Sunday, December 29, 2013


Above: after many different ways of trying to depict the oak tree out my window, I ended up combining watercolor, ink, pastel pencils & colored pencils.
Earlier version.

 My challenge was to focus on this young tree so weighed down by ice & snow, an image that was not inherently pleasing to me, & was even distrubing as there are many broken branches of local trees on the ground.  As described in my previous post, I was also caught by the chaos of lines & forms that I saw, & the variety. There are times when patience & persistence are handy tools. 
Sometime ago I'd asked Malyss from Le blog de Marie (La Tortue), click here , if I could make a drawing from a photo  she posted on December 12 of trees near her home in southern France. (Merci, Malyss! et voila...) Imagine: mandarin, orange & lemon trees in December rather than ice!) She wrote that while so many other places were covered with a heavy coat of white, her region was sprinkled  with sparkles of sunlight. (my translation doesn't do her beautiful French poetry justice.) This drawing required no drafts & was completed quickly: partly because artistic decisions had already been made by Malyss in her exquisite photo, & partly because it was so appealing & refreshing to my gray filled eyes.

The scene chez moi, continues to be gray, white, umber, & cold. Inspired by 3 other blogs that I follow, I will continue to refocus my "lenses" to discover what is interesting & beautiful & to discover the wonder of what is right here in front of me. It's not a coincidence that there are very few tourists here, comparing to the summer.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Winter Ice Reflections

I've been drawing & sketching iced tree formations.
They might be "successful" sketches on some level
but I left them to return to some images that were friendlier for me. 
My Cozy Zone. Light, warmth, people.
I've been noticing what attracts me to study an image enough to want to draw it. 
I've been thinking about different mediums. 
These lines, forms, lights, reflections, changing by the day & by the minute, 
seem to be a photographer's paradise.
The chaotic variety overwhelms me 
I'm not sure I have the experience or ability level to capture what I see or feel here by drawing. 
There is phenomenal beauty in this ice, 
but it has powers to destroy comfort & survival.
And the poor trees who are bowed over or broken.
 Simultaneously beautiful & ominous, the ice dominates the views outside my windows. 
Last night it snowed, & it is sunny today, so different from yesterday. 
Tomorrow will again be different as will, perhaps, my internal responses.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Learning to Paint the Night

5 1/2 by 7 1/2" watercolor on Arches hot press

Several weeks ago I was charmed by the scene up on Harbor Hill, next to the Camden Public Library, overlooking the harbor & the town. Down below, on Main Street it was the Christmas By the Sea Celebration, & they were getting ready for a parade with locally made, brightly lit floats!

Process: Since I've hardly ever painted night scenes, & since we are having a lot of night these days, I'm working out my colors & my ways of interpreting the night. I had to make a few drafts on the above scene...still working it out...4 colors only: Payne's Gray, Windsor Blue, Hooker's Green, Ultramarine Violet.

4 X 6 " Hot Press Postcard Paper
 Speaking of drafts: Above are simple drawings, made from intitial quick 1st draft sketches, both of which have been posted here (the Dancing Oak is from yesterday).They're turning into a series of views out my windows...December's Oak & November's rose bushes. What will January bring? 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

O (local) Christmas Tree

Just plain fun, buying the tree, 
right from the woods, from a young man
whose cheerfulness was contagious,
who has a seasonal camp of sorts
by the side of the road, on the outskirts of town.

(Dziękuje, Lady Aga, for the Polish Christmas tree poem!
I added it to the journal page because it was very meaningful.) 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snow Storm: View from the Windows

The snow baubles (previous post) had company during today's snow storm. Beautifully formed white clumps added themselves to the boughs of the pine tree. Cardinals, nuthatches & chicadees are flying from the pines & spruces, whoosh, whoosh, to my neighbors' feeder & back. Soon after I made the above sketch many of the clumps were gone, knocked to the ground by powerful winds.
Surprise! A different type of pine out another window is decorated with bell-shaped cone hats, so different from the other tree. Read a fuller description of my encounter with my upstairs window views on the journal pages. Downstairs, the snowy background for my newly decorated Christmas tree, which is in front of a floor to ceiling window, reminds me of how much I loved the movie White Christmas when I was young & how it made me long to live in New England. Voilà, after all these years, I'm still so happy I got here. No Florida winters for me!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Snow Baubles

So here I was, all focused on people-made Christmas decorations, when I glanced out the window & right before my eyes were the most beautiful natural snow baubles, nestled, cradled in the needles of pine tree branches, all glistening & sparkling in the winter sun (even with some tiny rainbows)! Taking the time to observe is a lesson I keep re-learning. On lower branches there were more natural "ornaments": a cardinal & a chickadee, & I never would have known it had I not taken the time to pause & to look.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Fallen Snow Early Morning

Upon waking, the sky, for a brief moment, 
glowed beautifully, a blue backdrop to a landscape 
covered with yesterday's new fallen snow. 
A fiddle tune was playing on the radio, so 
I danced a little jig & drew a little sketch.

(not too little a sketch, used a Canson XL Mix Media 9 X 12 sketchbook-
very inexpensive compared to watercolor paper

Sunday, December 8, 2013

French Accordion Music~ L'accordéon

Friday I played a recording of an accordion waltz at my French story time & we, parents, young children, librarian, danced & spun around the room in between stories & rhymes & songs. C'était très agréable

Today, for my blog, I repeated my exercise where I close my eyes & pick an old travel journal at random. Voilà, I picked one with a page describing a 2005 experience I'd had in the Paris Métro. (written on the above page, left side. Click on image to enlarge.) 

Searching "accordéon" I came to "Paris Accordéon": It's a shop on Rue de la lune in the 2ème arrondissement that offers repair, lessons & sales. There's a wonderful video. (click here)  I listened to it en français taking dictation. The monsieur described, played, explained. Several thoughts that I noted (Please excuse errors in my French): 

"On voit beaucoup beaucoup de gens qui sont fous de l’accordéon...Ils sont amoureux de l'accordéon...même les gens qui ne jouent pas."
(They see lots & lots of people who are crazy for the accordion, in love with it.)
"Il y a autant de garçons que des filles qui jouent..."

He talks about an accordion revival in France in the 90's due to a group of popular singers, & how its history is one of dance music...of how people find old accordions in their basements or attics, ones that belonged to their grandfathers. He talks about how accordion music has found its way into jazz & rock....

It's accused of being sentimental music & some people mock it as well as Polkas. But, I'm trying not to care. My passion for accordion music is deep in my Polish blood...

Some years ago I was surprised by an accordionist playing on the streets of The Old Port in Portland: Joe Therriault. I invited him to play at a celebration at our library. It was his CD that I played for the children last Friday. Through the Internet I just learned that he died in 2007 at age 82, & I'm grieving a bit... Like the accordionist in the Paris subway, we had a nice communication, performer & audience sharing a passion. That year I also hosted an accordion festival in conjunction with the French conversation group that I used to lead. During a festival workshop, I held an accordion & tried to play a little...pas facile!...I'm wondering, is it too late to be able to learn on a small one...? 

I guess I'll have to go to Paris Accordéon to find out, n'est-ce pas?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stuffed Bears

Meet my old Toddler Time Assistant. I had bought him at a "Bear Show" in southern Maine directly from his creator who had made him all by hand. When I retired from those Toddler Times, I drew this little portrait & found it today when I was searching for something else. I still do have the bear.
I drew this guy long ago when going through a difficult period. I was working with young children then, but I think he was more of a comfort guy for me in my personal life than a work assistant. Seeing it today I'm rather stunned by how much he seems to be reflecting the way I felt at that time of my life. 
Photographer Mark Nixon photographed old, worn & "injured" toy animals & posted them online after he saw the relationship his son had with a stuffed Peter Rabbit. It caught on & now there is a book, Much Loved, of photos & the stories behind them. He talks about how powerful the memories of this early bond are for many adults. My parents saved my Zippy Monkey who I just learned was from the Howdy Doody Show. It's weird how real he still seems to me today.  PS. The bear in Nixon's portrait above is 104 years old!

I wonder if you have stories of your old toy animal friends, or your children's...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Traveling North on Maine Route 1

Journal page on 90 lb. Fabriano 9 X 12 cold press 

Grateful for my holiday traveling north of Portland along the coast yesterday. This is a little thank you card to Route 1, which had very little traffic. The farmstand selling trees, the men hanging the wreaths, & the seacoast wreath were a wee bit off route 1 in Damariscotta. (Note: the post on which they're hanging the wreaths runs into the seacoast wreath, but, they are 2 separate images.)

While driving & enjoying the views on either side I'd be thinking: Payne's gray plus raw sienna plus indian red or hooker's green plus ultramarine violet plus raw sienna...In the end I used my violet instead of payne's gray. I'm loving thinking about warm & cool grays & if my hands have to be on the wheel, then I can mix them in my mind!

Some one just told me about their trip on the same day & time on the NJ Turnpike: bumper to bumper, jams & crowds at rest stops. Oh, so happy to be here, I am! I recently came upon the song "Simple Gifts" in the book Giving Thanks, edited by Katherine Paterson. An excerpt:  

"...And when we find ourselves in the place just right
'Twill be in the valley of love & delight." 

(Can I change "valley" to "coastline"?)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Stark November Seascape

A late November walk at Moose Point. 
I sketched with no glasses on & big old bulky gloves because 
it was C-O-O-O-L-D & windy!!
A friend said that November's landscape is too Stark. 
Stark: Especially by the sea, Stark for me is crisp & cold & sparse,
& on a sunny day the blue-greens of the sea 
are intensified by the diminished colors of the earth.
Nature has sort of de-cluttered her space for awhile & 
I can enjoy the bare essentials.
PS. After some time, yesterday's sketch from the upper window 
didn't feel quite finished. Voilà, a bit more elaboration.
Barbara of Folkways Notebook, 
I liked your idea to cut a few branches to bring indoors...!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Giving Thanks: A Library Story Time

This earth helped me to recite a poem 
when I was a guest at our library story time today.
And this sun.

Earth who gives to us this food. 
Sun who makes it ripe & good.
Dearest Earth & Dearest Sun.
We'll not forget what you have done.   
By Christian Morgenstern

The poem was  from Katherine Paterson's new book, 
Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers & Praise Songs of Thanksgiving. 
She compiled selections from many places, traditions & religions. Wonderful!

I helped the librarian to dramatize The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac with paper "puppets, & she read Giving Thanks by Chief Jake Swamp, which has long been a favorite book of mine to read to children at this time of year. All this inbetween lots of wiggles & giggles & itsy bitsy spiders in a happy group of young children & their adults.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My To Do List

 I needed to stop & look at how my brain feels this morning...
To my surprise, it looks a bit like a Kandinsky painting!

 Sometimes I would like it to be more linear.
My To Do List. 
This doesn't even include basic housekeeping.
Or a million other ideas & To-Do's that are jumping around up there.
Time for a walk. Maybe I'll start like the hare, but end up like the tortoise. 
My brain would like that.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Provence: Miniature Drawings from an old Travel Journal

 Wanting to use some of my miniature paper scraps, I chose a theme source by closing my eyes & "blindly" pointing to one of my old travel journals that were lined up in the closet.
I got the book: "Provence Trip, 2006"
I chose some sketches from the book & reproduced them on a small scale.

2 1/4" X 4 1/4" Arches Cold Press

Serendipity. I got some of my favorite doors. 
New doors are inviting me lately.  How will I go through them?
One door at a time is OK. Miniature steps are OK...à petits pas...
Grateful I am for this suggestion.

2 1/4" X 3 1/4" Arches Hot Press

Each tiny image stands alone, but is part of the group.

They're united by Place. By Time. By Color Palette. 
And, sentimental as it may sound, by Love.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Miniature Landscape

Miniature Sketch from October, 2013: 3 1/2" by 2 1/2 "

This drawing has been kicking around in an unfinished state for awhile. I had planned to toss it, but on this rainy, blowy morning I developed it a bit with some glazes of wet over dry.

Later, the sun came out & the wind outside my window became still. If I had painted on this picture then, would it have a lighter, calmer mood? 

Drawing/painting can be about rendering a scene, but also about responding to the flow of energy that is within us & responding to our surroundings at any given moment. And it also can be about just enjoying the feel of the medium. 

PS This is a revised post. Earlier I had shown the unfinished version too but I've decided to just leave up the final. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Full Smiling Moon

The Full Smiling Moon above Penobscot Bay.
If you drive from Rockland to Belfast, on certain nights,
she will keep you company.
A half hour before my drive I had come upon a card
in a bookstore in Rockland that said,
 "Expect a Miracle." 

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Squirrel Feeder

The one who is the provider of the bird feeder knows his squirrels. 
I jot down his comments as we watch out the back window.

"The squirrels scope the bird feeder out everyday."
"They often all come at once, along with the birds."
"Imagine, all 4 feet on a virtual pinpoint!"
"They are amazing acrobats & they're smart." 
"They leap great distances from the branch to the feeder."
 "And they climb the pole like a fireman." 
"And another thing~ They have to work fast."
"Oh, he could stay there until it's completely gone."
"This is, after all, his survival." 
After awhile he tried gently shooing the squirrels away, but they came right back. Finally, he decided that the chicadees, bluejays, cardinals, nuthatches, downey woodpeckers, sparrows & yellow finches were never going to get a turn at this feeder so he went out & took it down, leaving only the other feeder which has a baffle that is (almost) squirrel proof. The squirrels, being gleaners, then gathered on the ground under the other feeder, cleaning up the seeds dropped by the birds.

"It's a collective spirit," he said.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The City, Two Views: Ink on Paper

Stopped at a Light , Looking up to Congress Street    5 X 11"  India Ink 

I'm still thinking about that show at the museum. Considering the role of repetition & obsession in human lives. So linear much of that art was, so human made. On my way there, stopped at a traffic light, I had snapped a photo looking up to downtown from the non-harbor side. So linear was that art work in the museum, &, I'm thinking now, so Urban. Such a contrast to the nature, the farms & seascapes that surround me in my more rural home. 
City Backyard at the Feeder,  8 X 10"  India Ink

 One bird & squirrel lover I know in the city has a little backyard sanctuary. I watched, sketched, asked questions, while he told me about his friends & their daily actions & interactions. He keeps a journal on many days recording his observations in pencil, sometimes with tiny sketches. It's on the back of recycled envelopes! 
Cardinal, 3 X 5"  India Ink
Funny how the slightest movement of an animal can delight us! Since I've been following The Run*A*Round Ranch Report, TexWisGirl's blog, I'm so in awe of the variety of creatures & their gestures & ways in the natural world. 
Observational Sketches in 5.5 X 8.5 Cachet Black Cover Journal  Prismacolor 03 Pen

 Two of my favorite published nature journal artists are Hannah Hinchman & Claire Walker Leslie. Even if you don't wish to draw, they're delightful reading & looking. For city drawings, there is, of course, the blog Urban Sketchers. 

Country or city, draw what attracts you, they say...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Portland Museum of Art: Piece Work

1st image, similiar to a series of "wall hanging drawings" that I created years ago, is my response to what I saw at the Portland Museum of Art this weekend. The 2nd is Jason Rogene's "Stargazer", a vast wall sculpture made from polystyrene foam inserts & back lights. (The foam inserts are otherwise known as throw-away-junk.)

The biennial show at the museum has a theme this year,  "built around labor, repetition & production." Many of the works involve repetitious patterns & meticulous marks or forms. It is a show more for the brain than for the heart.

To read about it, click HERE. Interesting how the pendulum can swing from expressionistic modes to more linear, tight & compartmentalized ones. Some of the works in this group reveal, well, in my opinion, obsessive compulsive tendencies. The true fine artist has to have some of that OC wiring in order to create the products that he or she creates with amazing patience & persistence.

Influences of technology are reflected in many of the works, both subtly, & more obviously. Some of the hand rendered drawings resemble computer generated designs & perhaps the computer has a large role in their creation. Technology makes its presence humorously & aesthetically in Rogene's sculpture.

Always the question: Did you like the show? Can't say. It was easy to detach & to just find it interesting, especially in terms of how it reflects our detach & to marvel at the precision with which a lot of it was produced. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

This Maple Tree

It happens so gradually. Or maybe it's sudden. I don't know. 

Observing change can be elusive...This maple gives me lots to ponder, 
but in the end I'll tell you that how it works is, for me, a mystery. 
Show me scientific explanations & I'll nod my head, fascinated.
But, I'll tell you that in the end it's still a mystery.