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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Red chard and winterberries

Did this one a few days ago. I haven't cooked the chard yet, and it might be getting too old. I wonder what will happen to the red veins when it's cooked.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dueling portraits

Katy has been working on portraiture this semester in her art class, so she asked to draw me last night. I said only if I could draw her afterward.

She did a great job, I think.
Me? I tore two pages out of my sketchbook (I NEVER do that!), before settling on this final image of her. Not a bad drawing, but also not a good likeness. Which means, underneath it all, that it is a failure of observation. Better next time, I'm sure.

By the way, if I wasn't clear -- that's The Mama at the top, and The Kid at the bottom (done, respectively, by The Kid and The Mama).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Honor the shadow

I sat down to draw some winterberry branches but was captured instead by their shadow on the drawing surface. "Honor the shadow!" said my Auntie Sal (more on her later, I'm sure, but suffice it to say that it pays to keep an imaginary friend around). So honor it I did.

While I was drawing, and honoring, I was thinking about how I used to go running/jogging/loping for exercise. One of the things I didn't like about it, though it was probably good for me, was that after I'd been out alone with my thoughts and the rhythm of my feet for a while, I'd be struck by thoughts of free-floating anxiety. Recalling something dumb I'd done or said, for instance. Or thinking of something mean someone had done or said to me. I'd have to shake my head to get those thoughts to dissolve.

Lately, when I'm out walking, or maybe walking the dog, I've been experiencing the opposite of that. I'll be attacked by sudden fits of -- dare I write it? -- love. Love for particular family members and good friends, love for the dog, love for the old frail orange cat, love for people who would probably be stunned if they knew it. It's a good, healthy, wholesome kind of warts-and-all love. I don't know where it comes from.

Maybe it's a product of aging. Maybe it's a spell cast by the shadow of the winterberry bushes.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Going retro

When my friend Julie in London read about my plans to reframe my focus on illustration, she posted a package to me in celebration. I opened it yesterday and spent the evening poring over two lovely little books about Beatrix Potter's life and art.

And then, because I couldn't find the Peter Rabbit collection I knew we used to own, and wanted to study the stories and illustrations all over again, I stopped in at my favorite local bookstore today and bought a big new slip-cased compilation. I hoped I wouldn't be called on to explain too much when I ran into a friend in the store.

This afternoon I re-read Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester and studied the illustrations and -- well, you would have thought I was four instead of fortysomething. I'm not sure what to say about that, except that I still buy beautiful books for children whether my own kids want to read them or not.

One of the surprises of reading about Potter's life was that she and her brother, who also liked to draw, took a naturalist's approach to what they saw around them. They liked their pets, but when a mouse died, they were likely to boil it down so they could study the bones. That explains why, even when she put her mice in pinafores and bonnets, they still looked like mice and not so much cartoons.

Julie said in her note with the books that she learned to read by way of the Peter Rabbit books. That made me smile. I smiled, too, because her package was one of those perfect gifts -- unexpected and exactly right.

About the drawing: Beatrix was drawn with a photo from the book; the mouse was drawn from my experience with mice -- though I did not have a model on hand, regrettably -- and the leaf was something I'd been carrying around in my car for about a week, intending to paint it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Perfect Saturday

A little cleaning, a little dog care, a little vegetarian chili with Lylah at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, and a nice afternoon nap.
I was awakened from that nap, incidentally, by the unmistakable sound of Pearl lapping up liquid somewhere on the bedroom floor. I thought it unlikely that she'd dragged her water bowl all the way from the kitchen. And then there were the occasional sounds of chewing. Chewing and liquid-lapping. What could it mean?

When I finally rousted myself, I found her on the floor with the remains of a can of Campbell's broccoli cheese "Soup to Go!" lying at her feet. The can itself was barely recognizable. The soup was totally gone. I keep forgetting that her nose for food penetrates all packaging.

The two of us took a stroll at dusk, and when it was all over, it seemed the soup and the walk had done her in. Sweet thing.

The cabernet was delicious, the cashews were sublime and the clementine wasn't quite as sweet as I like but it was juicy enough.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


So I'm changing careers.
That's the idea, anyway.
The newspaper industry, as you might have heard, is struggling mightily, which means my beloved Plain Dealer (you've perhaps seen its cameo performance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) is struggling right along with the rest. Contracting, like the rest.

It seemed like a good time to listen to the voice inside me that kept saying things like, "In my next life I want to illustrate children's books." Or suchlike. I didn't really think that would be possible, and maybe it won't be. But this week I finished my portfolio for my application to art school, and while I'm not officially a student yet, I hope to be soon.

Have I mentioned that I'm old? Well, you probably know that. Not as old as some, but older than most college kids. Though on any given day I feel pretty much like a college kid. It doesn't really matter, though, does it? Whether you're 17 or 47, you've only got today, and maybe next week. That's as much as anyone needs.

So, yeah, it's all weird. Journalism has been so good to me. I worry that people will discover, all too late, the value of a strong local newspaper. Bloggers are nothing without professional journalists -- don't let anyone tell you different.

On the other hand, it might be time for a different generation to take the wheel of that ship. And it's definitely time for my next life to begin.

No matter where I am, though, I'll be here, too. Whether I get paid to write, or paid to draw, I write and draw. Right? Right.

A note on today's drawing: No, I am not drinking myself to sleep. I simply woke up at 5 this morning dying to draw something, anything, and thought it would be fun to build a quickie still life around my husband's, er, classy shot glass.

Thanks for visiting today.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sorry for the wrinkles

Can't do much about them on my face, which is OK, but I prolly could have done a better job of preventing the washes from wrinkling these pages.
Ahh well. Just concentrate on the shoes, my dears.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Close enough for jazz

I'll admit it: Sometimes I get visually bored at concerts. My sketchbook occasionally provides relief, though it can be tricky to draw in the near-darkness. On Saturday, though, we had pretty good seats at a performance of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, and I did these scribbles in ink.
I added color yesterday with the fabulous new Tombow markers, which I bought with the good guidance of Maureen at Utrecht in Cleveland Heights. They're water-based and nice and washy.
Anyway, the concert was lovely, and I'm extra-appreciative of the keyboard and conga players, both of whom remained still-ish enough for me to render with some accuracy.
But the horn players? Forget it.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

November Sketchcrawl

We drew at the Dunham Tavern Museum, a circa 1800 former stagecoach stop on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. I spent my time peering into the tap room, where weary travelers and stagecoach drovers (not a typo - they were called "drovers," not "drivers") drank away their fatigue.