Saturday, January 31, 2015

Final Seedy Little Book Teaser Plus Sketchcrawl

 Here's the seventh tiny seedy book.  All done with those now, but still have to write the essay.  Tomorrow I will spread out all the drawings and see what shows up.
Meanwhile this afternoon we drove down to Brevard to meet up with a group of friends who were doing a sketch crawl at a roadside antiques store.  Many wonderful things, of which I drew a few.  On the left, on a table top loaded with rusty tools and parts of other rusty things I found these great hammer heads, curved blade knife, lone rusty wheel, and square pointy things.  In a little side room that seemed to be devoted to objects of some kind of devotion, this homemade ceramic cross with two embedded ceramic hearts and a line of tiny beads.  It was impressed with little circular designs, and from the bottom hung a couple of beads.  And then, at the bottom, my favorite of all the objects, a shiny white ceramic skeleton salt and pepper set complete with a sticker that read Ocean City MD.
Afterwards talking with members of the group at a nearby cafe I drew S's watercolor set that she made out of a tea tin and essential oil screw tops and a water bottle screw cap.  The tin has one of those interesting lids that you press to lock and squeeze to open!  The screw tops all fit in perfectly and need no glue to hold them in place.  I have one of those tins, and I want to make one of those sets, only I don't have any  essential oil except for one or two dust-encrusted bottles of lavender oil that I think date back to our health food coop in New Orleans in the early 70s--

Friday, January 30, 2015

Seedy Little Books Part 3: Teaser

Tonight I'm drawing the penultimate Seedy Little Books drawings-- only one more to go.  These things take so long to paint that they use up all my drawing time for the day.  But the publisher of the catalog they're headed for has asked me to not post these anymore until after they're published in the catalog, a completely reasonable and understandable request.  So tonight all I'm showing is a little teaser of numbers 5 and 6.  You can see the whole drawings in the ILDE Book Festival catalog, which will come out in April.  This catalog is always a spectacularly beautiful publication and well worth the effort of tracking it down.  If you're in Barcelona you can easily buy your copy on St. Jordi's Day at the Placa San Just as the festival.  If you're not in Barcelona or nearby, you can order yours from ILDE or by email from after April 23. You will treasure this and the older catalogs, some of which are still available.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Seedy Little Books Part 2

Two more tiny seed-pod-like books, illustrations for an article.  These things take forever to draw/paint.  Yummy little books!  (I've taken the drawings down for now at the publisher's request.  I'll put them back up after April 23.  See January 30 for information about ordering the catalog they will be published in.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dry-stacked chimney and a Couple of Seed-like Books

M and I tromped up and down steep and beautiful trails in Black Mountain this morning.  Our MMWalks told us we had gone two miles, but surely the ups and downs counted for at least double that!  Here is the profile of a ruin of a chimney that looks like it was either dry-stacked or stacked with clay.  Today it looks like it could fall down if a squirrel ran across it; covered with little moss gardens and with lacy spaces between the rocks, it has outlasted the cabin that used to be attached to it.
And tonight I started a series of seven drawings of tiny seed-like books that I've collected and will use to illustrate an article I'm working on.  Mary, is the one on the right familiar??  (I've taken these two drawings down for now at the publisher's request.  I'll put them back up after they're published on APril 23.  See January 30 blog post for information about getting your own copy of the catalog.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jesse Defends Us From a Possum

 Last night a small possum sauntered onto our back porch while Jesse was lounging on the table out there.  Jesse seemed unperturbed by this clear invasion of his territory, and we had to pound on the glass door to encourage the possum to leave.  Tonight the possum wasn't on the porch but I think he was nearby.  Jesse kept staring out into the dark, then trotting inside and grabbing a bite to eat, then back out to the porch to glower a bit in the direction of the doorway, then back inside to drink out of my paint water.   Some defender he is!
Earlier this evening: cheeses, olives, apples, a carrot, and roast beef rolled around cheddar wrapped in a lettuce leaf on the table at book club.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Shitake Rice Bowl Recipe for Cold Nights

 I always order the shitake rice bowl when we eat at King Daddy's in West Asheville, and last time we ate there I paid close attention to the ingredients so that I could make it at home.  My version of it is almost there!  The real shitake rice bowl has a poached egg on top of it, and I'm going to include that next time.  That will be the perfect touch I think.
To make my first version, follow the instructions written on the pages above.  If you can't find paella rice, some other somewhat sticky rice will do, maybe short grained rice or possibly sushi rice.  Next time I will use more onions, maybe half a big yellow onion, and instead of three Roma tomatoes (not too flavorful at this time of year anyway) a handful of grape tomatoes.  The avocado garnish was my idea, but it wasn't that exciting.  The instructions get a little sketchy at the end, but just be sure to keep the kale out until after the rice has cooked;  then just toss the kale in at the end and cover the pot for ten minutes. The kale will steam enough yet still be a little crisp.  This recipe makes enough for two plus a generous portion left over for lunch tomorrow.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


P and I walked over to Dobra tea shop while we were downtown this afternoon, after working out at the Y.  We sat there feeling pleased with ourselves for showing up at the wretched weight room on a very pretty Sunday afternoon, and a treat seemed needed.  While we sipped white peony tea (P) and rooibus bubble tea with almond milk (me) I drew a selection of boots that showed up in the tearoom while we were there.  I also drew the pile of shoes at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the back room where you can lounge on the floor on cushions.
Back at home I went out to check on the gardens and saw that the Lenten Rose/ helleborus purpurascens is starting to sprout bloom stalks!  The whole stalk-- stem, buds, nascent leaves-- is a deep caput mortuum, similar to the deep maroon of red maple buds and raspberry canes.  I am wondering if there is some reason for this coloration in so many really early blooms.  Meanwhile, here's a bit of Wiki information about black helleborus:

  In the early days of medicine, two kinds of hellebore were recognized: black hellebore, which    included various species of Helleborus, and white hellebore (now known as Veratrum album or "false hellebore", which belongs to a different plant family, the Melanthiaceae).[7] "Black hellebore" was used by the ancients to treat paralysis, gout and particularly insanity, among other diseases. "Black hellebore" is also toxic, causing tinnitus, vertigo, stupor, thirst, a feeling of suffocation, swelling of the tongue and throat, emesis and catharsis, bradycardia (slowing of the pulse), and finally collapse and death from cardiac arrest.[8] Research in the 1970s, however, showed that the roots of H. niger do not contain the cardiotoxic compounds helleborin, hellebrin, and helleborein that are responsible for the lethal reputation of "black hellebore". It seems that earlier studies may have used a commercial preparation containing a mixture of material from other species such as Helleborus viridis, green hellebore.[9]

I just checked out a site about colors in plants.  As you would expect, plants that are pollinated by insects and birds and butterflies are brightly colored and have sweet nectar.  Those that are pollinated by air and wind have dull, non-descript flowers and bitter tasting nectar.  The purple colors in hellebores are anthocyanins, which are a kind of flavanoid.  So I suppose those early-bloomers such as maple flowers and hellebores are trying to attract some early-circulating insect, something that moves around in winter and earliest spring.  Stink bugs?  Lady bugs?  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Charlottes Beginning to Coalesce

Is there no end to these charlotte-themed drawings?  Apparently not, at least not yet.  
I wanted to see them interacting a bit, from the distance allowed by the game, an interaction of sensing or seeing the presence of one another.  So on the right above, one charlotte spots another;
and above left three are converging, but  none are aware of how close they are to one another.  Next step is probably going to be a series of monotypes of them in their game.  Jesse, unhappy about tonight's wintery mix.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Charlottes in the Hyacinth Pot

Hyacinths are sweetly blooming in the January bulb pot today, and I've poked some charlottes in among the stalks.
Zeroing in on the finalists for a print or several about playing chase and hide-n-seek and statues and lurk and creep in the dark, and of course the Wide game.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Studio Cat, Shelter, Cairn Report

Jesse has decided to be a studio cat lately, sleeping on my drawing table on top of whatever he lands on.  Today he looked like he was reading something boring and fell asleep with the book opened--
On the left he looks weirdly human, something really wrong with his nose, mouth and chin.  On the right I was drawing him from above, trying to just draw shapes and not name them or worry about fitting them together.
At 1:00 M came over and we stepped out into the perfectly cool-but-not-cold, sunny, sweet-smelling day and started walking and didn't stop till we had covered 5 miles plus a little.  We hiked down to the river trail, then the entire trail all the way up to Daisy Hill, then back down and back across the fields to the hill below my house, then up the road that runs along the bottom of the hill and leads back into the woods, then down the trail a little bit and up through a deep green bamboo forest and out onto my street.  At the top of Daisy Hill, M spotted a little shelter, shown on the left here.  It was worn down with a few remnants of a blue and orange sleeping bag, right by the side of the road overlooking a wooded valley and mountains in the distance.

We visited the rock cairns we built last month along the river trail.  A few stones had fallen, so we replaced them.  All in all, things look good at the cairn site.  Then when we got to the end of the river trail and were meandering through the woods up above the trail, we built a new cairn by the side of the road.  We think it looks like a fox or some other animal.  The mica in the bottom rock sparkled in the sun.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Wide Game Plus a Few Apples

There IS such a thing as a Wide Game!  And if you're as interested in this as I am you can Google it and find out many ways of playing it.  Among other things, I learned that  Girl Scouts play the Wide Game, and I know now that Girl Scout camp was where I played it.  It's a kind of treasure hunt hide and seek, always played out in a field after dark, usually with no flashlights.  It involves strings worn around the wrists, little pieces of paper (that's what I remember), and other tokens.  People hide and capture and free each other and collect tokens.  It is amazing fun!  Now I know that the charlottes are involved in a Wide Game;  and here are two more players.  (Also three miniature apples that are on the counter and were a lot quicker and easier to draw at 10 PM than more charlottes.)

Sunday, January 18, 2015


These charlottes are playing kick the can in their neighborhood after dark on a summer night.    Does anyone remember the fun of running around and hiding under bushes and in cellar doorways and behind parked cars and even under the crawlspace of neighbors' houses while It loudly counted to 100?  Does anybody remember when kids just played and didn't have play dates? 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Lugubrious Watch Donkey

The sheep have a watch donkey to protect them from coyotes and other predators.  Her name starts with an S but I'm not sure what it is-- something like Saladin.  Today J and I went out to the sheep field by the old white barn at sunset.  He was trying to catch a sunset but things weren't working out.  We ended up in the drive leading up to the white barn, and while J tried to frame a shot of the sunset with the barn in the foreground I drew S the guard donkey, who was standing mournfully near the fence while the sheep gathered around the feeding thing.
Every now and then S would let out a shriek and then sink back into lugubriousness.  This donkey has sad eyes and a sweet but Eeyorish manner.

We gave up as it got dark.  Then after dinner we went out in the complete dark to the high meadow behind our house.  There J got some good night sky shots, one of which you can see here along with one of the white barn and sunset and S.  J is very excited tonight as he just found out he's going to be in Switzerland for his junior year of high school! 

We researched Switzerland for a while;  then I drew another charlotte, this time in the hyacinth and daffodil pot that arrived last week.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Drawings as Mnemonics and a Walking Onion

As usual, great discussion at crit group.
The drawings are mnemonic devices. 

The walking onion is a kind of green onion that my friend H originally got in New Hampshire, and she said it grows well here, needs no protection in winter, reseeds itself in a new location by bending over and dropping its seeds from its flower; hence the name.  I went home and planted them in the partially frozen square foot garden and also just outside the garden.  Fun to be planting in January! Look for more information about these onions on their website here.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Tonight's batch are all preliminary sketches and thumbnails for a new print.  Very tentative at this point.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Strangely Delicate Cow Mouths

On the left is beautiful L in her beautiful scarf at a meeting tonight.
And L, looking nothing like he really looks, but in a really nice hat.  I kept trying to draw him but he got up to leave, and most of the drawing was done while he was moving around and I was trying to not obviously stare so I kept looking down and trying to draw from memory, not my forte.

On the right are some sketches of corn leavings that I found while walking next to a former corn field that the cows had been browsing in a few weeks ago.  After the corn is cut down and only stubble is left, the cows are turned loose to forage for whatever they can find to eat.  There was very little left in the field except for some still-intact ears.  The corn kernels were completely stripped away, but the papery husks were still attached to the stems surrounding the cobs.  I cannot imagine a cow, with her great rubbery lips and teeth like piano keys, managing to eat the corn without completely destroying cob, husk, stem.  And yet scattered all around the field (which now has sprouts of some cover crop coming up) were these intact ears of kernel-less corn. 
I can't even imagine how the corn cobs survived being stepped on over and over again by those enormous hooves let alone being chewed on.  On the right, slow progress in the amaryllis pot.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wild Turkeys in Winter

Where do wild turkeys go in winter?  We rarely see the flock these days, but this morning F and I were working away, when outside her big front windows we spied a heavy landing in a high branch of an oak tree :  it was too big to be a crow, too black to be a hawk, too sleek and long-tailed to be a vulture.  Then the first bird was joined by several more, and it was clear that this was a turkey roosting.  The turkeys would rise heavily from the underbrush, one at a time, then move from branch to branch taking short flights to climb higher.  Then they settled down in the cold drizzle for what looked like chilly naps.  Many hid their heads under their wings.  Nobody moved much. I drew fast.

Then tonight I looked up wild turkeys in winter and learned that they head for the forests in winter where they can still find mast crop-- acorns and other nuts and seeds, especially around oak trees.  They roost in trees at night to get away from predators.  I think this flock had given up on scratching around for food in the rain and were taking a safe break even though it was morning.
And the big news in the tulip and amaryllis pot is that the amaryllis is shooting up around an inch a day this week, and tonight I noticed a second bloom stem coming from behind that small leaf!  The tulip leaves are still green and pretty.

Monday, January 12, 2015

In the Grey Zone

On this dreary low-color-intensity day,  a rain-slick orange tin roof was the brightest thing I saw.  I was waiting in the slow car line at Maya's school this afternoon when I spied it.  I painted it by blocking out all the rest of the orange from this page and leaving only the roof the paper color.  At 4:30 I pulled on some wellies and went slopping into the woods, passing the mist-shrouded silo and a field of wet cows on the way.  At home Jesse was gloomy, sitting out on the back porch and glowering at us as though we had caused it all.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

That Strange Little Orchid That Grows in Mid-Winter

Today we climbed up to a steep winding trail at the north end of campus with some friends.  I hadn't walked that trail for several years and was happy to see that someone has planted a bench up at the high meadow where one branch of the trail comes out of the woods.  This is an astonishing bench. It seems to be carved from a single piece of wood, probably an old downed tree.  It holds the sitter like an old wooden boat, its gently sloping back allowing for a bit of post-hiking slumping while the sitter looks out over the valley to the mountains to the south.  The view takes in two barns, the flock of sheep and their watch donkey, a herd of black cows, two silos, and several fields as well as the north face of Jones mountain.

Along parts of the trail we saw a number of those strange dry-looking green and white striped leaves that I used to think were some kind of early lady slipper.  Now I know they're little orchid plants called Aplectrum hymale or putty root.  The odd thing about these plants is that their chlorophyll is present and active in the winter, even in weather like this week when the temperature hovers near and well below freezing.  The single leaf comes out of the ground at its point of attachment to its corm, from which it gets its common name of putty root.  The corm is made of very sticky gooey material that the early Cherokee and Pisgah people around here used for mending pottery and other adhesive-needing jobs.  The underside of the leaf is either green or, in the case of many that we saw today, purple.  In late spring the leaf disappears and a single stalk bearing a raceme of small flowers rises from the point of attachment of the leaf to the corm.  Unusual for members of the orchidaceae family, these flowers often produce seeds that can be germinated fairly easily.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Guastavino's Chimney and Brick/Tile Kiln

A couple of weeks ago Jacob and Sam went to see the Spanish Baroque basilica of St. Lawrence in downtown Asheville that was built by the Spanish architect and builder Rafael Guastavino.  Jacob had photographed the brick vaulting on the interior (see his blog) (for January 3), and so today he and I went out to Black Mountain to find what is left of Gustavino's estate in the United States.  We found the remains of a collapsed brick and tile kiln that Guastavino had built plus the elegant and perfectly- built chimney that was used with the kiln.
Here are some details  in addition to the chimney itself.  It was so cold we could hardly stand it, but we stayed out in the 30 degree weather drawing and photographing for about an hour.  Then with shivering bodies we drove back to Asheville and warmed up at Greenlife cafe.  Next week:  night photography in the silo field.  The moon will be dark and it should be above freezing.  I hope.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Last of the Tulips

The tulip blooms are crunchy and drying out now, shriveling up and bleaching out in areas.  
Meanwhile the seed production parts are swelling and beaded with drops of moisture.  I wonder if the stink bugs might pollinate house plants.  .  .  .

Thursday, January 8, 2015


 I learned today that Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, values withered leaves and bare sticks as well as blossoms in order to represent the cyclical aspect of nature as to honor all phases of life.  I've been admiring the dropping petals and newly-exposed inner flower architecture as tulips slowly fade, droop, curl and then drop their petals.  So here are some Ikebana-like sketches of the last phase of the tulips.
On the left is a petal that has just drooped down, hanging on like a loose tooth.

Then early this morning I got to see what 7 degrees looks like on a ridge top with the sun getting ready to rise behind it.  Ice crystals covered the trees up there and they sparkled and shimmered in the approaching sunlight against the blue sky and the shadowy west face of the mountain.  Astonishing! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

In the Woodswind

Walking in the woods today while snow was spitting and the wind was gusting in our new cold front (single digits predicted for early tomorrow morning) I noticed what a woodwind instrument the woods can become.  I would say an alto recorder specifically, at least that was the sound this morning.  Occasionally there would be light percussion as trees would tap against each other, but mostly various alto tones as the wind moved through the various apertures. 

I decided to grab whatever caught my eye and bring it home to draw in warmth.  The first thing that grabbed me were some pieces of wood from a disintegrating tree trunk-- the woodworm patterns looked like Morse code or early computer punch cards.  Then I found a branch without bark that had channels dug, again by woodworms, and they were definitely patterned. 

So I got onto the theme of the mystery of seeds and also patterns in nature and then onto the definitely humbling but certainly comforting idea that nature (or the universe or a god or intelligence-- the generator of all those patterns and processes) knows infinitely more than our little brains, even enhanced by computers, can ever possibly know.  And how good it is to watch a clunky little acorn send down a tail/rootlet at the precise time and in the perfect direction to bore into the soil before the ground freezes, with no sign of a stem-- just the root and a package of food, anchoring the baby plant to a patch of ground where it can wait out the winter, slowly creeping its root tip further and further in the direction of water.  And meanwhile the  shell is disintegrating as the food supply diminishes, going back to the ground and recycling itself with the help of the tannin that also gives it its bitter taste that wards off creatures that might eat the seed/little root/plant.  (I think the wind is affecting my mind--  But really, think about it!)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mountain Viewing from Inside/Outside

I opened my eyes this morning and realized I could see a mountain without even stirring from my bed.  The trees are so thinned out now that views have opened up where they were only hinted at before.  At top left is what we can see when we look toward the west in the direction of sunset and moonset at around 7:00 in the morning.  The mountain face reflects the eastern light and stands out as a glow behind the evergreens.

At bottom left is my old friend, Jones Mountain, the source of the fierce winds that howl down our street on nights like tonight.  This view is from our front door window at a little after sunset.  Since we live halfway up the mountain, it doesn't look like much more than a big hill, a nice feng shui cushion.  The label should say SOUTH, not north.  We live on the north face.

On the right at the top is the north view (not the south, as the label says), out our kitchen window, at sunset when the mountains to the north are reflecting the apricot glow from the sunset.  Below is my favorite, the east view, where the moon and the sun both rise.  Tonight's almost full moon floats up like a big fat balloon.  We can just barely see this view from my studio window.  For a better view we walk down to the fence in our backyard.
The mountain sunrise above was taken by Jacob last Wednesday morning at Beaver Lake in North Asheville.  See his blog to learn more about this photo and especially to see more of his work.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Abstracting Form

 Yesterday morning I sat down to do some line illustrations for a new web page, and I didn't get up for three straight hours. 
 These are really simple line illustrations meant to inform.  The hard thing is drawing the salient lines since lines don't actually exist in the real world.
Today I carved five little rubber eraser blocks from drawings I made last week of some of the frozen Charlottes.  Still not sure where if anywhere these are going, but I like what happens when the drawings are translated into a more abstract medium.  In a way these are related to the line illustrations because carving the prints is a matter of finding the salient-if-non-existent lines and shapes to communicate forms.  (I will probably redo these a few times until they feel right.  I like the little one on the left and the second from the right best right now.  What IS it about these little ruins?)