Getting Arty

The View from the Porch

Item number six on my Summer Bucket List was to complete one new piece of art per week. I haven’t quite managed one a week but I’m pretty close.  At least I’ve kept my hand in and I’ve enjoyed learning some new techniques. Mostly I’ve been working with watercolor paint and pencils which are a new medium for me. But I have really enjoyed some of watercolors that other bloggers like Jodi at Life In Between has posted so I thought I would give them a try. These are a few of the results.

The first one is a pencil drawing I did from an old photo of Miss Dee. After completing it I went back with a wet brush and blended the water to give it a more reflective look. I am happy with how it came out except that I wish I had made the colors darker. The whole…

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Coloring Yourself Happy

The View from the Porch

Last night I spent an hour playing with the new drawing pens I received for Christmas.  This is the result…


I admit I shamelessly (more or less), stole the picture from one of the Christmas cards that came in the mail. I drew the image in pen first and then added watercolor. It felt sort of like paint-by-number or coloring. It was very relaxing.

I’ve always loved to color, both as a kid and with my own kids. Experts are now saying that it is a great way to lessen stress. There was even an article in today’s paper about some neighborhood “Coloring Clubs” where people meet to color themselves happy! I think a lot of adults have always enjoyed coloring and now they are finally ready to admit it.  In fact, it’s  become very trendy.

The stores are filled with fancy adult coloring books. Maybe if you spend $15…

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Jack in Watercolor

The View from the Porch

One of the items on my Summer Bucket List  is to create at least 6 new pieces of art. The thing is, I love to draw and paint. It brings me great joy and relaxes me but I find that I don’t always make the time for it so that’s why it’s on the list.

My newest passion has been watercolor. I’ve been painting with acrylics and oils since I was a teenager but watercolor is pretty new to me. I’m discovering a lot of fun ways to work with it and I’m so thrilled that I discovered watercolor pencils because they make the medium so much more versatile. I guess that’s because good old paper and pencils is my first real love.

Yesterday I decided I was going to try doing a portrait of our cat Jack. Naturally I worked from a photo because I can’t…

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Experimenting With Watercolor Pencils

I received some watercolor pencils as a gift a few months ago but since I had never used them before I wasn’t sure how. YouTube to the rescue! Is there anything you can’t find a “how to video” on?! So after watching a tutorial I played around some and then I did this sketch from a photo I had of my daughter when she was a baby. After finishing the initial drawing, I used some damp brushes of various sizes to smooth out the water and the sand to make it appear more wet. I really like the effect and I love the control of using the water color in pencil form first. I think I will keep experimenting! 

 Has anyone else tried different techniques with watercolor pencils? I would love to hear about it.

Book Review: “Sycamore Row” by John Grisham

Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten, will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County’s most notorious citizens, just three years earlier.
The second will raises far more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row

Let me start out by saying that I am a big John Grisham fan. His plots are intricate, his heroes are clever and his stories move along at a breathtaking pace. That being said, I’m not sure “Sycamore Row” measured up. The first time I read “The Firm” I couldn’t put it down. Ditto for the “Pelican Brief”, “The Last Juror” and most of his other novels. This book took me forever to get through.

“Sycamore Row” features the same characters and settings as Grisham’s 1989 novel “A Time To Kill” which is another of my favorites. Jake Brigance, who battled for his life, sanity and racial justice in the first novel doesn’t get much of a work out in this one. He is still brilliant, sexy and flawed but the main battle in “Sycamore Row” is over money. It lacks any real urgency and even when a sense of danger is presented (one of the nasty characters who torched Jakes house in “ATTK” is released from prison spewing threats), it is never developed into anything. I kept waiting but the guy just disappeared. It almost felt like Mr Grisham forgot about him!l

There is a mystery involved in the plot and some of the characters are engaging but the novel as a whole comes off as just an interesting story about a trial over a contested will in a small southern town. There wasn’t anyone to cheer for or any “hold your breath” kind of moments. At the end I was left feeling very unfulfilled. Maybe I will go back and reread “The Firm”. 🙂

Literary Time Travel

If I could have a super power I would choose the ability to travel through time. Maybe that’s not really considered a super power but whatever. I’d choose it anyway and I would only travel backwards in time. Not forward. I’m okay with the mystery of what’s to come. I don’t really want to know about the future but I would like to experience first hand some of the things that I have read about or seen in photos. I could watch Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettyburg Address. I could visit the 1893 Chicago World Fair and ride the Ferris wheel. I could get to know my parents when they were my age. The list goes on. This desire for time travel fuels my choice in books as well.

Historical fiction is one way to travel through time and I do enjoy that genre but what I really love is a book that deals with time travel itself. In that vein, I thought I would share a list of my favorite time travel books. They are arranged according to their publication dates. Each one, in my opinion is an exciting ride.

imageThe Time Machine -H.G. Wells (1895) You can’t really discuss literary time travel without starting here. Wells Time Traveler goes forward in time which is not my preferred direction but the thrill is still there. Being able to set a date on a dial and send yourself to that place and see what the future holds is a staggering idea! I actually saw the film version with Rod Taylor years before I read the book. As a result, I can’t read this with out picturing the blue skinned morlocks and the mannequin the Time Traveler observes changing her fashion as he moves forward in time.

imageTime and Again- Jack Finney (1970)Though written in 1970, I only recently discovered this book on a Goodreads top ten list. In this story a bored New York City advertising man is approached by a government agency interested in recruiting him for a secret experiment in time traveling. The quirk in this time travel theory (because of course every author has their own), is that the traveler has to be in a place that existed during the time they wish to travel to. Our hero moves into the historic Dakota apartment building on Central Park and begins to immerse himself in the past. We learn about New York during the turn of the century and experience life through the eyes of someone who knows what the future brings.

imageTimeline- Michael Crichton (1999) This book has been a favorite of mine for quite some time (pardon the pun). In this a group of archeologists working on a dig in France discover a message buried in the dig site that appears to be a plea for help written in English and in handwriting that appears to belong to their missing team leader. Eventually through the use of quantum physics, they are transported back to 14th century France in order to rescue their friend. I think what appeals to me most about this story is that the characters are a group of historians and academics who have researched and obsessed about this particular time period only to be dropped into the middle of it like kids in a candy shop! They can actually see what they have only theorized about. Also, if you have ever read anything by Michael Crichton (Jurrasic Park, Airframe, The Adromeda Strain) you know that he never does anything half way. He’s done so much research into quantum physics and multi verse theory and explains it so logically that you almost believe time travel could be possible. On a side note, this book was made into a really bad movie. If you’ve seen it, please don’t judge the story based on that.

image11/22/63- Stephen King (2011) And then there’s this, the novel that asks the question that everyone who has considered time travel has thought about: Is it possible to go back in time and change the past? I’m a little surprised that Stephen King had not tackled this subject before considering he is a master of the strange and unusual. I really enjoyed all of the historic detail King included in the story. I found myself reading up on Lee Harvey Oswald and the events leading up to Kennedy’s death just to find out more and to confirm the information being given in the novel. The hero is an ordinary guy who stumbles into the fantastic, a very likable guy who struggles with his moral duty and has to make some very difficult decisions. The ending of the book seemed to go on longer than was necessary but King’s tales tend to do that.

I’ve read others, but these are my favorite so far. I would love to hear your thoughts on these books or some recommendations for further time travel adventure I could take!

Book Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things

imageA mesmerizing new novel about the electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.Coney Island: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show that amazes and stimulates the crowds. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man photographing moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River..

When I was still at the beginning of this book I was worried. The main characters and their motivations seemed a bit cliché. Even after finishing, I still feel like they could have been more complex or maybe less predictable. That being said, it was still well worth reading. As I moved further into the story I was captivated by the history and historic events that were represented during the novel.

The setting is New York City, mostly Coney Island and Manhattan, in the year 1911. Many important events happened during this time and watching the characters live through these and seeing them through their eyes was fascinating. I also enjoyed learning about the lives of the many immigrants in the city and the struggles and prejudices that they faced. A large part of the story deals with the side show performers working on Coney Island at the time. It illustrates the aspects of their lives as well.

Anyone who likes historic fiction would probably enjoy this book and it does have a nice love story. There is some violence and adult situations but very little.

Book Review…

by Terry Pratchett

Alone on a desert island — everything and everyone he knows and loves has been washed away in a storm — Mau is the last surviving member of his nation. He’s completely alone — or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl. She has no toes, wears strange lacy trousers like the grandfather bird, and gives him a stick that can make fire…
I admit I bought this book just because I liked the cover. I had never read any of Terry Pratchett’s other books although I understand ther are quite a few. Based on this book, I cant wait to read more.

I love, love, love the characters in this story and not just Mau and Daphne, who are the main characters, but all the others as well, both kind and evil. They do what they do for a reason and Mr Pratchett explains even the most obscure reasons and ideas so simply that even the impossible seems quite likely. I was cheering Mau on through all his struggles and couldn’t wait to see what became of him.

There is also a wonderful dry humor throughout the tale that keeps things from getting too maudlin. Some parts of the story made me think about why we believe the things we do and made me see them from a different side, always a good thing.
I highly recommend this wonderful, sweet tale!