Friday, September 30, 2011

in the garden this morning

red leaf banana and canna lily sketch
 Beautiful sunny weather returned inviting a visit to the well watered garden. It's cool and the chill is coming but today was lovely in the shady back yard. I went out to see what I could find to sketch and the banana with red leaves was so dramatic I chose it again. Shade made the photo of the drawing look blueish. A scan will capture the real colors best.

rocket golden rod first time blooming in our garden

blackberry lily seed pods over hosta and pink sedum 

spider who's net I discovered between flower beds by walking into it...


bananas and flowering canna 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

in the studio

Tropicana rose etc. on gray seamless paper
Today the last rose from the garden was crying out to be featured in my sketch book. I set up a small seamless paper to give it a little more focus and got to work. First I draw with my water based ink - fountain pen. Then I begin mixing and filling in the colors stating with the background usually.
the set up
final sketch happens to be on the first page of a signature in my hand made sketch book. See the glass beads that are sewn between signatures?
trimmed to focus on the sketch
I am pretty happy with the results but I think after looking at the photos I could have used the orange of the rose hips on the rose instead of the salmon pink I chose if I was going for exact reproduction. I also see that the burgundy leaves were darker at the bottom near the pink sedum. Looking at it with naked eye I could not make out that shadowy area. That is one of the examples of how photos change the real and flatten things out that your eye sees better and with much more detail of shading.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Keith reading at the laundry 
ikebana arrangement 
I have been drawing sketches daily for over a year now. I began after my male figure drawing group had been on break for a few weeks last year. We left the Warehouse gallery space and were between venues when I decided I wasn't drawing often enough and I needed to do something to keep my skills sharp. I started drawing little things around the house like NYC artist Danny Gregory recommended to us in his books years ago. First with just sepia-black ink then sometime last year I added watercolors to the daily sketching. I make my own sketchbooks. The size at first was small. I began using little 5.5" by 4.25" books I call "pocket books" because they used to fit in my jeans hip pocket. Initially the drawings only took about 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes if I chose a complex subject it could take me twice as long but it always seems worth the effort to draw something every day. Drawing this way began just for myself only because I wanted the practice. I feel like drawing is a meditation technique I am lucky to know how to do and not using it daily is a waste. I soon realized that I need affirmation and showing my work always makes me fell better about myself and my work. It also elicits complements and everyone likes those. I am lucky to live with Keith who is a floral designer and a great gardener which means we have flowers around the house and yard nearly all year long. I love flowers and really enjoy the challenge of drawing them. Still life seems to be my most comfortable form of daily sketch for me at this point. I have been thinking that my membership in some of the Urban Sketchers groups is a bit odd. My work tends to be still life not urban life. I don't do much with cityscapes or buildings and I don't hang out in public places very often since I live in what is almost a suburb which doesn't have a Starbucks or a nice cafe with interesting people to draw. I do draw metro riders bumps and jarring lines included free of charge by the erratic drivers of the trains. I sometimes sketch visitors to galleries but people are always moving in the city and it's hard to get good representations of them unless you can get them to sit or stand still. I don't get to ride metro everyday or visit museums and galleries or cafes regularly.  So flowers, fruit, bottles and stuff around the house are still and don't change quickly and make good study subjects for a simple morning meditation with pen and ink or a pencil usually colored with my watercolors.
This year I enlarged my sketchbook to 8.5" by 5.5" and it takes a little longer to draw and paint in a bigger sketch allowing more room to make detail. I even made myself a special project book, a huge book to use out at the Chesapeake bay retreat thinking about how much time I would have there without the computer nor television to distract me. That book is a 10" by 13" and required bigger brushes and more time to finish even simple sketches. Size matters and I got a recommendation from Janis Goodman that I should draw my plants really big, like on the wall big. She didn't know that I live in a shared one bedroom apartment and have no room to create such drawings or paintings and even if I did where would I put them? How would I afford frames to protect them or show them? Big has many draw backs but I gather it also adds importance to the finished product if it is big. I enjoy small things and ever since I left collage I realized I was going to have to work smaller than I did back at Pratt Institute in the 1970's.
Showing work on Facebook and has been a lot of fun and I have received many clicks on the "like" thumb or the "favorite" star from all sorts of friends family and even strangers. I want to share my sketches and I am thinking I ought to do something like my partner Keith is doing. He has decided to show his flower arrangements daily on his own website.  for an entire year. I am wondering if I shouldn't do the same here on my orange blog. Daily sketches of my drawing books posted here  instead of the postings on Facebook where I am always distracted by other interesting posts. On I often get side tracked and many times inspired by looking at my contacts photographs from around the world.
Drawing daily doesn't mean I am going to post every day. I find the routine is kind of hard to keep up while traveling. I can draw but having access to post them and time to edit the photos of them is often impossible when I am out of town. So I am going to allow myself the luxury of posting daily sketches as soon as I can not every single day of the year. I will start with today's sketch of the arrangement Keith did yesterday. It is fun to see the sketch and the photos of the sketch subject side by side. I often find that looking at the finished painting next to the subject in a photo of the two together gives me tips on ways that I could improve the painting and drawing. In today's sketch I see the begonia leaves are much too light a green so I went back later and added more. Your comments are welcome here just like on the other venues where my drawings appear but I want you to know that I have to approve them to avoid spamers from sending ridiculous messages via my comments section.

Metro riders bouncy and moving 

metro riders 

National Gallery of Art waiting for a lecture by David McCullough

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Metropolitan Branch Trail walk tour

Quest the visual artist who talked about her mural projects on the trail.

Quest's van she is painting

Quest and Spokesman for

The meeting point at 400 S. st. NE for tour of trail and free lunch in green boxes

waiting for more tourists 

Tour leader Heather Deutsch is center  talking to participants about the tour

waiting to get walking...

walking to get to Quest's mural about half a mile up the trail 

A mural project along the trail and some wild flowers 

Quest talking and pointing at a mural project she managed on the trail

She works with kids and they designed her mural then painted it with only one hours instruction in spray painting. 

The biggest mural in DC is as long as a football field at the parking lot by the trial near Rhode Island Ave. 

one of seven totems recently installed at RI Ave. entrance to the trail 

Another cool mural at the head of the trail where it enters Brookland. This mural's theme is the Anacostia rivers history

We all turned around and walked back to S. street 
Today I took a chance and went to tour the Metropolitan Branch Trail with a walking group. Heather Deutsch from the City came and told us all about numerous things along the trial. She says that since the cameras went over the trail and police have been patrolling more there haven't been any more muggings on the MBT. Media often over hypes these sorts of crime stories. I was really pleased to have a big group to walk the trail with me for the first time. Now I have seen there are places  that would be great sketching along the trail and more and more art going up all the time. This is a great thing to have near my home. We saw about 10 bicycles pass while we were walking and a few walkers too besides the tour group. They headed downtown to the Kaiser Health center but I was tired and needed to come home to get some work done so I said good bye after 1.5 hours touring. The mural artist Quest was cool and moved here from West Coast where she says people are more friendly but she has only lived here for three weeks. She has a work live space in the new Dance Place artists residency building on 7th St. right next door to Mr. Lee's garage where we get our car worked on regularly. It's also on the road that is designated part of the MBT near our Brookland Metro. I heard about the tour on facebook. Free lunch was nice and healthy from Ridgewells a DC catering company. Thanks Heather for a great tour!

an adjustment

Felt hangs on a pole, a new quilting aid. 

Home from two weeks at the Chesapeake Bay as I settled into  our one bedroom apartment I quickly found I needed to get a felt on the wall to work on the quilt blocks. First problem was our vintage plaster and lath walls. I couldn't push a pushpin into them to hold up my big white felt. This great 6 x 6 foot white felt I used at the red bay house so effectively for the first time is now essential for designing the layout and considering the colors and shapes of any quilt. I knew I would have to find a way to get the felt on the wall before I could continue working on the this newest quilt in earnest. I let it sit and day dreamed about possible solutions.
view of the entire pole hanging near the ceiling
I tried pushpins first and that was impossible. Then I tried some duct tape, and that worked for about ten minutes! Then down came the felt little by little, one corner slipping loose re-stuck then another and it was clear that I found something duct tape can't do! The sticky duct tape pulled loose from the felt but not the wall.  Then I thought again about what could work without putting massive holes or sticky glue on our walls. I have one wall in my bedroom that is free of artworks in frames. I decided I would dedicate this wall with a rod quilt hanging system for my felt or finished quilt work from here on in... I went the next day to the local hardware store and bought an eight foot long wooden closet pole as straight as could be found, in addition to two eye hook screws. I got it home and drilled holes into the ends of the pole.   Then I screwed the eye hooks into the ends and added picture wire loops to hang the pole on picture hooks. I use an European type of picture hook (see a picture of hooks here) which have pin like nails with a brass hook, these are best hangers I ever found for plaster walls. I learned about them from my years as an art installation worker where we had to be very concerned about damaging clients walls. These picture hook nails don't break the plaster like normal nails do because they are very sharp, thin and extra hard steel. They can be reused too and don't leave a big hold in the wall when you pull them out like other hook and nail hangers.

I set up the sewing machine on the porch table. I then got the felt, folded and pinned one side over and sewed a long channel to hang on the pole like a curtain on a rod. Strung it on the pole then climbed up and hung the felt on it's new rod about six inches from the ceiling.
While I was wondering what to do about my felt hanging situation I had  a conversation with a social worker from the Veterans Administration who said that quilters she knows work with a whole room of their house devoted to the purpose of quilting! We sure don't have that kind of space but I am doing the best I can by giving one wall to felt for designing. I still have to iron on top of a carefully padded dresser. And as you can see a lot of other stuff.
ironing board area at foot of the bedroom 
Then I run out to the back porch studio where the light is great and the sewing machine sits on the work table while I am using the space for sewing. It's kind of a long walk from bedroom corner to the ironing station then out back to the sewing machine and back for each new seam I sew but I don't know how else to do it right now. The trouble is the best light my old eyes need for detail work is on the northwest facing all glass porch.

Check out the new block I created after I got the felt hung and began working again. I wanted to show that things were kind of jagged and giggled at the Bay the two weeks we were there. Our first earthquake shook us seriously and made the house feel unsteady under our feet and flying branches broke a window pane during the hurricane. Otherwise the experience was a delight and even those things were adventure full of adrenalin.
first time adding a Y intersection where three seams come together at the base of the V insert. 
 This still needs to be refined and tried a few more times to get the hang of sewing V shaped inserts. I think it is not bad for a first try with no instructions. It is engineering fabrics to do what I want them to do. Suddenly I have a new understanding of what piece work is all about in quilting.

Friday, September 9, 2011

the sun is back

I am sitting here at my desktop looking out the window seeing something delightful we have not had around here lately, sunshine is once again casting shadows on the wet tall overgrown green grass out in the field across the street.  
It is a wonderful uplifting feeling to see that simple dark light pattern once again after so long an absence. I am feeling so light and my energy came flying back after a lot of dark days and gloomy feelings.
After my trip to the bay for two weeks where we were run out by a power failure due to heavy rains and winds from hurricane Irene, another storm named Lee swept over the Washington DC metro area moving much slower. Lee's remnants moving in from south west combined with other low pressure systems meeting it from due west to make this a soggy week to remember. It isn't over yet but the rains from Lee are about to give way to more seasonal weather!

In the meantime my sketches have been harder to find subjects for around the house. Low light and not much access to the outdoors makes it a real challenge each day to choose a subject. I settled into a couple days of sketches of our plastic/rubber clogs that sit on the porch floor waiting to carry us out into the soggy yard. Keith has a first pair that were dark green and I had two sets of bright red over the last 12 years. They don't wear out but because they are joined in a joint down the middle, they split in time right up the center of the top of the shoe. I tried to repair the first set with duct tape which held for about a week but as soon as I went to dig in them the seam ripped the tape like a pair of scissors. I tried glue and that broke, then glue and tape... and in the end we ordered a new pair and disposed of the first set. The second set broke then the green ones also broke all in the same way. Then Keith found they don't make these type anymore in Germany so he found a newer version by Birkenstock also from Germany and they came in real orange with a steel toe! Clearly a work shoe for European gardeners and folks who have to be in wet floor situations. I drew them both and managed to get the green shoes repaired with monster brand glue but we don't do any heavy digging in the repaired shoes. They work well for a quick trip to the compost pile or a run to recycle a bag of plastic and glass containers out back. They make a pretty good subject to draw and paint due to the colors and that challenging shape.

I have always admired the wooden clogs Paul Gauguin carved and painted back in the 1800's I have admired his many times in the National Gallery of Art's cases. see Gauguin clog image on the NGA's website here >>
Now I am going out to enjoy a walk in the sunshine of late afternoon!