Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Hampshire and France

The governor of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, graciously posed with me and a copy of my book Colorful Journey. A group I belong to called NH-MADE was invited to be a part of her inaugural reception at the State House on January 8.

And now by special request, more drawings of France, done in the fall of 2014.

I did a couple of line drawings of the village of Châtenois in Alsace. This one was drawn very quickly, but accurately. Well, the pigeons on the roof might be abstracted a bit.

This is my second quick drawing in Châtenois, slightly less accurate, with colored marker. The black lines on top of the black tower indicate a stork’s nest. We didn’t see any storks while we were there because they migrate during the fall. They are a famous symbol of Alsace, available in souvenir shops all over the place.

It is always a liberating experience to do some drawings in very free style after a few very close studies.

I am not overly fond of this drawing, but I include it because it brings back pleasant memories, and that is a huge reason to draw on location. And while traveling.

 I didn’t notice the dolls in the window until I started drawing. Another reason to draw.

The numbers above the window indicate (probably) the date the house was built, 1734, and the tools used by the occupants in their trade. Sort of an advertisement of skills. Two sets of initials are carved into the stone as well.

We traveled up to the major city of Strasbourg twice while we were in Alsace. We were about two blocks away from the cathedral when we turned the corner and caught this glimpse of the imposing reddish stone tower.

The spire is 472 feet or 144 meters high and dominates the skyline. It is a single spire, not positioned in the center of the facade. For four centuries it was the tallest tower on a Christian church.

 The building in the foreground has a wonderful roof line.

In Strasbourg, next to the cathedral, sits this wonderful very old house called the Maison Kammerzell, first constructed in 1427 and modified in 1467 and 1589. The little green circles are bulls eye glass pieces that make up the windows.

Built as a private residence, it now houses a restaurant. I just looked at their website.....choucroute (sauerkraut) with three kinds of fish instead of the usual five kinds of meat. I would like to try that.

I chose to sketch this because of its complex and ornate features. I knew I could get happily lost in the details. While I was drawing, a guy was speaking to me, in German, trying to sell me a children’s wind up toy.

This is another view of the Route Des Vins in Alsace. In the distance is the village of Riquewihr. You see the edge of the Vosges Mountains in the background. I read that the mountains are rainy and damp, and that this effect, a rain shadow,  allows the valley to be dry and sunny and perfect for growing grapes. 

In the foreground, the end rows of the vines are within a few feet of me. I drew two tour buses on the road down below.

Les Vosges Mountains lie to the west of the broad valley of the Rhine. They are very green and some of them are called ballons in French. Or, the quite obvious translation of balloons or round shapes in English. The yellow fields are the ripe grape vineyards.

Our village of Bergheim had a small market day. The very ornate building in the rear is the town hall.

Back to New Hampshire.

This is the view from the main hang around space in our house, the living room-dining room. Here is the scene of our ridge on New Year’s Eve, just as the sun was dipping in the west. Here, we see the colors of sunset even looking east.

The clouds hovered like very colorful space ships. 

 Is there anything better than a surprise box of homemade chocolates? 

 The fresh fruit depicted, enrobed in dark, smooth, delicious chocolate, is mandarin orange and blueberries. How do you get blueberries to line up so neatly into groups of four?

It is that time of year. The time to look for bright colors on grey days. This is a cropped version of a watercolor and colored pencil sketch of alstromeria, sometimes called Peruvian lily.

Friday, December 12, 2014

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Alberta. And Nepal!

 The BOOK!! of which I have been speaking for the last four years has been printed in Tennessee, and my proof copy looks so good. The colors are accurate to the originals, always a challenge in art reproduction. Folks who have already ordered a copy, sit tight. It’s said to be in shipment. People who live near me in NH can order from me if you want. It will be available in local bookstores soon too. Far away fans, just order it through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

At 255 pages and 2.2 pounds, it is my magnum opus. Thanks to all who helped and encouraged me!!

And now, on with the blog!

 Here is my new knitted hat, made in Nepal. I don’t knit, although my mother did try to teach me. While I was drawing, all sort of questions floated around in my mind. Who made it?  Who raised the sheep, sheared the wool, spun the yarn and dyed it?  I get satisfaction from pondering about all these other human beings without a hope of knowing the answers. I send out little rays of appreciation in the atmosphere for their efforts.

We were in Rockport, Massachusetts, for my birthday in September. I drew this harbor as a way of practicing with my new brush set.

My third try with my new brush with the water reservoir in the handle. The name Motif #1 is a tongue in cheek name for this Rockport fishing shack. That is because it is said to be overdone and hence a trite subject. I painted it once before, when I was 14.

These practice drawings gave me confidence in the brush set, and I was very happy with the results it provided during our early autumn trip to France. Some of those drawings appeared on last month’s blog, and there will be more as I work through the collection.

We went to a pet shop while visiting the grandchildren in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Here is what I drew. Drawing requires such close observation that it is a form of meditation.

Edmonton has a great museum called the Royal Albert Museum. The grandchildren drew taxidermied birds of their choice.

Our younger granddaughter chose the same bird as her sister, in a different pose.

The winterberries are very abundant this year. I added the red (male) cardinals from my imagination. Later I was told that cardinals do not eat winterberries. Oh, well. It makes a nice design.

Blueberry pie is one of my favorites. I ordered this pie from a baker in town, and gave her a blueberry pie card as a retirement present.

We have had this toy train set for thirty years or more. We bought it in Germany.  When I brought it out as a holiday decoration, I got the inspiration to draw it.  The shadows add a finishing touch.

Monday, November 10, 2014

France, California, and New Hampshire

So here we are in our Paris apartment, an Airbnb. A fifth floor walk up. (Fourth floor in European terminology, which starts at ‘ground’.)

 I am drawing from the window of the upstairs loft looking out over the rooftops to a gilded statue atop a column at the Place de la Bastille. (The column is named the July Column and commemorates the fall of King Charles X and the beginning of the reign of King Louis-Phillippe in 1830.)  Quite visible from afar, it was a handy landmark to help us get back to the apartment after going out for walks. The gilding and lighting were beautiful.

We never did procure a map of Paris, and we got lost and disoriented in the maze of streets several times a day. But it gave me a lot of chances to practice asking directions. Bar staff are the most friendly.

It is warm, sunny, and the end of September. You’ll see my new supplies and tools in the photo below.

What fun my new tiny Koi water color set is. I practiced a bit with it before I left the U.S., but this is the real deal, Paris rooftops. My brush has a water reservoir so I can go out onto the streets without any water cup to dip the brush into. It even washes out easily when it is time to change colors. Magic! I can hold the water color set in my hand, and the sketchbook rests on my forearm. No need for a third arm!

It is unusually sunny for Paris. Basically I ignored the shadows.

 Next, I went out on the streets, a block away, to the Sunday market. The passageways between the rows of stalls were narrow and crowded. I had my back against a pole, and so a close up of the sausage seller was going to be it. I chose to sketch this guy, out of a hundred equally compelling sights, because I had drawn a sausage stand way back in 1966 when I was a student in France. You can see that drawing and others from that same time at this 2011 blog post.

No one noticed that I was painting. Or they didn’t slow down or care. I was very focused on what I was doing anyway. I love signs in markets, patterns and repetitions, and color. So I was a happy camper here. The signs say, left to right, Gold Medal winner, plain small sausages (the width of crayons), plump round sausages in string, and spicy Chorizo. Saucisson is a dried sausage that people take on picnics and hiking.

And yes, I showed my sketch to the seller. He grinned even more broadly.

 We took a walking tour of the Île de Paris, the island in the River Seine that is the site of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. It is not a big island, but we walked quickly for two hours, and now it is over and we are resting on a bench and munching on our sandwiches. These people were not really in a line but milling around in front of the cathedral trying to decide if they wanted to stand in line.

My favorite figure is the standing woman in orange with the black legs.

The weather was so fine, we decided to take the Métro to the Sacré-Coeur church on the hill in the Montmartre neighborhood. You can see a wide panorama from the top of the hill.

 But we walked onwards, sniffing out, literally, a crêperie. We needed a couple of crêpes to keep up our strength. Just after I finished mine and got the sticky residue of Grand Marnier liqueur off my fingers, this bride posed in front of the bakery across the street. For about ten seconds!

 One snap by her photographer and she and her groom were off down the street for more posing. But, I snapped it into my memory!  I drew the
bakery first and then fit her into the space.

One morning I went out on my own wandering the neighborhood with my art supplies. Very close to our apartment I spotted this window of tempting classic French pastries.

Several people did notice me this day, and one man gave me an encouraging ‘formidable’. That is high praise. Those strawberries looked so fresh.

The square is called La Place Des Vosges, built about 1604. All four sides of the square, located in the Marais district, have matching façades, arches, and trees pruned into a severe rectangular shape. It is very harmonious and beautiful. Under the arches are swanky shops and galleries.

 We sat under the trees and enjoyed our cones of three gelato flavors.

I wanted to draw the three people sitting on the grass, sunning themselves, because when I lived in France no one was EVER allowed on the grass. There were signs everywhere stating emphatically “Défense de marcher sur le gazon”. It seems France has relaxed. On this warm day, most people did choose the benches under the trees. 

Another change that we observed was a relaxed attitude toward eating outdoors, which authorized us to consume those delightful sandwiches while sitting on a bench outside of Notre Dame a few days earlier. Take-out (à l’emporter) has arrived in France. This might be old news as I haven’t been to France since 1998.

After four days in Paris, we got a high speed train to Strasbourg in Alsace, and then drove to our rented house in the village of Bergheim. This is our charming courtyard, looking through the gate to a red house across the lane. 

In Alsace, many or most of the ancient houses are painted in bright colors. Besides red, we saw orange, yellow-gold, green, blue, purple, and lavender. And most of them had huge window boxes with overflowing colorful flowers.

The buildings in this town date from the year 1300 onwards.

The drawing above is the central part of the courtyard gate. The extremely ornate design in wrought iron includes grapes, leaves, and tendrils. It was too complex for the courtyard sketch, so I simplified it there to focus on the red color.

On our way to the city of Colmar, we stopped in one more little village on the Route Des Vins, or Wine Road. 

 This is Kayersberg, and the middle house is the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), theologian, philosopher, physician, organist, and medical missionary in Africa. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his book Reverence For Life.

The museum on the right was closed for a long lunch, so we merely peered into the windows.

At a welcome luncheon we met a couple of other Americans staying in the nearby village of Ribeauvillé. After a little conversation with them, I asked them if they would like a free art lesson, since they had brought art supplies with them and were concerned that they might be experiencing artist’s block. 

They chose this view of a stone staircase behind their apartment. In the far background is a steep hill vineyard ready for the harvest.

I did this sketch as a demonstration. The shadows of the arch are nice and do make a good pattern on the mossy reddish steps.

We met again two days later for a follow up lesson and again in Strasbourg where they reported enjoying keeping up their art journals, and drawing every day. They were kind to tell me that I give good lessons.

Alsace abounds in half ruined châteaux, or castles. This one is Château de St. Ulrich, looming above Ribeauvillé and built in about 1300. It was quite a distance away on a hill top, but I used my built in eyeball zoom lens.


And back to more images from California, if you can stand the jolting transition. I plan to eventually post all the ones I did on my visit in August 2014. And there will be plenty more of France too.

I have been the Southern California flower market twice now. For two dollars, anyone can go in, wander, and buy more flowers than they need. The scent is heavenly.

The employee is able to wrap roses while sleeping.

Sunflowers in a plastic bucket.

This is the view opposite the flower market. I like the colors.

Another highly decorated building in the Arts District in Los Angeles. I have never seen anything like this, which pretty much always means I dig out my sketch pad and tools. The swirly patterns are just that. They do not spell out words. I would think the idea is to depict a sense of energy.

And for last, a drawing done in New Hampshire, out of our window looking east. The valley sometimes fills with mist, and on this day a big wide bright rainbow shone against the hill side. I shouted to my husband to look out the window at the ridge, but it was gone that fast. Except in my memory. And now on paper.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Enfield Shaker Museum, Los Angeles, and a new tool

Here is our new toy, a hand held scanner. We just slid it over the pictures and you can see the results. Not too bad.

We’re testing it out in preparation for use on our upcoming trip to France. It doesn’t produce quite the quality we get from the flatbed scanner at home (especially the background shade), but it should be great for blog or Facebook postings of some of the drawings that will be filling up the sketchbooks I just bought.

The New Hampshire images that follow were indeed scanned with this tiny device.

 Some days my drawings are rather bright. On a very gloomy day at this month’s sketch crawl of the Second Saturday Sketchers in Sunapee Harbor, NH, I sketched this hydrangea bush. I believe that it is a bumper year for hydrangeas, if one can say that about flowers instead of edibles.

 The dangerous bump is a tree root pushing up the paving.

And now to a softer palette. This drawing of the herb drying rack, and the other New Hampshire drawings below, were done this past Saturday on location at the Harvest Festival at the Enfield Shaker Museum in nearby Enfield, NH.

Shakers were a branch of the religious sect the Quakers. They began in England in the 18th century. And they flourished with twenty communities on the east coast of the U.S. in the 19th century. To quote the Enfield Shaker Museum website,  “They practiced equality of the sexes and races, celibacy, pacifism, and communal ownership.”  The celibacy clause eventually led to their demise.

The sun warmed me while I sketched the pink hollyhocks, various sunflowers, and spiky red plants that I can’t identify.

The Shakers were skilled gardeners and were the first folks, it is said, to sell seeds in little paper envelopes.

Next up, we stepped inside a wooden clapboarded building where the Museum’s curator was making barrels. The materials varied depending on the client’s wishes and the intended use of the barrel.

 The ones above that look to be bound together in rope are in fact wrapped in split sapling strips. These worked fine for barrels containing contents of relatively low weight and exerting relatively low pressure. And were cheap.

 Barrels used for beer (high pressure) and graphite for the pencil factories (heavy) required metal bands.

One activity station at this festival offered a chance to make pot pourri sachets. The dried flower petals and herbs were grown in the garden. I was ably guided by a Girl Scout who sure knew her pot pourri.

An old granite stone mill is in the background.

The Stone Mill building from 1849 sits atop a hill across the road from the main living quarters of the Shaker community. It houses three stories of water powered machinery. I have never been inside.

I, of course, like the red painted window trim.

The machine above is an apple chopper. The fruit is chopped before moving it to a press to make cider. Delicious samples were available for tasting. Other demonstrations at the festival included butter churning and the making of apple cider ice cream. The ice cream had been all consumed by the time we got there.

The Shakers believed in hard work, making money selling things out in ‘the world’, and inventing clever machines to speed along the hard work.

Enough of New Hampshire for now. Back to my collection of drawings of Downtown Los Angeles.

 Above is the front door to the Ace Hotel, 929 Broadway, sited next to the United Artists Theater. There were a ton of biblical and ecclesiastical references. In the panels above the door, I saw, after a lot of squinting, St.George slaying the dragon. And another guy using his weapon to cut wheat. Or something like that. 

The theater is designed to look like a Gothic church. I wonder what the inside looks like.

You may have guessed that I especially love small sidewalk signs, even if my lettering skills are not A+.

I believe it is obvious that these signs are meant for two distinct groups of people living in DTLA.

One more California image for this time. Here is a street view in the Arts District. You can see the tall buildings of the Financial District which is very helpful for orienting yourself. Meaning that I could always find my way back home to our daughter’s apartment.

I was up way too early in the morning for most denizens of the Arts District. (My body was still on East Coast Time.) Only a few sleepy dog owners shuffled past.

See all the murals, including the enormous face?