Holiday Gifts

If you are looking for holiday gifts, my paintings are available as matted prints ($35 for 8 x 10, $50 for 11 x 14). Some originals are also available. You can see all my paintings on my website, www.lynnholbein.com.

Original house portraits also make great gifts. I have just finished three that people are giving for Christmas, including the one below. I have time to paint one or two more house portraits before Christmas, so let me know right away if you’re interested. Details are here.

Raccoons

Tall white pines grow right next to our house. Raccoons nest in these trees, and in the late summer evenings we sometimes see a mother raccoon leading her young ones down the tree trunks to look for food. Here they are waiting for her return.

Advent Blessings to You

As you may know, our daughter Kate’s memoir, Following the Red Bird: First Steps in a Life of Faith, (available here on Amazon) was published earlier this year. The book includes a chapter on Advent, and she quotes from Caryll Houselander who describes Advent as a “season of growth and expectation.” In Kate’s book, the red bird becomes a metaphor for how we can begin to listen for and respond to the ways that God is calling us in our lives. Here is my cardinal painting, with hopes that you have a blessed Advent season.

 

Fall on the Pond

It’s late fall, and most leaves are off the trees and the migrating birds are long gone. The colors are subdued and the days are short. A friend who moved back to New England told me that in southern California he had really missed the seasons. “Putting away your summer clothes, and taking out your winter clothes — you don’t realize how important the rhythm of the seasons is until you live in a climate where the weather is nice, but pretty much the same all year.”

Here’s a fall sketch of a nearby pond.

 

 

LOL

I’m playing hooky from painting because we’re still in Chapel Hill with family for Thanksgiving. I can’t resist sharing this photo, passed on by my dear friend Bev, with this caption:

Two of the most overlooked qualities in life are wisdom and patience.

 

Mountain Foliage

In New England, we are past this peak foliage thanks to a cold snap last week. I painted this scene last year with artists’ crayons (trees and water), watercolor (sky) and a Sharpie to delineate the layers of trees. Water brushed onto artists’ crayons “melts” them, as on the lake. The crayons on the trees I left alone for texture.

Bruno Our Gorilla

Bruno came to live with us when our son Chris, now in his 30’s, was nine. Mr. Big Toyland was going out of business, and Chris used his paper route money to buy Bruno at half-price for $40. Bruno joined a menagerie of half-alive animals (not stuffed) and companion animals (not pets). The latter included our dog Charley, cat Otis, rabbit Sara (who, after impregnating a visiting rabbit, was found to be a boy), three snakes (Stanley, Ralph and Kirby), two parakeets, and various tropical fish.

Chris is now an animal rights activist at the Humane Society of the U.S., coordinating legislation to protect farm animals from the abuses of factory farming. HSUS sponsored Mass. Question 3 which, a year ago, won 72% of the vote and will prevent cruel caging of pigs, chickens and calves sold for meat in Mass.

Bruno continues to live happily with us, and emerge from the basement whenever we have underage visitors. Last week two-year-old Everett, grandson of our neighbors, sat in is lap. Despite his size, Bruno is very gentle.

 

Paperwhites in Bloom

Last week I posted a painting of paperwhites with the green stems emerging from the bulbs. Here they are in full bloom. I used watercolors, artist’s crayons, pencil and pen for a variety of textures and effects.

To cheer ourselves up, we now have strings of those little white lights on our indoor plants, set on a timer to come on at five when its gets dark.

Mantra

This is a foundational mantra for meditation. Thich Nhat Hanh said he practiced it even while sweeping and scrubbing dishes with ashes in his unheated monastery in Vietnam. I would welcome a daydream in such circumstances, but, hey, what do I know.

Cheering Ourselves Up

We will lose daylight savings time next Sunday, always a low point in the year especially for those of us in the eastern part of the time zone. Dark at 5:00 — gah!!!

So it’s important to find little ways to prevent S.A.D.D., like stringing white lights on indoor plants (we put a timer on ours so they are on from 5-10:30), and forcing some bulbs, like these paperwhites. These are 90% watercolor, but I added a little artists’ crayon at the bottom for texture.

Learning a new Medium

I did no art at all until the age of 49. I can’t even remember taking art in high school or college. At 49 I decided I needed to get out of my head and do something to connect with the beauty of God’s creation.

Since then, I’ve done only watercolor. I adore the lightness, the transparency, the portability of watercolors. But it’s time to expand my horizons, so this fall I’m taking a class in acrylics. It’s amazing that you can “erase” what you’ve done and do layer on top of layer! And it’s helping me overcome my hesitancy to use darks.  Here’s this week’s effort.

Fall Sketch

I am distressed about global warming, the actions of the current Administration, the recent hurricanes and wildfires. So I feel guilty that I have so thoroughly enjoyed our New England October with most days above 70 degrees and no frost yet.

The colorful foliage is late but is finally starting to kick in. This sketch was made with water-soluble artist crayons, which “melt” in the areas where water is applied with a brush. The effects are varied and interesting and I wish I remembered to use them more often.

Sketch Where You Are

Last weekend I was privileged to attend a conference in D.C. for social service agencies serving young women at risk. http://nationalcrittenton.org/in-solidarity/ The Crittenton Foundation, which organized the conference, was co-founded by my great-grandmother, and two of our children, Kate (who is on the Crittenton Board) and Andrew, spoke at the conference. One of the panels was Native American women who had vigiled at Standing Rock to stop a pipeline being built across sacred land. While listening to the panel, I did this sketch.

Kinfolk

What a blessing to have older people in our lives to learn from and look up to! This week I’ve been in the DC area, and have visited my 87-year-old cousin Mary Cary and my 97-year-old godmother Aunt Penny. They are amazing role models of how to age while keeping your mind sharp and your body active, staying interested in and loving toward others, and keeping a resilient and optimistic attitude despite life’s challenges and losses.

 

Duck Boats

Why do we take our own city for granted until visitors come and help us see it with new eyes?

Last week our sister-in-law Jerry visited from Kentucky, and we went on the Boston Duck Boats. While we waited for the tour to start, I did this sketch of the people sitting in front of us with a Sharpie in my Moleskine watercolor notebook.  Later at home, I added the color, which allowed me to paint whatever colors I wanted. I can’t remember, for instance, the peoples’ hair color or whether the vehicle (which drives like a bus and then floats in the Charles River) was actually orange inside. But in art it’s important to simplify (there’s a lot left out of the sketch) and to free yourself from being a slave to reality.

Pears

The simple shapes of fruit and vegetables and wonderful to draw and paint. The shadow which anchors them is always a challenge. In this one, I pre-wet the shadow shape before dropping in a little green muted with red.

for Meditation

After trying to meditate for years, I’ve discovered the apps “Calm” and “Headspace,” both of which keep me on track with lots of choices for guided meditations. Here’s a wonderful quote, with one of my paintings. Feel free to print it if it helps keep you on track.

Vermont Lake

We’ve gone up to Vermont to close up our cottage, which has no insulation  or central heat, and (at 35 miles from Canada) gets a bit nippy at this time of year. I’ve painted this view of the Caspian Lake from our porch a dozen times, but I really like this one I did in August.

Fast or Slow?

Last Saturday a dozen painters, members of the Newton Watercolor Society, sat on the banks of the Charles River trying to capture the scene. For over an hour I labored over a painting which turned out less than mediocre. Finally, in frustration, I dropped the painting on the ground and picked up my sketchbook. This took only ten minutes, and it’s not great, but I like it a lot better. Sometimes we try too hard.

Garden

The center of interest in a painting — in this case, the watering can — is often painted with crisp edges, and the background (flowers) have a soft focus. This simulates the way human eye sees. In watercolor, hard edges are painted on dry paper and soft edges on wet paper.

Lake Winnipesaukee

For 30 years, we’ve spent the week before Labor Day at Sandy Island Family Camp on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. Everyone has their own little simple cabin — no heat, a bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, a short walk to the bathroom. There are two big buildings, the Lodge, and this Dining Hall. We love Sandy Island!

Mountains and Lakes

Bostonians are roughly divided between those who, on vacation, head for the ocean (often Cape Cod) and those who head for the mountains and lakes (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, the Berkshires). We are among the latter category. To me there is nothing more peaceful than staring across a lake at the distant hills.

I’m taking the rest of August “off” from posting new paintings, and am posting some of my favorites from my archives. All were painted of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Airport

Many people spend a lot of time waiting at airports. It’s more interesting if you have a pencil and paper in your hand. You can make a variety of darks and lights with a simple office pencil, rubbed with a kleenex for shading.

The Mile High City

I’ve often wondered what people mean by “the big sky”. When we flew out of the Denver airport returning from our trip to Colorado, I took this photo out the huge windows at the airport, then did the sketch on the plane. It’s the kind of landscape that, as a resident of the East Coast most of my life, I feel unfamiliar with. No hills, no trees, flat and visible as far as the eye can see. A very different perspective.

Colorado Rockies

As we drove back from Crested Butte to Denver to fly home, the views were spectacular. Here is my final attempt to catch the beauty of the receding ranges of mountains. (Watercolor, Moleskine watercolor notebook, Carbon Ink Pen, white UniBall pen.)

Charley

Charley was one of the world’s great family dogs. He was a best pal to our kids, particularly our two sons, when they were growing up. Even though he’s gone to the great doghouse in the sky, we often talk about him. He’s a quick sketch I did of him when he was with us. His tail illustrates the problem with working in spiral sketchbooks!