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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

Chicago Skyline

When I went with our daughter Kate two weeks ago to Chicago so she could promote her new book Following the Red Bird at the ALA Book Convention, we had an afternoon to sightsee. Everyone advised us to take the Architecture Boat Cruise down the Chicago River. The city is rightly proud of its incredibly architected skyscrapers, in a vast variety of colors and designs.

Trees

Inspiration is everywhere if you keep your eyes open. I saw a painting of tree trunks at Crate and Barrel a couple of weeks ago. I snapped a photo of it, and made my own version, adding the shadows. The different textures and colors of the bark is what interested me.

The Magic of Watercolor

Oil and acrylic paints are great, but for me nothing beats the transparency and unpredictability of watercolor. This little painting of distant hills across a lake, painted from my memory of vacations in Vermont and New Hampshire, shows how watercolor bleeds and puddles and  blossoms. This magic is why watercolor still fascinates me after 20 years of painting.

 

Greenhouse

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. 

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.

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.

Contrasts

There is a lot of change going on in America, much of it deeply distressing to many of us. Please know that my art is not intended as a denial of our need to know or to act. Instead I hope it will be a moment of respite from the news of the day.

This little painting was made with cray pas, a sort of grown-up crayon. The contrast between purple and yellow, which are opposites on the color wheel, make it more dramatic. If the colors were green and blue, which are contiguous on the color wheel, it would be more restful. 

The Women’s March

The Women’s March on Saturday was astonishing. More than half a million in D.C., and a total of 2-3 million in 50 cities across the US and the world. My sketch does little to convey the walls of peaceable people who spread out, like an octopus, far beyond the official march route, onto the downtown streets in Washington. I was there with our two sons, two daughters-in-law, and niece.  Andrew’s sign, “As a White Male, I Apologize for Trump” got a lot of photo ops. On the way home, the lines for the subway were three blocks long. 

My favorite moment of the weekend was on Friday, when we protested at the Inauguration. I was standing in line for the restroom at Au Bon Pain, and started talking with the man behind me. He was an ex-Marine had come from Missouri to celebrate Trump, and he was astonished that I was protesting. After a moment of silence, he said, “I spent a year overseas fighting so you would have the right to disagree with me.” I thanked him, and we hugged.

Christmas Bird Count

Yesterday was the annual Christmas Bird Count, when birdwatchers across North America dust off their binoculars to do a bird census. My friend Linda and I did not brave the 4:30 owl count, or even the 6:30 regular count; we arrived at the Newton Cemetery, coffee in hand, at the civilized hour of 9:30. With rain falling on top of Saturday’s snowfall, the birds were scarce. But I made this little sketch, using pen and charcoal pencil (with a tissue to smudge) of a little island with birch trees in the middle of the pond.