We had a great Thanksgiving in Paso Robles. We stayed in a the rental house of a friend of Jenifer's. It is called Paso Vine House and it was very beautiful and also very comfortable. Throughout the house were old silver pieces, deliberately left to tarnish. I decided to make a sketch of the creamer and sugar bowl, and I left the sketch for the home owners, It was done with an Elegant Writer, a special pen that bleeds colors when water is added.
I recently took a trip to Oregon and reconnected with some of my special friends there. One of those is Nancy, who had a nice luncheon at her home and even gave us all fun dragonfly bracelets. This is my sketch of the one she gave me. It was', nice to be with friends, breaking bread together, and I have a special souvenir of the occasion.
My birthday was over a month ago, but I am still relishing memories of it, and the things we did. One of the best memories is of was a brunch at a local French restaurant, Le Bernaise.
Louisa, Peter, Griffin and Sophia treated me. It is a beautiful restaurant, and the food is very good. The chief chef/owner is Spike Mendelsohn. Spike also owns two other restaurants on the same block--We the Pizza and Good Stuff. He has been on "Top Chef."
On a pedestal by the front door is a ceramic French Bulldog named Charlotte. She is actually the second ceramic dog in that spot. The first was stolen soon after the restaurant opened, and was never returned. The one that is there now, with a heavy chain, was commissioned and sent from France a few months ago. I love her. She is fierce and loyal. My little painting does not do her justice. She poses in front of a French flag.
Thanks, Smith family, for taking me out to brunch on my birthday and introducing me to a fun restaurant. I have been back and expect to go many times...and always give Charlotte a pat on the head.
Earlier this Summer, I had the fun of taking two almost sixth-grader boys around town the first two weeks of their Summer vacation. The boys were my grandson Griffin and his friend Sebastian. We went a lot of places, and had some good times, including the "Spy in the City" and the Indiana Jones exhibit at the National Geographic Society. We also went swimming and generally just had good times around the city.
I always enjoy time with Griffin, and Sebastian was easy. I think we all had a good time, and mastered some new Metro stops.
It was quite a surprise to get a gift from Sebastian's family, and so thoughtful. They gave me a set of coasters with Washington DC scenes, including one that has the flag of the District. That is what I chose for the image for my thank you cards. DC is not a state, and does not have any voting representatives in Congress. It is an injustice. We pay taxes, but have no representation. I thought that was what the Revolution was about. Anyway, the District flag is a meaningful reminder that we need to keep fighting to get representation.
It's fun to use the coasters....and fun to make the thank you card, which will shortly go in the mail.
One of the hardest things about moving from Portland Oregon to Washington DC was losing the sort of week to week contact I had with my friends in Portland. Thanks to Sue Pike, and many other welcoming people in Capitol Hill Village, I have found people who I love to call friends. Sue and I are in the Cinephiles group and like to go to movies together.
She has been travelling a lot lately and just returned from a trip to South Africa. I am anxious to hear about that. Before she got too busy with her travels, she took me to Hank's Oyster Bar on Pennsylvania Avenue to help me celebrate my birthday. I had heard good things about Hank's, and it was everything I thought it would be. We had a great table, great service and the food was fabulous. It was an evening to remember.
Thanks, Sue, not only for the dinner, but for the welcome as a friend.
One of the very special presents I got for my birthday was a book by my favorite poet, Gary Snyder. It is particularly dear because the "centerpiece" poem is an expression of grief over the death of his wife Carole Koda, who died in 2006. The poem is titled, "Go Now." It brought me back to the grief when Howard died, when I knew there was no other choice for him to "go" and also for me to "go" on...and death from a slow disease isn't "pretty." The "go now" in the poem advises the reader not to read it and turn back from the dark topic. It is a sad poem.
Of course, the book is very "Zen," and it is always good to be in the present moment....while still reflecting, as Gary says,
"This present moment
that lives on
The book cover is a woodblock print by Tom Killion and the back is a photo of Gary Snyder. I didn't think I would be able to do either justice and remembered a cast bell I used to have that I called my "Gary Snyder bell." This little painting is that kind of bell. I have peaceful memories from when Gary Snyder was my neighbor in Mill Valley, and (as I recall) gave me that bell...and of the times, over the years, that I hung the bell in my kitchen.
I am still celebrating my birthday, reflecting on the very thoughtful gifts from my friends and family. I am truly blessed.
My friend Patty sent me a lovely journal in a rich dark blue, embossed with a deep blue dragonfly. In the card I am sending to her, I changed the embossing to gold metallic ink....just so it would show up better.
Thank you Patty. I look forward to recording special thoughts in that journal.
No, not a coffee cup, but a gift card for coffee at Peet's. And there is a Peet's right across from my favorite movie theater, E St Cinema. I just drew the mug while I was there, and I think it worked out great....I can have more coffee other times and think about Jan. And wish that she were there with me. Maybe next time she comes to visit.
One of the really fun things I look forward to on my birthday is flowers from Virginia. She does not disappoint, This was a lovely bouquet from Caruso Florist, one of the nicest in DC. They were really colorful and perked up my living room mantel.
The also sent me a very thoughtful card and a birthday bonus, which I always deposit into my art account. I don't make as much money on my art as I did in Portland, so a cash infusion is a blessing.
Thank you, Virginia. This little card is on its way to you.
I was able to make it yesterday for the weekly drawing session at the Luce Center in American Gallery of Art/Portrait Gallery. I enjoy it whenever I do make it. One of the interns usually makes an assignment. The assignments can be very diverse, but always focus on using the art in the center as the subject. We have made drawings showing perspective, dimensions, energy and all sorts of things. I am probably not describing it very well, but this is a center that has a lot of art and so plenty of material.
Today, I arrived hoping for some classic drawing experience, but that was not to be. The challenge was to create a cartoon with a story, based on something in the exhibits.
I have been working from items in a particular case in the exhibits to do my challenges. It is some random items from the archives of Nam June Paik. They include both his works of art and materials he wanted to have on hand to create art. They are totally random to me, but had meaning to him. The case display is relatively small--about 12 feet wide, 8 feet tall, and 3 feet deep. Plus, everything is behind glass....but I love it.
I wasn't particularly inspired by the challenge, but trusted the process. I noticed that a small statue of Beethoven is close to a large bust of Elvis. I got to work on Elvis, but still didn't have an idea for a story. I wanted to make it cartoonish.
My first drawing was Elvis (above). It doesn't look at all like the bust, actually. Next to that bust, is a small robot. I looked it up on-line and found out it was a lamp. It seemed like the lamp and Elvis could have had a conversation, but Beethoven kept interesting me. Eventually, I decided on conversations between modern items in the case and Beethoven. What emerged is silly, and that is what it was meant to be. Elvis announces he is The King.
Beethoven responds, "...that is not my kind of music" Above is my rather crude cartoon of the Beethoven figurine.
The Robot Lamp claims that it can light up the room,
And the same Beethoven (I did him on a separate sheet of paper so I could move him along the strip and not have to redraw him) responds that the lamp is not beautiful.
I had time for another drawing, which is an old Sony TV that Paik had identified as "12" with a strip of masking tape.
The TV brags about bringing the world to you. Beethoven responds that he just wants a simple, beautiful life.
All this is rather silly, but it was fun at the end when we got to see how each person approached the assignment. We had two totally new sketchers, with about 15 participating. I love to meet people who haven't sketched and then just do it.
Apologies for the quality of the photos. I have a new computer and therefore new software...now referred to as apps. I am having trouble getting used to it, but I think it will be good once I learn the tricks. The paper was ecru, so that is why it looks a little yellowish.
I've been spending Saturday mornings learning about gouache painting, and it has been challenging. I have used gouache before, but still have so much to learn and, so far, my work has not been "blog-worthy." However, I missed the sketch group this week and wanted to put something on the Plum Gallery blog. So, here is my painting of a blue umbrella at the West end of the National Botanic Garden, done last Saturday. It was a really lovely spot, with a fantasic fountain. I wish I had taken a picture of that. I think it is called The First Ladies' Fountain. We're going back next Saturday. This painting is very small, about 5" x 8." My teacher, Bernie Dellario thinks I could go even smaller, but I would kind of like to go bigger. It is hard to get used to putting light over dark when I have done the opposite in watercolor for so many years.
I was very fortunate to draw again at the Luce Foundation last Tuesday. The assignment was challenging...it was to draw sculptures that show concepts relating to balance. After last week, I had decided I would focus on work that relates to Nam June Paik's archives for the time being, but I wasn't sure I could find something.
I was delighted to see that there are some exquisite little figurines in the case devoted to Paik's archives, and they were perfect for this exercise. They are ceramic and, as I understand it, Paik collected these figurines for assembly into larger works. They are related to him because they were in his warehouse at the time of his death. They are pretty small (maybe 10"), and are behind glass, but were fun to sketch. I did three fairly quick sketches. The one above demonstrates that, if one leg juts out, you need an opposite arm and maybe a little head action to counterbalance it.
This next sketch shows that the leaning back and protecting with your arms pose needed to be counterbalanced with a strong thrust of the front leg:
I might do him again because his expression was so severe! I would like to capture that.
The next one was actually the first I did, and I think I missed the mark.
It is very dramatic, and the actual figurine shows that you have to have a strong leg and a front arm out if you are going to balance on one leg with your back arm in the air. I may have overdone it, so may do this guy again. I am not sure it would work the way I portrayed it. The drape behind his standing leg does add some weight, but probably not enough to make the center of gravity actually work in my drawing. It does work in the figurine. This is why I keep trying!
It is fun to do these assignments and to challenge my sketching skills..not to mention learning about balance!
My friend Jan recently went to Mexico....now, that is always fun. She had a good trip and was so thoughtful to bring me a "Dragonfly" gift. This is a very unusual little treasure. It is a holder for sticky notes. On the top, it has a woodburned design and some openwork. I love it. It sits on my kitchen counter and I always now have a place to make a note and pull a sticky when I need a quick jot. Thank you, Jan, for the gift and for thinking of me on your trip.
I went again last Tuesday to what they call "Sketch and Discover" at the Smithsonian American Art Gallery/National Portrait Gallery. The assignment was to draw something showing perspective. We talked briefly about various kinds of perspective. Linear perspective where objects in the background are smaller than those in the foreground; atmospheric perspective objects in the background are less clear than those in the foreground; color perspective where saturation of colors is less in the background than in the foreground (and I also think actual colors: warm colors move forward and cool colors move back), and planar perspective, where overlapping planes create a sense of depth. I was fascinated by an assemblage by Nam June Paik, "Untitled (robot)." It is also known as a "Paaikbot." It includes portable tvs, a movie camera, a tv, record players for "45"s, a large speaker and radios. It has real personality and Paik did make a cartoon face on the screen. My sketch of it is above.
I took a picture of the piece, but there were too many reflections, so I lifted a better picture off the web that shows how it looks when it is plugged in:
I signed up to take a plein air class with Bernie Dellario to learn about techniques of painting plein air in gouache. I think it will be a little more freer in execution than watercolor, but with the same efficiency of supplies...just a palette that can be transported dry, a few brushes and a surface. We had our first session last Saturday at a park near my townhouse, Folger Park. I should look it up, but the same Folgers who supported the Shakespeare Library and Theater may have funded this park. It is a quiet place in the neighborhood. Bernie told us about the materials and methods he uses and then we went to work. I decided to paint what may be boring to some, but the composition was challenging. There is a huge cement marker (I don't know what else to call it) set off with benches on either side. What I like is the texture of the trees behind, contrasted with the wall of the marker. I also noticed some interesting angles in the sidewalks and grass. I wanted to give it a try.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of wind and I was seized with a huge allergy attack. I simply could not finish my painting and had to give up. I saved my start and will go at it again next week. I am not showing it here because it was a simple start.
These are my painting companions, David and Bernie. I think they made it through. The good thing is that the wind made the atmosphere so clear. I loved Bernie's approach and look forward to learning from him.
Suzanne and I met Thursday to go to museums. It is always great fun to catch up on each other's news and to enjoy some art at the same time. We first looked at the National Gallery of Art, focusing on works recently acquired from the Smithsonian. We also saw a show of works by Piero di Cosimo. They are very religious and very Italian. We went to the gift shop and made a few purchases before walking over to the American Portrait Gallery where we had a little snack before taking in the art.
Lunch is bought in a nice little coffee shop, where the one person on duty made me a grilled cheese sandwich to go with my tomato-basil soup....while he was tending to barista duties and manning the cash register. A very nice guy. The really great thing, though, is eating in the Kogod Courtyard, which is completely covered with undulating glass panels. It is so light and airy, and I often see someone I know. I did that day, when I saw Tim Krepp.
The museum itself is designed so that one side is the American Art Gallery and the other side is the Portrait Gallery. We were interested in the Portrait Gallery that day. The most memorable art was that of Elaine de Kooning. There is a video where she does a demo painting from life of the painter Aristodimos Kaldis. It was just amazing. It looks like she is just throwing paint on a huge canvas, but it comes to life when she gets to the facial features. This picture, of course, doesn't do it justice.
She painted Kaldis once a year for several years. I can see why he was fun to paint. I have a much greater appreciation of her having seen that video and the exhibit. I learned that she usually paints a subject several times. I think she did something like 30 paintings of John F. Kennedy and about 50 sketches. Here's a picture of her in her studio...pulled from the internet, but it is part of the exhibit, too.
We also saw some interesting art from Time magazine covers in the 60s. It was surprizingly diverse. We then went to the gift shop and met Walter for dinner at Ella's. Fun day. I'm glad we have kept the friendship, Suzanne!
Yesterday I went to the Luce Foundation for American Art to a weekly sketching group. I have gone before, but it is at the same time that I usually pick up my granddaughter from school, and so I haven't been for a long time. It is on Tuesdays and now I won't be picking her up on Tuesday, so I hope to make this a regular thing.
It is a lot of fun. One of the staff organizes a weekly challenge. They provide all the materials--even stools. The challenge yesterday was to sketch one of the sculptures. I chose to do "Fisher Girl"--a life-size sculpture done in about 1858 by William Randolph Barbee. It is marble, so she was very still. I used pencils, charcoal and eraser and worked for about an hour. I had a little trouble getting into it, as it has been awhile, but I had fun. After about an hour, everyone reconvenes and shares their work. Yesterday, there were people who had never done sketching and also at least one professional artist.
We started with a blind contour, but I am not posting that. It was pathetic.
I don't know why this nude woman is making a fishing net. She has a lovely garland of shells in her hair, which is lovely.
One of my Christmas gifts---yes, I am still working on my thank yous---was going to an Emmy Lou Harris concert with Louisa and Chantel. We had amazing seats and it was a great concert. I have great memories from it. The gift was from Louisa. We had a really special girl's night out, and saw some great artists in tribute to Emmy Lou as well as Emmy Lou herself. I heard it will be a DVD and that will be great, but it isn't out yet. There may be a PBS special, too.
One of the highlights for me was seeing Kris Kristofferson. The last time I went to one of concerts was in the 70s when they had to stop it early because he was too drunk to give much of a show. His voice has softened, but he is more of a steady performer now.
Sheryl Crowe was another highlight and Vince Gill provided back-up for almost eveeryone. He really enjoyed himself.
Alison Krause, Mavis Staples, some new young bands.....and I could go on and on. It was great!
The show was over 3 hours and we got our money's worth...or Louisa's. Lots
My friend Ken was here at Christmas and brought a very unusual present--hand make icicles. I hung them over my kitchen window and, as of March 7, they are still there....and it is still icy outside. I will take them down when the temperature reaches 50 degrees.
Ken also brought a very nice Oregon Pinot Noir, which I am saving for a special occasion.
My brother Jeff came for Christmas and we had a great visit. It is always fun to have him as a guest. He gave me a diamond necklace. It's a diamond mounted in a snowflake and is so sparkly and pretty. Love it, and love Jeff.
The nice thing is I can wear it after Christmas, too. In fact, I am wearing it now...as we expect a big cold snap this weekend.
Jenifer gave me this sweet little bird which is perched in the hall upstairs, where I go by it several times a day. It is ceramic and is always very cheerful. Jen also gave me a watercolor a day calendar. It gives a painting tip a day, and is fun. So far, I have kept up with it...pretty much.
It was also fun to have Jen here for Christmas. We had lots of good fun, and went to Lincoln's Cottage and saw "The Imitation Game." That's in addition, of course, to good times with the Smith family.
Fun to have you for Chirstmas, Jen, and thanks for the little bird.
Another nice tradition for my Christmas.....flowers from Virginia. They are always lovely, and arrive just before Christmas so we can have them on the table for Christmas dinner. It definitely adds to the festivities! This year's were especially lovely and had lots of pine greenery to add to the smells of the holiday. I don't if it is evident, but I painted it front and back...just so I could give it more space! When folded, the left side with the candle is on the front.
Virginia also sent me another surprise, but I didn't make a painting....maybe next year. It is a beautiful little Christmas tree with snowman ornaments! Those were adorable It was just right because I was feeling a little sorry for myself that I didn't have a tree.....then, a tree arrived, and it is small enough for my townhouse. I will love it for years. Virginia is generous is so many ways, and so thoughtful. I am grateful to have her in my life.
One of the fun things at my house every Christmaas is getting the Moravian Coookies. My sister-in-law "Bobby" Woodwell sends them and they usually arrive right after Thanksgiving. I hoard them, though, until Christmas. "Bobby" and Howard were raised as Moravians and it is a link for me to that family history.
There is nothing quite like Moravian cookies---especially the Ginger Crisps. They are made by Mrs. Travis Hanes in Clemmons, North Carolina. She makes the thinnest, crispiest, gingery-est cookies that I have ever tasted. She (and her helpers) make them by hand...hand rolled, hand cut and hand packed. They have come to taste like Christmas to me.
My little painting doesn't do them justice because they are MUCH thinner than I made them look. The star above is a Moravian star, which also comes out for Christmas at my house.
Just posting this now brings the taste back to me....
For a variety of reasons, I have been a slacker on posting my little "thank you" drawings. It was busy because Christmas was coming, Christmas came (and went), I broke my hand, I got the flu, etc, etc.
But now I am ready to get back into the process. At Thanksgiving, Kathy Droege Mullin gave me two little jars of jelly that were very nicely presented with a big, sparkley snowflake. I sent the card to Kathy some time ago but only now am posting it to my blog. MMMM....taste of Summer in Winter is always nice. I just have to remember to return those jars.