Wine Bottle and Lamentations on Fabric Watercolors

wine bottle watercolor
What is the motivation to choose a subject to paint? Why pick one object over another? Why would someone paint a particular person? I think the answer to all of these questions is emotional attachment. If you feel good or expect good feelings from painting a chosen object or person, you are more likely to enjoy the painting process and not feel like it is a task.

Why did I enjoy painting this wine bottle? I liked the looseness that I applied to the bottle. I also had fun with the patterned fabric underneath it.

Devarim, Illustrated Tehillim, and Lamentations by Yael Ziegler
A few weeks later, I painted these books on the same patterned fabric. It was in response to the theme of PATTERNS, an instagram challenge. I was able to pay careful attention to the details in part because I knew people on Instagram would be looking at the painting. I have emotional attachment to the fabric, as it was a purchase by my mother z”l.

The book of Illustrated Tehillim was given to me by my mother-in-law, as she knew I was looking for pictures of tehillim. Lamentations, the English name for the megillah of Eicha, is a book I am reading by Yael Ziegler, a wonderful speaker who I have met in person. Read it if you want a detailed, scholarly, and poetic approach to reading Eicha. I did this painting right after Tisha B’Av, the week we read parshat Nachamu, about comfort (Isaiah 40:1):

נַחֲמ֥וּ נַחֲמ֖וּ עַמִּ֑י יֹאמַ֖ר אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם׃
Comfort, oh comfort My people,
Says your God.

Those books rest under Devarim, the parshiot we are reading now at this time of the summer.

Tisha B’Av: Fox in Ruins Watercolor

Fox in Ruins: They saw a fox. Akiva comforted us.

Tisha B’Av (9th of the month of Av) is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. It occurs in the summer, sometimes in July, sometimes in August. This year it occurs on Sunday, August 7. I wanted to portray an upbeat story but still connect with the sadness. There is a famous story told at the end of the gemara of Makkot about Rabbi Akiva and a fox. The Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) was destroyed on Tisha B’Av. However, when it happened, Rabbi Akiva laughed. He laughed because he saw a fox coming out of the ruins.

When they arrived at the Temple Mount, they saw a fox that emerged from the site of the Holy of Holies. They began weeping, and Rabbi Akiva was lauging. Why are you laughing, Rabbi Akiva? … the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled, it is evident the prophecy of Zechariah remains valid. Akiva, you have comforted us. Makkot 24B

I painted the Fox in Ruins once before, back in 2011. That one had a little Maccabee beer can, as I had been in the Old City of Jerusalem and was dismayed to see litter. I skipped the beer can in my 2022 version and emphasized the text of the Makkot gemara story.

My brand new Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils arrived just when I was finishing up this watercolor. So I added a bit of watercolor pencil to the underside of the fox.

Self-Portrait of Leora Wenger

One often needs to come up with an image of oneself for social media on on the web. I went to a coding site that required a photo to publish on my profile. I had taken the photo off About Leora Wenger when I moved this site, as I couldn’t decide which one to use. I searched my blog to see if I had any of photos of myself, and I had none. For the coding site, I decided to put up my teacup watercolor in place of a portrait. Maybe I will replace with a photo or a watercolor of me or maybe I won’t.

I decided to correct the lack of self-portrait on this Sketching Out blog.

I settled on this one:
Leora with glasses watercolor

Recipe: Creamy Egg Salad without Mayonnaise

eggs in a bowl watercolor
I have been working on a recipe for egg salad. I do not want to use store-bought mayonnaise due to the unhealthy oils in the mayonnaise. Homemade mayonnaise is too much trouble to make. So how does one make egg salad creamy?

I came up with what I call an un-recipe: I suggest the ingredients, and you decide the amounts. Just about everything is optional. Well, not the eggs. Using real salt is a good idea, too (basically, use unrefined salt, not the kind that is all white — that stuff is like eating glass). There really is a brand called Real salt that I like and was recommended to me by a friend, but you can use any kind of unrefined salt.

Ingredients:

3 – 5 hard-boiled eggs
1 soft-boiled egg (adds to the moisture and creaminess)
Real salt (unrefined)

Choose 1 or 2 or more:
Chopped celery
Chopped sweet onion
Chopped radish
Chopped pickle

Possible herbs (chop finely):
Parsley, sage, basil, dill, chervil

Wet ingredients:
Mustard, tehina, water, lemon juice, cold-pressed olive oil

Spices (optional): cumin, paprika, chili powder, turmeric (Note: I often just use salt and skip the spices).

Chop the vegetables first. Slice the hard-boiled eggs with an egg slicer (if you have one). Add the soft-boiled egg. Add the wet ingredients, the salt, and any spices. Mash it all up. Add the chopped herbs.

Especially if it is your first time making this, add the “wet” ingredients in small amounts. These combined with yolks of the eggs will make your mayo. Add more water or olive oil after the first tasting if the egg salad needs to be creamier.

Enjoy! This is a great recipe for Seudah Shlishit, the meal that observant Jews eat at the end of Shabbat.

eggs on a colorful napkin cloth watercolor

In Search of Style: Little Boy Reads Watercolor

boy reading watercolor
What influences an artist to paint? For me, I have this idea in my head that I want to paint certain family members in a warm, appealing, and descriptive manner. I have been working to increase my skills, but mere technique does not equal achieving a style one wants. In this watercolor painting of my son (he is now many years older than seen in this painting), I felt I got closer. I was able to paint the face with a lighter touch than I have before. Also, I like the expressiveness of the background that adds to the portrait. The bits of pink add a reflectiveness and softens the overall bluish gray and white of the composition.

What are some more ideas that I want to explore?

  • Even more lightness of touch when I paint.
  • Better command of my palette (the colors chosen for the portrait)
  • Always working to improve my drawing!

Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave a comment. I always enjoy hearing from readers.

Excitement of a Purplish, Red, and Pink Radish

radish watercolor on white fence in front of garden structure
I was fiddling in my garden, and I saw the top of something purplish red. Behold! It was my first radish, in my new garden structure built by my friend Yosef Schmidt. I was so excited that I took a photo. It felt like the first “fruit” of my new garden: the other produce so far has been greens.

It turns out that there is a challenge called #studyfromlifechallenge on Instagram. You are supposed to paint from real life based on a weekly theme. So this week the theme was pink. When a painter looks at that radish, it is not just one shade of color. So I started my watercolor with opera pink. I later added some alizarin crimson and a tiny bit of cobalt blue.

Below is a photo of the garden structure when it was first built. It is 7 feet tall, and I commissioned Yosef to build it because the deer kept eating my plants. And we used to have a groundhog that lived on our garage that would eat all sorts of goodies in my garden. It has a door in the back, and a row for a human to walk into the structure and examine the three garden beds that are in a U shape.

So far, I have grown micro greens, french chervil, parsley, lettuce, and now radishes! Pea plants are growing, but no peas yet. Hopefully, basil, tomato, cucumber, and beans in the summer.
garden structure March 2022

May Jewish Book Carnival

Siddur, Exploring Exodus, Dissolving Illusions books watercolor by Leora Wenger

Welcome to the May Jewish Book Carnival!

About the Jewish Book Carnival:

The Jewish Book Carnival is a monthly event where bloggers who blog about Jewish books can meet, read and comment on each others’ posts. The carnival was started by Heidi Rabinowitz and Marie Cloutier to build community among bloggers and blogs who feature Jewish books.

On her blog, Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb, Deborah interviewed the editors of the new book The Ones Who Remember: Second-Generation Voices of the Holocaust.

Reuven Chaim Klein reviews four books on his blog The Rachack Review: Disputed Messiahs: Jewish and Christian Messianism in the Ashkenazic World during the Reformation, Moshe Emes: Torah and Science Alignment, Kabbalah and Sex Magic: A Mythical-Ritual Genealogy, and Understanding the Alef-Beis: Insights into the Hebrew Letters and the Methods of Interpreting Them.

Please read Howard Lovy’s interview for Publishers Weekly with Danica Davidson, co-author of I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz: Authors Bring Holocaust Story to Young Readers.

On gilagreenwrites, Gila interviews author Avner Landes about his debut novel Meiselman: the Lean Years.

Why is the Hebrew Bible different from all other Bibles? In April, Jill at Rhapsody in Books reviewed “The Grammar of God” by Aviya Kushner in which Kushner answers this question in a fascinating analysis.

Every day in May, Heidi Rabinowitz will post #JewishAmericanHeritageMonth daily kidlit book recommendations at the Facebook page Book of Life, featuring Jewish books from across the United States.

The Book of Life Podcast’s May episode features an interview with Dayna Lorentz, author of Wayward Creatures, a middle grade contemporary novel told in two voices: a troubled Jewish boy and a wayward coyote.

On her My Machberet blog, Erika Dreifus routinely compiles news of Jewish literary interest. Here’s one recent post, expanded for #JewishAmericanHeritageMonth and other notable May occasions and including a special Yom HaZikaron/Yom HaAtzmaut giveaway that continues through May 18.

At Jewish Books for Kids and More, Barbara Bietz interviews author Betsy R. Rosenthal about her new middle-grade novel, WHEN LIGHTNIN’ STRUCK.

Life Is Like a Library reviews Ayelet Gundar Goshen’s Waking Lions:

A Jewish Grandmother read a couple of young readers on Jewish themes from Kar-Ben Publishing and was happy to be able to give great books to a granddaughter. The Button Box by Bridget Hodder and When Lightnin’ Struck by Betsy R. Rosenthal both have wonderful stories with interesting Jewish themes, They both give some background on Spanish Jewry, which isn’t known by many people.

A Jewish Grandmother also reviewed Dear Cousin a great book with a strong moral message. It’s a very well-written eulogy/memoir by Elchonon Boruch Galbut about his cousin Brian Boruch Tzvi Galbut.

Bubby has been writing a series of posts on World War II and God’s role in Jewish history. The latest is called All the World is a Hidden Purimspiel. The plan is to put the posts together into a book.

Recent Figure Paintings

girl and her father dance with a flag
This is one of my favorite recent watercolor paintings, a girl with a flag in one hand, holding unto her father, and dancing down the middle of a street of trees. It is from the hachnassat sefer Torah that I posted about a while back.

man and his car
One advantage of not achieving likeness in a portrait is that I feel more comfortable sharing this painting of a long ago relative. He must have really been proud of that car.

Lenape Trail figures
We went on a family hike during Pesach. The morning before the hike I painted two pages in my sketchbook with exercises from Shari Blaukopf’s book Working with Color. When I got back from the hike I drew figures of our family hikers with ink on top of the pre-painted pages. I added a touch of watercolor to each figure.

Mushroom Paté — Passover Dip

oyster mushrooms watercolor
Watercolor of oyster mushrooms purchased from the mushroom stand at the Highland Park Farmers Market

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. mushrooms
    (I used a bag of oyster mushrooms from the Highland Park Farmers Market — marked as 1 lb.)
  • 1 large onion
  • Olive oil (or coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt or to taste
  • Spices or dried herbs (I used dried thyme)

This mushroom paté (or mushroom dip or mushroom spread) can be made in a short time. Chop then sauté the onion in olive oil (add salt at the cooking point so it will absorbed well and not be so salty if added later). Add the mushrooms, chopped into pieces. Put the onions, mushrooms, and walnuts in the food processor, then add dried herbs. Turn on the food processor until the mixture is smooth or slightly chunky. Klara Levine, who gave me this recipe, suggested it should be the consistency of haroset.

I wrote a previous version of the mushroom paté recipe here. Enjoy Pesach to all those who celebrate – and to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy spring.

Adar Art, Purim Theater, and a Torah Parade

Purim mask, hamantaschen, wine
Why is Purim theatrical? To learn about the hidden Purimspiel (Purim play), visit Bubby’s post “All the World is a Hidden Purimspiel“. Why do I start a post by linking to another post? Because this post on Sketching Out is really just an excuse to show you some of my latest artwork related to Purim.

This year we were fortunate to have two Adars, two Jewish months that contain Purim. This is to fix the lunar calendar by adding an extra month (sort of like February 29, but Adar II lasts for a whole month). It seems the joyous month of Adar is a great way to do that. The first Adar has a day known as Purim Kattan, small Purim. I did the painting at the top of this post in an attempt to do a tiny Purim, but it really does not look all that small.

The expression one says at the beginning of the month is: When Adar Enters, We Increase in Joy. Mishnichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha.
adar magical - when Adar comes, we increase our joy
I sent this to friends at the beginning of Adar (which had two new moons this year — two beginnings of Adar!).

Another expression for this time period is: V’Nahafoch Hu. May all the evil decrees be turned around! I used this to decorate the gifts of food that I give to my friends (Mishloach Manot or Shaloch Manos).
Turn around the evil decrees -- boy playing flute

Two weeks ago a surprise parade came down my block. Our local shteibel was celebrating a new Torah (Hachnasat Sefer Torah). I did a drawing of a father and daughter dancing down North 8th. I later did a watercolor painting of the big float that passed in front of my house.

father and daughter dance down North 8th Avenue

Torah on parade, North 7th Avenue, Highland Park, New Jersey
What I like about this painting is the use of color on the main subjects and leaving the rest simple and monochromatic. I am learning not to worry about all the details of each person.