dirndl skirt's doings:

some thoughts, some memories, some art

dirndl skirt

dirndl skirt
Beacon, New York, USA
May 25
Top Cat (sometimes)
Sharon Watts ...Creative
I'm an illustrator in my day job, but I keep leaking with other things that need to get out. I compiled a book "Miss You, Pat: Collected Memories of NY's Bravest of the Brave, Captain Patrick J. Brown" which enables me to die knowing I did one good thing. But I have more up my sleeve!


Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 17, 2012 2:37PM

Visiting Violet

Rate: 60 Flag
Violet drawing 

     “She’s a bit shy,” Chris informs me. That’s OK, I am too. 


     Violet is eighty-five, and recently uprooted from a small English village to live with her son and his wife, both exhaustively busy local business owners here in the Hudson Valley.


     I visit Violet two hours a day, three days a week. The list of companion-duties did not include anything I was not qualified for or squeamish about, so I stepped up to the plate. Besides, it’s a paying gig not five minutes' walk away.


     Her routine is not complicated. She sweeps and dusts her room and the downstairs of the two-story century-old house, and does light laundry for the restaurant. Mostly napkins, or “serviettes,” as she calls them. She prepares her own simple meals and bathes without help. In the evening she watches “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” with her best friend Lola, the chunky and spoiled tortoise shelter cat. I have endeared myself to Violet if only because I talk to Lola as if she were my own, and scratch her at the sensitive point where her tail and body junction so that guttural moans and ferocious lickings ensue. As if I have some magic touch.




     Mondays and Fridays I wash Violet’s hair. She leans over the kitchen sink, her head suspended like a dormant wrecking ball from a crane of stooped shoulders and neck. I test the water temperature and use the vegetable sprayer to wet the snow-white, wispy tufts. Exposed and pink, her skull is as mysterious as a dinosaur egg.


     “Rub harder,” she urges, and I comply, scratching gently with my short fingernails. After a final rinse I gather up the towel caped around her sloping shoulders to pat her hair dry, give it a quick comb and side part, and two minutes later it is fluffy as eiderdown.


     On Fridays I also paint her nails. “Nail varnish,” she calls the Sally Hanson Champagne Ice from the Dollar Store. Violet has large, handsome hands, and a pinch of pride dovetails with a bit of vanity to lend her a girlish aura that defies the worn and gullied map of her face.


     Next she fixes a small pot of tea, and we settle into the day’s hour of recreation. Sometimes we work on a jigsaw puzzle, but we’ve exhausted our patience with the insipid Thomas Kinkade themes, a 9-pack bought at a church tag sale. For Christmas she received a watercolor set and pad. We gather our supplies and sit at the yellow formica kitchen table in shared silence.


      From a stack on her desk, she’s pulled a few This England country living magazines from the 1970s, and pages through them until something captures her fancy. Intently, she begins to slowly fill the sheet of paper with her line art. The paints sit on the side. “I’m working on shapes,” she explains.


      I open my own pan of paint, dry for decades. I look at Violet, her concentration giving the illusion that she is a statue or still life. But she’s not really holding a pose; her head and hands shift with continued calm, and I try to remember how to simultaneously see and draw what is sitting right in front of me. It’s like riding a bicycle, I gamely tell myself as my pencil scuttles across the page in fits and starts. But I am wobbly. My hand/eye coordination has not been called upon to work in such tandem in a long while. Developing a visual style upon demand and earning a living at it can molest what was once a pure process. I need a fresh well to draw from, not the dirty, used paint water from my past commercial life. Struggling, I wiggle and squirm, look at my watch and start over. And over. It all feels insincere, as if I have laid a sheet of tracing paper over the artist I once was and am trying to reclaim. 


     When the sun slants through the blinds to signal the end of the afternoon, I look at Violet’s page. Her pencil line is carefully chosen, tentative yet tenacious. Fresh. Newly hatched. I study my own sketches and know I would trade places in a heartbeat.


     “Doesn’t look like much, does it?” she nods toward her efforts.

     If she only knew.


Violet art 

 copyright 2012 Sharon Watts


Images property of author and Violet A. 


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Just wow! I was surprised when I saw your portrait, and Lola! But Violet's sketch is drawing me in, making me think, wondering what inspired and brought that forth? Lovely words, lovely sketches and paintings, lovely message. Thanks for that!
I love this, Sharon. It is so inspirational in content and reflections you provided with your observations in visiting Violet. "It all feels insincere, as if I have laid a sheet of tracing paper over the artist I once was and am trying to reclaim. " Lovely phrase, so meaningful for me. You are an artist, still!
I know exactly what you're saying. I try very hard to push past the obvious which is too easy for me...the deftness is provocative. and it's so satisfying to a certain part of me..."good girl" it says.

so I know that you have to keep pushing beyond what you see. overworking something is good. keep pushing.

but both of those topmost images are stunning...I LOVE the lola but the watercolor of your friend violet carries it's own sweetness and innocence.

so if you're determined to rediscover another way of saying what it is you want to say..PUSH it so it's not pretty anymore. keep pushing into it. maybe move into acrylics because they'll hold their color in layers and watercolors demand an immediate simplicity and what you're trying to do isn't simple yet......there's really no pushing into watercolors unless you want to play with mud and overworked paper, which btw, isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Wonderful, enchanting story and beautiful artwork by both of you. I brought some acrylic paints for my mom at the nursing home a couple weeks ago. She did a little bit of painting--check it out at "I Remember Better When I Paint" (my blog from a couple weeks ago).
Look at all the thoughts she put on that piece of paper. I love the words 'handsome hands" reminds me of my man hands..:)
Absolutely eloquent in execution and purpose! Well deserved EP.
I'm not an artist, but this post shows that you are--both in words and brush.
Absolutely gorgeous! I love the images here, both visual and verbal. This was a lovely, profound read - and what made it even better is the fact that you are doing such a kind act for this woman (and her cat!).
Wonderful piece here, just lovely. The painting too.
dianaani ~ thanks for your artist's eye and appreciation of both our efforts.

Fusun ~ That sentence occurred to me after the first draft. Glad you singled it out :) And thank you for the reassurance!

Foolish Monkey ~ SO glad to see you here...and yes, you get the "good girl" stuff. The default setting. I will heed your advice to push. Thank you!

Erica K ~ Thanks, and also for alerting me to your post! My mother paints too, and will up until the end, if I know her. ME, I'm not so sure about : /

Linda ~ Violet shifts the page around, accommodating the next image into a composition that suits. It all works so well! (And Vivien Leigh had "man hands" too! She tried to hide them...a shame!)

Annie ~ thank you for visiting and your nice comment!

toritto ~ thanks, you sweet man :)

jlsathre ~ What a nice thing to say!

Alysa ~ I do like talking with older people. And cats! Merci!

rita ~ Thanks so much. I was afraid I was too matter of fact in the telling. I have been doing this for just a few months. In fact, I posted this today when I should have been with her. I have a bad cold and was afraid she'd catch it.
There are many descriptive high points here. Ah, to draw, paint, write or dance freely without regard for the internal critic or value judgement ... Violet and yourself are fortunate to have this time to share. I'm glad her family found someone as nice as you to be with her. Your water colours are lovely. Like dianaani said Lola really is a beaut.
I agree . . . Just wow wee wow.
My son says ` anyone can draw.
I never take the time. You can.
He attended Baltimore's`
Maryland Institute College of Art. He's very good.
He doodles on anything that won't run/walk off.
I love to follow detail in sketches. I Loved the read.
I email this . . . You have more crib notes up sleeve?
I was reading you Bio. I Love to say:`If she only knew.
Virgil wrote this:`
Oh happy garden/farmer - If you only knew! Happy!

Oh happy land-care/keepers - If you only knew! Happy!

He goes on and on about tending and giving care. Care is
as the root
Courage . . .
Con C. cracks me up
The Braves left NYC,
DC, and act like sops.
I Loved this read much.
Oh my, such beauty -- you, Violet, the art. Wonderfully written and beautiful art from you both.
What an inspiring post. Thank you. I can see myself trying so hard to do that beautiful watercolor with the blue robe. You really nailed that one. But then to look at her art work and see a mind that is unique and spread out was a whole new perspective. I want to expand. I want to go where Violet goes.
I'm sure that keeping up with one's art is a great way of keep the faculties into advancing years, and I'm sure that your visits help keep her on her game. Good on both of you.
Both of you put me to shame graphically, Sharon, and you, verbally.
I was struck by the same sentence FusunA mentioned: beautifully put. I loved this, too: Exposed and pink, her skull is as mysterious as a dinosaur egg. Thank you for sharing this.
Lovely words and art.
A lovely, rich post. You never disappoint.
Wow is right. Too many gorgeous lines to recount. So vivid-- all of it.

This in particular:
Developing a visual style upon demand and earning a living at it can molest what was once a pure process. I need a fresh well to draw from, not the dirty, used paint water from my past commercial life. Struggling, I wiggle and squirm, look at my watch and start over. And over. It all feels insincere, as if I have laid a sheet of tracing paper over the artist I once was and am trying to reclaim.
This is just marvelous! ~r
Beautifully told, Sharon.
In Violet's sketch, it is the one bird, bottom center, facing away...that is an artist's sensibility to me, catching that view...
I remember some drawing class where you only could look at the subject you're drawing, not at the page you've drawn on, until completed, to improve spatial eye/hand something or other (you likely know better than I : ))....
What an exercise! It gave me headaches. But it certainly worked.
I'd love to hear Violet's story more if you and she are willing : )
So much here - a fine story, and the pictures. Your watercolor shows your professional hand. But I think it also shows what you write about - trying to get back to something of your own after a long career selling your art. Something I can relate to from my own experience.

I'd love to talk with you about this some time -
The most vivid image for me is of Violet's head hanging over the sink like a dormant wrecking ball. That'n'll stay with me awhile. We roosters get jumpy with images of heads stretched out like so, you know. Just sayin'.
I love this gentle tale of two great ladies. Everything in this is precious! R and hugs.
Wonderful story. I admire people who care for others as you care for Violet. It sounds like she's taking care of you, too. Great pictures.
I've never learned to draw with any skill, but maybe one day I'll be young enough again to depict what I see. Although you're still "in it" enough to worry about the workmanship of your pieces, you've got an eye and that will never lag or suffer.
You have a magic touch. With words, with the brush, and with yourself. Beautiful, beautiful piece this is.
Both pieces are lovely in their own way, as is the description in this touching piece.

It brought back more comforting times spent helping my parents. We can learn such a lot from the elderly, paricularly those like Violet who maintain a xest for living.

One day I'll hunt out my old watercolour paints ...
Scarlett ~ It's something put in my path for a reason. I didn't realize the responsibility that comes with being part of an elderly person's routine. It is teaching me not to be cavalier. Thank you.

Art ~ your comment is wonderful! Following your trains of thought is like following Violet's lines...taking me places I wouldnt ordinarily go. Magical Mystical Tour!

Firechick ~ Thanks!

zanelle ~ I want to go where Violet goes too.

Abrawang ~ I wish I could get her out for a walk as well! (And I don't do Sudoku! That will not be in the job description for my future companion :)

Matt ~ No one puts you to shame!!!

consonantsanadvowels ~ thank you; I always loved books with dinosaur egg,s as a child.

Mary Stanik ~ thanks for your visit and comment!

AZ Girl ~ much appreciated! (blushing here :)

fernsy ~ You grabbed it. Thank you. (Should I change "molest" to "contaminate"?)

Joan ~ aww...thank you, and for the share :)

Just Thinking ~ Contour drawing! I remember it well!

LuMu ~ yes! Even Picasso was trying to do that late in life. Sometime tho I wish I were self-taught at every thing I tried. I see such purity in that path.

Chicken Maan ~ That metaphor isn't for everyone, I'll agree!

zumalicious ~ thank you!!!

phyllis45s... ~ And I am not a caregiver-type. Just a companion. But those few hours a week have certainly calmed me. Thank you for this nice comment.

Bell ~ I hope you do! Maybe with your daughter's encouragement?

Pilgrim ~ So nice to see your kind observations here! Thank you.

Linda ~ I hope you do> and sometimes a "zest" is a quiet one. I have a feeling I won't be a bungie-jumping senior citizen, but if I can push creative boundaries within myself, that's all I aspire to.
Beautiful. Again, I love your descriptive passages: "Exposed and pink, her skull is as mysterious as a dinosaur egg" or "her concentration giving the illusion that she is a statue or still life."

This also reminds me to be thankful that, for now, my parents in their mid-80s are still healthy and self-reliant. As my family arrived from the UK not too long before I was born, all the Brit-references are very familar to me (serviettes,
nail varnish, "This England").

I also loved the artwork from you both. Lola looks like my much-missed cat, Stella. Critters know who the "animal people" are and bond accordingly.
Beautiful story and beautiful artwork- you are very talented with watercolors.
[r] the watercolor drew me in to read. both dimensions you mastered! well done.
The painting of Violet drew me in, but your words are even more beautiful.
Whoa. How did I miss this?! You got yourself a muse named Violet.

Ironic, that Violet has no idea what beauty she laid down there on her blank page, nor do you. Or do you? Is it true that we cannot return to the innocent and pleasurable scribblings of a child? A few years back, I began drawing on the floor, even the hundred hour drawings, all on the floor. It helps me remember.

There is the wisdom of a mature artist in your self-assessment about the burden of commercial style. From reading you here, it's clear you have much to say. It is true that like a bike, you never forget how to push a brush. Skills get a little rusty, but the rust comes right off.

I would rate this ten times if I could!
Sharon is just marvelous.
•.•♥╔╗╦╦╗▄║╔╗╔╗ & ╗╔╗╔╔╗╔╗•(¯ `v´¯ )◦•*✿
•.•♥╚╗║║║╦║╠╝╚╗ & ╠╣║║║╦╚╗(¯` ❤ .¯ )✿
•.•♥╚╝──╚╩╚╚╝╚╝ & ╝╚╚╝╚╝╚╝◦.(_.^._)•*¨✫
❊¸.•*´¨`*•.¸❊¸.•*´¨`*•.¸❊¸.•*´  ¨`*•.¸❊¸.•*´¨`*•.¸❊
Have a beautiful new week with love and happiness❤¸.•*¨✫
Came back for a second look this morning. Such a lovely piece, Sharon and I love seeing it on the cover.
Wonderful. I want to hear her tell stories about her drawings. And I want to see yours in person- so beautiful.
This was so fantastic! What a wonderful life to be touching...
The simplicity of Violet's life has a Buddhistic beauty to it. Something we all should aim for in this noisy world of t.m.i. Thanks for such a lovely piece.
Thanks for this inspirational article. I love the artwork and I'm so proud of you for dedicating your time and energy to Violet. Kudos to you!
She sounds wonderful, and I hope I have someone like you around when and if I'm ever that old.
V.A. ~ Delighted to hear that the anglicized terms hit a memory chord with you. (And that you are a "cat person" too :)

Hayley Rose ~ thanks for the compliments!

libbyliberalNYC ~ happy to "draw" you in :)

A Simple Shutterbug ~ I won't pun 2X in a row, so suffice to say pleased to meet you, and thank you.

greenheron ~ Oh, so glad you showed up! Love all you said. Drawing on the floor? 100 hours?? I'll have to vacuum cat hair up first...or does anything go? Mixed media?

Algis ~ thank you for your sweet message and graphics.

Joan ~ Love having you back!

lschmoopie ~ So far she's keeping fairly mum. I'll start to work on the narrative :)

Sheila ~ Thank you! I just got back from seeing her...who's touching who? :)

Pam Malone ~ It doesnt doesn't it? Even with Vanna White!

Fay ~ Thank you, and I suppose having all my grandparents live into their 90s prepared me!

Sarah ~ Paying attention is such a simple gift to give and receive. Wish more realized that. Thanks for your visit!
Wow! Just Wow! is right! Lovely post. Gorgeous paintings.
Don't know how I missed this (right there ont he cover). Wonderful story and I love love that picture of Violet.
I absolutely adore this piece in every way. -R-
You are an artist in both words and watercolors...either one a plus but both together are beautiful. I love the drawing Violet did.
Deborah ~ Pleased to make your acquaintance, and sincere thanks!

trilogy ~ Violet is a challenge to paint, but she's game, and I am too. Thanks for this, and congrats on your own new works of art :)

Christine ~ wow! Glad you feel this way!

Buffy ~ this whole post stemmed from me marveling at Violet's art. Thanks for noticing!
Fabulous. Thank you.
This is a beautiful piece, Sharon. Thanks so much for writing and sharing your work. I love your paintings.
I really enjoyed everything about this. Thank you so much! Wishing you and Violet the very best.
Actually, I think molest is perfect. Sound and meaning.Congrats on the cover. I love it when you get props.
Absolutely wonderful. I was drawn in from the very first sentence. Such a lovely article, written with such detail it holds you attention until the very end. Such a great picture she drew. Thank you for sharing your experience with Violet with the rest of us.
I just turned 59. I notice my shoulders swooping and curling up. I do not dye my hair so I see the pink scalp under silver. I see caverns in the face that used to be pink and is now yellow and grey. I exaggerate a little but I think I am a hop skip and a jump from Violet.
I am so glad I found this post. Violet seems like a splendid, positive person as do you.
Your visits are examples of mutual benevolence. Both of you are learning. Perfect companionship!
This is a really special piece in all ways -- touching and enlightening. Your art is lovely, hers is heartbreakingly original. Well done all round.
Beauty in word and portraits. I just loved this. Made my whole day.
This was just so lovely and touching. I can feel the gentle, considerate time you are giving to this dear woman. The art is beautiful but secondary to the time you are spending together. Really special. R
I am amazed by your beautiful artwork..I feel silly next to you and your talent. Your friend is truly enjoying her place in time as well. I am seeking this kind of work too. Lovely write, really.
Kim ~ much appreciated!

froggy ~ I am a novice all over again here, but thank you.

Jennifer ~ what a nice comment, thanks for the visit!

fernsy ~ :) "Molest" it shall remain!

JessyLynn ~ the first sentence is the hardest...thank you so much!

Cynthia ~ I think you'll be hopping, skipping and jumping for a while there...and I am one year behind you.

Dr. Spudman44 ~ what a sweet compliment; thanks!

Belinda T. ~ you may be right!

Lea ~ "Heartbreakingly original"--a perfect description! Thank you!

Murder of Crows ~ wow. thanks.

From the Midwest ~ me too :)

Rita ~ it is truly time well spent.

cindy ~ you are a wonderful artist, I know your work from here. I hope you can find work in eldercare. I'm just a companion...don't have what it takes to do the harder core stuff.
i'm so late getting here, all the things i'm thinking are already in others' comments. i would gush about the drawings and the paintings and even just doing what you do at violet's house three days a week, but i've read this piece four times now, and the writing is good beyond my ability to describe. i keep typing adjectives and deleting them. but i wouldn't delete a single word of this post. wow, sharon.
Beautifully written and your portraits are engaging and reflective. Loved this. You do have more up your sleeve!
The daily double: Beautifully rendered in both words and pictures. R
Wow! I was captured instantly by two portraits; you and Violet. Looking first at Violet's portrait, I immediately felt that "I gotta have that" moment that interrupts a gallery meander. So few strokes and so much body warmth. Wow!

And the portrait of artist,
"...and I try to remember how to simultaneously see and draw what is sitting right in front of me. It’s like riding a bicycle, I gamely tell myself as my pencil scuttles across the page in fits and starts. But I am wobbly. My hand/eye coordination has not been called upon to work in such tandem in a long while... It all feels insincere, as if I have laid a sheet of tracing paper over the artist I once was and am trying to reclaim.

Haven't we all shuffled down that prickly lane?

Great work.