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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Portrait Party / Kerstin and Karen

This double entry owes its existence to a blog called the Portrait Party, where pairs of artists agree to draw each other. Kerstin at Snowflakes and Black Vampires invited artists to join her in a kind of friendly competition to be the most prolific of the Portrait Partiers, so I volunteered to help.

At top is my rendering of Kerstin, based on a photo. Accuracy-meter seems about a 7 to me; I think her eyes look a bit too close here, but then again that's based on the photo. I found myself thinking about what she would look like in person as I was drawing.
Below is Kerstin's portrait of me. She definitely caught a Karenesque expression.
I like them both, and I really like the challenge, so if anyone else is up for Portrait Partying, give me a holler. And do head over to the Portrait Party - it's a great idea, and very entertaining.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Goodbye, elephants

The elephants at the Cleveland Zoo will be leaving soon so that the pachyderm area can be re-done into something that sounds much grander than what now exists. It also sounds like it might change how close a look zoo visitors can get, and it isn't scheduled to reopen till 2010. So I'm glad I got over there for one last look.

While there, I overheard this conversation:

Him: "Why do you always do that?"
Her: "I can't help it, I like vacation."
Him: "Whenever we're on vacation, you do that. Vacations are nice, but they have to end."
"Her: "Why? Why do they have to end?"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Nine pounds of cool

As cool as I feel when I look at this picture, all credit must go to Lou, the falconer attempting to show me how to handle this bald eagle. I've not handled one before, and this one is just learning how to be handled. She could take off my nose with that beak, but Lou and others more expert than I have been working with her so she won't do that.

Her name is Migeezy, and she is nine pounds of cool herself. It was a mystical thrill to have her on my fist.

We'll soon be back to our regularly scheduled program of sketching, but I had to share.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

One-woman sketch crawl

Today while K was at work for a few hours, I drove to the zoo for several hours and conducted my own personal sketch crawl. The sky was threatening and I almost didn't go, but then I remembered the philosophy of my friend T, who boasts that he never lets the weather get in the way of what he wants to do. I decided to try that. It worked nicely. It did rain, but not till I was under shelter in the rain forest exhibit.

Click to make bigger and read the text, if you like.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Sometimes people ask me to share more stories from the raptor center where I volunteer. They'd probably like funny stories (ever wonder what would happy if you turned a baby skunk upside down?) or instructive stories (best to wear a hat in the turkey vulture's cage if you want to keep your hair).

But today I'm just paying respects to Bumbles, the great old great-horned owl who lived there for many dignified and, I hope, happy years. She died yesterday, which made me sad. I like to think she flies free now.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Loose Two: Too Loose?

As a further experiment in loose, I got looser with this pic of my other daughter. The face looks very little like her, but she and I both sort of liked how the color turned out. And she thought the foot was dead on. I liked what painting this loose felt like, and it made me see how I could alter the pen work more. Also made me see how much more flexible I could be with a sketchbook on the go. All in all, it was fun. The hardest part was waiting for those washes to dry when I needed to. (But wait I did.)

That Moleskine watercolor paper holds the color so beautifully.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


When I was 17 years old I loved to drive. There was so much freedom in a handful of car keys and a tankful of gas.

Today, not so much. I've become one of those old farts who only notices how the road makes pigs out of other people, and it burns me up. Really, I'd be much better off in a place where people were polite as a matter of course, but I'm not sure where that is, and I'm sure it's NOT on the side streets and thoroughfares of the United States.

Yesterday I was almost broadsided by a woman who looked like she was about 108. Her eyebrows barely cleared the top of the steering wheel. I can handle that. I mean, it was scary - she was completely obvlious to the fact that'd forced me to slam on my brakes - and I hope she doesn't kill anyone, but I can handle that kind of thing.

What really got to me was that only a few minutes before that, I'd watched an impatient driver traveling eastbound on a busy road during rush hour, pulling this incredible maneuver. There are two eastbound lanes in this road, but there are stoplights every 50 to 100 yards, at which point a center lane turns into a left-only turn lane. The guy pulled out of his place behind seven or eight eastbound cars, and into the left-turn-only lane and turned on his left signal. When the light turned from red to green, he turned off his blinker and raced in front of one of cars at the front of the eastbound lanes, speeding ahead of the pack.

Had he just changed his mind? Why no.

He did this for about three-quarters of a mile - pulling into the left-turn lane to get ahead of the pack, then cutting in front of the driver at the front of the line. Each time, he'd turn on his signal as if he intended to turn left. Then the light would change, and he'd turn off his signal and cut off the driver at the front.

What usually goes through my head when I see this sort of driving behavior is, "Must I share the planet with that person?"

Alas, the answer that keeps coming back: "YES."

BUT WAIT. On another note ... I just opened this new Moleskine watercolor notebook, which I'd broken down and bought because I like the paper so much and decided to live with the darn perforations. Lo and behold - there ARE no perforations in this one. Anyone know what gives? Is this just a "defective" notebook or did Moleskine finally listen to those of us complaining incessantly about the perforations? Whatever the answer, it is lovely.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Loose color

I studiously tried to be loose with the paint on this one.
I might be one of those people who ought to just paint tight.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dawson studies

Actually, I don't think Dawson studies at all. I think he just goes for walks with Ann and Tim, and plays ball and laps water and chows food and sleeps where he wants.

He's a leggy boy adopted by Ann a few months after she lost her first canine love, the one and only Libby. I visited Dawson this weekend, did the quick line sketches below, which gave me a sense of his gangliness and the particular triangle shape of his head, and his propensity for moving around and lying about in strange positions. Then I used my photos to do the more finished piece at the top. I think it captures his wonderfulness. It's funny - when I started the piece, I expected the dog would be contained inside the outline. When it came down to it, though, he simply would not be contained.

I don't think that's an accident.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Art of the fade

There's an art to drawing only part of a building, or only one building in a series of adjacent ones. It requires a similar skill, I would imagine, to ending a song that has something less than a definitive ending. The fade is an altogether troublesome choice. In music, it makes for difficulty performing the fade-out song onstage. In pictures, it must be done just right if the eye is to declare itself delighted rather than annoyed. My own eye was annoyed by my attempt at the fade on this sketch, and the fact is that it would have been better not to fade this out anyway. The building continues on toward the left in a way similar to its front. My fade here is a little unnatural.

On the other hand, I dig the clock tower.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

500 miles

It just seemed right to leave color off the page I did during our long trip home last Saturday.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Last-day-of-vacation melancholia

A week ago today, I got up early to go into downtown Stone Harbor and sketch Hoy's, the 5-and-10-cent store that's been there forever. It was blissful, sitting there with my coffee, chatting with a few other early birds who stopped by to see what the heck I was doing. And the day wore on, and then last-day-of-vacation melancholia began to sweep over me and the kinfolk. The next day we'd be heading out on the 500-mile drive back home, leaving the ocean behind. Vacation 2007 would be behind us.

But hey, we are back, and life at home is not such a bad thing. Not at all.

I've got one more vacation sketch for you tomorrow.
This one definitely benefits from a closer look, which you'd get by clicking the pic if you have the time. The sketch itself is smaller than I usually go. I also must add, for those who know downtown Stone Harbor, that the building to the left of Hoy's (which is the one with the striped awning, of course) is, in this picture, rather an invention. There IS a building to the left of Hoy's, but I didn't pay much attention to it when I was there. I had this idea that I'd sort of fade out, which I did. But when I got back to our vacation digs and started to paint the sketch, I realized I wanted something a little more finished, so I invented the building from all I could remember, which was that it seemed like a law office in an old house.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Orange moon

One day I took my sketchbook and travel paintbox to the beach. Sand got into my watercolors, and I had trouble seeing color very well through my sunglasses, and - oh, I could go on and on, explaining why the sand looks greenish (not to be confused with the actually-green sea grass behind it) and all sorts of things, but anyway here it is.

The sketch below was made the next day, because I was still thinking about how my kids had called us from the beach at around 10 p.m. to tell us to come right over and see the weird orange moon. So we did. They thought it was "creepy." I thought it was beautiful, though I haven't yet tried to determine what causes the moon to look that color. If you looked carefully on the Atlantic, you could see orange reflections. So this is one of those pages where imperfect art serves well as a remembrance.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Day at the beach

We played in the ocean. We sunned in the sand. We eavesdropped on other people's conversations and contemplated, for the first time, the beauty of so many imperfect bodies on display - a perspective that comes as a gift/side-effect of drawing, because imperfect bodies are more interesting to draw. And we watched concerned women circle a little boy who was bit on the lip (enough to bleed) by one of the aggressive seagulls.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Fred's Tavern and urban planning

For those who vacation in certain parts of the Jersey shore, there seems to be a subtle ... mmm... rivalry between the neighboring towns of Stone Harbor and Avalon. Now, this may all be in my head, but one of my kids made the observation on her own. There are Stone Harbor people and there are Avalon people. Or so it seems. (We are Stone Harbor people, I guess, though the place we stayed was on the road dividing the two towns, and was, technically speaking, in Avalon.)

I got to thinking: Why is this? More specifically, why do I identify with Stone Harbor more than with Avalon - which, after all, has the prettier name. I came away thinking it has to do with urban planning.

Avalon and Stone Harbor are both beautiful, quaint little towns on the seashore. Both have quaint little shopping boutiques and places to eat fresh seafood. Both are bordered by two north-south roads (one of which follows the line of the shore).
But Stone Harbor also has a little "downtown" - a pedestrian friendly retail district that runs on an east-west boulevard between those main drags, as it were. (I use the term lightly, since the maximum auto speed here is 25 mph). That gives it a scene, a center of gravity that is jumping at 7 in the morning and 10 at night. And where people mill, they feel a sense of community.
Avalon's retail district is right along the oceanside road. It has some of the same kind of quaint little shops and ice cream places. Really, there's not much difference in content. But the feeling is different, as if there's less "there" there.

Well, that's my theory, anyway, and that's about as much deep thinking as I did while we were gone. Which was not very deep.

I sketched this small stretch in Stone Harbor because of Fred's Tavern. It's one of those signature places that inspires people to buy logo Tshirts and such. I swear, now that you have read this, you will see someone in the next year wearing a Fred's Tavern Tshirt, with the image of the cartoon character Any Capp on it, and you will say to yourself, "Hey! I know what that is!" My niece Angela, who lives in Colorado, mentioned seeing someone with a Fred's Tavern tshirt not too long ago and getting all wistful about Stone Harbor.

Vacation-spot wistfulness is a thing unto itself, isn't it? What place do you get nostalgic about?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Vacation Monday

A week ago today, we were driving from our place in Stone Harbor up the Garden State Parkway to visit my friend Joan and her friend Mary Kay at an oceanside home in Monmouth Beach. We left in a downpour of Biblical proportions, and I was whiteknuckling in the passenger's seat for an hour. Eventually the rain lifted, and I took a breath, then took a page from Nina's book a few posts back and decided to try drawing while on the move. (Um, yes, I was still in the passenger's seat.) I wondered, when I saw Nina's post about it, how she caught anything at all, moving that fast - and Nina always captures things beautifully.

But I found that the practice forced me to do what David Rankin suggests in his book on sketching (see my previous post, "Drawing or Sketching?"): reduce the lines to a minimum of what you need to capture the essence, and practice getting visual impressions very quickly, which you then draw from. As you can see from the gridded page, two of the drawings were made not from the highway. One is the Paramount Theater, under renovation in Asbury Park, where we made a pilgrimage since Carlo had never been. The final little sketch is Carlo and Joan's husband Paul chatting and observing the surf. And of course I added the color after I got home. All in all, though, I really liked the sketching-from-the-car experience - as you'll see later.

The second drawing is dear Joan on the beach.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

By the sea, by the sea

Just returned from a week in Stone Harbor and Avalon, seaside towns on south Jersey's "Seven-Mile Island" that have been vacation haunts in our family on and off for decades. I hadn't been there in some time, and my husband and kids had never been, so I was delighted to see how little had changed, including the Windrift. This hotel is perched at the corner of 80th street and the beach. We've never stayed there, but it serves as a landmark for beach walks. I hadn't remembered this from the past, but in the evening it turns into quite the disco scene.

My eye loves the way it's half hidden by the dunes and the sea grass when viewed from the beach. I did quite a bit of drawing on vacation, so I beg your indulgence this week while I roll out (eek, gasp!) VACATION pictures. All drawn, of course. As usual, click on the images if you want to see them bigger. This has the unfortunate effect of also magnifying flaws, but I can live with that.

Oh, one more thing: Illustration fans who have not yet laid eyes on a picture book called "Flotsam" by David Wiesner, you simply must. It's a fantastic seaside story told only in Wiesner's fabulous illustrations. I love two things about it. FIrst, it's an amazing feat to convey a narrative without words, and he does it beautifully. Second, there are hints that it takes place on the Jersey shore. Oh, heck, there's a lot more that I love about it than that, but please, take a look - it's one of the reasons I still collect picture books though my kids have outgrown them.