Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Isn't It Supposed To Be Snow For Christmas?

While we rarely have snow for Christmas, we also rarely have this much rain either and usually not 70 degree temperatures!  Our yard is almost one huge puddle and we live on top of a good-sized hill!  Here is what's going on in our neighborhood!

This is a quick photo of the front yard and you can see how much the land drops toward the road in front of us.

This is the vegetable garden in the back yard - it's a good thing nothing is planted right now, especially at the lower end!

And this is the area where we've been trying to get a pond put in for the past 3+ years!  We finally got a new contractor to do the job but it's just been too wet for him to get his machinery down there.  Right now, it looks as if the pond is already there!

Hope you all are enjoying these last days before Christmas and I truly hope all the peace, joy and mostly love that Christmas signifies is yours throughout the coming year!

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Taboret Finished!

Whew!  Just finished the last of the painting on the taboret and think it looks pretty good.  The only thing I'd change (& I plan to order them after Christmas) is that I'd use the locking hinged shelf supports (like THIS) instead of the gate-legs we have.  We decided to go with the gate-legs because we thought they looked better than the more industrial looking metal shelf support.

The gate-leg had to be cut shorter than we'd planned in order to avoid the hinges on the top lift-up extensions.  They still work but I'd be a little leery of placing anything too heavy toward the outer edges of the extensions.

As soon as the paint dries, I'll be able to use the taboret and we can replace the gate-legs at our leisure.

I wanted to clarify one design point too.  The reason the top extends out past the body of the taboret is so that I'll have room for feet while working.  If the top wasn't out just a bit, my feet would be kicking the bottom of the taboret since there isn't any toe room.  It was something of a challenge to make sure there was enough foot room yet the cabinet would be stable and not tip forward.  Also, I want to be sure I could easily reach inside the cubby hole.  I think we ended up with about a three inch overhang. 

My husband is wonderful and rarely complains but he really likes order, especially in the kitchen.  I know he'll be so glad to get this moved into the studio and out of the way.  And even though I'm a bit more relaxed about art related messes, I totally agree with him on this!  We're both glad it's finished!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Artist Taboret

I've been busy lately with a project that has been something of a mental challenge.  I wanted an artist's taboret but was unwilling to pay the hundreds of dollars that they cost for even a simple one.  (You can say it, I don't care - I'm cheap!)

Actually, I don't mind paying for quality but much of what I've seen of taborets in my price range were pressed board and not so well made.  So when I was browsing in our local Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store, a small, wooden file cabinet on casters caught my attention and I immediately saw a taboret in the making.

The file cabinet was solid wood but not wood finished - it had a black lacquer finish and was in like new condition.  So, for $20, I snatched it up before someone else got to it!  This is very similar to how it looked before I went to work on it only the one I got was much nicer:

The first problem I encountered was how to make it taller as I really wanted something that would hold both my table easel and painting paraphernalia.  I stand to paint so wanted to make it a custom height just for me.  My husband cut 2 sides & a back to bring the height to what I wanted but I wasn't sure how to attach them to the cabinet!  I ended up using strips of wood screwed to the top then gluing and screwing the new boards to that.  It is very stable and seems to be working well.

Next, we cut a top which will be attached to the extensions and added boards to both sides which are hinged to the top.  I have some supports which will hold up those side pieces when I need them but allow them to lie against the side of the cabinet when not in use to save some space.

Here's what it looks like right now.  I still have to give everything a final coat of paint and attach the supports for the side pieces but otherwise, it's very nearly finished.

The bottom (original cabinet) has 3 drawers which I'll use for various art supplies.  I haven't decided what I'll do with the opening created by extending the height but I'm thinking it would be a really good place to store my palettes.  I have one for watercolors, one for acrylic and one for oils along with misc. ones from the dollar store. They're mostly in covered containers so I wouldn't need a drawer to keep them in.

I hope I can finish this in the next few days but it's raining again so have to do any painting in the house.

So that's what I've been doing but it's about time for this project to be completed.  Hope it all ends up as I envision and is as useful and space saving as I hope!

I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Alpacas - Who Knew?

My father, who is in his mid 90's, suffers from being cold like a lot of older people.  He has particular trouble keeping his feet warm so I went searching for something that would help. 

I found that Alpaca wool is warmer than any other plus it isn't itchy and has the ability to wick moisture away from the body so I went searching for clothing made from Alpaca wool. 

Talk about serendipity!  I happened upon an posting about an Alpaca breeding farm not far from where we live who was selling Alpaca wool and some garments and socks this weekend only.  Well, my husband and I just got back from the farm and I got the only pair of thick socks in my father's size plus I got quite a few photos of the Alpacas themselves!

I haven't finished processing most of the photos but here's a quick sample.  Aren't they the most interesting creatures?  I'm not sure if I have anything good enough for a painting reference but I hope so as I'd like to attempt the mophead-like hair as shown in this last photo. 

That would take more bravery to attempt than I have at the moment though so it might be quite a while before you see an Alpaca painting from me.

Oh, the socks are very soft and cushy feeling so I hope they work for my dad.  I know one thing, Alpaca wool must be very excellent indeed as those socks were very expensive!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Another Maltese Painting

I've been on a Maltese dog painting jag for quite a while now and while I have other paintings either in progress or waiting to be done, I don't see any signs of me wanting to paint anything else for the foreseeable future.

This painting is a watermedia painting which in this case simply means that I used both watercolor and gouache to paint it.  I guess it could rightly be called a watercolor painting but most people associate the term "watercolor" with transparent watercolor while gouache is still watercolor but is completely opaque.

Anyway, I belong to an online dog group and used parts of the various Maltese photos posted there to come up with this dog.  It is mainly from the photos I took at the meet-up with another member who lives in Raleigh though.  It's also a bit fantasized (is that a word?) or cartoonized (I'm pretty sure that one definitely isn't a real word!) as I wanted to use it for our Christmas cards and didn't want anything too realistic.

Enough with the explaining - here it is:

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving - Tomorrow!

I know most of you here in the United States have already celebrated Thanksgiving and we have too as every day is a day of thanksgiving for us.  But the day Abraham Lincoln set aside as a national day of thanksgiving was celebrated this past Thursday.

We rarely get to celebrate holidays on the day they actually occur.  We have two grown children with their own children and with in-laws, out-laws, the granddaughter's boyfriend and step parents not to mention that our son works for a bank and it's federal law that the banks can't be closed for more than 3 days in a row.  That really messes up a holiday for him unless it falls on a Friday or a Monday and messes them up for us since he lives far enough away that it's difficult for them to come especially with the other family obligations he has.

So, I've been cooking up a storm for the past couple of days and am just quitting even though I haven't made any dinner rolls yet.  If I don't feel like it tomorrow, my husband will go to the grocery store and get some from the freezer section (horrors!!)  I try to do everything homemade and really like to make bread - shucks, one year we even did homemade pizzas for Thanksgiving with homemade crust and all.  But the important thing is that we get to spend time with the family and our daughter & son are bringing some of the goodies for this feast so I'll have more time to relax with everyone.

But, I'm proud of the completely from scratch homemade pies I baked earlier today.  We have 40+ pecan trees and they finally decided to drop their nuts - several weeks past the usual time but at least in time for Thanksgiving pecan pie!   I'm so tempted to cut into one of the pies just to make sure it tastes ok.  I'm NOT a Martha Stewart type so usually the food I make tastes much better than it looks.  I just hope in this case that the opposite isn't true as these are the best looking pies I think I've ever made!

Even the crust didn't overbrown or chip off!  Of course, the decorative edge isn't so decorative but I know no one will care as long as it tastes good!

So, dear readers, tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving and I just want you to know that I'm always thankful for you!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Grief Therapy

It's not been any secret that I've had difficulty painting since we lost our precious Maltese, CiCi.  I've been trying to work through this painting block by attempting to paint various Maltese dogs but have had limited success.  Below are a couple of attempts:

The first painting is a watercolor which is not normally my go-to medium.  This painting has lots wrong with it as you can see but did enable me to sort of break out of the painting slump.

Maltese dogs require a lot of care and grooming but are the sweetest, most cuddly and loving dog you can imagine.  No, we don't plan to get another one nor do we plan to get another pet of any kind.  It's just way too sad to lose them.

Below is a pastel of a cute little puppy awaiting a new home.  Yes, it was tempting to make it ours but we just aren't emotionally ready.

I also got some photos of an online friend's Maltese and Morkie (Maltese and Yorkshire Terrier mix) when we had a meet-up and which I hope to paint in the near future. 

I know these paintings will never take the place of C but it does help ease some of the pain and makes me feel close to her once again.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Such a Wonderful Day

I don't have any photos to show you as photos weren't allowed but did want to tell you about a great day I had with my painting friend, Rosie.

She asked me to accompany her to Raleigh to an exhibit at the Museum of Art.  They were having a showing of the works of M. C. Escher along with some writings and sketches from Leonardo DaVinci.  Both were so far from my casual perceptions of both artists that I was amazed and impressed anew with both of them.

I came away with information that suggested both artists were definitely scientists first then expressed their scientific bent in artistic ways.

Anyway, I was very glad to have the opportunity to study the works of Escher so closely.  His brain must have been amazing!

The exhibits took us nearly three hours to get through and we were pretty worn out so didn't even get to view the museum's permanent collection.  We were also getting short on time so we went to a late lunch at a restaurant we had discovered last year at the Art of the Carolinas trade show.  When you live in a 'meat and potatoes restaurants only' area, the opportunity for exotic (to us) fare is pretty non-existent.  Rosie and I went to a Thai/Japanese restaurant where I had a vegetable curry that was wonderful.  It's not often I'm able to order even decent vegetarian meals around here let alone a good curry!

Rosie is just a super cheerful person and a pleasure to be around and the fact that we share a love of art is an added bonus.  Even though she's younger than both my children, I think there's a connection between us that transcends age.  It's always wonderful to get to spend time with her and spending it around art is even more fun.

Thanks, Rosie!

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Bit of Color in the Rain

Yep, it's raining here again.  It started yesterday and we've gotten almost 3 inches so far with it supposed to continue into Wednesday according to the weatherman/person.  It's already been an unusually rainy fall so this rain only contributes to the drab landscape around us.

One bright spot is our Confederate Rose bushes though.  I believe they're actually hibiscus and are supposed to be a little more tropical in nature than our climate allows but every few years we actually have flowers before the frost gets the buds.  This is one of those years.

The Confederate Rose flower is an oddity as it starts off as a deep pink bud, opens to a pure white flower, then gradually gets more and more of that deep pink color as the flower ages.

I've tried to take progressive photos of one of the blooms but our weather has been less than cooperative!

First, the bud -

This one was already beginning to open so isn't as deep in color as it can be.  After the bud opens it becomes a white flower - again, I didn't catch this one in the pure white stage and you can see a trace of pink along the edges of the petals.

I ran out during a bit of lull in the rain and photographed the bloom in the pink stage -

Right before the bloom falls off, it turns a deep, almost burgundy red.  Unfortunately with all the rain, I missed that stage also.

I just find these flowers fascinating and when they are in top form, they're very beautiful right up until the time they fall off the bush.  Not only that, but because they bloom so late in the season, they offer a cheery pop of color at a very dreary time.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

NCWAS Exhibition Visit

My husband and I visited the art exhibit at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum (see THIS post) today and it was a fun day in spite of sitting in the truck for 4 hours down there and 4 hours back home!  At least the weather was gorgeous and none of the flooding from the past week or so was much in evidence.

The exhibition was very nice and the art was all very well done and I wanted to show some photos I took while there and this is not all of the paintings.  I'm not a professional photographer and some just didn't come out well enough to post.  The ones below are purposely small but you can click on them to enlarge them some.

Two of the paintings I submitted are in the last photo above - the heron and the butterfly on the red flower.  I'd also taken another painting shown below, which I was told sold on the first day of the exhibition.

This is a painting that I particularly like because it's acrylic - yes, acrylic!  I felt this was the one acrylic painting that went well and where the struggle with the paint was worth it.  This photo is terrible as it's a copy of a copy but at least you'll know what painting sold.

Just wanted to bring everyone up to date and thought a blog post would do that! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Harvest Time

These grapes were actually harvested about a month ago but so much has happened in the intervening weeks that I'm just now posting a photo of them.

Aren't they colossal?  That's a clementine thrown into the bunch just so you can get some perspective of the size of those grapes!

They came from seeds of some grapes left on a property that stayed deserted for quite some time.  My husband planted the seeds here on our farm, cared for the vines and now, several years later, look at the harvest!  The grapes seem to be of the Concord variety and are very sweet and juicy.  But, that's my husband.  He has a green thumb that just won't quit and can almost put a dead stick into the ground and get a beautiful tree from it!

We had such a bountiful harvest of these beauties that my husband decided to try wine making again after many years.  In the past, he's made some pretty good wine and we're hoping this batch will be good also.

The hard part is having to wait for it!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dreary Days and Heavy Hearts

Some of you may have seen this portrait of our little Maltese that we got from an area rescue over 5 years ago.  She has been the only one of our pets that I've been able to paint and I'm sooo glad to have this portrait of her.  We lost her a week ago this past Sunday.

We don't really know what happened - we'd taken her to the vet the Monday before because she just wasn't herself.  Nothing we could put our fingers on but just not our CiCi.  They found the beginnings of an urinary tract infection and gave her an antibiotic shot.

She continued to fail the rest of the week and we had her in and out of the vet clinic several times.  She died with my husband and I with her at home early Sunday morning.  We were just shattered.

We got her from the local rescue not knowing much about her.  We found out that she had a very severe heart murmur and luxating patellas soon after adopting her.  She also had had to have all her teeth pulled during the quarantine time with the rescue.  The rescue would have taken her back after we found out about the heart murmer but we'd already fallen in love with her. 

CiCi went everywhere with us and was a great little traveler.  She was not a barker and never made a mess in a motel room or at any homes we visited.  But she wanted to be with us all the time and yes, had a bit of separation anxiety that we had only been able to modify in the last couple of years.  She was a love bug and a snuggler and only wanted to be close to her people

We are missing her so much - so much more than we ever thought possible!  The weather has been rainy and dreary for over a week now but it fits our moods - it just feels as if the sun will never shine again without C here with us.

CiCi, we love you and miss you!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

N C Wildlife Artists Society Exhibition

Just wanted to remind everyone that the North Carolina Wildlife Artists Society Exhibition is opening today at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center!

I'm sure there will be some outstanding art and I hope you'll stop by to see the exhibit if you're in the area!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Alkyd Oil Paint Brand Observations

I had promised to let you know what I thought of the different alkyd oil paint brands that I bought about a week ago and this is the post for that.  I don't want to call this a review of the various brands because I haven't tried every color in every brand and I know there's often a difference in paint handling characteristics among colors of even the same brand.  Instead, I'll just give you my observations about the paint I've actually tried.

 I bought four tubes of the DaVinci alkyd paints and all of them ooze a clear liquid every time they're used.  I'm guessing this is the binder they use and it comes out even if I knead the paint tube prior to opening.  Otherwise, they're an ok paint.  I tend to like a softer, more fluid paint and these seem noticeably softer than the other brands.  This is not something that bothers me a lot but may be a game changer for some who like a firmer paint.  However, the clear stuff coming out with every use so far does annoy me somewhat.

On the other hand, I was disappointed in the C.A.S. AlkydPro paint that I bought.  It's advertised to be American made with high pigment loads and I was excited to try it.  As far as the actual paint goes, it's great.  The consistency is good, at least with this one tube (& I only bought one tube) and it handles well for me.

My disappointment lies in the difference in color between the color charts I saw online and the actual color of the paint.  The following photo is from the C.A.S. pdf color chart but all the online art supply sites showed samples of similar color:

What I received is shown below.  I don't know how it will show up on your monitor but the color I received is a sort of tan with a slight greenish cast to it.  It was also quite a bit darker than the online color charts showed. 
I don't paint portraits often but had hoped to try some using this color as a starting point for flesh.  And, in the color charts, it also seemed like the perfect color for some animals.  I don't know whether I'll ever use this particular color - it may be good for landscape painting but since I don't do many of those, it may just languish in my paint box.

As I said, it's not the paint itself but the color that doesn't really work for me.  I know all the art supply companies say to ask for an actual sample if you need a certain color because the online samples may not be accurate.  Even though I didn't exactly need this particular color as shown, I would say that's very good advice!

I had purchased a small set of the Gamblin alkyd paints some time ago and really like them.  I would definitely purchase the Gamblin brand again.

The only other brand I got in this last order was one tube of Winsor and Newton alkyd paint but I have some very small sample tubes that I got from an art store opening years ago and had just never tried until recently.

To be honest, I was all set to dislike the W&N brand because I don't feel they care about quality as much as they used to.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I used the little samples for the first time.  I like the way the paint handles and it dries as quickly as the other brands.  I haven't done any research into the lightfastness or other archival properties of the different colors so I only purchased one tube;  Winsor Red to replace the one in my sample set.  I really like this vibrant color and the way it handles.  As far as I can tell, this red is about as lightfast as any other red but W&N isn't exactly forthcoming about the pigments they use or the proportion of pigment to fillers.  That is why I don't normally buy W&N products - it's just too hard to research their longevity and quality and forgive me but I refuse take the company's word for their lightfastness.

So, I'll definitely continue to buy Gamblin and C.A.S. alkyd paints but will skip DaVinci and W&N unless I have to have a color that the other brands don't have.  I wasn't really comparing price when I placed my last order but C.A.S. and DaVinci seem to offer the best value.  However, much of the paint was on sale when I ordered it and if I continue to catch sales, it's very possible that any of the brands could be a very good deal at a given time.

Those are the brands I've purchased and used.  None of the paint companies gave me any kind of monetary reward for a favorable review and I'm sure that none of them even know know me from Adam's house cat!  I'm adding that disclaimer to let you know that this is all just my honest opinion of these brands and nothing was said out of coercion of any kind!

I might add that I think alkyds offer the perfect alternatives to both acrylics and oils.  I find that acrylics dry much too fast for me and regular or water soluble oils dry too slowly.  Alkyds are touch dry in about 24 hours if they aren't applied too thickly and, as a rule of thumb, find they are touch dry 2 to 4 days quicker than oils of the same thickness.  If you've been on the fence about trying them, I think you should give them a chance.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Creative Slump?

I've been working on various aspects of the upcoming exhibition at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum on Harker's Island, NC and have nearly finished.  All I have left to do is to take my paintings to the Museum so it's a relief to get most of the preparations behind me.

I think I've mentioned it before but after a marathon painting period, I sometimes go into a creative slump where I don't want to see another canvas, paintbrush or tube of paint!  Well, it's happened this time too but I was determined to keep painting through it.

We planted a new-to-us variety of that old Southern staple, okra, and it's gorgeous!  Really, it's gorgeous.  It's a beautiful variegated maroon color with bits of lime green in it.  It's not often that mundane garden veggies inspire me to paint them but did I mention that this okra is gorgeous?

That's why I chose a few pods of it to try to paint through this slump.  I know I haven't done it justice.  Reds are notoriously hard to shade properly - if you add white, you get pink instead of a lighter shade of red.  You can supposedly add yellow to lighten but that doesn't always work either so I just did the best I could with it.  It was a learning piece and I wasn't expecting a masterpiece so wasn't all that disappointed when I didn't achieve one!

Another reason I wanted to paint is that I received some new paint from an order I placed a while ago.  I've been painting in alkyd oils for a while now and I really like them so I ordered some replacement (& new) colors in various brands so I could compare them.  They only just arrived yesterday so I'll let you know what I think about them in another post after I've had time to play with them a bit more.

In the meantime, I'll be in the studio painting!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Tatters at the End of Summer

Here it is the middle of August and it seems that everything is looking a bit on the ragged side.  The flowers are not as bright and perky as they were just a month ago.  And look at that butterfly - note his tattered back end - not the best look for the beautiful yellow Tiger Swallowtail, is it?

This is coming to the time of year that's my least favorite.  Most people look forward to the time when the weather cools down, the kids go back to school and the hectic summer activity slows down a bit.

I don't look forward to the autumn like most people do.  Give me the spring and summer every time.  I love seeing fresh, perfect flowers and butterflies with complete wings!

But, this is what nature has given us so I guess I'll just make the best of it and look forward to next year.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Little Update

Wanted to give you a small update on our Carolina Wren nest.  As you can see, the nest was built but we've never seen an occupant so guess it was a decoy nest that the wrens will sometimes build.  I think it may be a bit late in the season for them to nest again so we'll just have to hold out hope for a family next year.

As far as the Cecropia Moth painting goes, I decided to cradle the panel and do without a frame altogether.  I think it looks much better.  Unfortunately, the edges are still wet so I can't show you a decent photo of the completed painting.  I just think cradling it gave the subject more breathing room and gave the moth the dignity of space she deserves!

I've now begun to think more on what needs to be done for the upcoming NC Wildlife Artists Society show at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center, 1785 Island Road, Harkers Island, North Carolina.  This exhibition will run from September 10 - November 27, 2015 and if any of you will be in the area, I hope you'll pop in and take a look.  September through November is my favorite time to visit the North Carolina coast as the weather is still very mild and most of the tourists have gone.  The views are stunning of course but I just love the chance to wander the beach in solitude and just refresh my soul.  I know that sounds corny but the ocean has that magical effect on me.

The title of the show is "Images of Wild North Carolina (from the Mountains to the Coast)" and must depict North Carolina wildlife.  This will be my first NCWAS show and I'm very excited, yet nervous, of course.  I have no idea of what to expect from this exhibition but am just glad I'm getting to be a part of it.

I'll keep you posted as more details develop!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cecropia Moth Finished

I think I've finally finished the Cecropia Moth and hope I've done her justice.  Yes, this is a female - you can tell because her antenna are smaller and thinner than those of a male.

Anyway, here is a photo of her with a frame that I'm considering for the painting.  The painting is not fully dry so the frame is just leaning against the painting.  That's why there's a shadow area on the left side of the painting.

The moth colors look pretty accurate on my monitor but the frame has more gray in it along with the brownish color.  The color of the frame goes well with the painting but I'm not sure it's THE frame even though the barnwood frames are very, very popular now.

So now that the moth has been completed, I've started a portrait of a pug - a really special pug who recently went to the Rainbow Bridge.  Jack was a dog I knew well and loved and that makes it harder for me to paint him, I think.  A friend once told me that it's hard to paint your own pets or those you know well because you know them in so many different moods and ways.  You get confused over which expression or look best portrays them.  Anyway, I want this painting to be especially perfect so wish me good success with it.  I'll post it when I finish.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

First Tenents!

I'm kinda excited as we noticed a couple of Carolina Wrens investigating a new style birdhouse we put up on the porch.  This morning we noticed a piece of grass/straw hanging out of the house!

 You may remember the wren house we put up a week or so ago - well, even though the wrens still kept trying to build a nest in the ceiling fan (see photo on the left), they totally ignored the house my DH built.  I did a bit more research and found that the wrens don't like houses with small entry holes even though larger birds can't enter to take over the nest or destroy the wren eggs.

So my husband built another house and made the entry hole really large, almost 3" in diameter!  This house design is very unique and easy to build as the body of it is actually an old metal coffee can!  That's the house we have hanging up now.

The larger hole did the trick and we now have a pair of wrens building a nest in the new house!  The next step will be to enlarge the entry hole in the other bird house he built and see if we can attract another pair.

You can see both the unique design of the house as well as the over-sized piece of grass sticking out of the entry hole in the photo below.  Click on either photo to get an enlarged view.

Unfortunately, the entry hole faces out into the back yard and I probably won't be able to get photos of the nest or babies because the porch is fairly high off the ground and because of the angle needed to photograph it.  Maybe I can find a tall enough step ladder to put me on level with the birdhouse and use the zoom lens to get photos - we'll see what I can do.

This is sort of anti-climatic but I did finish the Cecropia Moth painting or at least I'm pretty sure it's finished.  It's a painting I even like for a change too - well, mostly like - there are always things that could be improved!  Will post a photo once the shine dries enough not to get glare.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cecropia - WIP 4

I've finally gotten a chance to work more on the moth.  We've had tons of tomatoes to put up and after peeling one only to have it try to slip from my hand, I twisted my back trying to catch it.  It just wasn't comfortable to paint or really do much of anything.  I did make a large batch of tomato soup yesterday though.

Lest you think I'm joking or exaggerating the amount of tomatoes we're getting right now, I'll show you a photo of the harvest from the past two days!  And remember, I used a dozen or more in the soup I put into the freezer!

 Maybe now you can understand why I'm not too keen on the harvest when I have paintings in the works!  It takes forever to freeze any and the soup yesterday took most of the day to fix.

 But, I'm feeling good and in the mood to paint so the tomatoes will either just have to wait or my husband can take them to the food bank or something.  There are more coming in all the time anyway.

The Cecropia moth is coming along and looking much as I'd hoped it would.  Even though I'm never totally satisfied with my work, I'm relatively pleased with this one so far.  The bottom wings still need some work and the viewer's left wing isn't finished but I feel as if I've gotten quite a bit accomplished today.  After the moth is totally finished, I'll revisit the background.

So that's the update for now.  Hopefully more tomorrow!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cecropia Moth WIP3

I've been working more on the Cecropia moth and am fairly pleased with the way it's going.  With painting, it's usually painting one thing then having to adjust something else so it's been slow going.  However, there IS some progress and hopefully, this painting  will be finished soon.

I've lightened the background and still want to do more with it but will wait to see exactly what it might need after more is done with the moth.

The center wings are very detailed at the bottom edges so it will take some time to finish them.  Also, the body is just blocked in and will need to be refined and the (viewer's) left wing needs to be completed.  That's not so much left to do, right?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Visitor At The Front Door

 I've been working on the background of the Cecropia Moth but it's been a bit time-consuming so I don't have any real updates to share right now. 

However, I did want to share photos of a very unusual visitor we had the other day!  My husband came into the living room to see this groundhog peering in right in our front door!  This is highly unusual as most groundhogs are pretty shy and we rarely see any.  He even hung around long enough for me to get some photos of him - through the glass of the storm door, of course!

We have no idea of what he was doing on the porch but after a time he scampered off again.

Hopefully he's satisfied his curiosity and won't return.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Cecropia Moth WIP 2

I always seriously underestimate how long it takes me to paint something and this Cecropia moth is no exception!  But I want to do an exceptional job on this painting.  Well, I want to do well on every painting but this poor thing lives only a few days and during that time she can't eat or drink as she has no mouth.  She must attract a mate quickly, have glorious (I fervently hope so anyway) sex then lay her eggs and die.  She's a beautiful creature and I really feel I must give my utmost to honor her brief life.

Even with slow and steady, I probably could have had the painting finished by now but we had a gigantic wave of cucumbers and tomatoes ripen which I had to do something with.  I froze the tomatoes, and made another jar of my favorite fermented pickles only this time I altered the recipe a bit.

Alas, I could've added a bit more garlic and dill and cut back just a fuzz on the whole black pepper corns.  I like my heat to come from the cayenne pepper flakes and the taste of the black pepper is just a tad too strong in this batch.  Getting something just right is a game of trial and error and this last jar of pickles isn't really all that bad - just not my idea of a perfect fermented pickle! 

So, let me quote Scarlett O'Hara a bit and just say "Tomorrow's another day!" both for pickles and for painting!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cecropia Moth - New Painting WIP

I had promised myself to keep up with this blog better but it's sort of like walking and chewing gum at the same time - sometimes difficult to do.  lol  Actually, my hands have been occupied with a paint brush and I really can't type and paint at the same time so I chose to paint. 

A friend of mine happened upon a beautiful Cecropia Moth one evening and took several photos of it which she graciously has allowed me to use as references for this current painting.

The Cecropia Moth is a fascinating creature seemingly created to go from an egg to caterpillar to a moth with a very brief life span only to do it all again.  The following website has some information and videos that explain and even show the process:

I'm not very far along in the painting process as I'm using oil for this painting and it usually takes a while for me to paint anyway.  If I use oil, I sometimes have to wait for the paint to firm up to be able to add more paint.

Here is where I am at the moment with lots more to go of course:

The wings are very detailed and seem to have a powdery substance on them which I'm trying to figure out how to paint.  Also, I don't have a detailed drawing for this painting but am just "winging" it, pun intended.  The moth's markings are somewhat complex so it takes a bit of time to figure out where the various markings should be located on the painting.  The beauty of oil paint is that it can either be wiped off fairly easily or painted over if a mistake is made.

I hope to finish this in the next few days.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wren House

Yesterday a pair of Carolina Wrens tried to build a nest in the ceiling fan on our covered back porch.  We use the fan a lot and even if the fan isn't on, we also use the light in the fan as a porch light.  Not a good situation for baby wrens (or even the adults!)  My DH removed the nests before they got too far along in construction but Carolina Wrens are my favorite bird and I liked the idea of them nesting on the porch.

So I searched the internet for plans for a house that the birds could use and my husband built it as quickly as he could.  We hung it yesterday late afternoon/evening and are waiting to see if we have any new tenants.  I'll paint the house and decorate the outside if the pair of birds have decided to look elsewhere for a nesting site but didn't want to take the time to do it yesterday.  I wanted the birds to have the house as soon as possible if they were still looking for a place.

I also found plans for other wren houses that we may build and put up on the other side of the house.  I just liked this particular design because it hangs, is appealing to humans in shape and the entrance hole is sort of a keyhole shape.  This is supposed to enable the wrens to take in nesting material yet still keep the hole small enough to keep out sparrows or other undesirable birds who may want to use the house.

So far we haven't had any interested couples but I didn't get around to putting out a Welcome mat either!  Maybe i ought to go do that now and hope for occupants soon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

We Have Bubbles!

I tasted one of my pickle slices today and the pickles are nearly ready to put into the fridge or process.  As you can see, there are bubbles which form during the fermentation process and this fermentation actually started late in the first day of pickle making.

The slice I tasted has the beginnings of the good "tang" of a fermented pickle and has lost the pronounced cucumber taste.  Thanks to the grape leaves I put into the jar, they're also still crisp.  I think I'll let these ferment for another day or so then put them into the refrigerator.  I'll start another batch in a few days as I like this recipe.  I do think I'll add a little more hot pepper flakes to the next batch though.

If you think the pickles look murky and unappetizing, they actually don't.  I've used a grape leaf to help hold the cucumber slices under the brine then cut a circle from a deli container to use to make sure the slices are covered by the brine. The somewhat milky color of the deli container lid gives the pickles a murky look.

I don't know why the harvest always seems to come when I need to paint but maybe it works out that way because I'm not particularly fond of canning and freezing!  You know, maybe I'm using the need to paint as an excuse to get out of processing the harvest!

But, no, not really, I've been prepping some painting surfaces and they're all ready to receive the masterpieces that I'll surely paint on them so I'm just ready to get started!  lol  I have lots of subjects I want to paint and really want to get at them.

So, let me get at them!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Art of a Different Kind

Unfortunately, my life doesn't consist entirely of painting and other things too often take priority over time in the studio.

One such other priority is putting up the fresh produce we get from our garden.  This year has been a tad slow for garden veggies but they're beginning to ripen seemingly all at once now.  We're getting an abundance of cucumbers right now and even my husband can't eat them as quickly as they ripen so I've begun to make pickles.  My favorites are fermented garlic dill pickles with a touch of hot pepper flakes and there's a real art to getting them just right.

Most recipes call for the cucumbers to be left whole or cut into spears but my preference is to slice them as you can see.  I'm trying a new recipe this year and am starting with just a quart jar to see if we like them.  If so, I'll put up a couple of gallons - any more than that and they'll go bad before we eat them.

As I said, this is a fermented pickle.  You cover the cucumbers with a salty brine and keep them submerged in that brine to keep bad bacteria out while allowing good bacteria/yeast to ferment the cukes.  This process is much like bread, wine or beer using fermentation to produce their results.  After a few days to a couple of weeks of them sitting on the counter fermenting, you can put them into the refrigerator where they'll keep for several months or you can process them in a canner to stop the fermentation.  If you can them, you can leave them on a shelf in the pantry but they really aren't as good as when they're just refrigerated and the fermentation is slowed but not completely stopped.

Naturally fermented vegetables are supposed to be very, very good for your health - I think they're just very, very good and well worth the trouble to make them!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Tomato of the Season

We picked our first tomato from the garden this morning which is pretty good considering we planted a little late and it's been somewhat dry up until the past week or so!  We always hope to have a tomato before the fourth of July but it doesn't always happen.  Fortunately, we usually have the first ones in June but conditions always dictate their appearance.

As you can see, we also got a handful of green beans, another a first of the season!  We've dug the onions, garlic and potatoes and have had squash and cucumbers for a week or so.  The cukes have become to come in reliably enough that I'll start to pickle them any time.

And I have an update on the baby birds - they've all left the nest!  We went out yesterday morning and shortly after we got home, I noticed that one of the birds was gone.  I tried to keep an eye on the other two but they seemed content to hang around the nest.  I looked out at dusk and they were still there.  However, this morning when I looked, they were gone.  I'm a very early riser so they must have left right at daylight as I looked right after my husband got up about 6 am.

And I got to see the mama bird a bit better and I don't think she's a finch but an Indigo Bunting!  We noticed a male IB hanging around yesterday and I read where the male will sometimes appear as the babies fledge to encourage the female into nesting again.  The female had some blue showing when she flew from the nest and looked very much like the photos I saw on the internet.  Not only that, but the nesting site suggests an Indigo Bunting instead of a finch.  It was only about 3 feet off the ground and in a shrub which is supposedly typical of the IB's.

I think I misidentified the bird because it is a member of the finch family and similar, plus, we don't see the IB's around here a whole lot and the females are especially shy.

I don't think the female will nest in the same place again this year but if she does, I'll give you more updates!

Now, off to have our first fresh tomato sandwich of the summer!

Monday, June 22, 2015

What a Difference!

Wow!  I posted a photo of these baby birds two days ago and now look at them!

At least one of them is ready to fly!  You can click on the image to see it larger but one of the babies is perched on the edge of the nest and will flap it's wings from time to time.  Also, now that I can see the babies more individually, I'm pretty sure they're House Finches.  Several bird identification websites comment on the tufts of feathers on top of the head and this one definitely looks as if he's having a bad hair day!

The other two little ones don't seem to be as advanced as the one above.  Or maybe they're just very polite and have been taught to take turns perching on the nest edge!  One of the babies is still at the wide open mouth stage and the remaining one is barely visible.

"Mr. Mouth" will probably be the next to fledge although I really won't have any way of knowing which bird is which or in which order they'll fly.

It's been exciting being able to see this nesting from start to finish - or at least I hope to be able to see the little ones fly.  I don't want to spend the day at the window as I have a lot to do today but will definitely check on them from time to time and keep my camera handy!!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Baby Birdies!

We always have a huge variety of birds in our yard and have at least 10 bluebird houses scattered around the yard and orchards.

This year what I think is a house finch built a nest in the lilac bush right outside our bedroom window.  It's been fun to see the nesting process from the first bits of grass to the adroit weaving in of a piece of dryer softener sheet that came from who knows where!

Now the babies have arrived and are a little over a week old.  I had to take the photo from inside the house so the quality isn't all that great but you can see the three babies inside the nest (or maybe you can't!  They're all in weird positions!)  I like babies of all kinds and really like that our farm is home to so many different varieties, but really, aren't baby birds the ugliest things you've ever seen?  This photo was taken right after Mom had finished feeding them so they're kind of snuggled down for a nap.  Most of the time, however, they're all stretched up with their heads lolled back and beaks wide open!  I wonder if they think a bug will just drop into their open beaks or if it ever actually happens!  I need to look up how long before they'll leave the nest but I'm not entirely sure they're actually house finch babies.  The mom stays away a lot and when she is around, she's mostly hidden by those leaves so it's hard to see any definitive markings on her.  I'm sure it won't be long before these babies are off on their first flights though and maybe I can get a photo of that for you!

In the meantime, almost directly across from the lilac bush is a bluebird house.  I got the following photo while I was photographing the the baby finches.

It's so fun to capture these critters - I wanted to say "Smile, you're on Candid Camera!"

Thursday, June 18, 2015

North Carolina Wildlife Artist Society

I received word yesterday that I have been juried into the North Carolina Wildlife Artist Society and I'm very excited about it.

Many of you know I was once a pet portrait artist and also know how much I like painting animals.  You also know that we live in a very rural area where we see wildlife of some kind every day.  You may not know that I'm not much of a joiner - most of the time I prefer to be painting instead of just talking about it!  To be honest, I checked out some local chapters of various art media societies and felt totally out of place not to mention that I don't like being confined to just one art medium.

But when I discovered NCWAS, it just felt like a match made in heaven.  Artists lead a somewhat solitary life anyway and rural artists are really isolated!  Normally that doesn't bother me a bit but recently I've felt that being around other artists and participating in art events would help me to stretch as an artist.

NCWAS is perfect for me as it's not media-specific, I can use any medium I want. I think they only have one meeting per year which leaves time for actually painting!  The subject requirements aren't overly strict and are what I'd be painting anyway.   They offer participation in various shows or exhibitions but I don't think the participation is mandatory which is a real plus for someone who paints as slowly as I do!

Is there any wonder I submitted an application for joining?

So, in light of this new membership, stay tuned for more wildlife and wildflower paintings!  You can check out NCWAS by clicking on the links for their website and Facebook page listed at the top right.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Genesis Oil Painting

This is another painting with the Genesis Oils as the medium.  The photo above looks a little purple on this computer.  The painting is actually more pinkish which makes it look softer.

As I've said before, I like using the Genesis paints but they're very different from traditional oils.  For one thing, since they don't EVER dry without heat setting them, it's hard to judge how long to leave them in the oven.

I ended up getting one of those heat guns designed for removing wall paper and it works well as you can see what you're doing.  However, it's very tiring to hold the gun long enough to dry the oil.  A large painting would be very difficult.