Posted on Leave a comment

A Mighty Fortress

NYC Public Library. 6×8 inches. Ink on paper. $50

“A mighty fortress is our library,” one of the characters of my favorite novel, Duplicate Keys, by Jane Smiley, says at some point while standing in front of the New York Public Library. With its lion statues guarding it, it looks like a mighty fortress indeed, though that’s obviously not what the quote alludes to.

Today I decided at some point in the afternoon, after the most charming breakfast at Sarabeth’s by the Plaza, after my friends left, after I did a Facebook live video for my Dogs with Bagels book club, broadcasting from my window bench where I could see the beautiful yellow cabs on Lexington, after all that I decided that I wanted to walk to the Public Library. Actually I think I just wanted to walk and I remembered somehow through muscle memory that walking down Fifth Avenue really fast, all the way from the Park to the Village is one of my all-time favorite things. It makes me feel free. It makes me feel like anything is possible.

And so I walked. I walked past Saint Thomas, my favorite NYC church, with its intricate sculptures, took a moment even to go inside, then walked past Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The Empire State drew nearer, the stores went from high end to cheesy, and the lovely scent of candied nuts from street vendors engulfed me. I felt very much at home.

Did I stop at the Library? You bet! I even went inside. I looked at some of the current exhibitions, and what occurred to me was that what’s changed since my crazy twenties in New York, when my appreciation of the City was superficial at best, to now when I fully feel its magic, is not that I’ve gotten older but that I’ve actually gotten an education. I don’t mean a formal education – the degrees I was earning while I still lived up here – but a real education in the things that truly interest me. An education derived slowly from reading books I like. Mostly novels. The realization made me somehow feel at peace with myself. I mean, all weekend I’ve been berating myself for being the rootless vagabond that I am, for wanting to move back to New York, for always being so ready to pick up and leave. Then I realized I’m ok. It’s all ok. The flip side of my vagrant ways is that I can be happy anywhere where I can paint and have access to good books. A mighty fortress is our library indeed.

Posted on Leave a comment

Subway Tour

42nd Street Station. 6×8 inches. Ink drawing. $50

I’ve never liked the Subway – and actually have always taken great pains to avoid it. The crowds, the smells, but mostly the confusion – where do I take what train and will it actually go where it’s supposed to or did I miss a sign about a detour? – always made me either walk crazy distances or hail a cab instead of facing the underground monster with its intricate tentacles. I never minded seeing the occasional rat. In fact, I think they’re adorable as long as they don’t get too close, and on the tracks they’re definitely at a safe distance.

Anyway, despite not liking to navigate the subway, I am fascinated by it, so when Ryan suggested a subway tour for our group of collectors I was quite intrigued. We had a guide who was funny and very knowledgeable. He talked nonstop for three hours while pointing out landmarks both above ground and in various subway stations. At some point we were in lower Manhattan and I felt that the energy is really strong there and it really attracts me. It’s something I’ve felt on previous trips – yet never in my childhood or in my twenties. Something I’ll have to explore. John and I saw a leather sewing machine just like his in one of the storefronts. We didn’t have time to stop and investigate but I took its brief sighting as a good omen.

The day had a surreal quality to it, but so does my whole trip here. New York is such a mix of memories and new sensations, of places and experiences that are familiar, layered over so much that is unknown and unexplored. It’s a bit like a mysterious lover – Suzanne’s Desmond in Storms of Malhado – someone you know intimately yet also don’t know at all.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Old and the New

Lunch at Sardi’s. Ink on paper. 6×8 inches. $50

This morning we went to Hudson Yards to see The Vessel. It’s a brand new building that’s actually more of a piece of art than anything else, as it’s all out in the open and all one can do with it is climb up and down. It’s interesting indeed, but, surrounded by the kind of luxury retail that’s exactly the same everywhere you go, it’s part of the glossy over-commercialized new New York that I’m not sure I care for.

Which is why lunch at Sardi’s, a Theater District institution, featuring over 1,300 caricatures framed on its walls, white table linens, and impeccable service, was a nice way to balance out our visit to this new and somewhat puzzling creation.

A Glimpse of Grand Central. Ink on paper. 6×8 inches. $50

I’m definitely all about old New York: Grand Central and the Chrystal Building, the Art Deco façades of Fifth Avenue, the park and the Plaza, the Met, and the good old fashioned joy of hailing a cab on a busy street.

In the afternoon we visited the Whitney Museum, where we saw some very interesting art. Afterwards, I just had to go to Bloomingdale’s. I had to do some of the old things I used to love doing, like recite my family’s old 212 number in order to get a member discount, and sweet talk my way into free samples of Crème de la Mer. Walking back to the hotel to rest I wondered why these things meant so much to me, why they gave me a sense of belonging. Am I that shallow? Then I realized this is simply something that fascinates me as a business person, that whole way of making someone feel special and valued, of creating an experience, a connection. So let’s definitely file my trip to Bloomingdale’s under professional development.

Posted on Leave a comment

Running Around the City

Midtown. Ink sketch. $50

Today we ran around quite a lot – which is typical for a day in New York for me. We went to breakfast, then to the Guggenheim – I had never been, as in my twenties my cultural destination of choice used to be the Met, which was free. I used to spend whatever money I had on cocktails and cabs with the occasional pair of tall boots thrown in. Anyway, so I finally saw the Guggenheim, which was pretty fabulous. But what was most fabulous about it was being there with my two top collectors, looking at art together and talking about it.

Later we walked through the park, then back to Midtown where we went on a hunt for Chinese dumplings and bao buns, which were absolutely delicious.

In the evening we were invited to a happy hour at the home of one of John’s collectors, which was quite fabulous. Our whole group was there, and the most amazing thing for me was people telling me they’ve been reading Dogs with Bagels and they like it! I always worry about how readers will react to it, because I know people usually either love L or absolutely hate her. “I totally would want to be her friend,” one of the collectors at the party told me, and that totally made my day.

Dolce & Gabbana on Madison
Posted on Leave a comment

Cocktails at the Plaza

The Black and White Ball. Ink drawing. $50

Today my two top collectors and I flew to New York City where we’ll meet up with John, Ryan, and a group of John Ross Palmer collectors to celebrate John’s 46th birthday! It’s all very exciting. Being back in NYC always makes me nostalgic, but it’s so different this time around, arriving with my two top collectors, and getting to share my experience of New York – past and present – with people who care about me and my work. Naturally, I made a beeline first for real NYC pizza, then for The Plaza. There we sat in the Rose Room and had cocktails. Which were delicious. When the bill came, they brought a little postcard of Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball. I just recently read about that, so I found it very inspiring. I had to do a little sketch of Gloria Guinness, Bill Paley, and Babe Paley at the ball. And it got me to thinking. New York has changed and not all changes are great: Henri Bendel has closed, so has Clyde’s Pharmacy. Sadder still, a huge Apple store has replaced FAO Scwarz, the famous toy store, on Fifth Avenue. I wonder where the giant $6,000 giraffe went when they closed. Did they sell it at auction? Does some kid have it now? Is it homeless?

Of course, New York has always reinvented itself and there have always been people around mourning the loss of a more charming era. Frankly, sometimes I think it’s its grittier times we should mourn – especially as artists and art lovers. The inexpensive bohemian New York of the 1970s. Even the 80s and 90s were still times that allowed artists and dreamers to carve out a nook for themselves in what was a more dangerous but more affordable City. Then it all became sanitized and uber expensive, all money and no fun. The peep shows in Times Square were gone, the Park became safe to joggers, and someone took the $6,000 giraffe away and put a giant Apple store in its place.

Can you find Roosevelt Island on this map?
My top collectors reading Dogs with Bagels on the plane. Can you spot the Chanel bookmark?
Posted on Leave a comment

City Directory

Drawing inspired by the 1900 Galveston City Directory. $50

After successfully dropping off the dog today I proceeded to having the most lovely day hanging out with my friend in Galveston, then doing historical research at the Rosenberg Library. The weather was glorious, we had a great lunch at Maceo’s, a stroll on the beach (including a visit to Murdoch’s), we talked about my plans for Storms of Malhado, and we laughed and joked a lot. We even bought scratch-offs and a lottery ticket at Bob’s Grocery – which was satisfyingly seedy – because we decided it was a lucky day. We won nothing in the scratch-offs, but that’s ok. I was feeling light and playful, the way I used to feel back when I was living in Galveston and life seemed in many ways simpler. I really miss those days, and sometimes I still long to move back.

Later, I went to the Rosenberg Library and perused the City Directory from 1900 as well as the one from 1961. They were very interesting to say the least.

Another picture from my photo shoot with Buburuza Productions
The water today
One day I shall ride the carousel on the Pleasure Pier
Posted on Leave a comment

A Blustery Ocean

Scared of the Waves. Ink drawing. 6×8 inches. $50

A lot happened today. I started having second thoughts about leaving my dog with my friend – not because I don’t think that would be the cutest, cuddliest arrangement for my little four-pawed diva, but because I have a prior arrangement with her vet and I value that relationship. Also, the little diva needs a mani/pedi and that’s hard to organize on short notice. I was counting on her vet for doing that – and then some. Plus, they stock her food and save me from other preparations I don’t feel up to right now because I have things to do. Things like packing for New York and having a promotional photo shoot in my 1900 bathing dress! I might have judged myself a little for making this such a priority, but once I got to the photo shoot, the photographer (Bogdan of Buburuza Productions) and I had so much fun! It was definitely the moment when I forgot my travel anxiety and was able to just be my happiest most playful self.

So yes, check out these photos! I will be sharing them over several posts, to prolong the suspense.

Also today, my editor sent me the revised blurb she’s been working on for Storms of Malhado. Check it out (below). What do you think?

Photo credit Buburuza Productions

Three women. Three hurricanes. One haunting truth …

Katie doesn’t believe in ghosts.

And she certainly doesn’t believe the rumors that her family’s old mansion in Galveston, Texas is haunted, despite its tragic history: two young women who lived in the house in different eras both died in hurricanes – one during Hurricane Carla in 1961, and one during the Great Storm of 1900, the greatest natural disaster to ever befall the United States.

But that was the past. A fact Katie reminds herself of when she returns home to Galveston to await Hurricane Ike with her parents and boyfriend in her family’s old mansion on Broadway, hoping to rekindle her flailing relationship. But while Katie may not be afraid of the ghost stories she’s heard, she is afraid of the monster storm approaching the island. And as even the most die-hard islanders evacuate, Katie’s fears grow. Fear of the looming hurricane. Fear that she’s talentless as a painter. Fear that her relationship with her elusive boyfriend is already over. And as Katie struggles against her fears, the past whispers to her of the women who died there, and the haunting similarities they share with Katie’s own life. And as Katie’s fears grow stronger, she must decide if she has the strength to break the cycle of the past, or be doomed to repeat it.

Through three different timelines, Storms of Malhado weaves a story of Galveston’s past, underscoring its danger and isolation, as well as its remarkable resilience, its capacity for both nostalgia and reinvention. Full of contradictions, at once insular and open to the world, magical but stifling, stuck in the past yet determined to overcome, Galveston Island is as much a character of the novel as Katie, Suzanne, Betty, their lovers, and their confidantes.

There’s still time to order a pre-release copy and become a VIP reader!

Photo credit Buburuza Productions
Photo credit Buburuza Productions
Posted on Leave a comment

Support System

Biggest Dog in the Universe. Ink drawing. Private collection.

Today I had a little event to say goodbye to my collectors before leaving on my trip. For the first time ever I baked bread for an event, and I was quite pleased with how it turned out. But other really good things happened too: A friend who is dogless but loves dogs offered to take Holly while I travel. Note: I have not trusted anyone except professionals with my dog in years, but I think it’s time to open up to this type of help and support. My friend is always playful and sweet around Holly, and her home would be a warm loving environment for my little Poochie.

It’s interesting, considering I’ve been such a rolling stone for years, and that not long ago I was feeling very much alone here in Houston. But, as I embark on this trip, it turns out I have friends who are taking me to the airport, friends I’m traveling with, a friend who volunteered to look after my mail and plants, friends who took the orchid they gave me a few months ago so they can coax it into blooming again. And a friend who wants to love on my dog while I’m gone. But, let’s not forget the most important of all: a friend who truly gets me and talked me through some of the heavier feelings I’ve been dealing with. For a travel blogger, I must admit I have a lot of anxiety about travel – up until the moment when the trip actually starts. I think that is the moment of letting go, which is always hard for me to do. But with a good support system perhaps this time it’ll be easier. Or so I hope.

Posted on Leave a comment

Paris in My Sketchbook

Le Louvre. 9×12. Ink drawing on paper. $100

I’ve always found the Louvre very appealing, from an architectural point of view, that is. There’s something about the building that I really love. So I’ve always wanted to draw some of the intricate sculptures adorning it. Today I got my chance, as the first part of my day involved waiting.

It’s been a complex day, torn between my tendency to overthink things and over-worry, and a sense of pleasant anticipation and optimism for the future. How I can make such contradictory emotions coexist I don’t know, but somehow I manage.

Tomorrow I’m baking bread and having a few friends and collectors over. My Christmas trees are still up – but I do like to leave them up longer than most people in this country do. I’ll take them down before leaving for New York next week, considering they’re a fire hazard and all that, but I feel like I’ll miss them. And then I realized that when I go see my old ladies later this month – because I will go see my old ladies and I’m a bit afraid of the encounter, afraid of finding them older and frailer than I left them – they’ll probably still have their tree up. My old lizard likes to keep it around extra long because she says it helps her not get the winter blues.

Posted on Leave a comment

A Different Kind of Painting

Galveston Island. 16×20 inches. Acrylic and oil on cradled wood panel. $300

Today was a good day. I had breakfast with John in the Heights and we talked about some very exciting stuff for the future. Afterwards I sat in EQ, my favorite coffee shop with my art on the walls, and wrote.

I wrote a little bit about the horses, made them more present in the story, included their names and their temperaments, the way Suzanne feels about them. I think this adds an important element to the story.

When I got to painting in the evening I ended up making something that’s very different from what I usually do. It’s the oil stick on top that makes it so different.