It’s been such a long time since I’ve posted any of my travel journals here! Feels great to be back! and sharing some of the sketches and paintings I created on our last trip to glorious Barbados in February.

I would like to give Barbara Bash (http://www.barbarabash.com/) a big shout out for being a huge inspiration with her book True Nature, An Illustrated Journal of Four Seasons in Solitude. She has the most wonderful way of capturing the essence of things, both visually and in her writing. Out of reading her book, and appreciating her artwork – I purchased a new watercolor sketchbook and set out to allow myself to create in new ways on this trip. I gave myself permission to focus on something small, a detail, or just a part of something – instead of thinking I had to create a complete picture! This was not only a great exercise, it was also fun!

I hope you enjoy these images – MAE


The final stretch of our journey along Arizona Historic Route 66 had the feeling of the rough and tumble Wild West. The road has not been kept up as well and we really felt like we were driving through a movie set with the wide vistas, mesas, and cracks in the road that have been patched too many times to count. We were sorry that we still had so far to go (Palm Desert, California) as the afternoon was wearing on when we rolled through Kingman. This would have been a wonderful place to stop and enjoy the numerous Route 66 attractions like The Route 66 Museum and the offices of the Historic Route 66 Association. But we still had miles to go, so we pressed onward.

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After leaving Kingman things became quite desolate, so we were thrilled to come upon a fabulous old gas station in Cool Springs – a great place to stop (actually, it’s THE only thing in Cool Springs!). We were greeted by the very hospitable owner, George Chicago, who gave us the run down on the history of this totally rebuilt landmark. There’s a wonderful essay on the Historic Route 66 site about this life-saving original pit stop: http://www.coolspringsroute66.com/history.htm. But if it weren’t for Ned Leuchtner, the only thing we would have seen would have been a pile of stones in ruin. In 1997, he first passed through this majestic landscape and decided he wanted to own it. After many years of trying, he finally succeeded in 2001 and began to rebuild this roadside stone marvel. Again, kudos to folks like Ned that have given us a chance to take a brief walk back in time and appreciate the importance places like this.

As we were leaving on our way to Oatman, he said “Enjoy all those 122 turns in the road!” We smiled and got in our car. Little did we know what awaited us: a very steep climb up the very road that was the original Old Trails Highway which paralleled the Beale Military Road from 1857. Of all the stretches along Route 66 this was perhaps the most intimidating with its steep grades, narrow road, and hairpin curves. But what a spectacular view!!! I wouldn’t let Richard look as he was driving – and we almost felt a little woozy by the time we got to the top – Sitgreave Pass at 3,550 feet! Amazing views in both directions!

Then down down down an equally windy road to the historic and charming old mining town of Oatman!

This was the end of our Arizona #66 journey and we were sorry that we had missed the gun fight in the center of town by a few hours. If you can plan your trip to see that, make a point of it! The highlight of Oatman, of course, was the burros that roam freely around the town. They’re protected! and have been an integral part of the community since they were used as pack animals back in the days when this town was a thriving mining destination.

We said good-bye to Arizona Route 66 with great sadness, but await the day when we can return for the Fun Run. Thank goodness we have relatives that live in Arizona, and they even own a motorcycle – “Harley”, I should say!! I’ve told them about it and with any luck, they’ll be there for the big weekend this year on May 4th.

Enjoy the pics and Happy Trails!

Monte Alban

Monte Alban is a vast landscape of ruins that have been carefully restored – a tribute to the Zapotec culture that once created this mountaintop city of stone! Scholars believe it began around 500BC and mysteriously ended about 850AD. This religious center was built on top of a mountain to be closer to the gods. Our guide explained that one prevailing theory about why the city was abandoned related to lack of water. Evidently for many centuries the priests, who were the leaders and revered, were able to foresee when the rains would come by creating a “keyhole” in the stones (similar devices can be found at Mayan pyramid ruins as well). When the time came and no shadow was being cast inside this keyhole, they knew that the rainy season would be coming soon. They would predict this to the people who would then begin planting. Over the life of this huge colony, the priests would predict rain, the people grew food to support their lives, and the culture thrived.

Evidently, a climate change event occurred and this entire part of the world experienced a drought cycle that was extended. The priests predicted rain, the rain did not come, the people could not grow food, and they no longer believed in the priests and began to move to other areas closer to water sources. It appears that when the priests lost control, the military came into power. Hmmm – I wonder if there are any lessons for us to learn here?

We were fortunate to have had great guides who told us to get there first thing in the morning, so we were the first ones to walk around in silence. I headed straight for the end (seen above) and climbed up the stairs that didn’t look real steep from a distance, but oh boy! Took several rests on the way up to take pics etc.

When I got to the top and saw yet another pyramid with a tree growing exactly in the middle, I spotted a good stone to sit on and sketched it.

It was fun because Kate had told us to get a 6B pencil – so instead of a pen, I used that to sketch and what a liberation! It really was fun to just draw again! I’ve been a pen and ink person for so long and love the sinuous nature of clean plain lines – but I want to do more of this type of drawing. Sadly, the next day as I tried sharpening the pencil – it would not form a point and kept breaking – all the way to the stub! Not meant to be, I said to myself!

Here’s another drawing I did from the center of the plaza.

Our first day in Oaxaca we set out for the Zocolo, sketchbooks in hand! Kate gave us the assignment to look at the darks and lights, the positive and negative spaces created by all the dynamic elements of this great location. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Oaxaca, this large square is full of huge trees (I wish I could have identified the variety) that perhaps 6-8 people could lock arms around the base of their trunks! There are gardens throughout with benches and people of all walks of life strolling, people watching, reading, enjoying the sun, mariachis playing – and surrounded by outdoor cafes and stores.

At first, walking around I was a little overwhelmed. “Where will I start? What should I pick to sketch?” Eventually, I realized I was most taken by the trees – very curvilinear with huge strong sinuous trunks, and huge limbs breaking off at extreme angles. And then behind them, many layers of other tree branches with light and shadow – arched doorways in shadow. OK, here we go – let’s just dive in and start! And so to my delight, the two kind gentlemen that I began sketching in front of one of these huge trees, had the courtesy to continue visiting until I was almost finished with the sketch. This is certainly different than the pace people race around in our American culture!

After the first sketch, I walked around looking for something different to catch my eye – and ended up being completely taken with another one of the huge trees. And fortunately, a solo gentleman made a wonderful model, to help complete the exercise in scale!

Destination-Arts Rocks!

I just returned from the most wonderful trip to Oaxaca, Mexico with Kate McGloughlin, Dan Lipow and company! They have created a fantastic organization that’s committed to bringing artists and photographers to exciting destinations around the world – to paint, sketch, do printmaking and hone their image making abilities! What’s not to love? We stayed at the sweetest small hotel, Hostal Casa del Sotano, just a few blocks from the Cathedral de Santo Domingo and the Zocolo. We had spectacular views from our open-air breakfast patio looking out over layers of rooftops, the statuesque spires and domed roofs of Santo Domingo and other cathedrals, and off to the distant mountains that surround the city. And at dusk all the cathedrals are lit up which creates a wonderland of images from this very spot.

Over the next series of days, I’ll share some of my sketches, paintings and prints from the trip. Enjoy!

This symbol of the sacred heart is everywhere in Mexico, but our hotel had giant ones hanging at the entrance and when you first walked into the foyer. So fabulous!

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to get the most recent additions to our travel adventures! We recently had a great road trip across the state of Arizona on Route 66 and I got super inspired by all the wonderful businesses and signs that I documented along the way. I’m posting on this blog, as it contains all of my artwork and stories about businesses that have survived or been consumed by our roadside culture. I’m committed to telling these stories and sharing my paintings and photos with you on that site.

There will be more to come of my personal postings and I plan to finish telling you about my father’s World War II letters here, but for the time being, I’ll be posting on the vanishing roadside blog! So please come sign up!

Thank you, maelife

Sketchbook memories

Since the first day I attended Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, I have carried a sketchbook. My favorite medium for sketching is pure line – over the years I have developed a technique where I first draw in the line, and then come back afterward and beef up certain lines to give the subject matter more of a focus. It’s fun and it keeps me in the moment recording what I see and want to remember. My sketchbooks have also taken on more of a collage element in recent years, as I have mainly used them when I travel, and it’s a great way to integrate mementos of a trip including my favorite: MAPS!!! I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something about maps that you find along the way (not the ones you download off the internet that all look the same). Generic and local maps hold a lot of interest for me! I tape them into my travel journals now as a way of cementing the geography of the areas I’ve traveled through on my journey. Hey, you never know when you might need that map when you’re referring to something relevant at some point in the future!!

With that in mind, I would like to share a few of the sketches I did on this trip, as well as a few of the maps – cheerio!

This was the last night of our time in London and we were maxed out but we really wanted to see the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) and our son had told us about this cool show called Power of Making. We staggered over, our feet crying for help after walking all over London that day. We got there late afternoon and saw the show. As we were coming out of the show, we noticed a big bar set up in the foyer and some great jazz music wafting through the air! What’s going on here? Oh, it’s Friday night and it’s “date night” in London!! All the museums do the coolest thing – come have cocktails, listen to great music, look at amazing artwork and mingle with other cool folks who want to do the same thing! So we did!!! We had a couple of cosmos and sat in a huge room facing out to a number of challenging marble statues – the one above was closest to us. I had no idea of the name of the statue, but it looked like the easiest to draw out of the ones I could see, so I set about to draw it!!! I had the basic line elements sketched in and Richard was ready to leave. I asked him if he could please tell me the name of the sculpture to put on the sketch and when he told me I was rather surprised! I had not intended to draw a rape scene!!! But I must admit, her sad expression did account for something. Actually, if you consider that this piece of marble looked fairly close to what I have drawn, it’s down right amazing to think it balances on its own – that’s quite a heavy load he’s carrying!!!

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