Saturday, January 30, 2016

On the Desk at BookWorks

I'm sitting at the desk at BW for a few hours but no one has come in for a while; so I decided to poke around and find something to draw. This small brown paper box has numerals stamped on the inside, very odd. It had a few pieces of type , a bolt, and three sewing needles plus a reglet in it- oh and a thin copper for letterpress. After drawing it five times I have a deep but useless knowledge of it! 

Rules for Girls

I'm posting in-progress shots of a little book that I'm working on called Rules for Girls.  Will post two spreads  day, like an old fashioned novel in Saturday Evening Post, a serialized work.  The pages are made of cloth that I poured and painted acrylics on. The girls are relief prints , as are their gymsuits.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

In Which Dinner is Actually from the Garden Even Though It's January

Tonight, after a nice wintery walk with my friend L and working alongside her all day in the studio, I had to scramble to come up with dinner as it was My Night to Cook.  I knew I had bought some frozen shrimp a couple of weeks ago, unusual for me and I am not a stocker-upper, and I knew there were a couple of bags of snow peas that I had actually grown last summer and frozen when we got tired of eating them in June.  Then all I had to do was run outside and paw through the snow in the slumbering square foot garden and pull out a handful of those hardy Egyptian walking onions!  I stopped to paint everything before stir frying it all with some fresh ginger, garlic, and olive oil.  The peas were a little on the mushy side, but it was still good to see them after their long time in the freezer.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Skip This If You're Bored With Meeting Notes!

At tonight's think tank I started by drawing an interesting rocking horse that was high up on a shelf near the ceiling, across the room.  The side of the horse was a boat -shaped piece of wood with the horse's body painted on.  A rope tail hung down (on the right) and the little piece on top to the right of the head must be a seat back.

All the rest of these are self-explanatory.  Here's hoping I can get a drawing to show up when I post this to FB!  I think it's a matter of luck.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Slowly Walking Bales of Wool

These enormous wooly sheep graze slowly in a small pasture near a docile milk cow and what might be her grown up calf.  The sheep move as slowly as galleons on a horizon.
Muffled in layers and layers of dense, greasy-looking wool, they seem impervious to icy winds and to snow dumping on their heads and backs.
They nose into the snow and find occasional blades of grass, occasionally huddle together around the hay bale opened out in a manger.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Piggies in Winter

 M and I walked down on the farm this morning in search of animals.  There were some field-raised pigs roaming around, and on the left above is one of the little quonset huts that serve as field shelters. The pigs were too far away to get good details, so we went over near the pig barns and found some pigs in a fenced in area of the woods.  The one above was snuffling around in the snow looking for something, using its nose as a very effective shovel.

The pig in the woods enclosure moved constantly, so we went down to the pig barns in search of a sleeping pig and found two boars, one awake and one asleep.  Most interesting to us were the sharp little tusks that were growing out of their mouths.
The sleeping boar afforded the best opportunity to study a tusk.  Another interesting feature were their tails.  Sometimes they hung down like bell pulls;  at other times they snapped into curls like cartoon pig tails.  The sun shone brightly and the snow was crunchy on top.  The trails are still frozen as well as the two big ponds!

Guest Bloggers

 A group of friends were supposed to go on a sketch crawl last Saturday at Tobacco Barn but we were snowed out.  SO I am posting sketches that two of them made from inside their houses that day.  The one to the left is by Jane Voorhees, all painted from a window of people outside in the snow.
 These last two are by Carol Norby, drawn inside her house.

Thanks, Guest Bloggers!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunrise After Four Sunless Days

 I opened my eyes this morning and looked out of the northwest window across from our bed and saw the reflection of the sunrise on a distant mountain.  I love the marmalade color that mountain turns minutes before the sun rises over the eastern mountains.  The valley where we live still has a bleached white sky, and then suddenly a slice of orange shows up on the western mountain.  I hopped out of bed and ran to get some paints.  As soon as I had painted the west view, I ran into the back of the house where the southeast-facing mountains across the valley were beginning to turn buttery yellow at the tops.

 Minutes before the sun actually rose in the valley these mountains were turning yellow all over except in the shadows of other mountains.

Then suddenly the kitchen filled with light and the sun popped over the rim of an eastern mountain!  I glanced over at the southeast-facing range and it was solid gold, and the snow on the top of the mountain behind it was glowing white.  As soon as the sun was up, the white sky turned blue and stayed that way all day long.  I walked 5 1/2 miles along the snow-covered trails with M and H this afternoon.  We still have a lot of digging out to do, but it is such a pleasure to see the sun again.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Charlottes Learn That They Are Not Able to Play Real Basketball But Must Use Girls' Rules

I've been working on a little artists' book for a show, and my topic is Rules for Girls' Basketball.  I hit on this topic when I took Maya to her first basketball practice and was remembering how when I played basketball in high school in the 60s we had to play according to watered-down, pathetic, insulting, patronizing rules such as no dribbling, maximum 3 bounces, stay on your side of the court, and no grabbing the ball from someone else.  To add to our misery we had to wear our gym uniforms:  blue cotton bloomers worn under stiff dresses of the kind that no one wore unless they were dishing up spaghetti in the school cafeteria line.

I researched the history of basketball and discovered the history of humiliating rules and attitudes that girls had to endure ever since basketball was first "adapted" for them in 1894 or so until very recent changes.  And of course that reminded me of all the rest of the humiliations and second-class citizenship that women have had to and still have to endure.  True, we have been "given" the vote and we can own property and we no longer promise to obey our husbands should we get married.  But why did it take special rule changes for those things to be given to us?  And what did it say to us as girls when over and over we were treated as though we had a fundamental weakness or flaw that made us unfit to play sports using the same rules as boys, that made us have to pay so much attention to how we looked, that made us have to be cheerleaders and prom queens instead of real leaders and real heads of state?  (Why is it that we still have never had a woman president in this country?)

So today's drawings are knife drawings in which I carved gym outfits modeled on my own 1960s vintage one for the charlottes.  I also modified earlier carvings of the charlottes themselves and added a couple.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

At the Sun Room Salon and Spa

As the snowstorm gathers outside, people at the Sun Room were unperturbed, having their hair washed, cut, curled.  One operator was taking a break doing a cross word puzzle.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Chickens and Sheep in the Snow

These chickens were huddled in their house at first, then one by one they ventured out into the snow-covered yard and started pecking at the ground, stretching, fluffing out their feathers.  I was drawing with gloves on, shivering, going as fast as I could.

Near the chickens were a few enormous wooly sheep in their luxurious winter coats, browsing around in a small pasture with the milk cow and a visiting black cow.  Drawing fast, but the sheep were hardly moving.  Snow still coming down.  M and I walked nearly four miles on the now frozen mud trails and through the garden and farm fields.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Maya's First Basketball Game

Maya's team played their first game today and I did lots of action sketches of her.  She told us she had a good time, and as her Dad said, that's what counts!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Jesse as Horizon Line

 Jesse lounging around in a sunny spot on the bed this afternoon reminds me of the mountainous horizon at the end of our street.
Then I homed in closer for a detailed portrait before he rolled over and went to sleep.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Shoes

Here are a few views of my new Keens.  I edited out the mud that is already working its way into the bottom part of the strap, but now I'm going to scrub them with saddle soap, polish them with neutral polish, and snow-coat them for good measure.

When I was drawing them I remembered that drawing one's shoe is the first project in a good foundational Drawing I class.  Drawing a shoe is a perfect way to begin to bypass your brain and really begin to see what is in front of you.  If you want to learn how to draw, start drawing your shoes:  measure with a pencil, compare, drop plumb lines, shoot horizontals .

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mud Maps in Color!

 Despite an icy wind and temperatures in the low 40s, despite the promise of sucking mud for much of the trail, I set out near sunset for the east River Trail wearing my wonderful new Keens that actually fit.  They are leather ballet flats but the soles are walking shoe soles, almost the same shoe as my summer canvas Keens flats only a full size larger to account for the Keen size issue.  No more bumping of toes!   My feet were so happy.
Much of the trail, which I mapped on my way back from the big ponds, was under water or deep mud.  Some places had grassy edges that were good for walking;  other places were narrow enough that I could put one foot on each side and sort of hop-jump along.  But a couple of places were hopelessly muddy, and there was no way around.  I dragged some branches to make little bridgy things to step on so that I didn't sink deeper than the rims of my shoes.  There are so many trees down.  We have had two dry days in a row, but the ground is so saturated that 80 -90 foot trees are leaning over in the occasional high winds and uprooting themselves.  It's interesting to see how the trail changes itself so quickly.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bird Music Notes and Other Rainy Friday Morning Wonders

I set out for crit group this morning in a spitting icy rain.  I love the sight of a row of birds arranged along a wire.  This little string looked like it was enduring patiently, balanced and spaced perfectly along the high wire.  I memorized it and then sketched it at the next red light.  All other objects were on the table at crit, each one a treat to look at, especially C's sumptuous book ((6241) and M's in-progress sculpture (6244).

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Think Tank

A few of the people at this afternoon's think tank thinking hard.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Meeting notes from late this afternoon.  Pure pleasure, being together with this group!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Action Portrait of Maya

At our house this evening--twice-stuffed sweet potato, zucchini pesto, scone, raspberry Italian ice;  Maya eating Italian ice while watching Bob's Burgers on her phone and wearing her basketball shorts in winter.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Really, This Thing Can't Be Titled

This morning the temp was in the mid twenties, and P and I set out to see what had happened to the extremely wet trails in the sudden hard frost.  These drawings don't look like much, but they represent the oddest phenomenon:  frost heaves lifting up sheets of ice on top of deep puddle gullies.  From the top, (6309) the ice appeared to be floating like flat clouds above a dark landscape.  When we got down low enough to see under the ice, we could see that the ice plates had been lifted by those weird stalagmite-like frozen tubes of soil that make up frost heaves  (6310).  The frozen puddles looked like the area under an overpass after an earthquake might look.  In 6311 you can see some frost heaves from the side lifting up bits of litter and duff from the surface of the now dry trail.

Another aerial view, this time of a long narrow puddle that had a rim of frost-lifted ice surrounding a dry center.  See 6313 for the side view of this one.  On the right are some quick sketches that I had to send to two different people that I was texting with at the same time:  I just gave the whole page a single number because these were just dribbles of drawings.  On top left an example of a way to stand up a legless figure, and the rest are dealing with the dog carrier design, which has had to have some changes due to the dog's unwillingness to be dropped into a carrier.

More thoughts on the dog carrier, turning the seat into more of a burrito wrap without leg holes.
These five are the animal totem paper doll clothes that I've been working on with a friend in Barcelona, who is making the dolls out of flat metal.  I sent her a printable file just now so that she can print it, cut them out, and see if they come close to fitting the dolls.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Drawing as Basic Skill

These drawings from today have nothing to do with art.  The ones above are what I would call thinking on paper.  A friend texted me after she saw the water bottle drawing that I posted the other day;  she said she wanted one but with the animal facing inward.  Puzzled, I wrote back and asked if she wanted a water bottle, and if so, to tell me materials, etc.  But she told me that she had thought the water bottle holder was a small dog carrier, sort of like a newborn baby front carrier.  I looked back at my drawing and immediately saw what she was seeing-- and it DID suggest a pet carrier (and I then noticed that the whole design was based on the principle of one of those rubbery plastic little kid swings).  With a few modifications, I was able to design the pet carrier in a way I would never have thought of had I started out to design one.  I love how my friend's creative leap sparked the whole design.  
After texting back and forth with my friend and sending her a photo of the sketches, I put those aside until later, when she is able to send me measurements so I can make a mock-up.  Meanwhile, I needed to go buy replacements for three of our pathetic ancient lampshades.  I didn't feel like carrying the lampshades with me to the store, so I made careful drawings of the important details.  I could have snapped a phone picture, but photographs aren't as useful for communicating mechanical details as line drawings are.  I've illustrated lots of sets of directions, and line drawings always do it best :  the abstract possibilities of pen are great for leaving out the extraneous and focusing on the essential details.

For the above reasons I believe drawing should be taught to everyone, as it used to be, as a basic life skill like writing and reading, rather than being set aside as a subset of Art that only the Talented are capable of learning.

Saturday, January 9, 2016


I can already smell the perfume that is wrapped up in each of the six flower buds of the glossy green gardenia plant that arrived on our icy doorstep last night.  Thanks, sweet New Hampshire Diehns!  You always send springtime to our winter-shrouded house just when we need it the most.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Lebkuken Decorating Day

Today was our annual lebkuken decorating day with our friends L and B at their lovely little handmade house about an hour north, up in the higher mountains.  We arrived just before lunchtime, parked down at their studio and office area;  then L and I hiked through the woods the mile to their house, and B and P drove the cars down there.   B had a carrot soup in process, and we all assembled our  additions to lunch.  I managed to sketch a couple of the wonderful objects that are all over the house-- this woman's head plant pot filled with dried weeds and seed heads, and a brass fish-shaped bottle opener.

We lingered at the table for a while enjoying a bottle of English cider leftover from the holidays;  then the serious work began.  We had each brought our own lebkuken and some dried fruit, seeds, nuts, and honey for the decorations.  First step was to spread honey on the tops of the cookies.  B and P were in charge of that while I sliced up dried fruit and L read to us from one of their favorite books.   We had around forty cookies to decorate.  The two on the right above are from L and B's pile, which they will mail out to friends all over the country.
On this page is an array of P's and mine, a bit clunkier because I used almond meal and coconut flour this year and the dough wasn't supple enough to use a cookie cutter.  We made all of ours into suns and flowers.   

Here's a rough estimate of the recipe (which stands up to much tinkering but originated with L's German grandmother):

Bring to a boil 1 cup of honey, watching it carefully, as it boils quickly.  Cool this completely; then add to it 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses, 2 eggs, 1T fresh lemon juice, 1 t grated lemon rind or a little more.  Combine all the liquid ingredients; then add to them 2 1/2 cups flour (I used half almond meal and half coconut flour;  L used whole wheat flour),  1/2 t baking soda,  1T cinnamon  (L used 1 t), 1/4 t cloves, 1/2 t nutmeg. ( L also added 1/2 t allspice and 1/3 cup chopped nuts.  Mine seemed nutty enough with the almond flour, so I left the chopped nuts out.)

Roll out about 1/4" thick  and cut with cutters (I rolled balls and flattened them due to the inflexible dough issue with the flours I used);  then bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes on lightly oiled baking pans.  (L baked hers in their wood fired oven at around 250 degrees for several hours.)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Research and Design Notes

F and I spent some time today working out the bugs on a water bottle holder that we were making for a customer who wanted a cat on a red background.  The cat that we found was on a bag of cat food, naturally,  silvery with black and white.  After we pieced the cat face onto a piece of red from a dogfood bag, we thought it would look interestingly industrial chic with a handle made out of some clear plastic that F's partner had found on a construction site.  The strapping material had indentation marks from cut-out edging.  It was thicker on one edge than on the other, and its curving side, which made it look so good, made it hard to turn into an adjustable-length strap.  So we had to invent a way to attach the strap to the bottle holder that would make it easy for the owner to adjust.  These are the drawings that I made to help us think through the plan we settled on and to duplicate it should we want to use that strapping material again.

And to the left is a fuzzy photo of the finished water bottle holder.  The owner can make the strap longer by untwisting the wire fasteners and moving the strap up or down so that either one or two stations are used on one or both sides.  We finished off the ends of the wires so that there are no pointy ends to scratch or catch on clothing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Leftovers

These are not the loveliest, but they are the leftovers, and tonight they're going into a large kielbasa-based stew, along with eight of the little sweet potatoes that I drew the other night.  Lettuce see what will turnip, (as the gardener at my kids' school in the French Quarter in NO used to say back in the 70s).

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Possibly the Tallest Paperwhite Ever

To me December isn't December without a pot of jolly paperwhite bulbs jostling each other as they compete to be the first of their tribe to bloom and fill the house with their weirdly spring-like smell.  But this year's paperwhite  was a bargain- basement one from Trader Joe's, $3.00 for a single bulb in a little white ceramic pot.  I dutifully misted its potting soil every day and kept the pot in our sunniest window.  But the sunny days this past December were few, and the poor paperwhite  slowly raised only a single slender stem, followed eventually by two more equally slender stems.  When the stems began to leaf out, I stood a charlotte beneath the modest foliage, and I continued to mist.
It has now been almost six weeks since I planted the bulb, and the slender stem is still slender but is now almost a yard long.  If Jesse, on his way to drink out of my paint water jar,  knocks the plant away from its propping wall, the long stem droops in an arch and lays its heavy head on the desk.  I no longer prop it up in the mornings, and I lay the charlotte down in sympathy.