Tag Archives: mom art blog


Um, yeah. even the notion of making declarative statements makes me uneasy. Writing an artist’s statement is no joke. I want to sound smart and my work be interesting. I need it to make sense and I have to make it sound like I’m solving some problem or making something really cutting edge. Yikes! Here it is (towards the bottom of the post) in it’s pretty finished form and I’m well on my way to having things packaged and ready to ship. If I was nervous last week…

our latest collaboration

Procrastination is not my friend. I can find a million things to occupy my mind besides what I’ve set out to do like, getting super cute hair cuts, buying Thundercats toys on ebay,crafty things, cleaning projects (Milo’s closet must be clean before I can work on this), hanging at my brother’s house pretending to like football ( I do like his company), etc, etc. so I got a lot done and now it’s nine  on Sunday night and I’ve just now finished.

I think Wyatt likes my hair

For the luckiest kid in the world...Two Lion-Os and only one comes with chew marks on it's hand

As I was writing earlier today, Milo wanted to know what I was doing and I told him that I was writing about why I make art. I asked him why he likes to make art. First he insisted that he type his name  and then he told me to type his own artist’s statement:

Milo Fessler

I like when everyone likes my art. I like when everyone likes me. I like people. I like Mommy. I really like when I bring them to the art show. Everyone loves my art. I love everyone, yeah! I like to make art because it makes people happy.

I love you Uncle Daniel and Bobo and King Kong Bungee (Bundy). The end.

King Kong Bundy is our good buddy. Jon and I got him on our honeymoon.

That about sums it up. Maybe I should hire Milo to write my statement. Here’s mine:

The act of making marks has been central to my life since I was a very young child. I am drawn to creating something out of nothing. As an art teacher in a high-poverty school, as a parent of two boys and as a painter, my everyday life is all about making new things happen with little resources. It is my goal to make work that is representative of living a creative life and to share that work on a larger scale.

I begin each watercolor with a simple mark or wash of color. I then move intuitively through the work layering washes and marks created from a brush, stencil or everyday objects like bottle caps and spools of thread. Caps and spools create circles of various sizes. The circle is the first mark that children make to represent people, places and things. I use circles as a child would, a universally representational symbol. My paintings are a bold and earthy response to my appreciation for the tensions that exist in everyday life, the desire for both simplicity and complexity, large and small spaces, inner and outer worlds, natural and urban landscapes, solitude and relationships, excitement and calm. Through my use of the most basic elements of art, color, line and shape, I am able to create a balanced and storied environment. In each new painting, the viewer is able to find connections to the contradictory nature of life.

In my most recent body of work, I completed 100 paintings in 100 days. Each painting is an 8” x 8” work made in one day. This classic exercise allowed me to bring painting into my everyday life. My three year old son made art alongside me almost every day. Making art has become central to our lives and we continue to express ourselves good, bad, and ordinary each day.

Make sense?

Inspiring the Fesslers towards happiness

Inspiring aren't I?

When I was I college I took an advanced ceramics class. One day in class we watched a video on some ceramicist (I can’t remember his name) who talked at length about what makes a really great ceramic drinking vessel. We had to examine our concept of a just-right vessel. Does it hold the right amount of liquid? Does it feel right in your hand? Is it weighted properly? How does it feel when you hold it to your mouth? Does it keep your coffee or tea or whatever the right temperature for the right amount of time? What is the glaze like? Does the shape appeal to you visually? All of these things suddenly mattered. A mug. I have a few perfect vessels. One for tea, one for coffee. My tea mug was made by a mentor teacher and I formulated the hideous glaze. The mug feels light but substantial, it keeps my tea warm for a long time, the lip of the mug is not too fat and not too thin, I feel at ease when I have this mug in my hand. My coffee mug is a standard issue diner style coffee mug that we got on our honeymoon from the bed and breakfast Jon used to work at in Alaska.

Day 57

Day fifty-seven

Day fifty-eight

Day fifty-nine




Finding the perfect mug is like finding home. You know it when it’s right. I have been thinking a lot about the concept of domesticity and the idea of having a home, not just living in a house and having stuff rather, having a space where your life happens. Home is the center of our existence and for Jon and I it always has been. I think that’s why we’re so good together. We both know that our home is not just a place but a life being lived. It is where we make or choices that will trickle out to the rest of the world and create some sort of change.

Milo, Day 57. "This is a window and me and Uncle Tony looking out."

Milo, Day 58. "This is a silly mountain."

Milo, Day 59. "Shh, he is sleeping and he has buggars."

Now that Milo is getting older and Wyatt is here, home is even more valuable. I could not even begin to put a dollar amount on the time I spend making home. Being the stay at home parent this year has gotten me thinking about how we address home life. It is so easy for women and men to get into the “house wife syndrome” of being completely unfulfilled by domestic and childcare responsibilities. Since the industrial revolution domestic life has become centered on consuming things rather than creating them. I fell so easily into the emptiness of going to Target, buying things and consuming them. By the end of the summer I was downright sad. I felt empty and guilty for feeling so empty. I knew that I didn’t need something outside of the home. I needed a new perspective; I need to feed my home and my life with some creativity. Ever since I started this project I am not sad every day. I don’t feel so  empty and I no longer feel like I’m watching my life happen to me while I drink coffee from a mug that doesn’t feel right.

A very serious post for a Halloween weekend. Sorry folks, let’s lighten things up with a few good Halloween photos…In 3rd grade I was Tammy Fae Baker (my mom has a wicked sense of humor), this year Milo went as a Rescue Hero (or a member of the Village People). He won win 3rd place at the coffee shop costume contest and we didn’t spend a dime on his costume!

P.S. Check out our pictures from the I Am photo shoot

Tammy Fae Baker

Rescue Hero Milo

“Ms. Holton,you have the hands of a man, I never noticed that about you.”

Martha would be so proud


Being perfect is exhausting! Since my last post I’ve tried to improve my domestic capabilities and I’ve cleaned the $%#* out of my house (Milo washed the baseboards and Jon vacuumed, of course). My hands are all cracked and gnarled, which is actually pretty typical. I was once told by a student that I have the hands of a man but, I digress. Domestic perfection has left me feeling partially brain dead from bleach fumes, tired and not very creative. In the same breath I will say that I like when the house is spic and span and I like when I can find the bills that need to be paid. I even kept up on the laundry, made this beautiful fall display, and used my aging bananas to make a healthy whole grain banana bread with walnuts and raisins.

Day forty-nine

day fifty, woot!

When I was a kid, nothing would make me writhe on the floor dry heaving in disgust more than the smell of banana bread cooking in the oven. My mom was shocked today when I told her what I was baking. It actually took my fantastically gay 50 something neighbor to bake the most delicious banana bread and share it with us while we were walking by his garden this spring to break me of my childhood disdain for all things banana related.  I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Wednesday was the halfway point. I have now painted everyday for 52 days. I did a little happy dance and thought about getting some over the hill decorations and baking cupcakes with black frosting but that wasn’t in the Your Home and You book so I just went about my business of trying to be perfect. I am happy to say that painting has once again become a habit in my life. Even when I’m beat and think I would rather be watching Dog the Bounty Hunter, it still feels so good when I’m done. I actually like my work.

Milo, Day 51. "It's a bed with a big tent. It's really comfortable."

Milo's art caddy. Don't go to swim lessons, the park or the grocery store without it.

As for Milo, he’s probably drawing at least two hours a day and he’s drawing people and beds and tents and all sorts of things that now look like things. I love seeing how he’s grown in just the past two months. With kids, growth is so much more apparent than in adults. He says that making art makes him feel calm, I’ll second that. So stay tuned for the final 48 days of our project. I can’t promise perfection but I can promise you some damn fine looking work from a three year old and maybe a few more pics of things I bake while avoiding other less desirable tasks.

Day fifty-one

Dry erase, scheduled, organized, perfection...where did I put the dry erase markers?!

A note on being weird

Yup, that's me. Age 12.

Here's to wierd

Day forty-three

Day forty-four

Milo, "Do monsters make art?"

Day forty-five (this is one of my favorites so far)

Having been strange my whole life I feel like I am well equipped to parent a weird kid. I’ve always been the “artsy” one. I think that’s a nice way of saying that I’m a bit weird.

I do think that all kids are weird in fantastic ways. That is one of the best things about being a teacher, especially an art teacher. I get to be privy to all the weird things kids come up with. First grader jokes are among the best. Milo is no exception. He is super weird. He just decided that he is not a person who wears socks. He’s had a scribbled on receipt from pizza delivery taped next to his bed for a year and would be devastated if we tried to take it down. We’ve already discussed his obsession with pens.

For kids, weird is fine, it’s widely accepted at least until school age. We let our kids wear Robin and Superman costumes day and night, we let our kids read books in cardboard boxes. Then we do something to people. We shame them into hiding the things that make them who they are. How sad. If you went to middle school, you probably remember someone being incredibly unkind to you because you didn’t do something the way they expected you to. It takes a super weird person not to give a *%^& when this happens (thank you with all my heart to one Ms. Rebecca Rubel). I taught middle school for one year and that was quite enough for me, thank you. I went running and screaming back to those weird little first graders. I would much rather sit in a tiny chair with a crayon in my hand hanging with silly, imaginative little kids anyday.

We all want to be part of the tribe but we need to be who we are. Think about the people you are drawn to the most. Are they the safe, beige people (I just looked down and I’m wearing a beige sweater, damn it.) or are they the little-bit-weird folks who seem to take a few more risks than you do, say what they mean a little more often, and seem to live in their skin a bit more comfortably? I’ll take the later.

Let’s keep it weird people. What was your favorite weird kid memory of yourself or your own kiddos?

I’ll go first:

Me: I had an obsession with the author Roald Dahl. When he died I was in the third or fourth grade. I cried tears and was so grief stricken that I insisted that the librarian let me create a shrine to him in the library. She begrudgingly agreed and I painstakingly recreated a bunch of his illustrations from the BFG and the Twits and turned the whole thing into a huge display with stand up cut outs and a backdrop. Can you say dork?

Milo: I think this week’s pictures speak for themselves.

Loving Milo's monster art

Milo, Day 44

Dig a little faster and a little better


Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel



Day forty



Ah, to have an encouraging audience



Day forty-one



Milo day 40, PlayDough sculptures



Day forty-two



Milo, day forty-one. "This is for the mailman, he has a lot of brains."


Milo’s Grandma Lori and Grandpa gave him a book a while ago, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. Milo loves this book. In the story, Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne are at the end of their career, they are being  out performed by diesel powered diggers. Anyways, Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne take one last stab at greatness and offer to dig the cellar for a new town hall in just one day. The town’s people agree to let them dig it but everyone seems skeptical. One little boy and his dog come to watch. Mike Mulligan says to the boy that the always dig a little faster and little better when someone is watching. Soon the townspeople, the school children, the fire department and folks from the next town over have gathered to watch Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel. When the dust settles at dusk, Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne had dug so fast and dug so well that they finished the job.

There is something to be said for being accountable to others. I can tell myself to do something all day long but when I make a statement that I will accomplish something, it takes on a life of its own (insert my secret love of strategic planning here). If I’m not just painting for lil’ ol’ me but I have made a goal to put it into the world, I dig a little deeper.

A mom at Milo’s school was telling me that they like my project and my work. Was I gracious? Probably not, I was probably more awkward than anything else. I need to work on that. Great. Now I’ve said it, it must be done. I will get better at taking a compliment and talking about my work face to face with people (Is that like using the Secret? Do I have to get a bulletin board?)

I’m on day 43 of this project and I am pretty pumped about things. I’m starting to realize that I can put it out there and not have any pretext about it.  That I can accomplish this. I don’t have to sell every piece (although that would be nice) I don’t have to blow up al a Julie and Julia (although that would be nice too).  I know a few people are looking and listening and that this is somehow more for me and for Milo than anything else.

I want Milo to know that he can finish what he starts and how important it is to do what you love, work hard, do what you say you’re going to do and to share it with the world. Just call us Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne.

Do you like nature? Apparently, so do I!


Day thirty-four

Milo's mountain boy diaper butt

Day thirty-five

Our mountain paradise

"This is a bed with a face, he's smiling at you."

Day thirty-six

Our little slice of the pie

A few days ago I had an epiphany or a duh moment depending on if you’re a glass half full or glass half empty sort of person. I have been struggling to verbalize why I am making the kind of work that I make. I keep asking myself why I am going back and forth between this really naturalistic aesthetic and this more modern, urban vibe.  While Milo was spending twenty minutes trying to decide if we were going to the mountains for a hike or to the Dinosaur museum, and then later again while Milo was laying flat on his stomach examining a bug, I finally had a few minutes and saw clearly what I’ve been processing with my work.

When Milo was ten months old we rented out our house near downtown and moved to a house 16 miles up a canyon outside of Boulder. We were just plain tired of the close quarters, the violence (someone shot our house with a shotgun), the noise, the pollution, the city. We’ve always been crunchy, we’ve always loved camping and hiking and our best times have been spent in a tent (except for the sand dog incident, damn you sand dog!)  I loved being up there; the smell and air and the dark night skies. Milo learned to walk in the woods and on trails.

What we didn’t realize is that to live that far away, you have to drive a lot, use a lot of wood and propane and generally consume more to live like you’re using less. We lived up there until the economy was in a total hole and gas was over $4/gallon. We just couldn’t swing it and we moved back home to our little house in Denver. It made us appreciate our friends, our family, our neighbors, our farmer’s market, our bikes, and our little efficient house and yard.

This failed attempt at mountain living taught me a valuable lesson about two very distinct sides of myself. I love being alone, I need to be alone, I need to be in the mountains, sit under a tree, see the water, run next to the ocean.  I am not a complete human being unless that side of me is fulfilled. On the other hand, I need people, not just my family but the background of lots of strangers doing similar things all at once. I like seeing people who are not like me. I like the library, art shows and the museums and the buses and bikes, the general hustle and bustle. It’s ok that it’s not an all or nothing affair. I am impressed by those folks who can live in total isolation like those documentaries of that old timer who whittled even the nails to build his cabin (although Jon might be into that),or those who can live in a 150 sq ft apartment in NYC.

So I think what I’ve been getting at in my work is to create an outward expression of the internal the tension that we all feel inside of ourselves to be alone and to be social, to be in the city and to be in the woods, to see the big picture and to cherish the smallest details.  Make sense?


34 and Sassy

34 and sassy. Pumpkin cucakes with oreo frosting.

Dad and his moustache on the right, Mom and little Wyatt on the right.

Day thirty-one

Day thirty-two

Day thirty-three

"This is you at a yoga class mom. You should go to a yoga class.

That salmonella scare is over, right?

Two great things have happened this week. It is official, I got over 75 hits to my blog in one day which means that at least one person reading this is not a blood relative and Jon turned 34 on Sunday. He let me read his journal from when we first started dating just the other day. On his 25th birthday he wrote, “I like apples. I love Delanie.” I love that man. Nobody could make me crazier and no one could give me the giggles more than Jonathan David Fessler. We went out for dinner Saturday night and here he is crying over his donut sandwich and microbrew about how lucky he is and how much he loves his boys. What a softy.  We’ve been together going on 10 years. We met through my brother and my cousin who both told him I would never say yes if he asked me out. Guess I have a thing for stinky guys with big beards who live in their cars.

Imagine that you’ve been married to someone for over 65 years. How cool is that?( Provided that you like them and all that good stuff.) My mom’s folks have been married that long. They met in high school, she was wearing a pink sweater at a dance and he liked the way she looked. If you could imagine an archetype for parents-o- babyboomer grandparents mine are pretty darn close.  Grandpa looks like Popeye. I used to say I wanted to be tall and bald when I grew up, just like my grandpa. Well, I’ll never be tall and I’m not bald, except for a few unfortunate months sophomore year of high school.

They have four kids, ten grandkids, and (hold on I’m trying to count on my fingers here…) thirteen great-grandchildren. I’m sure someone will let me know if my math is off here.  I had lunch with my mom, grandparents and my Great Aunt Teenie last week and my mom was remarking on how much her heart just grew when she had grandkids and my grandpa remarked about how much love he had in his heart for all of his grand kids and great grandkids. What a softy.

When you put Teenie and Grammy in a room together they have a tendency to get silly. They are sisters after all and only a year apart. They were comparing scars on their arms and Teenie said hers darn well should be bigger, why, I’m not sure. They are both super creative and thrifty and all those good things that ladies who grew up in the Depression tend to be. Teenie saves artsy magazine articles for me and when I graduated from high school she gave me a pack of paper dolls with a note that said “it’s too easy to be a grown up all the time…” Grammy has the mind of an architect and a designer. She has drawings and plans for mountain houses they’ll never build. She is a perpetual crafter just like the rest of us and you are sure to take home some yarn, fabric scraps or a pattern or two whenever you visit.  Love those ladies. I could write a book on how fab all the ladies I’m related to really are; the quilter and silk artist, the producer, the writer, the teacher, the nurse, all of them,  really really great mommas.  Even the younger ones are super creative awesome little beings; jokesters, a dancer, a quilter, an industrial designer.

There are more than a few great things about having a giant Irish family. A small Thanksgiving dinner has about 25 people (just don’t let Uncle Bill make the gravy…) Someone is always there to pick you up when you fall down. Someone will always come to your opening , your game, your whatever-it-is special occasion.  There will always be someone to say something nice about you and the door to Grammy’s pantry is always open. Oh, and more likely than not, at least five of them are willing to play croquet no matter what the weather is like.

Sniff, tears. I love that crazy bunch.  I’m not sure what I’m getting at, except that I can only hope that when I’m 85, we’ll get to hang out in the mountains and drink pots of coffee with my kid’s kids while their kids play.

My paintings are available via my website.