Summer outdoor life

What kind of swallowtail is this?

A tiger swallowtail next to the mystery man

I saw this odd swallowtail a few days ago while watering my outside plants.  There is always a ton of butterflies on the pink phlox in front of the garage, and I knew right away that I had never seen this kind before.

Thank heavens for a handy camera and google. With a few clicks (I knew it was a swallowtail) I discovered that it is called a giant swallowtail.  Not a very creative name, I know, but it is the biggest swallowtail found in the continental US.  Males can get to be 7″, but I don’t think this one was quite that large.  The caterpillar stage looks like a large blob of bird poop!

It is found across the country though mainly in the eastern half and especially in Florida – not surprisingly because the caterpillar likes to feed on citrus leaves.  I really hope to see one again.  I’ll be keeping my eye on the phlox.

Red impatiens

Red impatiens

After several work sessions, the red impatiens painting is basically done. I am not quite happy with the red hue – I think it needs to be redder – but that is the only red I have in my paint box right now.  Last year I bought a package with 9 colors in it just to get started,  Now that I am painting a bit more and getting a better idea of what I like to use, I probably need to pick a bigger variety of paints.

This looks okay to me.  This has really been an ongoing  process.  It’s only this year that I have felt that the paintings have become something more pleasing and unique, starting with the lily pond ones over the winter.

Lately, I have decided that the gloss varnish has been the way to go.  It definitely added something to the greens and blues in the pond in a very good way.  The reds here will pop more when I varnish it.


Red impatiens this time around

Impatiens pencil drawing

First layer of acrylic

From lilies of the valley to impatiens.  I decided to stay with the floral theme and again took inspiration from my own flowers.  The photo reference for this comes from the decorative baskets flanking the doorway and sidelights on my front porch.

Just like the lilies of the valley painting, it was easy to get lost in all of the flowers and foliage. I started out small and spread out just to help me keep track of where I was.  At some point, the grid disappears and you have to go with the color flow.  When I’m finshed, I do think this will go well with some of the products in my new Society6 store.  Check it out.  It’s under ruthsartwork of course.  I’ll be adding more of my images as time goes on, but at least I’ve started.  Our internet is so slow here I have to go over to my mom’s place to upload the larger image files.

The lily of the valley painting is finished

It’s done

After a lot of reworking, the lily of the valley painting is finished. All I have to do is sign it.  This was pretty difficult – more than I thought it would be.  I repainted the leaves several times as well as the little bell shaped flower clusters, but it was hard to get the balance of the yellow vs blue tint to the green.

I think I am going to use a gloss varnish this time around.  It should help the greens pop a bit more.  I finally got around to varnishing the lily pond paintings and I used the glossy type.  I really liked the effect it had on the greens and blues in that set and I hope it will do the same here.

Lily of the valley

Pencil drawing

First layer of acrylics

After that spate of architectural commissions in March and April, I decided an acrylic painting or two might be in oprder.  My lily of the valley had started blooming in the front flower beds and I proceeded to work from a few photos I had taken of them.  Easier said than done.  The foliage and the shadows got quite complicated in a big hurry.  My eyes and brain needed a break so here is where I stopped.

Another blech in the works?


Can you tell it’s wisteria?  I can’t.

I tried a floral painting this time around, but it seems well on the way to another blech rating.  It’s not as bad as the barn painting was, but this one may be destined for the circular file too.  This is the second session for it, but alas, not much improvement has taken place.  It’s not awful, but it’s not very good either.  I am still having trouble with applying the thick bodied acrylic paint.  I have used an extender and a slow drying agent, but I am still feel I am fighting the paint instead of using it.

I am definitely thinking of taking a refresher class for acrylics over the summer.  I feel my problems are more technique related than use of colors or composition and it’s been a looooong time since college.  Not that my college works were any great thing, but I have concentrated most of my efforts in the last 30 years in pen and ink and more recently watercolors and I think I have forgotten a lot in the process.  I think the acrylic animal portraits have been better because the style is looser and less requiring of detail.

I had one last session with the Gizmo pet portrait while doing this and will post the results next time.  I think it turned out okay.

Playing hooky

New aceos

New aceos

I must admit to playing hooky over the last week.  The weather has been warming up and while I had to dodge some rain, I was able to do my “fall cleanup” for a few days.  The flower beds are ready for spring weeding and as soon as it dries up some, I’ll be out there pulling grass, dandelions, and other assorted weeds that have already sprung up.  The redbuds are fully blooming and the dogwoods are coming on.  My red dogwood survived the winter cold and the deer with most of the flowers intact. so I am happy about that.  The daffodils are almost done though.  I have been picking them to put in the kitchen, but they haven’t lasted over long.  It is still early to buy any flowers for planting, but I’m getting the urge to.  We are having a high deer fence put around our garden this spring because we are tired of the deer, raccoons, rabbits, possums, etc. eating up everything including the fruit trees.  I might as well just been giving the wildlife the money the last few years.  LOL

I did spend some time making some new aceo/gift tags.  I have my next project in mind, but I have to do some photo research before I can start.  Here’s a peek at the aceos.  I’ll be listing some of them in the next few days.


Aceo blanks 2

Aceo blanks 2

The latest sheet of watercolor for the aeco/gift tags backgrounds turned out fine. I don’t know if it was the different soaking brush, the different colored paper, or a combination of the two, but the colors lay down nicely and I am pleased with the results. Perhaps I was somehow scarring up the paper with the other brush or removing some surface finish, but this time around there was no precipitation of the paint.  I now have way too many blanks, but they do make an easy project for a fill in. I will probably list a few of these this week.  Valentine’s Day is coming up for the heart ones and I also don’t have a lot of blue things in my shop.  The worst part is taking all of the photos.  I end up sifting through about 12 photos to get the three I need for each listing.  It is necessary, but time consuming. Then I’ll have to figure out a real project to work on.

Hydrangea linocut

Hydrangea spike

Hydrangea spike

I have two beautiful hydrangea paniculata trees (pinky winky variety if you can believe it)  flanking my front door. I had never heard of them before the landscaper put them in, but now I think they are quite lovely. They flower late summer with a large spike at the end of a branch. Unlike the blue and pink hydrangeas that we are most are familiar with, the spike doesn’t fully flower out – I would say less than 10%. There are lots of seedy looking buds that never open. The ones that do are a soft pink and beige color. I clipped off a dozen branches last fall to dry and decided to use them as a linocut inspiration.


Colored hydrangea linocut

Colored hydrangea linocut

I like the linocut itself, but I am not sure I like the green ink.  I wanted to use something other than the black, but I am feeling rather so-so about this color.  Unfortunately, my inking palette is rather limited in this regard.

Red dogwoods

Really red dogwood flowers

Really red dogwood flowers

Thursday, I printed up the dogwood linocut with my red ink. If you remember, I considered adding some white to the red to vary the color. However, that would require that I had some white.  I thought I did, but I did’t.  So much for that idea.  Anyway, I am not unhappy with the solid red.  It is quite vibrant in its own right.  I am thinking of making a companion print for this since I don’t think I’ll make one with the added watercolors.  I’ll have to think about another red flower to use.  Or maybe I’ll print up the dragon in red. Take a peek at my etsy store linocuts and please make a suggestion for a different color for the black ones.


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