Thinking of my Grandmother

For years my grandmother propagated amaryllis lilies in south Georgia, trying to get one that was all white. She came very close. In 1976 she gave me a handful of bulbs and told me to plant them in light shade and take them up before frost, and they should bloom in a couple of years. So I did, and before long I had lovely white amaryllis lightly striped with pink! Then we had babies and those amaryllis fell by the wayside. Every so often I’m tempted by the bulbs in the greenhouse and currently I have several pots of them, and two are blooming!

I was looking thru my journals for ideas on what to make to take with me to Madrid and Barcelona later this month, and came across one I made in 2012. Slipped inside were two photos above of my grandmother’s amaryllis garden, and this poem:

1953 – 2012

Grandma had a fishpond, when I was very young.  We fed the fishes oatmeal; they ate them, every crumb!

Grandma had a cow named Star, when I was four years old. She’d milk her every morning as I her tail would hold.

Grandma kept brown hens, when I was still quite small. We’d feed them corn and hunt their eggs, ‘neath the grape arbor so tall.

Grandma grew peace roses, when I was very young. They bloomed all round her white washed house and sheltered frogs and bugs.

There came a year the fish were gone, no lizards could be found. Every egg broke in the nest – it was a horrid sound.

Grandma said, “was snakes.” I never saw a snake.

Near 60 years have rolled away. I feel I’m still quite young. My brother has a fishpond; my niece keeps city hens. The world has yet a happy place, when we will let it in.

Is it done yet?

Bon Air Artists’ Association’s Artful Healing Show is this Sunday!! Hope you can come by the University of Richmond’s Jepson Alumni Center between 10 am and 5 pm. You’ll be glad you did! 70 artists will have their works on display. I’ve got my pieces framed and ready to go. The photos above are of the last one out of the studio. Actually, what you see here are two versions. The first one was critiqued at our last BAAA meeting. I received several helpful pointers, and gave it another go. I like the composition better. It could use some improvement, but I’m done with this iteration.

Experimental Hand Stitching

This weekend I attended the Virginia Consortium of Quilters quarterly meeting in Annandale, Virginia and took a class from Julie Booth on Experimental Hand Stitching. The materials in the kit she provided were very gray – not an appealing way to start. She explained this was so we could focus on our stitching and not be distracted by colors – and it worked. She went thru several basic stitches and how to vary each one in shape, density, and thickness. We then combined them in different patterns. Very interesting and relaxing. It helped that the pieces of fabric we worked with were small, 5″ square with 1″ margins. As a result they filled quickly with stitching.

After we were comfortable with the stitches, Julie introduced four options from which to pick a challenge. I went with copying shapes from patterned fabric, using a variety of the stitches we’d worked with earlier.  I finished it yesterday after I got home and I’m pleased with the little two-sided square.  Now to apply what I’ve learned to other embroidery projects already in process…!

River Ramble and Amarylis

Another wonderfully warm weekend! Based on my on-foot reconnaissance last week of the James River utility road, this Sunday I took my new blue bicycle down to the Reedy Creek entrance to James River Park for a spin along that gravel road to Belle Isle! I knew I could get as far as the pedestrian access at 22nd street, and I was thrilled to discover that I could go even further! There’s a level path from that access on the river side of the railroad fence all the way to the emergency access bridge across to the Isle. I rode to the island and then followed the pathways all the way around. Word is out about the park and I had lots of company! With the welcome break from winter weather, everyone was in a good mood! Watched kayaks heading for the class IV rapids on the north side of Belle Isle as I ate my lunch at a picnic table on the west point near the quarry and did some sketching.

I’m back inside this week as temperatures return to winter norms, keeping an eye on my amaryllis bulbs. I retrieved them from their rest in the basement around the first of February and they’re almost visibly growing. I’m hoping at least a couple of them are large enough to bloom this season!

Winter Gift

Richmond received a winter gift this week: two days of sunny, 70 degree weather! I went hiking Tuesday thru the James River urban park, checking out a possible bike route. There’s a mostly flat utility road along the south bank of the James from 22cd street past 42cd. I learned that the road was there before the park for maintenance of the sewer line that follows the river. In the 1960s the property was donated to the city for a park, which was opened in 1972, the year after I came to Richmond. Our next warm day I’m biking it!!

On foot, however, there’re many social trails between the road and the river bank with lovely views, and at 42cd street there’s a rock hop over to one of the many islands with more trails and rocky beaches. I took my lunch break there and did some quick sketches to test out my newest sketch set up – 12″x16″ masonite board with sketch book and palette clipped to it, a la Marc Holmes, and a water brush. Worked great!!

ART: Enthusiastic, Energetic, Fun


Life is moving so quickly, it slips from my grasp; exciting events fade into obscurity. Let’s capture a bit of October’s enthusiasms…

At our October Bon Air Artist Association meeting Janice McMurray spoke to us of her art experiences with older adults, helping them maintain their individuality. Isn’t that a great definition of art? Everyone’s artistic efforts are theirs alone. Even if you’re copying someone else’s piece, what you wind up with is your interpretation.  This is why individual, original art thrills me – it’s a glimpse into another’s mind and heart, the closest we can get to telepathy.

In the first photo above are paper puppets Janice made. In one of her art sessions she had her students make puppets for Gone with the Wind, then they did a production of the story in 17 minutes!  Can’t you just see the class falling about themselves in laughter?!  The second photo is a small sculpture, about 5″ tall, made by one of her students, at the age of 104.  The ability to create is there, no matter how late in life you get around to tapping it. She published a book in 1990, Creative Arts with Older People, which is available on Amazon.

Later in the month I joined a bus load of art enthusiasts for a bus trip to the National Gallery.  The East Building has been recently reopened after an extensive renovation.  I hadn’t been overly impressed with that portion of the National Gallery in the past, but I wonder now if I hadn’t explored it sufficiently? The multitude of galleries tucked away in odd corners were filled with a myriad of serendipitous  delights. I highly recommend the current exhibit on the Concourse level: Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959-1971. It’s up thru January 29, 2017. I was so happy to discover some of Matisse’s cutouts! I love their color and energy, but never expected to see the originals!

Inspired by McMurray’s enthusiasm and the National Gallery expedition, I approached our paint out with the Viginia Plein Air Painters this past Friday with cheerful anticipation.  I was not disappointed –  this eighth 2016 outing of the group was to a private Japanese Garden along the South Anna River cultivated by Junko Liesfeld, a gardening consultant with her own business, Zoen Garden Creation. The river water has been diverted to a pond and several streams that peacefully flow past beautifully scenic plantings, all meticulously maintained.  Our group of 30 plus artists set up their easels and enjoyed a quiet leisurely morning painting amid the lovely long fall shadows.

I can’t wait to see what November might bring!

Journal Wrap ups

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Several of my handmade journals are finishing up about the same time! Here’s a quick overview. First up in the slide show is a half fold journal with 120 lb paper, fusible vinyl on the cover. I’ve enjoyed this paper immensely – not quite as heavy as watercolor but stands up very well to that medium. I followed the facebook prompts for Art Every Day in May and June and feel energized for the Summer!

The second journal in the show is made from gessoed canvas from an old project, with watercolor and drawing paper. I liked the one sketch per page format. These were studies for larger works. Still a few sketches in this one to finish.

The third journal was made from a single full sheet of watercolor following the video tutorial by Cathy Johnson. I wasn’t sure about this format at first, as the backside pages turn kind of wonky.  But the front side works well, and gives you a wide format perfect for panoramic layouts, without a gutter in the middle.  I’ve done various subjects in this journal, some freehand and some traced from photos. The paper was an old watercolor of a winter woodland scene – I used that for journaling.  I’m so pleased with it that my next effort is a 16 page folded journal from a full sheet of watercolor paper – gives a larger work area.  Already have some pieces I want to sketch.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this journal tour!  Get out, draw, paint!!