Google+ peggy aplSEEDS: November 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Advent Sunday is the New Year’s Day of the Christian Church, when we begin another “year of the Christian mysteries.”    We can also use this season as a time to reflect on how we can also start anew.

Advent is a term from the Latin word 'adventus' which means "arrival" or "coming".  It is a period of expectant waiting...
…a reminder of the original waiting of the Jews for the birth of their Messiah
... of our own waiting for the celebration of the arrival of the Lord into the world through the birth of Jesus
... and for the second coming of Christ.

Sometimes it seems like we're always waiting for something.  When we are young, we are waiting to grow up.  Even now, all grown up, we wait in line, in traffic, or we wait for more important things. Answers to prayers. How can we wait in a meaningful way?

The season of Advent is a good time to practice waiting with patience, humility, and expectant faith... a time to practice waiting prayerfully, much like the waiting of those expecting the Messiah long ago.  We can start simply, just by waiting patiently as we wait in long lines this season.

We can also spend more time in prayer and scripture reading.  I usually have an advent reflection guide like The Word Among Us.  There are also Advent readings and prayers that go with the ceremony of lighting the Advent Wreath.  Simple activities like these remind us what we are really celebrating when we celebrate Christmas. 

Another way we can have a meaningful Advent is to delay, as long as possible, the celebration of Christmas.  In the Philippines, it seems the Christmas season starts as soon as the "ber" months arrive.  Christmas carols are played in the malls starting September 1!  I usually put out the Christmas decorations on "Gaudete Sunday", the 3rd Sunday of Advent (this year it is on December 13).  That is really late in this part of the world.  One idea I found interesting was to put up the tree without the decorations, and have the ornaments in a basket under the tree.  Every time a member of the family does a good deed, he/she gets to put an ornament the tree.  Hopefully, the tree will be full on Christmas day.

Almsgiving is another meaningful way we can celebrate Advent. Sharing our resources and preparing gift bags for the less fortunate, for me, is a way to give Jesus a birthday gift.  After all, he said "...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me".  Matthew 25:40

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Artist Trading Card: Portrait Step by Step

I have been making a lot of ATC portraits using variations of the technique I will describe in this post.  I thought it would be good to share it step by step in case anyone wants to try it out. My pictures aren't great because I took them at night and so there's a shadow but if I were to wait for perfect lighting, I'd never be able to get it done so I decided to just go ahead.
When I started making ATCs, my sister lent me a tub of gesso and I used it to coat some cards.  When it ran out, she told me that she found out that the inexpensive wall putty available in construction supply or hardware stores can give you the same texture at a much lower cost.  I am all for lower costs!  In fact, when I was looking for materials to make my ATCs, I found a pile of my wedding invitations (the printer printed too many), so now, many of my cards are drawn on these.

1. Gesso or Wall Putty
Brush on some gesso or the more inexpensive wall putty onto the card.  You can use whatever stroke you want to get the texture you want.  Since I will be making a portrait, I don't want to have too rough a texture.  So, I just brushed on a thin layer with circular strokes.  If I were just making a background for a collage or a landscape maybe, I can use a thicker layer to give a rougher look.  I really think the texture that the gesso/ wall putty gives adds a lot to the finished card.  That's why I use this technique a lot.  Wait for the putty to dry and then...
2. Measure to size
Since I am recycling my extra wedding invitations, I measure out 4 cards at 2.5 by 3.5 inches, which is the standard ATC size.  You can use any medium to make an ATC but, they must be that particular standard size.
3. Cut to size
I use a steel ruler and a cutter to cut my cards.  I find it easier to get a straight cut with the blade rather than a pair of scissors.
4. Pencil Sketch 
This is the tricky part if you aren't confident in your drawing skills.  I have been drawing women since I was a young girl (I made a lot of paperdolls!) so I can either make a pencil sketch freehand from my imagination or have a magazine photo as a guide.
Another option would be to trace a magazine photo (choose one with sharp contrasts) and rub a soft pencil on the back of your tracing.  Put the pencil side of your tracing on the card and trace over with a ballpen to leave the pencil markings on the card.  Hmmm, I wonder if those instructions were clear enough. (Edit: Tutorial about drawing a face using the tracing technique here.)

5. Final Pen Sketch
Trace over your sketch with your final pen (use a waterproof pen if you will be using watercolor).  Sometimes, I use a well sharpened dark brown colored pencil and skip the pen outline.  For this portrait, I used a black ballpen which I find is more "forgiving" if I make a line I don't like, since it is so fine.
6. Erase the Pencil lines
I use a kneaded eraser to clean up the sketch and erase any pencil lines that are too noticeable.

7. Colored Pencils
The next step is to color in the sketch with colored pencils. So far, all the materials I've used are very inexpensive and although you can use inexpensive colored pencils, mine are Berol Prismacolor pencils. They are expensive if you buy them in the regular stores, but this year, I was able to get a bargain on eBay for a new set.

I start out with the lightest flesh colors and if I'm making the portrait from my imagination (just like this card), I imagine where the light is coming from so that there will be a darker side and a lighter side. The darker the shade, the more the texture of the gesso or wall putty shows.

8. Darken the Edges
I like to darken the edges of the card to frame the card and I also sometimes finish it off with running a stamp pad along the edge. If I'm not satisfied with the card yet, I can also add a bit of watercolor or watercolor pencils.

9. Watercolor pencil / Watercolor
For this card, I used a dark brown watercolor pencil on the hair.  I brushed a little water on those parts I wanted to darken. The order of the steps are not that important. I just keep layering on the colors until I'm happy with the card. Sometimes I start with a light wash of watercolor and build up the color with pencils. Sometimes the watercolor goes on last.

Here is the card, almost finished, with the colored pencils I used on it. I used a variety of colors in shades of flesh, browns, orange to give depth and volume (so that it will look like more than a coloring book image).
10. Finish
I like to spray a fixative on the finished card.  It think it gives a nice sheen and makes it look more professional (at least to me).

11. Information on the Back
Artist trading cards should have the artist's information on the back of the card.  I usually glue a blank card back (hides the wedding invitation and any mess on the back of the card) with my username in ATCs for All, my email address, city and country, blog address and I fill in the blanks with the title of the card, my signature, and the date the card was made. If the card needs flattening, put it under some heavy books.

13. Plastic Sleeve
Put your finished ATC in a plastic sleeve to protect it (make sure it is all dry).    Scan it, post it in the ATCs for All gallery and it's all set to be traded! 

If you found this helpful and if you would like to have the chance to receive this ATC, please post me a comment. 

Congratulations to NancyJB for winning this card!

Remembering those in Prison

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners.  Hebrews 13:3

A few of us go to the Quezon City jail every Thursday at 3:00 in the afternoon.  How did I ever get myself into this situation?  I feel I am the most unlikely person to serve there.  Not only am I female(it is an all male prison),I can hardly talk in straight Filipino (the product of parents who came from different provinces and had different dialects, and therefore ending up speaking English).

It started when the son of one of our friends was sent to jail on drug charges.  And then, in August, as part of our prayer community's activities, we started a time of reflection.  The theme for the first week was "An Open Door! Walk through it!"  The following week's reflections were also so meaningful to me.  And so, when an opportunity of a time slot for religious instruction in the jail was offered to us, how could I refuse that open door!?  The fact that I was allowed to miss an afternoon's work every week to go there was enough of a sign for me.

On the first meeting, after someone gave a teaching, I just sat together with my husband when he led the small group sharing. Eventually, in the weeks ahead and with so few of us going regularly, I had to handle a group myself.  At first, it felt so weird for me to lead a group of inmates in the small group discussions. Since I do not speak Filipino very well, I sometimes, even now, have to ask them in Filipino, "What is'______' in Filipino?" hoping one of them can translate for me.

But God can use even the most unlikely person,and the more I go to the jail, the more I grow in love and compassion for the inmates. So now, I am comfortable to sit among a small group of inmates. Many of them are very young, young enough to be my sons. Many of them are innocent and waiting for their hearings, waiting in such distressing surroundings.  The Quezon City Jail is unlike the prisons in the movies, with jail cells with bars and individual beds for each inmate.  Since the jail is extremely overcrowded, many of them have no space to sleep, even sleeping one person to each stair step.  

But,inspite of this, in the midst of the many men who are there, I have seen men wanting to accept Jesus and asking me how; I have seen teary eyed inmates listening to me share, and men who are just so glad to have someone - anyone, visit them there. I have heard them share how light and happy they felt after forgiving those who caused them to be in jail unjustly.  

Indeed, it is a joy to see God working through this ministry and to visit Jesus in (what Mother Teresa calls) His distressing disguise. "I was in prison and you came to visit me."  Matthew 25:36

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