Monday, June 30, 2014

There are Lilies and then There are Lilies

Yesterday afternoon P and I were walking around downtown and went into an antique place that has a collection of bizarre items that are not for sale.  I've seen these one time before, but I really saw them for the first time while I was drawing them.  They're labeled "Golden Lilies--Chinese Shoes for Bound Feet-- Not for Sale."  I drew one shoe from each of the two pairs in the case. 

At first they looked like doll shoes or else those odd tiny high heeled shoes that show up in antique shops for people who collect miniature shoes.  They 're exquisitely crafted out of silk and leather with silk thread embroidery.  But the longer I drew them the creepier they became.  I noticed that the laces were actually not laces at all but very thin threads that had been loosened.  And then it occurred to me that they were probably loosened to remove them from the woman after she died.  Or after she got old and no longer was made to wear fancy shoes.  They had obviously been sewn onto her feet, which means the woman had had to keep them on day and night.  To add insult to the whole thing, the shoes had very shapely little high heels, the better to pitch the woman forward and onto her poor deformed and mutilated toes. 

To balance out the grisly shoes I drew a real lily, a Peruvian one, that was in the middle of the table at Laurey's Catering.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


So funny to dig all this stuff out of an old basket that we found in the kitchen closet this morning! All  from the pre-Ashevillian era except for P's Y card, which dates from the early Ashevillian, post- Mishawakian era.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Strange Inhabitants of the Treadle Machine and a Quiz

When you buy an old sewing machine in a wooden cabinet you sometimes get some bonus items.  My old Singer came with some of the things on this page (in addition to a handful of tarnished, very thin pins, a homemade pin cushion, an ancient bottle of machine oil, and an old machine belt).  But first, on the left is a metal cat that stands balancing on his back legs and sturdy tail near the sewing machine on my computer desk, ready to accept in his tray calling cards from the many ladies who come calling during my At Homes.

On the right, at the top, is a sheep button.  Maya and I found it at the fabric store the other day and, although we had no need of a button, thought it was good reference material for sheep-pattern-making.  Below the sheep and to the right is a mysterious tool.  It came in one of the Singer drawers, and has no discernible purpose.  It has a varnished wooden handle with quite a bit of black embroidery thread wrapped around it.  It's sort of screwdriver-like, but the metal tip is deeply slotted and has a hole near the end.  There's no point on the metal tip.  At first I thought it might be a sewing awl, but it's too blunt tipped for that.  And how does the string relate to it?

At the bottom is an obviously homemade object, about 2 x 3 inches by maybe 3/4 of an inch thick.  It's made of a beat up piece of laminated wood and has 9 holes drilled in it plus one circular mark sort of like the beginning turns of a hand-drill might make.  I thought it could be a screwdriver bit holder, but the holes are all the same size.  I can't think of a single sewing job that this thing could support.  But I'm not a real sewing person, so it's possible that I just don't know enough to recognize this thing.  What do YOU think?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sewing Marathon!

Maya and I like to make stuffed animals for Maya and also for the little kids in our family.  Yesterday she came over to spend the night after day camp, and we raced over to the fabric shop to get some terry cloth to make a chewable stuffed sheep for her teething cousin, A.  First we had to design the sheep, and then make a pattern.  This is going to be pretty simple, so we decided we were capable of making our own design.  I've been drawing sheep some the past few months, so this is our simplified sheep sketch.  For the body we bought white terry cloth and for the legs, face, and tail we bought blue terrycloth.  We'll embroider eyes, nose and mouth on it.  I would like to add strings of curly wool to it, but Maya thinks they'll just get gooey and stiff and pull ofF into A's mouth;  so we'll go with a more abstract version of a sheep.

We also wanted to make a fox for N, who is 4 and loves foxes.  We found a pattern on line for the fox since we aren't really up to making patterns for 3-dimensional faces.  We bought orange and white plush cloth and black pompoms for the nose and shiny black button eyes.   To warm up, we decided to make a custom designed fox for Maya, and here he is.
Maya ran and rummaged in our materials stash at the bottom of my closet and found some silky velour orange and black tiger striped cloth and some white felt.  She wanted to make a combination fox, tiger, and bunny.  The tiger material is grueling to sew with its stretchy slippery quality, but we stuck with it, using her treadle machine until the bobbin gave out and it was nearly 10:00 pm, too late to do a bobbin threading.  So we switched to my old Singer  and finished up the fox in time for Maya to crawl into bed with it at 11.  Next weekend we'll make the sheep and other fox plus a pillow for Maya out of an old tee shirt she saved.  Then I did some mechanical drawings for fun today.  So soothing, the absolute logic of ancient machinery, so undigital and unelectrical.  I love it!  Notice the eccentric disk on the bobbin winder (2692) that allows the long thingy to swing back and forth in perfect sweeps!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Mixed Bag of Faces

I went back to that Italy journal for this first page, again letting the faces that wanted to leap out do that.  Again the Bride, and then a stone carving from an abandoned village, a lace-making lettuce -growing woman who talked to us one afternoon and then pulled up three giant heads of lettuce and gave them to us for our cena (dinner) .  Also on this page, my friend E when she visited us that summer, and a man from the village that I always talked to but could not understand very well because he had such a different accent.
On this page I drew P while he took a nap.  The first drawing (2685) looks like Egon Schiele gone bad.  Under that one the angle is odd, but I like some aspects of the drawing;  and on the right is a pretty successful drawing.  P, unlike the cats, doesn't flip and flop and twitch and turn while he sleeps.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sweet Little Teenie, Another Motion Study

F's cat Teenie is a little fluffy tufted-toed brownish and blackish girlcat that reminds me so much of our Essie, RIP.  Today F and I sat on her patio overlooking her lush midsummer gardens while Teenie slept at our feet.  Teenie is NOT a still or deep sleeper, and for all that she is ancient in cat years, she has an acute sense of being drawn, and moves every thirty seconds or so.
So all tips fpr quick drawing came into play, including one other-- focus on the gesture, the sense of motion, the energy body.  I like the ones on this page, which I did after warming up on the top page.  I was especially happy to get one of Teenie with her feet in the air (2676), her signature sleeping posture.

Monday, June 23, 2014

One More Tip, and A Good Paella Recipe

First things first--- as I drove down Hwy 70 this morning I spied in my rear view mirror a guy on a motor scooter wearing a big helmet and sunglasses.  We stopped for a red light, and I noticed he had his regular glasses swinging from the neck hole of his sweatshirt.  I whipped out my sketchbook and pen, but the light changed.  It took five more lights before I finally caught a red one, and he was still behind me!  Since the book was out and the pen was ready, I used every second during the red light to sketch the motorcycle glasses hanging man.  So another action drawing tip:  when you think you might need to draw something fast, have sketchbook open to the right page and cap off of pen.  That way you won't miss a second!

While in the grocery yesterday I found a lovely cloth sack of paella rice.  I could already see that bag as a small art supply bag, so of course I bought the rice.  Tonight I was going to make my usual uninspired rice with vegetables and a few leftover shrimp;  but I noticed a paella recipe on the back of the cloth sack.  It was a sort of generic recipe that said you should vary the vegetables and seafood and sausage as you pleased.  It's not my style to deviate from a recipe since I've never really learned to cook, but this was written in such a friendly style that I tried it.

Here is what I did:  I poured about 1/4 cup of olive oil into a big frying pan and warmed it up while chopping about 1/3 of a yellow onion and four marzano or Roma (not sure which, but those pear-shaped tomatoes) tomatoes.  I stirred the onion for five minutes till it turned translucent, then dumped in the tomatoes, turned down the heat, covered the pan and let it all simmer for five minutes.  Meanwhile I warmed up 2 cups of water to which I had added 1/4 teaspoon of saffron and about 2 teaspoons of chicken bouillion paste (you could use cubes or the real stuff) in a saucepan. 

After the tomatoes and onions had tirned mushy, I poured 1 cup of the rinsed paella rice (it is short grained)  into the frying pan and stirred it into the tomato mush.  Then I poured the warm saffron bouillion water into the rice-tomato mix.  I covered the pot and let it simmer slowly for ten minutes.

After that I lifted the lid and placed twelve or so medium shrimp on top of the rice.  I replaced the cover and simmered it on low heat for ten more minutes.  Then I turned the heat off and let it sit for ten more minutes.  By then the liquid was all absorbed.  I served it with a little basil and lemon juice on top of a bed of arugula from the garden.  It was amazingly good!  I'm in search of squid ink to add to it the next time I make it.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Tip for Drawing Moving Targets

P and I waited until nearly 7:00 for it to cool down enough for a walk across some sunny fields down to the chickens on the college farm.  We walked along the new River Trail for a short distance, where P photographed and I drew Owl Man from the back, still watching the river from his little livingroom in the golden bamboo grove.  I used the texture strip (vertical) to speed-draw this one.  Then I drew the bamboo stump, filled with dark water, and with a few of those strange bamboo roots that look like toes.  Then we cut through the grove to the part of the garden where the chickens range.

So here's the tip:  Draw more than one chicken at a time.  Chickens move so constantly and so fast that you have no chance of catching the whole chicken at one time.  So you start the first pose;  then as soon as that chicken flies across the grass after an irresistible insect, start drawing a different chicken in a different pose.  Repeat until you have several poses going.  Then scan the chickens to find one that has gotten into one of your poses, and work on that pose until the chicken bolts. 

Chickens seem to take a limited number of poses:  picking in the ground, tail to the left;  picking in the ground, tail to the right;  sitting in a dust bowl;   running through grass;  standing up and looking left; standing up looking right; contorting itself to do some grooming; and sitting on a nest.  There are subtle variations to these poses, but you can get the general shape of the chickens by drawing them in tandem this way.  Then to fill in feathers and body shapes, wait until you have the general form of a chicken, and then when another chicken gets into that finished pose, quickly draw at least some of that chicken's specific features into the general shape.  Then finish the textures at home.

You can use the same technique for drawing people in groups, cars, goats, etc.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Little Drawing Tutorial, Maybe More of a Tip

Today is the Solstice, my favorite feast day, although I don't really celebrate it beyond noticing it and trying to remember to pause with the earth at this still point after which the days will shrink back into gathering darkness.  So my sort-of celebration was to go to the glorious River Trail and do some ambitious sketches of nature in mid-summer.  People are always asking me how I can do an intricate drawing while on the fly;  and the answer is that I rarely do.  What I do is take notes on the fly, and then finish up at home.  
One of my favorite things to do is to make a general map of the drawing-to-be, indicating general areas.  The drawings above also show another on-site step, and that is making a texture strip.  On the left above you can see a strip of texture going from the clouds down to the foreground of the field.  The only other things drawn in this map are various horizons.  On the right it seemed easier to map out the path and then fill in a few representative textural areas instead of doing a strip, since there were mainly vertical areas.  A horizontal texture strip would have worked also.  These sketches took a very short time, and since I was wearing my bug chaser hat, no bugs flew at me.
Once at home I immediately went back into the drawings and did textures, being sure to use textural lines to show contours of the forms.  I didn't actually do anything to the tiny drawing 2646.  It was  so simple that I was able to complete it while standing on the trail.
I really enjoyed these last two drawings.  On the left, the hill and background trees drew themselves when I extended the texture strip across the whole drawing.  On the right, the trail had become a road, the very road that used to lead the beer truck to the Bubba, a twice-yearly blow out party that the students at the college used to hold secretly.    I happened upon it accidentally today as I  veered off the trail onto the bigger road at one point.  Sadly, the Bubba and all of its clandestine trappings (secret leaders; secret tee shirt printing in the printmaking studio, which we in the art department pretended not to notice, even when our garbage cans were overflowing with beer bottles on certain mornings; complete absence of and lack of supervision by faculty and staff, etc) is gone, along with the happy days before  colleges began to function in loco parentis helicopterus.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Seen on Today's Travels

At top left is Jesse's current favorite toy, a plastic preying mantis that he dug out of the children's toy shelf in my studio.  He has been batting it around all day, tossing it into the air with his lips.  He seems to think that it's something he has killed or stunned, and he's trying to get it to give chase, but of course no luck.  Late this afternoon he left the mantis on the porch floor and settled down for a nap on the table by the back railing.  On the right side of the left hand page is a drawing that I made while stopped at a railroad crossing this morning.  I had time to draw only half of the truck that was two cars ahead of me.  It was full of cleaning and gardening supplies and tools. 

On the right at the top is a real treasure.  The other day I was talking on the phone to my friend L while walking in the woods, and a gnat flew into my mouth and right down my throat.  I never could get it out, and after a lot of water it seemed to have slid down, and I guess all was well as I had no  ill effects.  I told L that I had just swallowed a bug, and yesterday when she came over she brought me a gift-- a bug-chasing hat from Mali!  I put it on the stone ram in the front yard to draw it.  You can see three of the four dangling tassels that bobble around when the wearer walks. 

After drawing the cap. I put it on and test drove it on the Jones Mountain trail, which is clouded with gnats these days.  I can honestly say I had NO trouble with any insects.  I walked with a man who lives at the top of the mountain for part of the hike, and he told me the gnats were driving him crazy, and he was wearing herbal bug spray.  So we concluded the cap did the trick.  It's made of white linen so it's fairly cool to wear (it doesn't LOOK cool, just feels cool).  I had thought the tassel bobbing in front of my nose might be irritating, but it wasn't at all.  Much less irritating than a cloud of gnats getting into my teeth!

And at the bottom, some pretty pipsisewa blooms.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

This is NOT an Art Journal

I drew all morning off and on while working out a design for a large bag.  I would work with the material, then draw so that we could reproduce it.  Sometimes I had to redraw as I thought of new problems and solutions.  Drawing is the best way for me to think through something.  
On the second page, more design drawings.  Then in the middle of the left hand page is a quick painting of a nigella saliva flower.  These are blooming in profusion in the front garden right now and attracting lots of bees and butterflies.  They smell like honey and are on the top of tall stalks among feathery leaves.  My friend L told me they are nigella plants, and that their seeds are culinary seasoning seeds as well as medicinal.  They are volunteers from last year's butterfly garden, and whatever was crowding them out last year hasn't made it back this year, so these sweet little blue blossoms are the stars of the garden now.

This afternoon the purple thunderhead finally produced some actual rain, and not only rain but pea-sized hail!  For about fifteen minutes we had a great Wurlitzer organ of a thunderstorm with all these special effects.  Jesse was NOT a fan, as you can tell from his sad expression.  After a few minutes he came in from the back porch and leaned over his dish, and then he did a little grooming and ambled off to sleep away the rest of the storm in his bed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Quotidian

Two guys at Lucky Otter, sitting at the counter waiting on their take-out orders.  Then late afternoon, while enjoying the colors and fireflies and soft evening air, I did a couple of desultory sketches of things that live on our back porch. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cat as Sock Monkey, Meatloaf, Assorted Bits and Pieces

I can never get enough of drawing Jesse in all his guises.  Today I drew him twice while he was sleeping and smiling and looking exactly like a sock monkey, especially in the top drawing.  Even while supposedly asleep, he has radar that lets him know when I'm standing within 5 feet of him and trying to slide a pen across paper silently.  Within three seconds he flips over.  He went from sock monkey on his back to a box of assorted cat parts (top right) and then immediately to cat as meatloaf.

Another flip and he arranged himself to be a stuffed turkey in a pan with the drumsticks trussed together.  And then he slowly slumped down to a turkey after being baked, plump and relaxed.

Yesterday I drew F's cat Montana, who holds a position for hours thanks to her sweet ancientness.  She's a beautiful tortoise shell colored cat, black and tan spots on white, and she often sleeps on a blanket that perfectly matches her fur;  but yesterday she was sleeping on a green striped blanket and contrasting nicely.

Later I went to my journal group meeting and had time to draw only someone's empty coffee cup with a paper napkin wadded up in it. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Little Adobe Garden Shed

 Yesterday P and I were walking the long new River Trail with some friends, and we deviated at one point to walk through the college organic garden, which borders the trail for a short while.  I haven't really poked around in this wonderful garden very much in the past few years, although I used to walk through it every day and frequently held drawing class there.  I was so excited to spot a little garden hut made of cob (clay and straw) or adobe, free-form and lovely, with some old bottles embedded in the walls for windows or light slits. 

Since the hut is made of local clay, I used some of my local clay paints to do all of these paintings.  The painting above on the right is of a series of long greenhouses or hoop houses that are almost joined end to end.  Standing at one entrance you can see all the way through three houses into a shady grove of trees at the very far end.  The greenish paint in that one is also from around here:  ground up olivine rocks that Jacob and I found, several years ago when we used to collect clay and make paint together,  down by the river at the confluence with Christian Creek.  The black is from paint that Jacob made out of tar from a parking lot.  The white is from a chalky clay that Maya and I found up on Jones Mountain last year.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ambling Around the Nature Center

Jacob and I went to the WNC Nature Center this afternoon in search of good things to photograph and  draw.  The otters were great, and be sure to check out Jacob's blog in a day or so to see the shots he got.  I enjoyed getting to see turkey vultures up close with their wrinkled heads sort of sticking out of the bundle of feathers.  The black bears were interesting, but I've been closer to them at F's house!

The old petting zoo part of the Nature Center is one of my favorite places as I am so besotted by goats and sheep.  Sadly there were no sheep to be seen today, but the goats were relatively calm and panting in the shade, so I could study them and get their legs right for once.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Trawling for Images

In between art projects (actually in the process of editioning one, but the creative part is over on that one and my wheels have started spinning in a different direction),  I like to dive back into old journals and sketchbooks and skim lightly to see what images grab me.  A friend is working on a project that reminded me of something I saw and drew 8 years ago during a summer in Italy-- a tiny stone chapel in a sort of castle compound on top of a steep hill-- anyway, stumbling upon that chapel one twilight and watching some men lay sod all over the floor of the interior of the chapel and carefully arrange flowers, turning the interior into a meadow as the setting for a Renaissance-themed wedding.  I went back to that journal, found the chapel drawing, and then began to trawl for other images.  The first to leap off the pages was a very tiny quick sketch made during a village wedding of the bride hurrying into the church.  She looked nothing like an American bride but was wrapped in layers of gorgeous taffeta-like material with a kind of bustle in the back and a little flower thing on her head and some orange calla lilies in her hand.  The drawing of her looks like a bundle, a package, a pacquet like a voodoo pacquet--

And the next image that was irresistibly compelling was  a small thumbnail of the moon, from a fresco in a church, this particular moon being up in a far corner and seeming to encompass several phases in one image.  The third grabber was a canopic jar that I drew from one in the Etruscan museum in Chiusi.  (Next I looked up at Jesse, who was napping while the rain poured down outside.  He looked like a collection of cat parts from where I was sitting.)  And below Jesse a drawing of a flat-bottomed boat from a small lake near the house we were renting and which I tried unsuccessfully to rent several times that summer.  Always the man told me fiercely "Troppo ventoso oggi!"-- too windy today [for the likes of you to rent my boat].

Next I drew all of the pacquets that I've made in the last few years. For some reason they want to come back into play.  I also took some little stuffed girl dolls and turned them into pacquets, which are reminding me of the bride,  as well as the moon, and I'm not sure why.  Clearly this is a loose uncontrollable part of the project.  Fun to watch what turns up.  Meanwhile Jesse slept on, and the rain continued to pour down on the very dry garden.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Yesterday's drawings were so uninspired that I didn't even bother to post them last night.  It was a long day!  But here they are today, along with today's drawings, which are of dahlia tubers.  My friend E sent us a bag of these strange brown bulbs.  I have never grown dahlias before, but we have a blank space in our front garden, and we decided these dahlias will fill it nicely.
The strange thing about the dahlia bulbs (tubers is the correct term according to the articles I read about them) is that no two of these looked as though they were even in the same family.  The more I looked about them the more interesting they looked.  I think the warty one (2583) is maybe an old tuber.  There are a couple of small one shaped like yams that seem to be young, and then there are the long and skinny parsnippy ones.  The articles said to trim off the "rat tails" and break the bunches of tubers into single ones, the latter of which seems to have already been done.  I think there are a few eyes on these, which is good.  It's maybe a little late to be putting them into the ground, but we shall see. 

I really enjoy drawing roots!

Monday, June 9, 2014


 We have a tool shed full of odds and ends and even a nice old garden cart complete with deflated tires, but when it comes right down to what I need to be a happy gardener, these six things do it.  First is my trusty zappa.  It's a long, narrow-bladed Italian hoe that I brought back from Italy the second summer I spent there.  You can't buy these in the US, a great puzzle to me because a zappa is such a fantastic tool.  I learned about the zappa from a man who ran a sort of combination garden center/antique barn/artists' studio on the outskirts of Palazzone, Italy.  I had just arrived for a summer's stay, and I wanted to have an Italian orto or kitchen garden.  I went to see if there were vegetable starts and geraniums at the garden center, and the very nice man ended up teaching me how to use a zappa and then loaning me one of his for the summer.  He told me if the head got too loose I should stick it in a bucket of water to swell the wood and thereby tighten the grip on the head.  He told me to zappa the garden ogni giorno-- every day-- and I did.  At the end of the second summer I found some zappa heads at a store and bought several to bring home.  Mine is still my prized garden tool for loosening soil, weeding, etc.

The second essential is my pair of violet Crocs wellies that F gave me for xmas a few years ago. These are great for fending off mosquitoes and so comfortable that I often hike in them in wet weather.

Number three would have to be the almost-free basket that I originally bought to cover an artichoke plant with over the winter and that now works well to transport weeds to the compost pile and mulch to the garden.  Much easier than dealing with the garden cart with its wheel issue.

On top at the left is my ancient sweet grass hat, bought in summer 1998 while on an art faculty retreat at the beach and worn since then for several summers on an archaeological dig, for gardening, and for the occasional beach trip.  I'm not a hat wearer in summer at all, but this floppy unstructured hat does a good job of keeping mosquitoes away and it's loose and airy and still smells like good sweet grass.

On the right, one pair of excellent small loppers and a roll of gorgeous orangey jute ribbon, part of a collection of these, useful for so many things around the garden.  And then, not really one of the six things but equally useful is Jesse, mole-vole-and rat exterminator and general all-around good buddy in the garden.  He's sort of a part-time pet in the summertime, would prefer to be on his own outside, but consents to come inside for food and occasional naps in his Jesse-colored bed.  He loves to lunge and creep through the plants, especially if we're outside to admire his moves.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Strange and Stranger Still

 This afternoon Jacob and I went to lunch and then to Tobacco Barn in search of good images.  I found a few santos to add to my collection of santos drawings, including some baby jesi.  The santos are interesting in that they have painted-on place-holders for hair but no actual hair.  They look androgynous.  They are on top of wooden cages so they have no legs or feet, and their clothing (and maybe they also get wigs?) completes them.  The one on the left here is just like one that I bought a couple of years ago.  The one on the right is a very boyish-looking one wearing a price tag around its neck.  Its neckline is dress-like.  I don't know enough about santos to know if they were given clothing to complete the saint they were supposed to be.  I do remember an Infant Jesus of Prague statue at the convent school I went to in New Orleans that wore elaborate jewel-encrusted dresses and gold crowns.  A nun was assigned to the job of changing his clothes according to the ecclesiastical season.  Santos come out of a different tradition, but the idea of dressing up statues seems to lie deep in catholicism.
After we gave up on TB, which was scarily hot and humid as a result of the sun beating down on its metal roof, I dropped J off to go cut the lawn at his house, and I went to the air conditioned Y.  I decided to see if I could draw while working on the boring weight  machines.  I balanced my sketchbook on the machine while I lifted, and on those that involved legs only I held the book in my hands and drew.  You can see the jerky lines and inaccurate anatomy in drawings 2565, 2566, and 2567.  I thought about sitting on a recumbent bicycle and pedaling while drawing, but I just can't do those treadmills or bicycles-- too Souls in Purgatory for my taste.   P jogs on a treadmill at the Y.  I would much rather scramble up and down poison-ivy-laden hills and snake-ridden trails.

J brought along a new acquisition today-- a WWII army surplus gas mask that he and his Dad found at a World of Warcraft expo yesterday.  He put it on in the car to demonstrate how it works.  Here's a drawing of him in his new mask.  He says it helps filter out pollen.  I drew this from the selfie he posted on his blog last night.  He sounds Darth Vader-ish when he talks while wearing it.  It came in a very nice army green canvas bag.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Free Tutorial!

I made a little journal this morning for a book swap at the Book & Print Arts Collective meeting coming up this week, and it was so easy and quick that I thought some of you might enjoy having the recipe.  Here's what you need:  one box from a Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Lovers Chocolate Bar;  one Strathmore spiral bound drawing tablet 4 x 6 inches with 25 sheets of paper in it;  a metal ruler, a mat knife, a sewing machine OR a needle threaded with heavy thread such as buttonhole twist or even dental floss or bookbinder's thread if you have that.

(You can really use any cardboard box from any product.  The TJ chocolate bar box fits the 4 x 6" paper so perfectly.  If you can't get TJ or Strathmore, use whatever you have on hand.)

Step one:  Eat the whole chocolate bar.  Then unglue the box along one of its narrow sides and flatten it out.  Trim off any flaps, leaving a rectangle with a scored section down the middle, which will become the spine of the book.

Step two:  Open the tablet, and lay the ruler right along the base of the holes that thread onto the spiral binding as shown in drawing 2257.  Use the mat knife to cut over and over until you've cut all 25 sheets out of the spiral binding.  You'll have 25 sheets of 4 x 6 inch paper.

Step three:  Fold each of the 25 sheets in half, giving you 25 folded sheets, each 4 x 3 inches .  Nest 5 sheets into each other.  Do this five times, which will yield 5 little pamphlets of 5 folded sheets each.  Stack the pamphlets (also called signatures) and place them under a couple of books to flatten the folds a bit.  Hold out one folded sheet to use for measuring.
Step four:  Place the folded sheet of paper that you've held out inside the TJ box, matching the folded edge of the papers to the spine section of the box.  Mark where you need to trim off the box to make the covers.  The front and back covers will be a little taller than 4 inches and the width from front edge to spine folds will be about 3 1/8 inches, allowing for a little fore edge overlap.  See drawing 2560 to see how to measure the cover with the folded sheet of paper.

Step five:  Flatten out the cardboard cover with the plain cardboard side facing up.  Open out one of the signatures as shown at the top right of drawing 2560, and place the center right at the center of the spine.  Run a stitch either by hand or by machine (preferably treadle for ease of sewing cardboard) down the fold of the signature and the center of the cardboard within the spine.

Step six:  Sew in the other four signatures the same as the first, first pressing the fold up against the previously-sewn fold that is adjacent to it.  Trim threads.  Fold signatures closed after sewing each.

After you do this once, you'll be able to make this book in 15 minutes tops.

Let me know if you have any questions!  It makes a great little carry-everywhere book that will slip into your pocket or small bag.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Jesse Sleeps It Off

I've been toiling away at fixing some bugs on my other blog.  During the 45 minutes that I was on the phone with tech support this morning I did two drawings of Jesse taking a long nap after an apparently rough night out among the coyotes and groundhogs and Ghengis.  And that was IT for today in the drawing department--

Thursday, June 5, 2014


What's going on here?  Game of solitaire?  Card trick diagram?  Tarot reading?  And what about here, in the drawing below?  Clue:  done in L's studio, around 9 PM, end of a very long day, fierce cluster of computer puzzles to solve all afternoon, and now a difficult sequence to work out for a piece of artwork---  Meanwhile L's two ancient dolls stare with deep glassy eyes from within the red chair.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Early Morning at the Car Place; High Noon at the Bird Sanctuary

First thing this morning I found myself in the car place waiting while what I thought was going to be a simple oil change and add-a-little-air-to-a tire  took place.  In the waiting room I spied a metal sunflower made of rebar and flat pieces of car body metal.  And then next to that was a really odd man trophy, with half a man wearing a light blue plastic coat and with a pinkish head.  It was actually in an office that was adjacent so I could only see it through the window, and I couldn't see the front of the trophy.  I would have loved to have seen what it was given for.

Then a guy on a bike rode up and parked right outside the door by the window.  I could see his head and arm, and when one of the desk guys walked out front the biker said "I'm just dying out here.  I need a few minutes then I'll come in."  He had a bike spandex shirt on with a black long-sleeved shirt underneath and fingerless gloves.  Eventually he came in and stood around talking with the desk guy about helping him fix his bike.  Meanwhile I drew the coat rack with all the leftover winter clothes on it-- scarves, coats.

The leaky tire turned out to have a nail in it and NOT just cold weather deflation, and on top of that, all the tires needed replacing.  The mechanic could do the job, but it would be $650; so when I recovered from the shock of that, I did a quick search around town on my phone and found out my favorite tire place could do it for half that price.  They had to get the tire from slightly out of town and wouldn't be able to do it till 2:30, so I hung around downtown rather than drive all the way home and then back downtown.  (I was so pleased at how much money I could save by going to the tire place that I went to Malaprop's a bought a load of books to celebrate this found money.)

At lunch I drew a woman holding what had to be her grand daughter.  And then I went walking at the bird sanctuary and saw turtles all over the place lounging on logs, and I also saw what I think was a yellow-bellied sapsucker, at least according to the sign with pictures of birds that live in the sanctuary.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Happiness of Soft Yellow Buckets and a Bright Orange Bag

Driving in traffic this afternoon I had the good luck of being stuck behind a big truck full of interesting tools and construction site things.  I had no idea what most of the stuff even was, but hanging tidily off the very back of the truck were two cloth buckets.  They were both safety yellow, but the one on the right was dirty and no longer that eye-searing yellow, unlike the spiffy one on the left.  What a good idea!  Soft-sided buckets for lifting nails and screws and maybe even snacks up to the guys in the cherry picker bucket at the top of the long crane-like thing that was folded across the top of the truck bed.  I sat behind this truck through about ten red lights, long enough to draw the buckets and also a work bench vise that was fastened to a little pole on the back of the truck.  You could live in that truck bed -- it was like a traveling workshop.

Later at home my book club came over and I drew my teapot, pretty boring, but that was what was in front of me.

But later I decided to paint the fabulous orange bag!  Several years ago when F and I started making wallets and bags out of recycled feed and food bags, I used to make paintings of our new designs and use them to update our blog.  Then we got so busy I didn't have time to do paintings, and I began updating with photographs. 

Tonight I had the great shiny perfect-sized bag that F made for a carry-on bag, for a beach bag, for an overnight bag, for a market bag-- for whenever one of us needs to carry a lot of things in a sturdy but very light and wonderfully roomy bag.  We share this bag, but someday we're going to have time to make a second one so we can each have one. 

Meanwhile, I had so much fun painting it (and then drawing all the things that fit easily into it) if you're going to the beach, for example), and I'm going to use it update our PieceWorks Wallets & Things blog.  You can order this very bag on our new catalog page for Big Loosey-Goosey  Bags, which we should be posting on Thursday.  Meanwhile, you can pre-order one for yourself for $35 (fully lined) or $25 (unlined) by emailing us at

Monday, June 2, 2014

Developments in the Square Foot Garden and a Couple of Garden Animals

There is truly something alchemical about  the square foot garden.  It isn't even a month old and we're already eating kale, Swiss chard, arugula, lettuce, parsley, onions, and cilantro from it.  I'm also realizing the cucumber is ready to start leaping, and the bush tomatoes have flowers.  Today I discovered that one of the little okra plants has two baby okra pods forming.  The spinach seedlings are up, too.  So on the right is my plan for dealing with the cucumbers.  Luckily I planted the lone cucumber over on the side of the bed with the lettuce, kale, spinach, and arugula-- all shade loving plants.  So I am training the cucumber to go up the trellis and will nudge it out of the plastic turkey netting towards covering the roof of the bed, forming a kind of pergola, which might shade the shade-lovers while giving the cucumber its desired height and sun.  Eventually I can get rid of the turkey net, but not yet as the turkeys are still roaming and we also have other animals-- groundhog, squirrels, Jesse-- that want to dig in that nice soil and plunder the plants.
Here's Jesse helping me weed today.  He loves to hide in the garden among the gladioli and sunflowers and rudbekia.  Ever on the lookout for voles and moles, he spends a lot of time rooting around in the flower part of the garden.  That's fine, but I don't need him digging in the square foot garden since it has a mole barrier under it.  On the right is the stone ram in summer.  Last time I drew him it was on a snowy day and he had a foot of snow on his head.  Now bees circle him and the sun keeps him so warm that Jesse likes to sit on his back and snooze sometimes.

If you haven't seen Jacob's blog Jacob Diehn Photography with his amazing posts from Saturday, check it out.  He posted today, and it's interesting to look at his shots of the building site that I drew Saturday.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lazy Afternoon Drawing wIthout Getting Out of Bed

As soon as I open my eyes in the morning I look at the glorious epicea (chocolate soldier) plant that is presently putting forth crimson blooms amidst its silvery green leaves.  It lives in a genteel rusty peeling wire plant stand right under the window, and it always reminds me of the train trip home from New Orleans at least twenty years ago when P and I brought it from my beloved aunt's house to our house in North Carolina.  For twenty years that plant has thrived, produced numerous babies, bloomed for months on end, put up with our erratic house plant care schedule, and just carried on!

Today i was feeling lazy and had no interest in going out in search of interesting things to draw.  I thought, why not just appreciate the little things that I take for granted, and, more to the point, that I can see from this very comfortable perch in bed?  So on the right is my tiny deep blue teacup, with its  golden sickle moon, that my friend brought me from Malta many years ago and that I love to drink small cups of green tea out of.  Today it's full of green tea called "yogurt tea" that I bought in Barcelona and that has raspberries and chocolate and yogurt (??) mixed in with the tea leaves-- indescribably yummy.
On the left above is the indispensable crimson kimono silk eye pillow filled with lavender that F made for me when we went to France together last year.  Not only is is beautiful to look at, but it unfailingly soothes tired eyes, banishes headaches, and puts me to sleep within a couple of minutes.  And on the right, an old favorite cup for bedside water, made by one of my favorite former students-- its chunky shape fits perfectly in my hand and I love the little girl dancing on it.  The three seeds are from a bowl of pods, shells, seeds, (and lots of fluff and dust)-- souvenirs of long ago beach trips and woods walks.