Friday, July 26, 2019

Update on The Sea

I posted a piece titled The Sea on June 20.  That morning the first item in my inbox was a message from WWF,
 the World Wildlife Fund announcing that there are 150 metric tons of plastic in the oceans.  Every minute a dump truck’s worth of plastics pours in on top of that.

This is more than I can pick up in a walk on the beach. 

We mustn’t let this go on but what can we do?
You know how Mr. Rogers said when something terrible happens you should look for the helpers? I've been looking for them and I'll share a few with you.  
I'm sure you've been looking too, and I'd love to hear what you know.

I've been on the WWF mailing list since I adopted a Siberian Tiger in Teddy’s name.  
He was so beside himself with joy we were sorry to explain that the Tiger would not actually be coming to live in Brooklyn. 
Teddy got a nice citation and a stuffed tiger and Mr. Tiger got a little help in maintaining his habitat. 
I checked out WWF on Charity Navigator and they get high marks for finance and transparency. It's a great place for your Christmas shopping.

If you go to the website they give you small steps to take to reduce plastic; it's what we already know;

They also have a letter to the leaders of the world asking them to do something huge and global to save the Earth, like banning single use plastic. You can click on a button and add your name to that effort.
If I still haven't persuaded you to pick up plastic on the street, maybe this horrible story will do it.
My friend, Catherine's, border collie, Wallace, scarfed up a rice and beans dinner someone left on the street.  He also swallowed a plastic fork, which went halfway down tines first and then perforated his stomach wall.  Peristalsis, (the throbbing motion that keeps food moving along its route) kept pushing the fork against his belly, but the plastic didn't show up on X-rays.  Poor Wallace died in agony.  Think about him the next time you see a fork on the street.  If his memory makes you pick it up maybe he won't have died in vain.

Now let's talk about our little friends, the Bees.  

Photo by Rob Swanson

Did you know that Morgan Freeman has turned his 124 acre Mississippi ranch into a Bee Sanctuary? He imported a bunch of hives and replanted lots of bee-friendly plants.  He hand-feeds his bees with sugar water and he doesn't help himself to the honey. 
this what he says:
"There is a concerted effort for bringing bees back onto the planet…We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation…I have a lot of flowering things, and I have a gardener too. As she takes care of the bees, all she does is figure out, ‘OK, what would they like to have?’ So we have acres and acres of clover, and  some stuff like lavender, I've got like, maybe, 140 magnolia trees, big blossoms."

Didn't Mr. Morgan play God in a movie?  Sounds to me like he learned something there. 
I don't have 124 acres, but I do have a terrace. I've planted geraniums and lavender, and I've had a bee sighting!
We can all do something.
Here's Molly in her new T-shirt that tells us what to do.
It says, 
"Save the Bees
Plant These; Geraniums, Lavender, Rosemary, Fennel, Thyme, Cornflower, Poppy"
Take a look at the The New York Bee Sanctuary

And  Trees.
The next time you walk on a city street pay attention to the temperature.  Feel how much cooler it is under the trees?  Then in winter when we could use a little warmth from the sun, the trees considerately drop their leaves. (When Jessie was very little she said oone spring, "Look, the leaves are coming back from where they go in the winter!"
“You can’t go wrong planting trees—when in doubt, plant a tree.  If you plant a tree your property values go up higher than the cost of the tree.  So it’s all good." That’s a quote from my friend, Roger Leaf, and how appropriate is that?

To learn about planting trees in New York City check our the New York Restoration Project NYPR.  Founded by Bette Midler in 1995, they've planted a million trees and they're still going strong.

Yes, this is New York centric,but that's where I am.  Tell me your favorite cause.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Christmas in July

Merry Christmas, six months from now.  I thought I'd show you a page from my current project; I'm illustrating some of my favorite Christmas Carols and putting them in a book.

I'm going to show you "Angels we Have Heard on High" because

one, it's a beautiful song and I love it and

two, Sam told me when he was little he thought

"In Excelsis Deo" meant "Jesus lives in Chelsea."

Well, Emannuel means "Lord with Us' and I kind of like the thought of Jesus living just a few blocks away.

Here's is how this drawing has evolved.

The first pencil marks.  I have a vague sense of what I want and I feel pretty tentative. I think about the composition for a long time before even making a pencil mark.  I look at my collection of pictures of angels and try   some really vague sketches on cheap paper that I throw away. Then I move onto my Arches watercolor block, 140 pound, cold press paper.  It has a pebbly surface that give my line a nice lively feeling. Time to make a committment. I use a pale sepia for the first inkings–Iit’s more forgiving than black, but now there’s no going back.  No erasing.

A few more angels and the beginning of the night sky.
Now I'm getting started.  There's a rhythm to the work; dip the pen, make a few marks, the pen runs dry, look out the window, maybe get up and walk around, come back, sit down, then dip the pen and make some more marks.

Time to decide on the colors.  Each new addition changes the balance of the composition. I used as a reference the Neapolitan angels from the tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

More color and I'm seeing how I want it to go. I like that green. I'm still not sure of the angel in the upper left but I know I don't want an even number of angels.

More color, more sky.  Should all the wings be the same color? Before I proofread thisit  read, "should all the wigs be the same color--"  These angels have all their own hair.

Closer and closer.  I really have to work on the seventh angel.  I"m always eager to erase the pencil marks but It's very important to wait for the ink to dry completely.

At last, angel number seven arrives. I was drawing her around the time of Ascension Day, when our pastor, Bob Dunham, cited in his sermon this stained glass window in the chapel of Queen's College in Oxford.

At the ascension, forty days after the resurrection,  Jesus is lifted up into Heaven.  But look at his feet. They're so silly looking for such a holy moment.  What was the artist thinking?  Was it the end of the day, and he was working on a deadline?  I know that feeling.
The whole time I was drawing these angels I had those feet on my mind.

The finished picture.It still needs some work to define the faces and I'll clean up some blots with photoshop but here they are.  How do you like their feet?
Stay awake for more pages for  the final book.  

What's your favorite Carol?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Happy Birthday, Jessie

Happy Birthday, Jessie!
One of My Best Days

 The original due date for our first child was late in June, but July came and still no baby.  I got on a Fifth Avenue bus after a Doctor’s appointment where I was told, once again, to be patient.  A woman saw me and leapt up to give me her seat.  When I thanked her she said, pointing at my belly,
“Well, I’m a nurse and, Honey, I’m not delivering a baby on this bus.”

I said, “I wouldn’t mind, I’m way past my due date.”

The old lady sitting next to me said, “Your baby’s late? It’ll be wrinkled."


"Like staying in the bathtub too long--You get all wrinkled."

When you’re pregnant everybody has something to say.

So we waited.  My mother woke up on July 3rd and said, “It’ll be a girl on the ninth.”  Mom was always right, but I didn’t think I had another week in me.

On Sunday, July 8th, Arthur put me on a forced march from our home on Horatio Street to Chinatown, a dim sum lunch and then home again.  That evening we went to our friend, Kathleen’s, for dinner and home again with no action.  As we got ready for bed I felt an unmistakable twinge.

“Arthur, I think this is it.”
“Ok, the most important thing is that you get your rest.”  And he went to sleep.

Let me say here that Arthur was the most mature and focussed Dad in our Lamaze class.  The others were eager to talk about anything but childbirth but I can still hear Arthur saying,
“Can you explain Braxton-Hicks again?”

I'd been told that it was best to be as far along in the process as possible before getting to the hospital, so I settled down to pass the next few hours timing the contractions.

I watched a movie with James Cagney and Barbara Hale, who played Della Street on Perry Mason, about the everglades in Florida. All I remember is lots of gators.

I worked on this drawing—not that I thought it would be any good but it kept my hands busy and my mind off the pains.

Six am came, the sun rose and I called the Doctor’s office.

“I think I’m having my baby.”

The receptionist said, “Oh, today’s my daughter’s birthday!”

I’m hoping for a girl—so this is a good sign.

 I woke Arthur.  He walked the dog and got a taxi, telling the driver to wait there and he’d be right back. I went down and got in.  The driver looked askance at me and said, “No—I’m waiting for a man.”

“Right. That’s my husband.”

When Arthur came downstairs the driver said, “I’m sorry sir, she said she was with you.”

So we set off for Mount Sinai—a long ride from the West Village. We drove through Central Park; in 1979  Park Drive was riddled with pot holes and I felt every one. But the trees were lovely in the early morning light and I concentrated on my breathing.

The driver asked Arthur—he couldn’t look at me—  if he wanted the emergency room, but no, the Fifth Avenue entrance would be fine.

We arrived and Arthur had to go inside to get change of a twenty to pay the fare. That’s right; in 1979 you could take a taxi from the West Village to the Upper East Side for well under twenty dollars.
I got out and thanked our driver.  He looked me up and down, took a breath and said,

“Have a nice day.”

And I did have a nice day.  Our beautiful baby arrived around noon; seven pounds, fourteen ounces and no wrinkles.

Here she is, a few days old.  She looks like she's not quite sure about us.

We named her Jessie Mayhew for my great-grandmother, Jessie Brown, because of a story my mother used to tell me.   Grandpa Brown said to her, “I know you see Grandma as a gray-haired old lady who walks with a limp but you should have seen her.  You should have seen Jessie running, with her long black hair flying out behind her.”

Mayhew is for my grandmother on the other side, Louise Mayhew Russell.

Here’s a funny thing.  I”m Barbara Russell.  I had Jessie Mayhew.  And she eventually had Molly Louise.  We replicated MomMom's name in three generations, totally without planning to.

Here we all are--four generations.  Not in straight line, because MomMom's not Mom's mother but why quibble. We're certainly connected by love.

Christmas in July

I've been feeling a little uninspired and overwhelmed by papers and stuff, torn by needing to clear the decks and get rid of everything ...