Friday, January 29, 2016

Campo di Fiore

I asked for two things when we traveled to Italy this past July.
Number 1; Every day I must have time set aside to draw, preferably sitting at a cafe with a glass of good Chianti next to the sketchbook. And the number 2 thing was to enjoy a gelato every day. Both of these requests were honored every day, I am happy to report.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Saturday, January 23, 2016

a bull at school

Sketching with my students in the Persian Gallery while visiting the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

Friday, January 22, 2016

tut tut

I brought my sketchbook with me to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. By my example I want to demonstrate for my students how important direct observation and drawing is when absorbing and appreciating what we see in a museum.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


I took my Rhetoric and Logic art students on a field trip to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. (I teach at a private classical school and the designation Rhetoric means high school, Logic means junior high.)

We have been studying ancient art in my art history classes. The visit to see Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Syrian artifacts fit right in with our study of ancient Mesopotamia. This museum is extremely cool. There is a gigantic lamassu installed in the central room. The lamassu is a 16-foot tall, 40-ton, human-headed winged bull.

I have always loved to see these ancient figures. And our guide told us that many of these are being destroyed in Iraq and Syria.

The photos below show the art projects that my students completed after our study of lamassu. We made 7 inch high colossal lamassu replicas out of air dry clay and wood.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Vermeer and more Vermeer

There are four Vermeer paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.
I was so excited. Each one was a  precious jewel.  I could not look enough.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

dinner cruise and Renoir

Dinner cruise on the Potomac,
watching the sunset,
and sketching little girls dressed up navy with white collars and red bows. Having viewed a Renoir painting of a similar little girl in her prussian blue pretty dress at the National Gallery made the evening more scenic yet.

Monday, January 18, 2016

national treasures

The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is a treasure that all American citizens should be proud of. First of all, I did not know that it is free! What great art gallery of the world is free? Oh yes, the National Gallery in London.
(Maybe that is where we got the idea)

I went three times in my four day visit, I was so thrilled that it was free and I could walk there from my hotel. As I walked the galleries with my sketchbook, I experienced a repeating thrill of discovery. Oh! That work of art is here! And that masterpiece?

I  did not know that so much art that I have studied and longed to see was  right there.

When I returned to my home in the western suburbs of Chicago, I had  an interesting conversation with a good friend who is an immigrant from Rwanda. He was incredulous that the National Gallery was free. He asked ,"But must you be a citizen of America to walk in there for free?" I assured him that any citizen from anywhere could also enjoy this treasure. He was surprised at the accessibility we had when I described the visit to the Senate building.
What freedom to see our government and enjoy what  is available.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The senate and Bernie!

What a thrill to sit in the gallery above the United States Senate floor and listen to the action. I sketched as rapidly as I could, with so many people walking about with such hurried purpose and importance. 
Finally the action seemed to slow down a bit.  Important people like John McCain that even I (not being very politically involved) could recognize, left the room and a gentleman with a pink face and fluffy white hair stood up and began a long and impassioned speech.
He had me interested and leaning forward to get it all. And I didn't know who he was at first, as of last June he wasn't in the news all the time. Now he is!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

learned something new

This is the beginning of a series of posts and sketches from a trip to Washington DC. My first visit to the nation's capital happened last summer and I continue to be impressed with all the new things I learned.

I learned about the National Gallery of Art.
It is too much of an understatement to say I was impressed. Amazed, agog, astonished and overwhelmed. We had a hotel that was only blocks away. I went three times in four days.
(sketch from National Gallery of Art)

I also learned a number of things that I had not known about our United States government.  I did not grow up in the United States. My parents were missionaries in the Philippines  and I spent all my childhood there. I should not blame my education in high school, as it is mostly my own fault, but my knowledge of US history and facts is blurry.

I felt an odd sensation as we toured about the capital, walked around the outskirts of the White House and took tourist photos.
The odd sensation was of pride for my citizenship. I had not been as aware of my birth and nationality as I was while in the nation's capital. I learned that I was glad and proud to be an American.

I learned about the United States Senate, and the historical building where the big stuff happens.I went with a group to tour the Senate building and watch from the visitor's gallery as the Senators did their thing.
I also attended a lecture from David Brooks, a respected columnist from the New York Times. (sketched him while he was talking)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

thinking of drawing

Getting in close to just one of the multitude of flowers in a still life by a Dutch Master. A Bug! A drop of water.
And look at the flowing lines. So baroque, so exhilarating, so sensuous.

Think of drawing as a way of talking about the things that interest you. Think of those wonderful documents, drawings made on scraps of paper by the lesser Dutch masters while they were wandering around market places and sitting in saloons.-John French Sloan

(John Sloan was was a twentieth-century painter and etcher and one of the founders of the Ashcan school of American art.)
I found this quote on one of the best art blogs out there-  Lines and Colors  go, check it out, I visit it frequently and always learn a new thing or two.

Sketch from The National Gallery. Dutch master painting by Jan Davidsz de Heem 1660
The Dutch and Flemish took extraordinary delight in depictions of the natural world as an expression of God’s everlasting blessing. The flower paintings of Jan Davidsz de Heem celebrate the beauty of flora while at the same time exemplifying the concept of Ars longa, vita brevis  (art is long, life is short) embodied in the Dutch still-life paintings of the seventeenth century. (Quote from the website)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

how to...

How to stop time: Draw a picture from life, from direct observation. Draw out in the open, in a park, in an airport, from nature. Go to a famous art museum, draw, copy, as best you can what you see there. Draw people, draw animals, draw flowers. Observe. Be present. (This is my how to advice)

“How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.” 
― Matt HaigReasons to Stay Alive

I saw this quote on Facebook. In fact I've seen it circling about a few more times and with different formats. 
Some quoters add: How to waste time: use social media! Kind of ironic, that appearing on social media.
And I did not see that anyone attributed the quote to an author so I took it upon myself to look it up. 

This sketch from the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. 
Giotto Madonna and Child 1310 Florence

Monday, January 11, 2016

being present

I had this conversation with a friend at a New Years' Day party about what I have in my sketchbook. Why did I spend my time sketching the art while visiting a famous art museum?  What was I trying to do? Copy the art? Why don't I walk around viewing the art and reading the information provided as other people do?
My answer to my friend came from many years of  learning how to develop my ability to observe.
To be present in the moment is a cliche phrase now, I see it used everywhere  to sell one self-help idea or another.
I also watch people at museums, watch their behavior and most of the time they are only going through the motions to say they were there. This past year in Washington D.C., Chicago, and Italy I saw a lot of people walking through galleries and past priceless exhibits. If the exhibit was something especially famous, a visitor must have photos taken of themselves as the main subject with the famous art in the background! How strange.

I take my sketchbook and draw what I am looking at because it helps me to really SEE what I am looking at.
As I draw, my mind is gathering observations that I would not have noticed if I had merely walked through the gallery.
While I am sketching the slope of a shoulder, the arc of a landscape, the light and dark pattern of a composition, I am immersed in that place, that person who made that art, present at that moment.
As I look longer more questions come to mind; why did the artist make this decision or that one? How did they decide which detail to focus on? What does it mean that she used this detail? Is this a metaphor? I am able to marvel at a genius at work in a way much deeper than if I walked through the room and took a photo. These sketches are from a recent visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Saturday, January 9, 2016


My granddaughter playing with our wooden Nativity figures carved in the Philippines. The same set that her own mother played with endlessly many Christmas seasons ago.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

the twelve gifts of Christmas

Yesterday was the traditional twelfth day of Christmas.
I was going to do a Twelve Days of Christmas post with artwork to accompany but I got stuck on the numbers, couldn't think of much more than:

 1 great-grandmother enjoying the day surrounded by family;

and our 2 year-old granddaughter fascinated by the story of the Nativity; 

and the 3 wise Kings who traveled very far;

and a 4 legged dog who loved all the visitors and attention.

I couldn't think of any more. And I have always wondered what is the deal with eight maids a milking, nine drummers drumming, ten pipers, eleven ladies and twelve lords. Those are gifts? Maybe it is a description of the huge party to be held on January 6.
Advent is the season in the liturgical Church anticipating Christmas, observed during the four weeks before Christmas Day.  Advent is a quiet season, a contemplative time.

In America, people put up holiday decorations in November and then hold parties, attend parties, shop, buy gifts, and rush all the way until December 25. After that massive holiday binge of eating and drinking and spending everyone has a letdown crash which feels terrible.
In the liturgical Christian tradition, the birthday party for Jesus begins on December 25th and the celebrating goes on for twelve days ending on January 6.
January 6 is traditionally called Three Kings Day  to commemorate the arrival of the three visitors who traveled far from the East to find the newborn King. In some homes, who take this seriously, the children do not receive gifts until the day that baby Jesus got His gifts!

Monday, January 4, 2016

a wedding and all that jazz

A highlight of our last year was attending a wedding in New Orleans with family and close family friends. We have known the bride since she was a bright eyed toddler and through many years now of friendship and playtimes with my children.

The bride and groom gave all of us wedding guests the gift of a weekend of fun and feasting. An amazing couple who own a restaurant and a food truck, generously put their guests comfort (and stomachs) at top priority. We ate wonderful food of course, and were entertained by three different local musical groups throughout the weekend. I sketched the second jazz band from the wedding reception while sipping on champagne. A third group playing zydeco came later in the evening but I had gone back to our rental cottage to babysit while this little sweetie's parents danced the night away.

On Sunday morning we were again treated to a brunch (that lasted until all the guests had to go home!) at 1000 Figs in New Orleans. I sketched the outside of the restaurant sitting on the curb across the street.

1000 Figs in New Orleans.
 I  sketched the jazz band from the wedding reception while sipping on champagne.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

It was...a very good year

It was a very good year....for some things in life but not so great for other things.
It was a very very good year for new babies.

We welcomed two more grandchildren into our lives. I was able to personally welcome them, being present at the two births, two weeks apart. What a crazy wonderful time.

It was a good year for travel. Watch this space in weeks to come as I go through my 2015 travelogue.

It was a good year for family and close connections. It's always  a good time for that.
It was a sad year when my Mother passed but with all the love she gave us we have gained more understanding for each other.
Several things I am hoping for in the New Year:
1. More love
2. More travel (to someplace warm this winter?)
3. More babies (?) (One more at least)
4. More drawing
5. More time to paint

Saturday, January 2, 2016

the last vcr in the galaxy

My children tell me that we have the last VCR player in the world and a collection of the oldest VHS videos in the galaxy. Fortunately for them, we have all the original Star Wars movies, collectors' edition!.  After we went out during the first week to see the newest Star Wars movie , (twice so far!),we cuddled up and watched the first three, numbered 4, 5, and 6 in the series.

My younger daughter, too young to remember watching any of them in sequence found the plots so muddled that all we could do is to answer her questions with "...because of the Force".
I am a big fan, and watched with my sketchpad on my lap. I drew these little hasty bits mostly in a dark room. Oh, was I having fun though.