Saturday, September 30

I was surprised and a little dismayed when I saw that the Photo Friday challenge this week was "Anger". (Kind of made me mad.) Don't we all have enough anger in our lives and world without setting up a shrine to it? After I thought about it a little though I decided that the examination of anger could possibly be seen as a cathartic exercise. So, I made my own little shrine to anger, with a few things I found lying around the studio: a shadowbox, some flowers, a cayenne pepper and of course, an angry-faced baby doll. Actually, I am not even sure where the doll came from...

Friday, September 29

I feel a strong compulsion to post this shot today, although I am not sure why. It has been an unusually stressful week, and maybe I just need a reminder of calm. Maybe I am saying goodbye to summer, a few days late. Maybe I really don't need a reason.

Thursday, September 28

I've never really understood why you can't play with your food. I mean, as long as you do it neatly and quietly, and don't disrupt other people's mealtime progress with lots of exclaiming and flourishing, why not? I once read an interview where the writer went to lunch with David Byrne, the musician/artist. He was electrified by the way Byrne very casually constructed things out of his meal before eating them. Although, the interviewer too ultimately decided "And why not?"

Here is H, our own little meal artist with his latest creation. "What is it?" we asked. Obviously meal art philistines. "I'm not sure" our budding abstractionist replied "I liked the way the pork is strong enough to stand up in the mashed potatoes, and then the green beans are long enough to balance on top.." "So, it's a little house?" we persisted, continuing on with our reductive criticism. H had no interest in going along with our folly and replied "No, not really. It is just a structure." Art school, here we come again!

Wednesday, September 27

For some reason I have been thinking about my mother-in-law's practice of fixing fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning. And, not just any old plain orange juice. She throws a lime into the mix, an unexpected flavor note which really makes the taste buds stand up and sing: yum! One sip and you are fully aware of being alive, even before the morning caffeine fix.

Tuesday, September 26


Studio window,
view quiet and dim. I look
for light inside.

Monday, September 25

I was out gardening a few weeks ago, and the boys were scavenging around when all of a sudden "Look what I found, Mom!" An itty bitty toad. Proportionally less repellant than the big fat squashy toad I keep almost stepping on if I go out at night. It hangs out near our front porch light, waiting for insects I guess, but I never remember till the "rock" I pass on the shadowy path suddenly darts out of the way! Always very startling. A toad this size though, is kind of cute. But no, I'm sorry boys, we can't keep him as a pet!

Sunday, September 24

Pelee Chrysanthemums on my front porch. Not sure if they are named after the island in the West Indies or after the famous Brazilian soccer player. In any case, they are stunning. Their rich autumnal coloring and "knitted" centers put me in mind of this poem by Ki no Tsurayuki (ca. 872-945)

Unseen, in mountain depths, the autumn leaves scatter
like brocade under cloak of night.

Saturday, September 23

This is my my husband Paul Downs in his office, designing furniture. It looks so serious and quiet in there, the very air humming with concentrated industry. But of course he is only a few feet away from the furniture making shop, where big machines are roaring and sawdust is flying. Paul forgot something at home yesterday and I drove over to bring it to him. The shop is such a fascinating looking place, and so of course whenever I go there I bring the Nikon with me. Just in case I get the chance to use it. My errand accomplished I was about to leave when the company vice-president stopped me and asked "By any chance did you bring your camera?" Turned out they needed some workshop shots for the new website. Would I mind very much...? I probably should have hesitated at least half a beat to look cool, but what the heck! A fun session ensued.

My friend Susan Senator was blogging recently about how much she loves writing. She wrote "I am a writing whore. I will write anything for anybody, even for free. That's how much I love it." Made me laugh. But also made me think, that's how I am about photography.

Friday, September 22

Another shot of my friend Sonia's beautiful baby. So nice to have friends who are producing girl babies, how obliging of them! I get the vicarious thrill of ruffles and rosebud pink and that little girl sweetness. Then I go home to my house o' boys and deal with mud on the floor from soccer shoes and crumpled socks left in the middle of the living room, the crunch of lego underfoot. And you know, that is also a thrill in its own way. Vive la difference!

Thursday, September 21

A rare moment of clarity, lunch with a friend I treasue but rarely get to see. Jan teaches art at a college out this direction and we'd talked about doing this for some time, having her stop by the house on her way to work. Finally we did it. Worth the wait. Something about old friends with whom you still have a lot in common, that is very moving: uplifting and grounding at the same time. If you know what I mean.


crisp flesh, tangy juice,
delicious arsenal in
fall's fight against death

heaping fruit baskets
crowding my kitchen table
with autumn's largesse

my eye's greed for autumn fruits
exceeds my hunger

Wednesday, September 20

Tuesday, September 19

I whipped up the family's favorite Texas cake the other day and covered it with The Joy of Cooking's Quick White Icing. I was reaching for the box of cake decorating detritus when young H came dancing in and said "Can I decorate it? Can I?" Instantly older brother P came running in, eager to be in on the action. My husband took over and decreed they could each do one half of the cake. I grabbed the opportunity to go gesso some panels in my studio and when I came back this was what I saw. The guys had had a lot of fun, but I am not sure we have ever had a less appetizingly-decorated cake at our house before. One benefit of this is that I was not tempted (much) to dig in!

Monday, September 18

The streets department has been parking its vehicles in front of our house while they re-do the ripped up roads in our neighborhood. Can't complain, as we'd love to have smooth new streets eventually. Plus the boys enjoy climbing around on these giant "tonka trucks".

Reminds me that I was talking to a friend whose sixteen year old girl just got her license to drive. "License to bend, fold and mutilate is more like." she muttered. Although she thinks that generally speaking her daughter is a mature and responsible person, she is only a sixteen year old person. This mom told me whenever her daughter takes the car out she (the mom) spends the whole time praying, sort of down below everything else she is doing. Just a constant prayer that her daughter will be safe, not be harmed and not harm anyone else either. P is only 12 and half, so this issue is a few years away for us. But I suddenly understood while my parents had me wait till I was eighteen and about to leave for college, before getting my driver's license. Parental stress reduction?

Saturday, September 16


of a horrific event:
grim headlines flaring.
I shy away, numb. At night
cutting onions for soup: tears.

Notes: this is a tanka, a poem form similar to haiku but with a different meter. 5-7-5-7-7 instead of haiku's 5-7-5. For One Deep Breath's dual challenge of tanka on the subject of emotion. Obviously this week many of us in the U.S. (and elsewhere) were thinking of the 9/11 tragedy. Even if we didn't quite know how to express our feelings.

Friday, September 15

The farm I have shares in sent us a bag of nasturtium blooms along with the usual tomatoes and spinach etc. Obviously they were meant for salad garnishing, but I am afraid I didn't use them for their intended purpose. I LOVE nasturtiums and grow them and paint them frequently, and I appreciate everything about them, except their taste. It is not the peppery flavor that I dislike but the watery "green" chlorophyll flavor that goes along with it. But as Emerson said, Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for Being.

Thursday, September 14

This was one of the last shots I took on Chincoteague Island a few weeks ago. We were leaving the next day, but already we could see the big storm a-brewing. Hurricane Ernesto hit about 24 hours later, and quite a wild time was had by all the friends and relations who stayed behind. Instead of feeling glad we had avoided it, Paul and I both felt that we had missed out on a fun bonding experience. Strange, huh? I hope this little shack survived the pounding.

Today I noticed this hotwheels car cooling its heels in a drawer of mixed kid junk. A good reminder for me to go get the hotwheels tracks down from out of the attic. The weather is gray and rainy, and we are in the midst of a "No Screens" month for the boys. They are good sports about it, as we increase their allowance in compensation and in fact I think they have more fun, really. They read and draw and build things and explore the neighborhood, (and visit the french bakery with their allowance largesse!)

But it has been a long time since the hotwheels made their appearance. Possibly, P is too old for them now, but maybe nine-year-old H at least will have fun draping the downstairs in bright orange tracks today: a rebuttal to the dark dreariness outside. Not dissimilar, aesthetically, from the bright orange flags of Christo's "Gates" project, which added a zip of color to New York's Central Park last winter. (Easier to disassemble though!)

Wednesday, September 13

so very many things. This week's theme at Mama Says Om, it reminded me of a picture I took this summer of a friend's daughter. She is standing under a huge growth of Rose of Sharon, which is considered a "trash tree" but I love it. Proving yet again that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It also brings to mind these lines from the Song of Solomon:

I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valley.
As the lily among the thorns,
So is my love among the daughters

Sunday, September 10

I'm a few days late for Studio Friday, but I liked this week's theme of artist's tools. It was interesting to see what different people use!

A painter has so many tools, it was hard to decide what to spotlight. I looked around at my palette and paint box and props closet and easel, the stacks of canvases I prepare for future use, the "wet bar" of mediums, varnishes, turps and gesso, my tool box and the myriad other cogs in my painting machine... Then I noticed a sliver of light had crept in from the shaded west window and was lighting up my jug of brushes in a very appealing way.

Brushes, now there is a whole saga! It has taken me a long time, years and years of trial and error, to figure out what works best for me. I finally feel that I am in a good place with my brushes, and they are actually aiding me instead of hindering me, to get what I want on the canvas. When you have the wrong brush in your hand it is like trying to perform brain surgery with a scalpel strapped to your elbow.

Saturday, September 9


Morning on the bay
Empty boat moored in rushes
Cormorant resting

Notes: I took this on my recent visit to Chincoteague Island. My nine year old son chose the photoshop filter. I'd been wrestling with the shot for a while (getting more and more testy) and then H asked for a try. Two clicks later there it was: perfect.

Friday, September 8

My sons P and H were doing yardwork the other day when I heard them calling for me to come outside. They'd discovered that some of the weeds they were pulling retained a certain mass, perfect for fooling around with. P looks like a young garden cossack doesn't he?

we traverse (not so) afar! My friends down the street Chavis and Liz are in a CSA program with my family: once a week we take turns picking up our share of locally grown bounty. Last week Chavis had all his nieces and nephews visiting (what an incredible uncle he is) and they came to my door to drop off my share looking like a band of Christmas carolers! Bringing instead of singing. It was a beautiful sight.

Thursday, September 7

A traditional part of beginning a new school year. What time does the school bus show up now? Oh yeah, uh-oh, bye!

Tuesday, September 5

Any artists needing inspiration should just take a stroll through my house, anytime. Inspiration (or mess) everywhere you look.

Reminds me that several friends and relations recently sent me the link to the New York Times article from last Sunday, "Everyday Paintings Painted Everyday". It was a good article (thanks guys!), but I just have to laugh a little. Like this is something new? Many of us painters have been doing this, or something quite similar, for years. And endless people before us. However, what IS new is the web presence of these painters, the sales method, and their subsequent media exposure. And actually, I don't mean to sound bitter because I am not. I am all for them! If genre painting catches the public's fancy again for whatever reason, it is all to the good. I linked to the original painting-a-day guy, Duane Keiser, almost as soon as he appeared on Boing Boing. A savvy friend sent me the link and I may not be a marketing genius myself but I know it when I see it.

Monday, September 4

Henry in the floodlights, rocking to the beat. Last night we went to an end of summer party. Our hosts are in a band and played several sets of their wonderful music. Henry was enraptured: live music is practically his favorite thing on earth. He would periodically get to his feet and rock (his way of dancing I guess) and then go examine the lighting system and then wander back to his (front-row) seat. He would occasionally hold my hand when the sound got very loud: he was a little alarmed when that happened, but he liked it too, and you could see he was willing to trust that it would diminish a bit to more comfortable levels. Which of course it always did. A great night!

Sunday, September 3

BIG SILVER BALL (with knobs on)
Parents of boys occasionally get to play with the coolest stuff. OK, we don't get the Barbie Dream House or the purple glitter ponies, but once in a while something comes to live at our house that is just hard to describe.