Things to Draw: Querencia

Querencia, Colored Pencil, Watercolor, and Ink on Paper, 8 1/4″ x 5 3/8″

Ay Carlita! What does this word mean? Once I’d finished Googling, I knew why Carla gave me this. It’s everything. Or at least, the core of many of my artistic obsessions and many conversations we shared when we lived together. A general and more common way of referring to this idea is sense-of-place. But Barry Lopez, the environmental author, gives the word its full poetry with this definition: “A place from which one’s strength of character is drawn. A place in which we know exactly who we are. The place from which we speak our deepest beliefs.”

In the drawing I aimed for both the metaphorical, internal place and the sense of a physical locus. The anatomical heart/fetus/angel image is one I came up with years ago, that I loved for its weird harmony and which has developed in its symbolism as it has stayed with me. The image reminds me that though my heart is fragile, it speaks to God. And for the location, well…this heart resides amidst pine forests and arid mountainsides. There I know myself. Querencia.

Things to Draw: Chocolate Chip Cookies Playing the Banjo

Chocolate Chip Cookies Playing the Banjo, Ink and Colored Pencil on Paper, 8 1/2″ x 5 3/4″

Another from the most lovely Claire. This is us, on the fantastic occasion that we are in the same place – two cookie-minded, banjo-jamming dudettes!

Things To Draw: The Temple I Don’t Go To

That’s The Temple I Don’t Go To, 5 3/8″ x 8 1/2″, Watercolor, Ink, and Colored Pencil on Paper

The prompt particularly says, “That’s the temple I don’t go to.” I’m guessing this a movie reference or quote because of the source, but then again it could be based on little more than my friend’s wisecrack sense of humor.

The word temple immediately drew up all kinds of religious and sacred imagery, but I mostly have positive experiences going to synagogue with my dad or visiting historical Eastern temples. There’s nobody traditionally temple involved whose chops I feel like busting. So in the course of musing over what I could enthusiastically take issue with that also has recognizable symbolism, this became a commentary on greed. It’s not meant to be an accusation directed toward economics or capitalism, as those systems run well or poorly depending upon how they are directed. I guess I mean this mostly as a reminder of how dangerous worshipping in the temple of reckless desire is and as a finger pointed in the mirror, reminding me to ask myself what temples I’ve been patronizing lately.

Also, it was wildly fun to play with slightly macabre imagery, as I rarely tend toward that direction.

Things to Draw: Jumping Armadillo

Jumping Armadillo, 8 1/2″ x 5 3/8″, ink, colored pencil, watercolor, and acrylic on paper

After the fact I wondered if this prompt was intended to signify a multitude of jumping armadillo. I mean, how sure am I of the plural of armadillo? It could be one of those deer/deer situations. Regardless, once I’d been struck by the image of the old nursery rhyme, there was no going back. Hey diddle, diddle!

Things to Draw: Claire in a Knit Sweater


The prompt actually says, “me in a knit sweater,” but the “me” in question is my dear friend Claire, who not only owns but knits many excellent sweaters. She made a beautiful reindeer sweater a couple years ago, to which this image is an homage. (Her posture is lovely in real life, as opposed to slightly awkward in this image…it was late at night, apologies.)

Things to Draw: The Transition to Democracy in the Republic Formerly Known as Burma

The Transition to Democracy in the Republic Formerly Known as Burma, ink and colored pencil on paper, 8 1/2″ x 5 3/8″

A new challenge in this conceptual, political, and charged prompt. I aimed for simple, clear, and emotive. How’d I do?

Things to Draw: Sculpture

My grandmother gave me this prompt, after some protest. She wanted more specific instructions than “anything.” When I unfolded the paper with the word sculpture written on it, I had no idea what to do. Of course…my grandmother–innocuous, old, affectionate–would saddle me with a conundrum: something simultaneously concrete and abstract, which manages to be both an idea and an object.

I often think of my grandmother as somewhat absent. She is losing her memory, and it is easier sometimes to relate to questions repeated to the point of absurdity as the whimsy of a “crazy old lady” than to admit that entropy is stealing from me some one I have known all my life. This prompt is a reminder that the quick and clever lady who used to tickle me when I wasn’t looking and tease me when I was grumpy (“Better be careful…if you make that face you’re gonna get stuck that way!”) is still my grandmother, even if these days she mostly asks where my cousins are or what day of the week it is.

In the end, I chose to draw a sculpture that belongs to Gemmy, that she bought with my grandfather when they were a young and glamorous couple in the world of design, running a successful architecture firm and filling their house with strange and beautiful art objects. I have no idea who made this sculpture. It is cast bronze, and for most of my life I thought it was abstract, but I discovered today when I was looking at it more closely that it is actually an open-mouthed face seen from above. Still, I chose to draw it how I remember looking at it when I was little, staying overnight for an adventure with my worldly and exciting grandparents. It was mysterious and slightly monstrous, but friendly, a part of my family, as art has a tendency to become.

Things to Draw: The Geico Gecko

Geico Gecko, ink and colored pencil on paper, 5 3/4″ x 8 1/2″

This is one of the more entertaining prompts I’ve gotten, something I never anticipated attempting to render myself. It’s surprisingly difficult to make a gecko look friendly.