Friday, January 31, 2014

People Waiting

At the bakery today I was sitting at a table waiting for my lunch.  All around me were people standing still and waiting for things: perfect opportunity to draw them.   On the right side of this page, drawing 1453, is one of the bakery workers waiting for the electric bread slicer to slice up a Russian Black Rye boule.  The man to the right, meanwhile,  waited for a very long time for eclairs and other sweets to carry to the table where a his wife and a younger woman and a teenaged girl were waiting.
The line got a lot longer for a while, and at the end, standing rather near my table, was a man waiting to buy a loaf of challah, which he held in its bag and twirled while he waited.  Then my lunch arrived and I stopped drawing.

Tonight we went out to dinner with our son and his family, and here's Maya waiting for her udon noodle soup, practicing with her chopsticks by lifting and carrying a piece of lettuce from someone's salad. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Shadowing a Cabin -Fevered Cat

Drawing inanimate objects has its pleasures (including the intense joy of controlling so many elements!), but sometimes I feel like throwing away control and caution and using a fat brush and doing gesture drawings.  Today, after so many days spent mostly indoors, Jesse was showing signs of great unhappiness and even anxiety; he wanted to be near me every minute, but he kept asking to go outside too.  I grabbed a brush and a blob of raw umber watercolor and started  shadowing him.  On the left above he was sitting in a position with his front paws ready to spring, but nowhere to spring to.  He then straightened up his front legs and did a little grooming,  untucked his tail, but held it stiffly up.  On the right he has slumped over into furious grooming.

On the left he stands at the front window in a stretch, leaning forward studying the bleakly white front yard where a few robins are enjoying a Jesse-free time.  He then wanders over to his small treats bowl.

After eating it is time for more grooming, and then he asks to go outside.  On the right he's scratching the back porch rug, which is draped over a wicker chest to keep it off the snowy floor.  Jesse loves this rug ever since I draped it:  he scratches it, stretches into a good down dog against it, crawls under it where it forms a little tunnel.

Then he hops up on the picnic bench on the porch and sits staring out into the backyard.  After a few minutes his paws must be getting cold because he asks to come in.  He goes straight to his treats bowl, but acts like he's pouncing on a vole as he approaches it.

Here he has spotted me drawing him and is in pounce position as he goes crazy at the sight of a paintbrush in motion.  Next to him is my paint water bowl full of pigmented water.  He has just been trying to drink from it even though he can't fit his face into the opening, and he can never quite reach the water level, which I keep low on purpose to keep him from drinking pigment!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


My friend Ann sent me a wonderful painting that she made last year from memory of one of her childhood animals.  Her painting reminded me of the blurred memories I have of favorite things from early childhood.  My family was not a family of savers.  My mother was constantly clearing out things we no longer needed, with the result that when she died her worldly possessions, other than a few pieces of furniture, fit into two grocery bags.  So I had nothing left over from my childhood except a few photographs, but they had some clues. 

P's mother was like mine in her non-holding on to things, so he, too, had only a couple of vague memories and a picture of himself holding the blue/tan bunny at upper left.  This was his bunny that his grandmother made for him, and he remembers the button eyes. 

I can still feel exactly how it felt to slide the wooden slatted door that wrapped around the little box in drawing 1440.  My great-aunt Della gave it to me when I was around 8.  It was exotic and splendid and perfect for storing gumball machine charms, which I collected.  My prize charm was a tiny deck of cards.  If you put a penny in the machine, it usually plopped a gumball into your hand;  but occasionally it would spit out a charm instead of a gumball, and that was a red-letter day.  (Later, there were fake gumball machines that cost a nickle and gave you a charm for your nickle every time.  That seemed so out of the spirit of the gumball magic that I didn't consider those real charms.)

I kept the tiny pearl-handled knife, which I had found in the gutter on a truly lucky day, in the box, and also the king cake baby that I had gotten by luck in my piece of king cake one week during Mardi Gras season.

On the right hand page is my lambie, which showed up in two pictures of me from around two years old.  One picture says "Christmas" on the back, and the lambie's bow is crisp and new-looking, so it was maybe a xmas gift.  I vaguely remember the curly fur and the black tips on the ears,  In the second lambie picture I'm wearing bunny slippers, and those I also remember for their softness and silence when I walked in them.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

More Animal Limbo

Someone asked if these animals all belonged to the same child, and yes, they did.  The others had stuffed animals, but none were as attached as this particular son.  The animals were characters in many dramas, had houses built for them, acted out scenarios, had lives well beyond being cuddly things to sleep with. 

The only one of all the animals that has not spent all this time in the bardo is the floppy baby at top right.  This one lives on a book shelf.  I consider it mine, actually, because it was given to us by a friend when one of our babies was born;  it had belonged to the friends' daughter when she was a baby, some seven years earlier, and they thought it looked exactly like our baby so they gave it to us.  It did, and it still reminds me of him.  It got into an unfortunate accident with a cat, but it still dozes peacefully on, oblivious of its seriously damaged clothing.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Report from Stuffed Animal Limbo

On the top shelf of my closet, in an ancient wicker clothes basket, for the past twenty years or so has dwelt a collection of velveteen rabbit-ish stuffed animals that belonged to one of our sons.  The time has never been right for these animals to be removed to the son's home many miles away, nor has the time ever been right for the collection to be dumped.  So today I visited that bardo, that limbo place, and checked out the animals.  I half expected them to be mouse-eaten or mildewed to fuzz balls.  But no, the 24 animals were in fine shape.  They are a little musty these days, and all their rough spots and rubbed areas and stained places and missing eyes and buttons are still there.  But they seem to have acquired no new damage during their long period of neglect.  So I thought they would make a good addition to the 10,000.  Each one is labeled with its name, which we remembered immediately upon seeing each animal.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Drawing at the Concert, in the Meeting

My afternoon started with a meeting at a friend's house,  and I didn't get much drawing done because there was a lot of business to talk about.  I did manage to sketch the three pretty bowls of snacks that sat in the middle of the table:  nuts, dried green beans, cheese sticks.

At 4:00 I raced downtown to meet up with some friends and family at a concert of a local baroque ensemble called Pan Harmonia.  They concert was held in the Masonic Temple, a building I've always wanted to go inside of but have never before had a reason.  It's a spectacular building designed by Richard Sharp Smith, the English architect who came to Asheville to supervise construction of the Biltmore House and stayed on afterwards to design many houses and buildings here.  The temple was completed in 1915.  I had wanted to sketch inside the temple, but we had just a few minutes to roam around up on the third and fourth floors before the concert started on the second floor.  I did take some pictures and will try to do some sketches from them later this week.  Truly an amazing building, especially the theatre on the third and fourth floors with scenery and drops painted in 1915 by a Chicago artist named Thomas Moses.

I DID draw the musicians as they played.  On this page (above) are the bassoonist and the harpsichordist, Rosalind Buda and Barbara Weiss respectively.
On the left above is Byron Hedgepath, who played vibraphone and percussion;  next is Kate Steinbeck on flute.  I couldn't resist drawing a small portion of the checkerboard floor of the room in which the concert was held, and below that is Byron Hedgepath playing what looks to me like an Irish drum.
Toward the end of the concert I noticed there were a few people wearing hats.  I thought about how few people wear hats indoors anymore, compared to the number of women especially who used to wear hats.  I drew the three hat-wearers.  And on the right is Rosalind Buda playing the Scottish smallpipes.  Pan Harmonia has a number of concerts coming up in and around Asheville.  Check out their web site ( for their schedule, and get to one of their concerts!  On Sunday, May 18, they will again play at the Masonic Temple in downtown Asheville-- J.S.Bach Brandenburg No.5!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Random Drawings

I never made it to the computer to post last night, so tonight's post is for yesterday and today.  Yesterday was, truly, an uninspired drawing day -- the bakery case at the bakery, where a lone pink cake pop caught my eye and then some elaborate strawberry shortcake cupcakes and an eclair that looked like a fainting couch.  Later I looked out the bedroom window and did a desultory sketch of our neighbor's winter-bleak front garden.

Today was balmy by comparison with the rest of this week-- almost 32 by the time I went for a walk.  So I walked on the hills behind our house instead of going straight into the woods.  

The ground was frozen and dusted with snow and the road was covered with snow that looked blue in the afternoon light.  I could see across the valley to a high meadow called Dogwood Ridge, where a single tree is a landmark.  That meadow overlooks the field where the sheep are currently kept.

At bottom right is a quick sketch of a very old photograph of myself on the right and three other children at a birthday party in my grandmother's backyard.  Someone had told us to hold up our skirts, because no normal child is going to stand there holding up a skirt and squinting into a camera.  The boy was named Lynn,  which my brother and I thought was a girl's name, but my mother assured us it could also be a boy's name.  Lynn seems to be obligingly holding up his sunsuit pants leg.  His sister, on the far left, was named Carol Jean. The tallest girl, who was a year older and lived down the block, had those long corkscrew curls that my mother wished I had.   I must have been three.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cold Sheep

This afternoon I drove the back way home to check on the sheep, which I hadn't seen in a week or so.  I'm happy to report they're getting a small amount of wool back after their recent shearing, and they look a little less naked and vulnerable to the icy winds that whip around their pasture.  I sat in my warm car on the edge of the road and drew as fast as I could since they moved constantly.  At one point they all took off running like a big deal was happening, and they vanished down the back side of a hill.  I moved the car to catch up with them and to see what was luring them to the new spot.  I couldn't see anything at all different about the new spot, but they apparently could!
I added some green and some white gouache to the first page after I got home.  The second page is the raw sketches, quick, exploratory, inaccurate.  I look forward to some warmer days when I can get out of the car and settle down  and spend some time watching sheep.  The guard donkey was far back in the field ignoring the sheep.  We have coyotes around here, so I'm sure her job is to protect the sheep from them.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

At Settlers' Expo

 Tonight was Maya's fourth grade class Settlers' Expo.  The class was divided into around a dozen small groups, and each group had constructed a workshop out of cardboard, paper, odds and ends of furniture, and props (many made of paper, aluminum foil, duct tape, and cardboard).  Each shop was the workplace of a small group of colonial craftspeople-- candle makers, cobblers, tailors, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, weavers, joiners, etc.  The students assumed stage names and spoke in British accents (this was supposed to be the Jamestown Colony in 1680).  The audience walked around to the various shops and engaged the students in conversations to which the students responded in their appropriate roles.  If they didn't know an answer, they generally referred the questioner to a different workshop where the answer might be known.

One workshop, the cobblers, would measure your foot and make a shoe for you for one aluminum foil penny.  I commissioned a shoe, which is in drawing 1385.  Drawing 1387 shows the cobbler hard at work making my shoe.  He even put a few nails in it, and it took him just a few minutes to make it.  He told me it was made of leather and leather with sticky stuff on the back of it.  I asked him what the sticky stuff was and he said pine sap that he got from the weavers.  I paid him a penny and I got to keep my shoe.

Near the shoe is a sketch of a soldier (there was a soldiers' camp down at the far end of the auditorium, with a cot and a game of chess set up.  The soldier outfits were made of aluminum foil and paper, very effective.  One of my favorite costumes was the teacher's crocheted beard!  It reminded me of a balaklava, which I had been wishing for a few minutes earlier when P and I were walking in the woods in today's 20 degree high temperature.  I asked him about his beard and he responded, in role of course, that his wife complained that he didn't trim it often enough, but it was very warm the way it was.

On this page are two sketches of Maya in her tailor's costume, complete with measuring tape around her neck.  On the left, she's ironing some fabric with one of my old irons.  On the right she's answering a question as Constance, a tailor.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Child Form Dressed for the Colonial Program

 Maya came over after school today and asked me if she could borrow the child form to use in her part of her fourth grade class's program on colonial America.  She will be dressed as a tailor and will be demonstrating and explaining what tailors did in those days.  She thought the child form would make a good prop.  We thought it would be good to put some clothes on the child form to demonstrate what it was used for, and so we went rummaging in our collection of old clothes that we've gotten from Tobacco Barn to use in making things, and we found a beautiful handmade child's white cotton coat that we had already cut a chunk out of.  Maya hemmed it to make it a short frock coat, using her treadle machine by herself to do the long hem stitch.

We had other projects to work on this afternoon, including making a faux tiger skin tuxedo jacket for the stuffed bear we made a few weeks ago.  This drawing shows one of the front pieces draped over the bear.  We kept getting waylaid into working more on the colonial project, as the program is supposed to be tomorrow evening.

We found a couple of antique flat irons that I dragged home from Italy one summer.  Definitely they will add to the tailor's workshop.  We also found my grandmother's old darning egg, an ancient home- made pin cushion that came in one of the drawers of my treadle machine, an old spool of thread, an old awl.  We did manage to get the whole jacket pinned and cut out, and Maya sewed two buttons on the white coat plus made a collar stiffener out of stiff mull to go on the coat.  Then Jesse moved in and decided he loved the pattern pieces as well as my pen.  This drawing shows him lying heavily on all of the pattern pieces after having batted them around enough to loosen several pins.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Open Focus and a Scary Church

Tonight I went downtown to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge to meet with my journal group.  This is a group of people who all keep sketchbook/journal/notebooks of some kind, and we help keep each other going by meeting to exchange ideas and show some of our work to each other once a month.  I had decided to draw during the meeting for today's drawing session, thinking I would draw all of the pretty little chocolate confections that people were eating.  But all of the pretty things were eaten in the first few  minutes, and the table ended up littered with cups and French press coffee pots and napkins and glasses.   So I began to draw what was in front of me, without judging anything more or less interesting than anything else, just lights and darks and angles and curves.  Meanwhile Donna was talking about  something Keith Smith said about the imperfect way we normally see with our narrow focus and preconceptions getting in the way of what's in front of us, and how drawing can help us see more and better.  Serendipitous.

My drawing grew by accretion.  Sometimes I wasn't even sure what I was drawing-- some dark shape-- and then a few minutes later I would watch the shape become the distorted reflection of a cup in the curved surface of a coffee pot.  So the drawing on the left is a sprawling record of the table in front of me, and I like it very much.

Afterwards three of us walked to our cars together, as we had all parked several blocks away.  We were walking near the very dark alley that runs alongside the reputedly most haunted spot in Asheville, so I suggested we go check out the site.  I had visited this spot during the daytime several times earlier this year, when an old church imprint was revealed during the demolition of a building.  The church had been built in the early 1800s then enclosed in a newer building for many years.  The early church had been built on top of a cemetery, and from early on there were stories about strange goings on in that place late at night.  When the newer building was razed a few months ago, the roof and windows of the old church were revealed on the adjacent building,  a truly wonderful sight.  And tonight we got to see it in the gloomy dark!  Fabulous!  My drawing on the right is from memory, the imprint of the old church on the brick wall of the adjacent building.  I called my grandson Jacob when I got home, as he is a fan of haunted places, and he and I having visited many over the years. We have now formulated a plan to go on the Haunted Asheville tour very soon. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day of Lying Down Cows

Why are ALL of the cows lying down today?  This week the herd is grazing in the field at the end of our road where an old brick silo stands.  The grass has been bitten by all the frosts we've had recently, and it too is lying down, looking like scattered straw on the frozen ground.  Today was sunny and windy, around 44 degrees at 1:00 when I set out, and all of the cows were lying down facing southwest.  When I got home at 3:30 the cows looked like they hadn't moved, except for one who was doing a bovine down dog as it clambered to its feet to move a few inches and then plop down again.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Neighbors

A couple of years ago Maya and I figured out a way to make simple little stuffed dolls out of our drawings.  She drew a dog and then a mermaid, and we scanned the drawings then sized them and printed them out on tee shirt transfer material.  Then we ironed them onto old pillowcase material and stitched and sewed them.

I was so pleased with Maya's dolls that I decided to make some of my own.  I was working on a piece about my childhood neighborhood and had painted some of the grownups that had orbited our little group of kids, vague otherworldly characters that we saw one-dimensionally and through only the sparse interactions that we had with them.  I'm surprised at how much I like the dolls, although I've never done anything with them other than sit them on a shelf in my studio.

I have a feeling you have a collection of Neighbors yourself, maybe the same ones I have.  See how many of your own you can recognize here:  on the left is Mrs. Warner who lived next door behind a tall wooden fence.  I never saw her other than through the cracks in the fence.  She interested me because she had chickens in that secret yard, and she also had a collection of rubber balls; we hit a ball into her yard on an almost weekly basis, and she never returned a single one.   My mother told us she wore dresses made of feed sacks.

The Bishop was a frightening but ephemeral character who wafted in and out of our lives, mostly scowling, very tall, wearing his pointy hat (although he wore a little red beanie for daily wear) and seeming to be one long dark robe.  He was the pastor of our neighborhood and school church and growled at us from time to time.  He once chased me out of the back of church when I was exchanging a pamphlet I had bought for a fresh one (after reading the original purchase to amuse myself during the long afternoon in class).

Arthur Smeedge lived in the house behind ours, also behind a tall wooden fence that enclosed a wildly overgrown yard filled with cashmere bouquet bushes and Japanese plum trees.  He lived with his mother and two sisters, all ancient and unmarried.  On summer evenings Arthur would stand in his back window in his undershirt and old pants and look across our yard.  In eight years of living in that house I never exchanged a word with him or had any dealings at all with him other than scuttling through a hole in the fence and climbing the Japanese plum trees on my way to my friend Joanna's on the other side of the fence that separated his yard from hers. 

The fourth neighbor on this page was actually a ghost, the legendary aunt of a long-ago family who had lived in the haunted house down the block.  The neighborhood story among the kids was that she had died while the family was on vacation one summer, and had haunted the house since that time.  The house stood empty for as long as I lived there, and frequently we would hide in the yard and watch the upstairs window, hoping to see the ghost and looking for clues, to what we weren't sure.

These last two were friendly neighbors.  On the left was Prif, who was a youngish man (although we thought him old), who today would be classified something- or- other and would be living in a halfway house.  He was gentle and simple and always wore a plaid shirt neatly tucked in.  He lived with his parents at the end of the block.  He came around every day and watched us play ball or fling sand at each other or build tree houses.  Sometimes he would try to referee our arguments, but he never actually got involved in our games.  He was a kind of neighborhood watchman. 

The woman with the skull was my favorite.  She lived next door on the other side from Mrs. Warner,  and I knew a few things about her:  her name was Mrs. Turley;  she drove a big cadillac car;  she was a Widow-- the first time I ever heard that word-- and her husband had been a doctor;  she dyed her hair red;  she rented out one of her downstairs rooms to a medical student, who once  put a skull out in the backyard to dry after he washed it, causing a major terror among all of the kids in the neighborhood as we tried to figure out how it had gotten there and if it was real.  Mrs. Turley hired me to climb her fig trees and pick her figs one summer.  She paid me 25 cents a bag for the figs, and she invited me to spend the night at her house the last night I picked for her.  I was excited to get to spend the night but also a little uneasy because I knew that skull was in the house somewhere.  I slept in one of the twin beds in her bedroom.  Just as I was falling asleep she said from her bed:  "You never have to be afraid when you sleep at my house because I have a gun under my pillow."  She then said "Nighty night" and left me staring into the dark, snapped wide awake and terrified that she would forget I was there and shoot me if I got up to go to the bathroom.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Traveling to Various Edges and Reporting Back

I believe it was YoYo Mah who said something like "The job of the artist is to travel to the edges and report back."  I love that job description, so tonight I'm reporting back from a couple of edges to which I traveled today.

Early this morning my critique group had its monthly meeting.  This meeting is as essential as bread for me.  It takes place at the edges where ideas are slowly coalescing and shy little buds are trying to unfurl.  We listen carefully to each other and gently push to help the speaker expand on articulations and clarify for her or himself what's going on.  Some of us take notes in words and/or pictures, and when I look back at the code on the page, I remember the conversation as well as the emotional tone and the undercurrents of ideas.
 I was starting a new notebook this morning, and I generally take meeting notes starting in the back.  So these pages should be read from right to left.  Of special note is drawing #1353, made when we spied a man from the nearby fitness center parading through the parking lot carrying an enormous barbell over his head, another edgy kind of event.

After crit group I went downtown and met two friends for lunch.  As we were walking through the blustery wind, we noticed down low on the sidewalk, rising to about a foot high up against a building, a row of tiny building facades, carefully made and placed just so on slanted supports that leveled the bases of the little buildings along the hilly sidewalk.  What a fine surprise!  Nothing better than unexpected interventions where you least expect to find them.  If you're lucky enough to be walking in Asheville, check out the block between Lexington and Broadway-- more specifically between Chicken Alley and Tingle Alley-- on the side of whatever street that is that runs past the downtown Y and the Masonic Temple.  As you go uphill they will be on your right, way down low, on the edge of the buildings that cling to a narrow strip of sidewalk, right before the red light at Broadway.

I included the bricks of a building behind one group for scale. The other two were a few feet downhill, up against a stucco building.   These are really tiny, brightly painted, a sort of post-modern row of facades.  Absolute treasures.  Couldn't find an artist's name, but thanks, whoever did this!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Motherly Advice for Colds and Other Damp Conditions

Today I visited my acupuncturist at the Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic and learned some things we can do for ourselves to help slow the flood of runny nose, teary eyes, barking coughs, and slurpy sniffs that seems to be afflicting many of us at this cold, dark, damp time of year.   While I was waiting for my appointment I drew a tropical fish that swims in the salt water aquarium in the waiting room, a soothing reminder to let go of stress and move slowly and gracefully while exercising to keep chi moving and thus reduce the stagnation that gives rise to the dampness that results in the extreme consumption of Kleenex.

I stopped at the grocery on the way home and bought the bitter tasting foods that help move dampness out of our systems, and when I got home I drew them.  A cup of warm lemon juice in water or tea is good in the cold mornings, and lemon is a great seasoning for salads and steamed vegetables.  The sour lemon helps dispel dampness and also alkalinizes your system.  Lemons also have vitamin C.  Asparagus is a bitter-tasting vegetable, a mild diuretic, and good at moving sluggish chi or energy.  Likewise celery, kale, and Swiss chard are excellent damp- removing foods.  And a nice surprise was to learn that bitter dark chocolate, in spite of its sugar, and eaten in small amounts, is good for all of the above.  (Happily, Greenlife carries Taza Mexican chocolate, 70% dark, organic, stone ground and nicely gritty.) 

Along with the list of things that are good for dispelling the evil dampness was a list of the main foods that create even more dampness and weaken your immune system and that will work against whatever you do to get rid of a tendency to pick up a cold or to get rid of one:  iced drinks; sugar; processed foods; dairy products.

This dietary advice won't work instantly to mask symptoms like cold medicines will, but by working them into/out of your diet over the long run,  you will improve your own health and immunity to the point where you'll rarely if ever need to take symptom-stopping medicine for a cold or invest in cartons of Kleenex. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shadowing Jesse

Jesse was sitting on a cushion on the window seat with his tail perfectly arranged and his best 3/4 angle facing me.  He was shaped just like a meatloaf.

Suddenly he stretched up and glanced out of the window, lost interst almost immediately, and trotted off to the kitchen.  here he is eating a snack out of his triple-decker ant-proof bowl fashioned by P out of our old good china dishes and Jesse'[s stainless steel normal cat bowl.  It DOES keep the ants at bay.

Next he went into my studio and hopped up on the ink slab on the printing table, a favorite spot of his, especially when there's a print to sit on, as in drawing 1339.  This is him in his stalking position.  He held it for a few minutes, staring at some insect on the floor near the ailing Meyer lemon tree.

Then he relaxed down and tucked his paw in and went to sleep.  I made a noise and he opened his eyes, then went right back to sleep.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some of the Heart Collection

Below are two heart milagros, one from Italy on the left and a Mexican one on the right. Both are made of metal but in entirely different styles.  The Italian one is old, from an antique store.  The Mexican one looks new, but I don't know anything about it except that it has a little tag on the back that says it was made in Mexico.  Both hearts resemble chili peppers with their lopsided, rounded shapes.

The three hearts above are not milagros.  The two little ones are made of metal.  The one on the left always makes me think of the fairy tale of the tin soldier who gets thrown in a fire and nothing is left after he burns up except a metal heart.  I don't remember the whole story, but for as long as I can remember I have held a picture in my mind of that lumpy little metal heart, and this one reminds me of it.  The one on the right has a tiny woman holding some odd objects in her hands that look something like sparklers (although that doesn't make sense).  The big one at the bottom is a lovely lebkuchen that our lebkuchen-making friends mailed to us and that arrived today in a small cardboard box along with a poem and a drawing-- a Solstice/NewYear's/Bruce's Birthday celebration card.  Beautiful!  Decorated with pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and home-made candied orange peel.

Monday, January 13, 2014


 The elderly-looking Baby Jesus on the left is what you would call a milagro in Spanish, but I found it in Venice a dozen years ago, and I don't know the Italian word for such objects.  It's about 7 inches tall and very beautifully made of metal that has tarnished so that it looks like silver (which I doubt that it is).  I had just come from spending two weeks in a villa in Tuscany that had one of these attached to a wooden and glass cabinet in the kitchen, and when I saw its twin in a little flea marketey shop in Venice I bought it right away.  I took it home and nailed it up over the window over our sink in the kitchen, and there it still lives today, grinning down at me as I toil away on My Night to Cook.

As I was looking at the stiff Baby Jesus in his metal-- child form?-- I made a connection between swaddling clothes and Rusty Metal Child Forms:  and so I drew, once again, the child form and put a girl's head on it in the same position as the BJ's head.

Following the theme of milagros, I drew four others that I own.  I've seen milagros in Ireland at shrines and in Italy in churches, and even in Quebec in a shrine.  I have a small collection of metal heart milagros from Italy.  But these drawn here are very small and look like some Mexican ones that a friend in San Antonio once sent me.  The woman kneeling looks like she has a humped back, a popular milagro that is used to ask for help with back troubles.  Then there is the heart for asking for help with heart trouble (or maybe for a softening of the heart?), and then a child-like face with no obvious problem.  I guess it could be a general help with head or face issues.  The eyes and nose are pretty obvious.  I once visited an eye well in County Clare, Ireland, and saw a few of these hanging about.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Working Drawings for a Somewhat New Design

I've b een wanting a new bag, slightly wider than the one I've been carrying, but not so large as the iPad size one I had before that.  Finally I found time to make it yesterday in all the rain.  Last night I used it, and a friend spotted it and asked me to make one or her exactly like mine.  So today I made notes and drawings so that I can duplicate it.  I really like the way it came out and wanted to make a good set of working drawings, so here they are.  On the left is the front of the bag, and on the right is the front with the flap lifted to show the new half-compartment for phone and keys.

On the left here is the view looking into the main compartment of the bag;  and on the right is a detailed drawing of the back compartment.

This page gives the measurements for all of the pieces that need to be cut, allowing extra width and length for hems.  And if I can find the photo I just took with my phone, I'll drop it in below.

Found it, so now you can get an idea of the material, really great, sturdy, waterproof Lotus dog food with a Nicholas Wilton painting of a sheep on it.

Here's the back with two more sheep plus some fish and an apple at the top on the flap.  If you're interested in having a bag like this (or in any other material and any other size) got to my other blog, and order it for $35 plus shipping through Paypal under bigger bags.  Put a note under special instructions telling me if it's this little 8 1/2 x 8 1/2" one, since this one's not on the blog yet (unless I get very ambitious in the next few minutes and update the catalog page of the blog!).  You can also FB message me for an order and also email at

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Carvings and Prints

This  morning was as dark as 6 PM and chilly and rainy.  I looked outside around 8:00 and saw Genghis and his family trudging down the puddle-rich street to walk the dog.  They walk in a group every single day, but I've never seen them do it so trudgingly as this morning!

I drew the child form on a piece of rubber eraser stamp material in preparation for making a stamp out of the design,  This was an extremely slow and exact measured drawing, something I haven't done in a long time.  In order to get the proportions just right I had to measure and compare, drop plumb lines and sight along horizontals.  I just used a drawing pencil and drew right on the piece of rubber, erasing mistakes as I made them.

Here's the carved stamp.  I used a set of linoleum cutting tools to cut away the areas that would not get printed, the spaces between the lines.  I am counting both these steps as drawings!

And here's a print of the stamp.  Now I can use it in combination with the girls (I made stamps of all of them already for another project) without having to draw the thing every time.  I'm pretty happy with the way this came out.  It's a little too big to fit in my current sketchbook, so this print is on a piece of drawing paper.  The print is about 5" tall.
Here's a proof or trial print of the stamp before I trimmed the figure out of the background.  It reads like a negative print with the dark background.  The only real difference between the proof and the print above is the absence of background in the final print, which turns it into a black line or positive print.  This should be number 1317.