While writing the check for the latest delivery of heating oil my mind wandered to thoughts of Spring and the new shapes and colors that will fill the landscape and delight my eyes.  I remembered the series of pastel paintings I did several years ago of fresh lilies from the garden.

Lilies, pastel painting

This pastel painting was done prior to my return to study of color and prior to my squiggle ink drawings.  I’m amused when I recognize the roots of something that has developed into a technique that I return to again and again such as the squiggles.  I remember playing with the warm and cool variations of the colors hoping to create an illusion of depth, but felt that I didn’t understand what I was doing enough to push the painting any further without overworking the paper and losing the brilliance that I love so much about pastel.  When I look at the painting now, I understand a great deal more than I did back then.  Perhaps I will attempt another lily painting when the weather turns warm, the garden is abloom and I’m no longer writing checks to the oil company.


This post is with Leslie in mind:

Dragon and Cane by the Window

This period of recuperation is allowing me to spend as long as it takes on a drawing.  The squiggle drawings are labor intensive, so I have kept them small and simple, generally drawing only one object such as a shell or a bottle.  Encouraged by Leslie’s enthusiasm for my squiggle drawings, both ink and pencil, I decided to take on a greater challenge.  I have the time since I am spending long hours in bed with my leg elevated.  In this, complex drawing, I was not simplifying the value scale enough. The drawing became stronger as I forced the values into a more limited scale of three to five.  If I were to guess, I believe that the dragon drawing took about nine hours to complete.  The drawing measures 9″ x 8″.

Photo Note:  The cane is much darker all the way across.  I think the the flash caused a graphite glare to occur, showing little spots of white that don’t exist in the drawing.

Sorry about the poor quality of the images.  Flash photos on my bed were the best I could do.  This will be my only hospital talk entry.  The staff was wonderful and I couldn’t have felt better about my care.  Thanks to all those caring, gentle souls.

Surgery took place about 8:30 am on Monday morning.  I was walking to the bathroom myself (with a walker) at 6 pm that night.  How incredible is that?  A total right hip replacement and not even one whole day in bed.  I love technology.

The sink in room 522

Tuesday: Squiggle Drawing No. 1 ….. pencil …..

This is a drawing of the sink opposite my bed.  One of the many ice bags is resting in the sink with its tie hanging over the edge.  The RN on duty, Angela, was fascinated with the drawing and brought a couple of co-workers in to see it.  The consensus was that the squiggle drawing made something ugly look beautiful.  I agree.  (The pipes were very crooked under the sink)

Eye glasses case resting on my sheet

Wednesday: Squiggle Drawing No. 2 … pencil …

In spite of the fact that I wasn’t doped up on pain killers, my attention span was remarkably short.  I really have no idea how I did the sink drawing on Tuesday.  I alternated drawing with reading two magazines Dine brought me, Aperture and Art on Paper.  I also had two Christie’s catalogs from the 80’s that Linda gave me.  It was a perfect combination of avant garde and tradition along with my own attempts at drawing.

Paper Towel Rack above the sink in room 522

Wednesday: Squiggle Drawing No.3 …. pencil ….

I thought about trying a watercolor, but my brain wouldn’t click in enough to organize the small table that held all my glasses, magazines, sketchbook, pencils, water pitcher, drinking glass, breathing device, extra ice bag, goody bag of toiletries and small box of tissues.  The idea of filling my fountain pen was totally out of the question.  The 2B mechanical pencil was just fine.  Clearly, the sink area offered the most inspiring shapes.  Though I was next to the window, all I could see was tree tops.  My sister-in-law brought me lovely flowers, but they were silhouetted against the bright light of the window.  I’ve always liked bathroom stuff anyway. ( A bit of parallax factor going on in the photo.  The cup dispenser is straight in the drawing, but I couldn’t get far enough back from it on the bed to avoid the parallax)

Hopsital Goody Bag

In the wee hours of the morning on Thursday:  Squiggle Drawing No. 4 … pencil …

Inside the hospital goody bag is a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, body lotion, body powder and a very thin black plastic comb.  I appreciated the little bag and the handles that made it easy to grab.  Ahhhhh, the simple things in life.

So that’s it.  At 2 pm on Thursday Tom drove me home.  I am moving on to the next stage of my life and thrilled about it.  My fascination with bones has been reignited as well as a desire to create a series of ” little dancing heart valves” drawings after watching my echo cardiogram.  We will see what comes of it all.  I wonder how I can pull it all together with the little studies I am doing of my environment.  I’m pretty much stuck at home for the next few weeks.  I plan to make the most of it.

Older work:

"Lily" pastel on paper

Several years ago I was asked to create a series of floral pieces using pastel.  It was winter.  I had no choice but to work from photographs.  Usually I would block in large areas and work boldly with the pastels.  I find I am a bit more restrained when working on commissioned or requested pieces.  I created all six floral pieces using a slow, meditative technique similar to my ink squiggle drawings.

I had forgotten about these pieces until I was going through old files last week.  No wonder the squiggle technique felt so familiar to me.

"Gladiola" pastel on paper


Three stages of two landscapes


Using a tiny turquoise Arnold fountain pen I tackled my first landscape squiggle drawing.  The Arnold pen leaves something to be desired as far as ink flow goes, but the line is fine and it fits comfortably in my hand.  Maintaining the high key shapes while developing the darks and half tone areas is quite a challenge.  I think the illusion of space is more effective when the foreground tree has both the hedgerow and the sky as a background.

In the drawing on the top row, I brought the hedgerow  higher, encompassing the entire tree.  At first I thought it was more effective, but then saw that I had repeated the shape of the tree in the hedgerow.  There is nothing to do but add squiggles and make areas darker rather than lighter.  I went ahead and lost more of the sky by enlarging the shape of the hedgerow.  See below.  I feel that I lost the sense of distance by giving up so much sky.


Blocking out the sky


My willingness to see what happens when I keep adding lines is fueled by the fact that these are explorations in my sketchbook.  My mind is not viewing them as anything to mat and frame and hang on a wall or to pass on to galleries as new work.  Working in pen and ink forces me to look hard and learn quickly from my errors, from misjudged values and shapes.  These squiggles are labors of love.

Cross-hatching is painful for me.  I love the work of Morandi, a life-long passion for bottles expressed in ink and oil.  I tried cross-hatching over and over again, hoping to unlock the magic of it for me.  It didn’t happen.  For me, it’s the squiggle drawings that have opened the door to the possibilities of pen and ink .