Monthly Archives: May 2021

The American Cemetery above Omaha Beach in Normandy

When we visited France a couple years ago I took this photo of a small part of the American cemetery above Omaha Beach where, on D-Day in WWII, so many Americans gave their lives to preserve freedom for us and help bring freedom back to parts of Europe.

Over 9,000 crosses and stars of David stretch across the green hillside that was once a battleground. Seeing the beaches and the cemetery reminded me of all those throughout our history who have fought to preserve freedom and dignity for all.

We must also never forget all those first responders and the health care workers who have helped us through the terrible covid pandemic.

I hope you’ll join me on this Memorial Day, to remember and thank God for all those who have served and given their lives in the military and as first responders to keep the peace and protect us here at home and overseas.

This is a link to an earlier post of mine that has a tribute to my Dad who had just passed away. Although he had to get permission from his parents because he was only 17, he enlisted in the navy in WWII and served in the Pacific.

https://kathythepicturelady.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/the-storm-on-the-sea-of-galilee/

Fun and Easy Painting of Sheep in a Pasture

Let’s do a fun and easy painting of sheep enjoying a day out in the pasture.

Previous posts this month included Jean-Francois Millet’s painting, The Sheepfold, Moonlight, which is about the Good Shepherd bringing His sheep to safety for the night. Go here to see that post with its related devotion:   https://kathythepicturelady.wordpress.com/2021/05/15/jean-francois-millet-french-realist-painter-of-ordinary-people/

Then on Tuesday of this last week I did an interview with children’s author, Laura Sassi, who has a sweet picture-book retelling of the lost sheep. If you missed it, you can go here.  https://kathythepicturelady.wordpress.com/2021/05/25/interview-with-childrens-author-laura-sassi-and-illustrator-tommy-doyle/

This kid’s painting project is about when the Shepherd leads His sheep out to safely graze under His watchful care.

It makes a cute picture of sheep in a pasture and perfectly illustrates Psalm 100: 3, “…we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.”

The project can be done in 2 short activity times. Do part A and let the paint dry; then come back to finish with part B.

Supplies:

  • Sturdy white paper such as construction paper
  • Scrap paper, any color
  • Cardboard such as cereal box cardboard, cut into 2 to 3 inch squares
  • Yarn, any color
  • Tape such as masking, packing, or duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Green paint, largish plastic cover, paintbrush or plastic knife or spoon
  • Crayons or markers

Follow these simple steps:

Part A. 20 to 30 minutes

  1. Draw and cut out several cloud shapes of different sizes from the scrap paper.
  2. Fold over pieces of masking tape to stick the “clouds” to your white construction paper (you’ll be removing these so don’t stick them heavily—one piece per cloud, and don’t use regular, mailing, or duct tape)
  3. Arrange cloud shapes on your construction paper
  4. To make your “stamp,” make a “handle” out of tape for your piece of cardboard
  5. Tape one end of a piece of yarn on this same side
  6. Wrap the yarn around and around the cardboard, and tape the end on the back (wrap the strand fairly tightly, but not too close together)
  7. Put a small amount of green paint on the plastic lid and spread with a spoon or brush.
  8. Rub your cardboard stamp around the thin layer of paint just to coat the yarn strands
  9. Stamp all over your white paper and cloud shapes. The stamping should look like blades of grass. Pick up more paint as needed.( help children to stamp up and down without smearing)Let dry

Part B  20 to 30 minutes

  1. Remove cloud shapes
  2. With pencil draw heads, ears, and legs (I use pencil first so I remember the eyes)
  3. Color these in with black marker or crayon

Use other marker or crayon colors to make flowers. Or use your finger dipped in other colors to print the petals.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed making this painting of happy sheep grazing safely in a meadow that illustrates Psalm 100:3!Next month Molly and I begin our summer series of twice monthly fun and easy art projects!! Molly and I hope you’ll join us for some summer fun!

Before You Go

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If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to click the button to sign up for my newsletter, and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family!

Visit my all-new website to get free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and see an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

Interview with Children’s Author, Laura Sassi and Illustrator, Tommy Doyle

This week I’d like you to meet children’s book author, Laura Sassi. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know Laura and hearing all about her latest picture book, Little Ewe. After an adventurous day, Little Ewe is lost and afraid. You and your Little Ones will love the rhyming and counting text and finding out who rescues Little Ewe.

You’ll also meet Tommy Doyle, the illustrator of Little Ewe.

Welcome, Laura and Tommy! We’d love to get to know you and hear about your latest picture book, Little Ewe.

Laura, Please tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing. Did you write as a child?

Laura: I began my career as a fourth grade teacher. Not surprisingly, my favorite subjects were reading and writing. But when I wasn’t teaching, I was always writing in my journal and playing around with words.

Actually, I’d been writing in journals ever since I was a a kid. As soon as could hold a pencil and spell (sort of), I started writing poetry and stories on my own. How do I know this? I know because my parents sent me a box full of papers and notebooks from my childhood including limericks, riddles, and silly rhyming snippets – all proof that I’ve loved playing with language for a very long time.

But being a very practical young woman, I didn’t at first consider pursuing a career in writing. It wasn’t until my children came along and I took time off from teaching that it dawned on me that there was a place, and maybe even a need, for a writer like me.  That’s when I took the plunge and began writing in earnest.  And what did I like writing best?  Humorous rhyming stories and poems. And, now with five books out and another set to release next spring, and oodles of poems and stories published in various children’s magazines, I’m still at it and loving every moment.

Laura, it’s wonderful that even as a child you were writing stories and poems! What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Laura: I grew up in a family of readers. Indeed, some of my favorite earliest memories include sitting in my mother’s lap while she read to me from A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young. I loved the rhythmic rhyming sound of Milne’s poems and memorized several, quite by accident, because I asked my mother to read them to me so often. I’ve carried the rhyming beat of those poems with me ever since. In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons I became a writer!

What was your favorite thing to do as a child?

Laura: I loved lots of things – most of which involved using my imagination. These included quiet things like writing, drawing, and reading.  I also loved to build imaginary play worlds where, using my imagination, my friends and I went on many adventures!  Many of these adventures were sparked by the books we read including the Little House on the Prairie series and countless others.

Using our imaginations is so important for all of us, and God has given each of us the  gift of imagination! What sorts of things do you like to do for fun today?

Laura: I like to read and write and create things. (So you see, I am still using my imagination!) I also enjoy going on long walks with husband and laughing over the dinner table with my family. I also love, love, love, connecting with readers through school visits and other book events.

Indeed you are! As an author you must use your imagination as you create and write. What was the inspiration for Little Ewe?

Laura:  Little Ewe is inspired by one of my favorite of Jesus’ parables. The parable is about a shepherd who realizes one sheep is missing and so he leaves the flock to find that one and bring it safely home.  As a child I loved this beautiful reminder that, like the shepherd in the parable, Jesus came to find the lost and, oh my, how wonderful it feels to be found. My hope is that, like Little Ewe in my story, readers of all ages will sense the comfort and joy of knowing that our Shepherd, too, wants to find us and care for us when we are lost.

That is such a beautiful parable about God’s love and care for us. And what fun that you wrote it in rhyme! What do you enjoy most about writing in rhyme? Is it hard? What’s your process?

Laura:  I’ve always enjoyed the sound of words and making meaningful patterns with those sounds using rhythm and rhyme, but I think what I love most about writing in rhyme is the challenge of  being creative within a set structure.  To flow smoothly and be pleasing to the ear, the piece must have a consistent form both for the rhythm and for the rhyme.  My poems and stories in verse tend to follow an AABB or ABAB rhyme scheme and I’ve used a variety of meters. The important thing is not so much which pattern I choose for the rhythm and rhyme, but sticking with it.

The fun comes in finding creative ways to express myself within that structure. I do this by playing with plot, character development, and word choice until the piece shines. Done right, writing in verse enhances a story – making it extra pleasing to young ears. Achieving this, however, requires lots of revision. And by lots, I mean 30+ (for me) rounds! And that’s exactly what I do, until the story flows smoothly and is the best it can be.

All your extra work really does shine through. And Little Ewe is not only a rhyming book, but a counting book. What inspired you to do that?

Laura: One of my favorite aspects of Jesus’ parable was that the shepherd left the 99 to find that one lost sheep. That counting aspect really resonated with me, so I knew early on that I wanted my story to have a numeric climb. However, I didn’t want it to be the typical counting book where readers just look for objects on the page that don’t necessarily relate to the plot. Rather, I wanted the counting in Little Ewe to be an integral part of the story, helping to escalate the tension as Little Ewe wanders farther and farther from Shepherd and to conjure feelings of comfort when she is found. I hope readers will agree it adds a rich dimension to the story.

The counting aspect makes reading Little Ewe even more fun! What suggestions would you give parents or grandparents to help children enjoy your books?

Laura: Just reading and talking about the story is a wonderful way to enjoy my books.  For Little Ewe, they might also enjoy the activities I created an activity kit, available for free download. Here’s the link: https://ms.beamingbooks.com/downloads/LittleEwe_ActivityKit_web.pdf

Your activity kit sounds like lots of fun. Thank you for sharing a link to it.

I know my readers would love to hear about your other books. Can you tell us a little about these?

Laura: I am the author of five picture books including the best-selling Goodnight, Ark, which was a 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist; Goodnight, MangerDiva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, which won First Honor Book for the 2019 Best in Rhyme Award; Love Is Kind, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book; and, of course, Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep. My next book, Bunny Finds Easter, will release in 2022. You can learn all about them in the Books section of my blog: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/books/

What wonderful books for little ones! What would you like children to take away from your books?

Laura: All my books share themes of love, kindness and comfort.  Through the reading and enjoyment of each story, my hope is that children will know that, just like Little Ewe, in my newest book, or any of the characters in the other books, they are loved and cherished. It is also my hope that they will grow to love the wonderful sense of belonging, connecting and bonding that comes when parent (or grandparent) and child sit and read together.

I’m sure parents or grandparents and children will love connecting over your books and their important themes. What advice would you give young people who might like to become writers?

Laura: Read, read, read!  Write, write, write! Revise, revise, revise!

That is sooo important! Where can readers learn more about you and your upcoming projects?

Laura: Readers can learn more about me on my blog and various social media outlets.  Here are the links:

https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales

http://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/

twitter.com/laurasassitales

https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/

And where can readers find your books?

Laura:  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and wherever books are sold!

And now, let’s talk with Tommy Doyle about his creative and colorful illustrations for Little Ewe. Children will love these illustrations and finding all the things and creatures to count.

Tommy, what part of illustrating do you enjoy the most?

Tommy: I get to be my own boss and manage my schedule as I wish. I find it helps having a better work life balance. I enjoy being home with my pooch, playing music, and create a space where I can be as creative as I want without any disruption.

That’s a super great recipe for creativity! What medium did you use for the illustrations of Little Ewe?

Tommy: My work is all digital. The sketching part is done on the iPad pro and the colouring is executed in Photoshop with all sorts of different brushes that each create a specific effect or texture.

That sounds like lots of fun. What advice to you have for young people who may be interested in art and illustrating?

Tommy: Keep illustrating. Everyone has bad days where it just doesn’t feel right. That’s ok, it helps you reflect on where you are versus where you want to be. It takes time to develop yourself. If you keep working hard, it will eventually pay off.

What great advice!

Thank you, Laura and Tommy, for taking the time to share about the creation of Little Ewe. I’ve have really enjoyed it! And I know parents and grandparents will love snuggling with their children and grandchildren over this delightful picture book!

Molly is on vacation this week so her fur cousin, Paisley, curled up and loved reading Little Ewe!

Before you Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, and book reviews, be sure to click the button to sign up for my newsletter., and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family!

Visit my all-new website to get free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and see an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

 

 

Jean-Francois Millet, French Realist Painter of Ordinary People

Jean-Francoise Millet spent his youth doing the ordinary work of farming—plowing, sowing, cutting hay, and harvesting. Even when he later studied art and moved to Paris, he never forgot his roots, eventually leaving Paris to settle his family in a rural area. There Millet painted scenes of rural life, such as

The Angelus, by Jean-Francois Millet, Musee D’Orsay, public doma

The Angelus and The Sower, which are beloved paintings today.

The sower by Jean Francois Millet, public domain

 

 

 

 

 

 

The painting we’re going to look at isn’t as well-known as those, but I think you’ll love it and its spiritual emphasis, too!

The post includes:

  • Getting to Know Jean-Francois Millet and the Realist art movement
  • Looking at The Sheepfold, Moonlight, (includes helpful vocabulary)
  • Choosing Activities to Help You and Your Children Further Explore the Painting
  • Going Deeper to Discover What God Can Teach Us Through this Painting

Getting to Know Jean-Francois Millet, Realist painter

Jean Francois Millet, photo by Nadir, public domain

Born in 1814, the oldest son of a peasant family in rural Normandy, France, Millet spent his youth working on the family farm. When he was 19, he began studying with area artists, and in 1837 moved to Paris for further study.

Millet and several artist friends became more interested in painting landscapes and everyday life than portraits and historical events. They found inspiration in the landscapes of 17th century Dutch artists, such as Jacob van Ruisdael,

View of Naarden by Jacob van Ruisdael, public domain

and the contemporary landscapes of English artist, John Constable

The Hay Wain by John Constable, public domain

(for more about John Constable, see this first of a series of my posts about him). https://kathythepicturelady.wordpress.com/2019/09/

These young French artists, working around the mid 1800s, became known as Realists, because they didn’t idealize the people and places they painted. The group is also sometimes called the Barbizon School, because many painted near Barbizon, a rural village on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, 30 miles southeast of Paris. (An artistic school isn’t a building, but a group of artists who often know each other, may paint together, and have similar artistic goals and/or styles)

The Realists were among the first to paint outside (en plein air). They loved nature and tried to observe and paint it accurately. Their work made landscapes an acceptable subject for art in France, inspiring and paving the way for the Impressionists at the end of the century. They also influenced later artists of America’s Hudson River School.

Autumn on the Hudson, Jasper Cropsey, public domain

(Look here for my first post in a series about one Hudson River School artist) https://kathythepicturelady.wordpress.com/2020/09/18/painting-the-light/

Many Realist artists painted near Barbizon just in the summer. But following violence in Paris in the 1840s and an outbreak of cholera, Millet moved his family to Barbizon, where he spent the rest of his life.

In his much-loved paintings, The Sower and The Angelus, we see how Millet understood the importance of farming and gave farm workers dignity and a heroic quality, once only used for great historical figures. Millet had a huge influence on the work of Vincent van Gogh.

Millet”s The Sower, 1850

The sower by Jean Francois Millet, public domain

Van Gogh’s Sower at Sunset, 1888

Sower at Sunset by Vincent van Gogh, public domain

 

Looking at The Sheepfold, Moonlight by Jean-Francois Millet

The Sheepfold, Moonlight by Jean-Francois Millet, public domain

In this nocturnal, scene we see a shepherd directing his sheep into a pen on a wide plain near the village of Barbizon. Our vantage point is up close, just in front of the sheep. Millet typically paints his main characters up close and large.

Go here to the painting at the Walters Art Museum to look at an enlarged picture. https://art.thewalters.org/detail/24760/the-sheepfold-moonlight-2/

Beyond the shepherd and sheep in the foreground, the plain stretches away to the horizon. There’s no middle ground, and a good half of this painting is sky. Showing so much sky emphasizes the large plain and highlights the brilliant moon and its light effects. Notice that the sky is blue, not black as it might be later in the night.

It’s the end of the day. Twilight deepens, the moon rises over the plain, and the shepherd brings his flock home for the night. Much of the painting is in shadow, but see how the moonlight shines on the underside of the clouds and the backs of the sheep.

Also notice how the shepherd and his staff are silhouetted against the sky as he holds the gate open for the sheep to enter. Two dogs are next to him to help funnel the sheep into the pen.

Helpful Vocabulary

  • Realist—true to what is seen
  • Nocturnal—night time scene
  • Vantage point—where the viewer would be standing in the painting
  • Foreground—front of a painting
  • Middle ground—the middle of a painting
  • Horizon—where the land or sea and the sky meet
  • Silhouette—when a figure shows in dark outline against a lighter background

Choosing Activities to Help You and Your Children Further Explore the Painting

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that.

  1. This is a great painting to talk about mood and how an artist creates that.
  2. What is the mood of this painting? Do all those shadows make it mysterious? A little scary? Are there colors, shapes, lines, etc. that make you think that?
  3. If this were the opening scene of a movie, what do you think might happen next?
  4. What music might you hear during this opening scene?

You may also enhance children’s observational and verbal skills, as well as their imaginations with the following questions:

  1. What things tell you that the sheep are entering the pen, not leaving?
  2. How does a shepherd’s dogs help him?
  3. Why would the shepherd keep the sheep in a pen for the night?
  4. If we were in the painting, where would we be standing?
  5. What sounds might we hear?
  6. What colors do you see in the sky?
  7. What things are in shadow?
  8. Which things are lit by moonlight?
  9. Do the sheep look tired?

Going Deeper to Discover What God Can Teach Us through the Painting

This painting can help you explore with children an important way the Bible often talks about the relationship between God and us, and his loving and wise care of us. Psalm 23 says,” the Lord is my Shepherd,” and Psalm 100 says, “we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

Now let’s look again at The Sheepfold, Moonlight painting. It’s the end of a long day. The sheep look tired, and the sky is dark. Clouds may tell of a coming storm. Thick shadows surround the sheep pen.

The Sheepfold, Moonlight by Jean-Francois Millet, public domain

  1. Do you think the sheep would be afraid of those shadows?
  2. What dangers may lurk in the nighttime shadows surrounding the sheep? (wolves, thieves, rocky cliffs, scary storms with thunder and lightning could scatter the sheep and hurt them)
  3. Do you sometimes get frightened at night?
  4. What are some things that make you afraid?

Now look at who is silhouetted against the sky. It’s the shepherd with his staff. In Psalm 23:4 David says, “I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

The shepherd is taking care of his sheep. He has led them home for the night and is guiding them into the safety of a pen that will hug around them—it’s called a sheepfold.

See how the shepherd is holding the gate open for the sheep to go in. He opens the gate, so the sheep can enter the safety of the pen. In John 10 Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate of the sheep . . . I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:8,9).

During the night, the shepherd will sleep across the gateway to protect his sheep from danger, and will even give his life for his sheep. “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

We are like those sheep—sometimes we become frightened of dangers that could hurt us. But Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He loves us and he gave his life, so we could become part of his flock. We can rest, knowing he will watch over us and never leave us, keeping us safe in his very own sheepfold.

Let’s thank Jesus for being our loving and wise Good Shepherd!

Prayer  Thank you, Jesus, that when we run to you, you will guide us and open the gate for us to enter your sheepfold. There we will be part of your flock and be safe forever. In your name, we pray. Amen.

(All verses are from the New International Version of the Bible)

Molly and I hope you’ll come back for our next post of a cute art project about sheep!

But Before You Go:

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to click the button to sign up for my newsletter., and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family!

Visit my all-new website to get free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and see an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

 

 

And the Winner Is…

Congratulations to Beverly, who is the winner of the drawing from those who voted in our Cutest Pug Picture Contest.

Jean will be in touch with you, Beverly, to see which book from her Zuggy, the Rescue Pug series you’d like and the best way to send it to you.

Thank you to all of you who voted.  The pug with Santa hat and glasses picture received the most votes!

Santa hat

Before You Go

1. Our next post is the first in a series about the art of Jean-Francois Millet, the artist who painted The Angelus, and The Sower. I love these, but the painting we’ll look at may be unknown to you. I guarantee, you’ll love it, though! This series will continue with a related art activity and another children’s book author interview. Be sure to sign up to follow and receive these posts by email.

2. Are you going on vacation somewhere this summer? Consider visiting an art museum. But before you do, be sure to sign up on the button above to receive my freebie about how to make art museum visits fun for the whole family. You’ll also receive free newsletters  (just 4 each year) with links and more activities.

3. visit my website for free downloadables for childrenhttp://www.kathy-oneill.com/