Friday, July 26, 2019

Going Sketching with a Visitor from France

I went sketching with a high school art student 
from France who visited me with her U.S. host family.
Lisa, the talented and artistic owner of Brambles, 
welcomed us to sketch in her front "garden"
of ornaments, potted herbs & flowers 
such as lavender & verbena.

The steady buzzing of bumble bees  in roses 
& floral scents kept me company as I sketched.
My friend sketched nearby.

This is something that I enjoy when sketching with others:
You are together, but separate while drawing.
Then there is time for sharing.

There is a park a few steps down from Brambles, 
next to the Harbor. 
With benches, shade & boats,
it's perfect for sketching. 
While there. a windjammer, rowers, sailboats,
& my least favorite, a smelly diesel boat, came & went.

Sketching in front of well known photographer Neal Parent's Gallery, 
right in the middle of downtown, 
attracted friendly passersby.
Some even stopped to speak to my friend in French.
A city councilor, one of the early Back to the Landers 
who became entrepreneurs in Belfast in the 70's, 
stopped to tell us that he had formerly had a café 
where Neal's Gallery is today. 

Another great thing about sketching:  If you stay in one spot long enough,
you often learn more about the place.

At the toy store across the street, Scott Canon,
local educator, musician & mime
sang a little English language song with his uke,
to my French friend, who is here to leanr English.

There is not a moment, not in any season, that I don't appreciate my little town. 
Visitors & sketching add so much to my enjoyment.

Friday, July 19, 2019

No Spring Chicken

 Eight years ago, when I was selling my art at Art in the Park
a woman asked me to create an illustration
for her daughter, who was raising chickens.

I thought of it recently as I was 
writing a letter in French, and I wanted to say, 
 "I'm no Spring Chicken, you know!"

Google translates that as 
"Je ne suis pas un poulet de printemps,"
which is literal, & I knew that that was probably wrong. 
So using websites, I came up with 2 other, 
probably more accurate translations of what I meant to say.
But that's another story...

I'm not as young as I used to be. 
But I am lucky to still be able to: 
Express myself 
To dance Zumba • to wear fun clothes, 
To work/play at my art • to learn new things,
To eat well • to cultivate healthy habits,
To have old friends and to make new ones.

And on occasion, to be able to share my experience
and to help some one who IS a Spring Chicken.
I'm no spring chicken, but I am very grateful.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Draw What You Love: My New Neighbor

I have fallen in love with my new backyard neighbor:
A big hanging nasturtium. 
(En français, capucine. Po polsku, Nasturcya) 
Each day it grows new buds & blossoms. 
 There are at least 45 at this moment!
 This was not my usual very quick sketching. 
Slower, more left brain consciously accurate. 
I chose only one part of the abundant plant~ a vignette. 
You might call this a study-sketch.
I used pencil, even erasing & re-drawing. 
I was deepening my understanding of individual blossoms & leaves
and how they related to one another. 
My eyes were feasting on the colors.
By the time I finished the sketch, a gentle rain had fallen,
and configurations had changed.
I started with a preliminary contour sketch to help me focus.
I knew I couldn't draw the whole plant. 
The contour in ink was the introduction, a greeting. 
My gaze danced in & around blossoms & leaves, 
getting a feel for rhythms, lines & forms. 

While painting, I absent-mindedly tried out some colors
on this page as it was the nearest paper in sight.
And near the bottom, I seem to have been exploring 
some initial lines of nearby lupines.

The wonderful effect of drawing, 
beside the visual & tactile pleasure, 
is the concentration, the focus, the calm that occurs in me.
I always go back to my early guiding principle,
as presented by Frederick Frank, The Zen of Seeing:
Seeing/Drawing as Meditation, back in the early 70's.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Sketching at the Local Greenhouse

The staff, the airy greenhouse & the plants 
welcomed us Sketchers
to the Aubuchon Hardware Store & Nursery. 
I asked the worker above if we would be in the way.
"No problem," she said. 
"If you get in the way, we'll just water you.
It was an idyllic spot of light, color, and happy people. 
(Except for the flies, the little black flies.)
Local professional gardener Kate pulled up in her truck. 
I'm in awe of her, her artistic talents, her knowledge,
& her strength. In the old days of my childhood
only men had trucks & tools like this!
You could spend days sketching individual plants!
 After our greenhouse visit we went for lunch
at the local café & diner. There we discussed 
our sketching experience & other matters of interest.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Maine Country Road Trips

Road trips in the countryside from Midcoast Maine. 
An idyllic corner on earth.
This is the region of many small, organic farms, 
2nd or 3rd generation of back-to-the landers:
Blackbrook Farm, Many Hands Farm, 
Sunnyside, Aqua Terra, Royal View Farm...
Many of the farms supply the food coops 
in Belfast & Brooks &
 sell their produce at farm markets and
the beloved Common Ground Fair in Unity. 

The views from the hilly roller coaster roads 
leading from Belfast to Unity, Brooks, Jackson, Monro
take my breath away!

A frequent road trip out of Belfast: Route 1 South.
Last week, like a kid on summer vacation
I was so excited to drive down to Rockport with a friend.
While she went to the doctor, I sketched out the window
of a café. Then we went to the Guini Ridge Nursery
across the road road to buy plants. 
To do a little farming of our own! 

For other posts on Farmers Markets and The Common Ground Fair, click on these in Labels.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Quebec City and Sketching People

No matter where I go to sketch, 
if there are people nearby
they will most likely enter my sketch.
In Québec Ctiy we had our annual library date 
at Bibliothèque Claire Martin 
housed in the former St. Matthew Church.
I have mentioned this church in previous posts about Québec.
The Franco American Museum includes a restored chapel.
It has lots of ornamentation, but I went right for a figure,
an elevated sculpture against a wall.
Here is the figure of me, at one of the altars.
 It's officially no longer sacred 
so tourists can wander all over the place. 

When we had our other library date 
at the large Bibliothèque Gabrielle-Roy
(see previous post)
I found a book I've always wanted to own:
Un peu de Paris by illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé. 
He is a master of depicting human nature
through simple line drawings 
as well as nature-nature & architecture. 
He is my number one favorite illustrator
 dans le monde entier
I photographed a few pages.

 Oh the humor, the expressions, the brilliance!
 We used to watch a TV show when I was a kid,
"People Are Funny". I didn't really like the show,
but that title was a theme for my mom & me.
And People are Loveable too.
I've signed up for a figure drawing group
to hone my skills. Not a class,
just artists drawing from a model. 
I studied figure drawing in college classes 
a LONG time ago. I am anxious.
What if everyone else is a super talented,
experienced artist?? 

(I'm good about advising others
to not compare themselves,
but mon Dieu
I have to apply this attitude to myself!)

For my other Quebec City posts, put it in the search bar, 
or click on the labels, "Québec City" and "Québec" 
that are on the side. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

A Library in Québec & a French Translation of Love That Dog

Perhaps one doesn't think of a public library as thrilling...
but I WAS thrilled 
visiting the newly rennovated Bibliothèque Gabrielle-Roy 
in a lower, non-touristic section of hilly Québec City.
I found a French version of a favorite all-time book, 
Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech.

They totally changed the title. 
Translation is such a subjective art form. 
 They added illustrations. I did not prefer this.
The beauty of the non-illustrated original is 
in the words & the story.
They added borders & changed the location of the poem
"The Red Wheelbarrow".
I did not prefer this either.
The original book is pure & unadorned. 
The formatting & the white of the page 
work beautifully with the story, which is in verse.

Do read Love That Dog & you'll see!

(Like Jack in the story, I'm enjoying expressing my opinions!)

It's a beautiful book for adults, as well as for children.
 Poetry is the art form I least understood in school. 
The wonderful Miss Stretchberry, through Love That Dog
has helped me as an adult to understand more!
It says that Sharon Creech is an award winning author. 
But, unlike in the English version,
 it omits the information that she was a teacher. 
That is so important to this book! 
Love That Dog is used in many classrooms, 
along with her other books. It is about teaching,
finding one's voice, expressing oneself through writing,
feeling, learning, growing...

(See her website & her social media 
for more about teaching with her books.) 

My complaints aside, 
I'm thrilled that French language readers
have the chance to love this book by Sharon Creech
& that I found it at Bibliothèque Gabriel Roy in Québec!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

La Tour Eiffel • Bon anniversaire! (edited re-post)


Above: I turned a corner in the 7th arrondissemnt
and caught my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

Today Paris is celebrating the 130th birthday 
of the Eiffel Tower!

This is a re-post from September 21, 2012 
with some changes in the original text.
"Qui aurait dit il y a 130 ans que La Tour Eiffel deviendrait le symbole de Paris?  
130 ans et pas une ride!" (Site: Paris à Sortir)


Paintings by Maurice Utrillo and Raoul Dufy.

From Chez Toi en France, a bilingual children's book.

 Delauney was obsessed by La Tour Eiffel, painting at least 30 versions. 
He appreciated it as a radio tower & symbol for global communication 
as well as for its beautiful design.
This book is in a series on arrondissements of Paris. 
Gorgeous watercolors are by René Oghia.

ABC de Paris: Découvrir la capitale est un jeu d'enfant           
by Raphaëlle Aubert
Minou, a children's book in English, illustrated by Itoko Maeno. 
Features many Parisian landmarks.
 9 images in the Paris Calendar by Cavallini & Co. 
feature the Eiffel. 

When I first went to Paris it seemed like a cliché, 
& I almost didnt visit it. 
But was thrilling. 
Far more original, complex , & magificent than I had imagined!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Fountain Pens in the 21st Century

For any one pleasurable tool or object that existed in the past, there are now gazillions. 
And so it is with Fountain Pens.

There used to be "A cup of coffee". Now, well, do you remember the scene in You've Got Mail where Nora Ephron inserts a little essay: "The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee..."   

I love drawing & writing with fountain pens & now I'm learning to hand letter and to practice my penmanship. 
I love the mechanics of fountain pens, the care & cleaning of fountain pens, the memories of my father's & my grandmother's fountain pens. I love the memory of my own first fountain pen. With the Schaeffer Cartridge Pen I only had to decide on a translucent color for the barrel (red, yellow, blue, green or clear). Blue or blue-black ink. The simplicity!

These days I spend a lot of time looking at varieties, varieties & more varieties. There's a whole vocabulary in "The Fountain Pen Community":  "Piston filler", "converter", "hard starts", "work horse pens", "wet writers", "holy grail pens", "feedback"... There are conventions, penmasters, online "Rock Stars" (Brian Goulet, you know who you are), reviews, comparisons, instructional videos...

Bricks & Mortar pen stores are scarce. I've been known to travel to Boston to The Bromfield Pen Shop just so I can actually hold & try a pen before buying it. 

There is a site called The Pen Habit, another called the Pen Addict.  I've learned online that there are people who own hundreds of pens. There are pens that cost tens of thousands of dollars. 

I try to keep my pen "hobby" manageable, but the pens online do call to me, with their pretty colors & smooth flowing inks. And, as with so many products now, there is the promise that there is one more pen out there that will be even more perfect than any I own... that sparkling new pen that will change my life forever! 

For other posts I've made that include pens, click on the label, "fountain pens".

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Mornings in Paris: A Delicious Memory

In Portland there used to be a most adorable, friendly & FRENCH café called 
Mornings in Paris. 
To see a post I made in 2012 about my old favorite café, 
click here.

The lovely & gracious  French owner, Isabelle,
eventually moved the café to Kennebunk.

One time we drove down to see her, but she wasn't there. 
So I spontaneously wrote her a letter in French 
with a little observational sketch & left it with the barista. 

I just learned online that she sold the business in 2017 to a British couple...
she is spending more time in France...
The only certain thing in this world is change, they say. 
But I don't always like change...

...Sketch souvenirs help. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Rose Windows

 My first visit to Paris: 2003.
And my first conscious travel journal, 
with encouragement from my French teacher at
The Language Exchange in Portland. 

Never EVER could I have imagined the complexity,
the grandeur, the art, & the spiritual feeling of
Notre Dame de Paris!
In 2003 I broke down & cried before one of the rose windows,
for its beauty.
In 2019 I cried  to see Notre Dame de Paris in flames.

My 2003 journal sketch of the window is rough & inaccurate.
And along with my notes, private.
But spending extended time in the cathedral was sweet,
& the journal pages bring the experience back.

Recently I've been making ink drawings based on photos. 
But the photos seem to be only a point of departure.
During that 2003 visit, one of my companions said
that the windows are like giant mandalas. 
That & more.
Let us hope that they & the cathedral 
will be restored for future visitors.