Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The continuing saga of The Birds...

The ravens that fought on my rooftop last month are still around. They seem to have settled their dispute: one pair spends a lot of time in my trees and the giant cottonwoods across the street, and the other is down at the end of the next block, in the trees that surround the middle school.

Yesterday Booker and I went for a walk. As we passed the middle school, we were met by students who were 'running the mile' around and around the two blocks that the school sits on. Booker did very well, stepping off the sidewalk as we met each group or lone running student to let them pass, like the gentleman we hope he is becoming. As we reached a tall tree at the corner, though, I noticed a strange phenomenon; each running child looked up into the tree as they passed under it, then they generally sped up a bit as they continued. As Booker and I passed under the tree, there was this sound which I can only describe as an 'electronic blip-blip' sound. I thought, "there must be some kind of security devise in the tree to keep an eye on the school!" I bet that's what the students thought, as well, so they sped up as they passed, to look good 'on camera.' But as I looked closer into the tree, I did not spy an electronic devise. I spied one of the ravens, in the crotch of several limbs, blip-blipping as each student ran underneath him! It cracked me up! I stood and watched him long enough that Booker had to remind me that we were on a walk! I only had my iPhone with me, so took this shot, then played a bit with it (sorry - I just can't resist all these bells and whistles!)

Several things I just keep pondering about this: first, I really don't think the kids saw the bird or, if they did, didn't associate it with the sound. I think we're all more used to 'being watched' electronically these days than we are of thinking of Nature. That was the conclusion I first had jumped to, too. And second, where did the raven learn that sound? I suppose it hears lots of phone ringtones and car alarms and who knows what, right there at the school, and it just chose one to learn. And finally, why was it making the sound as each student or group ran beneath it? It blipped at Booker and me, too, so maybe it does that whenever anyone passes. The tree it was in has a lot of people passing under it; students in the day and walkers and dog-walkers all the time. Maybe it is a warning sound to it's mate? Or maybe it just likes to keep track of us all.

I am greatly amused by my new neighbors!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Following Passion...

I have the loom warped and the cartoon prepared and the yarns all chosen and pulled from the shelves to weave the above image, which was to represent the month of October in my calendar series. But I have been missing a crucial ingredient to make me begin weaving it: Passion.

Passion is highly under-rated in the creation of art. Especially art which takes a great deal of life-time to create. If there is no passion for the project, there is nothing to pull me to the loom when the sun is shining or the rain is falling, or a friend calls to distract me away to a cup of coffee, or the Sudoku in the newspaper looks do-able. Believe me, I know this for a fact!

Sooooo.... I am, at least for now, abandoning that project. I will be weaving the August tapestry, which will have a sub-title of "The Dog Days of Summer." I will undoubtedly show you more of this project as it is in process. But I think for now, I will leave it to your imagination... and to my passion for it! I love the image, the subject matter, the color, and the content (meaning). I am excited to start it. Isn't that wonderful?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New toy; uh, I mean new Tool...

I got a new iPhone this week, and have been playing with some camera apps I put on it.

Way too much fun!

Must NOT let this distract me!

I have real WORK to do!

STOP, already!

Oh, look... a cool Solitaire app, a book reader, and a painting app.... I am in sooooo much trouble!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Calendar Series update, etc.....

Since I have not been feeling great for the past two weeks, I've not been in the studio working at all. But I haven't been totally slacking. I had to get both the "January" and "March" tapestries mounted; especially the "January" one, as it will be shipped to the ATB8 exhibit to arrive next week. I took the above photo of it, so you can see the scale. They are each only 18x18 inches.

So here's my 'woven calendar' so far: "January," "February," "March," and "September."

I have the designs ready for the October, June, July, and August tapestries. Clearly, I need to get back to the loom!

In addition to the tapestry mounting process, I have been matting prints. I took the first batch out to the gallery last week, and several have already sold, so I took more out there today.

I have also begun sketching faces. I've done 8 in my sketchbook, so far. I will do 50 faces, then I will do 50 places. So far, they are just simple drawings, a few with watercolor (though my sketchbook doesn't take watercolor very well.) After the first 10, I will do the next 10 in paint, on little bits of canvas. Beware: so far my 'subjects' have been from Facebook profile photos! So if you are my Facebook friend, you may end up in my sketchbook. (Don't worry though. It probably won't look a thing like you, given my sketching skills!)

I am feeling almost human again. I just have a bit of residual neck pain, which makes sleeping a bit of a challenge. But that too will pass.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Illustration Friday: Atmosphere

The IF topic this week is Atmosphere. As I haven't done anything creative this week, other than survive (which has seemed to use all my resources), I am posting two little paintings that I posted before, while they were in progress. I never posted their finished versions, and I haven't posted them for IF, so they aren't total repeats. Each of them is only 5"x7". And they were both attempts to capture a wet atmosphere, something that I am not very familiar with, living here in the desert.

The one above is from Puget Sound in Washington. It's a view going over Deception Pass, onto Whidby Island. The one below is from the walk above the old city of Quebec, in the rain.

I have discovered this week that it is true that, as you get older, shingles get worse. I have had them twice before, and didn't think of them as particularly bad. They didn't even really interrupt my life in any significant way. This week, I have been truly miserable. If you have had chicken pox and haven't yet ever had shingles, and are qualified to get the vaccine (you have to be over 60), I highly recommend it! You don't want this stuff if you can avoid it. I will be getting vaccinated the minute I turn 60! I never want to have shingles again - especially if it could even be worse than this breakout was. I was reduced to 'open-the-window-and-roll-me-off-the-roof- to-put-me-out-of-my-misery' begging mode!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nitty gritty....

Being an artist is not always the glam-job one hopes and dreams it will be. There are times when you just have to buckle down and do the boring parts. So I have been warping the loom for the next calendar tapestry. (I have also been designing more calendar tapestries. I now have October, June, July, and August designed and 'on the drawing board' to weave. But the design part is the fun stuff of being an artist.)

So another hard job has cropped up; going through what yarn I have, and choosing what I will need to order to weave these next four tapestries. Sometimes I have a hard time really seeing the colors accurately until they get here, so this is a real challenge for me.

In addition, I purchased a print rack and having been getting prints ready to take out to the gallery tomorrow. This involves matt cutting; one of those jobs I really view as an 'artistic chore.' In fact, I dislike matt cutting so much, it may be why I switched from watercolors to oils! Matt cutting involves too much math for my dominant right brain. It will be good to have prints at the gallery, though, because the summer tourist traffic seems to want prints this year. So it's time for me to jump into that market.

On a personal note, artists also just have those times when working at all is somewhat of a chore. I have had shingles for the past week, and all I really have wanted to do is to lie around with a dog at my feet and read a good book or watch a good movie. Now that sounds like a glam-job to me (though perhaps not very profitable)!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Back from the lake...

We are home from being at the cabin for the past few days. We had a wonderful, quiet time there, as always. In addition to the usual delights, we had the perfect viewing spot for the meteor shower, lying in the back of the pick-up, with no city lights to dilute the show. It was spectacular... so many stars and quite a few that looked like they fell right over us, surely landing in 'our' lake! I almost, but not quite, forgot to listen for the sound of the bear whose scat we found very close by, eating from chokecherry bushes in the driveway.

We also went fishing. We have never caught such small trout! My husband caught the first fish, but as it was 'only' about 10", he let it go. After that, we began catching the tiniest little things, each only between 4-6". Of course, we threw them all back, each with an apology and a lecture to try to learn from this experience. When we were taking the boat out of the lake to go back to the cabin, another fisherman commented that he had caught the littlest trout he'd ever seen. We told him we had caught a whole pre-school of them!

Even though we came home fish-less, I did get the great photos above of two blue herons taking off over the lake. The first one literally ran across the water to take off. The second one just leaped up and flew away from us, but I loved the pattern the rough lake makes beneath him as he got out over the water.

In addition, I took way too many pictures of hummingbirds, from which I will spare you. We had more little hummers at our feeder than we've had ever, I think. With only 6 spots to drink from, there were twice that many vying for the spots! They actually seem to cooperate better, the more there are of them. Odd, but true.

Our weekend chore was to cut wood for the winter. For $20, you can get a National Forest permit to cut 2 cords of dead or downed wood. We didn't want to cut that much on this trip, but decided to get a pick-up load. Since our boys grew up and left us on our own for these chores, we have opted to just buy the wood to heat the cabin for the past several years. But this year we chose to get the permit and go back to the way we used to do it. We had seen so much downed wood in the nearby aspen forest that we decided we could go for it. My husband cut it into usable logs, and my job was to load it into the truck.

Back in the days when we had two strong boys to help, my job was just to move the wood back and arrange it in the truck bed, so the weight was evenly distributed. But this time I loaded it, and stacked it in the truck. I missed my boys! I think I will start now, sending each grandchild a log for Christmas, a bigger one every year, and then, after they have built up their log-carrying strength, we will plan one of the 'activities' for Grandma-Grandpa Camp to be wood gathering!

I love how light it is in an Aspen forest. The trees are thick, but they are very tall, and the canopy is not heavy. There is always beautiful light on the forest floor. And, did you know that an Aspen stand is all one organism? The fact for the day!

I hope you had as lovely a weekend as we had. If not, next weekend maybe you would like to help us cut another load of wood?

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Yesterday was a very busy day at the gallery. I came home exhausted. I also came home determined to proceed with my plan to create prints of sold pieces to sell, as most sales yesterday were of prints.

I didn't have much time to paint, but I always try to at least set up a small painting, as customers seem to like to have someone actually painting there. So I did this little piece, which I'm not sure how to finish. I wanted to see if I could do a figure that was expressive without having a facial expression to rely on. I have seen some great 'headless' figures, so thought I'd give it a try. This is of my grand-daughter. She had this cute outfit on, and she and her brother were putting on a 'concert' for me. I think the outfit and her body language say quite a bit, but I may feel the need to 'finish' this a bit more. It is very sketchy and loosely done, and I have a hard time leaving that 'roughness' be. I'll see how it looks when dry. It is 8x8".

Saturday, August 7, 2010


All of our dogs have been retrievers. And all of them have loved to swim! But Booker has been quite resistant to the idea. He has preferred to be a wading retriever. In my husband's eyes, a wading retriever is not a real retriever at all; he was determined that Booker should discover that he has webbed feet for a reason. So he taught Booker to swim up at the lake yesterday. Of course, Booker being the silly puppy that he still is, I am sure that now swimming includes having my husband in the lake with him, as far as he is concerned. He would not swim otherwise yesterday. He is a dog who likes to feel the solid earth beneath his paws. He was OK with swimming, but it was still all about the stick for him.... and about being with his best friend.

I am off to work at the gallery today. I am having a frustrating creative time right now, so maybe being there will wake up and motivate my muses.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Spent an afternoon approaching Lavender...

A little (8x10") oil on canvas painting. I am quite in love with lavender, so felt an urge to paint it. This is quite loosely based on a lavender farm on Whidbey Island in Washington. My lavender is needing to be harvested, so it can begin it's second growth. Colorado is beginning to discover how well it grows here, and several lavender farms have 'cropped up' locally. Must make some lavender shortbread. Ummmm!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

There and back again...

I spent most of the past several days on the other side of the mountains. I went to watch my grandson play a couple of soccer games, as he has been playing on a YMCA league team this summer. I tell you, if you have never watched a game of soccer played by four-year-olds, you have missed one of life's true delights! It is so much fun - no parent pressure, no real sense of competition yet, no boundaries of any kind! (Who needs field lines, anyway?) The World Cup is way too serious for my tastes now. My grandson loves it, and is actually quite good at it. Just watching these little ones run around a ball like a little tracking herd for almost an hour made me realize how much energy I have lost in my lifetime.

I also got to watch my grand-daughter's gymnastics class, and to dump some apricots, in their various forms, and some piccalilli on my son's family.

One of the other things I did with the grandchildren was to do a little 'art lesson' with them. I had done the first Mona Brookes lesson with the oldest one several years ago, when she was four. The last couple of times I was with them, they asked me to do an art lesson with them, so I went prepared to re-do that first lesson, which was to draw a bird. When my grand-daughter had done the lesson at 4, we had just used some newsprint, and I was so impressed with her bird, I regretted not having had her use better materials. So this time, I took some watercolor paper and brush markers. The painting above is my 6-year-old grand-daughter's painting, and the one below was done by her 4-year-old brother. They gave the pictures to their mom, so I asked my grandson to do me another picture. (His sister was busy doing some craft projects we worked on together.)

Below is his painting of their dog. It is in front of their house (see the three windows?) He included the flowers that grow in front, and the fact that their yard is a bit hilly. I absolutely love that the dog (who loves to run) has five legs! Other than that, it looks a lot like their dog.

If you have any young ones in your life, I highly recommend this book and the lessons from it. It is fun, and look at the incredible results! (Brookes also has a second book for older children, and even adults.)