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"?)