Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pomegranates for Halloween

Pomegranates figure in many myths and stories from ancient times and from all around the world.  In the ancient Greek story of Demeter and Persephone,  Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken to live in the underworld as his wife.  Her mother, Goddess of the Harvest Demeter, was so sad that she allowed all the green things on earth to die during those six months.  Zeus didn't want the earth to die, which it would have done without plants, so he told Hades to return Persephone.  The rule of the underworld, however, was that if anyone ate or drank anything in the underworld, that person would have to remain there for eternity.

Hades had tricked Persephone, who had been careful to not eat or drink anything, into eating six pomegranate seeds while she was in the underworld; so she was condemned to spend six months of the year there.  During those six months Demeter  mourns and withholds fertility from the earth.  This was the ancient Greek explanation for the seasons.  Halloween falls midway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, and was considered the beginning of winter.  Opposite Halloween on the calendar and midway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice is Beltane on May 1, considered by the ancient Greeks to be the beginning of summer (May Day).

This year we return to the what seems to be increased dark on November 1, when daylight savings time ends.  I've been at rituals where pomegranates were paired with apples, the fruit of immortality in some traditions.  Pomegranate seeds in their luminous gel are completely edible and excellent for you, supplying you with great amounts of vitamin C as well as numerous antioxidants, fiber, etc.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Pomegranates for Halloween Eve

 In 2007 I spent the summer living in a small village in Tuscany and sometimes used to take a ferry out to a little island in the middle of a largish lake.  There was nothing much on the island -- a few ruins and overgrown olive groves-- but pomegranate trees were in full crimson bloom among the ruins; and I still wonder why that shade of red between vermillion and crimson isn't called called 'pomegranate.'  If lemon yellow is a color, pomegranate deserves to be one too.  Please pass the pomegranate crayon.

These first two drawings are from my journal from that summer, and I can feel the sun and hear the bees and the lapping of the water against the little beaches and smell a sweet undetermined floral smell when I look at these rough sketches.

I like the sketches because they show the structure of the flowers and explain the structure of the fruit.
 You can see in the fruit at the bottom the odd six-sided opening at the top of the fruit, with its minute stamen threads and curled anthers.  Look at the six-sided flower top to the left and you can see the same opening during the time when the flower is open for pollination, only at that time the anthers and stamens are waving about and sticking out past the folded-back petals.

In the drawing at the top left you can see the swollen base of the flower, which is the multiple ovary container and turns into the vaguely six-sided fruit that's filled with all those seeds in their glossy gel.

Tomorrow:  inside the pomegranate for Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Seeds Like Jewels

Too bad these pickerel seeds don't taste as good as they look!  Tomorrow:  pomegranate seeds for Halloween Eve.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Duck Shapes and More Night Games

These fine fat white ducks plumping and primping at the edge of the pond this afternoon when the sun finally broke through after three dark days.
L came over for a studio night tonight, and we parallel painted and drew for 3 1/2 hours.  Such a great session, catching up, talking about the pieces we're circling around, the ideas we're toying with!  Both of us enjoying the looseness of painting for a change after much printmaking.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


 F and I braved the chilly rainy windy weather this afternoon and trudged up and down the hills in her neighborhood for half an hour.  Our prize for this feat was getting to see crimson red maple wings made even brighter by being soaking wet.
Above are two more pages of exploratory sketches in the teeny tiny book.

Monday, October 26, 2015


I spent most of today babysitting my printer as it churned out prints on 160 sheets of heavy weight paper for the calendar collaboration that Jacob and I have just finished.  As I sat there I spent the time when I wasn't babying the printer drawing what I could see from my post.  And so on the top left is a toppled ceramic head that's on the edge of the front garden, and next to the head a little sprig of a gazing that still thinks it's warm enough to bloom.  Then I moved over to the other side of the room and started drawing some of our indoor plants as preliminary sketches for a book I'm making on the same Charlottes-playing-night-games theme as the print I finished in September.
Originally I was planning to cut another woodcut, but since this is not going to be an edition, just two copies, I decided to do a painted/drawn book, something I haven't done in a while and really miss doing.  I need to practice drawing plants until I have them in my hand and can paint them more freely.  By late this afternoon I was seriously needing to go outside even though it was chilly and drizzly, and when I came back from a couple of miles slogging up a muddy path, I felt ready to start.  I tore off a small slice of the paper I want to use and that I had prepared by pouring fluid acrylic and water over this morning.  I really like the tiny scene that appeared.  And when I went out to get the mail, in it was a tiny accordion book  made by Angela Bart of New Orleans and sent to me by my sweet cousin Denise, and it is the perfect size for the teeny tiny drawings.  I decided to fill the accordion book with these little sketches and then see how big the finished book wants to be.  It may not get any bigger, and that's fine too.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


A few months ago I put a piece of furry sheepskin on a chair seat thinking that Jesse would like to sleep on it.  He has ignored it of course.  But then this morning something clicked in his little brain, and he settled down on the furry chair seat and slept like it was his favorite place in the world.

On the right is a wooly bear that we saw this morning while walking around the lake.  It was almost completely red.  What's the deal-- cold winter or warm winter predicted by this caterpillar?
Out at Beaver Lake there were several late season boaters including this woman who had a peddle boat, very sweet little boat with a rudder thing on the back for steering while peddling and with a two-paddle oar clipped to the side for emergencies, such as when she tried to back out of the bank (5775) and ended up poling her way back into the water.

Drawing 5774 is the place where Jacob and I used to launch our canoe before we had a slip at the lake, when he was around 5 years old and we had to portage the boat through the neighborhood from his house.  It sat on a little folding set of wheels that we would fold up and carry with us in the canoe.

Drawing 5776 is of the lone turtle that was trying to sun itself on this mostly cloudy breezy day.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Neighborhood Becomes Haunted

One of the best things about my neighborhood is the ancient ruin of a silo that stands at the end of the road and  faces our houses.  I love the silo in all seasons and at all times of day.  The five arched windows (really openings in the silo where an old elevator shaft-like thing used to move silage and grain or whatever goes into a silo down to a chute) frame interesting shadows that change shape by the hour.  There is no roof on the silo, so light pours in through the top; and the angle of the sun contours the shadows.    As the sun's angle changes through the seasons, the shadows also change angles.

Most wonderfully,  as halloween approaches every year, the college farm crew students climb up and place carved pumpkins in the openings, and on halloween they usually light the little pumpkins!  And after halloween they often abandon the pumpkins, and it's great fun to watch them slowly slump in and melt away over the next few increasingly cold and windy weeks.  Today I noticed that the pumpkins have been placed and are now haunting the neighborhood!  In a celebratory mood I bought a little pumpkin for our porch table, shown at left.  AT the right are this year's pumpkin faces.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fishies in Autumn

We've had a couple of light freezes this week, but the fish in Beaver Lake came up and swam around in a sunny spot this morning.  My friend A and I were walking around the bird sanctuary and the lake, and we stopped to look out across the lake from a deck.  Looking down into the murky water we began to see more and more fish, around 6 inches long, swimming to the surface.  A little turtle poked its nose in and was quickly chased away by the fish.  Meanwhile the sculling man sped by silently.

And we moved over to another deck where we drew a large nesting box for water birds.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Not as glistening and exciting as pickerel pods and seeds, these okra pods are filled with pearly little beebee seeds that should turn into a nice bunch of plants next summer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beaver Lake Redux-- Glistening Color!

The water pickerel seeds turn red bean red as they mature.  Here are three dissections and a man in a scull on the lake.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pickeral Pods

Last year around this time Jacob and I went out in the canoe and found some water pickerel seed pods like these half -submerged in swampy water in one of the backwaters of Beaver Lake.  I drew them from the canoe, but couldn't really see much detail.  Today I was walking around the bird sanctuary that abuts the backwaters of the lake, and just beyond the boardwalk I spotted some of the same kind of pods, only they were on a mound of dry land a few feet back from a stream.  There was an informal path coming from a gap in the boardwalk fence leading right to the mound;  the pods on the mound seemed doomed, so I gathered a couple to bring home and study.

I surely miss Jacob, who has always been ready for any adventure.  He, of course, is having far greater adventures this year than I am.  Last week his host family took him to Venice, where he got to see and photograph the Doges' Palace, San Marco, and the Venice Biennale!

Meanwhile these pickerel pods are fascinating.  I split one open so I could see the collection of pea-like seeds.  I may return them to the backwater tomorrow but put them in a wetter location so that they have a chance of sprouting next spring.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Leathery Pods

I don't know why but I get very excited about leathery seed pods that rattle.  These catalpa pods are perfect.  They seem like they should be used in a rhythm band or something.  These are slightly beaten up, having been peeled from the boardwalk at the Audubon bird sanctuary.  One was still filled with gooey green gel but a perfectly round stone-like seed popped out of the bottom one.  I also found these little boxy pods with holes in the exact center of the tops through which tiny seeds sprinkled.  The endless amusements of the whole seed operation!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bitternut Hickory

The bitternut hickory nut that I picked up in its yellowish husk the other day has split along four seams.  I could tell by the bite marks that a squirrel had been eating the husk, but it had not broken inside.  I took a matte knife and sliced down the splits a bit and it opened out.  Not the most exciting drawings of the week, but they'll do for 10:45 PM.  Maya and I sewed two halloween costumes this afternoon and evening.  She had the idea of turning hoodies into a dog and a cat, one for her friend and one for her.  She knew exactly what we needed to do, drew the pattern pieces, found the material in our supply bags, gave me some assignments, and then did the bulk of the job herself.  They came out great!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Chicken Studies

Cool sunny afternoon in the college garden that runs along one side of the trail.  Chickens lure me off the trail to lounge in the sun and sketch these girls and the two badboy roosters that parade around and periodically jump on top of them, leaving the girls slightly flustered looking but otherwise only momentarily interrupted from the serious business of pecking in the grass.

The tribe of giant Jersey blacks have been integrated into the larger flock, but they still stick together and even sit in a pile a lot of the time.  On the left is one of them fluffed out under some tall weeds in the middle of the yard.  After drawing the rooster's comb several times it hits me why that thing is called a comb.  It really looks like one.  My pen is moving as fast as the chickens!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

School Program: Moving Targets in the Dark

 Maya's 6th grade class put on a performance tonight as the culmination of their unit of study of Greek mythology.  Imagine 40 or so leaping kids, singing their own lyrics to the music from Grease, reciting narration of their re-telling of the story of Odysseus, dancing expressive dances of their own choreography, wearing astonishingly funny costumes of their own devising.  This wonderful public charter school teaches everything through the arts, and it's so refreshing to see experiential education thriving in spite of the sucking swamp monster of test-driven curricula and the educational industrial complex.

These drawings are really just a seismograph of the movements-- it was so dark where we were sitting that I couldn't see the paper most of the time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


F ran out of thread on her machine last week, and I ran out today.  The store where we had bought our giant spindles has recently relocated to the dreaded south end of town with its eternal traffic horror;  so before we set out on this misery of a trip we called the store to be sure they had the thread we needed.  We discovered they no longer carry large spools of upholstery thread.  It was actually something of a relief to have to go on-line and see if we could order some.  To our great surprise we found a place called The Thread Exchange, Inc, which we had never heard of, and they are about ten minutes up the main road from F's house.  So we drove over there to see if we could find some thread, and we found the absolute mother lode.  This is primarily a mail-order business located in a large warehouse where they will sell as little as a single spool of thread to drop-in customers!

The Thread Exchange has literally millions of spools of thread, every kind and every color imaginable.  (Local bookbinders:  they carry waxed linen and other bookbinding threads, the kind we can hardly find around here!)  The prices are wonderful.  They de-spool their enormous spools into smaller spools.  The very kind woman who helped us showed us a large bin of partial spools--actually the leftovers from de-spooling-- and invited us to fill a cardboard box with the colors we wanted in the weight of thread we needed.  She sold us the boxful for a single digit price.  Above are our spools!  We also ordered a few complete medium-sized spools that we can pick up tomorrow.  You can find out about about this great business at and order on line.  Asheville people call 800-915-2320 for business hours and location!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Seed Saving

I'm getting ready to put these seeds in little aluminum cans for next year's garden.  The birds have had their chance;  the rest are mine.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sweet Dregs

Late this morning, feeling very achey sinus-ey and dampish and drizzly and lethargic and miserable, I made a pot of calendula, jasmine, and white tea to try and cheer myself up.  I had a single tied-up blossom left in the box that my son E had given me several years ago and that I had been saving for the right occasion.  On the packet it said "Feeling under the weather?  Calendula will cheer you."  It slowly unfurled as it steeped, and I got so caught up in watching it that I had to draw it.
And next to the tea pot with its dregs-- the flower remained open and beautiful long after the tea was gone-- I saw the dregs of this summer's honeysuckle, a single stem with several golden white blossoms the color and texture of yellowed ladies' soft leather gloves from the 1920s.  This one blossom stem was blooming as though it were May right at the entrance to the river trail on Friday.  I had brought it home to capture the last of that sweet late-spring smell.  I had put it in a vase with the last zinnia;  and then after I drew all of those I drew the calendula blossom again.  I looked at the clock and two hours had passed and I had stopped thinking about my miserable sinuses and felt much better.  The sun had even come out; so I finished up my DIY sinus treatment  sitting in the sun on the front porch and talking with my buddy C for a good long time.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Black Jersey Giants

M and I were walking the East River Trail this afternoon and stopped to check on the chickens.  There is a new flock of fluffy, glossy black hens that are being kept in a fenced off area under a small tree.

I googled them when I got home and determined that these are probably Black Jersey Giants.  The curious thing about them is that they were sitting in a pile-up under the tree.  Every now and then one or two would venture out into the grass and peck a few times;  then they would scuttle back to the heap.  I've never seen hens pile up like this before!  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Seeds to Save

The public library in Maplewood, NJ, has a seed library where library patrons can deposit seeds saved from their gardens and pick up seeds from their neighbors' gardens.  Here are a few of the zinnia seeds from yesterday's desiccated zinnias.  Anybody want to trade?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Desiccating Zinnias

The last of the zinnias are drying up, making seeds, filling their center cones, color draining with moisture from petals and leaves, gorgeous curling complex surfaces.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Buckeyes and Chestnuts

For the longest time I have been confusing buckeyes and chestnuts, but not anymore!  Chestnuts are the ones that come in prickly outer cases;  buckeyes come in smooth, freckled cases.  This year's crop of both these nuts is pitiful and shrunken.  I found the large, glossy buckeyes on the left last year.  I found the center row of chestnuts yesterday, but I found only a few fully-formed big ones.  Most were undeveloped, like the little ones on the right.  Poor bears and squirrels this year of the dry summer.

Isn't the odd little design on the bottom of the chestnut  amazing?  It is on all of the fully-formed ones.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Post-Storm Clouds

The sun came out almost all day today for the first real time in a couple of weeks!  The sky was amazing!  It was deep blue and filled with compacted, oddly-shaped clouds as well as gigantic soft-edged cloud banks.  I've seen skies like this after the mistral (very strong wind) in France a couple of times, but never before here.  Today there were little fish-shaped clouds floating in schools, shredded clouds that looked like a bag of foam pieces had been scattered, and huge banks of dense white clouds with soft edges.  I could hardly drive for looking.  At every traffic light I whipped out my sketchbook and sketched some cloud shapes.

Also shown here are 's miraculous figs that we picked from her very own fig tree.  She planted the little tree three or so years ago, and it has done well but dies back every winter and none of its figs ever ripen.  After all the rain we've had the past few weeks, those hard little green babies plumped up and turned purplish yellowish green.  When we bit into them this afternoon at book club, we tasted the best figs ever.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Laundromat Guys

Today P and I did a massive laundry of all of our blankets, duvets, etc., and then took the whole wet load down to the laundromat at the end of our road.  The place was full of guys busily doing their own laundry, except for the baby guy who was sleeping while his mom did her own enormous laundry.
I drew P with his Kleenex, his constant companion this week, as he picked up  a cold from the kids  last week.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

Baby Tomatoes, King Cake Baby, African Figure

Late at night I can't find anything that these things have in common other than the fact that these two miniature Black Cherokee tomatoes that ripened in spite of never getting as big as they should have remind me of New Orleans Creole tomatoes in taste;  the baby is from a King Cake;  the African figure is from an African booth at the Jazz Fest in 1977, the last year we lived across the street from the Fairgrounds where the festival was held and could walk there.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Poor Pitiful Chestnuts

I walked along the rain- swollen river today to look for chestnuts and other good things to draw, but found so few-- only two chestnuts in 3.5 miles of tromping.  I found the two under a pile of wet leaves,  and they were very dark blackish brown and only half the size of those from last year's stellar crop.  Poor squirrels and bears and whatever else eats nuts over the winter.  You can compare the size of this year's chestnut on the right to the nice fat one on the left by comparing them to the charlottes' heads.