Blue herons

Painted cranes

Painted cranes

I spent the last two days painting the heron sculpture drawing. Most of it was finished yesterday but I wanted to wait overnight to add in the darkest parts.  When I first started I thought I would add magenta to the teal/turquoise blue.  I thought I would just leave the white paper as highlights, but after a few small strokes the purple didn’t do quite what I wanted so I stopped at that point.  Later it came to me that yellow ocher might be better as a highlight .  I played around with it and the teal and when I felt I had reached a stopping point, I decided to reconsider what to use for the darkest areas.

I liked the way the color had developed  but it still definitely needed depth.  I debated long and hard with myself how I wanted to do it.  I had a thought of using a spatter technique as a mimic of the sculpture’s finish but I would have had to frisquet off all of the background before I could do that.  I was also concerned if I could lay it well enough to emphasize the areas I wanted to, but not overlay in others.  I ended up using a dark sepia and am fairly well satisfied with it.

Waiting for spring

Crane statue

Crane statue

It has been cold, cold, cold here the last few days. And more of the same plus the possibility of sticking snow on Tuesday. March – in like a lion……   I am so ready for spring this year. My daffodils are coming up – no surprise there – but nothing else is budding out yet. Last year with the very mild winter everything came out way too early and when a not so late frost hit, a lot of the new growth died, never to be fully replaced. Add that to the last three years of moderate to severe drought, and I am hoping for some normal spring and summer weather for a change.  Maybe the colder temperatures have killed off the tree scale, too. Aside from the damage to the trees, I really didn’t like walking under a shower of sticky insect poo to get down to the lake.  It was that bad.

Yesterday Tom and Jerry, the male turkeys. made their way cautiously across the back yard at a somewhat leisurely pace.  I haven’t seen much of them or the hens this winter.  Ditto for the bucks.  We have seen quite a few of the does and last year’s babies, but the bucks have been hiding out.  Don’t know why.

The Canada geese have been moving about lately, but what I enjoy seeing are the transient ducks.  We keep hoping some will stay for the summer, but no luck yet.  Maybe we will put up some duck boxes on the other side of the lake.  We have seen quite a few ring-necked ducks as well as the usual mallards this year.

I still feel like painting a bit so I have taken a small sculpture of herons I received as a gift many years ago and penciled it up.  I will look at it tomorrow and see if I still like it the way it is.  Sometimes the hardest thing for me is to start the inking. I get attached to the drawing and am “afraid” of ruining it.

Bamboo and birds – the newest linocuts

bird_c_4663I worked rather diligently on the new linoleum blocks once I had them. In addition to the bamboo linoleum block I showed last time, I also wanted to make a companion print to the first shore bird. I decided to hold off the printing until I had both done so I could add the watercolors at the same time.When both were done, I pulled several prints of each.  I left one black and have colored the second one with the same mossy green I used before.

I wish I had looked at the first bird more closely before I cut out the second though.  I forgot that I left a small border around it and to really make a matched set, I should have put it on the second one.  Oh well, it’s not a huge deal.  I just wish I had taken a little time to look instead of diving right in.  The problem is I don’t like to look a previous work too much when doing something new.  It tends to stifle me.  I can get bound up in trying to reproduce an effect instead of letting a piece develop its own uniqueness.

bamboo_bw_4660I rather like the way the bamboo print turned out.  I was a little afraid of it since I based it on two sketches I made last week and I could feel myself focusing on them rather than the block cut at hand.  When I got to the color, I debated on how much to add.  I started in the lower middle, intending to work my way up and out as the spirit moved me.  Then I  just decided to put it over the whole area.  I though it would better evoke a forest of bamboo.  I have another print already made so if I decide to try a partial color I can easily do it.  However, looking at it a day later, the total green has grown on me.

bamboo_c_4670And wouldn’t you know it, when I went to get out my printing paper – there was the missing block. I had put it “safely” with the paper, out of the way in my flat file.  As I said, it was only safe from me.

Back to the linocuts

shore bird linocut

After I finished the commission I decided to try a few more linocuts. I bought half a dozen just to experiment with and I think so far that the 5×7 size was a good choice. I was searching for inspiration so I grabbed my little sketchbook to draw a bit and see what happened. Well, what happened is that I saw that the last sketches I had done were of my wooden shorebirds. I had an aha moment and decided to use them as inspiration.  The birds are more like folk art and are not finely cut or painted but are pleasing to look at on the beam ledge as I walk up to the second floor.  I chose one that was standing erect and had a long beak.


I also had a turtle in mind but the sketch I had made on the block didn’t please me so I had let it sit for a few days.  When I went back to it today, I decided to add more.  I had the image of a group of hatchlings making their way back to the water.  Compositionally, it seemed to work out better when I redrew it adding more.

I have no clue what they will look like printed up because I don’t have enough experience yet.  I do think I will add the watercolor again.  My only concern is how much the printing ink will bleed into the watercolor.  The printing ink is water based and responds to the watercolors.   That will be tomorrow’s job.  I am actually looking forward to it – after I clean up the mess I made the last time.


The droughts of the last 3 summers are finally starting to affect us I’m afraid. In the summer of 2010, the drought started in August and ran on into September. I could kind of keep ahead of it, watering mostly the new plants of the year.  Last summer it began in early July and lasted on into the fall.  I had to water quite a bit more but still was able to concentrate mostly on the newer plants.  I confess I did start to water of the Japanese maple that I love at the corner of the house as well as the hydrangea trees and the dogwood.  Most of the flowers were doing okay with an occasional bath, but except for the glorious wave petunias, I didn’t water much else.

My poor vinca

This year is bad.  There has been no real rain since some time in April.  My well established vinca is getting brown and actually dying back in places.  I have begun to water it.  The inner leaves of the hydrangea tree are dying back as if it were already September.  I have begun to water it.  My beloved Japanese maple, already hard hit by a late frost and struggling with half sized leaves of reduced numbers, is feeling stressed.  I have begun to water it.  The Black-eyed Susans  are drooping for heavens sake! I have begun to water them.  Only the petunias look decent.  I have begun to water them too.

Easy fishing for the heron

There are no butterflies around my butterfly bush, although there seem to be some honey bees, bumble bees, and wasps flying about.  The lake is down many feet.  The fishing for the Great Blue heron is easy these days even if the bigger fish have gone  deeper for cooler water.  The shallows are much extended.  The deer are hiding out most of the time.  The coyotes are missing and I only see a few squirrels and rabbits.  Mr. Turtle is missing. The only proliferation we seem to be having is that of raccoons and I think they are just attracted by the easy pickings in the gardens.

Drooping Black-eyed Susans

I cannot sustain watering everything for the whole summer.  We may just have to concentrate on the more valuable trees and shrubs and let some of the other things fend for themselves.  It is frightening to think that this is still June and there seems to be no respite in sight.  I wish it would rain…….  today, tomorrow, Tuesday………..

Stained glass update

I thought a short update on the stained glass that  our kids are making for above our door was in order. After many hours of work, the soldering is done, the patina applied and the polish wiped off. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were not yet able to get it into place this weekend as we had planned, but soon….soon it will be there.

Heron stained glass

In any case, a brief peek at the current state of affairs seems to be in order.  The colors have popped with the addition of the solder and I can finally see what it is going to look like (almost) when it is up.  The heron will watch over us, I think, for many years.  It is a wonderful gift from our kids and a beautiful addition to our foyer.

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.

Watercolor birds

Pelican resting

I did get some time over the holiday weekend to spend in the studio.  Since there is a little bit of down time when using this misting technique, I decided to try and paint two at once.

Pink flamingo

I found these two pictures from a long zoo photography session and thought they might be fun to try.  I got a little carried away with the frisket and in the future I will probably peel off the larger blobs, but I guess that is part of the experience.  Also I am still having a problem with the paper curling with the heavier washes.  I painted these on the Arches watercolor paper which I taped down but, especially with the pelican, I got some stretching that didn’t go down after it totally dried.  I have put them under some heavy books and maybe that will help.

I did most of the initial pen and ink with the water spritz first and then started to painted the birds.  I went back and added some more ink with a little bit of water outside of the birds, creating a little bit of extra grey wash.  When I was done, I decided to embellish their bases and the background a little.  I added most of the wash on the right side of the pelican at the end because I didn’t feel that he was grounded enough.  I think it looks more balanced too.

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.

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