flights of fancy


Just now I found this whimsical drawing that I made, goodness knows when.  It’s a quick and spare copy of Bonnard’s huge and famous L’atelier au mimosa.  I saw the actual painting in the Phillips Collection exhibit on Bonnard in 2002 though I made this drawing from a book.

Bonnard’s painting is 50 x 50 inches square.  Seeing this little sketch I think about large spans of very bright — dizzyingly bright — color!  In truth all of reality is an amazing field of light that we see with our eyes each day.



river of impetuosity

river on panel first stage

For the present it rolls across the surface.  Space will come later.  Here’s the first swipe of a river picture.

I posted a whimsical little pen drawing related to this image last week.  So, the plot thickens.  But even as it thickens, it’s still whimsical.

More of my mental escape from winter!

Here’s the link to the drawing:


Cezanne’s influence

cezanne stage of rocks painting

Here’s the chaotic “Cezanne stage” of a little painting of a rocky hillside that I’m working on. It began with coincidence and impulse. I  had just finished cleaning a little frame, which I propped against a drawing, just getting the frame out of the way, when I noticed how nicely it cropped the drawing into a new composition.   “Why not?” I thought.

I needed a surface.  There was an old scrap of canvas, which I taped to a board using old tape (old everything).  First round of old tape — the red — didn’t work.  So I used silver duct tape over that (hence the intriguing little framed effect).

A random bit of happenstance inspired the composition.  So, it’s on the easel now.  And the picture is green while outside it’s cold. Between cycles of the furnace, it’s cold inside too!  And the weatherman says it’s going to be cold all week.  But in my mind, here’s where I am.  And here inside my mind … it’s balmy here.

minimally bizarre

still life of c 2005 resized

I try to address drawing ideas in ways that people who are not artists can totally understand since everything that happens in drawing happens in some other avenue of life as well.  Certain occupations require obsequious rigor of their practitioners.  Surgeons, airline pilots, accountants, dentists must observe an industry standard that limits their choices to areas of action that are well known.  New experiences in the aforementioned fields usually spell trouble. But everyone has areas of life where abandon unfolds. Those for whom logic, routine and order are daily rules probably cherish a more than ordinary appreciation for whimsy in their off duty experiences.

To make a sketch of a scene in arbitrary seeming patterns can look like freedom — and it is a species of freedom. But it gets all its energy from the rules it hides.  The most whimsical of drawings needs an inner logic to give it cohesion.  And logic is never far away from us, since more often than not, our minds arrange things more tightly than we can ever know.

room of clouds


clouds and hilltopI had to fetch some clouds to decorate the room of clouds. I sought them from the sky.

I climbed the hill and pulled them down.

pond new (3)

I took clouds from the pond’s reflection before the fish could come and swallow them.

fish face

Before the fish could swallow them, I would steal my clouds away.  Thus I gather clouds to decorate a wool gathering room.

In the room of clouds I’ll dream.  In a room of white cotton gauze, in a room of soft reflected light, where white on white reveals the floating thought, I muse.

From a pond of reflection I’ll fish for memories.  In a room that’s like a bright white page


VerticalDrawingEnlarged (6)

empty and spacious and bright, I’ll live.

Into the hills

I have wandered the hills and valleys, splashed in the lakes, swum with the fishes, and sung with the birds.  I drudged through leaf litter in the dark forest and lifted my head to see the sky and watched it fill everything until all you could see was sky.

I had a traveling companion, an adventuresome Mockingbird who stands sentinel over one of my trees some mornings.

It was entirely mental travel.  No baggage fees, no boarding passes,  comfortable seating and plenty of free coffee and healthy snacks.  The only passport anyone ever asked for was imagination.  And we had enough of that to give the boarder guards a run for their money!

Finding your inner will o’the wisp

I find myself pursuing the same themes over and over.  They come in many guises.  Sometimes they are subjects as in my koi pictures.  When I did my first few paintings of koi, I thought I was doing something brand new, but over time I began to notice that “fish” were a part of my artwork from a very early date.  They were just less numerous in my apprentice days.  (I’ve become a more adept fisher-person, though I have yet to experience  my Hemingway-esque  “one that got away” moment.)

Currently I’m still doing flower painting — or all kinds of studies-for-flower paintings.  (Why must I always be doings “studies for”? — another mystery for the psychologist’s couch where I am both patient and doctor.)  I find that my flower paintings are not like some of the flower paintings I see other artists do.  Other artist have rather more respect for actual flowers than I do.  Me, I seem to be positively mesmerized by just the shape of the bunch itself.  How do I know this?  I see it here:

This is a photograph I took of an image on the label of a Snapple Bottle.  Is a snappy image on this Snapple bottle, don’t you think?  I was playing with my daughter’s camera and its high-resolution micro feature and needed something to photograph so I grabbed a random object that was near at hand — or so I supposed.  But there it is again, that “bunch” shape that so often comprises the form of the bouquet in my flower paintings.  I seek these things out evidently: these shapes that are a little like the canopy of certain species of trees. 

Don’t know if it’s important for artists to discover their personal inward visual obsessions or whether discovering them has any impact at all upon making art.  But I’ve gotta tell you, that scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind has always resonated with me.

Did I mention that I always eat all my broccoli.  Why it’s practically my favorite vegetable.  Would somebody pass the mashed potatoes, please?

I love my compotier

I love my compotier so much, I draw it first thing I wake up, even if I wake up at 4 in the morning.  It appears in the corner of a pen drawing I made this morning and described in an earlier post, but I give it a spotlight of its own because it’s my wonderful compotier — dreamed and imagined!


Sometimes when a person has that first recognition of wanting to be an artist, usually sometime in youth, sometimes he (or she) begins to experiment with drawing, and if drawing comes readily that young artist will draw all the time.  Anything, anytime, anywhere.  I was not like that.  Drawing came with such difficulty.  I was constantly frustrated.  My ability appeared to wax and wane without a hint of causality.  I sometimes drew with enjoyment, but I was often disappointed too.  And silly girl that I was, in my disappointment I was lackadaisical regarding the remedy to the problem.  Drawing!

Not anymore.  Now no matter what, I just plow on.  If I cannot figure out how to do something, I am absolutely relentless about pursuing an answer.  And I cultivate whimsy, that very thing that might have helped my youthful frustrations.  I pursue difficult subjects, but I have fun too.  Sometimes I just move the pen.

I wish I had learned to do this sooner — and so now I relentlessly pursue whimsy.  Making up for lost time ….

In search of freedom

Whimsical landscape in pen

Our summer mornings have been so fine.  We open the windows early during this the mildest summer of my recollection.  Washington DC is famous for its humid, boiling summers (which I have always loved like a turtle loves the sun).  But this year our summer will be famous for its mildness, and we have savored this mildness for the rare loveliness it offers.  The breezes waft through the rooms, rattling the blinds, rustling papers, scattering thoughts and dreams. 

I sat in this ocean of air and drank my morning tea like a rich monarch, wealthy beyond counting in photons and molecules of atmosphere.  With all this heady luxury, I plotted out my course.  I decided that I would rule with a kind pen, but that my empire should be vast and free.  What if one’s thoughts roamed wildly?  To draw whatever one pleases.  The drawings can come from anywhere: from photos, from life, from bits of paintings one sees in the museum, from imagination and memory, from dreams and wishes. 

Wherever you are, with whatever medium you possess, on sheets of any size, in colors of any hue, to make careful tight drawings of a world you love with obsession or fast, frivolous, whimsical drawings tossed off as fast as thoughts fly.    Blind drawings proddingly, probingly made as though stumbling and fumbling through a fog or mist, the mist — the world.  The world a shining veil before one’s eyes.

What if you drew whatever popped into your head?  What if you took all your limitations and used them?  Push everything to the edge.  Let whimsy rule.  To draw anything, anytime, anywhere.  And to seek a perfect freedom of line in a royal realm of images.