When we were in Brooklyn last week for the birth of baby Maggie, I went to a cafe near the hospital and did this sketch of the buildings outside the window. Such a meditative way to spend a few minutes. Next Friday I’ll post a photo of the supplies I used, with links, in case you’re interested in creating a portable watercolor kit.
We have returned from Brooklyn to Boston, and sadly are not there to celebrate (and sketch) Maggie’s one week birthday. On to more mundane topics.
New Englanders try not to complain, but the weather for the last two months has sucked. Spring is a figment of our memory and hope. On Monday during the Boston Marathon it was 43 degrees and pouring cold rain. The only popular place outdoors was our thistle feeder, and the goldfinches are molting into bright yellow their breeding plumage. As I sketched, I added a blue sky, which — if you live in Boston — you know was pure imagination.
A few lines are all you need to make a sketch which turns out to be universal of mothers and their infants. And what is more appealing than the way newborns scrunch themselves up when they sleep?
Our beautiful granddaughter Maggie (Margaret Grace) was born to our daughter-in-law Eva and son Andrew in Brooklyn on Wednesday. 10 pounds 5 ounces, normal delivery, perfectly healthy. We are all thrilled and so blessed!
What potential does this new life hold?
As we await the birth of our granddaughter, I spent this morning looking through some of my older art. Here are some sketches of Sara, a lovable Dutch dwarf rabbit who lived with us for nine years. When we bought Sara, we were told she as a girl, and she looked incredibly feminine. Then one day, we babysat for a friend’s rabbit, and within seconds, Sara mounted the visiting rabbit. A month later this rabbit had babies. Thus we learned that Sara was misnamed, but it was too late for a name change.
As we eagerly await the birth of our grandchild, I’ve been thinking about the overused word “love.” While it’s central to all the world’s religions, and found in nearly every pop song, what does it really mean? I like this quote from Sharon Salzburg, “When we really examine kindness, we find it is a deep and abiding understanding of how connected we all are.”
You’d never know that spring is coming if you looked outside to see snow falling in Boston right now. But the bunnies who are appearing in the yards in our neighborhood seem to be confident that spring is on the way.
Meanwhile, Bruce and I are on pins and needles because our son Andrew’s wife Eva is 9 months pregnant with baby Maggie. We jump every time the phone rings, and can’t wait to hop in our car and head to Brooklyn for our granddaughter’s birth day!
My daughter-in-law’s birthday was yesterday, so I painted a portrait of Christopher and Angela’s cat Katie Rae (which they adopted from a shelter) as a present. Although I finished it awhile ago, I couldn’t send it out until after her birthday.
After 20 years of watercolors, I decided to try my hand at acrylics, so I took a class. Acrylics look a lot like oils but are water-based. Advantages: you can keep changing and correcting and revising. Unlike oil, there are no fumes and no messy cleanup. Disadvantages: You use a lot more paint than watercolors do, they are less portable, and if you get them on something they can harden. And when you can keep changing things forever, how do you know you’re finished? For me, there is nothing to match the convenience, lightness and transparency of watercolors. Which is why I’m still in love with watercolors, adorable cats notwithstanding.
Here is a sketch of Lombard Street, one of the more famous hilly streets of San Francisco. In order to get an overview of the city, I took a city tour with a guide who took seven of us in his VW bus. His VW had manual transmission, and we got a sense (audio and visual) of how profitable it must be to run a transmission repair business in the Bay area.
During my trip to San Francisco last week, my step-sister Elizabeth and I visited Muir Woods. Here’s what we learned from a lecture by a volunteer: Giant redwood trees can grow up to 320′ and live up to 2,000 years. They once covered the entire Northern Hemisphere worldwide. The climate changed and many of them gave way to other species, but there were still millions of acres of redwoods, especially on the West Coast. When white men came west, they discovered that the wood from these trees was resistant to insects and fire, so redwoods became the preferred building material. Finally, in 1909, there remained a small stand near San Francisco on land owned by William Kent. After the 1906 devastating earthquake and fire in San Francisco, the stand of trees was about to taken by eminent domain to rebuild the city. Through his Yale connections, Kent appealed to Teddy Roosevelt, who, with a stroke of the pen, and within days of the clearcutting, proclaimed Muir Woods a National Monument. It’s within an hour of the city and is a popular place to visit and see the world as it once was.
Last week I spent a week in San Francisco, visiting my friend Becky and my step-sister Elizabeth. What a beautiful city! I did this little sketch while sitting on the 9th floor observatory of the deYoung Museum. The museum is in Golden Gate Park, which is why the trees are in the foreground. I have a small Moleskine sketchbook which is “landscape format” (as opposed to “portrait format”) so it was perfect for this horizontal view.
I returned from a week in San Francisco on Wednesday night to find a foot of snow on the ground in Boston. I can’t say I was sorry to be away for the two snowstorms we’ve had in a week! Bruce kindly stayed home and made sure no more of our trees fell around or on our house.
While I work on a couple of sketches of San Francisco, which I will post next week, here are a few poppies to remind us that spring is really, actually, eventually coming!
A semi-abstract painting, like this one, evokes a realistic scene, but has fun with color and shape. This is one of my favorites. You can see I used a variety of techniques , including painting on a section of wet paper, which flows, and painting on dry paper, which stays where it’s put.
Since the invention of the smartphone, we no longer feel we have the time to be bored and stare into space. There’s always email, news and Facebook to be checked. This time, as I waited for my order, I resisted the temptation to grab my smartphone and instead took out my sketchbook to draw the other people waiting to order or pick up their food. Sketching has much in common with meditation, because it brings you back to the present moment.
Our suburban Boston neighborhood is blessed with many trees, including nine 60-80 foot tall white pines within ten feet of our house. On Friday, during the height of the Northeaster which hit the East coast, one of the trees uprooted and fell across our yard, snapping a telephone pole, blocking the street and cutting power to our neighborhood. Miraculously, it did not hit our house or our neighbors. On Saturday the tree men concluded that a second pine tree, about 150 years old, was unsafe, and that too was taken down. For a tree hugger like me, this is very sad, but we feel blessed that no people or houses were harmed.
Here is my watercolor of a stand of beautiful white pines.
“Steal Like an Artist” is a book title which conveys a basic truth: much art is only partly original. We are inspired by the work of other artists, photographers, and more. When I saw the work of Louis Turpin I was especially delighted by his monochromes of the farmland of England, and I decided to try my own version. How many groups of sheep can you see? How many ponds? Do you see a barn?
A reminder that Sunday is the deadline to let me know if you’d like a copy a 124 page book of my 2017 Watercolors. At cost, it’s $36 plus $10 shipping. I’ll place the order on Monday.
For Christmas our daughter Kate surprised me with a book of the paintings I posted throughout 2017.
The book came out beautifully, with high quality 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper and excellent colors, and I am going to order a number of copies. Each page has one of my sketches plus the narrative from that day. If you are interested in buying one at cost, they are $36 plus $10 shipping. Please let me know (just click “reply” and it goes right to my inbox) by next Sunday, March 4, and I will place the order next Monday.
My friend Betsy gave me this beautiful plant for Valentine’s Day, so it seemed a good idea to sketch it.
In his charming book “Everyday Matters,” Danny Gregory suggests we draw our meal before we eat it. This took more willpower than I had at L’Aroma Cafe today, so I ate some of the toast before sketching and a lot of the breakfast before adding paint to the sketch. Watch how Gregory does it on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPYmVBTrpK0
For fourteen years, I loved teaching art to adults. Eventually though it became a chore to think up new lessons every week. When I stopped teaching several years ago, it helped bring some of the joy back into the process of painting. Painting to share with you is the “sweet spot” which makes me happy. This image popped into my mind — the universal desire to enjoy our work and lives more.
“Connection” seems to be crucial in making us happy. Connecting to family and friends, to animals, to nature, to creativity, to our Higher Power. Nurturing connections takes time and effort, but we are repaid many times over. Here’s wishing you a mosaic of connections, big and small!
The Newton Watercolor Society hires models to pose every other Saturday through the winter, and this week there were 20 people there to paint. What a privilege! The model starts with 2 minute poses, then 5, 10 and 20. Here are two of my sketches of 20 minute poses. You can see the pencil lines as I tried to get oriented. The skin color is a mixture of red and yellow.
We have about 30 houseplants, a variable number depending on which ones I’ve killed or bought lately. Yesterday I noticed the little string hanging from this one and decided to sketch it. In case you are interested in the process: first there’s a drawing with waterproof ink, then a wash of variable greens, then two layers of darker greens to show the variations of shadow. Drawing shadows is a learning edge for me. Some people would be bothered by the mistakes on the pot and shelf, but I like the “happy accidents” of watercolor.
The orchids which are sold at supermarkets now are so amazing. They are economical, the blossoms last a month at least, and they bring such cheer to gray winter days. Here’s a spray of orchids I purchased and painted several years ago. I chose the green background to offset the pink flowers.
Today is my husband Bruce’s birthday. Yesterday was our youngest son Andrew’s birthday. In April we will celebrate a real Birth Day when Andrew’s baby is born.
If, like me, your birthday is not today, or even this month, let’s celebrate anyway. Happy unBirthday!
Meditation teachers advise us to change our attitude when we can’t change our circumstances. In this case, irritation because of a flight delay morphed into interest in observing carefully when I got out my pencil and paper.
Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of women and men marched in over 100 cities, from Boston to Las Vegas to Juneau, to protest the Administration’s policies and rhetoric. Some cities topped last year’s Women’s March numbers: in Chicago officials counted 300,000 marchers, in New York 200,000, and in LA 500,000. Protests also occurred in dozens of international cities from Uganda to Frankfurt, and from Buenos Aires to Bejing. In Washington , we listened to speakers in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and then marched to the White House. The signs were impressive, including the one on the right, a reminder that Trump lost the popular vote by two million votes, or 1.5%. It was a beautiful day and the march was peaceful and inspiring.
Thanks to Rick Paddock for sharing his photo which inspired this sketch.
If you are really lucky, you have a local eatery which is a welcoming place to meet a friend and enjoy delicious food, coffee and conversation. One such special place is L’Aroma Cafe & Bakery in West Newton Square. Afkham, the proprietor who runs the cafe with his parents and son, greets everyone with a smile, often remembering your name and your favorite thing to order. It’s full of regulars, and new people too, who love the sense of community which is all too rare these days.
I am working on a sketch of last weekend’s Women’s March, which I will send you later this week.
A year ago this weekend, half a million of us were in D.C. — and three to four million around the world — at the Women’s March the day after the Inauguration. Today I’m headed down to Washington for a second march on Saturday, where we will meet in front of the Lincoln Memorial and march to the White House. Others will be marching in Boston and other cities. For those of us who are upset and worried about the path the Administration is taking, it feels important to stand up and be counted. Here’s my sketch from last year.
Trying to capture the human form is quite a challenge. The model at the Newton Watercolor Society’s Life Drawing Class last Saturday was beautiful. It’s astonishing that someone can stand absolutely still for 20 minutes at a time while a roomful of people are drawing and painting them. In this pose she was leaning against a stool. I tried to mostly paint the shadows, plus the dark shape of her hair.
Across the country today people showed up at events honoring the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, who was assassinated 50 years ago in 1968. This holiday is a reminder to fight to change the conscious and unconscious racial barriers and prejudices in ourselves and our society. Here’s a sketch of today’s MLK event in Newton, Mass., attended by over 700 people.
Abstract paintings are not as easy as they seem. People think to themselves, “A child could do that.” This painting took 15 tries until I was finally satisfied.
Complementary colors are a good combination for a painting. Here they are several shades of red, and one little accent of green.
I haven’t written a poem in years, and perhaps six poems over my entire life. Last Thursday, when a foot of snow was falling on Boston, there was plenty of time for writing and sketching.
As the snow falls
Hordes of juncos and goldfinches bicker at the feeders.
The losers wait their turn
on the rhododendron branches with their drooping leaves.
Abruptly every bird disappears.
A hawk cry?
In my cozy chair, with a cup of hot tea
and a view of the feeders and snowy trees
Cold and danger seem far away.
My daughter Kate gave me a wonderful surprise Christmas gift — all of my art posts from the past year and a half in a book! I’m really pleased with the quality of the colors and the paper. If you would like a copy, I would send it to you at cost. The exact price would depend on volume ordered, but would likely be $45-60 plus shipping. Dimensions are 8 1/2 x 11. Let me know if you’re interested. Here’s the cover and an inside page.
What are your realistic goals for 2018? Consider these areas: health, family, friends, creativity, learning, spirituality, contributing to a better world. How can your goals be broken into achievable bite-sized pieces?
What are three good things that happened in your life in 2017?
And what are three things you accomplished this year that you are proud of?
Hope you are having a Christmas which is nourishing you, body and soul.
It was fun creating this last year on the Procreate app on my iPad.
We finally have just about everything done except some wrapping. It felt good yesterday to sit in the living room with my sketchbook, Sharpie and watercolors and sketch our Christmas tree.
Here’s hoping you and yours have a loving and peaceful Christmas.
A good thing to remember at this time of year, when we tend to get frantic with holiday errands.
The combination of red and green is great at any time of year. The two colors together are so dramatic yet warm. When I saw this plant next to a red wall, I reached for my camera, then my paintbrush.
Original house portraits 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When we think of specific people or things we are grateful for each day, studies show, it makes us happier and healthier. There are some good gratitude apps and tools online to help stick to a daily practice.
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 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.
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.