Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New Hampshire


The .art Internet Domain was recently activated, and I jumped in on Day 1 and registered the name www.colorfuljourney.art to use as the primary address of my blog.

You will see me using this address in the future, although I will retain the original www.colorfuljourney.us address so as not to interfere with my readers’ established address lists.


I had a little spare time while in the New Hampshire town of Jaffrey last week. So I drew their one room school house, which is located on the town green. When children walked to school in the 1800s, schoolhouses were scattered all around and numbered in the dozens in the larger New England towns. A few still exist. Most serve as mini museums of the old ways of education. Others are now private homes.



Behind the Jaffrey Meeting House, also on the green, is this graveyard. The markers shown here are from the early 1800s and are mostly slate, but some white marble. All the graves and their inscriptions are facing the majestic granite topped Mount Monadnock.

The author Willa Cather is buried here. I read that she came to this quiet little town to write. Her favorite inn is nearby.


The above drawing and the next three to follow are a preview of the next book I am working on. My goal is to do one hundred drawings of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For those who wish to count along with me, I have now 35 drawings. I am budgeting one trip a week, or more, till I reach my goal. The miles mount up. And the seafood lunches are delicious.

These buoys and floats are hanging on a fence in South Portsmouth. They are no longer used and now make a fine display, but they have not been prettied up. The paint colors are nicely faded.


On a sunny spring day, I found this wooden, teal colored, garden fence. My favorite part is the tiny view of red bricks on the other side of the fence.


This block has a row of mixed architecture. I wouldn’t give it high marks for harmony, but it caught my eye. Mostly the sagging roof caught my eye. The one on the right is art deco style and is about a hundred years younger than the other two.



I also delight in small details in the streetscapes. These three mailboxes have been heavily painted over, but they still open and they work. I am amused at the tropical theme bas-relief sculpture on them. New Hampshire is a long way from palm trees and flamingos.

At first I thought the bas-relief on the right was depicting a crocodile, another non New Hampshire animal. But after spending a few minutes drawing it, I feel certain that it represents a lizard or salamander, and we have plenty of those in these parts. The lizard is on a building from the late 1800s, a little above eye level.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Alberta and New Hampshire



 Here’s a really nice display of New Hampshire themes at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire, the state capital. My book Colorful Journey is right in the center of the photo, behind the two cups. Gibson’s is a really fine independent bookstore, and large too. I just happened upon the display as I went in after two months away.


  Here is where the ‘away’ was, Edmonton, Alberta, in western Canada. Where our adorable four grandchildren live, with their parents.

Anyway, back to art. I set off to the pop up garden centre (British/Canadian spelling) in the parking lot at Super Store with my sketch pad and the goal of five drawings. Picking a number of drawings to do is a way I motivate myself. In the rest of my life, I am definitely not a number oriented person.

Here is a row of lettuce growing in pots. Just after I finished the pencil sketch, they were moved to a less windy location.

Rows of objects is one of my recurring motifs. It is a theme and variation theme.


More rows of flowers in flats for sale for eager gardeners in Edmonton. Mind you, they are not safe from frost yet, but the tender annuals are for sale anyway. Buyer beware.

But they were fun to draw and color and reminded me of Holland, in a miniature sort of way.



More rows, and lineups of pots too.


Who does not love a topiary? And one made of lavender. Think of the people who have been growing, caring, and pruning these plants for how long.



See how easy it was to find inspiration at the pop up garden centre?



OK, this is a line up of only two objects, also closely resembling one another. Our two year old grandson’s suede shoes. Shoes are very evocative. Vincent Van Gogh painted muddy field boots. Actually, I drew these shoes right after scraping mud off of them.

The tangle of bright laces was so much fun to draw. Once you take the time to look carefully at something, you can never unsee it.



And what could this be? A rocket ship from a very colorful alien planet? No, it’s a plastic slide for a two year old who calls it his ‘whee’. It is all interlocking pieces. He rolls a ball down it, he slides down it, and he loves to hide underneath it.



One more bit of color. Our daughter’s front garden greets us. How we waited this year for the tulips to open.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Lilies

Twas a month of being under the weather. The outside air was grey, damp, cold, and persistently snow-flake filled. And various viruses were setting up competing shops in my throat, mostly. So here is my artist’s solution. I bought a bunch of orange lilies, all tightly budded. When lilies bloom, they do it with drama, flair (literally and figuratively), energy, and life. I drew them over and over again, about 24 times. Watching them open, watching til the petals fall off after giving it their all. And drawing that too.

I drew them on my iPad with a my digital art app, without a plan of progression. I present a selection of my thought process.

And the last drawing is a another bunch of lilies, bought for a birthday party. The weather has improved. My cough has been beaten back, and we all get to witness the lilies do their dance again.























 

Friday, March 31, 2017

French Polynesia, Part 2



The locals, and the tourist industry too, call the island of Taha’a the vanilla island. We had a tour of one family run farm. I think they are all family run.

 I drew the supporting plant and the thin green vanilla vine. Each plant has to be hand-pollinated, as the bees in the islands don’t recognize the plant. I think this means it is not native to the islands. So whole families are in the vanilla woods with little brushes to move the pollen to the appropriate part of the flower to start the growth of the bean. The farmer we met called them vanilla sticks. 

We got the full lecture why Tahitian vanilla is far superior to Madagascar vanilla. In essence, it is left on the vine until ripe, then massaged a lot to distribute the  oils throughout the entire bean.

The coconut shells keep the chickens away from the plants. 

I never saw a sprouting coconut before, so it was a must draw.

The chickens are everywhere to eat the centipedes.



Occasionally I draw from memory if the memory is strong enough. The last stop on our cultural tour around the island of Taha’a was this beach along a lagoon.

The holes are the homes of land crabs. The guide told us that the crabs come out of their holes during a full moon. At this time, the locals collect them and bring them home for a delicious treat. But first, the crabs need to be kept in a box and fed shredded coconut for a month to improve the taste of the flesh.

On the right is my memory of the flat black stones that make up a marae, an ancestral burial ground. One guide pointed out to us on the first day that no moss or anything grows on the sacred rocks. I looked carefully. She was right. Sort of spooky.


One day the cruise ship program called for a barbeque lunch picnic on a motu. I think motu means small uninhabited coral island. We had to wade to the land through waist deep water for an extra bit of cooling fun.  

A couple got married on the motu. The bride wore a white bikini with a short lacy coverup.

 It made an entertaining contrast to draw the cruise ship in the lagoon with a two person kayak in the foreground.


 We got to the picnic late, but there were still some coconuts to sip from.


The glass bottom boat was small. I recall a full load of eight passengers and a hilariously cheerful and good spirited young driver/diver. Twice he swam under the boat and clowned around under the glass window. With the fish.


These are the animals we saw from the glass bottom boat. Upon seeing about fifty other people in the shallow water, I jumped in, street clothes and all, to pet the sting rays. We were not feeding them, but they were crowding all around us like puppies. No one got stung.


And more exotic animals we don’t see in New Hampshire. The striped fish looked like the kinds you see in aquariums.



The volcanic profiles of the islands are fascinating and fun to draw.

We did go ashore in Bora Bora because we had signed up for something called an aquabike or underwater scooter. Honestly, we didn’t understand what we were signing up for. A better description is a two person submarine, where your head stays dry in a bubble of air, and the rest of you is wet. Bruce drove, and I gripped my seat. We were ten feet below the water surface for 30 minutes. Bruce followed the diver as he showed us the underwater sights. Fish food hung from the scooter so we had a lot of gorgeous looking freeloaders to watch.

Our diver guide was the grandson of the inventor. These machines exist in only two places in the world, both operated by this family.


The last island the ship sailed to was Mo’orea. This is the view from Tahiti. These two islands are close enough that many people commute by ferry from the quieter island of Mo’orea to the more bustling Pape’ete, capital of French Polynesia on Tahiti.


We didn’t go onto Mo’orea as it was raining and I had some paintings I wanted to finish before an on-ship presentation.

 The crossing between Mo’orea and Tahiti was the only rough water we encountered. It reminded me of the English Channel in that regard.

Even the tugboat was colorful and worthy of a sketch.


 On our last day we had another two hour tour of Tahiti, south of Pape’ete.  It was like a bookend to the first day’s tour to the north of the city. Here we are on a very windy day on a black sand beach. The people on the water with their windsails and kites seemed to be having a grand time.


I often finish out a post with something botanical and colorful. I so enjoyed the tropical flowers that could be found along the roadsides, on crowns on people’s heads, around the calves of the bellhops, circling the hips of the dancers, fashioned into bras for the nighttime shows, and above as decor on a bar. It was a feast for my flower-loving eyes.

French Polynesia did not disappoint. I think about it everyday.

A note about the native language. As seen in my writing above, it often features an apostrophe between two identical vowels. This appears to be optional, but highly recommended for clarity. It indicates that the vowels are pronounced separately, with a brief stop in between, and not combined into a long vowel as in English and other languages. We learned in an onboard talk by a Dartmouth linguistics professor that this is often characteristic of languages that are a bit higher in the family tree than the more contemporary ones, and that the concept goes away as languages evolve into more simple forms. Yes, I got a few of the apostrophes wrong in the notes on my drawings.

We also learned that the language is spoken without stress on specific syllables. It was rather jarring to hear the familiar word Samoa pronounced that way.

Sam oh ah, with no stress

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Maple Syrup



It is Spring in New Hampshire. That means it is still snowing but the sap is flowing. It is the time of the year when the sugar shacks are collecting sap to boil down into maple syrup, nature’s health food.

Yesterday we drove over to Sunapee, to Harding Hill Farm. Here is their sugar house with the steam billowing out of it. Next to the steam vent is the chimney for the smoke from the pine log fire under the evaporator.

In the modern system, sap is collected from the maple trees in plastic tubes. It all runs down hill into the tank. You still see some metal sap buckets on some trees in the area.


The inside of the sugar house is very very steamy. If I drew all the steam, you wouldn’t see much else. Here we see the end of the stove which has just been opened and filled with split pine logs. The evaporator tank is behind the red label. The reverse osmosis equipment is in the far room. This process extracts a large proportion of water from the sap, saving time and fuel to boil it down. We had a lovely small cup of warm syrup to sip and savor.

We both enjoyed being in the same room as this little girl. She was so interested in everything that was going on and asked great questions. Curious children are such a delight.

Mark your calendars for the weekend of March 25–26. That’s New Hampshire Maple Weekend, and sugar houses all over the state will be open for tours, demonstrations, and samples.

http://www.nhmapleproducers.com/2016/11/04/2017-maple-weekend

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

French Polynesia


French Polynesia, Part 1

Yes, we just returned from a cruise. And no, I hadn't been on a cruise before except sailing on a passenger ship from NYC to Le Havre France when I was twenty. So why did we go? Why not, as they say in Tahiti. The brochure had beautiful photos, the ship was small enough to sail into a lagoon, and we don’t ski. So New Hampshire in February can drag on.

You see from the map that French Polynesia is midway between South America and Australia. You can get a sunburn in ten minutes. The ocean tides are only 12 inches so don’t matter. Winter and summer are not truly very different from each other, at least from my perspective. I believe the wind changes direction. We learned that French Polynesia (or FP) has an area as large as Europe, but of course 99% of it is underwater. But those coral reefs and clear waters are important.

Our core group on the boat was MIT alumni and spouses and family. That made up eleven of us including our fearless leader Lauren from the MIT alumni office. She has great cat herding skills, and we loved her help and kindness too. We enjoyed our MIT chums. We usually got caught up on our day’s activities over dinner. Alumni groups made up about half of the passengers on the cruise. Some were accompanied by professors who gave well received talks on subjects of local interest and history.

We visited a new island each day, sailing many hours through the night to reach the next place. They are not within sight of each other.


I started sketching at the LAX, Los Angeles airport. I was already enchanted with the royal blue and aqua uniforms and the flowers behind the ears. Soon I would have a flower behind my ear. They are tiare, the symbol of FP. A member of the gardenia family, they are cool, waxy, and fragrant.


Before we got on the ship, we took a tour of part of the island of Tahiti. A marae is a native ancestral worship site. It was blazing hot and humid, but drawing focuses your mind. At least for a few minutes.


 The market in Pape’ete was colorful. You could buy anything there from a woven hat to a very expensive black pearl necklace. I bought a red fan and swished it in the direction of my red face. My husband bought me some jewelry that I love, of the reasonably priced kind. Carved shells, and pearls.


Before we set sail on the first night, I was up on the top deck drawing Pape’ete. So green, with enormously steep hills.


Our first island to explore the next morning was Huahine. Our ship the MS Paul Gauguin is sitting nicely in the lagoon. Our friendly guide drove about ten of us around most of the island, stopping often. (There were many choices of off-ship excursions every day.) 


  One of the stops was a shallow stream where the sacred eels live. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see 6-9 foot eels, 6 inches in diameter, but I can tell you that they were adorable. Bright blue eyes, a cute smile, big ears, and they gathered around the guide like puppies. Wet puppies. The natives never eat them, but feed them fish guts and table scraps, and the guides feed them fish from a can.


Fakarava is an atoll famous for wonderful places to scuba dive. The atoll is sort of a thin circular island only a few feet above sea level. The middle volcano portion has fallen back into the sea.

We don’t scuba dive, so we sat in the shade, took a walk, spoke in French to adults, children, babies, and dogs. Then we went for a little swim avoiding the coral. We both saw lots of minnow-like fish, all bright blue.


I spotted this while on our walk and it looked fun to try to draw. My new friend on the beach said it is used for racing.


While waiting for the tender to return, I drew some kids playing tag in the heat. 


This is my attempt to draw moving water from our porthole. 


We had flowers and fruit in our room, which makes an easy still life. The fruit isn’t tropical, but the flower is.


We had quite a few cloudy days and a couple of rainy ones. These storms didn’t move any closer. The water really was sort of royal blue.

More next month