Henry Evans made elegant, colorful woodblock prints of plants, and I took a book about his work, “With Excerpts from the Artist’s Notebooks” to Hawaii. His notes reveal the way he approached printmaking – and drawing. He writes: “The main question in plant portraiture is not how to portray enough detail to make the plant identifiable to genus or to species, but rather how to know what to include and what to leave out to achieve both the right feeling and a believable image.”
I thought about Evans while I made my morning rounds of condominium art with the Lady Baby. We stopped in front of each piece – a mix of botanical paintings of Hawaiian flowers and birds, beach scenes with outrigger canoes, and a large print of a colorful kimono. It was interesting to see which framed objects captured her fancy enough for a lengthy stare. (She looks with long, unmistakably adoring gazes into her mother’s eyes.)
In Anchorage, at Downtown Abbey, a first favorite thing was a small red fire extinguisher. In Hawaii, artificial torch ginger in an orangey-red vase often stopped us for a good look. One morning, I picked up the pack of cards, “Go Fish,” our niece gave us as we left on the trip, with illustrations of tropical fish.
An immediate hit – some fish more than others – the black and red “Achilles Tang” and “Snowflake Moray” being most popular. Showing the cards and saying the names of the fish entertained us both!
The experience made me think about words and images, and then to make cards she might like – ones that could prompt words from us. I painted a clock with the hands at three, and a blue and white cup in time for tea. A puffer fish, a palm tree. A spotty fish, the sun and stars. An orange cat and a baseball hat.
You think you can see her trying out sounds and her vocalizations led me to remember song words I hadn’t thought of in years – variations on a bicycle built for two, “doe a deer,” the Sesame Street alphabet song. Alaskans discover their toes in Hawaii, leading obviously to “this little piggy.” She and I reserved “the wheels on the bus” for the end when sleep was near. A little walk around humming that, and I’d be back to reading my book or watching waves roll in.
I so loved watching the sky while she slept – a quick rainstorm meant an excuse to paint a rainbow – striving for “the right feeling and a believable image!”