calligraphy, desert landscapes, odd animal portraits

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August 2021

While on a visit to Santa Rosa we are watching Downton Abbey, looking to get some fashion tips for the 1920’s-themed Cotati Accordion Festival at the end of next month. Leila sent me some flapper dresses to try- Mimi gave me some cowgirl threads for the stage. I’m walking now, stiffly, keeping a cane close by, visiting thrift shops and brewpubs, where folks are not keeping strictly to protocol. Hooray.

Art had the Jobbox moved out of the cabin into the woodshed, and it took him a week to insulate the music room and put up some pretty plywood panels. We plan to hang guitars and banjos and Ukuleles, and tuck accordions under a work bench. We found two bar stools on the street here that will help make the room more visitor-friendly. We head back tomorrow.

I’m back to trying portrait sketches after a hiatus. I took time off to rest my wrist and brain, intimidated by the difficulty of fitting faces to the templates I am learning. I did these two tiny toss-offs of Youtube presenters on a page of sloppy circle-dividing practice. I was pretty happy with them, so I tried another two, still quite small.

Women wearing makeup are easier to draw. Men are a little more challenging. Two issues present themselves, asymmetrical eyes, and too-long noses.

Already faster and more assured, I tried working in my big bound sketchbook from the cover image of a local paper- this guy with two black eyes. I need to go even darker, not be so timid with values.

The flatness of a projected image conveniently translates to pencil and paper, so I am shocked when I take a photo of a drawing and there is a further flattening. Like looking at a painting in a mirror reveals unseen distortions and imbalances. It is no small miracle, to think of it, of screens and lenses.

By the way, we just watched At Eternity’s Gate, really excellent movie about Van Gogh. I have always been a huge fan, since he knocked the wind out of me at the Chicago Art Museum. I did this little copy from an old datebook I have from the 1980’s where there is one of his paintings for each week. Not so much thinking of portraits here as just copying his brush work, but there it is.

mid summer 2021

I was watching a video about how trauma-triggering HURRYing is, and how calming it is to turn the dial down.  It has changed my studio practice. Today I am going to relax.

I am not fastidious, but I love organizing, and for years beat myself up for time spent arranging materials vs actually drawing and painting.  Looking back at my life I am astounded at how my younger self prepared the creative space for the person I am now.  Like a sorcerer’s apprentice, I set loose a flood of every sort of wonderful art supply I could wish for.  

Brushes, paints, pastels, pencils, drafting and calligraphy supplies, the Winsor-Newton tin and Kolinsky brushes I bought for college in 1984 . . . journals, sketchbooks, etc. in different formats. Slightly-used oddities passed on to me over the years—I learned early the difference between quality and crap, to my own creative detriment.

What took me longer to learn was that cheap materials can be used creatively, enjoyed with abandon. That is a breakthrough for me. The limiting fear of doing a good drawing on bad paper shut me down for years. Or-worse??-bad drawing on good paper!! Or, horrors, having someone see my mistakes and misuse–This is all gone now.

Last year as music gigs and jam parties evaporated overnight, my social life disappeared. Aside from a few gardening jobs, I spent hours a day watching artists’ videos, stacking up and sometimes taking classes online, puttering aimlessly with paints and brushes; but so much inspiring input was often overwhelming.

Suddenly I was incapacitated with “a bad sprain” and there was nowhere else to go. Scrounging through half-used sketchbooks for ideas and empty pages to fill, nibbling around the classes with no real plan, nuthin else to do but draw little toy animals from around my bed . . . now every day something appears on a page–even in this super-scrappy old sketchbook.

I put these guys up before when I hadn’t had x-rays and didn’t realize I was in for a long haul. I didn’t mention that they have a story. This little ptero was made of felt by a friend of mine- bass player in a band I played drums in. I am not pushing them, or hurrying them to tell me what that is. Maybe this is all I got.

As far as I know so far, a pterodactyl out cruising for a small animal to snack on snatched up a little critter who turns out to love flying, and is so adorable and fun and tells good jokes that it would be a waste to eat him or her, yeah. They fly over desert and forest and town and riverbed and become best friends, and have a wonderful life together.

It turns out that the little puppy snack is actually a red panda, the two of them grow old together, and seems they have a business as an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas.

July 2021

I had to get a new phone, and I bought a used iPhone 6 because of memories I have of the big billboards all over San Francisco when it came out touting the excellence of the camera. I had set up the old iphone as a dedicated camera in the Roofing Haus, but the update on my laptop means it is suddenly no longer compatible. This makes for some new and complicated photo-sharing shenanigans vis-a-vis what I thought would make things easier, still have to figure out the wifi and cloud situation.

There are drawings I don’t have photos of, photos on my two phones that aren’t on my laptop that I guess I have to email to myself–things disappear into the cloud–it’s so confusing. I draw and paint something nearly every day, I don’t know where all the photos are.

Here is a recent batch that came through. The standing cat was from a video of feral kittens being fed by a spoon to get them used to humans. I get a lot of ideas from videos or stills I find online. I am taking classes on Domestika, and screenshot pages from videos of my teachers’ sketchbooks.

We are booked for the Cotati Accordion Festival September 26. The theme is roaring back to the 20’s, so I am planning to put together a flapper look. I am walking everywhere now, may be able to dance a bit, zydeco for sure, polka, maybe. I used the BIG sketchbook Leila and Sara gave me for Christmas 2009 to draw these flapper girls, from an unattributed photo on reddit.

I continue to glean random images from old scrap and image files, using various sketchbooks and materials in multiple ways. One thing that stays steady is my increasingly relaxed brushwork, to the extent that I am doing more freehand waterbrush-and-ink drawing, rarely penciling in a preliminary drawing.

On the other hand, I spent about four days completing this color pencil copy of a mysterious photograph I had stapled into a landscape format bound book years ago, from a fashion/food/flower art show??

Leeky Shoe SFMOMA

And at random- this big sloppy painting of a cute jacket I saw in a movie; a copy of a Picasso that I did last October for one of my Domestika classes, just before wet weather drove me out of the Roofing House for the winter; waterbrush and ink on mustard paper of someone else’s sketch of a William de Morgan tile.

Summer 2021 Landscapes

I keep my old iPhone 4 in the Roofing House as a handy little snap-camera to document my daily sketching, and can easily download images to my laptop there.

I have tasked myself with filling my partial sketchbooks. The challenge increased when I was given two small spiral books with tinted paper in olive and mustard. I shouldn’t randomly start a new sketchbook with so many undone, but the colored backgrounds are too tempting.

Haven’t been to the desert in such a long time, I decided to copy a postcard from Mojave National Preserve using caran d’ache watercolor pencils and white Posca pen on mustard sketch paper. Two exposures. I used a waterbrush with a water-black ink mix, pulling dark blue shadow lines from inside the tangles of rocks, cholla, junipers and sage. The photograph loses some of the subtlety of the yucca leaves and shadows.

In mid-June I sketched these little copies of 2 paintings by Andie Thrams, using watercolor, white gouache, and color pencil on olive paper. These shots from my bed in morning light, with the refurbished-iPhone 6 camera.

copy of – ‘pacific wren’ – by andie thrams
copy of – ‘enchantment’ – by andie thrams

This is a painting I did around June 16, from a magazine photo of an installation by Patrick Daugherty. White is posca and signo gel pen, on black sketchbook paper, plus gouache and watercolor. Again, so shocking to see the differnce between the painting and the photo. Like digitised music, so lossy! So unsubtle!

Late June 2021

Mimi’s toys, thrift store acrylic paints on 9″x12″ canvas panel

On the occasion of our second visit, I did a painting of Mimi’s toys as a thank-you gift. Very limited selection of paints, a fun challenge.

June 6, 2021

Some drawings of Reality, drawing from photographs, and portraiture.

I’m still not walking, so I am focused on cementing a near-daily drawing practice.

I did get my boots on, though, and went to town last week to get my new phone set up.

I did these drawings in my bound sketchbook of Art Peterson, Carlos (my portrait sketch teacher), and a profile from the Sketchbook Skool workshop. Wow, really difficult.

Muffin memories

Years ago — I remember Clamity Jen handing me the sticker on the page that says XXXV, so that is the year 2000 — I started a drawing of the big oak tree at the Browns Valley Aerodrome campground, site of the not-quite yearly Memorial Day weekend music party known as Meadow Muffin.. Layers later, it is finally done. Trees are hard! Until you know how.

Started in 1975 as a birthday party/music festival, MM2000/XXXV was the first year I attended. The Cavepainters played, it was 10 years into my relationship with Stevie, I was not in the band then, and he was singing lead but not playing guitar. The recording of this gig (engineered by Matt Parker) was/is the quintessential Cavepainters recording, with Stevie in fine voice, John Havard and Ed Wray trading leads, Rick Purcell on keyboard bass, Scott-T on drums.

Photo, to follow, somehow. I would put a link here to Travels With Stevie, but there are no photos there, either. Somehow I have to get back into my photo flow, archives, old PC, whatever it takes.

Late May 2021

I copied a series of fox and owl studies from my animal character Instructor Kevin W. Marvelous expression of demeanor and life.

I am working at putting together the animal band. There are some jazz cats that live next door when the Brementown Musicians end up moving into a house after a confrontation with some ne’er-do-wells in another town, which is how the story goes. It is a mis-translation, they are actually a singing troupe. I have never seen an indication that they played instruments. However, once they start hanging out in this house there is a porch, and a banjo, and bongos . . . etc. And a white mouserat, with wine. Why not.

May 17-23, 2021

week 3, Santa Rosa, CA

Here I am in bed in the guest room at mimi’s house, resting and drawing; or walker-ing to the bathroom, or the breakfast room, to the couch to watch movies, or out to the garden. Mimi likes to take care of us–and Art gets a break from running up and down the house bringing me things.

Did I mention I got x-rays? oy. Two fractures, minimally displaced. What a shock . . after three weeks in bed.

We are the Wholeness. Love, Beauty, Creativity.

CoQ10, Vitamin C, homeopathy.

I asked Mimi for some toys to draw, so she put them all over my bed. I drew the Japanese porcelain cat, the longy-leggy doll, and the bendy frog with Derwent watercolor pencils, in the messy, wrinkly, spiral bound sketchbook. So fun to draw in..

My Instructor KW suggested the Brementown Stuffies should play instruments, so I drew up Alliger pretending to trumpet like a cartoon elephant, and added watercolor, brush pen, white signo pen.

Kids books have alligators.

Here are some Richard Scarry illustrations from, I think, 1951?

Books and toys from Mimi’s collection, except for Aliger, from my imagination.

may 2021 week 2

I am still immobilized by my bad fall and sprain, so celebrating my birthday month in Canyon, passing time with toy animals and cake. We expect to go visit Mimi in a few days so Art can get some downtime. He has been running up and down the stairs to bring me frequent snacks and coffee and other attentions.

Here is a portrait i painted of the new birthday possum I ordered from Mr. Mopps and had Art go to town to pick up–taking umbrage at being asked to play an instruments for Brementown. We are singers, he say, mistranslation.

Here are ideas for a puppy crittur, some cats based on Kevin W. sketches, and two origami pterosaurs to use as models for a predatory character.