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.

Love,

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!

Love,

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!!

Love,

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!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Mixed Media Journal

Dear Liza,

I have started an art challenge: To make a piece of art everyday for the whole month of October. My friend Ruth Inman posted a list of things to give us ideas, like ‘bread’, ‘sea creatures’, ‘salt water taffy’, and all sorts of things.

Auntie Bridgett, who is very sweet, gave me a big hardback, spiral bound notebook to use. It has nice heavy paper so I can draw, paint, or even glue things down to make a collage!

The cover of my Fall “Art Journal”

I started with decorating the cover in Fall colors. All our magazines are full of oranges and browns, so it was easy to put together. I even found a nice picture of Multnomah Falls to be right in the middle.

First page…

The first page came from my own need to make something seasonal and orange. Crayons, then watercolors, then some words, and taaa daaah!

The first of the challenges was ‘bread’. When I think of bread I go straight to a French baguette, eaten on the banks of the Seine at sunset. This piece is watercolor, colored pencils, and waterproof ink.

Bread…..

Ruth’s second challenge is “alcohol”, so I thought of wine enjoyed while looking out the window of a classic California winery… yummy.

Wine….

The one I did this morning was my favorite so far, because it was about YOU. The actual topic was sea creatures, but I painted them at the Aquarium, with you.

Liza at the Kelp Forest…

I am going to take a break for the evening and not look at the challenge for tomorrow…. until tomorrow.

Keep making art!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Playing with (Voodoo) Dolls

Dear Liza,

I think I am really just a big kid. When things get ugly or stressful, I need to laugh. I need to play.

The Buffoon

Years ago, Auntie Bridgett and I made little voodoo dolls to send home with guests at a Halloween party. The leftovers became part of our regular decorations. This year, one got a change in hairstyle and a long red tie to become ….. well…. The Buffoon.

I posted his photo on Facebook and some folks complained that the pins weren’t working! So I am giving The Buffoon some ‘adventures’. Basically, I am playing with my doll….. making things as uncomfortable as possible for him.

The Buffoon meets Arachnophobia…

Like I did when I was a kid, I looked around the house to see what I could play with. I realized that Halloween images are mostly things that can kill you, so there were lots of options!

Just in case he gets thirsty…..

Halloween decorations are good, of course. But we also have fearsome yard gnomes.

The Buffoon ( and friend) meet murderous garden gnomes

I am not done yet! I am feeling very crafty, and will tell you more about The Buffoon’s adventures as we approach that special day in early November.

Meanwhile, play, laugh, and vote, vote, vote! We will all get through this.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Spooking the Place Up….

Dear Liza,

I know it’s not even October yet, but… we’re decorating! Halloween is such a fun time, we just got out the boxes of pumpkins and skeletons and jumped in.

Hello, old friends!!

I love our decorations. Bridgett made many of them over the years, in ceramic painting classes or out of crafty supplies. That talent runs in the family, because her Momma Donna painted this witch forty three years ago! It lights up and gives a great happy, spooky feeling.

Fabulous witch

Between sewing, painting, and salvaging, we have quite a collection. Wine bottles become cute with some spray paint…

Painted bottles and stuffed pumpkin out of scraps


This skull is all that remains of a plastic skeleton my teaching partner Laurel and I were gifted by Hartnell College, many years ago. The rest of him fell apart toe by toe, but I just had to keep the skull.

Dear Old Mr. Bones…

And here is our latest creation, a voodoo doll. Any resemblance to current governmental official is absolutely intentional.

What’s next for him?

Love,
Grandma Judy

Still Strong Inside

Dear Liza,

Our country seems to be in a dangerous place. Our people are fighting each other in Walgreens about wearing masks and in the streets over everything else. Our President is talking crazy about not leaving office when his time is up. People are worried about their health, their schools, and their jobs.

Last week, walking back from downtown, I passed this fallen oak tree in our Lone Fir Cemetery. It was one of the old ones, probably fifty feet tall, and had green leaves all over it. Five minutes before it had fallen, it had looked fine.

Hollow center of a giant

But now that I was able to see into the trunk, I could see the truth. It was rotten on the inside, hollow and useless. I had a shiver of bad literary juju. “That’s like us,” I thought. “We still live in nice houses and have luxuries, but our government has failed to protect us from the evil ambition of this President. We could fall any moment now.”

That sense of dread has stuck with me for days. It has given me nightmares. But it won’t stick around forever. There is still good in the world, and I went out and found some.

Vote of confidence on the Morrison Bridge

I love public art, especially the small bits that sneak up on you. It lets us see good intentions and know that the power for good is there, even when the artist has moved on.

Caring for tiny things on a side street

I love that more people are registering to vote and encourage others. I love that even “the other side” is taking steps to limit the damage to our Democracy. And I hope that when all this energy is acted upon, it will be enough.

Sticker art at Asylum
Always a good idea!

I send you waves of love and hope for a better day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Jazz on the Porch

Dear Liza,

It has been a long, long time since we heard live music. Before the pandemic, it was one of the great joys of living in Portland: somewhere close, almost every evening, folks were playing music.

Oh, yes!!

But before the summer outdoor music season even got started, the whole country shut down. Movies, concerts, even outdoor venues, were all closed for the duration. Poop.

While out picking up litter the other day, we saw this sign and confirmed what we had heard talked about: Jazz in the neighborhood!

Gordon Leem and company

Just a block from our house is a lovely front porch where a group gathers to play gentle jazz, for whatever people want to put in the tip jar. Lead by Gordon Leem, the ensemble includes a keyboard, stand up bass, trombone, drums, and some fine scat singing.


It was wonderful. “Blue Skies”, their opening number, celebrated the return to our clear skies after nine days of toxic smoke. Folks slowly wandered in, carrying camp chairs, wine, and snacks. The sidewalks and even Alder Street itself became seating, and no one seemed to mind. The sun started to go down and we all just reveled in being there.

Being out in the world, watching people with their kids and dogs, was as important as the music itself. It wasn’t perfect, of course. A group close by us were so happy to be out of the house they chatted a bit too loudly. But I realized that was part of it. We have missed the luxury of being irritated by strangers.

The tip jar got regular donations, and Gordon reminded us that a part of that money will go to the Red Cross, who is helping lots of people in Oregon who have lost everything. After an hour and a half, it was time to head home. We waved at neighbors ( hard to recognize after months inside and with everyone masked!) , packed our chairs and headed off to dinner.

It almost felt like normal life.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Neighborhood Updates

Dear Liza,

The fires are still burning in Oregon and California, and many thousands of folks have lost their homes. Locally, the winds have shifted, so we here in Portland are not suffering. The only damage we have so far is that my bonsai, The Hundred Acre Wood, was left outside for a few days of smoke, and its leaves have shriveled.

Very shriveled Hundred Acre Wood

I’m not sure if it is totally dead or if the smoke has just caused it to go into a sort of premature hibernation, but for now it is getting regular care out on the balcony. We will see what happens come Spring.

We walk around our neighborhood a lot, and when we do, we notice things. New paint jobs, blooming cherry trees, sunflowers taller than our heads. And sometimes, trash. Sometimes, a lot of trash.

This morning Auntie Bridgett and I gathered up our trash buckets and bags, our new grabbers, our new VOTE masks, and headed out.

All kitted up…

Our day working with SolveOregon.org last month made us feel empowered to help. We don’t have to just step over the trash and disapprove of it. We can DO something about it. It is what my dad would want us to do.

Be the change you want to see….

We picked up lots of paper and cigarette butts, beer cans, old nasty socks and even masks. Following the SolveOregon guidelines, though, there are some things we won’t touch. These jugs, for example, contain materials that are likely to be toxic, and have been sitting on this curb for months and months.

Nope, not going to deal with those!!

I have researched which city department is in charge of removing such things (Environmental Quality) and called to make them aware of the situation, and gave the address.

I like that we can take charge of a part of our world. Little changes can help. Litter pick up. Donations to local charities. Buying from local shops. Voting, voting, and…. voting.

Acting locally, making a difference.

Love,

Grandma Judy