It’s still so hot, hot, hot

Today was about our 14th or 15th day in a row above 90 degrees. I was so tired of winter that I don’t want to complain, but I wish we could have a little more rain here. I’m not sure if we have had even 1″ this month. Many of the storms in the area seemed to just go around. So, I am grateful at least for my air-conditioned studio and the little bit of precipitation that we got this week.

The layout

Amongst other things, I managed to lay out and ink in the small commission drawing ordered earlier in the week. It is a little more complicated than most because it is a remodel and not everything is finished. Most notably the color scheme is totally different from the pictures. I was able to get chips from the paint manufacturer, but now I have to be careful that I put everything in the proper place.  I have found that for me, the most complicated phase of a picture is often in the layout.  I have to determine the crop out and then begin the pencil drawing, deciding just how much detail I want to start with.  This one was a little more difficult than most because not only were the colors altered, but they wanted it to fit nicely into a standard frame.  Personally, I find it very difficult to work in a standard size.  I start out with a common size layout and it just doesn’t work with what I see and I have to expand it into my extra margin space.  This time, because of the specific request, I felt I had to do the best I could to accomplish that.  Fortunately the vertical townhouse gave me a little leeway with the adjoining homes.  I was able to fit it on an 8×10 board and work with a 1″ mat.

Inked in

I am fairly happy with the inking except for one thing – I had a brain cramp and mislayed the sidewalk lines.  As I was doing it I kept thinking this looks a little odd , but of course I didn’t stop to refigure.  I had layed them out with the roof lines instead of the primary perspective.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, but I may have to speckle out the sidewalk more.  Fortunately the lines are not solid and I may be able to finesse it with a little effort and color.  Ink is so unforgiving.

I am about 2/3 colored in right now and hope to be all done on Wednesday.  It may seem odd, but I usually find that the color aspect is the fastest.  The inking usually takes the most time.

Berries, bucks and me

When I pick berries it is not in the carefully laid out rows of a commercial operation. It is out on the edges of our fields and rife with the potential for difficulty and excitement.  There are wild rose bushes to grab skin, hair and clothes and while the blackberry bushes are not quite as lethal, they are not much better.  Then there are the chiggers.  For anyone who does not know, these little mites will drive you to distraction with a red bump and serious itching that lasts for days.  I’ve never seen a snake, but I’m sure I came close a time or two and didn’t know it.

The rapidly approaching blackberry season and the appearance of the first fawn in the yard put me in mind of an adventure my Great Pyrenees mix and I shared some years ago at our last home.  Like here, it had large fields surrounded by black raspberry and blackberry bushes where I was able to pick gallons and gallons of freshly ripened fruit.   She loved to accompany me on my meanderings around the fields, relaxing in the shade when I found a patch to pick.  We  were lazily moving  down the edge of the woods to a little outcrop that was mostly berry bushes and a few smaller scrubby trees.   We had been out about an hour, me juggling three buckets half filled with fruit and her following. 

Suddenly, directly in front of me, a large buck with a huge rack leapt out of the underbrush.  Leaves, branches and who knows what else went flying though the air in all directions as he crashed out of his supposedly hidden bedding spot.  We must have jumped about three feet into the air.  Brandy was so surprised she didn’t make a sound – not even a woof.  We looked on in startled silence as the huge buck bounded away, his sleep rudely disturbed and with vines and underbrush hanging from his large rack.  It was quite a sight.   Brandy looked back at me as if to say What Just Happened?  All I could say was Wow!  After we caught our breaths and our hearts started to beat again, we continued on with the picking, once again treated to the wonders of nature all around us.

Resting does

I’m taking a short break from the art experiments right now for a very good reason.  I just started on a commission home portrait of a cute town home that will take me into the weekend or thereabouts.  I’ll post it when I’m done.

Rain at last

I felt the earth breathe a sigh of relief this afternoon After more than two weeks of super hot and dry weather, we finally got some rain this afternoon. The temperature dropped about 15-20 degrees in a short period of time as the rain poured down accompanied by some lightning and thunder. It was wonderful.

Day lily

I managed to spend some time this week in the studio even though I had to work three days on a set of architectural drawings on the computer. I decided to stay with the flowers because I have so many fresh ones outside right now and it is probably better to work from life for a change instead of from of a photograph, even if it is not really plen air.  I have some very lovely large day lilies blooming in a kind of deep mauve with a yellow throat and brown undertones.  I think I worked on it over two days, but  I don’t feel it is quite done yet so I will play a little more with it this week.  The painting is on the small side as these things go.  I had one long piece of leftover board that I cut down to two with an image size of 3″ x 5″.  I like the colors but I think I may want to try for a little more definition in it.  I haven’t totally decided.  I really don’t want to overwork it and muddy the colors.

The mustache challenge

The second piece turned out to be something for a challenge within one of the etsy teams I belong to and it had to involve a mustache of all things. I really don’t illustrative or cartoon art, so I had to think long and hard about what to do. I finally came up with an idea for barber shop scene. I wanted it to be fairly stark black and white with maybe just a little splash of color to catch the eye.  It is just a little piece done totally for fun.  I think the barber pole is actually the best part with its small amount of shading.

The Third Experiment

I was able to work on this latest watercolor over the course of several days this week. And while I am happy that I made the effort, I think I like it least of the three. I picked several flowers from the beds and went from there.

Just the watercolors

After two sessions, this is basically what it looked like.  I was okay with the purple flowers and the background, but the yellow ones just got muddier the more I worked on them.  I decided to let it sit for two days and then see how I felt.  I was just dissatisfied enough that the pen and ink were looming in the background.  When I did come back, I felt that the yellow flowers needed more definition and I didn’t want to muddy them more, so I got out the ink.  Unfortunately, I got too carried away for the smaller flowers.  I think the ink must have bled a little more than I expected because it quickly overwhelmed them in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.  From there I had to add more ink into the background – more than I had intended and things kind of went down hill from there. 

After the ink overlay

I quit after a short while so I could look at the black areas the next day with a fresher eye and also tone them down with a little more watercolor.  I am not sure where I want to go from here with this painting.    The pictures actually look a little better than the painting itself.  I had to take them indoors under my daylight fluorescents because it is so hot and humid out that my camera lens fogged over outside.  I think that I may just let it sit for a while and maybe adjust the ink somewhat later in the week.  I do have two small 5×7 pieces of board left and will probably do something simple and quick on them.  Then I will probably feel like moving on to something else.

The Deer stalker – when the deer is the stalker

I have just started a new painting in the studio of blueish flowers but it isn’t very far along , so I thought  I’d share one of the funnier things the wildlife have done out here.  Last Monday, I happened to glance out on the lake and saw a great blue heron perched on a stump out in the shallow end. 

Just minding his own business

He was just relaxing, grooming himself and bending his head and neck down over his body, looking for all the world as if he wanted to take an evening nap, safe out in the middle of the water.  I went and got my camera and took a few shots of him.  I put the camera down because it was slowly getting darker and I wasn’t sure how these would turn out. 

She's so innocent

I happened to glance back a few minutes later and saw a doe walking on the shoreline and  I thought, what a chance to get a picture of the two together.  I took a few more pictures hoping that one might prove passable enough to post and then, once again put down the camera.  Shortly thereafter, I noticed the doe in the water, slowly making her way around the heron.  Then things started to get interesting – for everyone.  The doe began ducking her head under the water and then tossing it about, dancing around and making her way closer and closer to the heron.  He just kept eyeing her placidly, as if he couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.  She made a slow circle around him, getting closer as she went, until finally she got right up to him and then seemed to almost poke him.  In as dignified a fashion as he could manage, he hopped off the stump and headed towards the shore.  She followed and proceeded to chase him back and forth along the shore.  Eventually he made his way back into the water near the stump. 

The deer stalker

She continued to follow and walked behind him all over the shallows too.  This all seemed to be done in slow motion as if she were playing with the heron like she might with her fawn.  No one got too excited and it was just this quiet dance between the two of them.  Finally she tired of teasing him and walked off into the woods.  He resumed his perch on the stump as if nothing had happened.  Sometime later in the deepening dusk, he departed, too.  I felt privileged to see this lovely wildlife vignette and to be able to share it with you.

More Experimentation in the Studio

I had decided to spend the week working on trying something new, so I continued using up the cutoff pieces from my last several drawings. The advantage was that the pieces would be small – a plus for me in trying out different things. It is so easy for me to get intimidated by having a large piece of board and not having any idea what to do with it. Once I have figured out what drawing I want to work on, I usually have no trouble starting the line out, but give me a blank sheet with no agenda  and I feel like the author with writer’s block.

Red flowers again

I let the red flowers painting sit a few days so I could get a fresh look at it.  I thought I might be able to control myself and not ink over parts I wanted to have more delineation, but, sorry, to say, I could not do it.  As I looked at it and added a little color here and there, I still wasn’t happy with it.   I broke out the pen and started adding a little ink.  I did end up liking it better then, but it seemed too sharply contrasted.  I went back in with the watercolors and added more of the ocher yellow to the petals and took out most of the white in the background.  I like it better now and think it might actually reproduce nicely for bookmarks.

Then I decided to move the palette off of red and into mauve.  I am slowly creeping up on the blues that I have so much difficulty with so this is the compromise. 

Mauve flower abstract

I softly drew out two flowers and began to lay in some color, lightly at first and then deeper and deeper.  When I had the flowers about half way where I wanted them, I started with background.  I know this may be reverse of how most watercolorists work, but I hadn’t decided if I wanted another flower at the top.  I actually had more space up there than the finished painting shows that I ended up not using.  I put in some background colors and then moved back to the flowers.  Slowly, I made it all darker and darker.  I am happy to say I was able to control myself not to add in the ink.

I am relatively pleased with the way they turned out, but I am more pleased that I let myself experiment for a change.  It is irrationally hard for me to do that.  I have a few more pieces of board left and I think I will spend this week doing the same thing.  As I said, I am creeping up on blue and maybe the last one can have a blue base.

Play day

This week, I wanted to just try to do some loose, unfocused artwork.  I have done three fairly tight entryway drawings in a row and I felt the need to do something different.  I decided to take some of the small leftover cutoffs from the architectural drawings and make some abstract pen and ink sketches and then add watercolor.  I was inspired to try some pointillism effects by the blog

Too much 60's kitchen

I framed out a drawing area and inked in some designs on two pieces of board and then started merrily putting on a variety of colors in what I thought were pleasing combinations.  Unfortunately, all of a sudden, when I looked at the colors, all I saw was 60’s kitchen colors – harvest gold and avocado.  You may not be able to see it , but I assure you that is what the colors look like.   After that, it was all I could see.  I was fairly amused at the way it turned out.  I had no real design plans for it and I just wanted to play around so there was no reason for frustration.  I just decided that they were done for.

Pointillism flowers

For the next one, I decided to reverse the process and start with the watercolor, thereby ensuring that the kitchen colors would stay in the kitchen.  I am somewhat happier with the pointillism flower painting.  I haven’t decided yet what else to do to it.  The colors are not quite as vivid as the photo appears to be.  I may take the pen to it somewhat like what I have done on the gift tags and just see what happens.  This is a week to just experiment and not get attached to the outcome.  Next week I’ll probably get back to more focused work with a fresher mindset.  I’ll post this drawing again when I have finished it.  I would like everything I do this week to be significantly different from what I have done before and surprise even myself.

Petunias and raspberries revisited

This was one of those weeks where the studio work came last, or as was the case, not at all.  Between the berry picking, a trip to the timber frame job site, and work on a new set of architectural plans on the computer, I don’t think I spent an hour in the studio. 


On the good side, I did pick about a gallon of raspberries.  Not as much as I hoped, but the rain delayed me a few days and the birds took advantage.  I’m slightly aggravated over it because I probably would have gotten close to another gallon.  Sometimes there’s just nothing that can be done, so I’m just going to be grateful for the 2 gallons I did get.  Maybe there will be one more day left but  I don’t expect to get much more than 1/2 gallon and I don’t know how good they will be. At the end of the season they can be smaller and less juicy.  Here you can see my picking set up.  I have a small bowl that I take into the bushes to pick and two larger ones to pour into so they don’t crush.  I never like to keep too much in the picking bowl in case I should trip or get startled by the fauna and spill my hard won gains.  It has happened, though not too often.  I’m pretty serious about the berries I’ve already gotten and I’ll go over before they will.  The large white bowl allows me to put the berries in the shade and then find them again later.  This has been an issue occasionally when I wandered too far from where I left the bowls and then I have to frantically search for the stash.  The white does stand out.  I also have to be careful with the metal bowl because it can get too warm from the sun and actually heat up the berries.  This is about 1/2 gallons worth.  On a really good picking day, I’ll come back with all 3 bowls full and I can freeze over a gallon, while leaving plenty to eat fresh.

More petunias

Also. the petunias are continuing to spread nicely.  Because I am sure that they are hybridized, I am getting colors that I never bought, like the light pink.  I think that those came from the striped ones last year because up close you can see a faint stripe of darker color.  In the background  you can see my tomato plants too.  One of these years I will have a real garden instead a few plants in the flower beds.  This has to do for now and I did just pick my first tomato yesterday.