The Mayor's Wife

12/01/2011 05:44:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 14 Comments »
Well, I've finally started portrait number 4, and it's the wife of  my sweetie's great grandfather.  Her name was Nellie Humes, and they had 9 children.  Their first child was a daughter named Mary, who was my sweetie's grandmother.  She married a man named Harry Cleveland Ryan, who died unexpectedly at a very young age.  When he died they had three children who  were very young when their father died.   Sweetie's mother, who was the middle child, was only 9 years old.  As a result, their grandfather assumed a major role in their lives.  There are many wonderful family stories about them that I love to hear.   Just as an aside, when our older son was in college, one of his professors talked about William B. Thompson in his capacity as mayor.  I asked him if he ever told the prof that he was his great, great, grandfather and he told me he didn't.  I probably wouldn't have either.  What would be the point?

So, anyhow, here's my beginning drawing.  I have quite a bit to do yet, but I thought I'd post it anyway.   Her left eye (on our right) definitely needs some work.


11/28/2011 04:25:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 11 Comments »
 My sweetie and I went shopping on Friday (yes, the day after Thanksgiving ... aka Black Friday).  It's an annual tradition for us to go to downtown Ann Arbor, wander through a few of the little shops, buy a few things, and then (the real reason for the trip), have a wonderful, drawn out lunch together.  We usually go to the same restaurant (Grazi) for a fine Italian meal, complete with a wonderful wine.  This year didn't disappoint - we had a great time, although sweetie tired of the shops before I did.  That's OK with me .... it leaves all the more time to have him all to myself! 

Oh yes, about the detour...  For many years I have made Christmas ornaments for my two nieces.  I've made wee stuffed animals, egg ornaments, dolls, and many other kinds.  This year I decided to knit little candy bags for them.  Each bag is about 41/2 by 31/2 inches in size when fully opened.  I plan on putting a bit of candy in each one with a tiny candy cane sticking out of the top.  When they're filled I'll use the ribbon at the top to gather the opening.  The trees are decorated with wee bells, pearls, yarn, and some sort of bead thingy (I forget what they're called) on the top of the tree.  I may make a few more of them, depending on how much time I have.  I have another portrait in mind, and now that the detour has been taken, I hope to be starting it soon!

I hope your Thanksgiving was as much fun as ours was.  We are very blessed.

I just noticed that the color of the "balls" on the tree looks brown for some reason.  They're actually bright red ... go figure!

The Ring

11/19/2011 04:01:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 17 Comments »
I have a gold ring that looks like a wedding band.  The inside is inscribed, "To Mother from Will .. April 26th  1887".   I inherited this treasure from my mother-in-law,  Pinny, whom I loved very much.  The ring used to belong to her great grandmother, who was given it by her son when he got married.  His name was William B. Thompson, and eventually he became the Mayor of Detroit.  Before he became the mayor he was a butcher, and in our kitchen hangs one of his campaign posters framed in its original black wood frame.  It has a photograph of his face with a caricature body holding a butcher knife in one hand and a length of link sausages in the other.   I'm guessing our sons both covet that poster!

Anyhow, besides that photo, we have one more of him, along with a photo of his wife.  That's the photo I used to draw this picture.  It isn't a good likeness, so I will have to draw it again .... and again .... and again, in order to get it right.   I can see several places that aren't quite right, but for now it serves as the third drawing in my mini-series of five portraits.   Oh, by the way, I wear that ring often.  It has become a sort of talisman for me and I'm confident that it brings me good luck ..... I'm a tad strange that way.

Two of Five

11/11/2011 08:38:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 15 Comments »
Yesterday we had our first snow fall of the season.  Our entire lawn was covered with snow .... all the steps to the house were snowy, and there were ice droplets on all the branches.  It was really quite beautiful.  Mercifully, the sidewalk and driveway didn't hold the snow so there was no shoveling to do.  Oh how I wish it would be like that during the winter.   This is supposed to be a snowy winter.  I don't know if it will be more than last year or not (last winter we had 20 inches above the normal snow fall!).  Even though we had a lot last year, the good thing about it was that it was never really a ton of it all at once, so we were able to keep up with the plowing and shoveling.  I'm trusting that the same will be true this year!

I had a busy day today, but after dinner I sat down with my little sketchbook and did another portrait.  I found this face in a catalog.  Once again, I decided to stick with ink.  I doubt I'll do all of them in ink, but for these first 2 it seemed right.  For one thing, ink is a lot tidier than graphite, so it's easier to use while sitting in the living room with the TV on.  I'm not thrilled with her.  Her right eye creeps me out, among other things, but hey, it's progress, not perfection, right?

100 Portraits???

11/09/2011 07:43:00 PM Posted In , , Edit This 18 Comments »
I've read about a project involving doing 100 portraits.  I'm so impressed by the very idea, but I have to say, I find the thought of it quite daunting.  I've been pondering the whole thing for quite some time, and this is what I've come up with.  I've decided to commit to doing 5 portraits.   Then I'll try 5 more.   Is it cowardice?  Fear of commitment?  Fear of failure?  Lack of stamina?  ...... I don't know.  Probably a bit of all of that, and depending on the day, more of 1 thing than another.   But right now, that approach feels much more doable.

So, today I started.  I did this one in ink in my 5.5 x 8.5 sketchbook.  That's the book I rely on when I'm feeling less than secure about what I'm doing.  I decided to use ink, even though I dearly love graphite for portraits, because with ink what you put down stays.  For me that inevitably leads to less than perfect images (as though I've ever achieved perfection in anything I've done, regardless of the medium) which is both a challenge and a comfort.  The challenge is obvious, but the comfort for me is that the expectation I have of myself is a tad lower than if I'm using pencil.

Even though the sketchbook is small, the sketch itself is even smaller (about 2.5 x 4).  I expect that as I get more confident the sketches will get larger ... or not.  So, here he is.....

The Queen

11/06/2011 08:57:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 14 Comments »
 Well, I'm still trying to draw something everyday, but I'm finding that it's so far Most days at best..  I have spent this weekend shredding.  No, not Shedding, Shredding ... as in papers.   About 12 years ago we were involved in a lawsuit dealing with insurance fraud.  In the capacity of Powers of Attorney for my parents, my sweetie and I bought a home here in Michigan for them while they made all the arrangements to move back here from Nevada.  The broker offered credit life insurance as part of the deal - my parents wanted it, so we went ahead and bought it.  To make a long story short, it was a scam.  The broker took the money in a lump sum for the insurance, never filed the paperwork with the insurance company, and when my stepfather died a few months later, they wanted to refund the premium money rather than honor the policy (no surprise, since there wasn't a policy).  A lawsuit ensued which the "enemy" lost, ending in a much larger payout than if they had just paid the face value of the policy in the first place.

Fast forward to this weekend.  As a result of having to have a new furnace installed, I had to clean out the furnace room.  There are many boxes filled with who knows what, but a prominent one contained all the paperwork from the lawsuit.  I shredded that paper all day Friday while the furnace guys were here.  I shredded most of the day yesterday.  I shredded a good part of the day today.  I filled 13 large trash bags with the shredded paper!  My sweetie walked by me yesterday while I was shredding (using a terrible shredder that kept jamming in the process) and remarked that it was like a prison sentence.  That made me feel a lot better about it.

Anyhow, a moment ago I took up my ballpoint pen, looked down and there was Abby - she's an old, faithful Springer Spaniel who only wants to be loved on and petted.  Well, she also wants cookies, but other than that, she makes no demands. And yes, she sees herself as the Queen of the Domain ... which she is.   I took a wee bit of paper (2 x 2) and did this quick sketch of her face.  It's not much, but it's what I have today.  I figure at least it's something.

Another Waiting Room

11/03/2011 08:26:00 PM Posted In Edit This 15 Comments »
Today my sweetie had an appointment with his doctor, so we went to Ann Arbor.  While he was in with the doc, I sat in the waiting room and did a couple of quick sketches of others who were waiting.  I also had a book with me (an anniversary present from my sweetie, and I've been savoring it - it's called Clare and Mr. Tiffany  [yes, of Tiffany glass]) so I also spent some of my waiting time reading.  Then, after we got home, because tomorrow is the day our new furnace is going to be installed, I went right to work on clearing space in the furnace/storage room in the basement.

Now, I don't know about your storage area, but ours tends to get a tad cluttered over the years.  Since our younger son and his wife and our grandchildren live in Tennessee, I find myself hoarding boxes that I can use to mail things.  I think I had enough boxes down there to pack the children's things when they go off to college (1 of them is an infant, and the other one is 3).   In addition, there were/are all sorts of things that seemed necessary to keep once, but in light of actually having to move them for work to be done, their importance quickly diminished greatly.  That said, I couldn't exactly bring myself to toss them since many of them are perfectly good, so I ended up moving them into the "library" in order to pack them up and take them to the Salvation Army.   In writing this, I also realized that the boxes I could use to transport the things to the S. Army are now neatly collapsed and in the trunk of my car so that I can take them to the recycle center. ...... Sigh.... 

So, without further adieu, here are the modest sketches I did today. 

Walking out of the cave

11/02/2011 05:15:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 11 Comments »
Well, it's been way too long since I've posted to my blog, but I've been totally in the midst of artistic doldrums.   No whining ... no complaining .... no explaining .... we've all heard it (and some have experienced it) countless times before.  Suffice it to say that even though what is here isn't a drawing, I did manage to get something down on paper (it took me a long time - not because of degree of difficulty, but because of ... well, You know).  Then, after I got finished with the ink doodles, I decided to put color in it.  That was fun, but another way to procrastinate, if truth be told.

In the meantime, during my angst, we had a bunch of work done on the house, all of which started with a crack in the caulk around the bathtub that I became worried about - I just kept having visions of the dreaded black mold.  Since we've caulked it before, I thought we should maybe hire someone to do put some ceramic tile around the tub to take care of the problem once and for all (assuming there wasn't any mold).  Well, to make a long story short, $4000 later we got that crack in the caulk taken care of, along with a number of other things involving a plumber, tile men, painters, a drywall man, and a wonderful carpenter!!!  And, thankfully, there wasn't a speck of  mold to be found.  God help us if I notice a burned out lightbulb!  Then, a couple of weeks ago we had our annual well-baby check on our furnace.  Baby isn't so well after all.  We have to get a new one ... goodby $5400 more!!!!  ouch!  (Is it any wonder I've been a tad out of sorts?  lol)

So, now I'm back.  Yes, please note the declarative tone of that last sentence.  I've done my time in the Cave of Uncertainty, so now I think it's Abby's turn.  Abby is our dog, and she's not uncertain about anything, so I think she'll do just fine, thank you!


8/15/2011 10:17:00 AM Posted In , , Edit This 21 Comments »
Last Thursday my friend Vicki and I went to a life drawing group of the  Jackson Civic Art Association.  I hadn't done any life drawing for years, and was a tad nervous about doing it, especially with a group of people I'd never met before.  They couldn't have been any nicer!  Both Vicki and I were welcomed by a small group of very friendly women (later a man named Gordon joined us), and I felt comfortable being with them right away.  The model was a beautiful young woman named Iris, a daughter of one of the artists.  Iris was an experienced model, and she was a joy to draw.  This group uses clothed models, and they pose for 20 minutes at a time - no short warm up poses to start with.  So, my first drawing was my warm-up.

I decided to focus on doing portraits.  Iris has the most beautiful face and hair, and it was a real pleasure to draw her.   I only took charcoal pencils with me,  and I think next time I'll take along some graphite pencils, too.   I did get interrupted by a phone call that I had to take (I had my phone on "vibrate only", in case you're clucking at my rudeness), so I tiptoed out to the hall to take the call, then tiptoed back in when I was finished.  Because of the call, I only spent 10 or 12 minutes on one of the poses, and it shows.  I'm thinking I might play around with at least one of them a bit more, now that I've shown them to you "in the raw",  just to see how far I can take it.  If I do, I'll post it  so you can see if there's any improvement.  I'm not entirely pleased with them, but maybe playing  a bit will make a difference.

I hope you have a super week .... that's what I'm planning on doing!



8/09/2011 02:44:00 PM Posted In Edit This 14 Comments »
I wanted to draw, but as often happens, not much was appealing to me to do.   Personally, I think it's my inner critic in a snit, but today I ignored her.  So, after wandering around for awhile actually talking right out loud to myself (to the confusion of the dog who  thinks that all conversations are to and about her).  Fortunately my sweetie wasn't here.

I decided to start small, so I got out one of my sketch books, divided a page into sections with a Micron pen (.005, my favorite) and chose one of my necklaces to sketch.  It didn't take long before I was immersed in what I was doing, so when I finished the first one, I chose another one.  After all the sections were filled on the page with different necklaces, I decided to forge ahead by adding color.  When all the color was added I, rather compulsively, proceeded to fool around with a border.  I'm not sure it adds anything to the thing as a whole, but I had a good time doing it.  And, I just might start adding color to it when I'm finished with this post .....

Finished For Now

8/07/2011 08:54:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 13 Comments »
We've been having a lot of problems with our internet connection, and finally got a whole new system.  I think this one will work better than the last one (meaning faster).  We live in an area where our choices are dial-up (we've had that and it's slow enough to make you crazy), satellite, or wireless.  There's actually another choice which we've tried,  it's like another cell phone or something.  Can you tell I'm not very skilled or informed about these things?  We just switched to wireless which we began yesterday, and after having a wee problem with it, I think maybe now it's working ..... I really, really, hope so.

Anyhow, I've finished the Man.  Well, that is, I've done as much on him as I'm going to do this go around.  I'll probably tackle him again, but it may be years .... no really, before this dance with him, it had been many years since we connected.  As you can see, his hat and clothing weren't the focus of this drawing.  I find his face both compelling and challenging to draw, and as interesting as I find him, I also lose patience with him after awhile.  He really doesn't say much, though I talk to him constantly when we're together.  So, without further ado, here he is:

Aquabord 2

7/28/2011 02:43:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 10 Comments »
Well, I managed to scrub the paint off the path in order to improve on it.  The scrubbing went just fine - the paint came off easily just using a rather soft brush and water.  Even the staining color almost completely rubbed off, much to my surprise.  After that, I let it dry completely and then started to noodle around with it.  While there's some things I like better in this version, I'm still not happy with it.  I'm troubled by the following things:  the right side has much more detail than the left in the foreground, and it looks unbalanced;  the darkness around the tall red flowers doesn't work very well;  while I like the "stones" in the path better as far as perspective goes, they're boring; and last, the greenery on the right foreground reminds me of army camouflage. 

I'm going to let it sit for awhile (maybe a long while, who knows!), and go downstairs and make the marinade for Beef in Flatbread (that's what we call it).  It's very tasty, easy and quick to make.  What could be better?  After marinating the beef, it gets cooked in butter (or whatever) quickly over a fairly high heat, then served in flatbread with diced cucumbers and Greek yogurt (or sour cream, whichever you prefer) on top.  You could also put diced tomatoes on, if you want.  Want the recipe?  Here it is:

About 3/4 lb sirloin steak (or some other tender cut) cut into pieces about 2" x 1/4"
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tsp oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

Diced cucumbers, pita bread,  plain yogurt (or sour cream)

Mix together all the marinade ingredients, put the meat and the marinade in a zipper bag and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.  When ready to eat, heat butter (or oil, or a mixture of the 2) in a frying pan over medium high heat.  Drain the meat & toss the marinade out.  Sear the meat (it will snap and pop at you ... I advise having someone else do the cooking since you did the prep).  Serve with pita bread, diced cucumbers, and yogurt.

Ok, I almost forgot .... here's the watercolor:


7/26/2011 10:40:00 AM Posted In , Edit This 17 Comments »
Yesterday my friend, Vicki, and I got together for a day of fun!  She brought me some wonderful goodies to play with (I'll show pics later), and we talked and laughed all day long.  One of the things we did was play with Aquabord.  I'd heard about it and read about it, but never tried it, so we gave it a go.  We each had a small (5 x 7) piece which we proceeded to paint with watercolors.  I haven't used watercolor paint in a very long time (with the exception of adding paint to quick sketches), and I always start with a sketch.  Yesterday I decided since this was an experiment, I would just go for it.  No sketch...... the painting shows it!  I definitely do better starting out with a sketch.

Anyhow,  I used a watercolor painting in one of my books as a reference, and jumped in.  I love Aquabord!  I love its texture, the fact that you don't have to stretch it or prep it in any way, and the way it takes the paint.  As for my painting itself, it definitely has some problems.  I haven't tried correcting them yet (my main issue is with the path that looks more like a wall).  When I finish this post, I'm going to try scrubbing it to see what happens.  If it works out OK, I'll redo the path and see if I can't improve on it a bit.  I'll show you the results - for better or worse.

Oh, by the way, I just remembered I can't upload pics from my camera because I'm not sure I know how.  (Sweetie, if you're reading this, stop grinding your teeth!).


7/20/2011 05:17:00 PM Posted In , , Edit This 18 Comments »
I can't tell you how sad I am that Border's Books is being liquidated.  We've been going to their bookstores for decades - mostly to their flagship store in Ann Arbor.  We've watched with dismay as they made changes in their inventory.  It used to be that when you went into the store there were thousands and thousands of books covering all manner of subjects.  Browsing was such a pleasure, and we always left with several books apiece.  In spite of the changes (most of them not for the better as customers, but we understood them from a business point of view) we continued to be loyal customers.... which won't stop until our store is closed.

I was in one of their stores yesterday and bought a couple of books.  One of them is called Keys to Drawing With Imagination by Bert Dodson.  I was fascinated by the cover - such an unusual view with great, wonderful, detail.  It's a hardcover with a spiral binding, so it lays flat.  It contains the work of many artists, and is a series of exercises designed to help improve one's drawing skills starting from the ground up.  I decided to start at the beginning and work my way thru.  The first exercise is called Doodling and Noodling.  The doodle is just a continuous line that ends where it started.  The noodle is adding things to it.  So, here is my first lesson - some of my additions were the ones suggested in the book, but not all of them.  It's similar to Zen Tangling, except instead of using a variety of patterns, only one is used. 

I included a picture of the cover so you could get an idea of what drew me to this book!


The Porch

7/17/2011 07:55:00 PM Posted In Edit This 14 Comments »
I haven't been doing much - the illness I had in March never completely went away and I've been trying to behave.  Behaving has never been my strong suit, but I've been doing my best.    Anyhow, I haven't worked on my man at all, but while sitting on the porch recently I decided to try my hand at something "arty".  I have to use the word loosely in this case.

So  first I did an ink sketch, and then later I used watercolors to fill it in a bit.   I'm not very happy with it, but on the other hand, at least I put an implement in my hand and did something with it!  So, without further adieu, here is my humble offering.

Next Version

6/24/2011 08:23:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 12 Comments »
Well, I had a pretty busy day today doing a variety of things away from home.  I needed some work on my hair and the place where I go is about 35 miles from my house, so it's a major time-eater when I go there.  After that I had to go to a shopping mall (I avoid malls as much as I can) to have a picture frame engraved.  It was a gift from some dear friends in honor of our little grandson, and they weren't sure of the birth date of his older brother, so only 1 of the 2 frames was engraved.  I had to wait an hour for them to do it, which was fine except it ate up a bit more of my day.  Then I had a few other stops to make as long as I was out, so in short, the whole day was spent doing things other than drawing. 

However, after dinner I went back to the little old man I've been playing with (don't tell my sweetie, please), and did a wee bit more on him.  Little by little he's beginning to emerge.  I like fussing with him, even though it's slow going.  I don't care - it seems to suit me right now! 

On another note, apropos of nothing, after being so sick back in March and April, I've lost almost all of my sense of smell!  It's very odd, to say the least.  Enough of that .... here's my little old man.

Version Two

6/20/2011 04:07:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 7 Comments »
One of our wonderful daughters-in-law, besides many other things, is a Detroit Derby Girl roller derby skater.  She is just awesome and skates on two teams - The Pistol Whippers, and the Detroit Derby Girl travel team.  Saturday the travel team went to Cincinnati to skate in a bout against the Cincinnati Rollergirls.  My sweetie and I drove to Cinci Saturday morning; our Nashville son and his family met us there, as did Cool Whip (our skater's on-track name) and our other son.  We all stayed at the same hotel, which gave us a bit more time together.  Our two grandsons, Clyde who's 3 and Oliver who's almost 4 months old, also came.  We knew that the children wouldn't be able to stay for the whole thing, so the plan from the beginning was for my sweetie and I to leave with them and take them back to the hotel.  It was a night bout, which made it even more certain that we  would be taking them out. 

Well, both boys were over-tired, and the poor little darlings were just beside themselves in the car - sobbing loudly.  Back at the hotel we were able to calm them, settle them, and get them to bed, afterwhich, sweetie and I turned in ourselves.  The next morning we took the kids to breakfast (all the other adults, having had a rather late night, were still sleeping) and had a great time with them.  Later we were joined by the others and hung out together before we all departed for home.

Today I did a wee bit more on my pencil version of Dot Man.  Little by little he's coming together, but I still have a lot more to do with him.  So, here he is!

P.S.  The Detroit Derby Girls won handily!!!  THEY ROCK!!!!!

The Tree

6/13/2011 09:09:00 PM Edit This 9 Comments »
Today my dear friend, Vicki, and I had a date.  We went into Ann Arbor to ramble around in a couple of thrift shops where we each found a thing or two we just couldn't do without.  I'll let Vicki tell you about her finds here:, and I'll tell you about mine.  My purchases were modest - a wonderful little purse to use when I need just the minimum amount of "stuff"; a small vase to replace one I recently gave away filled with flowers from my garden; and a very cute wicker basket that I can hang on a hook in my studio to hold .... ???  (I'm pretty sure it will somehow fill itself up in my absence).  After eating lunch in a wonderful vegetarian restaurant (now you carnivores, just chill - the food is delicious and you don't even notice the absence of food with a face), we went to Michigan Book and Supply to browse around in their art supplies.  I bought a little 6 x 6 Bristol sketch book which I absolutely did not need.

After all that we came back to my house.  Vicki, being the computer geek that she is (her word, not mine, but it does fit, I have to admit) solved a problem I was having moving things from my desktop to an art folder.  (Thank you soooo much, Vicki).  Then we played with various colored pencils, water soluble pencils, and water soluble crayons.  I gave her a sketchbook to mess around in, and she came upon this small piece I had done awhile ago.  Then she demanded to know why it hadn't been posted here on my blog.  I had no answer or excuse for her, but did say I would put it in.

It's a very small colored pencil and ink sketch that I did just to play.  The truth is, I don't do enough playing with my art toys.  Maybe this a great reminder to myself to just relax and play with it more!  So, once again, thank you, Vicki!! 

Dotman Transformed

6/08/2011 05:04:00 PM Posted In Edit This 10 Comments »
I've been in Nashville tending my grandchildren while my daughter in law had surgery.  She's doing fine, I had a great time with the children,  and I've returned to the Mitten.  I decided I brought the N'ville weather home with me because it's been beastly hot and humid  (Temp in the 90s!) ever since I got back, much like what was going on down there.  I don't do well in that kind of weather (does anyone?), so I am ever so happy that I live in a time of air conditioning.    My friend, Vicki, told me today that it was hot before I got here and that it might Not be my fault (she's very nice that way)! 

So, now that I'm home, I started drawing again.  I decided that the Dot Man had served his purpose by getting me back to work, but I'm still not quite bursting with creative energy.  Today I started on another version of him, this time in pencil.  This is just the preliminary drawing done with a hard pencil lead.  I put on a CD of Trumpet Concertos, turned up the volume,  and started.  It didn't take long before I was totally immersed in it and the time flew by.  It felt really good to be back!  Here he is, in his humble beginnings.  The scan isn't very good ... perhaps next time I should close the cover of the scanner - wadda ya think?

Baby Steps

5/27/2011 08:15:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 9 Comments »
Well, I actually added some dots to the drawing I now call "Dotman".  It's a start, and you know what?  It really felt good!  Probably like most of the rest of you, I have a fairly busy weekend coming up, so I don't know how much I'll do on him until next week, but just the wee bit I got done has given me a boost of confidence.  Now I just have to make sure I keep moving forward.  I'm thinking that even if I don't put even a single dot on him, I can do some wee thing for five minutes or so.  Every little bit helps, right? 

So without further ado, here are my most recent dots!


5/26/2011 03:51:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 10 Comments »
I've read many times that if you want to develop a new habit, doing it for 21 days in a row will cause the behavior to become habitual.  I believe that's true for most of us most of the time.  I've tried it and, indeed, I did turn something into a habit.  After looking up the word "habit" in my trusty (albeit old) Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, I was surprised to find that the definition I had in mind was the 7th in a list of 9!  It was preceded by:   clothing;  a costume characteristic  of a calling;  bearing;  bodily appearance or make-up;  the prevailing disposition of a person's thoughts or feelings;  a settled tendency or usual pattern of behavior; and finally, the one I had in mind - a behavior pattern acquired by  frequent repetition that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance.  OK, that was more than you wanted to know.

Anyhow, thinking of building new habits led me to wonder about how long it takes to lose a desired habit if the behavior is interrupted for one reason or another.   I've never seen any research about this, but I'm guessing it takes a lot less time than 21 days!   I've talked about this general topic before, but here I am again struggling with the same issue.   Some of you know I was quite sick for about 6 weeks plus more time to reach a full recovery.  During much of that time I was literally unable to pick up a pencil to draw (not to mention use my treadmill).  That said, I've been physically healthy enough to do both for at least 3 weeks now, but have done neither.

Every day I tell myself that I'm going to start drawing again.  Every day I don't do it (never mind the treadmill - that's another matter completely!).  The supplies are all out on my drawing table, and I often hear them softly calling to me .  I feel guilty and uncertain of my ability to draw anything.  And because I've not been drawing or painting, I've also not been posting to my blog.

So, here's what I'm going to do.  I remembered an ink drawing I started years ago  of a wonderful face.  I was trying out a method new to me - using nothing but tiny dots.  Yesterday I looked for that drawing and found it after a relatively short search.  I'm hoping that by only making dots (what's so hard about putting a dot on a piece of paper?) I might get back in the saddle.   (It just occurred to me that here I am posting without drawing one thing, not even a dot .... what a chicken!)   Wish me luck, please.

Here is the drawing I started all those years ago (it's probably been at least 12!), and I'll post more as I go along.  My goal isn't necessarily to finish it, but rather to just start drawing.   Besides, I may need him again sometime in the future to lead me back to the drawing board!

Introducing Oliver

3/30/2011 08:48:00 AM Posted In , , Edit This 26 Comments »
I'm back from Nashville and I'm feeling great!  I got a tad hammered by the pollen when I got there and so was a bit under the weather, but all is well now and I'm getting back in the saddle again.  I had a great time playing with our soon-to-be-3 grandson.  He's so much fun and gets more interesting every day.  Our new baby is just the best!  He's good-natured,  happy,  and becomes more and more engaged with the world every day.  What pure joy grandchildren are.

I did this sketch of the baby after I got home.  I find children (especially babies) very difficult to do.   I'm not really sure why they present such a challenge to me, but there you are.   That said, it's so entertaining to just watch their little faces as they assume every possible  human expression in the course of just a few minutes.  It's as though they're practicing doing them without the slightest idea of which face goes with which emotion.   I could watch for hours!  This drawing was done from a photo I took while holding him on my lap.  We stared at each other intently, and I can't help but wonder what he was thinking as we looked into each other's eyes.  I know what I was thinking .... "I love you to pieces my dear, sweet, little Oliver" .......


3/10/2011 09:17:00 PM Edit This 28 Comments »
I wanted to let you all know that we have a new grandbaby!  His name is Oliver Lennon, he weighed 8lbs, 13 oz, and he's 20 inches tall.  He was born on Feb. 28, and he's doing just fine, as is his mother and father.  His brother, Clyde, who will be 3, is just thrilled with him!  They live in Nashville, we live in Michigan, so we haven't seen him yet, but we're flying down there soon, and I'll be spending a week with them!  I can hardly wait!!

In the meantime, here's a sketch I did of Clyde when he was born.  It's not terrific, but it's what I have.  I gotta tell you, I'm Really Excited!!!  lol


2/27/2011 09:12:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 27 Comments »
OK, so technically this is still Day 2, but I couldn't leave this guy alone so I just kept at it on and off during the day.  I took Sandra's advice and softened the line of the hat - it did look like it was pasted on.  I also used my white charcoal pencil on his beard (btw, what's That all about anyway?  I've never seen white charcoal, have you?).  But I digress.  I also worked on the background a bit, but as it turned out, the paper didn't have much tooth left and so it wouldn't accept the charcoal very well, even after spraying it with workable fixative  (which is supposed to be used in 70 degrees or above, but not inside as it's a tad toxic .... clearly these folks don't live in the Mitten!).     Methinks perhaps that's just a wee hint that he's been overworked a bit; but then, I don't know anyone who hasn't been overworked at least once in their life, do you?

I think he and I will part ways for now - maybe forever.  I'm planning on spraying him tomorrow with something called Pym II.  It's an acid free acrylic protective coating that sort of "laminates" your work.  Once it's sprayed on, you can't go back with charcoal and add to it, but on the other hand, it really seals it well so that it won't smear anymore.  His fate may be sealed forever.

WIP Day 2

2/27/2011 12:48:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 13 Comments »
I've been pondering just how to do this man's beard.  Charcoal (at least at my skill level) doesn't seem to lend itself to small details like beard hair.  At first I thought I might use a sharpened charcoal pencil to do some of the finer work.  Alas, I don't have any (that I can find, nor do I have a memory of ever having them - which, of course, means nothing).  So then I decided that maybe I could just blend it all in and see what happens.  You can see what happened below.  I think I can work with this and maybe take it to a place where I'm reasonably satisfied with it.  In my search through my things hoping to find a charcoal pencil or two, I did come across a white charcoal pencil that just might come in handy.

Another problem I'm having is the hat versus the background.  I want it to blend in, but I'm having trouble getting the background dark enough.  I think I used to have a block of charcoal that might do the trick, but yep, you guessed it, I have not a clue where it might be.    The maddening thing about this is that just yesterday I was in a Utrecht Art Supply store, which is nowhere near my house (think about 45 miles), and it never occurred to me to buy charcoal pencils or a charcoal block!  I even had a 30% off coupon which I couldn't use because what I bought was already on sale.  (I left it at the store for someone more organized then I to pick up and use.)    Go figure.  I did, however, come home with a nice, big pad of newsprint to use at the life drawing studio. 

Work in Progress

2/25/2011 03:48:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 13 Comments »
Yesterday I finished the last of the projects for the new baby (due any day now).  I "made" 5 fleece blankets ("made is an exaggeration - I bought the material to size and then machine stitched a hem around each one).  They're quite big and have fun prints on them.  It took me a long time to do them because my sewing machine just wouldn't cooperate.  I'm taking it in to be cleaned and tuned up so it'll be ready for ... whatever!!

I've been also working little by little to get my studio back in some semblance of order.  It also needs to be cleaned (that's an understatement), but there's no way I can do that until I get more of it re-organized.  But, today, I actually started drawing again!!  Yippee!!!  At first I was going to do something with watercolor, but the truth is, I haven't painted in so long, I'm afraid.  So, I decided to start back gradually, and do a drawing. 

I also haven't used charcoal in ages.  I don't usually use it at home because it's so messy.  I sometimes use it when I go to life drawing sessions - they're used to the mess!  For some reason, though, I heard those little charcoal stix just calling my name in the most seductive way.  I had to look for them - it's been that long that I couldn't remember where I put them.  But find them, I did, found an old charcoal paper pad, set up my table easel, and jumped in.  So, here it is .... unfinished, but I'm pleased with how much I got done on it.

Thanks to all of you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave me comments.  I appreciate each and every one of them!


2/16/2011 05:29:00 PM Posted In , , Edit This 9 Comments »
Ok, so as it turns out, the mobile wasn't quite finished.  I did add more shells to it (1 on each side of the shells already there, but on shorter strings so they hang closer to the blue ring), and I also did a satin stitch across the mouth of the blowfish.   Some of you may remember that I wasn't quite satisfied with that fish, especially the mouth.  The pieces just wouldn't cooperate with me and the points of the seams near the mouth  didn't suit my fancy.  So today I did a bit more tweaking.  I satin-stitched across the mouth and went over the offending seams.  I think it's much improved - the fish likes it too, because now it has lips!

On another topic, tomorrow our dog, Abby and I are going to visit the father of my friend, Judy.  He lives in Howell Medilodge (or maybe it's called Medilodge of Howell), but either way, that's where we'll be.  We've been wanting to do this for quite some time, but for one reason or another it just hasn't happened yet.  Abby insisted on having a bath today in order to  look her very best. (Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration - what really happened is that as I was getting things ready in the bathroom, she wandered in to be with me and I shut the door behind her.  She looked horrified, suspecting what was coming, and then when I took off her collar, she just drooped and looked really, really sad.)  But she's a good old girl, behaved very nicely in the tub, and as always when I give her a bath, didn't shake until I had her out of the tub and completely covered with towels.  She sat very still while I blew her dry, then looked really happy when she got her well-deserved cookie .

I did a  quick drawing while I waited for Judy in a restaurant today, so I'll post it since I don't have any other work to show you.  So here's Abby, the fish, and the sketch.

Mobile 2 .. Mission Accomplished

2/13/2011 04:41:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 21 Comments »
Well, I did it!  I finished the mobile for my soon-to-be-born grandbaby.    Every knot is double-tied and glued, and it's ready to be shipped.  I had a hard time knowing when to stop adding things to it.  I have several other things to choose from, and each has its own charm:  very tiny (1/4") shells, a gold-colored locket in the shape of a clam shell,  a dolphin (which I haven't made yet, but it wouldn't be that hard), and a tiny, golden seahorse, which I thought I might put in with the fish.  This was a wonderful project - full of fun and interest, educational, and very entertaining.

I've already talked about some of the challenges making the various creatures for it.   While making them, I was also thinking about how I wanted to actually construct it.  I considered using wooden dowels and doing the balancing thing with an animal on each end of them.  I like how that type of construction is so, well, mobile!  They seem to be in constant motion, and I thought it would be very captivating for a baby.  Ultimately I decided to go with a similar method that I used for his brother's mobile - a ribbon-covered embroidery hoop, so I could add a few more things than just the critters.   I didn't want it to be exactly like the other one, so I decided to use 2 hoops, 1 above the other.

That proved to be way more difficult than I anticipated.  After covering the hoops and putting the beading around them,  I had to decide how I wanted to connect them, as well as what to use as the  hanger thingy.   I'm not a math whiz (a total understatement), and I found that lining up the 2 circles and then getting the connection ribbons just the right length so that they both hung evenly is difficult to do just by looking at them.  I had no idea how to figure it out using math, so I just went for it.  It was crooked, but the more I fiddled with it, the worse it got, so I decided to just leave it and view it as "that's how you know it's hand made".  I got it all finished - everything glued in place, and it was driving me crazy that it hung unevenly.  One connecting ribbon was about 1/4" too long.

Being a very stubborn bear,  I decided to risk undoing one end of the offending ribbon to see what I could do.  Of course, the knot was glued and it was rather tricky undoing it, but I finally got it undone.  Then, after much fiddling and muttering, voila!  It's not perfectly even, but it's oh so much better than it was!  All in all, I'm pleased with it.  The little metal fish at the top make a very pleasant sound when they gently tap against each other as the mobile moves.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to wrap it and pack well enough for it to make its journey safely to Nashville!  We're flying there next month, but my sweetie thinks (correctly, I'm sure) that with all the TSA rules & regs, it would really be a hassle to take with us.  So, USPS or UPS it is .... sorry Fed Ex - my heart belongs to the other two.

Looking at these pictures again, I'm thinking it might need a few more shells hanging from the main ring.  What do you think?

Another Waiting Room

2/04/2011 03:56:00 PM Posted In , Edit This 10 Comments »
As some of you may know,  cataract surgery a couple of months ago on both eyes.  One works fine, the other needed a bit of "tweaking" (the doctor's word, not mine), which I had done on Tuesday of this week.   As it turns out, it really was a kind of tweak.  He did it in his office, as opposed to an operating room where the first surgery was done), and it took about 5 or 10 minutes.  Since I had an astigmatism in that eye, he needed to make a couple of cuts in my cornea to make it round again.  I know, it sounds awful, but really, it was a piece of cake.    I can see better out of that eye now, it feels a bit scratchy (not itchy, but more like there's a bit of something in it), and I have had no pain in it at all.

As some of you also may know, I pass the time in waiting rooms by sketching the other folks who are also waiting for something or someone.  While I didn't do any sketching Tuesday (I got taken right in), I had to go back yesterday for my "post-op" check.  I did have a bit of waiting to do for that appointment, so I did a bit of sketching.  These aren't the best sketches I've done in similar circumstances (the light was dim and the room was crowded, so I had people right next to me, causing me to assume a rather awkward position to keep my drawing rather hidden).   But in the interest of Truth in Posting, here they are.  Oh, and by the way, I'm in the process of figuring out exactly how I want to construct Mobile 2, so I'll post a picture of that when I have something to show you! 

Unfortunately, as you can see, the paper in this book is quite thin, and you can see shadows of what's behind each drawing.  Also, my favorite Micron pen was nowhere to be found, so these were done with ballpoint pen .... not my fave!

Puff, Puff, I'm Getting There

1/29/2011 03:01:00 PM Edit This 15 Comments »
Here's number 5 in the Mobile 2 project.  This is a puffer fish.  Here's what I know about them (not much).  They are, "chiefly tropical bony fishes which can distend themselves to a globular form and most of which are highly poisonous -- also called blowfish or globefish".  This according to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.  Now don't get me wrong - I don't want the babe to have anything to do with poisonous fishes, But, the idea of a fish that can turn itself into a balloon appealed to me.  I also had these bright pink fabrics that I wanted to use in the mobile.

As for the construction of this little devil, I can say without any reservation that it is, indeed poisonous.  Here's the thing.  I found it quite challenging to construct a sphere.  The pieces that connect the top and bottom of the fish are shaped like footballs.  I had a very difficult time getting the points to meld into the seams joining them together.  After futzing with them for quite awhile and ripping out many a seam, I ended up sort of repairing and redoing them by hand after the whole thing was put together.  I'm not entirely happy with the outcome, but I'm satisfied enough to Let It Be (a John Lennon song, and the babe's middle name will be Lennon). 

So, time to meet Tetraodontidae (the one other thing I learned from the dictionary!)

A Star Is Born

1/27/2011 05:28:00 PM Posted In Edit This 12 Comments »
Nope, that doesn't mean the new baby has arrived!  It means that I've finished another little critter for the mobile!  This one is a starfish.  I made it out of felt and again, the whole thing is hand sewn.   Like the seahorse, I stuffed its points as I went along.  I was pretty sure that if I got the whole thing together except for a little "stuffing slit", it would be a devil of a job to get the stuffing into all those points.  Doing it as I went along made the stuffing process quite easy.

It measures 5 inches tip to tip.   The beads are sewn on, but I think I'm going to back and put a wee dab of glue under each one just to be sure it's safe.  The thing is, I know by doing that I'm risking ruining the whole thing, but what the heck - I have more felt!  So, without further ado, here it is!

Sea Turtle

1/23/2011 11:49:00 AM Edit This 15 Comments »
Critter number three is finished!  It is a sea turtle made of felt and cotton.  Everything but the head is felt, and the head is a cotton print.  He measures about 7 inches, stem to stern.  There were some definite challenges in his construction, but all in all, he wasn't very difficult to make. 

The pattern stitching on the top shell was a bit tricky.  Part of the problem was finding something to use to mark the pattern that would show up on the felt.  The fuzziness of the material rendered my usual fabric marking tools useless.  I considered basting the whole pattern by hand with a single strand of sewing thread, but decided that since the zig-zag stitching was so narrow and fine, I would have a devil of a time either completely covering the basting with the machine stitching or removing it later without disturbing the sewn pattern.  I tried one of my Prismacolor pencils, but no luck.  I ended up using a pastel pencil which I licked from time to time to make it leave a relatively bright, white, line ... (sorry for the yuck factor, but  the truth is not always pretty).  Once I had that done, making the other body parts was a snap. 

Now came the really hard part..... assembling it.  Here the problem was the thickness I had to sew through.   There were 4 layers of felt to get through for each leg and also the tail.  Since the sewing had to be done so close to the edge (leaving little tolerance for error), and since it had to be done by machine in order to maintain some semblance of the shell pattern, it wasn't easy and I'm not completely satisfied with the results, but I'm leaving it as it is.  I don't really think I can improve on it with my current skills and tools.  And besides, continuous ripping out of seams renders the felt pretty worn and used looking.

Now one last thing.  Logically this turtle should have its hanging filament (I'm using clear fishing line) in the center of the top shell.  But, if you're a baby on your back looking up at it, the sight would be pretty boring.  So, I'm thinking I'll hang it by the nose or by the tail.  That way as it spins, all sides will be visible.  What do you think?  Good idea or not?  Here's 3 views - top, side, and bottom to help you make up your mind.


1/20/2011 07:45:00 AM Posted In , Edit This 19 Comments »
We had a busy, fun, weekend with the visit of long-time friends.  They came to the local Bed and Breakfast to stay (our house), and stayed Sat. and Sunday nites.  We stayed up late (for us), ate and laughed and ate some more.  On Sunday we went into Ann Arbor to meet their son and daughter in law to celebrate a birthday.  We ate at an Ethiopian restaurant which I had been wanting to try for years.  It was a most interesting place inside - hand-painted light fixtures, native art on the walls, "basket" tables, and very intriguing food.  Our server wore what I assume to be an Ethiopian dress, and she looked quite charming.  We had a great time!  An added bonus was the discovery of a chocolate shop where all the chocolate is made right there on the premises.  Of course I had to get some.  I have 1 piece left that I so want to eat, but then it will be Gone!!  lol

Needless to say, I didn't do anything on the mobile, but last nite I finished the seahorse (I think).  It's made of suede, and the entire thing is hand-stitched.  Now it's true that it isn't very big, but sewing something this small took me quite awhile to do, and stuffing it  (I had to stuff it as I went along, rather than wait until the whole thing was finished) was a bit of a challenge as well.  I waited too long to begin stuffing the tail, and couldn't quite get the stuffing right into the end of it, but I decided that was going to be OK.  When I finished sewing and stuffing it, I decided to put some beads on it.  That's the part I'm not sure I'm finished with.  I rather like the simplicity of it, but I also have a nagging sense that its poor tail needs a bit of embellishment.  I'm thinking of maybe putting a line of the little green beads on it.  I think I might also put a single bead in each of the curvy things on the top of its head.  What do you think?

Oh, and for some reason, every photo I took is a bit blurry, so I finally said, "what the heck!" and moved on!  Anyhow, here she is!

Mobile 2 Part 1

1/11/2011 08:31:00 PM Edit This 16 Comments »
I stayed home today because I was a tad under the weather (as some of you know, Tuesday is my day to work at the Health Dept).  I tried to just lay low, but being a rather high energy person, I had a hard time doing that.  So, among a few other little things, I made the first item for the "Undersea Mobile" for my grandson-to-be.  It's a fish. 

I chose a rather fancy brocade fabric to make it out of which was both good news and bad.  I'll start with the bad news, so I can end on a positive note.  I knew this, but conveniently forgot about it when starting this little guy.  Brocade fabric shreds like crazy when it's cut.   Also, I couldn't find my pinking shears, which would have really come in handy.   In addition, I couldn't find any new sewing machine needles, although I'm positive I have some.  I'm not an expert sewer (that's SO-ER, not sooer,) so even if I had found the needles, I wouldn't have known if they were the proper ones to use on  brocade.  But, I digress.  Anyhow, after cutting it out, I zigzagged the edges, then assembled it.  The first thing I did was put the fins in the wrong place, so I had to use a seam ripper to get them out.  A seam ripper on brocade isn't the easiest tool to use - the brocade wants to shred.    After a long time (with somewhat impaired vision, I might add), I got them both out and put them back in again - this time in the right place.  I then sewed together the two sides of the fish, only to discover that the opening I left to turn it right side out was actually the place where the tail was supposed to go, and I had sewed closed the opening which was supposed to be used for the turning.  Of course, the hole I left wasn't wide enough for the tail, so more seam ripping was needed to insert the tail.  Then, the whole thing was sewn closed, so once again, I had to rip apart a bit of the seam to turn it right side out! 

Now for the good news!  I turned that baby right side out, first sewed on the eyes and then glued them just to be sure they wouldn't come off, stuffed it, and sewed it closed.  I liked it!!  Then my sweetie came home.  I showed it to him.  After admiring it for a second or two, he said,  "It's eyes look a little creepy to me!".    I don't care one wee bit - I think it's cute!