I may have to end this series before I reach 100.

Family Treasures No. 11, Airguide Thermometer Set

I returned home after a day with my father who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

A couple of days ago I had inquired about a plein air event that I had written into my schedule after contacting the sponsor a month ago.  The logistics had not yet been worked out and I was told that I would be sent a registration form as soon as they were available.  I had sent several files of images for him to see my work.  The response had been positive.

The day with my father had been a bit difficult.  I was not in a mood receptive to the email notifying me that the plein air event transformed into an invitational event that I am excluded from.  In addition, the watercolor brushes I ordered for the Color Scheme Workshops are not being shipped to me.  So much for Venus going forward again.

I poured myself some wine (not a good idea) and treated myself to a Family Treasures session, only to realize that I am totally exhausted from carrying around family history baggage.  This realization opened up the floodgates ……

My energy and my attention has been misdirected for far too long.  Today, that realization hit me like a ton of bricks.

Tomorrow is a new day …. another opportunity to live my life slightly differently, to take a peek at the artist within that has not yet stepped onto the stage.  I am terrified.

I am even more terrified that I might not get of glimpse of the artist within before I, too, suffer the cruelty of Alzheimer’s.

Painting:  Drawn first with an awesome, new, Vintage Schaeffer fountain pen, followed by watercolor.

P.S.  This thermometer set lived in the drawer next to the stove for as long as I can remember.  My mother told stories of the fun she had pulling taffy when she was a child.  I don’t think we ever used that candy thermometer.  We never did get to pull taffy.  On a day like today, I probably should have picked another  one of my father’s beautiful tools to paint rather than a kitchen item that reminded me of the things I didn’t do that I wanted to do.  To end on a brighter note…. I do use a candy thermometer.  It has become a family tradition for me to make homemade marzipan on birthdays.  I use a candy thermometer to make the fondant that sits and rests for 24 hours before being kneaded into the almond paste.

Next morning, June 29, 2012…..

My memory was clouded by being grumpy.  The candy thermometer was often used to make artificial maple syrup for our pancakes as well as to make the sweet, sticky syrup for popcorn balls.  My mother and father worked sided by side, laughing, in the kitchen trying to roll the popcorn balls quickly before the hot syrup cooled and hardened.

Most likely, I will compete the series of 100 drawings and paintings of family treasures…….

I certainly feel as if I’m popping Alice’s pills lately.  In the morning I work small and tight, in the evening I work large and wild.


Elephant Teacups, ‘Afternoon Nap’

Along with working small in the morning, I am playing The Color Scheme Game backwards.  I am looking at reality and deciding what color scheme that reality comes closest to.  I then alter the least amount of reality necessary for it to fit into a color scheme.  I am shocked at how uncomfortable I am with this process.  I will continue to play this way until it become second nature and I can wave the magic wand at will to create the images that are screaming to get out of my head and onto paper and canvas.  I need the facility to create both realism and abstraction along with complete understanding of color interactions.  That’s not too much to demand of myself!

Though fighting my way through my limitations is frustrating, once I break through, the joy of painting and drawing is doubled or tripled each time I reach the other side.  Naturally, there is another barrier in my way.  That only means that I’ll have even more fun when I get through that one.

I am having a blast!

Painting:  drawn first with pencil, followed by watercolor.

So, little demon, you think you can sit on my shoulder and whisper wisdom into my ear?  “You really ought to be cleaning the house instead of painting.  You really ought to be filing the paperwork instead of painting.  Really, Carter, you need to darn all those socks that have holes in them.”  Hah! those socks have just been thrown into the trash can.

Trumpet Part no 27, amazing shadow shapes

That little demon has been given the privilege of sitting on my shoulder far too long.  Today, after almost completing my 2011 tax preparation, I’ve silenced that little monster who I allowed to convince me that painting was really not what I should be doing.  I did not give up a weekly paycheck to “not paint”.  I did not give up a career decades ago that would have afforded me a pension to “not paint”. I’m not even going to waste time trying to figure out why I allowed that little creep a free ride for so long.  I should have banished that phantom when I was seven years old creating my own sculpture gallery out of the five foot high piles of snow pushed aside by the plows, refusing to return to the house to warm my hands.

I’m a bit late ….but better late than never!

Sketchbook drawing: drawn first with Waterman Phileas Fountain Pen followed by dashes of watercolor. My world is filled with incredible shapes and patterns.  It’s my job to call attention to them.  The shadows of the lily blossom won the battle with the demon on my shoulder!

In 1956 I gave this candle to my mother as a Christmas gift.

Crayon Candle - 1956 Christmas Gift

The candle was made from melted crayons in Mrs. Morecraft’s First / Second Grade Class.  We took a month to hand dip the candles.  I found the candle, never having been burned, wrapped in tissue paper in a cupboard when we cleaned out the house in Martinsville this fall.  We lit the candle first to repair Tom’s broken wax angel that had belonged to his Great Grandmother.  It fell while decorating my Tim Burton Christmas Tree last week.  We then used the candle for our Christmas Eve Dinner centerpiece.  The awesome candlestick holder was a gift from my sister, Louise, several years ago.

Sketchbook Drawing: drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Nikita Red ink, followed by ciao copic markers to create patterns of light, middle and dark values.

How long has it been since I have escaped from my life and entered the someone else’s world through a masterfully written novel?  Too long.  I am wanting that escape.

The pencil sharpener from my childhood

Getting “in the zone” for drawing or painting cannot be done by flicking an internal switch to the “on” position.  I was reminded of that after the first two contour drawings of the pencil sharpener I removed from the wall behind the back door of the house I grew up in, the house my family built, brick by brick.  The message to me was that no matter how horrific I find the result of my daily drawings to be, the value lies in the priority to draw daily rather than to draw something well on a daily basis.

I am distracted.  I am distracted by my love for my father and my inability to accept that he cannot remember anything from moment to moment.  It makes me question all of life.  It makes me question why I draw, why I paint, why I even get out of bed in the morning.

But then….. I begin to draw and I realize that I have an addiction that nurtures me in a way that nothing else can except spending time with my children.  Another day means another day to learn one more thing about color, about line, about the world around me, about the face I am looking at across the table.  Another day means that I can explore what a dip pen can do with a gentle touch.

This might be a long winter.  I am already looking forward to spring.  I am looking forward to blooming in a new way this coming spring.

Ah…. the pencil sharpener.  I am rather attached to this pencil sharpener.  I wanted to express that connection in today’s drawings.  I vaguely remember when my father first screwed it into the wall behind the back door in the room we call the workroom.  It still sharpens a pencil beautifully.  I love the sound of it sharpening my pencil.  I love the smell of the shavings of wood and graphite.  I love everything about the process of finding my pencil dull and going using this amazingly simple machine t0 make my pencil sharp.

I will try on another day to express that passion.  I must find a place in my own home to screw it to the wall, to allow it to do the job it was designed to do and still does so well.

Sketch: drawn first with Preppy 0.5M fountain pen converted to eyedropper fill, filled with a mix of Noodler’s Sherwood Green and Noodler’s Heart of Darkness ink.  Followed by washes of water and watercolor using a Sumi Water Brush (I’m not too excited pleased with at the moment).

Tomorrow morning I catch a train into New York City.

Kathleen in New York City, 1969

In 1952 Kathleen lived three houses up and across the street.

Dad pointing out where the house would be built

My parents moved the family to New Jersey from Indiana in 1952.  I am wearing the blue snowsuit.  I had not yet met Kathleen.

Helping my parents build the house, 1953

By the time the seasons had changed and I was wearing red overalls, Kathleen and I had become friends.

Kathleen, June 1969

We had our ups and downs, as all relationships do.  Through it all our bond grew stronger in spite of the distance between us as we went our separate ways after graduating from high school in 1969.  Three days ago Kathleen turned 60.  The next three days will be spend together, laughing, talking, walking, drinking wine, eating chocolate, having adventures in New York City and celebrating life, love and friendship.

Be forewarned, this entry is disjointed, triggered by a Tom Waits song that mentioned the “one-eyed Jack”.

My first ribbon painting, watercolor

The image shown is the first of the paintings I did that exposed the ribbons of my brain.  I had learned a watercolor glazing technique at a workshop I attended back in the 80’s.  I find it a bit interesting that I used my least favorite complementary color combination of green and red.

Several month ago Kathleen asked me if I have songs constantly running through my brain as a background to everything else.  No, I don’t.  I have ribbons of color and light constantly running as a background to everything else in my brain.

Since that conversation with Kathleen I have asked several of my musician friends the same question.  The reply in most cases is “yes”.  That appears to be one of the main reasons that many musicians don’t have music going as a background sound while they are at home.  The music on the stereo system is constantly in conflict with the music that is running through their brains.  Though they can choose the music on their ipods or stereos, they have no control over the music that runs through their brains.

I’m thinking that the reason I want to listen to music is that I don’t have it running through my brain.  Watching the ribbons dance through my brain makes me feel deaf when there’s not music to accompany them.  I watch the movement of the ribbons, wondering what they are dancing to.

Painting to live music is expressing the physical manifestations of some of those ribbon movements that are my constant companion.  Perhaps that is why, more than any other paintings or drawings, I feel connected to those quick little paintings.  It’s as if my brain can finally spit out a bit of what it’s been watching forever.

So then, why aren’t more of my paintings like that?  Hmmmm.  Good question.

Back to the one-eyed Jack….

As a young child I spent hours combining dominoes, checkers, chessmen and playing cards on a masonite checkerboard, inventing stories of adventure and romance.  I found the two one-eyed jacks (the jack of hearts and the jack of spades) a bit scary.  The jack of diamonds and the jack of clubs were much friendlier and far less intimidating.  I would generally settle for the less intimidating jacks to be the chosen mates for the queens.  I’ m not sure why the kings were never chosen. The queens, however, became bored quite quickly and ended up thinking about the one-eyed jacks.  I ended the game before the queens ever had a chance to shake up their lives.

I’m not sure what the connection is to the ribbons, but I know that right after the memory of the childhood games was triggered, the ribbons of light became extremely intense in my brain, coming to the forefront rather than staying in the background.

The question to all of you is “What is it that runs as a constant background in your brains?”

Lady in the Red Tin

The Collector: Lady in a Red Tin with Sea Shells – oil on wood 5″ x 5″

The red tin held my collection of seashells.  By fourth grade the tin was filled to the top with small shells, strips of broken shells I had used to draw with in the wet sand and a few pieces of glass tumbled smooth by the waves.  My first lesson in collecting came when I could no longer close the hinged lid of the tin.  I had to make choices, either expand to another container or eliminate older treasures to make room for new ones.

Having more than one tin presented me with the burden of deciding which shells would live in my favorite tin and which would live in a new tin.  I lost sleep thinking that the shells in the new tin would think I loved them less than the shells in the red tin.  I decided to stick to the red tin and exchange new for old when necessary.  The eliminated shells relocated to the garden or in the nearby woods.  I wonder how many shells were discovered by curious explorers who might ponder over how a shell ended up beneath a pine tree, beside a Jack-in-the-pulpit or atop a mound of moss.

In my twenties, larger shells began to replace the smaller shells.  My first series of paintings depicted selected shells from my collection.  I’ve only had one painting stolen from a public place and it was one from that first series of shell paintings.  It was stolen from an exquisite French restaurant in Boston where I occasionally helped out as a waitress.

Recently, when I decided to paint little color studies, I gathered together some of the things I’ve carted around with me since childhood.  I felt that painting such things that I am clearly attached to would make still life painting more bearable.  The red tin quickly moved to the top in the queue of objects waiting to be painted.

Among the shells lay a tiny, porcelain lady wearing a cloche hat and leaning on a cane.  She was covered in dirt, probably left over from her last shell collecting expedition.  I don’t remember where she came from or when she started living in the red tin.  She obviously has been the keeper of the tin for quite some time and I can’t resist allowing her to keep her position as long as I am alive.  The shells will continue to change, but the lady will remain.

I gave her a good washing before I painted her.  The bath was long overdue.