Un-still life

Ever try to draw a three year old? They never stop moving. And dogs aren't much different than human children. You'd think that while they're napping, (a lot of the time), that they'd hold still. They don't, not for more than a few seconds at a time. Makes it tempting to use a camera to freeze the image, but then, at least for me, the spirit of the living moment is lost. I'd rather struggle to focus my full attention and bear the frustration of amateurish results than to forfeit the direct experience. I want more than to be a skilled copyist.

That said, I wish that life would hold still sometimes. Or at least slow down.



Begonias with Noble

Yesterday Noble, Ina and I went down to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania to see the Andrew Wyeth 100th birth year exhibition. Me for the third time. It was inspiring and intimidating.

Today, Noble came over to finish an acrylic painting she started yesterday afternoon. I set her up on the patio then decided to join her. I'm pretty sure that had she not come by, I wouldn't have pulled out my new watercolors (gift from Ina), and spent whatever interval standing out there in front of an easel, next to my daughter, trying to do something worthy of the paper and paint it took to produce an image. So here, an impression of a pot of begonias.

For the record, I've given up on trying to be like Andrew Wyeth. Or Winslow Homer. Or John Singer Sargent. I'm just trying to be whoever I'm supposed to be. I won't give up on that.

watercolor on paper, 24" x 18"


Sketchbook pages September 2-3, 2017


Unextraordinary views

A wide creek flows off ankle deep in the wake of a mill falls, rippling fingers across a streambed of rocks and mud. Moving points of light flicker and flash on the surface, the sun's rays filter through translucent layers of broadleaf boughs overhead. A stone wall curves away towards Tilden Street bridge, steel I-beams painted public works green, supported midstream on a tapered block stone pier, carrying traffic in and out of busy Washington DC. 

I ignore the old dam with its wide sheet of cascading water behind me, and the picturesque whitewashed mill building above the bank. I'm interested in these quiet layers that frame this scene, unremarkable on first glance, its mysterious appeal only revealed to me because my mind is calmly receptive to the wonder and beauty of nothing out of the ordinary.



A Sunday in August like yesterday, when the skies are bright blue and sunny and being outdoors is pleasant rather than unbearably hot and sticky, is rare in southeast Pennsylvania. After feebly telling myself that I really still need to rest quietly for a few more days, (see the previous post), I put my sketch bag and medication kit into the MG, lowered the ragtop, and set out on a leisurely old fashioned Sunday drive with no particular destination in mind.

40 miles later, I found myself on PA Rte 143, a less traveled road that winds along a creek through woods and patches of farmland, dotted with Pennsylvania Dutch stone houses and barns, heading north. Stopped in Wanamaker at an old general store that makes sandwiches worthy of any deli enthusiast's palate. Polished off a pastrami on rye then dashed off a sketch from the front porch before continuing up the road to drop in on my friends Denise and Paul Grothouse up in Germansville.

When I rolled up to their house, perched on a hilltop with breathtaking views, Paul was indulging himself by washing his car, and Denise was inside canning and pickling vegetables from her gardens in the kitchen I designed for them. Last visit I'd taken a sour cherry pie that proved a big hit, so I mentioned that if I'd have known I was going to end up there I'd have brought peaches and blueberries so I'd have an excuse to use the new kitchen. Denise immediately seized on the opportunity, saying that just two miles down the road was a local produce stand that would probably have both. Fifteen minutes later I was making a mess, hunting for utensils, throwing together pie dough, peeling and slicing peaches, and earning my dinner.

We hung out by the pool while the pie was baking, talking about business, politics, movies. Enjoyed an ad hoc meal of homegrown fare. Had big wedges of pie. Relaxed and talked some more, catching up on each other's lives as the sun faded to the west. It got late. Denise put together more fresh produce and pickled beets and eggs and beef liver than I can eat in a month and we loaded it into the MG. I drove the 80 miles home under a star studded sky.

Before a rash of bad luck made cross country travel impossible for me this month, I was to fly out to meet Ina in Wyoming to see the eclipse. We were both sad that I couldn't do that. Still, a beautiful drive on a fine summer Sunday and an unplanned visit with friends I don't see enough of, while not exactly an historic celestial event, took some of the edge off that disappointment. Wandering, and spending easy time with good friends. I remind myself that I need to do more of that.