Animals

Wine Country Fire Evacuees

Our wine country fire evacuees are plentiful just now, 10% of the population of Sonoma County I heard this morning! I am not one of them. I am also not one of those heroic first responders. My lungs cannot tolerate smoke and I’ve been spending a great deal of time fretting and checking on friends and neighbors and just sharing stories and of course fears as the fires rage on.

I was happy to see that someone in our rural neighbor of a shared water company had found an old fire hose to attach to the simple fire hydrant which sits next to my driveway.

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We’ve all been watering around our homes in hopes of preventing fires here if the wind changes directions and blows the embers our way. I could go years and not have so many conversations with my nice neighbors as I’ve had this week. I learned for instance that you can plant native plants that burn up and out quickly and then sprout again the next year! And then there’s the Scotch broom which makes for a more deadly fire.

Today I visited my friend Liz who has welcomed evacuees in her home (inside and out) so that I could meet and then sketch them. The air was more clear today thanks to winds from the north overnight so I climbed inside the pig pen with Madeline and Liam while Barbara enjoyed the sun and serene country setting.

pigs5You can also see Zoey in the picture to the left. She’s the only one who actually lives here ongoing. Barbara, in the chair, was evacuated from a senior living center which luckily did not burn (although her son’s home in Santa Rosa did) and the miniature pigs are the beloved pets of other people who needed a temporary place to house them. Normally they are actually indoor pig-pets, so these accommodations were a bit of a come down for them. But they were adapting admirably. They were not however the best models for sketching.

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I spent my first few minutes trying to understand their various parts as they were in constant movement. These little pigs look more like miniature warthogs without the tusks.

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They had the annoying habit of burying the parts of their body I was sketching in the straw where they were finding something delectable to eat. Nevertheless I was rapidly becoming enamored of them, particularly their gross lip smacking snorting sounds and gorgeous curly tail swishing. They really are the epitome of bad table manners when eating, which seems to be non stop and it’s hilarious! Madeline has these long white eyelashes and bright pink halter (for if you would want to take her for a walk), and Liam is small and dark and they’re both so friendly. Here’s a picture of Liam when he got interested in painting and gave my palette a good wet snort-sniff.

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I wasn’t feeling particularly successful with the sketching, but thought I’d give it one more try. And after a while they actually stopped eating and got kind of mellow.

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and I had more time to observe.

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But once home I had try one more from a photo. My heart goes out to all the fire evacuees, but these little piggies totally stole my heart.

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Sketching at home

When it’s not the season for travel or time for local event sketching, there’s always what is close at hand. I no longer sketch my food and drink, which is recommended by some of my favorite luminaries such as Danny Gregory and Liz Steel. But I’ve had my eye on the rusty mailbox next door, and then there’s always the goats at the bottom of the hill.

mailbox

Lamy Joy fountain pen and watercolor in soft cover Beta Stillman + Birn sketchbook

And then there’s the town I live (outside of), Sebastopol, where I’ll be teaching two workshops this spring. The first is “Introduction of Sketching in Public” on March 25th. So I’ve been wandering around town with the eyes of a tourist sketcher to find what one could capture quickly in a workshop setting.

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A lovely water fountain in the plaza and an exercise in connecting it with the background while leaving out most of the rest of what was there! That’s the hard part.

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I found a bench in the sun and had a few minutes left to doodle some people. I often end up liking these “doodles” better than the more finished ones. You’d think I’d learn.

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But another day I had more time, and a good spot to sit with a friend and kept sketching awhile after my subject had left. Of course they always leave before you’re done!

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fountain pen and watercolor in Toned Tan Strathmore Art Journal

And then there’s always the selfie. This one done while on an hour-long phone call in front of my computer (one looks for time where it is to be found), which might account for having lost a bit of the top of her head. Oh well.

I’ve had people tell me I should paint more attractive self portraits of myself, but this is so much more amusing. I think I feel a series coming on. After all, you don’t have to pay this subject to sit and she’s always available to sketch live!

What Kind of Creature

If you’re asking what kind of creative this is, then maybe you don’t know about animal spirits.

whatkindofcreature

crinkled Masa paper, inks, collage on w/c paper 10 X 11″

What kind of creature is that? you ask, as if animal spirits confine themselves to only one specie. These spirits are known to take the form of imagination and keep you guessing, to move with stealth and vigor across the page even while standing still. 

This one looks you in the eye and knows you, as the mirror does. . .only more. Knows your mental undergrowth to be a brambles and yet is comfortable there.

. . .even as you in your waking state find your hair standing on end to confront that gaze.

Look, I don’t dream up these creatures. They appear out of somewhere/nowhere. This one was (partially) a demo of various ink splotchings, stick drawing etc. for the Wabi Sabi workshop two weekends ago. It needed to be liberated from a piece that was going nowhere, so I cut it out and found a home for it/him/her on another underpainting of crinkled Masa paper.

It was a real Halloween character, this pregnant bunny/deer dancing creature. Isn’t this the way we often put together a costume, feeling free to mix metaphors.  Mine this year was a combination ballerina (tutu) and pirate (hat) and probably some other elements when combined with Jazzercise leggings and shoes.

There’s more to sight than eyes

I thought I was just being playful with this one, picking up an old class demo of a kind of ink drip creature. And then, no kidding, it started to talk to me about something I needed to hear!

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I can see you sitting there, thinking about your eyes, one clear and one struggling to see through spots and threads and the murky patch.

Look me in the eye and repeat after me: I can see just fine. This cage of one eye is translucent and does not a prison make. I have three eyes to take the place of the one

and the world keeps opening.

Drip creatures tend to be a combination of many species and so they exist outside the realm of waking mind where we have convinced ourselves that things are a certain way that we can explain.

Yes, my left eye has a retinal occlusion for which there is treatment. . . of sorts, and yes I must be reminded not to worry, but to notice all the ways my other senses and brain fill in the blanks, giving me for the most part decent sight. I won’t soon forget this colorful and bizarre image, like something right out of a dream, or perhaps a prayer.

Moose Guardian

mooseguardian

acrylic inks and paints, image transfer, collage, Uniball Signo pen on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

The message:  BE PREPARED!  -Moose Guardian Angel

. . .because we’re all in need of a guardian angel (or several) I like to periodically incite students to join me in creating our own. It has to be humorous, but also deadly serious. . . like this one. I’ve created many over the years and I’d like to think they’re all watching over me, or at least keeping me from taking myself too seriously.

If you’re interested in creating your own, please check out the latest issue of my Imagine With Art Newsletter, which has directions for how to create your own wacky and wonderful angel (or alter ego, or personal clown, or whatever you want to call it).

Festival of Feathers

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fountain pen with Noodler’s Golden Brown ink, watercolor in Strathmore w/c sketchbook, (9.5×7.5″)

We joined the crowds at the Santa Rosa Bird Rescue Center’s annual Festival of Feathers on Saturday to practice more standing and sketching  (in a jostling crowd).  Most of the birds were relatively good posers (except for the raven) and there’s just nothing like coming up eyeball to eyeball with these elegant wild creatures. We lasted about an hour and a half and then were so exhausted we had to stop.  The sketches were done on site, the painting afterwards.

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Japanese bush pen with water soluble ink.

The raven was completely black, but that felt like it would be too much.  After “melting” the ink line to create volume I added just a touch or two of color.

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Wowl is the poster child of the bird sanctuary and my absolute  favorite!

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Forestville Banner

forestvillebanner

acrylic and collage, commissioned by Forestville Chamber of Commerce

Soon this lovely lady will be fluttering on one of the new banners in front of businesses in Forestville, CA (the closest town to where I live).  Egrets are one of the many blessings of the landscape here, attracted as they are by the river and wetlands.  I was honored to be asked to do a painting for the businesses in the town where my children so recently attended school.