June 2006 Archives


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Box on the edge of the table. As I'm working on the picture the space beyond the table becomes remembered sky, or sky and water. I think about what summer vacation was like when I was little - how the time stopped having edges, and it was possible to lose track of the days of the week.

night window view

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Looking through the trees at the houses behind us. The air comes in cool through the screen. I am up far too late, but enjoying the quiet.


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Planted by a bird, honeysuckle envelops the arbor and shows signs of believing in manifest destiny as it twines into the rest of the garden. The scent is so glorious - tropical and sweet, and I can't bear to root it out, even though I know that one of these days it will pick up the rest of the wooden fence and toss it into the driveway. I love to sit in the backyard after dark at this time of year and breathe deeply. Not yet too hot to enjoy the space, too dark to see the weeds and discarded plastic toys, a candle and fireflies for light, a glass of wine and good company... now it just has to stop raining for a day.

squirt gun

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Fierceness at home. It's squirt gun season. "Please don't use that inside." (Said too late, of course.)

museum visit

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Went to the Carnegie Museum of Art today and spent a short time in the "Fierce Friends" exhibit. I got intrigued by a painting of a father-son naturalist team who had accompanied Captain Cook on the round-the-world voyage beginning in 1772. By John Francis Rigaud, it shows the son about to draw a picture of a bird held by his father. The docent pointed out to children that the men were not in a studio or classroom, but in a landscape outside. I found myself thinking about the fact that Rigaud had probably painted this in his studio, so that after a point the idea of painting from life began to be at a level of remove from the direct observation.

Then I began to look around to see what I could observe directly: someone else drawing. I also drew the stuffed skin of one of the birds shown in the painting.

My notes on the drawing:

Painting of an artist drawing on Captain Cook's expedition - shows artist working in the field - palm trees and bay in background - looking at so[m]e bird spe[cimens, incl]uding a tui. Presumably the painting was done in the studio. I draw it here.

Someone else drawing - who moved - so I just have a note of it.

Artist using a field drawing tool - looks like pencil on one end and brush on the other.

(Artist scientist stitched up some invented birds as well.)

This is a skin of a tui - a real bird.

one foot



Foot up on the sofa - first real day of summer vacation.

night houses

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At first when I look out the window after dark, I see very little. A tree half-lit by some entry lights. One or two windows lit and the rest is undifferentiated darkness. But as I keep looking, I begin to see so many colors of dark in the dark outside. And the lights vary from each other as well. The longer I look, the more I see, the more layers of gouache and ink get brushed onto the page.


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Another sign of summer. Was tempted to paint with the berries, rubbing them across the sketchbook page, but reminded myself that the juice comes out red violet rather than dusty white-bloomed blue, and of course they don't taste like much after they've been rubbed into a drawing.


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A friend always has a party on her roof deck on the longest day of the year. Tonight I looked at a few of the chimneys of lower Lawrenceville, and glimpsed the bits of green hills between them, across the Allegheny River.

rolled paper



Looking for inspiration around the house, and realize that I am looking towards a child's rolled drawing. Intense lime green paper, with one contrasting orange rectangle visible.




Thunderstorms tonight, but someone fell asleep right away...


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Sorry for the brief interruption of service. Things should be back to normal, now. I've upgraded to the newest version of the Movable Type publishing platform, and even installed it on my server myself. A brief panic when permissions were not yet set correctly, and I was betwixt and between versions, but (fingers crossed) everything seems to be working as expected. Hooray. Comments should be working again. They may require an extra step of signing in - this is to discourage spam - but once you've signed up for the free TypeKey service, the blog should accept your comments without delay. (If you don't want to sign up for the TypeKey service, that's o.k., too. I can approve your comments and they will be posted after approval.) Thank you all for your patience.

technical difficulty

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For some reason, the commenting feature on this blog is not working at the moment, and apparently hasn't been working for a few days. Sorry 'bout that. (And thanks, Maria, for letting me know.) I will get it fixed as fast as I can.

open window



The heat of early summer is upon us. We've brought the window fans up from the basement and put them in various windows to get the air moving through the house. Most summers there are really only a few days where we wish we had air conditioning - the rest of the time high ceilings and cross-ventilation do all we need.

green view



View from the front window, from memory. Just before it got dark tonight, I noticed the way the light was hitting one branch outside - but life and other details caught me up again, so it wasn't until hours later that I thought back and said, "That's what I want to think about tonight."

nearly spent tulip



After a week of events (graduation, wedding, work and family gatherings) this tulip is nearly spent on the dining room table. Wait, that sounds as if the tulip was attending things... I was the one attending, but clearly not attending to the house. Next week? Hmm.

circus outdoors



Zany Umbrella Circus performed tonight at Schenley Plaza. I tried to keep up with my pen, but only got bits of the show. Performers and set in black and red and white. Blue skies, little white clouds, green grass. All colors were toy-like. Passers-by turned out to be people we knew. We got a late supper at the various food kiosks and sat and enjoyed a prolonged evening - early summer warmth and slight breeze.

specimen or memento?



Small piece of concrete with embedded pebbles, from the East Hills International Studies Academy front walk area after closing/promotion exercises. Reorganization of the city's public schools means that my son's class of fifth graders are the last to graduate from this elementary school. He picked this up, and later it appeared on my bedside table, so it seemed to be the thing to draw tonight.


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Late night drawing of my right hand, in ink and gouache. Feels good to push the colors around at this hour, up past any time when I'll want to fuss with details and just have the energy to follow impulse and the movement of ink and color on paper. (Inner critic fell asleep hours ago.)

straw bag

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Empty blue straw bag. My favorite summer bag, which is why I have it out. Unless I have to have my laptop with me, it will hold more than a day's worth of whatever I need.


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Free rides on the new carousel in the park this weekend. The line was long, but because we moved forward half a dozen yards at once every time the merry-go-round stopped, we were able to wait. My daughter wasn't sure she would be able to sit by herself, but I stood behind her - without touching - and she was proud and fine.

Every animal on this carousel is different; most go up and down. If you are near the beginning of the group when it is let into the ride, you can choose: triceratops, horse, dragon, dolphin, seahorse, eagle, pig, camel, and giraffe, among others. A bench is available for those who would like to be very still, and a carnival-teacup-sized merry-go-round on the carousel deck is there for those who would like to spin themselves faster - circles within circles. If you are one of the last of the group let onto the ride, you take whatever creature you can get, and the adults hope there are no tears. Fortunately the ostrich was acceptable.

Afterwards we went to the library summer reading spectacular for face-painting and summer book club sign-up, and then came back to a table near the carousel to draw. I sketched in pencil and then painted from those notes and a snapshot.

last game



Today was the last game of the season: I cheered for the parents in the parents vs. kids game. (Think the kids won - somehow they always do.) The sun was warm on my shoulders as I looked at a group on the sidelines. Then the whistle blew, and they rushed back onto the field for the next quarter.

apricot rose

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From a flower arrangement. And scented, too. I don't think I have anything in my garden this color, and I am swept away by it tonight. So I work on a version which is larger than life-sized.

yellow iris

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A present from a student. Graduation night for the class of 2006. This is the first class where I've known so many of them since ninth grade. Hard to imagine the school without them. I'll miss them, but they will go on to great things...




The season has changed to early summer, and with that shift we have begun getting our organic vegetable deliveries again. (As I've written before, we participate in a community-supported agriculture project, and our porch is one of the drop-off points.)

Hawai'i Sketchbook

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This is the title page from the Moleskine sketchbook I kept during our school trip to Hawai'i. I've made a slideshow of the pages using Flickr, and you should be able to view it in a new window if you click on the image above.

glass, paper

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Wine glass resting on folded paper.

strawberry hull

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What was left of a strawberry.

polar bear (orange)

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Clay polar bear, glazed orange. Recent ceramic work by the youngest member of the household. I'm reminded of William, the unofficial mascot of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (I don't know whether our polar bear has a name yet, though.)

dvd watcher



It's much easier to keep a young model relatively still if she's watching a DVD she likes. We're visiting family, and the collection of movies is different from the batch we have at home.


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After a night shortened by flying with the turn of the earth, after four airports and three flights, I am happy to be back home again, even if I don't really know what time I'm going to be sleepy. I managed without a nap today, with the hope of getting my inner clock reset by tomorrow morning. We'll see.

palm trees by the water

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June 1: My last morning in Hawai'i, so before breakfast I walked down to the little beach we'd found on our first full day. Sat quietly on a rock and listened: waves, birds, distant cars, more waves, a dog barking somewhere, another wave. Clear enough to see observatories on top of Mauna Kea. On my first visit to this beach I'd drawn the ironwood trees, with their roots curling down into the lava, and the bay visible between the branches, and beyond the bay, the slopes of Mauna Kea rising into the mist. This morning I looked in another direction and began a drawing in pen and ink. I got the outlines down and some hints to myself about shadow and texture before I was due back at the lodge. Finished the drawing later in the afternoon, in the Honolulu airport food court.

rooftops in Hilo



May 31: We were in Hilo for the Wednesday farmer's market, and we also had time to walk around in the older part of town. I took lots of photos, and then later in the afternoon when I had a quiet moment I painted this from one of my snapshots. (When traveling with a group I draw from life as much as possible, but sometimes it is easier to follow the pace set by others.)

hilltop tree



May 30: A Mamane tree atop Pu'uwa'awa'a, which is a furrowed volcanic cinder cone on the western side of the big island. Our group was helping with the outplanting of both endangered and native species in the dry forest reserve there, and after a hot morning it was good to sit down and draw.

stone table



May 29: Ancient lava stone table with reflecting pool - a navigation aid, I was told. Easier to trace constellations in water than in the sky. From this angle it's hard to tell, but it was balanced on three stone legs, and the whole table was about one meter across. I do not know the Hawai'ian name for it, but this one was on the beach near 'Ahu'ena Heiau in Kona.

Modern navigation note: my GPS reading for the location: N 19° 38.389' W 155° 59.856'.

sunset - Manago Hotel



May 28: Sunset from the lanai at the Manago Hotel, in Captain Cook.

Laupahoehoe Point



May 27: Laupahoehoe Point - where schoolchildren and their teachers were swept away by the tsunami of 1946. I sat in the spray on the rocks beside the boat launch and painted while some of the others swam.


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May 26: Anthurium from the breakfast table.

ironwood trees

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May 25: Ironwood trees and view of Hilo Bay from a little rocky beach just a few minutes' walk from Arnott's Lodge, where our group was staying in Hilo. I loved the rope-like roots of the ironwood.

in transit: Pittsburgh - Hilo



I'm home again, and catching up: lots of drawings to post. This is a sequence of images from my day of plane travel on May 24th.