Fireplaces and Shade Trees

Still stitching my large mixed media, but I brought home my pastel landscape from my drawing class.  I remember first using pastels in the fourth grade.  I made a drawing of a cypress tree silhouetted against a pink and purple sky.  It was fun.  Working with pastels recently was still fun.  There are some mediums that seem to be more fun, compared to others that seem to take more hard work in creating the image or scene you’re aiming for.  I’m sure everyone has their favorite.  This one was done on pink paper.  The photo doesn’t allow you to see the pink coming through as it does in person.  If you click on it, you can see the pink a little more.


I had mentioned a graphic novel I was reading for my book club in another post.  The title is “Persepolis,” by Marjane Satrapi.  It was excellent, and the stark black and white drawings, also by the author, lent to the feel of the story.  A true story, it begins when the author is ten years old in 1979, as Ayatollah Khomeini comes to power in Iran.

At the end of the book, she is fourteen, and her parents send her to live with friends in Europe.  I want to read her second book which continues where “Persepolis” leaves off and takes the reader into her adulthood.

I purchased some other good books at the library’s book sale.  (Very inexpensive).  I had read Ernest Hemingway’s “A Movable Feast”  twice before.  Once in college and once recently.  Your perspective of a book is really influenced by the age you are when you read it.  I loved the story both times I read it, but responded to it a little differently the second time.  A true account of Hemingway’s life in Paris in the 1920’s.  At the library book sale, I found a novel based on his life at that time while married to his first wife, Hadley.  The title is “The Paris Wife,” by Paula Mclain.  I like non fiction, but “The Paris Wife” has the actual events mixed with the author’s take, so it’s interesting.


Another book from the book sale that I got a while back is “The First Man.”  It is an autobiographical novel by Albert Camus.  I loved it.  A lot of events from his childhood in Algeria.  I also love non fiction that takes place in foreign countries.  I was lucky last week at the library sale, because I found “The Stranger” and “The Plague”  by Albert Camus.  Both works of fiction, but supposed to be excellent.  On the list to read as soon as I finish “The Paris Wife.”


I came across some more “finds” at local thrift stores.  It can be very hot in the summer here, so I purchased some blouses that had long sleeves, cut them to be short, and hemmed them on my sewing machine.  The last three days have already been short sleeved weather (very hot) so I took these last couple pictures outside for a little summer ambiance.  A friend emailed me about the snow they are having in Connecticut.  It must be so beautiful to see it outside your window,  although maybe a little overwhelming if it’s blizzard weather.  I’ve seen a few blizzard photos on some blogs I read.  Wow.

What drastic differences across the country.  Some people reading in front of a warm fireplace, and some of us reading in the cool shade of a tree.




Patiently Waiting

It seems sometimes that so much of life is filled with errands and maintenance.  The summer-like day today propelled me outside to the little house though, so I put off all errands and maintenance.  I decided to practice some drawing before I go to my next class in a couple of days.  I have never been able to draw people or animals (that would include faces, hands and feet) so I don’t know why I decided to give that a try.  Well, maybe.  I was thinking about my beautiful sheltie, Jasmin, and thought I’d make a really serious effort to draw her.  She passed away at 15 years of age a short time ago.  We got her from a rescue group, and she had been so tramatized by whatever she had gone through, that she had lost her hair.  It took her awhile to get comfortable with us and then people that came to the house.  But she became the most perfect dog.  And beautiful, physically and in spirit.

So this picture is NOT finished, and has a long way to go.  For clarification, she’s got her feet up by her face which is on a pillow.  I’m going to take it to class on Tuesday for some guidance from the teacher.  It was a major effort.  Art should be fun, but it is also difficult when you’re taking on something really challenging.  I’ll definitely post the finished piece when I get there…


My book club is starting an unusual type of story, called a graphic novel.


The title is Persepolis and is a memoir by Marjane Satrapi set during the Islamic Revolution In Iran in 1978-1979.  I like stories that give a first hand account of a specific period in history.  And the fact that it includes these comic book looking pictures makes me very curious.  Another thing I will post about when I have finished it.

So to add a little color to my so far black and white post, I’ve got a couple of water colors I painted in a class I took a while back with another excellent teacher/artist.  I have found that to be a rare combination.  Most art teachers are good artists, but they don’t know how to teach.  It’s a separate skill.


Everyone I showed this to, thought these people were sitting on the edge of a cliff looking at the sky.  But in fact they are sitting on the sand looking at the ocean.  Painting/drawing is an ongoing process.


This painting I attempted four times and I was still not satisfied.  But this fourth try was way better than the first three. I finally decided to leave well enough alone.

Here is a photo of beautiful Jasmin.  She gave us so much with just her gentle presence.  I think of her always…my Jazzygirl.


“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

WB Yeats








Today I started a drawing class with an excellent teacher, who was the instructor in another class I had taken.  We jumped right in and attempted to draw our own face, with charcoal, while looking in a mirror.  Faces, hands, feet, always difficult.  Actually more than difficult for me.  So the experience and challenge was fun.  My unfinished drawing is still in the classroom, so I can’t show it yet.  But I do have a picture of a bird drawn with colored pencils on black paper, that I did in the last class.


The day continued to bring small enjoyable discoveries.  The public library is next to the the Cultural Center where the classes are held.  They always have used books on sale for a couple of dollars.  It’s one of those treasure hunt moments.  I found two.  The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke, and junk style, a picture book of how to incorporate your flea market/thrift store finds into your home decor.


Next I went to Just Luigis for pizza and salad.  I ate outside even though it was an unexpectedly cold day after the warm days we’ve had lately.  Just Luigis is in “Old Torrance,” which is what it sounds like, old, but very nice ambiance. So sitting outside, although chilly, was very pleasant.  A mural at Just Luigis.


Upon arriving home, after greeting Maggie, Charlie and Lucy, I headed out to my “little house” to continue drawing.  It’s really a studio my husband built for me, but it’s always just referred to as the little house, because that’s what it looks like.  I sketched a whole page out of the junk style book, and then added a little water color, colored pencils, and ink.  But I only liked the rusty faucet…


Wednesdays I volunteer at the shelter.  It’s quite a lot of physical work, but I’m ready after a very leisurely Tuesday.







Enjoy the Detours

I started a map series a while back.  I have finished some, and others are still in the works.  I’ve always loved maps.  I guess it’s the same reason I loved collecting stamps as a child.  The names of places are intriguing and I always want to know where a place is located.  Not only were the names interesting, but the different types of patterns to depict things like vegetation, forests, mountains, rainfall, and climate on different continents were also fun to compare.  This first piece is my take on such a map.  As always, I used a mix of materials.

Africa, using acrylic and hand stitched embroidery thread on canvas.


For this next piece I made four linoleum stamps of one section of four continents.  Again with acrylic and hand stitching on canvas.


Orange (eastern part of Asia with Japan), Green (northwestern part of South America), Yellow (southeastern part of Africa with Madagascar), Red (southwestern part of Europe).  I found it interesting how they fit together like one continent.  I will post more pieces as I finish them.

I read a beautiful book ironically titled “The Names Of Things,” by Susan Brind Morrow.  The author is a translator of contemporary Arabic and ancient Egyptian folktales into English.  Doing research in Egypt and Sudan from 1988 to 1990, the memoir describes the months she spent living with nomads, her base in Cairo, and her experiences as a woman traveling alone in an Arab country.


Maps and books on foreign countries remind me of the places I’ve been and the places I would like to go.  Of the places I’ve been, there were magical times.  But I remember times when I tried to ask directions, and didn’t speak the language, so I wound up being sent in the opposite direction. And another time sleeping in the airport because my flight was so late that no more were leaving till the next day. Frustration usually set in.  Recently I found a quote by an unknown author that I truly believe, because in looking back, getting lost or getting stuck for a night at the airport just added to the adventure.

“The real happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.”

Enjoy your detours.




Words and Pictures

I recently read a book about an extraordinary animal. It was a true story of a horse that was an actual Marine during the Korean War.  She was a Mongolian mare bred as a racehorse. Her owner, a young Korean boy, had to make the decision to sell this horse he loved in order to buy a prosthetic leg for his sister. After being purchased by the Marines, Sgt. Reckless went through minefields up hills to deliver ammunition to her Marine division. She was loved by the men she served with, and saved many lives. She WAS a Marine, receiving two purple hearts and promoted to Staff Sergeant.  She was brought to Camp Pendleton upon her retirement and treated with the same respect as any Marine of her rank.

572633 She demonstrated that animals do possess human characteristics.  And often, animals exceed humans in their ability to be loyal, compassionate and forgiving as demonstrated by the ones rescued from abuse at the hands of their owners.

I am continuing to work on my mixed media art pieces, and have a completed one to share.


Watercolor, ink, fabric and paper stitched onto canvas.  Again, using modern quilt designs as inspiration.



We are having a bit of rain (on and off).  Just right for wandering around my yard, checking all the weeds the rain brings up.  But no matter, it’s still pleasant.  Everything is nice and green when it is still wet.  And Lucy loves to follow along sniffing all the new smells.  Her mom is a WHITE terrier mix, but I’ve always said that the father must have been a black lab (everyone disagrees).  Lucy has the lab eyes, lab ears AND is black.  And labs are water dogs.  She’s the only one that loves playing in the rain.  My mini lab.

Neem tree.    P1020841




It’s always necessary to notice and enjoy the small things.  But especially now, with so many tragedies happening around the world.  It is easy to get overwhelmed.  Below is an example of the work of Jean Cabut, an animal protectionist and one of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo killed recently in Paris because of his words and pictures.

Charlie-Hebdo-Panda-TignousIn English, the caption reads, “small and deforested…the zoo has created my natural habitat.”

If you would like to leave a comment just click on the heart at the beginning of the post.








Some of the Best Things

My book club got together recently to discuss “The Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys.  The story follows the life of a Creole girl growing up in Jamaica after the abolition of slavery in 1834.  It is somewhat autobiographical being that Jean Rhys was the daughter of a Welsh doctor and Creole mother and born in 1894 in the Windward Islands of the West Indies.  Because it is the holiday season, my friend went all out and prepared not only a delicious meal, but a gorgeous color coordinated one served on fine china.  The following pictures were taken by her, Alex Alexander.


Our plates looked like a paint palette.  The purple is actually purple sweet potatoes.


The centerpiece was incredible “flowers” that looked like cabbages.  These are REAL.



And since we recently had rain in LA, there were beautiful clouds that made shadows on the mountains behind her house.


A day of creativity, literature, color, nature, and friends.  Some of the very best things in life.


I have driven the route from my house to Koreatown in Los Angeles many times to visit a friend who lives there.  Most often the street light at Pico Blvd. and Normandie Ave. is red, so I gaze upon a particular mural while I wait.  Today I decided to park my car and take a picture.


While I was out of my car, I crossed the street to get a shot of another one on the wall of a restaurant called Papa Cristos.


I couldn’t resist this last shot as I got back to my car.  I decided to go another day and take more pictures of the area.  So much catches the eye.  The patterns, textures and colors are very creatively inspiring.  I can always use that kind of inspiration.


“If you really want a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…the people who give you their food give you their heart.”

Cesar Chavez








Do You Believe in Magic?

The different seasons of the year each have their own magical qualities that inspire the creative process.  Summer has sun shiny days at the beach, the ocean drawing you to it as it sparkles, waves crashing, leaving white froth rolling up to the shoreline. The first sensation of cold water covering your bare feet.  It seems so much of summer is a balance of hot air and a cool reprieve. Running through sprinklers, iced lemonade, the end of the day as hot air turns cooler.  The summer nights allow for late evening enjoyment of the outdoors.  Whether it’s the ocean waves or the night air washing over you, that is the magic that summer offers.  Stop and feel it.



One of the people who has inspired me is the artist Ruth Asawa.  I was fortunate to see her wire sculptures at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles some years ago. Ruth Asawa grew up on her father’s farm in Norwalk, California.  In 1942 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, her father was taken away and the rest of the family was sent to Santa Anita racetrack for six months.  After that they were sent to a relocation camp in Arkansas.  She graduated high school at the camp in 1943, and although the war was not over, the government offered graduates a one way ticket to any college in the Midwest (not on either coast).  She chose Milwaukee and studied art. In 1945 Ruth went to Mexico with her sister who was a language student.  There she met artists and learned fresco techniques.  She returned to Milwaukee and fulfilled her course requirements to become an art teacher, but was unable to do her student teaching because no one would hire a Japanese American.  She then left for an experimental art college named Black Mountain in North Carolina to continue studying art.  There she met her future husband, architect Albert Lanier, and began making her wire sculptures.  She had learned the basic technique from villagers while in Mexico.  When my son and I walked into the Museum, I had never seen anything like it.  So many intricate HANGING sculptures, some inside of others.  It was whimsical and magical and wonderful.


Ruth wanted a large family.  She had six children, and although they were her priority, she was still able to continue her art as time permitted.  She died in August 2013 at the age of 87.


I’ve always liked whimsical things.  I even like the word.  Whimsical.  Sometimes whimsical things can also be magical because of the memory they bring back of a time or place.  The drawings in children’s books are often whimsical.  As a child, my favorite was Angus and the Ducks by Marjorie Flack.  I liked the Scotty dog Angus, I liked the ducks, but I really liked the bright yellow, blue, green and pink lithographed colors.  I borrowed it many times from a small library in Canoga Park, California.  It was a fun outing, going to the library.  There wasn’t a Barnes and Noble then.  As an adult, that small library and Angus and the Ducks has been a pleasant vivid memory.  I decided a few years ago to order a copy online.  A used LIBRARY copy.  It’s one of my favorite things, and it’s interesting how the bright flat colors seem to have shown up in some of my art.



I have two small souvenirs (I have always been a sucker for small souvenirs), that are both elf themed.  Aren’t elves the epitome of whimsical?  But they both remind me of all the places I visited on a  backpacking trip through Europe many years ago.  The figure is from Germany, and the cup and saucer I got from a thrift store in Haarlem, Holland.



Only a few weeks left of September. Still summer in Los Angeles.  Enjoy.















Happy Birthday Lucy

A few years ago a huge warehouse by the Port of Los Angeles was converted into a place for people to sell their handmade crafts.  Consequently, it was named Crafted.  Today there was a quilt show there, which I attended.  I especially enjoyed seeing some modern quilts that were shown by guest speaker, Alissa Haight Carlton.  Minimal color and simple geometric designs.  They were very different from the traditional designs that use repetitive squares.  I took pictures of a few of the quilts on exhibit.  As in all quilt shows, no two were alike.

A beautiful modern quilt.  The chairs in front had quilted seats.


More traditional and all hand stitched.


This one looked like a contemporary painting.  Very nice.




I always come away with ideas after seeing an exhibit of any kind.  And I am reminded of all the people out there with the desire to create.  It’s so wonderful when there are venues that allow a sharing of those creations.


It was puppy Lucy’s birthday this week.  She turned one year old.  It is amazing to remember the early morning she was born here in the house.  “Uncle” Charlie heard the squeaks first and jumped up out of a sound sleep, which woke me up.  Wow, I didn’t expect it two days after rescuing Maggie from the shelter.  The vet said a couple weeks.  And Maggie was so sick and emaciated from being a stray on the street.  But her maternal instinct kicked in immediately and she did what she needed to do.  I don’t have a birthday portrait of Lucy, but here is a recent picture of the three of them playing in my side yard.  (Actually, sniffing, which they do endlessly).  It’s impossible to get them to all stay and look at the camera at the same time.  They’re terriers.  And all under two and a half.



The quilt show also included textile artists.  For a look at color gone wild textile designs read “Glorious Interiors” by Kaffe Fassett.  It includes needlepoint, knitting, wall coverings, and rugs to name a few.  But they are included in pictures where entire rooms are decorated with a particular theme.

A small detailed sampling from the cover.



I have always liked paint and fabric equally.  I am starting a new series where I will combine the two.  I am hoping for a result I love.  I’m off now to get supplies at one of the few remaining “art” supply stores.  So many have switched to only selling online. But I love walking down the isles and looking at all the canvas, pencils, paper etc. That in itself is  inspiring and fun. I will need to make the drive to Santa Monica, but  being that it’s Sunday, the traffic should not be too bad.  Weekdays on L.A. freeways can get pretty congested.

I hope you are finding your creative inspiration.
















How Does Your Garden Grow?

Celia Thaxter was a poet and short story writer, but also created a garden on a tiny island off the New Hampshire coast that became the subject of her book, “An Island Garden.”  The book was written in 1894, and after Celia’s death the garden went through many changes, but in 1978 was restored using the detailed plan in her book.  “An Island Garden” is filled with delicate Impressionistic paintings of the garden’s old fashioned flowers by the artist Childe Hassam.  Many years ago I picked up the daybook that accompanies it.  There is space for diary type entries as well as quotes from Celia on flowers and some of Hassam’s paintings.  I have used it to write descriptions of particular days when the sky, clouds, air, and sun have come together to produce exceptionally gorgeous days.  It causes me to take special note of those moments by putting them into words


Flowers are a popular subject for artists.  I have used a variety of mediums in attempts to reproduce their colors and shapes.

Here I used acrylic paint with stamps I made on recycled cupboard doors.  I got the doors from Habitat for Humanity’s Restore.  It is a great place to find recycled anything for your house or yard, and you are contributing to Habitat.


Fabric applique of flowers in vases.


Acrylic on canvas.



I went to a local painting exhibit today.  The friends that I went with and I are in a book club/art club.  Once a month we go to an art exhibit and once a month we get together to discuss a book or short story we have selected.  We choose a lot of classical literature which introduces us to authors that we haven’t read before.  Since this post is about flowers, I took some pictures with flower themes at the exhibit, along with a few others I liked.

The painting below is titled Vence Roses by Pat Wooley.  Mixed media.


Voice of Spring by Dawn Quiones.  Mixed media with collage.


The Old Lace by Nino Neiman.  Watercolor.


Mountain Horse Returns Home by Julia Chu.  (I picked up some reflections in this, but the collage work was wonderful).


Under the El by Jan Godachy.  Watercolor.


Palisades by Eve Pericich.  Collage.


I had to include this one because I had three shelties who have passed away.  I think of them often.  Bailey by Veronica Sin.  Watercolor.


Even if you don’t paint, looking at people’s ideas expressed through their work is so inspiring. Painters use a wordless language that makes you feel something very personal, remembering an experience you’ve had or reminding you of an experience you would like to have.  Go and look when you get the chance.









Just Add Water…Colors

I first read about an artist named Sara Midda in a magazine article many years ago.  She painted tiny detailed watercolors of flowers, fruit, vegetables and other garden delights.  In her second book, “Sara Midda’s South of France A Sketchbook”  the pastel stripes on the cover give you an idea of the soft colors to be found inside.  Upon opening it you discover whimsical paintings of her observations of the region.



It is not only an inspiring book that makes you want to get out your paints and paper, but it is a treat to browse through slowly from page to page and soak up the feeling of the Mediterranean.


I once visited the home of the artist Claude Monet in Giverny, France.  Although he painted in oil, his gardens looked like a watercolor painting.  I could see why he was so inspired by them.




Monet decorated his entire kitchen in blue and yellow.


I am hopeless when it comes to buying tiny souvenirs.


There is a beautiful book called “Monet’s Giverny” by William H. Gerdts that talks about the extensive colony of artists who came to paint there.


Inspired by my love of tiny things I’ve tried painting some small pictures with water color and also attempted some larger ones.  I find it very challenging.  It’s not one of those mediums that leaves a lot of room for error correction, especially if I’m feeling impatient and don’t allow the paint to dry before adding more color.





In my last post I promised to give the recipe for Norway’s National Cake also called the “World’s Best Cake,” so here it is.

Sweet Paul Eat and Make

1 stick plus 2 & 1/2 tablsps butter, 1 & 2/3 cup sugar, 1 & 1/3 cup flour, 1 teasp baking powder, 5 eggs, 1/3 cup milk, 1/4 cup sliced almonds, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 vanilla bean

Mix butter and 2/3 cup sugar together.  Add flour and baking powder.  Mix in egg yolks and milk.  Put the batter in an 8×12 inch baking pan, grease sides with butter or use parchment paper.  In a large clean bowl beat egg whites and remaining 1 cup sugar to soft peaks with a mixer.  Spread on top of the cake layer.  Sprinkle with the almond slices.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until the meringue is golden brown and puffed.  Cool and transfer to a cutting board.  When the cake is cool, put the cream in a bowl with the vanilla seeds.  Discard the vanilla pod.  Beat to soft peaks with a mixer.   Cut the cake in half crosswise with a serrated knife.  Place one half of the cake on a serving tray and cover with the cream.  Place the other half, meringue side up, on top.  Let the cake sit for one hour in the fridge before serving.