September 2006 Archives

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Went to a coffeeshop this afternoon. Younger child had a rice krispie treat almost as big as her face, older child had a mocha something-or-other with whipped cream, and the grown-ups had espresso. Time to read the paper, do a little people watching, and draw.

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Still basking in the post opening glow -happy, but talked out. Let my gaze move around the living room and settled into looking at the light around the chrysanthemums and the way it defined their individual shapes.

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A collection of my sketchbooks, entitled "selected days 2006: images from a year in progress" will be on view at the Show Here Gallery in downtown Pittsburgh, 945 Liberty Avenue. The opening will be tomorrow night, as part of a larger Cultural District Gallery Crawl from 5:30 to 9:00. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by. (And if you're not in the neighborhood, but would like a postcard, drop me an email: mail [at-sign] elizabethperry [dot] com and I'll send one along!)

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I found myself looking instead at the space where the sleeping child was not, and wondered about dreams and dreaming.

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One from yesterday's bunch.

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Bananas for tomorrow's breakfast cereal.

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The flavor of these small lumpy apples is uneven - sometimes too tart - but when they are ripe, the intensity of taste is unmatched.

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The downstairs phone. Visiting children have to have the rotary dial explained to them.

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Tomato slice on a wooden footstool. When I saw this footstool at a flea market in Massachusetts, I first assumed that it had six or eight sides, and it was not until I counted them that I realized that there were seven. The carpenter got it almost right - one side is slightly out of balance. The irregularity makes the piece even more appealing; your eye keeps moving, trying to make the angles come out even.

Why is the tomato on the footstool? I wanted to be able to look down on it, and I liked the dark background. (The slice is the last one, from the end, so the skin is against the wooden surface. No juice or seeds were spilled. Not that that would stop me when no one is awake to object.)

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Staring up into the corner of the room, as if into the pages of a book, I hear a distant train, the insects outside, and inside a child is breathing.

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Ailanthus and maple in the backyard. The days are still warm, but the nights are crisper - good for thinking, good for sleeping. I watch spring begin in Australian blogs while summer leaves us in the northern hemisphere.

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Crumpled cloth on the table. I've been working late on another web project and feel somewhat crumpled myself at this point in the evening. Relaxing to work my way along the different folds in the cloth, to see how the edges fit together. Not quite blind contour throughout, but I am looking at what I am drawing for longer and longer stretches of time.

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And so concludes the third act. Owing something to Chekov, of course, but if I were to give the production a title, it would be with a nod to another important influence, The Electric Company: "Love of Pear."

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And in case you were wondering, that pear from yesterday is still not ripe.

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I've been invited to participate in this wonderful group blog. Rather than cross post or repost work, I've decided to make an extra new drawing once a week, which will only be shown there, starting with this self portrait.

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Keep waiting for this to be ripe, and it isn't. Yet. Check again tomorrow. Pears from the grocery store test my patience this way, and then get too ripe too quickly if I forget about them. I have to be just attentive enough.

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My daughter treats these crackers as a major food group.

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More peaches - almost ripe. Not yet to the point where the scent reaches out of the bowl and grabs your face as you walk past, but give them another day or so...

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As daylight shortens, I turn back and forth between the pleasures of summer and those of autumn. Berries and peaches give way to tomatoes, figs, and then the winter squashes. One day I need a sweater and a raincoat, another day I sit outside with iced coffee after work.

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Listening to John Hodgman's Little Gray Book podcasts this evening, and laughing. (Thanks to Pinky's Paperhaus for the suggestion.)

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Vase of flowers on the desktop marks anniversary nineteen. Dinner with conversation, then short films, local and otherwise, more conversation, and home for good coffee.

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Beeswax candle, unlit.

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Wonder how many yards this pair of scissors has cut - many before I owned them, that's for sure, and I use them now.

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Blocks on the coffee table, after a long day.

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We were at a block party on another side of town, and I looked down the street and saw this amazing dormer and facade. So I sat on the curb and drew for a while...

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Went to work a new way, and got to cross the back field behind school. The fog rose behind the trees and the grass was wetter than I expected. I could hear the bus traffic on the street behind me, but in front of me the view was all greens and grey stillness, and the smell was of damp earth.

(And I couldn't stop to paint, so I looked, and took a snapshot, and looked some more.)

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Begun just as it was geting dark. The roofline looked like a mountain range against the sky. I answered questions about math homework and stared out at the one lit window across the way.

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Bottles all crowded toogether on a shelf in the upstairs bathroom. Late at night, but I suddenly decide that since I haven't used oil pastels in months, now is the moment t return to them. Then I want to add gouache, Then I smudge and blend colors together. More color. I realize that it is really very very late at night.

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Oldest child heads away to boarding school tomorrow - the trunk is in the front hall. I was fifteen when I went away to school, and it was such a wonderful experience for me that I wanted to offer it to my children when the time came, if they were interested and it felt right. He's sixteen, and ready to go. Me? Not so sure I'm ready, but proud, and excited for him, and for the future.

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Our sofa has very squashy, comfortable cushions, so by the end of the evening, they are dissolute, spent, askew - as if witness to some wild party. Even if it was merely a night spent reading...

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The lightest highlight on this champagne cork comes from flash on still-wet paint. Good news for a project soon to launch came in today's mail.

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Various people have asked me questions about my materials, and I've tried to answer questions as I go along, but answers are dispersed across various comment threads. It seemed as if it might be useful to pull the notes together in one place.

When I began to learn to draw, I got myself a small-sized black Moleskine sketchbook because it felt like a special thing to have and I knew it would give me pleasure to use it every day. I chose to use black ink in it, as I knew that if I had a chance to erase, I would fuss with the drawings too much. The pens I used were usually fine point technical pens: Staedtler or Micron. (More recently I've been using either a Pilot Hi-Tec C .025, or a fountain pen with Noodler's black ink in it.)

After nearly a month, I wanted to use color, and my sister introduced me to Caran d'Ache Neocolor II water-soluble crayons. I found that with a Niji brand waterbrush (which holds water in the plastic body of the brush handle) I could get watercolor effects while keeping my equipment very portable. This was a real breakthrough discovery for me. Once I had a way to carry water for painting in my pencil case, with no risk of leaks or spills, I felt free to paint anywhere, anytime.

As I continued to experiment, I found that the Moleskine sketchbook paper resisted or reacted oddly with most wet media, like regular watercolors or ink washes, but that when I washed water over watercolor crayon, the color blended well and stuck to the page.

Over the course of my first year of drawing, I filled nine notebooks. (I've pulled selected drawings from that year, and combined them with the corresponding blog entries, to make a 52-page book: Selected Days 2005: images from www.elizabethperry.com. You can order copies online for $19.95.)

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For my second year, as the project continued, I began to look for sketchbooks which would work better with a wider variety of media. I wanted something pocket-sized, with heavy paper, and a sewn binding, so that I could draw across a two-page spread. Affordable alternatives were hard to find. In reading Gwen Diehn's book, The Decorated Journal, I came across her chapter, "The reluctant bookbinder," in which she had instructions for a "two-hour journal," stitched on cords. I tried it, and though my first attempt took more than three hours, I was pleased with the result.

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As a holiday project, I decided to bind 12 books for 2006, one for each month. The covers are made of lightweight calfskin, and the paper is a printmaking paper, Lenox 100. The twelve finished books looked like this:

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Once I began using paper on which I could paint, I got some wonderful gouache colors. If you are not familiar with it, gouache is an opaque relation of watercolor. The artist Roz Stendahl has a lot of good advice on her site, and it was from her that I got the idea of re-using a child's party-favor paintbox, by rinsing out the old colors and squeezing in small bits of gouache and letting it dry. I use my Niji waterbrush to rewet the colors, and depending on the amount of water used, can vary the effect from opaque to transparent. I have had good luck with M. Graham brand of gouache, but the chief thing I've been told is to get artist grade gouache if you are interested in learning about color, as the student grades don't mix well.

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Here is a snapshot of my party favor set with eight colors. You can see how small it is next to the waterbrush - it is really about the size of a pair of postage stamps.

Someone on Russ Stutler's Sketching Discussion List described using polymer clay, like Fimo, to make paint wells in a mint tin in a wonderful long thread on sketchboxes.

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I had a mini-Altoids tin I'd been saving, and used the eraser end of a pencil to make little wells in the clay. The finished paintbox is heavier than the party favor set, but now I have room for twelve colors.

I also carry a Kuretake brush pen, which takes cartridges like a fountain pen, but has a brush instead of a pen nib. The ink is water-soluble, so I can make washes if I use the Niji waterbrush with it.

Occasionally, I will use water-soluble oil pastels. Portfolio is the brand, and because they are intended for school children, a set of 24 is very reasonably priced.

So that's a summary of the materials I am using the most these days.

For many more wonderful resources on drawing and materials, visit the Everyday Matters site maintained by Danny Gregory, and please consider joining the affiliated Yahoo discussion group.

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Youngest child had all the drums out tonight, and she played them and sang in her own key.

Make new friends but keep the old
One is silver and the other's gold.
A circle's round, it has no end
That's how long I'll be your friend.

All my children are starting new schools this year, so as I read the news of the day I am thinking about friendships, relationships, and time passing. The drums don't keep time by themselves. I pause and draw and listen to the rain, and the clock ticking.


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End of August. (Though with school already started for so many of us, it has been feeling like September all week.) Tonight, after finishing a freelance editing project, I sat in one corner of the sofa and looked closely at my husband's sock.

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