Just a little 5” x 7” ink drawing of a plague bird.
I’ve wanted to do a Bestiary for the longest time. Now, with the plague upon us, I can think of nothing better to do with my time.
The list of beasts I want to do are mostly mythical but I’m sure some beasts living in our touchable dimension will make it into the mix. Not sure how I will arrange it, how many beasts will inhabit it, well, actually I am not sure of anything at all except for the first beast I have started is the Phoenix. The Last Phoenix.
And here’s an anatomical page that looks at the skull, foot, and some of the feathers found on the Phoenix. Held in the foot are branches from the Frankincense tree which the Phoenix uses to build his funeral pyre.
I’m hoping to include a full color image of the entire bird. Then onto the next beast which might be a dragon? Kelpie? Maybe a unicorn?
Since the plague hit and we’ve been self-isolating, I’ve had a tremendously difficult time creating any art whatsoever. I’m motivated but have the focus of a gnat. I sit, I look, I think, I try and I quit and go play WoW. And even then I can only play the game for an hour or less. I wonder if anyone else has “corona brain syndrome?”
The other day I managed to actually finish something. This to me is huge given the condition of my brain.
I started with making watercolor puddles on a tiny 5″x7″ piece of watercolor paper. I made bluish, grayish, yellowish and reddish puddles of very wet paint and tilted the paper around until they moved and bled and did those things pigment in water do.
Then I started picking out random shapes and suddenly I had a painting. It’s called “Plague birds” and I really like it. I hope this means my focus is returning and my brain is mending.
I plan on doing more art in the time of plague and will put them up here and create a plague gallery. Sounds like fun, eh?
It’s a new year and I think I can start working in my office/studio in the new house. It’s not “finished” but it’s now a place I can do some artwork and goof off on the computer.
So I decided to do some exercises to get my creative juices flowing. Since the move, I’ve been totally blocked with all the crazy stuff of setting up a new house and trying to figure out the lay of the land. I’d look at the paper, pencils, watercolors and just stare blankly as they stared blankly back at me. Thus the exercise.
I made messy, splotchy, watery gobs, drips, and drabs on a piece of watercolor paper and then cut them up into tiny bits. After staring at them for what seemed days on end (maybe half an hour or so), I started picking out shapes and colors with a small paint brush and a few watercolors. I tried not to think about what was happening. No drawing just picking and poking.
So here’s a pic of a few pieces of paper and what happened with the first one.
And a close up of the little phoenix that happened to be hiding in the first piece of paper that I played with.
Wonder who else will be revealed.
Happy New Year, everyone.
Next to the new house is a majestic tree that was unknown to me. My tree guides were all packed away so I searched the internet with a description of the reddish, cedar-like bark and luckily I found it fairly quickly. The tree is a Metasequoia, or the Dawn Redwood Tree. Native to China, it’s in the same family as our towering redwoods and considered a living fossil. I love that name, Dawn Redwood Tree. Here are a few pictures I took today.
She’s a pretty big tree! Even though the smallest of the redwoods, they can grow to over 150 feet tall. So, my feeling is that this tree is the guardian of our place. I took a closer picture of the bark. When it rains, the red of the bark becomes a fiery orange-red. This picture does not do it justice.
Since moving to this house, I’ve been getting up rather early each morning and this morning I was greeted by a stunning dawn sky outside my kitchen.
Settling in is slow going. Unpacking is daunting (so many boxes of books!) and figuring out where things go takes time. As I get used to the flow of the house, I have to tweak and make changes. The other morning, Brni asked, “So where are the glasses today?”
We also don’t have a clothes dryer yet so I made Brni dig a hole and plant a clothes dryer. I haven’t hung clothes outside in a very, very, decades-long time. I kinda like it.
experimenting with watercolors on a very small scale. 2.5″ x 3.5″
So the little ladybug is done. I really enjoyed doing this very tiny watercolor. Only 2 ½ x 3 ½ inches.
An old internet friend commissioned me to do a double portrait of his sweet dogs, who have sadly passed on. Rooney, a chocolate lab and Magic, a black lab were my subjects. I’d never met the dogs, so only had pictures and my friend’s description of what the boys were like.
It is a funny thing but as I draw, I feel like I’m actually getting to know who or what ever I’m drawing (yes, if I draw a rock, I start to feel I know the rock) and it was the same with these two. Rooney seems such a hopeful, serious sort and Magic goofy and playful. Both seemed open and loving and most of all, loved.
So, here’s Rooney & Magic, approximately 16×20 in graphite. It was great getting to know you.
There is this awesome place in Utah that I hope to visit before I die. It’s the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City. They have a FB page where they post wonderful photos of their birds. I saw a photo they posted of their Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus), Zelda. I fell in love with her and wanted to draw her very badly. I requested permission to use their photograph as a reference and they granted it. So without further ado, here’s Zelda.
I think she’s the most difficult bird I’ve attempted so far. I hope I did her justice.
My little dog gargoyle was in a show recently at the JAM Gallery in Malvern. This little boy has been yearning for a forever home and he found one.
Thanks JAM for the sale!
Many decades ago, I bought a set of pastels at a fire sale. It was a real fire at a local store where I lived at the time. The owners sold everything in stock that was not too badly damaged. Mostly, things just smelled of smoke. I scooped up a 90 color set of Rembrandt soft pastels for a song (no dance). I recently looked up the going price for the set in today’s market and it was something over $300.
(ack! I did get a deal)
Anyway, I did of few pictures with them, teaching myself as I went along and they were okay. And then my mom died, life got way busier shuffling home, work, kids, 2 jobs, and all the rest that goes with being a single mom with no money. There was really no room (or time) for art. I did a few pastels now and then for friends but nothing worth noting.
So now with my kinda-sorta project of producing works on paper of animals that are endangered, maligned, or misunderstood, I thought I’d break out the pastels and see if I remembered how to make them work. Here’s the test, on a baby robin that I snapped a picture of while he was perching on the cable wire outside my window. Even though his mom was still feeding him, he felt quite proud of himself and his new found freedom.
I have an online friend who is an amazing artist, sculptor, and photographer. Her wildlife photography brings me to tears (literally) with it’s beauty and sensitivity. Recently, I asked if she’d allow me to use some of her photos as art reference for my work and she said yes.
When I saw her photograph of an egret, I wanted to do a minimalist, “white on white” drawing. Not sure if I pulled it off to my satisfaction but I think it’s okay for a first attempt.
It’s been a while since I posted anything here. This is a hard one because my heart is broken. My dear, sweet Loki passed away on Nov. 17, 2016. She was just shy of 16 and the light of our lives from the day we rescued her from a (then) kill shelter at around 6 months old. This month, I was able to finally sit down, go through the many hundreds (maybe closer to a thousand?) photos of her for a portrait. I settled on a photo that I’d taken of her in Feb. 2016. So through my tears, here’s my sweet girl.
The Wolverine, Gulo gulo, lives in the most severe climate in the far reaches of the northern hemisphere. The largest member of the weasel family, looking more like a bear than a weasel, she lives a mostly solitary life. Fierce, stocky and strong, she can bring down prey much larger than herself but due to the harsh climate, the wolverine will partake of most anything she can come by from Elk to rabbits, mice, carrion, roots and berries. Of course, this makes her terribly misunderstood and maligned as noted by the name we’ve given her: Gulo, latin for glutton.
Wolverines need a large territory in which to hunt and mate and are not willing to share with others. A lucky male will usually form lifelong bonds with a few females, whom he will visit from time to time, mating and hanging out with the young until they are weaned. Sometimes the young will go traveling with Dad when they get older until they settle in their own territories.
Highly endangered through hunting, trapping, climate change and shrinking habitat, the numbers worldwide are not known but according to Defenders of Wildlife there are approximately 250-300 individuals in the contiguous United States.
I’ve been fascinated by this animal for many years though I’ve not attempted to draw, paint or sculpt her until recently. This newest sculpture took me a long time but then it takes time to get to know this beautiful, misunderstood creature.
Here’s a closeup of the face. Everything about the Wolverine is sort of solid and square.
Here also, the charcoal drawing I did a while ago.
For the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve been concentrating on learning to sculpt in clay. I think I’ve managed to get a handle on the medium and looking back on my sculptures, I believe I’ve progressed reasonably. I’m even rather proud of a few of my pieces, and that, for those who know me, is quite a statement.
There are issues. One is that the art center I go to has become prohibitively expensive. I would buy a kiln but there is no safe place to install it in this teeny, overpacked house. So, my plans to sculpt a series of endangered, misunderstood and maligned animals has become undoable.
Before I began sculpting, my medium was oils, but here again, I have a logistical problem with space. I am working in a tiny corner of the tiny “sunroom” which is actually just an enclosed porch with a lot of drafty windows, ugly paneling and because of its shape, is more shaded than lighted. I share this space with my parrot, Milo. The fumes from turpentine and linseed oil are not so good for parrots. Also a very steeply sloped ceiling makes setting up my easel impossible. Oils are right out.
I decided that I need to develop my ideas using not-toxic materials that can be done in a small setting without spending a fortune. My solution was to learn how to use watercolors and colored pencils. I’m already quite adept with graphite — drawing with graphite is like breathing for me. I used to use charcoal all the time when I was younger, so despite being hideously rusty with charcoal, that’s in the new mix of preferred media.
The first animal I chose to research was the wood stork. By all accounts a most ungainly bird. Ungainly appeals to me. I did some preliminaries and then a graphite portait and a small watercolor. I am proud of the portrait and not too displeased with the watercolor. Here’s the portrait… what an impressive bird!
After I worked on this guy, I decided to look for other ungainly birds (I will return to the Wood Stork, I promise). As a lark, I started sketching flamingoes without giving them any serious thought. Suddenly, while trying to figure out that incredible beak, I realized that I needed to research this magnificent bird who has become not much more than a tacky lawn ornament to most in this country.
so here’s some stuff about flamingoes
as i was drawing their beaks during research, it occurred to me that their beaks reminded me of baleen whales.
and in the United States, we have turned them into cheap, pink plastic lawn ornaments.
Wiki entry for flamingoes is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamingo for more info.
So, this is the work I started with the flamingo. The flamingo (who was once a god) is teaching me watercolor (slowly and painfully), colored pencil (slowly but not so painfully), and a revisit with my old friend, charcoal. I hope you enjoy the flamingoes, and I hope you notice that this magnificent bird is anything but tacky.
One other thing I learned…I’m not very good at taking photographs of art. I also like wolverines.
But more about her later.
I wrote a whole post, added pictures and everything and just before I was gonna hit publish, terrible things happened and I lost it. I can’t bring myself to write it all over again but I will post the pictures. So just pretend you read an informative and witty post while you look at the pictures.
Here are a couple small watercolors I did of crows.
I’ve also been obsessing over Wood Storks. They have this lovely white and black plumage topped by bald, prehistoric faces screaming for moisturizer. They make me want to do a whole series of large, gangly water birds.
Lastly, I’ve done several sculptures but these are the two that are not disappointing.
The Red Fox is finished but the Wolverine is still in progress. The sculpting part is done but he needs to dry thoroughly and will probably not get into the kiln until September.
Just got some new software that works with Lightroom. It’s called ON1 and it’s proving to be rather fun to play with. Just a couple quick little shots of Loki with some ON1 enhancements, presets, and borders.
I’ve just started playing with the software so I have a lot to learn yet. It’s fairly easy to figure out and is highly customizable, so you aren’t stuck with a fixed set of anything.
I love coffee. I love it so much I make a pot of it every morning. But, I’m at war with coffee machines. I hate most electric drip coffee makers because they are big, bulky and expensive. They never get the coffee hot enough and no matter how much money you spend on them, after two years they all either start leaking or stop working all together. Having to replace an appliance, especially an expensive appliance, every two years makes me very angry because I really dislike shopping and spending money. I hate shopping more than I hate being ripped off.
wait. same thing.
a little historical interlude…
Growing up, my family mostly made coffee on the stove with a percolator-type coffee pot. Somehow, my mother, aunts, and grandmothers were able to make really good coffee out of these always boiling over pots and cans of stale ground supermarket coffee. Also, since I’m from an Italian family, we all had those little stovetop espresso pots that made tiny amounts of espresso, but that’s a different story and anyway, we only made espresso when important company came over.
Since we’ve lived in this house, I’ve gone through three or four coffee machines. The first expensive one was a Cuisinart, which after two years just stopped working for no reason. Got up, ground the coffee, filled the machine, turned it on and nada. Just sat there, staring at me as if I were invisible and not in great need. I cursed the machine, broke out mom’s old percolator, made coffee no where near as good as my mom’s, drank it, cursed some more, and went out and bought another coffee maker of the same brand but better (we’re talking around $200). Since the reviews for this machine were good, and it did make a good tasting cup of joe, I figured the first machine was a lemon.
Two years, almost to the day, with no warning that things were not going well, the 200 dollar machine turned it’s back on me and quit making coffee. This time I break out the french press and say, “Fuck you machine, I will not buy you again.” But then my sister came to live with us and brought her even bigger, better, and more expensive coffee machine, which was not yet two years old. Shortly afterwards, her bigger, better, more expensive, now definitely two year old machine started leaking. A lot. My sister hates french press coffee, so I went to K-Mart and bought a cheapo Mr. Coffee drip coffeemaker. Not the most cheapo one, but the middish cheapo one for just under $50. It’s been about three or four years (cheaper lives longer) of drinking not so great coffee out of a leaky pot, but I’m too cheap to buy a better pot every two years.
But, the leakage is now so bad that I spend half the morning mopping up after the damned thing. So, that’s it — I’m done with these stupid machines that just want to suck the money and life out of me. Instead, I have decided to resurrect my mother’s old “dripolator” style coffee pot that is actually kinda retro-cool looking. I think she got it when I was about 3 or 4 years old (hardly ever used it because, well, the percolator) so that definitely qualifies as retro. Maybe even antique. Anyway, here’s a pic:
The pot has two chambers. The top has a compartment to hold the grounds. It has a fine mesh screen and also an inner lid to keep the grounds in the chamber. You pour the water in the top which then slowly drips through the ground’s chamber and into the bottom. Because it’s all steel, it can be set on a burner set to low to keep the coffee hot.
Pictures of the innards:
This pot makes the best tasting coffee I’ve had in quite a while. And the coffee is HOT. I forgot how good HOT coffee is since the stupid drip machines can never get the coffee hot enough. The only down side to this pot is that it only can make six cups at a time. Considering the size of mugs (does anyone drink coffee in the old little coffee cups anymore?), that’s not enough for three people who habitually drink 2 mugs each in the morning. So I’m going to need to figure out some way to make more than that without dumping and regrinding more coffee beans. Maybe just topping off the old ones after pouring a couple cups and running a bit more water through? An experiment will commence tomorrow morning.
Right now, I’m drinking tea.
Several months ago, while in that misty, gray space between dreamworld and awakeworld, I felt my body completely at ease with no hint of pain anywhere. The sense of no pain shocked me fully awake bringing back to consciousness the accumulated pain of a 60+ year old body. I tried so very hard to find that place again, arranging my body parts in the exact same way they were when I was between worlds and free.
I woke up this morning around 3am with a loud brain thinking disjointed thoughts, rapidly and in no particular order. Sleep was gone gone gone. Around 5am I considered getting up to make coffee. Instead, I remembered that place of ease from months before and gave it a second try. Arranging my body just like it had been before, I drifted away. My success was disrupted by the rudest, most gruesome nightmare — full of blood, pain, terror, and shit — that I think I’ve ever had.
next time, i’ll just go make coffee.
For the past few years, we’ve had an influx of ants taking up residence in and around our house. There are teeny, tiny, little ants that run the perimeter of our house, back and forth, all around the foundation. It’s a little like being under siege. Truthfully, it’s a little creepy.
We also have great big carpenter ants that drop down from the trees and make their way over, under and inside. They move slower, are big enough to recognize individuals and stay long enough that we give them names. Until this year, we’ve managed to keep things under control (sort of) by keeping things clean, never leaving food out, and using non-toxic stuff like diatomaceous earth (DE), borax, peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, etc. But this spring, the scales tipped out of our favor and the ants took over.
First the teeny, tiny, little ants made a big rush for everything in the kitchen and sunroom. I spread DE all around the house, inside the trash, all along the windowsills, across the threshold, virtually everywhere I could think of. I finally broke down and bought ant traps. That seemed to help a little.
One evening, my sister walked into the kitchen, stopped, backed out and yelled for me. Covering every inch of the kitchen floor, the sunroom floor and the counters, walls, stove and fridge were the big ol’ carpenter ants. It looked like something out of a Hitchcock film.
I tore through everything, wiping, moping, scrubbing, sweeping and laying down DE, more ant traps, scattering cotton balls and paper towel wads soaking in ammonia in the trash and recycle bins. After hours of effort more ants poured in, covering everything.
I spent the next day trying to scout out where they were coming from and became convinced that they were nesting inside the walls in the sunroom. Short of ripping all the walls out, I admitted defeat and called a pest control company. Actually, I called a few and settled on one local firm that seemed responsible and was willing to work in such a way as to not contaminate my yard and keep my animals safe. Things have been okay since then.
Until recently. I’ve noticed the teeny, tiny ants are making a comeback and have begun circling the wagons again. Two weeks ago we had the storm door replaced and when the contractor removed the old storm door, big old carpenter ants came pouring out of the door. They had actually set up house inside the wood core of the door, complete with a nursery with lots of eggs. I have a sneaking suspicion that come this spring, I will have to rip out the walls in the sunroom.
But, today — today when I turned on my iMac to do some work, I saw a teeny, tiny, little ant on the monitor. I went to knock it off but nothing happened. It wasn’t on the screen, it is IN the screen. It is running all over, inside my monitor between the glass and the LCD. I don’t know how it got in there and there’s no way to get it out. I keep trying to hit it with the cursor. Sometimes, when I move the cursor over it, the ant falls down. After a couple virtual whacks with the cursor, the ant clues in that there’s no real threat and digs all its little heels in, daring me to try to kill it.
It knows I can’t touch it and it’s flaunting its new found invincibility by parading across my screen as I try to work. But how can I work with the damned ant taunting me?
I just hope it doesn’t invite the rest of its family over for a party.
I have a tiny backyard that is mostly wild and out of control by design. We do minimal maintenance, almost no weed pulling since I tend to encourage weeds for their beauty, free food and medicinal uses. I tried early on to set aside space for vegetables but the yard is too shady and the deer, squirrels and chipmunks too plentiful.
I also like to take pictures of the things that grow in our tiny, wildish space. One of the plants I’ve been fascinated by this year is the massive Devil’s Walking Stick that moved in two or three years ago. It’s grown to be quite tall–at least 15 ft or so and it’s produced a whole crop of babies that are blocking the path down to the gully.
Devil’s Walking Stick, or more formally, Aralia spinosa is indigenous to the Eastern United States and is quite formidable in that it has very sharp thorns that grow all along the woody trunk and along it’s umbrella-like compound, pinnate leaves. It is a serious plant – no fooling around with this one. It’s flowers are tiny, delicate things that grow in huge creamy white clusters at the very top of the plant. I hear they smell like lemons, but they are too far away for me to sniff. From the frenzied activity of the bees and other pollinators, I suspect they smell heavenly. In the fall, it produces berries that are an important source of food for birds.
Here are some of the photos I’ve managed to take, despite the distance and my inability to hold my largest lens steady. This first one is the largest plant sending out it’s first leaves of spring. If you look closely, you can see the start of all the extremely sharp thorns that adorn this plant.
The next shot shows the budding flowers already attracting pollinators.
Devil’s Walking Stick in full flower. If you bring up the large picture (just click on it), note the round disk like things…those are the berries forming. They will turn purple when ripe. This is the second largest plant, but you can see the leaves of the grandmother plant in front of it.
I wish I could manage a picture of the entire plant from the ground up, but my small Poke forest (Phytolacca americana) is in the way, obscuring the first several feet of the trunk.
One of the not so good closeup shots of the bees flying around the flowers came out a little surprising. I do think this might be something other than an insect. Possibly a fairy?