Matilija poppy

Hungry Caterpillars and more

My recipe for sanity during these simultaneously turbulent and boring times relies heavily on variety. You may have noticed that I go from detailed portraits to mixed media madness and writing to nature journaling to everyday sketching, and then I throw it all into the pot of the blog and hope for the best.

Today I assemble here pieces of the last few days that are all local to my shelter-in-place sphere.

Jameshouse

Like the view up a steep hill across the road from my house, where my neighbors the James live. Out here in the country you have to wait a bit to catch any humans to sketch, and then there’s trees in the way.

martinray2

Mostly I just see my friends on Zoom these days to chat and sometimes to sketch. But I realized this week that out here on the countryside two people at least can get together to walk and sketch, keeping just enough distance to follow the Covid protocol, but still share the same scene. It felt almost like a forbidden pleasure to spend a couple hours with Bettina in this way!

hungrycaterpillar

My friends know that I’m a bit overboard about my pipevine plants, the caterpillars and butterflies that do their metamorphosis thing in my studio garden every year. Well, here’s what they’re up to right now. The butterflies are laying piles of eggs on the leaves. And there’s the fruit, this one 4 inches long and clearly a favorite meal for the hungry caterpillars.

pipevine_matilija

Last year at this time I sketched them, along with the poppies that are now beginning to bloom again.

hungrycaterpillarhidden

Here’s a Where’s Waldo picture for you! How many caterpillars do you see? Look down into the leaves.

Back Yard Nature Journaling

It’s raining hard now of course, but earlier this week I treated myself to an hour in my studio garden without feeling compelled to pull any weeds! But I’m not one for idleness, so I found the largest Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar munching away on a vine, and brought him and the vine to the garden bench where I had my sketch stuff.

He/she hardly paused in the munch munching while I held the vine in one hand and sketched/painted with the other, observing up close the wonder of that marvelous insect body with all it’s colored spikes and feelers and legs it employed in the balancing act of moving the fat body sections along the stem. I have a hard enough time coordinating the movement of my four limbs. It’s hard to imagine all those parts moving in concert!

pipevine_matilija

The leaf was almost gone by the time I finished the painting and moved to the Matilija Poppies which were fluttering their ballerina tutus in the wind. And then I added the “adult”, parent? of the caterpillar. They were fluttering around the garden too quickly so I’ll admit I pulled out my phone and got a picture to source the image of that beautiful midnight blue and black butterfly.

There was no idleness anywhere around on this spring afternoon. The air was filled with bird song, that monotonous cooing of the doves and loud buzzing of scores, hundreds? of bumblebees.

Well actually there was the idleness of Phil the cat, who dozed while I sketched and later woke up to get his picture taken and claim some credit for the art.

philhelps

Rest, Retirement, Gardens

Sometimes I have to remind myself that we have gardens for more than weeding. In other words, it’s OK to simply sit outside and enjoy.

rest

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

Time for rest, on a cushion in the garden, draped with ferns and fragrant blooms, a pair of cooing doves and a lap full of purring cat. The weeds can wait another day. The plans for tomorrow, the latest world news, the emails, all of it can wait.

For now there’s those cushions. If you don’t try them out a bit each day, the cats soon will and your throne of rest will be usurped. Then how will all those lovely garden idles find their way into the art? So take a rest – it needn’t be for long.

This piece was actually a demo I did for a private art party/workshop held in my studio a couple weekends ago, something I offer from time to time with great delight! We had lunch under the trees on the patio and I didn’t pull a single weed!

retirement

Actually I was contemplating my husband who just retired June 2 and is learning to occupy a lounge chair outside while reading. At least he tried it for a couple days before getting all busy with his art again.

matilija

My own strategy for sitting still in the garden is to do a quick sketch. For me that counts as rest, even though I find it quite energizing.  But then I’m not retired, exactly. . .