Monday, November 30, 2015

The Most Unlikely Subjects

The straw wrappers on our table;  those rose seed pods revisited a day or two later as they slowly release seeds.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lazy Day Drawings

We drove up to the high mountains northeast of Asheville this morning to spend the day with our friends K and B.  Their studio and house are a festival of wonderful things, and I drew some of them while we were lounging around eating an indoor picnic on the floor, talking, doing a couple of jigsaw puzzles they had made years ago for their kids, hiking from the studio to the house, talking a bunch more, looking at interesting things, adding to each other's necessary movies and books lists.  On the left above is a turmeric root, looking to me like a map of a small country, and some fresh ginger root.
From the left above  are one of K's small fuzzy animal dolls, old and velveteen- rabbity, with a sweet small pearl circlet around one ear; a small floppy china doll with cloth limbs and partially clothed body that belonged to K as a child; another cloth and china doll dressed in a homemade sack dress;  a very large desiccated beetle from a tiny drawer in one of K's cabinets of curiosities;  a net-like seed pod on the order of a Japanese lantern but shaped more like a sea creature.
These last two are two views of K's great-grandmother's small Hessian doll (maybe 5" tall), made of tin and cloth and with a large hat- bow on its head.  The loops of the bow are stuffed with ancient yellowed newspaper, apparently for the purpose of preventing it from flopping down.  K and B's collection rivals the Frederick Mares museum in Barcelona, which is one of my favorite places on earth.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Milkweed Pod and Nut-Like Rose Hips

This blown milkweed pod was all that was left of a patch of last summer's orange flowers.  Nearby in the herb garden were large, nut-like rose hips bursting open to show their orangey seeds.  I was so surprised to see how big these rose seeds are, always thought rose seeds were minuscule.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Two-Day Catch-Up: Four Mile Walk with a Pen

M and L and I met at the trailhead to the river trail and set out to show L the wonders of this trail and all of its little meanders and sideshows.  First stop was the chicken yard, where we found a bunch of chickens roosting inside the house, and some white hens enjoying a dust bath outside.  They look like a hat on the horse, but the horse is actually an entirely separate endeavor.  This is one of the two draft horses that live down near the garden and chicken yard, but it kept moving and swaying, and I gave up and just let my eyes and pen move with the horse.

We stopped to look at fish in the river, and then we squatted down on a rocky beach and all made cairns.
We ended up at the ponds down by the old Owen plant /park where we found among the mallard ducks and the white ducks a couple of American coots with their white bills.  They were diving and dunking and in constant motion.  At around two miles we ended up at M's house, and while we were taking a short break I drew her frozen Charlotte in its plangent little homemade dress next to a teacup and saucer.  To the right is a strange plaster sculpture installed outside the stone meditation hut along the Jensen Trail on campus.  The life-sized man with his draped plaster shirt and pants is missing his face but still has his large tennis shoes.  He sits in the woods  and watches people walk by on the trail.
No farm walk is complete without a visit to the sheep.  These are so very wooly right now.  The little milk cow that shares a pasture with them in at bottom right.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Full Moon and the Little Free Library

If you hike the Beaver Lake perimeter trail you will find this little free library nestled along the bank between the water and some houses, after you leave the wooded part of the trail and before you get to the point where you leave the trail and walk along the sidewalk for a bit.  This little box is full of books, and you are invited to take a book, pass it on, return it, or donate books of your own.  You can also write a note in the notebook.  What a great idea!  If you can't wait to take a reading break, you can sit right down on one of the many benches along the trail and read away.  I donated three books this time.  I'm greatly enjoying the book I took last time I passed it.

The moonset this morning was mostly obscured by a bulky hemlock tree that grows across the street on the edge of the woods.  It was somewhat overcast, but still dramatic and fun to watch while clinging to the edge of the mattress in order to get a view of this morning's moon position.  Then while driving home from the lake, I saw tonight's moonrise, the full moon at last.  It was mostly clouded over and looked like a poached egg in may ways, still wonderful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Moon and Chips

I thought it would be fun to try to draw some chips so that they look real enough to eat.
I think 5988 comes closest.  The moon is almost full tonight, and it rides high in the eastern sky with a soft halo around it.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Moonset and Chickens in the Cold Wind

At 3:30 this morning the enormous moon shining in our window woke us up by.  It was setting in the perfect place in the sky for its beams to stream through the opening between the window sill and the blind and land across our bed.  I reached over and yanked up the blind, and we were able to lie back and watch the show in complete comfort.  The moon sank behind the mountain top and illuminated tree trunks and branches that actually grow in the woods across the street, but from our angle it looked like they were on the mountain top.  I painted this from memory with references to the tree tops this afternoon.

Today was windy and cold, not just cool;  I was curious to see how the chickens were dealing with the icy blasts.  Those giant Jersey blacks were so fluffed up that they looked like turkeys.  Their feathers were dancing in the wind.  Other than that, it was business as usual in the chicken yard.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


I scooped these up along the greenway this afternoon  and put them in my pocket.  It was far too cold and windy to draw them on the spot.  When I got them on my drawing table I was astonished to see how intricately patterned they are and how astonishingly complex their architecture is.  From the left:  a dried Chinese lantern seed pod, two shrunken sycamore balls that seem immature and much pinker than the bigger ones, and some poke seeds in their inky dark little pods as well as two that are broken out of their pod.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Persimmon, Dissected and Seedless

Some of you might remember the useless quest to find a persimmon with seeds, which I was on last year at this time.  Well I am a slow learner.  The other day I saw a pile of smallish persimmons at Whole Foods.  They looked like the seedless ones, but the sign said they were organic free range cruelty-free non-GMO cage-free persimmons, so that sounded like they would have seeds, right?  Well, no.  Apparently persimmons reproduce by pathogenesis or something these days.  They're still that wonderful happy color, and they still have an interesting pattern where the missing seeds should be.    
But they don't have seeds-- at least not the ones in our grocery stores-- and no amount of dissection will turn up even an undeveloped infertile seed.

The stapler was on the desk at BookWorks, where I was working this afternoon in between drawing sections of the persimmon.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dry and Crispy Little Handful

This little handful I collected this afternoon along the Reed Creek Greenway.  Most were blowing in swirls around the edges of the path, crisp and feathery, dry and almost porous.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bandaid Jesus in His Dollar Bill Boat and Other Household Profiles

 Casting about for a theme tonight,  I noticed that I had drawn several profiles or three-quarter views of faces at book club earlier in the evening.  So after everyone left I continued and walked around our house drawing one profile from each room.  These are in no particular order.  Above on the left is Jesse, the only profile in P's study, and a willing subject for once in his life.  Next to him is a ceramic head from our bedroom, one of two parts of a sculpture called "Longing."  On the right side of the page at the top, from one of our bathrooms, is a cast metal bird who wears a poison ring on his head (and other jewelry draped and hanging from the stand underneath him).  And at the bottom right is a small plastic Jesus, who was the prize from a box of Jesus bandaids and who has lived in an origami boat made from a dollar bill that floats in a soap dish on the wall of the other bathroom.
On the left above are two three-quarter views of people at book club, then two cups from book club, and then on the right the first of this evening's profiles-- a reproduction santo that stands on a table in our living room.

 On the right above are the first two of this evening's book club faces.
And above, from left to right, are the dining room Eastern- Market- in- DC stuffed cloth folk art angel, a small voudoo doll who sits with two others in a ceramic boat in the kitchen, a reproduction Mayan ceramic man wearing a cap knitted by Ruth Irwin, a former student's orphaned ceramic face mask, and a little cloth doll that was given to us by friends when our third baby was born and looked very much like the doll-- button nose, Cheerio mouth, Mr. McGoo eyes, bald as an egg, supremely cute.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Smattering of Robins

Our front yard was filled with robins this morning.  An enormous flock was passing through and stopped by some invisible agreement for a feast of worms on our lawn.  The most curious thing about them, which I noticed after drawing them for a few minutes, was that almost all of them were facing east.  Even the few whose bodies were turned the other way would swivel their heads east every few seconds.  Anybody have any idea of what that's all about?  It was a sunny cool morning with a bright sun just lifting over the mountains.  When they left after about fifteen minutes, they took off flying southwest and landed in trees across the street on the edge of the woods.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Unexciting Pondside Sketches, But Still--

I thought these acrobatic looped-over stems with their umbrella-like heads might be lotus pods.  I scrambled out to as close as I could get to the edge of the pond and even tried to lasso one with a piece of cattail stem, to no avail.  Halfway through drawing them I realized they were water hyacinth leaves with most of the leaf submerged.  Still they were wonderful to look at.

Further out in the pond were an assortment of things:  a water hyacinth bud still hanging on after this week's freezes;  a water lily leaf unfurling like a spiral staircase, half submerged, half out of the water;  two pods floating on the surface, and two odd little seed pods on the bank.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Little Tutorial on Saving Canna Rhizomes

F gave us some canna rhizomes the other day.  Last year we tried to overwinter our canna rhizomes and they all rotted, as did F's.  So I did some YouTube research and this is what I learned:  The cause of rot is usually that there is wet soil clinging to the rhizome or an adjacent one has started to rot and is touching its neighbor.  To prevent rot you must remove the rhizomes from the ground and first prune away the stems or leaves as well as any black-looking part that is starting to rot.

What you have left will look something like the above--next year's buds, which can look pinkish or magenta as ours do, and some roots.  The rhizome part is the underground horizontal stem along which the buds grow.  Drawing 5895 has three good pink buds but also has a suspicious dark bud that may be rotten over on the left of the rhizome.  I'm waiting to be sure, and if it is still black after all the dirt dries and falls off, I will cut away the rotten part.  Drawing 5896 has three good buds and no rot;  5897 has three good buds but a slightly suspicious brown thing on the left end.

Step two is to let the rhizomes and their buds dry for a couple of days in a cool place that won't freeze.  I'm keeping ours in a cardboard box, spread out so the things don't touch each other;  I keep it on the shady back porch in the daytime but bring it inside on freezing nights.  After things look dry, you brush off the dirt.  The rhizomes have enough moisture inside of them for the buds to feed on during the dormant period.

Then when everything looks ready, you place them so they're not touching and lightly cover them with dry potting soil, not hay, which easily rots, and put them in a basement or crawlspace or unheated garage that will keep them cold but not frozen.  You should check them every couple of months, and if they look too dry, mist the air around them but don't get them or the soil soggy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Vermilion, Carmine, Dragonsblood, and Jesse

The only color left in the November woods are the reds:  vermilion, carmine, dragons blood, and cadmium.  Jesse is not pleased with the icy wind today.  I like his two-level position on the left as he contemplates going outside, staring furiously out at the backyard.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

For Payne's Grey Fans: Five Different Payne's Greys

It's pretty obvious that my favorite color of paint is Payne's Grey, the color that I used to paint my Danskos last night, drawings 5877 and 5878.  I have had a love relationship with this yummy color for so many years, probably since the late 70s.  Tonight I sat down to draw whatever happened to be in front of me, and that turned out to be two tubes and two cakes and a blob of Payne's Grey.  I don't know how well this shows up on your screen, but there are distinct differences among the four different brands (including two different manufacturing batches of one of the brands).  Drawing 5879 is of the blob of Rembrandt's version;  5880 is a tube of the pale version from Van Gogh brand;  Windsor Newton Cotman's 5881 is a tube of the Windsor Newton Cotman brand, less greenish than Rembrandt's and more toward charcoal, but more intense and more heavily pigmented than the Van Gogh;  my favorite , 5882, is a cake of Zecchi of Firenze's luminous greenish bluish deep and densely pigmented most recent version;  oddly enough, the older version of Zecchi's, shown in drawing 5883, is tinted more toward charcoal with none of the almost iridescent greenish overtones.  This is starting to sound like a discussion of wines or balsamic vinegars.

Payne's Grey is a hue, or mix, and not a pure pigment;  hence differences between different brands are to be somewhat expected.  But I was surprised at the marked differences among the five versions I have out on my drawing table right now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

More Dear Shoes Plus an Odd Find or Two from the Woods

On the left, to round out the dregs of my shoe collection, are a pair of Genuine French Espadrilles, these actually purchased for E8 from a market in Gordes in the south of France a couple of years ago.  I like them for their sloppy, relaxed quality;  but they wear out quickly, as can be seen by the tattered toes.  To the right are my old faithful Danskos, comfortable, serviceable, five years old and still going strong.
 In the woods this afternoon M kindly guided me to her most recent creepy find:  this little  doll-like creature was stuffed in the hollow of a small tree.  I didn't have time to finish the drawing, and I really needed paints to do it justice.  This thing has white fluffy spider-webby hair as well as a cocoon-like bottom half.  The eyes and mouth are done in primitive embroidery on stained, knitted fabric.  It stares out at passersby.  Must revisit! 

Not far from the creature in the tree is a large incomplete primitive shelter.  I drew it from inside, where long shadows streaked across the dirt and pine-needly floor.  Three tree stumps were in a conversation arrangement.  On the right, a back view of a random woman in a restaurant tonight.  I started drawing the man with her, but just as I started, he ended the lecture he was delivering and they abruptly left.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In the Doldrums of the Ten Thousand: Old Shoes

A bit past midway in drawing ten thousand things I have hit the doldrums.  What else can I possibly draw? The things in my house have been drawn and re-drawn;  is there anything left to draw?  These six old shoes seem to exemplify a stuckness and lack of inspiration that is not so much guiding as poking at me tonight.   On the left is a pair of bright orange-red ballet slippers that I found in Girona, Spain, last April.  I love the color and the style, but they're a little too narrow in the soles to be good for trail walking.  The khaki pair of Keens on the right are ones that  I bought last year to try to replace the ancient sage green perfect shoes (below).  They ended up being a bit too short in the toes, not an unusual problem with Keens.  I need to remember to always buy them two sizes up.  Other than that they're okay.
And the last two, the shabby worn out used-to-be-sage green ones with the used-to-be pink linings-- my all-time favorite shoes, which are no longer being made by Earth company.  I bought my first pair of these about eight years ago and loved them so much that I went back to Tops a year after I had bought them and bought the last pair they had, even though they were a size too large for me.  I have never regretted having two pair of these and wish I could find a third pair.  They are the perfect shoes for me for walking since I really don't like lace-up shoes or shoes that require socks;  yet they have sturdy soles that grip the ground on slopes and feel good after eight miles.  When they were new they looked good enough for wearing absolutely everywhere else, too.

Monday, November 9, 2015


First thing this morning what looked like several dozen robins swooped down from one of the trees across the street and spent fifteen minutes pulling worms out of our soggy lawn.

Around 4:00 I couldn't bear being in the house another minute, so I took a soggy walk through the puddle-filled low trail down to a place where I had a fine view of the fields, which look like rice paddies today.

I picked up several soggy items to bring home and draw in the dry warmth of the house-- a soaked and flattened pine cone, a piece of oyster mushroom, a strip of dripping bark, a hollowed-out acorn that was sitting in a puddle on a tree stump.  Now my coat pocket is soggy.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Final Night Game Paintings



All finished!  These may look like copies of last night's but they're actually different.  These are the four for the second copy of the book.  Yesterday I also printed the backgrounds;  and tomorrow I'll start working in watercolor over the prints.  I also want to get back to drawing from life!  M sent me a photo of an extremely strange thing that she found in the woods this weekend and gave me two very thin hints as to which trail it's on.  (She told me two trails that it's not on.)  Tomorrow I want to go search along the trail closest to her house, since I've been on the River Trails a lot lately and have seen nothing like this thing.  Stay posted!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

New Improved Trees in Context



Here are the four small paintings I did today that will form a part of the book I'm making about night games -- Hide and Seek, Kick the Can, Ghost in the Graveyard, Wide Games.  The top two are the two halves of the first one, and the bottom two the halves of the second one.  All four will be attached end to end to form a continuous band across the edges of the accordion.  Hard to explain!  Will post a photo when it's finished.  Meanwhile, I'm happy with the way the trees came out after yesterday's practice.

Friday, November 6, 2015


 I like trees but I don't like drawing them, and I really can't draw or paint them from memory without iconizing them and making them look like fly swatters or fudge sickles.  Lately I've been painting lots of trees for a piece I'm working on, and I noticed today they are looking more and more like spades.  So I decided to go out and sit in front of some trees and draw them with attention and care as though they were seeds or something I love to draw.  My theory is that if I draw a bunch of them carefully I'll be better at painting them from memory.  I stopped along the river trail to paint them in the rapidly darkening evening.