April A to Z reflection

April was a very interesting month! I went to Europe for the first time since 1988 and got covid, so had to stay an extra 8 days. The version I got was a mild cold and my lungs did not get worse. Traveling on oxygen is really challenging. I was anxious to get home because my son and daughter-in-law got married after postponing in 2020 and 2021, so they married on April 30th! It was a wonderful wedding!

So, I had to do some planning for the A to Z, writing about women artists, mostly Helen Burling Ottaway, my mother. I took a number of my mother’s etchings to give to friends in Europe and used those because they were what I had. In typing up her resume, I learned more about her! She was a prolific artist and I want to get more of her art out there. I had originally planned to set up an on line shop of her work, but the Europe trip, covid and the wedding derailed that idea! I still want to do that, but I am a bit slow about it. I need to catalog and photograph her work, after I recover from the wedding extravaganza.

When I got home from my trip on April 12, I started doing two posts a day. I did the present letter and then worked from the end of the alphabet, setting up Z for Zarathustra to go live on April 30th. By the last week of April, I had it all set to go live day by day. This is good, because there was no way I would have posted from the last Wednesday on!

I did not get to surf other writers blogs as much as I had planned. Too busy in Europe and too busy with wedding. This week I mostly want to do not very much. I am sorting wedding photographs, the ones I took, and sending them to the new bride and groom.

The picture is of my two aunts at the music rehearsal. I was cantor and led the two hymns. Both of my father’s sisters are church organists. They played four hands for the processional and the recessional and were wonderful! With both my parents gone I was very very grateful to have them present.

Z is for Zarasthustra

Last day of April A to Z, blogging about Women Artists and particularly Helen Burling Ottaway, my mother. Can you name five women artists now?

This etching is from 1975. I was fourteen years old. I remember my parents discussing titles of etchings. My father, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, would often help title them. This etching is titled “Thus spoke Zarasthustra”. I wish that my parents were alive so that I could ask about this etching. Why Friedrich Nietzsche? When I am fourteen, my father receives his MA in mathematics and leaves SUNY Binghampton for a job at General Electric in Alexandria, Virginia. We move from New York State to Virginia and I start high school that year. I think that Alexandria was a much better place for my mother, all the art and artists, than for my father.

I hope that you have had a wonderful month in April: and I hold those in my heart in the war zones or who are lost and suffering.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

L is for landscape

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

L for Landscape. This watercolor is of Coolfont, West Virginia, a view from the deck of my grandmother’s house.

My grandparents lived in Trumensburg, New York. My grandfather, F. Temple Burling, died when I was 13. He was 79. My grandmother lived in the enormous house for a while, but eventually sold it. She moved to West Virgina, a couple of hours from my parents. Later she bought a second house two doors down. Her sister and sister’s husband, Estie and Russ Parr, moved in and they all lived on the same block as my parents until their deaths.

I love this landscape, both because it is so gorgeous and because of the memories of all of the family.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

K-k-k-Katy

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

This is a multigenerational post. I am Katy, Katherine after my maternal grandmother. The drawing is of that grandmother, done by my mother H. Ottaway in 1978. My mother mailed me the sketch diary for Christmas. My grandmother was Katy B, for Katherine Burling, and I was Katy O, for Katherine Ottaway. I have inherited a spoon that has Gertrude, Margaret and Kathryn engraved on the bowl. A different spelling, so I don’t know which Kathryn that was.

So K is for Katy. My father used to sing K-k-k-Katy to me when I was very little. It is from 1917!

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

H is for Helen and Hurricane Ridge

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

H is for Helen and Hurricane Ridge. Here is one of her water colors.

My mother loved water colors. I think she loved them best of all the art techniques she did. Etchings and water colors were the two most important.

She wanted to move to the Pacific Northwest for years, but she and my father were worried about moving my grandmother, Katherine White Burling. Katy B. died while I was in residency at OHSU in Family Practice, in 1994. My parents then spent at least a year dealing with the will and two houses and stuff and also looking for the right place. They drove all over the northwest. My mother liked the rain and gardening and art. My father wanted sailboats and singing and music. At last they called me and my sister: Chimacum, Washington. “We found a house in Chimacum.”

My sister Chris and I both replied, “WHERE?”

We said to each other that we were mildly horrified that they were selling “our” house in Alexandria, Virginia, though we really had only lived there from when I was 14 and she was 11. My sister had worked for the US Forest Service and lived in Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula, so she knew the area much better than I did. I finished residency in Portland in 1996 and moved to Colorado. Shortly after that my parents moved to Chimacum, Washington.

My mother lived four years after they moved. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997 and died on May 15, 2000. This is one of her northwest watercolors. I am glad that she had time to do some, though I wish that she had more time.

Here is the Hurricane Ridge park information: https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-hurricane-ridge.htm. Be careful, though, because the park is big and wild and it can be dangerously wet and cold. People are more likely to die of exposure if they get lost than from a cougar or bear. Take some emergency gear if you hike, because the park is very big and wild. My sister wrote about duncehead expeditions, where people camp with inadequate gear. She mostly worked trail crew for the US Forest Service, but they did search and rescue as well. My sister died of cancer as well. Her blog is here: http://e2grundoon.blogspot.com/ .

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE

G is for greenish blue

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

Greenish blue is a stretch, but this is a blue crab. They are greenish blue. I wrote the poem and my mother did the etching. I was thinking of a cooked crab, but H. Ottaway did a live crab. I went with her to the crab restaurant, where she explained that we wanted one live crab. “One live crab?” said the restaurateur. “Yes, one live crab.” The owner shook her head, but sold us one live crab.

At home, my mother got the crab out and put it on the floor. The cat was intrigued. The crab was NOT happy. I took photographs of her drawing the crab and making the etching. Apologies for the reflections but I am not at home, so I can’t retake these!

Three photographs: Helen Ottaway drawing a blue crab on the floor, the crab and Helen running an etching on the press.

You can see the crab and her drawing it, as well as the etching press. I took the photographs in the mid 1980s.

Our poem/etching collaboration was a delight! She said that she would illustrate poems as long as they rhymed. “No free verse,” she said. “I don’t like it.” So, the poems had to rhyme. We did ten different ones. I am so glad that we did, since we didn’t have nearly enough time together!

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE

F is for Fish

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

F is for Fish. But… it isn’t a fish, right? It’s a dolphin. At the moment I do not have access to all the art because I am on a trip. I have what I have.

This is one of my mother’s tiny etchings. It is 2 inches by 1.5 inches. She very much enjoyed the tiny etchings. She said that tiny, etching and fantasy were NOT popular with her college professors at the University of Tennessee. She said that her friend, Maline Robinson, was doing large abstract works, both silk screen and oils and that those were much more to the professors’ tastes.

Maline Robinson is another woman artist. Her silk screens are 18 by 24 except then she wanted bigger ones. She built her own frames to do 24 by 36. Her painting tend to be 4 by 6 feet, and she has done triptychs that size. Three large oils that go together. She says that most of her really large works are bought by companies, who hang them in their huge imposing atriums. The tiny dolphin would be lost.

Here is one of Maline Robinson’s works. I took the photograph a few years ago when visiting. I wanted to be immersed in the painting. I think that this one is 4 by 6 feet. I will have to contact Maline for the title!

Not all of H. Ottaway’s work was tiny. This etching is another ocean themed one, with the plate size 9 inches by 11 inches. This is a proof and I will have to look up this title as well! She has used two colors together inking the plate. That is one technique. Another is to have multiple plates and run the paper through the press multiple times.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE

E is for etching

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

My mother loved water colors, but she also did etchings, for as long as I can remember. We had the largest etching press that she could get back in the 1960s. When I was 14, we moved from Johnson City, New York, to Alexandria Virginia for my father’s job. The press went into the basement, along with numerous boxes of books. Soon after we moved, there was torrential rainfall and the sewers in the Del Ray neighborhood backed up. The water stopped draining and just piled up! There was a crack in the foundation of our basement with a waterfall pouring down. My mother wanted the engine of the press saved first! She and my father and I could barely carry it up the stairs, but managed to. Next came boxes of books, some of which were so waterlogged that they were floating. The water was cold, dirty and up to my upper thighs. We unloaded box after box of wet books and spread them out to dry.

I think that my mother’s art was not in the basement, so we did not lose much of that! We installed an automatic sump pump eventually, because that was not the last flood. That was the most spectaular, though. The water was 8-12 inches deep in the front yard. Buses would still drive through the water, sending a wave to hit our front steps.

Afterwards we wished we had taken a photograph in the canoe in the front yard, to use for Christmas. Our Christmas ornaments were flooded too. All the color peels off the balls, so our tree was silver and glass that Christmas. My mother claimed she liked that better and kept it that way from then on!

Etchings are diddly, as my mother would say. A zinc plate, coated with a tar mixture. Then a drawing in the tar, set the plate in acid, and wait for the drawing to etch into the plate. At a certain point, my mother would take the tar off and run some proofs. These were experimental, trying different colors. She would put the tar back on and continue with the drawing. When she was satisfied with the proof, she would start running the edition. The tar is removed, and for each etching the plate is inked with a roller. The ink is gently wiped off, until it is light on the remaining flat parts of the plate and heavier in the lines. The plate is placed on the press, a piece of paper that is soaked is placed on the plate, heavy felt cloth is lowered over it and the plate and paper are run through the press. We had a guard, but keep your fingers away! The felt is lifted, the paper is lifted and the paper is set to dry. The plate is wiped and inked again. The edition is numbered: 1/20 or 1/50. My mother ran some plates many many times. A tiny one named Tag, of a unicorn playing tag with butterflies, is done in multiple colors. Others were a much smaller edition, of 20 or 30. The very large plates are a challenge to ink and wipe. It takes practice to wipe the ink but not wipe it out of the lines.

I have three photographs of H. Ottaway’s Iris and Poppies etching. The featured image is 17/30, colored edition, 1976. The one below is a proof for the color edition. The last one is a proof for her black and white edition.

Iris and Poppies Etching, by Helen Burling Ottaway, proof for color edition.
Iris and Poppies Etching, black and white proof, Helen Burling Ottaway, 1976.

#ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 # art # Women artists # Helen Burling Ottaway #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