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?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Second Saturday Sketchers

Local artists - Join us for the monthly Second Saturday Sketch Crawl at Sunapee Harbor, September 13th from 9 (or thereabouts) to noon.

California, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire

So it’s back to sunny southern California to draw again. I started a project in the spring and finished it this summer. The project was to draw on location in Downtown Los Angeles. Our daughter and her husband moved here last year, and we’ve been captivated by the beautiful historic architecture and the vibrancy of the area. I thought a total of 50 drawings would tell the story of this fascinating part of the city called DTLA.  Here are a few, and you can see them all in an upcoming book.

My first day, I left the apartment very early...still on East Coast time. I sat on a stool at the Starbucks around the corner at 6th and Spring Street. And this was my view.

The building was probably once a bank. The morning sun caught all the details of the Corinthium style columns.

You can take that orange bus all the way to Venice, Venice Beach that is.

By turning my head about 90 degrees at the coffee shop, I got this view. DTLA is full of murals, mostly of very large faces. The painting is on the side of a renovated building full of loft apartments for the young professionals who are flocking to the area.

I always felt a little unnerved by this huge face peering in.

Pershing Square is a mixed use park a few blocks from our daughter and son-in-law’s apartment. It is surrounded by Beaux Arts and Art Deco buildings. The time frame for them is the 1920s and 1930s. In this drawing I was more interested in the antennas for KRKO.

Being a northerner means I don’t understand palm trees, but they appeal to me as a pattern.

Still on my first day in LA, I climbed halfway up the Bunker Hill steps to get this view of the City Library tower. It is dwarfed by taller buildings now, but lovely in its Art Deco style. The top pyramid is covered in colored and gold mosaics that glint in the sun.

 I am still trying to understand all the different kinds of palm trees.

This is not Downtown Los Angeles, but it includes an iconic view that is sometimes visible from the downtown. In the center background is the famous Hollywood sign, and to the right of that is the Griffith Park Observatory.

The Tower Theater at Broadway and 8th. The many theaters on Broadway have Art Deco motifs all mixed in with Mexican/Aztec/Central American ones. This one is all terra cotta and glazed tiles.  Most of the theaters have been well preserved, and while not open for regular operation often serve as the venue for receptions, award presentations, TV and movie shoots, and the like.

It was hot as blazes while I squinted up at this white building and then down at my white paper.

Last month I was asked to go to the South Shore of Boston to the beach town of Hull. My commission was to draw/paint the 100 year old house and the beach, and to include four young brothers who weren’t there at the time.

Timing was very tight between the day I painted this and delivery (the client’s wife’s birthday), and so there was no time for a professional photograph of the finished piece. So I have this very bluish image of white paper to post here.

There are all sorts of crazy perspectives going on here. My goal was to feel as if I were walking over the dunes and seeing the whole horizon open up. I sat on the bee-yoo-tee-ful beach for an hour and a half studying all the colors, the boats and ferries, all the people and their beach toys, even moving the land forms into a better composition.

 I took photos of the house to help me work on the details at home. The four boys also had to be done at home from a compilation of a handful of photos provided by the client. In the photos, the boys were all on the porch, so you can see that I had to make major modifications.

 It was all a secret as these things usually are. And I was told that it was a big hit.

And here’s a nicer exposure of a closeup of the beach and the boys.

And while we were in Hull I drew this carousel, the last remaining relic of Paragon Park, the old Nantasket Beach amusement park. It was also a request from the same client. To add to the challenge, I drew the horses as they were spinning around. Fun. I love carousels.

The carousel has been housed in its own building and lovingly preserved by a non-profit organization. It’s still fully functional. Individual horses are sponsored by generous donors, either annually or in perpetuity.

And on the way home from Hull the road to Boston unexpectedly turned left, we continued straight, and we ended up on Hough’s Neck, a short peninsula in Quincy with this view of the Boston skyline.

 I didn’t even get out of the car, and I had it down on paper in minutes, including part of the car’s windshield. You see an airplane heading right into Logan Airport. It is one of those exciting and scary airports nearly surrounded by water.

 Last week was our wedding anniversary. For the second year in a row, we had a very nice brunch at Lakeside Grille at Church Landing in Meredith, NH. On our walk afterwards, I drew some end-of-summer lush gardens.

 I was purposely emulating another artist’s style here, Reuven Dattner from Israel. I don’t know him. He posts online daily, and I enjoy following his work. It was very entertaining to draw with red and purple gel pens. The watercolor was added at home.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Second Saturday Sketchers

Greetings, people who may live nearby and wish to join our Second Saturday sketch crawl. It will take place this Saturday the 9th, at tiny and picturesque Sunapee Harbor, NH.  9AM or whatever suits you til noon.  Rain or shine.

We meet at the white tent near the water. We draw, share tips about materials, show notebooks, etc. Each time we meet, boat owners come over and tell us about their boats and other fascinating things.

Email me if you need further information

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Hampshire

Early in the month we drove about an hour and a half to the east to meet up with a friend for dinner and then hear New Hampshire humorist Rebecca Rule entertain us at the South Eaton Meeting House.  The day was very warm and the space unventilated, so we each were handed a paper plate as we passed through the front door.  They served as fans.  Becky was impressed and took a photo of all her ‘fans’ before beginning her talk.  It’s a joke.  Afterwards, we used them as plates for our desserts at the social hour.

The building, constructed in 1844, has beautiful curved plaster walls. The official name is the First Free Will Society Meeting House. In Greek Revival style, it is a simplified rural adaptation.  The town is very proud of it.

Becky does look like a preacher as she stands there retelling old New Hampshire stories.  And, as is her customary procedure, shamelessly soliciting contributions of new stories from the audience, which she will add to her marvelous repertoire and perhaps retell over in the next town.

The long curved shapes are two of the greenhouses at Spring Ledge Farm, here in New London, NH.  

A word about art materials: this drawing was done using soft charcoal for the lines and the darks, and watercolor for the tones. It has an entirely different effect from an ink line.

Beets come in many colors, not just red. Like yellow and orange. We eat the greens too. I have always loved fresh green beans, and yellow ones too.  Yellow beans are often called wax beans, although they do not seem any waxier than the green.

And the stems are so colorful.

At our weekly market we have farmers and also crafts people like this potter, Anne Boisvert.  These hand thrown pots have a lovely mixture of blue and green glazes. And some nice bumpy slip texture.

Uptown, as we call Main Street in our little village. It’s on a ridge—you have to drive uphill to get there.  Here you can rent kayaks.

Then you can drive down the hill to put them into the waters of Pleasant Lake.  Our two kayaks are on storage rack to the right.  Mount Kearsarge and Black Mountain are on the far side of the lake. The public boat ramp is over there too.

This drawing is five years old. But nothing has changed. Except that our grandchildren are now old enough to play at the volleyball net.

A week ago Saturday we drove to Concord, New Hampshire, the state capitol. I was there to draw on location at a meetup of sketchers—a sketchcrawl. An artist named Bobbie Herron has started a group there called DrawingAttentionNH that meets on the third Saturday of the month.  You can follow them on Facebook.

We are in a small courtyard in front of the Hamel Center and the New Hampshire Historical Society’s Museum.

Through the iron arch is Main Street, with its summer street fair. The illegible red sign says ‘Fries’.  The crowds hadn't really shown up yet when I drew this. That is OK, as I was focused on the arch, and on the ornate stone building behind.

In Eagle Square you can find a lot of granite. Big piles of blocks of it. (Residents of New Hampshire are called ‘Granite Staters’.) The stones in the foreground are granite, as well as the building behind. So, how to get some color into the scene?  A three member band started to play.  While they themselves were not personally colorful, their music was loud, cheerful, and echoed in the space.  I am attempting here to use color to indicate music.

In the spring, I taught a drawing class.  Here is a demonstration drawing/painting of a croissant. I am judging it a success by the fact that it makes me feel hungry.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

New Hampshire and California

Local readers: This Saturday, July 12, we will gather at Sunapee Harbor, NH for another Sketch Crawl. Last month’s was great fun, and I’m looking forward to doing it again. I call our recently formed group the Second Saturday Sketchers.  It runs from 9 AM (or whenever you can get there) to 12 noon. Rain or shine. It is a miniature harbor—you will be able to find us whenever you arrive.  See last month’s post for further details. Saturday is also a designated International Sketch Crawl Day, too! We will not be alone! Check out to learn more.

Our Canadian branch family came for a visit recently, and one day we headed to Hampton Beach. It is a sandy stretch of shore on the Atlantic Ocean. The waves were a little higher than usual and the occasional brief gusts of very warm air quite confusing. We think this was all due to Hurricane Arthur coming north from the southern part of the U.S. coast. 

The two figures to the right are family members, our daughter and grandson, busily erecting sand castles. The man in the Hawaiian shorts is not related. It was a crowded beach. Sometimes you sit very close to people that you don’t know at all. I added the color at home.

Just for fun, I decided to gather five drawings that I have done on our town green, which all include the wooden bandstand. Four of the drawings show a band or a small number of musicians playing in the bandstand.

 The town green hosts local musicians throughout the summer, at Friday evening concerts and at the weekly market on Wednesday afternoons. All kinds of musical styles. Sousa marches, jazz, blues, big band from the 1940s, and folk are the most common. Above, a woman plays a flute during one of the markets. Next to her is her drum.

Local residents and summer visitors bring their chairs and  picnic suppers. The events are free.

Our attractive bandstand has small sculptures of squirrels and French horns too.  It was recently renovated, and the shingles on the roof are still acquiring their weathered-in appearance.

Once a year, the New London Garden Club hosts its Antique Show fundraiser. At this time, the bandstand is filled with antiques and other old stuff. The date this year is July 26 should you be in the area.

I drew this scene of the New London Market On The Green in 2010, a year before we became vendors. The yellow dog is unknown to me, but you can see my husband behind it with our departed small black and white dog named Hank.

Another view of a Friday night band concert on the green. Hank is in the foreground next to our picnic blanket. The adults listen to the music and the kids run around (and pat dogs). It is a nice sort of freedom, and a blending of the generations.

This year our three grandchildren brought a ball to kick around.  And, as children do, they made lots of new friends.

One last sketch on the green from my collection. I loved how no one was paying any attention to me as I was drawing. Except for the yellow dog.

And now some more sketches of downtown Los Angeles, frequently known now as DTLA. 

 This is a view from the top of Ten Ten Wilshire, a tall building where our daughter has an office. The crane was part of the 73-story Wilshire Grand project. The day that the cement mixers drove up en masse for the footings and foundation for the big project was officially called The Big Pour.

Here we have the Roxie Theater on 518 South Broadway, DTLA. It opened in 1931 for film presentation, rather than stage events. For architectural purity, I chose to draw it without the street level film marquees.

I love to draw crowds and markets. Just around the corner from our daughter and son-in-law’s apartment is this Sunday market at 5th Avenue between Broadway and Spring Streets. 

Note the several pairs of things in the composition. Pairs of earrings, two scarfs, twin leashed dogs, and a double stroller with two young children. These things just happen.

See the figure with the striped shirt?  At first, I couldn’t tell if she was walking towards me or away. I purposely tried to capture this spacial ambiguity.

The Eastern Columbia Building at 849 South Broadway, constructed in 1930, is our daughter’s favorite she tells me. I think it was originally a department store. The thirteen story, bright turquoise, blue, and gold terracotta clad building was restored and converted into 147 condominiums in 2006. It is Art Deco style with panels of wheat sheaves. Or maybe chevrons.

The two different times on the clocks show how long I was drawing the top of the façade.

One day at the market, I drew the afternoon sunlight glowing through jam jars made by the Cutting Farm in Springfield, NH.