December 7, 2019

1stained glass house
So, where is that stained glass house at the Descanso Gardens? 11/26/2019 (watercolor on watercolor paper)

Sometimes, it is the journey I guess. And it seems that even pursuing art can be a journey of looking for something, or imagining something, that’s not there. For my November 16, 2019 post I wrote about going to the Descanso Gardens on the 10th because I had heard there was to be a stained glass house next to water for their Enchanted Forest of Lights event. I walked all around the garden, all around the duck pond, looking for that house. It was no where to be found. Of course you may be wondering how something as bright and festive as a stained glass house could be hiding somewhere. I began to wonder if I had imagined hearing about it. Anyway, I didn’t find it and decided I wasn’t going to the enchanted light show (showing contempt with lowercase letters and incorrect event title) this year as I had already seen everything there was to see, right? Maybe this watercolor captures the idea that something was missing…

By Sunday, November 17th the Enchanted Forest of Lights at the Descanso had opened. And I had forgotten that I was gravely disappointed with the missing stained glass house and went back there on Monday, 11/18. (Note the correct title and capitalization here.) I didn’t take any art materials with me, thinking that I would just walk around. And there it was—not in the larger duck pond, as I had imagined, but rather in the smaller pond by the waterfall. This was even better as the lovely deciduous trees around that pond were in striking shades of yellow and chartreuse. It’s a wonderful little spot with the added attraction of the sound of tumbling water. And if you’re lucky you might see a turtle or two paddling around in the water as well–only during the day of course. But today, and through January 5th, there is a stained glass house sitting on a platform in the middle of this smaller pond. I don’t know, maybe it’s the size of a small greenhouse (4 by 8 feet?). I knew I wanted to paint it and planned to go back the next day, Tuesday, as it was going to rain on Wednesday. I thought that if I waited till after the rain the lovely ephemeral leaves on the trees would be slick and slimy on the ground. I took a picture of it, messaged that image to friends and then went for my walk about. After about an hour I went back to be sure I had actually seen it. Actually, I knew it was there, but I wanted to see what it looked like with the sun in a different spot. I’m glad I did because by then the whole pond area was in shade. So, I made a mental note to get to the garden the next day as early as possible. I was really excited and packed my art materials the evening before, so I would be really ready…such a geek, right?

stained glass house
Enchanted Forest of Lights–stained glass house on a pond, Descanso Gardens, 11/26/2019 (watercolor, watercolor crayons and pen and ink, on watercolor paper)

So, my art journey continues and here it is. As I already said, I didn’t have my art materials with me on Monday, so both versions of the stained glass house were done that Tuesday morning. But the first photo was just the background/foreground of water colors. And I saved the best for last, first inking in the black lines that hold the various pieces of colored glass. It was lovely. But there is more to the story and my art journey. As I was thinking how I planned to ink in the house, another bit of my journey presented itself. While sitting on my sheet of bubble wrap on a large rock, trying to decide what size ink pens to use to first blacken in the lines of lead that hold the various pieces of glass, a very quiet small boy approached me. He was with his mom and grandma. He didn’t say a word, but it was clear he was very interested in what I was doing. I needed a distraction before diving in and engaged him in a bit of conversation, asking him if he liked to draw. He didn’t look at me to answer, but instead looked up at his mom and nodded. I asked him if he would like to draw with me, and he once again he looked up at his mom and smiled. So, I pulled out a couple sheets of drawing paper and let him use my tin of Inktense pencils. I don’t know how long we sat there together, he next to his mom and grandma on the bench under that beautiful deciduous tree with the yellow and chartreuse leaves, and me on my rock by the pond. But it was long enough for me to finish the stained glass house and enough time for him to finish his drawing. I showed him a sample of what happens to the Inktense pencils when you get them wet, but he seemed happy not to change anything he had created. It was quite a moment, and I told the mom and grandma that I thought them quite lovely to let this kindergarten-aged young man sit on a bench and draw. Of course I was sure to compliment the young man about his art and encouraged him to continue. I attempted to shake his hand, but he didn’t seem comfortable with that. He was OK with giving me a high 5. Then they continued on their journey through the garden. It was perfect! 

Thinking back, now, I am reminded that there were two artists on a journey that day. And we should always be on the lookout for the rare opportunities that our paths can cross. If you are an artist, I hope you look for such opportunities to share. And if you are not an artist, maybe you can think of a way to support art in the schools. It seems my young friend was from Texas and his mom told me that he had an art teacher in school. Such an individual is not very common in public schools here in CA. And we are the poorer for that. You never know where the next musician, playwright, painter or animator will come from… I don’t think we can live without the arts. I know I can’t live without them. What about you?

November 30, 2019

1Doo Dah
Doo Dah Parade, Pasadena, 11/24/2019 (pen and ink and graphite)

Last Sunday morning (11/24) I found myself a block off the east side of Colorado Blvd at my first Doo Dah Parade. What is the Doo Dah Parade, you might ask? I will try to answer that with this art and these words. Technically, I didn’t actually watch the parade, but instead I watched the various groups and individuals who were going to be in the parade arrive and set up. I didn’t see any of my fellow sketchers when I got there at 9, but I didn’t wait. I rolled out my sheet of bubble wrap on the NW curb corner of Nina and Vinedo, sat down and started sketching the Rock and Roll Preservation Society truck. They seemed to be decorating the truck with balloons and providing rock and roll music for all of us. Every now and then someone stepped up to the mic on the truck and performed a sound check. I think this could be described as a good introduction of what was to come as most paraders were enjoying the music and greeting others as they began to show up for the 11:00 event. Soon, I was joined by a few of my artist friends and we all scattered to capture on paper the 2019 Doo Dah Parade. I decided rock and roll would definitely be part of this, but still wasn’t really sure about the thread that held all of these people together for a common purpose. But even though I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, it seemed that most people who were wandering around met up with many people they knew. And most were really happy to see each other and you could tell it was just the beginning of a big street party. And judging by the sign on the truck, inviting people to “Follow us to the pub,” they were probably a welcome and expected end of the parade as well. 

2Doo Dah
“See No Grouch,” Doo Dah Parade, Pasadena (pen and ink, graphite)

Believe it or not, it got warm sitting on my little bit of that curb, so I moved across the street to another curb in the shade. Here I saw this rather quaint and hand decorated float. And sitting in a chair next to this float was woman playing the “Baby Shark” song on her harmonica. As you may have guessed, I am still wondering what this parade will look like, or if it will happen at all. A parader came and sat next to me on the curb and he said that the parade was originally meant for floats, or entries, that were not powered by gasoline engines. Hence this particular “Dah Doo” entry must have been from that vintage time. Soon Uncle Fester came walking along, pulling a wagon behind him. (Google “Uncle Fester, Doo Dah Parade” and you will see what he looked like.) Again, lots of people came up to say hello and a few took “selfies” with him. Just before 11, he cranked up a bubble maker he had attached to a wagon and placed a large mug of what appeared to be liquid nitrogen smoke on his head. (There is a picture of him with this cup on his head as well on Google.) So, I guess he has been doing this for a number of parades. Next, I saw a couple guys on stilts and again, they seemed to know lots of people there. Finally, a guy with a vintage turquoise corvette zoomed up, got out of the car and wove his way into the gathering crowd.

3Doo Dah
Just before Doo Day Parade, 11/24/2019 (pen and ink with graphite)

I kept thinking I should walk through the parade entries as they were lining up, but convinced myself that there was plenty to see right from my little spot. I was still trying to figure what I was looking at and decided that maybe this is a typical story of the kind of extremes you can find in CA—from old hippies to Uncle Fester with his bubble machine with the very posh Pasadena downtown as a backdrop. You sure don’t get a sense of Pasadena’s “old money” with these sketches, but that’s what seems to be the point—affluent Pasadena, bagpipes and a live rock and roll band on the back of a truck.

It was getting close to parade time when I finished this sketch. I packed my bag and walked the length of parade. There were aliens, people on motor scooters, a guy with his Jack Russel terriers in a remote control car, Bernie supporters, and a whole bunch of people in costumes I can’t even describe. But what surprised me most was the sight of one of my sketching buddies, sitting on her collapsible chair in the middle of this mayhem, sketching away. It was quite a sensory overload—something for all your senses. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there was quite a smell of weed in the air as well. 

Growing up in Northern CA I had heard of the Doo Dah Parade and remember seeing a video of the Synchronized Briefcase Drill Team. (Sadly, they weren’t there that day.) Still wondering if I completely understood this party parade I Googled the Doo Dah Parade when I got home. (If you want a better picture of what I’m talking about you can do the same. I think there is a picture of the Briefcase Drill Team.) I guess it was started in 1978, as a way to “thumb your nose” at the traditional Rose Parade (that started in 1893) that is held in Pasadena every January 1. It seems that the Rose Parade always takes place on New Year’s Day morning, unless that day falls on a Sunday. Then the parade happens the next day, or Monday. This tradition of no Rose Parade marching on Sundays began early on when the parade organizers did not wish to disturb horses hitched outside churches along the route during Sunday Church Services. (There don’t seem to be many churches along the parade route anymore, just a couple huge ones—Pasadena Presbyterian and First United Methodist. No body’s probably worried about disturbing the horses anymore, just the Teslas…) So, that first Sunday in 1978, was the first Doo Dah Parade and they have been presenting that parade in Pasadena ever since. Of course it’s not exactly on a specific day in January anymore, but somehow a varying date for such a parade seems somehow fitting to such an irreverent group of people.

So, is this story about the contrasts of traditions, lack of traditions or just the wackiness we have come to associate with CA, especially SoCal? As a second generation native of this hilarious state of frequent displays of irreverence and nonconformity it puts me in mind of my dad. He was quite a fan of Groucho Marx and often quoted him. And one of his favorite Groucho quotes went something like, “I wouldn’t belong to an organization that would have me as a member.” And that about sums up the Doo Dah Parade, I think. It sure sums up this CA girl.

November 23, 2019

rocks in garden
Art for Tribune, SLO, story, 12/12/1999 (colored pencil and watercolor on cold press illustration board)

It seems like I’m always digging through my art, looking for an odd piece of paper, brush or some kind of pigment that I haven’t seen for a while, but know is there. Or at least I think it’s there and I’m willing to dive in. So, I found this little colored pencil illustration when I went looking for some decent sized pieces of crescent board and tracing paper. I wanted to send my niece the piece of art I posted on October 6 and needed something to stabilize it so it would make it through the mail unscathed. I thought I had remembered sketching these river rocks about this time of year at least 20 years ago because I vaguely remember writing a story about kids in the garden that went with it. I had actually forgotten the overall point of the story, so now I was on yet another search into my artistic past. I was convinced I had written it for a kid’s magazine when we lived in Paso Robles and my son was about 5. So, I looked through all of my copies of those, but it wasn’t there. I was sure it had not been published in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, but I looked through those clippings anyway. Low and behold there it was, and everything about the art and story came tumbling back to me. Funny that I should go looking for something that I did almost 20 years ago to the day, right? 

During those years in Paso Robles I was working as a freelance writer of math and science textbooks and teacher resource materials for young children. But what I really wanted to do was write about things to do in the garden with kids. As my son was of the perfect age to test out all of my ideas, I went crazy. I made long lists of activities and thought provoking suggestions that parents of young children could do outside. I was fortunate that between the Trib and the children’s magazine in Paso I got to explore and share those ideas with my art and stories in print. But I had so many things on that list that never made the ink of any periodical. Back then there wasn’t such a proliferation of blogs and self publishing was frowned upon by my other writer friends. A publisher was supposed to give you a contract and pay you directly for your work. That’s quite a shift from how it seems to go today. But my approach has evolved too. Now the art I have, past and present, functions as my muse and the idea for a story somehow always presents itself based on that art. Of course back then I was just trying to entertain my son and the list of ideas to try out came from that. But nothing I wrote about had to be exclusive to CA—It was just meant to be a message to parents that went something like: Go outside with your kids and look for something amazing! Of course we probably have more temperate/dry California days that we can go outside and do something. I won’t complain about that…

Now I look to entertain myself with geeky details of art materials, specific places in CA I have firsthand knowledge and my CA family stories. Don’t get me wrong, I work with kids and still believe they need to be outside and doing things in the garden. But the art seems to have taken on more of the central story as of late.

Pattern story 1999
Patterns in the Garden, SLO Tribune, December 1999

So, here it is. Once I found this clipping I remembered how fun it was to see the art and story together. It was the lead story in that section of the Sunday paper and took up over half the page. They had printed my art full size! That was a fun surprise. I still love the idea of kids looking for patterns in the garden and anywhere else their minds take them. I’m here to say that I wrote this a while ago, but looking for patterns is still a primary goal of teachers teaching in the elementary grades today, at least here in CA. In fact, I would go a step further and add that our brains seek out patterns, whether we like it or not. So, why not intentionally seek them out where ever you go. If you have been a recent follower of my blog this combo of art and newspaper story should look familiar. My November 9th post had a botanical of a Paperwhite (narcissus) with a SLO Tribune story (also from 1999) that focused on giving simple gifts from the garden. For that offering I made a couple observations about what I might do to update that story. But I have to say, I probably wouldn’t change anything about this one. I probably would remind the parent of an active child that you didn’t really need to go to a lot of fuss looking for materials. This story was pure serendipity and all started with my trimming some flowering plum trees. My son had come upon a pile I had made of 3 to 4 foot sticks and started stabbing them into our front lawn, making a kind of forest with a path you could walk through. And while I sat on our porch, watching him, I looked through his forest to our dry stream bed that flowed from the top of our front yard down to the sidewalk. You might be wondering what is actually flowing in a dry stream bed. Well, nothing, of course! Those of us in CA who can’t count on water staying in a place we left it (like a man-made pond or small creek) have come up with all kinds of great ways to have flowing water without actually having water. And a dry stream bed, complete with medium-sized to large-sized stones, was perfect waterless water feature for my front garden. As I watched my son busy himself with the sticks I plucked out a few rocks and created this on the lawn next to my son’s man-made forest. I added a couple pansies, and a small stone frog to the illustration, just for some color. Pansies are a kind of “go to” flower that adds color to drab fall and winter CA gardens.

I wasn’t the only one on our cul de sac who had a dry stream bed in the front garden. There was a guy up the street from me who also had a dry stream bed in his front yard as well. Every year at Christmas he put out strands of blue lights on the rocks that he had wired so they would turn on and off to look like water flowing down the rocks. Yup, we are obsessed with water out here. Of course his water only flowed at night and needed electricity, which somehow might be a hazard under normal circumstances…

But guess what? It rained last week in SoCal. Woo hoo! And it’s supposed to rain on Thanksgiving this coming week. And again I say woo hoo! So, what am I thankful for? You guessed it, real water, not the fake stuff I just told you about. And what are you thankful for? Probably that I won’t chatter on, for a time, about fires and our parched CA landscape. And, of course I am thankful that won’t be on my mind for a while as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love, One California Girl 

November 16, 2019

Stars at Descanso2
Enchanted Forest stars on the arbor, Descanso Gardens, 11/10/2019 (watercolor and Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

If you have viewed many of my posts you will know that I am massively obsessed with the Descanso Gardens. It seems that I have been drawn to that magical place since I moved to SoCal 5 years ago. We also have the Huntington Botanical Garden right next door, with the Getty not really that far away as well. But I prefer the Descanso. Actually, the Huntington has some very specific rules about painters in their gardens and I just haven’t gotten around to looking into that. And a friend’s wet watercolor materials were confiscated by a museum guard before she even got on the tram that takes you to the top of the hill and the Getty Museum. A mutual friend said my normally unflappable artist friend was seething and probably going to write a scathing letter to the Los Angeles Times. I’ve also shared with you the rather unfriendly guards at the Norton Simon…But no one has ever stopped me as I enter the Descanso with my backpack full of watercolor painting materials. And I love them for that simplicity. In fact, they have started an artist in residence program. And their first artist was Carole Kim and some of her art was recently on display at the Sturt Haaga Gallery next to the Boddy House on the property. If you look at her bio on the Descanso Gardens website it says she, and I quote, “…seeks to illuminate the intersection between contemporary arts and the sciences represented by the garden—botany, horticulture, biology, ecology, conservation and the study of gardens as cultural artifacts.” In looking a little further into Ms. Kim’s work and background I noticed that she was a past artist in residence (2013) at the Montalvo Art Center. This is cool and significant as Montalvo is in northern CA and I lived very near that place growing up. We used to ride our bikes over and around the hills of Villa Montalvo. My mom was part of a Montalvo service league that had fundraising events to rebuild/remodel various structures on the property. Every Christmas they had a huge event at the house, with each room decorated for the season. And of course because it was a fundraiser, they had various hand crafted gifts for sale as well. My poor mom was always upset with many of their “hand crafted gifts” and each year would say something like, “Why doesn’t someone tell the little old ladies that no one wants a crocheted toilet roll cover made from strange colored yarn?” She thought they should do wine or champagne tasting as the Paul Masson winery was nearby, not to mention The  Novitiate Winery that was then in the hills of Los Gatos. As you might have guessed, my mom quit after a few years. But she found a happy home as a volunteer at Village House in Los Gatos. 

I think that in the past few years the people who run the Descanso have been making a great effort to improve almost everything there, from upgraded garden areas to special events, without a strange hand crafted item in sight. One of the more successful events they have been presenting since November 2016 is the Enchanted Forest of Light. We went to see the lights that first year and have gone every holiday season since.

So, as you might imagine they were getting ready to debut their November 2019 season, opening Sunday November 17, when I was there last weekend. Most years I never actually plan to be there when they are setting up—so many wires and unlit lights. I go there so often to paint that I’m always surprised to see that it’s once again time for the event. But this year I remembered it was happening and thought I had heard of a new light installation that was to be featured this year. I thought I had heard of a stained glass house that was to be placed next to water and I thought it would be fun to try to paint that. So, when I got to the garden last Sunday I set about to find the stained glass house. I wandered all around the places that had massive amounts of wires and lighting, but did not see what I imagined would be there. No matter. I found myself in the rose garden, under the dangling stars that are hanging from an arbor near the fountain. And I found a lovely covered bench, surrounded with climbing roses, and painted the gorgeous fall trees, dangling stars and blooming roses you see here. (We have had such warm weather that there are still some roses blooming. If you are living in a very cold place, I am sorry…) 

praying mantis
Praying mantis on rose in rose garden at Descanso Gardens, 11/10/2019

While I sat there, comfortably creating this sketch, I had a strange feeling that I was being watched. Sure enough, I looked beyond my perch just a bit and saw a praying mantis looking right at me. I think he, or she, was also enjoying the roses in the rose garden that lovely morning. 

I have sketched the “Enchanted” stars in the rose garden a couple times now, and they look pretty spectacular even in the daylight. It’s actually easier to draw them during the day as you can pretty much sit where you like. At night, they block many pathways through the garden and you are forced to be directly under the stars. Aside from being too close to the stars to make them look interesting, there really isn’t anywhere to sit and sketch. The Enchanted Forest of Light designers have set up a carefully directed event that takes people from one place to the next, cutting out most of the rose garden all together. Here’s how it goes: They let in groups of people every half hour, with a very tempting (if not compulsory) journey from one display to the next that also goes past several outdoor bars and gift shops along the way. 

I’m not sure we’re going again this year. I know some people are really into traditions and might consider doing this every year as a compulsory holiday event. That’s fine, I guess. But I think our trip to their newest block buster event called “Carved” will be our fall/holiday evening at the Descanso for this year. What was “Carved” you say? Well, the short answer is lots of pumpkins. They had 1000 professionally carved pumpkins that lined a 1 mile walk through the Camellia Forest and Oak Grove and we were there the evening of October 26th. Just imagine hundreds, yes hundreds, of lit jack o lanterns winding along paths, past a couple bars and gift areas. (Now that’s the way to have a fund raiser, right?) And then every few yards or so there were some giant-sized pumpkins that had been very intricately carved. Once you found your way to the house made of pumpkins, there was an area where artists were busy carving away some very large pumpkins—quite dramatic and amazing, I must say. I was trying to imagine where you would find people who could do this. I thought maybe they could be tattoo artists, but a friend said he thought that there was no shortage of animators around here and the pumpkins were probably done by them. There is quite a bohemian artists culture here and their pumpkins were there that night.

That’s all from one SoCal girl right now. But the big news is that it is supposed to rain this week. Oh, Yesssssssss!

November 9, 2019

paperwhite black and white
Black and white Paper-white, habit lower right, 1990 (pen and ink)

This post starts with a pen and ink drawing of a favorite flower in my then holiday garden—the Narcissus, or Paperwhite. I did this during my days when I worked as a scientific illustrator for the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. This layout of plant parts, complete with habit, is very typical for a botanical rendering. I was never commissioned or paid to draw this one. I just happen to love them and wanted to do one on my own.

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Paper-white in color, habit lower right (gouache and colored pencil on toned paper)

Fast forward 10 years for this smaller color version of the exact botanical. I had taken a class at the Academy where we learned to use gouache on toned paper. I like the idea of using toned paper that either has some connection with the subject (green paper for a green plant). Or I like to use grey toned paper as most colors you layer on heather grey or blue grey will pop with great contrast. 

narcissus story
Narcissus story in the Tribune, SLO, 12/5/1999

I can’t remember if I did the above art for this article or not. But one way or another it was used here. I do remember that I was disappointed when I saw the finished article in the paper as an editor scrubbed out most of the green background. I’ve always thought it looked fuzzy or out of focus. Looking back, I should have submitted the pen and ink for this story. I was trying to be so agreeable back then. I was trying to do these wonderful color renderings of plants…There was a lovely editor that seemed so pleased to print my work. And the publisher of The Tribune, himself, had told me how much he liked my art and stories and had promised that he could make me famous (not rich) with my work. So much for that!  

And even though the image doesn’t really show the art in a great light, rereading the story got me thinking about the subject matter. I’m not sure I would give someone Paperwhite bulbs to be planted on top of layer of small rocks in a saucer. Oh, it works alright. If you keep the saucer just filled with water, the roots will take hold of the rocks and the stems, then flowers will follow. But then what? Once you force a bulb to bloom like that, it will never bloom again and you might as well throw it away when the flower and stem dry up. You also have to extricate the roots from the rocks, which is kind of annoying. I still like the idea of giving such a “thoughtful” gift to a friend. But if I were to write that story today I would suggest to the reader that he or she might change the ultimate action for the person getting the gift, telling the “gift receiver” to plant the 6 or 8 bulbs in the dirt in the garden. Then the thoughtful gift becomes more sustainable. The card I would attach to the gift would then remind the person they had received a “pass along plant” that will hopefully bloom and expand production over the years. Paperwhites are pretty hardy. I like putting them in because deer and gophers don’t usually bother them. I have had moles dig around my narcissus, but they are carnivores and won’t eat the flowers. They can sometimes ruin a perfect row of daffs. But that’s ok with me as I never plant them in perfect rows anyway. I think it’s always a good idea to throw them out in drifts. Oh, and they for sure should be in a spot that does not get summer or fall irrigation as the bulbs can rot. So, these are pretty good little things to give as they are sustainable and drought tolerant—everything we need here in CA anyway. Maybe where you live too?

There is something else in this article that I would expand upon. Can you guess? I mean, who thinks of such obscure songs (A Garden in the Rain) to even include the lyrics of something that seems so random. My dad told me that his mom, my grandma, used to sing it as she did many of the songs in the 30s on what was called the “Hit Parade.” She didn’t have it easy as my grandfather was an alcoholic and she had to get various jobs to help put food on the table during the depression. She went to work at various laundries and when WWII started she worked in the shipyard in Long Beach as a riveter. Yup, she was what was known as a “Rosie the Riveter.” Dad said she would sing in the kitchen before dinner, probably with the radio on, peeling potatoes. She would do this, it seems, before she really had plans for dinner. There are other singers who have performed “A Garden in the Rain,” but those performances were from long ago. I happen to have a Diana Krall’s rendition of the song on a CD.  My dad loved Diana Krall…

So now I am wondering what my next 20 years of art will look like, and what updates I might have for this story. If I am still around and haven’t lost too many memory marbles I hope to revisit my take on gifting Paperwhites. Maybe I will have spread more of them around me and in my friend’s gardens. I’ll be like “Miss Rumphius” (picture book by Barbara Cooney). Miss Rumphius said that in her life she wanted to do three things—live by the sea, travel to far away places and make the world a more beautiful place. And to make the world more beautiful she planted lupines. So, maybe my narcissus will spread like so many lupines in her story. Only time will tell.

In Remembrance of my dad

I meant to post a story about my dad nearer the day he passed. (October, 14, 2012) Uh oh! Maybe I’m already loosing some of my memory marbles. Only time will tell. (Hey, didn’t I already say that?)

Miss you dad. You’d be glad to know that Henry bought a turntable and has been listening to Nat King Cole and Jack Teagarden. 

November 2, 2019

neon museum
The Neon Museum, SketchCrawl, 10/26/2019 (Graphite on sketch paper)

On the morning of last week’s post I was on yet another SketchCrawl, dubbed the USkLA Brand Boulevard Sketch Walk. Our fearless leader, Virginia Hein, organized a very fun, inspiring and surprising walk up and down Brand Blvd. There were so many firsts for me that day that I actually can’t describe all of them—makes me sound totally unaware of my CA surroundings, right? But our first stop was the Neon Museum, where we sat in the shade beside the building and sketched some old neon signs that are part of the exterior. I focused on the swimmer at the top of the museum—loving her modest swimming suit and swimming cap (women wore such caps many years ago). I was surprised to finally see that the giant Clayton Plumbers neon sign just to the right and off the street was actually part of the museum. I have been past that museum countless times and just assumed there was a plumbing shop back there. I always wondered how to find the entrance to the business, but could never find it. That’s because there isn’t one!

Next, we walked north on Brand for several blocks and stopped at the Alex Theater. The Alex is a landmark here in Glendale and was built in 1925 in the Art Deco and Classical Revival styles. Some of us walked across the street to get a better view of the 100 foot tall art deco column with neon lights topped with a spiked neon sphere. I joined that group, but didn’t post the sketch here as it was just “so so.” I couldn’t quite capture the scale of that 100 foot spire so close up. But no matter, we left a little later and headed south on Brand to an interesting fountain. It was just a bit off the street, but I had never noticed that is was interactive. On a tall building in front of the fountain was a wall of moving lights accompanied with interesting moody sounds. And if you touched some sensors on a platform in front of the wall and fountain, you could change and affect the wall of moving lights. I was again blown away that I hadn’t noticed any of this before, even though I  had walked past this fountain countless times. However, I was glad to check out its coolness for the first time. 

Tower at the Americana, SketchCrawl, 10/26/2019 (pen and ink, Inktense and watercolor pencils on toned paper)

Then it was off to the Americana, where I had yet another first in a very familiar place. This piece was done while sitting at a rather lovely outdoor spot above a central area of the Americana—at a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I had no idea that the third floor of the bookstore had a balcony that opened out to this plaza. What a treat, sitting outside on a balmy mid morning with a whole bunch of my fellow artists. I had been to their coffee area on that floor many times, but just sat at the tables nearby. So, before I took up residence there I went inside and got a cappuccino. Then I went outside and found the perfect spot to sketch. It doesn’t get any better than that. I think I should add that I have always liked the look of this rust colored tower and would love to report that it houses something very amazing. But as it turns out, it is the structure that houses a glass elevator–not very exciting I think. Certainly no Eiffel Tower, right? 

After a time it was time to move along to our last stop of the USkLA Brand Boulevard Sketch Walk. I kind of hated to leave, but vowed to come back for another visit as the plaza was being transformed into a huge holiday shopping miracle. We packed up all our materials and headed back to where we started—the Neon Museum. But this time we didn’t stop at the museum, but went past the Clayton Plumbers neon sign to the Glendale Central Park at the back. And here I saw a first that moved me most that day. Virginia directed us to a corner of the grass to see a statue. It was called the Korean Comfort Women Statue—a statue of peace. Such an unassuming, yet moving statue. Such a thought provoking sculpture. Maybe that’s what great art does, it provokes you in some way. I wish I could do this piece justice with a better description, but I can’t. Google it. You won’t be disappointed. I hope to go back sometime soon to do a sketch. 

So, here’s to a day of wonderful discovery and firsts! Maybe you have had similar experiences where you learned about something in your area you had never heard of before. Take a walk and take a look!

Update on the Southern CA fires… 

I didn’t write about the SoCal fires last week. I just couldn’t bear thinking about it anymore, even though it’s all around me. All the smoke and dust in the air is pretty hard to take—literally and figuratively. On Friday, 10/25/2019, many of the public schools in the northern part of LA were closed because of a nearby fire that had been whipped up by intense winds the afternoon before. When I walked out of my office the afternoon of the 24th (around 3:30) there was a huge wall of smoke on the horizon. So, I immediately went home. I felt momentary relief to be driving away from that mess. But in the early hours of the 28th, the west side of LA caught fire. The area burning there was near the Getty Museum, and the public schools close by were closed a couple days because of the intense smoke in the skies. Then Thursday morning, Halloween day, the Marie fire (near Santa Paula, in Ventura County) exploded. We are all so done with this…

Here’s to peace! And happy birthday to my youngest niece! (I think I owe you a painting.)

October 26, 2019

2Glendale 10:20
Tea House in Glendale, 10/20/2019 (watercolor and Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

Sunday last I found myself at the Shoseian (Whispering Pine) Teahouse and the Japanese Friendship Garden for a bit of sketching with one of my sketching groups. There was a special event going on where one could “Experience Manga, Anime and Cosplay at the Shoseian Teahouse.” (So says the announcement for the event…) There were food trucks and events scheduled all morning. Not sure why, but for this piece I turned my back to the teahouse and fixated on this row of palm trees, a complete 180 from the “official” action. I was happy enough with the Japanese music behind me and even enjoyed hearing the Pokemon theme song that I had heard many times when my son was a little boy. 

But once I’d finished this watercolor I turned around and moved closer to the teahouse, where I did a simple pencil sketch of the classically Japanese landscape that is in front of the tea house. ( I would have posted it, but didn’t finish…) It was a perfect day of art for me, as I sat next to a very special urban sketcher friend as I sketched the unfinished… And soon she was sharing with me her sketchpad full of wonderful pen and ink drawings she had recently done for an online class. (That’s when I stopped sketching and found myself totally enjoying her artwork and our conversation.) That’s kind of what we do. We share ideas, classes we are taking, and places we have recently sketched. A couple weeks ago my friend shared art she created in Vermont while traveling with her daughter and a couple months before that she shared art she had done while in Amsterdam. And of course we geek out over supplies we have just started using and new places to order materials. In fact, this very watercolor was done with a number 10 watercolor brush that a fellow painter was giving away, or passing along, with about a dozen other brushes. I thought it fitting to use my newly acquired #10 for this watercolor. (Such a nerd, right?)

If I take this random “sharing” a bit further it kind of reminds me of giving or getting a pass along plant. I’ve already written about such plant sharing in my blog, but think it’s worth mentioning again. These are plants, or plant parts, that you give to a friend or neighbor. It might be hollyhocks seeds or iris rhizomes, gladiola corms or daffodil bulbs you have dug up and separated. It might also be geranium cuttings, or strawberry plants that have sent out an abundance of runners. Over the years I have had my son’s great grandma’s peach colored gladiolus, amaryllis bulbs from my son’s great aunt’s garden and violets from another great aunt’s yard—just to name a few plants and people. I have always liked exchanging such things and recently shared seeds from some of my heavenly pink hollyhocks with a neighbor I don’t really know at all. Just the other day, I found a tiny jar on my front porch with hollyhock seeds from her garden. And so it goes, passing along things we love and cherish. I love the idea that I can look out over my garden and note that I have scented geraniums, daffodil bulbs and of course hollyhock seeds from friends and even now some strangers. So it goes with art materials. Even though my artist friends don’t normally give materials away, they often share ideas that become rooted in my brain. And I find myself looking for a perfectly sized, and beautifully bound, book of perfectly lovely watercolor paper, a small tin of liquid graphite and/or a Duke 209 fountain pen with fude nib.

You might wonder how a discussion of pass along plants can bring me back around to the visit with my friend in front of the teahouse, but it does. The class she had just taken had many references to basic line drawing, but was really rooted in drawing plants. Yes, plants and how to set up a composition and layering of plants with tips on how to add detail without drawing every branch, leaf or bark layer. It was fascinating and she was so excited to talk about it. If you are an artist and would like to know more about her class, Google Will Weston. Not sure if he lives around here, but I assume he has in the past as he has been a layout artist and background painter for Disney Feature and TV Animation (in Burbank) as well as an art instructor at the ArtCenter (in Pasadena).

The afternoon’s art experience was also kind of special for me as this tea garden was the very spot I had been introduced to urban sketching more than 3 years ago. I had been living in Glendale for only a couple months when I found myself at 1601 West Mountain Street in Glendale. The Shoseian Teahouse, the Brand Library and Art Center, and the Doctor’s House Museum and Gazebo can be found at that address. (And all of this backs up to the Verdugo Mountains with grassy fields, picnic areas and a playground.) On a particular day, which I thought was a weekend day (maybe not…), my son and I visited this place. The teahouse is not always open, but it was that day. As we wandered about I saw a number of people madly sketching away. I asked one of the sketchers what was going on and she told me about their group and said I should talk with the woman who was the leader of the group. She pointed to a rather handsome woman (wearing a red hat) standing under the shade of a large tree. I struck up a conversation with the “red hatted woman” and she suggested I join them for other sketching events. Specifically, she invited me to meet up with them at the Norton Simon Museum any first Friday of the month. And with that fateful introduction to the charming woman with the red hat, who was now sitting next to me in front of the Shoesian Teahouse, I was hooked! 

More creativity in Glendale/Burbank

Thought it worth mentioning just a bit more about the creative community I have joined and enjoy. (This little corner of SoCal is quite a hotbed of creativity with Disney, Dreamworks (Glendale), and ABC (Burbank) nearby.) But I didn’t fully realize the level of creativity in Glendale until Halloween 2016. I had driven through a couple neighborhoods and was struck by the elaborate decorations in various yards. So, Halloween night my son and I walked through one of these spots. It was amazing. One corner lot had been turned into Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, with couches on one side. And in that area the movie “Young Frankenstein” was being projected onto a large screen. People were invited to sit on a couch and watch the movie. (It was in honor of Gene Wilder, who had passed away that August.) Then there were light displays of every kind with many houses looking like they had taken props from a Disney set. And in the garage of one of the houses, at the top of one street, was a live band playing music. (Of course the musicians were all wearing costumes…) There were even “lit up” signs, set up by the city of Glendale, reminding drivers in the neighborhoods to watch out for trick or treaters.

And I have a Glendale friend who regularly hires a group of stuntmen and stunt women who put up (and take down) holiday lights at their house for a fee. He made a funny remark as we drove through a Burbank neighborhood the other day. I commented on some crazy looking brick and stone work in a particular yard. He said that the house was probably owned by a Disney art director. I have to admit, it did look like a set you might find in a Snow White movie. Yes, only in LA!

October 19, 2019

summer 2018 birds
Outside my SoCal kitchen window, August 2018 (pen and ink, colored pencil on mixed media paper)

Tend a spot with few expectations…

This is the view from my kitchen window. I did this sketch last summer, on a particularly hot afternoon. I seem to remember how surprised I was to see so many birds on such a warm day. All I had at the time was a hummingbird feeder, bird seed in a feeder and a bird bath. Oh, and how could I forget the lovely pepper tree that is out there also. Of course I did not plant that, but the tree takes on unexpected importance to this story going forward.

When I first added what I thought was something for the birds, I didn’t know if any feathered friends would actually show up, but I had hopes. It only took a couple of days for the birds, of all sizes, to show up, even in almost 100 degree heat. (I think I have made it clear that it’s hot in August.) Maybe with hope there is a kind of abstract expectation without truly knowing what form it will take. Maybe without knowing what to expect, it’s not an expectation at all, but a kind of hope? Just wonderin’

As I have already said, the birds showed up in great numbers. But there were several other unexpected creatures that were also attracted to this set up. A couple neighborhood cats, and whole squirrel families also showed up. I didn’t know if I could keep the cats from hunting the birds I was so desperate to attract, but I tried to make friends with them so they would know to leave the birds alone. You have probably already imagined how that turned out. Yeah, every now and again I find a pile of bird feathers under the feeder…However, I didn’t expect to have trouble with the uninvited squirrels as I had hung the seed feeder far enough away from any bit of porch railing they could stand on. But as you might expect, that wasn’t what happened either. I soon noticed a couple of them gingerly coming down the pepper tree, heading straight for the nearest railing on the porch. Then they (yes, more than one) paced back and forth until at last there was a final frenzied pounce through the air with all their squirrel might and onto the feeder, sending seed and birds flying. I have since moved the seed feeder over and think it is now safe from the very acrobatic squirrels. But only time will tell if that will actually work. 

You may have noticed the few bees buzzing around the bird bath. There are usually at least 20 of them hanging about, clustered together at the edge of the water line. I noticed there weren’t very many birds visiting the bird bath, as it had been clearly taken over by bees. Doves didn’t seem to notice them and the crows just waved them away. So, I put a dish of water closer to the seed feeder and that seems to have been the solution. The bird bath is for the bees and the dish is for the birds. But, not so fast. Recently I saw one of my neighborhood cats drinking from the bird’s water dish. It must taste like some lovely bird juice. None of this is what I expected to see, or imagine, and I can’t really see a solution for that bit of kitty behavior.

bees and sage3
Bees and Sage, October 2019 (Inktense colored pencil, watercolor pencils on folded watercolor paper, 6 by 9 inches)

In the past year I have planted a few things around the birds in the front yard as well as a few things in the back. So, for this recent sketch I used my “just add water” technique—first sketching with Inktense and watercolor pencils, then adding a light mist of water, and finally a little manipulation of the running color with a brush and/or tilting that paper to encourage the flow of water. I guess I should mention that I do like to let the brush do a little scrubbing. I also treated the composition a little differently as each side could actually be a small stand alone vignette. Instead I folded the paper and left both sides together. Now it stands alone like a small card I will never send.

Last spring I added three drought tolerant plants (sage, or salvia) to the front area near all of this activity. I had had no true expectations for these 1 gallon-sized plants other than to have something with a kind of spiky texture up against the stone foundation. I also thought it important to tend a plant that would not need much water. That spring I also threw out some flower seeds in the back, with no idea if they would even grow at all. Amazingly, everything I planted has thrived and the spring/summer backyard flowers provided a bonus I did not expect—honey bees! I am loving that! Now the salvia in front is over two feet tall and the summer flowers in back have turned golden and yellow with two foot tall marigolds and rudbeckia, with also a few brightly colored zinnias sprinkled here and there. And oh my goodness, my tomatoes are covered with bright yellow blossoms, and still producing fruit. Sadly, the number of bees in the back have diminished. But I am not really sad because their numbers have increased 10 fold in the front and now cover the blossoms on each long, purple salvia plumes. Oh, and the hummingbirds are checking out the flowers as well. Did not expect that! The birds that used to visit the backyard flower seeds have gone, but a huge number of very tiny lizards have taken their place on the ground back there. In fact, there are little tiny lizards hiding amongst the front salvia as well. 

Of course, the presence of so many lizards has attracted the attention of our neighborhood cats, especially a large white and orange cat named Rusty. If he hasn’t seen me watching him, he sits very patiently just at the edge of all these flowers, tail switching back and forth. I haven’t seen any lizards drinking water from the bird’s water dish. Just imagining that tasty lizard infused bird water for Rusty to drink. Ahhh.

I also heard the mournful sound of white crowned sparrows outside my kitchen window the other evening. That gives me hope that they have returned to my garden for the winter. It also gives me hope that the weather will start cooling down and winter is on it’s way. It seems there are never ending moments of hope that surprise and delight me. And if I make sure to welcome even the troublesome things that come to my garden, I can hope to be delighted again and again. Funny, this kind of makes me think of a clever circular tale picture book called, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” by Laura Numeroff. Maybe I am the long suffering little boy that tries to encourage the whims of a demanding mouse. But in my little corner of the world a mouse in my garden would probably not be a very welcome site. Of course Rusty might think he had died and gone to heaven.

October 12, 2019

NS, Oct 4
Norton Simon back garden, 10/4/19 (pen and ink, Inktense pencil and graphite pencil on drawing paper)

As is my usual, I was at the Norton Simon Museum the evening of the 4th. (If you are new to my obsession with the back garden of the Norton Simon, welcome to my world. If you are old to my obsession, sorry in advance and you can skip reading this first part and move to the next sketch.) As I have shared in the past, I love to sit in the back garden and sketch on the first Friday of most months. It’s free then and I belong to a sketching group that meets there as well. Sometimes I love to sit and sketch the same statue, over and over. But that evening I sat on an unfamiliar and very slanted bit of carved stone across from this view. Even though I found myself sliding down the stone, it was OK and I realized why I like to sit in this garden on a Friday evening around 5:30. It’s the perfect place to decompress and unwind after a week of work, even with the slipping and sliding. I imagine ocean waves rolling over and over, past the museum, rather than the actual tire whine of the cars on the 210. And the cafe nearby plays jazz on those evenings as people stroll around the pond. Pretty great! On this particular evening the sun was already going down and the light through the trees and the bright sparkle on the water was sublime. You might have noticed something that appears to be a tiny sea monster trying to get out of the water, but it’s only a lone mallard stretching up and fanning his wings. Maybe with the ocean theme floating around in my imagination a tiny flapping sea monster makes perfect sense. Or not!

I don’t always have a plan when sketching back there, but on this particular night I wanted to experiment with my Pigma Brush Pen. I was particularly interested in looking to create some dark values and curves, especially with the prone statue hiding in the shrubbery. The only media I added was a HB graphite pencil and a bit of Inktense pencil color. I made sure to hint at the sparkling sunlight through the trees and on the rather still pond water.

2NS Oct 4
Norton Simon, 10/4/19, Le Belle Epoche exhibit, manipulated light effect (pen and ink, Inktense pencil, graphite pencil on sketch paper)

At 6:30 I wandered into the lobby. As is our usual the sketching group was convening  at a bench very near the “Three Nymphs” bronze. It was agreed that we would wander the museum, looking for opportunities to practice sketching items or people with an emphasis on dark values. I thought this a great idea as I had already been doing that and was eager to continue sketching with my Pigma Brush Pen. By this time it was pretty dark outside, too dark for a good sketch with much contrast other than just dark. (And I didn’t want to encounter any night convening mosquitoes…) So, I was happy to be inside and went downstairs to the room with the new exhibit. Before even looking around much I sat on a bench in front of this view. I sat for quite a time on the bench, visiting with fellow sketchers and sketching.

It was such a beautiful evening, or belle soiree, all the way around. If you know the French language then you know that the Belle Epoque (capitalized of course) means the “beautiful era” and actually describes about a 40 year period of art that took place in Paris. (I’ve always wondered about it ending in 1914, the same year as WWI broke out. I think there would be another group of painters who wouldn’t find things so beautiful after that war.) The Norton Simon exhibit had some lovely pieces of art from that time (1871 to 1914). I was particularly taken with the many Henri de Toulouse-Latrec posters on exhibit. Just imagine any one of the famous large posters you’ve seen—many were there, with such amazing bold colors. I was particularly struck by the rather ephemeral nature of the work done on paper and cardboard. Yes, cardboard. Such materials can’t be easy to preserve, and I wonder how long they will last. I noticed that one of his original pieces was done with pastels and drained oil on board. I’d never heard of drained oil as a medium and looked it up when I got home. Online, I found an excerpt from a book that described it. It seems that the technique was invented by Degas, but Lautrec liked to use it too. Degas sometimes wanted a mat gouache-like finish, but found oil paints sometimes too thick and they took too long to dry. To get drained oil pigment he first painted unprimed cardboard or paper mounted on canvas, then the oil was absorbed by the paper. He then mixed the left over pigment on the board with turpentine. It was much thinner and dried quickly, which it seems was why he went to all that trouble. The article said that he liked to use this medium for preparatory studies. Toulouse-Latrec liked to use this thinned pigment as a drawing medium that allowed him to draw with a brush, which suited his more linear/graphic style. And when the drained oil medium dried it had a mat/gouache finish and looked like pastels. Latrec also liked it because it was more versatile and allowed for overpainting as each layer dried faster and the previous layers were not disturbed. 

Norton Simon, 10/4/19, Le Belle Epoche exhibit, (pen and ink, Inktense pencil, graphite pencil on sketch paper, sprayed with water)

My perfect belle soiree continued while sitting on this bench. As I just mentioned, I sketched and visited with fellow sketchers while sitting on this bench. And of course, I spoke at length with a couple members of my group. But I was also joined at my bench by a wonderful young man, his younger brother, mom and grandma. I had seen him earlier in the museum with his sketchpad wandering the galleries with his family in tow. They told me they were from Chile, and he struggled some with his English. But we spoke art and sketching and got along fine. He was an absolutely charming 10 year old, and quite a brilliant artist. I guessed that he wanted to be an animator, telling him he was in the perfect place for such an interest. He, and his mother, just beamed with such thoughts and ideas. Probably the most beautiful moment of the evening came when he said, to no one particular, “I love sketching among other artists.” I thought at that moment Pierre Bonnard and Henri de Toulouse-Latrec were there with us, with their fellow artists. Quelle belle soiree!

Update on California Fires

With all the lovely art I had seen last week, I hate to even mention the fires we are experiencing here in CA right now. Quel dommage. Southern CA gets winds this time of year. They are called the Santa Anas. With everything so dry, no one can predict what that will mean. Early Friday morning the Saddleridge fire took hold. The 210 was closed and I headed straight towards plumes of smoke to get to work on surface streets. Once I got to school, it was pretty crazy. The kids were first fed breakfast in the auditorium, then we were all given masks and sent to class. All of the teachers were wondering what we were doing there. The district had cancelled some schools, but not us. Thankfully, it was a minimum day, and everyone got to go home early. Just checked our weather news and it seems it is more contained and some who were evacuated from the San Fernando Valley have been allowed to go home.

Here’s just a bit of what’s going on in Northern CA. PG and E (Northern CA power company) shut down power as they were blamed for sparks that set fall fires last year. They went bankrupt with payouts they had to make and thought it prudent to turn off the power to 800,000 customers. Yikes!

So, now we all pray for rain and the wind to die down. You could send us good wishes too if you like…

October 6, 2019

2019 birthday orchid
Phalaenopsis orchid, September 2019 (pen and ink, watercolors, Inktense pencils on 6 inch by 12 inch watercolor paper)

This may sound a bit too precious and cliche, but this week’s story unfolded much like an orchid blossom. I got this beauty for my birthday this year and knew I wanted to see if I could capture that shade of pink, or lilac, or whatever… As you may have guessed, I’m not sure I actually achieved the exact color. I mixed a pot of Opera, Cerulean Blue hue and Scarlet Lake, and I left lots of white showing through to add to the lightness of the color. I have not included a photo of the actual orchid so you can’t judge me. But, I do like this color quite a bit and wonder if there is an actual orchid that looks exactly the color my brain wants to see. (There seems to be so many different shades of orchids in the grocery stores around here, so there very well could be this very shade of pink.) 

You may also be wondering if I was inspired to make this sketch because of the perfect vertical piece of the watercolor paper. You might be thinking, I wonder if she had some of that paper just lying around. Actually, week before last I was looking around through random pads of paper to see if there were any unused pieces and I found this on the back of a horizontal landscape sketch from the Descanso Gardens. Who knew that I could just turn that paper on end and create the perfect shape for this orchid? Just because a sheet of watercolor started life the long way does not mean it can’t be turned over and rotated into another shape that perfectly supports the weight of an orchid. (Here’s the other side.)

DG:summer 2016
Descanso Garden, summer 2016 (watercolor and watercolor crayon on watercolor paper)
old birthday orchid
Birthday orchid, September 2018 to September 2019

If you have been following my blog, you may have noticed that I don’t often include photos. I think I am not that comfortable, or good at, taking pictures that look like anything. Primarily, I use a camera just to capture a moment to help me remember a place or thing. I’m much more in tune with my interpretation of the things that interest me, rather than the actual thing itself. I’m never very happy with the way color turns out in photos I take. I also don’t usually like the colors that come from a photocopier, even if I have someone who works at the copy shop make the image for me. And I don’t really know what to do about it and I’m just not interested in finding out. So, I just rely on my colors as a kind of relay that starts in my heart (with my interest in the subject), then to my brain to imagine the colors and finally with me mixing, squirting, scrubbing and layering color onto the paper. I think my art shows a kind of confidence that my photographs lack. 

But, I do have a nice reason to include this rather average photo. I was given this orchid for my birthday last year and it has been continuously flowering for the past 365 days and counting. Ok, I get that it has only one flower left, but I still count that as blooming. And I don’t know much about orchids, but looking closely at this birthday marathon plant there seems to be another stem of buds coming on. (I tried to capture that little nub with the camera, but alas it doesn’t look like anything.) I am hopeful that this last flower will last until another couple buds appear and pop open. Can I keep this going for another year? Maybe…

Even though this started out about the color of my new orchid, I didn’t want to forget my old orchid friends, like this one. I have never tried to grow orchids before and believe it or not, I now have 4 on my kitchen window sill. And all of these were gifts. Maybe there is a cosmic message out there telling me that I don’t have a brown thumb and can grow lovely indoor plants. I probably don’t actually have a brown thumb, but I don’t know if I have a green one either. Maybe my thumb has nothing to do with it, but rather the perfect light that comes through my kitchen window year round. It’s pretty brightly inspiring. I am forced to look at them on a daily basis because I stand at my kitchen sink a lot and the sill is directly at eye level. A couple months after I put this one on the sill I noticed it was going for some kind personal best in my kitchen. I found myself scrutinizing every stem, looking for new buds and I bought orchid food (20-20-15). It seems when I talk to most folks about my few house plants they say, oh I don’t have time or talent for growing plants indoors or out. And I say, you just haven’t found the perfect plant for you. I also like the idea that there are plants that actually remove harmful chemicals in the air indoors. Martha says that the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) is good for that, as well as Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema), spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), golden pothos (probably the easiest to grow…I have it all over my house…), and red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata). Unfortunately, I have not read of any orchids that clean your indoor air. So, I guess we who grow orchids will just have to live with their beauty. I think it makes me breathe a little easier to see something colorfully hopeful, balancing precariously on the end of a graceful stem. What do you think?

A few final words on colors in photos and/or photocopies…

Many years go, I lived in Munich for the better part of a year. During that time I visited Amsterdam a couple of times. As I have always been an artist I went to the Rijksmuseum as well as the Van Gogh Museum. I have always been an avid admirer of all things Vermeer and sought out a few of his paintings while at the Rijks. I remember walking into a light filled room where two of his paintings were hanging. Right in front of his The Little Street, was a woman who had kind of camped out there. She had a number of open folders, a tripod, pads of paper, markers, colored pencils, and paints and brushes all over the floor. And she was walking back and forth in front of the painting taking photos, both up close and a little far away. Initially I was a bit upset that I couldn’t get very close to the painting. But of course I soon became intrigued with what she was doing—no guard had asked her to move so others could see as well. So, I struck up a conversation with her. (I was thankful that she spoke English.) She said that she worked for a company that printed art posters and that they were getting ready to reproduce this gorgeous street scene—complete with brick facade in partial sunlight and partial shade. She told me that when reproducing paintings it was very difficult to get the colors just right in the photo and then onto a poster. I remember her adding that the beautiful brick color was especially difficult to get right. So, she was taking photos, mixing paint colors, layering different shades of colored pencil and just making general notes about all the colors on this piece. Now, this was of course in what might be called the analog days of capturing the lines and colors of an original piece of exquisite art with a photograph. I imagine now such works would be digitally mastered, and pixels would be scientifically arranged for such a poster. After speaking with her I had decided that I wanted to have a job like hers. But I didn’t. I don’t know if I ever found out what company she worked for. I never looked for the poster, either. However, I just Googled The Little Street poster and saw several versions for sale—and the color was definitely different for each one. Maybe capturing true colors with a camera hasn’t changed all that much. Makes me want to go back to the Rijksmuseum again to see The Little Street. I wonder if she is still there, trying to capture those colors…