The Other Dandelion

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I told you that I had made two sketches of a dandelion, and only used one. Here is what I did (and learned) with the other one.

I put in watercolor green for the distant lawn, but it looked flat and not ‘distant’. And the fence wasn’t right.

But I fiddled with it. I think this ‘fiddling’ is what they call The Artistic Process. Auntie Bridgett showed me how to shade the grass so it would recede, and I played with the fence to make the boards look more like boards.

By the time I was mostly happy with it, Grandpa Nelson was ready to go for a walk. We enjoyed the cool fall sunshine, changing leaves, and tiny weeds growing from our latest rains.

And then I saw it. My mistake.

I had drawn a dandelion and put on the wrong leaf! Dandelions are so-called because someone thought their leaves looked like the tooth of a lion (dent du Leon). And I had put in a leaf that was more of a langue du chat. Could I fix it?

I could try. I picked a leaf and took it home to trace. I cut and colored and placed them as best I could over the wrong leaves. And it is better.

My mother always said that since we got smarter when we made mistakes, she must be the smartest woman on the planet. Today, I learned about leaves, paying attention to details, my own capacity for patience, and the myriad ways to correct errors.

So, educationally speaking, it was a good day.


Grandma Judy

More Mixed Media

Dear Lisa,

I have told you about the October Mixed Media challenge I have been doing. Each day there is a new thing to make a picture of, like ‘birds’ or ‘fence’. You can use any style and material you like, then you take a picture of it and post it on the Facebook page.

Mortar and moss laid down…..

The other day, the challenge was ‘weeds’. I made a sketch of a dandelion growing in a crack in the sidewalk by a stone wall, but while I was working on it, I got the idea of doing it in collage. So I turned the page of my art journal and sketched the picture again.

A layer of collage….

I wanted to make lots of layers, so I used acrylic paints and a sponge to paint in grey mortar and some green moss. Then I cut up our voter’s pamphlet (after we filled out our ballots) for the cement and stone wall. I hid most of the text with a few coats of acrylic paint.

Basic stones and weeds…

I did a few chores while I waited for all that to dry, and then played with greens to put in moss and tiny weeds, and got the basic dandelion put in. Then I put in details with waterproof pens and a white posca marker.

How this one ended up!

It wasn’t as perfect as I wanted, but I couldn’t think of what to do to make it better, so I called it done. I will tell you what happened with the other sketch tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Vote Forward

Dear Liza,

Last month I started working with a group called Vote Forward. These folks collect the addresses of people who usually don’t vote, and send these addresses to volunteers like me, and we write them a letter. The letter doesn’t tell anyone who to vote for. It just tells them why we think voting is important.

My letter said, “I vote in every election because decisions are made by those who show up. Voting is a way for all of us to show up and have our voices heard.” Simple as that. Auntie Bridgett helped by addressing all the envelopes.

And Saturday was the day we mailed them out! It is part of a HUGE Get Out the Vote Project called The Big Send. This way, people get their letters in time to make a plan to vote. They can even vote early or by mail, if it is allowed where they live.

And away they go!

I have been very encouraged by the news from around the country, showing so many people voting early, or waiting in long lines to have their voices heard. I love that groups like “Pizzas to the Polls” are making sure folks in those long lines get something to eat.

With just two weeks to go before the election, it feels like our whole country is crossing its fingers, waiting for an outcome that will mean a change of direction, a turn towards healing, for all of us.


Grandma Judy

Playing with Words

Dear Liza,

I made a new game for your cousins the other day. Since they are very clever readers and like unusual things, I am calling the game “Recondite Confabulations” or “Abstruse Colloquy”. In more common language, it could be called “Weird Old Words”.

It is basically a series of flash cards, with a modern word on one side and three old fashioned, or archaic, synonyms on the other.

For example, Food is also vittles, entree, or sustenance. Honest is also forthright, scrupulous, and above board.

I included words for Halloween season, like Monster (hellion, monstrosity, and lusus naturae) and words kids use a lot, like Hungry, Tired, and School. They were easy to find by going to the online Thesaurus site and choosing the most obscure words. It was fun!

And to make it pretty and seasonal, I made the cards look like autumn leaves. Lots of painting! But I really like how they turned out.

I hope you have fun playing with words, too. I will make you a game, if you like.


Grandma Judy

Election Advent Calendar

Dear Liza,

I am so excited about the upcoming election, it feels like Christmas! The Presidency, and all those Senate seats, are up for grabs. These races will decide how our country goes forward from our current mess, and I am ready for a new start.

So I am taking my nervous energy and making stuff! The usual daily Art-ober challenge, of course, but also, an Election 2020 advent calendar.

I wanted it to be flag-inspired, but I am short on colored paper. Not a problem! A few sheets of kids-level Crayola sketch pad and Liquitex Basics acrylic paint got me to the right zone. Plain white paper cut in slightly wonky stars carried the theme.

The Basics

I put the stars in place, some of them pulling away from the field and trying to escape (I know the feeling, stars), I cut the red into ten sort-of-regular stripes and glued them to the bottom

Stars trying to escape!

I cut and glued, all the time wondering what sort of trivia would be tied to this game. Trivia is sort of where I live, intellectually speaking.

My own Stars and Stripes!

By the time I was done, I had the game figured out. See those tiny numbers on each stripe? We will use this to countdown the twenty days until the November 3rd election. Each stripe represents two days. Each evening we will snip (or fold, or color, we’ll figure it out) that section of the stripe and I will ask a question about Presidential history, culled from random internet searches.

Is he reaching for his flask?

”Which President was the heaviest drinker?”

“Which President came from the largest family?”

“Which President’s favorite movie was “Hunt for Red October?”

Who loved Hunt for Fed October? I mean, except me?

The winner will get an as-yet-undecided prize.

Now we just play, and mail out letters to encourage folks to vote, and wait, and vote, vote, vote!!


Grandma Judy

Home Haircuts

Dear Liza,

With the corona virus still out and about, we are still staying home a lot. We are avoiding being inside buildings with other folks. We are not anti-social, but we want to stay well.

Shaggy me!
Cleaning up the parts he can’t see….

Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I all had haircuts in salons four months ago, and we are all getting pretty shaggy. But we felt nervous about going back to Yen’s Salon. She and her sister, Twee, are wonderful barbers…. but they are inside a small room.

Trimming that handsome face

The solution? Grandpa Nelson went online and bought a set of clippers! It was only a slight snag that the instruction were in two languages, Japanese and French, because between our French and their good illustrations, we figured out how to use them.

Too long in the back!

By “we”, I mean Grandpa and Bridgett. Grandpa practiced on his own beard and sideburns, and got pretty good. Auntie Bridgett watched some youtube videos and felt brave enough to tackle our heads! I was a very willing Guinea pig.

Spiffy me!

It took a while, and we listened to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” to pass the time. And in the end, I think we both look pretty fabulous! Auntie Bridgett’s skill and attention to detail made her first haircuts ever a rousing success.

Of course, I would like to return the favor…. but neither of us is brave enough!


Grandma Judy

First Rainy Day!

Dear Liza,

It rained Saturday!

It’s sweater weather!!
Cutie pie Bridgett with her cool umbrella

It was a big, fat, wet, grey day. So of course we went for a walk!

Pretty raindrops on Nandinas

We had some errands to run, to mail some packages and pick up a replacement coffee grinder. We found lots of puddles, happy wet dogs, and kids in new rubber boots. Bright leaves floated down the gutters and stuck to our shoes.

Clouds moving along

By the time we had dropped off and picked up, the first wave of the storm had moved along and some blue skies showed through.

And when we got home, we drew, painted, and cooked, enjoying the sound of the wind and scattering leaves.

By the time the chili and corn bread were ready, the second wave had come and we listened to the rain through open windows.

Happy Rain!!


Grandma Judy

Ventura Park

Dear Liza,

Our dear Volkswagen needed some service the other day, so we drove miles east to the dealership. We had an hour to kill while the oil got changed and the tires adjusted, so we took a picnic, art supplies, and found a new park!

Wide open Ventura Park

Ventura Park is a little over seven acres of grass and trees in the Hazelwood neighborhood of East Portland. It is on Stark Street, which used to be called Baseline Road. One of the 1850 mile markers is set in the corner, showing that it is seven miles from the Willamette River. These markers were set every mile along Baseline Road, which was the main road that farmers in this area used to get their goods to the markets on the river.

Seven mile marker from the 1850s

There are 121 trees in Ventura Park, many of which were planted back in 1959 when the city bought the land as a park for new post-war housing boom in East Portland. The website for the park has a map to show which trees are where, so this is a good place to learn about different trees. The 37 species include Blue Spruce, Ginkoes, and Deodar Cedars, which have aged well. The park has a foresty area, and also a baseball diamond and lots of grass for kids to play.

A fine Lebanon Cedar

There is also something I have never seen before. It is a ‘pump track’, a small dirt ring track for little kids to ride their bikes on. It is designed with banked corners and small rises so that, with practice, a kid could ride all the way around without having to pedal their bike! We saw a few kids enjoying the track… some pedaled, some didn’t. They sure were having fun!

There is a smooth paved walkway all the way around the park, and we saw an older gentleman doing smooth, slow laps in the Fall sunshine. There are interesting stainless steel and stone sculptures, too.

Bull horns? Or a crescent moon?

We got a call that said our car was ready, so we had to scoot away. I hope we can come back to Ventura Park and see some more



Grandma Judy

Art Journal and Pictures for Tim

Dear Liza,

I am still making a new piece of art each day for the Art-Ober mixed media challenge. Subjects like “cactus” and “stripes” tickle my brain! And as I gain confidence, I am willing to paint scenes I never would have tried a few months ago.

While this is all happening, I got a note from the wonderful woman who is caring for my big brother Tim. “I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I’ve got about ten small frames from the Dollar Store…” she said. Ah ha! A project!

So I went through the pictures I’ve done so far, picked my favorites, and made smaller copies to fit into her frames.

Tim has always been an outdoorsy type, fishing and hiking and such, so I chose scenes of flowers and forests.

This picture of a pair of jack rabbits nibbling on a sage brush reminds me so much of our old campsite at Vallecito, it makes me homesick. Great Grandpa Lowell took us there for about a dozen Easter vacations, enjoying the desert before it got too hot.

I made sure to write my name clearly in the pictures, so Tim could remember where they came from and know I am thinking of him.

I hope he enjoys them! I will make more and send them off. You can make me pictures, if you like. I’ll bet I could get some frames from the Dollar Store, too.


Grandma Judy

The Mummy

Dear Liza,

It is October, so for the whole month we are watching monster movies. We are a household that doesn’t like realistic gore, so a lot of the modern horror movies are not for us. No slashers. No “Exorcist”.

Nope, we are romantics, I guess. Auntie Bridgett likes the 1931 swoon-inducing Dracula, with Bela Lugosi. The painted Transylvanian backdrops and facial expressions set the mood of not-quite-reality. And of course, Renfield’s laugh is amazing.

I prefer Boris Karloff’s The Mummy, made in 1932. Karloff’s personification of the 3,700 year old priest coming back to life for love speaks to me, in a creepy sort of way. Zita Johann, who portrays the object of his obsession, is stunning, and a perfect example of the ‘modern’ woman. Her costumes, banter, and knowing looks separate her from the poor hapless women in Dracula.

I hope you find some ‘scary’ movies that you can enjoy this October!


Grandma Judy