19 February 2018

Bad Apples

I have previously expressed my frustration with continuing to feel limited by the circumstances of healing from this accident, but yesterday was a new low. It's a holiday weekend, and I want to be out in it, taking advantage of the lovely weather, meeting friends for breakfast, doing some urban sketching, taking on a project. Instead, yesterday was a day of persistent low-grade headache, previously uncatalogued contusions making themselves felt as the swelling goes down, and forced inaction, reading a book that isn't captivating me or trying to find something to watch on TV.

Parenthetically, as a person who was born in the 1950s, and lived for half my life with only 13 channels, you would think that subscriptions to HBO and Starz and Hulu and Netflicks, not to mention all the cable TV channels out there, would yield multiple options, but for some reason yesterday nothing suited me, and I channel-surfed restlessly. I was in such a foul mood that I picked a fight with a family member on Facebook, got all righteous, and did the equivalent of slamming the door (CNTRL Q) before sitting down and sulking some more. (Sorry.)

I finally concluded enough was enough, and decided to do what I needed to do, which was to get out of my own head by doing some drawing and painting. I didn't have the energy or the brainpower to take on something complicated, plus it was almost 4 p.m. and I would be losing the light on the patio (my favorite work space) in an hour or so, so I plunked down three apples on my patio table, did a quick and basic contour drawing in pen, and then set about watercoloring them.

The conclusion, an hour later, wasn't pretty: Messy, with color problems and overworked shadows—I couldn't have done a worse job if that's what I had set out to do. In desperation, I tried flicking some "confetti" paint over the whole thing to make it look festive, but it didn't; so I swished through all that with clear water and ended up with faded-out speckles behind my caricatures of apples.

I'm posting it anyway, because it did what I intended it to do: Got me out of my funk. I woke up today with a much improved attitude, and after breakfast, reading, and some Facebooking, I decided that I could well take on some projects if they were small.

First, I came up with a concept for a recipe I want to illustrate to post online on theydrawandcook.com. I made a list of all the ingredients, decided what item I would illustrate to go with each one, and began a preliminary layout. That wore me out for a while, so I read quietly for another half hour, but I wasn't satisfied any more to just sit still.

So...next I planted a pot of paperwhites for the kitchen. I had bought one of those Christmas kits for someone and forgotten I had it when it came time to give gifts, then discovered it later in a pile of stuff, so I rehydrated the soil, planted the bulbs (which had already begun to sprout inside their package), watered, and set them in the window.

This inspired me to do a small bit of gardening in the yard. In that same pile (from the nursery), I disovered some nasturtium seeds and some Crocosmia bulbs I had bought that I thought would be interesting to plant in the bed together, since the nasties grow low while the bulbs are tall and spiky, and they have similarly colored blossoms.

I went outside, found a pair of flip-flops and my big garden fork, and dug up the small bed that fronts my patio, then planted the bulbs at intervals (I had 18), followed by the nasturtium seeds, then watered it all in, changed back to my slippers and came inside. It took about 25 minutes, start to finish.

I am now nicely tired, rather than fretful, and am going to make myself a late lunch and read my book, able to feel like I am making more progress than just sitting up! Bad apples have their uses.

13 February 2018


After two weeks at home, doing not much, I'm returning to work this week, in a limited fashion. The plan is to do 15-20 hours for the next two weeks, thus easing gradually into a regular schedule. I'm not absolutely convinced I'm even ready for that, but I'm going to give it a shot tomorrow by working 4-9 and going to my 6+7 grade book club. We're discussing Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. (In which Cinderella is a cyborg, the prince is the incipient emperor of China, the moon is colonized, and the queen of the moon is the baddie. It's quite clever.)

It's frustrating to be off work, at home surrounded by so many things one could be doing, but not feeling up to doing them. Besides the obvious painful bruises, I had (and still have) less obvious aches and pains in muscles, nerves, and tendons, and intermittent low-grade headaches accompanied by fuzzy brain. So the most I have managed in two weeks is to read four books, binge-watch a couple of seasons of various TV programs, and do a few dishes when necessary. Every day but a couple, I had one or two specific errands to run—a trip to the chiropractor or the doctor, an appointment at the imaging place for an ultrasound, a stop at Enterprise to pick up a rental car, or swinging by the market because I was (once again) out of cat food; and after those errands, all I could do was lie down and nap away the afternoon.

So, I'm returning to work regretting that this was necessary entropy rather than productive time for art or projects. Today, I was resolved that on my last full day at home, I would at least make some art. But then I had paperwork to do for the lawyer, and an appointment to check out a physical therapy site, followed by a visit to the chiropractor, so no art materialized at home.

I did, however, end up having about half an hour between the PT visit and the chiro, so I stopped in at California Chicken Café to pick up a veggie wrap for my dinner (anticipating that I would be too tired to make any, which was a good guess), and while sitting there drinking an iced tea and waiting for the chiro to open, I made an urban sketch of fellow diners in my small sketchbook I keep in my purse.

I hope to have more energy back soon!

03 February 2018

Art and life

A week ago, on Saturday, I joined up with the Urban Sketchers Los Angeles group (about 15-18 of us, I think), to participate in the 58th Worldwide SketchCrawl by visiting Forest Lawn. Yes, the cemetery. I thought it was going to be the one that stretches across the hillside next to the 134 freeway, but instead it was a whole different site, on top of a hill in the middle of Glendale, and it was quite a resource for urban sketching. There are multiple buildings, monuments, statues, gazebos, you name it, and all of them are interesting architectural or artistic challenges.
I ended up staying quite close to our original meeting place, which was the Forest Lawn museum, and sitting on the steps between the museum and the Hall of Crucifixion/Resurrection, looking out across the parking lot to the rather charmingly rural-looking Church of the Recessional. Several of us took that vantage point, while others turned around to sketch the Hall of C/R or used the statues for figure drawing practice (statues are ideal—they don't move a muscle, and never need a break!). It was a fun morning out—we met at 10:00, sketched and painted until about noon, then gathered on the steps of the Hall of C/R for a "throw down" (no, it's not what you think, it's where everyone puts their drawing or painting down in a group next to one another to see what others have done, compare vantage points, methodology and media, etc.), followed by a picnic for those with the forethought to bring their lunch. I did not, but a kindly member had a whole bag of vegan cookies and gave me a great big one, so I was happy. You can see me in the back row, about sixth from the left, in the photo below. It was a beautiful day for an outing--sunny, clear, and not too hot.

I was also fairly pleased with my work for the morning. It turned out a little dark and muddy here and there, but the thing I was most pleased by was that I managed to mix all these variations of hue from only five colors (red, ultramarine blue, yellow, turquoise, and raw umber), in my tiny Altoids tin palette, using my one portable telescoping brush, and my liquid source was an aspirin bottle filled with water that I brought with me. (I did go and change that once in the nearby bathrooms.) Here is the Church of the Recessional:

There are, of course, things I would improve: The purple on the mountains shifted abruptly from one side to the other, and I didn't catch it; the front end of the church is on a decided angle not seen in nature; and the tree shadow, despite being just that dark, doesn't look quite natural. But for a 45-minute sketch followed by an hour to paint, I was happy. (I'm pretty slow and methodical.)

There were other really awesome sketches from the day; you can go see them on the USkLA Facebook page, here. We have some talented people in our group!

I'd like to make a return trip to this Forest Lawn site; there are many other things to draw and paint. Perhaps I (or we) will at some point.

I'm particularly happy that I got out and did this last Saturday because of what happened two days later, on Monday night. I was in a car accident on my way home from work; the cars in front of me slowed down, as did I, but the guy behind me wasn't paying attention, and hit me. I saw him coming, so I tried to get out of the way by turning into the breakdown lane, but it was too small and I was too late, and he walloped me hard. Here are pictures of my poor Kia Soul:

I won't exhibit my own bruises and contusions, but fortunately there was no blood and (most likely) no bones broken (there might be a hairline fracture in my leg). I have been mostly at home since, except for trips to the chiropractor, the orthopedic doctor, and the lawyer, and I think I'll remain home a couple more days. You don't realize, in the first couple of days after trauma like this, that the pain is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, but of course the body protects itself both with shock and with swelling; then, when the shock goes away and the swelling subsides, you get the full force of the muscle, tendon, and joint pain!

So, the upshot is, no art this week except for one little scribble yesterday, when I ended up in multiple waiting rooms during the course of the day with my sketchbook in my purse and decided to document the various types of chairs. I tried doing the impression of shadow with some parallel lines, but I was not as methodical or tidy as I should have been to accurately give that impression.

Hopefully, I will be back to drawing and painting soon. I will end this post with the hope that it will make more people stop glancing over to their phone or whatever they do in that split second that makes them miss a change in circumstance. This could have been a lot worse, and I'm really grateful it wasn't; but I also could have gotten off the freeway two offramps later and gone to Trader Joe's on the way home, as I planned, instead of spending the evening fraternizing with police and paramedics and tow truck drivers and losing the use of my beloved car! This is the second time in six years that I have lost my ride as a result of someone else's inattention. I don't mean to be whiny, but I sincerely hope it's the last.

21 January 2018

One year later...

I have to admit that I expected this year's women's march to be somehow less than last year's. Last year we were all in shock from the results of the election; we were pumped up with righteous indignation that "that man" had just been inaugurated; and we marched to feel like we were at least doing something, and doing it with a lot of other likeminded people.

This year, I wondered if it would be undertaken out of sentimental reasons—the "second annual" syndrome—or as an opportunity for those who didn't show up last year to come so they could say they had. I think I fell victim to all those trolls on Facebook who mocked us and our signs and our pink hats. I shouldn't have doubted, and I should have realized, based on my own activism during the past year, that it wouldn't be that at all.

Listening to the speeches delivered by a wave of impassioned, determined, emphatic, brilliant women, who talked about everything from Black Lives Matter to Me Too to Time's Up, in addition to all the concerns we had previously embraced, and who chanted and sang and cried and hugged and threw their fists in the air, was inspiring and energizing. Looking at the sea of determined faces who spent this past year calling, emailing, texting, tweeting, and writing postcards to their senators and representatives, no matter how futile it felt, who were out there yesterday to say "It's 2018! Get out the VOTE!" and being able to celebrate with them some of the victories of good, progressive candidates (including a lot of women) over the business-as-usual guys and, let's face it, a stray child molester or two, felt good.

I was inspired to make a drawing of part of Pershing Square to commemorate the day. I made sure to get a shot that showed the inclusiveness of the march—dads with babies, protesters of all ethnicities with their own personal messages, and a few pink pussy hats scattered throughout. Now I can't wait until next year, when I am hoping we will have much more significant wins to celebrate.

Micron pen #5, and watercolors.

01 January 2018

New Year's Day

They say that whatever you do on New Year's Day is the precursor to what you will do during the rest of the year, so I decided to get in a wide spectrum of behavior today, to include all the things I both want and need to do.

First up was a walk at the park (Lake Balboa), accompanied by my small sketchbook and a micron pen. The walk part was fairly short (but still symbolic of daily exercise to come, right?), while the two sketches took a bit longer. This first one was happenstance—my lower back tightened up, I sat down on a bench to relax it for a minute, and was presented with a really nice tree specimen, with a little dog and a fisherman standing underneath it. By the time I got to the part with the fisherman, he had disappeared back into his car to listen to music, apparently, while eating his mid-morning snack, so the dog (patiently waiting for his person) had to be the entire star of the show. Yes, he is wearing a plaid coat.

Then, a little ways further around the lake, I decided I wanted to try painting a panorama of a portion of the lake and shore, so I found a bench that provided a good one and made that sketch.

Next up was breakfast at home, followed by watercoloring the two sketches I made.

Plans for the rest of the day: Finish the major project I started early this week of cleaning up and cleaning out my kitchen (you can see the primary sentiment I feel for that kind of project in the lower right corner of this drawing from last year).

Once it's clean I intend to mess it up again (only temporarily) by putting a nice big pot of potato soup on to simmer. While that cooks, I'm going to work on an ongoing project on my computer (a class I plan to teach later this year).

And when the soup is done, I plan to wrap up the day with a bowl or two, accompanied by a good book!

I thought that sounded like an excellent master plan for the new year.

24 December 2017

Christmas gifts

The last six weeks have been one long blur of work and exhaustion. But yesterday started a 10-day holiday from the library for me, and I had a lovely day of running errands in the morning, reading and napping in the afternoon, and wrapping Christmas gifts in the evening.

Today, I am trying to make a gift of money special. I hate giving gift cards or cash, because it seems so impersonal, like I didn't think much about the person to whom I am giving them. But I have two teenage cousins and one in his early 20s who want things I can't afford, and I decided that rather than buy them something they might not want that I could afford, I would instead give them cash towards their dreams. (Whether they save it to put towards these things or squander it on ephemera is up to them!)

Last night, though, when I was putting their cash into their money cards, I decided that just because it was an impersonal gift, I didn't have to leave it that way. So this morning, I got up and found reference photos on Google for what I wanted, and now, accompanying each gift of cash, will be a small postcard-sized painting of the goal for which it is intended.

My cousin Lily has recently taken up ice skating, and is so taken with it that all she wants to do is skate. But both skating sessions and skating lessons are expensive, and her mom is already pushed to supply the necessities, let alone a luxury like this. Some of her aunts and uncles got together and bought her new skates, so I decided I would give her cash toward lessons or sessions. Here is the painting to go with her card:

Lily's brother, Lucas, lives for gaming, and his entire Christmas list consisted of two lines: A new X-Box, or cash towards a new X-Box! So he's getting his wish from me (the second, not the first), and here is his illustration:

My cousin Harley is a dedicated auto mechanic, and all he wants for Christmas is tools. I actually could have afforded a set of socket adaptors for him, but...brand? range of sizes? I dunno. So I'm giving him the cash and a picture, and he'll get the idea for himself.

Everyone else is getting the usual--books, books, books, and maybe some movie tickets or edible treats, plus biscuits and a chew toy for the dog. And now it's time for me to go cook my contribution to our Christmas Eve dinner! Hopefully, there will be more artistic contributions to this blog during this long-awaited hiatus, and my habits will improve in the new year!

11 November 2017

Snacks are important!

Somehow, weeks have gone by without drawing or painting, although I thought about doing it almost every day. Working full-time does not leave enough time for art! Today, however, I decided to work on an illustration that pertained to work: I'm making a powerpoint about how to provide various teen services, and wanted to make the point that, no matter what program you put on for teens, snacks are important! Teenagers are always hungry. It doesn't matter if your program is at 7:00 at night and they just ate dinner with their family: If you have pizza, it will disappear. If you don't set parameters, stacks of Oreos six inches high will walk off with each one.

This illustration is partly true and partly wishful thinking. I have, on occasion, provided fruit as a snack, and a certain percentage of my teens will eat it, or even welcome it enthusiastically; but if there are no chips or cookies to go along with that fruit? I might not survive the evening. One of my book club teens once explained to me, "I  never get to eat any kind of junk food at home. So please don't try to buy the healthy stuff for us—just give us what we want! It's only once a month, after all." So mostly, that's what I do.

Here they are: Book Club snacks, in Micron pen, pencil, and watercolor on 93-lb. sketchbook paper.