… Gosia, who lives in Dolnośląskie, Poland. A copy of “Designing with Words” and a raku magnet will soon be crossing the Atlantic. Thanks to everyone who left comments to participate in the contest – and watch for a new giveaway during the first week of January.
Need a little extra inspiration as the year descends into the cold and dark of winter? I’m giving away a new copy of Designing with Words by Erin Trimble — an art-filled book that demonstrates how to use literary flair in your artist’s journal or altered book project. I’ll also include a raku magnet from my studio, with some wise advice from Emily Dickinson on a cheery kiwi green background.
To be included in the giveaway, leave a comment after this post and tell me where you find your creative inspiration: in the notes of a beloved piece of music? The writings of your favorite author? Somewhere else entirely? The winner will be chosen at random in one week, by the good folks at random.org. Good luck!
There was a wonderful surprise in my email inbox last night: a message from amazing Chicago artist Anne Leuck Feldhaus. No one on the planet paints a dog quite the way Anne does. Her vividly colored canines leap and fly across the canvas, a kaleidoscope of paws and ears and wagging tails. I dare you to look at her artwork without smiling.
Not long ago, Anne asked for feedback on her web site. She entered all the commenters in a give-away drawing for a signed black poodle print, and to my delight (it’s a beautiful print) and complete amazement (I never win ANYTHING) my comment won. Thank you, Anne!
Now I’m inspired to have my own give-away. Here’s the deal:
1. Leave a comment at the end of this post. (If you have a favorite garden-related book to recommend, I’d love to know about it.)
2. One week from today, on Nov. 21, I’ll use random.org to select the winner.
3. The give-away goodies include The 20-Minute Gardener by Tom Christopher and Marty Asher; a Garden Days Journal by Karen Strohbeen and Bill Luchsinger; and a handbound blank book I made. (It has cream-colored writing paper inside, and is covered in fabric purchased several years ago in San Francisco’s Chinatown. I have written and drawn some inspirations on one page of the blank book … and to round out the whole package, I’m also including a raku kitty cat ornament from the clay studio.)
The narrow, still space between Christmas and the New Year is a contemplative time… a chance to cast one final glance in the direction of 2007 as it trudges away over the horizon and then enjoy a brief rest while waiting for 2008 to arrive on the doorstep.
Out in the damp chill of the winter garden, the crucifers are ripening faster than we can eat them: friends and neighbors are finding themselves the recipients of bagged broccoli crowns; crinkly savoy cabbages were distributed along with Christmas gifts. I plan to test the theory that tender collard greens, consumed with blackeyed peas as a New Year’s Day meal, attract prosperity. Our cauliflower and snow peas — unhindered by the swarms of borers and chewers that plague warmer seasons — look like the pristine pictures in seed catalogs. Ahhhh. The garden almost seems to tend itself. I love winter.
Contemplation is also the common thread connecting three books I’m reading now. The first is Walden, or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau, the great-granddaddy of simple living. It was written during Thoreau’s two-year sojourn living in his tiny, handmade cabin at the edge of Walden Pond. I’m glad I somehow missed being assigned to read this book back in my high school American Lit days, because Thoreau’s insights on community and closeness to nature would have been lost on my globetrotting teen-aged self. This is a book to be nibbled at and digested bit by bit. I enjoyed this 1845 comment on vegetarianism:
One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with;” and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plough along in spite of every obstacle.
The second book is Elizabeth Gilbert’s rich and satisfying Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. It’s the fun and constantly surprising account of the author’s journey in search of life’s deepest lessons (and world-class pasta). Stitched into this crazy quilt of a travel memoir are flashes of pure insight. If this book doesn’t fill you with wanderlust, nothing will. Enjoy!
My current garden-related read is a visual feast, a kaleidoscope of scribbly botanical art goodness by Manhattan urban gardener Abbie Zabar. Her year-long illustrated journal, A Growing Gardener, is a thoughtful (and very, very colorful) account of her work to transform her apartment building’s rooftop into a garden paradise. It’s peppered with recipes, garden plans, lists of source material — lots of interesting stuff. If you happen to live in one of those unfortunate climate zones which are currently snowbound, this is some seriously inspiring fireside reading. Entertaining, too. And beautiful.
“In the future, everybody will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” – Andy Warhol
Today, amazon.com began accepting pre-orders for an upcoming book designed and edited by Dawn DeVries Sokol. The scheduled publication date for 1000 Artist Journal Pages is July 1 of next year, and three pages of the thousand are from my own personal journal. So I guess Mr. Warhol was right.
Here are the pages that were selected for inclusion in the book:
The first and second image were written about travels. The third was a critique of the three coffee houses in the little town where I lived. Inspired by a large accidental coffee ring on the right side of the page spread, it provided a first-second-third ranking with positive marks for quirky clientele and demerits for such unpardonable sins as using Hershey’s syrup to make mochas. Of course, never suspecting that anyone much would ever see the words, I had the local bookstore’s brew trailing the others in last place. Alas, no book signing events for me…
Some people hope for an afterlife where they can stroll along streets paved with gold, happily humming along with the celestial choirs. Personally, I’m hoping for a used bookstore.
That’s my idea of a pleasant way to spend eternity: poking around tall bookcases crammed with interesting old volumes. There would be a creaky wooden floor and some classical music softly playing on an unseen radio. Behind the counter, St. Peter would be hunched over his favorite mystery novel. The atmosphere would be rich with the slightly musty aroma of well-aged literature.
I had the unexpected good fortune to spend a few minutes in that sort of bookstore today (excluding the part about St. Pete). Downtown to take a reference photo for a commercial illustration job, I stopped briefly at Bienville Books and bought Plantcraft, an amazingly cool 1973 gardening book published by a small San Francisco press.
It’s 92 pages of pure urban flower child delight: magical line art by the amazing Chinese-American designer Win Ng, who went on to have a distinguished career as co-founder of designer houseware company Taylor & Ng. A 45-rpm record album, designed to soothe your houseplants into abundant growth, fits into the back cover. Gardening advice that includes such tidbits as, “The chances are excellent that the music which pleases people will also please their plants.” And the whole thing looks as if it was printed on brown paper grocery bags. Fun! I love these little psychadelic snails on the Table of Contents page:
Here’s an image from the chapter on container gardening. Looking at it, I am filled with an overwhelming desire to put on a Joni Mitchell cd and do some macrame…
But here’s my favorite image from the book. It’s not just any illustrator who can cook up something this wildly imaginative for a chapter on plant diseases…
Hmmm? Plants looking a bit lackluster? Just serve your neighbor, the bird-headed girl, a nice glass of wine on the chest of a nude man. There! That’s much better.
Yes, I am a used book junkie. But this addiction sometimes yields unexpected rewards: when a 1920 copy of Helena Rutherford Ely’s A Woman’s Hardy Garden arrived in the mail this week, there was a wonderful old garden sketch tucked between the pages.
Meticulously drawn in pencil on onionskin paper, the sketch is labeled in lavish Arts and Crafts style lettering as a plan for a “Fruit Garden for Miss Laura H. Emory, Grey Rock.” There are apple and cherry trees, blackberries and a grape arbor. A raspberry hedge encloses the inner plantings of apricot and nectarine, as well as smaller shrubs marked “G.B” (gooseberry?) and others marked “C.” (currants?)
A woman, Elise E. Terhune, has inscribed her name inside the front cover. Her handwriting covers the book’s endpapers with long lists of her garden plants and seeds, as well as little notes to herself about planting times and conditions. She writes that she intends to start Canterbury bells, foxglove and columbine in her July seedbed. Already, she writes, yellow lilies are by her hedges and under her pear tree.
Some gardener — perhaps Miss Terhune, or someone after her — carried this book into the garden as a reference. There are earth-colored fingerprints on the edges of pages all throughout the chapter, “Preparation of the Soil.” And some thrifty soul pored over the book’s list of plant prices, underlining and annotating as prices rose. Tulips for 80 cents a dozen, anyone? The greatest expense, hired garden labor, was $1.50 per day.
Despite a terrifying fondness for spraying hellebore powder around the garden to kill insect pests (omitting the toxin’s tendency to cause strangling, severe vomiting, dizziness and eventual collapse from cardiac arrest — but helpfully mentioning a fellow gardener who died after the breeze blew her spray back into her face) the author is immensely knowledgeable and also philosophical. I especially liked this little paragraph:
“I alway think of my sins when I weed. They grow apace in the same way and are harder still to get rid of. It seems a pity sometimes not to nurture a pet one, just as it does to destroy a beautiful plant of Wild Mustard, or Queen Anne’s Lace.”
— Helena Rutherford Ely, A Woman’s Hardy Garden
Most people know her work through the Peter Rabbit stories, the best-selling children’s books of all time. Beatrix Potter was also a skilled botanical artist and a tireless conservationist — and the subject of a sweet biographical movie last year, Miss Potter. I have admired her work since I was a child poking through the dusty stacks of the English bookseller, Asia Books, in Bangkok. And so, when a 1903 first edition of The Tailor of Gloucester (Beatrix once told an interviewer it was her favorite among all the books she had written) appeared on eBay recently, my little garden-and-booklover’s heart leaped. One thing led to another, and yesterday the little box arrived in the mail.
Here it is: neatly covered in green paper, the tidy volume is surprisingly fresh to be 104 years old. The handset type has that imperfect beauty and character so evident in printing done before the advent of current technology: the kerning not quite even, the spacing not quite uniform. It’s beautiful!
But best of all are the illustrations. What this particular story lacks in botanical subject matter (it’s a city tale) it makes up in beautiful cozy English interiors and the vivid personalities of Simpkin the cat and the kindhearted troop of mice who save the day. More than a century after it was written, Potter’s story is simply charming. I can’t wait to read it to my grandchildren!