chickens

LoveOly and Tumwater Historical Park

The weather has been irresistible lately, issuing an invitation to get out “in it”. And everyone here promises a lot of non stop rainy weather come fall and winter. So the indoor stuff can wait! 

Cedar Teeth playing at the LoveOly event – two other performers missing

The real colorful performers here were in the audience in the middle of the road in front of the band stand, but I was already attracting too much attention up front where I could see, so I figured I better stay with the performers who I knew wanted to be seen. The downtown public in Olympia are a colorful lot, and maybe by next summer I’ll be comfortable enough to sketch more of them. Like the person dancing in hot pink fuzzy pants and wig and sporting a Big Bird sized tail of hot pink boas and waving pom poms. Now that I think of it, they probably would have loved for me to sketch them!

The Thursday morning sketchers met at Tumwater Historical Park and I sat right down near the lake’s edge among a flock of juvenile ducks and one Canadian goose. They were so marvelous to watch, and the light and colors were constantly changing, and I was so distracted by the beauty of it all that I just kept painting and trying to get it in without any plan, while listening to the quacks and honks and meeting the bold ones that circled my feet in hopes of some food dribbling their way. 

Meanwhile the Tumwater brewery with it’s broken windows and rosey glow eluded my efforts to capture an atmosphere that was beyond my painting ability, but thoroughly in my enjoyment!

Bumblehummer

I’ve been perplexed ever since hanging the hummingbird feeder outside the dining room window. There’s a fair amount of activity of the frenetic Hummer sort literally all day long. The part I don’t understand is the absense of male activity. I thought it was my poor eyesight, that with the backdrop of greenery I was unable to catch the flashier colors of irridescent red or purple under the chin.

Then I recently solved that problem by placing my small binoculars permanently on the table, ready to grab mid-bite. But persistently the little birds at the feeder have been green with white undersides and not a trace of other color which I can see. No guys. How can that be? I’ve read about female hummingbirds disguising themselves as males, but the other way around?

But a couple days ago a pair of tiny, roundish, golden colored birds appeared and sent me running for my phone to try to ID them. Could it be? Bumblebee Hummingbirds, native to, gulp, Mexico? Rufous Hummingbirds, (more likely in Washington)? The pictures matched but in any case it’s still only the female I’ve seen!

I’ve started to get in trouble with Bob, interrupting him mid-sentence to grab the binoculars to get a better look, and I don’t think I’m chewing my food properly. There’s simply no time when you have to keep a look out for the movement of creatures whose hearts beat 1,260 beats per minute!

(imagine)Post Pandemic Revelry

It requires a sturdy imagination to soldier through these days of shelter-in-place, for those of us who have the good fortune to be able to, that is. I started out at my art table, painting water shapes of birds and adding colors to the water as I worked my way around the paper. The source material was an article in National Geographic about “Why Birds Matter” with pictures of some of the most flamboyant birdlife. By the end it seemed they was celebrating something.

fluid acrylics on w/c p

Ah! Imagine . . .

The post pandemic revelry

Of pent up desires 

To shake tail feathers

To sing and dance together

. . .TOGETHER! again!

To share unfiltered air

Kiss the warm cheek

Hug the big belly softness

Drink the unmasked radiance

. . .of a SMILE!

I like to imagine the freedom of being a bird right now, especially when I’m eating my lunch, sitting in their flight path next to the fountain/bird bath. (Of course they have their own avian viruses at times), but I’ll enjoy their unmasked flights, their social songs and raucous bathing.

It helps, until such time as I can hug my human friends again!

Phoenix Rising

The archetype of the phoenix is particularly appealing to those of us in what is officially now known as “fire country”. So it’s no wonder that when I was clearing out old paintings and moving pieces of them to my collage piles, I looked deeply into one and found the suggestion of a baby phoenix.

acrylic on w/c paper

Have you felt the whisper soft breath of the baby phoenix as it rises from the smoke and ashes?   

They say its tears can heal wounds and cure infections. (Viruses too.)

Peer into the smoke, and you may see it rising from its own ashes.

Can you see it? Can you hear its muted cry?

Are you ready to feed and protect it and help it grow strong enough to redeem us all?

Sketching the Spring Garden

The purple irises have just started blooming and they reminded me of a video demo my son Andrew shot and edited ten years ago while he was taking a high school filmmaking course. Wish he were around now to help me record.

I had such a surge of sentimentality watching this again! We no longer have chickens, and the trees have grown, blocking some of the view in the distance. Oh, and of course I’ve aged. . .just a bit. But the natural environment in this month of April is still extraordinarily active and abundant! So before I show you the video, here’s what’s happening now.

mothsex

Lots of sex. Butterflies, birds and bees of course, and yesterday I noticed this two-headed insect on a succulent plant. And of course my mind went a bit crazy trying to imagine how that joining was happening underneath. These two, I assume, moths were so intoxicated that nothing I could do would disturb their joining. I assume he’s the one on top, and more colorful.

turkeyeggs

The grasses in our back yard (acre) are about 5 feet high now and an excellent place for a mother to lay her eggs. As I said earlier we got rid of our chickens years ago. But the wild turkeys have taken up residence and this mother scared me as much as I scared her when I came upon this cache with her on it! They are bigger than chicken eggs, but not by much. I guess we’ll be seeing the make-way-for-little-turkeys processional soon.

lizard

This is the top of a birdhouse that’s on a bench directly outside my studio door. The lizard population has soared in the past two weeks and I rarely arrive at the door without a scaly critter waiting for me on the door jamb. What do they think they would do inside anyway? Pick up a paint brush?

OK, here’s the video. Hopefully it will get us both out sketching the spring garden.

 

 

Westside Farm

We’re all concerned about a February month without a drop of rain in our rainy season. But that hasn’t stopped us from glorying in the gorgeous “spring” weather we’ve been having. It’s such a treat to be able to sit out in the direct sun to sketch without becoming overheated or burning.

I haven’t driven out Westside Road in ages, even though it’s so close to my home. Many of the wineries were closed, or appointment only, on Saturday. I guess because it’s off season? Westside Farm is not a winery, but an magnificently picturesque collection of aging barns backed by vineyards. 

westsidefarm

This shack/shed hung off the back of one of the mammoth old barns whose roofs had become sieves. It tilted in wonderful ways that gave it personality. I sat on my three legged stool while a big orange barn cat wrapped himself around my legs and the chickens in a nearby coop kept up a symphony of whines and clucks. It was heaven for a while, far away from other folks and the din of my home responsibilities!

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A perfect setting for a sketch with a backdrop of the Mayacama mountains, a curving path, fence, a stately tree, and a bit of red barn.

Show and Farewell Party at Pie Eyed Gallery!

Have you ever stopped in at the colorful Pie Eyed Gallery at 2371 Gravenstein Hwy South in Sebastopol to see Lauri Luck’s and other local artists’ work. . .and maybe have a piece of the most amazing pie? In any case you won’t want to miss this weekend’s show, which will be the last and have more art than ever – mine included. I’ve released a flight of my Party Chicks (paintings) for the show and I’ll be there this Friday for the opening. Hope you can make it. Here’s the details:

Opening: Friday May 10th from 3-7

May 11th and 12th, open both days 12-4

2371 Gravenstein Hwy South, Sebastopol

Look for the ART and PIE sign and turn at the Giant Yellow Duck!

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 10.48.45 AM

 

 

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.

SusanwithKid

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.

redwoodHill4

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.

 

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.

pagoda.jpg

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!

pagoda2

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.

Sonoma1

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.

Sonomafducks

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!