Mother, Mother, I Want Another… Painting!

Shout out to all you Mamas out there! Mother’s Day is upon us! I read that moms spend three 40-hour weeks changing diapers per year. Even though my kids are waaaay done with diapers, I shall be repeating this fact to everybody in my family forever. There are no studies on other bodily fluids we clean up (or milk spills. Or Legos.) but suffice it to say, we spend a lot of time with paper towel.

Though she wasn’t a mother, herself, Mary Cassatt seemed to have a really good handle on what motherhood looks like. Her depictions of mothers with their kids are spot on. I love that she doesn’t try to make it look glamorous or easy, but does capture sweet moments with loving moms.

Take Young Mother Sewing, for example.

She’s probably sewing a mask for pandemic protection.

This isn’t the stiff portrait of some royal family trying to be something they’re not. It’s a mom, so used to having a kid hanging on her, she doesn’t miss a stitch. I’m guessing the little girl was asking for a cheese stick, and when her Mom said “It’s almost dinnertime,” the little girl looks at the painter as if to say, “can you believe this lady? I’m so taking one anyway.”

It is always a wonder to me how artists put colors together. The grass and the two dresses should look awful together, but Cassatt makes it work beautifully, then adds the orange flowers that bring the whole color scheme to the next level, in my opinion.

Here is another one I love by Mary Cassatt:

Look at those bulbous sleeves!!

If you know me, you know I love love love putting my nose right into a baby’s soft little cheek. Just letting it sink right in. Faces don’t have that kind of elasticity forever, so it’s imperative you do it as much as possible when you have a baby or toddler. Also, it turns out they don’t always love that particular display of affection when they are teenagers. I’m certain this mother knows that and is savoring this moment. Again, I love what Mary does with color, the gold sleeves and then that little green ribbon? It just works!

Cassatt has a million more Mother/Child paintings, each with their own darling merits. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t put my favorite of her paintings here:

No fancy posture here!

I know this girl! I’ve seen her in my daughters’ faces when they’re bored, tired, or trying to figure out what to do next. In the next frame, her mom walks by and says, “Legs together! You’re wearing a dress!” Then plops the dog (who isn’t supposed to be on the chair) onto the floor and slouches down beside her daughter. They sit silently, then the Mom nudges her daughter’s foot and says, “I could go for a three o’clock cup.” The daughter replies, “I’m bored.” And the mom says, “Let me get my coffee, then you want to play Uno?” And the girl is rejuvenated until 10:30pm when the Mom is telling her to “GO TO SLEEP” for the fortieth time.

But that’s just speculation.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends!!

Hungart Pangs

You don’t have to look far to see how divided the world is right now. Republicans and Democrats, stay homers and go outters, bat advocates and bat haters, Team Carol Baskin and Team Joe Exotic… the list goes on. I feel there is one thing Americans have in common right now and that is food. 

Whether we are worried about it, swimming in a fridge full of it, or looking forward to the next time we can consume it (me), we are all thinking about it every day. I don’t think any of us realized how much our kids eat until we were put on lockdown. I’ve never cooked so much in my whole life. The novelty is starting to wear off.

Today’s post is in honor of the food which we are all consuming for lack of anything else to do. Pop artists seem quite obsessed with incorporating food into their art. Take Andy Warhol and his obsession with Campbell’s tomato soup. I’m not sure if he kicked off the pop artists’ love of food-centric art, but he sure did popularize it. There’s Mona Lisa made from peanut butter and jelly (Vik Muniz), an egg on toast (Tjalf Sparnaay), the “Annie” logo in maple syrup (Ed Ruscha), to name a few pieces of perishable pop art.

But none of those are my style. I appreciate them, but not the way I appreciate Giuseppe Arcimboldo. I know I’ve featured his art on this blog before, but it bears a repeat:

I think all his work is so progressive, but this one is especially fun. It’s a fruit bowl AND a face! I bet Arcimboldo was a fun guy at a party.

I love this painting by Lily Martin Spencer too. 
Kiss Me and You’ll Kiss the ‘Lasses. The title is as playful as her smile!
The girl looks so flirtatious, and I feel in 1856 there wasn’t a ton of that in art. She clearly has a better attitude than I do about cooking. Maybe she’s just on Day 1 of her quarantine. I think this painting of Spencer’s is more representative of how I look in the kitchen.
I would have called this, I Already Fed You Today!
Cook on, dear readers! May your bellies be full, your pantries have a wide array of snacks, and your refrigerators stuffed with ingredients for meals your family swoons over.

No Mistakes, Just Happy Little Accidents

Happy Earth Day! I am celebrating by looking out my window and wondering what the heck Earth is thinking with this snow situation. It’s fine though- it’s all fine! I’m channeling my inner Bob Ross. Happy happy happy. And speaking of Bob Ross, the Bob Ross Happy Little 5K is going on this week (to cover Earth Day today, and Arbor Day on Friday). What’s interesting about this race is that it was virtual even before all races went virtual! An article on MLive says registration opened in October with a cap of 1,000 registrants, but had to up that to 25,000 because who wouldn’t want in on this? Everyone loves Earth, everyone loves trees, and everyone loves loves loves Bob Ross!

Bob Ross wasn’t just awesome because of his hair and “happy little accidents” catchphrase. He was a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force, and that is where he (surprisingly) nurtured his skill and love of art. After twenty years of military service he became a full-time artist, and eventually began his famous eleven year run on PBS doing “The Joy of Painting.” Bob Ross was a famous art instructor, and a really talented painter, but he doesn’t have any particularly famous paintings, which is kind of nuts.

Ross died of lymphoma at the young age of 52. All his (billions?) of paintings, with and without happy little trees are housed in a Virginia warehouse, though the Smithsonian got their hands on some. I’d love to post some of his paintings here, but most Bob Ross paintings floating around the internet are of recreations that random people have done. (Something tells me there’s been a huge uptick in Ross-esque paintings since Covid came to town.) 

In lieu of some Rossy artwork, let me brighten your Earth Day with this cheery face:

Attn: Lads and Lassies

Homeschooling is becoming old hat for us now. We’ve settled into a routine that my kids are comfortable with and that gives me anxiety because I never know what’s happening. They just disappear into their rooms with their tablets and worksheets and I assume they are learning something in there. 

To give myself some semblance of control over their learning, I asked my Mom to FaceTime them a lesson. She did botany first, then genealogy, which has inspired this post. I have a lot of ancestors from Scotland, but can you name any Scottish artists? Because I couldn’t. Happily, it didn’t take much digging to unearth some fantastic highland art!

First up: The Skating Minister by Henry Raeburn (who served as King George IV’s portrait painter, FYI.)

Nice form, Reverend!

The minister featured in this painting is Rev. Robert Walker (which doesn’t sound very Scottish, I know. Sorry.) He was ordained at age fifteen, and good for him, but what I really love about his story is that he was also a member of the first figuring skating club in the world- Edinburgh Skating Club! In the town where I grew up, there was a nun that would rollerblade around in her full habit, and it always made me so happy to see her. I bet Walker’s parishioners loved watching him double axle around town too. 

David Peat was a Scottish filmmaker, but also a talented photographer. I absolutely could not resist putting up this picture he took in 1968:

The title really says it all: Grubby Boy With Hand

This one just really speaks to me right now, because after a solid month of quarantine, we are pretty grubby around here. 

Next to Henry Raeburn, Edward Atkinson Hornel is perhaps Scotland’s most prominent artist. I cannot believe I’ve never seen his art. I think it’s incredible. The detail is so impressive and the subjects are fascinating. 

Druids Bringing in the Mistletoe. Druids! Like in Outlander!

Aren’t you just dying for more information about what’s happening in this scene? I love it. Here is another with a different feel, but just as impressive I think:

Wonderment. Isn’t this poetic? 

If his art looks gorgeously textured, it’s because it is. Hornel loved experimenting with different techniques to achieve lots of texture. He was a member of the elite “Glasgow Boys,” a group of male artists with strong ties to Glasgow, and very regal names (though I don’t think that was a prerequisite.) They were all about naturalism, and became Scottish icons. Then the Bay City Rollers came along and stole their thunder. Like seventy years later. But still. 

Alba gu brath! Scotland forever!

Art: Near and Beer to our Hearts

If you’re like me, you’re spending a lot of time on social media these days (though I’m down 17% from last week, so I am clawing my way toward the surface of the rabbit hole that is The Internet). So maybe you noticed yesterday was National Beer Day. I mean, yes, every day looks like National Beer Day if you look at my Facebook or Instagram feed, but what the heck else are people supposed to do, if not enjoy a beer or two while quarantined? I’m doing the same thing with dessert. 

When I poked around a bit, I found lots of beer-related art. There were the pieces I expected, that use cans, or pieces of cans to create some pretty amazing stuff. But my favorite pieces, were the ones that use beer in more unexpected ways. For instance, Karen Eland makes beautiful paintings using only beer and water! (Or coffee and water, but that’s a post for another day.) Look at the incredible detail in this:

“A Rummy Shipwreck” Maybe the captain had enjoyed a few beers?

Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the old-timey color the beer makes. I think it’s creative and stunning. You should check out more of her work at You won’t be sorry! Plus, I know you have some time on your hands.

Naart, a French duo, uses bottles instead of cans (swanky!) as paint brushes, giving a funky sort of pointillism look to their art.

I think Georges Seurat would be proud!

They just chug their beer (or get the bottles donated, whatever.) and dip the mouthpiece into paint and make their picture! I mean, it’s probably not as simple as that, but you get the gist. They do lots of murals, but you can also buy canvases on their website. I mean- I can’t, but someone can. Or rather someone, bottle.

An Announcement

Friends, I’ve decided to discontinue Nice and Easel. We had a good run. I learned so much about so many great artists, but time just doesn’t permit anymore. Thank you for reading. Best wishes.


Psyche!! Happy April Fool’s Day! You can’t get rid of me that easily! We have SO much more art to discover! In honor of April Fool’s Day, I would like to feature some self-portraits of artists having a grand ole time. Here is our boy Rembrandt himself cracking up, and I love it.

Doesn’t this make you want in on the joke?

Rembrandt wasn’t exactly known for his fun-loving personality, but the smile in this painting looks to me like it came pretty easily. As if somebody just delivered a witty punchline. “To cross the road, you say? Ha ha ha!” In his later years, Rembrandt didn’t have that much to laugh about. He was highly respected and had plenty of students and plenty of work, but he liked to live beyond his means. The 21-year-old Rembrandt in this portrait didn’t yet have the the mounds of debt and financial ruin his future self would have to deal with. 

Yue Minjun is a contemporary artist from China, who has made a living from painting and sculpting laughter. Here is his self-portrait:

Now that is a jolly laugh!

He has a million more, all along these same lines. Go ahead and give him a Google. Somehow he makes many of his smiling figures look pretty creepy, but I really like the less creepy ones. No word on whether the real-life Yue Minjun has as many teeth as he does in this self-portrait. His art has been dubbed “Cynical Realism” but he doesn’t look real cynical in this painting, amiright?

Hans von Aachen was a Frenchman, who painted this double self-portrait:

Before we go on, did I get you up there? von Aachen wasn’t French! He was German! Ohmygoodness, my mischief knows no bounds! This GERMAN painter was notorious for painting racy mythological scenes. Wikipedia says he was, “known for his skill in the depiction of nudes…” That might explain his cheery demeanor as seen in this double whammy. April Fool’s Day was brand spanking new when von Aachen was alive, and something tells me he wasn’t one to shy away from a little prank or two.

Be on guard, readers! The day isn’t over yet!

Art in the Time of Corona

We are so quarantined. I hope you are hanging in there. When anxiety starts creeping in on me, I am trying to think about all the incredible art that is probably being created right now when artists can’t leave their homes. Silver lining! Or maybe red, or green, or purple!

For some artists this lockdown requires zero change in habit. Pordenone Montanari, for one. Montanari is an Italian painter, who has not left his home in Milan in eighteen years. He relies on his wife for food and art supplies. No word on whether she makes him break to tackle a giant honey-do list. (So far, this quarantine, my husband has hung pictures and light fixtures for me, fixed appliances, moved furniture, put our new doorbell up, and cleaned his half of the closet!) Think of all he could do if he were home eighteen more years!

Some think Montanari’s art has a strong Cezanne influence, but I think they’re more Picasso-ey than anything. What do you think?
Here’s the Montanari….

…and here’s the Picasso. Similar feel, right?
Being a recluse, seems to have had little impact on Montanari’s success. His art has been exhibited around the world, and art experts are saying things like, “he’s the cat’s pajamas!” Or the art expert equivalent of that anyway. Recluse though he may be, nobody can say Montanari isn’t productive. When a potential buyer came into his home (Montanari didn’t come up to talk to him, reportedly. His wife does the talking in their relationship.) he found every inch of the house covered in art. Canvases and cardboard stacked “meters” high, murals on every wall, sculptures out of wood and stone. Even the garden hedges were elaborately shaped.

No doubt about it, recluses sure can get stuff done. These days, whether we want to or not, we join the ranks of Emily Dickinson, J.D. Salinger, Edvard Munch, and Bobby Fischer. I can’t wait to see what awesome art is produced in the next several weeks!

Happy Belated St. Paddy’s Day!

I’m a day late and a dollar short, but… HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY! Did you remember to wear green yesterday? Were you pinched to within an inch of your life? Did you even remember it was St. Patrick’s Day in all the chaos that is our world right now? If not, you weren’t alone. I’m pretty sure there were a lot of empty leprechaun traps yesterday.

I’ve been saving this beautiful painting for St. Patrick’s Day. It was at the Gibbes Art Museum in Charleston. It isn’t by an Irish artist, but the emerald green dress is super St. Patrick-y. I love it. I actually want that gown, if I’m being honest. I feel it would be practical to wear anyplace! Or, at home doing homeschooling, if it turns out I never leave my house again.

“April” The month after the longest month EVER in 2020.

Childe Hassam painted it in 1920. Word has it, Hassam painted this portrait of his mother, using his imagination to guess how she would have looked having just found out she was pregnant with him. Like many women receiving that news she looks deep in thought and a little pale. I think the daffodils are a darling touch in their shallow little vase. 

Here is another piece at Gibbes, that I posted several weeks ago, but I love it so much I can’t resist posting again. Plus, green!

I still love it!

The internet is providing so many awesome ideas for us to do with our kids while we’re cutting our homeschooling teeth. Here’s how I’m making my kids learn about art if you’re interested. Every day they are assigned a famous piece of art. At the end of the day they present it to us with information about the painting and artist. Yesterday, for instance, we did Yellow-Red-Blue by Wassily Kandinsky, The Girl With the Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, and The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali. If your kids are like mine they will make it into a competition and make you rank them 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Enjoy!

Strong Salad

It is time for one of my family’s favorite events of the year. Not Daylight Saving time, not March Madness, not even St. Patrick’s Day… do you give?

The presentation of the 2020 Minnesota State High School All Hockey Hair Team. Or MSHSAHHT if you’re in the biz. The video has it all: amazing hair, great puns, inexplicable slang, and a peppy narrator (haha, Just kidding about that last one. He really does make it about the hair and not himself.) It’s hard to believe some people don’t even know about the MSHSAHHT! Just in case my gentle readers aren’t familiar, here is the link:

Naturally, all this hair talk made me seek out some art featuring strong salads. Take Degas’ Combing the Hair, for instance.

I love this, because I think it really shows the weight of the woman’s hair. I’m not sure if the subject is supposed to look relaxed, but I think she looks a little like my daughters when I’m working through a snarl. Not fun. I have to comment on the color here too. Degas somehow makes the oranges and red look good, even though he is featuring two redheads. I would guess their hair gets lost in the background, but he makes it work. Have you seen Wild Wild Country on Netflix yet? Watch it, and tell me if this doesn’t remind you of the commune members’ outfits.

Oluwole Omofemi has a series of paintings featuring black women with abundant hair (a metaphor for freedom). This is my absolute favorite of his paintings.

Any hockey player worth their weight would salivate to have this hair. Never mind how you’d get a helmet over it.

Finally, one of my all-time favorites from the Chicago Institute of Art:

I don’t think the artist meant for it to be funny, but it so is.

I’ve blogged about this before, but still don’t know the title or artist. Still, I love it and identify with it. This is pretty much what my hair looks like when I take my helmet off. Look out MSHSAHHT!

Things are a little hairy in our world right now, but I hope in between hand washing you’re taking time to enjoy some art!

Win One for the Gipper!

Last weekend we had a hockey tournament in South Bend, with three of our five games at Notre Dame. Their ice arena is not even ten years old, and is beautiful. What’s even better is that right next to the rink is a sculpture park and across the street from that is a Starbucks! I could live in that little triangle and never want for anything again!

Notre Dame also has an amazing art museum, but I didn’t get a chance to visit- next time! I did make a point to get up close and personal with the iconic Touchdown Jesus.

Normally, you know I would stand in front of this doing a touchdown sign. I don’t know what happened. Pre-hockey game jitters, I think. I’m disappointed in myself.

The “real” name of this mural is “The Word of Life,” and it is enormous! It takes up the entire side of the library facing the football stadium. It’s almost as big as the stadium itself. Just kidding, but it is 134 feet tall and 68 feet wide. Millard Sheets was commissioned to do the mural in 1963. Jesus is front and center, of course (no word on whether the touchdown hands were purposely mimicking the “touchdown” signal or it’s just a happy coincidence) and saints and scholars from throughout the ages are taking up the rest of the space.

The mural consists of 324 panels, including 81 different types of stones from 16 countries. Impressive!

Now, I know you are dying to pop in your “Rudy” VHS tape, so I will leave you to it. “I want Rudy to dress in my place, Coach. He deserves it.” And I cry.