Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Southern California and Western Canada

We took a spring trip to California to visit our older daughter. Here are a few sketches. I have a long history of drawing signs. This group is in the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. I can read only a few of those words in Spanish.

More words in Spanish. I get the word terraza must mean terrace. It is the name of a restaurant in Palm Springs. Our granddaughter Roxy, age 11, drew it off of the menu.

The weather this day in Los Angeles was rainy, and windy with an electrical storm in the distant black clouds. Nonetheless, there was a traffic jam as cars were wending their way up to the Griffith Observatory. We parked down the hill and walked up. Here is our first view of the building. It is a fine public museum as well, and it was packed. And not just because we were trying to escape the wild weather.

 The building is really yellow. It can be a challenge to get the colors accurate through the process of scanning.

The view from the observatory was splendid. This is looking west, and the buildings are not downtown Los Angeles, but maybe a place called Studio City. How flat is the valley, surrounded by very rugged hills. And mountain ranges. The lumps are cars of course.

One day on our spring visit to Southern California, our daughter drove us east to Joshua Tree National Park. The trees are actually tall yucca and they were in bloom. I read that this type of plant grows a mere one inch per year. This one was about 10-12 feet high, or well over a hundred years old. The rock formations are fascinating to draw and climb. Nothing wobbled.

Here’s another drawing by Roxy. We are both fascinated by rows of palm trees and unusual buildings. This is in Palm Springs.

On this day, the park in front of the Fashion Museum in LA was full of new students (I think) enjoying a free lunch and a lounge on the lawn.  The bodies of groups of people meld and merge into one large shape.


As another example of figures melding and merging with their surroundings, here is a drawing by Wyatt, our eight year old grandson. It is a profile portrait of his father who was himself preparing to draw a cartoon character, the Hulk. The computer screen is on the far left. Next up, a large box of crayons, then in the center his sister Roxy who was working on her own drawing. It is an excellent likeness of his dad, a less accurate vision of his sibling.

Our granddaughter Roxy loves basketball. Here she is on the far right. I was torn between watching the practice and gazing at the large, beautiful school gym mural.

The children clearly went out into their neighborhood to draw nearby buildings and landmarks. Since this is not her school, I do not know the history of the mural, but it was splendid, and double the size you see here.

While spending time with our one year old grandson, I sometimes use an art app on my iPad to draw colorful toys on the floor. I am continuing to learn new ways to make these digital images.

And another toy, about two feet high. It is meant for learning walkers to have bright shapes to keep their attention as they practice standing, and moving while holding on. It appears to be a robot in my rendition.

And one last grouping of colorful small toys on the floor.

A neighborhood playground is still nice to draw even if all the kids are in school. It is an extra challenge to draw on the iPad outside as the screen goes rather dark.

Another drawing during childcare time. This time a soft fuzzy baby blanket and a ball. The family’s floor is not really all blue and scribbly, just more exploration of my digital art app.

Monday, March 14, 2016

New Hampshire and Maine

The Capitol Center for the Arts is in our capital city, Concord, New Hampshire. I liked the look of the snow on the roof. I haven’t been in this building since I was five when my mother took me to see Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. It gave me nightmares. I always was a delicate flower.

 When I drew this, I was having lunch across the street at the café attached to Gibson’s Bookstore.

During the winter months especially, we attend a lot of lectures in our town and others nearby. These talks are presented by experts in their subjects and well attended. It is like a college course without the exams and papers to write.

This particular lecture on England in the time of Charles Dickens took place in a common room inside a retirement community. These types of presentations are advertised in our town newspaper and open to the public as well as the residents of the facility. Other talks we attend take place in schools, libraries, granges, and churches.

Besides the computer set up, I drew the screen, the back of a wheelchair, and a walker. And the wonderful speaker.

We put on our boots and Yak Traks, and head out to musical events too in the winter. It was SRO at this quartet playing in a refurbished barn in Warner at MainStreet BookEnds.

My favorite part of this drawing is the sun shining through the ears turning them orange.

The guy on the left reminded me of the French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. After drawing him, I decided to fill up the page. On a cold day, people’s hair tends to stand straight up. These people were part of the audience for the quartet, except for the woman in purple who was the pianist.

And here we have the raw materials for a flower arranging workshop, also held in an old barn.

These bunches of flowers come from a florist exactly like this. My job as flower arranger at our local hospital/nursing home is to cut them shorter and make a nice arrangement in the orange vase.

I like to draw food. I like to draw stuff all lined up. Here is the pencil drawing I did at Lil’s, a coffee shop and cafe in Kittery Foreside, Maine, just across the river from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

And here is the finished drawing with color added at home. Those towering piles of pastry are called crullers. My own use of the word cruller is somethng else entirely, a straight, slightly twisted, cake donut rolled in cinnamon sugar. Lil’s crullers are light and airy as a popover, with a light sugar glaze. And the shape is amazing too.

And to finish, I present my careful study of a chocolate glazed cake donut. Just for fun.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Massachusetts and New Hampshire

In December we met a friend at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Massachusetts—a great place. The exhibit we saw was all about Strandbeests, which are wind-driven kinetic sculptures created and evolved over the years by the Dutch artist/inventor/philosopher Theo Jansen. Above I have drawn a few of the feet and part of the sail of one of the operational pieces in the exhibit. In the background are parts taken from older, non-functioning beasts. The parts are displayed like fossils. The sculptures are created from thin PVC pipe.

Here’s a link to a video of these creatures in action. There are many, many more videos out there on the Web, along with links to offshoots of the species developed (with the artist’s encouragement) by followers from around the world.

The exhibit has now moved on to Chicago, where it can be seen through May 1st. Jansen’s full international schedule is available here.

One day I drove past our town green and spotted this dragon made of snow.
I put a few sparrows in for scale. I feel quite sure I know who made this temporary sculpture.

A couple of days later, our town’s winter carnival began with the annual Dinner With Jack Frost, a progressive dinner on the town green featuring food donated by local restaurants. And by a famous chocolate company with New Hampshire roots, Lindt!

I drew in the dark and the cold with soft vine charcoal, with touches of yellow added at home. The white paper becomes the snow.

The next four drawings were created on my iPad with a digital art program called Drawing Pad. It is made specifically for children. Perhaps that is why I love to use it.

We can see this one house through the woods. The snow on the roof is just visible through the tree trunks. I purposely made the window look like it is floating in space.

Our woods are filled with trees that are oddly misshapen. A severe ice storm in 1999 knocked off many branches. In most cases the trees survived and sprouted new branches to take over.

Doesn’t this drawing look like it was drawn with a soft pencil? No, it’s a digital version of pencil.

In the winter we see a lot of beautiful colors in the east at sunset. The ridge lights up with gold, and the sky often is filled with pink clouds.

And a brightly colored gerbera daisy to finish this month’s post. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Hampshire, Connecticut, and California

Pleasant Lake is beautiful in the winter too. We live at the far end of the lake, but we pick up our mail here at a small post office.

A tiny salmon colored sunset is just beginning. The picnic table patiently waits for spring, and fun family events.

A few days before Christmas we drove to Exeter, New Hampshire on the coast. It was still warmish with no snow cover. Our usual restaurant was too crowded, so we wandered on and found another called 11 Water Street. Which we liked even better. It has a better view too. I am all about views as you can imagine.

 And here we have the view of the mill pond from my chair. These wooden clapboarded homes were probably once boarding houses for the mill workers. The mills used the water power to produce cotton textiles in the 1800s

Water Street Bookstore in Exeter is one of the delightful local bookstores that carries my book with drawings of every town in New Hampshire.

 Thanksgiving Day we enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared mostly by my brother’s mother-in-law, Elma May

After the meal, as a sort of dessert for myself, I got permission to draw our host’s enormous HO gauge model train layout. I liked the station building in the foreground as it has enough detail to look real.

 I drew a few tracks but soon just focused on the trains and buildings that appealed to me. Jon, the man in charge of this mini world, told me it is meant to be the rail yards in southern New Jersey in the 1950s. He liked my efforts.

This is the fourth time I have drawn the Tuba Christmas concert here in New London. As you can see, it is an all tuba/euphonium event—although they have been known to allow the occasional interloper, most recently a double bass (AKA a ‘wooden tuba’). I only drew four of the musicians in the front row. There were many more.

 The players show up in seasonally silly hats, and this characterizes the general tenor of the event. Fun all around! I found it humorous that I couldn’t see the faces of the musicians, but just their head gear and their hands.

The rich sound made by all fifty or so musicians on their beloved brass instruments was lovely. The conductor/organizer has no idea who is going to show up from one year to the next. They come from all around. But it always works out.

This morning I watched the Rose Bowl Parade on television, coming from Pasadena, California. I don’t watch the football game, just the parade. I watched this parade on New Year’s Day my entire childhood on our black and white TV with the announcers describing the multicolored floats.

This float represents the city of Los Angeles. The vertical shape in the front is an iconic building having something to do with music and records. Floats in the parade all get their colors and textures from flowers, painstakingly inserted by dedicated groups of volunteers the night before. The rules are pretty strict.

It was a clear day, and the Santa Monica mountains were in sharp relief. Other notes: I love to draw palm trees, and the round lumps are the bleachers of crowds.

We will next be in Los Angeles in March.


And in other news, there was a wonderful article about me and my book in the Concord Monitor, the daily newspaper in New Hampshire’s capital city, written by their staff writer Sarah Kinney. She made mention of the book’s availability at the well respected Gibson’s Bookstore on Main Street, and by noon of the day the article came out we got a call from Gibson’s asking for refills. Two customers were patiently awaiting my arrival, having been assured by the clerk that the artist was due to show up any second now. It was fun to meet with them.

Then Gibson’s called back the next day, asking for more!

You can read the article here, and the link will remain posted in the sidebar over on the right side of the blog along with links to other great pieces of commentary.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont

One day the reflections of the birch trees on the pond called my name. I returned with my iPad for a quiet time of observation and reflection of my own.

So far, this long autumn has provided no snow to the woodlands. The various shades of brown are lovely: reddish, purple, green, and yellow.

My love of brick buildings continues. The handsome Rice Public Library in Kittery, Maine, dates from 1888. I drew it as accurately as my wobbly hand allows. The chimneys are really curved like that.

One of our favorite restaurants in Hanover, New Hampshire, is the Thai Orchid. The view from the second story window faces this red brick building, the town hall. I drew as much of the graceful old elm tree as could fit onto the page. The ivy is crawling around the side of the town hall to meet the elm branches. The leaves have fallen, but no snow yet. Cold enough for a puffy blue coat though.

After our lunch of Thai food, we headed south to White River Junction just over the state line into Vermont. I drew the side of this hotel with its out of date signs, lovingly preserved. 

A ninety degree turn to the left got me this brick corner façade. There was just time for a quick skyline and major highlights kind of drawing.

Last week, our local garden club members gathered to clip evergreen boughs into 6 inch lengths. On the other side of the room, unseen here, are the wreath makers who fasten the clippings onto circular wire forms. I liked how the group of workers formed a circle too.

The wreaths decorate doors around our little town. They look cheerful in the dark cold months and stay up until March.

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!