Thursday, January 28, 2021

A few More Things I Love

So nice to see Bernie at the Inauguration.  

Since then he's been everywhere.

Here in my neighborhood,

stalking my cousin Tom in LA;  he's everywhere, and his team is selling his image on sweatshirts and everything printable, making a bundle for the Vermont Foodbank and Meals on Wheels and inspiring creativity and generosity all over the place.  The company that made his jacket gave away fifty jackets just like his to women and little kids!  

Here's Bernie celebrating his election as Mayor of Burlington in 1981.  In 2015 when Bernie ran for president and everyone was saying "Who's that?"  this picture, taken by my brother Rob, was all over the news. This week Rob added the mittens to bring the image up to date. 

That's not Rob's first dance with fame.  

You may have seen this photo in 2012 or so. It went viral. the internet doesn't seem to know who took it, but it was Rob.  Everyone thought those cows had something to say.

At one point this was the most posted and shared image in the WORLD!   

You can see more of Rob's work but be careful. If you just google Rob Swanson you'll get Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation.  To see my brother you have to google Rob Swanson, Photographer. You'll be happy you did.

                                    I really want to draw this some time. 

I like cows, too.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

 I looked up the Biblical quote President Biden made in his inaugural address; it comes from Psalm 30,

"Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning."  If you continue reading you'll find, 

"You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have taken off my sack cloth and clothed me in joy."

Whatever your credo may be, I hope you find comfort and hope in these words.

Moving on, I want to say thank you to everyone who responded to my call for ideas for characters to inhabit my drawing, Red House. The first to respond was my friend, Ellen Grossman, who reminded me of this photo from a previous post about one of my favorite places on Earth--the Bronx Zoo. 

This is the interior of the Elephant House--Jessie took her own kids there and thought of me when she saw this handsome rhino.

Ellen's an amazing artist--you can see her work at and if you google Ellen Grossman and Jay Z you'll see an adorable video of a moment on the subway--if you ever need proof that New York is full of surprises.

Here's my impression of the exterior of the Elephant House, along with Babe Ruth--so it's called Song of the Bronx.  Do you like my perspective?  My Dad once said of my work, "I like how you get things kind of wonky." I'd say this is wonky.

Here he is at the Zoo.

Here's the next generation...

and here's the Rhino of the Bronx, practicing Covid safety.

What about my drawing?  Well, thanks to Ellen, there's a rhino in the attic.

There's lots more to come--thanks everyone, for some really interesting ideas.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Another Artist I Love but First

 Last week I forgot to say Mazel Tov to Jon Ossof, Georgia's first Jewish senator, and now the youngest member of that august group.  I remember when I was appalled to realize there was a Supreme Court justice my age and now there are senators younger than my children.  Even so, I still feel younger than Springtime.

Here's a favorite artist/writer who showed up regularly on the cover of the New Yorker-one hundred and twenty times, over the course of seventy-three years. 

William Steig 


 Here's his cover for May 9, the very day my dear cousin Kate was born.  (Don't worry, Kate, I photo-shopped out the year.)

William Steig's art is wonderful but his writing is sublime. At the age of sixty, in a move to make money, he began to write for children.  His most famous book is probably Shrek, the horrible ogre who lives happily ever after, because it was made into a movie.  But there's Dr. DeSoto, a mouse dentist who can't refuse to treat a fox with a toothache, but must find a way not to get eaten. There's Tiffky Doofky, my son Sam's favorite, about a gentlemanly dog who's a garbage collector.

My favorite, with writing so beautiful I took it to my writing workshop when I was asked to bring in something that inspired me, is Amos and Boris.

Amos is a mouse who lives by the sea.  He builds a boat, names it the Rodent, and sets sail.

Listen to this:  "One night, in a phosphorescent sea, he marveled at the sight of some whales spouting luminous water; and later, lying on the deck of his boat gazing at the immense, starry sky, the tiny mouse Amos, a little speck of a living thing in the vast living universe, felt thoroughly akin to it all.  Overwhelmed by the beauty and mystery of everything, he rolled over and over and right off the deck of his boat and into the sea."

At this point, Molly, age four, listening to me read, said, "Uh oh."

Just as Amos is wondering what it will be like to die and if there will be other mice in Heaven, a whale breaks the surface and looms over him.  It's just like that scene in Castaway when a whale comes right up to Tom Hanks' raft to get a look at him.
When Amos tells the whale that he's not a fish but a mammal, the highest form of life, the whale replies,
"Holy clam and cuttlefish!  (How I would love a reason to say, "Holy clam and cuttlefish")
I'm a mammal too!  Call me Boris." And Boris agrees to take Amos home.
As they travel along they become "the closest possible friends and developed a deep admiration for one another."
Here's the part I love; 

"Boris admired the delicacy, the quivering daintiness, the light touch, the small voice, the gemlike radiance of the mouse. Amos admired the bulk, the grandeur, the power, the purpose, the rich voice, and the abounding friendliness of the whale." 
When they reach Amos's home they pledge to be friends forever, even though they can't be together.  Amos thanks Boris and says, "If you ever need my help I'd be more than glad to give it."  Boris laughs to himself, "How could that little mouse ever help me?  Little as he is, he's all heart. I love him and I'll miss him terribly."
Well, the time comes, after Hurricane Yetta, when Boris desperately needs help. I won't spoil the ending for you. Give yourself a treat and go to your nearest independent bookstore and spend a happy hour in the children's department-maybe spend a few bucks there, I'm sure they'd appreciate it.

Just so you can sleep tonight, I'll tell you that Amos is extremely clever. 

Steig's daughter, Maggie Steig, said about her Dad, "His essential self was a great appreciator.  When he looked at nature, when he looked at animals, when he looked at people he loved, his look always said, 'You delight me.'" 
He's another one I wish I'd known.  I"m so glad his work lives after him.


Thursday, January 7, 2021

Moving on from Here

 What did I say last week?  It has to get better doesn't it? OY VEH!

Wednesday, January 6, also known as Epiphany, Three Kings Day, Twelfth Night, began in optimism and erupted into chaos.  But Georgia's new Senator-Elect, Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, quoted Dr. Martin Luther King;

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

Then he said in his own words, "Let each of us try to be a light to see our country out of this dark time."

After he's sworn in will we refer to him as the Reverend Senator?

Now let's talk about me. Work is progressing on my new drawing, Red House,

but I've taken a rest because I don't know, or I haven't decided what to put in the windows.  While I think about that I've started a companion piece, the interior of the house. Here's the ground floor--maybe it's the reception hall. I want to give it a checkerboard floor but I have to put in some characters first.

Here's my question;  who should I pick to inhabit the Red House? How about European Royalty?
Elizabeth the First?

                                                    Louis Quatorze?

                                                                    A couple of mermaids?

                                                                        Maybe a cow?

                                                                        Or a stork?

What do you think of her? 

                                                            I can't go wrong with a Rhino.

It's a big decision and I'd love your input.  Maybe you have another idea? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year!

Well, here we are.  As my friend Nancy said, 2020 has been a rough couple of years. 

 I just reread what I wrote at the end of 2018.

"We’re coming to the end of a year that’s been so hard for so many of us, full of discord and fear for our neighbors, our leaders, and the planet, our home."

 Can you believe it?  I wrote that in 2018! What an innocent! 

I had no idea how bad things could get.  It's like the fates or the Universe or whatever forces might be said, "You think that's rough? I"m just getting started."

Here's what I wrote then. 

But there have been hard times before this. I have a Christmas card sent by my grandparents, probably in 1944, in the midst of World War II, when Hitler raged across Europe.  The picture on the front is a church window with advent candles on one side and an American flag on the other.  Through the window, we see the star of Bethlehem.  Inside, the message has those familiar words from Luke; “For unto us is born this day in the city of David…” and “Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory…”

It’s signed; 

Robert, Louise, Dave, Jack, Dan, Janet 

and Private Robert Swanson, U.S. Army. 

That was my Dad, drafted in 1943, age18 years and six weeks.

I hold this card in my hand and feel the weight of all those hopes and fears, also pride, patriotism, faith and sacrifice.  Those were hard, dark times.

But the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.  They got through their hard times and we’ll get through ours. We’ll learn from our mistakes and try to do better. We’ll work together to seek solutions.

That was two years ago.  Have we worked together to seek solutions? In November we voted in unprecedented numbers--that's a start.  Working with the League of Women voters, my friend, Marla, and I went to a Girls' High School in Harlem and met a wonderful group of brand new citizens; that was not only fun, it was inspiring.

And the vaccine is coming!  And the days are getting shorter! 

So let's not give up hope, and let's not stop moving forward.  

It has to get better, doesn't it?

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 ...