topiary cats

topiary cats

Saturday, August 18, 2018

GW Bridge Plein Air

Today was a good painting day minus the mugginess.
This painting took about an hour and a half.

Jackie and I had a nice time at the Cloisters afterwards.
I have pictures but they are on my camera and I have to get them off and that is too much effort right now.

6x8 oil and gnats

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Blue Squared

I haven't painted a still life for a while.  The oils forum project is a blue and painted from life theme, so I thought I'd find some blue things and paint them.

8x10 oil

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Connecticut Plein Air

Daya and I went to Connecticut for a few days to visit Cathy and get out of the city.  We had a really nice time.

Every single day we were there it rained and there were thunderstorms, but I still got one painting done.
6x8 oil on panel, hour and a half

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

A Lovely Dream

I had a dream last night, a really nice dream.....

In my dream I was....

..... drawing with vine charcoal.


I do love vine charcoal.

Sunday, August 05, 2018


Tuesday: 15 hour day
Wednesday: 15 hour day
Thursday: 15 hour day
Friday: Competition all day
Saturday: Competition day even longer than Friday

The girls did great.
We had to go to New Jersey.

The stage pictures came out great, but I don't have them yet.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018


Some traditions are worth keeping, like Pigeon Risk Time.

So here we go again.

I was lamenting to Carey that I haven't figured out how to time-travel through to September.  Yet.

It's hot, long, work is busy, Daya is home, the cats are home, I will work and drive and maybe paint.

I have to say that I'm REALLY ready for school to start, but that doesn't happen until Sept 5.

We can get through this, right?

And it's going to be good and boring and nothing bad will happen.  Right?

Oh, also, it's going to go fast.... right?  Or is that too much to ask for?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Last Week of Ailey

Daya's Alvin Ailey intensive is over.
She did 4 performances over Wednesday and Thursday.

It was just wonderful-- extremely professional.  The highest age in the Junior Division is 16, but every single person there danced like a professional.  The skill level and choreography were superb.

Here is Daya after her Wednesday evening performance:

The last day, Friday, was class observation day.
I don't really get to see Daya's classes anymore.  I haven't seen one of her ballet classes for a long time.

The stuff they were doing.... was intense.  Very focused, very controlled, extremely difficult.
I think dancers at this level all have to be crazy as a prerequisite.

Ballet group picture:

Horton (modern) group picture:

Some cool Daya pictures:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Hearst Building from Central Park

Charlie tells me to drive as if I have been already driving for 10 years.

My initial reaction to this was, I think, everyone's typical reaction: I thought, what a great idea for approaching painting!

Last week at the plein air event I met an artist named David Nakabayashi and he did a painting that is so good it is sick.  It was an 8x10, oil, Union Square, buildings, foliage, people.... it was amazing.

I want to be able to do that, too.
Since lately I have been getting interested in incorporating figures, it was perfect inspiration.

So today my goal was an 8x10, oil, buildings, landscape, and people.  In Central Park.

This painting took me 3 1/2 hours.  I also learned to check surroundings for garbage cans and avoid... it was a bit stinky until the breeze changed......and when the scent started wafting over, it was too late to move.

This is probably my most ambitious plein air painting to date, and I'm really happy with it.  But I still need a lot more practice!

Setup/progress shots:

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Thursday Things

This month is speeding by, as I knew it would.
Next week is Daya's last week at Ailey, which is sad, she loves it so much.  She is doing extremely well there, both socially and with her dance.  Overall it has been a fantastic and intense experience, and she has learned a lot.

Next week there are 4 performances over 2 days, which means two late evenings for her.

Right after Ailey, Daya has 2 competitions which have been a scheduling nightmare with rehearsals.
And some evening classes at the studio.  I'm not a big fan of these dance competitions but I do see how participating in them is valuable for the dancers.  I think they can be very silly and pretentious.
Also, I have to go to New Jersey.

I'm still driving!  I drove to Yonkers (and back) the other day!  In the rain!  During rush hour!  I went over a bridge! I drove on unmarked chewed up confusing roads that are under construction!

I can get this, I just need more practice.  It helped that I mentally gave all the looking-for-potential-crazy-stuff-that-might-come-out-of-nowhere to Charlie so I don't have to worry about it.  This lets me learn what I am supposed to learn instead of trying to manage things I'm not ready to manage. I really felt in our last lesson that I really am getting there, I just need time and practice.  Once I wasn't being paranoid about crazy stuff, everything went much more smoothly.  Charlie said I did really well.

So I'm trying to get as much driving in as I can for the rest of the summer.

I also went to the DMV to renew my license, so I'm just waiting for the mail now.  People at the DMV are NOT friendly, not do they respond nicely to a friendly person.  They must be very miserable people.  But they might be less miserable if they were nice and experienced more friendly interactions with the general public... something over which they have influence to an extent.
Dealing with the public is hard and draining, I know, I have done it, but wow, still no reason to be so mean.

I'm still feeling kind of... disappointed? Sad? Giving myself time? ... after my breakup with Rob.  I tend to take my time with these things and I still need more time.  During these long summer days, I'm basically doing my best to not be home.   Especially when I'm out driving after work, I get home late- after 8pm. Same with yoga days. I don't want to be home on weekends either which is why I'm trying to get out and meet new people and paint.  And drag Daya out when she is willing.  I don't want to be home.  It's too depressing.  Evenings I am home-- but I have to be for Daya.  I'm still very bound to needing to be physically around for her. She is still a kid. My freedom is more than it was a couple of years ago, but I'm still very limited.

In the evenings after Daya goes to bed I have been gaming a lot, which has also helped as I have found a pretty awesome group of people. This has developed over time.  I like gaming because it has elements of really needing to think and coordinate, problem solve and evaluate, but it is also  mentally relaxing.  It helps me decompress without turning into a mental zombie, and it is also nice to be on voice chat with nice people.  And I'm glad I did find a group of nice people.... because just like in real life, that can be difficult in the gaming universe.

I do prefer in-person relationships though.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Union Square Paintings

Here are two paintings from the Plein Air event this past weekend.
Both are 9x12 pastel on Colourfix.

The first is a bit complex and took a while, the second was quick, a little over a half hour.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Alphabet City Excursion

I got an email about events happening around the city in many of the community gardens, so we went to the Lower East Side to check it out.  We were at the community garden at 6th St and Ave B.  I really need to go painting there, as well as around the other community gardens.

Daya and I did a scavenger hunt, learned about sugar in drinks, and looked at the different bugs in compost.


Daya was hungry afterwards, so we found a literal hole-in-the-wall that had 99 cent slices.

There was a kid with his pizza box using the pizza counter as a table at the hole-in-the-wall.  He was not more than 10 years old.  Very possibly younger.  He bit into his slice and exclaimed, "This pizza is fuckin good!"

I thought this was hilarious.

(*NOTE: the pizza was not that great.  Certainly not "fuckin good". Not even regular-good. Just ok.)

To be honest, the kid was total bad news and I have no doubt that if he isn't already involved in some shady street stuff, he will be very soon.

But I still thought it was hilarious.

Then we walked back West to the train. We saw this sign, and a little further down the block, a decorative guillotine.

It's True

ALL the trains home were broken.
We waited and waited and it was hot.  So we gave up and went to my office to recover and wait it out.
It is very convenient to work in Times Square with 24/7 building access.

The signal problems persisted, so we took the LIRR home.
By the time we got home, the signal problems had STILL not been resolved, but Daya and I were happy to have bypassed the whole mess.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Driving is Scary

I have been spending a good amount of time in my driving lessons.  Last week I did three 2-hour lessons, but usually I'm doing 2 lessons a week.  I started in Kindergarten.  Charlie now says I'm in September of 6th grade. And I am a Zen Master of right turns. :)

My yoga training has stepped in strongly in interesting ways.  Because of my yoga, I know how to turn my neck to get a wide range of vision when looking at my blind spots.  I did this automatically yesterday and Charlie asked if I checked my blind spot-  I had and told him- then I taught him how to turn his neck for better vision over his shoulder.  My yoga training reminds me to breathe and relax- which I need to remind myself of, constantly.

But yesterday things got SCARY too...nothing bad happened, but Charlie took me to a new road exposure experience----- I drove over a bridge and then down Adam Clayton Powell Blvd in Harlem.  It's large and busy with u-turns and traffic lights and buses and trucks and oncoming traffic and people behind me and trees and signs and bicycles and dogs and turning lanes and pedestrians and a cop beeped his siren at me for being too slow and there were 10 BAJILLION THINGS HAPPENING AT THE SAME TIME and it was extremely scary.

Charlie says look at the crosswalk (on both sides!!) 2 blocks away to see what's happening down the road.  It is complete visual chaos and I don't know where to look or what to look for and there is no time to look for it.....oh, and the cyclists come out of nowhere too, and people cross in the middle of the street into oncoming traffic, omg it is scary and completely overwhelming.

Also my brain exploded.

I can see things around me just fine as long as they aren't small details. So for example I will see there is a sign ahead but I might not be able to read what it says as soon as Charlie does. I can see the red crosswalk light 2 blocks away but the white one is harder to pick out.  I can't multi-task my attention on the road yet.

I don't know where to look or what to look for in all the chaos and there is no time!

Charlie says we are developing my reflexes and knowing what to look for.  I know I just started but it is so daunting and scary... I do have a fast mind for some things, but I'm scared I won't get this.  Am I too old to learn and is my mind too slow?  Charlie says I have good road eyes- meaning I was doing well on seeing and noticing- he says gaming and bike riding are advantages.  I still game and I biked a lot growing up.  But yesterday was hard. And scary, in case I haven't mentioned that bit.

I'm not very good at seeing small things far away.  And how am I supposed to see everything on both sides of the road, ahead, and behind me all at the same time? I'm scared I will miss Something Important because I didn't see it and Bad Things will happen.

How do people do this?
To be fair, I know a lot of it is the city, the roads aren't nearly so chaotic outside the city- and I'm fine on the side streets- but I still have to learn the busy roads.

I drove through these scary intersections:

Daya is doing well at Ailey.  She has a new best friend, Sage, who is from Maryland.  They ride their penny boards together during break.  A penny board is a mini skateboard.  (I didn't know that until Tuesday.)

These summer weekends are long and hard, but the weekdays are going quickly.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Saturday Painting

Yesterday I went to a meetup for sketching in Central Park.  It was a nice change since I'm always out alone.

The trains were so messed up and I got there about a half hour late...the way it was organized, we sketched for about an hour then stopped to look at all the work.  There was no critique.

I liked this very much, it was nice to see all the work...there are some good artists there!

Since I got there late I only had about a half hour for my first sketch.
I worked in pastel, 9x12 on black Strathmore Artagain paper.

My figure drawing sessions must have been influencing me, because I NEVER do outdoor paintings this fast!  I average about an hour with an 8x10, sometimes longer. And these were 9x12.

There were pigeons all over this statue, which I thought was fun.
In this first painting I was trying to go fast without it looking messy.  It does look a little messy tho...

This is my second piece...about 40 mins... MUCH faster than how I normally work.

I think this speed painting was good for me. It is definitely an influence from the figure drawing sessions.  My mindset was different than when I go out alone.  I had a work fast around a lot of people mentality, because that's exactly what I signed up for.  When I go out alone I am slower and it is different than being in a group.

Smooth paper might have also made a difference-- I have always taken sanded paper with me, and that holds more layers.  Maybe I am more careful with it...  I don't know.  I'm interested to see how I paint (in pastel) the next time I go plein airing by myself.  Will I slow down as I normally do, or speed paint again? Something in between?

Thursday, July 05, 2018


We went to the playground yesterday evening.
There are a few around the neighborhood, but we went to the one by Daya's first elementary school...she has grown up in this playground.  I used to take her here when she was a cute little toddler.

Daya has a lot of nostalgia for the playground, because she remembers being really tiny on the same playground equipment she's a little too big for now (but she will still play on).

Daya usually has leggings on but yesterday she had shorts on and... she has gotten some serious leg muscles from all her dancing!  She is very proud of her muscles and she should be, she works very hard for them.

She's also very happy because Ailey moved her up a level.  Now she will be in pointe class twice a week, which means her new shoes will probably be dead by the end of the month.  :(

Monday, July 02, 2018

Better Numbers?

Here is an ad that is in the subway:

Whoever chose the post to display.... could have chosen a better one.
89 mad people and 8 comments is..... really lame.  
It really doesn't emphasize the message very well at all.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Drawing from Today

For figure drawing lately, I like black and white charcoal on toned paper... I have done this for the last couple of sessions but next time I'm going to mix it up and do something different.  Maybe I will bring pastels.

I also used those new pencils from Jerry's I got a little while back.
9x12 on Strathmore gray toned paper.

Friday, June 29, 2018

End of Week

Weekends have been very hard lately.
I am going to figure drawing tomorrow, just to get out and practice a bit.

Ailey FINALLY got Daya tired.  She is ok with a class or rehearsal in the evenings here and there, but not if it is late.  She starts losing it by 7:30, and is really done by 8pm.  We both learned the hard way that if she goes home and rests before a late rehearsal, she can't get back up.

Seventh grade is finished as of this past Tuesday- last Friday for Daya.
We don't have her report card yet because I have to pick it up at school...hopefully next week.

The noise from upstairs- the BLASTING music is throwing my anxiety through the roof and affecting me really badly.  The tenants renewed their lease this past March and I was pretty upset about it.  The noise is literally making me crazy.  They are nice people though, and I shared my feelings and situation with them.... hopefully it will be considered and they will do something to reduce the noise.

Today it was still bugging me so I wrote them a letter as a follow-up and sent a copy to the landlord.

I wish NYC had better noise guidelines and enforcement- it is the number 1 thing everyone complains about from neighbors.  I can take normal noise with no problem.  But pounding drums and bass on full volume... no.  They freely admit they like their music on max volume.  This is just not a good building for that due to zero insulation and neighbors who care.

Driving is going very well.  I have been driving for 4 hours a week.  Yesterday I was driving in the streets and doing mostly ok.  I'm not near ready to be unsupervised but I'll get there.  I can't wait to be able to drive on my own.

I should be painting but I lack the heart to do much of anything, really.  That doesn't mean I won't, but it is a lot harder.

The weather is terrible, in the 90s.  YUCK.

Did you know Amazon Prime has several Japanese drama series?  I. Love. Them.  Even though they are so incredibly melodramatic and sappy... I love them!!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Daya's Alvin Ailey summer intensive started on Monday and she loves it.
They are doing level assessment all week, and Daya is hoping to be moved up as she thinks her classes are too easy. Her jazz teacher pulled her aside yesterday and said he was making a note to see if she should be moved up.

It is a fantastic environment.  Daya has only found one other person from NYC.  Everyone is from all over the country, and there are also several international students.  There were fewer students in orientation than there were at her audition!!!!  And Ailey goes around the country looking for people to attend the intensive.  So I'm very proud that she got in.

Ailey hours are 9-3 and I was all worried about her being tired AND SHE IS NOT TIRED.
So her evening competition rehearsals are probably ok, and she's going to take acro at the studio Thursday evenings.

I can't believe she isn't tired.
Maybe evening rehearsals after Ailey will make her tired?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Matthew, an Oil Sketch

A couple of months ago I wanted to do oil sketch practice portraits...and Carey had posted some pics of her kids.  I asked her if I could paint Matthew and she said yes.

The intention for this was not to be a long painting, but an alla prima sketch, one sitting. Quick.

The first one I did was a total bomb because the drawing was off.  And it was also taking forever.  So I scrapped the panel and started over.  I did the drawing in charcoal and it has been sitting around for several weeks waiting to be re-painted.

Which I did today.

Kids are very, very difficult- the younger the harder, and it is a bit nerve-wracking to show the painting to the child's mom...but I made Carey promise we would still be friends anyhow.

For what this is, I am pleased with it.  It fulfilled my intentions of being a sketchy alla prima oil child portrait.  This is hard stuff and I should practice more. I learned a lot doing this little painting. Mainly, if something looks weird, that something might be fine but something else around it might be off, making it look weird.  That happened a few times.

8x10 oil on panel, 4 1/2 hours-ish.

The palette is very simple.
I used my Williamsburg Italian earths, a Rembrandt ivory black, Vasari ruby red, Ultramarine blue, and good old fashioned flake white.  There is nothing like lead for skin tones, especially for a child.  I wanted the look and feel that lead brings.  Lead is toxic in powdered form, if inhaled or ingested, but I don't see any issue at all painting with it.

The charcoal drawing for placements.
(I had to fix the shoulder)