Bless me father, for I have snacked

Presented for your consideration, a portrait of my all time favorite snack. Yes, I am a pretzel addict. I like chips but could pass them up. Candy? I have only a vague interest. I can even pass up chocolate. But I absolutely adore pretzels, a taste acquired, I’m sure, from my Pennsylvania Dutch forbears.

Here are a few interesting tidbits I’ve heard about pretzels. They were supposedly first made by a medieval monk who twisted the dough to resemble the arms crossed across the breast in prayer (that was a typical posture at the time, and you will occasionally see that gesture on old paintings.) These twisted dough snacks were given as a reward to good children who learned their prayers. The word origin variously is “pretiola” (little prayer) preziola (little present) or “brachiola” (little arm). Perhaps the word emerged from a synthesis of the three ideas. The three holes formed in the twist refers to the three parts of the Christian trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit.)

One legend says that a pretzel was used during marriage ceremonies, and was broken and consumed by bride and groom to symbolize their union.

My personal favorite is the Rold Gold brand, but they changed the formula 15 or so years ago and it’s never been quite the same. It’s still better than others to my taste, though.

This picture was painted in my Canson Montval wc journal with tube paints. Actual size of the pretzel itself is about 4.5 in. x 2.5″

Asilomar Coast

Asilomar Beach, Monterey Peninsula
8 x 10 oil on canvas panel

Rosarium Two

This watercolor sketch of the Descanso Gardens Rosarium was actually painted about a month ago, at the same time that I was primarily posting daily sketches of Cat Mandu. I knew that we were on borrowed time with her, and I wanted to share her drawings while she was still alive. The flowers will always be there, and so I am posting them now.

This was painted on location at Descanso Gardens at about 10 in the morning. The light is similar to that in Vista del Arroyo a few days ago and Rosarium Haze, only the sky was a bit clearer, so it’s not quite so hazy.

The page is 9 x 12, painted with tube watercolors, a dixie cup and a sable brush. If things go according to plan, I’ll also be making an oil painting from this sketch.

Not Batman’s House

Well this will teach me to repeat something I’ve heard before vetting it through Google. I was told that this shell of a house was the house featured as the Bruce Wayne manor on the late 60s TV series Batman. However, a little searching reveals that Batman’s house was actually down the block and was, in fact, purchased a little while ago by Sir Paul McCartney (and is perfectly intact, thank you very much.) This house was owned by another unfortunate family and it was undergoing renovation when the blaze occurred. Thankfully they were not home, nor had they moved their possessions into it. I do hope they will continue renovating it and will have many happy years there.

I painted this view yesterday, looking across the arroyo in a different direction 90 degrees to the previous view. Although it was done within an hour or so of the other sketch, the color of the sky is decidedly different. The hillside was a jumble of chapparal natives and dry grass, making an interesting patchwork pattern. This sketch, like yesterday’s, is approx 4.5″ x 6″ and painted with a Niji waterbrush and tube paints.

Vista del Arroyo One

It was another hot one today, but under the oaks on the edge of the arroyo it was downright tolerable. Three of us set up our gear facing this sweeping view – the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is on the right, and the Colorado Street Bridge (Arroyo Seco Bridge) is to the left. The Courthouse has an interesting history, having been originally the site of a boarding house, then a grand hotel which was converted to a veteran’s hospital in the 40s before its present incarnation. It’s a wonderful piece of architecture, and I’d like to paint it again, closer up. Maybe on a cooler day.

In the distance you can see the San Gabriel Mountains. Now, you may not know them by name, but I’m guessing that if you ever watch the Rose Parade on TV, when the camera pans up to those craggy peaks towering over Pasadena, that’s what you see. Today, with incredibly high humidity from a Mexican monsoon (so we’re told) the air was thick with haze which cast the whole scene in a yellowish-pink light and turned the mountains to a bluish mauve. Kind of interesting, really.

This was a half page in my journal sketchbook. Tomorrow I’ll be posting another watercolor sketch, of the famous “Batman house” (Bruce Wayne manor) which burned last year. It’s now a roofless ruin and looks somewhat less than eerie in midsummer midday light. Still, it’s a bit of history and close by. See you tomorrow, same bat blog, same bat site.


It’s stiflingly hot here – today is supposed to be the hottest day of the season so far – and according to today’s radio report it could be 112F. This rockrose, being a native, doesn’t seem to care about the climate. I’m a native, too, but I like air conditioning and copious amounts of cool drinks or I wilt.

Rockroses have crinkly tissue paper thin petals, similar to matilija poppies in the way they look. Those matilijas are also a drought-tolerant native, so I’m guessing that the very thin petals have something to do with water conservation.


I painted this of Mandu, from life, the Wednesday before she died. She was laying on our patio in the back yard, enjoying the warmth of the cement that had been heated by the sun during the day. We kept putting her on a big thick sofa pillow to cushion her bones, but repeatedly she’d walk off of it and lay on the radiant stones. Perhaps it felt good on her arthritic joints. From the angle where I was sitting, I could only see her two hindlegs – her forelegs were tucked underneath her. This last month, every evening after work, we had a ritual. We would take her outside for supervised fresh air and a little walk, which she seemed to enjoy, even though she appeared to be nearly blind. I tried to draw her on most of those occasions.

Last night, just before morning, I dreamed that I saw her sitting in a big flat bowl of butter and cream. She was practically wallowing in it, but lapping in a very ladylike way. I like to think of her being that contented, wherever she may be.

Baby elephant walk

At the Wild Animal Park in San Diego we road a tram around a wide open savannah styled area, and at one point passed by the elephant territory where this baby was tossing hay into his mouth. Due to a tram breakdown in front of us we paused for a little while there, but not long enough to get a detailed drawing, so this was drawn later from a photo my husband took for me. I prefer to draw animals from life if they hold still, but that’s just not always possible. Still, I learned something from this experience that will help me the next time I encounter a live elephant and am not passing by at 10 miles an hour.

More often than not these days I’m trying to match the paper and art tool to the subject matter rather than drawing in one journal consistently. That’s why I have so many different books going, I suppose. For example, yesterday’s Hollywood and Highland jazz concert was drawn in a very smooth paper Moleskine with a brush pen. Using a brush pen on coarse recycled paper would have made it difficult to get fine detail. Trying to draw an elephant with charcoal on the “toothless” Moleskine would have been equally challenging. The native palms I posted a few days ago was done in a journal with white paper that accepts wet media. So I always have to remember to date the drawings to provide some sort of chronology. I don’t have one journal, I have a journal group or cluster that move forward like a mooing herd . It’s an odd system, but it works. And the variety of paper and media keeps me challenged and experimenting. And what’s more fun than that?

Hollywood Nights

At the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Avenue, there’s a big shopping complex where jazz concerts are held on warm summer evenings. You can buy a glass of wine and listen to great music, and then stroll around the shops. I didn’t draw it in this view, but the whole center court has a Babylonian motif. No, I’m not kidding …. take a look at: Hollywood and Highland. I think my favorite “faux sculptures” are the two bas-relief Mesopotamian winged creatures that flank the facade of the Victoria’s Secret store. They both have purses or shopping bags in their hands. Gotta love it.

Anyway, while others were facing the musicians, I listened with delight and found a seat behind a potted “kangaroo’s paw” plant and drew the crowd.

Descanso Koi

At the end of a great weekend, with everyone safely back home, or en route, I took a few minutes to paint these koi from a photo reference. In real life, they don’t hold still very well. This study will help me draw them when I encounter them again in the gardens.

These koi are from Mulberry Pond at Descanso, where they swim lazily all day in an idyllic setting. The pond got a total makeover this year, complete with a waterfall and other deluxe features like a special ledge that the koi can hide under if herons or raccoons come around. One of the days we were there we saw many small koi, less than an inch long, swimming in the water, proving that the koi are reproducing. Sadly, they will be eaten by the larger fish. If not, the pond would probably become overrun. I would have liked to have saved one of the small fry but I’d probably get caught for poaching. And I’ve never poached anything but a salmon.

This quick sketch is watercolor and colored pencil in my large size Moleskine cachet journal. Now, back to work for me.