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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
A good thing to remember at this time of year, when we tend to get frantic with holiday errands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’ve had a warm and dry fall, so the turning leaves has been late this year. Finally we’re starting to get some of the color that New England autumns are famous for.
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.
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.
Who doesn’t love an ice cream parlor in the summertime?
At a farmer’s market in Colorado, I bought these amazing radishes in a rainbow of colors.
Several people have recently asked how to easily find past paintings. All of the paintings I have sent since January are on the home page of my website www.lynnholbein.com. The blog scrolls from newest back to oldest (ten per page on nine pages), a total of about ninety paintings so far.
Saturday is the last day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Muslims (3 million in the US, 1.6 billion worldwide) fast from food and drink (even water) from sunrise to sunset for the entire month. In all three Abrahamic monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), believers fast to strengthen their faith and connect better to God. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with making a declaration of faith, praying five times a day, giving generously to the poor, and once in one’s lifetime making a pilgrimage to Mecca. This sketch is of Muslims bowing in prayer in Mecca.
A toast to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year!
When you look outside today, you’re probably seeing many different shades of green. How to portray those in a painting? In watercolor, you either start with a green like viridian or sap green, or with a yellow and a blue. You add different amounts of water and perhaps other pigments. You can either mix them on the palette or let them mix on the paper. Here’s a practice sheet of mine.
Did you know Winston Churchill loved to paint? Prince Charles has published two books on watercolor. Painting is a common activity in Great Britain, and if you go into a bookstore, the section on watercolors is nearly as large as the section on gardening.
Studies show that, whatever their life challenges, those who take time each day to be grateful for their blessings will live longer and be happier.
Our son Chris loves animals. He works for the Humane Society of the U.S., in charge of state lobbying for laws to prevent inhumane factory farming practices like cramped caging of chickens and pigs. Last year they sponsored Question 3 in Massachusetts, which prohibits such practices and passed by 70%. He and his wife Angela are vegan.
Chris has always loved crows. Crows are really smart. If you listen to them, they have an incredible number of vocalizations to communicate with each other. This painting is for you, Chris.
Our daughter Kate has written a book which will be published in June! Following the Red Bird is a personal and beautifully written story of her journey to a God-centered life. Publisher’s Weekly reviewed it last week: “Rademacher’s memoir is an honest portrayal of the confusion of discernment and the comfort of abiding and trusting in God.”
http://www.publishersweekly.com/9781611532234. See a photo of Kate and learn more at https://www.katerademacher.com. At the bottom of the page, you can pre-order the book, which is helpful as it boosts online ratings.
The picture the publisher chose for the cover is the vermillion flycatcher, coincidentally the bird I saw for the first time and painted in Mexico.
“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” — Mary Jean Irion, courtesy of our daughter Kate
Fooling around with some of my favorite colors.
When we were at the Botanical Gardens in Mexico, Linda and I saw a Vermillion Flycatcher. It’s a tiny bird, and the male is brilliant, as you can see. Like all flycatchers, it forays out into the air to catch bugs, and then returns to its branch.
The flycatcher we saw was unwilling to pose, but a photo I found on google images was much more obliging. Note the white dot in the eye, which is important when painting a person or animal if they are to look alive.
Jesus is regarded by Muslims as a great prophet and messenger from God. Jesus is mentioned in the Koran 25 times. Moses, Abraham and Noah are also regarded as prophets. Mohammed, born in 570 A.D., continues in this tradition. All believe in the oneness of God, the avoidance of sin and idolatry, the day of judgment, and life after death. (See Wikipedia for more.)
When Muslims pray five times a day, they prostrate themselves as a sign of devotion to God. This morning, I tried this posture and then said a prayer. It was really interesting how it transformed my prayer. Try it yourself to see what I mean.
Tomorrow I’m flying to Mexico for ten days. I look forward to sending you my sketches to “take you along with me”!
More of what I learned at last weekend’s workshop on “Countering Islamophobia,” with a little help from Wikipedia. There are five pillars for any practicing Muslim:
Faith: “There is no god but God and Mohammed is the messenger of God,” is the central phrase repeated by every Muslim.
Prayer: Five times a day, beginning at dawn, Muslims around the world pray, facing Mecca, where Mohammed was born and the holy Koran was revealed to him.
Charity: Acknowledging that all things come from God, Muslims are expected to give generously to those in need and to reduce inequality. Recent research has found that Muslims give the most to charity of any religion, with Jews second and Christians third.
Fasting: During the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn until dusk, to seek nearness and ask forgiveness from God.
Pilgrimage: At least once in their lives, Muslims aspire to travel to the holy city of Mecca.
This weekend I attended “Countering Islamophobia,” a workshop that inspired this week’s paintings. I was embarrassed by how little I knew about the world’s second largest religion with 1.7 billion adherents (Christianity has 2.2 billion). Did you know that there are 3.3 million Muslims in America, with, like Christians, a wide diversity of races and ethnic backgrounds? Christianity, Judaism and Islam are the three sister Abrahamic religions, sharing a belief in a monotheistic God. We all worship the same God which we call by different names.
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.
I’m in Washington, DC. with our sons, daughters-in-law and niece, protesting at the Inauguration on Friday and the Million Women’s March on Saturday, to express concern about Donald Trump’s temperament and his policies. We know that family and friends who supported Trump share the same hopes for peace and prosperity. May we get through the next four years together!
I have been painting in watercolor for over 20 years. I first discovered painting as an antidote to “being in my head” too much, a way to connect with and appreciate the beauty of Creation. Sketching what’s in front of you is also spiritual and meditative, bringing you in touch with the present moment, accessing what is called “flow”. But, like any skill, painting is also often frustrating, it takes a lot of practice, and there are lots of failed sketches and paintings in my recycle bin.
Many of my friends who paint want to win shows and become commercial successes. Those goals don’t resonate with me. I’d like to sell paintings in a modest way. But most of all, what gives me joy and motivation is to share my sketches and paintings with you.