Greetings pilgrims! I’m still here. Walking, painting, sketchbooking, porch-sitting, reading, writing in my daily journal, soaking up the mild winter sun, visiting nearby coastal hideaways. Grateful for everything under the stars.
LA county is headed for another “lockdown” probably similar to where you live, due to a shortage of ICU beds. All the things I like to do aren’t affected by lockdowns or stay-at-home orders since I’m already on introvert auto-pilot and I live alone with the cat posse. Naturally, it’s more difficult for people who live in multi-person households or who are more socially-minded. I did postpone a dentist visit until late February since it’s hard to keep a mask on when one is getting an implant.
I just ordered some super cute new masks because my friend, Joyce was wearing some outstanding ones when we had a socially distant art date last week. If they fit my big head and are as awesome as I think they’re gonna be, I’ll share her source.
Farmhouse Joan, if you’re reading this, I’ll have you know the mask you made and sent me way back in April is my go-to public garden walking mask.
I can think of no better news than the fact that vaccines are on the near horizon. I’m very glad that my 2 sisters, both in healthcare, will be receiving those first rounds of the vaccine. No more worrying about Carol going off to the hospital or Dottie seeing patients at hospice. What a relief that will be!
The art challenge I set for myself in November was to focus on portraits and figures. This could be a year-long study quite easily, but like my self-styled Inktober, what this daily practice did was to rev my art engine and blow out some of the cobwebs. I’m continuing with whatever strikes my fancy for December. Even if it’s a 2×3 inch watercolor face, I’m trying to do something daily. I find myself constantly noticing how light and shadows fall across the face.
I took a lot of screenshots while devouring The Crown season 4. Princess Margaret was a wonderful character to try and capture.
I spent Thanksgiving week on the Santa Barbara coast like I do almost every year. I rented a small upstairs apartment on Islay and had a lovely perch out on the world.
I pushed the desk up against the window and settled in for the week with a stack of watercolor paper, sketchbooks, and paint.
I made time for some socially distanced visits with friends, but you know me, I fly solo to most places and enjoy poking around in my own company. Not terribly different than pre-pandemic times.
I was able to use my reciprocal membership from Descanso Gardens at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and I went early in the morning to enjoy the redwood forest trail beside the sycamores, big-leaf maples, redwoods, oaks, and other trees scattered throughout Mission Canyon.
The bright trees below are from walks close to home or Descanso.
For those who aren’t Southern Californians, we do have seasons and if you live here long enough you will come to know them. Powerful observation skills are required. The drop in nighttime temperatures, the reddening of certain trees. Leaves turn gold and drop, blossoms fall, other trees bloom, pomegranates and persimmons ripen on heavy branches. In December my succulents are at their height in terms of attractiveness. The aeoniums grow like giant rosettes, some develop flower spikes. Grass grows in my yard. Deep blackish purple olives litter the ground. Everything waits for the promised rain.
Sometimes, like this year, it doesn’t arrive, so I keep on watering everything by hand.
I bought an old-fashioned coffee percolator because lately I am in need of black coffee and lots of it. I love the way the aroma billows through Moss Cottage, especially when I’ve been poking around in the garden then come back inside. It reminds me of a battered old percolator I remember from childhood.
For those of you with an ipad pro and an Apple pencil I can’t recommend Procreate highly enough. What fun I have tracing over photos. It’s a great way to study the planes of the face, color in shadows, get a handle on how features lay on the face. Sometimes I make drawings of these (from the ipad sketch) in my sketchbook. It’s a pleasure to be able to do a quick study of someone’s face or figure without having anything to clean up afterwards.
Then there are the ever present Zoom sketches with markers and crayons and watercolor brushes full of water and paint.
No trip to the coast is complete without a stop at the beloved salt marsh.
Enjoying a solo sunset at El Capitan north of Santa Babs. Can you see the moon floating above my head?
I discovered some interesting headstones at the charming Santa Barbara cemetery (est. 1867) which led me down an interesting Woodman of the World rabbit hole. I always visit when I’m in town. The ambiance and views are outstanding.
I enjoyed long bouts of sunset seeking with dear Sharron, in Carpinteria.
These photos below are from my daily walks along routes I take along the arroyo a few minutes drive from my house. This has been my morning ritual since March when the pandemic began in earnest.
I took these photos in order to paint these scenes into my sketchbook. The black and white above is to help me study the values more closely.
Ditto for the blue scrubjay in my birdbath in the front garden.
With a vaccine on the near horizon, international travel seems more and more like a real possibility for late 2021 or 2022. I have my first destination mapped out. At night I go out in the dark of my patio and cast my eyes up through the flocks of night clouds. I seek out the stars lost in their folds and imagine I am walking through dark hushed streets of a foreign city. Some distant galaxy where a pandemic is a long lost memory. A relic from a distant past.
In the meantime I am enjoying this winter which will live long in my memory for the rest of my life. Not for the sadness or despair that so many felt as a pandemic roared around the world like a comet. But for my quiet sojourn at home. The year I ate lunch outside in the gentle winter sun in between Zoom classes. When I painted and drew and read and wrote and walked and communed with trees and sat in silence on my porch. The year I didn’t have to leave my house early and drive to school. That year I stayed home.
ON MY BOOKSHELF
I hope you’re well. Making mountains of art, reading unputdownable books, swimming in rivers of coffee, cooking great batches of soups and stews, chopping wood for your nightly fires, tapping your maple trees, going for sleigh rides, putting up Christmas trees. Living, hoping, dreaming.
Being right here, right now.
Helen Buiskool says
As I sit here on a cold, gloomy, and rainy North Carolina day, I look at your shots of the West Coast (my former home) and can just feel that light! I get such homesickness for it at times like that. I remember my own tradition of driving up (from Glendale/Pasadena) to Santa Barbara for the day to do some Christmas shopping with one of my friends. All seems so long ago…(sigh) Thank you for letting me have this virtual visit to a state that will always have my heart.
Karen i-K says
thanks as always for taking me on a journey with you. i so love that you live your art as much as you can!
Sandra L. says
“the Magician’s Assistant” is one of my favorite books! Probably my favorite Patchett book.
What is the lovely white bird in the water? It looks like a heron, perhaps?
Also, Woodmen of the World tombstones are fascinating to me. I have photographed them as well. When I was little, my dad gave me a WOTW coin, which I still have. I used to pretend it was real money when I was a kid.
That post was so great that I savored it, then read it again. I love to travel through Southern Cal with you, vicariously. To see those golden beaches and calming gardens is almost as good as being there myself.
And to see your prolific sketching and watercolor portraits is a big inspiration!
I agree that there was much to be savored during this strange pandemic year. Your writing helped me to remember that. Thanks, once again, for taking the time to share your life with us.
Beth Leintz says
Thanks for sharing pieces of your peaceful & pleasure filled life. It’s inspiring to hear from someone that’s embracing challenges we’re all facing to create “your best life”. Blessings and thanks to you Mary Ann.
I absolutely love your posts! Totally jealous of where you live! Here in Calgary Alberta we are having a bit of a heat wave…+10ish degrees celsius Wohoo!
But you just can’t beat the ocean!!!
You also inspire me to pick up my paintbrushes!!!
Hi there Mary Ann,
Enjoyed your adventures in color…especially the skin tones and shading, the rich backgrounds (especially the red and pink)…and the water scenes..
you definitely have some great photos for inspiration…took your sketchbookery last year about this time and made my first little book, since it was around
Christmas I filled it with sketches of my holiday treasures…and used one for my Christmas card this year… they came out fun and funky
and I loved it…yes, soup is on and now using kale and butternut squash in it from the garden… Christmas trees in the works… art has been some collage
and clothespin dolls…since the Christmas collections are coming out again I hope to do Book 2 with watercolor…thanks for all the inspiration…
Mary Ann Moss says
Would love to see your Christmas card. Sounds lovely… as does your soup. mmmmmm….
Email me a copy?
This post has really lifted my spirits today. Keep safe and well.
Mary Ann Moss says
Will do Tina, you too xoxoxo
I’ve been wondering how you were ~ glad to see you are still in great form!
Stays safe through the burn season and your lockdown.
Rhonda Roebuck says
Thanks for the trip through your area, always fun to see! I am pretty content to be at home here in Virginia also! Happy Holidays, Rhonda
Mary Ann Moss says
Thanks Rhonda. I think I’ve mentioned my brother is in Richmond area – outside of the city. Ever since reading America’s First Daughter I’ve wanted to return to visit TJefferson haunts…
Mask source from Joyce please.
Just devoured your post, Mary Ann. You are a really good writer. Also, you would be a wonderful illustrator. Also, from the one photo you share on this post — you and your sisters have a striking resemblance! Best always
Holly Hudson says
thanks for the book recommendations…Cazalet Chronicles is on my list to-read, glad to hear your friends have enjoyed it
Are you still planning to visit Cornwall? May, 2022, would be a great visit. I don’t know if Teachers will have their
vaccines by May, 2021. and re: vaccines, my husband & I are in the Astra-Zeneca trial, started this past October. I probably received the vaccine, side effects were
very mild….1st shot – sore arm the next day only, 3 weeks later 2nd shot – spiked a mild fever 3 hours after the shot
which lingered for less than 5 hours with a headache & some chills, extremely less discomfort than people in either the
Pfizer or Moderna trials. I will get bloodwork completed in early Jan to see if I have a decent amt of antibodies.
Great photos….our next journey in 2021/22 will include a new Lab puppy….water-happy experiences for all….
Mary Ann Moss says
Oh I DO love hearing of your vaccine trials. so interesting! You will love the Cazalets. I think there are 5 books. Simply outstanding! YES to Cornwall, but I have another destination in mind before that. Probably a solo trip. To Venice for Christmas 2021. We’ll see…
jacki long says
Thank you, for you and your wonderful blog. I have been with you for many years.
I never comment. I notice you get so many comments and many say what I would have.
Today I so enjoyed your drawings, your faces are great, and I decided to say so.
And of course, your photography, as always, is stellar. Just sayin’
Gwen Delmore says
I loved The Magician’s Assistant, thanks for reminding me of it. I love scrolling through all your photos, and your wonderful paintings/drawings. I’ve been doing it now since 2006. I read a great series of novels recently by Elizabeth Jane Howard, if you like family sagas you are bound to like them. The collection is called The Cazalet Chronicles.
Faith McLellan says
Oh, oh, oh! The Cazalet Chronicles are perhaps my favorite books of all time. Wonderful, wonderful saga.
MAM, it’s always great to see what you are up to. As I say over and over again, ain’t this pandemic SOMETHIN’!
Mary Ann Moss says
I ADORED the Cazalets and was darn sorry when i finished that fabulous series! are you still in france/switzerland?
Mary Ann Moss says
yes yes yes i did so very much gwen!
Katherine Israwi says
Always love your posts.
yes to a renaming… The Year of Porch-sitting…👍🏼
Such a great and very full post.
I’m so glad to know that you and your sisters are well.
Every time your area is in the news I think of you and send good thoughts your way.😊
Thank you for all of the great photos. I love seeing what you have been up to. Great places!
You are always so creative and adventurous.
Can’t believe all of the paintings you’ve been creating.
I’m here in Michigan.
I feel glad that we have such a bright governor looking out for us and the people who don’t believe in wearing masks.
Looking to good days in the future and counting the blessings we have now.
You shine bright!
Mary Ann Moss says
hello susan. waving to you! ahhh michigan. i just heard a new term: michigander for someone who lives in michigan. love that!