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.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Hampshire and France

The governor of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, graciously posed with me and a copy of my book Colorful Journey. A group I belong to called NH-MADE was invited to be a part of her inaugural reception at the State House on January 8.

And now by special request, more drawings of France, done in the fall of 2014.

I did a couple of line drawings of the village of Châtenois in Alsace. This one was drawn very quickly, but accurately. Well, the pigeons on the roof might be abstracted a bit.

This is my second quick drawing in Châtenois, slightly less accurate, with colored marker. The black lines on top of the black tower indicate a stork’s nest. We didn’t see any storks while we were there because they migrate during the fall. They are a famous symbol of Alsace, available in souvenir shops all over the place.

It is always a liberating experience to do some drawings in very free style after a few very close studies.

I am not overly fond of this drawing, but I include it because it brings back pleasant memories, and that is a huge reason to draw on location. And while traveling.

 I didn’t notice the dolls in the window until I started drawing. Another reason to draw.

The numbers above the window indicate (probably) the date the house was built, 1734, and the tools used by the occupants in their trade. Sort of an advertisement of skills. Two sets of initials are carved into the stone as well.

We traveled up to the major city of Strasbourg twice while we were in Alsace. We were about two blocks away from the cathedral when we turned the corner and caught this glimpse of the imposing reddish stone tower.

The spire is 472 feet or 144 meters high and dominates the skyline. It is a single spire, not positioned in the center of the facade. For four centuries it was the tallest tower on a Christian church.

 The building in the foreground has a wonderful roof line.

In Strasbourg, next to the cathedral, sits this wonderful very old house called the Maison Kammerzell, first constructed in 1427 and modified in 1467 and 1589. The little green circles are bulls eye glass pieces that make up the windows.

Built as a private residence, it now houses a restaurant. I just looked at their website.....choucroute (sauerkraut) with three kinds of fish instead of the usual five kinds of meat. I would like to try that.

I chose to sketch this because of its complex and ornate features. I knew I could get happily lost in the details. While I was drawing, a guy was speaking to me, in German, trying to sell me a children’s wind up toy.

This is another view of the Route Des Vins in Alsace. In the distance is the village of Riquewihr. You see the edge of the Vosges Mountains in the background. I read that the mountains are rainy and damp, and that this effect, a rain shadow,  allows the valley to be dry and sunny and perfect for growing grapes. 

In the foreground, the end rows of the vines are within a few feet of me. I drew two tour buses on the road down below.

Les Vosges Mountains lie to the west of the broad valley of the Rhine. They are very green and some of them are called ballons in French. Or, the quite obvious translation of balloons or round shapes in English. The yellow fields are the ripe grape vineyards.

Our village of Bergheim had a small market day. The very ornate building in the rear is the town hall.

Back to New Hampshire.

This is the view from the main hang around space in our house, the living room-dining room. Here is the scene of our ridge on New Year’s Eve, just as the sun was dipping in the west. Here, we see the colors of sunset even looking east.

The clouds hovered like very colorful space ships. 

 Is there anything better than a surprise box of homemade chocolates? 

 The fresh fruit depicted, enrobed in dark, smooth, delicious chocolate, is mandarin orange and blueberries. How do you get blueberries to line up so neatly into groups of four?

It is that time of year. The time to look for bright colors on grey days. This is a cropped version of a watercolor and colored pencil sketch of alstromeria, sometimes called Peruvian lily.

Friday, December 12, 2014

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Alberta. And Nepal!

 The BOOK!! of which I have been speaking for the last four years has been printed in Tennessee, and my proof copy looks so good. The colors are accurate to the originals, always a challenge in art reproduction. Folks who have already ordered a copy, sit tight. It’s said to be in shipment. People who live near me in NH can order from me if you want. It will be available in local bookstores soon too. Far away fans, just order it through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

At 255 pages and 2.2 pounds, it is my magnum opus. Thanks to all who helped and encouraged me!!

And now, on with the blog!

 Here is my new knitted hat, made in Nepal. I don’t knit, although my mother did try to teach me. While I was drawing, all sort of questions floated around in my mind. Who made it?  Who raised the sheep, sheared the wool, spun the yarn and dyed it?  I get satisfaction from pondering about all these other human beings without a hope of knowing the answers. I send out little rays of appreciation in the atmosphere for their efforts.

We were in Rockport, Massachusetts, for my birthday in September. I drew this harbor as a way of practicing with my new brush set.

My third try with my new brush with the water reservoir in the handle. The name Motif #1 is a tongue in cheek name for this Rockport fishing shack. That is because it is said to be overdone and hence a trite subject. I painted it once before, when I was 14.

These practice drawings gave me confidence in the brush set, and I was very happy with the results it provided during our early autumn trip to France. Some of those drawings appeared on last month’s blog, and there will be more as I work through the collection.

We went to a pet shop while visiting the grandchildren in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Here is what I drew. Drawing requires such close observation that it is a form of meditation.

Edmonton has a great museum called the Royal Albert Museum. The grandchildren drew taxidermied birds of their choice.

Our younger granddaughter chose the same bird as her sister, in a different pose.

The winterberries are very abundant this year. I added the red (male) cardinals from my imagination. Later I was told that cardinals do not eat winterberries. Oh, well. It makes a nice design.

Blueberry pie is one of my favorites. I ordered this pie from a baker in town, and gave her a blueberry pie card as a retirement present.

We have had this toy train set for thirty years or more. We bought it in Germany.  When I brought it out as a holiday decoration, I got the inspiration to draw it.  The shadows add a finishing touch.

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.