Thursday, January 31, 2008

Self portrait

January 31, the last day of the month, the last day of Everyday art. Pshew.

Since I wound up drawing portraits of other people a lot this month, I thought I'd add one more to finish it off. This is a sketchy self-portrait I gave myself twenty minutes to put together. As any relative will tell you, my face is never in this sort of nongoofy repose but it is how I see myself when I'm looking in the mirror with a camera. Add wrinkles to the forehead and it isn't that inaccurate.

Since a portrait of myself is self-reflective anyway, I'll continue the trend and add that I've loved doing art again this month. I learned that I can still see lines and somewhat draw, that I haven't gotten comfortable with color but I'd like to, and that there is almost always a way of digging out the time to practice.

C and I have played with finger paints, crayons and magic markers for years for the fun of the process (a necessary focus for kids). Having to put together a complete product - something other people would see - made me start paying attention and really try. I'm happy I did.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Butterfly and beetle

A few years ago, Caroline added her voice to our annual calendar debate and we became a Krtek and friends calendar house. At work, if I hang anything at all, sailboats and coastal scenes free my view and organize my meetings. The big bookstores downtown never fail to carry these standbys and I pick one up each January.

But my favorite calendar, the one I found once and never found again, hung a year of beetle, butterfly and spider photos on our wall and I loved it. I tucked that calendar into the back of my art wardrobe* for a rainy day, and I'm glad I did, because it was pure pleasure to sketch this little beetle and his butterfly companion. After I scanned them in last night, I fell asleep and dreamed of a forest full of Luna moths.

*Living in a city, I have an art wardrobe instead of an art studio ;-).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Almost Mardi Gras

Caroline asked to join in Everyday Art* this month too. (She really wanted to get her hands on the scanner.) So we jumped on Photoshop and she scanned her favorite drawing of me, two Mardi Gras fairy puppets we made recently, and a little book we put together this weekend and put it all into one collage for Tuesday. Happy Tuesday!

* C draws everyday already. It is apparently her favorite kindergarten thing to do, and there are few days that go by without a "post" delivery from her when I get home from work. At night while we're putting dinner together she'll scribble until the plates reach the table if I have the paper and pens out and ready. Quantity of ink on paper interests her the most right now, but every now and then she'll decide to pick a subject and draw it. At her school she announced I was pregnant with a drawing of me looking quite similar to the picture above, but with a giant belly. This was before anyone had even noticed at work ;-).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Happy guy (asleep in the sun)

Here's another sculpture that captured my imagination last summer at the Prague Botanical garden. This fellow seemed to be drowsing contentedly in the sun.

I'm thinking of using him in a Czech/English alphabet I'm putting together. He'd be S for "sculpture" and "socha". The project's first challenge is to come up with a word that starts with the same letter in both Czech and English. Sometimes it's easy - angel/andel for A, balloon/balónek for B, circus/cirkus for C, dragon/drak for D. But then you get to letters like 'w' and 'y' and it gets trickier. Consider a sampling of some of the few 'w' words in a Czech dictionary - workoholicky, westerny (for westerns) and whisky. For y we have yperit for mustard gas and ypsilon for upsilon. Yuppie is in there too, but that's nearly it. Anyone who can come up with kid friendly alternatives, I'll gladly send you a copy of the finished product.

Note: wallaby for w! And due to requests (and godchildren) it is now an English/Czech/German friendly alphabet.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Laughing on the Rocks

Here's a drawing of the little brother of one of Caroline friends. He had just climbed to the top of some rocks in our favorite park in Prague, the sun was shining, he was barefoot, and he was so delighted I had to snap the picture. Summer in Prague makes me feel that way too!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Library of Congress on Flickr

LOC's color photos from the 1930s and 40s

The cold that felled the rest of the family this week, keeping C sprawled on the couch surrounded by tissues and adorned always with a sippy cup*, finally reached me yesterday. Somehow being able to breath through my nose seems a necessary prerequisite for sketching, so I have nothing new to offer up today except a link to a collection of photographs from the 30s and 40s which the Library of Congress has just uploaded to Flickr.

* A sippy cup of herbal tea that is, with honey liberally applied to it and lemons squeezed in if we have them. Tea is necessary for health in the Czech Republic and Caroline at 4 firmly believes this too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Amazing Fountain of Vine and Water

Last summer we spent a long weekend in Traben-Trarbach - far west Germany and wine country. We hung out with friends on the patio of a vineyard inn, we biked along the Mosel river (downhill nearly all the way, my favorite) and we enjoyed the beautiful art nouveau architecture of the town.

This fountain entranced the children and they all took turns playing on it. Caroline kept trying to copy the exact expression of the fountain. I think she nearly matched it in this picture.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sunday recital

Caroline's half year dance recital was Sunday afternoon, at a little theater close to our flat. Her class got to wear what C called the big girl costumes, complete with hoodies, and danced to Czech songs and, surprisingly (and in English), the "Ants Go Marching One by One."

After taking over one hundred pictures and barely finding one in focus without an audience appendage in the way, I've made a vow to join the camera-armed fathers lining the walls next time. This sketch is from the only picture of Caroline complete.

Technical difficulties aside, I got all teary eyed watching the little kids in their tutus and assorted costumes. Getting to witness Caroline rapturously follow her dance teacher's moves, and dance with her classmates with great beams and smiles made my weekend. Afterwards Caroline and her five person fan club (Will, me and our babysitter family) went out for ice cream and hot chocolate and a rehash of the show. It was Sunday afternoon at its best.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Starbucks almost here

"Is it Christmas?" Caroline asked, when I woke her early this Saturday and helped her get dressed. "Something like that" I said, before pouring out cereal and hustling to start some coffee.

Just like Christmas morning, everyone moved at their own pace. I settled into patience, braided C's hair to satisfaction and found the last lost shoe before we headed out. I'd been waiting nearly nine years for today, I could handle thirty more minutes.

The tram to downtown picked us up at 10; it crossed the river, then turned onto Malostranske namesti - our stop. Just in time, Will pulled me off the tracks as another tram went by. I thanked him distractedly before taking out my camera to document what had nearly gotten me run over: padlocks on doors, signs for another day set out on the sidewalk. Despite the news reports, the first Starbucks in Prague was still closed until Tuesday.

The morning wasn't lost. We met friends and went to Bohemia Bagel for pancakes and coffee. The latte was delicious, but I'm heading back to Mala Strana tomorrow. It's time to put that long wait behind me.

Starbucks: Malostranske Namesti 5, Praha 1

Maybe wallpaper

Caroline is moving. To herald the arrival of the baby, and make space for a crib in the smallish room our relatives call a walk-in closet and we call the nursery, we're turning our office/guest room/library into C's bedroom. To get her used to the idea, we've transformed it into a play room already. Once painted and decorated, we'll move a bed in too.

The painter came today to pick out colors and we finalized our deliberations. "White," I said. "Rainbow" argued Caroline. "Red, black, purple and pink." A brief melee ensued, involving painter, babysitter, Caroline and myself in various languages, but finally we agreed. White, and we'll hang lots of paintings all about and set up shelves in different colors above the bed (tucked out of site from the dinner table by a very convenient door).

Tonight we dabbled in watercolor and talked about color again. Red pink purple black are C's favorite colors and have been since she knew how to ask for them, but she's starting to like blue too. We played with repetition and then I made up a square for her of blue and black rain drops. Tomorrow I'm due to repeat the project in red and black, and maybe purple and black and for sure pink. Caroline is thinking of a new line of wallpaper - to go over the bed or cover her wardrobe, and wouldn't the baby like some watercolor wallpaper too?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mountain in winter

I love color, but I'm not very brave about using it because so often the results are rather disastrous. But today I decided to be adventurous and get away from sketches. I borrowed Caroline's finger paints and used blue (even I can't turn one color into brown) to make a mono print of a mountain scene.

Making prints from finger paints is one of my favorite things to do with Caroline on a weekend in the winter. We both like printing better than finger painting, maybe because the results are so serendipitous.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fly Away

Caroline's word of the day is "hat". Thinking I would draw a doodle of her current favorite hat I scrolled through my Picasa archives and discovered no photo of said hat, but instead a picture of Will and Caroline from years ago that I love dearly. It shows Will carrying C across a field in Germany where we have just been trying to fly a kite (can't you tell?). The wind kept the kites on the ground, but we all got outside and ran around working off our coffee lunch and for the first time Caroline met a field of grass. She found it green and marvelous.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Caroline with Pippi braids

As promised last week, a quick sketch of Caroline with Pippi braids. We braided sparkly pipe cleaners into her hair to hold up her hair. It nearly worked! She doesn't have the freckles or the red hair but she loves Pippi Longstocking and likes to wear striped stockings and dresses with big pockets in imitation of her hero.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Word of the day - clown

This weekend, pregnancy hips intervened with our plans and I was left flattened on a sofa all of Saturday. No ice skating, no playground, no playing chase around the flat, and no art for me. To shake the blues and entertain C, I set up her easel next to the couch and we played school.

The word of the day - snow. We made ice (very useful for a bad back ;-), we melted ice, we cut out snow flakes, and held a snowball fight with the leftover paper. We sang all the snow songs we could think of and then sang all our spring, summer and fall songs for good measure. We read through the many snow related books in C's library and then talked about them to the nth degree. I'm such a bird nerd that at one point I had the Peterson Bird book out showing C the snowy owl that Jan Brett drew in The Three Snow Bears.

Unbelievably, we played from noon to night and only stopped for supper and a few student/teacher coffee and snack breaks. It was great fun, and totally took my mind off the subject of hips. Caroline learned the word "snow" and says she quite likes the letter n now. (It was a bit confusing before apparently).

Sunday we played again, keeping snow as our word. Monday, she asked for a new word and suggested clown. So clown it has been. In honor of our word of the day, and during a longish conference call this afternoon, a doodle appeared in my sketch book which I later redrew in ink (for a little more pizazz). It isn't much but I hope it'll do for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sail on the sea

Caroline and her friend Emilie, looking out to sea along the coast of Brittany last summer. I loved the wind and their dresses (which they both insisted on wearing every day - even on the coldest of August days at the tip of the English channel).

If I get brave I'd like to try this in watercolor, but the resulting brownish muck my watercolor attempts turn into is daunting to think about!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Shadow of a horse

Last summer the Prague Botanic Garden hosted an exhibit of Zimbabwean sculptures. My favorite sculpture was this horse. As with many other horses I have met in my life, I wanted to take him home with me, but we are missing the garden he needed to graze in. At least now I have the sketch to remember him by.
Caroline, by the way, insisted on adding eyes to the horse when I finished scanning him in. Rather than give him away so quickly I printed out a copy. She has spent thirty minutes coloring it in quite completely. A new coloring book in the works?

Thursday, January 10, 2008


At two, she had curly hair. Now it is straight and long - beautiful hair for brushing and the braids that she likes. To finish the look, she has requested that I add "dratky", or wire, to her braids this weekend to give her that just right Pippi Longstocking look. If we succeed, I'll post a picture.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

“22 Weeks (and 11 inches)”

Tonight you rest content to roam
within the small space we two
have spun. Home is a narrow room
you’ve backed into, head tucked tight.
“She feels safe that way,
look, there’s more room behind her,”
the doctor says as she ciphers light
from silent sound on the monitor.

But times are, I feel you
elbow out, reach beyond those lines,
stretching my longing point too.
Time soon will be, face to face
we’ll begin our divide. Then will
I remember this balance of roll
and righting? How easy it seemed
to carry you, by my side.

-me, February 19, 2003

Though truthfully I'm actually 23 weeks pregnant today. I meant to post this yesterday but fell asleep with Tuesday-ness. How's that for some news?

First Dance

A sketch from today for a bigger piece I'm experimenting with right now. This drawing shows Caroline at her first dance performance last summer. Dressed up like a kitty, she had a fan to wave and her tutu to show off as she and her classmates leaned from side to side, following their teacher.

As you might be able to tell, she was perfectly mezmerized - by the audience, by the stage and the lights, by the music playing so much louder than she'd ever heard in class. She loved it though and for the rest of the summer we played "dance divadlo", complete with applause.

*divadlo = theater

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Air, vent, cartoon

A few blocks away from our flat, on the edge of a park, an air vent for the metro blooms from the grass. I am fervently in love with this vent because it is the three dimensional version of what I imagine air venting in a cartoon might look like. If I can, I drag our guests to see it and I'm sure Will is tired of the many times I've stopped us on our way to the park to take the vent's picture once again.

This drawing doesn't do the design justice, but it is Tuesday, my pen ranneth dry (really! I must forage tomorrow), and it is what I have tonight. How are you doing near the middle of this week?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Shoe portrait

Years ago I started taking portraits of my feet at various seasons. Since Caroline learned to use a camera, she has jumped into the habit herself. I based this painting on a picture she took of her feet last year in her new winter boots. I like the angle of the sidewalk and the primary-ish colors. Caroline calls it her (Czech) flag picture and though the colors are rotated, I know what she means.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Trabi design

On the way to sledding today (it snowed downtown, we went sledding in our favorite park, I found snow pants for Caroline on Friday, hurrah!!) we passed what looked like a minor Trabant convention. Five Trabies were parked on a hilltop waiting to drive away. After much grinding of gears, off they drove, but not before I'd snapped a few pictures for sketching later. Trabies might not be the ideal car, but they definitely are cute.
The alpine lake where we did not go swimming over Christmas (as you can see from the sign, "BADEN VERBOTEN", swimming is forbidden). We did go sledding and skating however.
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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Coffee doodles

Will starts his day brewing a pot of coffee in our moka machine. We have two - a 3 cup and a 1. When we go on vacation we often take the largest, just in case coffee is in short supply. Will uses the small for his early morning brew, and it is blackened with use.

I love the 1930s design of these machines, and thought of the pot as the perfect doodle subject after our visit to the Josef Lada exhibit at Obecni Dum (Municipal House) today. Josef Lada's line drawings are inspirational, to say the least, and the thirties were prime time for him. I can just imagine him having a cup of coffee from one of these, carefully poured and steaming.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Kiss

For today's art, Caroline and I played with my oil pastels. While I drew away, she practiced writing her favorite words in many colors. HO HO HO and NO are tops for her, but she learned ZOO today too and surprised us with HI.

This is a picture of C lavishing her love on her cousin Julian.* Even though we live several countries away, she talks about Julian all the time and named her latest babydoll after him. She has requested this drawing go up in her room for posterity ;-).

* Christina at {my typography} and bella art girl inspired me to try a kid's portrait - something I'm generally wary of attempting. Thank you guys!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Butterfly markers

Caroline and I spend a lot of time playing with magic markers these evenings. The sun sets at 4:15, the wind howls down the street and we draw reminders of spring.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Art in January

{my topography}, a favorite blog of mine, is running an every day art in January challenge. I've decided to try my hand too, with emphasis on "everyday art" rather than daily updates ;-).

When we were in Switzerland this Christmas, one of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the alps close to my sister's house. Coming home in the evening, the light was beautiful behind the houses on the hills, all lit up for Christmas and covered in snow. Here's my favorite view.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Ice Cubism

A Year in Quotes

"I’ve got to tink about it.
(taps head, paces back and forth)
Tink tink tink...okay!!"

Gender distinctions
"I like bonbons, you like bonbons. We’re girls. Dada is a boy."

"Dada you’re too whiskery - kiss the hand."

Not gloating is she?
When I was a little girl I used to sing 'Twinkle twinkle' too.
"And now you grownup and you my mommie."
That’s right, and it’s the best thing in the world to be.
"I know dat."

Party thoughts
"Mommie, can we not go to sleep?"
You don’t have to go to sleep yet.
"Can we play? Can we par-tee?"
How about we read a book.

At Halloween
“Trick-or-treat - what does that mean, is that like hello?”

Recent news flash
"A baby boy, yipee!! We're having a boy! We can call him......KITTY CAT”
Kitty cat? Caroline!!
"Okay okay, how about 'boy'?"

December negotiations
"Santa brings two presents right?"
Right, only two so he can share with other boys and girls.
(long silence, accompanied by hmms)
"Well, that’s okay, because Ježíšek can bring everything!!"

New Years Eve (before the artillery began)
"I love fireworks. Fireworks are my favorite!!
Mommie, what's a firework?"