Friday, January 29, 2016

Birding delights in our own front yard.

With excitement I share with you a gift granted to me, the winter birds that blessed us with their presence this past week. The temperature warmed greatly above zero and as the snow melted flocks of birds we had never noticed in our area arrived to gleam seeds from the cones of the fruitful spruce trees that sport a bumper crop of cones way up top.

There are seven White-winged Crossbills in this photo, but if you can spot five you are doing well as they blend in so fine. The interesting thing I've noticed is this is a mixed flock, there are also Red Crossbills, see below photo. 
The red birds are the males, the yellow greenish birds are females.

Male White-winged Crossbills.
 In The Birds of Alberta book it says they rarely flock together, so I guess we were really given a gift. These birds stayed mostly in the tree tops. Two days later they were back, this time many were feeding on seeds dropped to the ground. 
Crossbills top mandible (jaw, beak) crosses over the lower one. The beak is specifically designed to pry into coniferous cones to gain access to the seeds within. What a wonderful experience to watch this female White-winged Crossbill pry out seeds by jabbing her thin curved beak up under the lip of the cone and wiggle her head back and forth pulling out seeds.

Unique specialty designs of nature these birds are, you can clearly see the beak crosses over itself. Got this shot as the bird hopped under the window I was shooting out of.
Female White-winged Crossbill.

While the females were prying seeds from fallen cones the males were a lazily picking seeds from the ground.
I believe this may be an immature male as his coloration is more orange than red.

Mature White-winged Crossbills were elusive as they took flight at the slightest noise so I was lucky to get this clear shot of one on the sidewalk.

Male Red Crossbill, notice no wing bars and softer coloration.

Female Red Crossbill posing on the gutter just above where I was standing. A female flew down and landed two feet away from my head, I held my breath in awe, a gift to behold close up. She peered into my eyes, cocked her head, then took to the air. sigh.

Where the melting snow puddled in the gutter the Crossbills took turns bathing.

May you enjoy the gift of these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Back in the studio testing linen paper

Quite a few years back a commercial printing shop went out of business and I acquired reams of mixed paper for drawing on, printmaking and all round play. So I decided its about time I play with this paper to see how it accepts varied media. The following is Winsor Newton watercolor on 25x23 inch Linen paper. The paper is beautiful, slightly textured which would be great for pencil portraits, but as there is about a one inch pile of it playtime has started. The paper took the water pigment much better than expected. In fact the pigment soaked too well into the paper so I ended up mixing thick pigment fairly dry to get that "pow" strength. 

Play on wednesday led to

Thursday play time. Same theme of bunchberry plants that carpet the forest floor in alberta and BC. A tiny plant pushed to a gigantic size. It was fun, but would I use this paper for watercolor paintings; not likely as it eats up paint. My next test will be to draw on it and test print on the press when plates get designed. So much going on in my head, now just need my body to cooperate so thoughts can turn into reality. 

Today I realized that I don't paint when depressed, I do other crafts and jot ideas in my sketchbooks, but I don't paint, hmmm. And truth be told I've not painted since we arrived back in Edmonton late Sept. I don't find the city conductive to well being. I find it lonely and well, depressing. 

The daylight is longer now so the studio gets more light which helps get me physically motivated to create again. 

I love that the paper is large as I stood at the easel I held the end of the brush loaded with pigment and played with outstretched arm moved in a loose manner. Side by side you can see how the size of the image was pushed bit more today than yesterday.

I wanted to do more today but my knee let off a loud crack and as my body was heading earthward I was able to catch myself on the kitchen counter. The pain is settling in the joint of my knee as well as my low back from the jar of it all. Disabilities suck. Slows me down but I am not one to give up, I have a fire within to create so onward I plug.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How to beat the winter blahs

Looking at all the beautiful native flower photos I have taken and remembering the warmth of the sun helps chase away the dreary feeling I get from being trapped inside while the snow falls outside.

Wishing everyone a blessed New Year filled with health and joy.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

New project in the making

Hubby and I spent about nine weeks living in a small travel trailer this past summer into fall. I loved it, we experienced new to us places, spent a lovely time with family and I started an tiny arts project fitting for living in a tiny space. Of course this project also carries an environmental theme as my previous Nest project does. It also has the mandate of using recycled items as in yarn scraps and beads bought at thrift stores and garage sales rather than new.

Anyhow, lets go back to the beginning. I knew when we left on our travels that as I need to keep my hands busy to still an over active mind that it would be a good idea to bring along crochet hooks and some yarn I purchased for making hats. Well into the third or fourth day bored with hat making I began playing with small crochet and ended up with a sweet tiny vessel. I was intrigued to stitch up another, so by the time we reached Vancouver Island I had two tiny crocheted vessels. Then to add interest of nature I thought to fill the inside of these vessels with found items that consider tiny environments. Well my wonderful sisters were onboard with my ideas and donated small butterfly brooches and bug fabrics to add to the vessels. Then of course to fit the mandate of found materials we needed to peruse thrift stores for crochet threads, and yarns as well as some small found vessels as all are not going to be crocheted, yet all will have handiwork in or on them.

The idea incorporates traditional handiwork with nature. The past ideology of grooming young women into marriageable prospects whom learned needle work and placed it into a chest for future use, though before my time I might add. The thought that these chests hold hope for the prospects of the future, for they were called Hope Chests.

Hope for the future of Nature is my theme. Using needlework and found objects to recreate nature  placed within tiny vessels. In a sense Nature is being segregating from self, confined within a tiny vessel.
 So far I have been working on crocheting many varied vessels.
 Some will be decorated outside 
 and some will extend the limits of the vessel as growth erupting from within.
Combinations of random freeform crochet hopefully elicit a feeling of growth on some vessels.
This is but a beginning so these vessels may look far different when completed.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bear Bear Bear

This post was written awhile back but for some reason it never posted.

I'm  being inspired by bears we watched last spring in Waterton Lakes National Park. It was a wonderful chilly drizzly windy with periods of sunshine kinda week spent admiring the remote beauty as mountains drifted in and out of sight amongst rain clouds. I love Southern Alberta landscapes where the rolling hills blend up to the mountains. The exception being constant gusting wind everyday, the constant howl does tend to drive one a wee bit crazy after a while.

Though Grizzly were spotted at higher elevations we pretty much stayed to the lower levels aside from one bitter cold windy rainy afternoon at Cameron Lake. We partially hiked the lakeside trail looking for glacier lilies and thankfully found two of the yellow beauties not too far along the trail as we really were not prepared for the extreme wind chill so headed back to the boat rental place to warm up.

With the experience ingrained in my spirit and diverse reference photos to work from I composed a few more bear paintings after finishing "Watching the Hikers" Acrylic, on wrapped canvas, 16x24 inches

"Masked Cinnamon Bear in Wildflower Meadow" 
Acrylic on wrapped canvas, 16x16 inches

I love the face of cinnamon bear as it was dark like a mask. I may at some point do a closer up view of its face but for these paintings the bears are in natural habitat and I want to maintain the impression of being viewed in the wilds, not close up photo-realistic as I tend to do. When out viewing we see form and shape and how light hits that form with contrasted dark shadow. Sometimes the animal is close enough and the light is just right to see their eyes but mostly not. Its more an experience. Excitement increases the adrenaline while almost silent exclamations escape the lips as we breathe out, all the while breathing in the moment, the beauty, the Wow of creation that we are but a tiny part of.

"Rocky Mountain Black Bear"
Acrylic on wrapped canvas, 10 x14 inches
This bear had the most black glossy coat, so shinny and rich looking that I struggled to achieve the look I wanted to portray. Did I get it?

There is one more on the drawing board of a bear I called Saddle Blanket. We watched Saddle Blanket and his/her mom traverse across an open meadow grubbing for roots and bulbs one eve at dusk. The light was fast receding behind the mountain but we were able to watch them for about ten minutes through our camera lens before them ambled over the hilltop out of view. Yes I view distant wildlife through a 300 prime lens; sure wish I could afford a pair of quality binoculars but with limited funds I make do with what I have.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sayward sunlight

Been off and about for a few months gathering reference material for creative endeavours. Picked up a few cast off tools to try out random marking on metal to get my hand back into print-making seeing as I have some old plates to re-work, alter or complete. It will be a new learning curve working with soy-based inks rather than oil based. Going as non-toxic as possible. Hope to get started next month and will try remember to document the process for future reference.

A few photos gathered while living in a 16 ft trailer for 2. 5 months.

Last Light of the setting sun above.
Below photo is Sayward Morning light enjoyed by a Robin and photographer.
 I quite enjoyed the play of sunlight on the robin while the sun had not yet hit the fence. Below photo is also about how the light was striking the sails.

 Kitty Coleman light.

 Wee bird that I still have to look up its name, but too much to do presently.

 Beauty in closely observed bark.
do you see the Tree Creeper?

Bowser  Bay Bear

Aside from doing photography a new venture akin to the 3.5 year "Nest Project" has been started, though this one involves crocheting small vessels. Thats all I can say about it for now as I've only completed one though have more are in progress.  Have a great day wherever you are.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Posting to the Edmonton Nature blog

I have written a few articles for the Edmonton Nature Blog. the most recent on the Beauty and Benefits of a Snag and instead of re-posting here you may click the link to read the article

Nuthatches nested and raised young in a backyard snag.