Thursday, March 1, 2018

New Hampshire, Maryland, and England

I decided to have a theme of animals for this post. I looked through the last nine years of blog posts (that took a while!) and selected a few drawings that I especially liked. Only one drawing is based on a direct animal observation. You'll see what I mean.

Starting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I sketched some funny old metal mailboxes, with a very tropical flamingo on one of them.

On the right is a nicely carved salamander above a shop doorway, also in Portsmouth.

In Baltimore, Maryland's Inner Harbor, you can rent a small dragon boat to pedal around the waterfront. The pointed glass building is the National Aquarium.

Last winter, I stopped my car to draw this snow dragon on the New London, New Hampshire, town green. I knew which local artist had made it because I recognized her style based on her children's books. I added a few sparrows for scale.

The dragon was only there for a few days. It then got transformed into a ski jump for the upcoming skijoring competition (skiers pulled by horses).

And one more dragon on the town green. This time it is a large inflatable sculpture that has a tunnel full of children. See them peering out of the round windows? It is part of a summer festival called Hospital Days. It raises money for our local hospital, 100 years old this year.

Here are the real animals, a flock of sheep in a field in the Cotswolds, in England. The guy in front kept a careful eye on me while the others grazed.

And another sheep, a puppet owned and operated by Lindsay Aucella. And a tiger. She has a wonderful business with her puppets, and travels widely throughout New Hampshire. Lindsay comes to our town, at the small beach on Pleasant Lake, once a year.

Learn more at her website.

These stuffed animals sit in the sun on a window seat in our house. A Paddington bear made by my mother, a regular teddy bear, a striped something, and a Curious George monkey.

Once we owned a rowhouse in Baltimore near an Hispanic grocery. The ceiling was filled with pinatas. They are constructed by hand with crepe paper and cardboard, and filled with candy.

Our doorknocker is a carved wooden woodpecker. This drawing is a few years old, but the woods look just like they do today. Deep snow and copper beech leaves clinging on until Spring. The melted circles around the tree trunks say that Spring might be coming soon and daffodils will pop up there.

One year our town had a fundraiser which involved fiberglass statues of gnus. Various people painted them, and then they were raffled off. Call me a grouch, but I think they are an eyesore. But I do like this home made parody of the project. An elk on the lawn of the maker, named for a village in our town called Elkins. So instead of a Gnu of New London, it is the Elk of Elkins.

Shortly after I drew this, the next generation of baby elk appeared on the scene.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Panama and Costa Rica

Last year I started experimenting with accordion sketchbooks. On this sunny day in Panama,  I planted myself on the bow of the ship National Geographic Quest, got out my art supplies, and started in. Pen, watercolor, and white pencil.

All the land you see is national parks and protected jungles in a rain forest. The little island to the right is called Granito De Oro which means grain of gold. The island is a ‘one palm’ island with a yellow sand beach. After I finished painting, I took a Zodiak (powered inflatable invented by Jacques Cousteau) over to the island and did some drawings there too. It was crawling, literally, with hermit crabs.

On another day of our week’s expedition, we roamed around a botanical garden, Casa Orquideas, in Costa Rica that is carved out of the tropical jungle. It is for sale by the aging owners if you are interested. Here is a video of the pages in my sketchbook that I made while there.

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One morning I painted this bird sanctuary, Bona Island, from the comfort of the lounge area of the ship. After lunch, we got a naturalist-guided up close tour in a Zodiak. We went around the left hand side where multitudes of frigate birds were puffing out their red chests to impress the ladies. I also saw, at a distance, my first iguana.

And then, just around the corner from the protected land and the bird sanctuary, was this:  a massive line-up of ships getting ready to sail through the Panama Canal. And in the distance, Panama City with its skyline of tall, gleaming, white, residential highrises.

Our ship moored overnight halfway through the canal in a huge man-made lake. This is my very first drawing of a container ship. It was probably even longer than this, but it was moving fast so I drew fast.

We got to spend some time in Panama City, mostly walking from the shoreline park to the old town (Casco Viejo) The brick streets were narrow, which provided shade from the tropical sun. Our group stopped very briefly on this corner, the site of the ruins of a monastery and school. We saw lots of rebuilding of the old stone buildings in the area, and the main square looks grand again.

I drew this building, the Biomuseo, while on board the ship. Partially because it is a very colorful structure designed by Frank Gehry, and also I knew we would be visiting it the following day. In English, the name is the Biodiversity Museum. Panama as a land bridge erupted from the sea 15 million years ago, and changed animal migrations and sea currents, allowing species from the two continents to mix and interbreed.

Three objects from an archeological section of the museum. I like clay vessels that incorporate animal faces or bodies.

Panama, and specifically the San Blas Islands, is well known for a native art craft, the mola. It is an elaborate form of appliqué. Here, the blue is the bottom layer, with the deep red sewn on top of that. I believe the other colors are added in smaller areas on top. I learned that this type of art originally comes from designs painted on the body.The women sew two panels and attach one to the front of a blouse and the other to the back. This style is still the form of dress on the islands today.

I saw this block of colorful signs and shopfronts across the street from our hotel. I can’t resist this sort of melange of color, letters, words, and images. And it is very telling of a specific place and memory.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Alberta, California, and New Hampshire

As many of my readers know, we spend a few weeks in the spring and fall in Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada, where our younger daughter and her family live. One fall day I drew this panoramic sketch of the North Saskatchewan River, which bisects the city. It is always a beautiful light green shade. The river is born in a glacier the Canadian Rockies, and it flows north into Hudson’s Bay. Minerals scraped from the floor of the glacier contribute to its color.

I got in the warm autumnal colors too.

In downtown Edmonton there is a new arena for the Oilers, the NHL team. We were parked in the back, where the Edmonton Community Arena is a part of the building. Our granddaughter was playing there on her hockey team.

I just couldn’t resist the curves of this building. The light poles added to the effect.

  I keep drawing our littlest grandson’s shoes. Maybe I am trying to slow down his toddler years.

 And one day, our older grandson rode his bike over to our condo for a visit. He parked it in the hallway. And while he played, I had plenty of time to sketch it in ink and put in some colors with water soluble colored pencils.

  In the airport in Edmonton, I found a display case with these wonderfully beaded moccasins from Sachs Harbour, way up in the Arctic area.

 Our other branch of the family, our older daughter and her husband, lives in Los Angeles. Here is a coffee shop called Blue Bottle, on Third and Broadway, a short stroll from their apartment. The sky was its usual clear blue.

 My daughter and I took a walk to Olvera Street, a few more blocks east of her apartment. The origin of California as being part of Mexico is widely seen in Olvera Street. The food, the music, and the products in the market are pretty convincing that you have slipped over the border into Mexico.

 Back in New Hampshire, on the East Coast, we attended the Holiday Open House at the Button Factory in Portsmouth. This old solid brick building was once the international center for the manufacture of shoe buttons. Eventually, there was no longer a need for those items. Since the late 1960s, it has been repurposed as artists’ studios.

One of the artists had spotted me drawing in Portsmouth a few weeks earlier and invited us to visit her studio at the upcoming event. It was indeed a happy occasion, well supplied with wine and cheese. And art.

 It is plenty cold and snowy here now in New Hampshire. But the winter berries are bright red and attract the birds. It is a cheerful sight.

Another happy winter sight was the blooming of a red and white amaryllis bulb that was given to me. 

And yesterday, I awoke early enough to see the winter sunrise in the snowy woods. 

The art on this blog posting is a mixture of traditional sketching on paper, and images done on my digital art app called Drawing Pad. It is a ton of fun to use it, as I am playing with light, as well as line and texture. And I can adjust the colors to be either opaque or translucent, thin or thick, smooth or textured, and all combinations of these. The digital images are these: the moccasins, the Blue Bottle, the red trees, the amaryllis, and the sunrise. My art tool is my left index finger.

Friday, September 22, 2017

New Hampshire and Maine

A quick note to my New England readers - I’ll be giving a talk at the library in Plaistow, NH, at 6:30 on Wednesday, October 4th. I’d love to have you join me there. You can find more details on my Facebook page,, or email me.

And readers from everywhere can follow my colorful journey through quick Facebook updates almost every day. You don’t have to belong to Facebook to get to the page.

Now, on with the blog.

I took part in a few drawing sessions this summer. One of the exercises was drawing with my non-dominant hand. The top two drawings of ink bottles were made with my usual left hand and the other two with my wobbly right hand. When you use your non-dominant hand, two things happen: your expectations are lowered considerably, and you really have to focus. It is actually fun to try.

This day I sat in the warm sun, on the ground, surrounded by wild flowers. It is a strong summer memory.

I bought sunflowers for a house guest who loves yellow. I love the curve of their stems, as well as the color.

We took a short trip to Boothbay Harbor, Maine. I seem to love low tide. It smells so good, and the seaweed makes great drapey shapes. You see the line of high tide on the rock.

It was a foggy day in Maine. The water in the harbor was the whitish color of the cloudy sky. Every buoy floating on the surface marks the spot of a lobster trap.

I really like to draw storefronts where the wares are hanging out all over the place. The gas tank is a decorative item with Yankee humor.

Buildings on stilts fascinate me. How do they do it?

A simple quick drawing of a small peaceful harbor. It has all the elements of Maine: rocks, water, driftwood, a boat, and a lighthouse to warn boats of all sizes during the foggy nights.

I drew these fine tomatoes during a tomato tasting at our local farm on Main Street, Spring Ledge Farm. I think there were forty kinds or so.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

New Hampshire

I have been drawing and painting a lot of buildings lately. I need a break from all the rooflines and angles of perspective. So on this blog post, I choose to focus on plants and flowers.

These two flowering plants in pots were not next to each other really. The two drawings are part of my collection of colorful planters on the street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They make a nice contrast with each other.

On the right is another planter from Portsmouth, NH. All three pieces are cast iron. The two on the left are fancy fence posts.

A wonderfully large hollyhock bush shows off next to an open doorway in Portsmouth. The chair on the lawn is part of a sale. I believe it is an enticement to enter the house and look at the offerings. I didn’t.

And finally, a grouping of wildflowers blowing in the breeze on Star Island, eight miles off the coast of New Hampshire. Star Island is a part of the Isles of Shoals.

 Fishermen from England sailed all the way across the ocean to catch the plentiful cod here. The fish were salted and dried and hauled all the way back. This was in the 1600s.

Since the 1800s, summer visitors have been arriving to spend quality time on this rocky outcropping. An enormous old wooden hotel is still there, looking proud to offer respite.

Monday, July 31, 2017



Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington, USA

Farmers' Market, Portland, Oregon, USA

New London, New Hampshire, USA

Concord, New Hampshire, USA

Concord, New Hampshire, USA

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA

Windsor, Vermont, USA

Füssen, Germany