Friday, July 31, 2015

Clouds of Hydrangeas

Clouds of hydrangeas are sitting in three large vases on the dining room table at H and D's, fresh cut from F's fabulous garden, ready for us to use tomorrow to decorate for the wedding!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Drawings That Impose Their Own Will and Offer Revelations

Today I went back to the thread from a few weeks ago of practicing drawing on a block with no preliminary sketch or drawing or transferred image.  First I used a rubber eraser block for a quick sketch of Jesse sleeping.  I decided to do simple contour line drawings/carvings with no chiaroscuro or texturing.  There are several tricky aspects:  first of all, this is really BLIND contour drawing because the printed image is the reverse of the carved (drawn) image.  Second, the carved channels in the rubber don't really show up very much, so it's not possible to gauge accuracy.  (I could paint the rubber surface with India ink or something first, but I am choosing to give up control here.)  I need to give up attachment to what comes easy for me: accuracy.

All the carvings beyond Jesse are of the little German ceramic doctor's diagnostic doll that I found in New Hampshire.  I was trying to pare down to the something essential in the figure that makes it compelling to me.  I let myself recarve lines that seemed wrong;  I experimented with varying the thickness of lines;  I used basic measuring and estimating and comparing of one part to the others-- dropping plumb lines, shooting lasers across, I let  mistakes stand.  By the fourth carving I felt like I was drawing.
 Then I switched to wood, which I enjoy using much more than rubber.  I carved the print on the right in a small (3 x 3") scrap of wood very quickly and enjoyed the feel of wood under my tool much more than the slightly bouncy feel of rubber.  And when I printed the woodcut, I saw right away the connection between these figures and a ceramic bead that I've had for a long time (5293).  The bead is an interpretation of the c 25,000 B.C.E. Venus of Willendorf from what is now Austria, a 4 1/8" statue that is considered to be a votive figure representing fertility.  Well, the doctor doll could almost be considered an anti-Venus of W. figure, since she lacks breasts and a big belly and more attention is paid to her face than to her body, which lacks all reference to fertility but looks more like a slightly pudgy child's body.   Woman as powerful creator and nourisher of life vs woman who can't nurture and whose face is valued more than her body.  Reading too much into it, probably, but the repeated carving and scratching, the dialogue with the block while searching for the essential in the doctor doll woman opened the way to this comparison. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Entire Kale Crop Plus An Astonishing Natural Phenomenon!

My kale crop this summer was decimated by little caterpillars who merrily ate up about half of every leaf while we were out of town having fun.  Hence the entire crop fit nicely into this one medium-sized bowl, and I made a good kale salad out of it.

The three drawings on the right are memory drawings made from astonishing things that P and I saw on the Jones Mountain Rhododendron Ridge Trail late this morning:  a lovely little pink thistle, a hornets' nest being constructed around a ripe apple that is still attached to the apple tree by its stem;  and this year's first Indian pipe!  P wins the prize for spotting the Indian pipe, which was growing in the shade of a fallen tree in a nest of dry leaves and very hard to see.  Personally, I think the apple cum hornet's nest is a more valuable find in terms of rareness and unlikeliness;  but when I googled it I found that hornet's love apples and other sweet fruit and will sometimes actually burrow inside an apple and gorge on the flesh, and too bad for the poor person who bites into that apple!  And, although not often, hornets do sometimes build their nests around an apple or pear that is still hanging on the tree.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Those Weirdly Interesting Diagnostic Dolls--

I did some very detailed looking at my little diagnostic doll and have concluded it's made of lead dipped in black paint.  From the little information that I have found, it seems that the doll was actually a part of a doctor's kit and not something that women took with them to the doctor.  I never dreamed such strange little creatures exited.  The Chinese also used them.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Last Outing for a While

 J and I have been going on almost- weekly outings since he was a few months old;  now he's getting ready to leave for a year in Switzerland as an exchange student.  Today was what we think will be our last outing together for a long time.  It was roaring hot and fiercely humid, but we trekked out to a strange little wasteland place near the Nature Center where the river passes through and hundreds of black-eyed Susans bloom on the banks.

J picked a flower and plugged the end of the stem into the sand beneath the shallow water.  He took several shots with his phone, which has a waterproof case.  Tadpoles swam nearby and the sun beat down.
And then we found the sweet spot:  the remains of an old dam under the automobile bridge that leads into the park.  We found a sort-of trail that led us behind the dam to some ancient bits of the dam structure.  This circular opening was about ten feet in diameter and had a heavy  metal guillotine-like door above it.  Shallow water formed a puddle in front of the opening.  J took lots of good shots of the dam, and soon we will post a collaboration involving the dam.

(On the right is a leftover sketch that I made in the taxi that we took to the airport last week.  The cabby was a good driver but didn't stop complaining-  about the traffic, the weather,  the way cabs are run in NJ, the traffic again, the airport, etc-- for the whole ride.  We secretly referred to him as Mr. Cab-Half-Empty.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Wreath Making with Non-Poisonous Flowers

My old French grandmother could always be counted on to whip out a flower wreath for me on the numerous occasions when wreathes were required in the 1950s Catholic church.  Above is a shot of my first communion class, with the girls on the left, each wearing a white wreath.  (If you have exceptionally good microscopic vision you can see my wreath all the way on the right in the first row of girls who are kneeling at the communion rail.  I was the shortest girls in the class and therefore the first in line.  This is all making good sense, right?)  Memere would send some child across the street to cut white oleander flowers from the big bush that grew outside the racetrack fence.  Oleanders made beautiful wreaths, and it was only years later that I found out the blossoms are poisonous.  No one ever got sick from wearing the wreaths as far as I know, and Memere obviously didn't chew on the flowers while she twisted the stems around floral wire.
I have never made a wreath other than the occasional informal clover ring;  but Maya needs a flower girl wreath for her Dad's upcoming wedding, and she asked me to make it for her.  Following Maya's example, I spent a lot of time looking at YouTubes about flower girl wreath making, and I think I have gleaned the best ideas for this wreath.  Above you can see the ingredients spread out for my practice wreath:  two floral-tape wrapped pieces of floral wire;  a long piece of satin ribbon;  a stem of lizard's tail; a couple of stems of oregano blooms;  and the roll of floral tape (which I learned must be stretched out and tugged at in order to activate the adhesive).

I made notes from the YouTubes and wrote/sketched the process I want to follow.  Right now I have a pretty good practice wreath sitting in the fridge under damp paper towels so I can judge whether or not I can make the wreath on Friday or if it needs to be done at the very last minute.  My other wedding-related job is to be the animal handler for Maya's two guinea pig boys who will watch the ceremony from inside a basket of grass clippings.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Lots of Portraits, and Victorian Ladies' Doctor Dolls: All Caught Up

 Chickens are a big presence around M and A's house in NH.  These three were picking around their yard where one chicken had been recently killed and then abandoned by a predator.  M was doing an experiment to see if the chickens would bury the dead hen.
On the right you can see the desiccated remains of the hen after a couple of days of insects doing their thing and hens picking off the insect larvae and at the same time burying the hen in a dust bowl. Interesting little food cycle there, the kind of thing I try to not think about I guess, but nevertheless a part of nature.  On the top left is Bill, the family bearded dragon.  I like the little hen at the bottom who is seeking some shade under the chicken house.  M gave in and buried the hen in a deep grave after three days.  But by then the hen was dry and small and nearly buried anyway.  Interesting.
One afternoon we went over to a friend's house so the kids could go swimming.  Her yard was so beautiful.  She had a little pasture for a small donkey and another horse;  and on the other side of the yard was a walking trail that had been mowed into a wild flower field and that had a grass-covered, velvety smooth surface to walk on.  We paced it off and found it to be exactly a tenth of a mile;  so we decided to run around it ten times.  Meanwhile B collected goldenrod ball galls and afterward his dad explained the whole ball gall process while we dissected a gall and found a small larvae.
M took all the kids down to a small lake at the end of the road, and they all clambered down the rocks and swam around while I drew the lake.  That night T and I organized a Wide Game and coerced everyone into playing.  As it grew very dark, all eight of us ran around the field behind the house we were staying in (next door).  So much fun!  We all enjoyed playing so much that we did it again the next night too.
Here's a map of the neighborhood and also the rules we worked out for our Wide Games.
Saturday afternoon we went to the Montshire Museum, a favorite excursion.  Unusual for this trip, I was actually able to draw some fish at the museum.
Before we went to the museum, T wanted us to go to some yard sales.  I hit gold at the second one.  It was held in the carriage house of a bed and breakfast where we used to stay before the house next door became available.  The woman who owns it was selling off her husband's collection of stuff.  I found in a box of random objects these very small (shown life-size here) dolls that were labeled "Victorian Ladies' Doctor Dolls", and the owner told me these were used by women when they had to go to a doctor.  Doctors weren't allowed to disrobe women patients, and women couldn't bring themselves to talk about their bodies;  so they would point (with some kind of stylus probably) to the afflicted body part and the doc would then prescribe whatever drug was in favor.  The larger doll is from Germany and is made of clay, but was used for the same purpose.  These remind me of the Charlottes, and I was so excited to find them.
I drew T while he was playing the piano for me.  He plays wonderfully.
T's hands at top left, and B on the right playing one of his own compositions,  eerie,  in a minor key.
L has played guitar for several years, and it took me three drawings to begin to draw him because I was mainly just listening to him play.  He has great concentration and tone.
Back to Maplewood after a great week.  Nate was waiting for us and ready for another assault on Manhattan.
This time we kept it simple, just the Museum of Natural History.  One of N's favorite exhibits was this house made of mammoth bones.  We also saw a 3D film about undersea life.  On the train on the way home I drew the contents of Nate's man bag:  the wooden stick from some space candy that Maya bought for him;  two straws from Auntie Annie's in Penn Station that he used in his bottles of water;  four brochures from the museum;  a NJT timetable;  his notebook, and a crayon.
And to finish up, airport people at EWR.