Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Sketching in the snow

Today on my way to Candlemas Mass I stopped and sketched Tempo. That is a restaurant occupying a beautiful old mansion on Delaware Avenue.

Is that correct, to say Candlemas Mass? Is it not just Candle Mass? Well, we say Christmas Mass.


It was fun, drawing Tempo. It took me out of my day. This is funny but I think the right way to draw a building is, you sketch in the shape, then you fill it out. I do not normally operate that way. I started in this case at the upper left hand corner of the drawing, and then I worked my way down. Always in ink, too, so you do not erase. If I worked in pencil I would always be erasing.

I was thinking, that all through my life, when I have done crossword puzzles -- any puzzles -- I have always worked in ink as well. My mother always used pencil. She used to try to reason with me because sometimes I would end up having to cross things out, and it would turn into a mess. But doing a crossword in pencil is no fun! The fun is writing in ink.

I am an ink-stained wretch!

I will have to finish the Tempo sketch and post it. I could take it only so far. No. 1 I had to go to Mass. Secondly, it was snowing and the window I was looking through, the side window, was getting snowy to the point that I could not see. I rolled it down to take the picture.

After Mass my car was covered in snow and I had to brush it off.

An observation on this year's Christmastide: It began and ended with snow!

On Christmas Eve we got our usual Christmas Eve snowstorm. I came out of Midnight Mass at, yikes, about 2:30 a.m. And my car was buried as was everyone else's. Heavy, wet snow. Buffalo. Got to love it!

Now on Candlemas evening I came out of the candlelit Mass and my car was again covered in snow. Not as bad as after Midnight Mass on Christmas, but still.

We have not gotten much snow in the interim!

Well, it is all worth it. Mass tonight, it was about two hours long, but when I came down from the choir loft for Communion, I was just overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. The church was dark and lighted only by candles. There were candles arrayed all over the high altar and the people in the pews were holding candles. It had looked beautiful from above but it was even more beautiful below.

Mozart and Beethoven and Palestrina must have gone to Mass in such an atmosphere!

I took this pic shortly before Mass but it does not begin to describe it.

Most people go through their whole lives and never experience anything like this!

And on top of that we had a white Christmas.

The start, and the finish!

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Candlemas compromise

Not to shock anyone, but I do believe I have officially the last Christmas tree up in our neighborhood. 

This year, I have to say, there were more contenders for the title. Especially along the "better" streets, like Nottingham and Middlesex, I saw trees up well into mid-January.

Some of those houses still have their lights up in the trees outside, which I love. And they have their wreaths up as well. But the trees are down. You know what, they were probably real, and real trees have to go out to the curb at some point. I sort of forget that. Good for those folks on Nottingham and Middlesex, keeping the season as it should be kept.

However. Tomorrow, Feb. 2, is the ancient feast of Candlemas which marks the end of the Christmas season.

After Mass the tree will have to come down.

OK, I will give myself till the next day. It is just that this year the tree is so pretty. I really worked on it. Just the other day I was rearranging some ornaments.

Let us look on the bright and twinkly side. I am very happy that last year I initiated my own new personal custom of leaving the lights up year-round. After they come off the tree they will go up around the windows. Like last year!

That is a nice compromise, is it not? 

I sort of miss them around the windows, anyway. I was tempted to leave the lights up around the windows and get new lights for the tree. But then I thought: no. It has to be an exchange. Otherwise when you take the tree down you are losing something.

I refuse to be a loser.

Let there be lights!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

This year's Alleluia


Today being Septuagesima Sunday we followed the ancient custom of burying the Alleluia. You bury the Alleluia because you do not say the Alleluia during Lent. And Septuagesima Sunday is the start of the pre-Lent season.

Let me break for a gripe. It does not seem right and just that we are heading into Lent, I have to say that. What with the virus and everything we have hardly gotten to celebrate Christmas. The inner time clock is off, you know? There was hardly any Christmas and yet there is Lent.


Still Lent is on the way and so we had to bury the Alleluia. And I followed the by now ancient custom of lettering the Alleluia that would be buried at church. I have written about this before in other years. Every year I make the Alleluia and every year the church loses it.

Fie on the church, fie!

However. I sort of do not mind making the Alleluia all over again because I keep improving it. The Alleluia up above, I made that first this year. But then I just wanted to do it over. I was listening to Mozart's "Exsultate, Jubilate," which ends in the famous "Alleluia." And after I had listened to it twice, I sat down and did a new Alleluia. And I thought it was better.

It was more free!

I liked it so much I put it on Redbubble.

You can get it on coasters.

And on a laptop case. 

Or on a T-shirt.

Isn't that great? Maybe it is a good thing after all that they lost my earlier Alleluias.

However. That still does not make it right. Before Mass this morning I took the Alleluia out of my sketchbook. Which, may I point out, it was on a huge piece of paper, 18 by 24 inches, something like that. I added a penciled note on the back. I put my name and phone number. And I wrote, "Please do not throw out." 

We will have to wait to Easter -- when the Alleluia is resurrected -- to find out if my note did any good.

I bet I do not see it again!

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!