calligraphy, desert landscapes, odd animal portraits

Author Archive

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.


Early May 2021

On Monday April 26 at about 11 AM I lost my balance, pivoted 180 degrees, and fell into a hole, badly spraining my right ankle. Suddenly I am immobile, and more isolated that before. Luckily I was in Canyon- I tried to crawl but couldn’t move. I yelled and yelled until Art heard me, and came out to lift me up and carry me to the house.

I have been laid up in bed, being taken care of, well fed with healthy food; and, obviously, unable to work. Pluto stationing, heading back into my 11th house, Mercury and Venus piled up on my natal sun- Whew, I just narrowly escaped having to plan a 70th covid-tinged birthday gathering.

I am sketching a bit in my (s)crappy sketchbook, and it is really fun and soothing. I just found this little metal case, very handy for a small drawing kit.


April 2021

My sentiments exactly

I have a number of online classes I signed up for and not done much with. There is one that I have found approachable because the instructor’s demeanor is approachable, mild, funny, not at all intimidating . . . creating animal characters for storybooks. I have some critters around that I am drawing- little bigfoot, my stuffed animals as the Brementown Musicians, and some random animals around the studio.


March 2021

I had a lovely hike with my friend the homeopath. We were able to rant and outgas our outrage at the various effects of Stupid19, which seems to have become the new #metoo. Afterward I saw this photograph in a local tabloid and tweaked it a bit. Apologies to George Floyd.

It is astonishing to me how every new mind-control trend sweeps away any and all previous fads, and obliterates discernment in people I once thought anti-corporate and self-autonomous.

The Shattuck Theater re-opened, with re-strictions, so Art and I went downtown and saw a movie- Nomadland. No hot dogs at the concession, and pre-poured, one-size-only popcorn, $6. Here are some items of beauty I found on the street. The chair is what I believe to be in the Eastlake (victorian era) patters, matching the hardware in my house of that period. I intend to reupholster it, sans springs, but saving the horse hair.


stain painting

2.2.21

I am still not using the Roofing House- too cold and wet. There is very little damage, I got everything out in time, and I like the split, having my watercolors at home, and the more rough materials here. There will be some work to do once the weather dries out.

I inherited a stack of ecru dinner napkins, and last year was playing with acrylic inks. They are so absorbent it is hard to lay down a brush stroke. Maybe they need to be damp. Hmm, that can be arranged. I used flow-aid in places, and some folding and transfer.

also messing around with grayish sky colors.


xmas lockdown

12.30.20

Against the advice of our keepers, we snuck off to Santa Rosa to visit a mask-free paradise of art and food and friends. The tree, as ever, was spectacular. I took a book of Edward Curtis photos, and came back with a large monograph on Monet, and a vintage travel set of winsor-newton watercolors.

The move to Berkeley has been productive. I am mixing media, playing with brush lettering, and touching up old pages.

vintage w/n set; sennellier travel tin with 6 additional colors

Merry Christmas Lockdown

12.24.2020

It has been a long time since I have done any calligraphy practice. I just downloaded some classes, and am starting out by filling some warmup pages. In January I’ll be back at the desk with an oblique pen and some sparkly new inks from Fox and Quills, LA, CA, USA. Until then, happy new year, everyone.


Soggy Doghouse

11-15-20

Oh dear, the rains have come, and I am so happy except . . . the Roofing House, nestled as it is in a redwood grove, is damp and dark and suddenly all my sketchbooks and papers and other frail things have to be moved. Again. I brought a stack of books in and wiped down the covers, but tins of watercolors and drawing papers and source materials and sketchbooks need to be boxed up and moved to Essex Street for the winter.

I have some classes lined up to download, calligraphy and figure drawing and portraiture, I can just as easily- perhaps more easily- work from there.

One thing I did this fall was these little maquettes, possible prototypes, like 3D printing, only done by hand. Can’t get a better photo right now with everything packed up, but here is the krop-otkin bumper sticker prototype, and the word “wood” built up from paint to look like wood.

Oh well, upload won’t load. Just as well. It’ll be my little secret


we built us a patio

11.2.2020

Creative expression- a giant wood pile we converted to a sunny 9.5×10.5′ “patio”, two folding adirondack chairs I found on the street and painted, a rusty sewing machine I wired as a night light; a balsa wood model Spitfire I got from a gardening client, a sketch of a big rat the cat left for us; and my new blue blockers.


weirdly clumping paint

9.23.20

There is a strange thing I am experiencing with acrylic paint. 

Early in the day on Wednesday September 22 I brushed a glaze of gloss medium and phthalocyanine blue onto an old canvas, and also did some collage with a different bottle of gloss medium.  

That afternoon I was using Liquitex chromium oxide green that I had earlier transferred to a jar, and thinned with medium and a bit of local spring water (w/ iron and who knows what else!).  The paint in the jar was creamy consistency, but when I put my wet brush in it, the paint on the brush came away clotted, like miniature cottage cheese curds.  

I put that aside, put a bit of fresh tube chrome green in a clean dish, and used a clean brush with distilled water-  the same thing.  I tried a clean, dry brush, other paints, other brands, so far, everything immediately turns to clots.

Golden fluid acrylics green-gold
reacts to a clean brush w distilled water.

I am trying to paint without brushes –or painting the clumps out with a stiff brush, as in painting on bare wood which I did last night.  In the case of the gold paint suddenly skinning over – no.  After a few minutes exposed to air, mixing turned it to a strange solid mass without any sticking power.

a clump of Liquitex BASICS tube gold-
a small bit of Golden interference blue cottage cheese on the right side.
Daler-Rowney bottled Phthalo Blue seems ok! Very liquid. Very old.

So far Palette knives seem ok.

So, What? Extreme heat this summer? dehydration? sunspots? redwood pollen? Three outer planets retrograde in Capricorn . . ? I had used windex on a sheet of glass nearby last week, and am feeling some kind of residue on my hands today.

I am pretty sure ash and resin from the crazy smoke and fires settled on my brushes, activated the polymers and caused them to clump, and/or quickly skin over. 

I had seen a similar reaction once when I accidentally put rubbing alcohol in paint.  I have a lot of (mostly) old paint, never had this happen before, except thickening through evaporation, often resolved by thinning w/ medium.  Old paint just dries up.

So, cleaning all brushes, palettes, rags, glass working surface with clean water.

Meanwhile, cottage cheese might be a fine texture/technique, worth playing with, until I get this sorted, and/or, go shopping.

 


Life on Mars

9.9.20

California is aflame- we went camping but had to head north because Yosemite was booked and the forests were being evacuated. After a smoky and daunting Monday and night at 9600+ feet- -Pacific Coast Trailhead parking at Sonora Pass- -we came home Tuesday, to awake Wednesday September 9 to Mars Stationing in Aries, and a red-orange sky that lasted all day.

“Sinister!” “Apocalyptic!” shouted the headlines– Dorcas posted an interesting article about the scattering of blue light by the amount of ash in the air. There was little smoke at this altitude (600 feet, about) and for me, it was “Beautiful!” “Fascinating!” and that sort of thing. I only wish I’d spent more time out in it, maybe get a blue tan?

facing south 9 am, a true color, and ash falling
9 AM, facing east
channel 2 news- we had camped just south of the clear spot below South Tahoe/Markleeville

Zebra Meatballs

8.23.20

more experiments with color- my special simple meatballs and zebra farfalle. the original vodka cream sauce was much more orange, but then I added a can of diced tomatoes. The peas make it, tho.


Lakes!

8.17.2020

After months of everything being closed–and getting so much done because of it–a camping trip. We headed up Highway 50 to the American River, looking for an area we had been to before, but couldn’t find it. We pulled into a parking lot at Big Meadow Trailhead as it was getting dark. The campground nearby was closed to traffic, and we weren’t really set up for a hike-in, especially with rain on the horizon. In the morning we took a 6+mile round-trip hike to Round Lake. It started to rain as we returned to the van, –so we spent another night.

Amazing things happened when people kept telling us about LAKES we should visit, and we ended up at three different areas: beautiful Burnside lake, which we hiked halfway around- and I think? hiked this meadow.

Then we drove to Blue Lakes campground, where they had just opened six days before, and according to the Ranger “the bears don’t know we’re here yet”; and we filled all our water containers with clear sweet mountain water.

The next day we drove to South Tahoe to try out a brewery that had outdoor dining, excellent burgers, and couple of tasty beers. We then drove the Blue Lakes backroad to Forestdale Creek, which turns out to be the area the guy at the campground had recommended– we spent the night, and took two longs lovely hikes.

We also had an adventure when Art drove the Westy into a gutter, and a feller came over to share his extensive expertise which resulted in spinning one of my tires bald on slippery granite river rocks before we finally got the van dislodged and parked .


switcheroo

7.30.20

Remember when there were gigs? On a fifth Thursday, we used to be the Polka Cowboys.

On July 17 I got notice to vacate my studio garage. It was such a shock, so unexpected, especially since I had just made headway cleaning up the mess after the dog-crap-and-snarling people had moved out, and able to get into the swollen-concrete-impeded door for the first time since late January.

I IMMEDIATELY went over to load up all the paint, brushes, tools, small canvases, and tchotchke that would safely fit in my truck, and headed out to Canyon, to tuck into the Roofing House as best I could.

I called Joanie and asked if I could take her up on her offer of a place to store my tables and frames, tools and glass- yes- so Art and I caravanned to Howe and loaded up as much as we could, and then to Richmond to unload my precious cargo to–Joanie’s Concrete Patio! Oh dear.

I had hallucinated a space in her giant garage where I had stored my camping gear and toys after Steve’s death–but it is full of another malingerer’s massive mouldering pile of god-knows-what . . A realization came that the lovely dark knotty-pine room was not really Available, either. Over a few visits I was able to tuck one table, easel, the frames, canvases and framing tools indoors, but I felt all at sea.

The day after Jude called I had a meltdown and a literal physical collapse on Art’s kitchen floor over a mis-communication about our relationship. I suddenly was unable to stand up or breath correctly- a complete existential panic that I had nowhere to be, that these little slivers of space I carve out in my life were all an illusion–and fading fast.

We worked things out, better than ever, but for a couple of weeks I was losing my mind- hell, it was half of August and September . . . except for the Lakes.

And then, the helpful words of a “mentor”, teacher, about, uh, Framing? and having a Studio? Why? and what For? made me really look at What The Hell Am I Doing . . . threw it ALL up into the proverbial air. For reassessment purposes only.

So, really, am I BEING AN ARTIST, or just Doin Stuff, and what difference does it make, except–what to do with all the physical Product, weird format frames and glass that are not fitting together, my actual Clean worktable outside by the trash bins. I am seriously addressing what all this stuff is really for, and why I have it- It’s so uncertain, but sorta fun.

When I had the shop, I gathered things with a hunger I no longer have room for, and don’t really know what the future holds. I am doing so many tiny bits in sketchbooks and corners and scraps of wood.

So what to do, but just keep on keepin on.


belvedere

7.1.20

Throughout spring and summer I have been doing a lot of work on the Roofing House, while unable to get into Howe- scraping plaster off the plywood interior, I scrape, dust, then patch with Zinsser 1-2-3 in short rectangular brush strokes , sand, touch up with paint patches of color, purple sky, blue sky, pink sky, as I go along.

With Art’s help, moving out about 2 dozen motors, machinery, dozens of cans of dead house paint, spray paint, tubes of caulk and construction adhesive and the like–and there is more–oily, filthy, nasty stuff, much of which went to hazardous waste recycling. Recall we had leveled the supports after the Incident of the Falling Tree.

We reconfigured some of the shelving to make a long tall work bench, and have developed a fantasy of installing the 58″ square sectioned french window we bought for the house-that-became-a-deck. It would be nice to have some natural light, and a reading chair back there–maybe next year.

I have started taking advantage of three empty filing cabinets that aren’t going anywhere soon, and plan to keep one that has cool half-deep drawers.

Stuff in, stuff out. It’s chaos, but it keeps shifting and getting a bit clearer, and is so special to have all my things right at hand, nobody chewing on my brushes and peeing on my art while I am gone. I can see down the tracks and up the path, and no one knows I’m here.