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The Greatest Influence in my Life, My Dad

Me (6th grade) and my Dad at Frost Valley Camp in the Catskills, NY

Sometime ago I planned on writing a post about my dad because I consider him the greatest influence on my artistic and nature loving life. I told him I was going to do this because I knew he’d like it. It’s just last week that I lost my dad as his body gave into the battle of his ailments. I’m so very sad to think about it at all, but thought I couldn’t go forward without an acknowledgement here and now.

My dad and mom loved to go camping and it was when my mom, God love her, was pregnant with me that they went for the first time.  Already having four children under their belt maybe she wasn’t worried about going to the Adirondack Mountains while being seven or more months pregnant! Yikes! So it started early for me, being in nature. Every summer vacation we would go to Lewey Lake in the Adirondack State Park and what wonderful memories it holds for my family. All kinds of wildlife to discover, from Black Bears, Chipmunks and Racoons in your campsite to Mergansers on the lake.

Chipmunks would come up to your hand to eat peanut butter on bread!

Then there was Easter vacation where we would usually head south in that big black station wagon you see in the photo, to the beach in Virginia or South Carolina. It was always camping and always close to nature. The coast held a whole new set of discoveries; I loved hearing the sound of the waves just over the sand dunes where we camped.

Somewhere along the way I got hooked on bird watching and my dad was always there to ask questions of. He knew so much about nature! One day when sitting on the back stone patio with him, I pointed to a bird and told him what it was. I was shocked when he told me I had finally passed him in knowledge of the birds. This just wasn’t possible, this was my dad who in my eyes knew everything. It still feels weird. A bird we both thought was beautiful is the Rose Breasted Grosbeak, painted below in watercolor and ink.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak – watercolor + ink

Then there’s the art, the most important thing in my life. My dad was one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. He told us stories of growing up with no money and how he’d carve wooden guns for himself then every kid wanted one too. Anything he needed fixed or created he’d figure out how and do it himself. We had an eagle hanging in the dining room, complete with shield and arrows in it’s claws. Dad carved it from an old wooden chair seat! He dabbled in painting and I remember still when I was around 1st or 2nd grade, watching him paint a scene in oils of a watermill. It wasn’t until just a few years ago I realized it was signed on my birthday! Fate!

Viking Dragon I carved in college, inspired by my dad’s carving

I was always at his elbow in his shop, I can remember still the smell of fresh cut wood and our private talks about things going on in our lives. I also remember when very young, watching him create the prettiest little church out of simple mat board. He cut it, built it, put sparkly glitter on it to look like snow, colored acetate to look like stained glass windows, carved bushes out of Styrofoam and then put a little light in it. It was the most gorgeous church I’ve ever seen, and it was for Christmas of course. He created so many things like that and I loved watching him.

The “Purple Coneflower Bench” I built for my garden

When I went to college it’s no surprise I ended up taking a lot of furniture design classes too, I guess wood runs in our blood. Above is a bench I designed and built for my garden for me and my boys to sit on.  My dad was the best wood carver and I hope to share some photos of his carvings with you someday, probably on my flickr page. College was also where I took my first Drawing classes that involved studying nudes of course. When I brought my big huge sketchpad home to share dad didn’t blink an eye when we discussed the form of the female body and he did a little sketch to show me. I thought it’d be embarrassing since we were raised as strict Catholics, but dad had studied art too in college and it was great, he showed me how ‘normal’ it was to do what I was doing. He’s the first one to teach me how to draw a profile, and though it’s cartoon style, I can still remember how he taught me to draw eyes! Below is a drawing I did while studying in Toronto at the Michael John Angel Academy.

Charles Bargue Figure – done in Toronto at the Michael John Angel Academy

He was also a very talented writer and it’s where I must have gotten my love of turning a poem or writing a story. He used to tell us and his students, stories that would keep you on the edge of your seat. Usually it was ghost stories that of course were all true, around Halloween time. We’d hear about the Banshees that Great Grampa McAndrew chased away, the white glove that my aunt saw crawling, how Aunt Aggie saw her sister’s ghost the night she died and then dad’s best loved story called “The White Porcelain Hand”. Below is a still life I did in college using graphite, just so happens to have a white glove in it!

“The White Glove” – graphite still life I did in college

Whenever I’d call dad and tell him about my creative ideas he’d be so good at giving me his honest opinion and feedback. We’d talk until both of us had to switch ‘ears’ twice!  He knows about my ideas for children’s books and nature sketching and I’m determined now to work on them in his memory. It’s the best way I can think of to stay close to him.

He was well loved by a big family of 8 children and 33 grandchildren and countless students he taught in the Endicott, NY area. I’m not sure how I’ll do without him to talk to now, I’ll just work on one thing at a time.

Dad and me at a family reunion

I love you Dad!

“Inspiration Point”

My Prints are for Sale here at Inspiration Point

My Prints are for Sale here at Inspiration Point

I thought I’d put a different kind of post today to put a spotlight on a great little shop that sells my prints; “Inspiration Point” in Buffalo, NY.

Sandy St. Louis, owner of Inspiration Point

Sandy St. Louis, owner of Inspiration Point

Sandy owns the shop which has all kinds of spiritual and inspirational gifts, books, incense, music, note cards, candles and well of course, My Prints! If you look on the wall behind her you’ll see a large framed Limited Edition print of my painting “Morrigan” for sale. Sandy is just great to chat with about things; life, hope, dreams, she’s a most encouraging and enlightened soul!

Shopping at Inspiration Point

Shopping at Inspiration Point

I usually come out of there with something, last time it was a string of brass bells that I hung in my studio. Every time I walk in and out I have them hanging so they just get bumped enough to chime, bells can clear energy so well. She has singing bowls there too, ask her how to use them and she’ll let you try them out. Wonderful to hold in your hand while it hums out it’s tone..the vibration is terrific! And don’t forget to ask her about upcoming classes and workshops.

back of shop at Inspiration Point

back of shop at Inspiration Point

Well I hope you visit Sandy and tell her you came to see my prints too! They’re against the back wall with the books, keeping cozy and she has a basket of them to look through.

483 Elmwood

483 Elmwood

483 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo NY 14222. (716) 883-8670. Located between West Utica and Hodge, her hours are Tues. – Sat. 11am – 7pm.

“We Are None of Us Perfect”

I was creating note cards from my butterfly photos and noticed this one, though beautiful, has a torn wing. I thought about how so many of us have some kind of physical difficulty, or imperfection, but just go on with our lives. It inspired me to write a small poem that appears on the inside of this inspirational card.

“We are none of us perfect…” by MaryMcandrew

Please click on the title above to see the glossy note card in my shop. If you click on my name it’ll take you to my Zazzle Shop where I have many note cards for sale featuring my photographs and paintings of nature and landscapes. The poem is below.

We Are None of Us Perfect

We are none of us perfect,
From the outside perhaps,
Torn and tattered.
Parts not working.

But on the inside
Who knows us better
Than ourselves?
Or those who love us?

We are all bright shining
Lights of love and beauty!

(c) Mary McAndrew 2-15-2010

(The butterfly is a Red Admiral, I took it while in a garden in England.)

“Connecting to Nature”

(click on the photos for a larger view, these were taken in my own backyard)

“Connecting to Nature”by Mary McAndrew2-4-08

“If you’re feeling tired, stressed out or sort of ‘disconnected’ today, consider taking time to visit some place of natural beauty, a place that fills you with a sense of awe and wonder.The ocean, a river, canyon or forest would be great because they carry their own energy of power to marvel at. Let go of worrisome thoughts and just immerse your mind in the beauty around you. Our problems fade away when we are in the presence of such wonder; our mind and spirit expand and open.

Actually the more you experience these great feelings and positive feedback, the easier it will be to draw the memories up when you need them.You don’t have to visit a grand forest or the Grand Canyon for that matter, to experience this, just take a walk out your back door for some fresh air.Even a dead looking yard in winter can hold beauty and life. Find a place to sit or stand quietly and close your eyes, just listen, feel the breeze on your face and hands, smells of the earth, rain, snow; the sounds of birds or leaves blowing.Let them visit you, touch you and enter your being.Feel the warmth of it entering your heart space, a beautiful green color glows within.Did you get a shiver?That’s the energy moving through your body, it’s a great thing!

If you can’t get out to nature, sit and quiet your mind and breath slow, let yourself wander out an imaginary door to the places you’ve really been before. Remember the sounds, sights, smells and feelings you had when you were there. Let yourself smile and see how it changes your feelings or mood!

If you can, next time you do go to a beautiful place, take a journal or sketchbook with you.Write how you feel, paint some colors or do a drawing of an interesting or beautiful plant.Memories will stick with you so much deeper if you write about it or draw it, the thoughts going from a deep place within you, to your head, to your hand, your pen then the paper.Look back on these notes and sketches on a day when you feel you need to connect with nature and you’ll be surprised how the feelings and memories will come back to you!