Art in California, on the way to Montessori in Thailand


turner front of museum

No matter where I am headed for Montessori work, I take advantage of the opportunity to experience beauty. It sustains me. One of the greatest English painters of the 19th Century Joseph MW Turner is an inspiration for my painting and one of my oldest friends (fellow Montessori mother and teacher) and I viewed this exhibit of his work at the DeYoung in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

fog and animal 1

Just as in life, where we can only focus completely and well on only one thing at a time, the rest fading temporarily into the background, Turner’s paintings give us examples that are a welcome relief for our eyes and spirits.

turner children

It was lovely to see a docent teaching children about Turner. I eavesdropped his interesting talk several times.

turner susan's commission parliament

In order to improve painting abilities in all ways I often do studies of great works of art, visiting them in a museum to see them first hand whenever possible, and then working from pictures.

Above is an example of a commissioned study I did of his “Burning of the Houses of parliament” for a family who owned the original, donated it to a museum in Cleveland, and wanted a memory. I worked with the museum to get the colors right, as there is always a lot of variety in reproductions.

Sometimes we think that a more “abstract” painting will be easier than a more life-like work, but it is just the opposite. This is the most difficult study I have ever undertaken.

Some of my paintings:

CLICK: Susan’s Art


chez menu

Then on to lunch at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Alice Waters took the AMI Montessori teacher-training course the same place I did. And then moved out into the world combining education of children, protecting the environment, cooking, and beauty.

Here are Alice’s words:

I was 22 years old when I first trained to be a Montessori teacher, and Maria Montessori’s philosophy has remained vital to me all my life: Children learn best through experience. The senses are the pathways to our minds—and when a child’s senses are activated, knowledge floods in.

I had this interactive pedagogy in my heart when I started the Edible Schoolyard program, which creates organic gardens and kitchen-classrooms in urban public schools. When students come into the garden-classroom for their math class, they are measuring the vegetable beds—they are doing math by osmosis, effortlessly absorbing their lessons. This is the beauty of a sensory education—which is, at its core, a Montessori education: the way all the doors into your mind are thrown wide open at once.

chz susan with french poster

From every direction as we sat at lunch I could see her sense of beauty and attention to detail, from the furniture, and art on the walls, and the food.

Here is the link to her foundation to the Edible Schoolyard, a n nationally recognized for its efforts to integrate gardening, cooking, and sharing school lunch into the core academic curriculum:

Now I am in Bangkok, on the way to the 4th ESF (Educateurs san Frontieres) Assembly, which was begun to Renilde Montessori, the granddaughter or Dr. Maria Montessori, in 1999. You can read about the first three assemblies, and this one, which will be held for 2 weeks in Thailand, here:

thailand reunion

It was wonderful to be able to spend some time with students who were in my group during the first AMI 3-6 training course in Thailand years earlier. To see my addition to the Esf blog . . .

Click here: THAILAND ESF


And one of my many drawings from that week:
CLICK: Plumeria

old thailand

Back to the subject of beauty. I was in Thailand for the first time in in 1964. The tallest buildings in Bangkok at that time were the temples and other Buddhist structures. Upon returning in 2002 on my way to the Tibetan Children’s’ Village in India, I was shocked and saddened by the modernization of the city. One looked down on these beautiful temples from a freeway over the city! But because we cannot stop progress (but we can help direct if in positive ways, especially through our children) I am learning to see beauty in the new world.

More is written about this meeting in the book Aid to Life, Montessori Beyond the Classroom.

CLICK: Aid to Life


Late last night, after 20 hours of flying, counting stopover for 2 hours in Tokyo, I took this picture as I left the Suvarnabhami airport in Bangkok to take the shuttle to the hotel. I was exhausted and my mind was screaming “ugliness,” but my eyes are learning to focus on color and shape and light, and I found beauty for a moment even this modern structure. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

I have lived in both San Francisco and Berkeley, and have spent months helping with Montessori teacher training in Thailand—these are three beautiful place on our earth and I hope you have enjoyed the pictures.

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

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