Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mountains Paintings - #7 and #8 - Paintings from the Dead

I used a photo of the funeral of Jerry Garcia, with a deadhead crowd in the foreground, to get overlapping blind contour drawings for these two. The crowd was a great source of crazy lines that ran all over, from person to person, form to form, all the way across the page. After getting the pile of lines, I picked certain ones, augmented others, and erased some. Then I inked the lines with waterproof and light-fast black pen.

Then I begin to paint, often with the lines, sometimes not. These were a lot of fun. The first I call San Simeon, and I feel it is the spirit of Hearst that overshadows the painting in blue. I have no further explanation or reason for thinking this. I will not try to explain the car in the foreground, or the perspective used to draw it. It happened.

The other painting was harder to extract from the lines, but was the most fun of all. It's my alter-ego Virgil Tangelo, father of the talented traveler Nigel Tangelo of Hamjamser. This is Virgil in his youth (and in his long underwear) riding a friend. Virgil seems to end up in paintings without his clothes. My kids especially like the toothy guy in the bottom right - so do I.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Point of View

Over thirty years ago I received the gift of an additional point of view. I was in my late teens, and, unsurprisingly, I wasn't really interested in the opinions of my parents. I had temporarily shed my concern about the opinions of peers and my teachers with the move to NC. So I was as free as I've been in my entire life, with no one's views to consult but my own. I ran a little wild for a few months, driving too fast, laughing out loud, spending my small wages with gleeful abandon.

And then I deliberately connected myself with the wits and heart of another. She saw the potential in the union first, an early sign that things were clearer from where she stands. She had to chase me some, but I wasn't hard to catch. I had been free, but feeling incomplete since I was about eight or nine years old, and in my teens I had figured out enough to know what I needed. I was looking for the rest of me. I had one point of view, and one heart; I was looking for that binocular vision that provides depth and perspective. I needed another head and another heart next to mine. I was looking for the right thing, but in the wrong places; she knew what she was doing and gave me a hand. That's what it's been like for thirty years. I'm generally close, but she's closer and I'm better off if I give her a chance to think it through and then I listen.

And while it has taken years to understand that her point of view is generally better than mine - closer to the truth, up above more clouds than mine is - I now know I'm usually happiest looking over her shoulder like this.

For instance, this day was her idea - we went to Roan Mountain State Park on the NC/TN boundary. Along with Grayson Highlands in Virginia, the Shining Rock Wilderness and the Black Mountains of North Carolina, this ranks as one of the most breathtaking and magical places I've been. The views, the light, the colors, the smells, the wind, the clouds roaring past, everything heightened the senses and sped the pulse. Crows flew over and my envy was a sharp painful pleasure, wishing I, too, could float over this incredible landscape and play in this living wind.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mountain Trip - Paintings 3 and 4 - Grenouille Political Message

Here is painting 3. I thought I had photos of the process leading to it, but I can't find them on the camera. This one also started as the combination of three photos, one of which I recall was a view of a man made lake in Oklahoma, with several thin trees in the foreground. Those trees are still visible in some of the yellow verticals in this piece. Another photo was of a farm - and the buildings remain from that one. When this was coming into focus, which it did as I was painting it, I realized it was a storm - maybe even a tornado - approaching the peace of the farmstead.

And in these next two photos (click to see them better) you can see the line drawings that start painting 4. The first is just one set of lines from one photo. The second shows how I flipped the paper over and sketched some of the contours of the rocks over the top of the other.

It's this collection of lines that I sit and daydream over, turning it around and around, looking until some lines either suggest something, or erasing lines if they irritate me. Eventually the image at the end of this post emerged - a longer than usual stretch from the line drawings, in this case, so it took me some time to match them up and be certain that these photos and line drawings led to this painting.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<< If you have visited us often, perhaps you know that I am not a tree grenouille. So what am I doing in a tree? Voila, I am illustrating a point.

If you hire handlers for your image, and polls show you are not looking good enough, and then you hire other handlers and they ask you to look yet another way, and then the situation changes and, voila, a new image, and a new message, and maybe yet a third set of handlers, you might be so confused by the end that you, like moi, end up sitting up in a tree. And we are suggesting that perhaps this is not a dignified thing, and perhaps dignity and integrity are important for a President?

One candidate has had one look and one message throughout the primaries and campaign - "Change, Hope, Unity - together we can do this." The words and focus sharper now than at the start, but message and image the same. Meanwhile the other has changed the image and message over and over: Maverick, no, Experience, no, Stay the Course, no, Change, no, Suspend Campaign and help fix the $ crisis, no, get out of the way, no...

And in these final weeks he is standing by, "We don't really know who the other guy is." Etienne has a Latin phrase from his philosophy classes in college that applies - "Tu Quoque." "You too." Etienne says it's the cry in debate when the opponent has actually proved the point they were trying to stick on you. We don't really know who THIS guy is. He is whomever his handlers tell him to be. Do we want a president in a tree?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

There is never enough room in our kitchen cabinets. Mostly they're too high, especially for dearest, who is just a little over five feet tall, and who points out frequently, in many houses, that cabinets are put up mostly by men but are used mostly by women. This means a third to half of the upper cabinets are out of reach for all but the tallest of us.

And then there is the fact that the kitchen is not just for meals, but also for flower arranging. We're not formal about it, but every year sees frosts or storms that cause an exodus of blooms from the garden, seeking shelter in the house, and they must all be put up in vases. Sometimes we have over fifty scattered around the house at those times.

And like nearly everything else in this house, the vases have stories. The Orangina bottle found in the stone wall at the top of Baou Ste. Jeannet in Provence... The patent medicine bottle found in foundation stones we used to build the gardens, which says that, "Children cry out for more!" The tiny cut crystal salt shaker we used in our first apartment... The triangular bottles which a neighbor gave us for Christmas, filled with home made limoncello and orangecello, which later made that month's neighborhood poker game so memorable...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cat - Circle 3

This was the third in the series of circular pieces I drew and mailed to my parents. Like the anteater, they initially couldn't see what it was, then couldn't see anything else after they had the "ah ha!" moment. Drawn on orange stock.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mountain Trip - Painting 2

Here is painting number 2 from the vacation (click for larger version). This was a few days before we went to see the big waterfalls at Linville Gorge, something our older two recalled, but our youngest did not remember, but the hike and gorge were probably on my mind when this image emerged. It took me a while to get the values the way I wanted, to create the feeling of haze - I put color on, then lifted it off, then put it back...

We had a good time on the hike. This photo was taken from the other side of the 400 foot gorge, where we got the best views of the falls, the cliffs, and the river running away from it. Going over these falls is usually fatal - they're bigger than they appear here.

In this shot you can compare the painting to the photo (in the Oklahoma book) that I used for some lines to get something happening. What struck me was 90 degrees around (that happens often) and things changed. For instance, the sky at the top of the lake photo ended up being part of a cliff or something in the right hand edge of the painting. And the rocks jutting into the water became larger rocks and small peaks jutting into the sky. Other rocks became trees in the middle ground at the bottom of the little painting, etc.

This was the most traditional image out of the bunch. From here they diverged much more, though some are still inspired by the trip and our surroundings.

The next painting I have the line drawing photographed, as well as the photos that were combined, and the final piece.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<<
On the trip the family bought a set of French refrigerator poetry magnets. The youngest pointed out to Etienne that, voila, one of the first words on the top of the package, showing through the transparent box was grenouille. As Etienne quotes the Romans, "Mirabile dictu!" We are everywhere.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Not Grenouille - this is a different frog, drawn on a circular piece of orange card stock from Swoozies. This is #2 in a series I did and mailed to my Mom and Dad.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mountain Trip - Painting 1

Here's the first painting I did on vacation. These are all done on 10x12 Arches cold press, that was in a block (which helps prevent buckling during painting). I did a border of about an inch, so these images are little paintings, just 8x10 or so. We were near a prominent mountain, called Grandfather Mountain, that looks a little like the one that dominates the background of this composition. And it wasn't until several days later that we saw peaks emerging out of low lying clouds like the foreground.

These two photos made up the bulk of the lines that got drawn to start the painting. I didn't think to take a photo of the line drawing before I started. I did that for the next two little paintings, so you'll get to see that soon.

Maybe you can recognize where some of the shapes came from in this painting. Sometimes only one line at the side of a shape in the bridge, or just a few of the rocks in the water, was all that remained. A lot of the first photo stayed, but it became more like atmosphere or lighting. What fascinated me was that the drawing came from the Golden Gate bridge, but the painting arrived from what was all around me, and what I was so happy to be doing for the next two weeks. That happened even though I couldn't see any of the items in the painting from where I was working.

One Word Meme

A la The Pagan Sphinx, who was kind enough to not tag anyone and inclusive enough to invite everyone. 11 one word questions.

1. Clothes - denim pants and jacket. Soft long sleeved shirts and sweaters. A red beret. I don't like shorts or the clothes of summer. I don't like being barefoot (too distracting), so I like socks.

2. Furniture - I can't decorate or pick furniture for appearance. Comfort matters, but I seldom get that right, either. Our bed is my favorite item, and, after nearly 30 years, we finally got it right.

3. Sweet - My dearest, whose smile, voice, touch, and shape are all joys to me. Everything else is a sad failed copy of sweet. But within that sweet is a very sharp mind, with a spicy attitude. Like a chocolate covered red hot.

4. City - I love so many - Small ones, like Winston-Salem, Lynchburg and Charleston to large ones like Boston, San Francisco, London and Paris. They're like people - all different but instantly recognizable. One thing that I retain and recall most about cities is their unique qualities of light. This is particularly true of Paris, Greenville, NC, and San Francisco.

5. Drink - Sometimes only tequilla shots will do. Sometimes a good beer with a friend (thanks, Alex!) Sometimes a really good wine, like a Muscadet (bottled sunshine!) or a good Montepulciano with a red meat sauce. I don't care much for soft drinks, and coffee caffiene makes me weird and unpleasant (for me and for other people).

6. Music - Everything from P!NK to Vivaldi, from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony playing in my head (everyone in this house has an internal soundtrack, and we compare notes - if we don't mind the contagion that results from sharing...) to Cake playing on the PC that sits on my art table (thanks, again, Alex).

7. T.V. Series - None. No regular TV. Hardly any watching of anything, in fact. Cuts off painting. My muse does not like competition.

8. Film - Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro, both by Miyazaki

9. Workout - at lunch at work I like to sit in the break room ALL ALONE and do logic puzzles. Sudoku and fill-ins are favorites. The Sudoku deductive reasoning events feel physical to me, like particular named climbing moves to lever, chimney, and friction climb my way around the walls of a challenging cubical interior. I don't rock climb in the corporeal world...

10. Pastries - Cinnamon rolls. Raisin bread. But more than anything, the yeast sweet rolls found in Italian bakeries in the towns along the Hudson River in NY. The water makes them unique, and they remind me of many happy childhood moments.

11. Coffee - Decaf only - see #5. I drink it unpredictably, and only when out. We don't own a coffeemaker. I will drink it black, with cream, with cream and sugar, and even iced - all without pattern. Sometimes I crave it. It's the most complex food (chemically) that we ingest, and I can easily believe that when drinking it. SO much going on.

Like the Pagan Sphinx, I tag no one, and invite anyone to play along.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<< I also perform this meme.

Clothes - do not be silly.

Furniture - voila - you have already witnessed my preference for tomatoes.

Sweet - mayflies are perhaps my favorite.

City - Nice before Paris. St. Paul de Vence before Nice.

Drink - Never inside, but it is nice outside. Of moi, I mean.

Music - I am indifferent, quelle dommage. But I hear well beyond the range of Etienne and other humans.

T.VSeries - Qu'est-que c'est?

Film - Marx Bothers. Tous tous droll.

Workout - Qu'est-que c'est? Is this perhaps the commute, when one works outside the home?

Pastries - A variation on baklava, using beetles instead of noisette.

Coffee - but of course, Coffee Frog has already demonstrated this.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Painting During the Break

When we went to the mountains I took a block of Arches water color paper along. It was cold press - not my favorite - but that was part of the interest. It was just a 10x12 - so the paintings would be small and immediate. Most were done in one day, or at most over two.

I love to engage the edge of my compositions - so I always draw in and tape an edge. To me the edges are an exciting part of the shapes, so I want to know where they are when I start the drawing and painting.

There were several beautiful photo books in the house we rented - one on San Francisco, one on Oklahoma, and another about Virginia, among others. Those three, in particular, spoke to me. The photos were beautiful, and the shapes were inspiring. So I used images from the books to do blind contour drawings on the pages. After enough lines were there, I would improvise.

It was interesting to see what came out. In subsequent posts I'll show the photos that started things, the drawings that resulted, and the final paintings. I don't have that for all of them, but for a few, so you can see how things change for me. It's a process that still surprises me.

The mountains themselves, and autumn (my favorite season) were all around and inside me, and they came out repeatedly in the paintings.

More later.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Back on the Net and from Trip

We are back from a mountain trip, where we did without TV, computers, etc. and spent lots of time hiking, reading, talking, painting, and playing games , instead. I don't think the colors here in the Piedmont of North Carolina are going to be as gorgeous as the ones we saw in the mountains. Here is a sample - a sugar maple around the Bass Lake on the Cone Manor, in Blowing Rock, NC.

I'll catch up with blog reading and commenting as best I can over the next few days. It's good to get away, and it's good to come back. Now, if I were wealthy enough not to have to go back to work on Monday...

But I console myself that it's labor that makes leisure sweet, and I'm grateful I have a good, rewarding job to go back to. I'm glad I could take two weeks off. It was one of our best vacations.

To those of you who read and commented while I was gone, many thanks. It was fun to review the insights and humor of the past two weeks.

Grenouille, Thanks for helping to hold the fort while I was gone. I see you made some good use of "the mechanism." S.


>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<<

How marvelous, and incredible, that such different animaux contain the same types of bones. Le chat is Tamlin, of course, and like the brachiosaurus, and like moi, he has vertebrae connected to hips and shoulder joints, with four limbs and ribs. It is true that the others have tail bones and I have none, but tails, you must agree, would look ridiculous in speedos or any other swimming garb. Perhaps toads can have tails, but grenouilles? Non. And the lack of tail makes us more like humans.

But to return to my thesis, even the limbs are jointed in much the same way. It is true that my femurs are not as grande as tooth picks, while the brachiosaur's were the size of tree trunks... And also it is true the joints of chat Tamlin are barely joined, so he can be sinuous as a snake (and almost as difficult to dose with his medicine), but voila, we all three have elbows, knees, and ankles. Tamlin and the dinosaur, observe closely, also share that they both walk on their toes, while I, more like Etienne, walk on the whole foot.

Tails, toes - from these we perhaps are tempted to suppose that dinosaurs and felines are of similar habits and intelligence, and likewise humans and grenouilles? But, non. Humans are not half as civilized as frogs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to Moomin Light


What fun to compose this birthday wish which you won't see right away. I'm here thinking about your birthday ahead of it, and I'll maybe remember this post on the day, and then you'll read the words some time after that. "The mechanism," as Grenouille calls it, is a wonderful gadget, almost a time machine.

I can't express the feelings of destiny I get when I think of your birth, and of the lives we led that brought us together. I'm amazed I was so well looked after. It makes me a bit dizzy. What if it hadn't happened? What if we hadn't met, or you hadn't been born? That thought is like leaning out over a precipice, the kind of thing that gets into my worst nightmares. But I shake myself and look up to find you beside me.

You're my colors. You're my song. You're the greatest joy of my life. Happy Birthday, sweet Moomin Light.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Grenouille Economic Lesson Part 1

This is, in no way, a comment on DCup's tres serious posts on the recent economic debacle, and its effect on many Americans.

Voila, this is how the economy seems to moi.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Art Deco Diners

We love art deco diners. I recall as a kid going to the old diner near our church in West Taghkanic, NY. The link sausages there were the best I've ever eaten, or that's how I remember it, anyway. In Herndon, VA we ate at Amphora's Diner Deluxe, which has a reputation, and deserves it. The Greek food there is great, and so is everything else. Before we went in to eat we admired and took photos of the exterior.

And I got funny looks just inside the door when I photographed the dessert cases. You have to admit, they're amazing. The desserts were amazing to eat, as well. We had three different desserts and spread them around: a deadly chocolate dessert, of course, lemon meringue pie, a diner standard, and baklava, in honor of the Greek cuisine that is Amphora's specialty.

Later in the trip we ate in Tysons (it was on the way back to our hotel from our stop on the orange line of the Metro) at an old favorite, the Silver Diner. It's not as beautiful as the Amphora, and it might not be authentic art deco, but we still like it, and we have memories from this place.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<< When I look at Smiley's damaged grin, and pierced face, and see that yet he smiles, I am wondering if he is ignorant or wise. How can he continue unflinchingly to register cheer when there is so much gloom and life has taken a toll on him? Is he unaware? Or does he know something deeper, something we should all be seeking?

Et moi, I believe these other smileys have reason to wink. They are trying to tell something to all of us, but we must each work it out for ourselves. Where is joy? Is it far from us or always within reach? And if we find it, will it be walled off from the rest of our life, or will we, as DivaJood said in comment, "Bring it all out into the light," tres bon et tres mal, the work and the play, the mundane and the art.

Au revoir,


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Grenouille's Own Voice

I realized recently that Grenouille and I owe a debt to another blog artist, Susan of Adventures, Ink. Grenouille had been part of my posts for about two weeks when I found her blog through DCup's Politits. This particular post was the first I saw of Susan's work, in both words and art. When I inquired about Crow (in the comments) Susan replied and provided a link to an example. It's inspiring reading.

And it was a week later that Grenouille wrote a post on his own. Until then I had quoted him in the "Appendecis de Grenouille," and he had already been commenting on life etc. before I met Susan, but on August 8 Grenouille wrote the post without me. Since then he has mostly spoken for himself. We were inspired by Crow, I think, to go that last step.

So a toast to Susan and Adventures, Ink!

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<<

Mai oui! Bravo! Merci, cher Susan, for pushing Etienne to let me have the keyboard. The mechanism now works for us both.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Visiting Tamlin

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<<
Some friends are difficult to visit. You enjoy their company for part of the rendezvous, but the rest is a trial. Or perhaps they are an old friend fallen on misfortune and you visit from the old love or (worse) from pity. Is it a pleasure or an obligation? We should all wish that when we are in such a spot we also have friends who remain with us. Bien entendu, I hope my friends will remain when I am old, I have tremors, I tell the same stories encore et encore, and I pass what reminds of Jurassic swamp gas. Certainly, they will have their problems, as well, and perhaps we will suffer each other together.

Other friends are fun to visit, but there is risk. Such it is with Tamlin. One requires a rescue troupe to intervene and prevent damage. Fortunately I am made of adamant (Etienne, as always with his tous tous charmant Yankee accent, would say, "He's a rock.")

But regardless, Tamlin is tres exciting... and hard to visit.

Au revoir,


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Night Grilling

Rough schedule today - everyone in different directions for events, errands, local roak group's concert, etc. So we didn't get dinner until late. That meant I had to grill in the dark.

The plan was to grill hot dogs. But daughter isn't as keen on these as often as the rest of us are, so I make up patties (spiced, and with onion and garlic, of course) and freeze them so I can pull one out for her when the rest of us have the dogs. And I picked up two portabello tops, one for me, and one for oldest son. And andouille sausage for oldest son and I. More of those long red peppers I wrote about elsewhere (a Costco stray from the list).

I lit the charcoal using my new coal chimney from Weber. I love this thing. Instead of polluting with charcoal lighter fluid, I just burn two pieces of newspaper to light the coals, and they're lit faster, and without that petroleum smell. The coils inside, that hold up the coals above the burning paper, get cherry red before I dump the briquettes out in the grill.

Even though I was just outside the open garage door, it was still too dark to cook by sight. I could see shapes, but not colors. So I cooked by smell, feel, and experience. It was interesting. The coals were bright in the dark, and the camera managed to catch the lovely red glow.

The last preparations were to broil/brown the hot dog buns (we prefer potato bread buns), cut an onion (a few rings for daughter's burger, chopped for the hot dogs) and to chop up some bread and butter pickles for a homemade relish. We ate everything but one hot dog and two of the sausages. The sausages were good, but too spicy for son or I to want more than one.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<< Etienne, daughter, and I were "hamming it up" as they say in this charming country, and having sport with the camera. Daughter shook her head as we arranged on this plate, which was created by an artist acquaintance. Eh bien, Chef Etienne, but I believe mayonnaise would be a more appropriate sauce, since everyone tells me grenouille tastes like poullette. And ketchup, it is tasty, but tres chic it is not.

Au revoir (never fear, it is not adieu),