Rainy Day Philly

I like to use my non-public Instagram account like it’s a sketchbook for inspiration for the days I dedicate to my drawing table for illustrating (Public Instas: @alessandra_official and @thetreegrows).

I liked a lot of the aerial perspective lines of rainy day Center City that led to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and imagination-inspiring things such as a rooftop tennis court. I also liked catching One Liberty Place peeking out from behind other buildings and in reflections at street level. Anthropomorphizing buildings and playing with the idea of uses for roof tops comes in handy when story boarding book projects and creating new settings.

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Tree update

Snow began to fall in Chester County, PA this afternoon causing a poetic hush over the land so I decided to grab my gloves and go see The New Tree. The landowner apparently had a new tree air lifted and planted right where the infamous one was before lightning brought it down in June. I was told that when he bought the property he was just as enamored with the tree as were many of us in the region and he made (obviously) heroic efforts to reestablish the alluring landscape it created.

Today was the first time I saw this replacement tree… and true, it still makes a great a picture, but it’s really not quite the same– and it’s not because I’m sentimental or a purist. The shape of this tree is different on the bottom; the branches do not create the same special aesthetic as the original Tree. This new tree will still get some face, lens, and paintbrush time out of me despite the differing nuance in silhouette but it does not possess the same level of captivation for me.

I had also deep down hoped they would plant a sapling and we would all get to enjoy seeing it grow year after year into something of it’s own. I didn’t expect a whole mature tree to be uprooted and transplanted in it’s place.

The spell has been broken! and in my peripheral I will be scanning horizons for a new Tree muse. My “This Little Girl / The Tree Grows” project will be paying homage to the original Tree up on the Hill that provided the catalyst to a literary transformation in me and my creative work. (More on that in the coming New Year!)

See the original Requiem for a Tree blog post HERE.

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For Anita

I lost a friend and an irreplaceable, impeccably kindred spirit just before Thanksgiving suddenly and much sooner than I ever, ever expected. She was just 31. Beyond that, I really have no words for it.

Turning down a lane behind Barnard Orchards in Chester County, PA this foggy misty morning I drank in this tranquility, and wept.

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November!

I read a quote online recently that I can’t seem to relocate but the essence of it was something like this:

Who will regard your dying as beautiful?

Those of us in love with the season of Autumn as much as I must on some level regard aging and letting go as a beautiful process; a glorious celebration in bursts of colour, sexy textures, smokey scents. Summer’s tantrum is through and the following season is an eloquent, sensual eulogy before a snowy funeral, really; at least if you live in an area that experiences four proper seasons.

Where else in life do we regard the aging and dying process as such a gorgeous one? What if we were to embrace it in each other with such revelry, presence, appreciation as well?

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Posting this from a silver bullet in the shape of a vehicle on its way up the NJTP to New York City where we are spending the weekend; a lil bit of work and a whole lotta play!

The temps are unseasonably warm for October this year but the foliage is still popping with colour! Autumn brings elegant passion and beauty to dying. It’s such a brilliant and tactile season of vibrancy, crunch; the scent of smoke and apples, the gentle contrast of a chill in the evening paired with a renewed and electric awareness of the warmth of your lover’s cheek so close to yours. This is undeniably my most favorite of the four seasons.

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Bailey’s Dairy Farm

Enjoying every moment so far of the second day of Autumn here in Chester County, PA. This is one of those places that breathes life back into me again. These cows always seem to be in perfect contentment! I just love to see them graze.

A breath away from this serenity is an atrocity that is a Toll Bros. housing development. It is one of the (many) great travesties in America “culture” that a land development company can knock down a bunch of trees, fill the acres with uninspired made-to-order houses, and further insult the region by calling this cramped new neighborhood “The Preserves”. “Cut down all the trees and name the streets after them…”

The dairy farm after “The Preserves” helps me believe in humanity again.

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Auspicious Beginnings

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Today is Ganesh’s birthday! Hindus celebrate the birthday of Lord Ganesh for Auspicious Beginnings. This particular likeness lives in the foyer of my boyfriend’s studio. He found it in a sea port town on the west coast of India while traveling. I find almost anything elephant-related to be auspicious so I like to acknowledge the birthday.

Ganesh on Wkipedia

HuffPost article about the 11-day festival

Requiem for a Tree

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West Chester and Chadds Ford Life magazine, Fall 2013 edition

It was early October in 2010 that found this little girl¬†pensively navigating the as-yet uncharted territory that was¬†Chester County, Pennsylvania in her black 5 speed VW, sunroof open,¬†heat full blast on the floor while the sun dipped below the horizon.¬†I do my very best thinking while driving as it’s a practice handed¬†down to me from my father; wander lusting, on new-to-me roads and I¬†headed north from Delaware on rt. 52 past Winterthur and just kept¬†going.

I knew from art history and regional celebration that I was¬†in N.C. and Andrew Wyeth territory and I knew that the serenity of¬†those rolling hills and curving roads called to me. I had just¬†completed two of the biggest photography assignments I’d been¬†invited to do up in New York City and thirsted for solace, a¬†recharge, from the fight and fury of having spent so much time¬†steeped in such a frenetic, frenzied metropolis. My cells required¬†it of me. And, after the completion of those assignments, I felt a¬†bit empty. I needed to suss out a new direction for myself.

Enormous farms, unadulterated fields, roaming horses, the road weaving through with meandering abandon; I felt a great exhale.

Somewhere in between the surreal dusk and the beginning tendrils of¬†starlight I rounded a curve and magically, poetically, a tree¬†standing lone on the top of a steep hill emerged. It was a perfect¬†unassuming silhouette against a navy nakedness so true. I pulled¬†over to admire it and to snap a quick image of it with my iPhone so¬†that I could do a watercolor of it later back at home. It stood,¬†isolated, beautiful in it’s inaccessibility. A painting in real¬†life.

I sat alert and gazed up at that tree until it was barely detectable in the night and the autumn chill became uncomfortable. Inexplicably affected, I climbed back into my car and drove away.

I had no idea where I was or it was or how to find it again.

Over the course of the next six months, I made¬†regular trips to explore the rustic beauty of Chester County,¬†hoping to happen upon that tree. I was so inspired by it that I¬†wrote journals-full of prose about it. I even began to sketch it¬†out for use with a fable I had written years ago that I unearthed¬†and have expanded upon as a major and dear-to-me project. It became¬†a profound visual metaphor for the very beginning of a special¬†story about a journey and the evolving understanding of the¬†Universe, and the backbone of a lot of the creative work I’ve done¬†since which I’ve umbrellaed under the moniker “The Tree Grows”.

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It wasn’t until I had¬†posted the only evidence I had: a terrible, grainy, rude iPhone¬†image to my Facebook six months later that someone took notice of¬†it, and (miraculously- seriously) knowing exactly the tree it was,¬†contacted me about it. I had just begun doing a lot of tree¬†research and was looking for two particular styles of trees for my¬†project. A few days later I was whisked away by motorcycle (!) for¬†a Grand Tree Research Journey with a guide who knew the County all¬†too well. We observed trees at Loch Nairn, we looked at trees¬†around Unionville, north of Kennett Square, and eastward toward West Chester.

On this brisk Sunday¬†afternoon tour I met my great wise friend that many in my close¬†circle have become acquainted with as “Mr. Quercus Alba”, an¬†enormous oak older than the state of Pennsylvania itself that sits¬†next to a Quaker meeting house just off of Newark Rd. As a vast old tree with so many branches it dominates the sky when standing nearby. Mr. Quercus¬†was perfect for the end of my story about the journey. I have returned religiously to sit with, sketch, storyboard about, evolve¬†my story around, visit when I’m celebrating and when I’m mourning,¬†and introduce to those closest in my heart as if he’s a member of¬†my human family.

The very next tree I was taken to on the motorcycle tour emerged just as it did the very first time I experienced it. We rounded a lazy curve and there it came to be, up on the horizon, lone, perfect. In wonderful spring daylight. At last!

www.AlessandraNicole.com

The Tree Up On the
Hill

All in one Sunday I had met both the Alpha and the¬†Omega for “This Little Girl” (https://www.facebook.com/thetreegrows)

Since that re-discovery of the Tree Up On the Hill, I’ve learned¬†that it’s been a regional favorite for years and has been¬†photographed countless times by professional and leisure¬†photographers alike. It is a stone’s throw from The Whip, and just¬†around the corner from Blowhorn.

Since that re-disovery, a whole¬†new corner of the world has opened up to me and embraced my heart¬†and captured my soul. I sometimes wish I could drive along the roads of¬†Chester County like the Robert Frost poem with new eyes. Both¬†Quercas and The Tree Up On the Hill have given me countless gifts¬†of inspiration and love. For instance, in November of 2011 I was¬†hungering for the inspiration of Chester County and took a¬†drive from Chestertown, Maryland where I had been hibernating for¬†ten delicious days on a writing retreat. After visiting “my” trees,¬†I ended up decompressing with a glass of wine at my most favorite¬†restaurant in the region, Sovana Bistro. It was here by absolute kismet that I¬†was introduced via a mutual friend to two beautiful people, one of¬†which is my incredible beau whom I consider the best birthday¬†present I’ve ever been given as it was just a handful of days¬†before our shared day that we met!

Many lazy-sunny Sundays since then my guy and I have languished in a drive past the hilltop tree and stopped for an early supper at the Whip. Each time I carried away from it some little spark that would fuel me (or haunt me, if I was procrastinating) creatively through the following days and weeks. At the suggestion of my significant other I began a photography project about that tree, a sort of long term study in film.

Unfortunately, it will go unfinished.

If you’re in the region¬†or if you’ve been watching the US Open then you certainly know¬†about the unexpectedly intense weather situations with which¬†southeastern Pennsylvania contended the past seven days. A tropical¬†storm pelted the 95 corridor last Friday. Northern Delaware¬†experienced a small tornado touchdown and Chester County, PA¬†grappled with flash flooding along the Brandywine and ancillary¬†waterways as close to 3 inches of rain came out of the sky in just sixteen¬†hours Monday. Monday’s rains brought comparisons amongst friends to¬†the climactic frog scene at the end of the film Magnolia. I¬†personally am enthralled by extreme weather- the electricity and¬†erotic drama of it- so I was perfectly happy to batten down the¬†hatches and feel it unfold around us.

The electricity held on¬†faithfully as the basement’s sump pump ran constantly from Monday¬†through a rainless and sunshiny Tuesday clearing water out and it seemed like the¬†worst was in the past. Oh but it was not.

Yesterday morning at about 9am the Chester County skies turned black. Small flecks of hail pelted the roof and violent lightning jutted from thick rolling clouds and stabbed at the land. I was at the studio with friends around lunch time when I got a call from another photographer about our beloved Tree Up On the Hill.

The tree was¬†down! It didn’t really occur to me until a few hours later that¬†this was very sad news. I don’t think I was ready to process it until later in the day. I took a drive up to it early in the¬†evening to see it for myself. It was sad, mournfully sad.

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I stayed until sunset¬†contemplating the tree and the beautiful adventure it gave me these¬†past few years. Then I went over to the Whip where I had the bartender pull a draught for me and I raised a proper pint to the¬†tree. Several surrounding acquaintances commiserated. It was a¬†favorite; the landscape just isn’t the same now.

I’ve never grieved a tree before. On the outside it may¬†seem rather silly to do so- that’s of no concern to me.

I’d really like to see them plant another one in it’s place.

tiny island

pteridomania {noun} “fern fever”:

a term coined in 1855 by Charles Kinglsey in reference to the Victorian fern-collecting craze

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At the beginning of Autumn last year, my beau gifted me the book “Tiny World Terrariums” by Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow, the creators of Twig Terrariums (http://www.twigterrariums.com.) I have always been captivated by terrariums and was eager to learn what it takes to make a successful little ecosystem of my own.

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The process was an amazingly rewarding little journey. I purchased a Weck jar and went hunting throughout Chester County, PA for the many elements over a period of weeks. I used soil, moss, and small pretty stones I found along the Brandwyine River on hikes with my beau around his home and out at The Laurels (http://www.brandywineconservancy.org/laurelsPreserve.html.)

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After consulting a bit with the professional green thumbs at one of my most favorite indulgences, Terrain (http://www.shopterrain.com/styers/) I topped this new little world off with a little plant from there that reminded me of a favorite tree.

I’m very proud of my inaugural terrarium and am already looking for glass and moss for my next one! I think I’m going to seek out some vintage-y apothecary glass for it this time and maybe introduce some tiny imaginative creatures.

The Reflecting Pool

I grabbed tickets for my boyfriend and I to see the Barnes Foundation’s new location in Philadelphia last weekend for the first time. This view greeted us as we rounded the corner to enter the museum.

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© Alessandra Nicole, 2012 | All Rights Reserved

I personally had been putting a visit off because I had seen “The Art of the Steal” (a documentary that follows the struggle for control of Albert Barnes’ 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art) but curiosity and an obsession for seeing masterworks in person won out.

The Barnes collection was truly a feast for the eyes for the likes of me- walls crammed with Cézannes, Monets, Manets, Picassos, more. A beautifully produced and user-friendly free app was available to download from iTunes directly to our iPhones so we were able to embark on individual listening tours. The venue itself is marvelous for the prime piece of real estate the Foundation was able to obtain in Philly; the architecture is sleek, respectful, stylish, yet simple and intimate.

Definitely worth a trip though the consensus on museums is that such art should not be boxed up in a lump in pretty buildings but rather should be in homes and around, accessible, living amongst the people.

If you go: http://www.barnesfoundation.org