Learning TO DRAW


About a week into my recovery, my Dad brought me some colored pencils that had been wasting away in a cabinet.  My first picture wasn't exactly a self-portrait, more like a moody scrawl (see earlier post "Stuck in Bed").  It took less than an hour to draw, but it pleased me.  It felt true, so I posted it on Istagram.  To my surprise, people liked it.  The response was so positive that I began working on a second picture, and then a third...  

I now spend most of my time at home drawing.  The activity is incredibly soothing - even meditative.   Traditional meditation, though pleasant, never cleared my mind.  I'd lie on the ground after yoga class and earnestly attempt to empty my head, but then my stomach would growl, and I'd start planning a grocery list.    When I'm drawing, I'm able to focus completely on line and color.  My brain tunes out other thoughts - even the ones that are food-related.

At first, I was somewhat limited by my broken leg.  My only subjects were the ones I could see.  I drew my bed, a magazine on my lap, Oliver sleeping...  Then my friend Gillian posted a photograph on Instagram.  I admired it, and she challenged me to draw it.  

The picture showed Gillian's boyfriend, Dan, reading on the couch surrounded by cats.  The original composition was terrific - almost like a Matisse.  The cats were all curves, and the couch was all pattern.  Dan, quiet and dressed in dark colors, was perfectly cozy in the midst of a visual riot.  The picture drew itself.

My next assignment came from my friend, Kellie.  It proved more challenging.  Kellie's charismatic dog, Harley, was the subject.  Even though Harley is a distinctive dog - with expressive eyes and hilarious pointed ears that flop over, I still found it hard to make my picture resemble her.  Whenever I draw faces, I need to erase several attempts before I get it right.  I ended up doing two portraits of Harley.  For the second one (above), I took a close-up photo of Harley in a yellow chair and imagined what the room around her might look like.  Kellie sent me pictures of her cats.  Then I got interested in the floor.  Did it need a carpet?.  

This is how my brain works when I'm drawing:  

1.   The picture needs a carpet. 

2.  I'll search for a carpet on eBay. 

3. This carpet is kind of nice. 

4. This carpet is impossible to draw. 

5. I'll just change the carpet.

6.  This carpet needs a lion on it.

7. Will Kellie will be annoyed that I put all her pets on this weird carpet?

When the picture was finished, I showed it to Kellie and she was really happy with it.  She didn't mention the carpet. 

I've had several more requests for pictures.  Two cats, a dog, a baby, a living room and another cat.  All of the requestors offered to pay me, but I'm not charging money for now.  This is a new skill for me, and I'd like to let it develop naturally.  If I knew I was getting paid for these pictures, I might not feel so free to invent carpets.

Art requires a lot of free time. Will I still draw when my leg heals?  It will be difficult.   My usual life is incredibly hectic.  The subway alone eats up an hour and a half each day.  

My Dad is really enjoying a book that he found in my apartment.  It's called "The Judgement of Paris," and it's about the young Manet.  In 1860s Paris, a seismic shift happened in the art world.  Manet reinvented how people would see the world around them.  Other young artists, like Monet and Renoir enjoyed the hissing scorn of an artistic elite that would soon pass into irrelevance.   Young artists argued in cafes, complained about the critics and showed their work at the scandalous Salon des Refusés.  They lived to express themselves.  It was a great time to be painter.  

Manet came from a rich family.  He didn't have a day job.  He probably never even cooked for himself.

How am I going to do this thing?






TV Clothes - the CROWN


After 3.5 weeks of immobility, I finally gave in and subscribed to Netflix - mostly to catch up on The Crown.  They don't call it a "Costume Drama" for nothing.  The Queen keeps her mouth buttoned in almost every situation - she's no mouth breather - but her clothes speak volumes.  

She wears yards of super-expensive fabric in every scene.   The show must have at least 4 or 5 people on set just to iron her skirts.  Even when she's traveling in Africa, she is never sweat-stained or wrinkled.  Didn't Marjory Post maintain that the secret to looking upper class is taking perfect care of your clothes?  I would add to that: stick with natural fibers.  Elizabeth favors very structured cotton and silk dresses.  Everything has a combed smooth surface.  Even in her nightgown, she is never casual.  

Her pearls are an important supporting character - you expect to see them in the credits.  Weird fact: most pearls are not  expensive.  You can buy the cultured kind on eBay for less than 50 bucks.  The Queen's pearls are different from eBay pearls.  They definitely came from Tahitian oysters.  In season one, she wore a single strand, but she's graduated to three strands in season two.  Prediction: the pearls themselves will grow much bigger in Season 3.

I can remember only one scene on the show when the Queen went shopping.  She didn't seem to take much pleasure in it.  Are we supposed to assume that other people pick out her wardrobe?  That doesn't ring true - the formal gowns, maybe, but the cashmere sweaters and pleated skirts are all her.  She must choose them.  Here's how I imagine the Queen shopping: she turns to her lady-in-waiting, and says, "ring up Harrods and have them send over another handbag exactly like this one, but slightly larger and in navy."

Why has the Queen always carried a handbag?   She goes everywhere with a huge team of servants.  I can't imagine her opening up her purse and taking out a charge card.  Maybe there's a lipstick in there?  Emergency pair of hose?

Claire Foy is a really interesting actor.  The only thing I've seen her in before was "Little Dorrit" on Masterpiece.  In the original Dickens novel, Little Dorrit is sickly sweet, but Claire Foy found the steel in her.  She was no cardboard saint.  How does an actor that young manage to be so guarded and subtle?  She was really born to play the Queen.  I'm kind of disappointed that they plan to replace her when the show moves on to the royal couple's middle years.  However, the mood of the show is not especially theatrical, and fake-aging her might be too stagey.

Although The Crown puts the Queen in some spectacular gowns, sashes and tiaras, my favorite clothes are the ones she wears in private.  You forget that back in 1955, matching suits and handbags were extremely chic.  She isn't frumpy at all.  It's a conservative look - but it's got panache and authority.   Her sister, Princess Margaret, looks a little overdone by comparison (although I love her clothes too - especially her pants).  

I just watched the first episode of Season 2 of The Crown this afternoon.  The Queen takes a pretty serious personal hit - then she tells absolutely no one about it.  She is more than her own emotions.  She has a job.

The dress above could be worn today.  Who doesn't love a good shirt-waist dress?  I would jettison the pearls and the handbag (too on-the-nose) and replace with woven sandals and a brown leather cross-body.   The confidence I would keep.


Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad put together a coat rack that they bought on Amazon,

Mom and Dad put together a coat rack that they bought on Amazon,

When I was first taken to the ER, I called Mom on her cell phone.  The conversation went like this:


"Hey Mom!  It's me."

"What, I can't hear you?"

"I'm in the Emergency Room.  My leg may be broken."

"It's so noisy here.  We are at a lecture at the college."

"I'm in the ER.  I fell and maybe broke my leg."

"Honey, I can't hear a word.  I'm going to call you back when we get home in a few hours."

Mom felt pretty guilty about this conversation when she finally reached me.  However, I think it was good for me.  For several hours following my accident I was responsible for my own mental calm.  

When Mom and Dad did learn about my accident, they immediately started packing and were in New York the following day by noon.  They set up headquarters in my apartment.  They brought snacks.  

For the past 3 weeks, I've enjoyed a level of parental attention that I haven't experienced in many years.   Mom and Dad sat with me in the recovery room following my surgery.  They took care of my dog.  They bought me a wheelchair and helped me get home from the hospital.  Mom helped me get to the bathroom during the first week when I couldn't balance on one foot.   

They also helped me with my business.   This is prime selling season on eBay.  When I tripped and fell over that fence, I had over 20 pending orders to process.  

It isn't easy to explain how an upscale resale clothing shop works to two retirees who usually wear the same outfits for several days in a row.

"It's a pink cashmere turtleneck, and I put it in a plastic zip-lock bag in the basket of nicer sweaters.

"I don't see it.  What color did you say it was?"


"I see a red sweater, but it looks like a turtleneck."

"That's it!"

"Honey, this is red, not pink."  

"It's coral."

Dad has less patience.  He looks through the racks for a total of 5 minutes, and then declares, "It's not here.  You'll have to cancel the order."

Before the accident, it never took me long to locate inventory.  I love my clothes and I remember them well.  My organizational system is kept entirely in my head.  "You should number everything," says Mom, and, of course, she is right.

My parents are generally right.  Is it possible to be scarred by overly good parents?   I'm 45 years old and I'm writing this in bed while my parents read the newspaper in the same room.  They plan to stay until I can walk. 

They are in their late seventies.  They haven't seen their home in several weeks.  They had to forward all their mail and pay someone to watch over their house while they are gone.  Every morning Dad wakes up at 6 and walks my hyperactive dog.  Mom forces me to eat All-Bran.  They deserve some kind of award for doing this.  

Mom says, "I'm just glad we're still able to take care of you." 

My friend Gillian's mom has dementia.  Gillian spends a lot of time making sure she gets the best care possible.  it isn't easy.  She has to navigate endless paperwork, handle physical tasks that are frankly a little gross, and deal with endless financial worry.   Her mom asks her the same questions over and over.   She gets confused and cries.  She doesn't realize how much her daughter is doing for her.  Gillian spends a lot of time with her mom, but her mom isn't really present - she's a living ghost.

When I get back on my feet, I'm going to relish certain everyday freedoms.  For a few days, I will get a weird kick out of making making my own toast, or standing upright in the shower.  Meanwhile, Mom and Dad will be so happy to get back to their little town.  They will go back to their lectures, their bridge club and their everyday chores.  I will call them on the phone and complain about how busy and exhausted I am.

Until then, we are in this cocoon.




Stuck in Bed


Two and a half weeks ago, I tripped over a small fence and landed in the hospital with a broken leg.  The surgeon put 4 pins in my tibia and instructed me not to bend the leg or put weight on it for 6-8 weeks.  In New York City, that makes almost every activity impossible.  My boss declared me useless and put me on short-term disability. 

So here I am!  In comfy jail!

As of this moment, there are at least three and a half more weeks left in my sentence.   My parents are here to take care of me.  Mom cooks and makes coffee.  Dad walks my dog, Oliver (and their dog, Arabella).  My parents are from a small town in MA, and they don't really like New York.  Recent quote by Mom: "I hate that we have to order everything and we can't just go to the store and get it!"  

My life is very quiet.  The dogs like to nap with me.   I'm on Facebook and Instagram  more than I should be.  I look forward to work-related emails.  Sometimes I draw.   The picture above is the first one I did since the accident.  

In the nineteenth century, this all would have been very normal.  Invalidism was a popular lifestyle in those days.  I would sit in bed and write letters.  Maybe I'd embroider linen?  With a little luck, my romantic novel would be published under a pseudonym.  Then it would win over the London elite, and I'd be feted long after my premature death from bed sores.

Since it's 2017, I think I'll start a blog instead.

My friend Maureen suggested that a blog would be good for my shop, Bliss Street Fashion and Home.  Back when I had two legs at my disposal, I started Bliss Street on eBay.  It began as a way to make a profit on my resale shopping habit.  Over time, it has become a creative endeavor as well.  Last Spring, I photographed a series of real people in the clothes and started an Instagram site.  Someday,  I'd love to develop Bliss Street into a fashion destination.  Resale is such a great way to save money and save the environment.  Win Win.  Also: it's way more fun than retail.  Resale is for people who love to listen to the radio and feel the thrill of surprise when their favorite song comes on.  That's what it feels like to slog through the racks in a dusty church basement and suddenly uncover a St. Laurent suit.  

The other two things I'd like to work on are 1) my drawings and 2) my writing.  More about those goals in another post.

xo Celia