Sunday, August 3, 2008

A new way to paint . . .

Studying with Judi Whitton in Wales has given me a new lease on watercolor. The precision of my earlier botanical art study has helped me look at subjects more carefully and seems to have improved my drawing. Judi's technique of dropping in paint has encouraged me to be playful. Here is some of my recent work.

This is Sawrey House, a charming inn just a few miles from Hawkshead in the Lake District. This venerable and comfortable establishment was our home for a week. It is literally next door to Beatrix Potter's famous "Hill Top House" which has been lovingly persevered and is part of the National Trust in England. Potter bought over 4000 acres of land and gave it back to the English people in trust.

I sat outside one day and drew this lovely building covered in ivy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From a Cottage in Wales

This is the view from our cottage in Wales, The Granary.
Miles of rolling hills with a thousand colors of green. Paradise, indeed. Ron and I have come to Wales for a rural adventure. So much of our travel in the past has been rushing around. This time we both agreed: "Let's go somewhere and BE there for a time." So we are renting this "self-catering cottage" miles from a paved road. We wake to the hens clucking and the family horses clomping down the cobblestones. Last night a nearly full moon rose over the hillside across the way which is the site of an iron age fort. Ron climbed the hill during one of his walks.

I am here to do some watercolor, and there is no shortage of subjects.

Last night I filled the tiny cottage with the smell of roasting potatoes and Welsh spring lamb chops in raspberry sauce. We are able to enjoy the fresh eggs laid by their dozen feisty hens, who have been gobbling down the table scraps which we drop in the compost pile near the henhouse.

The cottage is near the village of Bala, a Welsh town near a very large lake. We're not that far from the town of LLangollen famous for the yearly Welsh music and culture festival. We visited Plas Newydd, the 18th century home of some famous ladies, early trend setters in fashion and the arts.

Last week I took part in a wonderful course in watercolor painting with the artist, Judi Whitton. Her book, Loosen Up Your Watercolours is a brilliant guide to freeing your style as an artist. Here she is demonstrating her technique.

Her style of painting is very much in keeping with the spirit of improvisation so I found a kindred spirit.

Ron is enjoying running in the Welsh hills, meeting sheep, cattle and the odd farmer who look at him with wonder. In addition to his jaunts around the countryside he is spending time in local registry offices hunting down facts and figures of our ancestry. His genealogical database now holds just short of thirteen thousand of our closest relatives. We've spent quite a bit of our time walking in truly lovely small churchyards, observing gravestones.

Before coming to this part of North Wales we spend a few days in Hay on Wye, the village of BOOKS. When we leave our precious cottage we head for Blackburn and then the Lake District. We are staying in an Inn in the town where Beatrix Potter lived.

Here we stopped at a small cheese factory along the way. It was a charming teahouse as well and we savored the fresh lemon cake made by the owner.

The last image, which captures Wales for me is this of the family of sheep. Cheerio from the UK!

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Seven Ages of Woman

I stumbled across this artwork as I was trying to find the right wording for the famous, "All the world's a stage" quotation from Shakespeare. Wickipedia kindly provided it.

Seeing the progression of bodies and faces I was reminded of a wonderful montage that Patti Digh posted of herself on her blog.

I'm nothing, if not a copycat, so I decided I'd put together "the many faces of Patricia". Here goes:

So, there you have it: six months to 65! Life is amazing.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Trudy and Dalla

This is Dalla with her husband Jeremy in the photo on the left. That was a wonderful day. We were visiting the Asian Art Museum in SF. This happy time a few years ago was when they were "snowbirding," visiting California in retreat from their frigid Canadian winter and enjoying our sunshine and mild climate. They live in Gananoque, ON. Dalla is possibly my oldest friend, or rather the friend of greatest longstanding. She's a brilliant artist of life.

The other photo is of my other "best friend," Trudy. Trudy is also a Canadian, living in Calgary. She and her partner Gottfried run the Canadian Constructive Living Center.
Here she smiles with her daughter Meghan and her newborn granddaughter, Sophie. You can tell by everyone's smile that these folks appreciate life. They are a beautiful family.

In the past month, however, both Trudy and Dalla have received a cancer diagnosis. Both have begun chemotherapy. Both are adjusting to the interruption that this news carries into their daily lives. Both are smart, kind, and realistic. Both are surrounded by loving friends and family . . . AND, a network of unseen friends stretching across the planet, tied together by the Internet.

Last week I was corresponding with the amazing Patti Digh, whose award winning blog, 37 Days is a must read. I told her about my friend Trudy and her news. The next day Patti's blog invited readers to join her in wishing Trudy well by making a "god-box" and putting Trudy's name in it. The following day readers made suggestions of other names to add, including Dalla and Sean. This idea is now making its way around the world, and on April 4 Kate Iredale in North Saanich, B.C. blogged that she had started a box, too. I borrow her wonderful photo below. You will enjoy reading her blog. What I have discovered is a world of amazing, uplifting writing by women around the world, helping each other. I am indebted to them for joining me in sending a message of hope and support to these dear friends who are facing health challenges. And, I'd like to call your attention to the announcement of Patti's upcoming book, LIFE IS A VERB. It is possible to preorder this book from Amazon. I've had the chance to take a look at an advance copy of this remarkable book. Keep it on your radar. And, you might want to join us making your own box.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Noticing the gifts. . .

Recently I was invited by Google to give an author’s talk on Improv Wisdom. Walking into their Mt. View, California campus is like stepping into the future. The place is abuzz with things happening. Space is organized such that no employee is farther than a stone’s throw from a convenience station where free lattes, fresh squeezed juice and tasty snacks help these maven’s of creativity keep their blood sugar up. Doing purposive work and enjoying life appear to be hand in hand in their workplace. Here I am with Meng, the famous "Google guy."

Someone asked me if I had a favorite improv tip from the book, and what came to mind was the ninth maxim: “Wake Up to the Gifts.” As we improvise we discover that virtually everything around us is an offer, and upon examination the vast majority of these are truly “gifts.” The work of others is constantly supporting my efforts. I simply cannot function without the countless products and services provided by others. How easy it is to overlook this truth and take things for granted, or focus on what's wrong with the picture. I find that making lists of what I’ve received from others is an enlightening enterprise.

As introduction to my talk I chose to thank Google for the many “gifts” I had received using their products. So, I made of list of “what Google had done for me this week,” and shared it with the crowd. It was a pretty long list. I’m afraid that this took quite a long time, and I may have lost some of my audience before I got to the part about “how to improvise.” If you run into someone who says “thank you” a lot, you may well be around someone with Improv Wisdom. A skillful improviser doesn’t overlook the gifts.