Thursday, October 15, 2020

October Birthdays

 My grandson, Teddy, was born by caesarian section.  When he was really little, well, bigger than this,  

 he asked his mom for some details about his birth. 

Where did they cut you so I could get out of your tummy?

She pointed to her side.

Didn't that hurt? he asked.

No, they give you medicine so it doesn't hurt.

And when did that happen?

October 16th.

On My Birthday?!

A birthday is always cause for celebration and this month we have many celebrations.

Eleanor Roosevelt, for one; First Lady of the world, born October 11, 1884.  Here is her statue, standing in Riverside Park at 72nd Street.  She, that is her statue,  was spotted a while ago wearing a mask.  Well, of course, she would have worn a mask. What did she say?  

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

And..."The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

My cousin Tom was born on October 31, Hallowe'en.  I imagine when he was little he thought everyone gave out candy in honor of him! Also born in October--Picasso, John Lennon, and Chuck Berry.

AND, my brother Rob, October 22. He started out as a press photographer, and I'm sure you've seen his shot of Bernie Sanders celebrating his victory as Mayor of Burlington, VT.

But now Rob shoots birds.  

He's good, isn't he?  I've saved a lot of his images with a thought of copying them--rather, using his images as inspiration and incorporating them into my own work.  Should I ask him first or surprise him? I've also studied John James Audubon; I think Rob is an Audubon for our time. I'm sure the birds themselves much prefer Rob's technique, as Audubon killed his models and pinned them into "lifelike" poses.

Both of these pelicans are taken from Audubon.  What word should I use here--copied?   borrowed? inspired by?  You tell me.

I'd say I'm a shameless thief. But Frank Mason, revered teacher at the Art Students League said, "If you take from another artist be sure to steal it. If you borrow you have to give it back."

  This is what Rob says.  

"Mother Nature is an extraordinary artist.  I am honored to plagiarize her."

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Take up the Collection

You know how people say, "If you love something let it go"?  I say if you love something get a whole lot of things like it and make a collection.

I wrote about Aunt Connie and her collections and she was a great inspiration to me but there are many collectors in my life.  My Dad collected coins, stamps, and owls because he liked to say he was a wise old bird.  Mom collected giraffes and castiron Boston terriers.  

I adopted her pack.

My brother, Alan, collects pigs, my sister-in-law, Donna, collects china pitchers shaped like fruit, my Aunt Jan collected elephants, Aunt Mary Gae, bells.  My friend, Bill, collects snow globes, lead soldiers, books and clocks. It makes it easy to find presents for them.

I collect collections. You may not believe this but I hate clutter.  I  live by William Morris's golden rule; 

"Never have anything in your home that you do not find useful or believe to be beautiful."

Here are my ducks; I built another shelf in the bathroom so that they can practice social distancing.

China tomatoes and corn in honor of my favorite summer meal.

White pitchers because they look so nice on my kitchen shelf.

Sugar Bowls; I love their cheerful, chubby shapes.

My children's shoes.  They were too shabby to give away and too adorable and evocative to part with. Bronzing was expensive and didn't quite show them off so I took a page from Joseph Cornell and made boxes.

Rubberband Balls; most of these come wrapped around the NY Times every morning and Peter, the doorman, saves them for me so as to keep them out of the landfill.



Bears.  I started this collection for Arthur, because of a story my nephew Danny told me.
"When I was really little, I saw Arthur in his bathing suit and I said,
"Arthur, how come you have so much hair on your chest?" And he didn't even look up from his book--he just said,
'Because, Danny, I used to be a bear.'  And I believed him for a long time."

China Poultry

This isn't everything but I don't want you to think I'm crazy.  Organizing my stuff into categories gives me a sense of order and I'm a pretty strict curator--not everything makes it into a collection.  Also, I love wandering around flea markets and junk shops--collecting gives me a purpose and a sense of quest. 

What do you collect?

Friday, October 2, 2020

Something I didn't know I love


 Zachary, the son of my friends, Lenesa and Frank, worked with earthmoving and construction equipment and when he and Lizzie got married the theme of the rehearsal dinner was 
Constructing a life together-all the flowers,Sunflowers and Batchelor buttons sat in toy trucks and bulldozers.  It was gorgeous. That got me thinking.

Then in the aisles of the toy store I was struck by the beauty of the cars and trucks-the detail, the colors, they were entrancing.  the dolls kind of creeped me out with their glassy stares but the trucks grabbed my interest and what else could I do but draw?

I raided the toy box for more models.  Each of these fills a whole 18 by 24 inch paper.  The boldness and simplicity gave me a rest from my obsessive texture and detail.

I had to give Sanitation a background so he'd stand out against the white paper. This one may be my favorite--what would we do without him?

I remember my brother Alan playing for hours with his friend Andy in a mud puddle in our back yard; the trucks talked to each other.
"Back 'er up, Joe,"
"Okay, Joe,"
They were always named Joe. 

Thank you, Boys, for the inspiration and the fun.  I named this series Big Boy.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Something That's Driving Me Crazy

     I try to keep my posts uplifting or at least upbeat, but here's something I can't get over.  Have you seen this? It's an ad posted on our city busses and I am appalled.

No, I do NOT lay in bed.  I lay me down to sleep, I lay down my sword and shield, but I LIE in bed.

     Here's what Mirriam Webster says:

Lay means "to place something down flat," while lie means "to be in a flat position on a surface." The key difference is that lay is transitive and requires an object to act upon, and lie is intransitive, describing something moving on its own or already in position. Beyond the present tense, the pair can become more confusing because lay is the past tense of lie, and laid is the past tense of lay.

     They also say, 

Lay and lie have been tripping up English speakers for 700 years, and no one should be judged harshly for being among the confused.

    Okay, I'll calm down, and thank you for letting me get that off my chest. 
But for an ad on city busses, shouldn't someone have checked? Where was the copy editor? 
    Now, here's one that's beyond the pale.

   Isn't this beautiful?  Hirschfeld is another of my favorites and an inspiration. I'll have to do a full post for him. This is a Christmas card from the New York Public Library, thanking me for my support. but look at what's inside!

    To quote my beloved Aunt, Jan, "Holy Hat!" 

 This is the New York Public Library!  

I'm reminded of a card I once saw that said,

"Dear Everybody,
Not to sound slutty, but please use me
Signed, Grammar

I know, I'm not one to talk.  Typos have appeared in my work even after countless rigorous proofreadings. Let's recognize what a hard job all copy editors do and give thanks for all the times they get it right.  

To lend on a note of aspiration and reminder of the best in all of us, let me present
 my Great Niece, 

Maya Devi Nampoothiri Swanson

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A statue of someone we can feel pretty good about

In all the talk and uproar around statues, I've found some that we can ponder and appreciate.

This is Doctor Benjamen Rush, Founding Father, a signer of the 
Declaration of Independence, physician, writer, educator, humanitarian, author of one of the first major essays against slavery in the Colonies, founder of the first anti-slavery society in America.

He said, "Temperate, sincere, and intelligent inquiry and discussion are only to be dreaded by the advocates of error. The truth need not fear them..."

He wasn't perfect; in 1778 he wrote an anonymous letter criticizing George Washington and suggesting he be replaced as Head of the Continental Army, and this fervent abolitionist actually owned a slave. 
Huh?  It's always complicated--he never said much about this; as I would imagine not.

As an educator Rush believed that, as nurturers of virtue in society, women deserved to be educated and patriotism should be deeply ingrained in women's thoughts. He wanted them to be instructed in the principles of liberty and government as well as sewing and housekeeping.  Not that he thought women should be leaders, but that they would raise men to be leaders.

Wouldn't it be nice to look at his ideas as antiquated but almost two hundred years later, Dick Gregory, the great comedian and Civil Rights activist, spoke at my women's college.  We got all excited about joining the cause and then he said, "Ladies, what can you do? Why, yours is the hand that rocks the cradle.  You're gonna raise enlightened men."  
Really, Dick?  That's all women can do? You're going to wait for another generation for freedom and justice?  

That's l'esprit d'escalier speaking,  or what I should have said--what I wish I'd said.  
I'm glad to say I didn't just rock the cradle and neither did any of the women I know and love although we've raised some pretty fine citizens while seeking to change the world for the better.

We're all doing our best and I mean everybody!

Here's a statue we can love whole-heartedly.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thank the Teachers

Fall is almost here, which means it's back to school.

 Mr. Rogers once began a talk by saying, "Let's be quiet for a minute. Think back to a teacher who made a difference in your life."  My friend, Jim Carroll, was there; he said it was a sacred moment.

Do you remember your teachers?

One I remember is Mrs. Brilliant--that was really her name. Doesn't she look like a kid?

I was a terrible math student but when she made me stay after school for extra help and I stood at the blackboard, algebra suddenly made sense to me.  I aced the next test and when she looked over my shoulder to see that I had solved the extra credit question her face absolutely lit up.  
That look has stayed with me all these years. 

I didn't realize it then but Mrs. Brilliant showed me what to work towards in my life--to get that much joy from my work.  Not as an algebra teacher, but as something meaningful. I wish I could let her know how much she meant to me.

This year will be and is already especially hard for the teachers.  How can we help them? Maybe hope for a Secretary of Education who's worked in a school?  Who believes in public education? Can somebody tell me how we've let it come to this, that teachers have to buy their own supplies? 

Okay, I'll take a deep breath.  Here's a quote from Dorothy Parker I just happened upon. It's about New York City, but I want to apply it to us all.

"New York is hopeful; always it believes something particularly good is about to come through and it must hurry to meet it."

So be hopeful. Think about your teachers, send them good thoughts and maybe a letter if you have their address. If you can, do something nice, like this.

Where would we be without them?

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Another Artist I love; Hilary Knight

 Drawing faces with just lines is hard.  I've studied many who succeed-starting with Durer, 

Hans Holbein the Younger


Charles Dana Gibson, 

Aubrey Beardsley, well, now that I look at his work, he does what I do--put in lots of texture and pattern so you don't notice that the faces are not all that great.

Mark Summers: This is a portrait of Dr. Seuss.

You see, I've stolen from the very best. A favorite is Hilary Knight, best known for his illustrations for Eloise the waif of the Plaza.

 He won my heart with his illustrations of my edition of Dr. Spock's classic Baby and Child Care.  Dr. Spock marched against the war in Viet Nam, saying,

"What is the use of physicians like myself trying to help parents to bring up children healthy and happy, to have them killed in such numbers for a cause that is ignoble? "

He was a mensch, and he was a big help to me. When I was about to leave the hospital with newborn Jessie the obstetrician and the pediatrician stood in the door of my room and said, "OK, you're on your own now."  

I was terrified. Wait, shouldn't I have to take a test?  Get a license?  

Dr. Spock said,   "Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do." that was a big help.

Here's a picture by Hilary in the chapter about when a new baby comes into the family.  I think he  captures the ambivalence of a big sister--and look at that poor baby brother! 

His work is so expressive and at the same time economical. 
He also did Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, about a magical woman, maybe she's a good witch, who helps parents cure their children of the usual maladies. Here she is

This one is less economical--full of telling details.

Here's the Bully-scary, isn't he?

A little here, a little there and eventually I came up with my own style. I'm still working on my people.

October Birthdays

 My grandson, Teddy, was born by caesarian section.  When he was really little, well, bigger than this,    he asked his mom for some details...