Sunday, December 30, 2007

The myriad functions of art

NPR’s program All Things Considered had a very interesting interview with artist Mary Frank yesterday. The best part came at the end when Frank listed her ideas about the functions of art. I’ve broken down what she said into bullet points. You can read more at NPR.

(Mary Frank)… “says she's constantly revising her notion of what art is and how it speaks to people. For Frank, art has myriad functions:

• to comfort the dead
• awaken the living
• to know the migration seasons of birds and fish
• to know the human immigrations of the past
• and right now to be able to use experiences and transform them
• to make the eyes of children widen
• to give courage
• and never be afraid of tenderness or the absurd
• and to gather joy”

-Mary Frank, Artist

I particularly like, "to gather joy."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Holiday Flowers

A perfect day. No packages to wrap. Nothing to bake. No lists of errands to run. Leftovers for dinner. This day was mine to do with as I please, for the first time in many weeks. I went to the library and came home with a stack of new books to read. I browsed my favorite websites and rented a movie. I thought about the benefits of going to the gym as I nibbled biscotti with my cup of coffee. Then I drew this holiday bouquet which I’ve been enjoying from a distance for the past week. (My scanner, which may need to be replaced soon, kept cutting off the top, no matter how I positioned the page...)

I love the white lilies in the arrangement. They looked beautiful against the dark evergreens and red pepper berries. The lilies are lovely, but their scent (warm urine) makes me feel nauseous. They were placed on a table in the entryway, away from the living room. As soon as I was done drawing them, I threw the lilies outside for the deer.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A favorite ornament...

This is a rushed sketch of a stylized "star" with beribboned shells which hangs at the top of our Christmas tree. The decoration is made of white bisque, designed by Margaret Furlong of Salem, Oregon. She makes a variety of shell ornaments which are quite lovely and can be viewed at her website.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mom's German Walnut Coffee Cake

When I was young my three brothers and I eagerly awaited the German walnut coffee cake my mother made every year for Christmas breakfast. Now, preparing this cake for Christmas morning has become a part of my family's holiday traditions.

I don’t exactly understand the chemistry of it, though. The coffee cake is a yeast bread, but as soon as it’s mixed, it’s put in the refrigerator where it sits overnight. (It rises only slightly in the refrigerator). In the morning the heavy dough is rolled into a rectangle, filling is added and the bread is baked. Yet it always rises beautifully, like the kind of bread that needs to rise in a warm room, receive a punch and rise again.

This coffee cake is very easy to make and the recipe is quite dependable. I’ve never had it fail. It feezes well and keeps for several days. The recipe, with step-by-step photos can be found at Kitchen Canvas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Cookies #2

My holiday cookie baking is done! Now there are five different kinds of cookies in the freezer, awaiting a quick defrosting and guests to devour them.

The presents are wrapped
The cookies are baked
This weekend
we decorate

(Sorry. Couldn't help myself.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Cookies #1

Here's a drawing of my first two batches of Christmas cookies. I prefer plain, basically unadorned cookies and usually start my holiday baking with my mother's recipe for chocolate walnut refrigerator cookies. Then it's on to biscotti, courtesy of a friend's Italian grandmother. More tomorrow...

(I had intended the cookie grids to appear on one page, but it was too large for my scanner. Oops, I misspelled refrigerator...)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Review - The Writer's Brush: Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures by Writers

Although I haven't had a lot of time to spend with this new and very large book (457 oversized pages), I'm sure I will once this busy month ends. The book includes reproductions of paintings, drawings, and sculpture by more than 200 of the world's most famous writers. Many of the European writers are unfamiliar to me, but there is a wonderful selection of art by writers I love: poet Charles Simic, Mark Twain, William Saroyan, Wallace Sevens, T.H. White, Jonathan Lethem, Henry Milller, Hermann Hesse, Patricia Highsmith... to name just a few. It's fascinating to see the variety of doodles, sketches and paintings they've created. (When I found art by a favorite writer, I really wanted to see more than just one or two examples. Space constraints, though.) A brief biography is included for each writer, in addition to quotations from journals or letters about what motivated them to express their creativity through art. The colorful painting on the book jacket is by Sylvia Plath.

"Look, says the image, at how few words I need. Listen, says the poem, to what you can read between the lines." - Gunter Grass

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cart de Frisco Sandwich

When I was in college, Cart de Frisco was one of several outdoor food carts parked outside the University of Oregon bookstore. They sold grilled chicken sandwiches, which were sloppy, spicy and very delicious. I think the chicken was marinated and grilled on a stick like a shish kebab. The meat was removed from the stick and smashed onto a grilled bun and topped with coleslaw with an Asian-style dressing on it. It was messy and wonderfully flavorful.

In the food section of last week’s Oregonian they had a recipe which sounded a lot like the Cart de Frisco sandwich, although it called for grilled pork loin rather than chicken. I tried it last weekend and it was very similar. While the recipe might need a bit of tweaking, I’d definitely make it again. And you can, too, if you want. You'll find the recipe at my new blog Kitchen Canvas.

Messy objects are fun to paint!

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's stormy here...

Another cup of coffee and a quick little sketch to delay heading off into the wind and rain to run errands.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

EDM Challenge #147: Something made of wood

This is a small cherry writing desk my husband built for my birthday a few years ago. I really love everything about it. Today I took off all the stuff piled on it, drew it and then realized I had removed much of what made it interesting. Maybe I’ll draw it again in the future, complete with the unopened mail and other mess which is typically on it.

I chose the desk to draw because I need practice with perspective, which is a challenge for me. The drawing took me hours to complete and the proportions are still not accurate. Oh well, tomorrow I'll paint something fun...

Graphite on Bristol

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Comfort Food

Ronell's recent post at My French Kitchen about eating comfort food with friends started me thinking about which foods I find most comforting. Aside from the obvious list of sweets, beginning with all things chocolate, I realized that almost everything on my comfort food list includes noodles – macaroni and cheese, chicken soup, spaghetti, lasagna, etc. It's hard to beat the comfort of carbs! And now I think I will have to add this dish of spicy shrimp, asparagus and udon noodles. I made it after a day of shopping and running errands in the freezing fog, which has enveloped southern Oregon for days. You'll find the recipe at Kitchen Canvas, if you're interested:

I really love the way the Japanese Udon noodles are packaged, divided into three neat little bundles, each tidily wrapped with ribbon. In looking at the package I discovered they are actually a product of Australia, so a lot of carbon fuel was burned getting them to me in the United States.

When only food will comfort, what appeals to you?