Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer Elves and Fairies

The Little People have arrived and Grandma's Boot Camp is in full session.

GD2 (second granddaughter) came accompanied by several elves who come from the North Pole. There was some debate about whether they would be allowed to come to Tunisia as it is warm for them. However, GD2's mother sent a special request to Santa to get the necessary authorization. Santa knows that GD2 pays close attention to the well-being of her elf friends. When they need to cool off a bit, she puts them in the freezer. Here we see Ellie and Elfie in deep conversation. 

Charlotte resides in GD2's bedroom and generally moves around at night, changing where she sits. Unless, of course, GD2 misbehaves, then Charlotte can't move. Also, nobody can touch Charlotte or she loses her magic powers. GD2 leaves notes for the elves under her pillow.

Two other elves visit GD2 frequently and leave messages: Behavior Elf and Piano Elf. Although she can't see him, Piano Elf sits on GD2's shoulder when she practices and especially in a recital, which has allowed her to play confidently ever since he appeared on the scene.  She says she can feel him right there helping her along. Behavior Elf helped GD2 get an A in Behavior by the end of the school year. Things were a bit rough in First Grade until Behavior Elf stepped in to help. 

Behavior Elf and Piano Elf took an earlier flight to Tunis and left GD2 a note on her pillow to welcome her. It turns out that they have already made friends with the garden fairies who have been anxiously awaiting the return of GD1 and GD2 so they can fix the fairy house.

And so, my sketching buddy was inspired to create a Fairy Cake for GD2's birthday, as delicious as it was beautiful.

Such lovely detail work: Note the placement of flowers and butterflies, and the wings (non-edible). The fairy even has pointed ears.

I think my friend sprinkled some fairy dust over the cake, for it was a magical evening.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Caged Wild Animals

The homework for Sketchbook Skool last week was to draw animals, in action if possible. Inevitably, I found some caged wild animals right in front of me--university students taking their final exams.

I chose a prepared notebook page with a red watercolor wash and first sketched with a green colored pencil. At home, I added permanent pen and blue colored pencil. Red seems to represent their suffering well...

Of course, there is a story. While I sat at the back of the room discreetly sketching and watching the students with my hawk eyes, the other professor sat at the front. The first student to finish (obviously not the best) made some kind of rude comment, so my colleague nailed him with: "You're not good in French, in English or in Arabic. I don't see what you're doing at the university." The mouthy student whipped out: "My father is very rich." !!!! Oh, P-u-l-e-a-s-e! He shrugged and left....

The other incident was when a student with wandering eyes asked to go to the restroom, was accompanied, and tried to ask questions of other students anyway. He came back mad because he got yelled at and didn't have the time to get any answers!

My sketchbook contains traces of a couple of social problems that are not restricted to Tunisia, but that are worrisome all the same. One is the entitlement of students coming from well-to-do families. They dress with brand names only and flash their expensive i-Phones around. Look to the shoes and purses--they are status symbols. You are what you have. The university professors--who are paid peanuts--have difficulty maintaining respect, adding to the frustration of their job.
In addition, a cheating culture has developed among students over the past decade to the point where cheating is more or less viewed as "normal." This jeopardizes those students who do want to learn and makes proctoring exams difficult. 
The last exam was uneventful (thankfully). I used white, turquoise and navy colored pencils on gray Canson paper that I had cut to fit into my planner (3 1/2"x6"). All in all, it was a good day, but, I can't say as much for caged wild animals...

Thursday, May 1, 2014


"Strands of thought" run through my work/play: the Garden, the political situation, war and chaos and the abstract, among others. Lately, a gate series has developed that falls into several categories. The first gate I commemorated in my textile sketchbook was to celebrate my saving it from destruction by rust.
Wrought iron gates are common in the region, with interesting decorative details.

The front gate, which I can see from my kitchen door, has been a subject recently for my sketch book.

Some days time evaporates, so I used a prepared paper with a green wash providing a background for a quick sketch.

Then over at Sketchbook School, we started looking at skies. One day I could actually see clouds above the gate. Isn't that pretty? All very bucolic...but something was boiling below the surface.

I decided to do a page for my textile sketchbook to finish off this series.

I first glued fabric onto a page of drawing paper, then I sketched the gate and trees.    

As I zoomed away on my sewing machine, I thought about the meaning of gates: a delineation of property, marking of borders, stopping people from entering (especially thieves) and allowing only friends through. Suddenly I understood what this was all about. The problem:
Thirty years ago, the land was wide open and looked like this:
Mornag was a peaceful place. Nobody needed gates or walls. Today, this agricultural zone is being over run (the small trees mark my property line): 
Look at that beautiful blue sky and fresh green...and that eyesore. The owners said they were going to build a house and have a garden/orchard, but instead they erected two buildings for industrial refrigeration (about 18 to 20 feet tall) within a stone's throw of my house. EXCUSE ME, THIS IS AGRICULTURAL LAND!

This is what the "Revolution" brought us: unauthorized construction allowed by local authorities that will destroy the region. We have alerted the authorities who have put out an order for demolition. However, when I went to talk with the governor of Ben Arous (recorded in my sketchbook)
he pointed out that "Now, there is no executive." We're in free fall. So the neighbors keep working to finish off the construction, which means the giant motors required for the refrigeration will soon be running night and day. Worse yet, a problem with rotten fruit, foul odors, and increased quantities of insects that attack citrus fruit will destroy our peace and put our orchards at high risk. We are now embroiled in a legal battle to keep this region from sinking into an industrial zone and to protect the farms.

I realize that this is an international problem, that humans are destroying the Garden, our Planet. 
And yet, we will continue to fight for what is right. 
We must stand at the gates and stop them. 
We have become gatekeepers. 
We will do our best to protect the region until we can no longer. 
I will do my best to keep this filth out.