What is Handed Down?

My grandfather Dr. Paul Wolff was a well known German photographer.

His son Klaus drew and painted watercolors, Klaus’ daughter draws, paints, illustrates and takes pictures, my sister and sons draw too, though they don’t enjoy it enough to practice much.

A propensity towards written and visual creativity seems to run in our family.


The cover of a 4 page brochure about photographing children created by my paternal grandfather Dr. Paul Wolff.


Paul Wolff using a huge view camera, before he was introduced to the new, hand held Leica.


My grandparent’s wedding in 1914. Helene is 2nd and Paul is 4th from left.


Paul Wolff published at least 6 books of his photographs. They are mostly written in German, so I have not read all his commentary.

Paul Wolff took fascinating photos of a huge range of subjects. Thorsten Overgaard wrote an essay about one of his photos that is great reading. My favorite quote from this article makes my grandfather come alive for me.

“In his book “My Life with The Leica” Walther Benser recalls the period where he would assist Dr. Paul Wolff. Benser was a Leica employee who had gone through the full technical training in Wetzlar and later spent many years traveling with the Leica Slide Show. He recalls:

“Dr. Paul Wolff had skills which I found myself envying. Without any optical aid from the Leica viewfinder in the new (Telyt) reflex housing, he could dissect the surroundings with his naked eye in the search for a suitable subject and position. He invariably picked out the perfect spot for taking the picture with the focal length he had already selected”.

“He was a master at keeping his photographic intentions undetected for as long as possible. He never carried the camera in front of his body in the usual manner but kept it, suspended on its strap, hidden behind his back with his right hand. This had become second nature to such an extent that he kept his right hand behind his back even when he was not holding a camera”.

I’ve chosen just a few of my favorite images of his to share, focusing on ones that remind me most of the way I, too, see the world.


I can see where I’ve acquired the habit of framing a view with foreground objects, and my fascination with close ups of nature.


I love the shallow focal field in this photo of my Dad at play as a child.


This one-lit by car headlights-is my all time favorite. Oh, to have snows like this again!


I never knew my grandfather. He and my grandmother divorced and he and my father became estranged. I did learn that he went on to marry a fellow photographer Annette Beiger and they had another son in 1943. If anyone reads this and can put me in touch with my half uncle Stephen Wolff and his family I’d be grateful.



Calavera Pumpkins

It is still early October, but I am already all about The Day of the Dead.

That’s because I’m having an art show for a series of paintings I did after my beloved Tula died of Lymphoma 2 years ago.

Her death, so close to Halloween and the “falling back’ of the clocks, the increasing cold and the darkness of winter made me feel a little panicky. I countered that with art therapy and it all flowed from one painting on a big, old wooden panel.

This year the sun is still out so I invited my  artist neighbor Warren over to play with me.


I had an idea to make decorations for my show by making white pumpkins into containers for hot colored mums.


We hollowed them out and carved them a bit as usual, and then used Liquitex acrylic paint markers and sharpies to decorate them to look like Mexican Calaveras.





Warren claims his looks like me but I saw no likeness, but when we popped in the mums I changed my mind.

Skulls with flowery headdresses!!




The noble profile, the slitted eyes, the curls, the baaaaa, the level gaze…

I love drawing sheep.


This gal caught my eye this summer. When  I went looking for a subject for my cottage postcards I was drawn to her curious face. As in the past, I begin by taping off a grid of small postcards on watercolor paper.


I make a quick sketch in pencil in each window and then use an assembly line approach to add colors.


Each layer adds detail and the sheep emerges.


The final touches are gold and silver ink…


and glitter!


Each card is the same but different, a one-of-a-kind love token for the friend who receives a “cottage card.”


In the Canyon

In honor of the National Park Services” 100th Birthday, I celebrate one of the jewels in the crown.

Read this and then like Page Through the Parks on Facebook to be entered in the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Welcome to Grand Canyon, Arizona

It is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World”

It’s about 270 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep, Its walls contain rock layers that reveal a timeline of Earth’s history.

To make the illustrations for  In The Canyon as good they could be, I had to explore the Grand Canyon. I took my  intrepid sister, a wildlife veterinarian, for company and and in we went!

friendly bighorn2a

Dr. Peregrine Wolff  and a friendly  Big Horn Sheep-commonly found In the Grand Canyon.



Approaching Castle Crag on the South Kaibab Trail.

from RIM to RIVER…


Joking around at Ooh Ah Point on the South Kaibab Trail.

and back!

The main character of In the Canyon, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, speaks in the 1st person voice. She begins her narration like this:

“Here’s a map, some boots, a pack, a walking stick, a sandy track.”

I always enjoy working with a model and I found a lovely girl in San Francisco named Willa.

I spent a few hours with Willa taking pictures, and then used those to draw from while illustrating the book.


She gazes at the reader from the jacket, inviting you to join her In the Canyon.

As soon as you dip below the rim of the canyon you enter a vast, deep bowl that has no direct route to the bottom. The trails are constantly zig zagging down the steep walls. Occasionally you can spy the river, way down deep.

My sister Peri, seen from a few switchbacks above, with many more to go. The Colorado river, bright green, is crossed by 2 bridges. One is visible here.


If it is a cool spring morning on the rim, it is full, hot summer at river level. Along the way are blooming cacti and yucca, birds, lizards and curious squirrels.

I can’t get enough shots of the blossoming Beavertails.


a finished linoleum block and gouache illustration.

“Here’s a footstep, dusty red, another one and more ahead.”


To do this rim to river to rim hike one must be very fit and prepared for a lot of heat and exertion.


Some people choose to travel by mule. Mules are chosen from Tennessee and Missouri. They are used for pack supplies to Phantom Ranch and pack mail out of the canyon and later promoted to trail mules.


I used a photo of a family, gathered under an overhang, as inspiration for this illustration.sliceofshadeGCweb
“Now here’s a tiny slice of shade, a yummy lunch, some lemonade. And a lizard, still as sand, his head all speckled, body tan.”


Finally, we’re at river level, where the deep shade around Phantom Ranch is most welcoming. Time to recharge and load up on water and salty snacks for the hike back out. Peri and I made it back to the rim by nightfall, a 16 mile roundtrip.

But the child in In the Canyon is luckier. She gets to spend the night, camping by the river.


“Here’s the dark and here’s the shine, and here’s the moon—it’s like it’s mine. To tuck inside me way down deep, Grand and wild, mine to keep.”

I’ll come back to the Canyon someday, no doubt with enough overconfidence to descend to the bottom and back in one day as I did with Peri.

After all, I have what it takes: “a map, some boots, a pack, a walking stick, a sandy track.”



The Bunny Runs Away to Hollins

Margaret Wise Brown is one of Hollins University‘s most well known grads-especially in the children’s book world.

Most famous for Goodnight Moon, her 1942 book The Runaway Bunny, about  an adventurous baby bunny and her devoted mama, inspired the first pair of characters to mysteriously appear on campus–right outside the library.

These were all conceived and executed using corrugated, plastic board and acrylic paints by a Fairy Godmother, assisted by her trio of fairy assistants.


Lyndsey and Topher Keppol cutting and priming the Mama Bunny


The fairy godmother painting the Mama Bunny with acrylics

As the summer went past, more and more appeared, until at almost every turn you could find another classic or contemporary children’s book character, casually hanging around, sometimes literally!


Lucy, a Wild Thing and Max

After Mama and Baby Bunny,  we made some more classics: Ferdinand the Bull,  Pooh, Piglet and EeyoreThe Very Hungry Caterpillar,  Wilbur and Charlotte, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Mister Toad


Then we added some characters dreamed up by Hollins professors and guest speakers:

Minna from The Rag Coat, and Skippyjon Jones.

And finally, a whole ‘girl gang’ of our favorite independent females: Tinker Bell,

MadelinePippi Longstocking, OliviaEloise, Miss Rumphius , and Frances the badger.

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Who will appear next summer?

Suggestions are welcome!