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.

Friday, May 15, 2015


While our home is in New Hampshire on the East Coast of the U.S., last month we bought a small, newly built condo in Edmonton, Canada, about 2,500 miles away. Our daughter, her husband, and their four children live here.

 One day I picked a spot very near our condo building and drew four drawings, each at a ninety degree angle from the previous one. We are located in the southwest part of the city, a large area of recent development. Construction sites dominate. Our condo is behind the steel girders in this drawing. The beautiful curvy office building will have ground level retail shops. I’m certain that it will look very different around here on our next visit.

The corner of Windermere Boulevard and Windermere Road sprouts flags of housing developers. All the streets in this neighborhood start with a ‘W’. A nearby neighborhood is an ‘A’ place. Our family has formerly lived in an ‘H’ and an ‘M’.

We jokingly call it Windymere as a stiff breeze is often blowing. The original Windermere is the largest natural lake in England.

All the fences are organized by colors. Each neighborhood in the recently built area has a specific fence color. The electrical lines are underground.

Another 90° turn, and I drew a pile of Alberta soil. The middle space will have a school in a year or two.

 It is a dry climate here. The weeds are spaced out like dessert plants.

One last turn. Lots of shops are being constructed. It is hard to read the small sampling that I drew, so I will spell them out:  a Starbucks, a Subway, an animal clinic, and Superstore, a grocery chain that sells lots of other things too.

I mentioned new construction and here it is. We got a final new surface to our parking lot. From our second floor unit, I got a great view of the process.

 This drawing suddenly reminded me of a Richard Scarry book except that humans are driving the machinery, not bears.

If you don’t have proper drawing paper, use what you have.

For a complete change of scenery, drive four hours west of Edmonton to Jasper National Park in the Rocky Mountains. Jasper is Canada’s largest park at 11,228 square km or 4335 square miles. We have been there many times.

 Wow, I just learned a new term: hydrographic apex of North America. Water from the nearby Columbia Icefield Glacier flows to three different oceans from one point:  Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic.

The drawing above is the view from the front window of our rental, the top floor of a log cabin built in 1926. The town of Jasper, with 4,000 inhabitants, is surrounded by the park and its gorgeous mountains. Everyone in this small town in the broad flat valley has a spectacular view of craggy peaks. Most of the homeowners offer a part of their house on the short term rental market. You can get an idea of how common this is by looking at this map.

The peak above is named Mount Edith Cavell, at 3,363 meters or 11,033 feet. The dusting of snow emphasizes the patterns in the grey rock.

Mid May was a stunning time to be in Jasper. The valley was warm with flowers scenting the air, and the mountains were still blindingly white with snow.

I quickly sketched The Little Log House, our home for the weekend, just before we left town.

We always take the Skytram from Jasper to Whistlers Mountain to get an even better view of the several mountain ranges in the area. Jasper is the boomerang shape in the center. At an elevation of 1,062 meters or 3,484 feet, it’s located in a valley that has long provided access through the mountains and on to the Pacific coast. A major rail line runs through town carrying a seemingly endless number of shipping containers stacked two-high in specially built rail cars, no doubt coming from China or heading back that way.

I decided to narrow my drawing focus to the turquoise green lakes. Minerals cause the lovely blue green color.

Here we are at the top of Whistlers Mountain, after a ten minute ride on the Skytram. We saw about five hardy souls run off the mountain into the constant air currents—to enjoy the view of the valley while clutching onto their paragliders.

The peaks are still very snowy in mid May. In the very center is the pointy summit of Mount Robson. It is usually cloud covered. The valley is green.

Athabasca Falls are south of Jasper, just off of the Icefields Parkway. The water is such a gorgeous shade of green. And the spray makes a rainbow.

We had lunch on the bench. See the bench?

The Icefields Parkway runs for 232 km or 144 miles from Jasper to Banff. We have traveled it twice, and it’s beautiful. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to do it again on this trip.

Visitors to this rocky beach near the falls pile up the jagged yellow brown rocks into vertical sculptures, often in human form. Our granddaughter built the one in the foreground.

Most Canadians call these cairns inuksuks, an Inuit (native arctic people) word. It was used as a symbol of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Our guest artist, Roxy, drawing from the window in the log cabin.

She was drawing the house next door, very close by, then the enormously high snowy mountain behind the roofline. You can the tiny knob on Whistlers Mountain that is the Skytram restaurant.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

California and Alberta

Four Easter lilies bloomed, along with some furry African violets.  I drew them as they opened because their beauty is fleeting.

This is a ‘wonder what I should draw’ moment. How about my new rug, my colored pencil set and my orange iPad?  It is a floral pattern so it relates to the sketch above and below.

Drawing the spaces that are not my Easter lily.

Little Tokyo in Los Angeles is a nice place to spend some time. I loved the golden fish on the roof, the blue ceramic tiles on the roof, the sun shades, and the outdoor eating. People watching was entertaining too. The round grey shapes are shadows of paper lanterns.

A few degrees to the right lends a new scene to draw. 

Another slight turn gets me another viewpoint.

Here we have a drawing of approximately the same scene by guest artist, Noelle. Our granddaughter. She used her artistic license to make all the lanterns red.

We went on a hike at a place near Santa Monica called Los Leones. The day was warm, dry, and yet foggy looking down towards the beach and the Pacific Ocean.  I drew one salamander but we saw lots.  We are on the edge of a cliff path looking down on rooftops and at the beach.  The horizon is lost in the sea mist.

After the hike, we spent some time at the sandy beach with large beautiful rocks.

It’s a soft padded sculpture in an indoor playground in Edmonton Canada.  Lots of very young kids scooted around.  I just added one toddler for scale. Our much bigger grandchildren were running around in a four story padded climbing house.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Hampshire and Wisconsin

I stopped for a sketching session in Sutton, NH last week, just a few miles south of our town. This grey house has very unusual white wooden trim that looks like icicles. So I have been waiting for a day when actual icicles were hanging off of the eaves. The icicles made of frozen water are at the far right and far left parts of the wooden clapboarded house; the wooden ones are along the front roof peak.

Being a very cold day, I drew from the comfort of my car. And I included the bell tower of the white meeting house in my mirror. The residential house and the meeting house are on the town common. Both structures were built in the first half of the 1800s.

Sometimes I spend a little time in our town library in the reading room. There is a fine selection of magazines in neat piles on the central table. Our town library, the Tracy Memorial Library, is based in a former private home. At one time it was the town hospital.

 On this day I drew the view across Main Street. The yellow shingled store tempts us with displays of spring clothing in the windows. We are still in the throes of a very snowy winter, but we can dream.

I thought it would be fun to draw through the wavy glass of the old window panes. It was. The upholstered chair is new. Or at least the covering is new. And also entertaining to interpret.

 I had never once noticed the details on the wooden moldings around the windows. The designs of the circles are drilled holes in the wood. It is similar to the pattern on the moldings in the town hall. Same carpenter?

When I was drawing the chair in the library, I suddenly remembered the last time I had sketched a chair in front of a paned window. This composition is from four years ago at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Wisconsin.

The weather was reasonably mild the other day, above freezing. So I took a little drive to Sunapee Harbor to see what I could see. I found deep snow on the frozen lake with a group of friends sitting around their bob house. I have never been ice fishing but it looked like a fine social event to me.

The snow is so deep that the docks are buried with only the posts sticking out of the frozen lake.

One of the vendors at New London’s Market On The Green (held indoors in the town hall in the winter months) is Faye Graziano of Bradford. Her business is called Sew There! and features her creations using very colorful fabric. I own many items made by Faye.

It has been a good month for publicity for my new book. Here is the cover for the spring issue of our wonderful regional magazine. The town is Springfield, NH. The building with the bell tower is the town meeting house.

 And here I am in our state’s largest newspaper, the NH Union Leader. The article is written by the very able storyteller Melanie Plenda. She and I have talked about my art three times, once on the radio. 
There are links to these and other stories about my art in the sidebar on the right of the blog page.

 I have been using this publicity photo of myself for about five years. The drawings are small because the plan is to have them reproduced at approximately the same size. I have no trouble drawing mountains on tiny pieces of paper.

 Click here for larger, readable version

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Hampshire and California

Just a note, this is the start of my seventh year posting a monthly art blog. The first one was in February 2009, with scenes inside our Baltimore, Maryland rowhouse.  It has been a challenge and a pleasure to show my view of the world in small sketches that have big meaning to me.  I enjoy getting feedback from all my viewers.

Here we are outside in the cold at an annual New London event called Dinner With Jack Frost. Local restaurants provide vats of hot food, and volunteers scoop out portions to the brave, bundled townsfolk. I decided to draw with my iPad art app as an experiment. In past years I had used my regular sketch pad, with a little LED light clipped onto it for illumination.

You see the figures grouped around the bonfires, warming up between courses in the meal or just chatting with friends and neighbors. And the white clapboarded New London Inn as a backdrop.

And here is another version I did at home from memory.

Again we spent a few more hours at our little town’s winter carnival the next day. Above is my drawing of the sport called ski joring. Last year we had a video of a skier pulled by a horse. This year I drew a couple of skiers pulled by snowmobiles. There is a horse and its trailer in the background, and some skiers did use a horse. Several skiers managed to successfully grab a ring or more as they whooshed over the jumps and around the snowy town common.

On the snowy town green we met some folks from Wilmot, the next town over, who were displaying their locally made products - ski kites. Kitewing recently established itself here in New Hampshire after its start in Finland. I loved the colors and shapes and how they just fold up like bat wings for easy carrying and storage. Plenty of information exists online if you wish to learn more about this sport.

Ice cutting is still an event on Kezar Lake in Sutton, NH, just a few miles south of our town. We were late arriving, due to a short lived white out (mini blizzard) in our neighborhood, so we missed the actual sawing and lifting out of the large chunks of frozen lake water. They will be stored in a barn at the Muster Field Farm until summer. (It is a living history plein air museum sort of place, well worth a visit.) They will not melt because each cube will be covered and surrounded by sawdust. Yup, sawdust, a natural insulator.

For a fascinating insight into the early 19th Century Boston-based industry of shipping ice all around the world before the advent of artificial refrigeration, see The Frozen Water Trade by Gavin Weightman. It’s available super cheap used at Amazon.

After the drawing of the ice cutting above, we headed to the nearby Vernondale Store in North Sutton, NH. It has recently been carefully renovated, but it intentionally retains an old fashioned atmosphere of the late 1880s.

Last summer we took our grandchildren there for a treat. They each had a fistful of coins to spend at the penny candy counter. And our grandson sprawled on the floor creating castles with the big play bin of construction blocks. The kind with the interlocking bumps on them.

This day we two drank our hot cocoa, and split a muffin.

A few days ago, we heard a musical duo who call themselves the Hardtacks, the name of a subsistence ration (crackers or biscuits) carried by soldiers and sailors in the early days. They were playing folk songs from the era of the American Civil War, the 1860s. They provided great historical insights, interacted enthusiastically with the audience, and eagerly gained further insights from local knowledge shared by audience members.

This blog posting highlights the sense of appreciation for tradition that is life in New Hampshire, and the interest in the new and innovative as well.


And now back to my summer trip to Los Angeles, California.

This is the Walt Disney Concert Hall and next to it, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The concert hall, designed by Frank Gehry, opened in 2003. It is said to have wonderful acoustics, and I hope to find out for myself one day.

 The Los Angeles Union Station, opened in 1939. Besides offering four long distance trains, the station operates four commuter rail lines and two subway lines. The interior is very ornate and beautiful.

And as an example, I drew a colorful column and parts of a tile floor inside Union Station. I think it is obvious that the column is depicted accurately and the floor,  well, I went a little wild.

Across the street from Union Station is a replica of the Bell of Dolores, which commemorates Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821.

The cucina (kitchen) in the Avila Adobe, the oldest standing residence in Los Angeles. The furnished home was built in 1818 by wealthy cattle rancher Francisco Avila, the mayor of the settlement. The original city name is El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Angeles—The City of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels.

The view is from the porch of the Avila Adobe looking down onto Olvera Street, the Mexican market area in Downtown Los Angeles. The pedestrian street, closed to traffic in 1930, is a restored and romanticized version of the original Los Angeles settlement in 1781.  It is located near Union Station, and also only a couple of blocks from Chinatown.