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
- Their name means flame.
- As far as anyone can tell, they may or may not be related to grebes, storks, ibises, spoonbills, pigeons, doves.
- There are 6 species, 4 in the new world, 2 in the old.
- For the grebe-flamingo clade, the taxon Mirandornithes (miraculous birds) has been proposed.
- Their color comes from the caretenoids in their diet, they filter feed on brine shrimp and blue-green algae.
as i was drawing their beaks during research, it occurred to me that their beaks reminded me of baleen whales.
- The Ancient Egyptians believed them to be the living representation of the god, Ra.
- Ancient Romans considered their tongues a delicacy.
- They were worshipped by the ancient people of Peru.
- They are the nationals bird of the Bahamas.
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.