Pet portrait

Portlandia

It was a good week to get a bit of a getaway and breathe some fresher air, for a couple of days at least. The unhealthy air from the Camp Fire actually reached Portland for two out of the four days I was there visiting a friend. But then there was also some of that fresh moist north coast air you can take a lungful of without a gasp or cough.

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Our little Santa Rosa airport just minutes from my home makes the trip so easy. The terminal air was gritty with smoke, so I’m trying not to breathe too deep during the wait.

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In Portland it was too cold and damp to sketch outside, so Janet had already planned some indoor alternatives. She is not a sketcher, but one of those rare people who is happy to amuse herself while I sketch. The main library is elegant and architecturally interesting.

I had planned to practice the geometry of columns and windows and lighting, but no sooner had we sat down in one of the open areas than this old lady came up to us with big grin and said “Are you girls having fun?”

The thing about Portland(ia) is that, even though it’s a big city, you are likely to be approached by a stranger who acts like you’re an old friend and launches into a conversation with little preamble. So this dear lady cheerfully engaged us for a good 15 minutes about her dismay at the changes that had been made to the original Fantasia movie that would make dear Walt turn in his grave! Janet pretended to listen raptly, while I sketched.

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I found a spot on the stairway where I could look down into the periodicals room, a daunting view which I tackled with great trepidation, getting confused about the windows and bored by all the books! What I call a useful practice exercise for my weak points.

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Bob had told me to look out for “man buns” in Portland, hipster fashion as he knows it. However we were spotting very few man buns and many other manifestations of hipster-dom, like this couple at one of the many coffee bars, Case Study Coffee Roasters. Her raspberry hair and his cock’s comb were all we could see from where we were sitting but one can imagine more decorative fashion on the skin shrouded by coats.

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It’s slow going walking around town. The trees are shamelessly flaunting their finest apparel of the year and begging for pictures to be taken. And then there’s the shops, like the Peculiarium with products like bottles Hipster Powder flanked by wierd skeletons. And of course there’s a coffee shop on each block, like this one serving Stumptown coffee, where one can watch the procession of colorful humans. This coffeeshop, Vivace, had a piece of paper money from about every country in the world tacked to its walls inside, and nice porch seating as well.

The sun had emerged after our walk in the forest. The wind was blowing leaves on the table, and that became the subject of the sketch.

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Well, that’s about it for sketches. It was really a visit to see Janet, my friend who goes way back to, gulp, 1963 when two New England girls landed in Palo Alto, California mid-year in eighth grade and survived the culture shock together.

JanetandBalthazarHer housewarming gift was happily received, a mixed media (fabric/acrylic) portrait of her beloved cat Balthasar.

 

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What I Love About the Sonoma Co. Fair

I’m not much for the rides at the Sonoma County Fair, or the races or the greasy deep fried food on a stick. But boy do I like to hang out with the farm animals and 4H kids. Most of all the pigs. Don’t you just love their snouts and taut bellies and squeals? More than other animals they seem like us somehow, in their appetites and love of napping and their naked bellies.

thepigs

fountain pen (brown and black inks), watercolor on Fluid 100 watercolor paper, double spread 7.5 X 11″

You can watch the judging in the pavilion or you can roam the pens where the pigs are mostly resting, snuggled up with each other. Sleeping and eating seems to be their two modes. It was morning when I tried sketching these guys, and they weren’t exactly standing still.

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There’s this thing that happens to their mouths when they’re fed and I think happy. It seems simpler for them, this happiness thing, less encumbered by expectations. It’s a little upturn of the corners of the mouth.

These guys share so much. Do you suppose they know that their short lives are about to end with the auction which inevitably ends their stardom on the 4H stage at the end of the week? They don’t appear to be worried. And somehow their young owners, who feed and groom and apply sunscreen and cool them off with water spray when they get too hot, and who lie down and nap using their soft bellies as pillows. .  .will soon part with them forever. Sigh. Could I do that? I mean they have names and personalities. (but I am admittedly a bacon lover, oh dear.)

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Some of these bovines are so very glamorous that you would easily give them a prize. I lean toward the pink ones, thinking they are so pretty in pink, blackwhitepig

but some are a shiny black and others have an exotic picture puzzle-like design. They should have the great fashion houses of the world paying attention.

The white pigs are like me, if they get more than a few minutes of sun, they get sunburned and turn pink!

pigtrioNot having had enough of the pig sketching while at the fair, I did this one from a picture once I was home. These pigs are not embarrassed to have their naked bottoms on display, and those cute curly-Q tails. . .

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The animals seem so comfortable with each other. I mean you wouldn’t see unrelated humans who had just met sharing their space with each other in this companionable way. In this group there was a certain amount of standing and lying down and then getting back up, which made for inaccurate drawings. You need to exercise your visual memory, which has it’s limits! While I was sketching here, a 4Her asked us if we’d like to pet the animals. A sweet offer, if not exactly what I’d been thinking. . .

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Another 4-Her was grooming Bullseye, who was docilely chained to a spot for the purpose. The grooming consisted of being cleaned with a leaf blower. It’s a full time job to keep these animals looking shiny, spiffy and immaculate in a barn filled with hay and some amount of poop. I did not find the smell unpleasant, but I must say it was with me til the end of the day, long after I’d returned home.

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.

Sylvester

This is a story of cat love. Our country abode has attracted many cats, birds, and rodents and more over the years. The water fountain and bird bath are a favorite neighborhood stop. Our beloved cat of 15 years, named Phil by my boys when they were little, showed up as a hungry abandoned teenager and hung around crying all day until we embraced him as ours. Many years later we noticed this gorgeous black angora cat following Phil around all day, and we realized he was here to stay. Sylvester is his name for obvious reasons (white bib and markings). And now years later Phil and Syl have become an old gay couple with side by side food bowls outside under the sycamore tree.

sylvesteracrylic and fabric collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Since we have paintings of all our pets over the years, going back even to the gecko drawings that Ben did when he was in preschool, the bunny, and definitely Phil; I decided it was time to include Sylvester in the pantheon. I did it in the style similar to the portrait I’d done of Phil a few years ago – fabric collage and acrylic paint with a helping of whimsy. It was clear that a portrait of Sylvester must include his beloved Phil.

philcollagePortrait of Phil

Today Phil is standing by in the drizzle of rain watching as Andrew, my son who is still visiting, is using all his wiles to try to capture our latest uninvited guest – a handsome and surprisingly smart and elusive young rooster, who is tearing up our garden and loudly proclaiming his virility with day-long cock-a-doodle-dooing and leaving his poo patties on the walkway. So far the errant rooster has won and I’m readying my sketchbook to at least derive some artistic satisfaction from this epic battle of the wits.

 

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.

The Sweetest Cat in the World

philcollage

acrylic paint and fabric collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

About 13 years ago this little yellow cat appeared in the bushes in front of our house and meowed incessantly for days until we finally let him join our other cat as a (reluctant to us) family member.  He had that piercing Siamese kind of meow, which makes you want to do anything to shut it up.  Food always worked, and later it was petting that worked.  And after a few years, he had us trained well enough that he only had to ask once, and we knew what to give him. My boys named him Phil after some poker champion (go figure) and I had no say in the matter.

Fast forward a few years.  I’m not sure when it happened that Phil learned a technique for getting any passer-by to pet him.  He flops down in front of you while you’re walking, so that you have to do a quick little dance step to avoid stepping on him.  His soft exposed belly and audible purr is enough to get the message across, and most people find it impossible not to scratch an ear or rub that belly.  That’s my favorite part.  He’s my buddy whenever I’m outside gardening, or sitting eating my lunch or doing my Chi Gong under the trees or sketching.

The hallway of our home exhibits some of my paintings of previous pets – Alexander the cat and the bunny whose name I’ve forgotten.  I wanted Phil there too. So when I introduced a new mixed media lesson in the Muse group on fabric collage, I decided to try doing Phil’s portrait.

This pose is a typical daytime one.  He loves to sun himself in the dirt in the garden and look up at us langorously as we pass.  I took a picture and did a line drawing of the pose on the paper.  On a trip to the fabric store I picked up swatches of fabrics I thought would be fun to use.  The rest is probably obvious.  I cut strips of the cloth, piecing them to fit the drawing and then added paint to complete the picture.  I imitated the style of one of my favorite mixed media artists Mark English.

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golden brown ink, dip pen, watercolor in watercolor sketchbook, 8 X 5″

Another one of Phil’s typical poses.  He likes to sit under that table between our chairs outside watching me while I eat, and then falling asleep. Look at that face.  Like I said, the sweetest cat in the world.

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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