Stream of Conscious Drawings with Longwinded Captions

Awhile ago I posted a drawing from my sketchbook with a lengthy caption about The Girl from Ipanema. Since then I have done more of this type of sketching and figured I would post a few more here. I will type out the captions underneath because there are good handwriting day and bad handwriting days.

We don’t know what this is but it has been decided that every home should own one.

Who is this fine gentleman and where did he get his hat? Not to mention those glasses. And here is his wife, another interesting character indeed and a tad more refined than he. She used to teach piano lessons but decided to give that up so she could dedicate all her time to juggling fine china.

New Book

Though I keep thinking I am finished making books for my upcoming exhibition at the Hickory Museum of Art in 2022, I find I am still coming up with thoughts that I can’t get out of my head until I make the book. So here is my latest one called Retreat. It is made inside a small box about 4″ x 4″. I had to refashion a cover because it need something pliable.

What are the chances?

Lately, I have sharing my modest knowledge as an amateur botanist with artists from the Plastic Club in a series called “on plants” which takes place via Zoom off and on. Carla Stine, one of the participants who creates beautiful botanical illustrations, had a strange looking object that fit in the palm of her hand that looked like a porcupine. My guess is that it was the fruiting structure to something, but what?? I suggested she send me photos so I could ask the real botanist at work what it might be. So I toddle into work the next day and put my water cup on the shelf I always put it on, and there, three measly inches from where I place my cup is, guess what??? The EXACT same porcupine object!!! In the millions and millions of plants out there, what are the chances that this object would be right under my nose? Now in my own defense, the same shelf contains several objects, many more picturesque than the one in question. Upon picking it up (ouch!) I could see underneath that there was some nut like fruit.

So a short time after this odd discovery, here comes the botanist, who identified this object as a chestnut. He then proceeded to go gather some mounted specimens, including one where the nut was open. A few things to point out on the specimen below: next to the open nut (the female fruit) is a structure that looks like a string of pearls which are the male flowers. In the image under the specimen is its label. Note that there has been a name change, something that happens more often than you would think, sometimes because of mis-identification, other times because the plant has been put into a new genus, sub-species, or some other category based on new knowledge gained.

The reason I love botany is it gives me, as an artist, a visual way to solve puzzles. Why would a chestnut have such a covering? I am thinking as a means of survival. Porcupine like needles are certainly a way to discourage predators from eating up your potential offspring. So concludes our fireside chat today on botany.

This Sunday: On Plants. A Zoom series on plants and the different ways artists relate to them.

Radishes, from the artist book Diary of a Vegetable Farmer

You do not have to be an artist or an expert on plants to enjoy this upcoming series hosted by the Plastic Club. It will kick off this Sunday with a presentation I am giving on looking at the characteristics of leaves with an emphasis on trees. Many people enjoy plant journaling as a way to relax and/or a way to learn about plants. This presentation will touch on this topic as well. It may lean a bit more towards the botanical than the art end of things but if you have any interest in plants I hope you will join us. And, we are looking for future speakers so if you have information to share on plants please consider becoming a presenter. The link to sign up for this Sunday’s event is here.

Succotash, Painting, Leisure Activities

This may seem like an odd combination of things but it is because last summer I gave a summary of a week’s activities and it was a week that we cleaned the carpet. Well, it is carpet cleaning day again so I figured that was a good reason to repeat that format and fortunately it will be minus an earthquake.

Winter is Approaching, mixed media on panel, 12″ x 12″

Starting above with a painting I have been working and struggling with for the past few weeks. Well, I was able to complete that and am pretty happy with it. Last year I was volunteering at home mounting plants. Now I am employed at the herbarium so I spent a few days there and I am still trying to adjust to a new work schedule but that is coming along fine.

“chopped” version succotash

So what is this? Well, I find it to be great fun to take a bunch of vegetables that are in too small amounts to do much with on their own and make different blends of succotash. Aside from the show Chopped, the other inspiration I have for this is my Dad who used to clean out the refrigerator, add eggs, and scramble them with all the leftovers and called it Jambolt. Jambolt is an actual dish but it seems that is is one of those things that varies depending on the household. Well, succotash is sort of the same. My base for my Jambolt/Chopped succotash is thankfully NOT eggs but corn. For this version I had a little leftover radishes, red onion and spinach from our lunch this week and I am a big believer that a little olive oil, salt, and pepper are the the essentials to any type of vegetable dish. So to that I added a dash of cayenne and a little sweet paprika. Succotash.

The above images are from a sculpture show we went to last Saturday at the Boyhill Walking Park in Lenoir, NC. We were really not sure what to expect and decided that if we didn’t feel safe we would just not attend. Our reluctance was based on many things but I won’t get into that here. It was only about an hour away so at the very least it was a nice ride. But we were pretty sure it would be fine based on some research we did. As you can see, it is a lovely setting and it was not very crowded. There were about 35 sculptors and they were arranged around a lake. Most of the sculptors wore masks and we put ours up if we approached them to talk. We were really glad we took the chance and went. Each artist was allowed to display up to three sculptures. My favorite sculpture is below.

This wonderful installation by Crista Cammaroto was made out of all natural materials and is on a sand base. It was quite large and some details are above (you can right click on any image and it will enlarge in its own window). The yellow mounds were tummeric and you could smell them big time. She must have been there in the middle of the night setting this up. There was another one but my photos of that did not come out so well.

Earlier in the week I was able to safely attend an organ concert. An organ concert is not like going to see a rock band as they attract a relatively small, particular demographic. I love sitting in the back row of this big cavernous church and dozing off. It is very meditative. There was plenty of social distancing, even for the people who sat way up front. It is in Davidson which is, as a rule, concerned about safety and has a high vaccination rate so I feel pretty confident about anything I do there.

So though we are creeping along, I truly believe we are in a better place than we were a year ago for many reasons. And things will slowly improve as time goes on. I believe it was necessary to have this set back because people were getting too lax too quick, forgetting that many children are still not eligible for vaccines. I, for one, was struggling with the idea that a light switch turned and everything was normal again. That actually felt more strange to me than this slower adjustment.

Of course, the carpet is now clean. And the upholstery.

The Girl from Ipanema’s House

I am posting this at the insistence of a friend that urged I share it. I don’t know what made me think of this song recently but I did and was compelled to draw and write the following (see a typed version of the text under the image):

The text reads:

This is where the girl from Ipanema lives. The location of the house is unknown but many of the features were made public. It has a spiral staircase that goes to a sunk-in living room. There is shag carpeting and a wet bar. Though there is no pool there is a beautiful fountain in front of the house. On warmer days the windows are open and you can hear Henry Mancini records playing. People have seen her when the shades are up or when she is at the front door talking with a neighbor or a delivery person. She wears flat shoes and form fitting pedal pusher pants. Her tops are short and if her arm is raised you can see her belly. She wears her dark hair piled in a bun and likes long dangly earnings. She wears eyeliner, but no eye shadow unless she goes out. She is thinking it would be nice to have a small dog and if she gets one she will put a fancy collar on the dog and get a leash with tiny rhinestones.


Oddly, when I went looking for a version of this song to post I came across an interview with the actual woman this song was written about. She actually has (did have) dark hair and she obviously does like long dangly earrings and does like eye makeup. When the interviewer asked her what version she liked of the song, which was written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, she said the one by Frank Sinatra which, oddly, was not the most popular version of the song. However, in her honor, I will post a link to a version of the song (click here) done as a duet by Frank and Antonio.

The Neighborhood – The Final Version

The Neighborhood, 24″ x 24″, Mixed Media on Panel

I have been working on this piece for several years now. For awhile, it lived on a dowel and each house was on a string. But after awhile, that seemed awkward to display. Then I thought about making it a book and made fences to help the houses to connect together and stand up and then changed my mind. This is now how the houses will live. The houses and fences are adhered to a 24″ x 24″ paint panel. There is additional painting and drawing on top so it is a mixed media piece. Some detail images are below as well as some links of how it looked over time.

The Neighborhood – Detail
The neighborhood – Detail
The Neighborhood – Detail

This work can be seen in its various stages on these links:

Artist Book in Process

The neighborhood

Tree Detective

I had never heard of a Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) before a recent class I took. The reason the tree stood out to me was its acorns which looked little winter hats with fuzz around the rim. Since these trees seem to grow in climates somewhat colder than where I live this seemed sort of fitting to me in an odd way and I secretly wondered if “Burr” had anything to do with what the tree was thinking such as “Burrr, I’m cold. I need to make some more fuzzy acorns to keep warm”. Ok I know this is getting silly.

Anyway, I have been amusing myself lately trying to identify various oak trees that I come across. I was at a local nature preserve and noticed a number of oaks growing near the former welcome center. I pulled out my handy tree key and started trying to figure out what they were. One tree keyed out to be a Burr Oak. Hmmm? That seemed odd to me; maybe I mis-keyed it. Below is a rubbing I took of one of the leaves. It certainly looked like a Burr Oak leaf. But I was still skeptical.

Burr Oak Leaves

Moving over a few feet to key some other oak trees on the grounds, I noticed a lot of leaf litter and other debris at the base of the trees. It is also good to look at this for some additional clues such as acorns, other fruits, flowers, etc. There in the leaf litter was this odd looking thing; I didn’t know what it was. So of course I picked it up. It was certainly very large and unusual looking. Then a lightbulb went off in my head: A Burr Oak Acorn!

Cap of a Burr Oak Acorn

Finding this cemented that the tree a few feet to my left was indeed a Burr Oak! The diameter of this acorn cap is about 1.5 inches- pretty big. Though this explains the botanical name: Quercus (the genus for all oak trees) macrocarpa, which means “large fruit”. Below is my sketch of the cap of the acorn with the live model.

Mystery solved!

Sketch of Burr oak acorn

Found Treasures in Old Book

Last week at the Herbarium I was browsing through the books and came across this old book that appears to be a textbook from 1855

Title is Class Book of Botany
Title Page

Here are some pages with diagrams


Now here are the surprises! Some pressed plants circa 1878, perhaps from the Cleveland Ohio area as per the dates and places on the newspaper.

Pressed Fern
Pressed Fern
Pressed Fern and illustration