Peace on Earth

December 25, 2015

Watercolor sketch of sandhill crane as modified peace symbol

Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a healthy and  happy New Year!

People-Watching in Spain

October 27, 2015

“There are few things more delightful than to have nothing to do in a strange city and enough money to do it pleasantly, to sit and watch people and to wonder about them . . . The Spaniards can sit for hours just talking, or, if alone, doing nothing, with the mind’s engine shut off, just coasting pleasantly.  This immobility is a wonderful gift, like the ability of a dog or a cat to go to sleep at any time.”
— H. V. Morton, A Stranger in Spain

Street scene, Seville

Street scene, Seville

“Happy, happy Spain, where there I always time to sip coffee and where to be busy is not a virtue.”
— H. V. Morton, A Stranger in Spain

Man reading a magazine at an outdoor café, Seville

Man reading a magazine at an outdoor café, Seville

When you travel like a tourist spending at most three or four days at a single destination, and especially when you don’t speak the language, it is difficult to penetrate the culture or have meaningful connections with the locals.  When you sightsee at the major, must-see sites, you mix mostly with lots of other tourists.  That is why I get a little thrill when I notice a slice of real life, individuals and families going about their business in their home towns and paying scant attention to camera-wielding intruders.

Of course, the locals might be enjoying some of their city’s treasures along with the tourists.  Sometimes it is hard to tell them apart.  But I bet those hundreds of people taking selfies were tourists busy documenting that they were HERE.




The major tourist areas also seemed to attract the “rosemary ladies,” who solicited donations in exchange for a sprig of rosemary.



It is fun to people watch and speculate about the lives of those who cross your path.  Everywhere in Spain, elderly women walk arm-in-arm with a middle-aged companion.  Are they mothers and daughters or daughters-in-law?  Why are there seemingly more elderly women than men?  Isn’t it wonderful that they still get out and walk the streets for shopping or their daily constitutional?




Or is this just a tradition, the multi-generational social outings for women of a certain age?  (After all, even Picasso sketched two women walking.  “Walking” by Picasso, 1899, from the collection of the Picasso Museum, Barcelona:)


There weren’t as many smokers as I expected, but we did notice higher-than-usual numbers of women in Madrid who were smoking on the streets.


Woman smoking on balcony

Woman smoking on balcony

And cell phones are ubiquitous, just as they are in the States.

On the train to Alcala

On the train to Alcala

Men seemed to gather in bars.

“It is a truism that Spaniards believe there is nothing more important than family life.  In fact, they would probably rather show allegiance to any kind of family than to the State.  For most Spaniards, the need, outside family, is met by the local bar, a place where one might spend at least an hour a day with friends.”
— Miranda Franca, Don Quixote’s Delusions: Travels in Castilian Spain



Playing cards in a park, Barcelona

But sometimes men gathered in parks, such as these card players in Barcelona.

This family was dressed to the nines for a restaurant lunch in Triana:


“The only people in Spain more powerful than the mothers are the grandmothers.”
— H. V. Morton, A Stranger in Spain


And kids and teens in Spain are like kids and teens anywhere.




Here are a few more photos capturing the ordinary life and people of Spain:











This waiter in a Sanlucar restaurant asked me to take his picture.

This waiter in a Sanlucar restaurant asked me to take his picture.

Ink sketches; portraits

Ink sketches; portraits








What We Carry

October 22, 2015

“He who would travel happily must travel light.”
— Antoine de Saint Exupery

The clothes I am packing for Spain

The clothes I am packing for Spain

It was a fun challenge to pack everything for a 2-1/2 week vacation in just one carry-on bag and one small daypack.  My strategy will be to dress in layers and sacrifice high fashion for comfort.  All three pairs of shoes, for example, are flats and casual rather than dressy.  They will have to do.

My daypack will hold my comfort and pleasure items — my camera with bag and lenses, my traveling watercolors (squeezed from tubes into two 7-day pill organizers), a notebook, various pens and brushes, and my iPad.

“Like with any journey, it’s not what you carry, but what you leave behind.”
— Robyn Davidson, Tracks

I realize that what I pack in my bags is less important that the intangible things I carry: my curiosity, my sense of adventure, my willingness to meet people and try new things, my sense of humor.  I want to be a good companion for my friend Carol.  With this in mind, I think I am ready to have a wonderful trip.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us of we find it not.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.”  — Wolfgang von Goethe

Intensely Ordinary

October 18, 2015

“Do not try to do extraordinary things but do ordinary things with intensity.”
— Emily Carr, from Hundreds and Thousands:The Journals of an Artist

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks


Gordon Skagit Farms -- a bountiful harvest

Gordon Skagit Farms — a bountiful harvest

“As Gill says, “every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist.” The small family farm is one of the last places – they are getting rarer every day – where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker – and some farmers still do talk about “making the crops” – is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfillment of physical need.”
― Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food

Gordon Skagit Farms does a great job marrying farming and art.  A visit there is a visual feast.






Pen and ink sketches of squashes and pumpkins

Pen and ink sketches of squashes and pumpkins

Something to Crow About

August 27, 2015


“He liked the hens.  He liked their bobbing, pecking scurry and the old lady sort of attitude they took about their roosts.  He liked eggs too . . .”
— Richard Wagamese, Medicine Walk





Kathryn, age 6, with home-raised eggs

Kathryn, age 6, with home-raised eggs

In k and colored pencil sketch of rooster

In k and colored pencil sketch of rooster

Watercolor sketch "Something to Crow About"

Watercolor sketch “Something to Crow About”















Baby Seagulls

August 25, 2015

Baby seagulls

Baby seagulls


Last month I happened to see these baby seagulls on a pier next to the ferry landing at Winslow on Bainbridge Island.  I realized, when I saw these spotted, fluffy creatures, that I had never before seen baby seagulls.

I imagine that most seagulls nest on bluffs or hard-to-access places, out of the stream of normal human commerce.  It looked like these babies had to stay close to the nest — those nubby wings and over-sized, gangly feet would make walking or flying impossible or too unwieldy for quite some time.  By the time they are ready to fly, they must have lost their spots and look like typical seagulls.

What a lucky occasion this was, then, to have seen two seagull chicks so close by.

Watercolor sketch of baby seagull

Watercolor sketch of baby seagull

Another watercolor sketch of baby seagull

Another watercolor sketch of baby seagull


Pursuing Pebbles

August 22, 2015

“My peace of mind comes with picking up pebbles.  Some people fly-fish.  Some people hang glide.  Some people do needlepoint.  I pick up beach pebbles. . . . pursuing and perusing pebbles gives me pleasure.  They are reminders of a natural world that grinds everything down to size.  Some the sea shatters and breaks, some it makes beautiful, some it just gives up on.  There is an aesthetic pleasure here, and an athletic one in bending and stretching; an intellectual pleasure in trying to figure out the physics of pebbles, the puzzles of tides, the working out of a set of pebbled values that depends upon rock and place and time.”
— Ann Haymond Zwinger, The Nearsighted Naturalist

Watercolor sketches of favorite pebbles

Watercolor sketches of favorite pebbles

Watercolor sketch of pebble with a hole in it

Watercolor sketch of pebble with a hole in it

Watercolor sketch of pebbles

Watercolor sketch of pebbles


I feel like I am in good company, for the artist Georgia O’Keeffe also was drawn to rocks and often lined her windowsills with these and other found objects.  You can see them in these photos from the March 2002 Architectural Digest article: