Saturday, August 31, 2013
Friday, August 30, 2013
I logged nearly five hours of walking today, and all these drawings were done on the run. On the left, a dead luna moth that I spotted in the road early today. It was perfect except for being squashed and missing parts of the long tail sweeps. There is nothing like its honeydew melon-green color. I won't even attempt to reproduce it!
On the right are two clay samples from the Mountains to the Sea Trail that my friend Annie and I hiked this morning. The view below the clay samples I drew from an overlook where we stopped for a short break. We sat on large flat rocks and looked out over the mountains to what I am guessing is the southwest.
Annie's one-year-old grand daughter Lilyanne was with us, riding on Annie's back most of the time. At the overlook we let her out so she could crawl around a bit, and I tried to get a few sketches of her constantly-moving little body. In drawing 418 she's looking up trying to catch raindrops on her chubby face. She was a great hiking companion!
Thursday, August 29, 2013
I started today's drawings early, sitting on a mat in my studio. The first things I drew were some dental tools that a friend gave me years ago. Nothing is quite as handy as a dental pick or scraper for cleaning out the gear teeth on my press or for scraping rough spots on printing plates. Next I drew a thin plastic glove, the kind my dental hygienist wears, one of a pair that I wear while working with rubber-based inks and paint stripper. Up on a shelf I spied (and drew) a green marble mortar and pestle. I use this one for grinding dry pigments into binders. My dentist uses one for doing something to the material he uses in fillings. I drew a scattering of Q-tips, the best thing for clearing whites on a monotype plate. And finally I drew my large white porcelain mortar and pestle, which I use for reducing the particle size of some pigments.
Having exhausted the dental motif, I turned to the collection of small dolls that nestle inside the large mortar when it's not in use. I've made a dozen or so of these over the past couple of years. The two on the left are definitely influenced by West African and Haitian paquets, but the two on the right are just little stuffed dolls based on figures that I remember from my elementary school days in New Orleans. They're around 6 inches tall and started out as watercolor paintings. I digitized the paintings, then printed them out on tee shirt transfer paper. Next I ironed them onto an old pillowcase; then I cut them out and stuffed them. Maya, my grand daughter, and I have made many weird little doll figures this way. This weekend we're going to make some pillows using this same transfer process and her drawings.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I have a small collection of bones in my studio, and today's drawings show some of them. On the left is a goat's skull that we found in Italy in 2001. We had been hiking from our little rented place in the village up to the hills behind us, and we came across a tumbled-down stone barn-like structure, overgrown with weeds. There was one intact stall in a far corner, dark and musty. Half hidden under some rotting straw was this lovely little skull. As it was happily still in the palmy days before Safety, I was able to slip it into my carry-on, wrapped in some tee shirts, and bring it home. It still has most of its teeth.
On the right are a rib of something and a starfish skeleton. The rib has always reminded me of a skid or runner. I used to have a pair of them and once used them in a little sculptural piece of an ice fishing hut. I never finished the sculpture so reclaimed the ribs. I love their smooth, blade-like surfaces.
The bone on the left always reminds me of the Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory) from ancient Greece. It's probably the sacrum of some animal. I found it in a farm field at Warren Wilson, so it could be from a deer or a baby pig or even a raccoon. And on the right is a fish vertebra from Lake Michigan at South Haven. Two ribs fly off the sides like insect wings.
These are mystery bones, especially those two on the right. All three are from Lake Michigan, summer 2003. I believe the one on the left to be from a sea gull. It has part of a wing attached. The two on the right seem bird-like to me as they are so light, but they could easily be large fish bones. The one on the bottom looks like a little dart or a paper airplane. Anybody out there know their bones and want to make an identification?
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
On the right is a fine old wooden cigar store Indian that looks like it was sculpted with a chain saw. It was in a window next to Thai Orchid, where they are now making paper flower straw ends (drawing # 394). On the right side of the page is our little red glass salt chicken, and below that an object that would fit in yesterday's heavy things set-- a shoe thing made of metal that I believe is a mold used in shoe making. I use it as a studio weight.
Monday, August 26, 2013
I asked my husband, who has traveled with me often, "What is the name of this set?" He studied drawings 385- 391 and said, "Heavy things?"
"Close," I answered, "But you need to be more specific."
A light went on and he got it right away: "Heavy things you've brought home in your carry-on luggage and had to leave clothes behind in order to fit them in."
So, beginning at the top on the right: an antique iron bought at a flea market in Palazzone, Italy, and carried home along with its companion iron (on the left, below) in a clanking canvas bag; and below on the left in addition to iron number 2, three metal zappa heads found in a hardware store in Po' Bandino one of the summers I lived and gardened in Italy. ( A zappa is an Italian hoe, the best gardening tool I've ever found. I brought three home that summer, one for me and two as gifts); and on the right below, a lovely ceramic brick-like plaque that I found in a trash dump outside the train station in Chagney, France, last May, and that is probably an old garden edge brick. This is one of three that I hauled home. Then there's the weighty glass muller for grinding pigments and that I found in Florence in Zecchi's art supply shop. It combined the benefits of being both heavy AND fragile! And finally, a really pretty chunk of the freize from the old Jax brewery in New Orleans. One of my brothers rescued some pieces of this when they were tearing down the brewery, and he offered me one of them when I visited shortly afterwards. I took it home by train, and use it as a stand for a pot with a bonzai olive tree.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Today P and I drove up into the high mountains east of here to help some friends who are throwing a very big weekend celebration in a couple of weeks. While the men painted part of the outside of their house, Koreloy and I worked in her printshop/studio sewing handles on the 200 cardboard letterpress-printed fans she is making for the celebration as gifts for the people who are there. After a few hours, K and I hiked through the woods to the house, and we all ate a fantastic lunch. Featured at the lunch were not one but two pies, a blueberry one from K and an apple one from me. This drawing shows what all of our plates looked like as we all managed to eat four slices of pie-- two of each kind. The recipe for the blueberry pie is given here. If you want my apple pie recipe, scroll back through this blog to about a year ago, when I posted several times about making this sugar-free apple pie with an olive oil crust!
You will be all the more impressed at our eating four slices of pie each when you realize we also had a great corn and potato chowder (two versions of the recipe given here) as well as fresh kale salad. After this mighty lunch, K and I lumbered back through the woods to resume work on the fans. As we walked, K pointed out to me a place where there was a clearing that had been filled with Indian pipes last week! By now they were all dried out and going to seed, but were still very interesting to me.
So on this page is a drawing of the last stage in an Indian pipes' flowering. The dissection drawing is of the plant's ovary with tiny black, powdery seeds spilling out. I think the fat, club-like base of the flower stalk is interesting. Since this plant gets its food from a saprophytic relationship with both a russula mushroom and the roots of a pine tree, I wonder if there's some kind of food-gathering apparatus inside the club. This plant was too desicated to see much of the interior.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
These drawings are self-explanatory. The cannas in our front yard are forming seed pods. Their fruit is a mysterious red and green prickly thing with a little wing-like part emerging from the top.
This second page shows details done after a dissection of the fruit as well as a dissection of an immature fruit. I remembered while I was drawing these of something that happened to me in third grade. My teacher, a young nun named Sr. Sheila, asked me one day if I would help her out with her biology homework for a class she was taking. I couldn't imagine how I could help her. I didn't even know what biology was. She handed me a spiral notebook that was filled with intriguing line drawings. She told me the notebook belonged to her friend and that she needed me to copy the drawings into her own notebook. She told me she was not able to draw at all, and she knew I was good at drawing. (No secret because that was what I did all day long to amuse myself in class.) Her plan was that I would stay after school for a few days and draw her biology drawings.
I was happy to get to look at the drawings and copy them. Since I walked home from school, there was nothing elaborate to arrange. I just sat in my desk and copied the drawings-- cells, mitochondria, flower parts, magnified leaves, etc-- day after day. I learned so much about the invisible-until-then world just sitting there drawing. I was sad when I finished and hoped she would have more for me to copy, but she never did, even though she thanked me and told me I had done exactly what she needed.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Jesse arrived at our house early one morning in June three years ago, yowling loudly. He was about as big as a hand-span, bright orange, skinny, and fierce. He fastened himself to the screen of one of our bedroom windows and announced his presence. No one in the neighborhood had any idea where he had come from, but the theory was that he had been dumped on the side of the county road that runs at the end of our road. It took a few days before we were able to calm him down enough to come inside our house, and a full day of our grandson soothing him so that he was happy riding on Jacob's shoulder and eating in our kitchen. These days he's a great indoor-outdoor cat, but he retains some feral qualities, especially that of being a fierce hunter. This morning, as usual, he came inside and started biting at my ankles, lunging at my tea bag tag, taking swipes at a hapless moth that had lingered too long near a lamp.
I followed him around the house and drew some of the other things that make him crazy-- a fringed throw, two battered old mousies. Eventually he settled down to groom, but not until after he had lapped up all the remaining yogurt in a bowl on the kitchen counter. In spite of his morning feral frenzy, he's an excellent cat, does not even require a litter box, yet has never had an accident in the house or sprayed or in any way damaged anything.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
I had to make a new sketchbook this morning, and the first thing I drew in it were sketches of the process of making it. You can make a journal/sketchbook like this very easily. I used a market bag from France, just cut a section out of the side of it. The size that you cut is determined by what size you want your book to be. To help determine the size, I first tore and folded 45 rectangular sheets of paper (about 1/2 were Strathmore 500 series drawing paper and 1/2 were the willow paper I like to use). Then I made 9 booklets of 5 sheets each and stacked them up as in the drawing. I used the stack to figure out the size of the cover, allowing for a pocket on one side and a hem all around.
The only tricky part is sewing the groups of paper (signatures) in, and the diagram at the bottom shows how. I sewed it on my treadle machine. It can be tricky to get the fatness of the book under the foot of the machine, but if you follow the sequence laid out here, it works very well.
Here's the finished book. If you want a book similar to mine but you don't want to make it yourself, email me what size you want , how many pages, what kind of paper, and what sort of recycled material you want for the cover. Most journals that I make to sell are $22. If you need special expensive paper or an extra large book, the price will be a bit higher. Email your order to me at weRpiecework@gmail.com.
On the right are some bakery drawings from City Bakery. Cake pops again! Today they were chocolate peanut ones. It was chocolate peanut day in the dessert case today: the cheese cake was chocolate and peanut butter. Both looked really good. And there were lovely brioche in the rolls section.
At the bottom of this page is an attempt to get down a Jesse grooming drawing. These are continued on the next page.
Jesse was grooming furiously. He never stopped moving. All the gesture drawings on the left side of this page were done as a single movement of my pen. He finally settled in to grooming his shoulder, and I was able to get a more finished drawing of him on the right. I'm collecting more moving drawings for monotypes.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
While drinking my morning tea (left), I drew a corner of my studio, kind of scary!
These enormous trees are in the old growth part of the forest that I often walk through. These trees are well over a hundred years old and were left undisturbed when the north face of the mountain was cut for lumber in the early 20th century. I left off the leaves because my interest here was in the patterns and shapes of the trunks and lower branches. If I stand in front of one of these giants and reach my arms across I can barely reach from side to side, certainly not encircle the trunk. They're full of scars and round growths and twisted branches and holes.
Walking up the trail I saw so many mushrooms, including one pure white one covered with velvety white hairs. Another was a puffball with a hole in the top through which spores had blown. Also saw some squaw root with little seeds coming off the blackened, rotting cone-like body of the plant. I also picked up some clay samples, just fingersful. I found the four colors here within a few yards of each other along the trail. Monday night my journal group is coming over to go clay gathering for paint-making, and I wanted to check out the accessibility of the clay deposits in all this rain. We will need boots!
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
I had a studio day today at my friend Linda's studio. We were motivating each other to get going on some new work, starting with some monotypes. As we sat taking a lunch break, I drew some pieces of sculpture that I greatly admire in her collection. On the left is a ceramic baby figure by Elma Johnson. On the right is a ceramic woman by Gladys Reineke.
And on this page, two mother and child ceramic pieces, both also by Gladys Reineke. I love the rough indeterminacy of Reineke's and Johnson's work. I like the idea of not fixing a living being too firmly in place, because living creatures are never completely still and never really static. With this idea in mind, I went into the studio and did two monotypes after drawings that I did several weeks ago of Jesse stretching.
The monotype on the right came from a drawing I did of Jesse as he rolled around and stretched. To make a monotype, I rolled oil paint on a zinc plate with a rubber brayer. Then using rags, Q-tips, and a blunt stick I moved the paint around, removing some, texturing it in areas, and then adding some with a thin brush. When the drawing on the plate looked like I wanted it to look, I lay it on the bed of Linda's etching press and put damp printmaking paper over it. Then I lay the three etching blankets over the plate and paper and ran the whole thing through the press. The first drawing, which I did in a mix of alizarin crimson and Payne's gray, consisted of a white cat outlined by the color with a few features drawn in. Next I took the still-inked plate over to the work table and rolled a brayer full of yellow ochre paint over everything. I then wiped out with a rag and some plate-polishing powder all the areas I wanted to remain white. I lay the plate down inside the plate mark/borders of the first print and printed this second drawing right over the first print.
Both these monotypes were done with the same small zinc plate, around 5 x 7". It felt great to do them and to work directly in color, using both additive and subtractive processes. I want to do a few more moving cat monotypes and then translate them into large woodcut prints.
One of the great benefits of this drawing 10,000 project is that I now have a very big collection of ideas to work from, and my drawing skills in making monotypes are so much better, thanks to all that practice, than they were two months ago.
Monday, August 19, 2013
Today's drawings all happened at a late afternoon meeting of the Steamroller Printers' group. These are drawings of about a third of the group. We're all carving 3 x 3 (or 4)- foot wood blocks that we will print using a steamroller. If you live near Asheville, come to Asheville BookWorks on Saturday, August 31, between 1:00 and 4:00 to watch this amazing event! The steamroller will print two copies of each of our giant blocks, and we'll put them on exhibit at BookWorks. This event is part of Printocracy, a weekend printmaking festival at BW.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
On the left of the left side page is a very old glass bottle that still has its original lavender sachet inside and that still smells as good as it ever did. My mom bought this bottle of sachet from me and for me during my single summer as an Avon lady, the leached horizon of a summer between high school and college. Desperate for money, I took over our neighbor's Avon route, but I proved to be a pitiful saleswoman. Maybe it was the fact that I rode my bike to peddle my wares. Maybe it was the fact that I looked about twelve and my idea of makeup was still Clearasil. But whatever it was, my mom took pity on me one day when I had come home orderless yet again, and she ordered a bottle of lavender sachet. At the end of the summer she gave it to me, and I've kept it all these years.
To the right of the sachet bottle is a minute little vial that I found in our house several years ago after a college student house-sitter had lived in it all summer. It looks like the kind of bottle essential oils come in from the Chinese acupuncture clinic, and its label reads "valarianus officianalis." There's not much valarian left in it, just a trace at the bottom; but the smell is ancient and wonderful, sort of raisin-like.
On the right is a gift from another student house-sitter. This student made herbal salve out of our lavender crop while we were gone and gave us several jars of it. It's great stuff, works on all kinds of things, still smells like summer in our herb garden.
The little tin on the top left is from Oscar Wilde Fruities, a mint-like candy that Jacob and I used to buy and keep in the car when he was a really little guy. We bought Fruities for several years, enjoying not only the candies but the clever box that opens when you press on the top and closes when you squeeze the sides. But then suddenly Fruities were unavailable. They were made by the Unemployed Philosophers' Guild, and even a search of their web site failed to turn up any information about them. I still have this one tin left, and I keep beads in it. It still has a faint Fruities smell, a cross between baby aspirin and Lik-M-Aid.
To the right of the Fruities tin is a dark blue glass bottle of cedarwood oil. I've had it since a 1998 trip out to Portland, Oregon.
On the right, a ceramic box made by my son Erik when he was 5 or 6 and used by us for many years to store cinnamon sugar, of which it still smells.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
My grandson Jacob and I went up into the woods to try and see the Indian Pipes this evening right before dark. It was a perfect time to be in the woods looking for a ghostly flower. We found the Indian Pipes, glowing like wax candles in the gloom, turning black at the tips of the bracts and petals as they went into their final seed-making phase. We also saw many other kinds of mushrooms and fungi, a few of which I drew and Jacob looked up identifications.
Friday, August 16, 2013
This has been a great day for drawing. I didn't have to search for things to draw; they just presented themselves. On the left above, a tiny bowl from Aman, Jordan, given to us many years ago by our Jordanian exchange student on the day he arrived to live with us for a year. It's part of a set, meant for drinking very strong coffee out of. A few have broken over the years, but several still sit on a shelf in our house, this one filled with lavender flowers.
I made the drawing on the right during the meeting of my wonderful critique group this morning. This is Tessie, a papier mache dog made by Margaret Cogswell, who has led our group for around 6 years. She brought this fabulous creature for critique, and I decided on the spot that I have to buy it from her when she's ready to let it go. My drawing doesn't come near to describing this creature.
This is another rendition of Tessie, closer to Margaret's, but the sirface lacks the subtlety of Margaret's piece. To get an idea of Margaret's work, check out her book Book Play, published by Sterling/Lark in 2013. You can order a copy from Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville (www.malaprops.com), and you will love this book!
And to cap off an already spectacular day, this afternoon my friend Deborah and I went for a hike up a trail in Asheville that leads to the Mountains to the Sea Trail. We had climbed up to the level of the Blue Ridge Parkway and decided to turn around. On the way down I saw some pale, whitish things on the right hand side of the trial near some rhododendrons, pines, and mushrooms that looked like a kind of Russula mushroom that's supposed to be in the environment of Indian Pipes. I bent down to get a closer look, and sure enough: two little Indian Pipes growing right there on the side of the trail! We looked around for more, and a few feet up the bank beside the trail we saw a dozen or so tall specimens, some in the seeding stage, others with blossoms still closed and necks turned down. We had completely missed them on our way up the trail.
I didn't have my sketchbook with me! I didn't even have my phone! What had I been thinking? There was nothing for it but to scramble down the trail, counting the switchbacks, hike back to Deborah's where I had left my car, and then turn around and hike back up to the Indian Pipes. I crouched on the ground drawing, and mosquitoes left me alone for long enough to get the big drawing done. Then they started biting, but I kept drawing until I had gotten the one with the open flower as well as the small one just emerging from the forest floor. They were so beautiful, glowing like wax candles, so pale and perfect. As I climbed back down the trail I made a quick map so that I can find them when I get back up there tomorrow.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
To continue yesterday's theme, on the right side page at the top left, my grandmother's xmas tree ornament, dating from around 1916, according to my mother. This was supposedly a World War I war-time xmas tree ornament made out of wooden beads strung together with elastic thread. It's one of the first tree ornaments I can remember. It's a red goose with a sort of WatchBird face. On the right, a bronze cat holding a tray that usually holds stray beads or paperclips. Both these things are under 4" tall.
Another ceramic head made by David, this time signed D 2 with the "2" written as a superscript (D squared, or DD). This one is smaller than yesterday's. As I was drawing it I was aware of how hand-built ceramics hold fingermarks so wonderfully. And on the right, a tiny ceramic box with a lid topped by a couple of beads held on with a wire and made by my friend Ann's cousin, Patricia Hankins.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Today the humidity and temperature both dropped to below 80! In celebration of the lovely cool dryness, I drew a bunch of little things that live in our house and have done so for years and years. On the right at the top, a glazed ceramic head fashioned by my son David when he was around 8 years old. Below that is a very rough bisque-fired porcelain head that I made long ago. It has an open head in which I put business cards.
On the left at the top is a bisque-fired bird's head. I think it was meant to be a whistle, but it doesn't actually whistle. On the bottom is an exquisite pair of tiny hands meant to be children's hands, made by a friend. I keep them in a small match box on a shelf. On the right, a papier mache doll that was made in Mexico but which I bought in Austin, TX, when I was there for a conference that happily spanned Day of the Dead and thus involved some out-of-conference activities
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
The drawings and text on these three pages are actually a recipe for the BEST grilled cheese sandwich you'll ever eat. My brother Bob invented it and sent it to me a few months ago. You can improvise, try different cheeses, for example; but at least the first time you make it, try following the exact recipe. Absolutely wonderful!
Monday, August 12, 2013
Today began with printer problems. I've been trying to print out 100 copies of a little catalog for a set of small artists' books, and my faithful old Epson just balked at the job. It reluctantly printed 25 copies and then began to be unable to move the paper into itself. After much troubleshooting and an attempt to clean the little feed wheel, and after literally baking my paper in a 200 degree oven to try and remove some of the dampness from it, I gave up. I did the drawing on the right while repeatedly nudging the printer to get the papers through it.
We took a break to go get something to eat and then go in search of a printer. The pepper shaker on the left was on the table at the restaurant. On the right is my shiny new printer, which I have been unable to get completely installed. Everything goes well until the last bit of the installation CD, when everything freezes up. After four attempts we have given up for the night. Jesse slept through the while process of aborted installation. I can't even download drivers because the customer support page lacks the "download drivers" button that it says to press. It's after midnight, Enough for one day!
Sunday, August 11, 2013
I am completely done with this summer. On top of relentless humidity and now heat again, a swarming of mosquitoes and other small biting insects, slugs taking over the gardens, and mildew everywhere, I now have poison ivy. So Phil and I dragged ourselves out to the trail we've been avoiding for the past few weeks and resolutely began walking. "What is this end- of- summer good for?" we asked each other. No flowers are left, the trails are more like sluggish streams than places you can walk, puddles are festering with newly-hatched biting things, and the poison ivy is as big and flourishing as kudzu.
Although the berries are long gone and there are no more flowers, the mushrooms, none edible, are doing really well. And that reminded me of Indian pipes. A number of years ago I saw some of these wonderfully ghostly plants in a rhododendron slick along one of the trails near the one we were on today. I started looking for them today ing in the dark, damp places under rhododendrons. A couple of times I saw what might have been some, but they were too far up a slippery bank overgrown with trees and vines and bushes to be sure. But what else could be so white and pale in the woods?
When we got home, just ahead of yet another downpour, I googled them and found out lots about them. So today's drawings are all from photographs and a bit from memory of the time I actually saw them.
Tomorrow I want to go back to the trail where I found them that other time. I remember they were in the dropping phase and growing in a cluster, just as the research said they do. If this butt end of summer is good for nothing else, it might just be perfect for finding Indian pipes again.