Painting Islands…. On Fabric?

Dear Liza,

Since I retired from teaching, my brain is like a kid in kindergarten, always finding something new. I opened a cupboard and found things to write about, so I wrote… for months and months.

Writing and writing..

Then I opened another cupboard and there was fabric, so I sewed.

Sewing and sewing…..

And now I have found the paint cupboard. First gouache, then watercolors. And, like a kindergartener, I have friends with ideas that feed my ideas. “Come join my painting group,” said Ruthie. I did, and it has been wonderful. Art, silliness, and learning all came together in the magic proportions that teachers strive for.

Painting little crabby friends….

I posted the islands I was painting and dear Elaine said, “I’ll bet you could put those islands on fabric, and maybe even quilt them.” Well, it turns out that you can paint on fabric with regular acrylic paints if you add a bit of “gac” paint medium. Auntie Bridgett had some, because of course she did.

I spent a day looking at maps of all the islands I love. The Big Island of Hawaii. Tom Sawyer’s Island at Disneyland. Treasure Island from Robert Louis Stevenson. Tiny Gabriola Island in the Strait of Georgia. Neverland. Sketch, reconsider, sketch.

Pencils first….

And finally I started painting my first fabric island. After smooth gouache and watercolors, the acrylic and muslin felt heavy and clumsy, but I kept at it.

What I have so far…

I am still not totally happy with it, but I will get better if I just keep practicing. It seems a bit flat. Hmmmmm… Maybe I can add embroidery or even some beads. Maybe my friends will give me some good ideas.

Love,

Grandma Judy

On-line Happy Hour and the Go-Gos

Dear Liza,

Friday was a very warm day. Eighty-eight degrees, with a dry, bright sky. The heat of July has let us know it’s not done yet.

Newest bunch of flowers…

It was a good day, though. I got to practice with watercolors some more, painting a vase of flowers similar to my first one in gouache. Flower arrangements are good subjects. They remind me of my Momma, your great grandma Billie, so painting them is like having a long visit with her.

We met our new neighbors across the way. They are nice people, and the lady has a wonderful “Ramona the Pest” tattoo (from the original 1968 Louis Darling illustrations of that Beverly Cleary Classic) on her arm. I think we may be kindred spirits.

From Ramona the Pest

Ruth Inman, long-time friend and artist, had her first “Last Friday” Open House on-line, and we attended with cocktails in hand. It was great to see her studio and all her good work. She has such a whimsical touch and color sense. You can see her stuff at “ruthinmanart.com” .

Some of Ruth Inman’s beautiful work

We had dinner out at the newly re-opened for social distancing Suzette, our local Creperie. It was yummy and fun to see their bright new decor.

Suzette’s new interior

We watched the Giants beat the Texas Rangers at Oracle Park, in front of ‘cheering’ cut-outs of fans. A bit weird, (especially since the Giants usually don’t play the Rangers) but better than no baseball at all.

Still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…

And for the finale of the evening, we watched a new documentary on The Go-Gos, a music group that Auntie Bridgett likes. I had barely even heard of them, so I learned a lot!

They started in 1979 as an all-girl punk rock band, and matured into fine musicians and the first all girl group that wrote and performed their own material to get a Number 1 debut album. They were incredibly successful in an industry that didn’t want them to be. It was very interesting, and I got to hear some fun new music.

And then, when it was cool enough for sleep, we all crashed and said good-bye to July. What will August bring? Hold on tight!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Watercolor vs Gouache

Dear Liza,

I have been telling you about painting with watercolors for a few months now. I have been using this little MALA set we found in one of the teeny tiny libraries years ago, and enjoying it very much.

My freebie paint set!

And, as it so often turns out lately, I was wrong…. just a little bit. Since I don’t know much about how watercolors acts or looks, I assumed that the matte finish and slightly chalky feel of my finished pictures was ‘just how watercolors work’ and my slightly muted colors were because I wasn’t applying them properly.

Pretty, but not what I was expecting…

Nope.

I have been using gouache! Gouache (you say it ‘go-wash’) is a watercolor that has ground up chalk in it, so of course it feels a little chalky and looks more matte, and less transparent, than regular watercolor.

This realization came about when I re-worked of one of my fantasy islands from this…

To this….

“You shouldn’t have been able to cover that blue with the brown,” Auntie Bridgett said. “Watercolors are too translucent.” Her eyes lit up. “This is gouache!”

And suddenly, the chalky texture and soft colors of my flower vase made sense. My frustration with my non-shimmery dragonfly wings was explained. I was never going to get the transparency of watercolor using gouache.

I felt better, knowing it wasn’t ‘just me’ and that there were benefits of using gouache, not the least of which was, ‘Hey, it was free.’ But artist Auntie Bridgett, who has been very supportive of my painting, realized that she has a very nice watercolor set, and let me use it.

Starting to use actual watercolors!

This set has tubes, instead of cakes, of paint. The texture of the diluted paint is smoother and silkier. I really notice the transparency, even getting frustrated because I have gotten so used to the gouache! And it still has the “Hey, it was free” feature.

First real watercolor trial…

So now I am on a new learning curve and having fun with it. And while parts of me are in lockdown and stuck inside, other parts are just a happy seven year old with a new toy.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Trying to Focus on Wellness

Dear Liza,

Our poor country has been calling in sick since mid-March, with no sign of recovering. “Please excuse the country from participating in her usual activities.” We are not just unwell. We are getting worse.

And, like some individual humans, parts of the country doesn’t seem to know what’s good for it. While many of us are resting, masking, distancing and working on self-care, others are out partying, deliberately putting themselves, and everyone in their orbit, at risk.

As happy as I am to be able to watch a baseball game, even one attended by fan cut-outs, I worry for the health of the players. Giant’s catcher Buster Posey, newly a father of twins, has wisely joined other players in just sitting this season out. But many players from soccer and baseball teams are going to crowded venues and parties. What are they thinking?

Sports fans, just not thinking….

I can only imagine the horror of managers who are tasked with keeping their players safe. They have developed disinfecting and distancing strategies only to see photos of their overpaid athletes partying like it’s 2019.

Masked superfood picker!

Here at home, we trying our best to keep our bodies strong. We are eating right (lots of salads with chicken, lots of fruit), not drinking too much (your portions may vary) and, every day, getting out for a mile walk.

Art is where my brain is happy

We counter the emotional toll of the news Doom Spiral with art, friends, and kittens. We keep each other focused on the good things.

Neighborhood wellness expert

It isn’t always easy. The Pandemic, Presidential over reach, and racial violence are dark clouds and very real. They are the water in which we are swimming. But we can’t let them squash our will for life and joy.

That’s my soap box for today. Stay well and happy, sweet girl.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Miss Harvey Returns!

Dear Liza,

Many years ago, I did some writing and research for The First Mayor’s House in Salinas. I wrote, and Auntie Bridgett Spicer illustrated, a little book called “Miss Harvey Remembers … Getting to Salinas”.

It was fun to learn about Isaac J. Harvey and his family, who moved to Salinas before it was even a city. They built a house, a store, and became part of the group that incorporated and laid out the city, way back in 1868. Isaac’s oldest daughter, Saphronia, left town so she could go to college and get her teaching license, just to open up the first school in this new town.

The First Mayor’s House

Over the years, I worked with David Baker, Mary Randall, and MaryJane Choate to create lessons and tours for local school kids so they could understand their town’s history. It was so much fun!

Learning to play 1868 games

When we moved to Portland, I thought I was all done with that. But, like so many times before, I was wrong.

With all the schools going on-line because of Covid-19, The First Mayor’s House is making virtual tours and on-line lessons to take the place of actual walk-throughs of the House. It makes me sad that kids won’t get to pump the water and use the scrub board, roll a hoop or touch and feel the plants.

Maria and the aloe…

But, it turns out, I get to play! When MaryJane asked if I could read the story on camera, for kids to watch in their on-line classes. it seemed easy. Reading stories out loud was my favorite part of my thirty years of teaching. Piece of cake.

Wrong again. I had to find the story, which has been tucked away for years. In re-reading it, I discovered a factual error and had to figure out how to correct it. I had to find a ‘set’ (a bookcase in my bedroom) and a ‘camera crew’ (Auntie Bridgett) to make it look good.

Using my teacher voice…

And I had to use my teacher voice, which I have been running from for two years now. It was all harder than I thought.

But eventually we got a rough draft video done. I am still figuring out how to send to Salinas so they can include it in their collection. Or maybe, the internet being what it is, I don’t even send it, but just post it. Who knows? We are learning as we go along.

Love,

Grandma Judy

More Sketchbook Islands

Dear Liza,

Besides being shutdown because of the Corona Virus, Portland is now dealing with Federal troops in our downtown streets every evening. It is also about 100 degrees by noon these hot July days. So I am staying inside.

My first, ‘accidental‘ map

I have taken Hitoshi Shigeta’s sketchbook islands, sent to us by Jennifer Coile, and run with it! I made a few islands in the original drip-and-spread method, but wanted the features to stand out more. I gave the accidentally created features more contrast with my paintbrush.

As I worked, I began to see where the snow would accumulate, how the melt would flow, and what the topography of the island would be. It became a very real, very happy place for me. I named it Welcome Home.

Making it real….

I realized that my calligraphy skills were not up to labeling the features on my map, so Auntie Bridgett suggested using cut-out letters and words in a sort of collage technique, and I am really enjoying it. Years of Portland Monthly, Better Homes and Gardens, and Sunset Magazines, and all our old maps are getting harvested.

Having gotten my island to this point, I am not sure what to do with it next. But my Dad always said that if you can’t decide what to do, maybe it isn’t time to make that decision yet. So I will put my maps in a safe place and figure it out later.

And what will I do next? Who knows?

Love,

Grandma Judy

Just Flowers

Dear Liza,

Sometimes, between the Covid-19 and the political situation, it’s nice to go out for a walk, and not think about anything. I mean, to just think about what is right in front of you.

Fortunately, in our neighborhood, there are lots of lovely flowers to look at. Sunnyside Elementary and Environmental School has delightful gardens, which are being tended by staff and families while the school is shut down.

Educated flowers…..

On a street down the hill a sunny patch is filled with Black-eyed Susans and zinnias.

Sunny flowers….

Our local community garden up by the Laurelhurst Care Center, sweet-peas and dahlias stand tall in the sun.

Tall flowers….

And between our house and Auntie Katie’s place in Ladd’s Addition, the four rose Gardens are home to hundreds of bushes, all tended by volunteers. This ‘Caroline Testout’ rose, a variety that was created in 1888, caught my eye on our last walk down that way.

And historic flowers!

Have a nice day, sweetie.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Buying Arty Stuff From Artists

Dear Liza,

One of the nicest things about having artists in my life, besides knowing the lovely artists themselves, is getting pretty stuff!

My friend Ruth Inman is an artist who lives in Illinois. She does delightful, pretty, quirky art, with lots of purples, golds, dragonflies, and doodles.

Me and my nifty new scarf

She has gone into business with a company called Redbubble that puts her art onto scarves, purses, face masks, and even shower curtains. You can order these online, which is very nice for these days of not-going-out.

The scarf itself

I have been having art classes with Ruth online, and in one of these classes, she made a beautiful piece of art. I liked it so much, I bought it on a scarf from Redbubble. And yesterday, it arrived!

She can be found at Ruth Inman.redbubble.com

Care directions: Do not eat hats!

It is so soft and pretty, and huge. The colors are blue and a golden brown, which will make it useful for summer and fall, and it feels like a cloud. I am so pleased!

Even a nifty zip-seal bag

If you have arty stuff needs go visit Redbubble, just for fun.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Unfocused Rage, Intentional Joy

Dear Liza,

Our country is a very nervous place these days. People are worried about the Corona Virus, people being out of work, and political upheaval in our cities. I have been upset, too, and am doing what I can to cope.

I have donated supplies to the braver souls in downtown Portland who are standing up to (President) Trump’s Federal goons. I have written my Senators and Representatives to encourage them to use the power of Congress to censure these illegal and unwanted actions.

But other people have other, less positive coping mechanisms. One unhappy soul has been wandering around our dear Lone Fir Cemetery, kicking over beautiful, historic headstones.

Yes, I am angry and wish he (Folks have see him and say it’s a man) hadn’t done it, but mostly I am sad for him. I mean, how bad does your life have to be that you take it out on the dead?

Is this who we are becoming?

But then I see acts of love, large and small, in evidence all over the neighborhood, and I find my faith in my species returning.

People are working in their gardens, writing encouraging words on sidewalks, making beautiful, positive murals, and donating time and money to good causes. People are learning to smile with their eyes over the masks to show folks they are loved and appreciated.

Life is good, it really is. Not always easy, but good.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Full-On Portland

Dear Liza,

After weeks of feeling isolated and in my own head, Wednesday was a day that felt very connected, very Portland.

Hooray for Auntie Katie!!!

First, Auntie Katie’s bookshop, Books With Pictures, was voted BEST COMIC BOOK SHOP IN PORTLAND by our local newspaper, the Willamette Weekly. Hooray!

I am sure that her hard work and dedication to customer service in having an online ordering service and door to door deliveries during the pandemic has endeared her to everyone. With so many businesses closing down, it is wonderful to see her thrive.

And in the evening, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett walked with me to deliver first aid supplies to the Black Lives Matter protesters. A group of volunteers called Snackbloc collect bandages, gloves, and other useful items in different neighborhoods to be used downtown to support the protesters against the Federal troops.

A beautiful mural along the way!

It pains me so much to see our government beating peaceful protesters. There has been some vandalism, but these troops are not dispersing crowds or stopping it; they are attacking unarmed people, shoving them down and gassing lines of singing women.

Protesters in Portland…. Photo by Beth Nakamura

It is as though they have come to punish these people for standing against the beatings… by beating them, like an abusive father ranting, “Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about.” This is not how I want my country to be.

Police attacking protesters in Portland… photo credit, CNN

But I am a coward. I fear beatings, teargas, arrest and undocumented detention by unknown troops. So I help in a small way so others who are braver can help in larger ways.

Take care, and I will see you soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy