Winter Watercolors and Then — Spring!!

Along Four Mile Run at Long Branch Nature Center
Along Four Mile Run at Long Branch Nature Center

Spring? Not quite yet. This month I’ve painted with a new group of artists – talented teens from Arlington County. On a sunny Saturday we packed up our watercolors and met at Long Branch Nature Center.

There’s still snow in the shadows, but the park naturalists are thinking ahead to spring planting. The center sponsors an annual native plant sale with a deadline for placing orders on April 4, 2014. See the center’s web site for more information and full color photos of bluebells, cardinal flowers, coneflowers, wild geraniums and other flowers. I’m thinking about green shoots and blossoms now. How about you?garden detail

Seven Degree Days

Snow Houses | watercolor |copyright Liz Macklin 2013

It’s 5:55 am and I’ve checked temperatures on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) web site. It’s -26 degrees Fahrenheit in International Falls, Minnesota. My town feels like the tropics at a balmy 7 degrees. NOAA cautions us to protect our noses and other extremities from the cold! My favorite post tells how snowflakes form.

Google says its 39 degrees F in Reykjavik, Iceland. In my email I read that poet Joanne Growney has written about measuring winter and about a recent trip to Iceland in her blog Intersections – Poetry with Mathematics. I start to dream of hot springs and the steamy blue waters I’ve seen in photos of Icelandic mineral baths. Time to wrap up in a quilt, brew a cup of hot tea and then get ready for work.

Drawing at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Drawings of Architecture by Children

This fall I’ve enjoyed drawing in the courtyard at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I’ve met several talented young people, and three of them allowed me to photograph their work. Jennifer’s drawing (on the left) captures the activity at the museum during the Big Draw Family Day, and Amelia’s (in the center) is a colorful design of her dream house. A third anonymous artist drew the geometry of the courtyard skylight in bold black and white.

The museum offers free drawing sessions in the Luce Foundation Center on Tuesday afternoons. The exhibit, The Civil War in American Art, recently opened and will be on display until April 28, 2013. Don’t miss it!

A Moment for Art

Leaves on Green
Leaves on Green | monoprint | copyright Liz Macklin 2012

How to enjoy a moment of relaxation and  fun at noon? I spent an hour today with the staff of Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. First we sampled a delicious assortment of salads by artist and chef Nevin Bossart. Then we experimented with printmaking.  I brought the paints and colored papers, as well as a collection  of leaves and flowers — maple, sweetgum, peony, yarrow and lavender. Part of the fun was seeing all the amazing creations. I met nurses, chaplains, interns and clinicians, and we chatted about art, color, techniques, day-to-day activities and the scrumptious food! Everyone celebrated with cake and bid farewell to a staff member who is moving overseas. The event, a monthly feature of  “Caring for the Caregivers, ” is sponsored by Lombardi’s Arts and Humanities Program under the direction of Nancy Morgan.

Celebrating with The Reading Connection

The Owl and the Pussycat
This painting was sold to benefit The Reading Connection in 2012.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

by Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea green boat
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

The Anthology of Children’s Literature, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1935, includes several stanzas of this poem plus a short biography of Lear. He was born in 1812, one of twenty-one children. He began his career as an illustrator of nature studies and was known for his colored drawings of birds. While living in the home of the Earl of Derby, he entertained the children with silly rhymes and drawings. Those high spirited activities lead to the publication of his first  Book of Nonsense. 

As a landscape painter, Lear divided his time between Britain and the Mediterranean. The article in the anthology says that he taught drawing to Queen Victoria, but using a quick internet search, I’ve been unable to confirm the fact. Please let me know, if you find a source that gives an account of teaching the queen!

Lear is famous for his limericks, and you can find more information about his life and writing at the web site for the Poetry Foundation. One of my favorite poems is this verse about the Quangle Wangle. In March my first grade students will learn about animals and their homes. I hope to have them draw their own version of the tree with the Quangle Wangle and his houseguests!

The Quangle Wangle’s Hat

by Edward Lear

I
On the top of the Crumpetty Tree
      The Quangle Wangle sat,
But his face you could not see,
      On account of his Beaver Hat.
For his Hat was a hundred and two feet wide,
With ribbons and bibbons on every side
And bells, and buttons, and loops, and lace,
So that nobody every could see the face
            Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.
II
The Quangle Wangle said
      To himself on the Crumpetty Tree, —
“Jam; and jelly; and bread;
      “Are the best of food for me!
“But the longer I live on this Crumpetty Tree
“The plainer than ever it seems to me
“That very few people come this way
“And that life on the whole is far from gay!”
            Said the Quangle Wangle Quee.
III
But there came to the Crumpetty Tree,
      Mr. and Mrs. Canary;
And they said, — “Did every you see
      “Any spot so charmingly airy?
“May we build a nest on your lovely Hat?
“Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that!
“O please let us come and build a nest
“Of whatever material suits you best,
            “Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!”
IV
And besides, to the Crumpetty Tree
      Came the Stork, the Duck, and the Owl;
The Snail, and the Bumble-Bee,
      The Frog, and the Fimble Fowl;
(The Fimble Fowl, with a corkscrew leg;)
And all of them said, — “We humbly beg,
“We may build out homes on your lovely Hat, —
“Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that!
            “Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!”
V
And the Golden Grouse came there,
      And the Pobble who has no toes, —
And the small Olympian bear, —
      And the Dong with a luminous nose.
And the Blue Baboon, who played the Flute, —
And the Orient Calf from the Land of Tute, —
And the Attery Squash, and the Bisky Bat, —
All came and built on the lovely Hat
            Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.
VI
And the Quangle Wangle said
      To himself on the Crumpetty Tree, —
“When all these creatures move
      “What a wonderful noise there’ll be!”
And at night by the light of the Mulberry moon
They danced to the Flute of the Blue Baboon,
On the broad green leaves of the Crumpetty Tree,
And all were as happy as happy could be,
            With the Quangle Wangle Quee.
————————
Note added February 27, 2012: I amended the biographical info to say that I was unable to confirm that Lear taught drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. Also, I have seen his first book called both Nonsense Book and Book of Nonsense.
Note added February 26, 2012:
The Anthology of Children’s Literature, which, since my childhood, has been  one of my favorite books of stories and poems, was edited by Edna Johnson, Carrie E. Scott and Evelyn R. Sickels and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. It was published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. The copyright for the first edition was 1935, and my edition was copyright 1948.
watercolor painting copyright Liz Macklin 2012

Sunday Snow

Smithsonian Castle
Smithsonian Castle | watercolor | copyright Liz Macklin 2012

Snow’s on its way — at least if you believe the weather report. On a snowy day several years  ago, I hopped on the subway and rode to the Smithsonian Castle. My friends and I wandered through gardens laced with frost and then toured exhibits of masks and elaborate figures made of wood, horn, beads and ceramics at the National Museum of African Art.

Just about any time, it’s easy to spend hours browsing the Smithsonian web site. If you’re feeling adventurous, don’t let the snow keep you inside. Grab mittens and a hat and take a trip to your favorite museum.

Persephone and the Pomegranate

pomegranate
Pomegranate | watercolor | copyright Liz Macklin 2011

Preparing for a funeral …

I stepped into a virtual tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and paused to read about a  Greek marble relief showing Persephone and Demeter. You might remember the myth as I do. Persephone is kidnapped by Hades and tricked into remaining in the underworld for several months each year. He tempts her with the divinely ripe red seeds of the pomegranate.

Egyptian Inspiration

Bird
Bird | embroidered and hand dyed silk inspired by Egyptian jewelry | copyright Liz Macklin 2011

Shops open in Cairo today. May peace, religious freedom and respect for individual rights prevail in Egypt, in the United States and throughout the world!

Who can resist browsing through galleries with elaborately decorated coffins, mummified ibis, bronze cobras, linen baboons  and gold amulets inlaid with stones in brilliant blues?  Egypt, your antiquities provided inspiration for me time and time again.

I send my gratitude to  the young people standing  guard at the Egyptian Museum. When its website reopens, visit the collection. Until then, take a virtual tour of the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Two of my  favorite books for children include

ABC: Egyptian Art from The Brooklyn Museum by Florence Cassen Mayers, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1988

Aida, the story of an Ethiopian princess who falls in love with an Egyptian warrior, as told in the opera by Giuseppe Verdi, retold by Leontyne Price and illustrated by the award winning artists, Leo and Diane Dillon, Harcourt Brace and Company, 1990