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FATE on the Gowanus

FATE on the Gowanus Canal , work in progress- 140# Arches Coldpress

The Husband and I have just returned from a trip to California.   We went for a family wedding and stayed to celebrate our own wedding anniversary.  I have to say, I love California. Other than the mega-drought, earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, taxes and traffic, it’s a wonderful place.  I really would live there if I could afford it and wasn’t constantly in fear of the above named items.  We were in San Francisco and Napa Valley and did all the touristy things we could in San Francisco including walking the Golden Gate bridge and riding a cable car.

Then we were off to Napa Valley which is gorgeous.   Not a place for a non-wine drinker like me, but I learned a bit about wines. One of the more interesting things, for me at least, was reading the descriptions of the wines or more specifically the “Tasting Notes”.  For example:  brims with classic, savory aromas of boysenberry, ripe red plums and black cherries which is then complemented with hints of vanilla and a pinch of cinnamon. Concentrated blackberry jam, coffee, black pepper and tar.  TAR?   What about the descriptions that include “cat pee”.  Yep, you heard me right, “cat pee”.   Who, may I ask, is drinking cat pee and admitting to it?

Confused and fascinated I finally found this article from The Week which was quite helpful.   Still not drinking cat pee, but was more informed.  17 disgusting descriptions for delicious wines.

What about a NYC wine?  What would the tasting notes be?   Opens with a splash of gunshot residue, followed by the buttery sweetness of hipster beard, ripe, red sidewalk bloodstains and the leathery taste of back-seat taxi sweat.  High kicks of Broadway and soaring notes of skyscrapers & diversity. Hints of subway overcrowding and non-affordable housing.  Finishing notes of  despair.

Finally to add to the list of things I hate (flying was listed in the previous post) we can now add daylight savings time (yes, I know it’s officially “daylight saving (NO “s”) time).   I get home from California which is 3 hours earlier than NYC only to have to change my clocks back for Eastern Standard Time.  “Spring ahead, fall back”.  I changed all the clocks and I bet you can guess what happened! Every clock in my apartment is wrong and now I have jet lag combined with SAD.

The painting above is of the extremely polluted “Venice of Brooklyn” a/k/a the Gowanus Canal, a superfund site of seriously polluted water.  The graffiti on the corrugated metal said “hate” but I didn’t like that so I changed it to “fate”.   Who believes in fate?   Are things destined?    I would rather contemplate fate than hate anyway.   I need to make this painting a little “dirtier” and add more graffiti. Then it will be finished.   Like NYC wine.  I need to finish it with some despair.

Flower for Gabriella 9-7-2014


Gayle's flowers 9-7-2014

Roses card 9-7-2014


Why do greeting cards cost so much?   Why?   It’s a piece of paper with something printed on it.   I love the cards at Papyrus with their glitter and sparkles and hand made things glued on top of other things.  Then I think to myself, I can glue things to other things.   After 3 hours of cutting and gluing I think, I could have just paid $4.99 for a card and be done with it and gotten my 3 hours back.   And then what if you need like 4 cards all at once. Then you have to decide if you are going to buy lunch or buy cards!

I wanted to send some cards to friends who had done some very nice things for me.  So I painted them.  No gluing, no sparkles, but at least they were hand made and I hope they liked them.   Someday, when I am no longer working full time for the man, I will stay home and glue things to other things and maybe have my own card collection.  When I was in college my friend Jim and I always dreamed that we would have our own card/stationery/disco store.  (Hey, we dreamt big in those days.)  If I had a job where I could cut things out and glue them to other things, I would love it.  Yes, I know it’s called kindergarten, but hey…I’m young at heart.

On another note, I had to fly recently.  I am not a fan of flying.  I don’t like it for many reasons.  The claustrophobia, the cattle-car experience, the seats that get narrower and narrower while Americans get wider and wider, the nickel and diming of the airlines who now make us pay to check a bag (how am I supposed to fly somewhere and stay for more than a day without clean clothes?) and the fact that now you can’t bring anything with you through airport security so that bottle of water you could buy on the street for a dollar is now $10,000 in the airport store.   So when I read this article I thought to myself:

1.   I want to fly like that!

2.  When the revolution comes, the people that fly like that will be the first to go!!!


Asparagus at Market BasketPhoto by Mary Schwalm

Asparagus is the only thing left in the produce section of Market Basket during the recent boycott.  I wonder what it says about the people in that neighborhood?  If you don’t know the story, Market Basket is a grocery store that treats its employees pretty well and they can actually make a decent living according to my friend and photographer extraordinaire Mary Schwalm. The majority owners ousted the CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and replaced him with Arthur S. Demoulas. Yep,  they are cousins so this wasn’t just business drama, this was also family drama! Customers and workers boycotted until the old CEO (Arthur T.) was reinstated.  Yay Market Basket.  My friends in New England are happier today.


I felt badly for the asparagus.  So badly I decided to paint some.  Now that I’ve painted it, I’m going to steam it with some olive oil and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt and eat it.  But only the tips.  I don’t really like the stalks.  So out they go.  Sorry stalks.  (I will put them in the compost pile now that NYC is composting.)

Reid's palms 8-17-2014My version of Charles Reid’s Palm Trees – 140# 1/2 sheet Arches Cold press

The Husband is almost retired from the NYPD.   Although we are both too young to retire permanently, he can always retire and get another job.  He says he wants to be a dog walker. That’s fine with me.  He loves animals and they love him.

But it got me to thinking.  What would we do if we were really retired and on a fixed income.  I recently told a friend that I liked the words “Trust Fund”. Unfortunately I doubt the words “trust fund” and “Carol King” will ever be uttered in the same sentence.  However, I have some sentence examples if anyone is interested in helping a girl out:

“Carol King, we like you so much we set up a zillion dollar trust fund for you.”

“Carol King, because you do some much for everyone else, I’d like you to take over my 20 million dollar trust fund and live in my townhouse on East 71st Street off 5th Ave which, by the way comes with a live-in house-keeper and chef.”

“Carol, you know I don’t like living in the City anymore, but why don’t you live in my 15 room apartment in the Dakota.  I’ve set up a Trust Fund for your living expenses.”

Other phrases I like:

  • Expense account
  • All inclusive
  • It’s on us
  • Rebate
  • Free

Another friend once told me that if she was at the point where she was eating cat food, she would make sure it was at least Fancy Feast.  I do wonder what life would be like after retirement.  Would I like it?  Would I be bored?  Would I do all the things I say I want to do and then never do.  (paint, draw, learn Spanish, read all those books, exercise, learn yoga?) I know when I’m off I have a tendency to start watching daytime TV and next thing you know BAM it’s 5 pm and I’ve lost the whole day.  Or I start to sleep later and later and then stay up all night.

The same friend who said she will eat fancy feast if it came down to her eating cat food also has a rule that she will not turn the TV on until 5 pm.  I think that’s a good rule.  I won’t follow it, but it’s a good rule.

Right now this is all just speculation.  I’m not retiring anytime soon.   So excuse me,  I have to go back to work filling out forms and dealing with red tape.

Not having any inspiration to paint I pulled out a Charles Reid book and decided to paint from one of his paintings. Palm trees and a beautiful beach.  Maybe that could be me and The Husband?  Hmmm, retirement wouldn’t be so bad.

sunflowers and statice FINISHED 9-7-2014
Sunflowers and Statice – watercolor on 1/2 sheet of 140# Arches coldpress

I haven’t posted lately because I have iron-poor blood.  So said my doctor, but once again, I didn’t need no doctor to tell me I was anemic. When my iron goes too low I crave olives.  CRAVE THEM.  MUST HAVE OLIVES!!!

The Husband HATES olives so when I’m going for the jar he runs for the hills.  (And when I say hills I mean out of the kitchen.  You can’t run that far in my apartment.)

She (The doctor) also told me my blood sugar is too high which I also knew.  Why do I pay these doctors? I have accurately diagnosed myself more often than not.  Just call me Dr. House.

High sugar and low iron = me being tired.  All the time tired.  Even more tired than I usually am, which is a lot.

Oh well, no one wants to hear me complain, even though this blog IS titled “Drawing, Painting, Complaining” so it’s not like you didn’t know what you were getting into.  :)

I was finally able to finish this painting even though I needed a lot of naps during the painting process.  In fact, I need a nap now.  Thanks for stopping by zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.



mi amigo 6-2014Watercolor on 140 # Arches coldpress 1/4 sheet

I got to use my figures technique from the Art Students League classes by painting this man without drawing first.  I first drew the shape of the man in one color similar to the technique I learned at the ASL like the ones here:  After the shape was right I was able to go back in and work on details.

I had to redraw his face a few times, but I must say my classes really helped improve my figure drawing.   Now that’s it’s dry I’m going to go back in and darken the area behind his back to create a shadow.

Clearly he’s tired and needed a rest from schlepping those bags.   I, too, need a rest…from all those Facebook quizzes.  Or maybe I don’t since I’m still taking them.  Let’s review: My number is “7”, I’m Water, I’m a polar bear, I should live in Amsterdam, Paris, or Barcelona depending on how many times I took that particular quiz.    I could go on and on.  In fact, I think I will…(sorry Bill Bryson.)

Some of my favorite quizzes aren’t about one’s personality.  Some of the more fun ones are “Who said that, the Pope or Lord Voldemort?”  Or: “Is it cheese or a piece of IKEA furniture?”

Sigh,  I would get so much more done if I wasn’t so curious about what home I should live in, what flower I am, or which Game of Thrones house I should belong to.   Here’s an article from the NYPost which talks about why these quizzes are so popular.  It’s interesting, but I never read anything in the Post without a grain (or whole salt shaker’s worth) of salt.

Sadly, I also know that these quizzes are data mining…trying to find out as much as possible about me so they can then sell me stuff.  It’s creepy…like the way I send an email to someone and mention oh, I don’t know, my painting and suddenly my gmail sidebar is filled with ads for watercolor paint and supplies.  Big brother is always watching.

I bet this guy in the painting doesn’t own a computer or is on Facebook.  He’s never taken a FB quiz or sent an email.  He may be smarter than all of us.  Mi amigo es más inteligente que yo.

It was so much fun to do this painting.  Yes, it’s dark and gritty.  I like that. I can hear the noise of the train going by when I look at this. I also remember that scene in the Blues Brothers movie from 1980.  The brothers are in an apartment right next to the Chicago El:

Jake: How often does the train go by?

Elwood: So often that you won’t even notice it.

Myrtle Ave. El  maybe finished“True Grit”

NYC elevated subway line, Brooklyn.  Watercolor on 300# Arches coldpress.  Size is 163/4″ x 25″

I did this City-scape in the style of Tim Saternow and Joan Iaconnetti using the “breaking all the rules of watercolor” technique.  I started with a grisaille first painting only values starting with the darkest to the lightest using W&N Paynes Gray.  Once that was done, I took a large brush with clean water and splashed that clean water in spots over the painting.  I then used a warm color, burnt sienna, and a cool color, paynes gray and splashed the painting some more.   I then left it overnight to dry.


After painting using only paynes gray and painting the values - splash with clean waterFinal Grisaille splashed with clean water.

The following day all the paint had dried and I was ready to work on it some more.   I softened some of the edges of the splashed paint, I reestablished some areas that were lost from the splashed paint and finally I added some “local” color including the orange in the sign, some blues and greens and yellows in the cars and some earth red for the rust in the steel.

After splashing with clean water splash with diluted paynes gray and a warm color I used burnt sienaGrisaille splashed with paynes gray and burnt sienna.


Antigua - St. James's Beach 1

Sketch of the view from our room in Antigua at the St. James’s Club

The Husband and I had had enough of the polar vortex, the cold, the snow, the winter!   A trip to the tropical Isle of Antigua helped rid us of our winter blues.  The sketch above was done from the balcony of our room.  Full disclosure, it’s hard to sketch when there were never ending rum punches!

We were lucky enough to get away for a week and had a grand time.  However, before we left my sister had an Easter Egg coloring day with some friends and me. We decided to try these silk dyed eggs which one of us had seen on pinterest.

We’d done decoupaged easter eggs, seen here:  This process was a little more time consuming.  One needs 100% silk ties.  Alice’s husband supplied some and the thrift store supplied more.

Here are the instructions:

  • Cut up the silk ties in squares.  Make sure they are large enough to wrap around the eggs.
  • Wrap the egg with the silk square, making sure the right side is against the egg.
  • Tie tightly using a twist tie
  • Wrap the silk wrapped tie with another square of white cotton cloth.
  •  Tie tightly again using the twist tie.
  • Put the eggs in a pot of water.  Make sure you have enough water to cover the eggs.
  • Add approx 3 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • Bring water to a boil and then cook the eggs as if to hard-boil.
  • Remove the eggs from the water and let cool.
  • Unwrap the eggs and stare at your beautiful eggs.

Some notes:

  • It’s not recommended to eat the eggs since we don’t know the safeness of the silk dye.
  • My friend Jean blew the eggs out first and then did the process above so she could save the eggs forever!
  • Silk scarves and blouses might work too.  If you try it let me know.
  • The tighter you wrap the square of silk the better the designs transfer.  We were ok with the marbleized effect rather than having a perfectly transferred pattern.

Here are our results:

Silk dyed easter eggs 4-2014

Silk dyed easter eggs 2   4-2014

Here’s some  info on pinterest:  Have fun!



fruit seller wip 3-30-2014Fruit Seller WIP 

Jim's purple flowers 3-30-2014Jim’s Purple Flowers

Nothing to see here is how I feel about the above works in progress.  They either need more work or I should just start again.  Nothing to see here is also what the cops will always tell a crowd as it gathers to see what’s going on at a crime scene.  The Husband used to tell me when he was on patrol that when he told people there was “nothing to see here” they wouldn’t believe him.  So he would tell them “triple homicide” and they walked away happy.  People are strange.

In the people are strange category I wanted to share the two photos below.  One is of stuffed animals imprisoned in a window.  These stuffed animals have been in this building’s window for as long as I can remember and I’m ready to start a “free the stuffed animals of Carroll Street” fund to see if we can get them out.  I find them a bit creepy. I can hear them screaming “help us” and “get us outta here”, can’t you?

Stuffed animals in jail 3-2014


The photo below was taken during one of my dog walks.  I wondered if there had been a lovers’ quarrel and someone would come home later to find their clothes on the sidewalk.

clothes on the street 3-2014

I guess I’m wrong. There’s always something to see.  At least in the streets of  NYC!




Life imitates artRoberta checks out the painting of herself watching it snow

I finally got around to meeting my friend Judy for lunch (she had a chicken salad sandwich on rye toast and I had scrambled eggs) and had the opportunity to give her the painting I did of one of her kittens (Roberta) looking out Judy’s window at the snow.

Later, when Judy got home with the painting, Roberta went right up to the painting to check herself out. (see the picture above)  The other kitten, Audrey, must have been miffed because she couldn’t care less about the painting.  And since the kittens have their own FACEBOOK page they know what it’s like to be adored by their fans.

I laughed and laughed at this picture of Roberta checking herself out.   Maybe I’ll have to paint this next and then Roberta can look at that painting and it can go on and on and on.


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