Thursday, October 30, 2014

Restaurant People and a Little Mojo

 P and I are sitting in our current favorite neighborhood restaurant and I spy two guys at the next booth having a good conversation.  Here they are, leaning in close.  Every now and then they burst out laughing, then they lean in close again to talk.  Across from them is a group of three, but the only person I can get a good look at is a woman who steadily chomps on chips.  SHe has an interesting face, eyes that look like they stare into the sun all day long.
Across from us a family arrives, and their little boy looks like and acts like Nate.  I can't resist trying to draw him, and he moves constantly of course.  He has darker hair than Nate, not quite as crazy, but his expressions and features and voice are so Nate-like that I feel a huge urge to jump on a plane for Newark.

When we get home I paint a little voodou doll that my friend E gave me a few years ago and that I keep in my studio.  I like the way the body is made of string, and the forlorn little bell on top of the head.  Good mojo for sure.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Architecture for Time Release

Drawing seed pods has taught me something about pod architecture:  it seems to be designed for time-sensitive release of seeds.  I don't know if this is true, but evidence points towards it.  On the left here is a blasted open pod from a yucca plant.  The shiny black seeds are stacked like checkers in neat columns in the sections of the pod.  The pod doesn't fall to the ground, but instead it splits open along lines of dehiscense and the seeds fall to the ground near the base of the parent plant.  The same seems to be true of the Japanese iris pod at bottom right.  But the beautiful pink and orange berries that were on a bush contain their seeds inside.  These tiny seeds remain inside the ripening berries like any other fruit.  Probably birds eat these berries and carry the seeds away from the parent plant where they drop them in their poop.
The hosta pod on the left works like the yucca and Japanese iris-- dehiscent pod splits open at a certain point in the drying out of the pod (and maturing of the seeds), flat seeds float and are maybe carried on the wind a bit before dropping.  We all know how it works for maple wings with their elegant little helicopter twirling down. 

But the lumpy black walnut at bottom right is the most interesting to me right now.  I found this one in the woods today in a perfect state of transition:  the outer hull, which contains astringent and bitter-tasting tannin, has almost completely rotted away (also thanks to the tannin) now that the squirrels and other nut gatherers have gone into hibernation.  The hard inner shell is now safe for the winter, until the longer days and warmer temperature and moisture of spring trigger the growth of the tiny seed inside.  When the seed begins to grow, the enormous force generated will crack the walnut shell open along dehiscent lines, and the seedling will grow into one of the ten thousand black walnut trees that we spend all summer trying to eradicate from our gardens and yards.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mindless Doodling

At book club this evening I drew a small portion of the plethora of things in E's livingroom.  I could have sat there for a few more hours very happily drawing, but everyone else was leaving so I did, too.  Clockwise from the left are a silky pillow in bright colors, a painted but chipped plaster face hanging high up on the wall, a planter or bowl made of what looks like marble but might be glazed ceramic faces, a little man statue sitting in front of a small vase of late zinnias, one of E's fuzzy sequined house shoes, and a cyclopian dog doll that was reclining on the floor.

Someone asked how I could draw and still be part of the conversation.  No problem as long as I'm not thinking about the drawing as it arranges itself on the paper.  If I were to start judging it (not a good start, bad proportions, etc) everything would freeze up, and then I would NOT be able to  pay attention to the conversation.  But that rarely happens these days, 3400 drawings along the path to 10,000.  One of the good things about this practice is that it makes drawing flow without much (if any) mental interference.  I'm always pleasantly surprised at how things come out. 

Monday, October 27, 2014


Here's a little collection of milagros,  religious folk charms used for healing or other favors in some cultures.  Typically you can buy a milagro at a shrine or nearby market.  The theme of the milagro is not exactly fixed:  sometimes a heart might represent a wish or prayer for healing a heart ailment whereas at other times it can be used to help a romance.  To me these look like (from left to right) a prayer for a rounded or humped back or just a generic petition made while kneeling down;  a heart;  a hand or forearm;  a little girl maybe;  eyes and nose, maybe even sinuses?  My collection came with little tatty ribbons tied to them.  They're made of silver. 

I have some other, larger milagros (also called ex votos, dijeos, or promesas) made of tin.  I have several hearts and one large flat baby Jesus.  I bought these tin ones in Italy;  the smaller ones in the collection drawn here came from San Antonio.  Once a friend who lived there sent me an arm milagro when I was having a nasty bout of poison ivy with its epicenter on my arms.

Last Extant Sand Candle Found Living on Jones Mountain!

J and I set out late yesterday to do a little exploring on Jones Mountain.  At the base of the Ruins Trail he found this small collection of fungi-- ghostly white,  crisp on the edges, and glowing in the dusk-- growing inside the hollow of a tree trunk.   Across the trail we found a larger trunk, also splitting open, but this one with a termite-eaten center, the remnants clinging like lace curtains in a haunted house window .
 When we reached the overlook the first thing we noticed was an odd lumpy rock-like-but-w thing balanced on the log that people sit on.  J had no idea what it was, especially since it had an eye-like part with a black dot of something.  Parts of the surface were gritty with the red clay that covers much of the surface of the overlook.  All of a sudden I had a memory of a similar object sitting on a windowsill under a macrame spider-plant hanger in our house in NO in the 70s.  A sand candle!  The eye part was a stub of a votive candle , the black thing the burnt wick.  I gave J a brief lesson in sand candle making (dig hole in sand, bury a wick or a candle wick-down in hole, fill with melted wax-- preferably dyed with lurid colors from powdered tempera paint or food dye--, let it cool and harden, remove waxy gritty lump, brush loose crumbs off and there it is).  He was not interested in making his own.  This one is more properly described as a clay candle since the hole was dug in the red clay, and that's what was clinging to the waxy surface.

Then this morning we were up at 7:00 in order to go out to the hill behind our house and watch the sunrise.  On the right you can see J huddling down on the slope taking pictures as the sun came up behind the mountains.
We stayed out there in the chilly breeze for nearly an hour, long enough for thorough documentation of a gorgeous sunrise.  On the left you can see J at bottom center down at the bottom of the hill and a gaggle of geese flying by like a ribbon.  The colors were pinks and apricots and lavenders as you can see on the right.  Be sure to check J's blog for his post about the sunrise.

Friday, October 24, 2014

After a Day in the Bardo, Relaxing with Jesse

Really,  one of my least favorite days is the day when I have to get a new phone-- all the transferring of files, synching of things, learning a new phone even when it's supposed to be "really just like" the 4S, only the minute muscle movements are different and nothing really feels the same.  This day is not exactly equal to a root canal day, but I would put it equal to an airport day with four close connections, one of them Newark, and it's stormy. 

So after the day in the bardo,  it felt great to unwind by making a big pot of chicken soup/gumbo and some cornbread.  I used some of the gumbo file that I made from sassafras leaves from one of the little sassafras trees in our back yard woods.
Jesse smelled chicken and came loping into the kitchen.  On the right he's sitting on a stool at the counter watching carefully.
Later he came over to my drawing table and settled in to do some grooming.
Then his head grew heavy, and it sank slowly down onto his paw. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Watching a Performance of the Digestive System

Last night we had the fun of watching Maya's class present their unit on the human body.  She goes to an arts-based public charter school where the curriculum is learned through the arts.  For this unit each small group of kids researched and presented one of the body systems, and Maya's group did the digestive system.  They wrote books in which the protagonists were pieces of food going through the alimentary canal, drew diagrams and large maps of the systems, composed and performed music and dances in order to present the many aspects of this study.  Here are quick rough sketches that I made during the performance:  Maya waving to us before the performance started, a couple of the exotic instruments used for the music, a boy reading part of a story, Maya and some friends on stage playing drums, and a girl dancing.
Tonight I went over to my friend L's studio so we could parallel work on some projects.  One of my projects was drawing, so I drew two of her antique dolls, one looking startled and the other terrified.  And on the right is a green-but-maybe -starting- to- ripen fig from F's tree.  We picked it today to bring it inside in hopes that it will ripen in the house since a frost is predicted for tonight.
This gorgeous orangey red rose hip was hanging from a rose bush on the side of the road we were walking on.  This must be the kind of rose hips that people make jelly out of.  There were a couple of roses left on the bush-- variegated pink with a sweet sweet smell.