In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.
Arrival. US Airways terminal, National Airport, Washington, D.C.
Metro tunnel, Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.
Metro Tunnel Entrance/Exit, Dupont Circle
Thus in silence in dreams’ projections, Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals, The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand, I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young, Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad.
The Green Mountains of Vermont, pretty reddish today.
I'm heading south again, this time to Washington, D.C.. Impeccable timing, wouldn't you say? Even the National Mall is closed...But the flight itself is making up for it. The first leg this morning, from Plattsburgh to Boston, was achingly beautiful, as we flew over my former home terrain: Vermont, the Connecticut River Valley, New Hampshire, and on to the Atlantic coast and Boston, where I'm now sitting in the airport.
We're back in Montreal after a few days on the road. The first stop was at a New England lake where we spent a couple of days with old, close friends, savoring the end of summer. One of those days was rainy, and we were mostly inside the rustic house where they were staying. J. and I painted each other, and there was a marathon jigsaw puzzle session...good times.
Then we went to Wilmington, Delaware for a family funeral. It was the first time in more than 20 years that Jonathan and some of his cousins had been together. We had a couple of longish waits in airports, so I drew some fellow travelers, trying to capture a quick portrait of each.
I added the watercolor on the plane.
Thought he was listening to music, until he started carrying on a business conversation, talking into the air...
The animal-print bag was what got me.
This woman had a quiet elegance, in her purple top and hand-crocheted crimson beret.
Half-asleep, with a neat cap of blonde hair and flowered blouse.
Auburn, and an unusual face.
Typing on her laptop, totally concentrated.
A Viking - one of four young Scandinavian tourists.
Next stop: Brooklyn. Here's a close-up of J. riding toward me along Brooklyn's new waterfront park, on the edge of the East River.
And here's the full image. We rode down Vanderbilt Avenue from our bed-and-breakfast, down along the old navy shipyards, along cobblestone streets, and finally onto this boardwalk and under the Brooklyn Bridge.
It's quite the view of lower Manhattan.
And at the far left, there's Lady Liberty, presiding over the harbor.
We've been up on the Esplanade in earlier visits, which is really beautiful, but you don't get the same connection with the water and the city beyond as you do in the new park. They've done a wonderful job; rolling berms separate the park from views and noise of Brooklyn, and there are thick plantings of native shrubs, lots of grass, and while there are some nice kiosks for food and ice cream, it's not at all commercial. There are low-key, low-intensity spots for sitting, for families to cook a barbeque, recreational areas including some huge lovely playing fields and a rocky park with fountains and waterfalls for kids to play in, and this end of a pier, fitted out with stainless steel sinks and bait-prep areas for fishermen.
"What are you catching?" I asked. "Striped bass," this fellow told me. He was from Puerto Rico, and a veteran fisherman. "Des catchin blues ovah deyh," he said, pointing toward Governor's Island. "And deyah too," indicating the tip of lower Manhattan. "Bluefish?" I said. He nodded, grinned, and shook his head. "Not heah! Dunno why." I asked him what they used for bait and he explained and showed me: a big fish that they cut up into pieces. Each of the fishermen had four rods, which they bait, cast, and then set against the railing, waiting. Seemed like a contented way to spend a hot day, down by the water in the breeze.
Then we rode back up into the city of Brooklyn, and stopped for lunch. The service was very slow - a new chef had come on that day, they said, so I had time to sketch the people at the next table on the butcher-paper that covered ours.
We were really hot by that time, and unfortunately a little sunburned, so we went back to the B&B. I took a shower and then went out to explore the neighborhood and visit The Community Bookstore, which TC and friends has shown me on a previous visit.
I also found a fabric store with a beautiful selection of Indian cottons, including the piece above. Couldn't resist. And at the bookstore I bought, appropriately enough, the latest issue of Granta, titled "Travel," in which there's an excerpt from Teju's forthcoming book on Lagos. Smaller and larger, both, our world.
Today I put some color on a drawing that I did when visiting our family near Philadelphia. I started on a left-hand page, drawing this brass coffee pot and the cross-stitch tapestry hanging on the wall. When I moved over to the right-hand page and the continuation of the shelf under another window, the scale of things got distorted. It was pretty funny. I kept going, but the drawing/painting doesn't work as a whole; the composition is bad when the tapestry is right in the middle, and the coffee pot looks as large as the lamp! It's OK as two halves though.
One of my teachers told me never to be afraid to cut things up or to look at drawings and paintings using cropping tools. He was right; it often helps, and it's so much easier now, in digital image editing programs!
That's an Inuit sculpture between the lamp and plate; it's a mother leaning over with a baby in her arms, perhaps to pick it up. The mother has on a thick parka and mittens and the baby is all swaddled too; it's carved in soapstone. My brother-in-law, now retired, was a doctor in ob/gyn, and he has collected Inuit prints and sculptures, especially those depicting childbirth and mothers and children, since his medical school days in Canada when the annual Cape Dorset print editions were being offered by just a few galleries. However, the little figure on the windowsill is an Asian dancer, and I think it probably dates back to my sister-in-law's days in India. Their home has a very calm feeling, with white walls, lots of books, and very little clutter. If we'd had more time there, I'm sure I would have drawn a lot more.
I made myself a sketchbook to take on our trip. The original plan was to buy one of Stillman & Burns' new Gamma series landscape-format sketchbooks; they're lovely, and the paper is heavy enough to take light washes. But they aren't cheap, nor are they carried anywhere in Montreal, and as a result I left the task of ordering from Toronto undone too long. What to do? Then it occurred to me that I could make my own sketchbook and fill it with whatever combination of papers I wanted! What a revelation! I've made a lot of small notebooksbefore, but never a sketchbook. The other advantage was that I could choose a size that was light and easy to carry. The binding itself is reversible; I can take pages out or add more anytime.
It helps to have a big papercutter and a heavy-duty adjustable binding punch and comb binder; we used to use it for binding reports for our design clients.
I already had these handpainted covers, waiting for a binding, so that part was easy. The next task was to cut up a sheet of a favorite drawing/mixed-media paper, Stonehenge, and another one of Arches 140-lb watercolor paper. It was enough for two books, one slightly larger and longer than this, with plain black covers, and this one. The binding here a flat leather thong; the other book has a black plastic comb binding.
Now I just need to make the time, and pluck up my courage, to do some sketches rather than being on-the-go every minute while we're away. The work of the Urban Sketchers, a growing international movement, both inspires and daunts me, because sketching buildings and urban scenes has never been my forté. What I'm most interested in isn't accuracy, but conveying the feeling of a place or scene.
On the other hand, having this blog, and you, my kind and generous readers, is a great incentive, though I admit that every single time I put pen or brush to paper, a little voice in my head worries about making a disastrous mess! Just do it, I tell myself, as all my teachers have told me too: sketch every day. Some drawings will be a mess, and some will come out all right. No matter what, you'll learn and improve through constant practice.
Funny, isn't it -- after all this time, and all this making-of-things, we are still fragile! I think that this beautiful bright color will help.