhaven Germany

Greeting the students from Berufsbildende Schulen Sophie School at Art Impressions Gallery Bremerhaven, Germay. Photo by Christiane Matthai
Greeting the students from Geschwister Scholl Schule at Art Impressions Gallery Bremerhaven, Germany. Photo by Christiane Matthäi

My Germany bucket/wish list for this sabbatical year is checked off. I created a new body of work, had an art exhibit, and last week I was given the opportunity to speak to five high school art classes. I was also invited to visit their school and interact with the students as they worked on their projects.

An Art classroom at the Berufsbildende Schulen Sophie School. The students are working on sculpture projects. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
An Art classroom at the Geschwister Scholl Schule. Main class, 5 hours of art during the week. The students are working on sculpture projects. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
End of the year art instructor's desk. True anywhere. Ha ha. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
End of the year art instructor’s desk. True anywhere. Ha ha. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Since I’m an art instructor in America and students in Germany study English, I thought it would be fun to visit a class to show them my artwork and have conversations in English. Through my show at Art Impressions Gallery I became friendly with the gallery owner, Fernando Valero who invited me to his garden birthday party. There I met local high school art teacher, Christiane Matthai who teaches at the Geschwister Scholl Schule in Bremerhaven. I told her I was interested in speaking to students and she not only brought her students to my exhibit but invited me to her classroom.

Art instructor Christiane Matthai offering a funny suggestion for her students project. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Art instructor Christiane Matthäi offering a funny suggestion for her students project. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Art instructor Christiane Matthai giving one on one help to a student. The antlers on the table are made with a glue gun and painted. It's all glue. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Art instructor Christiane Matthai giving one on one help to a student. The antlers on the table are made with a glue gun and painted. They’re all glue. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Both experiences were wonderful. At the gallery I spoke about the theme for my show and then a little bit about each work individually. I shared my inspiration for the images and the watercolor and watercolor pencil techniques used in rendering them.

Speaking about my inspiration and technique. Photo by Christiane Matthai
Speaking about my inspiration and technique. Photo by Christiane Matthai

I showed a Power Point presentation that I prepared on the Ship last summer for the scientists about the other art mediums I work in, and about my past artistic and work experiences. I wanted the students to know that I haven’t made a career out of painting old women in diners, I also paint goats on skateboards, make stained glass windows from garbage and drive an Art Car.

Explaining my past and current work with a Power Point presentation. Art Impressions Gallery owner, Fernando Valero Delgado stands in the right of the photo. Photo by Christiane Matthai
Explaining my past and current work with a Power Point presentation. Art Impressions Gallery owner, Fernando Valero stands in the right of the photo. Photo by Christiane Matthäi

I really enjoyed each class. I was curious about the similarities and differences I would observe comparing German kids to American kids. No differences I could see or sense bar one and that was that the German students showed more independence. The teacher was recently sick and I asked her if she had to pay for her substitute like the teachers do in California. She said that that subs are not hired for high school classes. Her students acquired the key for the room, worked independently and cleaned up after themselves. That was shocking to me. I could see how it was possible though after spending time in her classroom. I observed the students set up their projects, work independently when their teacher wasn’t giving them one on one time, and clean up their area. They spoke to each other quietly and worked steadily throughout the long class period without need for redirection.

Student working on her Louise Bourgeois inspired sculpture. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Student working on her Louise Bourgeois inspired sculpture. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The student's assignment was to begin with a plate and incorporate that into their sculpture. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The student’s assignment was to begin with a plate and incorporate that into their sculpture. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The German student’s clothing, shoes, hair styles and demeanor were so similar to my students. I told them if I saw them in America I would never guess that they were from Germany unless they spoke to me. It’s interesting how access to the internet is changing design cross culturally. Also, their English vocabulary and pronunciation was very good; better than they think it is.

Listening to what the students like about the work and answering questions. Photo by Christiane Matthai
Listening to what the students like about the work and answering questions. Photo by Christiane Matthäi

I feel very lucky to be given this experience and hope to work with Christiane again during our future visits.

A Wonderful gift for my time from teacher and students. All things from the fair trade store. Very sweet of them!
A Wonderful gift for my time from teacher and students. All things from the fair trade store. Very sweet of them!

 

Delaware Artist exhibits in Bremerhaven Germany

Newark, Delaware artist Dragonfly Leathrum exhibits in Dragonfly Germany. WHAT?!? Ha ha, seen here enjoying her show through wine goggles. Selfie by Dragonfly Leathrum
Newark, Delaware artist Dragonfly Leathrum exhibits in Bremerhaven Germany. WHAT?!? Ha ha, seen here enjoying her show through wine goggles. Selfie by Dragonfly Leathrum

Newark, Delaware artist Dragonfly Leathrum exhibits new work in Bremerhaven Germany. The artist exhibited seventeen watercolor and colored pencil paintings and thirteen pencil and colored pencil drawings. All artwork was created in an eight-month time span while on sabbatical.

Exhibits in Germany, thirty works created in eight months, watercolor paintings? Who is this person? Me? How did that happen? If someone had read that first paragraph to me two years ago and said that’s going to be you, I wouldn’t have believed them. I would have said that it sounds even more far fetched than some of the goals I set for myself in my sketchbook. If you follow this blog you know how this happened. If not, the cliff note version is that I met a wonderful German/ American Oceanographer just shy of two years ago. We started dating, fell in love moved in together, moved to Germany for a sabbatical, and got married. For the detailed version of that journey see previous posts.

Portrait of Andreas Muenchow pencil on paper 8x11" in the National Cafe' Bremerhaven Germany. Drawing and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Portrait of Andreas Muenchow pencil on paper 8×11″ in the National Cafe’ Bremerhaven Germany. Drawing and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

So here I am in Germany for a year and I have the freedom for the first time in my life to dedicate most of my time to creating art, but my studio and supplies are in Newark, Delaware. I can’t paint in acrylics or oils and I can’t create stained glass windows (or can I?) without a large investment in new supplies, and then how do I ship them home? My solution to this first world, artist problem was to switch to watercolors and colored pencils. This worked well on our research trip in the Arctic and has been a wonderful solution to creating new work quickly that is easy to ship and can also fit in a suitcase.

Studio space aboard the FS Maria S. Merian in the Greenland Sea. Just enough space for a little box of watercolors and some colored pencils. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Studio space aboard the FS Maria S. Merian in the Greenland Sea. Just enough space for a little box of watercolors and some colored pencils. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

My art goals during my stay in Bremerhaven were to 1. Practice a drawing/ painting skill that I want to improve on for future work, 2. Create a new/full body of work with one theme, in one medium that I can exhibit when I return to the States and 3. Icing on the cake, and a dream, to have a show in Germany.

One thing I've improved upon is transferring a small drawing to larger paper using the grid system. I hope this improves my mural painting skills in the future.
One thing I’ve improved upon is transferring a small drawing to larger paper using the grid system. I hope this improves my mural painting skills in the future.

So, what to paint? The blank tablet of watercolor paper asks, “What will it be, ma’am?” I ask myself what would I like to see on the wall? What do other people want to see on their walls? What’s important to document? After a lot of thought I chose to create dining companions. Portraits were my challenge that needed a lot of practice and I enjoy figure drawings more when the background gives some information. I was also a bit lonely. I chose to paint friends, relatives, people from the newspaper, a few faces from online sources and one self-portrait. If the face was interesting and the figures were in a dining situation, I was ready to paint them.

Tourist Diners watercolor and colored pencil 30x40cm. Portraits of Jason and Erin Wright in a Bremerhaven restaurant.
Tourist Diners, watercolor and colored pencil 30x40cm. Portraits of Jason and Erin Wright in a Bremerhaven restaurant.

One theme and all in watercolor with colored pencil. (this is unusual for me) In the few months since I began this project my drawings and paintings have improved with practice which inspires me to keep going.

Now for a show in Germany, I approached a few galleries, some were interested but didn’t have an opening until 2020. By chance I found a gallery close to my neighborhood with an opening in April and I was able to book it. Yay, a show!

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Art Impressions Gallery, pencil and colored pencil 8x11"
Art Impressions Gallery, pencil and colored pencil 8×11″

Uh oh…now I need to matte and frame thirty pieces of artwork and I can’t bring these frames home to Delaware. The Owner of Art Impressions Gallery saved me the matting costs by applying for and receiving a grant from the city for exhibiting an international artist. For frames I did something I would never consider doing in Newark and that was to purchase all the frames from IKEA with plexi windows instead of glass.

These IKEA frames aren't so bad from a distance.
These IKEA frames aren’t so bad from a distance.

(I can hear my artist friends and my framer 4000 miles away screaming NO!!! in unison.) Those were not easy to transport on the 505 bus. I will donate them to the gallery or a school when I leave for student artists.

Gallery owner Fernando Valero hangs the show at Art Impressions Gallery. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Gallery owner Fernando Valero hangs the show at Art Impressions Gallery. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We had the show opening on April 27th 2019, it was a success. Four of the paintings were sold through commission, three sold through social media before the show and two sold opening night. Framing costs covered.

Andreas Muenchow, his mother, Christa in red and our wonderful Landlords from Peace4you at the opening at Art Impressions. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas Muenchow, his mother, Christa in red and our wonderful Landlords from Peace4you at the opening at Art Impressions. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas' father with his portrait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas’ father with his portrait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The local newspaper covered the show twice and I’m looking forward to two art classes from the local high school to visit the show next week.

An article about the show from Der Nordsee-Zeitung
An article about the show from Der Nordsee-Zeitung

My next goal is to complete at least three more paintings before mid-July and to apply for a grant through the Delaware Division of the Arts.

Traveling Diner, self-portrait watercolor and colored pencil 30x40cm
Traveling Diner, self-portrait watercolor and colored pencil 30x40cm

 

Trashy Woman sends German trash to America: Is it Art?

In the US I am a proud member of an Artist Collective called Trashy Women. We are a collective of nine women artists who all have our own artistic specialties. There are painters, ceramicists, jewelers, sculptors, glass workers and some of us work in all these mediums. When we meet as a collective and show together, we make art out of found objects and trash. Some people called it upcycling which is a useful step up from recycling.

Meet the Trashy Women Artist Collective seen here at their opening at the Newark Arts Alliance From left to right: Sue, Caryn, Trebs, Donna, Dragonfly, Jamie, seated Maggie and not pictured Jo, and Mindy. Photo by Mary Lowenstein Anderson
Meet the Trashy Women Artist Collective seen here at their opening at the Newark Arts Alliance From left to right: Sue, Caryn, Trebs, Donna, Dragonfly, Jamie, seated Maggie and not pictured Jo, and Mindy. Photo by Mary Lowenstein Anderson
A good day at the beach. People ask me if I'm collecting rocks and I reply no, I'm collecting garbage to make art. Then they look at me funny and I say I'm picking up glass so the doggies don't hurt their feet. This makes them happy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
A good day at the beach. People ask me if I’m collecting rocks and I reply no, I’m collecting garbage to make art. Then they look at me funny and I say I’m picking up glass so the doggies don’t hurt their feet. This makes them happy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

In March the Trashy Women will be having a show at the Gibby Center for the Arts in Middletown, Delaware. I really wanted to participate in this show but I’m almost 4,000 miles away in Bremerhaven Germany this year. Bremerhaven has no shortage of garbage, but my tools and art supplies are in the States in my studio. So, what can I create for this show? I had collected a pile of beach glass from the Weser-Strandbad and some broken shards from the street but I wasn’t sure how I was going to put it together without my stained-glass supplies.

March 7-13 2019. If you're near Middletown, Delaware that day I hope you can make the show.
March 7-13 2019. If you’re near Middletown, Delaware that day I hope you can make the show.

I walked to the hardware store for inspiration and found some wire in the gardening section. I figured I could wrap the glass with the wire and create an image from there. An insane, time-consuming undertaking, but what are sabbaticals for if not for projects like this?

Let the madness begin. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Let the madness begin. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Creating the image. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Creating the image. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I started with a piece of paper equaling the dimensions of the mailing box I picked up from the post office. I wasn’t taking any chances with shipping. Ha ha.

Then I drew an image on the paper and placed the glass on the image using colors and shapes that I felt were appropriate. Once the image was realized I proceeded to wrap each piece with wire and then connected the pieces together. Connecting the pieces was tricky, especially on the first window. I developed a method of “sewing” them together with the wire.

Sewing it together. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Sewing it together. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Ouch! Working with wire's dark side. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Ouch! Working with wire’s dark side. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

By the third one I was a pro. Like all things I make they are over engineered and extra strong. Probably much stronger than they need to be.

Andreas graciously models window #1. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas graciously models window #1. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I then had to figure out how to hang them. I didn’t see any chain around that I liked, so I used some left-over yarn from a scarf I knitted for my sister-in-law and double knitted some rope. In Diez I found key rings to hang them from hooks in the show.

The wave. This piece has sold. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The wave. This piece has sold. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The face finished. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The face finished. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

So yeah, they’re weird and very different from what I would have created in my comfort zone at home. I’m happy with how they turned out and they’re very interesting in the sunlight. The wave has sold already from a social media posting and I’m hoping the other two find good homes at the show. After my painting show at Art Impressions Gallery in Bremerhaven on April 27th, I’m hoping to make more.

Dragonfly in the studio. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
Dragonfly in the studio. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
Ready to go. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Ready to go. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum