Lila’s Paintings

Our 11-year-old granddaughter Lila is on school vacation and has been visiting from North Carolina this week. We have been having fun painting together. On Tuesday we went together to my art group and everyone thought the flowers below were painted by me — but they were painted by Lila!

Mexican Street

As I look outside my windows in Newton, MA, I see houses painted gray, white, cream, and other subdued colors, to match the subdued colors of our March landscape. The colors of this Mexican Street, which I photographed in February and painted last week, are far more cheerful. 

Pink Tulips

Tulips grown from bulbs are always cheerful, especially with the cold and gray weather we’ve been having in New England this March. Below you see the painting in process on my art table, which used to be our dining room.

Beginner’s Mind

Every morning I meditate for ten minutes, using Headspace or Calm. “Beginner’s Mind” is a big thing in mediation, and it’s never a problem when I’m drawing or painting. Though I’ve been doing sketching and watercolor for 20 years, the fascination and frustration is that it always feels new and challenging and there’s always more to learn. “It takes reams of paper to make a decent painting,” one teacher said.  This little coffee cup, with the steam and the shadows on the white cup, is the only thing that escaped the recycle bin after an hour and a half of sketching the other day. 

Iranian New Year

The New Year is celebrated in Iran on the first day of spring, and Iranians set a table full of plants, goldfish and food which symbolize life, fertility and rebirth. My 17-year-old friend Sara is half Iranian; her father emigrated from Iran with Sara’s grandparents when he was eleven. So Sara and I went to an Iranian New Year’s event last weekend, just a day after we had celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. How blessed we are in the US with our wealth of diverse immigrant traditions and heritages.

Happy Spring!

This morning at 6:30 a.m. spring officially arrived. Since there’s still snow on the ground in Boston, it’s hard to believe, but the long days are so welcome.

As I made this little sketch, I was thinking about complementary colors and negative shapes. Complementary colors are opposite on the color wheel, like yellow and purple, so a purple background makes these daffodils more dramatic. One trick to drawing accurately is to shift your attention between the positive shapes — the flowers and foliage – and the negative shapes around them.


If you have a greenhouse near you, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon. This sketch was done at the Wellesley College greenhouses in the rainforest room. It’s such a confusion of overlapping plants that it was hard to keep straight which plant I was drawing. At some point I gave up and added shapes and background to the plant frenzy. 

Drawing, Life and Learning

The Newton Watercolor Society sponsors life drawing during the winter, and last Saturday hosted this wonderful model.

As the March snow has been falling, I discovered a free online class I’m enjoying, and I recommend it if you’re interested in learning or improving your drawing skills. Here’s the link:

Monarch Butterfly Preserve

In Mexico I was lucky enough to make the eight-hour round trip (by car, foot and horseback) to visit the area of the mountains where Monarch butterflies from all over North America come to breed and rest during the winter months. Carefully protected by the Mexican government, there are only three small areas of the preserve which aren’t fenced off. Lots of butterflies in this little area festooned an evergreen tree making it look like a living Christmas tree.

Socks as Inspiration

After working hard on Monday’s painting “Selling Baskets”, inspiration for today’s sketch was hard to come by. Then I looked at Sylvia’s socks, the woman next to me in yoga class. What great colors! After taking a photo of them, I made this little painting. It’s interesting how much more attention you have to pay to something when you’re drawing or painting. This is why it’s easy to compare sketching to meditation.

Selling Baskets

From the moment I saw this man in the streets of San Miguel, I knew I wanted to make a painting of him, so I snapped this photo to bring back to Massachusetts. Some sketches take just a few minutes, like the one of Connecticut Hills you received last Friday, but this took a couple of hours. The best way to be motivated to spend the more time is to love the image.  In retrospect, I regret not buying a basket from this man to thank him.

Connecticut Hills

On Wednesday, Bruce and I made a day trip to visit Keith and Ann Palmer. Keith was Bruce’s high school science teacher many years ago, and Keith and Ann have been “honorary grandparents” to our children, attending every graduation and wedding. They live on a ridge line in the hills north of Hartford. After we ate lunch, I sketched the view out their windows.

Life Drawing

The Newton Watercolor Society hires models during the winter months to teach us humility as we try to sketch a model who stays in one position for 2, 5 or 10 minutes. Izebel, our model last Saturday, is very experienced, modeling for art schools around Boston. Here is my effort to capture one of her 5-minute poses.