Sunday, November 17, 2019

November Notes


Every month, it takes me a bit longer to bring my voice to the page.  Life seems to move faster these days and I don't always catch up as quickly as I have in the past.  

The weather has finally cooled  - as in:  Baby, it's cold outside.  I was hoping that we would get some cooling temperatures, but in the low 50's and 60's was a bit much from our 90's.  With climate change, comes greater swings in weather and stronger patterns.  So, with my sweater on, I will show and share just what has gone on in the past six weeks.

Our month has been filled with stress and sadness. 

We have had a loss of a loved one from cancer.   My daughter-in-law's Mother, was diagnosed and lost her battle to pancreatic cancer, within six weeks.  Sadly, we had hoped that it would not be such a short goodbye.  We will remember her, with love and memories of our times together.  Her funeral will be next weekend, and we will hold our children tightly and love them as we all grieve this loss.

On a lighter note, I have been working.  My studio is back into the messy stage, but there is order behind the mess, which I love.  I have been working in my sketchbook, either sketching the garden delights, or gourds from the grocery.  

(better known as pumpkins/gourds)
mixed media of watercolor and colored pencil

I was sketching and decided to make it a bit spooky for Halloween!

A pencil sketch of the bottom of the gourd.

We also have an overabundance of Heliconia this year.  They are so beautiful in the garden and we have them in the soft pale shades of pink and yellow, and the brighter shades of red and orange.  The varieties have intermingled to fill in much of our back yard.  

Sketch of Heliconia in pale shades of pink and yellow.

A sketch of the brighter Heliconia
lots of reds and oranges

Of course, when I go outside to sketch, I always find some interesting specimens in the garden.  Some are sleeping quietly (until I wake them) and some are the fruits that are beginning their harvest.  Our neighbors lemons are overflowing again, so along with a few photos, I enjoyed making some lemon treats with a few of her stash!  

Of course, there are lots of little friends in the garden, as well.
This fellow was tucked in - trying to sleep.

The lemons are huge and sweet.

I found a sheet of sketches that I had made several years ago.
We were on a walk in Maui, and I found these examples of Cotton.
I decided to put them into my sketchbook, for a more permanent record.

On my morning walk, there is a golden shower tree.  It starts out with golden blooms,
 then, they turn a beautiful and fragile pink, as they dry.  I did some sketching of the drying pods.  Next year, I will add the golden flower and the beautiful bark of the tree.
I did enjoy this study.

This week, I went back to "The Realism Challenge" by Mark Crilley.  I worked on a few of the examples of glass and tinfoil.  I really struggled with the tinfoil  - trying three times to catch it's qualities.  I may have to try this one more time.  It's the 'seeing" before the doing, that helps make a better likeness.  Either way, it was quite the challenge!

Marbles and string
done in watercolor, colored pencil and pencil

tinfoil - tricky little thing.

So that is it for November.  I hope to find more time, as it is always a priority for me.  The learning continues, testing my limits, as I age.

Gratitude for your platitudes - always.  

Have a lovely Thanksgiving and be grateful in your daily life.  It is hard these days, especially with so much mean spiritedness in the air.   We must find a way to treat each other with respect and integrity.  

Let's show them how it CAN be done.  

Be Thoughtful!
 Be Kind!


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Warmth of October

It is still warm here...but the lovely kind of warm, where it's nice to be outside (if you don't stay too long!).

However, I haven't been outside, other than my morning walk, for over two weeks.  I have been busy, turning CHAOS in to something close to order.  Believe me, I am a creative, messy, artist.  MY STUDIO (and Sweet Hubby's office) got a makeover.   I put away my work, and started editing.  I took  out old book cases, and an unused bed for overflow guests, and then replaced them with some new bookcases and an old butcher block to create a new and bigger space.  It created a domino effect of changing up the laundry room, our bedroom, and a guest room.  But....Now, there is order!!

I will start with the "Before" photo:

I know....lots of chaos going on here.

 I have more paper, notebooks, paints, colors of every kind, which are usually out and being used. I have cutters of every sort, along with enough odds and ends, that  I could open a store.  I love to make cards; I love to paint; we need an office - computer and printer, and of course, I need to paint, draw and color to my hearts content.  So, I put on my back brace and went to work.  It was a one-person work force, as Sweet Hubby didn't have a clue where to put anything.  But, after I made a rather big dent in the cleanup, he went to work making new IKEA book shelves for me.

Isn't this just perfection.
Certainly, it is for me.

I actually do appreciate order.  Now, I don't want to mess it up!  Seriously, I have not painted a thing in three weeks, so back to the drawing board, once the blog is done and I catch up on some correspondence, etc.  

My work space is not too different, but cleaned and dusted, now.

Sweet Hubby's space has been switched up a bit,
but basically, it is the same.

Old butcher block - new use
cutting, framing, standing work station

So, There you have it!  Not a very exciting blog, but a peek at my new space and it's relative order.  I have added just a few photos of Fall in Florida.  The trees really do change with the seasons, but in different ways.  The Honeysuckle is out, and the petite heliconia are beautiful.  They like it just a bit cooler.  The Golden Shower tree is transforming from it's golden blooms into red pods.  It lets us think that Fall is in the air.

Colors of Fall in Florida!
Golden Shower Tree

Next time, I will have some art to show you, as I hope to get started working very soon.  You can always find me on Instagram, where you can see work in progress, or just completed.  My instagram account is just the same:  Cynthia's Botanical Arts!

Until Then


Friday, September 13, 2019

Dodging the Weather!

Hello friends
It has been a few months since I last blogged.  Our days have been filled with travel, hurricane dodging, packing, unpacking, and prepping to leave on a moments notice, if needed.  Dorian has passed us by, but as I write this, others storms are deciding just what havoc they want to reap.  Until then, I will keep moving forward.  Fall in Florida is lovely - but tricky.

So....we have been on the road, celebrating a special occasion in our life.  Sweet Hubby and I decided to drive up the East coast to Maine.  We stayed in Maine for a week, and then moseyed all the way back home.  We stopped for sight seeing, Art Museums, NASA space camps for kids; and any thing that sounded fun.  It was a lovely way to cool off and have some fun, as well.

We discovered new places and visited old friendly places.  On our way north, we stopped at St. Simons Island in Georgia and Edenton, North Carolina.   Both towns are charming and on the coast, with lovely breezes, friendly folk, and great food.  As we headed north, we took another route through Maryland and ended up in Annapolis.  We found a NASA space camp for kids, and they were testing the space capsules that they had been working on, all summer.  We took a forever bridge to Maryland, and found open spaces, so close to Washington, D.C., yet so far away in spirit.  

Downtown Annapolis, before the rainstorm.
Yes, those are very dark clouds, as we ran back to our car,
Best Crab cakes on our trip!

Next Day, we drove up along the Hudson River to West Point.  The first year Cadets were already on campus and all about the surrounding area.  I can't tell you what they were doing because it' top secret. (I am kidding - think they were on a scavenger get to know the area.  Lots of small groups of kids in West Point shorts and t-shirts roaming around)

The West Point Museum is open to all.
It is quite informative - makes you tingle with pride.

the western side of the Hudson River

Since we were close by, we decided to detour just a bit, and head toward Stockbridge, MA, to see Norman Rockwell's Art Museum.  What a treat! We love his illustrative work and the Docents were very knowledgeable.  We could also visit his studio and view his home (from the outside) up the hill.
Lunch on the patio was very good, and we were in no hurry to get into traffic going north.  But we did, and it took twice as long to go through Boston and north towards Maine.  

The Museum is charming, just like Rockwell's art work.

Once in Maine, we headed to South Bristol, just south of Damariscotta, to a lovely house that would be our quarters for the next week.  We had anticipated having our kids join us, but each one was involved in an important educational endeavor, so we honored their work ethic, and had the whole house to ourselves!  We did invite friends from New Hampshire up for a few days, which was fun.

Bristol lighthouse

The view from the window of our house out to the small fishing cove.
We watched the fisherman come and go, with their fishing nets or their lobster cages.
The fishing Co-op was nearby.  We got a much better understanding of how hard they work.

Dinghies were lined up on the dock.  They are used to get out to the fishing boats.

View from our dining room.  We didn't miss the television.

The week flew by and before you know it, we were back on the road, heading to the Clark Art Institute, on the Williams College Campus.  They were having a "Renoir" exhibit!  Really!!  We were also able to see a small exhibit of Ida O'Keefe - yes, the sister of Georgia.  Ida was a master painter, as well as Georgia, but Georgia made sure that no gallery ever bought any of Ida's paintings.  Sadly, Ida was not recognized for her art, in her lifetime.  

Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA (in the Berkshires)
This is an amazing 'GEM" of a museum.
Do NOT miss it, if you are ever in the area.

Off we drove to Pittsfield, MA, for a nights stay in a beautiful hotel and a lovely celebration of our Anniversary.  As luck would have it, another couple, next to us, was also celebrating their (52nd) anniversary,  We had quite a conversation along with our delicious dinners.

The next morning we woke to an early departure, so that we could be at Chadds Ford, PA, by 10:00 a.m..  We had reservations at the Brandywine Museum, to see the studio of Andrew Wyeth, which had recently opened to the public.  Then, we were able to spend time at the museum, viewing a Retrospective of N. C. Wyeth (Andrew's Father), that was on display.  

If you ever get a chance to go here, it is well worth the trip.  
It is an hour outside of Philadelphia.

Andrew Wyeth and his family originally lived here, and Andy had a small studio in the house.
However, once they moved, Andy used this as his primary studio.  He let the path to the house become overgrown, so no one would bother him when he was working.  No one, who was not a dear friend or relative, knew this house was even tucked behind all the bushes.  
Look closely at the door, just in case any one might wander back here. 
He made it clear that he was quite busy, "thank you!"

Inside the studio.  
If you are familiar with Andrew Wyeth, you might recognize this bottle.

Every painter is excited to see the studio of another painter.  I do not ever count myself in Andrew Wyeth's league, but to see his studio and understand his preparation of Egg Tempera, which defined most of his work, was one of those amazing moments for me.  

And, of course, the palette!
This gets my heart rate going!  love it!

We headed south to Washington, D.C., to visit good friends, in Fairfax, VA.  Too, quickly, we had to leave and be on our way a horse to the barn.  The heat was in the 100's and we had quite a ways to go, so we stuck to driving for the next several days, until we returned to our cozy home.

It is always fun to travel and explore so much of the U.S.A. and all our wonderful people.  But, it is always so nice to get home, to our own bed.  The celebrations have ceased for the 50th, but we certainly made the most of it.

After, lots of laundry, and cleaning up the garden, we finally had some time to devote to painting for me and golf for sweet hubby.  I had been working on several things before we left, which I will share with you.

I brought an apple home with me, and before it rotted,
I cut it in half and painted the rather dull outside, but sweet inside.

A larger look at the inside of the apple.
Watercolor on fabriano paper (140#)

Beets: colored pencil
These did not turn out to my satisfaction, but I am showing you them,
because sometimes you get a drawing that just doesn't cut it.
These will go in a file drawer, somewhere.

While I was in Maine, I went down to the dock and hopped down into the muck at low tide.
I was digging around with my hands and placing these objects up on the dock.  David was laughing  at my craziness, but I found real treasures down there in the muck.

Maine - Detritus - South Bristol cove
Watercolor on fabriano #140

Lastly, I purchased an amazing book in Chadds Ford, PA.  It is called "The Realism Challenge".  It takes you on a journey, with painting simple pieces, towards much more complicated pieces.  I started with paper scraps and worked my way forward.  I am about a third of the way through, but I am beginning to learn about new tools for more realistic work.  It is good to practice, once in a while.

"The Realism Challenge"
author:  Mark Crilley

This book is very helpful, when dealing with detail.
I give it 5 stars.

Below are the examples of work that have held me captive the past few weeks:

A simple piece of torn paper

folding paper

an egg shell



Cardboard - torn
Adding color 

Small Shells
Just a bit of color added

Maple leaf
water color - colored pencil

So, that is what has been happening, between storms, for the last two months.  Now, we are tucked in  and staying alert for the next one.  Hopefully, we can have a break this year, without having to leave or clean up damage.  We hunker down and hope for the best.  

Enjoy the cooler days that Fall brings.  This is the best time (and the time that I miss the most, in the south) for enjoying the outdoors without extreme heat.  You can enjoy reading with the sun on your back, or taking a long walk with leaves shuffling beneath you.  Gather up the pumpkins and drive in the country to see the harvest starting.  It is the most delightful season of the year....anywhere but here.



Friday, July 19, 2019

Summer Journeys

I usually post early each month, but the last six weeks have been a blur, with travel, sickness, and summer.  It all seems to get mushed into a fleeting moment, and then it's Fall.

We have had a very special trip in June, to celebrate a very special anniversary, in August.  Life is like that.  One celebrates when one can - and the timing of this long awaited trip was good for us.

We took a cruise that started in Rome.  Plane travel is always difficult these days, and ours was no exception.  It took three days with time changes to get from Florida to Rome.  One must have stamina and determination and patience to travel these days.  Once we got to Rome, and settled in our lovely Parco dei Principi Grand Hotel, we were off to tour the Vatican and downtown Rome.

The Vatican was wonderful.
I had wanted to see the art of the Vatican for years.
It definitely lived up to it's expectations.

What we did not anticipate were the crowds.  We were literally in a sea of people, where ever we went in Rome.  With the temperatures rising each day, we could feel the intensity of the city in so many ways.  Inside the Vatican, proved to be so very peaceful.

We hit as many highlights of the city, as we could, but we had lost a day in travel, so we were limited to the Borghese Museum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Cafe D'Oro.  The last one was a coffee shop near the Pantheon, which is the oldest in the city.  We fell in love with the coffee in had to stop for some beans to take home to the kids.  

The Pantheon was serene.
What a wonderful stop after a very long walk
from our hotel.

What you cannot see is the mass of humanity behind me.
People were literally packed together here.

Quickly, we had to leave Rome and board our ship, which would take us through out the Mediterranean.  Our first stop was in Ravello, Italy.  This is a small coastal town, famous for it's Music Festival at the former Villa Ruffalo, on the top of the hill.  Driving is pretty crazy in these hill towns, so we were grateful for our tour bus driver, who was quite familiar with the many switchbacks up the steep incline.  The views were stunning, the cypress trees and gardens were everywhere, along with lots of lemons.  This area is famous for Lemoncello!  

I had a few moments to sketch in Ravello.  I thought that I would tuck in some of the sketches, which I later copied and watercolored.

The church had a relief pattern that was unique to the area,
Olives and Oranges were added!

Lemons, Lemons everywhere!

Back to our ship, "Sirena"
A smallish ship of 700 passengers

The crew had bought fresh fish
and prepared it on the back deck
with fresh olive oil and a baster of Rosemary.
Oh my....delicious!

Our Next stop was Palermo, Sicily.  We took a tour of this city, greatly influenced by it's Arab, Greek, and Turkish history.  It is a city of great diversity.  It also is a perfect area to grow lemons and oranges, as well as being an active port city.

The highlight was driving up to the cave of St. Rosalie, who, it is said, saved Palermo from the plague.  Up the very steep hills to the steep steps to the cave  - it was all worth it.  

But don't forget the beaches!  Every coastal city or town has a beautiful beach.  These areas all draw most Europeans to their warmth and beauty.  

With changing rooms, umbrellas and lounge chairs available, it's a perfect place to spend the day!

Onward to Malta, a densely populated archipelago of three islands, with a very diverse and vast history.  The Maltese language is based on Arabic, but written in Latin.  Most people speak Italian, French or English!  We visited the city of Valetta, A walled city, with it's unique architecture and baroque influence. Our visit to the Cathedral of St. John was a highlight.  It can only be described as drenched in gold, lapis Lazuli, and Marble.  We saw two of Caravaggio's greatest paintings.  He spent many years on Malta.

Instead of a Balcony, these apartments created an extra space.

Every square inch was filled with art
in the Cathedral

One of Caravaggio's known paintings.
He never signed his work.

The beautiful port of Valletta - you can see the "Wall" that was a fortress to the outside world.

Ibiza, Spain is one of the Balearic islands - another archipelago of coastal Spain.  It is known for it's night life.  We are not!  So, we explored this town with the "hippie" vibe (their words - not mine.  Mine would be exclusive, laid back, wealthy vibe).  We walked up to the Dalt Vila - a UNESCO World Heritage site.  At night, the city just sparkled with lights...which we could enjoy from our ship.

Dalt Vila

lovely bistro - taking a siesta!

This must be the "hippy vibe"  It was a great little boutique.

Next stop was Valencia, Castellon, Spain.  Thinking about beaching it?  This is the place to go.  We, however, opted for the walking tour up to the Peniscola Castle, built upon layers of stones starting from  ancient Arabic up through the 13th century, then influenced by Charles I, and presently, similar stone in a modern manner.  Along with the castle is a funky art museum, built in the late 1960's, on the premise that all art in it would be completed on the island, by the artists who lived there.  Hence, an influx of artists from all over Europe and the USA arrived to work and live.  They could live cheaply and their work was shown (and sold) from the Museum.  Most of these Ex-Pats have remained and are active in the Museum to this day.

Barcelona was our last stop in Spain.  It was much too brief, and we were unable to see all that we hoped to see in the city.  But we were able to pop in and know that it is a city that we wish to see again.  We wish to spend more time roaming the streets, visiting the Picasso Museum, the art of Jean Miro and Gaudi's famous architecture.  We did go to the old city and walk about for several hours.  It is a city of layers and intrigue, built upon the old Moorish city, with an updated European influence in the early 19th century.

Ye Olde City Center

The Gaudi Museum

Art tucked into a hotel, on our walking tour.

Barcelona is proud of it's Catalon heritage.
Flags fly all over the city as resistance.
Many of this city would like to separate themselves from Spain.

Every Olympic venue is used today as a training Center for each sport.
Spain has reused these sites more effectively than most countries.

Gaudi's Cathedral - a confectionary of styles

As we left Barcelona, I saw this Jewish cemetery on the hilltop.
It was called "Mont Juic"
I had never seen anything like it.
(Quick sketch from the bus & memory -
That is not a cross on top of the monument,
but an elaborate orb)

The next few days were spent in France, both in Aix-en-Provence, and St. Tropez.  Aix was my favorite city of all we visited.  It was beautiful, elegant and on a Sunday morning, quiet - with no crowds.  St. Tropez was just luxury personified.  The yachts were massive, the shops were exclusive, the people were leisurely.  To stroll in both these places was a delight.

Aix is famous for these nougat cookies.
The are called "Calisson", eaten on special occasions.

The shopping was great fun!!

We could afford the post cards!

Sunday Market, oh my heart - be still.
I just love the French market days!

The harbor, filled with yachts.

Quintessential St. Tropez!

perfect day - perfect town!

Another small yacht!

And that is almost it!  We landed in Monaco, but only to get off the ship and get on a plane for home.  Had we been smarter, we would have stayed a few more days and checked out the Principality.  Of course, you can only live there if you are a Prince or Princess...or the equivalent.  It's probably best that we headed home, as Sweet Hubby got sick....very, very sick right after we got home.  He spent the next two weeks in bed, with walking pneumonia, and is still getting his strength back.  

During that time, I celebrated, yet another year around the Moon and 4th of July - Quietly!

I started some art work and finished some other pieces.  Here they are:  Radishes are still not finished; 

Strawberries were just a crazy moment
that obsessed me!

Card is in the mail for someone's very special anniversary.

That's it!  I will be back in September.  I might just take you that long to get through this blog, so you get a reprieve for a few more weeks.  

I wish you  - once again:


I pray that all will be okay.