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met light 3s

Shapes appear
reflected, freshly
into place
like the Fool’s card—zero played
openly, surprised.

met light 4s

I’ve been neglecting the Secret Keeper’s prompts the past few weeks for lack of time, not interest.    They are always like a puzzle for me, coming together in unexpected ways when I start to write.  The appearance of the Fool, after a few drafts of ideas, was definitely a surprise.  But serendipity is always part of the work I do.  The end is never where I thought I was going.

lunatic s

I took the photos of Japanese ceramics with the beautiful window light reflected on the glass display cases at the Metropolitan Museum last spring.  I was reminded of them by Marcy Erb’s post a few weeks back of a photo with reflected light on a Buddha, and I think they fit with this poem.

met light 2s

And I’ve resurrected a few Fools from past posts.  The Fool (Zero in the Tarot) represents for me a capacity to be surprised and delighted, to leave an empty space to be filled by life.  Wonder is everywhere; we just need make some room for it occasionally.

joker s


Tree creature with three eyes

Part of a root which readily came out of the ground. I saw some kind of bug in it but it became a weird creature with three eyes. 

My cute neighbor’s giraffe

My next door neighbors are very cute kids. They asked to see my art studio this morning (which is a mess). The middle son asked to borrow my hot glue gun and a little while later came over to show me what he had made! I offered him some paint but he said he liked it as it was–natural. I am happy that maybe I inspired him with my crazy skulls and stuff made out of wood to make something of his own. Made my day!

Found Objects

I love picking up rusty junk, odd pieces of wood and other detritus. While waiting for the paint to dry on the next painting, I started playing around with some objects. 

It’s not glued down yet. Here’s another version. I think I like the one with the skull better.  

Here’s hoping you find something interesting on the road or in the woods today!

Netsuke with Nibs

sleeping shojo s

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
–Shunryu Suzuki

This Sleeping Shojo was drawn with a Sheaffer Viewpoint calligraphy fountain pen with a 1.0 nib.  Good for a loose and bold drawing I think.

Shojos are sea spirits with a red face and hair, who often wear skirts made of green seaweed.  They love to brew and drink sake.  If a good person drinks this sake, it will be delicious and healing; but if a bad person drinks it, it will be poison and kill them unless they repent at once.  It seems Santa is not the only one keeping track of your naughty or niceness!

fox mask netsuke s

The fox mask netsuke was drawn, in contrast, with a .3 nib.  Here the details are easy to produce, but solid darks not so much.

You many remember that Kitsune the fox is a shape-shifting troublemaker that likes to disguise himself as a nun.  This mask definitely seems to take the frightening side of Kitsune seriously.

oni nembutsi comp

With my quill pen I drew Oni Nenbutsu, a demon in the guise of a Buddhist monk.  These Onis have horns and fangs, and often wear tiger skins as they wander the country banging the gong on their chest and begging for money.  My advice:  be generous.

oni in monk's robe s

Another Oni, done with brush and ink.

You can see my other netsuke drawings here.

Egypt: Hands

egypt hands 8s

I was on the east side yesterday, and having a membership to the Metropolitan Museum (a yearly Christmas and birthday gift), I stopped in for the Members Preview of the new Egyptian exhibit.

egypt hands 2s

The museum was really crowded!  Lots of groups…not just children, but adult groups.

egypt hands 3s

The Egypt exhibit itself was very crowded at the start, but the crowds tapered off as I moved along.  It’s huge!  Lots of great and interesting pieces.

egypt hands 4s

I decided to focus my camera on hands.

egypt hands 6s

egypt hands 7s

The guards weren’t sure if photography was allowed, but everyone seemed to be doing it, so they said OK.

egypt hands 1s

egypt hands 5s

I did get a chance to do some sketches, too, near the end when there were less people looking, so I wasn’t blocking the view (or being blocked).

mummy mask s

a mummy mask

mourning figure s

two views of a mourning figure

repaired statue head s

a repaired statue head

crocodile god s

a crocodile god

bovine deity

and a bovine diety…lost the horns somewhere, though

Tom Otterness

real world cat comp

On Wednesday, I joined the NYC weekday urban sketchers in lower Manhattan for a few hours drawing the “Real World” sculptures of Tom Otterness in the playground in Rockefeller Park.  It’s an amiable group, and I hope to join them again.

real world bear comp

Otterness has his own unique vision of the world, and his animals definitely have personality.  They are also joined, surrounded and covered by little creatures, a challenge to draw so that they “read” as separate beings.

real world ape comp

I spent the most time working in pencil on the apes.  Each sculpture has so much going on;  I only managed to capture a small piece of it.

real world hand and foot s

The children played all around us, and included Otterness in their fun.  Some of the pieces incorporate water…a necessity for enjoying the playground on a very hot day.

nj skyline s

It was mostly shaded, though, with a view of the river and a breeze, so not too unbearable for the sketchers either.  I also did a quick drawing of the New Jersey skyline…can you see the sailboat?  Lots of building going on over there.

You can read more about Tom Otterness here.

Enjoy the last gasp of summer…back on Tuesday for Draw-a-Bird Day.


tengu samurai mask s

After I posted drawings of a Japanese mask and netsuke a few weeks ago, A-wing and A-way asked me if there were any Tengu masks in the book.  There were a few netsuke, but no masks, so I looked some up online to draw.  The samurai mask above was one of my favorites…quite imposing on top of the armor too.

tengu mask side s

Looks a bit like angry birds, no?

tengu netsuke s

Tengu is an interesting character, and there seem to be many different sides to his mythology.  He is a shape-shifting trickster mountain god, and always has a bird-like aspect:  wings, talons, hatching from giant eggs.    In fact, Tengu hatching from an egg is the most common form of his representation in netsukes.

tengu long nose s

Karasu tengu, “crow tengu”, is the one with the beak.  He seems to be the more malicious cousin, a herald of disaster and war.  Konona tengu, the mountain monk, has a human face with a long nose.  He is a skilled  warrior, and is more often helpful to humans.

garuda s

Because of the cross-fertilization between the culture, religion, and mythology of Japan with both China and India, many think Tengu is derived from Garuda, the bird-like mount of Lord Vishnu.  There is certainly a resemblance.

You can read A-wing and A-way’s post on birds in Japanese culture here.

And you can see my other drawings of Japanese masks and netsuke here.

Another Mask (and Netsuke too)

hannya mask s

I recently took two books about ghosts and spirits in Japanese Art out of the library.  Besides learning a bit about the origins and history of these beings, there was a lot of great art.  I decided to draw some of it with my brown pencil set on brown paper, experimenting with rendering both darks and lights on a neutral ground.  Above is a mask of Hannya, used in Noh theater to represent the ghost or soul of a woman seeking revenge out of jealousy, or one who has an obsession she can’t escape.  The masks are meant to convey conflicting emotions:  both hate and suffering.  And the darker the mask, the more evil the spirit.

gama sennin with his toad s

I was also really taken with all the netsukes in both books.  Above is Gama-Sennin, one of the immortal mountain gods, who is always accompanied by a toad.  He can change himself into a toad too!


St. Patrick and Atlas


cathedral sketches comp

Perhaps sketching St. Patrick’s Cathedral is not ideal for someone who does not regularly draw architecture.

tower comp

I first tried the towers, but there is so much similar detail that I would get confused after looking up and start drawing the wrong part for the place I was in my drawing…so I moved on to the rose windows.  Better, but still.  I ended up with the frustrated scribble at the top, which actually shows a much better feel for the building I think.

rose window comp

I drew a tour guide (many many tourists with or without guides but all seemingly with cameras), and a tree.

tree and guide

But time to go to what I do have a lot of experience with…sculpture.

cathedral statue s

I was there in my first meeting with the NYC Urban Sketchers.  Their chosen subject for August 1 was St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  We were positioned in front of a sculpture of the god Atlas.  So I turned my attention to him.

atlas comp

I’d like to go back and do him again from multiple views.  There’s a lot going on here.  That thing between his legs is supposed to be water, I think, although my drawings make it look quite erotic.


Here’s a photo of a front of the entire sculpture.  I was not going to stand in the middle of the crowded sidewalk and draw that view, but the sides and back have plenty to offer.

I was so absorbed in Atlas, that all of a sudden the Cathedral was pealing the noon bell.  I looked around, and all the other sketchers had disappeared, so I didn’t have a chance to really talk much to any of them…

I used both marker and pencil for these sketches.