Ambling around Asheville

Mountain Road

Mountain Road

I recently returned from a productive week – a road trip to North Carolina for the purpose of studying with one of my painting idols, Robert Johnson, who held a workshop at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. You can see more of Robert’s work on the Blue Spiral Gallery site. The 4-day workshop was very comprehensive with students who were beginners to watercolor journaling as well as others of us who have been making journal pages for years. There was much to be learned for me. Robert has a unique method of making value and color “short-hand” notes in the field that make it easy and accurate to match colors that may be painted in journal pages at a later time. He does not rely on or make photographs. We learned how to make a simple system of color mixing charts that correspond to the simple palettes he gave us. For me, Robert’s process enables making a journey daybook page much faster, more accurately, and helps me to identify large color and value areas and to avoid copying endless visual details that often confuse me as I view the landscape in front of me.Colorchart.RJ

In North Carolina, I worked with the class applying the “color shorthand” to a page made on a mountain road near the Blue Ridge Parkway. On the rainy day after the workshop, I returned to the parkway and made a second page that shows mostly the clouds that block the mountain view. After I got home, I made my own color chart that corresponds to my personal palette, and I have made a few pages at a park site near here where the endangered Scrub Jay has been sighted.

As is often the case, it will take time and much regular, repetitive work in order to process what Robert Johnson taught me. I am sure that I will discard some of this new method of working as I adopt other parts of the protocol. Already, a big change that has occurred is my translation of the landscape into a simpler view. I am not striving so much to copy as I learned to do in my medical illustration life many years ago. I think that there may have been a subtle brain shift in the way I now “see.” After all, as Frederick Franck said many years ago, drawing is really about seeing.

I had the very decadent experience of  eating very well in my week in Asheville. The city is known as the Santa Fe of the east because of its focus on art and good food. Each evening of my week in Asheville I enjoyed gourmet meals at five new, trendy restaurants with my friend and Journey Daybook alum, Lois, with whom I studied, We walked. We visited galleries. We experienced a very gentle time of restful work.

I made the following journey daybook page on my last day in Asheville from a scenic mountain view turn-off on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Obviously, it was raining and there were only clouds to view.MPH.Ashe

Inaugural Offering

Like many people, I am harboring a host of conflicted feelings on this day. My niece, Liz Pulis Mora, made a Facebook post yesterday that moved me and you can read it here. Last night I  was with friends for dinner, discussing the potential difficulties that women friends may encounter as they travel to march in Washington over the weekend. I am daunted by such considerations. So, on this quiet overcast morning I sit on my deck, trying to compose my feelings into the written form –

THE MAGIC TREE
that reaches so wide and spreads so low.

It’s newest bough grows toward me
and covers my table,
giving cooling shade and calming comfort.

On this disruptive day I sit under my bough.
Peace is brought through the host of inhabitant animals
silently coursing through branches, bringing inherent gifts
of abundant energy, sacred purpose, and secret wisdom.

I feel thankful for my Godly protection.

Drawing in church (again)

mph-11-29-16For several years I have drawn in church. Because I carry my journey daybook with me most of the time, it is simple to pull it out from my purse to make random notes, recording thoughts or ideas now or then. Sometimes, I am inspired to draw when there is time before mass when the church is quiet and especially inspiring to me. I often draw during the homily. At the vigil last Saturday I made such a journey daybook page, recording the liturgical changes that mark the beginning of Lent and the special visit by our Bishop.

A Season of Thanksgiving

mph-11-25-16This year I cooked and entertained friends on Thanksgiving Day. This creative exercise was very rewarding, leaving me with feelings of thankfulness and deep gratitude for my friends, my home, and my tiny adopted home city, Cedar Key. I continue to bask in these wonderful, empowering feelings.

Yesterday on Black Friday morning, after the final clean-up of my kitchen, I drove south to pick up my car that had been repaired at Dave’s in Homosassa, south of here. Overnight, anticipatory Christmas decorations appeared almost like magic – everywhere – both in Cedar Key and along route 19, indicating the rampant commercialization that has spread even to these remote parts of North Florida. Remembering the delicious local fresh seafood available at a nearby restaurant and market on the Homosassa River, I headed toward Old Homosassa, an historical village located on the river, near where Winslow Homer fished and painted more that a century ago. Once again, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude as ate and worked on the attached journey daybook page. For me, merging into a Christmas mentality will have to wait a little longer!

The Journey becomes a Pilgrimage

thanetI arrived at London’s Liverpool Station on a Monday just as office workers were taking their lunch break. The station area was a maze of quick-moving humanity. Without hesitation, I hailed a taxi and was taken to my small hotel for the week – The Thanet in Bloomsbury, a small, sweet hotel recommended by my Gainesville friends, Barbara and Charlie. My tiny room was quiet, cell-like, and very comfortable. Although I love big cities and am relatively comfortable moving through them, I had never been to London and had a lot to learn about my whereabouts and the geography. SO . . . I bought a two-day bus and boat narrated sightseeing tour that allowed me to get on and off transportation at will. I hoped that I would learn to negotiate London in two days but that was definitely not the case!MPH.LON1

I had planned a relatively short agenda for this last week – seeing the Lindisfarne Gospels at the British Library, going to Westminster Cathedral, and visiting some of the major museums. Because the British Museum was near the Thanet, I went there right away on Tuesday before continuing the second day of my London bus tour. I had seen a promo for an exhibit of 18th century watercolors by Francis Towne, who traveled widely and painted his environment, and I made a point to see this show, “Light, Time, Legacy: Francis Towne’s Watercolours of Rome.” I loved these beautiful pieces that are 200 years old and was once again was affirmed in the knowledge that watercolor applied over graphite seals the work. My second Tuesday stop was at Westminster Cathedral, the largest Catholic cathedral in Britain that represents Catholics in England and Wales. It is located just off Victoria Street, near Victoria Station in one of the historically poorer sections of London. I have a family connection to this cathedral because John Southworth, probably the grandson of Sir John Southworth, who lost Samlesbury Hall because of penal tax imposition during the Reformation, is interred there. In fact, this John Southworth is a saint – Saint John Southworth – and his relics lie in state in the chapel dedicated to St Michael and the English saints. He is the last of the English Catholic martyrs who died during the Reformation. I was compelled to revisit St John’s beautiful reliquary and this extraordinary church many times before I left London Sunday morning, August 14th.

MPH.LON5My museum tour included the British Library, where the Lindisfarne Gospels are housed and exhibited. Sadly for me, they were not on view this summer because of their cleaning and restoration but I was treated to a wonderful exhibit of other early Christian manuscripts like, for example Codex Sinaitus. II went to the Tate Britain, a museum that faces the Thames River specifically to see a current exhibit on British painters interpretation of Alcohol and Alcoholism from the 19th century to the present. This exhibit had deep resonance for me because of the sadness, terror, and violence that was portrayed by the artists. I was amazed by how much was clearly realized about alcohol and alcoholism so long ago.

I enjoyed walking in my Bloomsbury neighborhood, a relatively quiet area traditionally home to writers and artists. There are beautiful grassy parks with abundant flowers located at each end of the street where I stayed and it was a treat to walk through them each day.MPH.LON3 I walked to do my laundry in this area near the University of London’s Bloomsbury campus. I became familiar with the cafes and restaurants in the neighborhood, favoring a Turkish place where I ate supper three evenings. I found an old, traditional art supply store, Cornelissen’s, where I searched gift items not found in the US. All the while in London, I drew in my journey daybook. I took a short obligatory tour through Harrod’s – a museum in itself! This is the iconic department store that began as a food emporium and the food and food related products are real works of art. I bought a beautiful small insulated picnic basket that I plan to take on Journey Daybook Adventures.

During this beautiful London week, I retuned again and again to Westminster Cathedral to visit St John Southworth’s relics. I read as much as I could about him, finding a few small books and prayer cards in the cathedral shop to bring home. I spent one morning sitting on my drawing stool in the chapel of the British martyrs drawing St John’s body lying in its glass coffin.MPH.LON4 I fell in love with this saint as I got to know him: his work with the very poor and sick, his rising above isolation and persecution, and his life that was fueled by his deep faith. I am astonished that I developed a very personal connection with a saint – St John Southworth! He is my ancestor and he has now become very real to me. My friend, Kim, suggested that I need to explore the underlying meaning of this connection. All I am sure of is that the experience of connection with Saint John was definitely the point of my pilgrimage! Now, I need to learn what I am supposed to do next.

The journey continues . . .

Beginning of the Real Journey

MPH.8.20.16For posting purposes, I have mentally separated my trip to England into 3 parts: the week in Manchester at the USk Symposium, about which I have already written, a week traveling by train, and a final week in London. This natural division is into 3 thirds. During the journey, I accumulated close to thirty journey daybook pages, most of which were made on site each day as I moved from place to place and city to city. I traveled north up the west coast of England to Edinburgh, Scotland where I changed trains and then traveled south, down the east coast of England to London.

During the second third of the journey, I left Manchester on a Monday morning with a Britrail pass that allowed me the freedom of boarding and getting off anyMPH.8.1.16 train for 8 days. I was eager to visit Samlesbury Hall first, the ancestral home of my Southworth ancestors that has been occupied from the 13th century and is now a museum, an inn, and a restaurant. The Southworths lost their home in the 16th century when Sir John Southworth could no longer pay the high penal taxes that were imposed on landowners who practiced their Catholic faith. I internalized and explored my feelings about the sights, sounds, and resonant energy that all abide in this wonderful old structure.

On the second day of my train journey I went north to Edinburgh where I changed trains and headed south on the English east coast line to the small coastal city of Berwick upon Tweed. (My friends Kim and Lois were sorry I did’t spend time in Scotland but I was single-minded in my determination to further explore my English roots and connections.) Berwick sits very close to the Scottish/English border and is surrounded by a medieval wall. It has been fought over for centuries because of its strategic location and has alternatively been part of both both Scotland and England. Berwick is the closest town on the mainland to Holy Island or Lindisfarne.

My destination on the third day was Lindisfarne or Holy Island. I reached the island by public bus from Berwick that negotiates the narrow, often flooded road once a day.Lindisfarne Two couples from home (Sue and Bill and Carol and Hugh) have been to Holy Island and they both prepared me for the physical adventure. What I was not prepared for was meeting a very special Catholic nun about whom I write on the following  journey daybook page. MPH.8.3.16Sister Tessa, who has a miniature poodle with a personality similar to Mimi’s, gave me the true flavor of this island that has been occupied by monastics since the 7th century when St Aiden, an Irish bishop, established the first community here. The Lindisfarne Gospels, the earliest extant illuminated manuscripts. were made at the same monastery in the late 7th century when St Cuthbert was bishop. I have been interested in the Lindisfarne Gospels for more than 20 years. It was a joy to walk in the sandy soil of this island and to absorb the spirit of the very early resident Christian artists who lived there.

I went to Durham, the site of a large, old cathedral on the 4th day. Durham became the center of the Christian community of Northumbria after invading Vikings drove Cuthbert and his monks from Lindisfarne to the mainland in the early 8th century. Under his leadership a beautiful Norman Romanesque cathedral MPH.8.4.16.1was built that has miraculously been preserved for the past 13th centuries. I was able to enjoy a stunning exhibit, “The Treasury of the Cathedral,” and to draw there. This cathedral has been part of the Anglican Church since the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII. As I walked through the exhibit, I had an interesting conversation with Philip, an Anglican priest, about good and bad and right and wrong and how many of the rights and wrongs of the church have played out and influenced the history of Christianity. I am still pondering this discussion. Again, as I internalized my feelings, I realized that this journey was becoming very important to my spirituality and that it was becoming a real “pilgrimage,” rather than a mere “journey.” After spending several hours basking in the beauty of this cathedral, I enjoyed walking aound the small city of Durham.

Durham.8.4.16.2

Moving from place to place was relatively simple. My new 4-wheel suitcase MPH.travelingmoved easily topped with my carry-on and an extra bag. I carried a back-pack with my simple art supplies. Lifting the suitcase on and off the train was no problem since most of the time someone offered to help me. Challenging my expectations, I found the English to be open, helpful, and very friendly. If I asked for help, there was always a helpful hand.

My fifth stop was York, a city MPH.8.5.16built on a hill that also has the remnants of an old city wall. It, too, has a magnificent Romanesque cathedral, called the Minster, which dominates the space at the top of the hill. I found walking a bit of a challenge in York because of the steepness, unevenness and narrowness of the sidewalks but I persevered, walked slowly,  and was rewarded at the top by a beautiful park surrounding the Minster where I rested. I toured the 15th century home of a York city official, called Bailey Hall, and ate in a sweet small cafe where I drew.

The last city I visited was Norwich in Norfolk, about an hour north of my final destination, London. I was especially interested in visiting Norwich because I have long admired the spiritual writings of Julian of Norwich, MPH.8.7.16a 14th century mystic who lived in Norwich and wrote a treatise, Revelations of Divine Love, that is the earliest written document in English that we know of by a woman author.  Little is known about Julian except that she had probably been married, had children and was not part of a religious community. From her writings, it is easy to see that she is a feminist and she is very, very positive about God’s love of humans. She lived in isolation in a small room or cell that communicated with a small church, the Church of St Julian. She gave spiritual direction and communicated with people when necessary through a small window. The tiny church was severely damaged by bombing in World War II but it has been repaired and Mother Julian’s cell has been reconstructed. On a beautiful, warm Sunday morning, I enjoyed resting, praying, and drawing there. Later, I walked to the Catholic cathedral, where I attended mass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 7th Urban Sketchers Symposium

MPH.7.28.16I will refrain from giving too many details about the symposium because there have been abundant posts on blogs and Facebook about this glorious international event that went from 27 – 30 July. There were slightly less than 500 attendees from 46 countries and during the four days of the symposium, I attended four 3-hour workshops, one 2-hour activity, and a lecture. For me, the goal of the workshops and activities was to learn new concepts and new ways of working and to begin to apply these techniques in my work. In other words, each workshop is more about process rather than product. Frankly, I have never been very happy with my product during any workshop; therefore this time I was eager to apply the teaching I received to my real journey daybook work as soon as possible. I was able to make 3 journey daybook pages before I left Manchester that may show some slight changes in my way of working. The opening page of this post that has no date was made on 29 July as part of Stephanie Bower’s workshop. While working, I was affirmed in my love of drawing in graphite under watercolor and learned the subtle use of blue to depict deep space. The other two pages illustrate: (1) a way to depict a skyline with simplicity (Pat Southern-Pearce’s workshop) and again, (2) the use of receding blues and an understanding of arch structure (Stephanie Bower). I also enjoyed a wonderful workshop about the figure with Don Low in which I developed more confidence in depicting figures on my journey daybook pages. This use of figures is shown later in my August work.

MPH.7.31.16Panorama1

Manchester skyline

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Last supper in Manchester