A little snow

Our early morning vista the last day of 2018. A light covering of snow, bare patches of a long lane curve away from the white blanketed pond towards the county road below and the folding wooded hills and barren fields for miles to the west. Sharp, chilly air under gray skies. A piece of the stark winter landscape I grew up with; peaceful reminder to look at what is essential, at the end of a cacophonous year.


light snow in the hills, central New York, 11-1/2" x 6", fountain pen & ink


The shared gift

More than three centuries ago, George Berkeley, an Anglican cleric and writer, posed the provocative question, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" The question has vexed philosophers, scientists, and us common pilgrims ever since.

Earlier this dark, rainy morning, three days after our modest Christmas observance, I was standing in the kitchen pressing a pot of coffee and thinking about the extraordinary writing of Anthony Doerr. A copy of his first published book from 2002, a collection of eight sparkling short stories, was my daughter Nora's gift to me. Inspired and humbled after reading two of them yesterday, I was reminded of the author Stephen King's frequent words to his millions of fans, each of whom he has addressed with gratitude as "constant reader". I mused about my own struggle to reconcile with a desire to be appreciated for my work as a designer, how I've angrily dismissed it as the weakness of a needy ego. Then I considered the giver and the receiver of a gift. Is one even relevant without the other?

I don't know. What occurs to me, though is this: we crave connection. A work of art may mean something to the maker, but without a recipient, it is inert. Only when accepted and assimilated can it become a living creation. And when it's appreciated, the artist is validated. Sharing is an essential part of having a full life, and we all need it to declare our humanity. It is as important to be part of an appreciative audience as it is to offer what we can do.

the gift, 11-1/2" x 8-1/2" fountain pen and ink on paper


The good earth

I spent the first week of fall this year in a rustic camp at the edge of a quiet peninsula on Penobscot Bay. Immersed among the rich early autumn scenery, a once fancy 1958 Buick Estate Wagon that I'd first spotted hidden in a roadside tangle of tall summer lupine 20 years before, emerged out of the dusk as we drove by on our way to dinner in Blue Hill. The undergrowth had been mown down and what was left of the saplings were now mature birch, their leaves just turning. Mosquitoes, black flies, and the limitations of vacationing with young children had excused me from interpreting my fascination in drawing form in times past, but over the years I thought that someday I should take a crack at it. Stopping for another look, I thought that again.

1958 Buick Estate Wagon

The week went by. Every day was gloriously full of the outdoors, and sitting next to a rural highway staring at a rotting hulk of General Motors folly was low on the list of what to do. And I did plenty of other sketches and watercolors. 

The next to final day of our visit, the morning greeted us with a chilly rain. Ina needed access to internet and copy services for an upcoming work engagement, and I realized that regardless the weather, her route to town would take her past that old car. There wouldn't be a better time.

So after breakfast I found myself hunched in a folding camp chair by the road, watercolor pad and palette balanced on my lap, holding an umbrella over my head, concentrating grimly on my self assigned task. Trying to depict the now bullet shattered windshield, faded and mottled paint, the advancing rust, the smashed out grille. A challenging subject under less than ideal conditions. I fumbled with brushes and paints. Cursed explosively when a big dump truck whooshed by and blew the umbrella out of my hand. Still, I managed to get a legible impression before Ina pulled up in the Volvo to take me back to our cabin.

watercolor, 12" x 9"

We live in a time of ugly and turbulent politics. It's easy to get caught up in anger or disillusionment. But when I think about that old Buick being broken back down into the good earth from which every part of it was fabricated, I am reassured by the knowledge that larger and inevitable forces will prevail.



Eight days in Maine : gallery

Long past due for some time and space away, we spent the first days of fall along the coast of Maine, mostly off the beaten path. I'm back now and catching up at the office, so writing about it will have to wait if it happens at all, but most of the drawings and watercolors I did I've placed in a gallery called "Eight Days in Maine". Find it by clicking above on "drawings" in the navigation bar.

sunrise, Cape Rosier, Maine


Sunday sketches

It's been awhile. With an overflowing work schedule and other pressures, I've found it easy to excuse myself from taking the time to draw. But my daughter Nora is visiting from Guadalajara, and her early morning kayaking excursion with Ina meant that I needed to occupy myself outdoors for awhile, so a couple of sketches. Then a late lunch visit with Neill and Nora absorbed in conversation about the technical aspects of photography gave me an opportunity to sit out on the balcony and do another little study, having been primed by my morning interlude.

As important as it is to keep my tools sharp, it's hard to maintain the discipline.

Patuxent Reservoir, Montgomery County, Maryland; Derwent Inktense pencils

Patuxent Reservoir, Montgomery County, Maryland; watercolor

potted cactus on Neill Roan's balcony; graphite and colored pencil