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Something I miss in the Winter--Babies' Feet

I really like babies, especially their delicious little feet, so when they're all bundled up in winter and I can't admire every part of them in their strollers I feel a big loss. When I say delicious I'm not kidding. After an afternoon I spent with Teddy, (now known as Theo) he reported to his mother, "MomMom bite my toes!" I want to make it clear that I did not bite, I merely nibbled. There was no blood but plenty of kisses. I'm not alone--Arthur said he knew Jessie was growing when he could no longer fit her whole foot in his mouth.

Newborn Identification, Sam's feet

Moving on, I had a visitor to my studio this week; It's always eye-opening to see your work from someone else's viewpoint and this time my friend Barbara Ellman asked questions and made observations that really got me thinking.

There's a lot of architecture in my work. Even if It's not a building I begin every drawing with a pencil grid, a framework. I like having a structure to push against. Well, I live in a city that's built on a grid, although here in the West Village the grid goes a little wonky--West 4th Street intersects with West 12th? Really?

And you know how much I love houses. I used to put myself to sleep by remodeling the houses I grew up in. I heard that if you dream about a house the house is you and if you discover a hidden room it's about an unexplored part of yourself. Is this me?

Pen & Ink Drawing of a blue House with nine Blue Jays
House of Blue with Jays

My mother always said, "Don't you want a house of your own?" I thought I did but it was a relief to realize that all I want is to draw the perfect house on paper with no worries about roof or basement and if something goes wrong I can pick up the phone and say, "Hello, Charles?"

And collage--why collage? Pen and Ink is an unforgiving medium; once you put down a mark you can't take it back. If it's a mistake you have to find a way to accommodate it.

Pen & Ink drawing of a Great Blue Heron against a crosshatch background
Great Blue Heron with a Beauty Mark

It's not like oil and acrylic where you can scrape off the paint or go over it. History is full of pentimenti, or images that emerge after years of being covered up, sometimes showing us the artist's process.

I once painted a large acrylic for my nephews to hang in their room and Danny asked if he could help. I said sure, and I gave him a brush. My brother was astonished. Whatever Danny did I could always fix it or I might have left it as his contribution. I could relax about that painting but the thought of a toddler at my drawing table gives me the vapors. I'm happy to say, and I may be tempting fate here, I've never had a major spill. I'm so careful that I would never use this ink;

even thought it offers a nice range of colors. The jars are just too vertical and I'm afraid of tipping.

Russell presents a whole new threat.

Collage is a way to cover up mistakes and add elements I didn't think of at the beginning; It give me some freedom. Before I added the bluejays House of Blue was all straight lines. It was a little static although I like to think my houses have character. I hope the jays add some life and movement.

But the best thing about Collage is serendipity; sometimes things just seem to fall into place.

Etching is also an unforgiving medium. My teacher, Roberto DeLaMonica, was a stickler about turning out perfection and the slightest mistake--slightly smudged ink, the image placed crookedly on the paper, finger prints--anything could made a print unusable. Well, waste-not want not, so I would cut up the misfits and make something else. this is one flamingo that became a flock.

collage of 5 and 1/2 Flamingos
A Flock of Flamingos

Then I started deliberately making pieces to use in collage. Raw material, like these etchings of stages or proscenium arches;

And then I played! I got silly with these bear ballerinas because I knew I wouldn't keep them.

You may recognize the arches here--this is the porch where Mary sits in Fra Angelico's Annunciation. [Spell check tried to make that name Franklin Angelico. Oy] One of the Neapolitan Angels from the Metropolitan Museum visits two Rhinos. The writing on top is Latin for "Give to the Winds your Fears," a favorite hymn. I like to make references to my faith in an oblique not to say irreverent way.

This turkey is one of my first bird drawings where I really went to town with the feathers.I put him on the stage to set him off.

I haven't even started about my little notebooks full of torn paper collages and notes, that saved me from "diligence and conscienciousness." I'll save that story for another week.

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