Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I hit a wall tonight and had zero ideas for drawing.  So I grabbed five small items within reach on my drawing table.  I liked painting this much more than I expected to.  The charlotte seems to have a wound in its chest, but that's interesting, in a way.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

More Directly Carved Chickens

I carved three more of the chickens and then printed all of the little blocks with new stamp pads.  Printed the reds and yellows with watercolor painted on the blocks very quickly at the last minute.  I used the blue version of those pink rubber Speedycut blocks that I usually use.  The blue blocks are about half the price of the pink but seem insubstantial and are more the texture of semi-soft brie with the rind on, if you can imagine carving that.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Giant Catch Up from a Week Spent Chasing Two and Six Year Olds

Our son and his wife asked us to team up with her parents and stay with their two little kids for a week so they could escape by themselves for their first child-free vacation in six years.  We were happy to have the chance to live with Nate and Abby and see the world through their eyes.  At the top is a late dinner at the Asheville airport right before our late-night flight to Newark.  A not-very-exciting drawing of a not-very-exciting meal.

While at the airport I, as usual, drew other passengers and their digital devices.  I also puzzled out just where the parents were going to be-- Curacao for diving.  Most fun was going through security, where the little clay mummy in his coffin that I had made for Nate got pulled and scrutinized.  The security guys were puzzled about just what they were seeing on the X-ray.  When I explained they thought it was a fun idea, but they still had to wipe it down with a paper that then had to be analyzed.  No problems, but they asked me to repack my bag since they were afraid of breaking mummy man.
 Here's Abby at breakfast on the first morning.  She always asks me to draw her, and this time she kept adding on the details:  her placemat, Anna and Elsa, her polka dot spoon etc.  Then she drew her version on the right.

Abby pulled out some seashells that she had drawn on with markers and that her mom and drawn on for her.  She of course wanted me to draw these.  On the right, and NOT counting, are a couple of maps and a diagram of Abby's lunch box with its very specific requirements.

Once we walked Nate to the bus stop and Abby to the Y for daycare, both enjoyable walks through their pretty neighborhood, we were free till 4 PM.  Here's P lounging at lunch in a deli that we walked to in downtown Maplewood.  On the right are some gestures of the station man sweeping out his office and a passenger waiting at the train station.
On Wednesday Nate had a holiday but Abby went to daycare, and we four grownups took Nate into the city to go to the Egyptian section of the Met, one of his favorite places to go.  We make a trip with Nate into NY every time we go visit, and over the years there are certain rituals that we've developed and that he insists on maintaining.  One ritual is that we draw on the train, something from each station stop.  Another is that Nate mentions the emergency exit seat and wonders what would happen if he pulled the handle.  We have designed a child emergency handle electric ejector, which he has drawn in great detail on the right.

I love to draw in the museum, but this doesn't happen much when there are kids around, except this time the other three adults were great about doing things with Nate, and I drew a few things in the Egyptian section.
More things from Egypt.  Nate and his other grandma noticed that all the coffins had eyes painted on the outside, and that one mummy was turned so that it looked out through the place where the eyes were.
A favorite ritual of Nate's is stopping at Auntie Annie's in Penn Station for a pretzel and a bottle of water (and a straw that he uses to drink the water and stores IN the bottle when it's closed).  Here's Nate eating his pretzel on the way home after walking 6.5 miles according to his grandma's fit bit.  On the right is a detailed map that he and I made of all the things we did and saw all day:  walked to the station by way of the Y, then bought ritual chewing gum at station; took C train and got off at 85th Street and walked a meandering route through Central Park where Nate climbed on rocks; got lost in Central Park, found the Met and climbed more rocks; went to see and photograph the mummies; had a good lunch; then went to a fantastic show in the African section of Kongolese power figures (nkisi), which Nate photographed with my phone camera extensively;  hit the museum shops, always a high point; heard buskers in Central Park and put money in their instrument cases; stopped at Auntie Annie's again while waiting for NJT;  caught the right train, and walked home.
On Thursday N had karate, so we walked to that while Grandma took Abby walking to find rings.
Some karate moves, and then the tree that we sat on a bench under to eat cookies from the bakery on our walk home.  (Lots of prepositions in that sentence!)
On Friday the grownups were going to head back into the city for MoMA, but the pope had attracted 2 million visitors, and we decided to go instead to West Orange to see the Edison Museum.  We loved this place!  It is still set up like Edison's laboratory and factory, with millions of old machines and tools and odd things that Edison collected.  And no kids, so I got to draw!
We also visited Edison's house, where there were many bear and tiger rugs, although he was not a hunter himself, according to the docent.
On Friday night and Saturday Nate and I built a power figure for ourselves.  We got a piece of firewood and attached many objects that we had collected on our walks through the park and town.  After we made it, I drew it and Nate wrote the word "nkisi" in hieroglyphics, using a hieroglyphics table from a library book we had gotten out of the library earlier in the week.  As a finishing touch, Nate taped a business card from the bakery on the facing page.
Saturday came too soon.  We walked to karate while Grandma walked Abby to the park;  then afterwards we met up with them and played on the playground, went to the bakery, ate a cookie on the bench, collected things for the power figure.  We were sad when Grandma had to leave (Grandpa had had to leave on Thursday).  It had been a fine week.  P and I did stuff with the kids and finally got them down, and the runaway parents arrived home at nearly midnight.  Then we got up at 4 to make our 6:55 plane home.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sheep Photo

Testing out new blogger app


(Trying to post from my phone using a phone photo. Not easy!)
Anyway, yesterday was Steamroller Prints at Asheville Bookworks, and I am counting this direct-carved 34x34 inch print as drawing # 5574!  Maya carved the grass and assisted with inking.

The semi- annual print spectacular was very different from usual in that the steamroller we had been loaned completely broke down as soon as we started printing in the morning. Undaunted,  the nine printmakers and friends troubleshot like champs and ended up printing with a large Ford instead.

(P and I are flying out of here tonight for a week of babysitting in NJ. I will be drawing but posting only sporadically until the 27!)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Lunch with Maria's Mummies

M and I met for lunch today and she brought some of her mummy art pieces with her and she let me draw them. They are mysterious, evocative, creepy, lovely, strange, and peaceful.   One of them lives in an old cigar box, and she gave that one to me to bring to Nate.  Admit it:  you love mummies, too!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Morning at the Hidden Fishing Pond

A. and I decided to explore the hidden fishing pond area and to draw things as we went.  The first thing I saw was a small but long-necked bird (P told me it is a cormorant and he saw it the last time we were at the pond) speeding across the glass-smooth water.  There was not a ripple on the pond until that little bird streaked by leaving a deep V-shaped wake.  We walked around the far pond first and then lapped the pond at the fish camp end.  I liked the old porcelain bathtub that is parked outside the camp building and looks like it might be used to hold large amounts of bait.  There was one fishing boat turned upside down by the edge of the water.  A few turkey vultures were drying their wings at the top of a dead tree.  Why do those birds always park themselves in dead trees?
There is a willow tree at the edge of the far pond that looks so much like an olive tree with its sturdy trunk and feathery leaves.    We did around four laps around the ponds, including an infinity sign lap that involved the road that runs between the ponds.  Saw about eight Jesse-lookalike cats chasing each other.  We also found a rough little trail that went through some thick vegetation and up a steep rocky slope and ended up overlooking the river!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chickens: Radical Revision

 I looked at yesterday's chicken watercolor drawings and carved the shapes straight onto rubber blocks.
I like the essential chickenly shapes that seem to me to work even in the absence of contouring.
The very pale printing is due to dried out stamp pads.  I like the pebbly texture they gave on this rough-surfaced paper, but the paleness is too light.  Tomorrow I'll get a really good black plus a dark brown stamp pad and re-print these.  I tapped on the reds and yellows with the corners of other stamp pads.  5562b has watercolor yellow and red.  Too dark for the body.  Still proofing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sweet Chicken Afternoon

What could be better than sitting in the cool grass in the sunshine with a little set of watercolors surrounded by two dozen or so chickens and nothing else to do but paint them?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Zinnia, Charlottes

 On this extremely bright, crisp fall day, here is the grandmother of all zinnias, producing more seeds than I have ever seen a flower produce.  This zinnia, which was the first flower to bloom on this volunteer zinnia plant in my garden, has been growing steadily since July to produce an enormous cone of seeds that is only now beginning to finish and release its seeds.
And for your further edification, three more direct carvings, these of those little frozen charlotte dolls, which still wander around my studio and turn up from time to time, challenging me to figure out how to carve a decent value carving of their slick porcelain bodies.  Still not there yet but liking them better.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Direct Carving: Sheep for the Year of the Sheep!

 In my Rules for Direct Carving the block can't have any marks on it when I start carving-- no tracings or transfers or even sketches.  The carvings that I did tonight started out as sketches made from life in pen.  To carve them I referred to the drawings but did all marks with a carving tool (starting with a smallish veiner and moving to a larger gouge and then going back in with the veiner).

What could be better than big fat fluffy sheep laden with drapes of wool, standing around in a pasture, not only full of wool but pregnant?  These girls were being raised for their wool plus getting ready to pop out lambs at any minute.  I liked making the carvings even better than the drawings because it was a lot of fun to wiggle the veiner and gouge around making wooly marks.  Did you know this is the Chinese Year of the Sheep?

Friday, September 11, 2015

In Which We Are Lost Under the Noonday Sun and Then Found

This starts off as a fine little walk, following the well-marked trail circling the lake that I've canoed on a million times and walked around several times.  P has never circled the lake before, but he has the idea to start out along the lake instead of in the woods where  I have always started.  I think he enjoys the lake shore more than the woods.  I am not usually compliant when it's a question of hiking a trail that I know and the other person doesn't, but an ancient and archaic pattern has us in its grip, and I follow along like a witless puppy.   Maybe my brain is already baked by the noonday sun.  So we see many turtles sunning, a festival of cattails, and our canoe on its rack at the boat launch.  Hello, Pelican!

Then we reach the dam on the far side of the lake and head back toward the wooded end, and I remember why I never start this way:  It isn't easy to find the trail from this end.  We spend about a half hour wandering in the neighborhood, hot asphalt with cars whizzing by, the lake ever-receding behind houses and garages.  I am not-quite-silently grumbling while P is saying "This is nice!  Just enjoy the walk." Right.  Finally we turn back in to the lake shore, and I can see where we should have come out.  So I decide to walk backwards on the trail that leads back to the dam so I can see where we should have headed in.  P elects to sit under a tree in the shade and watch a lawn man unload his riding lawn mower from a truck.  It isn't long before the bank funnels into a shaded grassy trail that follows the lake and ends up near the point of rocky wall that sticks out into the water, where J and I used to launch the canoe when he was five and we had to portage it through the neighborhood from his house before we had a slip at the boat launch.  

Along the grassy trail there's a Little Free Library in a birdhouse-like box, brightly painted and inviting.  It is fully stocked with free books.  (See  What a sweet surprise, hidden as it is along this secret trail.
And so this page shows the rest of the walk, through the woods past the hidden picnic table, through the flowery, leafy overhang, rounding the edge of the bird sanctuary.  We dip into the bird sanctuary and walk a couple of laps along the boardwalk.  Really, it's a nice walk, but still, it's better to start off through the woods!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mapping Eight Miles

I've been easing up on a really long walk.  My daily walks have slowly moved from 2 miles to four to the occasional  six, not in an orderly progression, but  back and forth from two to six to four to two.  Today it was rainy and unpromising, but I put on my rain boots and my ancient rubber Isle of Wight raincoat and set out to see what it felt like to walk eight miles.  The first interesting thing I encountered was a drawing on the message board at the trail head:  someone had found a pair of glasses and hung them up from a large nail.  Someone else had drawn a face and head around the glasses.  Nearby on a post was a found set of keys.

I was going to start with a steep uphill trail, but as I headed up the rubbly trail I spied a large black dog standing alone and staring down at me, no owner in sight.  I slowly backed down and took the Mindy Sue trail instead.  Not fun to encounter dogs without leashes or owners.  The owner eventually met up with the dog as I could hear him cheerfully telling the dog to stop doing whatever it was doing and to Come.  By then I was headed toward the rhododendron hell, which was very dark on this gloomy afternoon.  A few drops of rain started falling.
I came out of the woods and walked down the road to the fields, which had just been plowed.  Skirting the fields I saw blue chicory, so beautiful.  I ducked into the woods at the river trail and followed the river for the second mile.  I reached three miles just at the edge of Owen Park.  Rain was coming down pretty hard, but it was easy to walk on the trails around the lakes, and I was feeling fine.  I finished up the fourth mile while lapping the lakes;  then I headed back home down the same way I had come.  My feet started complaining at mile five, and I seriously considered going barefoot. I noticed that it felt better to walk uphill because I could sling my foot toward the heel and save my toes from slamming into the hard toe of the boots.

I went back past the fields and up the road, completing mile six.  I could tell I was going to come out of the Mindy Sue trail at around mile 7, so I added on another loop, the Hemlock trail.  By now my toes were seriously screaming and I was back on my street.  I trotted on down the street to our house as I passed 7.5 miles, and I shucked off my boots and socks but kept going  and finished the last mile barefoot!  It felt so great to splash in puddles and walk in the wet grass.  Even the asphalt felt better than wearing boots.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Saggy Soul

To me absolutely nothing is better than coming across something totally unexpected in the woods.  M and I were happily clopping along the trails in the woods near Dam Pasture when what should we see but an old rusty black paint bucket turned upside down on a post with a strange little painting on the side.  It looked at first like drips of whitewash.  When we turned the can upside down we were able to read letters:  SAGGY SOUL, and the little runic figure resolved into a ghost or a small woman.  A fantastic find, which we left exactly as we found it.  It looked like a petroglyph in many ways.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Silent Duck Grooming

I went for a long walk this morning.  My plan was to  stop at each mile and do a drawing of whatever showed up to be drawn, take a little break.  But then I missed the signal on Map My Walk when the first two miles were up, so I didn't do any drawing until I checked and saw I had gone 2.5 miles without a break.  It was beautiful along the river, and at the 2.5 mile place there was a silent group of ducks busily grooming themselves while floating in the water.  A large tree was down and crossing the river just upstream, and the water was very smooth and unruffled in the ducky place.  I threw out my plan and drew ducks in all their grooming attitudes.  These ducks were mostly white.  It was so quiet I could hear the soft splashy noises they would make from time to time.  To clear up my eyes I drew the smallest interesting things I could find nearby:  a leaf hopper on a spike stem of river cane and some shriveled up berries.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

More Difficult to Draw Than Hands: Jesse's Jack

Jesse's favorite toy these days is a kind of poisonous  blue rubbery plastic jack, a little larger than a metal jack.  The other day Neenah commented that hands are hard to draw.  Well, to me, this jack is harder to draw than a hand! I thought it would get easier and snap into good proportions if I drew it over and over.  It didn't.  Maybe I need to add some more dark colors to the darker blue shadowy parts.  I've stepped on the thing a million times.  Jesse never seems to get tired of throwing it up into the air and batting it around.  Sometimes he carries it in his lips into another room and hides it from himself under a chair, then pounces.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Mummified Insects from the Tomb in Our Sunny Front Window

Today I found a little cache of mummified insects-- several stink bugs, a tiny wasp-like creature, a pretty little moth, and a few lady bugs--in the space between the screen and the parting stop of the bottom sash of our bedroom window.  The sun beams in this window all afternoon, and these guys are crispy and bleached, but still beautifully articulated and detailed.  I'm thinking I might collect them in a tiny jar and pack them in the mummy's outer tomb.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chicken Yard Dance

A and I took a 4 mile walk at midday today, and the chicken yard provided a nice excuse for us to stop and enjoy the dappled shade under a chestnut tree while we sketched chickens.  These chicken drawings are all basically gesture drawings as no chicken ever stayed still for more than a second or two.  On bottom right a rooster has jumped on top of a hen, and even that only lasted 3 seconds.

More of the same.
After the  break we headed up along the trail by the pond to the meditation hut, shown in partial view above left.  Great walk, but we are looking forward to cooler weather!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Long Day, Short Post

Here's Maya showing me how to blow on a flute.  She will be learning how to play a flute in the sixth grade band this year.