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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.

Earlier in this third week of devastation throughout the state, a member of UUCPA emailed us the news that a fire was burning near Yosemite, just a few miles east of Bass Lake. Bass Lake is the site of Skylake Yosemite camp, where the congregation holds a “getaway weekend” each summer. This year’s was cancelled due to COVID-19. Now the camp itself, not to mention Yosemite and its nearby communities, are approached by a wildfire that has grown very quickly.

The man who sent the email included a photo from Caltopo, to which I guess he must subscribe. I hope they won’t object to my showing it here:

I shared it on Facebook, with a few words about all the loss and sorrow we are holding. Then, a while later, I checked my Facebook page, saw this image in tiny, thumbnail format, and had three thoughts in quick succession: “What is that?” / “It’s beautiful” / “Ohhh. The Creek Fire map.”

I knew right then that I needed to draw it, to spend time with, if not make sense of, the swirl of feelings it evoked. The above are three very small drawings, each 2 x 1.5 or 2 x 1.75 inches, in colored pencil, done earlier today.

Day 49 of #100days of making art

I’ve been working on this piece for a few days, since it is small (13×17 cm) but at 10-20 minutes a day, this is what I can do. The final version is in ink marker.

I rather like it just in pencil (below) but I didn’t think the pencil on kraft paper had enough contrast. Funny how the color is completely gone from the photo I took of the pencil version.

My friend J. gave me the beautiful little sketchbook I’m currently using, so I often think of her as I draw in it, and that was the case all during this drawing, which I began on her birthday.

I’ve been doing these off and on for a couple of years, knowing that the spaces at the intersections were important, but not examining why. (“Why” can take me rapidly into left-brained thinking, and part of art for me is getting out of it.) So I think I will explore the why not by thinking, but by drawing. On the next one of these nets, the lines will go right through the intersections, and I’ll see what difference that makes.

Day 6 of #100days of making art

I’ve done numerous variations on these nets, but never with a rupture in the middle. I’ll continue, and probably finish, it tomorrow.

I was flipping through my last bullet journal and saw my hundred-day tracker. “Did I really do art every day for 100 days straight?” I marveled. Pretty much, yep.

Since these mind games seem to be the most effective way to get myself to do the things I really want to do, I’m doing it again. Art every day, if only for ten minutes. Preferably as the first thing I do, during or immediately after breakfast. I hunted around for an interesting shape, and lit on the shadows on this grocery bag.

And it was a very good way to start the day.

The last week of the drawing class we took from Katie Gilmartin was devoted to portraits. First, another profile (my previous one, of Indigo, is a couple of posts back). I’ve drawn a lot of self-portraits over the years in a high school for the arts and then as an art major, but I’ve never drawn a profile, so I took a lot of pictures of myself in profile and drew this.

Like Katie, I find that I begin to fall in love with whatever I draw. Not the person, but the way they look. Drawing myself was healing that way. I snapped the photo, sighed at the incontrovertible evidence that I have a saggier neck than I might prefer, and then set to drawing, and soon that sag was less a violation of societal standards of beauty, and more a lovely curve with delicate shadows that I just had to capture in graphite.

Then, our assignment for the last week was a standard self-portrait.

I got to something like “finished” an hour before class and just could not bear to erase and re-draw my left (picture’s right) eye, even though it is too close in. But I may yet redraw it, and the nose, which is nicely done but a little narrower than in reality. Or just make another drawing.

We are doing portraits now in the drawing class we’re taking. I have drawn a lot of portraits in my life, but this is probably the best.

I’m resisting my self-protective habit of listing what doesn’t work well,and taking Katie’s advice to list what does: the ear, the eye, the shape of the shadows that define the cheek. And it looks like her.

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