Monday, October 14, 2013

Bloom where you are planted

I never plant sunflowers at my home even though I love them. My house faces east and west and neither provides enough hours of sunlight to successfully grow them.  It seems kind of cruel top place a pant where you know it will have a difficult time. And yet, every year there is at least one sunflower struggling to reach the sun. I'm sure the birds have dropped them which is why they seem to grow in such odd places. This one sprang up out of the patch of irises near the deck.  It grew tall and spindly but it did produce a flower.

Even though the conditions were less than hospitable, it did its very best and gave its all and was ultimately, successful. I admire that.

Watercolor paint in the hadbook sketchbook.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Summer lilies

The lilies on my cousin's farm were spectacular this year. Some flowers are so shapely and colourful that they practically beg to be painted.  Gardens are such a source of inspiration for me and my art.  There is something about trying to capture their beauty on paper that soothes my soul  and centres my whole being.
Watercolour in my new Globetrotter sketchbook.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cloudy skies

I have been having lots of fun photographing and painting skies this summer.  We went to a family reunion a few weeks ago that was held in a rural agricultural park.  They use it as a gymkhana grounds so there were lots of pastures, fences and barns to house the horses (and feed them).  We parked our camper by the empty barn facing this pasture.  It was simply lovely - the big blue sky, fluffy clouds, sweet-smelling grasses and wildflowers, and the gentle mooing of the cows just over the ridge.  It was a perfect little spot and a beautiful reminder of how graceful the country can be.
For these clouds, I painted the sky with a wash of cerulean blue, and then blotted the clouds out with dry paper towels wadded up.  The downside of this technique is that you can end up with clouds all the exact same shape and size. So I scrubbed out some other shapes with a wet brush.  I like the effect.  The flowers are purple vetch which is the iconic prairie wild flower.
Do you have a favourite technique for creating clouds?

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Ominous skies

We have had a lot of rain this spring and summer. It rains nearly every day.  Not so good for the gardens, but it results in some pretty spectacular skies.  I live on the prairies so we have a lot of sky. Towards the end of the day, the clouds build up and darken.  Thunder rolls across the sky and lightning spikes downward in a fantastic display of power.  Funnel clouds have often been spotted this year but none have touched the ground.
I was speaking to a man who painted the most wonderful watercolor skies and he told me the secret is to put lots of paint on wet paper and then tilt the paper.  He admitted that it took a lot of practice to get it right, but when it was right it was very beautiful.  I tried that technique here, with mixed results.  I tried to darken the sky with a second layer which did not work at all.  I went in with indigo on a sea sponge and that made it a bit better. I splattered paint with a toothbrush on the foreground to add some variation and interest. So this is another painting that I have worked on fixing and tweaking rather than discarding. It's not perfect, but I like the techniques of tilting and spattering wet on wet, and will definitely try again. Nature is giving me lots of inspiration for dramatic skies this year.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Signs of summer

The robins are back this summer to build their nest in the big spruce tree.  Their arrival coincided with the arrival of a super crop of dandelions.  I spotted this pair outside the kitchen window.  They were hopping among the dandelions listening for worms brought out by the rain. Sure signs that summer is on it's way.
This is one of a bunch of little paintings that I was not happy with. After a lot of thinking, I decided to try and fix the ones I was discouraged by.  Walking away from them was an option, but it wouldn't teach me anything or help me become better in the future. I didn't like the background of this one - it was too light and the flowers didn't show up.  So I darkened the grass.  Then I realized that the birds' legs were wrong in some way. They bend back and not forward so I washed them out and repainted the grass and the legs. I like it better now and I learned that not everything in watercolor is irreversible.  Mistakes can be fixed.  I just need to be observant and unflinching in the analysis of what's not working, and creative in how to fix it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gather ye roses...

Lots of rain and sunshine colluded to create this Hansa rose bush bursting with blossoms.  There are so many that the branches droop gracefully under the weight.  The air is full of scent and the buzzing of the bumblebees as they stagger around from flower to flower almost drunk with the pollen.  There was even a hummingbird who was drawn in from who knows where by the intoxicating aroma. This is one of the reasons that I really love to garden.  Sometimes the world can be an ugly place, but the garden reminds us of the beauty and diversity all around us.

Watercolor and micron pen.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Spring plantings

Last weekend, I had a little rant about how awful the weather was.  I spent that weekend huddled up with blankets and hot chocolate.  There actually was a small window of opportunity on Saturday morning before the snow and wind started.  We went to our community garden, and dug up the soil and, throwing caution to the blustery winds, we planted a few rows of seeds.  What a difference a week makes! This week the sun came out and this weekend we were out without shoes or socks or jackets.  We sat out on the deck and barbecued for supper and soaked up the sun. I hope the vegetable seeds did the same. Later this week, the weather will return to seasonal temperatures, but for now it felt so good to get a little sun on our pasty white, winter-weary skin.  Nothing makes you appreciate spring like a long, sunless winter.
In a little while, I hope to be harvesting those plants that I can only draw right now.
Watercolor in the HandBook sketchbook.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

April Showers

Winter came early and stayed late.
It's time for it to move on.
Let spring have its moment.

There are a few signs of spring around here - the hares have turned brown, the tulips are poking leaves up, the rhubarb has tiny orange nubbins, and I have heard the robins singing.

But I can't wait any longer. I need color and flowers and so I resorted to purchasing them. These Gerbera daisies begged me to take them home and paint them.  They provided some welcome cheeriness.

Tomorrow the temperature will drop and we will have snow flurries - if we're lucky it will be rain.

I will try to keep the memory of these vibrant flowers in my heart until the sun decides to shine again.

Ink and watercolor in the HandBook sketchbook.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bird on a wire

We are readers at my house.  We have lots of books, and therefore we have lots of bookmarks. Many of our bookmarks have shown up on this blog before. This is one of the newer ones that my beloved brought home this week.  These bookmarks are 3D, and can look a  little freaky if you move your head too fast.  But they really do have a nice 3D effect.  We have one of a snarling black panther, a group of brightly colored geckos (my favourite), a tabby cat with white paws on a fencepost, roly poly panda bears, and these cheerful budgies on woven ropes. I loved that odd one hanging upside down as if eavesdropping on the gossip. There are actually six of them on the bookmark, but I couldn't fit them all on the page. They were a lot of fun to draw.
I used inktense pencils and watercolor in the handbook sketch book.  I like this sketch book, but it does not take a wash very well.  It buckles and pools and streaks.  But I really like the texture of the paper.

Monday, April 01, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Tulip

Aah spring.  The weather has been warm, the sun is shining, the snow has all melted.  The huge piles of ice and gravel by the side of the roads and in the parking lots have diminished measurably.  It's enough to make you believe in spring again.
I took a bouquet of spring flowers to my family dinner at Easter.  The buds were tightly closed, but we put it in water and a vase. There in a room filled with warmth and love and laughter, the buds opened up and filled the room with color and fragrance.  I think that's an apt metaphor for families.  My workplace is facing massive budget cuts and layoffs and it's all been very tense  and worrisome.  But at Easter, in that room filled with warmth and love and laughter, I could feel my soul, so tightly closed against loss and worry, opening up again.  I could feel myself becoming myself again.  Yes, that's what's important, and that's what will see me through the tough times.
I used a lot of water on this page and it wrinkled and crinkled - hence the wonky photo.
Watercolor and Inktense pencils in HandBook sketchbook.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Tiding Revisited

I've posted before about the magpie triplets that were born in my backyard last summer.  They're still here, and still as brash and bossy as ever. They are endlessly entertaining and fascinating to me.  I have tried to draw them several times, and have not had much success.  I can't get the shape of their beak right especially when open. My original idea (you know, the perfect sketch in my head) was to have all 3 of them on the branch all with their mouths wide open, trying to out-shreik each other. That's how I usually saw them.  But try as I might, I cannot manage to get all three of them on the page. But this time, I think the beaks are shaped better. As I create this post, they are in the back yard on the tree branch exactly like this. But they are never still enough to actually draw them. Even in the dreary midwinter, they are still a joy to watch.
The theme over at Creative Every Day is Black and White.
Watercolot on Canson paper

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Resplendent Quetzl

This crazy looking creature is the Quetzl bird - the official bird of Guatemala.
I come from a winter country where there is not a lot of foliage cover in the winter.  The birds here tend to be a bit more drab and neutral to provide natural camouflage.  I have to wonder, though, what purpose or advantage this bright plumage provides the Quetzl bird. They are quite large and don't seem to have a lot of predators so maybe they don't need camouflage or the need to be hidden.  Sightings are rare, and we were not fortunate enough to see one on our trip there.  Perhaps the rain forest foliage is dense enough that they can't be seen even with the bright colors.
They war sacred birds to the Maya, symbolizing the progress of Creation and the will of the Creator come to Earth The marriage of the quetzal with the snake resulted in Quetzlcoatl or The Plumed Serpent which represents the movement of creation and all things produced by that movement.  Including you and me. We are all part of creation and a part of each other.  Maybe if more people today believed that the world would be kinder place.
Inktense pencils in HandBook sketchbook

Monday, February 18, 2013

Longwing Zebra Butterfly

This beautiful butterfly is found in Mexico and Central America, as well as the Caribbean.  It's common in many of the countries we visited on our Panama Canal cruise.
The cruise had a lot of days at sea, and the cruise line did a fabulous job of offering a wide variety of activities for passengers.  I was delighted to discover they were offering watercolor painting classes. I was too late for the first class. They ran out of supplies by the time I got there, so I didn't actually do this butterfly on the ship.  The second day, I got there earlier and got supplies and the drawing from the day before.  The supplies included brushes, papers, and a set of 6 water color paints in tubes.  They were student grade paints and were disappointingly chalky.  But I enjoyed the classes, especially as the instructor had chosen to do things that we would actually see on the cruise. As an introvert, I try to attend group classes where I have to share and meet and talk with others.  I met lots of interesting people, many of whom were trying watercolor for the first time. It was fun seeing their impressions of trying something new.  Some people hated it and didn't come back after  the first class, but others said they would continue on after getting home.  I hope they do.  I wanted to redo some of these drawings with better quality paints.  For this one, I used my Inktense pencils because I wanted to get a really strong black. I hope to do some of the others in the near future.
By the way, there are two kinds of zebra butterflies - the longwing, and the swallowtail.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bird of Paradise

Last December, we were in San Diego.  We visited Balboa Park which has beautiful architecture and landscaping.  In my country in December there is nothing blooming, so I was delighted to see these densely booming patches of Birds of Paradise.  They look odd and alien to me, in Canada we don't have anything that looks remotely like this flower. I wanted to try to capture the brilliant colours, strange shapes and thick, dense foliage.
I almost didn't post this - I've been holding off for several weeks as I am unsure whether I like it.  It looks very abstract and unreal to me. But I am less interested in critical acclaim and whether "my piece resonates with the critics" than I am in whether I had fun doing this and whether I learned anything from the process. And the answer to that is yes.  Those colors made me smile and I loved layering on those blues and reds and adding the touches of white gel pen. And it reminds me of a fabulous start to the vacation of a lifetime. So I think, in the end, that I do like it.
Watercolor and gel pen in the Handbook sketch book.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Red breasted nuthatches

This energetic and excitable little fellow comes regularly to our back yard.  And he invited all his friends, too.  Thee are about 6 of them now.  They are a lot of fun to watch as they are quick and agile and move up and down the tree and hang upside down from branches.  They eat the spruce seeds and take the sunflower seeds from the feeder and jam them into cracks in the tree trunk.  They always remember where they have stashed the seeds and are quite acrobatic in their attempts to dislodge the seeds.
My cat can watch them for hours (as can I, to be honest).  We call this Reality TV for cats - there are 3 channels, the bird channel, the squirrel channel, and the rabbit channel. The bird channel is by far the most fun.
Watercolor in the Handbook sketch book.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

On our cruise last month, the first stop was Cabo San Lucas. This is the view we had from the ship before we were tendered into shore.  We were only there for a short time and in hindsight I wish we had taken a water taxi to this adorable little beach between these rocks.  Instead we went to the marina where the tender dropped us off. It was very crowded and noisy with lots of vendors offering everything from cheap t-shirts to cheap bracelets.  We did have some cheap beer and chips and salsa, but I felt a little harassed and anxious by the end.
I always want to sketch my travels but I frequently get overwhelmed by the details.  For this one, I reminded myself that I didn't have to add every crack and crag in the rock, or every tiny bit of vegetation clinging tenaciously to the slope. I really wanted to try to get those soft, wispy horizontal clouds and the sunlit sands. I didn't obsess over the details, and I think that I like it.
Watercolors in the HandBook sketch book.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year

These little nutcrackers are Christmas tree ornaments. For the past 5 years we have travelled out of the country in December, returning home just before Christmas, so we haven't put up the tree or decorated much.  But this year we did, mostly in remembrance of my mother who passed away last February. Many of my ornaments were gifts from family so decorating the tree was bittersweet.  These dapper fellows, with their stiff postures and fancy uniforms always make me smile.  And those mustaches?  Ooh la la - so very handsome.
Thank you for visiting my blog and I wish you a very happy New Year.