Sunday, May 31, 2015

And Another Collaboration--

This morning Jacob decided we had time to do another collaboration;  so we climbed up to an area of campus where a pine forest had been planted many years ago in straight rows on a hilltop deep in the forest overlooking some of the farm fields.  It was so beautifully geometric, quiet, aromatic, peaceful in there.  Then we spied an art installation attached to some giant grape vines hanging from one of the trees.  It had hanging bundles made of translucent fabric and pine cones and strange objects showing partly through the fabric of the bundles.  A string of large pearly beads hung down near a bundle made of crochet.  I loved this intervention of something wild in the very tame and orderly forest.

Here on the left is a detail from the bottom of the art piece-- a cream-colored felt flower hanging with two pine cones from a piece of black nylon mesh.  To the right is a quick drawing that I did of some fire pinks, while Jacob photographed them.

We walked around up in the orderly forest for a while, saw a bird blind, a lean-to made out of pine branches, and a small remnant of an old barn.  Nothing struck Jacob very much, so we headed down the hill to a hay barn on the side of a recently- mown field.  And here we struck gold.  I drew the piles of hay that had burst out of their plastic wrappings and were gradually composting at the edge of the woods (on the left).  Then I went and stood just outside the barn where J was photographing and I drew the enormous rolls of new hay in their slick white wrappings.  For our collaboration Jacob photographed the exact scene I had been drawing.

Then we raced out of the field and over to Greenlife for a very late lunch and a little Photoshopping while we ate, putting our work on the same canvas and giving my line sketch the golden tones and mysterious darks that it needed, giving his photograph the graphic punch that the plastic hay rolls gave to the soft and glowy barn scene.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Bull in the Cow Pasture and Other Scenes Along the River Trail

Jacob and I set out along the west River Trail late in the day today.  First off, some astonishingly large trees.
Then I drew J as he picked up rocks to skim in the river.  Then he took out his camera and got some shots of the water.

Finally we landed at a spot where white water rushed over rocks and the sun was slanting through the trees-- seemingly perfect.  But just not quite.
And then as we were heading home, we came to a perfect hillside with dramatic shadows and puffy little clouds.  So we unpacked everything and stood by a fence and took pictures and sketched some more.

 But the best was last:  as we came out of the trail, we found a bull sitting down next to the fence in a field of cows and staring right at us, about ten feet away from the fence.  He wasn't in any hurry, and we got to take many pictures of the field and do sketches up close of the bull.
 We came home, ate dinner at nearly 9:00, and spent a lot of time playing around in Photoshop, and we came up with our second collaboration.  And now it's after 1:00 in the morning and I am heading to bed!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Maya's Bluebird

 This afternoon I picked Maya up from school, and we headed over to the fabric store to do some research for a few things we wanted to make. Maya wanted to make a bluebird, her current favorite animal.  We also wanted to get material to make a golden bug for her cousin N, who is coming to visit next weekend;  and we need to start planning the chuppah we're making for her Dad and stepmother-to-be's wedding this summer.

We left the fabric store with many ideas and possibilities as well as samples of materials for the chuppah.  For the bird Maya picked out teal blue crushed velvet as well as apricot brocade for the breast and some teal blue crocheted fabric to use as an overlay on the wings.  Above is her initial drawing for the bird.

Once she had drawn the bird she decided which pattern prices we needed, based on some other creatures we have made.  It took us three hours of trying things out, stitching, ripping, restitching, experimenting with unhemmed edges in places to add a feathery look, and responding to unexpected results that drove us to the final bird, which we both like very much.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ten Dreadful Forks

I have always really disliked drawing forks.  I would say to myself "I can't draw a fork" and believe that I couldn't.  Tonight as we sat waiting for our food in a restaurant, I started drawing the fork in front of me, and I thought that it was ridiculous that after all these thousands of drawings I still feel pathetic at fork drawing.  If a student said to me "I can't draw forks" I would say, "Draw ten and you'll be good at drawing them."  So when we got home I dragged eight different forks out of the silverware drawer and began to study them.  I began to see subtle things about them that I had never bothered to look at before:  a curve here, a dip here, the interesting way the shadow works under the upper curve of the handle.

So here are the ten:  from the left, two restaurant forks, a little bone fork that I bought at a Ten Thousand Villages store and that all the children in our family have enjoyed using; a lemon fork in Danish Modern sterling;  a very ornate Francis I fork that P bought when he was single and had decided to buy sterling for himself instead of waiting to get married to stop eating with plastic from take-out; my grandmother's salad fork, one of a set of eight, silver-plate, early 20th century;  dinner fork in Danish Modern sterling;  an orphaned fork that was left at our house after a pot luck and never claimed;  another orphan;  our current stainless, a salad fork, very sleek and heavy and shiny.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


What could be prettier than peas?  Peas in stir fry, peas straight out of the garden, peas in scrambled eggs, peas in pasta, peas in soup, peas in salads.  I'm having a little trouble staying ahead of this harvest.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Scent of Roses and Honeysuckle

Yesterday our good friends came over for dinner and brought with them a small bouquet of roses and honeysuckle from their yard.  I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply every time I passed the vase today, and I felt like I was on the trail in the warm sunlight.  Of course flowers don't smell wonderful to make people happy, but isn't it lucky that we love the same smells that bees and butterflies and ants and even flies do?
The marks on these three pages are made by scraps from proofs from the print I'm working on as well as proofs of the little stamps I've made to go with the print.  I was already throwing them in the recycle bin when one of them fell off the fistful I was ready to toss and landed on a page that I had tried out the little stamps on.  I decided to follow this random serendipity for two more.  Now I'm wondering about enlarging them and  carving large blocks of these ---

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Random Small Things

I spent a lot of time today carving little rubber cuts to go with a larger woodcut.  Here are proofs of them.  And then I noticed that the Peruvian lilies are dropping their petals and revealing their intricate six-sided ovaries packed with tiny seeds.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Can't Stay Away from That Honeysuckle and Rose Trail

 First the news-  all the hay that was rolled yesterday is now covered with white plastic and lined up in rows outside the barn where it will be stored for winter feed.  These rolls are almost as tall as I am!  I like them better when they're not covered and they smell sweet and have a glowy golden color; but even on this small organic farm, apparently the hay has to be wrapped by a truck that has a hay roll wrapping device.

P and I decided to walk back via the farm instead of the trail.  As we rounded the corner of the big bottom fields adjacent to the river, we could see the Frolicking Green Water Dragon, a very auspicious land form in Chinese geomancy.  You can see it here in the whipping, snake-like tracing of darker grasses that slides through the field.  An anthropologist on campus once told me it marked the archaic path of the river, and the ground there is the lowest elevation in the valley and is still a watercourse when it rains.  The reason it shows up is that the grasses that grow in it are different (water-loving) species than the field grasses.

We climbed up out of the valley and stood on a little overlook that is above a small pasture where a young milk cow is pastured.
We walked through the college garden, and at the far edge where it runs alongside the trail, we found the college mud wrestling pit.  Our recent dry weather has totally dried out the slippery, clayey mud, leaving it cracked.  Deep footprints from the last match are still in the bottom of the pit.

Across the garden we could see the apiary, where bee hives are kept behind a fence that is surrounded by an electric fence to keep bears out.

And at the bottom right is a single stem of the hay that is currently rolled up in the big white rolls.

Back at home Jesse slept away the afternoon in his own pool of sunlight.  And on the right is my African bug hat with its insect-chasing pom-poms.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Guest Blogger and Hay-Making in the Sunshine

It was clear, dry, bright  but cool this afternoon.  Birds were chirping and the smell of honeysuckle and roses was on the soft breeze when Neenah and I headed out to the farm to finish up our week of drawing class.  I'm going to post my drawings from this afternoon first, and then some of Neenah's from this week.

This first drawing is just a mapping out of a future drawing.  I like the way the page looks though.

Our first long stop was at the chicken house in the garden, where some hens were pecking around in the straw in front of the house.  A little further along the trail we came to this lovely barn/shed building with what I think are some sort of aeration devices on the roof. 

My favorite scene of the day:  haying in the back field.  The little barn is a hay barn, and the hay rolls were in the field after being rolled by a machine and awaiting being rolled with white plastic.

 Here's Neenah's map of our downtown walk from yesterday.
 Here's the rest of the map, and I think I have it upside down.
Last night Neenah went to eat at the Ethiopian restaurant that we found yesterday at the end of our mapping excursion.  She noticed these words written in Ethiopian language on a wall in the restaurant and started drawing them.  The owner read and translated them for her.  She noticed some similarities between these letters and some in her language.

This is Neenah's sketch of the same field that I planned out.  It was a very detailed and complex drawing and we didn't want to spend too much of our limited time on it.  But there's enough information on it to finish it later.

Neenah's rendering of the chicken house and the low barn with the cupolas, not completely finished but with sufficient visual notes to complete them in a few minutes.  

The hay rows, the barn, and some hay rolls.  All done by Neenah, who told me she could not draw when we met on Monday!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mapping a Downtown Walk

My friend and student N wanted to learn how to draw a map of a walk today.  We were downtown, and she doesn't live here, so all she saw was a confusion of streets that shift and spin, change names mid-stream, and end abruptly.  We wanted to go to a dress shop to sketch some things in the window and to the Ethiopian restaurant to which she wanted to go eat tonight. The map starts at the top left above, goes straight down the page, then back up to the top at the number 1, ending at number 2.
On the second spread the map continues at number 3 at top left, goes down College Street, veers right onto Patton, goes left onto Coxe (at the big dot that signifies a red light), then left onto Commerce, ending at the *.  The inset map is upside down.  N's map is much nicer than mine.  We had a lot of fun!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

High Noon in the Field

If it's summer, I like it hot and dry and blindingly sunny with sharp black shadows and the white-hot susurrations of insects at noon.

N. and I went down to the old archaeological site area for class this  morning and painted in the shade of the sawmill until half-past noon.  On the way down there we heard and then saw a red-winged blackbird on a post.  It seemed to be a young one not quite adept at flying as it sat for a long enough

                                                                                                                         time to be drawn.

The field itself -- shimmering young wheat heads on top of light green stalks --came to an abrupt stop at the woods, inky darkness swallowing the light.
We walked back home under the noonday sun, like mad dogs and Englishmen, and found hidden Alpine strawberries in a small profusion under the leaves  of what I had thought were old barren strawberry plants near the  blueberries.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Here's Jesse, caught coming out of a great roll.  It looks like he's grabbing a look at himself.  Two minutes drawing.

On the left is another quick drawing, this one of the metal crane in the waiting room at the acupuncture clinic.  Later this morning my student from Santa Fe arrived at my house to begin our intensive drawing and watercolor workshop.  She came bearing wonderful gifts from the west:  fetishes!  On the right is a painting I did as a demo for her using her own fetish as a model.

On the left is a pod from a spice bush, and on the right is the beautiful gift N. brought to me-- a pair of bound bison fetishes, carved from found stone by Wilson Romero, a Cochiti Pueblo man.  These remind me of the wonderful, eerie, laden figures that we saw in archaeological museums in Spain.  They hum and buzz with energy.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Excitement in a Minor Key

Michelle and I went for a nearly four-mile long walk this morning, through the woods and over the hills to her house, and then back to the beginning of the trail by a different trail.  We stopped at her house to see her garden, where the walking onions are bigger and  more robust than mine.  M explained the parts of a walking onion to me, what you could eat and when.  We wondered if this plant ever grows from seeds.  A couple of hers are getting flowers, so probably there IS a possibility of seeds--

And on the way back to the trail head we encountered a pretty black snake.  It was about four feet long, and when I first spotted it, it was all corrugated up in tight curves, extending about halfway across the path.  We stopped to watch it undulate across the rest of the path, which is slowly did, its little tongue flickering the whole time.  I've never been close enough to a black snake that was holding relatively still before, AND holding a pen and sketchbook, to draw it from life.
Back home in my garden peas are appearing!  The blossoms are still clinging to the tips of the pods, but by tomorrow they should be ready to pick and add to a stir fry.

Jesse strolled by and watched me draw until I started drawing him, whereupon he rolled over into a spectacular stretch.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunrise in Wheat Field

Same field but 6:10 a.m. after a late night.  Trying to balance a little wc set and a jar of water on a fence rail.  J crouched down in dew-wet field taking sunrise on wheat shots.
Like this yellow wheat field with the bottom of the mountain behind and the edge of the field where the stalks begin and are strangely green from this side view.

This is not high grade wc paper, and the paint tends to float around on the surface rather than sink in.    Also it's so damp out here this morning that the layers can't dry;  hence some interesting merging of blobs.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Composite Wheat Field

Jacob and I went down to a wheat field on campus late this afternoon.  I did this four-stage color separation watercolor while he took some photographs.

Then we put these two together for our first attempt at a composite piece.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Drawing to See Better

Drawing helps me see better by slowing me down so that I move my eyes, blinking softly and often, as I see one tiny point along the edge of the pea leaf, then let that one blur out as I see the next point.  Relaxing is essential, and a spirit of curiosity replaces the tension of getting it right.  The more I draw, the more I see.

I don't stare or tightly focus-- sweeping movements hold spaces in which details emerge in their own time.

Drawing is research for sure, and curiosity always nudges research along.  These Egyptian walking onions are now starting to walk!  Tonight I noticed them bending down to touch the ground with their curious complex tops.  I can't wait to go down to the garden in the cool morning and see what the peas have done, draw the progress of the onions.

 Meanwhile, drawing also helps develop my visual memory.  I catch a detail and softly hold it in my mind during the second or two it takes to look down at the paper and transfer it.  As I draw more and more, I am able to remember more and more.  And the better I can visualize the better I can see.  And one day I might even be able to draw out of my head!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Details: Botanical Gardens and Bird Sanctuary

My cousin D has been in town this week, and we spent part of the afternoon at the UNC Botanical Gardens enjoying the warm sweet air and sunshine and the profusion of plants, many of which are in bloom.  This page is really just visual note taking.

Later we meandered over to the bird sanctuary near Beaver Lake.  This enormous tree spreads out over a lazy little creek that feeds the lake.