Thursday, March 31, 2016

Key West - Hemingway House

Famous for polydactyl cats, the Hemingway House was interesting for some other things as well.  First though, a few photos of a few of the 54 many-toed cats:

No pictures of their toes, you'll notice.  They seemed to be shy about showing their prized paws to curious photographers.

You'll see what caught my eye inside the house.

Outside was just as attractive as most places in Key West.  Glorious plantings and occasionally some notable pottery such as this.

Lovely home!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Key West - Sketchbook

As I mentioned in another entry, one of the best things for me in this trip to Key West was free time.  That is a rare commodity when on a Road Scholar trip, but I hope to be able to explain to them how important that can be.  Some of of our fellow "scholars" need some time just to rest, some like to be able to re-visit sites, explore on their own, or just sit and absorb the locale.  For me, I finally had time to sketch.

Our first period of freedom came when we were still in the first hotel.  That hotel was located by the harbor where the cruise ships came in to dock.  As a result it was a very busy place so I worried about finding something that would resonate with me as interesting to sketch.  D wanted to lie down for a bit so I went out on the balcony, and there I found what I was looking for.  An umbrella with wonderful colors and a flowering tree down by the pool -

These sketches are all done with watercolor and ink.  The next one is unfinished.  It started out as a study in perspective.  I was sitting on the balcony off in the corner as far away from the second chair (the oval shape in outline only) as I could get.  I sat that way so I could draw both our balcony and the one at right angles to us.  In the empty space in the corner between the balconies were plants reaching up from the ground level below and a palm tree with an interesting frond.  I wanted to capture the contrast between the rather sterile building with the vegetation.  The tall leaves of some of the plants below will show between the railings of the balcony - if I ever get around to finishing it.

After the program was over, we stayed in Key West for some additional days.  That meant we had to move to different hotel (the original was full).  This next hotel was smaller and more like "old Florida".  Instead of modern surroundings, the hotel was a group of houses that had been re-figured as hotel rooms and felt more intimate.  The garden areas were very carefully tended.  The following sketch is area where we ate breakfast.

It's hard to make out what is what in this photo of the sketch, but part of that was intentional.  I wanted to emphasize the lushness we saw all around us.  And to be honest, part of it was a mistake. My fountain pens were in my luggage which I checked.  Lack of pressurization in the luggage compartment of the plane forced the ink out of the pen.  Forgetting that, when I started to draw into this painted part, the ink gushed out and made a much wider line than anticipated.  So then I decided to make the "mistake" deliberate and draw more using that heavier line.  Still not satisfied, I added the touches of orange and bits of red and red-violet.  Boom, Tropical Profusion (or does that sound too much like a juice?).

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tuesday - Painting

No entry yesterday because D and I went to watch the UConn women's basketball game with friends.  It was a very exciting game as Texas gave them the most difficult game UConn has had so far.  In hindsight, I think it was good for them to have that experience at that point because now they have a week to get themselves mentally prepared for the Final Four games.  We will keep watching and pulling for them.

Today I went to painting.  While it was wonderful to be back, it was frustrating because I didn't have anything prepared that I wanted to work on.  I had my sketches from our Key West trip to share, as well as several possible photographs to work on after Sharon and I discussed whether they were worth it (they were with some compositional changes) and whether they should be worked on with water color or oil.  Once those decisions were made, I went back to work on the day lily.  I didn't want to waste Sharon's or my time on drawing whichever photo I chose while in class.  That's something I can do by myself; while in class I need to have her input on the painting part.  It was great being back with my friends and working again.

When I got home, I got involved with several other activities and completely forgot to take any pictures of today's work (frankly, hardly worth my time to take photos or your time to see the work!) or of my sketchbook entries.  

It's taking a while to get back into the swing of things, but I'll make it sooner or later.

One of many photos of orchids from Key West - in this one, I love the shadow:

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Key West - Day 2, the Evening Movie and Consequences

How could I have forgotten to tell you about our evening activity on Day 2?  We went to see the movie Fugitive Kind with a very young Marlon Brando, equally young Joanne Woodward, and the Italian actress Anna Magnana.  I had forgotten how much a heart throb Brando was and how lovely Joanne Woodward was (and still is in my estimation).   I didn't know anything about Magnana, but she was a big name in Italy who sort of learned English specifically for this movie, and who became a respected actress here, too. Tennessee Williams wrote the original play so it was an important movie in many ways.

I didn't like it very much.  I'm not sure I really understood it.  I don't know a great deal about Williams nor have I read more than one or two of his plays.  There are several reasons for all that.

Among them, may be the fact that I was an English literature major.  I grew up listening to my mother read English authors outloud as well as reading myself mostly children's literature written by British authors.  Yes, there were also books by Americans but not as many.  I chose to study what I knew and loved - English lit, and I didn't study American lit until I decided to become a teacher when I realized I needed to know our authors as well.  I also must confess that I had a difficult time with Tennessee Williams, but that was probably because I was too young to understand what he wanted and needed to convey.  After watching the movie, I was thoroughly depressed and not sure why it was such an unremittingly, unrelievedly dark plot.  There is no light at the end of that tunnel at all!  

So what.  Well, here it is.  Although I have an outsider's understanding of the huge issue his homosexuality was, there's more to the man than that. Now I have have to find out more about Tennessee W than we learned when visiting his Key West home.   Now I have to read more of his plays (oh, yippee!) and see if I can find out what drove him. And now I may also have to read other literature written at that time because I know that he was not the only dark writer.  So that also leads me to think I'd better return to American history of that time, also.

Oh my, back to history again.  First Truman and now the playwright Williams.

I think I need a pretty picture.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Key West - Day 2

Today I'll share some highlights from our second day in Key West which included a morning talk about our 33rd president, Harry S. Truman.  I know I passed the American history courses I had to take the last two years of high school.  History was something I enjoyed - at least until we reached American history in the 1850's.  Then my interest began to wane as we learned about the Civil War, resurfaced off and on until the World Wars, and then went to sleep from the Korean Conflict on.  So I guess it isn't really a surprise that I've forgotten what I memorized to pass the exams.  Anyway, I was fascinated with this lecture (yes, it's really me writing this!) most of which was new to me.  I tried to keep in mind that I was listening to someone whose job it was to show Truman as a model president, but the speaker did make a good case in the little time he had.  

After the lecture, we were taken on a walk down to the harbor for a cruise on the schooner Appledore II.  Unfortunately, I don't have a good photo of the ship because I couldn't get far enough away from it to take a photo without falling in the water.  I didn't feel like doing that even though the temperature was such that it might have felt good.

These are the pictures from the cruise started with proof that I was at least on the schooner:

View off the starboard bow.


These next photos are only two of many, many pictures I took of the sails.  They were so beautiful against the blue sky.

The coils of rope - we watched as the crew wrapped these very carefully.  They started over several times until they were satisfied they'd done it correctly.  Makes me think of the spools of my embroidery thread; wish the crew would wrap them neatly for me!

Parasailers in the distance - 

 and a shrimp trawler.

A sailboat and a channel marker:

This second set of photos you see here are from the harbor as we wandered around starting with a sail boat.

The Coast Guard -

The harbor -

D loitering.

Love the reflections:

All of these are wonderful reminders of our trip, but none of these make me want to paint as is.  I mean, think about it, a watercolor painting with all these white boats?  And the boats are so pretty and clean and . . . . not my style.  

I found some that I would definitely paint, but you won't see those photos for a few days.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Key West - Introductory Day 1

We chose Key West as a destination for this year because  - well, there were several reasons.  First, D really feels the lack of sunlight most in March.  Second, I've always wanted to go to Key West because so many people talked about it with enthusiasm and there are special sights there.  Third, we have friends who are fun to travel with who were willing to go on this adventure with us. Fourth, there was a Road Scholar trip we could take.

On the day we arrived, we had time to check in to our hotel (the Westin) which was probably the most posh place Road Scholar has booked in our experience.  We met the other members of our group, had a quick orientation, and went to dinner in the hotel.  After dinner, we listened to a local deep sea diver tell us about the shipwreckers and the salvage business. It was fascinating!  I'd never really believed either career as reliable roads to fame and fortune outside the covers of books.  Well, I was very wrong!

That and a good night's sleep was the end of the first day.  Photos?  The deluge will begin tomorrow, but I took only about 1,050 on this trip . . .

Smiley face!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Local Color - Before It's Too Late

Now that spring feels that it has arrived and daffodils are poking up, something else has arrived.  Bulldozers.  Builders are getting ready to take over more farm land to make new landscapes.  Developments.  Progress.

We've been in this area, in this house since 1979 so the change is hard to see.  Little by little, we are becoming part of suburbia.  I do try to remember the time I asked my mother if she knew this part of the Capital District (my family lived in this part of the world until 1946 and then started moving all over).   She explained that since this was nothing but country, they never really traveled out this way.  To put it all in perspective, where I live was once part of a farm and was turned into a development so  - time marches on and things change.

However, before these farms and old homes are gone, I wanted to take some pictures.  That bulldozer told me, I don't have very much time.  I took two photos, and then I played with them.  Oh, did I have fun!

This is the farm down the road.  The field in the foreground is where I first saw the bulldozer.  As I was driving by one day, I fell in love with the sky and the light. 

I cropped and lightened the photo to make the barn more visible.

Then I decided to have fun; isn't this one stunning?  It's winter again . . .

Which I turned into summer. This one would be such fun to paint!  

Then a little later in the week, I stopped to take a picture of one of my favorite oak trees before it leafs out.  I wanted the skeleton of the tree to be visible.  Fortunately, the old farmhouse would necessarily be part of the picture.  That farmhouse has been lovingly brought into the current century. Sadly the land behind and beside the farmhouse has been sold and is already under construction so there's no room for delay.

That oak tree - isn't it wonderful?

Here's the same photo with a "poster" effect.  I like how "posterizing" this picture emphasized what was going on in the sky, made the house with its yellow doors recede, and took away all the tree's competition.  Another possible painting - it would be fun, I think,and a good study.

This one, I really like - a lot!  Is it a painting?  I don't think there's enough color for that, but I like the way the tree glows.

And this is another one that is positively striking. Again, not a painting but a memorable photo.

I can hear some of you already.  You noticed that I am taking these old farms, recording them so they won't be lost, but then turning those photos into a very modern statement.  Well, I will remember these places very well after spending all this time with them.  An";right and proper so to do" because time moves on and things (including photography) change.

It's all progress, and it helps me if I can make it something attractive.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Applique X 2

The other day when I talked about the meeting of friends for some sewing, laughter, and chatter I may - or may not - have mentioned I was starting a "primitive" wool applique project.  SMcG and I are working on the same project which is why we were cutting and sharing fabrics for our backgrounds.  The pattern comes from Buttermilk Basin, and we both have our own ideas about how we want the finished project will look.  SMcG is pure primitive in her ethos, and I have to "pretty" up everything.

Here is the almost-finished first block:

Wow, I do wish I could figure out the color issue!  You'd never know it, but the background of this block is green and the moon is a purple and gray plaid.  This project is a delight because it means working with wool and using embroidery.  That's where I will be a little less "primitive" than some.  I will be using more embroidery stitches than is usual with this style.  But the biggest difference is that I may "correct" some of the patterns.  Why do you suppose that we think folk art was done by people who didn't know anything about drawing?  Okay, some work is definitely rough, but not every artist drew like a child!  However, it can be charming.  It will be fun to compare my project with SMcG.  And here's my prediction: SMcG's work will not be that different overall!

This makes me giggle because this afternoon I started to make myself a new case for my Kindle (the old one wore out).  For the outside I chose a "modern" black with a large taupe print and planned to use a Kaffe Fasset for the lining.  However, for the outer pocket I picked this black with the small gray and off-white print.  Looking at the Fasset I decided to do something new.  I cut out the large print and plan to applique it on the front of the pocket (which will be lined with the same material).  While I've done broderie perse (that's what this is technique is called) before, I've never done it with such contrast.  


I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Day Lily - Day 2

Tuesday was painting day, and with so much going on at home, it was once again my only painting day since last Tuesday.  My work on the cover of Breck's bulb catalogue started last week with this:

Now on to what I did this week:

The first thing I did this week was try to find the perfect cerise for the ruffle.  I'm close but not there yet.  I tried lemon yellow and sap green which might have worked except I have deep sap green.  Big difference.  My plan is to try Hooker's green with the same yellow; I think that will do it.

The background wasn't what I wanted so I tried introducing some darker elements and some definition in the green.  I thought it might work.  It didn't.  I should stick to what attracted me to this subject - the photograph.

Check the background on the right.

Another addition - magenta (the paint I purchased), and as you can see in the upper petal, I began to work it in.  While I don't like the way that petal looks outlined with the darker magenta, it's just the first wash and is in the areas that are darker anyway.

Sharon had me take the first draft (the orchid-looking one I posted last week) off my board so I could tape a new piece of paper on.  She suggested I start working on a new day lily as I learn lessons on this one such as how to handle petals, background, etc.  

Have I mentioned before that she's brilliant?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Friends in Fabric = Friends Forever

Many times in this blog, I have mentioned friends with whom I share either a quilting or a painting bond.  Today I was fortunate enough to spend time with both groups.  Painting and quilting fun all in one day?  Wow!  Tomorrow I'll write about the painting, but today I want to talk about the quilting group.

There is something that draws women and some men, too, to arts that include fabric.  I've thought about it for a long time, but I can't figure out why that is.  Oh, wait - fabric!  Did I actually say fabric and "I don't know" in the same sentence?  Lovely textiles that appeal to our senses of touch and sight?  Textiles that whisper promises to our creative spirit?  Textiles that provide hours of soothing sewing whether by hand or by machine?  Hmmm . . . I guess that's a few reasons why we're drawn to fabric.  If you think of more, would you share them with me?  Then I can publish a more complete list because inquiring minds want to know.  Or at a least, this one does.

At any rate - we met at different times over a period of many years.  We have different backgrounds, jobs, marital status, etc.  We clicked because we all loved quilting first.  Later we discovered we have similar quirky senses of humor, cherish family, and are kind to animals.

Even though today we were down one, we still talked and talked and talked about everything and nothing.  We laughed a lot at silliness and each other and nothing in particular.

ME finished sewing binding on a project years old (I know because I have the same project waiting for a binding!), SMcG and I shared a lot of fabrics for our wool project and sewed a little, and M worked on a lovely red and white piece that has aged well.  We discussed PBS shows, books, and family.

In short, there isn't much that we did today that isn't done by other groups that share a bond with others - except for the fabric part, maybe.  But still, I feel that this group is special and that the people in it are the best.  Thank you, ladies; I love you each and every one.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

New Camera Try-Out

Recently through a friend's incredible generosity, I became the proud owner of a new Canon PowerShot A590.  Until today all I have done was set it up and read part of the manual but hadn't taken any photos.  I was waiting for something special to photograph.

Silly me.

Today I realized that and started taking pictures.

Here is one that is special in one way.  It features the photographs of our photographer friend:

Once again you see the shelf in our family room in post-Holiday mode (finally got everything put away!).  The photographs are indistinct but you should be able to recognize the eclipse on the left.  That one is Night.  On the right is Day which is hard to make out.  It's a stunning photo of a bee zooming in on a flower.  While I knew they were on the shelf, I was more concerned with how the camera would deal with the light.  It passed.

The last picture from today's experiment is this shot of the shelf in the living room (shelves as a theme?):

In this photo I wanted to see how the camera would capture this scene - tiny wood carvings and E's special holiday card with her painting of the village in Germany from which her parents emigrated.  I'd say the camera passed again.

Now if I could only do something about the photographer!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New in Painting

After finishing one architectural painting and with another one in the wings, today I decided to take a break from that particular subject.  While I had experimented and was happy with the loose washes I used in the background of "Tuscan Plainsong", I wanted to gain more experience in painting loosely, and I had the perfect inspiration.

The Breck's garden catalog arrived last week, and I was entranced with it's cover photo of a day lily.  The shape of the flower was perfect and the color glorious. Even though I have strong feelings about painting from only my own photographs, I couldn't resist the idea of doing a flower study using Breck's catalog as my source.  It is a perfect subject for the exercise I had in mind, and since none of my day lilies are in bloom at this moment (ha, ha!), I decided to go ahead with it.  I think you will understand when you see the first photo of today: Breck's catalog cover.

See why I succumbed to temptation? 

Before starting my painting, I divided one sheet of paper in half using tape as the divider.  While I wanted two papers so I could work on at least two drafts of this painting, that division resulted in tall, thin rectangles for this square photo.  At first I thought that it wouldn't matter.  Oh, and in addition to wanting to use loose, flowing washes, I wanted to minimize the drawing-before-painting.  Here's the first pass:

This wouldn't work.  First, the flower has more of an orchid appearance.  Second, I really, really, really disliked the color (cobalt violet) I used for the petals. However, I was happy I used so little drawing as you can see in the next close-up photo:

You can just make out the pencil lines around the petals at the top and within the yellow center of the flower.  Quite minimal, but I thought I could do less.  So . . . in the next pass, I did no drawing, paid more attention to shapes and dimensions, and changed the base color of the petals.  You'll see a few other changes also - notably in the background.

Okay, so now it looks more like a hibiscus than a day lily, but remember this is only the first pass.  The petals are now permanent rose which is much closer to the bright I want in the lighter parts of the petals.  Magenta will come later as will the details.  

The second attempt is better than the first, but I am happy with both in that they both show some improvement in my ability to handle water color.