AUDREY HAWKINS I accept your 5 day art challenge.

I have jealously been watching the progress of the facebook 5 day challenge the last few days and having recently moved away from NYC and my Dalvero art homies was feeling more out of the loop then ever.  I mean, you can't participate if you are not "nominated" right...  but finally I was asked:)  "So I've just been told that I can nominate a person EVERY DAY of the challenge. I nominate April Kelly!! Let's see it, gurl!" 

Here in little Austin Texas we are spoiled with almost daily opportunities for figure drawing and I have been partaking pretty regularly.  Some of the poses are longer than I"m used to but I've gotten over my impatience (mostly) and started messing around with mono-prints and gauche!  and because I misunderstood the "rules" I am posting 5 drawings instead of 3.

Stream life

Having grown up near the mountains with a river in my backyard I retreat from washington heights as often as I can manage to clear my head and get some fresh air and fill my ears with woodsy sounds, and lately some less woodsy sounds as there is now a parakeet living there living near the entrance I use, nothing more cheerful than happy parakeet chatter (liberation)!

Usually my dog is with me but today I overcame my guilt and left her behind and headed to one of my very favorite places Rockefeller State Park Preserve!  I alwaaays see something I want to draw but my dogs exuberance and lack of patience means it's not gonna happen if she's around. So today was a treat. For me anyway.  This place is a series of gorgeous panoramic meadows and picturesque streams and bridges but if you look very closely you will get to meet the smallest inhabitants.  

I got to finally enjoy leisurely watching the minnows (more specifically the Blacknose Dace I THINK. googled NY minnows... there might have also been some Longnose Dace in there too?)  this does not happen with water loving dog along! she must be a horrifying Godzilla to the stream dwellers:/  The stream was very shallow and in the "rapids" were the biggun's, further down medium, further further down, small, and I finally noticed in the lee of the stone where the water was still the teeny tinies :)  there was one fish who was noticeably bigger/fatter/redder than the others so of course I named it. "Mongo".

Also fascinating are the water striders, these guys have the best shadows ever, haloed butterfly shadows that look like abstract art!

I saw a little face watching me from under a rock, so a little fish portrait.

Sapa Vietnam

My most recent adventure


Cuba but when opened up blogger to post some drawings it felt too wrong to go out of order and I've decided to post more drawings/revisit some memories from 2013 Vietnam/Cambodia first!  I offer you a glimpse of Sapa Vietnam, easily one of the most crazy beautiful magical places I've ever been.  These drawings were made during a guided overnight trek/home stay to "minority village", specifically the Red Dao who are best remembered for throwing myself and my travel companion into a giant steaming barrel/bath of ancient herbal remedy fanciness:)

drawing from the top of the world!  Sunset and the fog rolling into the valley.  Had time for one drawing during the golden hour before a delicious supper:)

the next morning on the trek back to town.  plowing the paddies for the new rice.

The Vietnamese have close trusting relationships with their water buffalo, but the buffalo are hiiighly suspicious of westerners and I have been told it's because we're smelly.  while wandering near our home stay I had the opportunity to be close-ish to quite a few of these guys and can confirm that they are seriously suspicious of my stinky self at least and there was always at least one who was in charge of keeping an giant brown eyeball on me while the others went about their business.  they are the strangest creatures! like a hybrid of a pig/cow/rhino, toughskinned with course bristly hairs.  I think ugly-cute prehistoric pig-cows:)

The Killing Fields At Cheoung Ek

Today I visited The Cheoung Ek Genocidal Center, also known as the Killing Fields, one of the many but home to the memorial and museum. I wasn't sure what to expect today and was surprised to find a place of such incredible violence to be so peaceful just over thirty years later, filled with songbirds and butterflies. The site had originally been a Chinese Cemetary before it was used for "liquidations" and mass burial.

The audio guide provided was often information and stories told by the victims, witnesses and even a guard.

Here is the killing tree. The Khmer Rouge never used bullets when there were other ways, too expensive. The infants heads were "smashed" against the trees often while the mothers watched. There was a mass grave a few feet away where over 100 women and babies are buried.

I overheard a tour guide saying the bracelets were a new thing, last three years or so, since the babies had no toys some visitor left a bracelet, I guess the most colorful or fun thing they had to offer.

The portrait is of Duch the Chairman of S-21 the compound where prisoners were held before execution.

The Killing Fields Memorial holding many of the exhumed bones.

Rodin Museum

I saw "Midnight in Paris" last week and though not a Woody Allen fan (or turns out a "Midnight in Paris" fan) I was happy to catch a few glimpses of one of my favorite places in the world, the Rodin Museum! Here are a few drawings from last summer.

Balzac, AKA Mr.Cheerful, incapable of writing a happy ending...

The Hands, soooo sensitive, I couldn't do them justice.

Camille Claudel, Rodin's mistress, muse and fellow sculptor (one of the most depressing stories ever told, if you're interested check out her wiki page


Home studio.

This series is from last weekend, done in my bedroom. Feels like for years I have only drawn on location and for some reason forgot that I didn't always have to? Very satisfying, will do again very soon, might be time to start painting again as well... itchy hands!

My little ponies!

Every birthday between ages 5-12ish I wished for a pony, I dropped subtle hints and since we had a pretty good sized yard I was pretty sure this was totally possible. The birthday pony daydream scenario closely resembled the Christmas Lexus commercials, adorable pony in the backyard sporting a giant red ribbon! Sadly I grew up pony-less but these days a few times a year I visit my Mom in Maryland and spend a few afternoons wistfully pony spotting/drawing at Assateague Island. Here are some of the pony-licious residents of Assateague!

Assateague is somehow extra pretty in crappy weather.

Ultra pregnant pony, it looked like she swallowed a barrel... poor thing

A young she-pony taking a nap in the dunes!

Here she is again the next day munching her way down the road!

Belated Easter Bunny...

You know I live to draw bunnies when and where I find 'em! This little cottontail calls the grounds of the New York Botanical Gardens home (way up in the Bronx but well worth the trip!). He was very sweetly enjoying the freshly cropped grass and sunshine when a group of grade school kids on a field trip made straight for him screaming/pointing and he dashed off into the bushes! it was lucky they turned up though since one of the girls had spotted a worm in distress who had attempted to cross the sidewalk and became stranded in the hot sun! Their teacher Mr. Cunningham with the support of the kiddos dug a little hole in the garden, deposited the worm and declared "NOW HE WILL LIIIVE", they went on their way knowing they had participated in a pretty solid good deed;)

Being a worm in spring means being in constant mortal peril, the Robin's are not messing around! If you get a chance (and you will, there's a million of them out now) watch them hunt, it will go something like this...

1. Run really really fast for a couple of feet.
2. Stop suddenly.
3. Cock their heads and listen reeeally hard while staying totally still.
4. Stab the ground and come up with a wriggling worm.

Adorable feathered assassins!

Pretty flowers?

We had a drawing class at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden a few weeks ago, the hope was that it would be covered in lacy Cherry Blossoms but they were fashionably late this year (as was the warm weather). The Japanese garden was not a bad consolation prize! although next time I'll be going the Bronx Botanical Gardens where security doesn't make you scram everytime you sit down to draw...

There was one or 2 in their glory showing off!

Ecstatic Music Festival

I don't have the most reliable memory in the world so I'm glad that at some point I started writing notes on my drawings... aside from knowing that I went and really enjoyed it I don't remember all the details of my day at the Ecstatic Music Festival back in January. The impressions stuck though, some more than others.

Timothy Andres, my notes tell me I developed a crush on him while he played "Peeling Onions" (?)... guess I kind of remember him being pretty adorable though my drawing doesn't seem to reflect that.

Face the Music, what youngsters are capable of when they play things besides video games. Some of these pieces were reeeeally INTENSE, they more than held their own.

These 2 drawings are the Chiara String Quartet. Loved drawing the violinist, he looked like he was carved out of stone, so formal and severe, hair pulled back soooo tight.

This guy John Matthias was the highlight for me, he looked like he was from another time and place (kept picturing him thatching cottage roofs in Scotland...) He's the one I would go out of my way to see again, unfortunately according to songkick he has no upcoming shows. He was fascinating to watch, Audrey and I were hypnotized and struggling to capture his shaggy hangdog face. I read later and was not surprised to find that he had played on the Radiohead album The Bends.

He played "What Happens" and "Cortical Song" check out the audios on the link. "What Happens" was especially beautiful, his voice was so growly and mournful and the violin and piano were giving me goosebumps, and all that the clicking/clacking like needles up and down my spinal cord, creepily effective. John Matthias you gained a fan that day.

Last but not least So Percussion, who are always awesomely creative and worth seeing reapeatedly! This show was infused with sweetness, one of the members Jason Treuting told everybody he was about to become a father any minute(!!!), the guy was glowing, couldn't stop smiling the whole show :) a few days later Audrey and Julia and I went to see them again and he was missing, off spending time with his wife and getting to know brand new baby Elsie.

Earth Day again?

Holy crap it has been MONTHS since I've posted on here hasn't it?... I've been busy though, busy neglecting this blog for my foster dog blog (check out the cuteness at no I cannot walk and chew gum at the same time). So I discovered this morning when the Google home page came up that it was Earth Day (often how I find out it's a holiday thats not Christmas) and decided it felt like a good time to start posting again.

We have done our best to tame nature here on Earth but in few places is this as striking as the gardens of Versailles, controlled beauty and balance! These quickie pencil drawings were done last August on the Dalvero Academy trip to France, we had a day off and I skipped on back to Versailles, and after spending most of the day at La Ferme /brassringstudio/2010/08/la-ferme-sigh.html I wandered back on foot (trams stopped for the day) and I was treated to dusk at Versailles, complete with sunbeams, billowing clouds, the manicured grounds and dynamic sky both benefiting from the contrast! Versailles I love and fear you at the same time.

this was one of the first drawings of the day, the top gardens are so beautiful but so rigid. What a relief to run on back to La Ferme where you could relax!

This must be what heaven looks like.

dark clouds roll in, but luckily no rain.

regarde la panorama (did I get that right? I don't speak French)

what a view... sigh..................

testing the fountains for that nights event! lucky me got to watch the dress rehearsal.

I was tempted to linger till they locked up, you know, accidentally locked in?? a night wandering the Versailles grounds, SUNRISE at Versailles... but no it would have been too spooky and I would have probably gotten in trouble.

Nobody deserves it more.

If something is hard it helps to be sure of your motivation. I'm a fledgling vegetarian and lately it's been extra hard, it's getting chilly and the Thanksgiving turkey looms large. Today I went to re-meet my "motivation" at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, an animal rescue located in Saugerties NY specializing in farm animals The place is a miracle for these creatures, some of whom have been rescued from dumpsters, slaughterhouses, meth labs, and the most obscene neglect by their owners.
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary was founded by Kathy Stevens in 2001, and since then 2000 animals have been given the love and care that they should have had in the first place. The first time I visited was unplanned, open house flier 2 years ago, but today was a more mellow visit, small group tour led by Melissa the volunteer (thanks Melissa!) and lots of time to really interact with many of the residents and learn some of their life stories.

This is Dillinger the Phoenix rooster and his girlfriend, he was rescued from a meth lab in St. Louis along with 50 other chickens, malnourished and suffering from frostbite. Chicken and pig farms are useful around a meth lab to cover the drug smells.

This is a little drawing of M.C. (Middle Child) and his little girlfriend Sarah. So it turns out lady chickens have it pretty good, today I heard many stories of rooster chivalry! The rooster does not eat before his woman has had her fill, the finest worms are hers, and if a hawk is flying overhead he guards her under his big strong wings, thats awfully manly! As for smarts chickens are about as intelligent as house cats, which may mean different things to different people;)

This is Ethyl the turkey, I need to go back and do a really good portrait of her sweet face, she has the softest, green almond shaped eyes and was making the softest little noises with her turkey BF. Those 2 followed us through the barn wanting some petting and to be sang to (they say they like it!). The sad part was learning that because of growth hormones they were the equivalent of a 300lb human, in other words morbidly obese and would not be living the long and full life of an unaltered turkey. Also upsetting to learn that there are no Humane Laws in place for poultry... My Thanksgiving problemo solved.

Piggy daydreams...

Peggy Sue and Nadine.

Nadine and a pot bellied pig enjoying a gorgeous fall day. Many of these larger pigs are rescued from the meat industry and having been given growth hormones and will grow to a weight of 700lbs, a normal pig weight should be around 250, again morbidly obese and not living the full normal pig lifespan... Some of the rescued pigs were runts "thrown on a pile to die". A few pig facts I didn't know, smarter than dogs, won't lay in their own waste if they can help it, and love belly rubs ( that's a lot of belly), also good swimmers (how??) and super cute when they run:) the pigs I got to hang out with were super doggish, very friendly, came when called, clearly checking people out for food, and wagging their piggy tales which is adorable!

This is Rambo the ram, he was found in a stable with 13 other farm animals and they were never allowed to go outside. Took him a long time to settle down and trust people and now is kind of the mascot of the place. He also has a pretty sheep girlfriend named Hannah who doesn't give him enough "space" and is a little jealous.

This one really broke my heart. Bobo the horse locked in a stall for 9 years in 6 feet of manure. But now she has the good life with a pasture, 2 other blind horse buddies and a handsome boyfriend named Casey (who was found in a junkyard covered with ticks).

This guy stole me heart! Atlas the Nubian goat, recent rescue, owned by a hoarder, malnourished and super crippled. So friendly and sweet and doing so well. In this drawing he is down on his knees eating the grass, his front legs do not "unbend" completely (I don't know how else to explain it), when he came they said he could only walk a few steps before he would tire out and go down in this position but I saw him getting around pretty good, and he's getting stronger...

with the help of his junior physical therapist doling out the goat Scooby Snacks and the very generous donation of a goat "wheelchair".

This place is amazing, and the people are truly amazing and clearly dedicated but the thing that made the biggest impression on me was how these animals, many of whom have had these nightmare pasts and should have no reason to trust people at all are still so sweet and trusting and lovable. Absolutely worth a visit, and so humbling. Kathy Stevens, and everyone at CAS thanks for all you do!


Songs from the wood.

I had off today and spent some time drawing at one of my favorite places, the Ramapo Reservation in NJ. I didn't make it in too far, a migraine and unsuitable shoes prevented that, but I was very happy to settle myself next to the Ramapo River which also flows through the backyard of my childhood home. Please enjoy my ode to fall colors, there will be a part 2 coming sometime very soon (I have to draw it all before we are leafless for 6 months).

Celebrity portrait.

I had dinner tonight with my good friend Kati and ended up strolling down memory lane while showing her some drawings from the elephant project I started last February. I'm hoping to go back next winter to pick up where I left off! Here are a few drawings of a very special lady, Miss Timpa the glamorous actress playing Royal War Elephant #1 who graciously allowed me to draw her portrait and take some AMAZING video footage...

her handlers very kindly managed to encourage her to face my direction while I was drawing her. Everyone I met in Thailand was so helpful and friendly, including this big girl who was a real sweetie and a good sport. The whole time I was drawing her she was eyeballing my bag of supplies and finally made a grab for it at the end, crafty girl!

You'll notice she snuffling my foot hoover style, a few of them did that, why can't a dog just smell your foot to get all your info?

Assateague Island.

Last weekend I visited my Mom in Maryland and spent a few afternoons at Assateague Island National Seashore, home to famous residents the wild ponies! There are not many places left in America where horses roam free but these hardy ponies have made a go of it on Assateague Island where the conditions are less than ideal for horses. I visit this place a few times a year and really need to draw there more often, but here's what I have from last weekend, seagulls, bathers, and of course the local ponies!

This post is dedicated to a friend of the ponies who is no longer with us.

The waves were so rough that day, I couldn't believe anyone tried to go in, the kids were being knocked over left and right!

Stormy weather on the way!

These little herds always have a stallion (on left) and several "harem" mares (on right), and sometimes if you're lucky a sweet little baby, which is nice when you're drawing because when baby takes a nap the whole herd stays in one place for while and you don't have to follow them around as they eat their way down the island.

This was drawn after this little lady walked directly up to me to see if my paper was edible, then she nuzzled my knee with her velvety muzzle and tried to bite me (and I swatted her away).

While drawing this pretty girl pony the herd stallion suddenly ran towards me across the parking lot (I thought to attack me) but ran past me to his lady and they both made soft horsie noises and snuggled faces for a few seconds, so sweet!

Beauty and the Beasties!

Galerie des Chimères! Definitely my favorite part of Notre Dame, sorry Mary and J.C. but I came for the monsters. There is something surreal about covering a church in gargoyles, and when I say covered I mean covered, 5,000 (DANG!) of these thugs adorn Notre Dame, leering and hissing at the faithful, "You go inside and pay attention like a good little sheep so you don't end up in heck with scary hybrid creatures like myself peeling your skin off over a fire pit... hisssss, and remember your 10% tithe...). Gargoyles like most church decoration was used to get religious points across to the illiterate masses, also to disguise waterspouts. These days their main function, to me, is how fun they are to draw, whoever designed/carved them must have had a blast because all they are all so individual (again, 5,000) different faces, some extra scary, some a little goofy, assorted combos of body parts, it's easy to imagine them coming alive and coming for you if you stray to far from the flock...You've been warned.

La Ferme, la ferme...

So, when you hear the name Marie Antoinette what first comes to mind? "let them eat cake", 3 foot hairstyles, gross overspending, guillotines? well that's fair...(although she never said "let them eat cake", that was somebody else before her time, and when they said cake they actually meant brioche, in context - bakers, if you run out of basic bread give the peasants fancy brioche for the same price so they don't starve. - So, meant to be fair not patronizing (thanks "Stuff You Missed in History Class" for setting the record straight, Sarah and Katie, I love your podcast!!). So Marie Antoinette was a pretty serious victim of BAD publicity, which didn't end so well, but the great Antonia Frasier has cleared her good name in her book "Marie Antoinette: The Journey", a little light reading before heading off to Versailles. The book was really humanizing and I totally fell in love with Marie Antoinette! long story short she had simple country girl tastes at heart and with that in mind had Louis XVI build her Hameau de la Reine or in English the Queens Hamlet out behind Petit Trianon. And I can understand why, as impressive as Versailles is it is not exactly cozy or welcoming, a little too formal/oppressive/prison-like for my taste and apparently hers as well, so why not use your riches to create an alternate universe out back where you can live the simple life and breathe...

If you ever have the chance please go to Versailles. First you must experience the Chateau (the main palace) where you will be hurried along ever forward like cattle in a gilded Rococo slaughter house, senses stunned by gold leaf and wallpaper and chandeliers and marble busts and velvet and not a single surface undecorated, then you will then be spit out into the famously lovely gardens which you will marvel at until you realize there is not an centimeter of shade and the sun above is so fierce that you will go from being doomed cattle to feeling like Lawrence of Arabia, so hot, so hot, but look there is water far ahead... yes, head towards the grand canal, there are trees down there, trees, and shade, if you can make it, wait, it's farther then it seems... After a brief recovery at the canal you hang a right and make your way to Petit Trianon which feels downright modest compared to the Chateau and then a little wander down a winding path through the loveliest forest to the Queens Hamlet, a little village, filled with hard work and family values. Aaahh, exhale...yes, the perfect place to unwind and maybe have little fun on the side with a certain mister Count Fersen.

After the village you will come to the most charming fairytale farm, I would happily clean stalls for the rest of my life if someone would let me live there... sigh...really just perfect....

also you get points if you spot the lady bug, she came by to check out my progress:)

They had all the regular farm animals and in addition an area for cute bunnies, each with their own little red bunny hut, and wacky chickens for company. I don't want to think too hard about what bunnies are doing on a farm, the answer I like best is that they are there for cuddles so let's leave it at that.

Stay tuned for a Versailles post... I'll be dreaming of goats and bunnies tonight...

Best seat in the house!

I've recently returned from a 2 week drawing trip to Paris with the Dalvero Academy and thought I'd post my happiest memory first!

My friend Audrey and I camped out on the sidewalk at the top of the Champs Elysees at around 7:30am and had to sit around waiting till around 3:30pm with no Tour action at all but we did not mind because we had a great view of the gendarmes in their snug pants, tan biceps and guns... at some point they became aware of us drawing and purposely stood in directly in front of us, No problem, I am happy to record the pleasing results of your effort at the gym! It seems they handpick the Gendarmes (French Police) from the soccer field, or perhaps modeling school, choosing only the most attractive to represent Paris on international television during the home stretch of the Tour. They are the opposite of our NYPD, fashionable, fit and with fantastic posture, and have probably never seen a donut in their lives! I apologize for my disloyalty but it's true in many cases, but, as a Frenchmen pointed out later in the week when asked why all their police are so sexy, "they may look good but they are not intimidating, whereas NYPD are scary and will actually deter crime", hard to decide who I would rather have around, I'll say a few of each.

This little drawing is from the final day of the Tour de France during the super corny sponsor "parade" and you'll notice my view was a little obstructed, but I tried my best...

enjoy ladies (and certain gentlemen)! You're welcome.

Richard III. Round II!

I went back with my friend Jeanette to see Richard III again the next week, enjoyed it so much the first time so why not?! Different day, different mood, different drawings, it's a treat to get a couple shots at something:)

Lady Ann calling Richard a toad/hedgehog, he'll remember that...

Why Clarence??

The happy day.

Such a villain!

If you're up for some excellent Shakespeare in the park check out
Much Ado about Nothing will be performed in July down in Battery Park City!!!

Haitian Dance-a-thon

The other night I went out to reportage with friends at Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center. On this night Orchestre Septentrional d'Haiti was performing, a Haitian Jazz band who are a blast to listen to (I mostly listened, they were barely visible from where I sat, they wore orange and there seemed to be dozens of musicians!). The most entertaining part were the folks dancing on the side of the main stage, lots of personality and clever enough not to pay;) I wish I had a video of some of these characters, my favorite was a senior citizen version of "Cliff Huxtable" who went from one lady to lady with the suavity of an experienced tomcat, patience ladies, you'll have to wait your turn... Perhaps the most visually stunning were the spectacular hair do's captured with flair but without exaggeration by my friend Jeanette

Lady in blue showing everybody how it's done.

Lothario out to break some hearts!

Dressed up and having a blast!