Thursday, December 29, 2011

W is for...

W is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 29, 2011

Folk art and Shaker-style decorating have always held an attraction for me. It's the simplicity and the assumption that ordinary people can create the art that adorns their own homes. That inspires me. Farmers in our county grow vast fields of wheat, and the undulating carpet of ready-to-harvest wheat "flapping" in the wind is an annual delight for the eyes. A single "thread" from that carpet, viewed up close, is no less fascinating. One of my earliest memories (under age 4) is of two elderly neighbor ladies who allowed my sister and I to help water their garden. They had the most amazing, large metal watering can. I remember finding a frog inside it once. Watering cans and frogs seem friendly to me still. Williamsburg, VA, is our family's home away from home. We've been going there once or twice a year for the past decade. I always wish I could bring their decorating and gentility home with me. It's hard to remember life before Microsoft Windows. No wonder Bill Gates is so wealthy! Whenever I see a growth of water lilies, it seems like something rare and foreign. They look synthetic, which is the opposite phenomenon of so many man-made products that are sold to us as life-like and natural-looking. Winter white is an odd color, created for a particular era of garment history. I never really understood how it differed from cream or ivory. I remember when the first Wendy's moved into the neighborhood. I was around 12. It was a bit of a rage, but it died down quickly. Good thing to remember. W is for wreath, wheat, watering can, Williamsburg, Windows, water lilies, winter white, and Wendy's.

Monday, December 26, 2011

V is for...

V is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 26, 2011
I like purses that look handmade, so I like Vera Bradley bags. They are definitely outside my budget. Besides, I couldn't bring myself to pay that price for a cloth bag! I've always liked trailing ivy and vines. There's something almost magical about a wisteria tunnel in bloom. The memory of seeing the stunning Chamonix Valley in France when I was 16 is still very vivid. "V" is for "very vivid." Another enduring memory from my teens is the sound of the VW bug I drove. I never got over that car. It was rusty and old, but I loved it. It was a three-speed and really hard to drive, which added to its charm. Violet is a favorite color, and violets are a favorite flower. I prefer simple, non-fussy flowers--wild, if possible. Vani is our still-puppy-like, 10-year-old yellow lab. Her full name is Vanilla. She was the only yellow puppy in a litter of chocolate labs, and her parents were both chocolates. That makes her one of a kind in her family. I wish I had spent more time learning to read and appreciate poetry. I suppose it's never too late. I enjoy Gerard Manley Hopkins, especially his "As Kingfishers Catch Fire." V is for Vera Bradley, vine, valley, VW, violet, Vani, and verse.

U is for...

U is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 25, 2011
The Under Armour brand is a textbook lesson in good logo design. A logo should be just mysterious enough so that the first time you see it, you ask, "What is that?" Once you figure out what it is and the company it's associated with, you never forget it. I happen to think the U.S. flag is one of the best flag designs in the world. I hope we never fiddle with it. With its high-contrast stripes, it plays perfectly with the wind. Isn't that what a flag should do? I think umbrellas are fascinating inventions, but I hardly ever carry one. I'd rather make a mad dash through the rain than fool around with opening and closing an umbrella. It helps that my hair is low-fuss, rain or shine. I love letters as an art form. The love affair started early in life and continues to this day. It seems that the styling and re-styling of our alphabet by designers is endless. As long as there's space on the hard drive, you can never have too many fonts. Like ochre, umber is an old-fashioned color name. Once a color loses Crayola currency, it is doomed! It's interesting that UPS has managed to corner the market on a color. They practically own brown. Maybe there weren't that many companies competing for it. I mean, it's brown! Hip, hip, ho-hum. I own an old ukulele. When my parents went to Hawaii 30 years ago, I asked them to get me one if they could. And, they did. I never learned to play it well. I eventually graduated to six strings (guitar), which I also do not play well. I can play 88 strings fairly well though. The "undo" key is such a part of life that I sometimes find myself wishing I could apply it to things other than computer functions. Drop a dish, hit "undo." Cut my finger while chopping vegetables, hit "undo." If only.... U is for Under Armour, U.S. flag, umbrella, upper case, umber, U.P.S., ukulele, and undo.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

T is for...

T is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 19, 2011
I like ties. I wouldn't want to wear them myself, but I like it when guys do. Sorry, guys! We've been a devoted Toyota family for many years. I love my Avalon and am not looking forward to the day when it will need to be replaced. My husband is administrator for Tel Hai Camp & Retreat. "Tel Hai" is Hebrew for "hill of life." When we moved to Pennsylvania, we bought a house with a large yard that had several beds planted with perennial flowers. After 12 years in dry New Mexico, it seemed like magic to have flowers come up without any special attention from us. For the first time in my life, I started to get a feel for flower sequence: crocus, daffodil, tulip. After those spring flowers came and went, our yard was a blur of non-stop blooming color...and work! I called myself "the accidental gardener," since I had to tend a garden I didn't plant. I've always liked the color teal. It reminds me of the ocean. The Target Dog demonstrates what I believe about design and marketing: just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you should. I'm no great animal lover, but can we all agree that it's inappropriate to draw a red target around a dog's eye? It just makes me crawl. I had one small bottle of Tabasco for years, and then my son grew up to love hot, spicy snacks. He considers it an essential condiment, and he goes through a couple large bottles every year. I grew up near train tracks, and we kids crossed them often to play in the woods on the other side. This drawing reminds me of the rule of perspective: draw what you really see; not what you think you see. T is for tie, Toyota, Tel Hai, tulip, teal, Target, Tabasco, and train tracks.

Monday, December 19, 2011

S is for...

S is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 18, 2011
In "Lord of the Rings," the swords are given names. My son could tell you what this one is called and who carries it in the story. I don't think the characters own their swords. I think it's sort of the other way around. When I was a very little girl (like four or five) and an adult would ask me what my favorite color was I would say, "lemon yellow." It was a Crayola crayon color. My answer usually got a chuckle, but I was serious. I didn't like most other shades of yellow, just the very pale and sunny version. It's still my favorite color. I was surrounded by Jewish culture as a young child and then again right after I got married. I loved it. The sunrises in Lancaster County are amazing. It's frequently foggy just before and after sunrise, and the mist goes through a transformation from gray to orange to blue in a matter of minutes. Those of us who drive east in the early morning to get to work or church are often treated to the stunning color show. No charge. Chick Fil A as a company is doing everything right these days. Their "Eat Mor Chikin" ad campaign has not changed for more than 10 years. It is still brilliant and hilarious. It's obviously still working. Why would they change it? SHE is my monogram. There is hardly any need for professional meteorologists in New Mexico. Anyone with eyes can predict the weather pretty well. You see the storms coming from 100 miles away and watch them build and darken until they're on top of you. Then they quickly pass by, and you're in blue sky again. It is a land of extremes: bluest sky, blackest storm clouds, scariest lightning, prettiest sunsets. It's as if the gorgeous sunset is a reward for surviving the day. I love sycamore trees in the winter when they're bare of leaves. Lancaster County grows them huge and gnarly with bleached-white, patchy bark that looks as smooth as parchment paper. There is such variety in God's creation! He obviously likes different. S is for sword, sunny yellow, silver star, sunrise, sign holder, S.H.E., storm, and sycamore.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

R is for...

R is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 16, 2011
I remember when running shoes were simply called sneakers, and the tread was simple and fairly standard from one brand to the next. Now, athletic shoes come in very specific types, each highly engineered to fulfill a unique function: running, walking, aerobics, cross-training (which I don't get), etc.  BUT, they all have super cool tread, thoroughly designed to complement the "upper" and to leave unique and wonderful tread-prints when you go from puddle to pavement. Who does that job? Designing soles? I can't look at the A&W Root Beer logo without thinking of a family vacation we took when I was 10. For three weeks, we three kids rode in the back of a mostly un-airconditioned Pontiac as it struggled to pull a leaky pop-up camper from Ohio, through the Rocky Mountains, to Vancouver, BC, and back again. We joked that my dad didn't miss a single A&W Root Beer joint along the way. He loves root beer floats. I do not, but I will never forget that vacation. I hardly ever remember eating rice as a kid. Now I love it. Somehow, it tastes better when eaten with chopsticks. Another favorite of my dad's is rainbow sherbet. I prefer sherbet that is a little less colorful. Our county got its first Red Robin last year. We watched the months-long construction with great anticipation. Now, we hardly ever go there. I'm sure there's a lesson there somewhere. My husband knows to never buy me roses. They die too quickly. I do love the name...which is why it's our daughter's middle name. My husband's wedding band is a simple, thick band of gold, rounded at the edges, like the one here. I love that ring! I love that he's worn it every day for the last 25 years! R is for running shoe, root beer, rice, rainbow sherbet, Red Robin, rose, ring, and Reebok.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Q is for...

Q is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 15, 2011
The state quarters were a great idea, in my opinion. The Pennsylvania quarter is not particularly exciting, but it's our state, so hoorah! I used to think I would be a lifelong quilter, but my eyes disagree. I think I might do paintings of quilts instead. It's hard to find a color that starts with "Q." I wish I still had the old manual typewriter that helped get me through college. I actually made money typing other people's papers on my non-electric typewriter. I'm not saying I'd want to give up my computer, but I wish I had the old prove to my kids that we really had it pretty hard. See how mature I am? The Q-tip is a ridiculously simple and useful invention that has made life better. How many inventions can you say that about? Someday I'm going to develop the habit of drinking a nightly cup of tea. I'm still trying to find tea that tastes as wonderful as the tea I drank in a London bed and breakfast more than 32 years ago. Perhaps it's a case of everything tasting better when you're on vacation or a case of nothing tasting as good as you remember it tasting when you were young. Q is for quarter, quilt, quince, QWERTY, quiver, Q-tip, and quiet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

P is for...

P is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 11, 2011
I never used to like the color orange, but I'm warming up to it. I can take or leave pie, but my husband cannot leave it. I needed to learn to make a good apple pie early in our marriage. They're a lot of work to make, but my husband is always very appreciative. He gets one for his birthday every year, and, if he's lucky, another one for Father's Day. When I was a kid, bell peppers were green...only. How delightful that they now come in extra sweet red, orange, and yellow! I love to top pizza or sandwiches with roasted peppers. My son is a loyal fan of the New England Patriots. I am a loyal fan of Winnie the Pooh (only Classic Pooh) and all his Hundred Acre friends. I'm especially partial to Eeyore, a particularly tragic, melancholy character. I've already confessed to an attraction to salt glazed pottery. It fits my decorating style, which is non-fussy and utilitarian. I'm not sure what the name would be, but my style is equal parts Shaker and Mission, with plenty of baskets, pottery, and mason jars thrown in to soften all that wood. I learned to play piano on an old Starr player-piano that had all the player "works" removed. I wish I still had that piano.It had the lightest touch, and it was beautiful to look at. It's possible I'm romanticizing it slightly. P is for pumpkin, pie, peppers, Patriots, Pooh, pipes, pottery, and piano.

O is for...

O is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 11, 2011
Widespread use (overuse?) of air conditioning has almost erased the memory of a warm, fresh breeze coming through an open window. Yup, I'm complaining about air conditioning. Check back with me in August! In the 80s, trench coats were fashionable. I always liked the look. I think olive oil in a decorative bottle is a beautiful thing. Olive oil is one of the oldest processed foods, and it's a good one! Slices of crusty bread dipped in good olive oil seasoned with fresh ground black pepper could sustain me for a good, long time. If you colored with crayons from the 60s-era, 64-count Crayola box with the built-in sharpener like I did, you know exactly what color yellow ochre is. Crayola has dumped the name in favor of yellows named dandelion, laser lemon, and sunglow. What is this world coming to? I love vintage office supplies, including the dangerously open-design, metal-bladed oscillating fans. They weren't safe, but they were cool looking. Owls are amazing creatures in every way. Most people can easily recite the odd numbers, but for some reason, I always categorized the days of the week as even or odd. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are odd, and Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are even. I'm not sure how I came to this opinion. I like the ocean as long as I don't have to go into it. O is for open, overcoat, olive oil, ochre, oscillating, owl, odd, and ocean.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

N is for...

N is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 10, 2011
We lived in New Mexico for a dozen years. Both our children were born there. New Mexico has its own color palette. The daytime skies are dark blue; the night sky is like silver glitter scattered liberally across a field of jet black; and there is no true green. All the grass and most of the trees are a brown-green that belongs to the desert southwest. There is just something about the inside of an orange that has always been fascinating to me. No matter how you take them apart or slice them open, oranges are wondrous and delectable. I like to eat them slowly. Okay, even more slowly than other foods! Our first new car was a Nissan, for which we paid less than $6,000 in 1986. It has been followed by a string of other Japanese-made cars. We're kind of sold on them. Nathan is my wonderful son. He keeps me laughing and on my toes. He's the tallest member of the far. He loves all things mechanical, especially performance cars. The nickel and Nathan share a family story, which I won't share. I am intrigued by the idea that there might be such a thing as a Divine Proportion. The nautilus is a fine example. N is for New Mexico, navel orange, Nissan, Nathan, nickel, navy, nautilus, and narcissus.

M is for...

M is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 9, 2011
Maroon is a color that seems to have gone out of fashion. I still like it paired with deep blue and light tan, even if that combination is not fashionable. In our family, we believe that there is a movie line appropriate for any occasion. The one here is a favorite from one of the most quotable movies ever. In fact, we rank movies by how many good quotes they yield. When I left for art school, my parents gave me one of those clever wooden figure models. It felt like a rite of passage. "I have my art supplies; I am now an artist." It seems that no one is neutral about mushrooms. I like them. My husband and I went to Disney World on our honeymoon 25 years ago. My daughter said I must include the Magic Kingdom on the "M" page. A mere suggestion of that famous castle is all I could manage. I have a collection of canning jars, from antique to brand new. I don't actually can anything, but I do put things in jars. There is a difference. I thought it would be challenging to draw some money, but it wasn't. American paper money is boring and uninteresting. I don't understand why so much effort goes into making postage stamps beautiful even though they are largely disposable, while our money, which is meant to last, seems to be intentionally ugly. These are the things that try an artist's soul! Maps don't have annoying voices, but my GPS doesn't have to be folded. M is for maroon, movie line, model, mushrooms, Magic Kingdom, Mason jar, money, and map.

L is for...

L is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 9, 2011
My daughter attends LBC. The school's logo is everything a logo should be. I can recognize a good logo, but can only design a poor one. Logo design is a finer art than ordinary fine art and is therefore totally out of my grasp. I live in Lancaster County, meaning I am always ready for the question, "Isn't that where the Amish live?" Yes, and some other folks, too. My bridesmaids wore lavender dresses. I still love the color. One of my earliest memories is taking cuttings from our lilac bush to my school teachers every spring. My mom would wrap the stems with a wet paper towel and then crumble aluminum foil around the wet towel, making it easy to carry. I wondered where she learned to do that. It's a very vivid memory, probably made more so by the intense fragrance. I still love to walk up to a lilac bush and breathe in the nostalgic purple aroma. I love lace, especially non-fussy, non-delicate Battenburg. It always looks handmade, which is what attracts me to it. Lists. Yeah. Everyone around me knows I make them...and often ignore them. I just like to make them. Because I have a son, I know about Legos. I also know how unpleasant it is to step on them with bare feet and how much noise they make when you suck them up with the vacuum cleaner. For me, Legos are multi-sensory. The more inorganic the subject matter, the harder it is to render in watercolor. So, Legos are hard. I like lizards...from a distance. L is for LBC, Lancaster, lavender, lilac, lace, list, Lego, and lizard.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

K is for...

K is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 5, 2011
I should have known I couldn't capture the wonder of a kaleidoscope on paper. My kids like kiwi a lot. It's funny to me that I didn't even know what one was when I was their age. I am a knitter. I can obsess about knitting really easily. What is it about hobbies?! "Khaki" is an exotic word for such a drab color. Whenever I see a nautical knot like the one pictured here, I think of my dad. Perhaps that's a metaphor of some kind...or perhaps it's just that he is a sailor at heart. He is always happiest on the water in some sort of boat. Kaylin is my beautiful daughter who is naturally happy-go-lucky and good for her melancholy mother. I could live without ketchup, but I wouldn't dare stop buying it. The rest of my family believes it to be an essential ingredient to many meals. Kinect: another of the many new "toys" that has found its way into our house. One of these days I'll ask my son how it works! K is for kaleidoscope, kiwi, knit, khaki, knot, Kaylin, ketchup, and Kinect.

J is for...

J is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, December 4, 2011
I like coffee. I don't love coffee. I like the idea of coffee. I love the smell of coffee. I started drinking it in college for the caffeine. Now I drink it because it's warm and I'm usually not. I have always been drawn to jewel colors. I would fill my ideal paintbox with them. I think citrus fruits are beautiful inside and out--another indicator of the intentionality of the created world. The evidence is everywhere if you are looking for it. One of the pleasures of life is homemade bread made into toast and spread with real butter and good jam. I believe I could live on that combination a good, long time. I used to say I wanted a Jaguar someday. I don't anymore, but the hood ornament is really cool. My jack-o-lantern is creepy. I guess that's appropriate. I grew up eating Jiffy cornbread. My kids still think it's the best cornbread. The package design has not changed in decades. Who needs their cornbread mix box to be slick? J is for java, jewel colors, juice, jam, Jaguar, jack-o-lantern, Jiffy cornbread, and jade.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I is for...

I is for..., watercolor on mixed media paper, 11.30.201
I think Indian corn is fascinating. It's one of those things that seems too bizarre to be accidental. Can we debate intelligent design and the existence of a Designer with the "Argument from Indian Corn"? The "I" ended up looking like the design on salt glaze pottery, which I have always loved. The fish symbol has been overused on car bumpers, which is unfortunate, because it really is a clever invention from Greek initials. I still remember the first time I saw an illuminated manuscript. It was love at first sight. I've always wanted to try it, including real gold leaf. Ice is an amazing phenomenon. I like the way the watercolor worked for the ice cube. A good friend just welcomed a new grand baby, so I'm enjoying lots of wonderful pictures. I want to do more portraits. I needed an "I" flower, but it's probably obvious that I don't really like irises. I is for indigo, Indian corn, illuminated, ice cube, infant, and iris.