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This sweet face greeted us from the counter at my in-laws’ house this weekend. It also chimed, “Draw me!”

Colored pencil on paper, 6×9″

What caused the blotch on this leaf? I’m pretty sure that whatever it was, it was just pursuing its own nutrition or some other such necessity, not setting out to create beauty. But it is beautiful.

I knew I’d be waiting for an hour or more for a car repair today, so I brought this work-in-progress along. I took a walk and then stopped at a cafe to draw; it is now closed, and I am hoping the car will be ready before they tell me I have to leave.

I’ve been doing a lot of drawing during this vacation. Everything we see is so beautiful. Sometimes I draw from life, in this case trying to squeeze in a recognizable sketch of the resident dog at the Bundy Museum, a lovely gallery in Warren, Vermont, before he moved again.

And I’ve taken lots of reference photos of water, since it confounds me by moving constantly, and erosion, which does hold still but where I might not be able to stay long enough to give the drawing the time I want. I felt like I was getting the hang of it with this drawing of fairly still water, the pond in the Boston Public Garden.

At the pond in the Public Garden, Boston
Brook through Warren, VT

But with running water, which I love so much, I made a note that I should try it as a painting, so as to put the swathes of darker and lighter shades in first and then go on to the detail. It was fun to try drawing this brook, though.

Lands End, Bailey Island, Harpswell, Maine

This is a first try at an erosion pattern I love, rock worn by water. I stopped when I couldn’t stand sitting on the rock any longer, but I have lots of photos and will draw some more.

Pavilion roof on the Waterbury, VT, town green

This building stayed obligingly put (though clouds kept changing the light), but I had to leave when I was only about one-third done, so I took a photo in order to keep working. Today I finished it.

Day one in Boston was a Sunday. We let ourselves have a slow start, since we were on Pacific Time and had checked in around midnight local time the night before, and started the day with lunch at the Trident Cafe and Bookstore. It was my first time ordering via QR code and online menu in-house, for the record. Then we met friends of Joy’s at the MFA and saw the Ekua Holmes exhibit, which was gorgeous.

I took a photo of one piece I loved (“Pride”), a profile portrait of a young man with a 3-D gold earring in his ear, but respecting her copyright, I won’t share it. However, you can see lots of her other work at her website, here. She often incorporates elements like that into her collages–a bow tie on a portrait of her son and a flower on a woman’s hat were two others–in a way that brings the whole piece more vividly to life.

I love children’s book illustrations, I love collage, and neither they nor African-American artists get their due from our art museums. African-American artists who are also female and contemporary are even more sparsely shown. I hope exhibits like this show curators and funders everywhere what treasures they have overlooked.

I think the signature is “John R. Key,” which makes it likely that the artist is John Ross Key.

Another work of art that captured my attention was this drawing in the B&B, which, by the way, is called Abigayle’s; you can see lots more photos of the rooms here, and if you’re going to Boston, look it up via AirBNB–the innkeeper used a booking agent until recently, but now prefers to handle reservations directly. (And a good idea. We used the agent and she reported the wrong dates to the innkeeper! Fortunately, no one had booked the room immediately after us, so her assumption that we were leaving earlier than we’d planned didn’t leave us without a place to stay–just scared us for a minute.) The drawing is quite large–I’m guessing 18″x36″–and done in charcoal on paper. The signature looks like “John R. Key,” and the innkeeper said something about the artist’s brother having work in the Museum of Fine Arts, but a little research indicates to me that the artist is probably John Ross Key, who is quite well-known in his own right. The house was built during his lifetime, in 1896; it’s very possible that the art changed hands along with the house, going to her husband’s parents, who were only the second owners. I’m going to drop her a line.

I love the variety of textures: mist, tree bark, lichen-covered stones, water, needles. I have long been confounded by the question of how to draw moving water, and seeing this inspired me to stop being confounded and just try it–not as Key must have done, from life, but from photographs.

An opportunity came on our second day, when we had lunch in Chinatown and then walked to the Boston Common and the Public Garden. On Indigo’s short list for Boston activities was “see the ducklings”–these ducklings, of course. The sculptor, Nancy Schön, had a tough bill to fill (no pun intended), as Robert McCloskey’s drawings are so expressive and his style is unmistakably his own. She really captures them in such a different medium. I could never get Indigo to love his other stories the way I do, but I brought Homer Price and Centerburg Tales into the house in the attempt, and that led me to stories I hadn’t read, so it was not for naught.

Then we went on and sat for a while in communion with the living ducks. The one to Indigo’s left here napped peacefully the whole time, while others swam up to her hopefully and went away disappointed by her lack of snacks.

It’s been a rainy July in Massachusetts, and the lushness of the green here is so lovely. Even after the winter rains, it never gets this intensely green in the Bay Area.

The next chapter of our adventures mostly concerns Indigo, so it is at Mookie’s Mama.

I tried to take photos of duck tails out of the water, but only got blurry shots that did not capture the charm of this particular activity. But one made a good reference photo for me to use later to try a sketch. I always want to draw water, and am frustrated by the way it keeps moving–which motion, of course, is also what makes it such a compelling subject. But how do I draw something that won’t sit still? I began to get an idea as I drew this from my photo, and noticed the repeating patterns, the way the light sections are shot through with dark and vice versa. I’m going to keep at this approach, and see if I can get familiar enough with the patterns without stylizing them too much.

Vortex (Coming Together or Coming Apart?), 5×7
Vortex, 5″ x 7″
(c) 2021 Amy Zucker Morgenstern

We have been talking about creating a room like this almost since we bought this house, in 2011. We live in a row house and the garage runs all the way from the front to the back. Joy dreamed it up, imagining turning the back section of that unnecessarily deep garage into a small space for laundry and art. During our sabbatical time in 2016, we said we’d get right on the project when we got back. But these kinds of things take a lot of work, and other priorities intruded. This year, Joy found a contractor, drew the plans, stood in a lot of lines at City Hall to get the permits, and shepherded the whole process, and now we have a dedicated space that we have modestly dubbed “the art room,” as “studio” seems a bit highfalutin.

I don’t have a “before” picture, but here is how things looked very early on:

Out of sight to the left, between the black file cabinet and the ladder leaning against the back wall, is the wall to our office. That is now the doorway into the art room. Let me escort you:

The wall straight ahead is a nice big blank space for us to fill with art as we create it. You can see the treadmill, formerly in the office, to the left of the stairs. And of course there are books, because, well, that’s us. And we displaced quite a few feet of bookshelves by cutting this doorway between the office and the new room.
A project for me for when the weather gets warmer: refinish this table we got at a yard sale, or at least the top so it’s a smooth working surface. My dearest wish in creating this room was to have work space that didn’t have to be cleared off daily–that we can just return to the next day. That empty shelf is also for works-in-progress. (See the manual pencil sharpener attached to the wall just to the right of the door? I installed that. My big contribution to the construction.)

Second-dearest wish: to make all of our art supplies easily available, organized, and labeled. If you recognize the font, solidarity, fellow nerds! If you’re not sure where it’s from, but it gives you a vague sense of disquiet, I recommend these reruns, Number Six.
We are tolerant of each other’s tendency to go a little overboard when ordering things from Ikea, and here’s a great example of the benefits of that tolerance. This item wasn’t in the plan, but when Joy ordered the drawer systems, she tossed it in too, and it’s a great addition.

An art room needs a sink, and this is our laundry room too. We held onto these cabinets for six years after getting new ones for the kitchen, with the ultimate plan of using them here. I’m really glad we did. They would have just gone into the landfill, and now they are storage for lots of the stuff that got booted from the garage, like our three fondue sets (please don’t judge–we didn’t pay for any of them) and grocery overflow. The glass door goes to the back yard, and it and the long transom window above it allow in lots of light. There’s even a built-in ironing board across from the washer and dryer, another original fixture from the kitchen that has been waiting for its moment.

Thank you for coming on my tour! The office, freed of the treadmill, is now home to a trundle bed that opens up to king size, so that for the first time, we have a place for people to stay besides the living room. Now if we could only have guests come visit . . . ! Let’s hope 2021 brings them, and it begins in six hours.

The room is pretty much finished, the art supplies are sorted though still awaiting their shelves, and I sat down to make something from those boxes of “collage materials,” a.k.a. “interesting bits of paper that we don’t want to throw away, so let’s call them art supplies.” It’s not a lie, but it’s just this side of hoarding. Unless, of course, you actually make collages out of them.

I’m grateful to my colleague Barbara for posting her beautiful collages and connecting me to a collage artists’ group online, and to my friend Jess, who also posts her collages frequently. They all inspire me.

“Sometimes I find it hard to relax on my day off,” 6″x9″

In progress: painting of a window in Alcatraz prison. Acrylic on canvas, 9×12″

Acrylic on canvas, 9×12″ (c) 2020

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