brilliant projects heretofore unpublished: nature + fiction + decay + watercolor

To round out this series of "brilliant projects heretofore unpublished" featuring my watercolor work, here are a few little pieces I did several years ago. Still labor intensive, but much smaller than my delphinium and hydrangea pieces (start here to see those).

A milkweed pod suspended in a web. 

Desiccated leaves....

 A little closer up.

This pea pod was used for the invitation to the Sausalito Women's Club Garden Tour in 2005.  A terrible scan, sapped of the color and oriented incorrectly. You can't win 'em all.

These were a move toward a change in content and composition. This past weekend, while we were away for my birthday, I sat down and started sketching out some ideas for some grittier work I have wanted to do for years. I wanted to depict garbage, or decay, or at least something less floral than my previous work. I came up with the following sketches.

Lo and behold, the morning after we returned I found THESE at thejealouscurator.com and now I am back to square one. Garbage STILL IN THE BAGS! This is brilliant. This is where I wanted to go with this, I just didn't know it, wasn't sharp enough to get there. This artist has blown my socks off. I'm going to try to use these pieces as inspiration. But how do you take something that is so inspiring, and as "The Jealous Curator" says, makes you say "damn, I wish I thought of that", and move ahead, instead of dwelling on it and circling around it like a buzzard? I've got to figure that one out. Soon!


on the bench (cooking with kids)

I was looking through some old online photo albums last week, and I was struck by how many photos there are of Stella and Oliver cooking away with me at our kitchen counter. We've always kept a piano bench pressed up against the counter, which someone usually pulls out and sits at when eating there. It was my father's father's piano bench, something I grapple with keeping vs. getting rid of. It's not our style, and I would've loved to have some sweet, civilized stools here instead.

But, as awkward and un-aesthetically pleasing as the bench is right there, it has been a fantastic way to share cooking with the kids. It is the perfect height for a toddler to stand at, and now that Stella is six she can still kneel there comfortably and work. I sometimes wonder what I would've done if we had been in a different kitchen during these years. The kids and I get to work eye to eye and face to face, and they are completely out of my way but still right there with me. It's been really great. As soon as I get the eggs out of the refrigerator in the morning Oliver is up on the bench and begging me to let him stir them.

Working on chopping the hearts of palm.

We've only had one accident (so far). When Stella was around three years old, she toppled off the edge of the bench and briefly dislocated her elbow, which amazingly we were able to fix with instructions over the phone from the pediatrician. At not even two and a half years old, Oliver already knows to get in the middle of the bench, and I keep a good eye on him.



Yellow cake.

Chocolate cake.





Snackin'. Damn, mommy looked good.

More shuckin'.


Easter eggs.

Washin', aaaand....


The piano bench has made it so effortless and natural for one kid or the other (or both) to sidle up to the bar and help with the cooking, which has been just wonderful for all of us. I don't know how I would've managed without it. But it ain't pretty!


book cannibal

The other day the kids and I ended up at the bookstore instead of the library. There was a book there that caught my eye immediately, for the beautiful graphics and the color palette on the cover. I started flipping through the book, my mind started racing with ideas, and I grabbed it.

The book is "Seasons" by French artist Blexbolex. Google him and you'll find all you need to know.

Each image and related word on each page is evocative. The pastoral, snowy images are the ones that really pulled on my heart strings. Anything that smells like winter in New England is bound to get my attention this time of year.

When I got home I started ripping. Images as simple and meaningful as these can't stay trapped inside a book. There are some I will save for our walls, like "SNOW", "SILENCE", "TRANQUILITY", "HOMECOMING" and "STILLNESS". And there are a whole lot of others which just became "thank you" notes and my new personal stationary. I have so many brown paper bag envelopes right now left over from an order I made for my holiday cards, so I've got somewhere to stuff these notes once I write them all.

I don't feel one bit bad about ripping this book apart. It has so much to give, it has to be shared. I did just order two more. Maybe to rip. Maybe to gift. Maybe to read. It is so beautiful.


turning a frown upside down

I have been having a momentary lapse of happiness over the last few days. I am not one to complain about much, or be sad about anything these days, but the last few have been a big bummer for me.

For one, last Friday I found out the conference I was invited to take part of a panel at in February regarding "growing your blog" had been cancelled. It was to be held in Napa, and I was invited to join the panel by the widely respected and very generous Stefania of CityMama. I was really eager for the challenge of speaking publicly, and of assessing and evaluating "corner blog" and what I've done with it so far. 

And then last night the verdict came in from Tease-O-Rama, and no, Yve Jobs was not accepted to perform at the convention. I knew it was a long shot, and there were three times as many applicants as the previous year. But to have shared the stage with such greats as Miss Dirty Martini and Satan's Angel, as well as all the amazing dancers from San Francisco and beyond, would've been a highlight of my life! By the way, you should rent (or BUY) the film "Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque" if you want a glimpse into the neo-burlesque movement and some great body-positive reinforcement.

I am just ready to up my game, and those would've been some great opportunities to do just that. I am ready for a good challenge. Maybe this past month of not performing has filled my reserves of courage and I need to release them again!

But, my frown is turning upside down today. Last night I finally located my late father's scarf, pretty much on the anniversary of his death seven years ago, which I have been agonizing over since I lost it during one crazy night out a few weeks ago. I turned over every stone I could possibly turn over, and I finally found the person who had found it. SO happy. I've had that scarf for over twenty years. Losing it was like losing one of my last connections to my dad.

AND, my birthday is this Friday. My friend Marie, who writes the blog "cowl-y-owl", gifted me this awesome cowl she knitted this morning. It's so awesome. I'm wearing it in this freezing cold cafe and it's the only reason I haven't gone home yet. 

AND, my mother and aunt are coming to visit next week.

AND, my "big" birthday gift this year is this:

(Photo by Victoria Smith of sfgirlbybay.com)

This is going to be a great opportunity to meet some other great lady artists, get some learning by local amazing illustrator Lisa Congdon, and meet the woman behind "The Jealous Curator", one of my new favorite websites ever. The workshop is in March. I seriously can't wait.

I should've titled this post "pretty f***ing lucky", come to think of it. Mood on the rebound, as we speak. Nanny time over, two weeks until I can sit by myself again for four hours at a cafe. I don't mind. :)


bittman's brownies

Among other things, this past three-day weekend we whipped up some brownies. This Mark Bittman brownie recipe lacks a little of the fudgy density I have grown to love from our local bakery's brownies, but it is delicious, and SO easy. He's also got a blond brownie recipe I made all the time when I was pregnant with Oliver that is equally as easy, and even more delicious (for those times you can do without chocolate). You can find both the recipes in his "How to Cook Everything" cookbook.

Oliver helped me out until he could no longer resist hugging me. These brownies were gone in a heartbeat, of course.

budding architect

I don't want to blow your mind this morning, but do yourself a favor and check out this quick video of Stella (taken when she was less than three years old) reviewing a set of my architectural drawings and breaking them down. She's talking about "waterproofing" and "caseage" (her word), and all sorts of other stuff she heard me talking about while designing this project. It's pretty awesome.

If you need even more awesomeness, and need to get schooled in other architectural things like "the window you peek out and the deck you don't fall down", then check out the extended version below.

So bittersweet, watching these. They are so amazing, but what's more amazing is wondering where that little girl went. Once they cross the threshold into four years old and above, this version remains just a faint memory. Bittersweet.


brilliant projects heretofore unpubished: delphinium madness

Note: You can see other works from this botanical series
here and here.

I started this piece in December 2000 and completed it in March 2002. There are very few days during that time period I didn't sit down to work on this. These Polaroids (of "Delphinium IV") exemplify how long it took me to create and complete these paintings.

 Delphinium IV
pencil + watercolor on paper
30" x 42"

 Delphinium IV, detail A

Delphinium IV, detail B

Delphinium IV, detail C

Delphinium IV, detail D

 Delphinium IV, detail E

Delphinium II
pencil + watercolor on paper
22" x 30" +/-

 Delphinium III
pencil + watercolor on paper
18" x 22" +/-

Delphinium III,  detail A

Dead Delphinium
pencil + watercolor on paper
12" x 36"

These are the remainder of my delphinium paintings. During the years I worked on these, I became so consumed by delphiniums that I bought every book and magazine I could find about them. One time, I found a vintage blue delphinium brooch in a thrift shop in Vermont, and it blew my mind and made me cry, as I was so close to them (same place I found these killer boots). Who makes a delphinium brooch? I knew that the little thingies in the middle of each flower were referred to as "bees". I knew that the flower was named for the Latin word for dolphin. I was at the flower market with a friend of a friend getting new delphiniums to draw at 4:00 a.m. every other week. I was ob-sessed!

"Delphinium IV", the painting at the top of this post, was the last delphinium piece I worked on, a commission for a woman in Pennsylvania who had seen my work at an open studio event and had asked me to do one for her. This is the painting which I worked on from 1:30 a.m. until 7:00 a.m. every day, then off to work, then home and in bed by 6:30 p.m., and repeat. Weekends were even crazier. What an amazing time in my life to be able to be completely absorbed by something like this, no matter how miserable I may have felt most of the time. As I mentioned here, this piece took me over 1,500 hours and over 13,000 applications of paint (I kept track with a tic-mark after each little piece was painted). 

Two months after I finished, I met my husband at an art opening. Ten months after that, we married. What a journey! I count myself very fortunate to have had the kind of space to do intense work, and when I came up for air on the other side, a new life was waiting for me.

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