D is for drawing

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

This is my sister Chris again, from a 1978 sketchbook that my mother mailed to me. My mother had a sketchbook with her most of the time. She kept everything. My father did not sort anything and I am just now beginning to catalog the art, the sketchbooks, and my mother’s diaries. My mother died in 2000 and my father in 2013. The silver lining of being off from work post pneumonia is that I am going through the boxes and beginning to organize things. It looks like it is not a small job.

#Blogging from A to Z #letter D #art #women artists #ATOZCHALLENGE

C is for Children

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

I am the daughter of an artist. My sister Chris and I had drawing lessons and paints and just about all of the art supplies you can imagine. Our mother either wore jeans and t-shirts with ink from etchings, or else was very dressed up for art shows or an opera or other festivities. She only wore make up for those times. My sister and I rebelled by refusing to call colors by their names and instead asking each other for the “boy” crayon or the “girl” crayon. We had all the colors divided in male and female. My mother was outraged. “Green is not a boy color.” We just ignored her and kept doing it.

We did learn, though. The picture today is of two postcards. This is a photograph of two color xeroxes, because I don’t have the originals with me. My mother did the lower one and I did the upper one. You can see how much she influenced me and how much I absorbed about water color technique.

I took a class two years ago, which turned out to be acrylics. My mother rather scorned acrylics though she was fine with crayons and crafts. I was painting and the teacher came to look over my shoulder. “They are not watercolors,” he said. “Yes, I know,” I said, “but I am using them like watercolors.” He laughed. Well, I know how to use watercolors and I don’t know much about acrylics. I know how to print etchings too and got an infected finger very young using the forbidden woodcut tools. I tried to hide it and the doctor yelled at both me and my mother. He scared me a lot.

My sister did beautiful art as well, also influenced by my mother. I think I only have one of her pieces.

#ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 # art # Women artists # Helen Burling Ottaway

B is for Busy and Burling

My mother, Helen Burling Ottaway, was a very busy and prolific artist.

Every New Year’s, she would resolve to paint a water color a day. By March she would complain that she had only painted 25 or 30. However, she would also be doing birthday presents for me and my sister and our father, all in March, and crafts and etchings and pastels and a life drawing class and the sketchbook that she constantly carried.

B is also for baby. The etching is of my sister, Christine Robbins Ottaway, as a baby. The title is Chris I and she did this in 1968.

I have described the process for etchings here: Four Seasons.

My mother was a very busy artist.

#ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 # art # Women artists # Helen Burling Ottaway

Memorial

My mother, Helen Burling Ottaway, drew my sister, Christine Robbins Ottaway, in a sketchbook in 1978. I was an exchange student in Denmark. She mailed me the sketchbook for Christmas that year. She died in 2000 and my sister died in 2012, so this is a memorial for both of them.

memorial

Today is my sister’s birthday, Christine Robbins Ottaway. She died of breast cancer in 2012 at age 49. She had gotten stage IIIB breast cancer at age 41. She went through mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation and was clear for two years. Then it recurred and she returned to treatment, rounds of chemotherapy, a gamma knife radiation, another gamma knife and whole brain radiation. She was very very strong and tough and fought the cancer right up until the end.

This photograph was taken at my father’s 70th birthday party, in 2008. My friend Maline took the photograph. She and other old friends gathered and we sang the family folk songs.

Here is a drawing that my mother Helen Burling Ottaway did in 1978 of Chris. My mother always had a sketchbook. This is one she sent to me, because I was an exchange student in Denmark that year. At Christmas I received the wonderful sketchbook with my mother’s comments. My sister was 14 when I went to Denmark and I was 17.

Chris Ottaway by Helen Ottaway, 1978

small cruse

The Ragtag Daily Prompt is cruse, which I had to look up. I thought, I don’t have any earthenware. Then I thought, yes I do, but can I find it? I did.

My sister and my maternal cousins and I had elaborate doll houses with china dolls. I think the adults were trying to stave off Barbie. We collected whatever we could find for the doll house, for 8 inch dolls that were the “kids”. The adult doll was 12 inches.

The three earthenware pieces in the back are from the late 1960s or early 1970s. I am guessing SE US or Mexican. The three in front are Native American and from after 2000, at least, we got them after 2000. Possibly at a garage or thrift sale.

I think my grandmother made that dress, because of the button detail down the front and the short sleeves. I did do lots of sewing, small quilts, dresses, mattresses for the beds we made.

Here are the live cats, wondering what I am doing.

AtoZ Theme Reveal

My theme for the April AtoZ blog challenge this year is art. I think it will mostly be my mother’s art. She died in 2000 of ovarian cancer. My only sibling died in 2012 of breast cancer and my father in 2013 of emphysema. And I have the art: my parents were both packrats and trying to deal with the house and an out of date will took about three years. Moving stuff around, getting rid of stuff. The art initially went in to a storage unit and then into my house. My mother Helen Burling Ottaway was prolific! And she kept every single piece of art and her diaries back to high school! I found a suitcase with my grandfather’s poetry as well: that will be for another day.

This painting is of my sister. My mother started oils later in her career and Michael Platt, a DC artist, said something like, “Quit doing tiny things. Do something big.” My mother started doing life size and larger than life portraits in chalk pastel and in oils. This painting captures my sister when she was twenty: emotions. I like it but I also think that it is frightening.

Christine Robbins Ottaway age 20, by Helen Burling Ottaway, oil, 1984

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

reappearance

I post this poem a year ago in February. It comes back up today. My sister was born in the year of the dragon, so I think of her and miss her.

There appears a flight of dragons without heads

The flight appears
the dragons have lost their heads
they flame indiscriminately
but since they have no heads
the flame does not appear here

they loop in the air
in formation
and are beautiful
nearly silent
no heads to scream
just their wings
on the wind

we stand transfixed
and watch them

the flight
the dragons
who have lost their heads

written February 17, 2021

The headless dragons make me think of the leader dragging countries into war. I hope that other leaders do not follow.

Sorrow

I used to stop by more

but the people were less and less

the interactions faded to grey

I didn’t feel loved

I used to be ok with that

not feeling loved

not feeling valued

but now I want to be loved

And I am loved, to my surprise

as if a little love

has opened longing

so that I want more love


I want to be loved and feel loved

I send everyone love

even those who have been mean

and the incessant downvoters

and those who have me blocked

or don’t answer or ignore

or leave the catbox when I show up

I send love to you too


but now that I have a small crack

of love in my life, like the sun

shining on a crack in concrete

the seed stirs in sun and water

and grows

written 12/26/17. I wrote this about another writing site. It is falling to bits, like a old building not maintained. It makes me sad, because it is where my sister used to write. She died in 2012 and I still often miss her.