Friday, March 30, 2012

New JKPP Portrait and a Poem

 "Kline, Brushing His Teeth"
6x9 inches, watercolor, for Julia Kay's Portrait Party

Every Thursday morning I drive to Milton and join a group of artists at the Gathering Place.  I always bring something I've painted during the week to show, and something small to work on, since I dislike hauling big projects out of the house.  I worked on drawing from my community figure drawing group a once or twice, but discovered that it made a couple of the Milton folks distinctly uncomfortable, so no more un-draped models there.  I've taken to preparing a drawing of a portrait for Julia Kay's Portrait Party, then painting it with the Gathering Place group; this was the one I finished yesterday. 

It has been a while since I posted a poem, so I went searching for one that had a toothbrush in it.  I found several, and oddly enough each one had something about a love affair in it.  Here's what I eventually decided to include here:

Vandergast and the Girl
By Louis Simpson

Vandergast to his neighbors—
the grinding of a garage door
and hiss of gravel in the driveway.

He worked for the insurance company  
whose talisman is a phoenix
rising in flames ... non omnis moriar.
From his desk he had a view of the street—

translucent raincoats, and umbrellas,  
fluorescent plate-glass windows.  
A girl knelt down, arranging
underwear on a female dummy—

sea waves and, on the gale,  
Venus, these busy days,
poised in her garter belt and stockings.


The next day he saw her eating
in the restaurant where he usually ate.

Soon they were having lunch together  
                She came from Dallas.
This was only a start, she was ambitious,  
twenty-five and still unmarried.
Green eyes with silver spiricles ...
red hair ...
                  When he held the car door open  
her legs were smooth and slender.

“I was wondering,”
she said, “when you'd get round to it,”  
and laughed.


Vandergast says he never intended  
having an affair.
                           And was that what this was?  
The names that people give to things ...
What do definitions and divorce-court proceedings  
have to do with the breathless reality?

O little lamp at the bedside
with views of Venice and the Bay of Naples,  
you understood! Lactona toothbrush
and suitcase bought in a hurry,
you were the witnesses of the love
we made in bed together.

Schrafft's Chocolate Cherries, surely you remember  
when she said she'd be true forever,

and, watching “Dark Storm,” we decided  
there is something to be said, after all,
for soap opera, “if it makes people happy.”


The Vandergasts are having some trouble  
finding a buyer for their house.

When I go for a walk with Tippy  
I pass the unweeded tennis court,
the empty garage, windows heavily shuttered.

Mrs. Vandergast took the children  
and went back to her family.

And Vandergast moved to New Jersey,  
where he works for an insurance company  
whose emblem is the Rock of Gibraltar—
the rest of his life laid out
with the child-support and alimony payments.

As for the girl, she vanished.

Was it worth it? Ask Vandergast.
You'd have to be Vandergast, looking through his eyes  
at the house across the street, in Orange, New Jersey.  
Maybe on wet days umbrellas and raincoats
set his heart thudding.
he talks to his pillow, and it whispers,  
moving red hair.

In any case, he will soon be forty.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting Out There to Paint

With the weather so freakishly pleasant, I decided I could not spend the afternoon in my upstairs studio.  My in-shape husband was out riding his bicycle, and I wanted to get some natural vitamin D for myself, so I gathered up my small watercolor sketchbook, traveling palette, brushes, portable chair and plastic bucket and drove a few miles outside of town to paint a bit.

I am not always a happy plein air painter, and one reason is the difficulties I often have with wind and sunshine that blow my papers around and dry my paint quick as a wink.  So today I decided that I was going to (1) paint quite small, and (2) try out something I saw in a post from another blogger.  It was a gizmo made from a legal document-sized clipboard ($2.00) adapted to serve as a holder for small canvases.  There is a wooden paint stirrer (free from the hardware store) glued at the bottom that serves as a lip to hold the canvas, or in my case, the little spiral bound watercolor sketchbook.  Another wooden paint stirrer gets held snugly in place with butterfly clips (from my junk drawer).  This home-made lap desk was perfect for sitting and painting today.  The clipboard provided a little more space for waxy crayons and a paintbrush, the metal clip kept my paper towels from being blown across the field, and the sketchbook was held snugly between the wooden paint stirrers. It's adjustable too - all you need do is move the top piece of wood to accommodate the size of your canvas or sketchbook.

I have other quirks that have occasionally made my experience painting outdoors less than joyful, and today I resolved to overcome them.  First, child of Depression era parents that I am, my inclination is to be a little stingy with my paint.  Today no parsimonious little dabs in the plastic travel palette, each well got a good fresh blob of watercolor paint.  My other issue is one of attitude; I want everything I do to be beautiful.  Well not everything I try turns out to my satisfaction, and today I decided to concentrate on the process; the results be what they would be.  It was much less stressful than other outdoor painting excursions, even though the results will never be shown in public - other than here.  I had fun.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Emily for JKPP

It has been a few weeks since I've painted or drawn anything for Julia Kay's Portrait Party on Flickr's photo sharing site. I indulged in a new small watercolor sketchbook from Strathmore Windpower, with nice 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper today, and wanted to try it out.  This young woman provided several photos, and I chose this sort of Sleeping Beauty pose because I liked the way her hair spread out horizontally; I thought it would fit the format of the sketchbook nicely. It looks a bit washed out in this scan, but is richer in person.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Faces of My Not-So-Far Future?

I've been playing with this little painting on and off for a week, and may still go back to tweak some parts of the ladies' swimming suits.  I found a public domain photo from what looked like the 1960s, cropped and played with it, and really fell in love with these three sassy women.  I kept thinking they reminded me of my aunt's water aerobics classes that she's led for years.  I have attended water exercise classes, but really, I don't like them much.  Slug that I am, I'd rather sit in the shade outside and watch other people in the water, or maybe just paint them.

I painted this for a miniature show; it's only five by five inches, painted in acrylic on gessoed mat board.  I have a friend who keeps saying these little paintings have potential for being licensed - maybe used on mugs or cups or bags or something. We shall see if that actually happens. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Things You May and May Not Do at the Gardens

Here in Janesville the weather has been way too warm for this time of year.  My daffodils are blooming a good month early, and we've already seen mosquitoes.  But today I couldn't resist returning to Rotary Botanical Gardens to see how their flowers are coming along.  All week I'd had a nagging impression that I wanted to either verify or prove incorrect, that along with trees, bushes and flowers, a whole lot of signage has been popping up. 
As may be seen in this photo, their daffodils are also in full bloom.  I also spotted wood anemones, and purple crocus.  In the Japanese garden a tulip tree was opening its buds.

The gardens are not funded by or run by the city; the entire place is privately financed and run by a small army of volunteers.  I understand that they want visitors to stay safe, and want the gardens to stay beautiful, and that people don't always use great judgement.  But my reaction to the many signs was to feel a little like a small child who has done something bad, and is being warned against any further misdeeds.

I took all these photos from the path, I promise.  The gazebo in the background here has a new roof since my last visit.

The woodland path is covered with gravel, and is steep and uneven.  I wondered who had tried to take in on wheels.

There are just a lot of things that I had not really considered doing on a day amid the flowers and trees, and I guess it's lucky for me I didn't want to roll in on a bike, smoke, or drink while I was there.

The koi made it through the winter, though it looks like their pond could use some weeds removed.   I imagine that will happen when the water lilies are replanted.

I like the zigzag bridge, nicely repaired after flooding a couple years ago damaged the structure.  Supposedly the zigzag design keeps evil spirits away.  The sign keeps the kids with cane poles away.

Bronze cranes in the Japanese garden, nicely reflected in their pool.  It looks like the moss is starting to green up.

My conclusion after looking at both the scenery and the signage, is that the scenery is pretty and the signage is plentiful.  I didn't take a picture of every sign (the warning against climbing on rocks, for example), but there are multiples of most of them.  I suppose the place must post safety warnings and rules, but I wish there were not so many, and not so prominently displayed.  Sigh. So, you may walk on the paths, so long as you enter through the visitor center, but don't smoke, drink, bring your pet, try the woodland path in a wheelchair, bike, rollerblade, swim, fish or climb in the rocks.

The gardens continue to be free until April 15th through October, when admission is charged.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Early Spring Photo Safari - Rotary Gardens

The snowstorm a little over a week ago has melted completely away in my back garden, though a few piles of dirty snow are still melting in parking lots that were plowed.  I decided to take advantage of this week's springlike weather - it was sixty degrees when I grabbed my windbreaker and camera - and take a walk in Janesville's Rotary Botanical Gardens before they start charging $5 admission on April 15th.  It turned out to be very pleasant, particularly because there wasn't another soul in sight.   There wasn't a sound except rustling leaves and robins and woodpeckers making a fuss.

Later in the spring, once the bulbs really start blooming, the place will be packed with people, visitors and volunteers, and there will be events, fund raising walks, weddings, proms.  But today I had the very early flowers, scatter beneath trees to myself.

I think of Wisconsin winters as being monotonous as far as color - or lack of it - goes.  The gardens do a nice job of providing visual interest even when there are no leaves on the trees.  In March the willows have the glowing yellow you see here, and the footbridge adds a shot of color year round.  Today I enjoyed the variety of trees for the sculptural effect of their branches, and was delighted at how many birds nests I could see.

The Japanese garden is my favorite throughout the year, with a winding gravel path, a little shelter, a stream and pools of water (not running today), shade in summer, moss, sculptures and a combination of evergreen and deciduous plants.  When I was teaching, before access to the gardens was limited and admission charged, I'd grab a thermos of coffee and sit in the garden early in the morning, composing my thoughts.  I took this photo through the window of the shelter, and managed to catch the sun before it hid behind the clouds.

I don't know too much about Japanese rock gardens, except that the raked gravel represents water.  I think the larger rocks represent mountains. 

The gardens have lots of real water too, and plenty of places to sit and watch it.  I like to stand on the bridge and look down, and sometimes when I'm luck I see fish or even soft shelled turtles.

This robin tolerated me for a minute before flying noisily away.  At that point the sun had disappeared and the wind picked up, so I ended my walk and came back home. After being cooped up for so long, it was good to get outside.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dreaming of Summer

11x14 inches, oil

 Scene from my front step Friday night

Last summer I walked to the local farmers' market almost every Saturday. and I took lots of photos.  This man sold flowers and prairie plants out of the back of his van.  I didn't get his name. though if I see him this season I'll ask.  He had a great smile, and I'm publicly apologizing to him for making his nose look so wonky.  It looked good for a day or so on Friday and Saturday until I fiddled with yesterday.  I'm not sure this is a great painting, but it's cheerful and it reminds me of those summer Saturdays, which will do for now, or until the snow melts again.