Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jesse's Collectibles

Once a  month when our house gets a good cleaning, our cleaner finds all of Jesse's toy mousies and lines them up on the cedar chest in the dining room.  We then put them all around the house for Jesse, and within a day or two he's lost all of them again except for the Pristine Mousie and Least Favorite Mousie.  These two look like they looked the day we brought them home from the pet supply store.  We usually leave them out though, thinking that they might grow in allure in the absence of the more-favored mousies, but they never do.  It's easy to tell which is his Number 1 favorite-- it no longer looks like a mouse but more like a wad of lint wrapped around a plastic egg.  The second tier of mousies look more like Velveteen Rabbits, all chewed on and scuffed up but still recognizable.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Early morning-- Jesse sleeping in the window plus two details done trying to get his face right.  Then, in preparation for helping my friend Margaret Couch Cogswell at her book signing in the afternoon, I deconstructed an Origami pocket booklet in order to figure out how to make it.   I drew each step of the unfolding so that I would remember how it was folded.  My job would be to walk around and help people fold their booklets while another friend, Michelle, gave the demo.  A couple of weeks ago Margaret had asked those of us in her critique group to help out with this demo, and Michelle had taught all of us how to fold the booklet.  I had had trouble folding mine, but deconstructing it and drawing made the process clear to me.  I sometimes have to draw things to understand how they work.

This page is all about Margaret and her wonderful artwork, which her book is about.  Margaret makes, among many other things, strange and darkly playful crowns, which she considers to be books.  I liked what she said about her idea when she first started making crowns.  She wondered What if we wore our stories [about ourselves and our lives] on our heads [where everybody could see them]?  And What if we wore our judgments about other people on our heads [right up there where everyone could see what we were thinking]? 

The crown at the top of the right hand side of the page has a papier mache bird with an egg balanced on its back nestled inside the leaves of the crown.  The middle one is called "Village Idiot."  And at bottom left is a sketch of a sculptural piece called Tessie.  Check out Margaret's book, which is called Book Play (New York: Sterling/Lark Publishing, 2013) and her blog at    You can order her book from Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville at or if you're lucky enough to be in Asheville, drop in and pick up a signed copy from the bookstore.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Day that Starts and Ends with Tobacco Barn

My husband sat on the edge of the bed to put his shoes on this morning, and I grabbed my sketchbook and started drawing him.  He always frets a little when I say I'm going to go to the Tobacco Barn, hence the conversation in drawing #73.  Since he always says we can't fit any more stuff in our house, but then he ends up liking the things I drag in, I don't always tell him when I'm going poking around there.  And at the bottom of the page, a tiny bit of the morning garden.  On the right, a salt shaker that was on the table at the place my friend and I ate lunch after doing well at Tobacco Barn. (I told her she is my Tobacco Barn Spirit Guide because she's a great shopper while I am not good at digging through things to find the gold and so I give up before I find what I'm looking for.)

After lunch I went to my grand daughter's theater camp performance.  While I was sitting in the theater lobby waiting for my husband to turn up, I sketched the happy daddy holding a bouquet of flowers for each of his little girls.

On the left is a drawing I did in the semi-dark of Maya in her costume next to a piece of the stage set for Mars.  I especially liked her mustache, which she stroked frequently in between dancing, singing, doing cartwheels and acting out her part. 

And on the right:  the door I bought at Tobacco Barn!  It seems to be either a panel from an old folding screen or an old shutter or one of a pair of narrow doors.  Whatever it is, someone did a very sweet painting of what is described on the tag as "An Italian Countryside Scene" on it.  The moon is cut out of the wood, reminding me a bit of an old outhouse door, but I think it's too narrow for that, and the cut looks fairly recent anyway, so I'm guessing it's part of the countryside scene.  It funks up the back porch perfectly, and Phil likes it fine, especially since he didn't have to carry it to the car or from the car to the house.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I saw the most astonishing and beautiful thing this morning.  My friend Brad has made a moss chair in his side yard.  The strange green object on the top right hand side of this page is my drawing of it, but it doesn't begin to do it justice.  Picture a shady, leafy area of a secluded yard, and under the tree in the center of the area a full-sized lounge chair,  only it's made of live moss and a few delicate little fern plants.  It's like something you'd find in Middle Earth.  Near the chair but in a different section of the yard is a strawberry planter, also made by Brad.  The planter is constructed of small paving stones stacked up, also looking like some kind of living, breathing furniture.

 On the left side of this page are directions for making a moss chair.  This idea reminds me of Medieval turf benches only the moss chair has an armature instead of being carved from a hillside or berm.  Brad began with an old aluminum lounge chair, under which he piled wood and earth.  Next he covered the chair with chicken wire to make an armature.  The next step was covering the chicken wire with wet burlap as well as strips of wet newspaper.  As a final step he placed sod-like sections of moss all over the burlap and paper mush until it was completely covered.  The ferns were planted after the moss was in place.  I love this chair, and am picturing one of my own out in the woods behind our house.

At the top of the right hand side of the page is a mud puddle that my husband and I came across in the woods while we were walking this afternoon.  It's a semi-permanent puddle and has several resident tadpoles, which we were able to see today.  The drawing to the right of the puddle is of an insignificant but very pretty little mushroom that had pushed up a leaf as it was growing.  And underneath is a view of the trail that I drew WHILE walking and hurrying to get down the mountain before the rain came.

At the very bottom of the page is sewing machine part that I ordered from eBay to replace the hose-section tire on my grand daughter's treadle machine.  It arrived late this afternoon, and it slid right in place, and now the machine works perfectly!  This tire is a fat shiny rubber one that makes good contact with the hand wheel and turns the bobbin winder.  I drew it with a Pilot V-Ball pen.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lazy Day Drawings

I had a lot of unscheduled time today so I spent a fair amount of time on these drawings, around half an hour on some, less on others.  Left side of page, first thing upon waking up, without wearing glasses, I wondered how much I could actually see and draw of the garden outside the bedroom window.  Oddly enough the longer I looked with relaxed eyes the clearer the general blur became.  So I decided to draw Jesse without wearing glasses, too.  Jesse had just come inside from his night catting around and was very sleepy.  As I drew he drooped down and down, millimeters at a time, until the second drawing when he is fast asleep with his nose buried in his paw.

On the right, I went out to the front garden where yellow celendine is blooming and picked a stem of bloom, leaves, and fruit.  I love this plant for its mustard-yellow sap, which, I was told by a docent at the Medieval garden at The Cloisters in NY, was used by Medieval manuscript illuminators as a substitute for gold when there was no gold in the budget. 
Later in the afternoon I took a walk and ended up at the end of our block across the road from the ruin of an old brick silo.  I love the patterns that the sun makes inside the openings at different times of the day.  I would like to make a kind of clock out of the silo patterns, but the patterns not only change during the day:  they also change as the seasons change.  At 4:00 in the afternoon in June the window patterns are not quite the same as they are at 4:00 in December.

Later still I went to a meeting about a steamroller printing project that a group of us are getting involved in at BookWorks. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Quick late-night post

A quick run-down of today's finds:  a fat baby tomato with droplets from last night's rain;  a looming raptor-like bird staring down on traffic from a perch on the wire spanning Tunnel Road at 7:15 this morning in fog and drizzle;  the most attractive driveway of the Wells-Fargo drive-thru lane, which I drew while waiting for the bank to open at 5 till 9 this morning;  a woman getting a manicure and a woman giving a manicure at the Sun Room Spa and Salon this afternoon (this composite drawing contains MANY things, but I'm counting only the two women).  The manicurist talked the whole time and the manicuree looked alternately horrified and sad.  I couldn't see what was happening to the manicuree's hands, but the manicurist was gesturing emphatically with some kind of stick tool.  Over and Out.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Three Drawings but Four Things

I drew Jesse twice before I even got out of bed this morning.  His favorite window right now is the one behind the plant, which requires that he leap up onto the chest of drawers and then slide between the plant and the wall and arrange himself perfectly while the plant stand is still wobbling from its near topple.  He will never approach the window from the other side where there is no plant stand.

Below Jesse on the left is a not-drawing (and hence un-numbered) but still an interesting artifact from the day:  this evening my journal group came over here to make watercolor paints from clay they had all gathered from around their neighborhoods.  This swatch is a sample of Michelle's Wyatt Brown.  It's smooth and perfectly creamy.

On the right under the other Jesse is a little amulet that I found while cleaning out the back of my car.  It was under the rug, and I have no idea who left it there.  Very few people ride in the back of my VW except for my granddaughter Maya.  I did carry a friend's backpack around for a couple of days last week as she had left it at my house and I needed to give it to her.  But she said she didn't have such an object.  I haven't checked with Maya yet.  I hope it's NOT Maya's because I would love to think it has come to me and is now mine.  It's made of bronze-looking metal and has intricate relief designs all around an eye.  The iris of the eye is a glittering blue stone.  To ward off the evil eye?  It has a hole pierced in the top, so it may have come off of an earring.  Anybody out there recognize this?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Short Post Today

All four of today's drawings are on this one page, but they were really slow drawings (except for the squirrel), and one of them is going to become a woodcut for use as a layer in a new piece I'm working on.  At the top, squirreling briskly across a wire that was overhead when I was sitting in traffic, this little rodent looked like some kind of carnival game where a tin squirrel shoots across and you try to knock it down with a bean bag.

Below the wire on the left and taking up a LOT of the page and a lot of the morning is a drawing of a place in our backyard where the woods is encroaching and we're letting it happen.  More woods, less lawn.  I wanted a drawing of unmanicured trees and bushes to enlarge and transfer to a large wood block.  The resulting print will figure somehow in a print I'm starting that combines severely topiaried trees from France and wild nature and also the cemetery in which the topiary lives.  It's part of a long-term series of parks and gardens that create unique topias. 

Across on the right at the bottom are more sewing machine parts, this time a spindle and bobbin case (or shuttle) that is so elegantly designed and beautifully crafted.  And to the far right is a recycled tin lantern that hangs on one of the posts of our bed and makes the bed look very Medieval to me.  I do need about five more of these plus a wonderful Gothic-looking wooden and stained glass confessional door that I found at Tobacco Barn while buying the sewing machine.  P is making grumbly noises about there not being any more room in the house etc.  I'm mentally rearranging everything so that the door could slide right in.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Documenting a Greasy Gunky Day

First up today:  our blueberries are finally coming in!  I went outside before breakfast and dug and mulched and in the process noticed seven ripe berries.  I brought them inside, and here they are (top right)  ready to be eaten!

My husband and I went this morning and got Maya's sewing machine, and I spent most of today taking it apart, cleaning, and exploring it.  Happily, it came with a manual, and although old and somewhat crumbly, the manual is missing only one page.  In the process of doing a preliminary cleaning, I noticed the bobbin winder had a worn-out-looking rubber ring that is supposed to make contact with the wheel when the bobbin is being wound.  The rubber ring was wobbly and dry and generally rough looking.  So I drew the part (bottom left of right hand page) and then took it apart so I could get the rubber thing off.  Drawing it helps me to understand how it works and especially how to put it back together after I take it apart.  I searched on eBay and found replacements for the entire part and then found for $3.00 a replacement for the rubber tire only, which is all I needed.  I also drew the face plate because it had the serial number stamped on it and I wanted to search on-line to see if I could find a date that corresponded to it.
The left hand page has notes that I took while researching, and on the right side I drew the original ratty-looking rubber tire as well as the entire bobbin winder after I had cleaned it up.  Close examination showed me that what I had assumed to be a carefully-machined tire was actually a slice hacked out of a 1917 or so rubber garden hose.   So much for all the time I spent fretting over the exact diameter of the replacement that I ordered! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

I always draw at meetings, so this morning's crit group felt pretty normal in terms of drawing.  I did notice that I felt already warmed up, however, and I dove into a contour drawing of Clara's large leather bag.  It was really fun to make a sort of landscape of it, hills and valleys and drapey , slumpy paths.  I enjoyed the bright stripes that peeked out from the inside.  As usual, I took some notes during the meeting, and  the diagram on the top half of the right hand side is more of a diagram than a drawing (and you will note that I did NOT count it as one of the 10,000). 

At the bottom of the page I did a careful drawing of an antique treadle sewing machine that I saw while browsing at the Tobacco Barn antiques place.  I've been thinking about buying my soon-to-be 9- year- old grand daughter her own treadle machine for her July birthday.  She can sew a bit on my treadle, and we like to make things together on the machine.  So when I found this little early 20th century Davis machine in such fine condition (it has a perfect oak cabinet, six perfectly operational drawers, a bunch of tools and shiny metal extra things AND a complete if slightly moldy manual, and even a good treadle belt, I raced over to the checkout desk and bought it.  Then I went back and drew it while admiring its lovely decals and sweet surfaces.
Back at home I stretched out on the back porch futon and drew one of our plants, a very old pittosporum or Chocolate Soldier.  We brought it home on the train back in the early 90s after a visit to New Orleans.  My aunt had several of these and gave us one.  Over the years it has flourished.  We divide it every few years, give some away, move it around from pot to pot, even had some end up in the garden this year where it made it through the winter.  A couple of weeks ago we divided the over-burdoned mother plant into three pots, and I noticed today that the babies are starting to send out new leaves and the old leaves are standing up and no longer drooping.

And finally, while waiting for dinner to do whatever it was doing, I sketched a GMO onion that had a Green Giant sticker on it.  I have yet to convince P to drive the extra five miles to shop at Whole Foods/Greenlife.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Even the Dentist Office is Less Awful if You're Drawing

For the first time I didn't see anything that I wanted to draw this morning.  I felt myself slipping into critical mode and judging everything as uninteresting, bland, not worth the trouble.  But I'm in the practice, right?  So I grabbed a half-dried-up pen and quickly sketched a little tin hanging creature that a friend made.  Drawing it I saw how pebbly and textured the surface was.

I was busy until 3:00 when I found myself in the dentist's waiting room with my journal for company.  I drew the tired potted plant, not very interesting but sort of soothing and better than reading the old copies of Better Homes and Gardens.  Then the hygienist had to leave me in the chair for a few minutes, so I slipped out and got my journal from my bag and drew what was in front of me-- a strange array of instruments.  They were half-covered with plastic cloth and had rubbery tubes coming off their bottoms.  Very clinical and unpleasant but surprisingly fun to draw.

Later at home I spent a while drawing Jesse , our cat.  Jesse is the most impossible -to-draw cat ever.  He can sense that I'm drawing him while he's asleep, and he slowly moves even in what seems to me to be deep sleep.  So none of these attempts are very accurate, but it was a pleasant half hour trying to nail Jesse.

 And here's a guest blogger:  my grandson Nate and his drawing of a three-legged cyclops.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lots of twigs and trees

This practice is interesting!  I find I'm liking it more each day and actually drawing more each day.  I make no promises about how long this burst of enthusiasm will last but am taking it a day at a time.  I carry my journal with me even when I go walking, but I haven't made any real plans to draw other than that.  First thing this morning I went outside to check up on my Meyer lemon tree that has been hanging on for a few years and finally has three baby lemons.  Drawing the babies was a nice way to start the day.  I even drew the scale that has been plaguing the tree but that Safer soap seems to be eradicating finally.  A little later I was in my studio getting ready to start a new woodcut that is going to involve a topiary-filled cemetery that I saw in France.  I sketched a tree from a photograph I found on line on somebody's blog about the cemetery just to get a feel for the shape again after drawing it a bunch of times when I was actually standing in the cemetery.

I met a friend for lunch, and drew her cup of coffee while she took a phone call;  later I went to pick up my grandson and his friend from a movie, and I quickly sketched a man with an astonishing earring.  I saw him while waiting in the car for the boys.  Then in late afternoon my husband and I went for a walk in the woods near our house.  I was collecting twigs to use as a door- closing device for the box I made over the weekend.  We collected many twigs, and I drew them all when we got home.  Twig collecting reminded me of a nature study class I took as an undergraduate: I spent an entire winter collecting twigs in order to construct a tree identification key based on bud scars.
   I tried them out, and the sassafras twig fit perfectly and was easy to slide in and out, so it's the winner.  I counted each of the twigs as a separate "thing," thereby upping my total considerably.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Still going

Continuing onto the right hand side of yesterday's page, this morning I drew my trusty sage green Earth shoes that I've worn almost every day for the past three years.  These shoes are great for hiking, going out to dinner, running errands, walking miles.  They don't wear out.  A year after I bought them I went back to the store to try to buy a second pair since the first pair was still like new but I knew I wanted to have these shoes forever.  Sure enough they had stopped making them.  But the salesman managed to find the last pair, and it was just a half size too big.  I bought them of course, and the two identical pairs of shoes are still serving me well.

When I was walking downtown later this morning I looked down as I was getting ready to step off the curb and cross the street and spotted a bird painted in blue paint.  I love finding street art in unlikely places.  This bird reminded me of the great Stickman stenciled paintings in D.C. a few years ago.

Third on the page is my lavender-filled eye pillow that my friend Fran made for me out of old  kimono silk.

The left side of the page looks like a strange chicken doll, but it's actually two drawings done hours apart and completely out of scale to each other.  On the top is an African basket that lives in a corner of the bedroom, and underneath it is a small sack with an elephant garlic bulb in it.  I drew the garlic while waiting for dinner to finish cooking.  And then I quickly got in one more drawing just before eating-- a piece of kale from our garden that was on top of the vegetable and sausage concoction I had made.

The reason I'm publishing these is that I love looking at other people's small informal drawings to get ideas of the range of things that float in and out of their lives, and I'm thinking that maybe some of my sketches will spur you on to new ideas about things to notice.

Monday, June 17, 2013

It's fun to have a few people jumping on board!  I like the way everyone has her own take on how this challenge could go.  So day 2:  I realize now that I can't do 20 drawings a day unless that's all I do.  But 5 or 6 is easy and actually a pleasure.  I started out today with a drawing of my breakfast;  then I did the next two in my studio, where I spent most of the day anyway, working on the box (upper right).  I had some milk paint left over from painting the box so I tried it out as a base coat on this page.  The sepia colored square on the left is done with very slimy, transparent milk paint that I had made yesterday and that had gotten sort of cured as it sat in the refrigerator all night.  The more opaque greenish gray is the exact same paint only with some black pigment loaded into it.  Both made excellent base coats.  I also used the transparent stuff to top paint the box drawing.  I took my book on a hike with my friend this afternoon and drew the little red eft that we saw on the trail.  No foxes today, but a red eft is a wonderful thing to see, too.

Drawings 10 and 11 I made at a restaurant tonight-- salt and pepper just as Annie did, and a family in a nearby booth.  The bookmark has been my slogan for this whole journal (which is the one I took to Portugal and France in May):  the slogan is from Alice in Wonderland and says "The world is full of a number of things and we should all be as happy as kings."  I found the bookmark in a trashcan at Asheville BookWorks.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Annie's Journal and an Idea

Today I got an email from my friend Annie who is off in Santa Fe this week teaching at Ghost Ranch.  She sent me a page from her journal, always a treat.  I really enjoy her clean black lines and integration of text and image in elegant layouts.  But this page has really got me going in a way that I may regret:  read the Chinese drawing adage on the right hand side of the page-- To learn to draw you must draw the 10,000 things.

I started thinking about how long it would take to draw ten thousand things, even if you counted every object in a drawing as a separate thing (ex. on this page Annie drew three things by my definition).  I wondered if I could draw 20 things a day, and if so could actually draw 10,000 things in the next year and a third.

So I wrote to my journal group and sort of hinted at this challenge.  And then I decided to try it out for a few days before actually making a public commitment.  And then I decided what the heck-- I am IN.  So I'm publishing my 10,000 things, beginning here and now with this drawing that I'm going to do right now, as a thunderstorm is brewing and mosquitoes are gearing up for the evening raid-- I'm headed out to the woods now, with pen and paper in hand---

(45 minutes later)
Okay, my ankles are on fire with mosquito bites, and I got a little bit wet, but it was worth it!  It's a dark, overcast evening, and as I headed into the woods the first thing that grabbed my eye was a single orange daylily growing along what used to be the entrance drive to an old inn.  All that remains of the inn are the stone foundations, some front porch steps, and some trees planted in a row and naturalized day lilies and daffodils.  So drawing 1/10,000 is of one of the last remaining day lilies.  A little further along the trail is an old apple orchard that is being brought back to life by college students from the nearby campus.  I liked the hump of a mulch heap in the tall grass around the trees silhouetted against the dark of the woods.  Drawing 3 homes in on a couple of immature apples.

I then began to walk a bit faster as the rain was starting and I wanted to get in a walk as well as a stroll and sketching.  But as I headed up the steep part of the trail I heard a rustling in the woods beyond a bend and then caught a glimpse of what looked like an orange and white dog tail as the animal bounded back into the brush.  I don't like to run into dogs in the woods without their owners in view, so I went back down the trail and headed up another trail that runs parallel to the first one.  After a few  minutes along this trail I heard rustling again.  This time it was in a field right behind me as I stood getting ready to draw some mushrooms.  I turned around just in time to see the tail of a large fox as it bounded into the deep woods!  So drawing 4 is just a bunch of scribbles, a gesture drawing of that great plume of a tail like a flame rising up and then vanishing!

Foxes are hard to spot I think.  I've only seen one other in the 23 years that we've lived in this valley, and that was a well-known fox that had a hole in the middle of a field where I often took my drawing class to sketch.  One day the fox sauntered out and crossed the field while we sat there in astonishment.  So tonight's fox was a rare treat, and I feel like my challenge is off to a lucky start!

Back home on the front porch, swatting mosquitoes, I was telling my husband about the fox, and he pointed out the little bluebird sitting on the telephone wire that crosses our front yard (drawing 5).  This bluebird and his wife and several batches of babies have perched on that wire for three years.  We were happy to see that he is still successfully eluding Jesse, our semi-feral cat.  Now I have only 9995 to go.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Easter Weekend Willow Paper Late this Year

For the past few years my friend Carol and I have been making paper out of willow bark over Easter weekend.  We take the whole weekend and eat peeps and hot cross buns while we work.  This year, however,  the cool weather here through early spring meant that the willow trees that we usually harvest hadn't begun to sprout or show any signs of rising sap, causing us to delay gathering bark until April.  So this year Easter weekend paper became first weekend of June paper, and our supply of willow was about half of what we usually have.  Hot cross buns and peeps gave way to a leisurely walk to a local restaurant for burritos.

Last week we began soaking the dried bark, which we had peeled back in April,  in preparation for cooking it on Friday.  Since we had a smaller amount, we had decided to use both the bark and the inner bark (the bast fiber);  this decision also saved us the work of peeling the inner bark from the outer bark.  On Thursday I simmered the cut up bark in water with baking soda for around 7 hours.  Cooking willow is interesting:  the water turns a beautiful maroon color, and the smell is fresh, almost like newly-mown hay.  

Here's a page from my studio notebook.  At this point we had discovered that the ketene dimer sizing that we usually use was missing from the paper studio, and there was none to be had in Asheville.  We noticed some methylcellulose solution in a refrigerator in the studio, so we Googled methylcellulose as a sizing for paper and learned that it could be used;  but we were unable to find details regarding how much to use per gallon of pulp, nor could we uncover the "different properties" that the article alluded to when methylcellulose was used instead of the preferred ketene dimer sizing. 

We used a small amount of our pulp to test different amounts of sizing, finally deciding to quadruple the amount we started out with when our initial test showed quite a bit of bleeding when we tested the paper with water media.

The image below shows a sample page, half of which is pasted into the notebook with test results.  To its left is a half sheet of the finished paper.  We mixed the willow pulp with some abaca (manilla hemp) to give the paper strength.  Willow fiber is relatively short and therefore weak, whereas abaca has relatively long fibers and good strength.  We were pleased with the feel of the paper and especially with its beautiful pinkish color.  The dark specks are from the outer bark.  They're so small and flat that they don't cause a problem with writing or painting on the paper, although they might interfere with letterpress printing on it.  We made around 75 sheets on a smallish rectangular mould so that the sheets could be folded in half and sewn into books that have three deckled edges.  The other 26 sheets are around 12 x 18", good for relief prints or silkscreen.

We're already planning our next raid on willow trees.  No waiting for spring next year;  we plan to have it all gathered and peeled within the next few weeks.  Then next Easter week we can pull out our supply of dried willow, soak it for a few days, and have a proper Easter week papermaking.  We're thinking of hand-beating next year and of mixing the willow with hand-beaten kozo for strength.