I guess I was still thinking about the personification of stormy weather when I sat down at my art table because what emerged on the page was this figure who I turned into a rain cloud. The idea came from the way I drew her hair all poofy like a cloud so I decided to make the hair even bigger and rounder. I really didn’t think through how to illustrate the rain drops and probably should have made them a bit less dense but I suppose all those dashes and drips add some visual interest to the page. Returning to mixed media after such an extended break, I realise with this piece that I have lost some skill with layering water-based media over acrylic. Hopefully I will see some improvement next time I attempt it.
All of my art time lately has been funneled towards my Star Wars challenge. It is always good to have a break from things, however, so I opened up my art journal and decided to create something using the supplies from my July Art Snacks box. I received two Kurteake watercolour pans in a dark grey with hints of indigo and a sort of citrus chartreuse and a Daniel Smith watercolour stick in vermilion so I basically had a slight twist on the three primary colours. The lime-yellow-chartreuse immediately made me think of a raincoat I had when I was very wee and then I thought about how the grey-blue was reminiscent of heavy rain clouds on a stormy day. That, therefore, gave me the theme for my illustration.
Incidentally, I painted this while I was on a lengthy phone call – having done the drawing earlier – so how is that for multitasking in order to ensure I still got my art time?
I am currently experiencing my first State of Emergency as a resident of the US. Governor Corbett declared that Pennsylvania was in a State of Emergency last night following an ice storm that has felled trees and taken down power lines. In my township, 88% of residents are still without electricity. We are very fortunate in that our power outage only lasted 24 hours, perhaps due to the fact that we live next door to an Elementary School which may place reconnecting our area to the grid as a high priority.
The snow was still thick on the ground yesterday when the ice storm came through. I am not sure anyone anticipated its severity given that the School District was initially just calling for a two hour delayed start. We then had a call not long after the alarm went off yesterday morning informing us that they had decided to make the day another snow day. My kids are now aware that all “free” snow days have been used up and that every day lost to weather now will have to be made up in the Summer. They were not happy bunnies. They actually want to be in school – which is a very good sign indeed. A few minutes after that call, the power went out. I often look like I got dressed in the dark but yesterday that was literally the case. Amazingly I looked no worse than usual.
The freezing rain came through during breakfast. The last time I experienced rain was when we were driving across the Erskine Bridge in Scotland. Seeing the windows of your house get speckled with icicles is much preferable to it happening to your car windscreen, to that I can testify. A thick layer of ice formed across the top of the crispy snow and soon everything was encased in a transparent sheath of glossy ice. Branches of trees started to groan and creek from the additional weight. A few in surrounding gardens sheared off the trunk and walloped to the ground below.
I experienced lots of power outages in my childhood. The late 1970s in Scotland were filled with power cuts for one reason or another and I actually have some very fond memories of the fun we used to have playing games and chatting by candlelight. The only downside I can recollect was that one year we got a bit short on candles and had to melt my birthday candle, which was a floppy-eared beagle dog wearing a party hat from which the wick protruded. I didn’t need therapy over it but the fact I can still picture the candle so vividly tells me I was not a happy pixie when he had to be sacrificed to the darkness. Of course, back then we were more used to making our own entertainment anyway. We had three TV channels and those did not broadcast all day every day, our phone was so prehistoric it was made of Bakelite and was a party line and I had never even heard of computers let alone game consoles.
My kids were, as children of the 21st century and fans of modern technology, not so impressed by the power outage. They kept thinking about TV and PS3s and even CDs – all while I couldn’t even make a phone call because our stupid house phones require the internet to function and our internet router needs electricity – and were frustrated that all they could play with were the hundreds of toys we had shipped over from Scotland. The poor wee mites. Thankfully the house we are renting has a gas hob so we could eat hot food. Unfortunately the hot air system requires electricity for the fans to disperse the heat so the house got increasingly colder as the day progressed and as it got gradually chillier we wore progressively more layers of clothes. Some of the kids even had a steaming hot lobster bath to get nice and warm.
Then the darkness fell and they were suddenly delighted. The darkness was exciting – so long as they were not alone in a distant corner of the house when it suddenly became intimidating and threatening. They played Hide and Seek which was even more challenging in the dark and allowed for some unusual hiding places, we ate by candlelight, played charades (the first time my kids have ever played charades – they don’t know how to be old school!) and read Scottish tales by the firelight for bed time. And the best bit was that they all fell asleep really quickly in the pitch dark.
One of my books which did not make the cut for being chosen to come to America with us was ‘The Blackout Book’, a collection of facsimile pages from texts that were distributed during the Second World War, each full of games and puzzles to keep people amused during the blackouts or when they were stuck in air raid shelters. That could have come in handy last night but thinking of it also puts this whole State of Emergency into perspective: the Luftwaffe are not dropping bombs on us after all. Of course, I say this in the light of being among the 12% who have had power restored within 24 hours. Things are quite difficult out there. This afternoon I attempted to take the smallest Pict to the birthday party of one of his preschool classmates. The venue was a few towns further north so we set off with plenty of time. However, every route I attempted to take, we had to divert because of fallen trees. My sat nav app was doing a great deal of recalculating along the way. Eventually it ran out of options that did not involve just bulldozing through tree trunks and I am not familiar enough with the area to attempt just navigating without assistance so I had no choice but to admit defeat and slowly wend my way back to the house. Hardly any traffic lights were functioning which meant that each junction, even of pretty major intersections, had become a four-way stop. Some of these had restricted vision in certain directions so I had to hold my breath and slowly edge out hoping that I would be seen by the traffic hurtling along on the perpendicular road. It’s definitely not pleasant out there. Although my 4 year old was sorely disappointed to have to miss the party and I was gutted for him, I felt quite relieved to pull into the driveway and get the kettle on for a warming cup of tea. Relieved and lucky.
Today it is raining and the sky is grey.
If I still lived in Scotland, this would not be worth noting. Yes, British people are obsessed with the weather, it’s true. We live on an island in the middle of a blustery ocean so it is in our cultural DNA to be acutely attuned to the weather. Even so, in Scotland in November some standard rainfall and a dull grey sky would not be worth conversing about. It’s notable here because this is my first murky, rainy day since I arrived in America three weeks ago.
Last weekend, I was so warm that I felt a bit too toasty just wearing one layer. On a daily basis here I am just wearing two layers. In November. Back in Scotland, by now I would be wearing at least three layers and possibly even thermal leggings underneath my jeans plus hat, scarf and gloves. I would be trundling back and forwards on the school run (a half hour walk each way) with my face being battered by the wind, ice crystals forming in my lungs with every gulp of breath and an ice cream headache caused by freezing, lashing rain.
Suffice to say, I am not missing the late Autumn-Winter weather in Scotland. We lived on the West Coast of Scotland and I found the winters there to be hard. The light levels move from pitch black to grey murk to dusk and back to pitch black again; it rain relentlessly; any snow that falls melts into grubby slush and then into a hard layer of ice that makes walking precarious; did I mention it rains relentlessly already? Biblical deluges.
So even though it is definitely chillier today and I could do with popping a cardigan on and even though the warm glow of the Autumn light has been replaced by a steely winter sky for today and even though it is actually raining during the day for the first time since my arrival, I can’t resent it because I know I could be experiencing far worse right now.
Of course, I’ve yet to experience my first Pennsylvanian Winter….