Friday, January 29, 2010

Phoebe on web-cam


Phoebe is on webcam out of Orange County California. Presently she is raising one little chick. To be able to unobtrusively view this little miracle of flight as she tends to her babe is wonderful. Especially when outside my window the cold Canadian Prairie snow is knee deep and the wind chills to the bone.  My colors are not to accurate as I was using a small set of watercolor pencils to define her in my sketch book. But no matter, I'm having fun.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Name this bird

Yesterday and todays bird sketch. I have no clue as to the name of this bird. I took the reference photos in late summer. There were a lot of yellow warblers around at that time. This one has a bit of an orange topknot and very greenish tinged which contrasted greatly with the yellow head. Maybe it is a young yellow warbler as it does have the rusty side strips.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Waxwing progress

Here is the progress on the waxwing painting. I have added a few more layers over-all now and feeling out the direction it will take. I drew a fair amount of grass detail in yesterday and then today washed a few layers of color over top to push it all back into the background. A continual process of adding detail then obliterating it to build depth and character into a shallow space.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Morning Coffee ritual

A few pine siskins trilled the dawn up, no sun though, its decided to take a day of rest behind the snow covers.

I enjoy sitting listening to the birds chorus the day into being while I sip my coffee giving thanks for all that graces my life.
I thank those who read my blog and leave notes for me, its such a good feel to share and be shared with, may all have an enjoyable week this week.

Hungry furry one chases away the birds, though they don't go far. He sure loves the seeds they drop; between him and a little mouse the fallen seeds are readily eaten. I've not seen the mouse but his tracks in the snow lead me to believe he lives underneath the planter. Last week his entrance was blocked with snow but by yesterday he had dug a tunnel that comes up much closer to the feeder. I was hoping to get a shot of the tracks leading to the hole but too much snow filled them up this morning before I had enough light to work with, maybe tomorrow.

Squabbling finches flap and flutter continually chasing each other away from the feeder as snow mists about them. Usually its the females that scrap the most though I have noticed the males are starting to get feistier now, could it be hormones starting to kick in? I must say the males red flash of tail and head are a cheerful note on drab cold snowy days. Theses shots are not very clear as I was shooting through a dirty window, ugh.

Female finch, notice the slight tint of rusty coloring on her back, it will brighten up and become redder more towards spring.

The males seem to be tinted red all year hear but do get brighter this time of year well into spring. There was a brilliant red one at the feeder this morning, but at 8 am there was not enough light to capture him.

Last year there was one male with orange rather than red coloring, I nicknamed him "Dale" after a childhood friend who had beautiful orange hair.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The King and his fine crown

The King's Crown

This wee fella finally received his crown as the finishing touch to this painting. He's a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. A gorgeous little bird that is only about 4 inches. I have to admit that credit is due to Gerald who graciously took the Kinglets photo with my camera. Last fall we were out and about I was in way too much pain to even hold the camera up, let alone focus in. So I told Gerald to shoot and shoot he did. He captured one wonderful shot that shows the tiny wee red crown just peeking through. As soon as I saw the image I knew I would paint it. It was fall, the birds were migrating south and the foliage was tinged orange so to keep that autumnal feel I boldly washed the background. Initially I was going to paint in foliage but have now decided I like the simplicity of the bold colorfield. It is after all a portrait of a king; need I say more.

A new one started with a bright bold yellow as a ground. Yesterday I was back playing in the paint and started the suggestions of shrubbery. I not to sure yet which direction it will take, either detailed or abstracted. This is basically how my acrylic paintings start, rough and loose. I continue to refine and detail as each layer progresses. There are many layers to my paintings whether I paint with acrylic or watercolor so it is a lengthy process. I also roughed in a Raven on canvas last night as well; looks like I am back into the swing of wielding the paint brush.

Doing the little sketches yesterday while I relaxed with my coffee was quite enjoyable so today I decided  to start the day with bird studies. Once again using watercolor pencils, I only have a small set, not enough to note accurate color, but enough to give a cheerfulness to my roughs. I like the process of washing the water over the pencil strokes after the drawing is done. It reminds me of those magic paint books you can get that are pre-colored so that when a wash of water is painted over the page the color springs to life. Fun, relaxing, dare I say almost meditative.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

sketch book

Decided to post a few of my sketchbook pages. I tend to fill the pages with roughs for the most part, yet every once in a while a more finished sketch is presented.

These are what I refer to as "roughs" which are ideas and images that stimulate imagery for paintings. Some roughs work up as paintings, some don't. Yet they do seep into my sub-conscience as I can look back at roughs from years back and realize that certain themes and ideas repeat till they formulate into a conceivable work. I definitely never have the problem of lack of visual imagery. There is so much that I still would like to play with, the biggest problem is deciding which to work on first.

This is a rough up for a potential watercolor painting. When working with watercolor I find it necessary to initially work out the design before committing to the 300 lb paper. Whereas when I paint with acrylic I usually have a general idea, yet plunge right in with paint to sketch in the birds right on the canvas. Acrylic is much more forgiving to making alterations than watercolor is. In other words when it comes to acrylics I can push paint around, play with the imagery, overpaint and alter.

I was perusing a book on poetry while relaxing in my recliner today with my cup of morning coffee when I came upon a wonderful reproduction of a Odilon Redon painting. The colors were juicy enticing so I scribbled this little sketch with watercolor pencils. I always put a note as to the artists name if I copy or even if I do my own version of another artists work. For me this is practice in seeing how other artists see and depict an image; so of course I am not a slave to the reproduction and I don't worry about the sketch being accurate in color. Its all about learning not copying per se.

This was a bouquet that I sketched last year? I never date my sketches nor do I fill the pages in order. Sketches end up drawn randomly anywhere the page opens. Sometimes a sketch book gets half filled, put aside, then years later picked up and drawn in once again.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Walking the Ravine

I have been slowly working on a 18 x 36 inch acrylic painting. It seems my new years is off to a mellow start. I tend to push myself like crazy, collapse after the frenzy, rest, lots of rest, then slowly start off again. The frenzies come when I have a showing booked, then I am usually painting right up to the deadline. But to be honest I have been designing a quilt. I have a grandchild coming into the world this year and am so excited that I've gotten busy with fabrics.
Though not much paint has gotten splashed around lately I tend to spend many hours researching and gathering reference material. I continually view the world through my camera lens searching for reference material. Yesterday Gerald and I went walking the snow filled ravine. At the top of the hill where people have put out seeds I captured these pretty birds. They make such a wonderful sound; to me its like tiny tinkling bells in the trees.

Female redpoll above, male below. Notice that the male has a reddish collar bib whereas the female doesn't. I have been trying all this month to get good shots of these birds out in the countryside, well yesterday was my day for them. It would have been nice to have gotten the male in the trees rather than on a fence, yet seeing as I only use my photos as reference for my paintings it really doesn't matter as I can paint them into any setting I so choose. Ah Creation is such an adventure.

As the river was frozen over and a path had been cleared along it we ventured out on the waterway for a different perspective. At the beaver dam air hole where the water is kept liquid I saw spots of blood on the snow amid many paw prints. I wonder if a coyote caught one of the beavers off guard. The chickadees and redpolls were quite active chuckling above in the tree tops as they continuously flitted from tree to tree searching out delicacies that hide in the tree bark and lichens. The day was gray and about -4 which was pretty nice overall but was biting cold when the wind blew down through the ravine. It was a good day for viewing birds. Aside from the many chickadees and redpolls we saw pine siskins, two sets of downy woodpeckers whom I could no way get a decent shot of as they were happily chasing each other from tree to tree with hardly a pause. Two crows flew over head cawing and one bluejay squawked by a few times; how such a beautiful bird got such a raspy voice is a wonder.

These are shots of the river bank, I love the striations of the various mixes of clays soil and rock that lies under our feet. There were a few small coal seams but that shot was too blurry, I think at that point I was getting too tired and it was time to head back for a cup of coca to warm up.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The serpent and the wren

I was riffling through my album and came across this photo that I took last summer while we were taking a break from driving and had stopped in Fort MacLoed. We parked across the street from the museum and decided to walk the path behind the Fort to stretch our legs. To my delight there was a small ravine that borders the pathway, so of course what was to be a quick pit stop ended up being more like an hour as I had spotted yellow warblers and marsh wrens feeding their young. When I got home and downloaded my images I was surprised to discover a garter snake to the right of the wren. Well I have since read that wrens will aggressively defend their territory against snakes looking for an easy meal of their young, so I am sure the wren fared well, the snake, maybe not so well, he was probably chased away hungry. (click on the photo to enlarge image for a closer view)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The unexpected

Here we are well into January and I find myself deep into learning camera and computer programs. Its a slow process for me as I never cared to learn technical stuff when I was younger so now I am finding frustration and fascination to be the mainstay of the day as I attempt to decipher the language in order to interpret the instruction manuals; sheesh, its a lot of brain wrapping thats for sure.

Gerald took me out looking for snowy owls again this past weekend, and once again no luck in finding them but we did spot this bird out in the field behind a snowdrift. Is is a grouse or maybe a pheasant; not sure, so off I go to investigate.

So... here I am knee deep in powder snow, sneaking around the snow blind, I am in a fantastic position for the ultimate best ever fantastic photograph. Bird does not sense me; good. So I switch to manuel focus, after all I want a great shot, when just as I get the camera up to my eye and am focusing in... when wouldn't you know it, a dog and its servant come romping across the field from the opposite way. Damn. Well at least I got an identifiable shot of the birds. They are Gray Partridge which is an introduced species from Europe. I don't know who introduced them, but they sure are pretty. There were a covey of about eight birds. This is my first sighting of Partridge, kinda fitting for this time of year, except we are missing the pear tree. To cold for pears here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

the four seasons

It is now a balmy -21, its getting warmer as it was -24 an hour ago. Here we are in the middle of a cold streak and my thoughts turn to thankful knowing that spring will burst through the snow to bring an abundance of new life. That is what the cold blue snowy painting "Winters Promise" is about. The photo which I took myself of the crocus flower is laminated into the painting with layers of acrylic gel.

Winters Promise

"Three Graces and the Rite of Spring" which inadvertently started this four season series was painted one year before "Winters Promise". My EDS had flared so bad that year mostly all I could do was read.  I read many books on mythology, art history and western religions. As soon as I could hold a brush again I painted a longed for blossom laden tree and from the books I swiped a few images. The images were scanned and printed onto thin rice paper, coated with acrylic gel then adhered to the canvas. The original three graces were all pasty pale skinned creatures and I wanted warmth so I altered their coloring with acrylic washes and changed the hairstyle on one. Using collage was a new venture for me so I set off to paint another tree with collage, except at this point I decided that I would only use my own photo images rather than borrowed images. So came "The Serpent and the Egg" another mythology based painting. When I realized I had painted three seasons I rounded out the theme to include fun loving Ganesha dancing, full of child-like joy which is echoed in the lively yellow child hand prints in "Spirit of Ganesha"

Three Graces and the Rite of Spring

 Spring is wonderful when the cherry and apple trees burst forth their long awaited color. Daughters of Zeus and Eurnome of Greek myth, Euphronsyne-Joy, Aglaia-Brilliance and Thalin-Bloom are the three graces. How fitting are their names to represent spring, the divine feminine that brings warmth, balance and healthy new life after a long winter. In the far right corner an ancient goddess gives birth.

Spirit of Ganesha

Ganesha is considered the remover of obstacles and the embodiment of wisdom, his vehicle, the mouse can appropriately gnaw through all obstacles. One of Ganesha hands is presented in the "have no fear" mudra which I have noticed is used throughout history by artists representing deities of the past including Jesus. Ganesha also carries an axe to cut through the bonds of attachment, a rope to pull one closer to their goals and a conch shell as symbol representing the origin of the universe due its spiraling structure that comes from a single point.  I came across a beautiful picnic table that had been lovingly painted with children's handprints and though the paint had peeled off much of the table there were still a few wonderful spots to behold, which of course I photographed.

The Serpent and the Egg

As trees prepare for a winters rest the sap slows and leaves color for their airborne flight on autumn winds.  The nests are empty and birds that survived the forces of nature and predatation migrate to warmer climates and snakes migrate underground to hibernate amidst their own kind. The serpent is most maligned as a symbol of evil in temptation in Christian belief, yet is also regarded as having wisdom. "Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves"Matthew 10:16.A serpent wound around a staff is a very old symbol of medicine and the healing arts and both the serpent and the peacock are symbols of resurrection and new life. The serpent because he sheds his old skin and the peacock because he can eat a poisonous snake and not die.

I hope you enjoyed reading my notations on these paintings.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In The Pink

This acrylic on canvas painting, "In The Pink; Willet In Flight" was completed last month. I had difficulty photographing this one as well as "And The Thunder Was Heard". It seems mu SLR camera has trouble capturing the subtleties in shades of reds and hot pinks to my liking. It took many days of re-shooting to get images that I was happy with. Also I found that sunny days rather than overcast ones generate truer reds. I am not a techie but I figure it must have to do with how light travels through the atmosphere. Anyhow its a good thing to know when shooting the warm spectrum of color. But with it being winter here, its difficult to get the sun when I need it for photography as I only have a time window of one half to up to one hour (if I am lucky) when the light is just right, If I don't get it then I have to wait for the next sunny day. In the summer time I take my paintings outdoors to photograph in the shade out of direct light and that works wonderfully, but here the winter, like today it's -21, I'm staying indoors thank you. I don't bother anymore with setting up lights to photograph my work as I have found through my experience that lights alter the colors that bounce back, and as I paint in natural light I feel its best to photograph in natural light.

In the Pink; Willet In Flight

I have hung this one in my studio to brighten up my winter. It is for sale and will most likely be placed in my next exhibition. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Wildbird General Store

This photo taken Dec 09 at the The Wildbird General Store in Edmonton. the exhibition is up till the end of January 2010.

Ahh, the crazy bird lady amid her birds. A woman of many talents, one of which is effectively bribing her chauffeur with picnic lunches so that he will escort her out into the country side to gather photo reference of birds which become the inspiration for future paintings.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

And The Thunder Was Heard

This is a most recently completed painting, titled "and The Thunder Was Heard". Now to start fresh for 2010, my brain is so filled with exciting possibilities.

Its hard to believe a year has gone by. In 2009 separate paintings were shown in Emmaus group shows in March, June, as well a Stampede show for July and Aug at The House Coffee Sanctuary in Calgary. This is a wonderful outreach coffee shop in the heart of Kensington manned by Pastor Derrik. Its nice to find a relaxed atmosphere in which to sit and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with a different display of art showcased each month. I also had paintings in the Emmaus traveling show which showcased at Central United, First Alliance and the Lutheran Church in Calgary.

A Solo exhibition of my work was held May and June at Donalda Gallery for the Arts. Donalda has a most wonderful public gallery in an old heritage bank building. The young fellow who manned the shows was a gem, he was warm and charming, an asset to hiring summer students. The coulees around Donalda are a wonderful place to picnic. We usually go to the Ferry Point River Crossing to dine on sandwiches and wonderful  homemade cookies. Doesn't food always taste so much better eaten in the sunshine to bird song. In early fall the swans and ducks can be heard on the river and other migrating birds such as hawks and shrikes are seen.

In July sixteen paintings showcased at Westlands Art Gallery in Cochrane on Canada Day. It was a wonderful way to celebrate as many wonderful friends drove out from Calgary to support "Natures Whisper" in which thirteen pieces were painted specially for that exhibition. In August I had a painting in the Heritage themed group show at the Chuck MacLeans Art Center in Camrose. My painting was a winter scene of the pretty little church on Mirror Lake with an american avocet flying in front heading to its nesting grounds. This spring there were many avocets in their spring attire feeding at the nearby marshes.

I had the honor to once again be invited to show at The Kings University College in Edmonton from Sept 9 to Nov 25, 2009 where 37 bird related paintings were on display. From there on Nov 29 Gerald hung 16 painting were at The Wildbird General Store in Edmonton which will be up till the end of Jan 2010. The Wildbird General Store is a great little place, if you have not been please do stop in.

Last fall, Honeymoon Retreat in BC accepted three of my horse paintings that Sharon delivered, so all in all when I look back it has been a busy year of painting and showing my work. Over eleven shows this year, wow, for me that is a major accomplishment, though I have to give Sharon Sargent thanks and much of the credit for displaying my pieces in Calgary, for without her help at that end I would not have been able to show in half as many places.

Wishing everyone a creative and prosperous 2010, and many hugs.