Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring Awakening


Yeah, I know that's the name of a musical about young  people confused about sex, but I'm talking about the woods across the street. I've been doing a series of drawings for almost a year of the changes the seasons bring to that neighborhood patch of land where local children have played, made forts, sledded, ice skated through the trees at the bottom of the hill, and discovered varieties of bugs, plants, rocks and fungi for over fifty years. For many years the peepers have announced the arrival of spring. Sadly, because of the constant mosquito spraying for the swampy area at the foot of the sledding hill, I haven't heard those singing froglets for a while, so I have to look for other signs.
Things seem to happen suddenly: one day, everything is brown  and gray; the next there is a thin veil of green skimming over the tops of the trees, and the darker, thicker green cloak covers the bushes below. It's just beginning now,  and in a few more days, the woods will look like summer and stay that way until the middle of October.
It's today's beginning touches of tentative green over gray that I like more than the fullness of summer. That's spring to me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Update



Last year, in a blog post on April 26, I wrote about a series of documentaries I had been watching on the horrors of the Nazi death camps. I mentioned a former SS man who had been an Aughwitz guard. He was unrepentant, insisting it had to be done, including the deaths of children. He said they would have grown up as more Jews, bringing down the whole vworld. He claimed that the only reason he was participating in this film was that he wanted to counteract those who were denying that these things had ever happened. He wanted everyone to know that it HAD happened, the camps and the
deaths of all those people. But he wasn't sorry about it.
In my post I asked the question: Why is this man still here? He looked prosperous and well cared for. But he was a murderer, a thief, a monster.
Well, in today's paper I read that he is now on trial. I don't know when that documentary was made, but I think it was fairly recent. He was not under arrest at that time. But he is now 94 and on trial. Two women, one now from Toronto and one from Hungary are witnesses to his Auchwitz activities. They were teenagers at the time, and they remember him. They said they are not there to see punishment meted out, but to undergo the process of seeing the guilt he bears, and some closure for themselves.
I find this remarkable. Was this documentary and his admitting that he was an SS guard create the opportunity for his arrest after all these years? Did he think he was invulnerable? His comments in that film were so shocking that I still can't understand how he could have lived free for so long. He has had some 70 years more of life, more years than millions of the victims of that undeniable Holicaust.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring and Drawing

 


I am continuing the online drawing class I took in March. It's rather addicting. Several of the same people have signed up again. I'm not producing any "art," but I'm having fun drawing a variety of things in a giant sketchboo. figure I may have to keep doing this class untilI fill it up. We're supposed to draw every day, and each week we have a special assignment based on a topic that Susan gives us. This week it is Something Fishy. So far people are doing some pretty colorful, jewel-like drawings. The illustration here is a practice drawing I did in my IPastel computer program, which I can't use for the class. For the class assignment I paired up the boy on the dolphin with a mermaid. I like this one here better, because with this version I can get the iridescence of the fish scales, which I couldn't seem to accomplish on paper. But one of the good things about the class is that I am actually doing some drawing on paper,  leaving the IPad,  enjoying it.
Spring is actually here at last, and this week-end there are leaves popping out on the trees. To add to the seasonal turning, in the past week I've had two Apollo's Fire concerts. A week ago I won four tickets to an afternoon mini-concert for families, examining Vivaldi's Spring, showing the audience how the composer brought in the sounds of the season and demonstrating the instruments and the players' roles in the piece. It was informal and witty. I took Cynthia and Sally and we had a fine time. Went to Corky and Lenny's deli after for brisket.
Then this past Thursday Ann Waters and I went over to Akron to hear them do all four seasons with the full orchestra. After last week's performance, Cynyhia had made me a little painting of Jeannette Sorrell, the orchestra's founder and director, tuning her harpsichord, wearing a beautiful dark blue dress, with the sun shining through a chapel window, lighting up her brilliant red hair. I decided to make a copy of it to give to Ms. Sorrell after this week's concert ( Ann knows her well). Well, the concert was astounding, a full house, stomping, clapping, cheering and uplifted. Ann and I caught Jeanette as she came out and I gave her the picture. The cellist was with her, and they both loved it and she was very pleased to have it. She is probably still wondering who that strange old lady was, and maybe thinks I did the painting. Actually, I did a version of it for my drawing class. We had gotten to the performance last week early. It was in a chapel at one of Cleveland's great churches, and the scene was lovely. Thursday night's was in a huge class Lutheran church in Akron, with great acoustics.
I have missing my Cleveland Orchestra concerts, so it was great to hear an excellent professional group playing full out in a great space.
There is so much good music around here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In Like a Wet Lamb, or Eau d;agneau


March stayed pretty lion-like for a few weeks, and April so far is like unto wet lamb. Not only that, but mornings are like the Hound of the Badkerville's foggy moors.  But the ice is gone, finally, and it's much warmer. Not shirt sleeves warm, but well above the below zero weather of the past couple of months. It's not green yet, but I hear that crocuses and daffodils have appeared here and there. Spring in Northeastern Ohio takes its time, but it is very much worth the wait, a beautiful season which we deserve.
I finished my month of online Lucky Drawing 102 and enjoyed it very much. I had to get used to drawing large, since most of what I've done lately has been on the small side, and we were using an 11 x 14 sketchbook, sometimes using a double spread, making it 22 x 28 mega-drawing. It was a lot of work, but so much fun that I've signed up for another hitch. I've been impressed by the work of the other students in the class, and we all love the instructor, the artist Susan Shie. (You can Google her.)
Other than that I haven't done much. Got hooked on "  Parenthood" on Netflix, which I found extremely annoying, but had to find out what happened next. One of the child characters had a reading problem, and from how the writers handled it, in Berkley, California, home of one of the best universities in the country, the schools have never heard of reading specialists, or testing to ascertain what a kid might need in the way of assistance. They just decide to make him repeat the grade. It's full of dumb things like that, so that the characters can experience major crises rather than find out where they could resolve manufactured issues. Ya gotta have problems in plots or you'd have no show, but this one really makes Californians look idiotic.
Another good thing about the drawing class is that it got me away from such mind-numbing time wasters.
Probably.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Foggy Day, Harbinger of Spring



This cruel winter is winding down. Last week there were 7 or 8 inches of snow on the ground. The first warmish day, a dense fog hung about for most of the time. I love fog. I like the mystery of how it can transform familiar spaces and change one's orientation to reality. I like how it makes haloes around street lights at night. I like how it creates a feeling of isolation, so that my house seems to be far from any other houses, as if I'm on an island far away from land.
In the last few days, all that snow is gone. The ground is brown, with a gray-green cast. For those living in low areas or near creeks and rivers, there's water everywhere. There's still a chill in the air, but we have had a few days of sweater weather. Some people here in northeast Ohio have crocuses and snowdrops blooming already. The ice is mostly gone, although John found the trail in one of the MtroParks ice covered yesterday when he went for a hike.
Saturday night, when Sally and I were returning from a concert, we found a crowd of students along University Drive, out on the muddy lawns of fraternity houses, enjoying their beer and music as if it were late April and 70 degrees instead of 40.
It's been a loooong winter.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Online Art Class



I am having fun with the Lucky Drawing Class. (Lucky is Susan Shie's nickname.) we have to draw something every day by setting a timer  for 10 minutes and drawing whatever comes to mind. I believe this is one of those concepts left over from the hippie era, when a little mind altering substance helped the process along. No matter, it results in making me put down this IPad and doing something real and tangible. If you like what comes up, you can spend  more time and make a finished drawing.
Besides this, we have a more direct and complicated assignment each week. The one due tomorrow is to draw one's closet with a surprise in it. Could be a clothes closet, a supply closet, etc., and draw what's in it, plus something unexpected. I haven't finished mine yet, but I think it will be  all right if I don't screw it up.
For some reason, Sixto is interested, suddenly, in my drawing table, my drawing pencils, erasers, anything loose, which he likes to pat and push around. I kept thinking that he had never done this before. Then I realized that the last time I was in there, there was no Sixto around. It has been around 2 and 1/2 years since I was working on those Amish scenes. I've also been using a painting app to illustrate this blog, mainly because my scanner broke and I couldn't scan drawings any more as I had done before.
For the drawing class, we are working in a very large size skettchbook, so we photograph our drawings and download them to a personal album on a FB site, which is basically our virtual classroom. There we can get feedback from Lucky and other members of the class. Way cool, I think.
Above is one of my drawings from one of those  timed exercises. I made these window figures from this plasticky stuff I got in Germany, called Fenster Farben. They are transparent and cheerful little things especially in the winter.
 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Roaring In



March began very traditionally, with a snowstorm. The snow started Saturday, but our first day of the month when Spring starts was arctic. The outlook is not good. I have missed quite a few of my water aerobics classes this winter, mainly to avoid losing my footing as I skid down the walk to my friend's car. Ice seems to form even though John keeps shoveling every flake almost as soon as it falls. He lent me his YakTraks, and I have my walking sticks, but it is treacherous for an aged person such as I am to risk breaking my body into little pieces.
Two good things during March are the Sunday pancake breakfasts in maple syrup country, and the Lenten fish-fries down at the town of St. Joseph. Even though I broke my hip at the latter some years back, I still enjoy the food and community spirit in that little German Catholic village.
I am also starting an online drawing class offered by Susan Shie, a gifted artist and fun person I got to know when we both participated in Artsweek down at  a school in Sugarcreek. I taught a week of storytelling for middle-school students,  and Susan, or Lucky taught kids to paint story chairs. She's a fantastic and nationally known art quilter and painter, and also very funny. Until I had  to give up driving, I had taken some kind of art class every year for  a long time, just to keep my hand in and to learn new skills. This should be fun. This is Lucky's second online class, but she's been teaching for years. She'll give us assignments, we'll take photos of each one, download them into our own album and post them on a special Facebook page. We'll be working in a large format, which I find intimidating, but I think it will be much fun and challenging.One exercise will be to spend 10 minutes evry morning to draw something, whatever comes to mind. This morning, after aerobics class, I started by making watery colors, like the pool I exercise in, and Sixto joined me, right on my drawing table, rubbing my face and covetring part of the paper with his tail and one of his paws. So that's what I drew.