Something winged this way comes

I am frustrated today because my Yahoo email is bouncing and every reactivation request I’ve put in is not working. I get error messages back that reassure me that Yahoo is working hard to upgrade its sites to serve me better and if I don’t hear anything after 4 hrs to get updates here (and then it shuttles me to a generic FAQ page. Updates? Hah! Nada.) I don’t know what else I can do now but wait. I’ve followed all the steps including trying to reactivate myself from a group I moderate.

So this lack of results has put me in a rather peevish mood, but since it’s Halloween and the time for the thinning of the veils and such, I’ll tell you a story of synchronicity.

Many years ago, oh best beloved, my dh and I were on an expedition in Egypt searching for ancient artifacts using remote viewing. It was tiring and hot but we loved nearly every minute of it, and cherished the moments that we could see other parts of that beautiful and fascinating country. One early evening, our drivers took us out to Saqqara where we watched sunset near the bent pyramid of Zoser. We sat on a hillside covered with loose rocks and rubble. I put my hand down and picked up one rock, turned it over, and there was a hieroglyphic of an ibis, headless. But the body clearly told me what kind of bird it was. That was a rare moment, holding a piece of history in my hand, rescued from what looked like a landfill.

Flash forward ten years or more, to another turbulent time. We were working on a show that had to do with native americans and the settling of the west, and I was looking for some props to use in filming a sequence. A chance visit to a garage sale (unrelated) turned up a bead loom with a bead weaving half completed. There was the ibis-like wading bird, again … but this time, without a tail. It felt like a visitation from an old friend.

Ibises in art seem to speak to me in some way. A benign, good way, even if they are headless. So, today when my dh had a meeting in Beverly Hills and offered the opportunity to ride along and go to the LA county art museum, I jumped at the chance. I had HAD it up to here with bouncing emails, thankfully a rare occurrence. On Halloween the museum was empty. I had the place to myself and I reveled in it. You can imagine my smile rounding the corner into the Egyptian gallery and coming across this beautiful bronze of an ibis which may have once been on a royal standard. I just had to stop and draw it, head, wings, tail and all.

When I got home tonight, I did a little research on the ibis and its symbolism. The bird is sacred to the Egyptian deity Thoth, the civilizer of men, who taught music, medicine, writing and magic and was associated with speech, literature, the arts and learning. And most appropriate today, on all hallows eve, Thoth was the author of the Book of the Dead, and he who helped or punished the departed as they made their trek to the underworld.

On these days when some believe the veil between worlds may thin, who knows what power ancient symbols may still hold – even if only to grant a smile and a moment of relaxing drawing pleasure.

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.

LACMA Courtyard

We went to the LA County Museum of Art yesterday, saw some exhibits (not Hockney, we didn’t have enough time for that) but the one on art glass was wonderful. At one point we took a break in the courtyard. Here are some of the people that were sitting close enough to see, but far enough away that I wasn’t caught drawing them. My objective was to see just how few marks I could make to suggest the person and their attitude.

Following this we went to the beach for dinner, then came back home and caught a 10 o clock showing of Disney’s “Cars.” In In spite of the fact that it’s marketed to a family audience (which all too often means witless and watered down) this was one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in quite a while. There are so many sight gags that only people of a certain age would “get” that it was clearly intended as entertainment for all ages. Without giving away the plot, there’s a part of the story that involves a section of Route 66 … a road that I drove with my parents as a child. We will get this on DVD, no doubt, just to be able to see all the jokes we missed. A great movie with a Randy Newman score and CG as only Pixar can do it.

Dog on the run

Click for larger

My friend Katherine Tyrell is teaching a wet canvas class in drawing and sketching in public, so it thought it would be fun to participate in some of her assignments and challenges. It sort of takes all the surprise out of it when I come up with my own challenges and it’s nice to let someone else throw a curve for a change. And I know her lessons wil be quite good. One of the first assignments was to do a series of 5, 10 and 15 minute sketches, and to try to do them as quickly as possible to loosen up. I don’t know any model who is looser than Ripley, and she obliged me with a few sittings, er, lyings. I’ll have to pay off in Milk Bones later.

White Poppy

Someone please tell me what possessed me to try to paint white poppies on a Moleskine page previously toned with darker paint? As a first attempt with a difficult flower it would have made a lot more sense to use watercolor paper and reserve the whites. But no … I had to do it the bass ackward way. The background is all acrylic – a mixture of red, blue, yellow and white. Most of the white of the poppies is acrylic, the better to cover the mottled background. Then there’s some gouache in there for shadows, and more dilute acrylic on top.

These are Iceland poppies from (where else?) Descanso Gardens. I have some matilija poppies in a pot, and when they bloom I’ll give it another try.

Another opening, another show

A different view of an opening magnolia blossom from Descanso.
As part of an ongoing experiment with some art friends, I painted the background with Van Dyke brown watercolor, then scumbled some white gouache over top. When that was dry I drew the flower and stems and painted it with watercolor and gouache, and touched it up with a little colored pencil at the end.

I might go back and add the genus and species later, but maybe not. This was done mostly for practice.
I wish these magnolias bloomed all year. I just love, love, love them.

A nest in the west – Illo Friday Spring

For more current spring paintings from my journals … click here .

Last springtime, a finch family came looking for nesting quarters and decided that the eaves were not nearly as hospitable as one of my hanging Boston ferns. I saw the frantic search for twigs and grasses, the constant flying to and fro of the parents and before long I had a good idea that there were little ones on the way. One day when both parents were out looking for food I hurriedly took the basket down for a look (camera at the ready.) I took a picture that was the inspiration for this painting and quickly put the hanging nursery back where I found it. (There would be no drawing or painting from life for this one.) Eventually two sisters and a brother hatched, fledged, and grew to lead successful independent lives of their own. When I see finches returning in the spring I always wonder if they’re members of the same family.

Arty bits: Painted in gouache in a Moleskine sketchbook

Two guys out for a walk

Seen at a farmer’s market … a man and his lizard. I liked the look of the these two buds, hanging out together, getting some fresh air and a snack. Some days it actually is easy being green.

My artworkbooks

As you can see, I use my journals for a lot of different purposes, not only for sketching pleasure. As I’ve committed myself to doing more painting this year, I find that I’m reaching for it more and more as a practical workbook, not a chronological diary of my days. In fact, I have numerous workbooks with different paper in different sizes. I keep notes of ideas for paintings, I try out color mixtures. I paste in swatches of different kinds of paper and practice different drawing techniques. I work out designs for soft block carving. I carry it with me to museums and make notes about the artists. I even print out and paste in my sketches and paintings done in Photoshop or Painter.

This is my portable personal encyclopedia free of rules and concern about outcomes. The disastrous pages are as valuable as the “good” ones but none of them gets torn out and thrown away. It’s not an artists book destined to look pretty on its own. It’s a workbook – raw, spontaneous and full of scribbles and wrong turns. It’s where I map my “Creative Journey.”

Do you keep an art workbook for experiments and testing paint and such? Write and tell me about it.

Chinese New Year 2006 – Part 2

Lions dance through fields of firecracker debris. Surely good fortune will follow.
Brush pen in my Moleskine … memories of the Chinese New Year parade.