Tuesday, June 30, 2015

From the Midden

The things that I drew today all came from various middens.  At top left and just below are two drawings of an odd little buckle-like thing that F found in a dumpster at a construction site in her neighborhood.  Since she and I are always on the lookout for good reusable repurposable material, she brought home several of the little metal things and many of the woven plastic straps that the metal things were used on.  The intriguing thing about these buckle or clamp things is that they're made out of a single twist of heavy wire;  by threading the straps through the clamps as in 5100, you can make an adjustable strap.  Elegant!

The other objects came from our family's portable junk drawer or kitchen midden:  our junk basket.  There is no way the diaper pin at bottom left would have survived the 36 years since it was purchased-- two cross-country moves, and then two cross-town moves.  It is paleolithic in our family history-- the last surviving diaper pin from the 1970s, when cloth diapers reigned and the only way to hold them on the baby was to pin them with one of these.  I always tried to find this particular blue duck variety at the grocery store.  You had to run it through your hair to pick up a little oil in order to slide the pin through the many heavy layers of cloth while the baby was writhing and rolling over in his attempts to escape.

The straight pin and the safety pin came from someone else's midden, a bottom drawer of one of my antique sewing machine cabinets.  And the silver stick pin with its really pretty calla lily was tossed in with about a thousand old buttons in a button collection someone gave F and me to use on our wallets and bags.

The rectangular object at top right is a Cuisinaire rod from the late 70s.  Do they even use Cuisinaire rods in kindergartens these days?  This one survived in the junk basket, it's yellow wooden surface just a little bit dingy.  I remember stepping on Cuisinaire rods in the dark, sort of like stepping on Legos these days.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Questions at the Charnel Ground

Why do we scold Jesse for killing a baby bluebird but give him a nice chin scratching when he deposits on our front porch the body of a fat mole?  Why is it gross to watch flies land on the mole's carcass and begin to lay their disgusting eggs while I'm drawing it but beautiful to contemplate the precise architecture of a seed pod that allows new life to begin?  Why is the iridescent green of the flies' bodies creepy while the iridescent pink of the nigella seed case reminds me of delicately painted porcelain?  Why do I delight in the design of the nigella pod with its thin membranes and perfect seed release mechanism yet shudder at the mole's over-sized baseball-glove-like front paws and tapered snout?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Individual Lupine Pods Really ARE Individual

Drawing these lupine pods reminded me of the potato drawing game.  I used to use an exercise in drawing workshops wherein everyone would pick a potato out of a pile and go off alone to draw the potato in such detail that the potato would be intimately known and able to be recognized by the person who had drawn it.  No one would believe me when I would tell them that they would be able to recognize their potatoes after drawing them.  Meanwhile I would number some blank sheets of paper from 1 to however many people were in the workshop;  and I would make a list and put a person's name next to each number but not show anyone the list.  I would lay the numbered sheets of paper out in the center of the room while people were drawing.

When people finished their drawings, I would take their potatoes from them and place them back in the basket.   When all were finished and the basket was once again a bunch of boring old potatoes, each person would then go dig through the basket and try to find her/his own potato.  After they thought they had found them, I would tell them which numbered sheet of paper to put their potatoes on: " Mary, put yours on number 1";  "Tom, put yours on number 2," etc.  I could check against my list to be sure everyone had put his or her potato on the correct numbered sheet.  No one ever picked a wrong potato, and after everyone had found the potato she/he had drawn, we would match them with the drawings and prove that they were the correct potatoes.

The point of the exercise is that drawing improves vision, presence, focus, and knowledge.  In addition to producing some lovely drawings of potatoes.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

RIP Little Bluebird

Jesse, reverting to his cat nature, killed one of the two baby bluebirds that we've been watching all spring and summer.  Every morning the two parent birds would sit on the power line that goes across our front yard with their two babies and take turns diving down to the front lawn and swooping back up with food for the babies.  We  noticed the babies flying up and down a couple of weeks ago and wondered how much longer it would be until they all took off.  Jesse would sit by the front door licking his chops, but we wouldn't let him out until the birds had finished their morning routine with their babies.  We can't have bird feeders because of bears, so we rarely get to watch the same birds every day.  Last night Jesse stayed out all night, and at 6 this morning he came in with the dead little bird.  So sad.  When I drew it I noticed it still had pin feathers.  I buried it in the front garden and have had a hard time liking Jesse all day, even though I know he's just doing what cats do.

The raspberries are starting to come in.  These are wild ones from the Jones Mtn. trail.  I think it's interesting that what feels like soft fuzzy stickers all over the berry cases and stems are actually millions of tiny anthers that pierce the skin of the case that is like a nut case, and each one goes straight to one tiny ovary (see 5084).  The little bumps all over the berries are the ovaries, each with a seed inside.  I need to study a bloom to see where the stamens are and where the anthers are in the bloom stage.

Friday, June 26, 2015


I was thinking through parallels between painting and carving, and I realized that I'm going to have to see whites first because that's what happens when I carve-- a piece of the block comes out and the resulting space ends up white in the print.  No outlines in the beginning.  So I started with some heads of wheat that is ripening in the field below our house.  It was really easy to cut away the lights and leave traces and tool marks in the shadow areas.  I might have let a few more tool marks in 5069, but it's okay.  I actually like the tiny single wheat berry with its long whisker because the marks are stiff and bouncy like the wheat.

This afternoon Jacob and I went downtown to check out an abandoned building that he has been wanting to photograph.  While he was inside photographing I sat on a rock under a tree in the somewhat cool shade and drew the exterior.  A policeman came and asked me what I was doing, said he thought I was maybe shooting up some heroin.  He looked at my drawing and then walked on, didn't tell me to leave or anything.  When Jacob emerged a few minutes later our meter was up and we headed home to put some images together.

This is the best carving that I did tonight, all done by removing lights.  The white outline on the right I did at the very end.  This way of carving feels very good now.  I know I need a lot more practice, especially on bigger blocks.  I may actually free-carve the giant block I'm getting ready to carve for a steamroller print event at Asheville BookWorks in September.

Here's the composite that Jacob and I made this afternoon, his photograph from inside the old building, and my charlotte carving from last night, put together in Photoshop.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In Which I Almost Boot This Process Out

Really, what a dumb idea this was!  Tonight I decided to tackle drawing something that's tricky to draw with a pen much less a blade:  one of the Charlottes.  My first attempt, 5062, looks like a mummy in wraps.  The next drawing is of a different Charlotte, and in this one I tried removing the white areas and leaving in the darks.  

For my third attempt, yet another charlotte (if I can just find the right subject the drawing will be good!), I stuck to contour lines.  Other than the strange teardrop-shaped earring-like thing on the face (which was going to be a dark area before I switched to contour lines only), this one feels a little better.  But I'm really interested in doing a value drawing with darks and lights.  Contour is too easy.  So for 5065 I went back to the charlotte in 5063, changed its pose (that's the solution!), and did a very light contour drawing of the perimeter and a few inner contours.  Then I scooped out the areas that were less than 50% gray and turned those into the lights.  I actually began to like this drawing in the version in 5066.
I think I over-cleaned it a little at the end, but I'm pretty happy with 5067.  It's definitely a strange little drawing, but then what else is a drawing of a charlotte?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Scary Drawing with Knife in Hand

I drew the bronze acupuncture clinic yesterday, and that was IT for the day.  Too much packed into one day, had to take a pass.  Today I taught a class in relief carving using rubber plates or blocks.  It was great fun to introduce the students to this process, and after class I was thinking about how after gazillion years of carving wood, rubber, plastic, linoleum, and even corks and foam ear plugs I still follow the same beginner's process:  make a drawing, trace it using graphite pencil, flip the paper and burnish the graphite lines onto the rubber or plastic block, carve, following the lines.

I was thinking about something I read about Shiko Munakata, one of my long-time favorite woodcut printmakers.  He is said to have never traced his designs on his blocks but, rather, simply drew directly on the wood with his tools.  One thing he said was "The mind goes and the tool walks alone."  I've never even attempted to work directly on a block, but then I thought this is the perfect time to try that out.  So today's drawings are all my first attempts at direct carving onto rubber eraser-like blocks and printing successive stages of each little block.

I went out to the pea patch after a few days of avoiding it because I simply could not face another pea pad, and found the overgrown pods with plump peas inside, the pods too tough to eat, but the peas nice and sweet still.  Drawing 5050 is my first attempt.  I think it looks like a skinny leaf, so on the next attempt I popped open a pod and drew it opened.  I started experimenting with lines to create an illusion of shading and transitional tones.  On drawing 5153 I pried the pod all the way open, and this one feels better to me.  I also realized I could do the shadow as a solid area.  The next one, 5155, is of a pod slightly split open with three peas barely showing and a good shadow.

I added some more contouring to the peas, still a bit heavy-handed, but next time I'll go easier and lighter on the initial sketch and avoid heavy outlines.  
I won't be carving ten thousand little blocks (although I am completely convinced that I could learn to carve really well if I did), but I may devote the next week or so to carving 50 of these and see what happens.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Gallery Drawing

I was walking downtown this afternoon killing a little time before a meeting when it started to rain.  So I ducked into the Asheville Area Arts Council gallery in the Grove Arcade Building and did some gallery sketching.  These first four are small metal pieces by Jamie Korslich.  As small as they really are, they seemed monumental to me after I drew them,  There's no better way to look at art, I think, than to draw after it.  That way your eye travels everywhere and you really see the pieces.  By the time you've made close drawings, you know so much about the piece that it has become a part of you.  My friends P, S, T and B in NYC are my models and mentors for gallery and museum drawing.  I can't wait to draw with them in July!
These four are wooden cutouts by Kreh Melliok, who paints and then prints on the cutouts.  They were large, nearly life-size.  I want to go back to see both these shows.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Midsummer Cows' Dream

I read an article this week about a woman in New York who is embarked on a project to draw every thing in her apartment.  According to the article, once she asked her downstairs neighbor if a safety pin was a thing.  She was relieved when the neighbor said no, but a box of safety pins was a thing.  I can see why the artist would be happy not to have to paint all 50 safety pins inside the box, but I work from the opposite side of things, and I most certainly DO consider each and every safety pin to be a thing, and as such, countable.

These cows, while individuals when standing alone, were truly in a state of cohesion this afternoon.  Each coagulation moved as one.  Only occasionally did one cow break away from her group and become an individual.  They were slowly munching their way across a truly overgrown field;  and I hope our field is next on the rotation!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Solstice Moon, Jupiter, Venus

Only one drawing today-- the lovely triangle in the western sky after sunset made by the crescent moon, Jupiter at the top, and bright Venus at the right with fireflies abounding.  I painted this around 9:30 PM when the sky in the west was still bottle blue.

Olives for Dinner

The internet was down last night due to a wonderful thunderstorm that cooled things down a bit;  so I couldn't post the olives that I drew in between my trip to Whole Foods and our eating them all for a cool dinner of olives, pecorino toscano, a baguette, a sliced up German stripy tomato, and a handful of peas from the garden.  My idea of summer dinner!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Inside Story: White Hydrangea

No two florets alike;  each one a separate planet for the ants who pollinate it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Morning on the Lake

My friend M and I went out in my canoe early this morning to see what we could see.  We saw water pickerel in bloom, delicate turquoise blue and orangish dragonflies in some unknown sedge,
 more pickeral with its arrow-shaped leaves and complex orchid-like flowerets on long spiky stems,
a red-winged blackbird that yelled at us until we pushed off (we were obviously too close its nest), a person on a flat scull-like boat who stood and paddled it so that it skimmed along the glassy surface so wonderfully, and several clumps of water lilies/water hyacinths.  These last three drawings I drew from memory after I got back home, trying to exercise and improve my visual memory.  I would like one of those flat skinny boats!  I could probably strap it to the roof of [even] my car.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Small Sabbatical

I thought about not drawing today, but that tomatillo has started peeling from the bottom--
And when I went out to pick some chives or whatever they are for the potatoes this evening, a lovely little blossom turned up in the handful of chive leaves;  so there was nothing to do tonight after Mad Men but paint these guys.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Two Years, 5001 drawings

This afternoon Jacob convinced me to take him to a new trail and overlook, the location of which I cannot say.  It was amazing, though, and well worth the ascent via rocky trail in 90 + degree heat.  He should be posting his photographs to his blog soon.  Meanwhile, I got busy on the last lap of the first half of ten-thousand with this sketch of the view of downtown and Mount Pisgah from the overlook that I made it up to (4982), the area that Jacob climbed up to for a better view (4983), and a bat-shaped rock that I picked up while enjoying the view.
I picked a few flowers while we were climbing down-- but by the time I got around to drawing them they were pretty limp from the heat in my parked car.  The daylily in the middle is in reference to drawing number 1 in this series, which was a daylily on Jones Mountain on July 15, 2013.  Then on the right are all the fruits and seeds that I could draw before eating them at journal group meeting tonight.
I stopped by the grocery on the way home to buy something interesting and different for drawing #5000 and found this tomatillo.  I've never ever bought one of these before, so here it is in its strange papery over-wrap with its green-tomato body cracking through the bottom.  I'll draw it again tomorrow from the bottom.  I also bought some turmeric root for its good color.  Thanks for all your cheering comments and nice responses the past two years!  You make it much more fun to do this.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


I found a desiccated carpenter bee this m morning when I was cleaning my studio.  What a lucky find!  It was a rare chance to really see one of these creatures-- its body was covered with velvety fur, and its wings were as shiny as patent leather.  The rest of these I picked up walking up and down the block this afternoon.  It was too humid and warm to do much of a walk, and the woods are a misery of mosquitoes.  But there were a surprising number of things to pick up and bring home to draw inside.

I realize number 4976 doesn't really look like a pecking chicken, but it looks like one to me, my fetish rock of the day.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

At Micro Level Everything is Fascinating

Tonight's micro appreciations include 6 new small snow peas, a late burst of pods from the almost-spent vines;  a rose spirea bud (4953, lower right, chopped off by the scanner along with one of the pea pods; a wild rhododendron blossom which is extremely sticky and is pollinated by a very small bee (maybe among other pollinators);a sprig of hemlock including the wooly adelgid (white stuff) that is infecting most of our hemlocks these days;  some lovely rhododendron leaves across the bottom and at 4955 in the bright noon sun outside a window;  a sage blossom, a rose spirea blossom, and a vetch blossom;  and finally four odd fruits from the leather leaf mahonia plant.  I wonder so much what function the bright red stem color plays.  These were the trickiest to paint with their frosted blue skin.  This new book is now completely covered:

Friday, June 12, 2015


I started a beautiful new book today.  My friend Carol made it for me out of some willow paper that we made together several years ago.  The cover has pockets in several places.  I love the color of the cover as well as the angles of the pockets so much that I painted right on the inside cover and the outside of the front flap.

Sadly, I lost my little rectangular sketchbook today, somewhere in a grassy field I think.  I had it at 10:35 when we stopped to sketch some chickens in the garden.  Then this afternoon we had a heavy rain.  Tomorrow I will go retrace that hike, around 3 1/2 miles, to see if I can find what's left of it.  Meanwhile, I am consoled by the fact that I've scanned all the pages (there was only one page left in the book).
I found wheat and amaranth growing in the field below our house as well as some other grain in a small patch in the garden.  There is also a trellis with hops growing near the chickens (4928).  We stopped to buy eggs at the garden, hence the six eggs.  And then I rounded things out with a golden leaf from the golden bamboo grove, a couple of azalea seed pods, and a rock that looks like a groundhog to me.  Another 18, and only three more 18s to get to 5000.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

18 More Easily Overlooked Garden Beauties

I ran quickly out to the great- dismal- swamp-of-the-garden tonight to grab 18 things to draw before too many mosquitoes could attack.  My category tonight was things we never choose for table top vases. But really, these things are gorgeous, even the bug-eaten zinnia petals with their lacy edges and the deformed dahlia bud, half of which remains closed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Countdown to 5000

On June 15 two years ago I posted the first few drawings of the 10,000.  I had no idea how far I would get, how long I would persist, what would happen to my drawing practice, how it would feel to even count to ten thousand.  A few months ago when I reached 4500 I thought it might be possible to get halfway by June 15 of this year.  And now I'm 90 drawings away but only 5 days away.  I figure that if I do 18 drawings a day for the next five days I can reach that magic number on the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the practice.  SO to get a running start, here are 18 drawings for today--  all done at the price of at least 18 large mosquito bites as I crouched down alongside the garden at 8:30 PM .
I picked one of the walking onion heads and brought it inside because I was literally going crazy with the mosquito bites.  I dissected the head and found such interesting tiny structures comprising the very complex near or bloom end of the plant.  I think most of the next five days will be micro drawings done inside!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Back to Posting After Big Family Weekend!

A friend messaged me today and asked if all was well because I hadn't posted since last Friday.  I apologize for the unexplained lapse, but one of my sons and his little 5 year old son arrived Saturday, and there has not been a moment day or night in which posting would be an appropriate activity until tonight.  It was a wonderful weekend, and all the sketches were done in the middle of the whirlwind of those 3 1/2 days!  Since other people's grandchildren are of maybe only marginal interest, I won't go into the stories behind most of these, but will simply identify the locations in which I made the drawings.  This first was made upstairs at Maya's house while Maya, Nate, and I played with her guinea pigs.  Maya with unerring social grace hit upon the idea of Nate and me helping her bathe the guinea pigs-- a perfect way to put Nate at ease and get him comfortable around us again.

Drawn in Maya's bedroom Saturday afternoon.

Same place, same time.
 Constant motion studies--  don't really remember where or when!
Standing at our kitchen counter early Sunday morning while Nate explained the identification Tile and rubber bands around his stuffed duck's neck.
This drawing and the next two were made at the top of Craggy Pinnacle along the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we went hiking on Sunday.  When we got to the top I discovered I had no pen with me and no one else had one either.  I dug some dark mud out of a crevice, spat in the palm of my hand, and mixed up a little primitive paint, using saliva as a binder.  It was foggy, and I simply rubbed the dirt into the paper at first, then used a leaf to make vegetation marks.
The my son David made a brush out of a stick by fuzzing one end a bit, and I added more saliva to the paint.  I went back and added lines to the first painting too.
Another hiker suggested chewing up a breath mint, which he gave me, to add some stickiness to the binder.  And I found a dandelion to add in some yellow.  Love to live off the land!
On the left is a little stuffed gold bug that Maya and I made for Nate, who loves all things golden.  At the right, some sketches from the gemstone place that P and Erik and Nate and I went to on Monday to pan for gems and pyrite!
 Down on the farm at the college where we live.

A little while before E and N left, at the table at D's house, drawn at N's behest.

Beautiful tiny aubergine ceramic bowl full of peas at book club this evening.  More book club.
More from book club.  Caught up!