Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Great 40th Anniversary Escapade, Part 2: Old Shanghai-once known as "The Paris of the Orient"--and the Vanishing Shikuman Lanes

Modern Shanghai
 I came to Shanghai looking for "old Shanghai".  Too romantic!  China wants to be MODERN.  The first impression visitors to the city get is row after row of soldier-like skyscraper style apartment buildings--and a white polluted sky that never went away.  It was depressing!

Shanghai's Shikuman
style house with Stone
Hooped Doorway
There are some charming areas left in the city, but they are fast disappearing. Built starting in the 1860's and called Shikuman style houses, these neighborhoods of row houses with their beautifully carved doorways called  "Stone Hooped Doorways" are lovely.  At the peak, there were more than 6000 homes like these in Shanghai, looping through alleys no more than 6 feet wide.  Inside the doorway, there is a courtyard, a living room known as a parlor, and right and left wing rooms. There is a second story and a roof with living space.  As Shanghai got more and more populous, many families rented out their extra rooms.  These Shikuman Lanes were considered dilapidated, crowded and wretched.  The real estate has become very valuable and many, whose families have owned these homes for generations have tried hard to stay.  As the homes fall into disrepair, many residents have sold and moved to the apartments and the Shikuman style houses have been demolished.

Shanghai citizens are starting to realize that these beautiful homes, which are monuments to Shanghai's past, deserve to be preserved.

At the recent Ai WeiWei exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, one of Mr. Ai's exhibits references China's loss of beautiful traditional style housing.  These house-shaped replicas and the ground on which they sit are made from loose tea.  Tea Houses.
Tea Houses created by Ai WeiWei
at the Indianapolis Museum of Art exhibit
I am grateful for the opportunity to see the old neighborhoods of Shanghai, but feel sad that they will mostly be gone in a few years as China makes way for a more modern way of life.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Great 40th Anniversary Escapade

Travel is transformative.  So is being married for 40 years to Jack Wickes.  So how does art fit into this?

Jack and I have traveled many journeys together including raising our daughters, dreaming,  scheming and planning for life at the moment and into the future years.  We have supported each other as we pursued our careers and our passions.  In spite of meeting as young adults, we have "grown up" together as we have learned the meaning of sharing, sacrificing and giving when the benefit was for the other.

Travel is a passion for both of us.  We have learned that the most fun and productive trips are the ones we take together.  Jack is armed with his cameras and his "good eye" and endless curiosity and I set forth with my sketchbook in my hand, writing and drawing my impressions, which will then be incorporated into future paintings.   Our interests mesh well and we enjoy sharing (and critiquing) the art we have made.

Over the last month, we traveled from Shanghai to St. Petersburg by bus, plane and the most fun of all, by rail,  "Sketching Life" as we both saw it. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing and posting drawings and paintings (really, illustrations) from my book about what I have seen and experienced. While it's not a minute-to-minute diary, these postings reflect eye-catching moments for me.  Snippets, perhaps.  Impressions.  There are holes, as there were times when we were just moving too fast to get it all in.  Unlike using a camera, I can't click and edit, click and edit or just click, click, click.   I build my own story of where we have been.  Jack will build his story, too, from his photographs.  I think we complement each other.

We travel to transform the general into the personal.  We return home with our memories, with our expectations exceeded, and with a personal impression of places we have only previously known about through books and newspapers.  We have interacted with real people, asked personal questions, sat down to meals in real homes.  We are not the same as when we left.  I invite you to follow along as I untangle memories, both written and visual, from this cloud of what seems like suspended time.

"Waiting-Shanghai Airport" June, 2013, gouache and graphite

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Looking for Ai Weiwei

I paid a visit to the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art the other day.  He has a lot to say.  I shall be on the lookout for his artwork when I visit Beijing in a few days.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Art and Food: Rosa's and Tony's Demo and Dinner

Tomorrow evening is our long-awaited "Demo and Dinner" prepared by premier chefs Rosa and Tony Hanslits.  A small group of foodie fans will gather at Nicole Taylor's Pasta Shop in the shop kitchen to watch and ask questions, smell the smells and enjoy the wonderful flavors of a dinner prepared by the talented Hanslits couple.

The menu has been posted.  Yum.

My painting, "Rosa's Tomatoes" highlights this beautiful
ceramic bowl of heirloom tomatoes waiting to be made
into delicious pasta sauce. 
Some of us will be meeting this culinary couple for the first time.  But not me....  I have spent time with both of them. Many months ago, as I worked on my "Food for Thought" and "Food as Memoir" sketchbook and painting series,  I asked their permission to "sit in the kitchen" and make drawings in my sketchbook.

At Rosa Hanslits' Nicole Taylor's Pasta Shop, I sat at the big table while Rosa made crostini and her delicious Vodka Pasta Sauce for sale in her shop and at local farmers' markets. Her assistant, Willy,  made pasta in interesting shapes in the amazing pasta machine.  (Of course, I had to purchase some Vodka Sauce and fresh pasta for dinner that night.)
Willy making pasta.
Rosa's Crostini
The other half of the "Demos and Dinners" Duo is Chef Tony Hanslits.  In addition to doing "Demos and Dinners" with Rosa, the summer farmers' markets and a once a month dinner at the Nestle Inn in downtown Indianapolis, Chef Tony Hanslits is with the Chef's Academy, a local culinary school.  He and Rosa also owned Something Different, a top restaurant in Indianapolis for many years, and Tavola di Tosa in Broad Ripple.  

My morning spent at the Chef's Academy Pastry Department was delightful.  I was invited to sit in on the "Chocolate and Pastry Class".  Ah, the smells. The class was taught by Chef Pierre Giacometti.  I learned that this is hard work and that there are rules.  

Chef Pierre Giacometti
The Rules
Most interesting to me, though, was talking with the pastry class students about why they were here, what they liked to do best and what their future plans were.  Savon wanted to own her own shop.  She liked to cook and had been the main cook in her family while growing up.  Many students had been artists who were looking for an artistic way to make a living.
Savon, pastry student
Food and art, food and memoir and food as a livelihood for one of our own children.....I understand a little more about the classes, hard work and career decisions made by our own daughter, Maggie Wickes Callahan, who is an internship away from graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Pastry School in Austin, Texas.  You can read about her and her artistic culinary journey at

I can't wait to make sketches of her at work on her wonderful pastry creations.

 Maggie Wickes Callahan last August on her
first day of Pastry School at Le Cordon Bleu,
Austin, TX

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's a Wrap

If you are any kind of creative person, do you revisit your work?  Do you find that "time away" or incubation generates a little more fine-tuning or simply more definition of where the work needs to go?

I revisited my painting, "Le Quotidian", and now it reflects more of my goals as a painter--
figurative,  play between warm and cool colors  and a movement toward abstraction.

Here's the finished "Le Quotidian".  Ready to let it go....I think.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Roman Nose IV

So after a few tries, I think I got it.  Thanks, Priscilla, for being my model from about 1200 miles.  This is not really Priscilla.  She's prettier.  But THAT'S a Roman Nose!

Searching for that Roman Nose

I am working on a small portrait using my sister as a model. I have painted that nose quite a few times now.  In our family my grandmother, Lona, --"Dandmama" to all the grandchildren--spoke of having a Roman Nose.  I capitalize Roman Nose because it was important (to Dandmama).

Dandmama prized this classic attribute.  She was beautiful, loved beauty in all forms and Dandmama loved art, so her opinions had weight with me.  My dad had the Roman Nose, as does my sister, Priscilla, and my niece, Alyce.  I don't.  My brother doesn't.  So my current figurative painting, with Priscilla as reference, needs to have that beautiful Roman Nose.  I keep coming close, but then it just isn't quite there.

In an earlier post, I spoke of my former painting teacher's urging me to keep searching.  I am searching, I am searching.  I have to find that Roman Nose--capturing it continues to elude me.

Here is my work in progress.............

When I finally find that Roman Nose, shall I title the painting Roman Nose or Red Turban as I had planned?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cool Hotel

Well, here we are--hidin' out from the cold, dreary February Indianapolis clime.  I am sitting in southern Florida, a few miles up the road from Miami.  Painting in short sleeves on the balcony.  It's restorative.  It's sunny. It's warm.  It's easy.  

A new environment pushes me to paint new things.  I am still staring at people, tucking them away in my brain, but I am attracted to the architecture and the tropical plant life.  It's the land of ART DECO.  And I never met a palm tree that I didn't like! Palm trees are great graphics.  Swirly palm branches and striped bases.  Love, love, love.  So here's my fresh take on what I see off my balcony today.  Clean lines, cool colors.  Cool Hotel.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Art and the Model

Today I was so happy to receive an email with this darling photo spread. It's my sister/It's my model/It's my sister.  Priscilla is my dear little sister and she is my model, too.  I have completed one painting of her and have another one on the easel, getting close to finish.  I asked her to pose for me last summer before I headed to California to a painting workshop and she did all the work!  When I arrived she had two costume changes ready, did multiple dynamic poses and provided the perfect setting.  And a fake cigarette, just for kicks.  She is a local actress, and it shows.  She exudes energy, creativity and fun.  And this wonderful photo shoot shows that off.
Here is my painting from last summer of My Sister/My Model/My Sister.  Priscilla Ball.  What a lucky person I am to have her for my sister!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

At Le Pain Quotidien

Started in Brussels about 20 years ago, I recently stopped in at Le Pain Quotidien in Lower Manhattan.  Translated, Le Pain Quotidien means the daily bread.  Then I learned that it is also a favorite dining spot of my daughter and her husband in Brooklyn Heights.  Rustic, cozy atmosphere, fresh tasty food, coffee  in bowls, communal tables and a great place to make drawings.
Here's my version of Le Pain Quotidien.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Making art in the New Year

Getting ready to take up the brushes again in the new year.
I came across an interesting discussion in "The Age of Insight", a thoughtful book by Eric R. Kandel. Here are some questions he poses and here are some questions I will ask myself this year--
(in no particular order)
•How do you give visual form to ideas?
•Why is this idea worth a painting?
•Do you want the truth or just something beautiful?

Here's to good work in 2013....
Happy New Year!