Friday, January 1, 2021

The first ink sketch of 2021


I wonder how many artists all over the world are resolving to draw at least one thing a day in the new year of 2021.

That has to be a resolution going back to cave man days! I mean when people would draw those cows and things you would see on the walls of caves.

Well, I really do plan on doing this. And so on the way home from Mass this morning I stopped on Elmwood Avenue and sketched what you see up above. It is the former parochial residence for the old Immaculate Conception Church in Buffalo's Allentown district.

When I was in my early 20s and just starting out in the job market I worked at Interval International, a time share exchange place. I used to go to Mass at Immaculate Conception because, I discovered, it was not far from my workplace.

Of course the church ended up closing, like so many of our other churches. But at least it is still standing, and so is the old rectory I drew, built in 1895. I looked up the year. That is part of the fun of doing all this drawing, I look up everything I draw, and I learn.

Here is a picture of my sketch in progress. It looks like a big doodle!

That is the fun of working in ink. You cannot second-guess yourself. You just keep drawing, la la la la la la la.

I worked on my drawing for a little longer but I had to stop eventually because I was in what my parents used to call Food Emergency. I needed lunch so bad my hands were shaking. The Mass had gone on for almost two hours, way longer than I had expected. When they start Benediction you know you are there for the long haul. Anyway, I took the picture home and dressed it up and put it up on my gallery website. Then I got out this notebook I have and made a note that I drew it, and put the date.

I realized it was exactly a year ago today that I sketched Holy Angels Church, on Buffalo's West Side. That church has closed now too. Sigh.

But on a brighter note, forward we go!

What if I really do follow through with this plan, and do 365 drawings? At least 365. Looking at my diary from last year I see there were some days when I drew none but some days when I drew three or four.

I wonder what 2021 will bring?

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Tops Wreath, Ageless and Evergreen

 Last year right about this time, my friend Meghan and I hand-crafted our own wreaths. Exultantly I put my wreath on my door, where it held up spectacularly, I have to say.

At some point last summer I saw my old artificial wreath from Tops marking time in the cellar. I was in the process of cleaning out the cellar and I said, I will put this wreath in the garbage because I will not need it, now that I am a hand-crafting wreath kind of person.


At the last minute, on my way to the tote, I wisely made a sharp right into the garage, and I hung the Tops wreath on a nail. The nail was sitting there and nothing was on it, what the heck. 

The Tops wreath had been a good deal a couple of years ago. I bought it after Christmas and it was marked way down. You know me, I hate letting go of a bargain!

And lo, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone!

Meghan and I have not yet been able to hand-craft wreaths this year. We may yet! But there have been all these extenuating circumstances such as her becoming engaged to a gentleman in Pittsburgh, and me being busy with my art business throughout the Christmas season. When you are busy, that is when the Tops wreath is your friend. Two days before Christmas I think it was, I remembered it in the garage. Forth I went to get it. Miraculously an appropriate length of red grosgrain ribbon appeared, and in five minutes, that wreath was tied to the door.

Where it looks mighty pretty. 

Take another look!

I mean, you cannot tell, can you, that there are Styrofoam snowflakes under that snow? You cannot.

Once again, the moral of the story is: Never throw anything out.

You will regret it!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

My tree is up!

Today I put up my Christmas tree!

I was waiting on purpose until late in Advent. But our church decorations are up now and so what the heck, I decided it was time. This is funny, on Facebook, there are certain friends saying they are not bothering with trees because they cannot have people over to their house to see it.

Fie on that philosophy, fie!

I want my Christmas tree no matter what!

My ancestry is German and you cannot keep a German from celebrating Christmas. Famous situations attest to that.

There is the great and true story about how in World War I, German soldiers in the trenches put up trees, and sang carols. Then they managed to call a truce with their British counterparts. All of them then partied together.

Then in the Revolutionary War there was the battle of Trenton, when American troops were able to surprise the Hessian soldiers, German mercenaries who were fighting for the British. They were able to pounce on them on Dec. 26 - the Hessians had been partying and had let their guard down.

Observe the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware on his way to surprise the Hessians. The painting is by a German artist, Emanuel Leutze.

That is a good painting! Obviously Leutze bore no grudge. Germans are going to celebrate Christmas. It is just how things are!

And so my tree is up and I never considered that it would not be so. This is my fake tree, the one I got, yikes, way back in 2012. No wonder it is getting yellowed. But it really does look lovely once the lights go down. And that is when you most appreciate a tree, when the lights are down.

I had to take down the lights I had put around the windows of the sun room so I could put them on the tree. I sort of regretted taking them down, because I loved the look of those lights around the windows. But Christmas has to be different from the rest of the year. That was a smart decision I made, you know, to put up those lights, after last Candlemas.  It sweetens that pill of having to take down the tree. Often after you take down the tree the weather stays bleak for some time. And I never got sick of those lights. In the summer, if it was a dark rainy day, I even used to put them on in the morning sometimes. Anyway, that is a tradition I will keep, my year-round lights in my front room.

But for now they are on the tree.

We need a little Christmas, now!

Friday, November 27, 2020

My Thanksgiving turkey and me

Yesterday my Thanksgiving was, like many others, extremely limited. It is in style here in Buffalo to defy the rules but everyone in my family was not all on the same page. End result, as we say here in Buffalo, it was just the three of us, Howard and me and Jeoffry.

With not much at stake I felt free to branch out. And one thing I did was try a new way or roasting turkey. Come Thanksgiving, I like to cook out of cookbooks by old dead people. And this recipe was from Bert Greene, this cookbook author who was in my parents' generation and whom I adore.

His cookbooks are just so funny! But that is a topic for another day.

For now, we are talking turkey. Maestro Greene said to put three strips of bacon over it and cut enough cheesecloth to cover the whole thing.

Then you pour a third of a cup of dry white whine and soak the cheesecloth in it and then put the cheesecloth over the turkey. Every half an hour you baste the turkey with this stock you make "meanwhile" from the giblets and such. Do not you love that word, "meanwhile"? It is as if the work gets done by magic.

"The Joy of Cooking," which I consulted first, had something similar. But they wanted you to soak the cheesecloth in oil. That just sounded yuchy to me. Just the idea of this oily cloth -- I said out loud in my kitchen, "I can't do that."

Somehow the Bert Greene, that sounded more like something I could do. And so I did it.

Here is my turkey with the bacon covering it.

That is a pretty big turkey! Back when I got it I did not know if I would be cooking for a crowd or not.

Here is the cheesecloth soaking in the wine. I did not have white wine around so I used dry vermouth.

Next time I will not do it like that. Next time I will just put the cheesecloth over the turkey and pour the wine over that. Because when I fished the cloth out of the vermouth, it was a bear untangling it. It had twisted itself into a thin rope and I almost threw it out. But I did not throw it out, and I untangled it, and it did end up where God intended it to be, over the turkey.


The turkey did turn out pretty darned good, I have to say. I stuffed it with Rice Dressing, from "The Joy of Cooking." I did that Rice Dressing a long time ago, and I liked it a lot, but everyone else in my family insists on bread dressing. Which, to be honest, I do not do all that well. They were not here this year and so I went back to the rice dressing.

It was delicious but today being Friday I could not eat it and so I could not refresh my memory. That big turkey in the fridge and I could not touch it. Penance. Penance! I had to quit it, cold turkey!

Tomorrow will be a different story.

I hope tomorrow lives up to the memories!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

When Life Gives You Street Lights..

 .. Draw them!

That is what I believe, and I followed my own directive when I sketched Buffalo's Blessed Trinity Church one winter afternoon.

I do not know what it is, I just love drawing the flotsam and jetsam of city life. That includes traffic signals, No Standing signs, parking meters, bicycle locking thingies, and most definitely light posts.

When I did this sketch of Blessed Trinity I even began with the street light. It was important to me!

The funny thing about all this was, shortly after I did that drawing, I mentioned it to a photographer friend of mine. He told me that Blessed Trinity, given its inner city location, is notorious among photographers -- dreaded, even -- because you cannot get a straight shot at it without a light post being in the way.


Here I am, working in old-fashioned pen and ink, and I could have left the light post out, but instead I drew it and it became central to my picture.

I even made it into a Christmas card.

If it is there, I draw it! That should be my slogan.

My friend Lizzie, when she saw my picture, she said, "It's great, just get rid of the street light."

Um, my drawing is not a computer screen?

It is not that simple?

And furthermore, I like it the way it is!

Plus, later when I looked at it I saw it added another cross to the scene.

It was meant to be!

I keep thinking, maybe it is because I was a reporter for so long, I enjoy just putting down the truth. If the street light is there, I want to include it. Sometimes it is awkward, a No Parking sign impeding your vision of something, but it is interesting too. 

I like to draw what is before my eyes.

No judgment!


Sunday, November 8, 2020

Placido Domingo

Today was Placido Domingo, that is to say, Serene Sunday.

My mother used to make that joke, how Placido Domingo translated literally to Serene Sunday, Placid Sunday. I think she got it from my aunt. But today my friend Zach came up with it independently and it made me laugh because it made me think of my mother.

A small group of us were on the beach and enjoying our Placido Domingo. That is a picture I took up above of the grain elevator near Gallagher Pier. After I took the picture I was thinking, it looks like one of those weird pictures that Google throws up at you for your wallpaper or whatever. Some weird picture from some corner of the globe that you cannot guess. Usually it is in Thailand or Qatar or somewhere but in this case it is Buffalo, N.Y.

I have sketched that grain elevator many times as have many artists around here because it is just so world class. Here it was last week when it was so cold and windy I could not get out of the car.

Today was so warm and wonderful, it was like July. Except it was November and it got dark around 5 p.m. Still it was magical.

Today it was beautiful. It was warm -- hot, even -- in the sun, even though here we are well into November.

We watched the sunset and spoke of this and that. Other people had gathered too and were sitting on the Adirondack chairs, opening beverages and watching the sunset. Speaking of beverages a couple of women spoke up and addressed the gathering, asking if anyone had a bottle opener on his or her key chain. I did! And they were able to open their Angry Orchard cider.

Placido Domingo.

We will remember it!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

My friendly neighborhood bison


This morning while I was walking I stopped and took a picture of this bison.

I feel so blessed that I can see bison within walking distance of my house!

Bison do not care that you are there and they do not care what kind of day it is.

It can be raining and they are sitting there same as if it were sunny. They have a shelter but they do not go into it.

They are irresistible to photograph. When I was looking in the computer for the picture I took today I came up with this one too. I think Howard took it.

It is a privilege to be able to sketch a bison from life. It was one of the first things I drew in my, ahem, early days of drawing, in my pocket sketchbook. This was when I was still drawing in pencil, not ink. I drew the bison in this little sketchbook the size of an index card. I still think it is a good idea to carry one with you wherever you go.

The bison was hardly recognizable as a bison but that was because of the way it was sitting. (As I make excuses for myself.) I remember I was happy with it. I went as far as to pompously initial it. To initial it pompously. My dad was an English and Latin teacher and he taught me not to split my infinitives.

May 3, 2018.

How the time flies.

But the buffalo is a constant here in Buffalo.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Cats and Cat Toys

Like any pet owners Howard and I have spent money on toys for our cat Jeoffry. 

Just as one example there is a large and alarmingly realistic rat. I bought it at Pet Supplies Plus and I think I went up to over $5 for it. Thanks to my German parents who lived through the Great Depression, I have a problem with that. However Jeoffry loves it. (Me, not so much. If I find it in the middle of the floor I toss it back into Jeoffry's box.)

There is also this cat toy that has a ball running around a circular track. Jeoffry loved it for the first week we had it and now we cannot get him interested in it for love or money. That was also from Pet Supplies Plus.

A great and cheap cat toy that is always a hit is the spring. These colored springs come in packages of a dozen or something and the cat will chase them everywhere -- up and down stairs, around the room, through doorways, skidding across the kitchen floor.


Nothing beats free toys!

"For he chases the cork." That is in the poem "My Cat Jeoffry." Jeoffry does indeed chase the cork! And we seem to have an endless number of corks in this house, need I say more.

There are corks and then there are cardboard boxes.

I do some grocery shopping at Gordon's Restaurant Market. When I leave I always try to grab a box from the selection available that Jeoffry will like. Above is the newest model.

It has a square opening that Jeoffry loves! He likes to peer out of it as he is doing in the picture up above. He also has a game he plays with it. He will rocket into the box and shoot a paw out at me. Not just a paw actually. He shoots out his whole front leg!

Ha, ha! One day I will try to get a picture of that! It is not easy because whenever he does that I am just laughing so hard.

The best cat toys in life are free!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Sketching at the beach


Yesterday was a day to celebrate. It was almost 80 degrees! 

In Buffalo! In late October!

And so I went to the beach. We have the Pods for this purpose but we did not need them. Instead a group of us just gathered. At our height I believe there were seven of us. Plus strangers with whom we were interacting.

And their dogs!

A big poodle named Hannah came bounding up and ate the last piece of cheese off our cheese board! Then she kept trying to get into my backpack because she knew there was more cheese in there!

The dogs were playing fetch in the water and sailboats kept gliding by. It was a wonderful day off.

It is a challenge to sketch on the beach because the usual things I love to draw are not there. There are no traffic signals or parking meters or goose-neck street lamps or Do Not Enter signs.

Ha, ha! Once my sister Katie suggested I go with her to Allegany State Park where there is beautiful nature. She said, "You can draw there."

I said: "Draw what??"

LOL! Anyway at the beach I come up with sketches like the one pictured above. I did that the other day in the Pod.

Yesterday I sketched some dogs and sailboats and then simply zoned out and breathed the air and watched the sunset. 

It is good to zone out once in a while.

God rested and so should we!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Confessions of a Pod Person

My friend Ryan and I have bought Pods and now we are able to sit out in all weather.

Under all weather! The brand name of the pods is Under the Weather. It is not a perfect name because, you know, when you are under the weather you are sick. The subtitle is better. The pod package announces, "Be There -- Weather Or Not!"

That is accurate. You can be there, weather or not! These are little pop-up tents and as long as you do not mind looking a little silly in them, which we do not, the sky is the limit.

Still our goal in getting the Pods was simple: to go and sit on the beach in them. That is what we have already done because here in Buffalo the temperatures have already dipped. That is a picture of me up above that Ryan took! It shows me drawing in my Pod. 

The pods pop up very easily, almost without any help. You tie them down with a few stakes, which is also easy, even for me. Folding them back up again is more of a challenge but Ryan is helping me learn. There is just a little knack to it and I will acquire that.

As long as I can master that, I can see how useful this will be to me as an artist.

I love to draw, ahem, plein air. That means you are outside, as opposed to looking at a photograph. I am never happier than when I am beholding a scene and getting ready to get it down on paper. There was one day, I remember it was 95 degrees or something, and I was in downtown Buffalo settling down on a scorching bench, and I was totally blissed out because in front of me was this huge Art Deco police station and cars all around it, everything ready for drawing.

And didn't I sit there, all afternoon!

Maybe someone should invent an air-conditioned Pod for those occasions! Meanwhile we have this one. Ryan has reported, and it is true, that even on a chilly day, if the sun is out, the Pod heats up. When we tested them the other day they warmed up even under cloudy skies. We were impervious to wind and rain and that is a wonderful thing. That hat I was wearing in the picture quickly became unnecessary.

I will be able to draw whatever I want!

I can set the thing up in Niagara Square if I feel like it and take another crack at drawing City Hall.

Have Pod. 

Will draw!

Friday, October 2, 2020

From summer to fall


Yikes, all at once it is Autumn~!

That ~ symbol ended up there by mistake but I like how it looks so I will leave it there.

Just a few days ago it was warm, sweltering even, and I drew that little sketch up above. Actually the sketch is about a foot long. I drew it in my Long and Narrow sketchbook which I choose to use when I want to have fun.

I did that sketch at Wilkeson Pointe on Buffalo's Outer Harbor. I was there with my friend Ryan and we had noticed how cool these people looked walking on this ridge. They were silhouetted against the sunset and looked like shadows. The woman second from the front was wearing a sari and I did try to get that sari in there. It is fun working in ink because there are no second chances but also you do not erase and fuss over things too much. 

Anyway there it is, my portrait of people walking along the ridge at Wilkeson Pointe!

I like any drawing I did that I can look at and say: That is pretty much what I saw. This drawing does that.

Soon I will be going back to drawing at least some of the time in my car. How things change! The other night I made it to the Outer Harbor but it was, I must admit it, pretty chilly.

Today I wore a scarf when I went walking in the park. I took this picture.



I met my brother George and he had a knit cap. It was one of those days in Buffalo when you saw people in shorts and people in parkas.

I am working on getting Christmas cards printed! There, I said it ... Christmas.

It is closer than you think!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Cat and mouse

"For there is nothing so sweet as his peace when at rest."

Jeoffry caught another mouse!

That sentence rings out with a sense of great joy. However when I actually perceived the event, it was not as joyous. A dead mouse in the house -- perhaps it is not as bad as a live mouse running around but it is still not pretty.

I was at the Steinway playing Johannes Brahms and suddenly my eyes began roaming the room and that was when I saw something by the radiator.

At first I was thinking, it is just one of Jeoffry's toys. He has several toys that look alarmingly real including a small brown fabric mouse and a big alarming-looking rat. Maybe it is that gross little toy mouse. That is what I said to myself as I continued playing the Brahms.

I decided to wait until the piece was over and so I did that. For the record this was the first Impromptu Op. 119. I like to run through the whole set. However on this occasion that was not to be.

After I played the last notes of that first impromptu I got up for an impromptu check on that mouse.

It sure looked real. 

It was real.

Jeoffry got up meowing. He likes to listen to music and he did not like that it had been interrupted. He should have thought of that in view of the mouse. Couldn't he have eaten it or something? Could he not have taken it somewhere else?

But now that I thought of it we had been warned. He had been obsessed with the area surrounding the radiator. He had even been sleeping there.

The things that cats know that we do not!

Meanwhile... it has quietly been five years since Jeoffry's first mouse -- at least the first mouse to our knowledge.

I wonder when we will find the next one!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The hottest Mass

I love summer. I love the clothes. I love being able to dress like a Moroccan and walk out of the house in sandals.


Today I went to the hottest Mass in my life!

I made a mistake and wore a long rayon dress. You think rayon is OK! But it is not. Its real name is Viscose. I learned that recently and I will never forget it. Still I thought, rayon is my friend, and because it was sleeveless I had a light cotton jacket to wear over it and ....

I got to church 15 minutes early because I wanted to go to Confession. Which, as usual, is a whole other story. I chose a pew and then I went to Confession and then I returned and knelt and began to say the prayers I had been assigned for my penance.

Then I started sweating.

What to do? What to do? The priest was still hearing confessions. Mass was overdue. How would I survive this? Here I was sweating in my Viscose gown and I had, what, an hour to go?

A fan was oscillating at the front of the church and I decided I would switch pews and park myself there.

I said a few of my Hail Marys and then I moved again a pew up because I realized that the social distancing cord that had blocked this pew off had fallen off. Also, moving up a pew moved me closer to the fan.

But I was still sweating!

Vicious Viscose!

Finally I thought: Mass has not even started yet. This is hopeless. And I got up once more. This time I went out to my car. I was going to leave. Then of course Catholic guilt took over. Other people were in the church and they were sweating it out.

Besides which, I had just been to confession which does not happen as often as it should and how often do I get to go to Communion after just having been to Confession? If you do not go to Communion after Confession that almost adds up to wasting a perfectly good Confession.

I took a drink of water and turned off the car engine and went back in.

By this time Mass had begun. We were at the Kyrie. I found a pew near the back so I would not make a spectacle of myself one more time. Also I wanted to be able to leave if I had to. I have to say, this was a record.

This was the fourth time I had switched pews in one single Mass!

But it ended well because fourth time's a charm and I was able to get through it.

That is a lesson you learn in life. You are always afraid to switch seats but what the heck, people will get over it. I did that I do not know how many times at Kleinhans Music Hall. One time I remember was in Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" where this couple in front of me was making out. I do not mind if you want to make out to Mahler but not in front of me. So I moved.

They will get over it. Repeat as needed.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo, I made it to Confession and Mass. When I got home, this is funny but I felt better. Everything felt less sticky. It was as if something had been corrected.I credited Mass.

I'm glad I sweated it out!