August 2005 Archives

Thanks to the kind host of the Saturday Light Brigade, I now have a recording of the reading I gave on the radio this past week. It is in .mp3 format, and you can control click or right click on it to download a copy or your very own, or listen to it online, as you wish.

Think Cool Thoughts (15.8 MB, 9'19")

The book itself should be available at your local bookstore or library, if you want to look at the pictures while you listen.

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Rapidly-drawn contour of a sleeping child - she kept moving. Rain is falling steadily, heavily, hushing most other city sounds at this late hour. Like the child's breathing, it is an immense, world-filling sound, with its own rhythm, its own cadence. I am grateful for so much in this quiet house.

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Mmm. The scent is heady. I put it down on the counter with reluctance. Still full from dinner - besides, imagine how it will brighten my cereal tomorrow morning.

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Pen and ink drawing of East Liberty Prebyterian Church's spire and the dome of Motor Square Gardens, as viewed from the Whole Foods cafe on Centre Avenue. We were having coffee and reading or sketching for a moment before doing the grocery shopping.

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Catalpa tree on a bank high above the Allegheny River in East Brady. We had a late lunch and a mini family reunion there this afternoon. (In East Brady, not in the catalpa tree.) This morning, I got to read my book aloud on our favorite local radio show, The Saturday Light Brigade.

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Two (out of the many) things on the top of my dresser. Pen and ink and watercolor crayon.

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One of my favorite pairs of socks came in a set of three. The stripes on the unseen one are a paler yellow. It's in the wash, I think.

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elf

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I made this knitted elf doll for my daughter soon after she was born. She found it the other day, and has been letting it keep company with her other dolls. This evening, I saw it lying on the living room rug, and decided to draw it where it lay. I wish I could say that I picked it up after drawing it and put it in her room, tucking it under the covers with her, but I think it is still downstairs on the floor.

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This leather case is just the right size to take with me. I have another one for my colored pencils, but what's in this one?

2 6B graphite sticks, a sharpie, Pilot Hi-Tec-C gel pens (red, brown, and three sizes of black (.5,.4, .25) plus a spare, because the .4 is running low), a Kuretake brush pen, 2 cartridges for that, two Niji waterbrushes, a folding ruler, tiny flashlight, emery board, bone folder, pocket magnifying card, a kneaded eraser, a regular eraser, a friend's new address, a cotton ball, and a paper pallette with watercolor crayon squares drawn on it, so that I can use the color if I need it. I used to carry scissors, but then kept taking them out for airport travel, and lately I haven't put them back.

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Back home again.

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On I-80, heading west, near mile marker 215 at 10:45 this morning. (View from the passenger seat.)

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Beach bag brought into our room at the Green Valley Motel - our New York state stopover on the way home to Pittsburgh.

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Kite-flying on the beach at low tide. The kite is about two and a half feet above your monitor, to the right.

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Still life in the evening: barometer, megaphone, and binoculars on a chest in the living room.

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Two very different paintings from this morning. First I looked up from the rocks where I was sitting, up the hill and across the land we always called the Pasture. I lost track of time as I tried to get the colors of the grasses, wildflowers, and scrubby trees.

When I was ready to stop working on that landscape, I began looking at a tide pool beside me. I decided to use colors I haven't been using here - reds, crimson, oranges, black, and some yellow. That corner of my palette box has been virtually untouched. As I worked on representing the values, the lights and darks I was seeing in the rocks and the pool of water, the piece became more abstract. A little cerulean blue there? Yes. What fun. Now that it's finished I've decided that the composition works best for me if I turn the square on its side. So I did. (Tip your head to the right if you want to see how I was looking at it while painting.)

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sky

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Today the sky looked like the painted backdrop for a musical comedy. I kept expecting a chorus to come in from the side, kept listening for the familiar strains of Cole Porter. Can't you imagine the art deco ocean liner appearing on the horizon?

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We had a bonfire down on the rocks at high tide tonight after sunset. Old shingles and driftwood. We made s'mores. I stayed up at the house for a moment to scribble in crayon the joyful figures against the fire and the rocks and water of the bay.

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I know you can't really see the curve in the horizon like this - but this is how it felt to look out at the bay this morning. On canvas, about 14 inches high. (At some point I may measure these canvases, but not tonight.) The other two are five minute gesture paintings, working with what was left on the palette.

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I love the way this ship model is silhouetted against the downstairs window. Beyond it the porch railing, and beyond that, the horizon.

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What I have always particularly liked about this bathroom light is that the pull chain ends in a tiny brass acorn.

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Asters, zinnias, and some Queen Anne's lace in a blue glass on the porch. The ocean was only slightly less blue than the vase, and the breeze was steady. I drank iced coffee and sketched...

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The weather was amazing today. Hot as all get out, but with a strong breeze blowing in from the bay. An enormous schooner was anchored at a distance, and it being a perfect Saturday in August, there were lots of other boats about.

The panoramic painting is on a wooden board, about 6" x 24". The next two were on 8" x 10" canvas board, and then when I was ready to pack up but still had a little paint on my paper plate palette, I spent five minutes on one of the 4" x 6" wooden shingle scraps. All acrylic. No crayon, no extra anything. The last piece was done in ink and wash on watercolor paper - the schooner waited until I was done peering at it through binoculars and sketching, and then she raised sail and was off.

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Back to pen and ink for a view of lawn, rocks, and the water from an upstairs window.

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Dark trees at the edge of the ocean. Another hot day, so I sat in the shade to paint, looking downhill toward the beach. This is on stretched canvas, and I'd guess the dimensions as 14" x 16". Some flash reflection off the canvas - the actual picture is a bit darker.

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My son says that if you hum to a snail (periwinkle) on the beach, it will come out of its shell. I like imagining that. Perhaps it could be a large scale performance event: people up and down the coasts humming at one time, and all the snails coming out to listen for one moment of human-mollusk connection... What would we hum?

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I'm not sure whether this is done yet, but this photo marks where I stopped to work on dinner. Based on my drawing from a couple of nights ago, it is 18" x 24" stretched canvas, acrylic with some watercolor crayon added later in the day. (Click for a larger view.)

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Looking across the bay again. Heard a rumble of thunder, felt a few drops, hustled the laundry off the line and the art up onto the porch. No storm. Perhaps as we sleep.

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Four books and a coaster are on the end table.

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Another 8 x 10 canvas board, another hour spent painting. Feels as if we may get a thunderstorm any minute, but so far, nothing.

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One large rock on the lawn had some smooth stones placed on it by the children. I was drawn to the combination of colors and textures. I may work more with this idea another day.

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Night. The ocean and wind are the loudest sounds right now.

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The sister who was painting with me here has headed home with her family to San Francisco. We have made plans to try to keep the momentum of our vacation work going - we'll share projects and ideas online and encourage each other via instant messaging or phone calls, at least once a month.

These two paintings are acrylic on 8 x 10 canvas boards. Spent less than an hour on each. I am trying to stay un-fussy.

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Zinnia, parsley, skate's egg case, sliver of horizon in the kitchen window this morning. Everyone else had left for the beach - I stayed behind to draw for 25 minutes, then caught up with them.

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You know you are on vacation when you have the time and the patience to draw a piece of wicker furniture. It is fun to sit on one chair and draw another - so many little lines to fit together.

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The first three are five minute paintings on wooden shingles. The fourth painting is on a stretched canvas - I didn't measure it, but it is about 16 inches wide. I think I spent a couple of hours working on it, with acrylic and then watercolor crayon afterwards. (Click for enlargements.)

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We had another beautiful day for painting outside. One sister, my mother, and I went out for a couple hours this morning. The first two paintings are on wooden house shingles, about 4" x 6" with a seven minute time limit. The third is on canvas, 8" x 8", and I worked for fifteen minutes. I think the fourth is 10" x 10" and I have no idea how long I spent - probably about half an hour. Amazing how limits let you take chances and learn new things.

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This late afternoon sky was only the beginning. It developed into one of the most spectacular sunsets I have seen. It just kept evolving and changing, with intense violets and stripes of cerulean and rose orange-backlit clouds stretching across the horizon.

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Red kayak behind my parents' house. Acrylic on canvas board, 16" x 20". Painted in two sessions - an hour and a half in the morning, and then another hour in the afternoon, to work a little further into the colors. A change from the faster smaller paintings of the other day: different scale, different pace, and reds.

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Drawn at the beach while two little girls buried my feet for a pedicure - small pailfulls of water, layered with sand - a very thorough and thoughtful treatment. (Watercolor brushed on after I got home.)

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My sister and I went out with our acrylic paints today. (Kind husbands covered child care.) We challenged ourselves to see what we could do with a painting in five minutes - and then once we got going, revised the project to seven minutes - ten if we really felt we needed it, but those moments were the exceptions. They were all, by and large, seven-minute paintings. (Click on any thumbnail for a larger view.) I was using tiny canvases: 4 inches x 5 inches, and it was wonderful to see what was possible when i am really working rapidly. No time for second thoughts. For me, it was all about gesture, and seeing, and impulse. Great practice. The time limit got rid of blocks and hesitation - I just plunged in. The small canvases are not that expensive (less than $3 each), so I figure that it was the equivalent of going out for a good lunch together...

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Still and hot today. The weathervane moves very slowly, as do the rest of us.

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The lighthouse (which I'm sure I'll draw before long) is just over the hill from this little whitewashed stone house. Hot and sunny - a good beach day.

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A view of Ipswich Bay. First of many during this vacation, no doubt, as I see this horizon from my parents' house. Began drawing much closer to the water's edge, but the early mist turned to rain and I finished it up on the porch.

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