The Art of Donald Mason

Wow! What a wonderful evening at The Contemporary Art Center. The opening of the Donald Mason exhibit.

Kevin has known Donald Mason for several years and has always admired his talent in taking everyday objects and turning them into beautiful and thoughtful works of art. He is inspiring in his dedication to his art.

Tonight we were able to learn more about the artist and his journey thru life which brought him here with his amazing talent. I can imagine that Donald was an amazing teacher in District 150 and touched many lives with his art and his stories of his life journey.

Donald captures life and emotion in his work. His work is thought provoking and intense. We enjoyed listening to his story and experiences that shaped him into the artist he is today.

Mr. Mason is a resident artist at the Contemporary Art Center and a master of his art. He explained the story behind the artwork. Each piece has its own story that speaks to the viewer. It was interesting to hear of these experiences in his life that served as inspiration to his work.

A big thank you to William Butler, Ricky Traughber and the volunteers at CAC for organizing such a wonderful event. If you didn’t get a chance to see his work tonight, his work will be on display for the next month on the 2nd floor.

July 25th Opening Reception – Suzette Boulais

Mark your calendars for an Opening Reception with Suzette Boulais. Join Suzette at the new Gallery Homes in Peoria Heights, near Jim’s Bistro, located at 4610 N Prospect, Peoria Heights, Illinois. Opening reception is Thursday, July 25 from 6:00-9:00 pm. The exhibit will be on display throughout July and August. Come meet the artist and experience her extraordinary works of art!

The Art of the Pond and Pasture

Imagine driving on a long curvy country road. Trees guiding the way, tall and reaching toward the sky. The sun shining brightly between the branches highlighting leaves and birds in the trees.

Meandering along we spy small bodies of water and animals scurrying from one spot to another. Soon we are surrounded by fields of crops on either side of us. We turn onto the long gravel drive we know so well.

On one side a pond, on the other the pasture. The pond is alive with insects and life. We can hear the choir of frogs in the distance, the buzzing of insects and spot dragonflies. The dragonflies are flittering and fluttering from pillar to post all around the pond.

We walk along the dock and hear the sound of a fish swatting it’s fin on the water. A turtle across the way is sliding in to cool in the water. My mind goes back to my youth and my love of water. I find myself wishing I could dive in and let the water cover me as I swim and float in it’s cool embrace.

The two of us sit together on the dock listening to the world around us and the insects and frogs provide nature’s music. The day is warm and the sun is shining upon us while we relax to the sounds.

We decide after awhile to make our way to the pasture. Standing at the edge you see the treeline of the property. An eagle flying overhead. A chipmunk scurrying through the grass. Free range chickens walking and bobbing to eat on the run.

One post has a dragonfly that is still and posed. He remains still even as I approach and photograph him standing in place. We are amazed he doesn’t fly off. He remains for several minutes and I admit I take advantage of his time photographing his pose.

We feel our stress of day to day melt away as we wander in the pasture. The only sounds are birds and insectsGreen grass, the smell of flowers blooming and the chorus of nature envelope us on our journey. A masterpiece that touches our soul.

Road trips in summer to destinations we enjoy. At times we just drive and take in the sights along our trek. Still other times we have a destination and enjoy how it changes each time we stop. Art surrounds us each day from how we view things to what we view.

We hope you enjoyed our journey. Until next time take care and keep creating.


The Mileurs

The Spotlight – A Place for Artists to Share Their Stories and Their Work

Duffy Armstrong Farrell thank you for sharing your story, beautiful artwork and for allowing us to publish all you have shared.

Our Spotlight this month turns to Duffy Armstrong a multi media artist from Illinois.

Duffy’s Story – In Her Own Words

Drawing Photography Printing Painting

I grew up in the Chicago area. Music was my first “love.” I played piano and studied classical music for five years through the Sherwood School of Music until I was 12 and discovered I was unable to perform in front of a large audience. My focus shifted to visual art. I received a BFA from Bradley University, focusing on drawing, printmaking and photography. Minor White, while a visiting artist at Bradley, critiqued my first two-person show. To this day his encouragement and inspiration influence me. Others who have significantly and personally guided my art are Kim Mosley, Dow Mitchell, Nita Sunderland, Art Sinsabaugh, Luther Smith and Francois Deschamps. It’s only now, in these later years, that I have returned to making art. My daughter is grown and successful. My professions – museum education, gallery directing, corporate sales, financial advisement, marketing, public relations and fundraising – no longer consume my time. My work? Query what you see. Think. Talk. Have fun. Learn. I like landscapes, the figure and abstract or intuitive images. That said, I make human marks that can be interpreted anyway you like.


Duffy Armstrong Farrell Art, LLC/ Member of CIAO/ Studio at Contemporary Art Center of Peoria/ Exhibit A Gallery, Peoria Heights, Illinois

Here’s “Self Portrait” that I did the other night for fun.  My paternal grandfather used to hold the record for the largest Northern Pike. He taught us to fish.

Self Portrait

The Art of Learning a New Technique

Life and art are ever changing. We learn new techniques to challenge ourselves and to explore new avenues. As humans, we also learn techniques to deal with the changes in our lives. Learning is continuous and necessary for growth. I decided recently to learn bead embroidery. For as long as I can remember, I have loved embroidery. My grandma had embroidered pillow cases and I loved to feel the stitches. I remember watching her embroider quilt squares and faces on dolls. The time and love that went into each stitch was endearing. My goal is to embroider with beads and give the same love and attention as Grandma did to cloth.

Research on the topic was completed on Pinterest, Google and books on embroidery and beading. The images I found were amazing and some breathtaking. The artwork of Merrill Hickey has also inspired me on my journey. Her work is fantastic! I gathered beads, embroidery floss, stones, felt and crystals. My first brooch created was an insect. I used metallic thread, stones, crystals and beads. Paper and pencil were used to create my template to trace onto the felt. It was exciting and new teaching myself how to piece it all together. The finished product turned out close to the way I thought it would. The knowledge I took away was smaller beads and tighter stitches.

My love of dragonflies beckoned me to create more insect brooches. Each brooch is a little different and the stitching is tighter than on my first brooch.

Front and back are cut out of felt. Sample of future dragonfly, stones and beads.

Completed dragonflies.

Current Work.

Thank you for sharing your time with us and we hope you enjoyed our new technique. If you are interested in a copy of the template or guide to create please contact us at

Until next time take care and keep creating!


The Mileurs

The Art of Photography

This week I am writing about an area of art that I am most familiar with, The art of photography. As with all art, there is many forms in the art of photography. My experience with photography stated at a young age, watching my mother taking pictures of all of our adventures in life and watching the photo albums grow over the years with pictures of our vacations and holidays. We were always excited to see mom putting the film in the mail to be developed and waiting for two weeks to see what came back, very few people had access to darkrooms to develop their own. You spent a lot of time trying to make sure you did all you could on camera to make a good picture, and hope that when you did get the prints back they were good. Times have changed and now we have digital cameras and instant access to see if the picture we take is good or bad.

I started on 35mm film back in my day, where you bought a roll of 12 or 24 exposure film, and you worked hard to get things right the first time. You wanted to ensure that you had all the setting done properly and worked to get the right picture. Then once you shot your 12 exposures you sent them off to be developed. waiting two weeks to receive your prints to find out if you did it right, or did you just waste a little more money to throw in the trash. I never had access to a dark room, so my best friend was my notebook, where I logged down what ISO i was using, what was the film speed, what F-stop did I use and what was my shutter speed, keeping a log of what you did to compare to the prints you got in return, it was a hard learning curve. In doing this I learned a lot about the art of photography. The art of photography to me is capturing a moment in life, using the light and shadows to make a photograph come to life. A great photograph can be made of the simplest object, but by using the camera to its fullest and looking at things differently than others, you can make a great piece of art. Years ago I was exploring and shooting at my brothers farm, when I came in to look at what I had shot on the computer, my sister-in-law, saw one, and said it was beautiful and where did I find that photograph. I told her it was at the end of her driveway, and she drove by it everyday for several years without noticing it. In my way of looking at life, I see things differently than a lot of people. A good photographer looks at things, then looks at the way the light works, then ask themselves how can I get the best shot, do you adjust the shutter speed, or open up the aperture.

When I switched to a digital camera, I retained the way I always took photographs, in which I look at the light, the background, the settings on the camera and try to take the right shot the first time. I never was able to figure out how to properly use photoshop, which I think is an art form unto itself, so i left photoshop to others to use. I always believed that God created the pictures, I just took them. I think that capturing the beauty in the world around us is an art form and I try my best to bring you the best I can.

I love going out with my cameras draped across my shoulders, I usually have a least two with me, sometimes I carry three. I set each camera up differently, so that i have the most options without having to change every setting for each picture. I enjoy being out in nature and seeing the beauty of the world around us, and then attending different functions to capture life in the city. With great photographers they see the beauty, the story, the life going on around us differently, than most people. Great photographers capture a moment of life and allows us to study and wonder about the life around us. In our fast pace lives, photography allows us to see the moments that we pass by, they force you to slow down and look and study and to understand the story behind the art.

The Art of Exploring

This weekend was the first 1st Friday, since 2015, that I haven’t worked at the Studios on Sheridan’s 1st Friday event, so we decided to start exploring other venues offered on 1st Fridays. I have always loved exploring new areas to see what beauty I can find. When I retired from the Federal Prison systems I set out with my cameras to find beauty where ever I could, I explored the back roads and country side to find things that would bring light, peace and beauty back into my life after close to 40 years of darkness and the ugly side of life. By exploring new areas I was able to find the beauty that I had missed out on. By exploring you can find many truly beautiful and wonderful things that you have missed in your life. Never stop exploring and looking for the beauty that life has to offer.

So on 1st Friday of June 2019 we explored, we started by going to Glazed and Confused out on Farmington Rd. to visit with Cyndi Merrill and Jeff, to watch them work their magic in clay. We entered their shop to find several visitors admiring their work. After they offered us drinks and snacks we watched them both turn to working. Cyndi was working a piece that she had already started and we watched as her hands worked their magic. Jeff started a new piece on the wheel and listened as he explained the process of what he was doing. It was neat watching these two artists turn out some beautiful pieces, it is a treat. So if you get the chance you need to visit these two artist and be inspired by what they do.

We were off to explore some more, our next stop was back to my old stomping grounds the Studios on Sheridan at the Sunbeam Building. I wanted to stop by to hear the awesome music provided by Random Strangers and to see the art work of Ken Hoffman on display. We strolled thru and visited the shops and met up with many old friends, Jon and Angie Walker, Steve and Michelle Rouland, and many more, watched the ladies at J. Draper Glass putting on a show for the crowd with their glass blowing talents, and visited with the different artists, Jaci, Beau Hart and others, but we didn’t stay long had more that we wanted to explore.

Now we head down to the river to visit CAC, on Water St. which was close to the truth with the flooding, but we went safely and stayed dry to the 3rd floor, to visit with the many talented artists who share space here. It is inspiring to see so much talent residing at CAC. We got to meet up with Duffy Armstrong as she was working on a new piece and enplaining her work to several admirers. I got to spend a few minutes with Kagen Masters who paints with coffee. I was shocked until she explained that she uses instant and decaf coffee only, which was a relief to me, I couldn’t imagine using my coffee that way. If you like you can smell her work. Then we ran into a long time friend Trish Williams, she is always a joy to talk with and shares some great hugs. She brings a light to a room with her smile and her clothes that she designs.

Time is running short for 1st Friday which ends at 9pm, so we are off again to explore a new venue, Casa de Arte, on Adams St. where Jessica Ball is having her exhibit for the month of June. We had a little trouble finding it at first, then realized we had passed it so around the block we go. I am glad we spotted it, being it is our first time to visit, we wasn’t sure what we were looking for. But we are so glad we did. Jessice Ball is a talented painter and lover of art, and this location is perfect for her. A large crowd is in attendance here for the drinks and tacos and the art. We had a great time, we met with several friends, Mike and Banu Hatfield, Tom Pries, Susie Flick and others. We enjoy visiting and discussing the many and varied forms of art we encounter in our lives and the people who share a passion for beauty and art in all its forms.

The night ended to soon for us, there are 17 exhibits listed for 1st Fridays, so we plan to continue exploring the many new venues over the next several months and meet with the artists and hopefully bring some of the beauty we see into your lives, till the next time, explore life and find the new adventures that await you.

The Art of Creating

The art of creating for me is sometimes a fickle creature. Most of my art is created from memories, generally of my children or childhood. I have nights I cannot sleep because my mind decides to come alive and inspired. Creativity is not a forced action but rather a relaxed state of sorting through ideas and ways to make them work.

Family and nature are my main sources of inspiration. I wonder what inspires other artists in creating such beautiful masterpieces. To me it is quite interesting to learn the thought process behind the creation.

I remember a couple of years ago I attended the opening ceremony for the Sculpture Walk here in Peoria. It was fascinating and a dream come true kind of a day. All the artists in attendance with their work, sharing technique and ideas. It was an honor to be there and to be a docent for the walk. The artists were so welcoming and passionate about their work. We enjoyed learning and being able to touch the art.

One artist in particular shared his creation was inspired by balloons he saw floating through the sky. Another shared his idea came to him while driving by walls of rock. Still another stated that he saw a plant growing and thought it should be in metal.

It is amazing to me how we all create and what we see as individuals. I may not see the same thing others do when looking at the same object or scenery. The feelings may be different, the visual may be altered. The beauty of art is how it makes us feel as individuals, the thoughts it provokes.

I will share a recent relief I created over the summer last year. My oldest son was injured at work and was in ICU for several days. He had to have his forehead and the orbit of his eye rebuilt. His vision in that eye is lost but we didn’t lose him. Always look to the positive. During this time we spent alot of time holding his hand and praying, tears running down our faces. Once he was out of surgery and moved to a new unit we felt relief. This moment brought me to my knees.

Several days after my son was released home I needed to create. I had to have a release from all these feelings I had stirring inside me. This time in life magnified nearly everything. Clay would be my release, my way of dealing with this moment and helping with healing.

My mind went to a mother on a hill with arms and hands reaching up to the heavens. The figure soon became an angel, for I know we had a strong angel by our side through this time. The doctor telling us had the hit been one inch lower we may not be discussing treatment but planning a funeral. My emotions went into the clay.

The finished piece is titled “Nature’s Child” a water based clay relief, glazed and set in epoxy resin.

Until next time, keep being inspired and keep creating.

God bless.

The Happy Mileurs

The Art of Letting Go

This weekend we have the pleasure of watching our youngest graduate. My baby girl, the youngest of four. It is bittersweet for lack of a better word. Tomorrow is the last time I will watch one of my children graduate high school and no more picking her up from school and asking what adventure she would like to go on before heading home.

We are all so proud of her and her accomplishments. She will graduate with honors and was gifted her medallion and stole Thursday. Her next adventure is college several hours from home but near close family. I know she will be safe and thrive.

I was thinking the other day about how as a mom our child grows inside of us. We care for and nurture our body to provide a good home for our child before birth. Once our child is born that first sound is an awakening, the first touch is amazing. Here is this beautiful part of us we have felt all these months and now we can hold. The love we feel is like no other love. The “Mama Bear” is born to care, teach and protect.

When you think about it parenting is teaching our child to grow to thrive on his or her own. So as we hold on tight we soon have to let go just a little at a time. Milestones teach us we have to help our child learn to soar. Kindergarten is generally our first time we have to watch our child go away from us. I remember crying the first time I watched my children climb on the bus. Their little legs and feet disappearing from view, counting the hours until they would be home. I cannot say it got easier along the way.

Time moves so rapidly it seems weeks become years in the blink of an eye. I was talking to my Dad and told him I hope I have taught my children what they need to know to be an adult and a good person. I hope I have given them what they need to thrive and enjoy life. He told me the fact I wonder and worry says I most likely did. I’m thankful to be able to sit with him and speak openly.

Here we are in two blinks at High School Graduation. We will be loud and proud when she is announced. I mean seriously, is anyone going to wait to cheer once all graduates have been called. We will once more reach a milestone of letting go a little more. It is time to allow her more independence (if you know my youngest -she is the definition of independent and confident) and watch her spread her wings and soar.

Eighteen years just doesn’t seem long enough at times. Basically, we are teaching our children how to live on their own and hope we did it right so they come home. I know I look forward to Family Weekend and breaks so we can adventure and spend time. I know she will be “Homeward Bound” and I need not worry. Amazing our biggest gift is one we have to let go and allow to thrive and create a life of their own. I have to say it is all worth it and the pride when we see our children happy, enjoying life and thriving is a great gift. My cup runneth over.

God bless you, God keep you and God watch over you!

The Happy Mileurs

Weekend of Art

First we want to wish all the Mom’s a very Happy Mother’s Day – fur babies included. We hope your day has been filled with love and joy!In my world there is nothing like a weekend filled with family, friends and art! This weekend has been full of both and a lot of love! Lunch with the children and grandchildren to celebrate Mother’s Day. My oldest treated us to lunch out on Friday and my oldest daughter cooked a beautiful meal Saturday afternoon. Saturday was also art events and date night.We had the pleasure of attending the Fine Arts Fair in Peoria Heights and the Opening Reception for “Everchanging” at the Preston Jackson Gallery at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria, Illinois.The Fine Art Fair was filled with artwork. We met painters, photographers, jewelers, ceramic artists, sculptors, glass blowers and more. It was a wonderful stroll filled with tents of beautiful pieces and artists excited to share their work.Our evening was spent at CAC for the opening reception of “Everchanging” featuring artwork by Doug and Eileen Leunig and Gene Mialkowski on the second floor. The works complimented each other and are thought provoking.We took our time viewing the work and feeling our stress melt away as we viewed the Everchanging screens of nature caught in motion by the Leunigs. Imagine a screen with trees at sunset, slowly changing as new pieces come into view or the movement of water and all the images you can see as it moves.Gene-o brought relaxing pieces sculpted in metal. The pieces draw to mind the calmness of nature and the flow. The mini flow series created by Gene-o is fabulous. Gene’s home studio is at The Mill and is a great stop on First Friday. He enjoys sharing his work and teaching others how he creates.The third floor featured encaustic work created by Elizabeth Davis. Her work is incredible and shows depth. Elizabeth has a studio at CAC on the third floor and is very open to questions on how she creates such stunning works of art.Kevin and I enjoyed hearing the passion and love in each artist’s voice when speaking about their work. We agree it is important to think about our environment and how our own actions have an effect on the world. The exhibits are fantastic!Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. We truly enjoy sharing our world with all of you.Until next time, God Bless.The Happy Mileurs