Sunday, March 1, 2015


Sometimes, when I have made some little thing with a bit of detail to it, someone says, "Oh, you have so much patience. I would never have the patience to do that," and I feel blank and slightly surprised. Huh? Patient? Me? I thought I was just having fun.

Certain kinds and stages of making trigger easy focus and a pleasant feeling of timelessness that might look like patience or discipline or endurance to someone who doesn't actually like making things. The early stages of carving a wax model are like that. While roughing out the basic shape I do fight impatience because I'm so eager to see my idea take shape, and I have to be careful not to go too fast and mess it up, but once the piece shows its basic gesture it's pure pleasure until I think, happily and mistakenly, that I'm almost done. That's when the long, hard part begins. I smooth the edges, trying to perfect fluid, graceful curves, but then I take off too much wax. I add more wax and refine the edges again, but accidentally nick a finished surface. I fill in the nick and smooth it out as if it had never been, but then I notice a bubble included when I added wax, so I ease it out with a hot tool, add more wax, and smooth it out again. I use a light hand, but delicate parts snap anyway beneath file and sandpaper, and I repair them, sometimes three or four times or more. It is tedious work. It is stressful, especially when I am working to a deadline (which I am not just now).

That's where I am with my leaf pendant.  I have spent hours smoothing, refining and repairing, and I think I actually am almost done. The aggravation has been greatly mitigated by listening while I work to The Mating Season, a Jeeves and Wooster book by English humorist P. G. Wodehouse, delightfully read by Jonathan Cecil. (The link will take you to YouTube and a few minutes of the story which you would have to buy to listen to in its entirety. I checked it out of the library instead.) Fiddling with hot wax mostly felt like a small price to pay for indulging in hours of delicious entertainment, so if someone remarks that I must really be patient, I suppose once again they will just be wrong.  I am more than ready, though, to start on my next project, a pendant shaped like a single lily-of-the-valley blossom.

On another  note, I have been enjoying paintings of interiors lately, pictures of simple rooms that open to the outside. They are straightforwardly real, yet feel symbolic as dreams, charged with quiet significance.

The two top paintings are by Danish artist Carl Vilhelm Halsoe (1863-1935). Google his name to find lots more peaceful, evocative interiors. The link is to Danish Wikipedia. He doesn't have an English entry yet. The last painting is by Adolph Menzel (1815-1905).

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Christ our hope

The seeds of this post have been waiting for chance to sprout these last few days. And now I sit down with my watering can and grow light (because that's what seeds sprout under in the wintertime), but all I have are pictures and feelings. I have no words. 

Perhaps that is for the best. I share with you meaningful images, arising from my heart and speaking to my heart. 

An old doodle.

Christ Healing the Sick, an etching by Rembrandt also known as the Hundred Guilder Print. From Wikipedia. Click on the image to see it bigger and better.

And, by me, a little angel bearing gifts.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Since last we met

I have used up all my sketching paper. I have used the fronts and backs and have even overlapped sketches. My five-year-old looked at a page filled with cherubs copied from master drawings and laughed. "That baby is sitting on another baby!" she said. He was but he wasn't, not exactly. They were just in overlapping drawings on the same page. I am going to order a couple reams of loose newsprint as soon as ever I can, so I can draw and draw and draw and draw. 

In the meantime, here's another little homemade notecard. For awhile I've wanted to do a fawn sleeping among wild strawberries, and I want to develop it more than this, on better paper, but this is a nice preliminary, I think. 

I'm also working on some simple, nature inspired pendants to cast in silver. I'm not giving up on the Madonna and Child ring (and pendant), but I want to get some more easily accomplished pieces done first while I continue to practice. This leaf is about an inch long and still needs smoothing and polishing.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Some Russian children's book illustrations

I have been fascinated by Russian (and other Eastern European) illustration for awhile. I'm not knowledgeable about it.  I just like it, especially the somewhat primitive, folk-art style of pieces like those I share below.

The first three are by Igor Galanin.


The next is by Nikolay Kochergin.

I don't know who did the next one, but I love how the bright, cozy, domesticity contrasts with the dark, frosty outdoors. I also love the layer of autumn leaves under the snow. 

These can all be found on Library Things, a blog showcasing Russian children's books. The blogger sells Russian children's books on Etsy at HannaRivka.

Friday, February 6, 2015


I've stressed out over most every package I've mailed to my Etsy customers. I felt sad that the packages weren't fancy and didn't express a brand. (That's super important according to the Etsy bloggers.) And the very minor organizational thinking required felt overwhelming. Then, a few orders ago, I decided to use some colorful new markers to address the plain yellow envelope, and I doodled a red poppy in the corner. I felt so happy to send a pretty package, that putting it all together didn't strain my little brain one bit. Since then, mailing orders has been a joy. Today I sent this angel charm far away in a package with this birdie doodle. 

I felt so energized after mailing the package that I decided to doodle up some kraft-paper cards for personal correspondence that I've been neglecting. They ended up a little more involved than doodles, maybe, but I can't wait to send them out. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sketching the Madonna and Child

I have been looking at lots of  Madonna and Child paintings and doing quick sketches of them, trying to capture the gesture and basic proportions. It has been good fun, and I think my eye and understanding are improving.

This watercolor is by Frederico Barocci (1528-1612) and is being sold on Christies. I like the lightness and homeyness of this image, different from the more opulent, idealized and majestic Madonna images of the High Renaissance.


This painting of Mary, baby Jesus and the young John the Baptist is by Carlo Maratta (1625-1713) and can be found at I don't like how the colors seem yellowed and faded, but I like very much the contentment, kindness, trust and good cheer on all the faces. I especially like the bright, confiding look of little John the Baptist.

Here is a very rough and messy sketch for what will most likely be a colored pencil drawing, though I'm daydreaming about paint. It's just that colored pencils are so convenient, so easy to pick up and put down, no waiting for anything to dry. I hope that in the finished piece Mary's face will have some of the sweetness and delicacy that I love in the paintings above.

The oval will be partly bordered by fawn lilies, an early spring wildflower where I live, rising above dead oak leaves. I found this picture of one with oak leaves and everything at the Prairie Research Institute.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Learning from a master

I have been trying to copy drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, and I am awed by this study of the head of the Virgin Mary. She leans toward  her Child with loving tenderness, yet we see her from an angle where the height of her forehead and the length of her nose are foreshortened, and we see more than usual underneath her nose and the space between her right eye and eyebrow. We see her features in the same proportions as we would if her head were upright and she were standing on a pedestal just a little above us. It gives her an exalted and exultant look. The expression of tenderness, humility, exaltedness and exultation drawn in a single face seems almost miraculous to me, yet I never would have realized what was going on here if I hadn't tried to copy this piece, carefully trying to match the proportions. I have heard that Leonardo was the best draftsman in history. I think that must be true.

I copied this ancient head of a Greek athlete from an art book I have lying around. I couldn't be bothered to put in all the carefully articulated curls above the band on his forehead,  hence the shower-cap look. The streak across his nose was an accident.

I found the photo reference for this little dancing (or running?) Bolivian girl on Pinterest