Watching the wildlife

Looking for lunch

I finished the inking on the next picture but I didn’t feel that it was different enough to post, so I thought I’d put up a few of the wildlife photos I mentioned earlier instead.  Here is the coyote hunting for his lunch.  He was quite a big guy and rather blonde and in fact, until I saw his face, I thought he might have been a dog.  He spent quite a bit of time over there looking for mice, voles, moles,  or whatever and finally caught something.

Dining out

He pounced and then lay down with his catch.  I couldn’t tell what he had, but he grabbed at it, tossing his head to get rid of fur it seemed, and then swallowed whatever it was.  He spent about half an hour hunting over the same area, but I didn’t see him catching anything else.  I didn’t see any other coyotes at the time, but we certainly have heard them a lot over the last few weeks.  It is breeding season now so they are singing to themselves, I think.  I am keeping my fingers crossed to see puppies again.

Resting does

A few days earlier I saw several deer out in the back yard and just in the  woods.  The does were resting among the trees and then I saw the young buck move out into the open.  I wonder how he managed to break his antler.  Was he trying to play with the big boys a little to early?  Did he find out who the big boss really was?  I am sure that next year he will be much more skillful.  He was on the large side, so I think he might end up with a nice rack in a few years and join the big boys herd.

Young buck

Back to “regular” architecturals

I felt in the mood to go back to a “regular’ architectural, so Monday I started to line a new one out.  I know I said I was going to try the spritzed ink for the foliage but I really need to figure out how to control the bleed.

Entryway 7

When I am working on an animal in the middle of a sheet of watercolor paper it doesn’t matter how much the ink bleeds out, but in an architectural, I draw right to a lined edge and I don’t want to go beyond.  I like to leave a 1/4″ border around it for the mat if I can and when the ink moves out, I can’t do that.  I’m thinking of trying to use some frisket along the edge, but since that will take a bit of experimentation, I put it off for a bit.  Maybe over the weekend.

I went through my pictures and decided I liked this one.  It has a browner brick with limestone accents and slate roof.  I had to work a little on the crop because I really liked the entire house, but I didn’t want the entryway to get lost in the shuffle.  I completed the line-out yesterday and inked for a while today.  I have to do some other things tomorrow but I expect to finish the inking in one more sitting before I start to color with the pastels.

I managed to get some good photos yesterday of a couple of does right behind the house so perhaps I will use them in another watercolor.  And earlier, we saw a large coyote on the other side of the lake.  He was hunting something small over there, hopping up and down like they do, and then he lay down to gnaw briefly on whatever he had caught.  He hung around for close to half an hour checking the same spots over and over, but we only saw him eating once.  I’ll post a few pictures of them soon.

Revisiting the watercolor house on an iced over day

The more I looked at the blue house over the last couple of days, the more the darkness of the lower front gable bothered me. While I was inking it, I had accidentally flicked a drop of ink from the nib pen there (yes, klutzy me – how did I do those animals?) and although I immediately spritzed the spot with water and it grayed out, I still felt that it remained too murky for the rest of the picture.  

Watercolor redone

I decided to fiddle with it a little more starting with some of the lighter pastels.  When that didn’t work out quite the way I wanted, I tried some colored pencil instead.  I brightened up the reds and added some yellows to the gable as well as more contrast in the shadows.  I relined a bit of the inking for more definition too.  Frankly, I’m still underwhelmed with the picture but I think it is acceptably improved.

Iced over holly

On another note , we are still housebound by Friday night’s freezing rain.  This one was not nearly as bad as last year’s storm and I do expect to be able to get out later today if I want, although I suspect we will stay here and watch the football playoffs.    The icicles are starting to drip now and the holes in the lake ice are getting bigger.  It is supposed to rain later today so that should take care of the rest of it.  It is still rather pretty on the trees and shrubbery – just inconvenient.

Let’s try the watercolor on the buildings

I managed to get my commission out in the mail yesterday, delayed somewhat by an enormous morning rain storm which caused the road in front of our house to temporarily flood.  The water goes down as quickly as it comes up, so we are rarely trapped for long, but I was not risking my little car getting stuck in the water.  I only had a little bit of time today in the studio after straightening up  and filing away the reference photos, so  I decided to try the bleeding pen/watercolor technique on a small building.

Architectural pen/watercolor

 A while ago someone suggested that I try a bit more outrageous, abstract colors for an architectural work.  It is not quite abstract, but this Park City  house was turquoise with a red door, so I think it may qualify.
It is only 8″x6″ and turned out a little darker than I wanted especially in the lower gable.  I decided not to use the frisket and perhaps that would have helped keep things a bit brighter.  I will work with the shadows a little bit tomorrow and maybe put in some highlights.  I’m also thinking that for an architectural work perhaps I should make it a larger piece and use the technical pen.  With so much linear ink work involved,  the washing effect would not gray out the drawing so much.  I do rather like the effect it has on the trees and maybe I could incorporate that with the pastels.  Another experiment.

Christmas scene

This is the commission that I have been working on over the last week. I have never done a snow scene before so it has been quite a new adventure.

Christmas scene

I have had to try to balance the colors of the snow cover and the house within a rather limited pallette.  The lack of leaves means that the white can be a bit overpowering, so I tried to balance the ink first and then add in the colors.  Usually, I add the colors of the house and roof into the vegetation to pull the whole thing together, but that is not quite as straight forward with this.  Overall, I am happy with the effort but will wait until tomorrow to finalize what I have done.  I know I want to add a little more of something to the background trees but I haven’t quite decided what.
All along, I have had a picture in my head of what I want, unlike most of what I do.  Usually I have a basic idea and let the picture develop as I add color, but with the more limited snow pallette this is not possible.  I had to think more beforehand of the direction it would go and make sure to not overcolor it first.  I also didn’t want the Christmas colors ot overpower what is a cute little house.  I think it just needs a little tweaking before I send it on its way.

My bread machine committed suicide

These days, with the advent of the colder weather, I am rather missing my bread machine. I like to make soup in the winter months and freshly baked bread is the perfect accompaniment – especially if I can delegate all of the kneading to someone or something else.  I had bought the bread machine 15-20 years ago and it had a rather archaic design compared to today’s sleek modern ones.  We affectionately called it R2-D2 because if you picture the little robot without his feet, you will have an accurate image of it.  Instead of wheels, it had four little knob feet with a little rubber attachment on each to help it stay in one place while the kneading rocked it .  Over the course of the years, one rubber piece had become detached and caused it to be unbalanced when running.  I usually just put something large and flat, like my kitchen pad of  paper, underneath to stabilize it.  I was always in the general vicinity  of the kitchen so I could keep an eye on it, just in case it started to move.

A few days after my horse died Last November, I decided I wanted to make some turkey vegetable soup.  It had been cool for a few days and I wanted to make the first loaf of bread for the fall season too. I dragged R2-D2 up from the cold room where I kept it when not in steady use and then put the soup on and threw the bread mix into the machine to rise. Then I went outside to start the sad task of going through all of Lady’s things to determine what to clean and keep and what to toss.  I was at the outside spigot underneath the kitchen window filling a bucket of water, when I heard the bread machine go into the second kneading cycle and thought  “How nice – the machine is on the second mix.  We can eat in a few hours”.  I went back to sorting my tack for a while without another thought about it.

As I was finishing up and heading back into the house, my husband came out to tell me about the kitchen disaster.  The bread machine had jumped off of the counter, unplugging itself from the outlet, and crashed itself onto the tile floor.  Little bits of broken off plastic were everywhere as the machine lay sadly on its side a couple of feet from the cabinets.  Somehow, the dough had managed to stay inside so there was no sticky mess to clean up, but my wonderful bread machine was totally destroyed.  There would be no fresh bread to go with the soup that night and none until I replaced it.

A few hours later, while busy with another task, it occurred to me that we hadn’t looked under the rag rug where the bread machine landed to see if any of the tiles had been broken by the swan dive.  After a brief moment of panic and my heart in my throat, I saw that the tile survived the impact.  The damage was limited to the machine and our supper.  On a final good note, my mother has exactly the same machine which she no longer uses.  While I haven’t gotten it yet, she is going to give it to me soon and I will be able to make bread and soup once a again.

Wild turkeys in the yard last week

Old and new – animal portraits I have done

The general consensus seems to be that many of you to enjoy the series of small pen and ink/ watercolor animals I have been doing lately. I want to say thank you for all of the encouraging words but it has gotten me to thinking about how my artwork has been changed by time and experience.  I got out of graduate school in 1977, but hadn’t created much artwork in the several years following my disastrous art experiences in college.  With a degree in ethology, it was quite natural for me to go back to animal art when I finally had the inspiration and time to do it.  I did a lot of ink drawings with a nib pen back then.

Another giraffe

A couple of ago years, when I set up my permanent studio and picture wall, I looked over the animal art I had done in the late 70’s and early 80’s and I was surprised at the life and flow in them.  I had moved off of the nib pen when I started doing architectural work because it was a lot easier to use the technical pen for the more elaborate drawings.  No constant need to refill the nib and a much more even flow for the multitude of straight lines.  Periodically, I would do an animal portrait but not very often as I concentrated on the architecturals.  Over time, I think I lost the feel for  the animals that I had had and was generally disappointed with my efforts.  It was distressing if I thought about it so I generally didn’t.  I think this new (to me) technique has allowed me to recapture some of the old feel and I am enjoying the sojourn back with the nib pen and the animals.

Pastel and pen tiger

I accepted a house commission last week so I am off of the animals for a while.  With nothing new to show because of the architectural, I’ve picked a few of my long ago animals to post.  Feel free to compare them with the new ones.  I’d be interested to hear what you think.

Mr. raccoon


Look Mom – two hands

I went to the hand doctor today and the good news is that I don’t have to use the splint anymore. Hooray! It actually started to feel stronger last week and so I tried to do a little bit more of this and that without stressing it too much.  For the next month am I supposed to gently increase the amount of things I do with it, still being careful not to over do it or torque it.  My inner klutz is going to have to be very careful not to become an outer klutz for a while.  There is no scheduled physical therapy so he must have been happy with the range of motion I have at this stage.  I can feel it improving even since my appointment.  And to be able to wash my hand now….  It feels like a minor luxury.


I did manage to do a couple more little watercolors over the weekend.  I rather like the giraffe.  It has a nice sense of movement and color and I don’t think I would change much at this point.  He looks as if he is thinking about something to me.  I may look through my pictures for another one.  He was on the fun side to do.


The turkey, on the other hand, is only okay to my eyes.  He looks a little too much on the buzzardy side with his reddish head.  I am going to keep a lookout this spring for the toms around here and see if I can manage to photograph a male displaying.  I saw them several times shortly after we moved in but of course forgot about my camera.

Welcome to the New Year

On this, the second day of the new year, I’d like to wish everyone a 2012 filled with wonder, joy and new challenges successfully met.  Today we are getting alternating sun and flurries with quite cold wind chills.  I am happy to be snug inside my studio and looking at it out of the window.  We have started to see the deer reappear with the end of gun hunting season.  I have seen a quite a few does and a couple of bucks, some with the larger racks.  My sister and brother-in-law have long put out a lot a bird feeders and have attracted quite a few birds.  Unfortunately for the birds and the bird watchers, this year we have had 3 hawks move in with an eye to whatever wants to eat at the feeders.  They saw the juvenile actually perch on one of the feeder poles for the best view possible.  Needless to say, the smaller bird feeding population has radically reduced itself at least for the time being.  Personally, I am rooting for the hawks going after the mice and squirrels that seem to abound out here.

The little red barn

We had a rather quiet holiday without a lot of company so I was able to get into the studio and paint some.  I enjoyed doing the ink/watercolor animals and decided to  branch out and try a landscape.  It is a little larger than the animals were so it took a bit more time, but not inordinately so.  These paintings take a lot less time overall than the pastels do which is somewhat understandable given the detail and size involved.  It is kind of nice to be able to finish something in only a day or two versus close to a week.

I like the way that the sky and the barbed wire fence turned out.and some of the foliage, but on the whole, I don’t think it is one of my better paintings.  It is okay but seems to lack enough pop to my eye.  I had hoped that the red barn would provide a more significant focal point without being garish and I do like the vee the pasture forms around it but it is still lacking something yet.  In the animal portraits I was able to say, there I’m done, but this still seems to need some work.  I think I will play around with the pen a little and try to balance the positive/negative space a little more.  Also, I was very messy doing this and ended up with dirty white borders.  I may have to mat it to hide them.  And the view with a mat does change the look of a picture.  It is probably worth a try.