Hopeful Collage

Dear Liza,

I have been having so much fun experimenting with mixed media! Putting watercolors, other paints, and collage together to tell about a feeling, or a day, just makes so much sense to me.

This piece is from Easter weekend. When I was out walking, I thought about how all springs are new beginnings. But THIS spring, with vaccines making us safer, we are being released from Covid captivity in addition to our cold winter isolation. This spring feels especially free-ing.

I collected some bits from my collage box, including candy wrappers and the little paper sleeve that was wrapped around my ice cream cone from the new Dairy Hill Creamery, down on Hawthorne.


I knew I wanted the ‘sad’ side on the left and the ‘happy’ side on the right, so I put some watercolors down for a first layer.

To show more clearly what made the sad side so sad, I stenciled and collaged some Covid-looking circles, and even spelled ‘Covid’ out in letters. Moving on from the sad, I laid down an ice cream cone wrapper bridge over a river made from a chocolate-wrapper bit of tinfoil.

I needed a happy side to be bright, so I stenciled a sun in a variety of yellows. The city is cut from an on-sale art paper from Collage art supplies. The bird was on a birthday card. The ‘JOY’ balloons are also from the ice cream wrapper.

To finish it off, I outlined the balloons and letters, and gave some detail to the sun. And to remember that this happened on Easter, I put some pretty eggs by the bridge.

Giving it a critical look, I realize that I made the water under the bridge wrong. But overall, I am pleased with the piece. It captures how I was feeling and incorporates bits of the day. I hope you have fun doing art this week!

Love,

Grandma Judy

The New Hundred Acre Wood

Dear Liza,

I am sad to say that my bonsai forest, the Hundred Acre Wood, has died. The smoke from forest fires last summer threw off the trees’ seasonal cycle, and they didn’t survive the winter.

Hundred Acre Wood, before the fire
Hundred Acre Wood and unfortunate peasants, in the snow

So this weekend I replanted it with three new trees we got at Portland Nursery.

Cypress, cotoneaster, and larch

Replanting is always an exciting thing! It has the promise of new life and new beginnings. In doing a bonsai, it is creating a miniature world that I can visit right out on the balcony. I can imagine I am in a spinney in Wales or just up in Forest Park.

The New Hundred Acre Wood

Even in regular times, I spend a lot of time in my imagination. But this past year’s restrictions have given me even more reasons to walk around the backwoods of my mind, and it’s nice to have new trees, even tiny ones, to walk under.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Beyond Circles

Dear Liza,

When I was starting to paint this year, my goal was to make something look like I wanted, making the picture on the paper match the one in my head. I practiced with flowers and faces, going literally from finger painting to things that mostly looked… right.

Flowers that look like flowers

And now that I can do that, I am experimenting more. The circle cutter Auntie Bridgett loaned me has been my latest toy. I love circles, and am enjoying grouping them together, layering them, and even painting over them.

This week I started with some orange and blue watercolor, then lay down some softly colored circles. It sort of looked like sunset-y clouds. To make it look even cloudier, I put white acrylic paint on very softly with a textured meat tray. It was pretty, but what if…..?

I wanted to keep going with the layers. This is where I am noticing my change in attitude. Instead of thinking “what if I mess this up?”, I realize that so far I have invested a few hours of quarantine time, some old magazines, and a tablespoon of paint. So if I mess it up, NO BIG DEAL.

So I lay on another meat tray textured layer of blue, then a few more circles. I loved the layers and texture, and it was starting to whisper to me as to what it could be. Instead of making the picture in my head first, I was letting it lead me along.

I softened the colors with a bit of white acrylic and added a “hillside”of white tissue paper. The pink circle was in the right place to be a setting sun, but it needed to be more orange. A circle cut from a tea box fixed that.

After staring at what had become a snowy hillside at sunset, I saw that it needed some silhouetted trees. I studied other folks’s work and Auntie Bridgett gave me some pointers, and I went for it. After putting in some close up trees and some further away, adjusting my sky color and putting in some shadows, I am pretty happy with it….. for now. I’ll go do something else and have a look later.

So I guess my lesson of the week is to not limit myself as to “just” the pictures I see in my head. The ones that emerge on the paper can be so much more!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Seeing Things Differently

Dear Liza,

There is nothing like art to change your world. I don’t necessarily mean it changes the world on the outside, although that could be nice.

Shapes and reflections in Van Gough

I’m talking about when looking at art changes the way you see the world in general. Spend an hour or so in an art museum, staring at shapes and shadows and reflections. Then go outside, and what do you see? More shapes and shadows and reflections, art forming from reality right in front of your eyes.

It is wondrous, and it has happened to me many times.

Shales and reflections in a town square

Making art is a newer experience, but it has the same effect of altering my observation. It’s like my brain has created a new network that allows me to connect different parts, seeing a new whole.

My creation, “Paradisi Crow”

A few weeks ago I made a collage based on Julianna Paradisi’s “Quickened Towards all Celestial Things”. I wanted the shape of the crow to be just right, so I cut a prototype out of cheap paper and then traced that onto card stock for the collage.

Just being a crow…..

Then I had this perfectly good template. Just sitting there. Being a crow.

I kept looking at it over a few days, knowing I wanted to use it but not knowing how. Over the last however-many-months of quarantine I have learned that if I take my time, the right idea will come. Finally, it did.

Starting with watercolors and working up to acrylics, I laid down some patches of color and then used an old toothbrush to flick paint, layer by layer, around my crow stencil. It took days, flicking and staring and adjusting. And last night, it was finished. The background layers of crow silhouettes became dense enough just as the built-up speckles on the crow became dark enough. So I glued the crow in her final position, and …. done.

I wish now that I had taken pictures of each stage, but I think I was afraid of jinxing the process. This sort of creation is still new enough to me that it feels like a delicate magic.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Portland’s Christmas Tree

Dear Liza,

This past Friday evening, a 75 foot Christmas tree erected in Pioneer Square, also known as Portland’s Living Room, was lit up beautifully as the whole city sang. This has happened the night after Thanksgiving every year for 36 years.

Thousands of our closest friends. downtown in 2019

Thomas Lauderdale, China Forbes, and the rest of Pink Martini played and sang Christmas Carols. Thousands of Portlanders sang along, led in the lyrics by a projected Christmas tree bouncing along the words. It was just like always!

Except that this year we were in our own living rooms and Pink Martini was on television, broadcast by local station KGW. We were sitting down and warm instead of standing up and freezing, we had our cat on our laps, and it was cozy.

But I still miss the crowds, the being together-ness, the palpable feeling of goodwill and community. Christmas isn’t just a time for family and friends, at least not in a big city. It is a time to make merry, eat, shop, walk, and sing with a whole bunch of strangers.

Auntie Christy, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett with the tree last year

Thinking forward, we will be in for New Year’s, as well. Two years ago we went to Pink Martini’s show downtown, walking for hours between a fine dinner and the 10:00 show. It was cold, alright, but so beautiful. I took one of my favorite photos ever of the tree all lit up and the New Year’s moon.

Living Room tree and a New Year’s moon

This year will continue to be different, and I go back and forth on how I feel about it. Usually, my parents’ good natures win out and I know it will all turn out right if we all hunker down and do our best, but every now and then I get cranky and feel very put upon. That is when I try to have some alone time or take a nap, to keep from spreading the virus of my melancholy to the rest of the household.

Happiness, as Ruthie says, is a choice. So I will choose it.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Treasure Island Evolution

Dear Liza,

I wanted to update you about a project I have been working on for a month now. It is my painted and embroidered version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

RLS’s Treasure Island, my watercolor interpretation

It started out more like RLS’s desert island, but since I knew I was going to spend a lot of mental time there, I wanted it to be greener and prettier. Billy Bones went mad for a reason, you know, and I don’t need more crazy-making. I need less. So I added rivers, some real mountains, and a nice lush rain forest.

My first layer, paint on fabric

Having painted it “as a first layer”, I needed to figure out the next layer. Lay in the outlines, then stitch some mountains, then… maybe some rapids? Yes, this was coming along.

Basics, and a few mistakes

There were mistakes, of course. I put in what I thought was very cool texture that Bridgett said looked like obstacles the Germans put on the Normandy beaches on D Day, so they had to go. This led me to more organic lines, which I really like. More texture, more naturalistic colors, a weird marriage of map and landscape.

More naturalistic lines feel better

This project is giving me so much pleasure. Something to do with my hands, to work off the fidgety Evans energy during these shut-in days. A place to create and visit that is green and lush, far away from political and environmental ugliness. And the freedom to make a piece of my world, just as I like it.

Every stitch makes it better!

Art may save me yet.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Signs of Love

Dear Liza,

With all of us staying in our houses, chatting with folks has become a much rarer thing. We can chat with neighbors for a minute or two when we sit on our balcony, but they are all in their way somewhere.

Conversations with strangers, which is one of the best things about living in a city, have almost come to a complete halt. Folks scurry by behind their masks, not wanting to give or catch the virus.

But people need to communicate. It’s part of our nature and it leaks out all over the place.

Advice from neighbors…

And, on my walks in the neighborhood, these little things make my heart smile.

……making sure we know that their Naked Ladies are for us to enjoy…
Love Wins is a big theme here, one I thoroughly endorse

We have places we go, knowing which hours are best to find them uncrowded. Zach’s Shack, the HobNob, and Rendezvous all have outdoor seating, tasty food and friendly folks.

It IS special. Life IS short.

We have recently learned that another favorite haunt, The Rocking Frog, will be closing down and moving somewhere else in a few months, when their lease is up. With so many businesses closing and other changes happening so fast, we truly need to remember to show signs of Love while we can.

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

Getting off the Couch

Dear Liza,

Mouse and me, doing our Couch thing…

Before we all had to stay inside so much, Grandpa Nelson and I would take long walks all over the city. We walked eight miles to Sellwood one day, and four miles up to Klickitat Street on a regular basis. But now, with social distancing and not wanting to spread the virus, we are staying inside. We sit on the couch with the cat, reading or talking or watching television.

Cookies!

With all that sitting, I got bored, so I baked some cookies. And bread. And marble pound cake. And then it was right there, going stale every minute, so I ate it.

I was getting chunky, and developing butt roots. You know, where your butt grows roots into the couch.

This week I decided to start exercising. I put on some music and jogged in place for a few minutes. I stopped when I got out of breath, but in an hour or so I got up and did another few minutes.

Inspiration….

Auntie Bridgett found the five pound barbells upstairs, and I started jogging around the house while carrying them. It’s been four days now, working out for about twenty minutes a day, and I am feeling better than I have in weeks. I look forward to my three times a day ‘music and moving’ sessions.

I choose the music for pep and happy connections. Vince Guaraldi, Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life,” most of the Hamilton soundtrack, or anything by ABBA, get my heart singing and my blood pumping.

And energy

My body is happier, my mind is more rested, and I don’t feel the need to eat everything in sight. It’s good to know that when I am allowed to go for a long walk again, my body will be able to.

Love,

Grandma Judy