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Preview: Meanderings and Sketches

Meanderings and Sketches

Thoughts of a Landscape Designer, Vineyardist, Mother, Wife, and Artist.

Updated: 2018-03-06T02:28:50.776-08:00


The days go by....too fast!


 Sunrise with Mt. Hood Another year has almost slipped away and I have been negligent about posting to this blog! But better to have a few entries than none at all....2013 was the year that I really increased my sketching time and became more productive. We also traveled again to the Caribbean for 10 days in mid Winter, and then to hot Spain in July where I attended a sketching Symposium. Lots of inspiration was found on both trips! Cycling, teaching and working on the vineyard and property occupied the rest of the year. Our family was also productive, and increased by one in mid August with the arrival of grandchild number three! Couldn't be happier!Art in some form, specifically sketching, watercolor, and silk screen printing, have always been part of my life. My parents, who were both art teachers, were always an inspiration for me. Recently I uncovered some of the travel journals that they created and was re-inspired! My father died young at age 62 but left behind his footprint....beautifully rendered pen and inks taken during his one and only trip to Europe soon after he retired and only a few years before he had a heart attack.   My mother took her first trip without my dad to attend a painting workshop in Mallorca back in 1978. My favorite sketch of hers......           And one of mine sketched on the beach in Antigua.                           Two of my sketches from Spain...the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and a view of the Cathedral steeple in Palma, Mallorca. A wonderful part of our time in Mallorca was to retrace the steps that my mother took when she was there. Not much had changed...especially in the sleepy little towns along the Western coast where she did most of her sketching. Back home I did some sketching with Portland's Urban Sketchers group and experimented with new toned paper and white gel pens. Recently I've completed a series of watercolor/pen and ink sketches that will be auctioned off at the Zenger Farm's fundraiser dinner in October. This is a great sustainable farm located within Portland's urban boundaries that has a wonderful collection of old barns and outbuildings. My son Eric is on their Board of Directors. With October only a few weeks away our work now is focused on the annual grape harvest! This photo was taken over 25 years ago as I proudly showed off one of our first totes of Pinot Gris! Our five acre vineyard has produced from only a few tons to over 18 tons over the years. We are hoping for an average harvest this year after a few poor harvests. Climate change has been a factor! Here's to a great Fall! Cheers....from Cloudrest![...]



The Oregon Coast The second half of 2012 really got away from me this time! When I last posted in mid Summer I was still strapped into a back brace after spinal surgery in late June! By August I was traveling East to spend a glorious week on the coast of Maine... on Monhegan Island and at a niece's wedding near Bar Harbor. Both locations renewed my childhood memories of rough Atlantic beaches, salt water, and the taste of lobsters and clams! Wonderful flower gardens on Monhegan Island An island of fishermen and artistsThe historic Island Inn and neighboring house View from the lawn infront of the The Island Inn Then it was on the the wedding.....   Back in Oregon we headed for the beach to introduce a visiting cousin to our side of the country!  Cousin Susan at Hug PointAt Haystack RockFlying kites with Brayden September brought another Cycle Oregon for Fred... There's nothing like a ride around Crater Lake!  In early October it was back to the East coast for my 50th reunion in Northport, NY. I also spent some time in New Haven with my High School friend Bonnie where we enjoyed a day touring the Yale campus! Back home to a modest grape harvest and copious amounts of pears and apples! Thanksgiving found me very thankful for a healed spine and wonderful friends and family! Grandchildren Brayden and Saskia I hope that the New Year brings a new vision for our country...common sense solutions to the upward spiral of violence and anger that seems to have permeated our society....and the world in general. We MUST come together on some of these issues like gun control and a dead-locked Congress. Has technology taken away our compassion and the basic social skills that make us human? Have we lost the ability to focus or to see the other side of the issue? Our children are growing up without the innocence that once came with playing hide and seek and hopscotch. Do we take them camping and bike riding so that they will grow up appreciating the natural world....or just let them play aggressive video games? Do we really want to take pleasure only from our memories of what used to be? We can do better.....    [...]

A Slow and Patient Summer....


It's been awhile since my last post....partly because I had spinal surgery near the end of June and have been in a slow recovery mode ever since! I've had lots of time to gaze out upon the garden, and only recently have been able to walk around it. The Summer has crawled to slow motion in my mind as I watched the roses come and go and then bloom again (thanks to the deadheading done by others!) Now the Lilies are ebbing and the late Summer flowers are starting to emerge. It is a frustratng thing when you are not able to bend or twist for 3 months! When something drops on the floor or you see a lovely weed that needs to be pulled, you can only call for help! A very frustrating thing indeed...especially when I honestly like to weed and pick up things!! If it's located in the area from my knees to the top of my head I can handle it .... beyond that I am forced to use "the Grabber"! Have you ever tried to move a pile of decaying grass clippings with one of those things!!! With two more screws added to my spinal column ( I already have 18 in my neck from an operation 5 years ago) I am beginning to feel like one of those robotic toys! I know that it just takes a bit of patience and I will soon be able to garden, hike and ride my bike again. My nemesis now is the back brace that needs to be worn whenever I am up and about. I think I know what the Victorian ladies felt like, but this happens to be worn on top of whatever outfit you may be wearing! ( mostly T-shirt and yoga pants)Thanks to Andreea Ghetie, one of my students who has graciously volunteered in the garden! She also gets a little help from Lucca....who would rather she be playing ball! But the Summer hasn't all been lost.....we've had quiet times with family and friends around the fountain....and Lucca has learned to walk slowly next to me and not to walk between my legs! He has also enjoyed all the balls that I have thrown to him while I sit on the deck reading or daydreaming of what I could be doing!A very exciting project also commenced in late June when our large Solar array was built. This was fun for me to see from a distance and finally close up as I was able to negotiate slopes! It is located in a sunny field just below one of our vineyard blocks, and started producing electricity just a week ago! What we don't use goes into the grid. Oregon Summers are normally quite dry and sunny and even our grey Winter days capture enough energy to make solar an efficient system here. I am now looking forward to seeing the tomatoes ripen, and the beans and squash grow! ( and perhaps designing a solar shade garden under the array?!!)In another month I should be ready for more activity but I am not entirely upset by this time of 'rest' definitely gives you a different perspective and makes you realize how much we take for granted in this world. [...]

Let Summer Begin......


It's the first of June and the Iris and the Peony are brightening up the garden! The various shades of green are accented by these new blooms that punctuate the garden of my favorite times to be outside.  It's Rose Festival time in Portland and my roses are just starting to bloom, while the streets in Portland are already filled with cascades of roses. For now....up here at Cloudrest, the Peony rules!The Iris are accented by Geranium macrorrhizum, and the blue gray leaves of Rosa glauca.Large clusters of chartreuse blooms cover the Euphorbia wulfenii.Masses of white blooms cover Choisya ternata, tucked between the variegated leaves of Cornus`Hedgerow Gold' and Spiraea 'Limemound'.Purple Salvia and Euphorbia polychroma share garden space with Alchimilla mollis , ferns, daylily....and my favorite copper 'Tulip'.Down in the Potager garden my favorite Deutzia is in full glory....with flower clusters so perfect that they just don't look real!Also in the same garden the Royal Sunset rose has produced it's first bloom! This will fade to a soft pink.Another rose that has just about taken over the vegetable area ( it's tree-like at 10ft. by 10 ft ) is covered by masses of individual single red roses). Unfortunately, I've misplaced it's name and must do some research!And to accent our new pot from Tubac, Arizona... Abelia x 'Kaleidoscope' shines at the end of the deckIt's a cheerful time of the year![...]

Spring Awakens Slowly


Spring has been slow to materialize here in Portland this year....But at least on a few days, when I took my Illustration class out to sketch, we were able to enjoy some of the forest gems that were emerging from a soggy forest floor. There's nothing prettier or more uplifting than the bright greens of new foliage sprinkled on the forest floor or scattered in the canopy above!The exercise was to walk slowly down the path ( located behind the main buildings to the north of the main campus of Portland Community College at Rock Creek) ....stopping every 10 steps to do a quick sketch ( of only 30 seconds or so!) and then moving on to do another sketch....and another! With 20 students I had a hard time getting them to spread out a bit, or to not spend too long on each sketch. The idea was to look at the overall shapes and patterns of dark and light, and to quickly sketch your impression...then move on... We found many clusters of Trillium, lovely fern and Vanilla Leaf, moss-covered logs, and lichen covered tree trunks.A walk in the forest in Spring is magical!Back in my own garden, the new leaves are emerging and new pots are brightening up the decks....Even Lucca seems to be waiting for warmer temps and the Summer to come![...]

The March Landscape


We took a short trip across the Santiam mountain pass to central Oregon earlier this week so that we could play in the snow, enjoy some sunshine, and also the high desert around Bend and the community of Sunriver. Again....another change of scenery! I especially love the early Spring colors that show up in the grasses and shrubs, and the shapes of the snow patches that dot the meadows.We had a quick trip over the Cascade mountains which divide Oregon's lush Willamette Valley from the high desert of Eastern Oregon. Charred trees from a previous forest fire gave a ghostly look to one section of the pass....Once settled in, activities over the next two days included: skiing under whiteout, blizzard conditions ( husband Fred), walking with my camera and sketchpad on the many trails around Sunriver (me), and cross-country skiing (our friends) Dining and wine-tasting were also on the agenda!You can almost feel the icy wind whipping across this flooded meadow! Temperatures on this day were in the 20's and snow was on the way.I love the texture of the wind and rainwhipped grass that will soon again be weighted down with snow.After digging our car out the next day....!Where's the road?Going back over the pass on our way home took a bit longer than our earlier trip. We heard later that the pass had closed due to a landslide!Back home again....we arrived just in time to welcome a few snowflakes that seemed to follow us over the pass!  By morning of the next day ( March 22nd)we were looking at a very pretty 'Winter scene'....but not what I wanted to see!  Daffodils had started to open and my garden was beckoning for me to come rejuvinate it for Springtime visitors. Now it all lay under a blanket of very wet, heavy snow! Lucca loved it though!!Every twig and branch and even every wire in the vineyard was covered!I guess we'll have to wait a few more days for 'Spring' to arrive in this fickle month of March![...]

A change of scenery


We just got back from a week's stay in Tucson....soaking up the sun along with enjoying the company of college friends. It was a wonderful change of scenery from Portland, especially since we left with snow on the ground and some nasty cold weather. One of our adventures down there was a three hour hike in Sabino Canyon along the Esperero trail. With temperatures in the low 80's, it was the perfect time of year to go....although even then, I was feeling the heat! (and the extremely dry air) I managed to do a sketch while sitting on a very hard rock in a very small patch of shade. I added the watercolors later.I love the beautiful natural arrangements of rocks, grasses, and old twisted trees that often line the dry washes where the trail seemed to cross again and again.Do you think the Mt. Lions know where the boundry to the 'wilderness area' is?The typical plants found in residential landscapes are also very different than what you would find up in Oregon, and I was glad to see that turf grasses werenot used except on the golf courses! This grouping was in the garden of our hosts.Along with this lovely sculptural agave....Walls are also a prime feature in many gardens and serve the practical purpose of keeping the snakes out! Often the side of an adjoining home is left windowless, creating a higher wall, a bit of shade,  and more privacy for the garden next door.Beautiful Mesquite trees are often featured.Fountains can often take the form of the native plantings, as with this ceramic cacti discovered in the art packed town of Tubac, near the Mexican border.With strong sun, light surfaces, and adobe or stucco walls, shadows play a big part in the compostion of the landscape. This was taken from inside the mission church of San Xavier, looking out to a simple courtyard through a side door.On our last evening in Tucson we were greeted with a full moon.....[...]

The Oregon Coast, a dog....and forty seven years.....


A few days at the coast can be a wonderful thing, especially when it's shared with my husband of forty seven years and our dog of one and one half years! It was Lucca's first time stepping onto sand and seeing, hearing and smelling the ocean. Even though we live a little more than an hour's drive away, we had never taken him to the Oregon Coast. Having a wedding anniversary just shy of 50 years called for more of a celebration than just dinner we opted to book a room on the beach and enjoy watching Lucca see it for the first time!An extremely low tide and a gorgeous day in the 60's was an added bonus for early February! Our room at Cannon Beach faced the ocean and was also very pet friendly, providing Lucca with his own bed, treats, towel and feeding bowls. The town of Cannon Beach also appears to have more dogs than people...with all varieties and sizes represented. Since Lucca is over 110 lbs  and overly friendly we played it safe and put him on a leash while walking through town or on the beach. He loved every minute .....and met quite a few new friends along the way. Haystack Rock, the town's signature rock, looms above the endless stretch of sandy beach, and is always a draw for visitors....Lucca, included.Later in the day , when there were less people on the beach....and fewer dogs to distract, we let Lucca run free. He loved chasing his favorite ball, but didn't like the mouthful of sand that he got when he tried to pick it up!He also didn't like it when a wave surprised him by taking his ball away and then chased him back onto the beach!After such a big day, a short nap on the balcony is in order...also the perfect place to watch the sunset....The next morning ....a Monday, was quiet ....and the beach was empty of walkers, runners, kite flyers, castle builders, ankle waders, and horseback riders. ( you don't swim here, even in the Summer, due to very cold water and undertows!) It was the perfect time for a sketch, a walk into town for breakfast and another outing with Lucca!  And the perfect end to a great anniversary celebration. Forty seven years ago... we were married forty miles from NYC in the town where I grew up. Two sons, two grandchildren, five dogs, and numerous cats later, we find ourselves living in Oregon....growing grapes, riding bikes....and most of all, still loving each other, and life! [...]

Seeing...... a walk in the snow


This week it was snow instead of fog.....and another walk that made me see things differently! What a difference a mere three inches of snow can make.When the snow first began the grasses and ferns under the trees were painted with white.Steps leading down to our lower woodland.The calligraphy of the branching patterns comes into focus.The large row of black walnuts outlined at the end of a vineyard row.What's left of our grape crop ( mostly stems after the birds came through) is now covered in snow!My grandson, Brayden, leads the wayBack on the deck after a few more inches have fallen....Our Christmas pots of holly, and herbsADDENDUM: it's still snowing....Woke up to six or more inches of additional snow...every branch is covered, and the air is thick with snowflakes.Time for another hike![...]

Seeing...while walking in the fog


I took a walk this foggy morning in early January... down our country road... past our vineyard and the lichen covered fruit trees ... past the neighbor's Alpacas ... past the barking dogs who didn't hear me on the way down ( but did on the way up!) ... past the familiar sloped forest with it's ghostly fir trees and fern-covered floor ... past the yellow signs that stood out in a colorless landscape of soft greens and grays ... and past the farmfield with it's ancient equipment hiding in the weeds.    It was a challenge to capture this moment in the fog!It was a very peaceful journey, and the fog seemed to give more clarity to the small details that appeared to emerge from the once complex landscape. It was like walking into a watercolor sketch....watching the layers of color-tinted wash create depth....then adding, with a fine brush, the details in the foreground! [...]

Reflections...and a New Year


2012 is here! Such anticipation comes with it, along with all of the hope that a New Year brings ...especially after ending a year, that for many, brought heartache and pain. The world endured more natural disasters and conflicts than ever before, but also witnessed human resilience and creative solutions to match. It is an amazing time to be alive! I remember wondering as a small child whether I'd be around when the year 2000 came! It is also amazing to see that I have passed that milestone by more than a decade, am probably considered 'old' by many, but don't realize it!Today I celebrated by visiting Portland's Lan Su Chinese Garden with my daughter-in-law. It was a cool, cloudy day with fog lingering on the valley floor and along the river banks. The garden, located on a city block near the Willamette River, was serene ...but filled with visitors enjoying the meditative experience. Details of texture and pattern were everywhere!Scattered Winter blooms, colorful fruit, and contorted dried leaves appeared on the many curving and twisted bare branches... creating totally new compositions and colorschemes compared to my last visit in early Fall.In contrast to the seasonal changes, one of my favorite elements in the garden are the beautiful bonsai pots planted with groves of 'miniature' trees that appear to be suspended in time. I finally succumbed and bought one at their garden sale a few years ago ....Just looking at one rests my mind!We ended our visit with some Jasmine tea and almond cookies in the tea house...and said good-bye to the shadowy koi on the way out.And as a perfect ending to my morning....I finally took a picture of the White Oak trees that sit in a farmer's field near the bottom of our hill. I pass them almost every day and am always distracted by their beauty. Along with the Douglas Fir, they covered our valley hundreds of years only scattered groves exist. One day soon I will need to sketch them!Addendum....a few days later.....May you have both a serene and exciting New Year![...]

Eating Frenzy on Black Friday


This year, for the first time since we planted our grapes in 1984, we were not able to harvest due to low sugars and a general lack of ripening. We had a very late cool, wet Spring along with a cool Summer. Most vineyards with an elevation over 600-700 feet were in trouble. Every vineyard was a month or more behind schedule on ripening, and since we normally harvest in late October, our window of opportunity was considerably diminished! We normally put up bird netting since the migratory birds come in mid October and birds love grapes! Many vineyards who don't normally do this because of earlier harvest dates, were forced to net or use canons. By early October we knew we'd be too low in sugars to harvest , so we didn't net. Our sugars only got to a high of 18 BRIX ...not good enough.As the leaves in the vineyard turned yellow and then slowly fell off with our first frost, it became more obvious that something this year was different! No nets to remove.....only rows and rows of beautiful, plump grapes! They would normally have turned a deep reddish purple ( veraison ) in September, but even that color change wasn't happening very uniformly. Many clusters were still green or only tinged with purple. The fruit was clean, but not ripening fast enough.The day after Thanksgiving it happened.....thousands of birds ...clouds of birds ....descended into the vineyard! The noise was deafening. many roosted in the high firs and black walnut trees that ring our 12 acre property. As I write this a day later, they are still may take a few days to eat, what we estimate, are 12-14 tons of grapes!The air was filled with birds......And then the vines were filled with birds....And finally, the lawn!....Can you find the birds ( six or more) in this photo? A close-up taken by my husband....looking into the swarm as it passed above the vineyard block!It is fascinating to watch them swoop and move around in large clouds across the vineyard rows .... they appear to be mostly Starlings, with some orange breasted Robins scattered in the mix. A few hawks have come to observe, causing the large masses of birds to divide and disperse, and then reform again on the other side of the vineyard.Not just another day in the vineyard!We just hope that next year we can bring our crop in at the normal 22+ sugar, and that the birds have a short memory!In the mean time, you can taste Oregon Pinot Gris at[...]

The magical town of Sintra, Portugal Part 4


Despite a busy cool Fall with the grapes still lingering on our yellow-leaved vines, my mind still wanders back to a fairy tale day in Portugal in July of this year. On a sunny, warm day we took the train from Lisbon to visit the World Heritage town of Sintra, located in the rugged hills not far North of the city. Walking a short distance from the station we glimpsed the twin towers of the Sintra Palace, otherwise know as ' Madonna's Bra' by the locals!Walking further up towards the town, along a ravine that appeared to be a town park, we spotted several large 'animals' through the jungle-like foliage.That's when I wished our grand children were with us! Along with the various critters were wonderful lush plantings of hydrangea and agapanthus, along with numerous plants native to Portugal that I wasn't familiar with.After strolling around the small town of Sintra and getting our bearings, we headed up a steep side street and followed the signs pointing to the Moorish Castle and the wildly bizarre Pena Palace, both located on a steep hillside surrounded by a deep dark woods. From the town, we could see parts of the castle walls emerging from swirls of fog. It felt like we were walking into a fairy tale!Leaving the streets behind us we found ourselves going through a turn gate at the end of a very steep dead end street .... and were suddenly on a woodland path that meandered for a few miles through large boulders and huge twisted trees! ( a great place to be for Halloween! ) We met few people on the path.... probably due to the fact that most people took tour buses to get to the various sites. Arriving through the woods was waaay better!A view of the Moorish Castle walls suddenly appeared before us, as the path skirted around this massive ruin dating back to the 8th century. It fell to the first Portuguese king, Afonso Henriques, in 1147. Stopped here to watch an archeological dig taking place.Trekking on and upward we finally reached our destination....the Pina Palace, a specimen of Romantic architecture dating back to 1840. It was built 500 meters above sea level by King Ferdinand II on the earlier 16th century ruins of an ancient convent. The meandering structure is a bewildering mix of many styles and ornamentation, with sections that go back to the original 16th century monastery. In later years his son created a huge park around the palace, and modern royals have occupied the Palace through the early 1900's.The wonderful muted colors and fanciful Moorish-influenced decorations were amazing! I loved walking the ramparts and seeing the amazing views.  I would also have loved to sketch this place, but it would have required staying there for days my camera captured the moment instead. Many of the interior rooms were furnished so you were able to get a feeling of what life was like for a king at the time.A much easier hike going down, and then a train ride home completed a very interesting day. I snapped numerous photos of endless graffiti that lined the walls along the train tracks! Then....back to Lisbon, land of cobbles, and another journey unfolds. Our last week was spent in the Algarve, along the Southern coast ... to be told in my next installment.  [...]

The Medieval town of Obidos, Portugal Part 3


This isn't Oregon! From Lisbon, we took a bus to the Medieval town of Obidos, located a few hours North of Lisbon. An exquisite castle sits on the North end of the town, connected to the watch tower at the South end by long walls that encircle the small town of whitewashed buildings. The simple buildings are decorated with blue and yellow paint and the ever present Portuguese tiles. Moorish and medieval influences are present everywhere. The castle has been rebuilt and enlarged many times. In fact, parts of the town were destroyed by the famous earthquake of 1755. Reconstruction began soon after to preserve this important landmark... a town that goes back in the records to 308 bc !Brave souls (my husband Fred and our friend, Jim Dauber) walked along the top of the wall encircling the town. No guard rails here!The plants are gorgeous...and can handle the dry, hot climate. At one time it is thought that this inland town sat at the base of a sea inlet.You enter Obidos through an archway that extends through a small decorated chapel. Beautiful blue and white tiles cover the walls and multicolored tiles depict flowers and plants on the ceiling. This elaborate introduction is in stark contrast to the simple whitewashed buildings that confront you on the other side.Brilliant white in the bright sun, the buildings are often outlined with blue or yellow paint, and softened by numerous plantings of vines, window boxes and draping bushes of bright flowering bougainvillea and lantana.It is a town that is fun to explore from every angle...With hidden gems around each corner.The church of Saint Maria was built in the 8th century and was at one time , a mosque. Tiles from the 17th century cover the interior walls. Such history!I hope to do some sketches from the photos that I took![...]

Walking to the Faculdade de Belas Artes, Lisbon Part 2


We had rented the top floor of the tall, yellow house just below the castle walls ( Castelo de Sao Jorge) It had exactly 74 spiral steps leading up to the remodeled apartment. Small balconies , a back patio and skylites gave us unparalleled views of the surrounding city of Lisbon.The day after our arrival I walked down the cobbled streets and across the flat part of Lisboa called the 'Baixa', then up the hill into the 'Chiado' district ....around the corner to the Faculade de Belas Artes, where the sketching symposium was based. It took about 15-20 minutes, depending on how many times I stopped to take photos! What a lovely way to start the morning.The sidewalks were a marvel in themselves.....each with a different pattern of black and white cobbles! Trolley cars went by along the winding tracks and past buildings both sculpted or dressed with tile. pretty packages waiting to be opened!Looking up, you would often see a collection of plants growing along the roof lines , brought in from the constant winds that cooled the air on a warm July day. Trolleys were a constant presence clattering up the steep hillside.....Once down on the flat streets, a view off to the left brought into focus one ofthe great plazas ... the Praca do Comercio, with its magnificent arch. At the end of the symposium, this would be the site of the sketch crawl where over 300 sketchers would congregate! Along the way, the smaller details of the streets would come into focus...small alleys, doorways, balconies, street lanterns....and graffiti! As in many cities around the world, graffiti has become a common sight.....sometimes taking over all the surfaces below 6 feet!A counterpoint to the graffiti were the occasional tiled panels or 'azulejos', that depicted various historical events.My final destination was the college...where we all met to break out into the smaller workshops that fanned out across Lisbon.After a full day of sketching I would often meet my husband and we would discover another wonderful viewpoint  over the city before searching for a cafe for a late supper. What an adventure for this 'girl from the country'! Discovering a new city can be pretty exciting.[...]

Time Travels....LISBON, Part One


Time got away from me this Summer! In June we traveled back East to my 45th Cornell reunion and enjoyed the beautiful campus in Ithaca, New York. And just recently we returned from a wonderful trip to Portugal so that I could attend a three day sketching symposium in Lisbon. Between these two trips, and a few local excursions, we have accumulated thousands of photographs between us, and I've filled numerous sketchbooks! Once we got back, catching up with our normal home, garden, and vineyard chores hasn't given me much free time to spend blogging ... but here I am ... anxious to share all the wonderful sights that we saw while they are still fresh in my mind.There are many stories to tell about Lisbon... hills .... cobbles ... trolley cars ...graffiti ... patterns ...color and light! Traveling around the compact city was an adventure! To negotiate the many hills within the city is a challenge.... steep cobbled streets and stepped pedestrian walkways are everywhere, but the most amazing solution are several huge exterior 'Elevadors' that connect people to the upper and lower areas of the city! One  of the most elaborate is the 'Justa Elevador', a 150 ft tall tower designed in 1902 by a student of Gustav Eiffel.From the top viewing platform you can see many areas of the city, including Praca do Rossio, a large square with undulating patterns of black and white cobbles and a beautiful fountain. This was one of the areas where many of us met to sketch the urban scene.One day my husband and I took both trolley and subway across town to the famous Gulbenkian Museum and gardens. Completed in the 1960's, the museum complex is known for it's outstanding modern architecture and garden....not to mention the wonderful displays of art and artifacts.The garden contained flowing paths that wound through dense plantings of grasses, groundcovers, trees and water. I loved the simple, but bold  umbrella 'discs' that were interspersed along the pathways!Large sculptures, such as this woven basket that was big enough to enter and move around in, were placed along the way.Huge colorful pillows  for people to lounge on were placed under this tent of brightly colored fabric strips....Several meandering water streams culminate in a large pond  that edges one of the two modern buildings.Once inside the museum, views to the outer garden were softened with woven window coverings, making the garden appear as an  impressionist painting.It was the perfect adventure on a hot day in Lisbon!For more info on the Urban sketchers, and to see some of the wonderful sketches that were produced, go to our blog.[...]

Portland's Japanese Garden


Last week I finally had a sunny, relatively warm day, so I visited Portland's wonderful Japanese Garden to try my hand at sketching. I think the garden is at it's best in Spring when the fresh new foliage emerges....with the various shades of green and bronze accenting the forms and textures of the plants. There is almost a glow radiating out from the landscape! Peaceful wanderings.....Around the pondDancing branches play in the breeze....Flower petals litter the moss covered ground .....Nature's confetti! Waterfalls create floating bubbles....The pond is happy again with new Koi!A smooth wooden bench beckensto sit and gaze...Perhaps another sketch is needed?Mind and soul are at restNow that Spring is FINALLY here....Bring on Summer![...]

A reluctant Spring


Spring is arriving one day at a time here in Oregon. It has been slow coming....definitely green and lush, but also wet and cool! When Mt Hood appears it is shimmering under a deep white blanket from another freshly laid snowfall. Unfortunately our grapevines have yet to break bud, but at least the newly installed deer fencing has kept them outside of our 12 far.It's been a busy time with quite a few new landscape clients wanting extended consults that include a site visit and then two sketches...a concept plan and a perspective drawing. I really enjoy both the immediacy of the process and the fact that the client is more involved. One of my clients who I referred to in a January entry finally had a window for the 7 large screening trees to be installed. There is more work to be done but at least they have a bit of privacy now from the huge new house that was built just feet from their property line. The people at 'Big Trees Today' did a great job of installing these 20 ft. tall Leylandi Cypress! A new pergola still needs to be built in the narrower section directly behind the house to give them the privacy they deserve.A few of the other sketches I've done have yet to be implemented...mainly due to the weather! It's interesting to see if the drawings will actually match the final result....something I obviously hope to achieve.I've also been teaching my Landscape Illustration course this term, and trying to get started on the garden cleanup. The blossoms and Spring flowers, although often damp from drizzle, have seemed brighter than usual this year. Daffodils, usually spent by May, are still lighting up the beds, and the Hellebores are in their glory.Forget-Me-Nots dot the beds and bloom in the lower garden, which will soon be joined by two dozen tomato plants, and rows of newly emerging lettuce, kale, and beans. At our elevation most of the active growing doesn't start until June, when the soil finally starts to warm up. For now, fresh new tree leaves are starting to unfurl, often competing with the numerous types of lichen and moss that attach themselves to many of the branches.When a sunny, dry day does appear we try to get out on our bikes to view the fabulous countryside extending below our hill. Our area is doted with farms and wineries so the visual rewards are many. So here's to SPRING.... I pray that it will bring much needed hope and new life to so many people who have suffered this year due to the extremes of Mother Nature and our recent volatile weather. I hope it arrives soon, so that Summer can bath us in warm, dry days! [...]



My husband and I recently returned from the Caribbean, where we were fortunate enough to sail around the islands of Antigua and Barbuda with college friends on their 40 ft Island Packet sailboat. Seeing the Caribbean from a private sailboat is very different from the typical resort type vacation that many people associate with the islands. On the boat, we tend to sail to quiet bays and seek out islands with only small villages or little development. About a five hour sail North of Antigua is the very flat island of Barbuda. Most people have never heard of, or visited this island, but we have visited twice over the past decade. It has only 1500 inhabitants that mostly live in the small, not easily accessible town of Codrington. The other, more numerous inhabitants are wild donkeys, deer, boar, tortoise, and Frigate birds! The island's main export, believe it or not, is sand! We have appropriately nick-named the island 'The end of the Earth', which reflects the feeling one gets after being there for awhile. We have yet to visit Codrington.Our sailboat usually anchors in about 7 -10 feet of the clearest aqua blue water that you have ever seen, inside the long curved reef that hugs the SE coast of the island. Only a few boats, if any, are anchored near us or within sight. Occasionally a local fishing boat will approach offering up the native lobster! On the other side of the reef the Atlantic Ocean whips up large waves and throws up assorted debris on the long white stretches of beach facing the ocean.On the reef side, jagged, sharp rocks covered with swiss-cheese-like holes create a magnificent 'rock garden'. We often spend hours exploring all the nooks and crannies,  observing the unusual plant and wildlife, and basking in the brilliant sunlight. The holes in the rock often contain miniature plants, or worn, sun bleached branches of tiny, living 'trees' that miraculously grow in the rock.While large Frigate birds circle overhead, groups of small birds dart in and out at the shoreline...all in unison, and looking like small windup toys!After having a chat with some local fishermen who have landed their boat on the shore, we reluctantly get in our dingy and head back to our sailboat. We spent two days here, enjoying the clear water along with the solitude and the sounds and sights of nature at it's best. I think that my favorite past-time was to swim to a nearby reef and gently glide over that underwater world. Unfortunately, I didn't have an underwater camera to capture the colorful fish and coral that snorkeling uncovers! It was all miles, and a world away, from my life in Oregon. Every night we saw another sunset, and this year, a bigger than normal full moon! [...]

Part 2: A Winter walk


Sunny, dry days grab me by the arm and force me outside...this time for a walk with my neighbor in the woods just to the South of us. I always take my camera...just in case.The trees around here are dressed with the latest in Winter finery....besides the many varieties of lichen and moss, my favorite are the ferns. They often flow from the tree crotches like green waterfalls, or delicately hang from the branches like Winter scarfs! Nature has dressed the woods so beautifully.Sometimes the branches are piled with such a myriad of textures that they invoke images of furry creatures who are extending their necks out to see who might be passing!   At other times, broken and downed branches have formed an impenetrable maze that leads us to change our direction. When my two sons were young that often played in these woods and created underground forts and lichen covered roofs. I'm sure that remnants of their play villages still exist down in the hollow where a stream still runs. It was a magical place to be!Large stumps still exist where loggers from decades ago cut down the tall, majestic Cedars and Fir. Some stumps even retain the axed out niche where the plank board was jammed into the trunk. Now only a few giants remain...and they are impressive. Somehow Nature manages to create compositions that inspire... a branch falling here, moss growing there, decay and new life....all balanced and beautiful. As we ascend out of the woods and up on an old logging road we meet the distant view of's top flattened by the historic eruption back in 1980. It's white coat of snow hides the scars of a violent eruption. We were here then....and witnessed the ash and explosive plumes as they streaked across the sky. Our soil was enriched by that ash, and lingers still in the crevices of our buildings. The Fir trees at the top of the ridge to our right were thinned, since they weren't large enough for clear cutting. We are thankful for that. Other slopes show signs of new Fir seedlings as they finally reach above the grasses and native vegetation. Another cycle begins.....And it's time to get out the sketchbook.....[...]

The serenity of the Winter Landscape


My Winter garden knows no extends out into the rain forest to our South, and out across the valley, all the way to Mt. Hood, some 70 miles away. On an early morning walk a few days ago, I came across my favorite group of moss and fern covered trees. The sun was streaking through the branches, releasing drifts of steam that swirled up into the crisp morning air. Pure magic that lasted only a few seconds as I passed by. Off in the distance, Majestic Mt. Hood appeared on the Horizon to the East...our constant companion and focal point. An unusual large bank of fog lay over the valley and neighboring Portland. I was transfixed as the fog slowly moved up the slope, obscuring the orchards and trees below. Today we stayed above the clouds and enjoyed the suns' warmth. The previous week, we had been engulfed by the same fog and spent days in a black and white landscape. No wonder our vineyard and street are named 'Cloudrest'!Closer to the house, Winter blooms and textural contrasts abound. One of my favorite plants, the Hellebores, are just starting to bloom, contributing pastel shades of chartreuse, pink and yellow to the many shades of green.Moss and lichen are everywhere, even on the bird feeder! A sun bleached skull found many years ago on the property sits in the crook of one of our remaining English walnut trees. When we bought our acreage back in 1973 it was a walnut orchard, with over 40 trees. Now only a few remain, and a 5 acre vineyard has taken their place. Unfortunately, the squirrels have taken to stealing the nuts before they ripen!Steps, surrounded by rhododendron, fern and hosta, lead up a pathway that circles around our deck. Steel lanterns located in our entry courtyard and along the driveway add needed light in the evenings. Living out in a rural area like ours can be great for star-gazing but also can be pitch black at night!My husband, Fred, who dabbles in welding, created a series of lanterns along our long gravel driveway that add just the need illumination. Walking through a Winter garden feels more serene. I also see things that I don't see in the Spring or Summer. The colors tend to be more muted, and sometimes even appear as a black and white image. Think of the aesthetic difference between a black and white photograph and the same image in color. Often the B &W has more impact because texture and form and composition become more focused in our mind. Snow covered landscapes are even more abstracted. Winter beckons....take a walk....see an empty pot filled with rainwater, or a simple ceramic art piece that was hidden by foliage earlier in the year. Explore and enjoy![...]

Moving Forward in the New Year


I've been having fun working with some new clients in this new year. Ever since the recession, and my own desire to cut back on work,  I have adjusted my services to include what I call an 'extended consult'. This involves a consult on site, a few measurements, info from the client, and lots of photos. Then I go back to my studio and work out a simple concept plan and a perspective sketch so the client can visualize my ideas. It generally works best for small properties or just certain areas of a larger garden. It takes much less time, gives the client a broad picture of what the possibilities might be, and costs them a fraction of what a full design would cost. It isn't the answer for everybody but it seems to be filling a niche in today's cut-back economy. It's also fun since it allows me to do the freehand sketching that I enjoy and play with conceptual designing, which is my favorite aspect of the design process! My first client of the new year had a real dilemma on their hands when a neighboring one story house behind them was torn down, only to be replaced by a gigantic three story monster that literally loomed above them and totally invaded their sense of private space. Anyone who lives in an urban environment can look forward to the possibility of this happening, especially when infilling and smaller lot sizes are the trend. Luckily they had a nice sized side yard that allowed room for planting a row of large evergreens for screening. A trip to see Terry Hickman at Big Trees Today resulted in suggesting a few options...including the fast growing Leylandii 'Silver Dust'.The narrow twelve foot space directly behind the house was a different story.The solution there was to design a pergola, creating a vine-covered outdoor room with a 'ceiling' that would block the neighbor from looking down on their space. Unfortunately, trying to achieve instant screening can be costly. Options must be weighed, and lessons learned. Often it helps if you can work with the neighbor, but this isn't always possible. How would you like to step out your back door and see this?Another client had a corner property in the suburbs with a large lot that they weren't utilizing to it's full potential. Access from the driveway, located on one street, to the main entrance, located an another street, was awkward at best. A number of diseased and damaged trees, an uninteresting front facade, and a deck that had no access to the ground, added to the problem.I added a new deck across the front that connected to both the side decking over the garage and the raised front walkway. Guests parking in the driveway are led through a pergola onto a small front patio and then  up steps to the front entry. The new features give the plain facade of the house more character, and create a new intimate garden space with a curved sitting wall set into the slope.In the back yard, steps were added from the existing deck down to a new patio and several terraces were created to make their sloped property more usable. With several trees removed, and some regrading, a new lawn, orchard area, and vegetable garden space will be realized. Being a designer has it's rewards....I love seeing clients get excited when they can visualize a new, dynamic space for their garden.  I love being able to enrich their lives, and calm their minds by surrounding them with the beauty of nature. In our mad world.....we need all the help we can get![...]

New knees and Christmas trees!


 For the first time in 34 years, we actually bought our Christmas tree this year! Over the years, we've always been able to cut one down on our property .... or from one of our friendly neighbor's property. It usually has stood 9-10 feet tall tucked into the SouthEast corner of our living room. This year we opted for a 3 foot tall potted Deodar Cedar that will be planted out in the garden, or grace one of our decks later in the year. The reason?...  my husband, Fred, had his left knee replaced on Dec 13th, and we knew that he would have trouble taking a big tree down! I do miss our usual big tree, but it sure was a snap to decorate the small one ... and I love the new pot! The emphasis is now on all the smaller ornaments that are usually overshadowed by the bigger ones. Fred is quite an active guy and rather inpatient to have this recovery process get moving!  A few times a day he needs to be hooked up to a motion machine that continually bends and unbends his knee, and must learn to get around for the first few weeks using a walker and then a cane. Pain meds help, but make him sleepy...and sleeping makes the joint stiff! This is mighty hard for someone who goes out and bikes 50-100 miles at a time whenever he feels like it. So we are adjusting a bit this month.Activities Christmas day will revolve around some new schedules as well. We actually have two 'new knees' in the family ! Saskia Rosemary Engstrom was born on November 18th ( one of the reasons I've been less focused on the internet, my blog and work in general!) Saskia is the first child of my oldest son, Eric, and his wife Becca, who live in Portland. We look forward to seeing them, as well as our younger son Brent, his wife, Jenn, and their 9 year old son, Brayden, here on Christmas day. How lucky we are to have them living so close !New knees are wonderful! Saskia's are the tiniest, and the softest that I've ever felt! Fred's is man-made and a modern miracle! After three arthroscopic surgeries and not much left of the knee joint, he decided that if he wanted to continue being active, he needed to have a new one. By Spring he should be back on his bike, as well as more comfortable walking, and hopefully skiing ( in moderation?) So  'Merry Christmas' and a 'happy New Year'....and we hope that, in 2011, we can be as content as little Saskia appears![...]

The magic of trees....and baskets


Baskets have always fascinated me for their textural and other artistic qualities. When we first moved to Oregon in the early 1970's I took a class in pine needle basketry and made numerous small baskets from the long needles of the few Ponderosa Pine that we had on our property. I also tried my hand at weaving melon-shaped baskets using some of our grapevines. Recently I attended a two day workshop on weaving cedar bark baskets in the tradition of the Haida Indians. Instructor Nancy Olson brought gorgeous strips of yellow and red cedar bark that she had personally gathered in the forests of Alaska. It was beautiful stuff! After soaking in basins of water, the bark strips felt like soft leather. For inspiration, she also brought many examples of baskets that she has woven over the many shapes and sizes!Getting started involved making decisions about color and form. The baskets would be small in order for us to have time in the two day period to finish. Some of the bark strips had been dyed black for accents, but other materials, such as Maidenhair fern, and Bear grass, were available. Beads, shells, bones, feathers, and other ornamentation could be added once the basket weavingwas completed. My two baskets ready to take home! I can't wait to try weaving a few more. The design possibilities are endless! One of my favorites among the many examples that Nancy brought to the workshop was a soft textured basket in green and pale yellow.  With 12 acres on the edge of a rain forest.... that includes many cedar, fir, and walnut trees, I plan to do a bit of careful harvesting... next Spring when the sap starts running ( the best time to harvest) We just finished a very late grape harvest, the leaves of the vineyard have turned yellow below the row of one hundred year old black walnut is a beautiful time to witness nature at it's best. My beloved trees will again give back...and I can dream of sitting by the fire weaving their glowing bark strips into something magical.I think my basket collection will be growing![...]

And the months go whizzing by......


August, September and October have been a blur of activity.... making it very hard to know where to pick up the thread! I'll try to post more often and fill in some of the details before I forget them entirely!In early October we traveled back East for a 50th High School Reunion in Lancaster, PA., and visited with college friends in St.Michael's, Md. Located on the Chesapeake Bay, it's a very picturesque town with a great boat and maritime museum. I took the opportunity to sketch some of the wonderful historic buildings, trying to use some of the color techniques that I had learned from Tia at the sketch symposium. We also enjoyed a sail on a big old working oyster / sailboat ... on a beautifully warm, Fall day. They enjoy displaying pumpkins and flowers in a big way back there!There are also terrific examples of 'gingerbread' detailing on many of the buildings .... which unfortunately, didn't get the attention they deserved on my quick sketches! The boat had lots of character, and was the perfect place to be on such a great Fall day.Our sail both began and ended in front of the historic Maritime Museum lookout.Back home in Oregon, we celebrated with our son, Brent, as he took over ownership of Veloce Bicycles, a great neighborhood bike shop in Portland. We wish him well in his new venture! We also watched helplessly as the birds came in to feast on our grapes! It appears that this might be the first year since we planted our vineyard back in 1984 that we are unable to harvest. The sugars have just not gotten high enough and the seasonal rains are closing in. There is, at this point, only a small chance that we'll have enough sunshine and warmth for them to ripen. This is the price we pay for being at a higher elevation than our neighboring vineyards. Everyone, it seems, was 2-3 weeks late in harvesting due to our wetter and cooler Summer. Perhaps that pot of gold will appear in some other form? And, of course we welcomed back our BIG pup, Lucca, who spent an exciting week in doggie camp while we were gone, and now, at 6 months old, weighs 60 pounds! He already out-weighs our grandson, has it's ups and downs, and I wouldn't have it any other way![...]