In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.
One little plug for Phoenicia Publishing before the holidays are totally upon us -- and a thank you to all my blog readers who've been so supportive and have bought books or music over the past year. I appreciate you more than I can possibly say!
Here's a link to the Phoenicia Fall_Winter 2014 newsletter which includes a gift suggestion list and a special holiday offer, valid for direct orders between now and the end of the year. I can't believe it, but we've got over 20 titles now, and some exciting ones to come in 2015. Independent publishing is not a money-making endeavor, but it's a definite labor of love and a perfect fit for my particular skills at this point in life. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished so far, and so pleased to note that most of the authors and artists I've worked with at Phoenicia are people I've met over the years through this blog and through qarrtsiluni. So grateful for that!
The lace in this doorway is typical of old entrances in the Plateau; there are different kinds of lace curtains but all are made to the dimensions of the long glass windows in entrance doors. I especially like the scalloped and tasseled detail here, at the bottom. This one is made using a technique called filet crochet, and reminds me of the intricate scenes my neighbor Esther used to crochet back in Vermont. She was from an old Quebecois family, and had probably learned the art as a child - but back then, I never made the connection. Filet crochet can range from fairly coarse detail to extremely fine, depending on the size of thread used - and of course, the finer the thread and detail, the longer it takes. As in needlepoint or crosstitch, patterns are charted out on graph paper, with the squares corresponding to the crochet stitches.
Most windows, however, don't act as such perfect mirrors of the scene outside as the one on the right did, this particular morning.
It took me a minute, the first time I saw this laundry ("buanderie") to work out that Blanche Neige is a pun: "Snow White." Such is the beauty and delight of living in a bilingual city. I pass this corner every day, and use the laundry when I need to wash something large from our studio -- but the name never seemed more appropriate than it did yesterday.
Persimmons on a dish. Osmiroid pen on an envelope, about 4" x 4".
Warning: Art tech talk coming up!
Yesterday, inspired by some recent posts by sketchers Shari Blaukopf and Liz Steele, I spent some time going through my fountain pens. I'm a fountain pen lover from way back, but I generally don't buy expensive pens, or collect them. It's a preferred sketching method for me, though, and I'm always open to trying new ones. My favorite pen is a Sheaffer, from their "Mediterranean Seas" series. I bought it from Levenger at least fifteen years ago, maybe twenty, and that series has since been discontinued. The pen has a beautiful gold-plated fine nib, it's flexible and responsive, and makes a lovely line. The only drawback is that you really can't use permanent ink in this pen, so combining a drawing with watercolor washes is not a good option unless the dissolving line is a desired effect. Yesterday I looked up this pen on eBay and was stunned to discover that pens of that series are now selling to collectors for $200 and more: at least four times what I paid for it. And to think I've been throwing it in my bag and not even thinking about it!
I bought a Lamy Vista a while back, for about $25, specifically because a lot of the Urban Sketchers were raving about the Lamy and its ability to accept Noodler's permanent inks, which come in a whole range of colors. It does work well with permanent inks, but the nib is just too stiff for me, and also too wide in the model I bought. Yesterday I ordered a replacement in extra-fine, and hope that will help, but I know now that I've been spoiled by using a very good pen. So I rummaged around in my boxes, curious to see what else was there. Among a number of defunct pens was an old Osmiroid from my calligraphy days. Osmiroid closed in the late 1990s, but I do have some good nibs still, and this pen seemed like it might be salvageable. I washed it out carefully and examined the bladder of the squeeze converter -- there was packed, dried ink in the base that I couldn't get out, but enough space to accept a small filling of ink. I did the drawing above with that pen, on the back of an envelope, and I liked the result: the thick and thin line is a nice option, and the pen felt familiar and happy in my hand. It will work as a dip pen, but I think it will hold enough ink for drawing purposes, if the bladder doesn't disintegrate. And I might be able to find a replacement converter - fountain pen people are pretty obsessive and apparently there's a lot of trading and selling that goes on online.
A few pens from my stash: top to bottom: Osmiroid, Lamy, Pilot, Faber-Castell.
Meanwhile, there are always technical pens in my bag, and that's what I use for quick sketches. The problem with these is the short life of the points: they wear down fast and render the pen unusable even when there is plenty of ink left. I don't use Sakura Micron pens anymore because of this; I've had better luck with the Pitt Artist Pens from Faber Castell, which come in different colors and point styles, but my preferred technical pen is the Pilot DR. It still wears down, but not as fast, and the ink is totally permanent.
Once again, the internet thrums with indignation, a great deal of it spewing from the keyboards of white people who will never, ever, be in the same position as a poor black man, or a poor black woman, or child... or any black person for that matter.
Whether or not you think you are racist; whether or not, as you examine your conscience, you come up with anything you've personally done to hurt a black person, or advance the injustice that is endemic in American society and has been that way forever; whether or not you can wipe your own mental slate clean -- I simply want to say that we are all involved in systemic racism: if not by what we have done directly, then by what we have not done -- through our inattention, our turning away, and our refusal to use what we have been given, solely by virtue of our skin color, to create a society in which there is justice for all.
I grew up in a small town in the North where people were proud of not being racist. I went to a prestigious liberal university, and then lived in New England in a prestigious university town. Nobody would have ever said they were racist. But they were. They were racist about blacks, about Jewish people, about Muslims, about working class ethnic groups and the poor, about everyone who wasn't just exactly like them: privileged, educated, white. Racism lurked there, just beneath the surface, just as it does everywhere in America. It lives on in jokes, in social norms, in housing prices and club rules, in who we marry and who we associate with, who we vote for, who we let into our clubs and schools and workplaces, who gets beaten and arrested, who goes to prison, who is on death row.
This is indeed a time to examine our own consciences. A time to show up at a protest or prayer vigil. A time to say with sincerity, I am sorry, and I am deeply ashamed.
But it is also a time when less said might very well be more. Perhaps we white people could actually shut up for once and listen hard to the lived experience of the black people in our communities, and then use our considerable power to demand changes that address the inequalities, the injustice, the profiling, and the violence that are the reality every single day in the lives of so many of our fellow human beings.
Persimmons in a Wedgewood dish, pencil on paper. 9" x 6".
Two persimmons on a bamboo mat. fountain pen on paper. 5" x 5".
Persimmon and Batik Pouch, 9" x 6" (cropped), pencil on paper.
I've never drawn persimmons before, so I'm studying them because I want to put them in a painting. They aren't a fruit either of us especially likes to eat, so we rarely buy them, but I was captivated by the beautiful bins of fresh persimmons at the Arab market the last time we shopped there, and came home with a few.
In Florida, my aunt picked one off a tree and gave it to me, and I did eat (that sounds and feels a little Garden-of-Edenish.) It was better than the ones I've had from stores, though there's a mustiness to the taste that I don't like. But the color! So magnificent! I also find the dried bud-leaves around the stem quite interesting and characteristic: they're papery and dogwood-blossom-shaped, with a flat square center.
Anyway, we'll see what happens. Which of these drawings do you prefer?