chickens

Redwood Hill Goats

Oh for the love of goats! about twenty sketchers showed up at Redwood Hill Farm in Graton on Saturday. It was the Ready, Set, Sketch (country-style) urban sketchers group which meets once a month on the second Saturday of the month at some location in Sonoma County. We had the added treat of a farm tour led by fellow sketcher and member of the Redwood Hill Farm family, Sharon Bice. redwoodHill2_1

I’ve been wanting to get over there for a long time, but something always came up. The farm is about 7 minutes drive from my home and I have long been a fan of their cheeses.

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But what I really hoped to do was to hold a baby goat or kid, that is. And here is the wish come true. Three days old, this one. And he/she snuggled and suckled and covered me with that velvety goat milky smell. Ever since I’ve been imagining having my own little goat to raise! After all it will be a while (or never) til I get a grandchild of my own to hold!

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But there were chickens there too of course, and I felt rather rusty trying to sketch them as they scratched around and then quickly disappeared into the coop to lay their eggs!

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The adult goats were hanging out in the barn, many different breeds of them. I found a spot standing next to the feeding troughs where they would come up to check me out while I was checking them out. It’s not an easy thing to draw a goat. The proportions of their heads are so very unintuitive. I mean the eyes are way farther up in the head than you would assume, and those horizontal black bands in the eyes? Like an alien. . .

And like most animals, goats are not very cooperative about standing still and posing. Add to that the fact that when they look you in the eye with those fascinating golden eyes, you lose track of what you’re doing and just want to soak up their friendly interest.

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Personality and fecundity seemed to be the dominant traits of this group. It was a bit perilous to open the palette while propping the sketchbook up on the feeding trough bar. It became an instant object of interest to the feeders who stopped by to knock it around a bit. But it was the only way to study this fecund group resting together in dirt and alfalfa.

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Finally, worn out by trying to balance the palette with frequent interruptions, I headed outside to sketch another view of farm life, the last of the day.

 

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Stowe Lake, G.G. Park Meet up

Temperatures soared in Sebastopol yesterday, and I headed for S.F. to enjoy the perfect weather there with other SF urban sketchers at Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park. There were nesting great blue herons and red tailed hawks to view, turtles sunbathing on every floating log, ducks and ducklings of many varieties, paddle boaters, cyclists, hikers and more. I went for subjects I rarely see in Sonoma County and in my fevered state immediately jumped in for more than I could manage. When will I learn?!

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Direct watercolor, day 2.

 I should have aborted early on, but hey, I learned a lot and later added more detail and killed it dead (learning even more!) Meanwhile, since my back was to the path where people were walking, and they were drawn to the color, I kept hearing all the compliments behind me. People just love it when you do art in public, like you’re a hero or something. So I guess this little sketch served some purpose aside from teaching me a lesson, and satisfying my direct watercolor challenge.

The lesson? – when attempting something this complex, do a thumbnail first, simplify, plan, before jumping in. Well, that’s one of the lessons anyway.

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Next I sat down very close to the Golden Gate Pavilion and was so beguiled by the intricate designs that I totally lost myself in them. Not a bad thing. If I hadn’t come to my senses though, I might also have added the paddle boats on the lake behind, the Canadian geese, and the soaring hawk!

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Direct watercolor

Several people in the meet up found this vantage point across the lake from the Pagoda  – a much better angle, which I found later after we’d done the sharing. And then I got to put the birds in too!

Watercolor Simplified in Sonoma

On Saturday I met with 13 sketchers at the historic Barracks in Sonoma to teach the day- long Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher workshop. The weather was warm and lovely and the sun kept dipping behind clouds and then re-emerging. I figured I better get in the demonstration of the “one-two-punch” sketch while the sun was casting lovely shadows.

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fountain pen and watercolor in Field Watercolor Journal 7 X 10″

It was also a chance to put in a “sky dash”, which is a juicy blue sky wash that leaves a bit of white for occasional clouds and doesn’t get all fussy when there’s not time to get the particular sky “right”. The one-two-punch goes in layers of darkening values, the last one of which pops out the sketch, rescuing it from ho-hum.

Of course by the time I’d finished my demo, the sun ducked behind a light cloud obliterating the shadows for my poor students, who were then supposed to paint the shadow shapes!

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When you’re learning watercolor it’s important to find a way to have fun with it so you don’t get bogged down in trying to get realism in your application. So I demonstrated the spritz-splatter method of creating a colorful sketchbook page and then drawing/painting some detail on it to tell a bit of the story. Since it is spring and the Sonoma Plaza was filled with blooming flowers, this was a good bet. And it turned out to be the most popular technique of the day.

Sonomafountain This fountain went into/behind many of the spritz-splatter floral displays!

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Some of the sketchers were putting people in, and this fellow sitting around the fountain was so still as to be an ideal model! He seemed in fact to have perfected the art of doing nothing! I used this as an example of anchoring your subject to the context and leaving out unnecessary detail.

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Then the ducks in the pond became a favorite subject! Honestly I could sit all day and watch them and the children shreeking with delight at their antics.

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I managed to work them into my spritz-splatter floral!

And then suddenly it was time to call it a day, and such a good one it was!

Sgraffito

This word sgraffito is so Italian that I want to kiss my fingertips as I say it. It’s dictionary meaning is: a technique of ornamentation in which a surface layer of paint, plaster, slip, etc. is incised to reveal a ground of contrasting color.

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fluid acrylic mixed with gloss medium, on gessoed w/c paper

For this demo I started with a few drops of green acrylic mixed with the gloss medium to make it more transparent. While it was wet I scraped (with a rubber color shaper) back to the white paper in undulating designs. When those green shapes were dry, I repeated those steps with the gold and red. The resulting design would make a lovely summer table cloth, don’t you think?

So for the next one I took on the challenge of staying simple while also going in the directions of a piece of art that has something, however modest, to say.

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I used the same palette and sgraffito technique here with a touch of collage. It looked quite messy and gloppy. “So Bad It’s Good” but not really. As we always do in Muse Group, I did a free write which revealed the idea of the tropical bird, who flew in to take his perch afterward. He was very noisy, squawking into my ear “What’s your problem anyway?!”

Sgraffito is the technique you employ when you get that urge to scribble. You know, on those days when “Pretty” doesn’t feel right, and you’re a bit or a lot agitated?

In our Muse Group “laboratory” we discovered that it works best when you mix your fluid acrylics (just a few drops) with pouring medium or gloss medium because they are transparent and not as likely to glob up or get muddy.

So go for it. Sgraffito up a storm and maybe play some Italian opera to get in the mood.

 

 

Bird Rescue Center Open House

On a rather cold and rainy Saturday earlier this month we headed over to the Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County. They have a first Saturday of the month open house for visitors to come and meet the birds and learn about them. The Center is supported by donations from the public and a devoted crew of trained volunteers. Did you read about how they evacuated their entire bird population during the notorious Tubbs fire that was raging down the mountain toward them last October? Luckily the Center did not burn and the bird inhabitants were returned to their home unscathed. Many of them cannot be returned to the wild and this has become their permanent home.

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fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ spiral Field Watercolor Journal by Hand Book

When it got drizzly outside, the taxidermy display inside came in handy with the lovely barn owl spreading its wings. Barn Owls are particularly difficult to draw because of their unusual disc shaped face, but oh so lovely!

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Then out to the yard where the docents/handlers were holding the birds and answering questions.

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Pisces is an Osprey with a broken wing.

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The volunteers were dressed for the weather and the birds were of course unconcerned when it started to rain again. Even I would have been unconcerned because a few drops of water dissolve the watercolor paint in the most appealing way. At some point it did however make for a bit of an aborted sketch!

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Each time I go to the Open House I learn something new, like the meaning of “bracelets” and “gape”.

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This raptor’s name is Star and judging by the color of the tail, must be a Red Tailed hawk. I have dreamed of being a volunteer here but wondered how one can stand for a half hour-hour with the weight of these large birds on the wrist?  Star however was light weight at a bit over three pounds.

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Every once in a while one is treated to an outspreading of wings that lasts only seconds. I caught this one on video and was so struck by the pose of bird and handler here that I had to sketch it later. One might be tempted to romanticize this relationship. When you are treated to this up-close-and-personal display, it is abundantly clear that the humans care very much for the birds, whose habits and idiosyncracies they have learned over the years. Even if the birds don’t have the instinctual equipment to reciprocate with tenderness, they are clearly well cared for and honored for their wild natures.

I have made the acquaintance of many of these same birds on previous sketch visits. See more of the sketches here and here.

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It’s eerily quiet around our house today. I mean there’s still the usual birdsong and occasional car, but no cocky bird fellow pecking and crowing throughout the day. I must admit I miss Mr. Peckerdoodle a bit, even though we spent days trying to  locate his owner and then when we couldn’t, stalking and trying to catch him. Have you ever tried to catch a rooster that wasn’t roosting and asleep? None of the help that Google had to offer was working.

It’s not like he was unfriendly either. In fact he was frequently to be found with his beak to our front door, anticipating our company or at least our bird seed.

Finally though, yesterday morning the Hav-a-heart trap worked!

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And you bird lovers, do not despair! Our gardener picked him up and took him to the ranch where he will not only be well treated but will have an instant harem of eight hens awaiting him. Bye bye birdie.

Holiday Stories

Both our sons were home for the holidays, lapsing into eating and lounging and occasional computers games. I lapsed into holiday mode of buying groceries, cooking and cleaning up. That and taking a moment here and there to sit and sketch. . .

But first there was the Messiah Sing-along. . .

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which presented the challenge of standing up and sitting down repeatedly as the audience rose to join in the chorus. Each time some part of my sketch stuff clattered to the floor as I stood!

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When Ben occupied the kitchen counter and Andrew the front room I moved around to capture this thoroughly mesmerizing game they were sharing (in low light!)

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Andrew got stranded here for a couple extra days due to the storm so we asked him to capture the errant rooster that has been driving us crazy with its day-long crowing and pooping on the front step. Here’s how it’s going, as seen from the front window.