Sunday, November 22, 2015


Just a very short mini blog posting this month.  This is a drawing of the quiet pleasant socializing that happens every day in a coffee shop. I sketched it last month in Canada but I dedicate it to the people of Paris.

And a bouquet of flowers representing the desire for beauty to overcome sadness.

A note to subscribers who read the blog via Feedblitz. There’s a new note in the sidebar that you can only see if you go to the blog itself. It’s a link to a new page on the blog, containing all 45 of the drawings I did behind the scenes at the New London Barn Playhouse last summer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

New Hampshire

The New London Barn Playhouse has been going strong since 1933 here in my home town of New London, New Hampshire. This summer I drew backstage props and costumes for each of the six shows. In addition I drew the sound and light equipment, scenery design, and the pit. I used my favorite iPad drawing app, and my art tool was my left index finger. This was an ideal setup for the project, as it worked well in the dim lighting, it afforded a wide choice of colors and textures, and it was fun!

I was given full access to the backstage area during times between performances, under the condition that I could look but not touch. Everything required for a performance is situated in its exact position, and moving it even a foot or so could utterly disrupt the high pressure action that takes place as actors scramble from one scene to the next, change costumes, grab new props, and the like.

I gained a lot of appreciation for the dedicated work that goes on behind the scenes, and of the number of highly skilled people, both on stage and off, that it takes to put on every performance. These include acting interns, backstage interns, apprentices, visiting professional actors, paid staff, and volunteers from the local community. The interns are generally college students or recent graduates just starting out on their careers. Many of them stay very close to The Barn, returning for guest appearances as their careers progress.

Over the course of the season I drew 45 images of the costumes, the props, the sets, and other behind-the-scenes aspects of putting on six shows in rapid succession with no time to breathe in between. Here are 16 of my favorites.

New London residents are very fond and supportive of their Barn. Well wishers and fans send bouquets of flowers which adorn the front porch next to the box office. The porch is a special part of The Barn’s tradition. After the final encore of each performance, the actors run down the aisles to the porch and set up a receiving line to greet the audience on its way out.

The Barn’s slogan is “See you on the porch.”

The first show of the season was Gypsy. Here we have four containers of fake Chinese food used as a prop. Even though it might never be seen from the audience, the quality of the fake food is just as good as that of the leading lady’s gown. It looked really tasty.

A cow costume is part of the story of Gypsy. The main characters are a stage family in the vaudeville era. Two of the daughters performed as a dancing cow.

The second play of the summer season was The Sound Of Music. Maria carried this valise as she walked to the home of Captain von Trapp.

The racks of costumes backstage, here from The Sound Of Music, were a delight to study and draw. The brown dress to the left was Maria’s, the ‘one the poor didn’t want’.

The palm trees form the set of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The play takes place on the Riviera.

This fringed blue leather jacket, red belt, and red flouncy skirt are waiting for their big number in the play Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. A scheming American tourist (from Oklahoma) believes she has tricked a rich European prince into marrying her. He too is a scoundrel.

A yellow wall of the hair salon forms the back part of the set from Steel Magnolias.

Lanterns were a prop used in the graveyard scene of the play The Mystery Of Edwin Drood.

The Victorian era clothing worn in The Mystery of Edwin Drood was gorgeous.
I especially loved this Chinese embroidered robe.

The final play of the 2015 summer season was Forever Plaid, following the short career of a Pop Music group of the 1950s.

And here are the foursome singing close harmony.

The Barn’s newly acquired sound board. The ushers have to guard it from children’s inquisitive fingers.

The light board sits high in the back of the balcony. There can be hundreds of light changes per show. The mind boggles.

I drew the large spotlight in very low light. The blue light behind helped my vision.

During intermission I leaned over the balcony just a bit to draw the pit. Here is where the musicians make their magic. The computers provide preprogrammed sound effects.

See you on the porch!

Monday, September 7, 2015

New Hampshire, Maine, and Alberta

I liked the backlit view of Mount Sunapee from the veranda of the grand summer house called The Fells, in Newbury, New Hampshire. The old fashioned word veranda appeals to me too.

A childhood friend of my husband sent us a whole lot of great food items from his adopted state of Louisiana. We were very thankful and of course I was taken by the colorful packaging as well.

Most of the time I am not overly aware of shadows. And I often omit them if they confuse the eye rather than clarify space. But I was taken with these late afternoon shadows on the window box at Spring Ledge Farm in our town of New London.

A funny story....I went to pick blueberries and I planned to draw the berries on the bushes too. When I got to Bartlett's in Newport, I realized I had grabbed a handbag that didn't contain my change purse. I couldn't go in to pick my beloved berries! But I could peek through the netted fencing and make a drawing. 

  Later I returned with cash. And picked twelve pounds of berries. Blueberry pie is a family favorite.

 See?  Yum.

We are subscribers to the New London Barn Playhouse. One intermission I leaned just a little over the balcony to draw the pit, where the musicians make their magic.

Once at home I then redrew the sketch by hand onto my iPad with my drawing app. You can compare the two. The first drawing is the usual pencil on white paper which has its charm.

  The second is done digitally. It is painting with light and enormous fun. My drawing tool is my left index finger. I made a book of 44 ‘behind the scene’ drawings at The Barn this summer. Almost all of them were done on site with my iPad.

We like to visit Warren’s Restaurant in Kittery, Maine, from time to time. On this occasion we were waiting for other friends so I took a little time to draw the view out the window on the tidal Piscataqua River.

I was explaining to my ten year old granddaughter, who lives far from the ocean, that had it been low tide, the boats would be tilted and I would have been drawing mud.

Sometimes we are in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, spending time with our family which now includes four grandchildren. This is a sunset view from our condo in Edmonton. There are three long condo buildings, all of which have these reddish structures that provide sheltered balconies and a modern look. Canadian sunsets are so gorgeous.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New Hampshire

Traveling puppeteer Lindsay Bezich came to our little town beach at the Elkins end of Pleasant Lake. She retells folk tales through funny voices, wild antics, and very cleverly designed large puppets. She adds her own twists and subtle messages about courage and learning how to be happy good kids.

It’s windy at that end of the lake, and the front four children are wrapped in one large beach towel. It was a funny sight.

This time it’s only one child wrapped in a towel. Lindsay’s tiger specializes in rhyming, which is why his super hero cape is emblazoned with an R. The kids loved all the silly rhyming games and songs.

 We just love how this huge puppet clings to her neck and waist and turns his attention to the audience. Her left hand gives life to the tiger’s head.

Our community of about seventy homes was begun 50 years ago. Last week we had a large and lovely party for ourselves at the edge of the beach and lake. Mount Kearsarge looks on and approves.

Readers of a certain age will remember the singer Kate Smith and her late afternoon show in the early years of television. Her theme song When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain is based on this very view, written by visiting composers Howard Johnson and Harry M. Woods observing the scene from the inn located just behind us here. Kate Smith sang this song on the radio and TV for thirty years.

We sang it at the party. Unfortunately the lunar cycle didn’t align with the date of the party, and there was no moon emerging over the mountain at the conclusion of our song. That would have been special!

I have been planning on drawing this building for a year, the Inn at Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire. Eaton is just south of Conway, a couple of miles from Maine. 

The shrubbery is left uncolored intentionally. The colors of the wooden clapboarded building, wooden shutters, and three red doors is perfect.

I love red brick buildings. This one is the Henniker Community Center, New Hampshire. The sign says it was originally a Baptist Church in 1834.

It’s the main intersection of Henniker, New Hampshire. I have been wanting to draw this wooden pharmacy/general store building for a long time. Probably since I was a teenager spending my summers in nearby Bradford. I stood in the road to draw this on a hot day with no moving traffic. Or moving air.

The roof line is called mansard, very fashionably French.

A lupine blossom was a demonstration sketch for the summer drawing class I’m teaching at Adventures in Learning at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH.

I happily spent a few minutes on a grey day drawing colorful food at the Pleasant Lake Cheesecake Company, Newport Road, New London, NH. With color notes and a clear memory, I added the color at home.

Everything in the shop is a gorgeous sculpture. The red paper surrounds a cupcake sized creation.

Monday, July 6, 2015

New Hampshire and Wisconsin

The Portsmouth Athenaeum (a library, gallery, and museum) has a gorgeous door. Designed by architect Bradbury Johnson in 1817, it was the entrance to the New Hampshire Fire And Marine Insurance Company. Which went bankrupt. 

The building gazes out over Market Square.

A sunny spring day enticed me to wander around Portsmouth, New Hampshire. On Chestnut Street I came upon the African Burying Ground. The site is a walk-through park between Court and State Streets.

Over two hundred coffins of slaves were discovered while the city workers were repairing the road or the drains. Portsmouth archeologists filled in the story of the lost burial ground.

 The thoughtful and beautiful sculptures moved me by their story. The main sculpture has two figures, a slave and Mother Africa. I sketched a few minor components of the large installation.

The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a 906 seat theater built in 1878 and still very much in operation. Its fascinating history is all online. In 2003, the Music Hall was named an American Treasure and underwent four years of extensive restoration.

Manual typewriters, all in working condition, now line the window at the RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They are all for sale.

I love this sort of drawing: theme and variation. The black one looks like a Model T. The low, sleek, colored ones are Italian sports cars.

Nearby Sunapee Harbor, New Hampshire, is small and picturesque. I draw it several times a year.

The summer market in New London, New Hampshire is back. We are there every Wednesday 3-6 PM. Here was our view last week. The mountain in the distance is Mount Sunapee.

Last week we went again to hear traveling folklorist Jeff Warner sing, and play his many musical instruments. And quite a few history lessons were thrown in too. His website is, and you can see Jeff and his little stick man, sometimes called a Limberjack, in action at this link on Youtube. The video was shot during one of his regular appearances in England and Scotland, both of which share a strong musical heritage with rural eastern United States. 

We fit in a quick trip to Wisconsin for a mini family reunion. Rain has been plentiful this spring, and my sister’s egg-shaped prairie garden was lush and colorful in the gloaming. The plants are native to the prairies of the state.

Alibi, a Wisconsin tortoise shell cat, was sleeping atop a chair in a sort of gravity defying position.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Alberta and Massachusetts

 I decided to draw parts of Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where our younger daughter’s family lives. There are eight blocks built after the railroad came to town in 1891 up to the 1913 financial crash. A law in 1902 required the buildings to be of brick rather than wood. This part of Edmonton was originally a separate town called Strathcona.

Strathcona is an invented word, a variation on the river valley Glen Coe in Scotland. A Canadian Railway highroller, Donald Smith, thought it sounded nice. (This information is from online sources. If anyone in Scotland knows otherwise, please tell me.)

As you can see by reading the drawing above, the old post office has become a bar, restaurant, and club.

This end of Whyte Avenue is close to the University of Alberta, a fine institution.

The Princess Theater, 1915, is a landmark on Whyte Avenue. When I told our ten year old granddaughter that I had been drawing on the avenue, she immediately asked if I had drawn the Princess Theater. She had recently completed a research project on it at school.

As a mark of elegance by the architects Wilson and Herrald, the façade is gleaming white marble. It was built as a theater and it still is.

The High Level Bridge crosses the North Saskatchewan River. The winding, wide green river and its ravine bisect the city.

Small street level signs continue to interest me in their diverse offerings, all of them within sight of one another on Whyte Avenue.

 And one more drawing on Whyte Avenue. The building on the left is extremely unusual I think. But architectural uncertainties appeal to me.

Elephant and Castle is a North American restaurant chain. It is also the name of a tube stop (underground transit) and a neighborhood in London. And some amount of Google sleuthing led me to understand that the elephant part came from blacksmith trade in the south London area that used ivory in the knife handles.

A red British phone booth (‘phone box’) sits out front, doorless. I wanted the truck transporting a ladder to drive away, but I gave up and included it.

And now Boston, Massachusetts. The Jacob Wirth restaurant is a fixture on Stuart Street in the theater district, standing since 1868. And serving up German/American food ever since.

I loved the effect of the strings of paper beer mugs and paper German clothing that hung from the ceiling as an odd kind of bar laundry line.

 The iron coat hooks came first. The people were drawn last and they overlap and mingle with the coat hooks, unintentionally, but I like it.

The restaurant is currently using an earlier drawing of mine as their Facebook profile picture.

 Since I am well known for not being able to draw a straight line, I felt I had to capture my impression of the Stata Building on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The architect is Frank Gehry.

We were in Cambridge and Boston last week for my husband’s MIT class reunion, class of 1965.

Graduation day was warm and sunny. The tents, or marquees if you are British, were used for many receptions over several days. I liked the reflection they cast in the windows of the nearby building.

The bench warmers are patient family members waiting for a young graduate to do something somewhere.

The shell shaped building is Kresge Auditorium. My husband and I had our first date here, a Thornton Wilder play called The Matchmaker. Prophetic.

 The president’s house at MIT is called the Gray House (named for a former president, not for the color). A garden reception gave me this glimpse of the back façade of the building.

The Charles River flows between Boston and Cambridge Massachusetts. The low bridge for cars and pedestrians (and originally streetcars) is officially called the Harvard Bridge, since it carries Massachusetts Avenue across the river and ultimately to Harvard Square, a mile or so farther on. If you are a student or alumni of MIT, it is the MIT Bridge or perhaps the ‘Mass Ave’ Bridge.

The triangles are sailboats and the stick like shapes are sculling boats. The small blue cloud is a blimp, probably in the area to get TV coverage of the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Buildings that I recognized and drew are the Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, Trinity Church, the brownstones of Back Bay, and the two John Hancock buildings (Little John and Big John).

I was not in a blimp. I drew this from the top floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel after our brunch.