Monday, September 29, 2014

Two Days' Worth

Yesterday we drove up into the higher mountains north of here to visit friends who live up there and to go hiking with them on one of their favorite trails.  Spectacular!  And a wonderful time visiting with them and two of their other friends.  I drew all along the trail whenever we took little pauses.  Everyone collected seeds and other good things to draw for me, and I would quickly draw them while we  rested.  On the left is a very poorly drawn waterfall with a tree growing out of a kind of island in the middle of the wide stream of falling water.  It's called Crabtree Falls, which is also the name of the trail.  It falls almost straight down from around 3 stories up.  The pool at the bottom is rocky and dark.  We sat on a little footbridge at the bottom and looked straight into the tumbling water.

Further down the trail one of our friends found a deep burgundy and orange caterpillar that none of us could identify.  Then I found a fragment of a rather large snail shell.  Later I found a whole shell of one of these.  I had never seen such large snails around here so far inland and so high up.  At the bottom of the right side of the page are some drawings of cinquepin oak capsules.  It turns out they ARE dehiscent, which many of you know is one of my favorite words these days.  The prickly, chestnut-like capsule spontaneously splits in half at a certain point in its maturing.  Drawing 3257 shows one just beginning to split;  3256 shows one partly opened;  and 3258 shows a fully opened and empty capsule, which resembles a toilet seat with the lid up and a prickly toilet seat cover.

While we were lying on the ground gasping at the end of the hike (a sign at the trail head describes this trek as "strenuous"), we found ourselves in a nest of acorns.  The mast crop is huge this year, which, according to many people, is a sign of a cold winter.  I found a couple of sprouting acorns, including an acorn that had two roots coming out of a split in the shell-- twins!  I pried the shell off carefully to see if there were really two plant starts or if it was a single plant with two roots.  As you can see from drawing 3261, these are fraternal twins-- two separate plants.

We got home far too late for me to feel like posting, so I saved yesterday's for today and kept right on drawing.  Today I drew some of the things I picked up but didn't have time to draw yesterday-- some cinquepin leaves and a wild magnolia pod (all slickly black from recent rain and dampness with opened seed compartments and no seeds left).  While I was drawing Jesse ambled over to my desk, made a heroic leap right into the middle of everything, tried to drink some pigment water before I could whisk it out of his reach, made a nest of drawings, and went to sleep.

I drew him many times badly as he kept moving and moving.  I decided to count them even in their lameness because this is a 10,000 drawings project, not a 10,000 good drawings project.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

At an Edge, Reporting Back

Jacob and I like Yo-Yo Mah's saying:  The job of the artist is to travel to the edge and report back.  Today Jacob took us to an edge that is actually running through our town but deeply hidden, sort of like an underground drainage system.  He had spent some time looking at freight trains in a railroad yard in the old industrial district down by the river (today known as the River Arts District).  He wanted to go back down there and try to get some shots of trains from above.  Here are two quick, quick sketches of him climbing up a train car to see what he could see.  Soon a train man showed up and very nicely told us we couldn't actually hang out in the train yard;  then he suggested some other places where we might get some good train shots.
As we were walking to the car to drive over to a bridge the man had suggested, I spied a hair weave lying in a gutter.  It looked like it had just been flung out of a car.  This was an edge for me, having never seen a hair weave.  Jacob said he sees hair weaves flying around the cafeteria in his high school whenever there are girl fights during lunch, so it wasn't new to him.

Above the hair weave is a quick drawing of a little shrine that we found down by a very old train bridge that goes over the river.  A cross was firmly attached to a pillar of the bridge.  The word "Festus" was carved and painted on the crossbar.  This bridge was a fringy place for both of us.  My drawing on the right shows a bit of the graffiti that covers the underpinnings of the bridge.  The pillars are rather ornate.  People were sleeping in tents under parts of the bridge, so we didn't venture very far.  Jacob finally got some shots that he liked of the bridge from this vantage point.  No trains though.
After I got home I made my favorite lunch, black beans and rice on a bed of fresh garden greens and topped with chopped chives, lemon juice, Tamari, and olive oil.  My friend Sue gave me this recipe may years ago and told me it was macrobioticly balanced.  I don't know enough about macrobiotics to understand this concept, but I do love the dish, and it's super easy to make.  It makes you feel so good after you eat it!  It's on one of my evil eye plates.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Few More Dear Odd Things

The little ceramic piece at the top left was made by my son Erik at around age 6.  In all these years it's lived on various shelves in our various houses, and I've never really looked at it until this afternoon when I painted it.  I never quite knew what it represented, some kind of animal in a cave?  a turtle under a rock?  It was one of many pieces that came home from ceramics class, and Erik didn't say much about it.  But for some reason it has great staying power and still sits on a shelf in our house.  After drawing it I believe it's possibly a bear heading into a cave.  Whatever it is, I like its sturdy presence.

Below the bear is a small onyx match holder that was owned by my Dad's father who smoked the occasional cigarette.  It was left behind when my grandmother died, and was one of the few things left in her house when I arrived to claim a few mementos.  I was happy to get it because I remember it from earliest childhood.  Three monkeys surround it: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil.   I have no idea where my grandfather got it.  It was one of the fascinating things about spending the night at my grandparents' house:  the hand-cranked ice cube crusher, the card shuffling machine, my grandma's Avon closet where she kept her sales inventory, the wobbly fern stand that stood next to a metal swinging bench that was called a glider, the collection of National Geographics, the yellow pencils from Dunn & Bradstreet where my grandfather worked doing I had no idea what but which involved access to pencils and letterhead for us to use for drawing, and the monkey match holder.

On the right are the screaming chicken ceramic piece that I found in a trashcan in a studio years ago and that is a great expression of frustration and rage for when that is needed;  and the metal key hook that has a man on it and underneath his name:  The Fat Boy.  We bought him in an antique shop somewhere in England many years ago, and he has faithfully held my car keys ever since.  I have actually never lost them as long as I have been hanging them on fat boy as soon as I walk in the house!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Three Odd and Lumpy Little Things

These are very quick watercolor sketches of things that sort of fit with the reject frozen Charlotte doll from the past two nights.  (Sandy Webster wrote and filled me in on the identity of that doll.  F told me more about how she found it.  My little statue was apparently made in Dresden but was a factory reject.  F found it in a bucket in a very nice antique store.  The store owner was startled that she wanted to buy a couple of them  because of their imperfections.  I wish I could find the whole bucket full! )  Check out the link to find out more than you ever wanted to know about these interesting creatures.  I love mine in its broken and flawed state better than the spiffed up collectables, but then I really like the three unspiffy objects on this page.

On the left is my trusty weather virgin, who faithfully predicts the weather after nearly twenty years of gathering dust on a shelf in my studio.  Her glittery apron-like pink thing turns blue when when fair weather is coming and pinkish when rain is in the forecast.  Next to her is Longing Man, a small ceramic figure with no facial features or clothing but with the word Longing written across his chest.  I bought him from a junk store, and he hangs on the wall, waiting and longing, thanks to a hole in the back of his neck.

On the right is a clunky, heavily cast lizard from a market stall near the entrance to Pompeii in Italy.  He could be a paperweight, but I just keep him on my studio fireplace shelf where he stares out of his glinty eye day and night.  He kind of looks like an ash-covered victim of Vesuvius.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Eratum and Continuation

Yesterday I painted the little statue that F brought me from California, and I identified it as being from Greece.  It turns out that I misunderstood yesterday, and this little statuette (above, left) has a much more interesting history.  It's actually from Dresden, where it was made in a ceramic factory but thrown away as a mistake.  The man F bought it from had gotten a bucket full of these little cast-offs, wounded and broken and strangely lovely.  So it was never intended to be sold, which makes it even more interesting to me.  Here's a side view.  It stands about 4" tall. 

Today's dehiscent capsules are opening a small amount from yesterday.  The chestnut, on the right, is now showing  wing-like things on two sides of the nut!  And small round, black seeds are falling out of the moonflower vine capsule.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Catch Up Post from a Crazy Busy Week

This past week afforded some opportunities for satisfying drawings, but absolutely no time for posting them.  So here they are now.  Starting out, on the left is a view of Elisa sleeping in on our sleeping porch the first morning she was here.  All I could see was her tumble of golden hair sticking out of the pillows and duvets as she slept off jet lag and slept through the racket of birds and distant chickens calling up the sunrise.  On the right are some nut/seed paintings that I made of nuts that Elisa and I collected on a River Trail walk later that  day with us.

 In the afternoon we went downtown and walked around, beginning at Malaprop's bookstore of course, where we saw these two guys in the cafe.  On the right, more seeds and pods.

Elisa teaching a workshop at Asheville BookWorks in English and doing a terrific job while I helped a bit with translation and quickly sketched her in between.  More seeds and pods.  (The workshop was about getting books started on the topic "Seeds" for the Barcelona ILDE festival in April;  hence the seeds, which were sitting on the table in front of me.)

Sunday night was Jacob's birthday celebration at Wasabi, and I tried to draw the fantastic wooden sushi boat that was on our table.  The sushi was disappearing as I drew it.  On the right are two sweet gifts that I was given yesterday and today.  Elisa made a silver dragon-with-copper -book pin for me (and one for L) using the lost wax process (cera persa in italiano).  My drawing is in no way an accurate reflection of the loveliness of this piece.  And today F gave me a tiny ancient statue from Greece (I think) that she found in California while she was traveling the past three weeks.  Again, my drawing is only an impression.  The actual statue is delicate and wonderful to hold as well as look at.
And as proof that I really AM back at it, I drew these just now.  I'm focusing on dehiscent capsules as they slowly unzip themselves and release their contents. I plan to draw them every day until they completely release the seeds or nuts inside.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lovely Recycled Jewelry, a Sheep, a Portrait, and Some Scenery

Tonight's post includes yesterday's drawings as well as today's.  This is a tough week for blog posting!  I'll try to keep up, but may end up doing a catchup in a few days.  A couple of overnight guests,  a party over here, a very busy weekend-- but I will keep drawing!  Here on the right is my friend M with whom I went canoeing early yesterday morning.  We had pulled into a little swampy area and sat visiting and sketching while a kingfisher and other water birds rustled around and darted in and out of the trees and bushes.
After I drew M I drew the quiet little backwater where we were sitting.  And on the right are all eight of the now-nearly-grown turkeys and their mother taking a dust bath in our front garden.  A fantastic fluttering of wings and feathers, massive grooming, puffing and fluffing-- great to watch.
This afternoon I picked Maya up from school to come over and work on some projects and spend the night.  I drew this patch of mountains while waiting in the car line to pick her up. On the right is a bracelet that M made out of some old sequiney trim that a friend gave us.  She attached a little silver cat that was once an earring to the bracelet so that the cat looks like it's climbing a glittery wall.  She designed it completely by herself.  She used Velcro as a closing.
 On the left above is the sheep we made today.  This one has mint green ears, legs, tail, and face with a white body.  This one has hanging ears and looks more calm than the racing sheep that we made last week.  On the right is the second bracelet Maya made out of trim and an old earring.  She had a couple of other clothing ideas, but we ran out of time.  (Be sure to check Jacob's creepy photographs from this past weekend at the old barn on campus and outside of one of the eerie tuberculosis hospitals near here.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Maybe the Definitive Harvest of Wild Nuts Around Here

I thought I had found all the nuts around here, but today I walked with my friend L, a great forager of wild foods, and she showed me (right hand page) a whole other layer of nuts that I wasn't even seeing, so intent was I on finding great numbers of lovely if inedible buckeyes.  At the top in its light green dehiscent case is a hickory nut, and next to the slightly opening case is a hickory nut itself.  Under the hickory nut is a butternut (which I had guessed was a hazel nut but which isn't).  The clue to its butternutness is the lemon-shaped indehiscent case, which has a distinct citrusy smell.  Skip to the bottom row and you will see a brown butternut case, which seems to be what happens when they ripen and start to disintegrate and develop lots of tannen.  I pried the case off, no easy job, and found the nut inside, looking like a small walnut, which makes sense as it is a relative of the black walnut.  This one has been gotten to by some worms and had mostly blackish powder where the nut meat was supposed to be.

The prickly green case above the butternuts is a cinquepin oak nut, a kind of acornish-looking nut that is really a relative of the chestnut.  If you wait long enough, the case splits open and you find the glossy, tear-drop shaped cinquepin nut, prized for its sweet, chestnut-like meat.  L taught me how to split it open with my teeth (not a problem as the skin is tough but flexible and won't chip your teeth) and get at the meat.  Delicious!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Drawing in the Middle of Sheep

First, the bad boy ram!  (Jacob and I had gone the old white barn on campus to see what we could see.  The farm manager had graciously agreed to our going inside to photograph and draw on late Friday afternoon as well as Saturday morning. ) It was cloudy and rumbly outside at 5:00, and when we pushed open the chunky door to the lower level of the barn, some spitting rain was just starting.  The first thing that we saw in the gloom was that the sheep had been gathered in for the night, and a couple of rams were just inside the door in a pen under a sign that said "Be careful of the Ram".  A couple of students arrived to do a chore shortly after we had settled in, and they unlocked the upper level for us.  But they told us they could only stay for a few minutes, and we couldn't be there without them.  So we did some quick sketching and photographing, and agreed to return in the morning. The ram was grumbling and slamming around in his pen, but I was able to make two quick drawings of him.

This morning we arrived just as a larger group of students was getting ready to inoculate and weigh and tag the whole flock.  Exciting!  Jacob disappeared up in the dark, cathedral-ceilinged attic level, and I sat midway up on the narrow wooden stairs that led to the attic and watched the sheep.  On this page a few sheep are eating straw from a bale enclosed in a wire fence-like container.  From the other side of the room came maaa-aaa-aaa-ing as the students worked with the sheep.
Within minutes a large crowd gathered at the food, including the watch-donkey.  The big mama sheep in the middle  stayed in her prime eating position the entire time, about an hour, that I sat on the stairs.
The donkey was tethered by a rope while a student cleaned her hoofs and brushed her coat.  Meanwhile the sheep continued eating and milling around.  This was very much as action drawing!
The rest of the drawings are studies of individual sheep.  I grew to love their shapes and gestures.  I noticed they have seamed upper lips and very knobby heads.  The babies have longer coats than the mothers, probably have never been sheared.  I am happy to report that these sheep are being grown for their coats and not for food.
One enormously pregnant sheep with udders so full they poked out like a double balloon, one nipple pointing east and one west. 
By the time I drew this page some of the sheep were settling down, having eaten their fill.  I was able to do a textured and value drawing of one of them.  I really like the contour drawing on the left, almost best of all.
On our way home we stopped by the old tuberculosis hospital so Jacob could take a few outside shots, and I drew a nice arrangement of large cardboard boxes behind one of the buildings.  Very relaxing after chasing sheep!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

More Exquisite Conkers

After living with my collection of conkers for a few days now I can see distinct differences among them.  The one at the top, for instance, has two flat places on it, and these indicate that this conker was one of triplets.  The one right below has one flat side, indicating that it is a twin.  Twins and triplets are known as cheesers in conker game parlance.  The tiny blackish one is a singleton and very small.  It had a small hull, too.  The one at the bottom left was nibbled by a squirrel through its hull.  The squirrel ate a hole through the hull but never succeeded in opening the dehiscent seam.  The one on the bottom right is smallish and interestingly lumpy, but definitely a singleton.

My research tells me that conkers, besides being used to play games with, have been used for jewelry and for mojo in some voodou traditions.  One process was to drill a hole in the conker and fill the hole with mercury.  The end of the hole was them plugged some way, and the quicksilver-filler conker was added to a pacquet.  All conkers have been used as good luck symbols.  Conkers can be preserved by oiling them with human skin oil (your own).  You simply rub the conker alongside your nose in the indentation between your cheek and your nose.  In a few weeks your conker will be beautifully smooth and preserved.  I am working on mine diligently.  I chose the triplet as my lucky charm.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Beautiful Friends

I met with a group of friends this afternoon in my critique group.  These drawings don't really look like them, and I missed out on drawing two of them altogether.  But it was good practice to draw while looking at them and not much at the paper, which I held on my lap mostly.  It's hard to draw moving people!  Much easier to paint a conker resting in its capsule.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Along the new River Trail today P and I found a cache of gorgeous yellow buckeye nuts, many still in their capsules.  I really enjoy the design of these-- the dehiscent lines on the smooth capsule where a smart squirrel can easily open it by inserting its front teeth into the groove;  the boat-shaped half capsules after the nuts have been removed, with a few immature nuts peeking out from between the papery lining of the inner chamber.  There is some kind of umbilical connection.  The oval spot on the nut matches perfectly the oval spot inside the chamber to which it is apparently connected.  I collected a whole bagful of the empty cases and a few nuts and found two unopened capsules that I opened easily.  Does anybody know if these are edible?

Monday, September 8, 2014


It was so cool and almost dry today!  A cool front has passed over us, and we are happy happy happy, at least I am.  I walked down to the farm to buy a dozen eggs that were probably gathered this morning from happy organic bug-eating chickens.  I walked down the mountain from our backyard (see drawing at top left, which shows roughly where we live), then traversed the hideous path along Warren Wilson Road with its barreling trucks and zooming cars and no shoulder to speak of.  Soon, though , I came to the trail head for the new River Trail, which I followed for about 3/4 of a mile.  The trail went through the golden bamboo grove, where I checked on Owl Man (right side of page), who has, happily,  gotten his leg glued back on at least partially.  Last time I was here he had a sock where his lower leg should be.  He also has his modesty bamboo leaf in place.

I peeled off of the trail when I came to the college sawmill and lumber drying shed;  from there I passed several fields, one of them my absolute favorite field.  This field contains a Chinese Feng Shui feature known as a frolicking green water dragon, and this is a very auspicious landscape feature.  You can see it in the top left drawing-- a ribbon of greener, weedier, denser vegetation whipping through a field of grass and marking the ancient path of the nearby river.  There is still a trickle of water under all the dense vegetation, and it fills when it rains hard.  But the river has moved over the millennia to its present location.  I know all this because I worked on the archaeological site down in this valley for four summers in the 90's.  The water dragon coincides with the lowest elevation on campus, around 2200 ft above sea level.  The water dragon is beautiful and mysterious, and walking along that field always feels lucky.

I reached the main chicken house and yard, next to the farm office, where I went in and bought my honor system eggs, putting my $4 in the coffee can and taking eggs out of the fridge.  Then I continued back toward the trail, passing a little paddock or field or something that had some sheep grazing.  Not only were these sheep close enough to really see, but there was a bench on the overlook. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Drawing in Hidden Places

Before going any further, check out jacob's blog for today.  His Beaver Lake photos will give you the context for these drawings.  Early this morning he and I set out in our canoe for a hidden bog that is kind of cul de sac off of Beaver Lake, the big lake in North Asheville that we canoe on.  I spent all my time drawing water pickerel plants and SEEDS!  I came home and researched them and added notes, which are squeezed between the drawings.  Jacob;s photo of these seeds is perfect and captures the oozey squishy boggy feel of the seeds in the hidden interior of their pod (which was itself half-hidden in the ooze of the bog) deep in the interior of the bog itself, hidden from all but the most intrepid swamp seekers.
And then after our adventure in the bog, we dropped off the canoe at the dock and hiked down into an overgrown and hidden trail that led to a waterfall that we've visited before.  I sketched as fast as I could while J scrambled over the rocks and got down near the rushing water.  This is a kind of Where's Waldo.  Can you find Jacob in here?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Essential Sheep

Sheep have been grazing in the fields around here for the past few months.  I go out of  my way to see them, piled up on top of one another, trotting all together from one part of the field to another, munching with heads down in a far corner of the field.  I yearn for them to be put in the pasture behind our house so that I can go out there and see them close up.

Meanwhile Maya and I, having designed a teething pillow for babies, specifically for our own baby cousin/grand daughter Abby who lives in Maplewood, have been asked to make three more for a friend who has new babies coming into her life.  Our design is a sheep, of course.  What better to chew on than terrycloth sheep feet and ears and tail and nose?  We made our first sheep last summer in preparation for bringing the sheep to Abby in July when we went to visit her and her family.  So last night Maya slept over here, and we dug out our sheep pattern plus our list of tips to remember about making the sheep.  We had enough terrycloth to make one sheep with a white body and blue legs/ears/tail/face, and one sheep with a blue body and white legs/tail/ears/face.  We need to go to the fabric store for the third sheep, which is fun because we get to find maybe some different colors.

We completed the first sheep and cut out the second one.  Here is the sheep we made in various poses.  And here is drawing from memory of the real sheep far back in a field beyond the cornfield this afternoon, looking like a whitecap in the ocean.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


I worked on a small rubber block carving to use in some new work, so tonight's drawings include a couple of prints (proofs) of that.  Also the carving tool itself, and a stuffed version of the girls, and then a boat that I made out of sticks and sausage casing a few years ago for the girls.  Trying to bring girls, woman, and boat together in this seed piece.  Still diverging and holding back from racing to a conclusion.  (This paper does okay with light watercolor, but it's unevenly sized, it seems.  It did fine when I painted the boat and the girls, but the tool bled a little.  Must be a surface size, unevenly applied. ) I really enjoy working with it, especially with pen.  The prints show very fine vertical lines going the length of the page, probably from the mould or maybe the couching blanket?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New Sketchbook, Yummy Paper

The little book that I am starting today is one that I bought in Barcelona by a man from Venice who runs a cartiera or paper company/mill called Cartiera Clandestina (Clandestine Paper Mill).  His name is Marco Brunello and you can see something about his projects at this link.  This book that I have is made out of a recycled old book.  The end pages are used as the cover, and the text pages are made from pulp with chopped up text added to the pulp. 

The paper is heavenly to draw on!  Even though it's somewhat heavy and a little bumpy, my pen sank happily into the surface, and the lines were crisp and fine.

Jesse consented to pose for this first page int he new book.  He has started spending all day on the roof of P's car in the shade of the carport. 
On this page I began drawing profiles for use in the seed/boat/bride/girls piece.  These are all drawings of sculptural pieces at my house-- a santo, a couple of ceramic pieces, and a clay mask.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In Which Drawing Leads to an Exciting Discovery!

A customer asked F and me to design a feather-weight fold-over wallet that was as small and lightweight as possible and could still hold dollar bills and around 6 credit cards and also a couple of those small cards that are made to go on key rings.  Oh, and she wanted it to provide an RFID shield, so it needed to be made out of an aluminum- lined coffee bag.  F was telling me about it this morning when we got together briefly before she left on a several-weeks-long trip.  She had already come up with a prototype, but the customer wanted it to hold more than one or two dollar bills and had now asked for a billfold compartment.
We bounced ideas around while we stood there, and I made some sketches.  At one point we were headed down a blind alley, and then we simultaneously thought of an elegant solution to the bill compartment.  We were in a hurry, though;  so F left to do last-minute trip preparation and I went home mulling over the new design.
My process was to start on a new prototype, drawing and making notes as I made it.  That's what all these drawings are.  I finished the wallet, as you can see here, but it had one glitch in the design:  the two inside card compartments needed to be sewn by hand because I couldn't figure out how to sew it on the machine.  And that hand-sewing took as long as the entire rest of the job.
I started folding the wallet this way and that to see if I had missed something, and soon I saw that it might be possible to press the bill compartment back to the left and then slip the back side of the flaps under the presser foot.  As I drew my hand pressing the wallet into this position, I knew it would work, and it does.  So for today a series of drawings that led to a discovery!