I was thinking about, well, everything, and I can’t figure out a way capture anything with complete truth. Every photo, painting, novel, film, has an overlay of manipulation. Every artist has an agenda, though some are so subtle, the viewer becomes the captured one.

I was looking for visual artists that somehow captured water, and in addition to Ran Ortner, five emerged. I was trying to explain to a friend the types of images that draw me in. Just as I find it difficult to articulate and describe my own work, I couldn’t quite sum up my reasons for loving certain artists. Maybe you can help me define my genre…Here are my five of the moment, in no particular order.

Mark Rothko – Blue

“I’m not an abstractionist. I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.”

Helen Frankenthaler – Ocean Drive West, 1974

“What concerns me when I work, is not whether the picture is a landscape, or whether it’s pastoral, or whether somebody will see a sunset in it. What concerns me is – did I make a beautiful picture?”

Robert Motherwell (who was lucky enough to be married to Helen Frankenthaler) – Lyric Suite, 1965

“It may be that the deep necessity of art is the examination of self-deception.”

Wayne Thiebaud – Ponds and Streams

“An artist has to train his responses more than other people do. He has to be as disciplined as a mathematician. Discipline is not a restriction but an aid to freedom. It prepares an artist to choose his own limitations…”

Richard Diebenkorn – from The Ocean Park Series

“I came to mistrust my desire to explode the picture and supercharge it in some way… what is more important is a feeling of strength in reserve – tension beneath calm. ”

And, a sixth artist for the evening, in honor of the eve of Sam’s sixth birthday! Please check out this interview with photographer Edward Burtynsky. It’s too late to go in-depth, but it’s amazing work.

The Underwater Film Society

Photo credit: cool kids can’t die – Annie

I asked my friend Angela if she could recommend a few of her favorite water-based films, and she didn’t disappoint. She’s a kick-butt accountant by day, and a film-connoisseur/critic by night (along with her three film loving daughters). I loved hearing her talk about her choices, which surprisingly didn’t include Titanic. These aren’t necessarily for family viewing, so I’ll work on a PG version for tomorrow night… I’m regrettably typing this up while watching Dance Flick, so be thankful that Angela chose these movies instead of me, and forgive my imperfect paraphrasing!

1. Point Break “I chose this because the water represented freedom in both of the characters’ lives. The lead characters saw the water as an equalizer. And any time you have a large body of water, you have the theme of man versus nature which is classic.”

2. Young Adam “This is a really interesting film. He (Ewan McGregor) works on a barge, and he’s a writer, a drifter. The woman he loves is found murdered, in the water. Then he begins an affair with the barge owner’s wife (Tilda Swinton). In this film the water is a place of evil, a keeper of secrets.”

3. Desire “A man (Vincent D’Onofrio) and a woman (Greta Scacchi) meet as young adults, and a lifelong affair ensues. Water represents the space between them, both physically and metaphorically. He’s a fisherman, and while their love affair continues for decades, there’s always kept apart. For the woman, the water serves as a form of protection from D’Onofrio. At the same time, the water represents his isolation and it continually keeps him from connecting with other people.”

4. The Last of Sheila “This is from the late seventies; a really campy film about a gentleman whose wife dies. He invites a group of friends to a boat, and an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery begins. Trapping characters on a boat in a film (or any story) immediately creates conflict and tension.”

5. Gremlins “I had to choose this – water makes them multiply!”

Thank you Angela! And I hope you like the photo I found, to accompany your choices… Not Keanu Reeves, but close, yes?

Water Links

Here are a few links, to lovely water-related posts.

Jenny Fischer @ The Fisch Tank – Beating the Heat

Lisa Coughlin @ steps and staircases – going for it…jumping in!

Lori Pickert @ Camp Creek – Watercolor Prints – and Lori’s book will be available soon!

Jenny @ let the children play – Growing Preschoolers

Teacher Tom – It Pulls the Water Up

Children’s Museum of Denver – Just Add Water

I know there are thousands more out there – post a link below if you’d like to share!

Books, Experiments, and Books!

We don’t have a lot of book recommendations this month, but a few really stood out. Our top pick is A Drop of Water by Walter Wick.   Definitely check out Wick’s web-site, for a behind-the-scenes look at how he captured the photos. Because of the gorgeous photos and the interesting but concise writing, this is a book we’ll buy. Sorry for the pun, but this book completely blows his I-Spy series out of the water!

The next book is one we’ve recommended before. Science Rocks! by Robert Winston is one of Sam’s all time favorite books. We’ve done a few of the water related experiments this summer, and we have grand plans to continue. He’s decided that his birthday will be a “Science Birthday”, so this week we’re searching for dry ice, glass bottles, corn starch, Coca-Cola, and Mentos (for four separate experiments).

Finally, here’s a short list of a few other watery children’s titles we’ve enjoyed. Sorry that I can’t figure out amazon links here – WordPress advice is welcome, if anyone out there knows how to make those embedded links happen.

1. Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keefe Painted What She Pleased by Amy Novesky and Yuyi Morales

2. Sea of Dreams by Dennis Nolan

3. A Cool Drink of Water by Barbara Kerley

Now that I think about it, we might need to buy all of the water books we’ve listed this month – each one is so beautiful!

What are some of your water-related children’s book recommendations?

With the Current – Part 2

You might already know this, but it’s very hot in Denver right now. Which shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone, since it’s summer and all. We’ve got a pretty good system down, opening and closing windows at key points in the evening and in the morning, and we’ve got a little mobile AC unit that’s helping. I hope that admitting that fact doesn’t lead to riots in front of our house.

Despite the heat, the kids spent a lot of time playing in the backyard today, and it didn’t involve a lot of water (which is good, living in a very dry state, overrun by very scary forest fires). Their play moved to building a “traveling bus house”, which they took turns driving to  Washington. Where, coincidentally, it’s raining like crazy right now. If only we could trade a little sun for water, which was Sam’s earnest suggestion.

In other water related news, they’re both swimming with Michael right now, AND we’re headed to City Park Jazz tonight, with the hope of some serious fountain play.

With the Current

Our water exploration took an unexpected turn, when Sam got a circuit kit (or ‘tinker kit’ as he insists on calling it), as an early birthday present. No, we’re not putting the circuits in water! But we are talking about currents, both aquatic and electric.

Before the circuits showed up, we had started webbing the ideas around water that we wanted to explore (inspired by the Young Investigators books study I’m doing at work). The process was already leading us toward electricity, but the arrival of the circuit kit really sealed the deal.

You can see that our web is going in divergent directions, but the process and the conversations about the ideas have been interesting.

It got way too hot to even think about electrical circuits today, so we headed to the river, to check out the water currents. As usual, it was the best and nobody wanted to leave.


Yesterday Sam and I were working on a blue chalk masterpiece, that doubled as an oceanic maze for Lego guys in search of pirate treasure. We were pretty focused, which was fine, because Bel was busy with her own blue work.

I’m happy to write that when we finally headed over to check out her work, she was the opposite of camera shy.

We all laughed and she painted for a little longer, because her hands weren’t blue enough yet. This was followed by two blue baths, lots of blue bubbles, and one round of blue tooth brushing. Today was spent scrubbing even more blue (not watercolor) paint off of the patio. The scrubbing turned into more water play with our Reggio-inspired cleaning team. Twenty-four hours later the only blue paint left is what comes out each time she blows her nose, which makes us laugh all over again.

So we’re blue, but the happiest shade of blue there is.


Sam’s been at his summer camp for a week and it is awesome! It’s Reggio-inspired, his teacher is a painter, the kids get lots of time outside, and the focus of the summer is making art from recycled materials. I wish I could go to summer camp.

The camp is in a semi-industrial part of town, tucked between the Platte River and the railroad tracks. Every day, arriving and departing, Sam has noticed what he thought was a well, in the parking lot. We kept meaning to stop and check it out, but there was always something stopping us. We’d be late to pick up Bel, there’d be an approaching thunderstorm, and yesterday, when I really wanted to stop, we had the adventure of changing a flat tire (in the industrial wasteland, late to pick up Bel, with hints of a thunderstorm on the horizon). Needless to say, we didn’t have time to check out the well.

So today, with the slashed tire repaired, we finally stopped! And it isn’t a well after all. It turns out it’s a storm drain, which was still pretty interesting for Sam. He thought it was a well because of the big yellow blocks surrounding the drain, and because on all of the previous days he could see a huge puddle of water inside the yellow blocks.

You can see that most of the water has either filtered down through the grate, or evaporated. The mud became even more interesting than the drain, as he poked around and talked about the difference between wet and dry dirt. He was also wondering about the difference between mud and clay, so we’ve got a plan to talk to his Grandpa Roth about that, once we get to Washington.

It reminded me that some of the best experiences are also the simplest. At work, to guide our process through some much needed curriculum changes, we’re reading Young Investigators by Judy Harris Helm and Lilian Katz. The authors advocate engaging kids in field experiences or site visits that are close to home (or school), at the beginning of a project, rather than elaborate field trips when a project or unit of study is complete. A very simple concept, that doesn’t always happen in traditional school settings.

I know that Sam would choose the storm drain in the parking lot over Disney On Ice any day, which is why this summer camp is so perfect for him. On the first day, the kids and teachers walked the parking lots around the office buildings, looking for materials for art projects, and just checking out anything that caught their interest.

Did I mention that I wish I could go to summer camp too?