For Japanese, NEW YEAR is one of the most important celebrations of the year, a festive occasion. Traditionally the house must be cleaned of the clutter and dust of the past year to start the New Year afresh. Preparation of food for New Year’s occupies much of the time with traditional dishes symbolic of good health and wealth and giving thanks for the past and expressing hope for a greater, happier new year.
My mother starts the preparations right after Christmas, getting the house ready for New Year’s day. Relatives and friends drop by all day on New Year’s day and feast on all the traditional Japanese foods and an eclectic assortment of other cuisines. Football games on tv play in the background, the fireplace full-on blazing and the house fills with laughter and voices.
MOCHI is a special kind of steamed rice, pounded and shaped into small, round buns. KAGAMI MOCHI, a symbolic Japanese presentation in every home displays a leaf-stemmed mandarin orange atop double stacked mochi rice cakes. It’s overall meaning is one of hope for a brighter and happier New Year. The kelp embellishment is a symbol of joy because the word is found in “yorokobu” (to be glad). The mandarin orange means “generation to generation” and its color symbolizes a prosperous future.
My mother makes a couple of different kinds of sushi as well. MAKI-SUSHI shown here. I paint while she works on the table in front of me. First she puts a beautiful shiny blue-black sheet of seaweed onto a bamboo mat. (I use these kind of mats for storing my paintbrushes). Next hot fluffy rice with a mixture of vinegar & rice wine is spread with a large wooden flat spoon. Then 5 or 7 cooked items of: carrots, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, cooked egg, “kampio”-dried squash, eel, and dried shrimp are layered like a multi-colored ribbon onto the rice. She then rolls the whole kaboodle with the aid of the bamboo mat. Somehow the “food ribbon” is perfectly centered in the rice roll.
Now, the best part is about to happen. Sometimes the sushi logs are wrapped in waxed paper and ready themselves to be cut neatly with a very sharp knife into these perfect “tires”. When one is standing nearby, the “end cuts” don’t make it on to beautiful vintage Japanese china platters. They’re delicious!!!
Back to the story of the “kagami mochi” (shown above). The origin of the kagami mochi offering is based on Amerasu-omikami’s (sun-goddess) hiding in the cave of Ama-no-Iwato. With the sun-goddess in hiding, the world became dark and prayers for her reappearance were made to a mirror, which symbolized the goddess. The kagami mochi represents the mirror and is a symbol of hope for a bright and happy New Year. So, TO MY DEAR FRIENDS IN ALL THE WORLD, HAPPY NEW YEAR, and loads of PROSPERITY as well.
Jackalopes from the Southwest Desert pose with winter banner as the brisk north wind whips tumbleweed like giant popcorn balls through the desertscape. I capture the scene with pen and ink. Banner with pinecone motif.
A handmade Christmas card for a friend’s sister in the military by special request.
Wishing everyone in our armed forces a safe return and Season’s Best to All!
My mom and I drove to Sacramento to visit Sherry, a very good family friend. Mom did some shopping and returned with packages and a handful of brilliantly colored leaves. Capture them, I must. Sherry working on a Hello Kitty hook rug and mom sorting out strands of embroidery threads on white hole-punched cards, I paint and write. We clink glasses of hot apple cider, eat fresh persimmons and crunch on homemade M&M cookies. The afternoon glows and is forever recorded in my mind and there on the pages.
GIFTS OF THE GARDEN: “THE GREATEST GIFT OF THE GARDEN IS THE RESTORATION OF THE FIVE SENSES”. “All the windows of my heart I open to the day”- John Greenleaf Whittier. SIGHT: Absorb the colors in mass, squint and blur the edges, put your eyes close-up to a flower so that if fills up the whole frame of your vision. And then pull away slowly until the flower comes first into focus. Absorb. Close your eyes and
LISTEN. There may be distant chirps from a bird, a whirr of a bumblebee in flight or just peaceful silence. Listen to the sound of moving water or the music rain makes. Crush an herbal leaf and smell the AROMA. Make a memory of all the different flowers, grasses and herbs; sweet, pungent, aromatic, eucalyptus smells. Fingertips FEEL textures of velvet petals. Leaves and branches smooth, grainy, coarse, cool, taking in the quality of each. Allow the pores of your skin to catch a breeze and FEEL the temperature of the sunshine and the shade. And in the end enjoy the fruits of the garden. Pluck a warm ripe tomato and TASTE its sweetness. Nectar from honeysuckle and fruits and vegetables that ripen in each season. “Plants give us oxygen for the lungs and for the soul”– Linda Solegato.
In the end, it’s all a metaphor, this garden. . . IS LIFE.
Journaling on the Run. . . PACK ONLY THE ESSENTIALS. A sketching pencil (a dark watercolor wash pencil is also water soluble when a wet brush touches it), eraser, pencil sharpener (learn to sharpen with an exacto knife), Niji waterbrush and/or paint brush, micron 01 black pigma marker (it’s waterproof so you can paint over it), your favorite writing pen (mine is a fountain pen), small craft scissor, glue stick, a few watercolor pencils, a small travel watercolor box, a couple sheets of paper towels, and a small container of water in a plastic bottle. Include a few loose sheets of good art paper that can be bound into a book later and keep adding drawings and paintings to blank pages in your sketchbook. Don’t hold back. Date your work. Watch your progression, record your events. Draw what you see and notice how the world opens your eyes to see more. The eye caresses each shape your pencil tracts. Zone in on color and notice how nature puts one color up against another, amazing!
I’ve added a large colorful cloth napkin to my pack. It is there to pick up a water spill, serve as a napkin, or sit upon. It’s the extra barrier between the ground and the ants, and me sketching. A baggie of nuts to munch, water to drink, sunglasses and a visor also help. Grab your bag and go with it everywhere.
Get to know what YOUR essentials are. For nature treks I add binoculars, compass, wildflower and bird identification books.
postscript: You can always have more of your stuff in other bags that are in the car!
QUEEN OF HEARTS . . . Feeling, Passionate, Risk-taking, Accepting and Dedicated. Do what you love. Be true to yourself. Go out into the world. Travel light. Know what is essential in this world that moves you, that makes you tick, that motivates you.Pack your tangible essentials in your travel bag (Thoreau light) and know that what is most important is in your heart.
Sol+stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning “sun”+”to stand still.” As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.
Three days after the solstice marks a Midsummer’s Day. Soft summer grasses dotted with miniature daisies, blue petaled flowers and goldfields wait to be cut. Is it true that on the eve of a midsummer’s night brings a dream? with magic?
Straw hat and sunglasses for painting with and hiking. Looking at the Sun shimmer while lying on the cool grass and looking up through the trees. Strawberries juicy sweet and cold watermelon. Sweet natural water quenches a thirst and the rush of a waterfall crowns the heart of a hike. A wardrobe of shorts and tee-shirts. Longer days of warm light means more time to paint and play. Standing still with eyes closed and feeling the waft of a breeze on a sweated brow. Barefoot in the grass and dining alfresco. The sound of tinkling ice in a glass of lemonade. New starry constellations to tract in the midnight indigo sky. Falling asleep under the fragrance of Midnight Blooming Jasmine and of course Ice Cream. SUMMER Continue reading
I silkscreened this onto Stonehenge paper. Artwork drawn with black ink and grids and dots from Letraset press-on sheets. I then shot the artwork on film from which I made the screens. Folded card used as a presentation for my business card.
I often get asked, “Have you always drawn?” Yes, and my favorite Crayola color was “Bittersweet” and “Cornflower”. I still have my first watercolor paintbox when I was a little girl growing up in rural Houston, Texas. I loved chalk and drawing the solar system. When I was in kindergarten I would sit with Pat Brossman, my next door neighbor in the third grade and watch her practice handwriting exercises. I couldn’t wait to get into the third grade. And I loved handwriting and drawing and painting and bugs. When it rained, I would run out and sit in the rain and fish for crawdads in the ditch, using cheese on a string. The other thing I loved was standing in flowers taller than me; big daisies and towering sweet peas and of course animals.
When you do what you love, and are true to yourself, some things don’t change much. Two of my favorite paint colors are still the same but with different names; burnt sienna and french ultramarine blue. I have painted murals on ceilings, floors and walls. I still like to stand enveloped in flowers and paint what I imagine. I’ll lay on the desert floor to identify a miniscule flower and have binoculars at the ready on a hike. And what do I always have with me? A journal, pen, pencil and paint.
The first little ruby red strawberries are the sweetest tasting berries that you can even imagine. They are fragrant — It’s Spring.
I’m teaching “Italic” calligraphy this semester.
Sketch of our 5-tiered strawberry condo from my mom with two green thumbs! Made of a heavy plastic, there is a 3/4″ lip at the top edge of the condo. A PVC pole “shish-ka-bobs” the tiers and keeps them together. Nice to see the berries cascading the tiers.
The snails can’t climb the slippery slope walls.
Full of wisdom. Curious about everything and always living “in the moment”.
See! Hear! Taste! Feel! Smell! Paying attention to every situation can help you develop your idea.
Work from the depth of your being.
Have faith in your ideas and execute a well-thought plan.
What puts a lion in your heart?
Simplify your life.
Listen to your dreams, they are orders from the universe and can infuse your imagination with a great storyline and fanciful drawings.
Surround yourself with the things you love which includes the people in your life.
Get enough sleep.
Make your bed everyday.
This is Francine Oller, calligrapher, from my “Studio Group” drawing on the paper tablecloth. A roll of paper, and several different types of oil pastels; water-soluble and regular, chalk pastels, colored pencils, intense colored pencils, brushes and water. Several others join in. The “tablecloth” is covered with swirls, marks, sea waves and a sinking boat!
Then we write. A fountain pen talk by Greg Minuskin, pen nib expert (see his website: www.gregminuskin.com.) We are off in heaven, writing and experimenting with a relay of a multitude of fountain pens all with different nibs that make different marks. Some vintage, some contemporary, flexible, italic, needlepoint, different sizes. Talking and making mental tabs on our favorites (fountain pens).
Janet Martorello is now sharing her work. She did an amazing installation on a cross for a Catholic Church in San Francisco, dazzling beadwork. We all take turns showing a project we’re working on, getting honest feedback, sharing information and most of all giving support. We have been together since 1991, meeting one day a month, pretty much all year ’round and always have some sort of group project going. We love letters and ink, eat well together, talk a whole lot, laugh, and care for each other’s well-being. Start your own creative support group.
Page two of my journal entry “Nature”: I am one of 18 other artists in a round robin journal exchange put together by calligrapher and artist, Renee Troy. Each of our handmade journals are themed and require 2-3 pages of artful creativity. One month to create and release, and then receive a new journal to be written and embellished with our own personal stamp. It will be a year and a half before seeing my journal again. Other themes such as “Outrageous”, “Red”, “Metamorphoses” are to name a few.
The anticipation to create something new onto blank pages is enough to get all of the “creative mind sprockets” working in overtime.
I begin with a main image (the marsh bird with a beak-speared list of nature ideas). Then I build text and other imagery around the page. Next, another image to balance the bird, the journal log. Then I add other words and images filling in blank areas on the page, each time being mindful of space and color relationships. I think of the text blocks the same as I do blocks of imagery. Color is another design element that can be used to pull all the parts together on a page. At other times, a full background can be painted first. The way I’ll be working on “Hearts” next, you’ll see.