06 July 2018

Farewell, Evelyn

Tomorrow is the going-away party and last day at work for my friend and colleague, Evelyn. She has been in her current position in the administration office at the library for about seven years, I believe; before that, she worked as a clerk in the audio visual department, and before that I'm not sure, but it seems like Evelyn has always been at Burbank Public Library! I'm not sure she's quite ready to retire, but she's bravely walking out the door, and I know that she will find so many things to do out there, just as she has at the library.

It will be hard not to have her up in the admin office—most of us at the library think of her as our person to go to when we want to share something good, when we want a pick-me-up from something bad, or when we have insider information to give or get. Evelyn is always at her desk, happy to see you, greet you, amd make you feel at home, and she always has chocolate.

I feel like in some ways Evelyn is the heart of the library. While she is not a librarian, she enthusiastically supports and facilitates everything we do, always with a cheery word, a sympathetic ear, and a generous impulse to help. Evelyn is the one who runs the monthly birthday parties, who orders all the decorations and gifts for the retirements, baby showers, and weddings, who picks out good books for the book clubs, who knows just the right thing to say when your cat or your parent dies, and she is most generous of all when doling out praise for the things you do in your job that maybe nobody else notices.

She has been a one-woman cheering section for everything I have done in my job as teen librarian, and has consistently praised the direction in which I have taken the program since I started. I don't know what I would have done without that; although I am a relatively self-actualized person and don't do what I do for either the money (fortunately) or the admiration, everyone knows it helps to get some positive feedback occasionally. And it's never been empty praise, either; Evelyn has always been intensely interested in all the philosophy, reasons behind, and details of what I wanted to do, and has been a great listener with good advice and insight.

As I write this, I think that even I didn't realize how much she has done for me, and how much I am going to miss her. I'm hoping we'll remain friends and, now that she's a lady of leisure, maybe even lunch buddies from time to time.

I decided she needed something special for a going-away card, so I sat down and made one tonight. I hope she likes it, and her gifts, and enjoys her retirement thoroughly. Although we don't want to let her go, she deserves some leisure and some fun. Maybe there are people out there who need her as much as we do at the library, and she will get to pass on more of her warmth and generosity.

03 July 2018

World Watercolor Month begins

Yes, it's another challenge! A little less specific than the last, in that you can paint anything you want and use any tools or styles, but Charlie at Doodlewash does offer a daily prompt list in case you get stuck.

Yesterday's prompt was "delicious food," and although my tendency is to go for sweets, sometimes they don't make such wonderful paintings. So instead, i went for the ingredients of my favorite breakfast frittata.

Today's prompt was "primary colors," and people mostly did bunches of flowers so they could put the three colors together with ease, but I wasn't in the mood for still life. So I looked through a bunch of old reference photos from my trip to France in 2013, and came across a picture of a restaurant on a street in Parthenay. I looked the restaurant up, just for fun, and they had a better photo, this time with the restaurant open and its proprietor standing, hands on hips and belly thrust out, in the doorway, so I used that photo instead and painted this. 

The restaurant's name is Aut'Fouée, and the subtitle is a "medieval restaurant." They seem to feature a particular kind of bread, sort of like pita pockets, and then provide you with all sorts of fancy choices with which to stuff them. When I was there, we were touring quickly and going back to our base to eat, so I didn't experience a meal there—this is from various websites.

The interior lights and flowers are yellow; the façade is definitely red; and I made the proprietor's apron a bright Jackson Blue instead of the dull navy/black that it actually was in the photo, for that touch of my third primary.

This wasn't so easy to paint, proportionally. I did put in a few pencil lines, but tried to paint most of it more loosely without drawing first, like I have been doing for the Direct Watercolor challenge. That was a mistake when it came to the lettering, however, and I almost wish I'd just left it out—it pops out of the red and looks flat. Also, I just noticed that I'm missing a third window above the storefront; I somehow omitted the window and the other shutter. Oh well, daily practice, nothing for which I am trying to be perfect. I did seek out and use a flat brush for the cobblestones, which worked okay, but I had trouble with the angle.

Another day, another practice painting.

02 July 2018

June Direct Watercolor

Alas, an incredibly busy week at work meant I did no more paintings for the Direct Watercolor 30x30 challenge after June 24th, and now it's over. But I did manage to do more than half (by a squeak—I did 16 paintings), which is more than I have accomplished in the past, so bravo for me. Some were surprisingly good, some were truly awful, but all were painted without guides or lines or drawing of any kind. Here they are, all in a group:

I learned a lot, and will keep practicing. Now, on to July, which is World Watercolor Month. I hope to paint at least 16!

24 June 2018

China and pottery

My mom loved fine china. At the end of her life, she owned seven sets of dinnerware that would serve eight to fifteen people each. She had plain white, white with silver, white with gold. She had blue Wedgewood, a blue and white onion pattern, and a few pieces of Flow blue to go with them. She had  (and I still have) some beautiful cream-colored Czech flowered ware. And she had a gold glass tea set. She collected teapots, because her favorite social event was to invite 20 or 30 women over for tea, set up individual tables for four throughout her living room, dining room, and family room, and have enough teapots to put a different one on each table. She likewise picked up stray salt shakers in a variety of patterns, and she loved small pitchers and odd sugar-and-creamer sets. And she is the person who started me collecting wall pockets. I now own my collection plus hers, and haven't got enough wall space to show off more than half of them at a time.

Here is a teapot that I bought her for a birthday treat—it's English, and the teapot was pretty much all I could afford, although I planned to get her the creamer and sugar to go with it some year later. That never happened—instead, I inherited the teapot, along with many others of her lovely things.

Although I am thrilled to have her beautiful china, the collection of all kinds of wall pockets started me down the road towards a more earthy collection. I tend to prefer pottery to china, and am enamored specifically of Roseville, and of majolica-ware. Both of those, although exactly my taste, are mostly beyond the scope of my wallet, but I have been fortunate to find some pieces that were selling for less than their worth because of a stray chip or crack, and to find a person who could mend those flaws so that no one but a dealer with an x-ray machine would ever detect them. Mending these pieces detracts from their value, but since I buy them to enjoy, rather than as an investment, I couldn't care less!

My mother picked up this pitcher somewhere, and had it sitting on my father's desk to hold his pencils and pens. When I admired it, Dad said take it, I don't care what holds my pencils, and you like it. Because of its long history holding lead pencils, I have never used it to serve anything, for fear the lead lingered somehow, but I have always loved its decorative, three-D pattern of branches. I don't know its origin, but it has an art nouveau feel—the depiction of the natural world on pottery.

After I painted it, I felt it looked rather plain on the page, so I gave it a background wash. This sketch paper wasn't meant to stand up to that, so it's a bit bloomy and scrubby, but I liked the conceit that the green background was the trees whose bases are depicted on the pitcher.

I probably needed to leave a little more light on the high points and put more dark in the low points to convey that the pattern isn't just painted on, but actually pushes out of the pitcher. But I did accurately capture the shape and the colors. I painted the entire shape in pale cream color first, and then came back with the details. I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of this direct painting process!

21 June 2018

Proof of skill

I took advantage of the fact that today, the Summer Solstice, is the longest day of the year, and started a fairly complicated painting out on my patio at about 7:15, knowing that it wouldn't be fully dark until 8:30 or so. I still ran out of light for the last few bits, but I was just tweaking things by then.

I've painted most things of interest in my back yard; I'm getting tired of still life set-ups and coffee mugs; so I shuffled through a stack of papers on my desk to see what I could find for a reference photo. (I couldn't print anything out because my printer is kaput and I haven't yet bought a new one.) I came across a reference photo that I printed out and used about six or seven years ago, to paint a gift for a friend. She is an avid gardener, so I chose a cottage garden scene.

I thought that I had simply done a complete pencil drawing for that painting before I began it, but upon looking closely at the reference photo today, I realized that I had actually done a scribble-and-trace job on it. That's where you cover the back of your printout with graphite by running your pencil back and forth, up and down, until it's pretty solid, and then you lay your reference photo on top of your blank watercolor paper and trace around the details of the photo, which transfers the graphite to your paper. What I'm saying is, six years ago, I didn't trust myself to draw something and get it right, I had to do a tracing.

Not only that, but I simplified the painting further by cropping out some of the foreground, changing the steps and sidewalk, and leaving out that fancy white mailbox and the big pot planter on the step. Here it is:

Today, I painted the entire picture without using a pencil at all. I started in front with the poppies and worked my way backwards until I had painted everything. And although there are elements of it that certainly could have been painted better (impatience with drying always being my downfall), the location and proportion of everything in it is almost exactly that of the reference photo. The front door is a little misshapen, and should be about a quarter inch to the right, but everything else is dead on. And including the extra elements (mailbox, planter) actually made this one more detailed, though less precise and tidy.

Even though this isn't the greatest painting, I was really pleased that I could go from eye to paper without drawing, let alone tracing. And I liked my choices for more vibrant color. Progress!


20 June 2018

Negative painting

I always think "negative painting" is such a misleading term, because there's nothing negative about painting! For the uninitiated, it just means that you paint light foreground and then fill in dark background behind it, usually in layers (though in this case not), so that the light and white things are highlighted by the dark.

This didn't start out as a negative painting, but capturing flowers that are as white as gardenias are is a challenge, and as I went along, I realized that it was the green leaves and the rose bowl behind the flowers that would show up their details. When I finished, I pondered it for a few minutes, and decided to go with my humble and rather inept version of a Sarah Yeoman bouquet in which the dark background makes the flowers pop. I probably should have gone and looked at hers again before trying it—hers are amazing wet blended drippy blocks of color, while mine was definitely on the dry and scrubby side. Still, I'm working on sketchbook paper in a limited space, and it's the first time I tried this (at least without line of any kind), so I won't judge it too harshly. But I would like to try this one again, on good paper, and see what I could do.


Some rather lame attempts

I tried doing another book. It wasn't a success. It could have been; I could have changed to my reading glasses so that I could see better how to paint the letters in the dim light before the sun went down, but I was in a hurry to get 'er done and get some dinner, so I slopped on through. I cheated on this one by going back in with Photoshop and fixing the letters, at least to the point where they were readable.

The next day I decided to paint this big cup I have that I use for soup when it's the kind you can drink. It's colorful ceramic, and I did pretty well at capturing all its details, but then was impatient (sun going down again) and didn't let it dry properly before trying to put some shadows into it, and it turned out a smeared mess. It did occur to me, as a result of this, that I could paint all the shadows on the cup first, and after those dried, paint the cup over the top, so I'm going to try that. Sometime.

I guess the lessons learned here are: Don't rush. Think things through. Wear your good glasses! Every day can't be a winner. These two were not, but I learned some things. #30x30DirectWatercolor2018.