Sunday, August 16, 2020

Close to home and far away

We live in three acres of woods accessed by a long dirt driveway. It was 6:30 PM in mid-August, New Hampshire. The sunlight through the trees struck me as beautiful.  So I took some rapid photos with my iPad.  The forest floor is covered with ferns in this area.

And another one, with my view shifted just to the right in darker shade.

And another with the glare of the sun more obscured.

 Walking farther down the dirt driveway, I see the low sunlight skimming the surface of the road and landing on the short grass at the edge. The bright light makes a floating shape that blocks out the details of the crushed gravel.

Sunlight on short wild grasses.

Our driveway. Looking uphill.

One more ribbon of light in the forest clearing before I return home.

And for contrast, our trip in 2019 to the far away Galapagos Islands. More than 3000 miles from New Hampshire. We flew from Boston to Miami, then to mainland Ecuador, then another flight to the islands. Our Los Angeles based daughter and her husband joined us for the wonderful adventure.

In the photo above, the top image is a two page sketch and watercolor painting that I did in February 2019. Just under it is the same sketch, but now it forms the front and back covers of my latest book. (Available online.)

The book is a replica of my sketchbook which I started and finished during our trip. With a few added sentences underneath the art to complete the story.

And, a video of every page of the book. Come travel with me. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Confinement Container Series 2020

For this posting, I choose a small sketchbook that I worked on from mid-April to mid-June. It has sixty pages. I chose twenty that I like the best. They have a good narrative flow I feel. A sketchbook becomes a diary.

My idea or concept was to choose a container as a symbol of confinement (or isolation or quarantine or whatever you have called it). Since we live in the woods, with a long dirt driveway leading to private roads, we have always been able to leave the house to take a walk, and get a feeling of peace from observing nature. Besides the container, each drawing/painting includes a bit of the natural world brought indoors from a walk.

From my subject matter, you will be able to see spring, then summer arrive. As another item to notice, my still life props like fabrics, and the containers (bowls, bottles), and a yellow bird, come and go into the compositions. Like actors in a play who appear on stage, leave, then dramatically reappear.

The above drawing includes a clump of white pine, two quartz rocks, a chunk of brick, and black mica. I am counting the white plate as a container.

This is the first appearance of the very small bottle which came with maple syrup in it. The white quartz is back,. a different white plate, a pink scarf and a branch of rhododendron which looks nice and green all winter. The blue line at the top is some sketchbook messiness oozed over from another page.

By now, you can recognize the white plate, the bottle, the rocks and brick. The new players are the daffodil and the yellow bird.

I am not certain that a container is here. Maybe the folded paper which contained a written note.

I only had one daffodil so I had to get the most out of it. We seem to be hovering directly over the round plate. I had a lot of fabric scraps lying around that I was making into face masks.

I roamed around the house and came up with this container, a small box I bought in China. It has pressed metal around the sides and an old tile shard on the top. The cala lily is from the grocery store. I was feeling braver about going there.

A few wildflowers were starting to pop out along the roadways. Of course, that is my small ceramic container for my watercolors. It was rather fun to paint the drips.

Our LA daughter sent me a craft kit for making lovely crepe paper flowers. It is a poppy.

The ferns were starting to poke up through the brown leaf carpet in our woods. They are very hairy when they are all curled up and starting to unfurl. A silver cup makes its first appearance on the stage.

This time, I copied the painting on the card, seen earlier.

Yellow bird is back. He is carved wood, bought on a trip to Costa Rica. I did a few acrylic paintings at this time. The paint tubes remain on my art table.

Brand new leaves are often yellow, and reddish colored. The package of gummi bears come from a coffee shop. It was open again and I felt brave going in. I followed all the taped signs on the floor.

More accumulated paint tubes on the table. A first sighting of one of my favorite old bottles. One tiny bloom is all the nature we get this time.

The silver cup again with lots of reflections.  It has many names and birthdays inscribed onto it. My husband, our daughters and all four grandchildren. I am calling the rock as nature. I sometimes carry small rocks in my suitcase when I travel because many places do not have enough rocks. I am from the Granite State.

The flat old bottle is back. And one printed leaf on a cotton sari quilt from India.

New leaves, a couple of bottles, and yes — the daisies are in the fields now.

It is time for day lilies.

And red clover, and white yarrow. And my favorite bottles with fascinating writing on them.

On this day, I decided the wildflowers could stay in the bottle, but the cup and bowl and box should fly through space. My friend, yellow bird, keeps me company.

These bottles got so big, the bottom edges are cut off. It was a quick sketch.

The rocks are piled on top of the brick again. except for one. And the tile box is close by for conversation.

The end.

 I hope you enjoyed my condensed version of my third Art At Home Sketchbook.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

TV Appearance!

Hello. Back in 2012 I was featured on our week night TV program New Hampshire Chronicle as I neared the end of my Draw-NH project. We’re a small state, but we’ve got a lot of towns. From 2011-12, I visited them all and drew what caught my eye in each. There’s a link to the Chronicle piece in the Recent Publicity section of the sidebar here, down a little bit on the right. I finished the project a month later at Town #234, Rollinsford. By 2014, I had learned how to put all these drawings into a book. Then, with my new knowledge of publishing, I made two more books over the next four years. The proof copy of a fourth book just arrived in the mail, and after a few tweaks will join the three others at Amazon or for order at any bookshop. These days, pretty much stuck at home, I can be found with my morning coffee, sketching and painting in my sunny window seat.

So in this time of virtual travel, we contacted the Chronicle people and suggested that they might like to do an update and take things right up to the present. They jumped at the opportunity.
I had a video conversation with the producer via Zoom, and then we had a very intense couple of days of gathering up samples from all 4 books and other recent work to send to them. This will all be skillfully edited down to 6 minutes, and aired at 7PM Eastern on Wednesday May 13th.
Here's a link to their preview:
If you're local, it’s easy to watch the program WMUR Channel 9 in Manchester. Now, thanks to modern technology, you don't have to be local. You can watch a live stream at this address. Show up there a bit before 7, and keep clicking till it snaps in.
And if you didn't make it to the broadcast or the live stream, you can find it here, well off into the future.

All 4 books

The 7 regions of New Hampshire
A total of 234 cities and towns

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Scavenger Hunt Through The Alphabet

Here is a video, 19 minutes in length, that I made while flipping through the pages of a sketch book. It kept me happily occupied for nine days. I hope it gives some pleasure to you. A drawing group from Boston made the suggestion to do an ABC at home Art Scavenger Hunt, and here it is.

Friday, February 14, 2020

California and New Hampshire

The view from our Los Angeles airbnb shows the fascinating mix of Art Deco from the 20s and 30s, and the new financial district starting in the 90s. We took a little break from NH snow with our quick trip to California to visit our older daughter and her husband. The peaked roof new building caught the morning sun so beautifully. The shadows kept shifting as I drew.

This sketchbook is 3.5" x 5.5". It is the easiest size to carry around on a day to day basis. I am quite amazed how much information fits onto a small page.

I love the trees in downtown Los Angeles, DTLA. Such smooth grey bark on their trunks and limbs.

The building on the right, another Art Deco delight, is where our daughter and husband live. On the tenth floor, near the palm trees.

We sat in the sun for a while next to the large tropical plant. Others had the same idea. 

Our daughter and hubby have two pugs. I sketch one at every visit. 

I also tried my hand at drawing another dog, Batman. 

Every day we ate breakfast in a very authentic French bakery. We sat at the scrubbed pine family table. See how the cups have no handles? That is a French style breakfast cup, usually only used at home. It keeps your hands warm.

Los Angeles has more museums than any other American city. On our first day we headed up the hills to the Getty Museum to view a show featuring paintings of French artist Edouard Manet. The museum is huge with several buildings and extensive gardens. Free admission! Just pay for parking.

The temperature was just right for lingering. I draw what interests me, especially if I have never seen it before. In this case, I admired the grand effect of the re-bar tree-like structures. Inside are planted bougainvillea bushes which grow right out of the top.

It was another breakfast at the cafe. I remembered to draw my beautiful mixed fruit tart at about the halfway mark. 

The drawing on the right was the view from our lunch at the Blossom Restaurant in Chinatown/Los Angeles.

The new financial district has very tall, very modern buildings,all different one from the other. I sat poolside on the tenth floor of our daughter’s apartment building for this view. I enjoyed watching the shadows move across the colored glass structures.

Back in New Hampshire, my eye was searching for color. In February, flowers are the easiest way to do that.

Last week, on a very windy and snowy night, our little town had an annual gathering, Dinner With Jack Frost, in the town hall.  Several restaurants donate food. And we buy tickets as it is a fund raiser. The decisions are tough: there are far too many offerings to try all of them.

A couple of days later, I sketched the spaces between some white and some pink flowers.

Saturday, November 9, 2019


In September we spent ten days in Berlin, the capital of Germany. Our last visit was six years ago with my sister and her husband, as part of a big self-guided tour through Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. This time — just us, one hotel, one city, no car, no tours. This was our third trip to Berlin since the Fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago today, and going back farther in time we had lived and worked there during the era of the Cold War and the Wall. So we have observed many contrasts, but also many wonderful continuing traditions. And we have joined in the celebrations of Freiheit and Einheit. Freedom and Unity! 

We did not adjust well to the six hour time difference from the East Coast US to Central Europe. So that meant late starts, afternoon naps, and lots of sit downs in cafés and park benches to refresh and rest. And that provides plenty of opportunities for sketching. I filled up two accordion sketchbooks as a visual diary. What follows is the best of them, plus a photo or two. 

We wanted to stay in a part of Berlin that we were already familiar with, so a search online found the Hotel Hommage à Magritte to be just the perfect match to all our criteria. It was located half a block from the Main Street of western Berlin, the Kurfürstendamm, it was in a neighborhood where we had once lived for a few months, and it was dedicated to the Belgian surrealist René Magritte, a master of trompe l’oeil paintings. Fool your eye. It did!

This proved to be a great choice. Small (18 rooms on one floor), reasonably priced, quiet neighborhood despite its proximity to the action, easy access to public transportation, friendly bilingual staff, and a nice breakfast buffet. Who could ask for anything more!

This photo of its exterior illustrates some of the Magritte style artwork that filled the place.

Hommage à Magritte, Grolman Straße 32, Berlin

My sketchbooks accompanied me throughout our visit. On this day we stopped for relaxation at a sidewalk café near the Reichstag building. And we laid out one of my accordion sketchbooks to help illustrate the many delightful aspects of our visit. You will also see our commonly referred to map of the Berlin transit system. It easily took us everywhere we wanted to go. 

The Reichstag is the equivalent of our Capitol building. Hitler manipulated its significance to gain support for his cause in the times preceding WW II. It was badly damaged during the war but later reconstructed, and it ultimately became the Capitol building for the reunited nation. The glass dome is a new addition. More modern buildings were quickly built nearby to house other aspects of the nation’s government.

The building is open for free public tours, but advance tickets are required and they go fast. We didn’t make it. Next time!

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, built in 1891 by Kaiser Wilhelm II in honor of his grandfather. This surviving spire, one of five, was partially destroyed by RAF bombs during WW II. It was reinforced and left to stand as a ruin, as a reminder of the horrors of war. A modern church stands next to it.

A church building has occupied this site in the former East since the Middle Ages. This particular one, called the Dom or Cathedral of Berlin, dates from the late 1800s. I drew the partial view as we sat at a small sidewalk café consuming our freshly made crêpes. While not a really common Berlin treat, this brought us both back to our times in France where I spent my junior year of college.

Alexanderplatz in the former East was a new place for us to explore. New to us, that is. Lots of the action of Berlin is moving in that direction, toward the early heart of the city. I stood in one place and sketched this image, and the next one too. Bruce wandered the market in the blue and white striped tents while I drew. He always seems to know how long it will take me. It was a wide open space, full of activity, including a yellow tram.

And here is my second half of Alexanderplatz. Sharing the space with modern office buildings are a Biergarten, a bungee jumping setup, and a two tier carousel.

Informally known to Berliners as “Alex”, the square was named for Tsar Alexander I of Russia on the occasion of his 1805 visit to Berlin. I guess the Germans wanted to make a good impression on him. It has become a transit hub, shopping area, and gathering place, and was the scene of the massive (a million people) protest five days before the Fall of the Wall.

On the major street called Unter den Linden, we came across these two living statues. Their clothes were all sprayed silver, and their faces were also covered in the same colored make up.  They were as still as statues until a person put a coin in the hat placed on the sidewalk. Then they moved for a minute or two in a kind of robotic way. Entertaining to watch. I sat on a bench behind them in the cool shade of a tree and sketched.

We did wonder what they first would do when they got home at night.

The famed Brandenburg Gate is the only surviving historical city gate. This was built in Neoclassical style in 1791. It was inspired by the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. Perched on the top is the Quadriga, a chariot with four horses abreast and a center rider. It is said to be a symbol of the ancient Olympic Games. Napoleon once stole it, but the Germans got it back.

The gate became the symbol of a divided Berlin (1961-1989). In our time living for a few months in West Berlin, we could only see it at a distance, as it was entirely in the East with a wall separating it from the West. We only got a view of the tail ends of the horses. The night the Wall started to be breached, Berliners from the East climbed all over the barrier here.

The Ku’damm, or more formally the Kurfürstendamm, is a 2.2 mile long, tree-lined boulevard in the western part of the city. It was the Main Street of West Berlin during the Cold War. A little Googling gave me this historical tidbit: a Damm in German means a corduroy road. That is, a log road laid down over a swampy area. In this case constructed about 1542. Now it is one high end shop after another. And has been for decades.

I like to stand with my sketchbook in busy places and draw while all of life swirls around me. Here's the scene at a Ku'damm corner, a block or so from our hotel. I heard tiny bits of conversation as I sketched the sign post. A little child was showing his mom yoga poses as they waited for the light to change. The café was a challenge in complexity. How to indicate all the people sitting in the shade of the awning?

Our hotel in Berlin was a half block away from Savignyplatz, the confluence of seven streets and a rectangular garden. A charming, tucked away spot, with restaurants, bars, and bookstores. It was our local place to get public transportation too. Every day a nice retired lady helped us at the ticket machine. For a couple of coins in recompense to boost her retirement income. We looked forward to her help and usually needed it too, as the city is huge and has many integrated tram, bus, and subway lines, as well as trains to travel out of the city. I drew a fascinating brick church façade located just beyond the train tracks, the red and yellow train car, and book stores under the railroad bridge.

Another brick building called out to me on the other side of the tracks, just off of Savignyplatz. Drawing is a way of slowing down and looking very closely. When I did I noticed the symbols of a polo club carved into the façade.

Within a block of our hotel, I found this little children’s playground. It had some swings, and this wooden castle to climb on. I didn’t draw the part I liked best though — the mud. An old fashioned, metal, crank-handle pump could draw water into a series of troughs and down onto soft dirt. I saw the remnants of small footprints and gooey mud pies. How fun! I imagine the kids leaving their footwear at the door when they return to their homes.

Thirty years ago today, November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. Passage between the Soviet-held sector in the East and the Allied-occupied Western sectors was free and open in both directions. This and subsequent events led to the reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990, now a national holiday and a time for celebration throughout the country. We have been there on that date.

 Checkpoint Charlie is the best known of the official border crossing points. There is no Charlie; the name is just Army talk for the letter C, as there were two other checkpoints along the route for Allied travel from West Germany, across part of East Germany, and into Berlin — the lesser known Checkpoints Alpha and Bravo.

I drew the checkpoint from the distance of a café on the former East side. The sign is a photo of an American guard. On the back side is a photo of a Soviet guard. The tall green building houses a museum about the history of the Wall, and the many attempted and successful escapes from the East to the West. Lots of stories of tunnels, hollowed out suitcases, and even one homemade airplane.

Berlin bleibt doch Berlin. Berlin is always Berlin!



If you wish to continue in the celebration and have an hour and a half available, click this link to view Leonard Bernstein’s amazing Berlin Freedom Concert, which he pulled together in just a month and a half after the Fall of the Wall.
Berlin Freedom Concert

If you’ve only got a minute and a half, here's a great clip from the occasion.
Berlin Freedom Concert, excerpt

To follow our activities during this trip, check out our daily blog: