Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bob Dylan In America

I'm reading the new Sean Wilentz bio of Bob, a  Christmas present from my husband David. It starts out tracing the roots of the liberal-lefty-Commie elements of American folk music, and surprisingly, it goes back to Aaron Copland. (In 1934, he won the Communist Song Award!)
 It also turns out that Copland's young protege was Leonard Bernstein....and Clifford Odets and Elia Kazan were all part of this left wing group.
  Pete Seeger's father, Charles was a folk music collector, along with John Lomax and his son, Alan. Pete Seeger dropped out of Harvard, and worked with Alan at the Library of Congress, where the Lomaxes created the Archive of American Folk Song.  Alan discovered and recorded a young songwriter named Woody Guthrie, who then teamed up with Seeger and a group of folk artists to form the Almanac Singers. They promoted union organizing, racial justice, and other left wing causes. In the late 1940s, the Almanacs evolved into The Weavers, who had a number one hit with "Good Night Irene", which was a 1933 Leadbelly song discovered by the Lomaxes. The Weavers introduced the younger generation and Bob Dylan to the music of Woody Guthrie. Of course, Pete Seeger was named a "subversive", and the group was blacklisted. (The 1963 cover of Bob's album "Freewheelin" features him and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo, whose parents were New York City intellectuals and Communists, as well.)
This was all kind of news to me, the American Communist connection with folk music...though I knew about Pete Seeger & The Weavers being blacklisted. I wonder what it was about Communism that was so attractive during the 30s and 40s to all these artists, writers, and musicians. I guess it sounded good at the time...
Recently I was up late, and watched (for the 3rd or 4th time) the Martin Scorcese documentary "No Direction Home, which was divided in two parts so perfectly, and I was really primed to get this new biography. We just can't seem to get enough of Bob, from his folk period through his going-electric-mid-to-late 60s. It's all so brilliant, and he was just exploding with creativity. Was anyone ever as cool? No one could wear a checked suit & a top hat with more style. But then, I love his Rolling Thunder Review phase too, where he tours with Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and others. He was really our spokesperson, whether he liked it or not--we grew up with him, just like we did with The Beatles.

Friday, December 10, 2010


 I love vintage cards! These are the latest score from a Poughkeepsie junk shop on Route 9, and I got an entire box for $1. For some reason, they're easy to find, and they're usually really cheap. These are from the bottom end of the Christmas card market, and are kind of cheesy, but who can resist them? The Santa ones are all covered with dusty red flocking, and the kitten on the sled is a little pathetic. I like the dry brush style ornaments, they look very late 50s to me. The cards are all done by Whitman. I have some vintage paper dolls, and the Whitman ones are all done using this technique. I guess it was the style of their in house illustrators. Another detail: all the vintage Christmas cards I have are done on paper, as opposed to card stock, so it's pretty amazing that they've lasted this long, especially the ones from the 40s. And the box that these came in was from an old massage vibrator. It was so awful looking, that I actually decoupaged over it!
But, I do like the Eloise Wilkins style children dancing around Santa and riding on his sled... they're really pretty sweet.

Monday, November 29, 2010


This is our Wall of Icons. When we lived in Los Angeles, David and I started collecting them. We began going to the incredible flea markets around LA, and there was a different one every Sunday. Our first one was the Elk's Club, and in 1987, painted Monterey furniture was cheap, and just about knocked our socks off. We would go with our East Coast friends who were living in LA at the time, and we were all completely taken with Bauer pottery, vintage cowboy stuff & Western paintings, vintage fabrics, lamps from the 40s and 50s, and wonderful old, peeling furniture. It was a magical time, getting to Pasadena in the early morning when they were unloading trucks with primitive Mexican furniture that was painted in shades of green and turquoise. The winter sun was always shining and you were surrounded by mountains. Eventually, we started going to the Rose Bowl, Pasadena City College, and Long Beach...all filled with the stuff of Old California. We bought a big sturdy Mission armchair (now recovered using a Mexican blanket), dark green Adirondack chairs, vintage textiles and clothing, McCoy Pottery, sets of dishes, stunning oil paintings, and we hauled most of it back to the East Coast. Our house is filled with found objects have been refurbished, garage sale stuff, and lots of our old flea market purchases. Now of course, a painting that you bought in 1992 is worth ten times what you would have paid then. And the icons above are one of the things we went wild for in LA--where you would see a jeep with a Virgin of Guadelupe tire cover hanging off the back, driving around the Valley. I'm so nostalgic for our LA life lately...the boys were little, and we had a wonderful group of friends, many of them from New York, like us, who were there for a period of time. My sister Linda & her family lived around the corner, our wonderful friend Julie Von Zerneck had her lovely Portrait of a Bookstore (and still does), our dear pal Brett Brdas lived down the street, our neighbor Lilly Holden and her mom lived across from us. LA was an incredibly inspiring place for us---it's a city that has so much creative energy and such gorgeous terrain--mountains, desert, beach, and all that Old Hollywood history.
PS--the cool peace sign is made by David!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Girl's Favorites

This is Ruby Ritz's new fabric design, with all the things she holds nearest and dearest to her heart. Shoes, lipstick, perfume, a ladylike handbag, her grandmother's pearls, and of course, a good strong cup of coffee and her cell phone---which she could never be without! And that hard-to-find perfect moisturizer. We thought a soothing pastel palette would become her and calm her nerves. She has so much on her mind these days, and is stressed to the max....but aren't we all? Money, money, money...that's all anyone can think about. And you're either working too hard, or hardly working. I guess we should have put a TV on this design too---a nice HD flatscreen--as it seems that's how Ruby's spending a lot of her time. Watching TCM & HBO. Wondering how she's going to make it through the winter without Mad Men....Betty's outfits, Joan's snappy career gal wisdom, Sally's directness, Roger's cool, Don's flaws, and Peggy's resilience. And the spot on, perfect art direction--how about poolside 60s LA in the final episode? They even got that slightly faded polaroid color just right.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Photoshop Fun

I just learned this weekend how to put a design in repeat in PHOTOSHOP, and I think it's going to be a huge life changer! Now, these repeats, as you can see, are basic side-by-side style. I have to figure out how to do a half drop repeat, which will give a different look. But still, I can take a design and instantly turn it into a repeated one...so it's really exciting. And of course, I have Danika to help me if I get in a jam and am stuck. And my son David is a Photoshop pro as well. I have a lot of designs in my portfolio that are painted and finished, but not really in repeat...this way I can make them more fully developed, and maybe get them printed up. I found this website called SPOONFLOWER that I had read about last year, and forgot the name. You can upload designs to them, and they'll print them on cotton fabric. You can get samples for $5 a yard, or actually order yardage for $18 - $32 per. So, it sounds like it would be worth a try! I'm not sure what digital quality is like on fabric, if the colors are a rich, but I definitely want to look into it. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

These are some more of my fabrics printed by Michael Miller. You can get them online now at the Fat Quarter Shop website, as they're sold out at MM. Clotilde made dresses out of the cream colored one, which is called "The Old West". They are adorable, trimmed with a brown & white gingham. The red design is called "Ropin'"
I have to say, it's so much fun to have your paintings made into fabric...there's just something about it that's so tactile....it's very different than having it just stay flat, like a painting on a wall or a print. It moves, folds, drapes, and molds into whatever shape you put it on, like a chair. It's a totally different experience.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jamestown sketches

We spent the last two weeks in Jamestown, RI.
 We were house sitting for Marisa Quinn& Jay Sisson, watching their two Labs, Maq & Gillie, and their cat, Samson. It was very relaxing, and I spent a lot of time drawing, just using colored pencils. We went to the beach, and hung out in Newport and Wickford, just poking around. 
Here are some pics of Jack Romano, Ray Noonan, and Patrice Arundale. Jack made a trip to Mackerel Cove while recuperating from spinal surgery. He looks fantastic, and is about 8 inches taller! Ray, of course, is never without a guitar, and was plinking away while watching some tv show. And Patrice  was nice enough to sit in her yellow & white striped suit while we were at the beach one late afternoon. The next night she made us a fabulous dinner!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ginty Pool

This is my son David reading yesterday at our lovely neighborhood pool. I brought my colored pencils along, and he was kind enough to sit for me, in between dives. It was a hot & steamy July day, but we were cool as cucumbers in the shade. It's a beautiful setting; there's always a breeze and Ginty's a perfect pool. It's big and clean and turquoise blue, with lanes for the swimmers, and a deep end for diving. It's surrounded by trees, so by late afternoon it's all shaded over. They actually have a given time every hour for "adult swim"...so anyone over 18 can have a quiet break from the jumping, splashing, shriekingly adorable kids. They couldn't be having more fun. There's nothing better on a summer afternoon than bringing your chair & a book, and taking a swim.  David's brother Ray met us there with some cousins in tow: Tess, Zelda, & Edward Noonan from France, and Michael Tatlow (NJ) + Emmett Noonan (RI). David recently graduated from Vassar College, and was a Biology major. This summer he's doing volunteer research on Zebra Finches and their songs at Rockefeller University's Upstate NY facility.  Ray, who is pre-med at Vassar, just finished an intensive EMT training course, and has joined the Morristown Volunteer Ambulance Squad.
David is most likely meditating on his future here.......plastics?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vintage book covers

These are two of my favorite book covers ever! I've been collecting vintage books,  especially Young Adult ones, because the cover artwork is always so amazing. I read Jean and Johnny in 7th grade, and totally related to the shy, bespectacled heroine. Of course, Beverly Cleary was one of my most beloved authors growing up, and I remember being so happy to find her in the Junior High library. I adored Beezus and Ramona, Henry and Ribsy, Henry Huggins, Otis Spofford, and all the books about the kids in their neighborhood. Ramona was my absolute all time favorite story book girl...does anyone remember the description of her art teacher and the class? She was so difficult, and I just couldn't get enough of her & her sister. Jean and Johnny was published in 1959, and The Luckiest Girl was published in 1958. I guess I kind of was hoping I looked like Jean on the cover....I had the same harlequin glasses...until my mother insisted I get contacts.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A bit of Emily Dickinson..

Summer makes me think of the poetry of Emily Dickinson...bees, flowers, robins, the sun, the grass.
This is just a little poetry "card" idea. Wouldn't it be nice to receive a note or card in the mail with some poetry on it? I so admire poets...just playing with words and thoughts in a cryptic way that one has to read over & over until maybe you can figure out what they're trying to say.  But you're never sure if you're getting it or not. Emily Dickinson never married or had her own family...she lived in her parents home, and wrote constantly about that world. The summer  really makes you appreciate how she could write an entire poem about a leaf, a bee, or the colors in the sky.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Poe Nevermore, Poe Chardonnay, and Littauer Chardonnay

These are the labels I designed 
for Poe "Nevermore" and Littauer Chardonnay. Littauer was bottled last Fall by our nephew, Trevor Sheehan, and Poe is an up and coming Pinot Noir which is being produced by his sister Samantha. As you can see, the labels are very different, and will appeal to different tastes and types. Littauer is doing extremely well, and is getting rave reviews. Sam & Trevor are both living in Napa, and Samantha is working at a winery, learning the business from the ground up. Their parents, Linda & Bob have recently moved up there as well from Los Angeles. They're all loving it, and the entire family is involved in the wine business. I can't wait to go out & visit...maybe  at Christmas?   PS...The Poe Chardonnay label is the latest addition to the line. It may be coming out this  Fall.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's almost barbecue time! This is my fabric that has actually been made into dresses by Clotilde, our favorite designer. It was printed by Michael Miller Fabrics, and has also been made into oil cloth, so that you can cover your picnic table with it. I can't wait to cook outside on the grill, and to serve up some sides of baked beans, potato salad, and corn on the cob. Hmmm...of course our grilling has become kind of problematic, with David still following his vegan diet. So it's delicious grilled veggies for him, and burgers & chicken for the boys. I can go either way, and get the best of both worlds. And where will we be doing our grilling this summer? Are we moving to Westchester, staying in NJ, or will we just keep going back and forth for a while? The thought of packing up is so overwhelming to me....I think it's time to just get a dumpster, and heave everything in it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Ruby Ritz wishes you a very
Happy Valentine's Day!
It's one of her favorite holidays, and 
February 14th is her BIRTHDAY! 
She loves chocolate, and absolutely adores flowers (especially vintage paintings of roses and pansies).
And let's not overlook the beautiful and fresh colors of this special day.....red, pink, and white....they're so cheering, especially in the middle of a rather 
dreary month. But really, what could be sweeter than telling someone dear to you how much you care, and how much they mean to you? And Ruby believes that this holiday isn't just for lovers, it's for friends and family too. It's a holiday to celebrate LOVE...and doesn't it make the world go 'round?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Heart for Haiti

Artists and photographers from all over are donating works of art to raise funds for the earthquake victims. Gallery MacEgan and the town of Madison, NJ has put together a project to print valentines to sell to local schoolchildren, and this is a collage I did for the event. I used pages from an old book, cut out letters from a newspaper, house paint, and acrylic. 
It's heartbreaking to see the footage and read about these poor Haitians, who are not only without shelter, but starving as well. Supposedly anyone who can come up with a meal is obligated to share with as many people as he or she can.....and that can mean as much as twenty others. Most folks don't even have the 15 cents to buy a plate of rice and beans. It's so sad. I wish I had the skills needed to go down and volunteer.