I should have been at a jam, painting my friends making music together.  Instead, I was at ArtWalk in downtown Bethlehem on Memorial Day Weekend (when everyone has left town) in the middle of a thunderstorm.  Sitting outside with one’s art is not the best choice in the pouring rain.  Fortunately, I was able to move inside and spend a couple of ours catching up with a good friend, Gayle, who was minding the shop at Artfully Elegant.  Thanks to Gayle, I didn’t go home and slit my throat.

When I find myself at the end of a rope ….. any rope ….. I tell myself that the answer to my problem is simply to get better at what I do.

New and old drawing tools

The trumpet parts had not lined up well in Trumpet Parts No. 87.  First thing this morning, I made myself a grid guide (inspired by the one I saw in Nikolay’s hand at a plein air event last month).  I carefully drew the bent trumpet part, checking and correcting…. checking and correcting. I even hunted down two erasers.  I rarely use an eraser.  Hah!  The parts lined up! I’m sure you can’t tell in this photo.  I incuded my Waterman Phileas fountain pen, and the great leather case (contribution from Nicole), in the photo because it’s about to make its mark on the paper.  Hopefully I haven’t destroyed the surface too much with all my erasures.  I’m not used to drawing in pencil first …. then inking.  I much prefer to start right in with ink and go where my eye leads me, even if it’s down a winding, nonsensical path.

As I near the end of this series of One Hundred Drawings of Trumpet Parts I am faced with a dilemma. A little voice inside my head continues to whisper “Do what you love and the money will come.”  Do what I love?  Should I start another 100 drawings of my bent trumpet parts?

What do I love to draw and paint?  I love drawing dancers in motion, musicians playing …. alone or with others ….. I love throwing paint and bringing nude figures out of the splotches and splatters …. I love plein air painting.  I love starting the day with an ink contour drawing of my bent trumpet parts and adding color with watercolor.

What do I love the most?  Right now I would have to say that it is painting to live music …. letting my dip pen dance across the paper and the watercolor flow over the ink to the patterns and rhythm of the music.  Is there a market for such a thing?  I doubt it.

What I find absurd is that all the other drawing and painting I do is just an exercise to get better at drawing and painting so that I can respond completely intuitively to that incredible moment of motion, rhythms and patterns I experience when listening to live music.

A huge thanks to all the musicians who have created those magical moments for me to attempt to express.

I didn’t really care about selling paintings last night at ArtWalk, I just wanted to share them with friends and strangers.  Of the two people who walked by, one of them made it worth the week of matting and the lugging back and forth all of the art.  She looked at the paintings and said ” How strange ….. when I look at these, I actually hear the music.”  She pointed to one ….. “I can hear the jazz of New Orleans in this one!”

Thank you!

I totally failed at expressing the gentle, joyous expression on the Buddha statues surrounded by daffodils bending their heads in the strong wind.

Buddha among the daffodils ink and pencil sketches


Regardless of the outcome, I enjoyed spending time with the Buddhas.  There were four, black Buddha statues in a small grove of trees a short distance from the Great Hall at Blue Cliff Monastery.  Daffodils were in full bloom dancing in the wind around the statues.  the bright yellow against the rich black stone was striking.  I had only my fountain pen and a pencil.

Pea seeds are planted!

Pea Seed Packets

A delightful day of working in the yard, the sun warming both my skin and the soil.  Gardens were raked, dirt dug, step shelves for the kitchen herb garden built, deer fence constructed and peas planted.  What could be better than that for a Sunday afternoon in the middle of March!

I really should give up on using watercolor in my current sketchbook.

Sketchbook drawing: drawn first in pencil, followed by watercolor, followed by carbon pencil.  Based on value studies created as examples for the next variation of The Extended Game – An extension of The Color Scheme Game.

This drawing was found in a small frame in my father’s house last fall when we emptied the house.
We called her Gram
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I drew this sometime during the last 70’s. My grandmother wore fancy hats, sparkly costume jewelry, long gloves and elegant dresses. I never saw her eat more than a dozen peas and a few bites of meat. She signed cards and letters “TOA Gram” (The Old Antique)

Drawing: Pencil

Sketchbook pages can be as fragmented as bizarre dreams, shifting kaleidoscopically from one impression to another.

Portraits and Pianos

I felt as if I had the room to myself, a private performance of musicians who came through the snow to play for me.  A bit surreal.  My mind wandered.

An empty stage and Valentines

Red metallic hearts hung from the ceiling, spiraling in the occasional draft of air that made its way through the door and around the corner.  I traded sheets of paper for my sketchbook, needing a connection between my wandering mind and my hand.  Memories of writing poetry forty years ago in the dim-lit bars of Boston crept like ghosts into the room, filling the empty chairs.  I needed live music then and I still need it now.  In place of words I draw lines, filling them with colors.  Am I addicted to the music or to making marks on paper? ….. I wonder.

Images: Top – pencil portraits of Arne Englund and Don Plowman, ink drawing of piano in the corner.

Bottom – drums and empty chair, sketch of Doc Z, Valentine Decorations, ink and watercolors

A red fox crossed my path as I set out on a walk, flashlight in hand and wearing a reflective vest.  The light of the full moon was obstructed by layers of clouds spinning webs of mist upon the landscape of the night.

A gray evening

My plan for a pleasant day of painting while Dave connected the oil lines to the new oil burner turned out to be a day of multiple interruptions and disappointments.  Our relatively new oil tank is faulty and Dave will have to return to install a special retrofit unit to make the Roth Double Wall tank function properly, allowing the oil to flow to the burner.  Another week without heat.

My day began with a cup of coffee and a gray morning watercolor sketch.  I didn’t find with paintbrush in hand again until the sun was already going down.  The gray evening sketch was more successful than the gray morning sketch.

Though my day was a bit of a disappointment, my walk made up for it.  There is something intriguing about the fragmentary glimpses of life framed by windows, illuminated by warm, interior lights.  I walked the two mile loop.  My nose inhaled the fragrance of fruit wood burning in fireplaces or wood stoves.  Music poured out through an open window of a teenager’s upstairs room, the multicolored curtains glowing like stained glass windows, the sound of tools clanking as a car was worked on in an open garage.  I like the sound of life.

Sketch:  Blocked in with pencil, painted with watercolor

There is no better time than now, during my second Saturn return, to switch from a PC to a Mac.  The issue of viruses and spyware has worn me down.

Comparison of screen display issues

I spent Friday evening at Best Buy with Curtis, a patient and knowledgeable young computer geek.  My intention was to by another Compaq since I have been extremely happy with them over the past fifteen years.  My current laptop is slowly dying and it is time to replace it.  The store only offered one, low end Compaq.  I thought I might open my mind to change and listen to what other manufacturers had to offer.  Two hours later I left carrying a Samsung laptop that would serve my purposes well, or so I thought.

Switching to a Mac had crossed my mind, but I didn’t want to invest in replacing all my software.  Turns out I have to replace my software anyway.  After an entire day loading old software onto the Window 7 operating system, only about half was successfully installed.  The system refused to recognize the existence of the external hard drive where I store all of my graphic files, though it easily recognized the zip drive and flash drives that I use to transfer files from an ancient scanner system.  For some unknown reason, after deciding I would return the Samsung and get a Mac, the  Samsung recognized the hard drive when I turned it on this morning.  Sorry, Samsung, the decision is already made and I’m not looking back.

From the beginning, I was unhappy with the display.  I adjusted, readjusted and adjusted it again and again and I still hated it.  When I finally got to the point of opening files of paintings in Photoshop I wanted to bury myself in the backyard.  Had my paintings looked so dreadful fifteen years ago I might have even stopped painting (probably not).  I certainly would not have continued working with computers to market my work.

What I am wondering is how other computers read the images I post.  I have asked this question before, after looking at my blog on one of the computer at the prop shop.  The images looked horrible, totally washed out.  I’ve posted two versions of the same painting in this post.  The top version was prepared on the Samsung, the bottom on my Compaq.  Both look exactly the same when computers are sitting side by side.  I would like to know if anyone sees a difference, what that difference is and which version looks better.  I realize that the difference might be only a subtle change in the value scale range.  For me, the value scale range makes the difference between capturing my attention and boring me.

Tomorrow night I will bid adieu to the Samsung, pour myself a glass of red wine and begin the (hopefully not too painful) process of switching from PC to Mac.

Sketch: drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Midnight Bleu ink followed by washes of watercolor