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. 

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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.

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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. 

NS3
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…

 

September 28, 2019

Descanso class, 2016
Took a watercolor class at the Descanso Gardens, Saturday, June 25, 2016 (watercolor and watercolor crayons on watercolor paper)

It was purely by accident that I happened upon this watercolor. I am always on the lookout for unused watercolor paper and was flipping through an older pad. There were no blank sheets that could be salvaged, but there was this little sketch along with several remnants of exercises I did for a watercolor class I took at the Descanso Gardens in June 2016. Before taking that class I remember looking for a particular size paper at Swain’s Art Store (local independent art store that has recently gone out of business, sadly) because I wanted something on the small side (9 inches by 12). I was imagining myself wandering the garden with all my imagined new artist friends on the lookout for the perfect spot to paint. I didn’t want to lug around a large and heavy pad of paper. I think I secretly wanted something smaller because I had decided that in this class I was pursuing a new and personal artistic goal. That was, I wanted to force myself to paint quickly and of course it would take longer, in theory, to fill a larger page. (You may have noticed that I even marked a smaller rectangle to paint in, so the final sketch was actually 8 and 1/4 by 6 and 1/2. What was that about? What a weird size…) 

Anyway, I remember this class very well, spending several Saturday mornings in the garden (June 11, 18 and 25th) learning about a whole bunch of art stuff. Some things I had learned previously, some techniques were a new take on something I had already learned and some of what we did was brand new to me. I loved every bit of it. I think I have already mentioned the artist who taught the class in a previous post or two. Her name is Virginia Hein. And since taking her class we have become fast artist friends who find ourselves at the same venues, where we are always painting outside. She is such a wonderful and generous artist. (I heard her say the other day that she had taught a similar watercolor class at the Descanso earlier in the summer.) If you want to learn more about her amazingness just Google Virginia Hein. We focused on composition, how to get the most from your art by first coming up with a thumbnail, close up study of our paint colors and then (my favorite)—the perfect wash. Of course Virginia first demonstrated how to do this with cobalt blue. After that I practiced one cobalt blue sky after another, filling pages and pages of random bits of watercolor paper—trying to get it right. In fact, just before this sketch in my book is quite a number of sky wash attempts. Finally, I got bold enough to capture this little landscape. (Looking closely at it I am reminded that I used a particular brush that seems to have gone missing. Hmmm…)

After I found this piece of art, that is now already 3 years old, I realized how important One California Girl has become to me. Each week I look forward to picking out a piece of my art as a kind of muse for my thoughts and writing. And I write a little every day, thinking about what I want to say all week. Continuing my focus on beauty, funny thoughts and family stories has become especially important to me since I began the blog on March 25, 2017 (my mother’s birthday). I think the back story to this creative outlet need for me came together during the fall of 2016 and winter of 2017. As an artist I have always felt like I’m on the outside looking in, but during those months I found myself feeling like I was from another planet, wondering about the extra weirdness that seemed to be all around me. Sometimes I felt weightless and I might drift away at any time. Other times I felt so heavy that I might have sunk down into the Earth, just like Rumpelstiltskin did when the princess learned his name. Being from California I am kind of used to weird and wonderful people, places and things. But beginning 2017 I was struck by how people seemed to be so angry. What they were saying on Social Media and even on the street corner was so mean and not very helpful. I found myself feeling just bit numb, trying to ward off the negative slew of words and thoughts. 

I have to say that the weirdness continues. But I am thankful that I gave one California girl a voice and I get to do something creative every day. I will not succumb to feeling numb! I have found something that helps me continue feeling and contributing to something that feels good. I hope that you who have been reading my blog posts get a sense of what I’m talking about. I guess I should add here that sometimes my posts are a bit crabby, sometimes inspired and insightful, and even sometimes funny. It all depends on the time and place of the art and my state of mind. Because even if my words sound a bit cranky, I think maybe my art shows that I somehow found something beautiful to look at, study and share.

Last Wednesday I saw a quote from Archibishop Desmond Tutu.

“Do your little bit of good where you are;

it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Pretty good words to live by and for me good words to blog by. It’s a good day today. It’s raining in SoCal and on Monday it will be my son’s birthday. Happy Birthday sweetie!

September 21, 2019

Descanso Gardens Fountain1
Descanso Gardens Fountain in the Rose Garden, 9/8/2019 (watercolor with #20 round watercolor brush and Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

For last week’s blog I featured a couple paintings I did a couple of years ago. Today, you are looking at a sketch I did a couple weeks ago. You may or may not have noticed, but I rotate old and new art as a kind of “flash back” where I feature past and present art. I try to interject my past and present thoughts regarding technique and materials as well as my CA stories. However, this flashing forward and back may soon come to an end as I am running out of “old art” to “flash back.” I still have lots and lots of “old art,” but I can’t really think of anything very interesting to say about many of those pieces. In the 80s I went through a fashion design period. And I did countless sketches with markers as well as lots and lots of watercolors on really nice watercolor paper. But, none of them are really that good and if I think about it they actually look a bit contrived. I think using the adjective “contrived” when describing someone’s art is probably one of the worst things you could say about a painter and his or her paintings. I guess another solution to one CA girl’s conundrum would be to start repeat posting some of my non-contrived “old art.” I have been posting art and stories for over two years now, so I guess that might work. However, I think the adjective “disingenuous” might apply to doing that. And that would also not be a good word to use when describing an artist and/or their art. So, maybe it’s time to just let go of all that old stuff…

Flash forward to September 8, 2019 and the Spanish Style fountain in the Rose Garden at the Descanso Gardens. I found myself seeking water when I was at the Descanso that hot day. In fact, I used my giant #20 watercolor brush for this one and just really loaded up those bristles with water and pigment, making broad and sloppy strokes on the watercolor paper. Then I added some tight linear detail with Inktense pencils and finally some stippled white acrylic water droplets. If you read last week’s post I think I made it clear about my love of moving water when I wrote about the wine fountain in Shandon. I think there is something quite soothing about the sound and sight of flowing water. Not sure I am that great when it comes to painting it, but it’s not from a lack of trying. 

Watching the bubbling water of the Descanso Gardens fountain reminded me of another amazing CA fountain I used to frequent when it was hot. When I was married we lived for a time in Walnut Creek and then San Ramon. Near San Ramon is a community called Blackhawk and in Blackhawk there is a plaza with restaurants, shops and a museum. In the center of that plaza is a fountain that looks like it has been carved out of huge boulders. I remember often going to that plaza so I could sit on a bench by the booming fountain, enjoying the coolness of tiny drops of water while looking for tiny rainbows in the spray. To this day, I can see and feel the cascading water if I close my eyes. And if I think about it this might be the best way to “flash back” to old art or maybe it’s more like “wanna be old art.” I just hope my memory and written descriptions of such places and feelings will be up to the challenge!

I think many of us who are from California maybe think of water in a kind of reverential way because we live in a desert. It doesn’t rain here in the summer months and the hills around us are looking pretty dry and brown right now. Even those who often take the availability of fresh water for granted get a little anxious as September and October are considered prime “wildfire” months here in California. I was reading in a recent LA Times story that this time last year wildfires had already burned more than 1.2 million acres in CA. So, we are all hopeful that this year will be better and we start to pray for lower temperatures, no Santa Ana winds and maybe even some early rain.

The other day at school we had a bit of cloud cover and I heard some kids say they had felt rain drops. I was sure I too had felt it, but thought maybe we all had had mass imagined rain on the brain. But I did see the tiniest strip of a rainbow above our very brown and parched hills, so maybe…I guess we all have natural disasters to watch out for. Sometimes it’s a fire, sometimes a volcano erupting, an earthquake, hurricane flooding and/or winds, a tornado or even a tsunami. The description of the natural elements of fire, water and wind might not seem almost poetic until they get out of control, then watch out! So, I am watching for some rain on our horizon. (I just looked at my weather app and it is predicted we will have rain next weekend here in SoCal. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!) But I know the saying “be careful what you wish for.” I’m sure no one in the Houston area of Texas are wishing for some rain right now.

Nature's Fury
A little pen and ink for a booklet of worksheets for elementary school students. Notice the misspelling of the word “Specialists.” This misspelling was on the cover of every booklet and cover page we made for the program. :()

So, maybe I do still have a  bit of old art to “flash back.” I found this booklet of student worksheets in a drawer yesterday. And yes, I did the pen and ink sketches/lettering for all the worksheets. I don’t actually remember when this “Natural Disaster” display from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry was at the Blackhawk Museum, but it was probably the early 90s. Anyway, I was a science teacher in the San Ramon Valley Unified District at the time. Another science teacher in the district and myself put this booklet together. The idea was that school groups (grades K through 6) were to come to the exhibit and then have activities they could then do in the classroom. The natural disasters featured at the exhibit included: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding and erosion due to flowing water, and tornadoes. Actually, I was surprised there was no mention of wild fires or hurricanes. But I was even more surprised that there was a huge typo on the front cover and the title page of the booklet. There it is, my pen and ink lettering complete with lightning bolts, but why didn’t anyone notice we had a misspelled word—“specilists” instead of “specialists.” Even my “spell check” alerts me to this mistake, but there wasn’t “spell check” back then. And of course the irony of this huge mistake is that this was put together by teachers. What a disaster!

Happy Fall, September 23, 2019!

September 14, 2019

east side vineyard
J Lohr vineyards on east side of Paso’s vineyards (watercolor and Prismacolor colored pencil on illustration board–framed and on my easel)

This particular J Lohr vineyard is a favorite east Highway 46 view for me. That’s because it’s the very same vineyard that is featured just above the One California Girl title on my home page. And yes, that’s me with my son when he was pretty small. The other reason I love this vineyard is because I vividly remember noticing for the first time the amazing symmetry of the row upon row of grape plants, snaking up and over the hills of Paso Robles. I’ve always been in awe of a farmer who can plant thousands of plants so precisely. Of course I am looking at this physical marvel as a thing of wonder and beauty and the vineyard owner (farmer) is thinking of crop yield. I think we have the French or Italians to thank for such cramped and compact planting. That means this lovely arrangement helps the vineyard owner cram in as many grape plants per acre as possible—sweetening the beauty of the view with added income when it’s time to harvest.

hot air balloon and vineyard
Hot air balloon over Paso’s east side vineyards (oil pastels on pastel board-framed and on my easel)

For this one, I remember a friend posting a photo on Facebook of this shadow of a hot air balloon floating over some east side grapes. And guess what? She was in the balloon and took the photo that was the inspiration for this vineyard. You may also have guessed that I was again obsessed with the almost infinite and perfect rows of grapes from this vantage point. I remember I imagined that she was high enough in the air to see the actual curve of the Earth. Funny, I don’t actually know what vineyard she was floating over. And even funnier still, I don’t think I ever showed her the art before and/or after I had it framed. I kind of regret not doing that. (I must remind her to look at this week’s post…) But I have a question for you: Does this look like a hot air balloon floating over the vineyards? Sometimes when I look at it I wonder if it doesn’t just look like a large blue blob. But I don’t regret doing this art and I don’t think I need to apologize for the balloon that might look a bit like a bruise. Not sure I would have framed it, but I was enchanted by the framing material and I think that made it pretty special in spite of my apprehension.

I have already mentioned some of the west side vineyards that I love. And this area is filled with beautiful grapes as well, but the air and ground look a bit drier. Maybe that makes sense as this part of the highway is going inland (towards some of California’s agricultural gold) compared to the west side that ends up on Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean. But no matter, I have enjoyed doing a number of paintings of this area. And if you live in Paso Robles you get used to this more arid golden landscape. However, there is one spot out there I never got around to painting and I kind of regret not doing that. If you go far enough out of Paso you will come to Shandon. Right alongside the highway is a massive metal wine fountain that sits amid more rows of grapes. In fact, if you Google wine fountain in Shandon you will see it. Many of the photos online show it gushing with water. I’m not exactly certain if they run it with water anymore, especially after we went through such tough drought times. I remember seeing it flowing with water one autumn, and believe it or not, the water had been tinted to look the color of red wine. It was kind of amazing to see faux red wine cascading from huge bunches of grapes into huge hot tub-sized wine glasses. As I said, I regret that I never did a painting of that silver/tin colored sculpture standing tall with a backdrop of what looks like endless rows of symmetrical grape plants.

Thoughts of not capturing the wine fountain with the flowing wine got me thinking about regrets in general. Oh, I do have another “painting” regret I will share here. I regret that I didn’t take photos of these two pieces of art before framing them. But if I actually go down that rabbit hole of regrets, maybe I don’t really regret doing that. If I had taken them out of their frames to photo copy I would have messed up the back paper of each one. In the past I have carefully sliced out a painting or two from a frame. But it always looks so tacky on the back when I try to reassemble it again later. Maybe the addition of archival tape only looks bad to me. I mean, who really cares about the back of a framed piece of art? After you pay a small fortune to have something framed, it seems silly to rip it up, right? I don’t usually photograph my framed work as there can be a glare from the glass. But these two photos work just fine and maybe add a little element of artist’s paint covered easel. (Yeah, whatever…)

Finally, I decided it’s just too easy to think of regrets, painted or otherwise. Try to think of things you don’t regret. I did. Here are just a few I came up with…

No regrets regarding:

  • getting married in the 80s and divorced in the 90s
  • liking the color orange
  • spending money on my hair
  • choosing comfort over fashion
  • telling people I like the bagpipes, or telling them I like classical music
  • telling people that I like to do puzzles
  • being the first to leave most parties
  • being Susie Homemaker. I like to share recipes and put up shelf paper in the kitchen
  • doing dinner dishes the next morning
  • the lingering dirt on the exterior of my car
  • driving in a convertible with the top down and the heater running
  • ordering shoes online and/or in catalogs
  • choosing to discuss various cuts of meat with the butcher rather than shopping for shoes (or any other pieces of clothing for that matter)
  • visiting with strangers while checking out the produce in the market or chatting with them in line at the store
  • being sweaty and OK with getting dirty (I don’t like “sticky” though…)
  • making lists (e.g. list of west Highway 46 art, a list of art where I use vertical elements in the foreground of paintings)

Until next time…And keep finding things about you and your world that you don’t regret!