Monday, December 12, 2005

Moving Right Along

After being away all summer, we came back to Santa Cruz in September, and I immediately began taking a beginning drawing class. It has been great and I have certainly been learning a lot. Here are a couple of my drawings.
Charcoal sketch done in the classroom (above)
Another charcoal still life....
The perennial art-student problem - the fork in a glass of water....
An assignment where we had to work in the "cubist" style!

I just finished my "final project" and have been inspired to work from old family photographs, doing drawings of "the ancestors". This first one is my grandfather, in his car in 1906, with a lot of dead game birds, bounty from a hunting trip he and his friends made. (The size of this drawing is about 30" x 20".) My grandfather owned the West Indies Sugar Company and had sugar plantations in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. He travelled back and forth between those islands and the family homes in Connecticut and in New York City. In his Dominican Republic home, he hired a governess from Spain to take care of the children when they were with him. My grandmother stayed behind. My grandmother was a lovely woman named Helen Akin. She was a Quaker, and I remember her as a hearty and dignified older woman with a very striking deep voice. She and my grandfather had four children, one of whom was my father.

In approximately 1917 or 1918 my grandfather began a love affair with Emilia, his children's Spanish governess. Eventually he divorced my grandmother and married her, a huge and devastating family scandal that made my father cry even when he talked about it as an old man. We knew Emilia as "Beth" when we were growing up. By then, my grandfather had died and we had two grandmothers. We children always loved being around Beth. She was a pistol with a lashing sense of humor, a dazzling intellectual capacity, and a withering manner of cutting people down to size. But she was always kind to us children. Typically she smoked a cigarette held in a long holder, and had a glass of whiskey and ice clinking in the other hand. For breakfast she took black coffee and burnt toast. My brothers and I speculated that she must be black inside, since her diet and her disposition both tended in that direction. She had the dark eyebrows, flashing black eyes, and wavy black hair.

One of my favorite stories, told by Beth, was about her grandmother. She, too, had amazingly thick and bushy eyebrows. She never appeared in public without first smearing them with vaseline to smooth them down. One evening an unexpected visitor dropped by her home - the village priest. This was in the days before there were electric lights. Beth's grandmother hurried into the bedroom to the washstand to apply the vaseline to her eyebrows. She was in the dark and did not notice that what she had really done was to liberally spread toothpaste onto her eyebrows instead. Apparently she created a sensational scene when she emerged to greet the guest!

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