About Spring… and Drawing… and Writing…

I don’t care what anyone says… my favorite season is SPRING.


Spring, of course has various meanings…

  • the season after winter and before summer when vegetation begins to appear
  • to move or jump suddenly – upward or forward
  • the time when earth awakens from slumber and explodes with new life.

I love the blur of green buds on the trees and the abundance of sweet pastel blossoms everywhere. It’s like cotton candy come to life. All sorts of ornamental beauty… cherry, pear, dogwood, tulip tree, magnolia, lilac, azalea, hyacinths, daffodils, bluebells, peonies and more. A fairy world in real time.

Spring is about renewal. Longer days. Balmy weather. New beginnings. Birds singing so loudly in the morning they wake you up!

It fills me with hope and joy like nothing else.

And so today, I looked back through my sketch journals at spring sketches.

It turns out that I started keeping the journals 9 years ago in 2006. And I started in the spring after reading a book by Danny Gregory called Everyday Matters. The premise of that book was that as an artist you should just sketch what is going on in your life each day. There’s no need to wait for an occasion to create great art. Just draw what you had for breakfast… or the tree outside your window… or the canned goods in your kitchen cupboard.

I was inspired and got started. I picked a cherry blossom off a tree at work and took it home and drew it…

cherry blossom 06

Then a friend sent me a photo of a robin’s nest she found inside her gas grill…

robin's nest

Oh what fun I’ve had since then!

And here it is, another spring 9 years later.

My newest spring thrill is finding Morel Mushrooms in the market the other day! When I saw them I stopped dead in my tracks.

They were $59 a pound!!! Wowsers! morel price

But I bought a small basket. Here’s $11.51 worth…


I took them home, soaked them in salt water and cooked up half for a good ole sandwich like my dad used to make when we found them ourselves years ago. Yum.

The rest I put into a cream sauce over thin spaghetti that was scrumptious. Yum again!

However, the reason I got on this spring kick today was that I noticed new growth in my flower beds outside. So that’s what I recorded in my daily sketchbook…

Spring 2015

And then I got to ruminating about my sketchbook history. Not sure why.

But I just went and counted my sketchbooks. I only have about a dozen. They are full and beautiful and among my most precious possessions. But that isn’t nearly enough!

Instead of 1 and a quarter books a year I should be filling at least 3 or 4 books a year. Double or triple what I have done.

To be fair, I kept a few journals and diaries before this concerted sketching effort. Mostly when traveling. And I was a bit perplexed by it. Why was I writing down my experiences? Why was I drawing what I saw along the way? Who really would care besides me?

I’m not being overly judgmental here… merely realistic. Sketch books are like warm-up exercises. They keep you limber and ready to go. A serious pianist plays every day. I read once that Liberace said, “If I miss a day of practice, I know it. If I miss two days, those closest to me know it. If I miss three days, the whole world knows it.”

I remember being stunned by that statement, but I think it is true. You can’t put down your sketchbook (or instrument) for months at a time and expect to just pick up where you left off.

Which brings me back to SPRING because it is this time of year that makes me think like this. And I hope I will make a commitment to my sketching during this season of renewal. It is very personal but something very important to me. I have drawn all my life. I’ve drawn on the back of envelopes, on restaurant napkins, on scrap papers, on post-it notes and store receipts. It’s just in me… I can’t NOT draw. And I can’t NOT write.

I guess when it comes down to it, I don’t care who’s reading or looking.

Yes, I like an audience. And I love feedback. A little applause is nice because you like to think someone cares.

But I can’t tell you all the journals and diaries I have destroyed over the years. I would look back and re-read them and be embarrassed. Not that my feelings or the things I said were not normal. They absolutely were. But I didn’t have the self confidence to own what I wrote. I worried too much what others would think.

No more.

It may have taken me most of my life to get to the point where I like to write about what I’m thinking and feeling and draw the everyday objects in my life, no matter how mundane or boring or even shocking at times… but I am there.

I hope I can go forward and be prolific with my sketchbooks. They will be my legacy. I feel my own mortality and these mere pieces of paper that I make marks on will outlive me by far. I need to make a lot of them.

My daughter and I have had this conversation several times. She thinks I am a bit narcissistic to write and post drawings for others to see. As though I am seeking approval. Or flaunting myself somehow. Maybe I am. But in my heart of hearts, I don’t think that is what I am doing. Does everyone who writes a book or paints a picture do it for someone else? I don’t think so.

If that were the case I couldn’t have kept doing it for all these years.

No, I do it for me. Because I am compelled somehow to do so. I don’t know why anymore and I don’t even question it. It is something I have always done and will continue to do. Whether anyone is looking or not. Social media has nothing to do with it.

This will always be a dilemma for me if I think about it too much, which I will try not to do. I’ll just do what I do, regardless. And if you have a thought or opinion about it, I would welcome your comment. Shed some light on this for me, please!

Meanwhile, I’ll be here… ramping up my drawing and writing as much as I can. And I never know what it will be about except where life takes me…

Overnight with Colin

I have a 12-year-old grandson, Colin. Actually he will be 13 later this month, so I’m sure he would like me to say that. After all, it is quite monumental to become a teenager!

Anyway, last weekend he sent me an email. It went like this: “Nonna! This is Colin. I wanted to ask you if I could go over to your house, also if we could make chocolate rice balls :D. I haven’t been to your house in forever! Hope you say yes ;D”  And then he included a recipe link.

Hmmm… the recipe was for sushi rice balls – nothing to do with chocolate. So I began to search. I thought he was mixed up and wanted to make rice krispie balls with chocolate.

Not so.

When I called his mother (my daughter, Ellyn) to make arrangements, she said he wanted to make rice balls like Japanese people eat. He had discovered this both in school and on Anime cartoons.

“OK,” I said, “we’ll just make both to see which goes over the best.

Now here’s the thing… Colin is one-of-a-kind. And he always will be.

I’ve heard it said that when some boys come into the world, they may have gotten a double-dose of “boy-ness.” I can only think that Colin lined up again and got a triple dose. Or more. He is in motion every moment he is awake. And his ideas are all over the place. Which is why when he was coming up with recipes to try over spring break, Ellyn said, “please call your Nonna! She actually likes to cook!”

So I went and picked up Colin for an overnight visit. Our first stop was Japanese Steak House for lunch. He had been there once before and it was the only time he had ever had shrimp. He loved it and ate every bite. We both got the steak and shrimp and he was thrilled.

He also said he wanted to try lobster but I persuaded him to wait a bit. I knew we could go get a lobster tail at the market and cook it at home for supper for a fraction of the price. He agreed.

So off we went on the day’s adventures. We picked up sushi rice and nori at the store so we could make those real rice balls he wanted. I had bought him a mold that shapes them into panda heads and you decorate them with nori punched in the shape of the features. He was thrilled – and much more interested in making them than eating them.

Japanese Day

Then he wanted drawing lessons. He asked me to help him portray star wars droids and then another fantastic character he liked.

Here’s the droid, which we took turns drawing on the same page.

Colin droid

And “Trogarian” which I drew for him myself. He looked at me and said, “Nonna, I only hope that I can get to your level one day!” How nice is that?


Next he wanted an anime character and I told him he had to do it himself with what I had been teaching him. And by golly, he drew it spot on! All by himself! This boy has potential as an artist! Hooray for my Colin!

Colin drawing2

Then I made the lobster for supper. I showed Colin how to cut off a piece and dip it in melted butter. He took his first bite and was enthralled. His eyes literally rolled back and he began to hum. “You like?” I asked. “I LOVE!” he exclaimed. And proceeded to scarf down the rest.

Later we watched TV and my plan – as always – is to let him stay up as late as possible. Why? Because this kid likes to sleep in. And it makes my life easier when he does that.

However, he was passing out by 10:30 so I put him down on an air mattress in the living room. He was out like a light.

And sure enough, he was sneaking into my room at precisely 8am the next morning. I opened one eye – which was my mistake…

“Nonna! he cried, “we have to make the rice krispy treats!”

“um, yeh, Colin, but we have plenty of time” I muttered.

“OK,” he replies as he plops into my bedside chair. “I’ll wait.”

Now let me tell you… this is not a child who waits quietly. Not at all. Every item in his surroundings that draw his attention require exploring. Remember that “boy-ness” thing I mentioned? That means any knob or button that can be pushed or prodded will be.

And when you hear a kid like Colin say “oops!”… it is probably already too late…

So soon we were melting marshmallows and chocolate chips and doing yet more drawing lessons. Followed by numerous games of Angry Birds, which I actually like.

Colin, continued

We had a fun visit and I snapped a few photos of him so as to draw him as he is right now. Here’s the sketch…

Colin portrait2

He was glad to see his mother when she picked him up and off they went. I immediately went in my room and laid across the bed for a break. And just as I was drifting off, the alarm on the small clock across the room started to ring. At first I didn’t know what it was and sat up totally startled. That is not a clock I use as an alarm, but Colin had brought it to me earlier saying he wasn’t sure what happened with it.

No, he didn’t break it. But he did set the alarm. So after he left, it went off and reminded me he had been here.

I could only laugh. I wouldn’t have this boy any other way. And my advantage is that I only have him once in a while. Truth is, his mother has the patience of Job – and a lock on her bedroom door. I really do love that kid!

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