Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day

Sacred Heart Church, Natick
…it's for sale!

Two ducks seen from a distance (grebes …or mergansers maybe)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Winter Solstice

The pool above the dam is covered with snow and ice despite the warm temperatures today. It's very pleasant outside. Here are a few more recent drawings (in charcoal, colored pencil and watercolor):

The Island

Rising Moon

Twigs in the snow

Venus, the Evening Star

Pleasant Street Bridge

Mallards and Ice

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I'm trying to remain enthusiastic about drawing out-of-doors as Winter begins. Recent rains have filled up the river and there have been a small flock of ducks and one swan that congregate above the dam. This provides interest and a place for my imagination to find a home.

I always wonder, at dusk usually, when I see ducks settling down for the night in some cold and moist place: how do they last until morning? Who keeps watch? Is it all so very Existential and bleak? Do ducks in winter, or all animals for that matter, even have a word for bleakness? Do they anticipate the spring? What are their memories of warmth and sun and abundant food? Is there joy in Mudville as the days dwindle to the winter solstice?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Drawn out

The Pleasant Street Bridge
It's odd how the few elements in this drawing float and do not hang together. There is enough "reality" in it to make quick sense: "I'm seeing a river flowing through the archway of a bridge". But I'm intrigued by the indeterminate foreground (flowing water) and the sharp angles of the arch's reflection and the elements seen through the arch.

The details of the bushes in the middle ground and the stonework of the bridge create isolated islands of information. There are three vertical smudges seen through the arch that are the reflections of unseen trees. I think these are the cause of the ambiguity: it's impossible to make the picture's space recede enough. The river's surface is a vertical field when it should be a flat surface that recedes in space. Those smudges could be silhouetted trees on a horizon or they could be their much closer reflections. It's unclear if you care to get into it.

I appreciate this ambiguity but really, maybe, it's just a bad drawing. I rarely think of my intentions when I draw from nature. I don't try to manipulate things. My "agenda" is internal to me: I want to record a few moments in time in a place as I perceive it. I'd prefer the drawing be about the moment and place and not about some quirk of perception or Art theory. Then again, it's good to be reminded that pictures are rich conglomerations of perception, skill, matter and technique. Drawings are "written" and made of visual language and as such, they may be read and analyzed.

Back to the moment: I drew this on a cold Saturday morning while speaking to my twin brother on the phone. It was our birthday so it was nice to catch up and wish him a happy birthday. I must have been distracted and failed to stitch the various elements together. My fingers were pretty cold when I hung up.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rainy Day

It's raining today but I found a few minutes to do a drawing of the dam after I drove my daughter to high school. I hadn't been to the river in a few days and I was feeling disconnected. As soon as I stepped out of the car, the drizzle started anew but I opened my sketchbook anyway. If you look closely, you can see faint spots and speckles in my drawing from the raindrops on the paper.

Later now, I'm stuck in the studio working on an illustration job. The door is closed to keep the playful cats out. It's cold and raw outside. The radio is on to local news. They're all talking about Kennedy. I have childhood memories of that day: it was cold and clear in the Chicago suburbs and there was this new thing between me and my perception of the world: the president has been shot. In the following days on a small television set the indelible images of the main aisle of a cathedral and horses drawing a hearse through the streets. The memories are dusty, desaturated and potent. It makes me think of memory as a growing land we pass by every day. Somedays a gate is open and we can go inside. But I'm too hungry in the present to make a meal of my memories yet. Soon…

South Natick Dam
Nov. 22, 2013
charcoal, watercolor



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Four Autumnal Drawings

The Cormorant
One Mallard
Reflections in still water
colored pencil


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Forest Primeval

Elm Bank
I draw scenes like this because I think they are beautiful and the act of drawing forces me to stop and enter a contemplative state of observation. I stood in the pathway for 25 minutes or so. People and their dogs passed by me. The sun pushed the shadows this way and that. A kingfisher noisily splashed in the river just beyond the line of trees. The yellow autumn leaves blazed like stained glass in a church.

What use is the drawing? I could sell it maybe. It could be visual research for a book that requires me to know something about forests. Mostly, these drawing go to sleep in my sketchbooks as I fill up the pages. But the experiences lingers and haunts me when I pick up my pencils and brushes far away from the actual forest. For example:


Red Riding Hood

"Owl & Tern in the Redwood forest"




Thursday, October 10, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Catch and Release

The South Natick Dam: this one little place sustains my interest and is just the right size to explore with my pencils and chalk. I know, it's probably very repetitive to you by now. After all, I've made several hundred drawings of it. Perhaps you've stopped visiting my blog because, really, how many times can you see the same old birds and aquatic geometry? Of course, for me, that's the challenge.

I can't add water or wildlife or change the course of the river or the shape of the dam across it. But I can monitor my approach and keep moving forward despite mental blocks or my occasional lack of enthusiasm. You might agree that the real subject is not the mallards or the level of the water. I'm just an angler or lepidopterist trying to catch hold of something unexpected in my very own consciousness or the actual world. And then, catch and release!

A heron prowling at the dam
conté pencil

Mallards and a heron in the shallows just below the dam

Seen through the railing, a mallard looks feeds on top of the inclined wall of the fish ladder
colored pencil

Low water on a chilly morning

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Heron

The water is low in the river so that means that the Great Blue Heron is active and always somewhere nearby. Flocks of ducks dabble in the riffles and preen on top of the dam. It's like old times!
Soon, it'll be hurricane season and who knows what will happen!
A Great Blue Heron seen through an arch
charcoal, rainwater
Great Blue Heron silhouette below the dam

Great Blue Heron hunting at the base of the dam
colored pencil

Friday, September 13, 2013



Three mallards

low water + rocks = ducks

ducks in the rain 1

ducks in the rain 2

Saturday, September 7, 2013


floating leaf in the river
colored pencil
This is not a very interesting drawing but let me tell you about it: I was at the river yesterday morning, standing at the railing watching a leaf floating toward the edge before falling over the dam. Upstream, the calm flowing water was ringed by ripples of small fish rising as they hunted for food on the surface. Below, kissed by the morning sun, lush tendrils of seaweed undulated in the current. The fish were very busy and making many ripples but I could never spot an actual fish.

My gaze shifted back to the leaf but was recaptured by the active fish. For a second, I thought I saw a large dark fish silhouetted just below the surface. After a few seconds, realizing that the phantom shape was only the after-image of the leaf and not a fish, I decided to draw this subtle experience.

It made me wonder about the realities we make by wishing for something dear. The figment alters our perceptions. Of course. the altering of reality is a time-honored method of leap-frogging the quotidian and acquiring insight. However, the rushing back of reality doesn't deny the wish, it gently corrects and illuminates the wisher. Maybe this is a small gift. I was wishing for fish, like Dr. Seuss!

When I'm at the dam then, listening to the white noise and watching for wildlife, a quiet wish animates my stillness. And if I tell you what I'm wishing for, superstition tells me that it won't ever come true. Oh! The burden of wishes! I wish that my wish would come true soon!

Thanks for listening to my harmless musing. I wish you a bonne journée!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mallards and Herons and Sandpipers, Oh My!

Mallard on top of the dam
Aug. 22, 2013
conté pencil

Mallards and a heron below the dam
Aug. 25, 2013
colored pencil
The mallard ducks have returned. With the low water now, they are able to rest and dabble on the top of the dam. And below the dam. And all along the river. They are frequently joined by a Great Blue Heron and a charming but shy sandpiper. It's nice to have all the birds back!

Aug. 22, 2013
colored pencil

Great Blue Heron
Aug. 28, 2013
conté pencil

Friday, August 23, 2013


The river level has finally, consistently been receding and things are getting interesting again down where the Charles River goes over the South Natick dam. Ripples and riffles appear below in the shallows. Mallards dabble at the top of the dam and small armadas comb the current before it goes under the bridge. The great blue heron stalks everywhere in the process he scatters nonplussed ducks out of his way with his menacing beak.

The mallow, a hibiscus-like flower blooms above the dam and a small plover or sandpiper flits from boulder to boulder its tail constantly bobbing as it searches for small things to eat.

Fair weather is predicted for the coming week. I'll keep drawing!

Aug. 22, 2013
July 27, 2013
Aug. 5, 2013
the fishladder can be seen int he bcuase
Aug. 6, 2013

Aug. 11, 2013

Aug. 13, 2013

Aug. 19, 2013
Aug. 19, 2013 (detail)
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