Sunday, November 27, 2011

Manholes to Murals - Ellie Bogardus Wall Landscape Cover

Reconstructed wall mural
I spent about eight hours today tracing characters from the manhole covers that appeared similar to the sketches made of the wall mural on the south facing exterior wall of Ellie Bogardus' house on Nottingham Drive in Cambria, California. Then using the sketch made in 1985, an interpretation of the wall mural was created. The landscape was reconstructed from the faux-titled painting, Oakhurst Renaissance Fair / Dana's Favorite. A lot of liberty was taken with the vegetation - only the tree trucks were shown in the original sketch.

Manhole #1
This photograph is the manhole cover and skirt just north of the two-house complex that was occupied by Ellie Borgardus and her mother. This is the most-north manhole that has sketches made by Bogardus into the concrete skirts. This and the next photograph were taken during Spring Break in 2006.

Manhole #2
Here is the second manhole, the one closest to the original Borgardus house. In the background is the new house being constructed over the footprint of the house that Ellie lived in. A third manhole is found south of this one, that also has sketches in the skirt. I didn't take photographs of those images - the quality of the sketches have degraded because of traffic wear.

Manhole skirt and other characters
The figures to the left are tracings done from the manhole cover skirts on Nottingham Drive in front of the former two-house complex that was owned by Ellie Bogardus. All of the tracings were made by pasting the photo images of the skirts into PowerPoint and then using the Drawing menu Curve Tool and sketching around the character images (all except figures d and e). Figures d and e were interpretations of the 1985 sketch book renditions of the artist's house exterior wall mural. Below is the key to where the images can be found.
a. Manhole #1
b. Manhole #1
c. Manhole #1
d. South facing wall, from sketch
e. South facing wall, from sketch
f. Manhole #2
g. Manhole #1
h. Manhole #1

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Artist's House - Ellie Bogardus

Today I dug through boxes of photographs that are kept down in my wife's basement studio - decades of memories archived in pretty good order. Jan has labeled many of the envelopes, so it was first a matter of getting some sort of bearings about the scope of the effort, and then
5275 Nottingham Drive, c. 1995
going back through each of the boxes filled with the photo envelopes trying to as rapidly as possible locate batches that may turn up the one(s) I am looking for. Vacation coastal scenes were a sure give-away that I was in the right ballpark - good times at San Simeon Beach building sand castles and watching the kids boogey board; climbing on the cliffs and rocks along the shore near my folks' house; looking at tidal pools; an occasional seascape snapshot; and even one photograph of me - skinny with a beard drawing on my sketch pad, with the photograph dated January 1985 - verifying the period of the earlier sketch. Lots of looking, but nothing like what I hoped to find - close-up details of the gate and garden planting in front of the fence - the house was more memories than Kodak moments, and nothing more.

Park Hill neighborhood
Finally a packet from 1995, and there it was - one picture of Ellie's house. I have sent copies off to France and California - commitments fulfilled. The house is now gone, sold in December 2003 and replaced by a new version that sits on the foot print of the original - real estate changes hands. My brother and sister-in-law gave my folks a framed copy of a postcard showing the seascape from Lancaster Drive looking down the hill towards Nottingham Drive and the state park in front of the cliff  
Gill, another artist
below. The image from the postcard looked showed the area looking like a rural delivery area and not at all what the built up development on Park Hill is today. The houses and the neighbors we have known over the past 30 years have changed, different than those early sketches and few old photographs. In that postcard, the house back then across the street from my folks' was different than the cottage that was first there when we began to visit each year - it now replaced by a modern home. We said goodbye to that owner this past July when we visited, Gill (also an artist) is moving on, as well.

Ellie Bogardus - Hotel California

In an earlier blog I mentioned a neighbor of my parents' in Cambria, but more notably, Ellie Bogardus was an illustrator from the production crew of Charlie Brown cartoons and cartoons in the early days of television. She also was an artist known around the small
5275 Nottingham Drive, c. 1985
coastal community, and after posting an update about her work, I heard from a gentleman in France who is the son of Ellie's husband in the 1960's. Following that post, earlier in the week I received a message from an instructor at the University of Southern California (my attitude towards that institution had already mellowed over the past six years since moving to the east coast - much different from my earlier college days) who along with her husband have the good fortune of just this week acquiring an entire collection of Ellie Bogardus' original paintings from family friends who were obviously serious collectors of Ellie's paintings. If I thought the drawings my brother and sister-in-law have were great, these canvases are spectacular - a bonanza.

More than a month ago, I wrote my new friend in France that I would look for photographs of the Cambria house, and with grateful receipt of the cell phone images received earlier this week from southern California, and another request for more information about Ellie - well... I was able to locate two sketches I drew of Ellie's house about 25
Wall landscape, non-artistic rendition
years ago. I am leaving myself quite vulnerable to criticism by displaying these because by no stretch of anyone's imagination am I an artist, and the two inquiries about Ellie come from accomplished artists in their own right. The first sketch is a perspective of the front of the house facing the road away from the ocean. The second is a very rough drawing on the south-facing exterior wall of the house showing a larger landscape scene that nicely ties together the characters from the manhole cover skirts out in the street - the drawings on the wall and the manhole covers together complete the habitat. From my sketch, it looks like that part of the house had a flat roof, so Ellie's exterior "canvas" was a rectangle. The canvas for this blog now runs in a triangle, from Annapolis, to France, back over the U.S to southern California, and to the east coast, again.

A quest continues. In the meantime, below is the first public showing of Ellie Borgardus original paintings from the Allyn Morris Family collection. They are as my mind remembers seeing ones like them, decades ago at the Seago Gallery and the gallery that is now a pizzeria on Main Street. I will need to find out whether the paintings have a title written on the backs of the canvases. The artist's signature dates them in the late 1970's - an imagined interpreted title is provided for each, like earlier aerial Iowa landscapes.

[Getting ready for] A Night on the Town / Girl's Reflection Over a Bathtub
Mademoiselle Justine's Visit
An Early Dinner / Pantry scene #7, from the When Away Shopping in the Village series
Oakhurst Renaissance Fair / Dana's Favorite

Berte Morisot Reclining
Renoir's Augustine / Portrait in the Parlor
Cat's Evil Intent / Pantry Scene #23, from the Away Shopping in the Village series
The Artist's Mother / Panel #18, from the Cottage Next Door series
Seashore Picnic at Fiscalini Ranch
Mountain House Time Capsule / Treasure in an Attic
Rousseau's World / From A Day at the Los Angeles Aboretum series
Moody Watching and Waiting / Story in Your Eyes

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What They Will Do For A Meal

Song Sparrow
Autumn has hit, and the warm weather is gone. The leaf change in eastern Maryland has already reached its peak, but there a many trees that still have a ways to go before their barren limbs line all of the highways. We have had as any as six or seven Gray Squirrels in our yard at a time. A few weeks ago, there were four male Northern Cardinals at one time around the area near the seed feeder - I have never seen more than one at a time before. Waves of Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmouse come and go, picking one seed at a time. The Dark-eyed Juncos have arrived, as well as Song Sparrows, House Sparrows, Northern Blue Jays, Carolina Wren, and House Finch. I sure there is at least one more sparrow species, but I have to figure out what it is.

Squirrel self-suspended
I haven't been doing a good job of keeping the seed feeder full. Squirrels have gnawed at the plastic dikes that hold back the seeds - allowing the birds to pick them away, and then gravity should replaces the level of the seeds for the next bird. With the small barriers below the opening gone, with the right jiggle, the seeds flow freely until a natural bridge is built on its own that keeps the reserve in check. The rope that holds the suet feeder has given out, and that feeder lies empty on the ground. A squirrel probably climbed onto the feeder to taste the concoctions of either peanut butter of blueberries imbedded in the fat. The dexterity of the squirrels is shown in the photograph to the right - amazing how these little critters can do what they do - the value of opposing toes. Just as man's brain sets him apart from other animals, the squirrel's opposing big toe sets it apart from man.

Last Saturday, an extended morning that turned into a lazy day, a Downy Woodpecker was sampling the seeds in the finch feeder in the back yard. I was making a cup of coffee when Jan, looking through the open blinds over the window, spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker in our ornamental cherry in the front yard. She didn't know what kind of woodpecker it it was, but was impressed by its size and the large red hood patch on the back of its head. It didn't make sense to her the name "red-bellied" when there was no sign of one.

Also adding to the list of birds in the back yard, there have been at least six Mourning Doves at one time working the spilled seed covering the ground, along with the squirrels. The food web maintained - each with its own role to play.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Day Job - Evenings, And Some Weekends, Too

For a long time, my family would tell folks who asked what I do, "Oh, he works with seeds." It was for quite a while after I had moved onto other research areas that everyone caught on that I hadn't worked with seeds for a long time - career paths change. A little over two years ago, I was asked to work for the office of an appointee in the Department of Agriculture - my task, provide technical advice for developing biofuels policy. The first comments made by the person interviewing me were: "How would you like to have a career change?"

I attend a meeting or give a presentation to various groups about every week or two about some aspect of agriculture and aviation biofuels. I was asked earlier this year to write an article for an on-line magazine, and it just appeared this past week. For me, being in agriculture and 
Inspecting JP-8 Jet Fuel
having a work-connection to the military is satisfying since we have one son who served in the Army, and a second who is training to be a naval aviator. Because of that connection, when I was sitting on a panel at a conference several months ago waiting my turn to speak, I came up with a thought that became a part of my opening remarks. With a picture of a Navy Aviation Boatswain’s Mate inspecting a sample of jet fuel up on the screen (1), I commented: "There is a commonality between agriculture and the military that I hadn't thought of before. For both, less than two percent of the U.S. population are involved in production agriculture and are in active military service." The rest of the panel members, an Air Force and an Army Lt. Colonel, a couple of civilian Defense Department employees, and an aviation trade association lawyer involved in biofuel testing, procurement, and advocacy nodded - recognizing the disconnect of these two sectors from the rest of the much broader population as a whole. That thought ended up becoming a part of the introduction to my article - the result of knowing how disconnected agriculture is from the general population in a largely industrialized nation, and being a dad of two kids connected to the service - a military family greatly disconnected from most families in the U.S. as well. I don't know if I would have drawn that link between the number of people who defend our country and grow our food - if not being connected to both - that fact would have likely been overlooked - remained unconnected otherwise.

An editorial in yesterday's Washington Post written by a veteran discussed his dealing with what he perceived as that disconnect between those who serve in the military, and the wider population that doesn't - how he processed through a simple thing like strangers saying, "Thanks for your service." It is worth reading and thinking about. Another Post article looks at the same idea from an outsider's perspective - the disconnected. For more information describing differences in well-being of active service and veterans, see the link here.
(1) An interesting fact is the color-coding of the uniforms worn on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Those with jobs dealing with fuels were purple - thus are referred to as grapes. More about this is found by clicking here. My aviator-in-training son mentioned "grapes" to me while we were visiting the USS Lexington while visiting Corpus Christi a couple of months ago.

Argentina/Uruguay 2011 Bird List - To Be Determined

I came across my composite of bird photographs from my last trip to Argentina and Uruguay that haven't been identified - there are 26 of them. The images are nothing artistic, just utilitarian for remembering what I saw. My trip was a month earlier this year than last, and the richness and diversity of birds was far less in the countryside outside of Colonia, Uruguay. If anyone who can help me identify these, I would welcome the help. I haven't had time to crack open my two bird identification manuals to figure them out - one of these days.

Here is the listing of birds seen in the vicinity of Buenos Aires and Tucuman City, Argentina, and Colonia, Uruguay:
x. Red-crested Cardinal