Friday, July 25, 2014

Jesse Falling Asleep and Waking Up, a Slow Motion Study

Tomorrow we're leaving very early for New Jersey and then New Hampshire,  bringing Maya along to visit with her cousins and aunts and uncles;  so today Jesse had to check in to the boarding kennel.  He knew something was up this morning, as he always does when luggage appears.  He hung around with me in my studio, and I drew this series of him falling asleep in the back window.
Then something outside attracted his attention, and these two drawings show him rising to alertness, keeping his eye on whatever it was outside that had awakened him.
Jacob and I had a French conversation lunch at the Battery Park Book Exchange downtown, and we were joined by this sweet little border collie that belongs to the owner of the BX.  She shook hands, sat, played dead in exchange for small pieces of turkey.  Then she just stood next to our table and grinned at us while we had our conversation and ate our lunch.
After lunch Jacob wandered around looking for things to photograph and I found a quiet spot to sit and draw two faux deer heads that hang on the walls.  After that we went down to the warehouse district along the river and parked under the high freeway bridges.  J took photographs which he said he will be posting tonight on his blog , so check soon to see them.  He was finally able to buy a wide angle lens and was experimenting with that today.  We definitely plan on returning to this location later.

I may not post during the next week and a half, but I will be drawing, and I'll do a big catch-up post when we get home.  Then again, my new phone may be better at taking pictures, and if that's the case and I can post, I'll make some interim posts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Drawing While Devouring Tapas

 When we were in Barcelona last April we became complete fans of Catalan and Spanish food.  What fun to get to eat it here in Asheville tonight at Curate!  Curate is fantastic, but if you want to eat there, two months before you want to go, you need to go on line and make your reservation.  And you DO want to eat there!  At top left is a sunflower from a bunch in a giant vase set on a ledge by a window near our table.  The circular things are part of a light fixture.  Everything else on this page is food that was rapidly disappearing as I was sketching:  potato and onion tart, fried potatoes, bread with tomatoes and manchego cheese, cava (sparkling white champagne-like wine).  We also had an assortment of olives that were gone before I got around to sketching them.
At the top my favorite spinach with raisins, apples, pine nuts;  and across the page an incomparable shrimp and garlic and bayleaf and small pepper dish.  At the bottom are two people from another table.  We also had crema catalunya (a kind of creme caramel) that we ate so fast I never got to draw it!  Thank you Erik and Kerstin!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Les Espadrilles

These are F's genuine espadrilles, which she bought from a village market in the south of France last summer for less than E8 (approximately $10 at the time).   I wish so much I had bought several pair (as she wisely did) that day.  I did buy one pair, but these are striped and so much cooler!
These shoes cannot be beat!  (Why is it that the faux espadrilles made by Tom's cost $40??)

Monday, July 21, 2014

In the Muddy Middle of a Herd

I can't claim that this was an enjoyable drawing to make, but it feels good to have actually done it.  I walked out to the field behind our house this afternoon just before rain started pelting down.  The college farm crew has finally moved some cows to this field after nearly two months of no cows to eat the grass and weeds.  I stepped through the stile that connects our back woods to the field and landed in the middle of a wash of poop and mud and waist high grass and some disgruntled-looking cows that seemed completely unequal to the task of clearing the meadow.  I stood there inside the electric fence enclosure and tried to make sense of the slowly moving black shapes and the grass and weed textures and puddles and poop.  I gave up on drawing cows and just outlined what seemed to be more or less the shapes I could see.  I filled in a texture strip.  Flies were landing on my notebook.  Cows were ponging and mooing.  A couple of calves surfaced from underneath bushes.  The clouds gathered and grew darker.  Drops began spitting down.  I backed out of the field and landed in one of the four enormous piles of clay excavated by the groundhogs that have taken over the fenceline inside our yard.
I shook off my tall boots and dumped my umbrella, made a quick run to the garden to see if there was anything to pick, found an enormous cucumber, as big as one of those inedible zucchinis that leap into being at the end of a rainy spell.  A weapon of a cucumber.  Anybody have a good overgrown cucumber recipe?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Small Party of Peafowl

 At top left is the view of our neighbor's backyard seen from our side window.  I look at this everyday and never get tired of the chunky blocks of darks and lights.  The rest of the page consists of traces left by my pen as I thought through a design for a small backpack designed to transport three pints of vegetable juice for a customer who walks a mile to and from work and carries three jars of juice for snacks and lunch.

More thinking about the backpack, but then things get interesting on the feral bird scene.  The wild turkeys visited again in the late morning, two hens and the eight half-grown juveniles from yesterday.  Today the babies gathered under a rose bush and sat for a while, ignoring Jesse, who watched from his perch beside the woodpile.  After a while one of the babies flew up to the top of a very tall tree!
I watched some more while the two mothers pecked bugs from the grass and the babies seemed to nap under the bush.  Then suddenly two more females appeared, only these were slightly different from the usual turkey hens.  I noticed the feathers on top of their heads and their white faces.  Peahens!  Never before have we seen feral peahens around here.  I did some research and discovered feral peafowl exist in urban areas, notably LA.  They're members of the pheasant family and are forest birds.  So this forest-surrounded street would be a good environment for them, but I've never seen them here before.  Another idea I had is that these are domestic peahens escaped from someone's yard around here. At any rate, these two were quite comfortable with the wild turkeys, and the turkey mothers seemed unruffled by the presence of these two peahens.  These turkeys and peahens are the coolest, calmest birds I've ever seen.  I would like to have their composure and regal posture!

Jesse meanwhile retreated to his favorite side-of-the-house spot, the roof of P's car.  He is bored by wildlife I think, since they are unimpressed by him.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Flotilla of Turkeys

 It rained softly all day today.  Around 11:00 this morning a flotilla of turkeys wafted into our front yard and stayed for about 45 minutes.  The mother had 8 chicks, half grown ones, so I guess these are jakes and jennies, right?  They were mainly interested in picking things out of the grass around the gardens and out of their own feathers.  They were in perfect view of the bedroom window, and I stayed with them for about half an hour.  Lots of good turkey gestures, mainly involving grooming.

At one point our neighbor came walking down the middle of the street with her dog on a leash.  The mother turkey kept an eye on the dog but stayed put on the lawn while the babies all ran or flew out of view, up toward the backyard.  I got to see the babies take off and land!  After the dog and neighbor were gone, the mother must have given some kind of signal, because gradually all 8 babies reassembled.  I decided to go out on the front porch and see if I could get closer.  I stood on the porch, and to my surprise Jesse slunk out from behind the woodpile where he had apparently been lurking.  The turkeys ignored us, and Jesse watched them carefully but with no bristling fur or threatening noises.  Eventually the mother finished her careful grooming, and everybody took off sailing slowly down the middle of the street in single file.

For fans of the rice bag journal, here's the outside of the closed book.
 And here's the other side of it, showing the folded over opening and all the great edge stitching.  I've seen other cloth bags of rice here, but this one is just such a perfect size for me and has such a pretty graphic and stitching on it.  And a bonus-- the recipe for the good paella is on the inside covers and shows when you open the book.  (Ironic that I was just in Barcelona in April and didn't see a single wonderful bag such as this one.  All the rice bags in our neighborhood markets were cellophane or plastic with minimal graphics.  This one says clearly that it is a product of Spain, probably from a company owned by Whole Foods--)  I've checked Trader Joe to no avail, but Whole Foods carries it reliably.

Friday, July 18, 2014

New Journal and Small Tutorial

 It's always an adventure to finish a book and make a new one.  This time I had an empty paella rice bag at the ready!  It is the easiest book I've ever made, and you can make your own in a few minutes, no kidding.

Step 1:  Flatten the empty cloth bag from Mafiz Valenciano paella rice and turn it horizontally.  Cut or tear 25 sheets of drawing paper from an inexpensive Strathmore drawing pad so that they each measure about 4 1/2" high by 7 or 8" wide.  Fold each sheet in half to make little folios that you will then nest inside of each other, 5 folios to a signature (or gathering or booklet).

Step 2.  If you want a hard back to your book, slide a piece of light cardboard into the bag, and push it all the way to the bottom.  When turned horizontally, the cardboard part of the bag will be to your right.  Before doing anything else, sew a seam down the center of that end of the book to keep the cardboard from scooting around.
Step 3:  Open out the middle signature to its center page and sew a seam through the center fold and also through the center of the bag.  You can sew by hand or with a sewing machine.  I use a treadle machine, but it you have a heavy duty electric machine, that should work.  After sewing the center signature, sew the other four or however many you have, alternating left and right to keep the spacing right.

 As you can see here, the open end of the bag is to the left when the book is open.  You can leave it like this to use as a pocket for holding pens, small watercolor brushes and small mint tins of watercolor or money or keys or whatever else you want to keep inside the front cover pocket.  Or you could slip a second sheet of cardboard in there to make a hard cover.

I left my cover open to use as a pocket.  To close everything up, I fold the left side under and slip an old produce rubber band around the book.  These paintings are all of stuff I picked from the square foot garden this afternoon and used in the paella tonight.  You can see how deformed the okra is.  I don't think it's getting enough heat and light.  Put the four new plants in today while it was raining.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The More You Look the More You See

Today I bought a little plastic pot with four okra starts in it.  My current okra plants seem thin and weedy and aren't producing much.  I think they got off to a bad start and then began making pods when they were still teenaged plants.  So I thought I would start over with sturdy plants from our Whole Foods/Greenlife grocery and see if they can catch up.  They're almost as big as my two month old plants already.

I used the slow slow relaxed method to paint them, only I didn't draw at all.  I relaxed the brush into the puddle of paint, and then I draped it and pulled it across the paper.  I broke in the middle of painting to go have dinner.  It usually takes my eyes a long time to start really seeing more and more, but after the break they snapped right back into the seeing.  I luckily have excellent close vision, no glasses needed;  so it is pure pleasure to sink deeper and deeper into the spaces and levels and tones and shadows.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Even Slower

Looking at Jacob's recent photographs and especially watching him take his photographs has made me more interested in micro-drawing as well as really slow watching and looking.  When Jacob stands in the middle of twenty or so ducks that are grooming and settling down for the evening, he hardly moves.  He waits for a very long time before making careful, slow moves to lift his camera, bend down, or whatever he needs to do to get the shot.  His camera makes a barely perceptible click, and then he moves in slow motion to the next shot.  He seems to have an understanding of the principle of qualitative research that the research environment is affected and changed by the observer; and his quietness allows the air to settle before he attempts to take any photographs.

I, however, tend to rush in and flail around, disturbing not only air but bugs and birds and the very energy on site.  So this morning I imitated Jacob and stood without moving for what to me felt like an excruciatingly long time before making a move.  I wanted to draw the landscape of the zinnia in the vase in the kitchen, which I had drawn quickly yesterday, and I wanted to practice moving my eye in slow motion as well as my hand.
Then came the real test.  I went outside wearing boots and long sleeves to fend off the mosquitoes that usually attack me immediately, and I started watching the large turk's cap-like lily that grows at the edge of one of our gardens.  I wanted to learn what pollinates it, among other things.  It took a while before any insects showed themselves, but eventually I saw the small sweat bees that seem to be pollinating it as well as some white leaf-hoppers that have recently emerged from white cocoons, the remnants of which are along the stem of the lily.  I drew so slowly that the pen made no noise as it stroked the page.  It was around 9 in the morning, cool, few birds, Jesse nowhere in sight, quiet except for the occasional buzz of a bumble bee in the nearby bee balm (which bee seemed to have no interest in the lilies).  Oddly enough I was basically un-attacked by mosquitoes or gnats.  I played yoga class and counted my breaths.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Slowing Down Fast Drawings

 It took two days to do these four drawings.  yesterday I went walking on the river trail right after a rainfall that let the air so clogged with swampy-smelling moisture that I felt like I was dragging the river into my lungs.  I didn't want to linger, so I made the quickest of sketchy maps for the two drawings on the left.  I did a very thin texture strip on each drawing, and then slogged on.  Just as I reached the turn-around point I spotted that crazy doll perched on top of a tall fencepost.  Must have been dropped by one of the families who use the river as a swimming hole for their kids.  I did a quick sketch just because it was funny and so out of context, but no texture strip or anything else.  The whole drawing took about 45 seconds.
When I got home I had only half an hour before friends arrived for dinner, and I never did get back to the drawings until today.  Today I finished the two textured drawings, going really slowly and using pointillist dots to build up values as well as textures to build up forms and surfaces.  So much fun!  Such a lot of time to do it!  Then I spotted a zinnia that I had picked yesterday and put in a little vase with some basil.  The flower was so overblown and gorgeous that I drew it carefully in ink, right then and there.  I wasn't going to use any color, but the pinkish red blossom was not to be believed.  I love the shaggy petals that are a millimeter away from drooping and falling off.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Drawing with Knives

Step one in transforming a drawing into a relief print is to do a simple graphite line tracing of the drawing, outlining areas that are to be left white if they occur in the middle of black shapes.  On the left you can see the tracing paper overlay with the traced drawing at the top.  I moved it around a bit, selecting different elements of the machine head from different drawings. 

Step two is to flip the tracing over and burnish the traced lines onto the piece of rubber that will form the block.  Then the next and most time-consuming part is to carve away everything that should not show up in the print.  At the bottom right is the first proof of the carving.
The prints on this page are from different states or stages of the carving as I removed more and more and smaller and smaller pieces of rubber.
In 2792 I added a wheel above the small wheel on the top right of the machine head.  (This series is remindng me of those standardized tests we were given in primary grades in which we had to selelct the one clown holding a bunch of balloons that was in some minute way different from the other nine clowns holding balloons.  How are you doing here?)
The more-or-less final print, on the right.  One final step was marking the back with a level line so that the print could be positioned level on the page.  I think I'll leave those few remaining tool marks because I like the texture and the traces of the process.  I may go in and outline the treadle belt as it passes through the base plate.  It's key to move slowly in this process.  Once something is taken away it can't be replaced, but it's easy to remove more.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Creeping Up on a Drawing

 I need to make a little relief print of a sewing machine head for a new business card/retail tag.  I started drawing one of my machines early this morning and have continued throughout the day.  This simple machine head is deceptively complex.  The proportions are key, I think.  The first drawing was pure warm-up, and it looks like a stuffed toy of a sewing machine.
has some nice profiles, especially the bottom right.  The issue now is how much to eliminate.  Carving reduces a design to essentials, and especially tiny carving like this is going to be.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Various Groomings and Other Details

I let Jesse out the back porch door this morning and watched him start his day.  He sat on the top step of the stairs going from the patio down to the yard .  He sat still, moving only his head, sniffing and listening I am guessing.  Every now and then he's look to the left or the right.
Then after a few  minutes he came back to the back door and meowed to be let in.  He likes a little yogurt every morning, and the ritual is exact:  First he licks from the spoon ;  then he jumps down from the counter and waits at his food place till I put the yogurt (in a little blue ceramic dish) in the spot next to his water bowl.  After a little yogurt, he went back out to the porch and settled into some grooming.
Late this afternoon and into the evening J and I hiked the River Trail from Owen Park to partway up the trail;  then we turned around and headed back to the park, where we found many ducks and geese busily herding their babies around, snacking on seaweed and bugs, and doing lots of duck grooming.  I've never sat and watched ducks groom before, and it was fascinating.  J took lots of photographs.  Be sure to see his blog at Jacob Diehn Photographer to see the finished photographs.
We spent a lot of time along the river.  J wanted to take some shots from in the water, so pn the left you can see him setting up a shot, balancing on some algae-covered rocks in the middle of a riffle area with rushing water and lots of rocks.  Along the bottom are some grooming ducks and then some ducks settling down for the night.
It was really hot and buggy and damp and sticky, so of course J ended up in the river, the heck with e coli!  I urged him to keep his mouth closed!  And he took a cool shower while I fixed dinner. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Drawing People Watching Power Points

J finished his summer internship today, and we went to hear the presentations that the kids made.  It was a perfect time to draw hair and heads.  We sat at tables, all facing front, so I could put my book on my lap and not be obvious while I drew.  The people in the audience held really still because the kids all had to do power points as well as talk, and it seems that most people read the power points while the presenters read them.  There were so many really great hairdos!
I did run into some trouble when I tried to draw the speakers because they were moving a bit.  That's J on the right, finally looking like himself in the bottom center attempt.
I had forgotten how much fun it is to draw faces and heads!  The presentations were good, too!  (I can always listen better while I draw for some reason.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jesse Protests

7:00 PM, no drawings done today, zero impulse to do any now, so I scoop up a handful of Jesse's toys from around the house and dump the wretched things on my drawing table.  I think I'll cheer myself up by using color and painting the battered mousie with as  much care and attention as a flower, paint the rubber snakie as though it were an Etruscan artifact.  Things are going pretty well.  And then into the room comes Jesse, up he springs onto the tabletop, and it's all over for painting.  He wants with a desperate urgency the toys he hasn't looked at all day.  He sits down as close to me as he can get, hooking his chin over the edge of my sketchbook and batting at the paintbrush.  He begins grooming diligently and doesn't leave until I fling all his toys back down on the floor, put the paints away, and he can go back to snoozing on the back porch table.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Stalking the Stalkers

We haven't had much wild turkey action this summer, now that I have my garden barricaded and turkey-proofed.  But yesterday and today two mothers and a flock of adolescents-- jakes and jennies according to the wild turkey website I looked at-- arrived.  There were around 14 of the little ones, and everyone was making a sweep of the lawn and ivy-covered areas cleaning up bugs, which is fine with me.  I wish they had an appetite for the Japanese beetles that are showing up near the square foot garden, but I don't want to take down the turkey proof netting over there because those turkeys will flatten everything and stab all the tomatoes and cucumbers.
The main stalker around here is, of course, Jesse; and he doesn't care about Japanese beetles either.  I came upon him sitting at the end of the driveway surveying his kingdom late this afternoon.  I enjoy drawing his four-storied back view.  He immediately plopped down into an alert pose, but before I could work on his face (which looks kind of lambey I think, something wrong with the ears), he had gone into a roll.
Coming out of his roll he got very alert and interested in something in the grass and ivy patch between our house and our neighbor's.  I like the pose in 2744, one I rarely catch him in.  He was digging in the ground.
In 2745 he's resting on his elbow for a few minutes but keeping his eyes on the ground.  Then he creeps over to the ivy patch in full pounce mode.  I am intrigued by his backbend in 2748.  He's still in the ivy but braced on his front paws with a decided backbend going on.  He looks like someone doing upward-facing-dog or sphinx pose in yoga.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Useful Drawing- Tutorial on Flattening an Aluminum Can for Future Use

Drawing a process cements it in my brain somehow.  Today I was cutting open and flattening out an aluminum can to use on the flap of a laptop case.  I had done it before, but only once or twice, and I wished that I had made a record of that process because it took me a while to figure out how to do it the first time and to remember it this time.  This time I recorded it;  and next time if I'm not sure how to do it, it will be right here for reference.  But mainly, I'll remember much better how to do it from drawing the steps. 

Key to success is a pair of industrial strength scissors, in this case my trusty Cutco kitchen scissors that not only can cut through a penny as advertised, but can also easily slice through aluminum.  Step 1: rinse out the can;  then poke a hole in it by stabbing it with one blade of the scissors as close to the top as possible.  Step 2 is to simply snip below the top to remove it.  Step 3 : slice the can from the top to the bottom, and then cut around the bottom.  Step 4 is to render the lethally sharp rectangle of aluminum harmless.  Place a metal ruler about 1/4 inch below each edge and press the edge to be folded up against the ruler and then over, forming a hem.  Do this on all four sides.  Then you can either hammer the fold flat or burnish it flat with a bone folder or metal burnishing tool or even the bowl of a spoon.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sheep and Fox!

There's really only one of these teething sheep, but they were so much fun to pose and draw that I couldn't stop;  and now they look like a flock, including one who is rolling on the ground.
The sheep is made of white terrycloth with a blue terrycloth head, tail, and legs.  Here she looks like she's running.  (Shortly after we finished making the sheep and fox, I saw the real flock of sheep that live around here all running across the field where they're grazing.)  We especially love the fact that we designed the pattern for the sheep.  We kept track of improvements to make the next time we make it.

The little fox on the right is make of thick orange and white felt-like material.  M says he looks "young" and smart, and I agree.  We invented a way to make this fox stand up without falling over, as the first one we made does.  The pattern doesn't call for a flat bottom, but we had the same idea at the same time when we saw the fox standing up on his flat stuffed bottom before we sewed the bottom seam.  We cut out a circle of felt, turned under a hem, and sewed it to cover the flat circle of stuffing.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Baby Bear

For some reason this post doesn't want to be shared to FB.  I'm going to try reposting and see if it comes up this time.  The drawings are of F's cat Montana in a couple of poses while she was sleeping on F's lap.  Then on the other page a pretty little ceramic cup and a very small bear that ambled across F's yard yesterday while we were working.  It was skinny and short, and its mother was nowhere in sight.  We're worried about this little bear.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Good Old Non-Digital Non-Electronic Machinery

For some enigmatic reason blogger is not showing the image I'm posting, and I can't figure out how to make it work other than shutting everything down and trying again later.  What perfect timing for a computer problem!  I've just spent a couple of hours tuning up Maya's old Davis treadle sewing machine, and how nice it is to fiddle around with actual greasy metal objects.  The main problem we've been having is that the upper thread tension is way too strong no matter what we do.  So today I took apart the thread tension disk assembly and cleaned it, hoping it was just jamming up from lint or old thread fragments.  No such luck.  It seemed to be unable to loosen, resulting in loops on the lower thread and a straight line on the upper thread.  I began to see that the pressure of the spring was really high, and I wondered if I still had the spring from the tension disk assembly that had come on the machine but which I had replaced because the original one was missing a disk.  Sure enough, there it was in the back of one of the drawers, and it was a smaller spring, with only 4 coils as opposed to the six on the new one.  I took out the big spring and popped in the original one, and that fixed the problem.  Now the tension disk assembly works perfectly, and I was able to adjust it easily.  Meanwhile, I still can't see the image on my blogger new-post page.

Update:  the image eventually showed up, but it was oddly elongated.  I removed it and replaced it.  Have no idea what was wrong.  Much prefer fixing the sewing machine.