Down Came the Rain

The rain came… in July, to drought stricken southern California.  Amazing to all.


There have been huge clashes of thunder.  “Weather” is so exciting to southern Californians because there’s rarely a huge change in it.  But although it’s raining, you can still go outside in your T-shirt and flip flops, because it’s July.  A strange dark winter looking day in July.

I met today with a nonprofit organization that is going to help beautify the animal shelter with some painted murals.  The goal is to make it look like a more inviting place for prospective adopters to enter. Many people have told me that they can’t come to the shelter because it’s sad.  But maybe if we get them in the door they will take home one of the many incredible animals that continue to come through the shelter’s doors.  Pictures to follow when the project gets started.

I’m lacking in a cohesive theme of photos to post, but I was inspired by Carol and her Tall Tales from Kansas blog.  She coined the phrase “random moments of wonderfulness.”  I have some of those.  So as the warm rain is keeping me inside, I will gather them up and share.

The first one is an art piece from a small local museum I visited.  All of the blue is painted gauze fabric, with holes in it to reveal the wall behind.  It was very stunning.


A passion flower on a fence at the shelter.  It’s very three dimensional in person. Amazing actually.IMG_0075

A hummingbird taking a rare break before the rain came.


I really like the foreground to background angle of the telephone poles in the photo below. Something I remember trying to do in a beginning perspective drawing class.


Photos are fun, to take and to look at.  If you have a camera, get out there.  If not, pick up a magazine.  Enjoy.




Hope and Expectations

Many years ago I visited Avignon, Arles, and Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer in Southern France, and also a region called Camargue. It is an area of saltwater marshes (sea origin) and freshwater marshes (river origin). It is a huge migratory stopover for over 350 species of birds. I was especially excited to see the area, because as a teen I saw a movie named “Friends”.  It was shot in Carmargue and I wanted to see the wild horses depicted in the film. The movie also had a beautiful Elton John song by the same name which made the place seem even more enticing.  I didn’t see any of the wild horse, but settled for a book that featured them.  Just goes to show you that it’s probably better to travel without expectations.  But all of the places I visited were charming and wonderful.  At one point, my friend and I were on a bus that doubled for the local school bus. It stopped to pick up the children to take them to their homes.  Here are a couple. One shy, the other waving to the camera of this tourist on their school bus.


The city of Arle was one of the places where Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin painted.  This hotel below was named after Gauguin.  I don’t know if that brought in more tourists.


So all of this is leading up to the new piece I have almost finished in my map series. Besides a map, it incorporates some images made with linoleum stamps I made, and hand stitching along with machine stitching. I’m going to add a little more hand stitching.


We’ve had constant changes in weather lately, which is extremely enjoyable.  A few days ago we got some of our summer dry heat, and today is cloudy, chilly, and even had a few rain drops.  I think the plants and birds must be confused though.  Our Chaste tree started blooming with the summer air.


I saw a lone Monarch butterfly one day.  I wasn’t able to get a photo so I painted a picture.P1030748

The warm days still had cool evenings with some unusual light.


Charlie, Maggie and Lucy just go with the flow in heat or cold as you can see in this shot of Charlie.


My life is made up of simple things, but I am constantly aware of the larger issues that are always in the news, that sometimes seem hopeless.  But there are good people living each day with hope, and people to inspire hope like President Obama did with his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and writers who have written about it to encourage us…

“Hope is the thing that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words and never stops at all”.

Emily Dickinson










Bird In A Bath, Dog In A Bed

I’ve always loved the kind of illustrations that you find in the Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans and The Babar books by Jean de Brunhoff.  Whimsical, pen and ink, color washes.  I went to a library recently that had the equivalent of two rooms full of used books for sale.  Priced to sell.  Like one dollar, or two.  They were organized into categories, fortunately.  I looked through the children’s and adult vintage sections.  I love the look of really old books and the feel of the paper.  I got a small book published in 1896.  Stories by Honore de Balzac.  I had actually read one of the stories from it in my book club.  We have a very eclectic book list.  But I bought it because the cover and pages are just so soft.  It feels like a little treasure.  My favorite is a book published in 1950 called The Paris We Love. Each chapter was contributed by a different writer and tells the history of the different quarters throughout the city, starting with the Middle Ages.  I will glance through the writing, but the reason I bought it was for the pictures.  Lovely illustrations that look like little watercolors.


And beautiful illustrated maps of each quarter.


Another book, published in 1942, called Van Loon’s Lives, has stories about a variety of people from Plato to Thomas Jefferson.  Again, I’ll skim through the writing to check it out, but it was the pictures that caught my eye. Some in color, some delicate pen and ink, or etchings.


I love the one below of Don Quixote.  I got to see hilltops lined with windmills while driving through the Andalusian region of Spain.  It is an awesome place.


Illustrations like these are not only delightful to look at, but creatively inspirational.

My remaining photos are some observations that caught my eye, in and just outside my house in the last couple weeks.  Hence the title of this post.  A bird in a bath.  (Thinking about it).


And taking the plunge.


A dog in a bed. (Sounds Dr. Seuss-ish).


And lastly, a plant in my neighbor’s yard that adds colors as it grows.


And then flowers at the tips that include all three colors. The colors make me think of popsicles.


Enjoy your week.  And be on the lookout for delightful things.


Playing, Walking, and Playing While Walking

I had a lot of fun making a mini quilt to patch my jeans.  It wasn’t as teeny tiny as I had originally planned, but they’re just my work around the house jeans.  It was fun because it felt like play.  Didn’t have to put in the kind of thinking that goes with a real quilt.


The next day I went out to the little studio house, but didn’t have anything specific in mind to draw or paint.  Sat for a while, and then took out some oil pastels. They’re kind of fun when you don’t have any particular ideas going, because they’re similar to the crayons you used as a kid.  Instead of paper, I took a couple pages from the old French literature book I had found at a thrift store. Browsed through some art books and started playing.  I made a drawing from a Cezanne painting, and one from a Vanessa Bell painting.  She was part of the Bloomsbury group in England that included painters and writers such as Virginia Woolf.


This evening I took Maggie and Charlie for their walk.  Just as we started out, the moon appeared between the branches of a jacaranda tree, so it seemed like a good idea to go back for my camera.  Maggie usually likes to go at a more steady pace.  A little stopping along the way.




Charlie likes to stop constantly.


Some serious things going on too.  So much serious in the world now.  Remember to take a little time, to play.



Good Day Sunshine

It rained a little last night, and today was extra sparkly and bright.  A cool breeze blowing.  A good day, to be out in the sunshine.  I made an attempt at pulling up some of the grass in the flower beds.  Every winter the rain brings the grass up in all the places it’s not wanted. I couldn’t get a photo of everything swaying in the breeze, but the sun on the bougainvillea shows some sparkle.  Click on the picture for more sparkle effect.


A Lesser Goldfinch against the bright blue of the sky.  Yellow underside, black and white striped wings.  You can click on the picture to enlarge it.


Almost transparent nasturtiums.


I was walking across the yard and spotted this in the grass.  I don’t know how he got to the middle of the yard, so I carried him to a tree that I have seen these caterpillars in before.  Must be a swallowtail.  There used to be so many when I was a child.  So few now.  Probably another consequence of climate change…


Then I went into my little house to attempt something creative.  The sunlight was falling so beautifully, I grabbed the closest thing to show the effect. It happened to be a book of quick sketches I had been making of the cave drawings at Lascaux, France.  I have always loved their simplicity but also the amazing realism for the time they were made, 15,000 BC.  And, painted with pigments they had to make themselves.  I read that they were not done for art, but for various ceremonial reasons.


I wasn’t able to bring home my pastel drawing from class yet. The only other creative endeavor I’ve been working on is trying to finish up a large mixed media piece.  I have several more squares like this to sew, and then I need to stitch it all together.  It’s going to be 34in. x 28in.


After the bright colors outside, I have a white on white and black on white pic to add to the mix.


Maggie and Charlie looking like twins, and little Lucy, who is now actually the biggest of the three.


“I need to laugh and when the sun is out,  I’ve got something I can laugh about.”

Good Day Sunshine       Paul McCartney, John Lennon



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







Bus Ride

I saw a story and video online today about a dog (black lab) that takes the bus to get to the dog park near his home in Seattle, ALONE.  It started out that his owner would take him, but one day the bus rolled up to their stop and the dog jumped on before the owner was ready.  He knew where to get off, and his owner caught up to him at the park.  At this point, all the bus drivers and passengers know the dog when he rides alone, and they are all happy to have him as a fellow rider.


I think I would ride the bus if I could have an experience like this.

I drove with friends recently to the Hammer Museum.  It is in located in Westwood, next to UCLA.  We saw an exhibit by installation artist, Jim Hodges.  The very large pieces incorporated distinctive patterns made from unexpected  materials.

Mirrored mosaic with gorgeous reflection.


Disassembled silk flowers.


Fabric !!!


There were too many to show here.  If you ever have a chance to see the art of Jim Hodges, do so. You will not be disappointed. This last picture was in the courtyard of the Museum where we were able to enjoy our sack lunches al fresco on a mild LA winter day.  All the photos were taken by Alex Alexander because she remembered to bring her camera (unlike myself).


I came across this quote by Jean Paul Sartre:

“To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June.”   So, I’m going to find a wonderful poem.  And add it to my next post.  Since it is January.


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Joyful Presence

I have volunteered at a local animal shelter for two years now.  Today, I started the training of some new volunteers.  There are about 200 dogs there on any given day along with cats, rabbits and sometimes roosters, hamsters and snakes. There is always a need for help. The work is endless. People tell me they couldn’t do it because it’s so sad.  I go, because now that I know how many dogs are sitting, waiting to be adopted, longing for attention, I can’t NOT go, even though it still saddens me after all this time. I don’t have pictures of the dogs in their kennels, but I’m going to share a couple that we refer to as “glamor” shots.  Once a month we choose about 20 dogs and 10 cats and a professional photographer comes, takes a nice picture, and it goes on the shelter’s facebook page.  It is a very helpful tool, because the selected animals usually get adopted.  There was a short period of time I was actually taking some of the photos.  Here are two of them.


Pit bulls make up a large portion of the adoptable dogs, and in general, they are probably the sweetest.  But people are afraid to take them because of their reputation, or they adopt the puppies and when they get big they bring them back.  The dog in this picture was beyond sweet.  She was adopted to be trained as a service dog for a war veteran.

This picture I took of the dog below was taken to the Humane Society Genesis Awards by Lou Wegner, an actor and animal rights activist, to draw attention to adopting shelter dogs.  The dog’s name was Diva, and he said she was his date.


It’s so important to adopt rather than buy dogs that might have come from terribly inhumane puppy mills.  It’s also necessary to encourage people to spay and neuter their dogs (and cats), because there are two many and not enough adopters.

My three dogs I have now were all adopted from the shelter.  I had also adopted one of my shelties from a rescue group.  They seem to know that you have saved them, and they return so much love. It’s difficult to find anything that brings more joy to a house than a dog’s presence.


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Live Everything

LA has gone from momentary rushes of winter a few days ago to full on COLD air in the 30’s.  Pretty exhilarating for us Angelenos.  Even Maggie, Lucy and Charlie needed sweaters.




I’ve always been a person to ruminate on life and it’s unanswerable questions.  But ultimately, I think the goal is to ruminate less.  Here is something written by Rainer Maria Rilke, a poet/novelist who lived from 1875 to 1926.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…Do not…seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will…gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”


Check out the beautiful Walt Whitman poem Oh Me! Oh Life! on Dispatch from LA, the blog of Mary Ann Moss.


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It will soon be time to take down the decorations.  Decorated rooms look bare when accumulated treasures are all removed and packed away.  But displaying them once a year makes the process of unpacking next Christmas like a treasure hunt of baubles and memories.  This little snowman is over 50 years old.  I was in the Brownies and it came on top of my Secret Santa gift.



I have not been consistent in doing a daily sketch, but here is a small pastel drawing I did from a Van Gogh painting titled “The Yellow Chair.”  It is so enjoyable when you can focus on something creative.


A finished mixed media piece.



Fabric, paint , paper, acrylic, ink, linoleum stamps, and stitching on canvas.  I like piecing square shapes together. In choosing the pattern, I was influenced by contemporary quilts.


We visited family for Christmas gatherings last week and last night, but today is quiet.  Nice for creating and reading.  Charlie is taking advantage of some downtime in front of the TV.


“We must have reasons for speech but none for silence.”