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.

Punk to the third power!

Being sweet.

Hiding. On the right is the old Kraal!

Checking in with Mom.

Up to no good... Watch out!

Last month I was able to cross a biiig big item off my wish list, playing with baby elephants! BABY ELEPHANTS!! ! ! !!! I have seen them from afar many times on "safari" at Animal Kingdom and always felt a little cheated having been born in a country with no elephants of its own, certainly none that I'd ever be able to touch much less mingle with... but one day while planning my trip to Thailand Lonely Planet blew my mind - you can volunteer with elephants - what did they mean?? what did this include???? could I touch one? certainly you could never ride one, wait, you can ride one???!!! REALLY???!

During my month in Thailand I had a series of elephant encounters, the first was volunteering 2 weeks at an amazing program called the Elephant Mahout Project (which I will feature in a future post, I rode an elephant, it was great! http://www.theelephantmahoutproject.com/), the last was accidentally wandering into the Prakochaban Foundation/ElephantStay (not for profit). I had read about this place also, they do excellent work with retired and rescued elephants, as well as rehabilitating killer elephants, and they are home to an impressive breeding program, but it was not open to visitors, so I didn't try to go. But I totally lucked out... I went to see the Royal Elephant Kraal, just the old structure according to the map, no elephants anymore, none nearby, but I smelled elephants, there were turds in the Kraal! there was an elephant camp right next door (it was a very bad map)! missing my own elephant I couldn't resist taking a peek, and I am so glad I did! the first person I met was Paul Hayden, a British volunteer who'd been working there on and off for years, finally an elephant person who speaks English! the questions poured out and he was so generous with the information (Cheers Paul, keep up the good work!).

The whole camp was impressive but the highlight for me were the 3 babies! little ones running around free, playing in the kiddie pool, running up to people, nursing a few feet from me, loving being loved up! my favorite baby was named Pocket Elephant (English translation) so tiny and shy, her poor mother was rescued from neglect and the stress may have caused Pocket's smallness, hopefully Mom will soon realize she is with friends. I'm aware I may be anthropomorphizing but baby elephants are exactly like children! Putting everything in their mouth, occasional brattiness, fighting sleep and staggering around, hiding behind mom when scared, testing limits, aware of their unbelievable cuteness, using cuteness to get away with naughtiness! After coming home I found out baby elephants are called punks, totally fits, the little boy elephant had tried to knock me off the fence, little Opal had pulled my hair and had to be corralled because she thought breaking windows was super fun, hundreds of pounds of fuzzy lovable mischief!

The Prakochaban Foundation is responsible for 1% of the baby elephants born in Thailand, and are working hard to boost Thailand's declining elephant population, on their website under RESCUE AND REHAB are ways in which you can contribute financially to help the Foundation keep up the good work, you can also go there yourself and do a volunteer stay (where you will ride elephants and go swimming with them in the river, it's true!) http://www.elephantstay.com/Prakochaban-Foundation.html! The elephants in this camp are well cared for and treated with kindness, help these guys out! You can also buy paintings from some of the resident elephant artists on http://www.elephantart.com (look under the elephants from Thailand and see who works out of the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal!).