Flowers and Portraits: Why I Post Flowers

Bouquet with mask and flowers for Purim, watercolor
I painted the bouquet of flowers (note the purple irises and the mask) that I bought from Roberts Florals in Highland Park, New Jersey on Purim. My guests enjoyed the bouquet along with the meal. I am relatively pleased with the result of the painting.

My current ultimate goal is to get better at painting portraits. I am confident in my flower painting abilities. I could improve in details, but I do not strive to be a realistic floral artist. One reason I chose to paint the bouquet is it was a good warm up to painting after Shabbat and after a week of little painting in general.

Why I failed miserably at 100 people week

Early in March there was a competition to draw or paint 100 people in a week. My start was delayed by Purim; I had lots of preparations to do for the holiday, and guests showed up to entertain us at our seudah (festive meal). Finally, I went out one day with my sketchpad and doodled quite a few people. I did not care much for the result, so it is not getting posted here. Then I ran out of time to go outside and look for people. So I went up to my attic late one night, and I took down several photos of people that I found inspirational.

How 100 people week Inspired Portraiture Adventures

boy showing a flower to a chicken, gouache painting
One of the photos that I found was one of my sons showing a dandelion to a chicken. I did one quick sketch; the proportions of the head were off. I started another. I continued painting into the night, and I am please with the result: gouache media, lots of strokes and movement. I like how the light falls on the figures and the variety of hues established.

Here is another portrait that I did, from an old black and white photo of a relative eating soup. This portrait is also done with gouache. Maybe I will do another version in the future with more attention to the background.
man in hat eating soup

More Flowers to Show

Whenever I go shopping with a certain friend, I am done long before she is. No problem! Each store seems to have a section of flowers. So I put my paid groceries in the car, and I return to draw with a Uniball pen whatever strikes me in the store. Often, the flowers stand out. Here are a few of my favorites:

buy local flowers
This one was painted after another one that had the brand name of a large chain store got rejected from an online shop that sells artists’ goods. Lesson learned: buy local flowers. Advertise local stores. No need to ruffle the feathers of any large chain stores.

flowers with palette
I often like painting a palette of colors near my watercolors. This palette compliments the flowers nicely, organic flowers shapes near geometric squares.

More on Painting Flowers

I am reading Painting Flowers in Watercolor with Charles Reid, a classic in the watercolor book world. Two ideas that I look forward to incorporating in future watercolor floral sketches or paintings:
1) Pay attention to negative shapes that the flowers make almost as much as to the flowers themselves. Do not overwork the details. Paint the background along with painting the flowers. The background should not be an after thought.
2) When painting the background, don’t do one solid expanse of one color. Do a variety of color in a mix that compliments whatever flowers one is painting.

Charles Reid uses a lot of cadmiums in his palette (Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange). I will substitute colors in my palette, probably Hansa Yellow (light, medium, or dark) and New Gamboge. One exercise is to paint daffodils. Another is techniques for white flowers. Daffodils and magnolias are in bloom now. Hopefully, I will be able to experiment with his ideas.

It is now the Jewish month of Nissan. In Nissan we celebrate freedom on Passover. We are also commanded to say blessing on a fruit tree when it shows its first blossoms. I will be looking around my neighborhood for all kinds of blossoms for blessings and for sketches.

Tip of the Triangle: Doughboy, Cleaners, Lukoil

Urban Sketching at the Tip of the Triangle

Do you think you need to visit New York City or Philadelphia to do urban sketching? Think again. I have found inspiration within a short walk of my home. One could define urban sketching as visual storytelling with a notebook and pens, pencils, paints, or any other artistic media.

Highland Park has an area called The Triangle. It is mostly residential, but it does host a large elementary school. I live by the tip, which holds a small statue of a Doughboy. The Doughboy, a slang term for a U.S. infantryman, is a symbol of veterans who fought in wars. The initial name came from World War I. It was erected in 1921. A new version of the Doughboy statue went up in Spring 2022, after a car or a truck supposedly ran it over. There were theories that it actually was hidden by the good guys when the bad guys were taking down historic statues.

Doughboy at corner of Raritan and Woodbridge Avenues in Highland Park, New Jersey

I did this painting of the Doughboy almost two years ago. It is not easy to paint a statue. There are no local hues other than off-whites. And there is a lot going on at the bottom: legs, a rifle, a big rock. After a few early attempts, the main thing I learned was to slow down while doing the drawing. Get the proportions right, and leave ample white space.

Rainbow Cleaners on Raritan Avenue in Highland Park, New Jersey

The incentive for doing Rainbow Cleaners is that the store got a new owner. The store is right down the block, so it is an easy “commute” to work on this subject. I like all the signs on the building. There are oranges courtesy of the Bargain Shop and a bright green parking sign. Our family lawyer has his office upstairs.

Lukoil gas station in Highland Park, New Jersey

I haven’t done much with Lukoil yet. It has that lovely shade of red in its logo. I often fill my car with gas here. One day one of the gas attendants told me I dropped my gloves after I finished sketching. His kindness gives me a warm feeling about a gas station!

Sketch Worthy Highland Park: map of the tip of the triangle
This is a sketch that I did as part of a class called Sketching Now Sketchbook. It has a map of the tip of the Triangle and the positions of the Doughboy statue, Rainbow Cleaners, and the Lukoil gas station. Each one is down the block from my home, so good spots for me to visit when I feel like doing some local urban sketching.

Visit the leoraw store

If you made it this far in reading this blog post, please check out my new store. You can purchase a Highland Park High School sketch on a clock, dinner at the Bridge Turkish restaurant on a mug, a t-shirt of peaches at the Farmers Market, and more.

Still in the planning stages: a database of my paintings and sketches, so it will be easier for potential clients to look up works of mine that they like. For example, if you type in ‘doughboy’ you will get a listing with images and links of my paintings or drawings of the Highland Park Doughboy.

Parsha Pictures: Jacob’s Ladder and Joseph’s Dreams

Joseph's dreams, baker's dream, butler's dream

I succeeded in making illustrations for each of the parshiot (section of Torah read in the synagogue each week) of Breishit (Genesis) this past fall. However, only a few illustrations became blog posts.

I had a great time redoing an illustration for Parshat Vayeshev, the parsha that has Joseph’s dreams along with the dreams of the butler/cupbearer and of the baker.

“I have had another dream: And this time, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” — Genesis 37:9

On the vine were three branches. It had barely budded, when out came its blossoms and its clusters ripened into grapes. — Genesis 40:10

In the uppermost basket were all kinds of food for Pharaoh that a baker prepares; and the birds were eating it out of the basket above my head.” — Genesis 40:17

The stripes of Joseph’s coat, not part of a dream but part of the parsha, felt like I was painting a roller coaster.

Jacob’s Ladder, a work on paper done in gouache, is one of my favorites. In creating the painting Jacob’s Ladder, story found in Parshat Vayeitze, I looked at Renaissance and more recent paintings for inspiration. The man lying down was actually inspired by a relative napping on a couch. He made a convenient model for the painting.

He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it. — Genesis 28:12-13

Jacob's Ladder with Angels climbing up and down, gouache on paper

I set up a store so I can sell reproductions of my art work. There are two options: for those who want fine art productions they can hang proudly in their homes, I am offering prints of painting such as Jacob’s Ladder and Joseph’s Dreams for limited times with limited prints. One will need to contact me directly to get a fine print. For those who like mugs or tote bags with Highland Park illustrations, visit the online shop (click on any image to get to more products). Buy as many of those as you want!

How to Ferment: Sauerkraut, Sour Tomatoes, Kimchi

ferments in my kitchen

Sauerkraut

1 head of cabbage, red or green
Save outer leaves. You can also use a horseradish leaf for top layer.

1 tsp. Real Salt (or other sea salt, Do Not Use Table Salt) — in my opinion, just add a spoonful of salt to each bunch of cut up cabbage — no need to measure exactly.

1 mason jar (32 oz. large wide mouth mason jar)
1 glass weight *
Fermentation lid for the top **

Take off and save outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut cabbage into small pieces. Place cut pieces in large ceramic bowl. Sprinkle salt as you cut. Remove from jar and place in large ceramic bowl. Massage the cabbage with a masher or with your hands. Leave it under a weight like a large water bottle and plastic plate (if you have glass or ceramic the diameter of your bowl, better) for a few hours. Object is to get the water out of the cabbage.

After some hours (can be overnight), massage the cabbage once again. Pour liquid from the cabbage into the mason jar. If you do not have a cup of water (1/4 full), add more water. Pour the water/brine into another container. Add the chopped cabbage to the mason jar. Cabbage will shrink, so put more outer leaves if it is not filling the jar. Add the optional horseradish leaf. Add the weight. Add the brine so liquid covers the cabbage. Add top fermentation lid. Place in a cool spot out of direct light. Wait as long as you can. Check every few days. Enjoy.

Sour Tomatoes

Unripened green tomatoes
Real Salt (or other sea salt)
Filtered or bottled spring water
Garlic cloves, cut out from peel (optional)
Pickling spices (optional — dill, peppercorns, mustard seed)
Horseradish leaf (optional)

1 mason jar (16 or 32 oz. large wide mouth mason jar, depending on how many green tomatoes)
1 glass weight *
Fermentation lid for the top **

Fill a mason jar with unripe green tomatoes. Add garlic and spices. Add a few teaspoons of sea salt. Add water. If you have a horseradish leaf, place it on the top. The horseradish leaf holds the rest of the contents in place. Put the weight on top. Put on fermentation lid. In a week or less, you will see the fermentation juices bubbling up to the top. The tomatoes are often ready in about a week or two. When they turn an olive, cloudy green instead of a brighter green, you are on way to owning delicious sour tomatoes.

Kimchi

Real Salt (or other sea salt)
Filtered or bottled spring water
1 daikon radish
A few long red radishes (I bought some at the Jeff’s Organic stand at the Highland Park Farmers Market)
1 to 2 carrots
1 – 2 cloves of garlic
1 – 4 hot red peppery chili (or more, depending on how hot you like your kimchi)
3 Tablespoons grated or diced small ginger root
1 cabbage or horseradish leaf (optional)

1. Mix a brine of about 4 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of sea salt. Stir well to dissolve salt.
2. Coarsely chop cabbage, slice carrots into small sticks, slice radishes and daikon into small coins, and let the vegetables soak in the brine covered with a plate and a large bottle of water (or any heavy weight) for a few hours or overnight.
3. Prepare spices: chopped garlic, chili peppers with seeds removed, chopped ginger.
4. Drain off liquid from soaking vegetables into another bowl. Mix the chili, ginger, and garlic into the vegetables. Pack the mixed vegetables into a mason jar, pressing down until the brine rises. Add the cabbage leaf if you have and then a glass weight. Cover with the fermenting lid. Check every few days. Enjoy.

Adapted from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

About Fermenting in General

For healing benefits, consume some of the juice of your ferments each day.

Once you have the basics down for sauerkraut or kimchi, you can try experimental combinations, such as cabbage + carrots + turnip + fresh ginger root.

Of the three recipes posted here, sour tomatoes is the easiest. You just add green tomatoes to a brine, with optional garlic or spices. But not everyone has an abundance of green tomatoes in the fall.

———-
* Glass weights: Type “fermentation glass weights” into a search engine or into Amazon, and you will find plenty. Many are less than $20. I like the ones with the little knobs, but the ones without have the advantage of taking up less space.

** Fermentation lids: look at Jillmo Fermentation kit, available on Amazon. Eden Farmhouse Essentials also makes these lids. You won’t have to burp your ferments every few days if you use these lids. Put them on and just watch as the ferment bubbles up in a few days.

ferments in my kitchen

Lion, Eagle, Dog, and Dove Watercolors

Adam gave the animals names - lion, eagle, bulldog watercolors
One of my problems with blogging is coming up with text. When I used to use SEO tools (search engine optimization), they would say “you need 500 words or so to be” blah blah blah, something about meriting a golden spot in some grandstanding search engine. Well, if words are needed, here are some words.

A new year begins … we ended the fall holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simhat Torah. The Jewish year of 5783 has begun. I am hoping to do a little more blogging this fall … Learn How to Ferment (or whatever I will choose to name the post) is almost for publishing. Other blog ideas: How to See In Order to Draw Better. Highland Park Synagogues in Watercolor or Gouache. Highland Park Restaurants. Local Park Scenes. Not all of these will make it to production … but maybe one or two will.

Each week I aim to make an illustration for the parsha (portion of the Torah read in the synagogue on a weekly basis). For Breishit, the first parsha of the year I depicted (Genesis 2:20):

And Adam gave names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to all the wild beasts;

וַיִּקְרָ֨א הָֽאָדָ֜ם שֵׁמ֗וֹת לְכׇל־הַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּלְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּלְכֹ֖ל חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה

Why did I choose the pasuk (sentence) about Adam naming the animals? I just liked the idea Adam gave out names. It was opportunity to draw an elephant. Except the elephant did not make it into the finished illustration. Lion is King of the Forest. So Lion is on top. Eagle is a majestic bird, so it got the bird spot. And bulldogs are cute.

He sent the dove to see if the waters land
After Breishit, the parsha is Noah. I get a little help each week from Rabbi Avigdor Bonchek, author of the What’s Bothering Rashi series.

I chose to illustrate the dove in the story of Noah because of a Rashi about this pasuk (sentence) (Genesis 8:8):

וַיְשַׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־הַיּוֹנָ֖ה מֵאִתּ֑וֹ לִרְאוֹת֙ הֲקַ֣לּוּ הַמַּ֔יִם מֵעַ֖ל פְּנֵ֥י הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃

Then he sent out the dove to see whether the waters had decreased from the surface of the ground.

Who was supposed to see if the waters had subsided? Noah or the dove? It was Noah. If the dove did not come back, then there was land for the dove. If she found a resting place, the yonah (dove) would not return.

Before the dove, Noah sent out a raven. Maybe next year I will paint a raven.

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