Mishkan Colors

mishkan colors with red, purple, blue
The passages describing colors of the Mishkan inspired me to do some drapery studies. Years ago, when I was in art school, I remember learning to do triangles of color. Put together a palette of a dark red, a medium red, and a light red. And do triangles.

When you read passages from the Torah in translation, you are often not reading exactly what the text intended. Not that we know for sure what the text intended.

In parshat Veyakhel and in parshat Pekudai (those two often go together, but this year we have a leap year — yay, two months of Adar! Lots of opportunity for joy) colors are mentioned among the items that people brought to help build the Mishkan, the holy structure for worship. The Hebrew is “techelet, argaman, and tola’at shani” (Exodus 35:6):

וּתְכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי

Tola’at Sheni seems to be some kind of red. I saw translations as scarlet or crimson. I saw tabernacle photos with worm-like creatures that were coral. Tola’at does seem to be a worm of sorts.

Techelet is some kind of blue. The Stone Chumash, published by Art Scroll, translates techelet as turquoise. Here is my turquoise version:
crimson, purple, turquoise

Robert Alter in his Bible translation uses indigo. Jewish Publication Society went with the safe translation: blue. The painting at the top of this post is my “blue” version.

Argaman is loosely translated as purple. However, one friend thought argaman should have a tint of red, as in burgundy or bordeaux. Or maybe violet. So here is yet a third version:

red, burgundy, blue Mishkan colors

I created the burgundy by loading the top painting with blue in my Linux laptop. There I used GIMP, a free and open software package, to change the hue of the purple to burgundy.

Farmers Market Watercolors

Organic Stand at Highland Park Farmer's Market
Winter is here: most humans spend less time outside. As an artist, I like pour over spring, summer, and fall photos for painting inspiration. I miss the Highland Park Farmers Market, so it has become one of my favorite themes to paint. Also, I took an online course with Shari Blaukopf called Sketching Markets in Ink and Watercolor, so that was an added incentive to paint my local market.

I have two favorite stands at the Highland Park Farmers Market. The first one I go to is the organic stand: that stand is depicted in the paintings at the top and bottom of this post. I often look for kale. It tends to be greener in the spring or fall, as kale prefers cooler temperatures. Sometimes I buy arugula, corn, parsley, or squash. I enjoyed painting all the overflowing cabbages and cauliflower in the top painting.

peaches at the farmers market in Highland Park, New Jersey
My favorite item of all are the summer peaches. New Jersey peaches in July and August are amazing. I worked hard to apply rich, opaque paint to my peaches illustration.

organic stand at the Highland Park Farmers Market
In this painting I challenged myself to include a person, some signs, and a background. Farmers markets are lively places: much for the artist to capture.

Desert Watercolor and Ox Falls in Pit

watercolor of Judean desert with John Singer Sargent painting as the teacher
Watercolor of Judean desert with 1905 John Singer Sargent watercolor painting as the teaching guide

As an adult who wants to learn, one needs to be creative in finding good teachers. One way that I learn new art techniques is by copying master painters. This past week I wanted to paint a desert painting, so I turned to a reproduction of a 1905 John Singer Sargent watercolor of the Judean Desert.

Why a desert? Last week the Torah portion was Yitro (Jethro, father-in-law of Moses), and the people of Israel were wandering around in the desert. So I decided to copy the John Singer Sargent painting of a desert (not the Sinai but one near Jerusalem where some of our friends live, near Jericho).

בַּחֹדֶשׁ, הַשְּׁלִישִׁי, לְצֵאת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם–בַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה, בָּאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינָי
וַיִּסְעוּ מֵרְפִידִים, וַיָּבֹאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינַי, וַיַּחֲנוּ, בַּמִּדְבָּר; וַיִּחַן-שָׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל, נֶגֶד הָהָר

In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. And when they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount.
Exodus 19:1-2

We learn in parshat Yitro that Yitro was the teacher of Moshe. Moshe was settling disputes on his own, without any help. Yitro saw that this was not an efficient method of the leading the people. He suggested Moshe appoint leaders to handle many of these issues. We learn that we should not take upon all the problems of society on our own. Instead we should find others to help us.

I am thankful to my husband and to my rabbi for teaching me Torah. This coming week is parshat Mishpatim (laws). I skimmed the parsha and found many work or farm animals are used as examples to teach about disputes between people. For example, here is my illustration of an ox falling into a pit that a person has negligently left open. There is more of the week to study the parsha: looking forward to what else I will learn.
ox falls into pit in parshat mishpatim

Bloody Nile Watercolor and Solzhenitsyn on Art

Bloody Nile egret watercolor
Why do art? And how does one get inspiration? For the first question, I will quote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at the end of this post. For the second, I will describe the process of how I created this watercolor.

I painted this watercolor in response to reading about Plague Number One: blood. How does one depict a bloody river Nile? A while back, I painted a dull straight river of blood. I wanted something more watery. I looked at paintings of Winslow Homer and J.M.W. Turner. Both are known for their water scenes. I happened upon a small museum book of Japanese paintings that belonged to my mother z”l. The covered showed an egret (at first, I thought it was a stork — I need to improve my birdwatching skills) bathing in a body of water. Actually, there are two egrets in the scene. I just focused on the right side. The reeds kind of look as how I would imagine greens growing next to the Nile might look. And my friend later told me indeed egrets are found in Egypt.

When I do biblical art, I recently started adding a snippet from a pasuk (a phrase of Torah) to the side of the art. Here is another version of this painting, one that cites the plague of blood:
Parshat Vaera, Shmot 7:21 “and the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt.”
And there was blood throughout the land of Egypt watercolor

Quotes from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1970 Nobel Lecture

Who was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born in 1918 in Kislovodsk, Russia. In 1945 he was arrested for criticising Stalin in private correspondence and sentenced to an eight-year term in a labour camp, to be followed by permanent internal exile. The experience of the camps provided him with raw material for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which he was permitted to publish in 1962. In 1970 he gave a lecture upon receiving the Nobel prize, and the main topic was art.

Not everything can be named. Some things draw us beyond words. Art can warm even a chilled and sunless soul to an exalted experience. Through art we occasionally receive–indistinctly, briefly–revelations the likes of which cannot be achieved by rational thought.

Later in the lecture:

But who will reconcile these scales of values and how? Who is going to give mankind a single system of evaluation for evil deeds and for good ones, for unbearable things and for tolerable ones–as we differentiate them today? Who will elucidate for mankind what really is burdensome and unbearable and merely chafes the skin due to its proximity? Who will direct anger toward that which is more fearsome rather than toward that which is closer at hand? Who could convey this understanding across the barriers of his own human experience? Who could impress upon a sluggish and obstinate human being someone else’s far off sorrows and joys, who could give him an insight into magnitude of events and into delusions which he has never himself experienced? Propaganda, coercion, and scientific proof are equally powerless here. But fortunately there does exist a means to this end in the world! It is art. It is literature.

Source: The Solzhenitsyn Reader, edited by Edward E. Ericson, Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney

Mourning Dove Watercolor

mourning dove watercolor
This week a mourning dove was wandering about my front yard. Instead of grabbing a camera and photographing the bird, I took my watercolor sketchpad (Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal) and used a pencil and pen to draw the bird. I took it back in the house, added a little watercolor to the bird, went back out again to examine the mourning dove carefully. Yes, it did have those spots toward the tail. Yes, they were a shade of darkish gray. Yes, the beak was also darkish gray. Later I looked in my Birds of New Jersey Field Guide by Stan Tekiela and learned more:

Name comes from its mournful cooing. A ground feeder, bobbing its head as it walks. One of the few birds to drink without lifting head.

The one in my yard seemed to have a longer beak than the one pictured in the book.Also, I did not see the bright color in the head that Stan Tekiela showed in his photo. Adding a bit of lavender did seem to match the bird that I saw. However, as an artist one could also say using lavender was artistic license for either shadow or for gradations of hue or saturations.

Do you see birds in your yard? Do see distinguishing marks on the birds, whether color, spots or types of feathers?

Theme of Water in Parshat Shemot

Shemot: Batya, Miriam, Baby Moshe
Parshat Shemot: Batya, Miriam, and Baby Moshe

The people of Israel are down in Egypt. A new Pharaoh comes along. He tells the midwives to kill the baby boys. Yocheved puts her baby son in a tevah in the river. Miriam watches from a distance. The daughter of Pharaoh, Batya, comes along to take care of the baby. Batya gets Yocheved to nurse the baby.

What is the importance of water?

Water is the reason Egypt is a super power: they have the Nile. Israel needs rain, creating a situation in which we need to rely on God. We need to pray for rain. This helps one build a relationship with God. Learn more from Rabbi Leibtag.

Noah vs. Moshe

What are the parallels to Noah? Both saved by a tevah. Both have forty days and forty nights. When Gods tells Noah he’s going to continue the world through him, Noah responds: OK, sure. Moshe, however, says “No.” If you destroy the people of Israel, then erase me from your book.

According to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, Moshe repairs the flaw of Noah. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev teaches “Moshe is the tikkun (repair) for the soul of Noah” (Keddushat Levi, Noach). This idea is based on the Ari z”l in Sha’ar Hagilgulim who says that Moshe is a gilgul, a reincarnation of Noah.

Noah is told to build a tevah: “Make yourself an ark – tevah” (Bereishit 6:14).
Moshe is saved in a tevah: “She took a papyrus box – tevah.”

Noah is saved from the great waters of the flood.
Moshe’s name means to be drawn from the water: “Because from the water he was drawn” (Shemot 2:10). In a sense, both Noah and Moshe are “drawn from the water”.

Of Noah during the flood: “It would continue to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights” (Bereishit 7:12).
Of Moshe: “Moshe remained there with God for 40 days and 40 nights” (Shemot 34:28).

Noah does not respond nor plead on behalf of his generation, but merely carries out God’s command. “And Noah did all that God had commanded him” (Bereishit 6:22).

Moshe displays care and sympathy. We are familiar with these characteristics from Parshat Shemot when we learn that Moshe cannot sit by idly by when witnessing the suffering of others. He slays the Egyptian and saves Yitro’s daughters.

The tikkun of Noah is that Moshe is willing to suffer annihilation rather then continue without Bnei Yisrael. In complete empathy and identification with Bnei Yisrael, he ties his fate to theirs by intentionally sinning by breaking the tablets.
Source: Batya Hefter, Parshat Hashavua, Shemot, Nov 19, 2016

Moshe and the Nile

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֱמֹר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן קַח מַטְּךָ וּנְטֵה-יָדְךָ עַל-מֵימֵי מִצְרַיִם עַל-נַהֲרֹתָם עַל-יְאֹרֵיהֶם וְעַל-אַגְמֵיהֶם
(שְׁמוֹת 7:19)
Rashi explains that Moshe was saved by the Nile, so Aharon instead does the hitting of the water for the plague of dam – blood. Importance of being grateful – even to an inanimate object like a river.

More Artwork!

For those who come for the artwork, here is a pen and ink version of Miriam, Batya, and Moshe:

Miriam, Batya, baby Moshe

Colorful Watercolor Landscape of Pond

landscape colorful version

I posted this colorful landscape of a pond near my work (on Instagram and then on Facebook) – I called it “fake.” A friend said, no, it is real. Another friend suggested we might end up with an debate on what is considered to be real and what is considered to be fake. It is a bit like weeds – do you like it in your garden? Yes? Then it is not a weed.

I am hoping by posting this watercolor I will inspire myself to go back to doing watercolor painting. When life gets busy, sometimes it is nice to do nothing. On the other hand, producing art can be quite satisfying.

What inspires you to paint? Do you sometimes want to do nothing?

Boy in Tree – Watercolor

boy in tree watercolor 2019
What are the things in life that bring you joy? I love when I get inspired to paint or draw. A few weeks ago I found this old photo; a day later I had painted this watercolor. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been busy with other parts of my life, and I have not painted nearly as much as I would like. Sometimes I do take a sketch pad with me, so there are a few drawings of people in my sketch pad. I found another photo that could also make a nice watercolor – perhaps I will squeeze in the time to do a watercolor of that photo.

Thank you for visiting!

Eggplant Dip Recipe – with Radish and Cilantro Watercolor

eggplant watercolor with radishes
Would you like to make a creamy eggplant dip, no dairy involved, with tangy flavor and chopped vegetables? Read on.

Ingredients for main dip:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 onion (optional)
  • 1 lemon for its juice
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, cumin to taste
  • Fresh cilantro (you can use parsley, but it won’t be quite as flavorful)

Ingredients for salad mixins / toppings:

  • 2 or 3 red radishes, chopped small
  • 1 cucumber, chopped in cubes
  • 1 tomato, chopped in cubes (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped red onion (optional)
  • 1 chopped scallion (optional)

Bake the eggplant in a casserole dish at 375 for about 1.5 hours or until soft. Scrape out the insides into food processor. Place all the ingredients for the main dip (garlic, onion, lemon juice, olive oil, spices, cilantro) into the food processor. Blend until smooth. Before serving, add chopped vegetables: radishes, cucumber, tomato, red onion, scallion. Serve at room temperature. Enjoy!

P.S. I just bought an Instant Pot. So far, I’ve used it to make flavored rice. Maybe my next watercolor will have some of the ingredients of my rice dish. Have you bought an Instant Pot? What do you make with it?

Man in Parka – Watercolor Sketch

man in parka
This watercolor sketch of a man in parka was painted while looking at a photo from 1985. Seems like another age – before digital photos. If you wonder why the background looks like ancient ruins, it was indeed somewhere in Israel. I do not know where in Israel.

When lousy things happen, either in the news or in one’s personal life, it is helpful to have expressive outlets. Some play music. Some write essays. I am pleased that I started painting again.

What is your expressive outlet?