Thursday, October 14, 2010


A little bird recently reminded me that it has been a long time since I posted. I have certainly been distracted from blogging lately. A blood test in late July showed that I was anemic and since I've gotten my iron levels back up to normal, I am truly a different person. (I have to wonder how long I had anemia without realizing it!) With all this new energy I seem to be more and more interested in doing what I really want to do rather than what I should or ought to do, and often blogging has fallen into the should/ought category. Not to say I'm giving up blogging completely. And not to say with six months of winter fast approaching that blogging won't suddenly jump back onto my want to do list. But for now, I guess I'm taking a hiatus. I hope you are having as wonderful a fall as I am!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Practice, Practice, Practice

Portrait of our Miss Madeleine. 5"x5" acrylic on watercolor paper.
Subject to change as I continue to work on the proportions and her eyes.

Acrylic paintings take longer than watercolor, so while I'm working on a larger landscape painting, I'm also doing a number of smaller pieces for daily practice. A 5" x 5" space limits how much I can put in a painting, helping me to keep from becoming overwhelmed with details, too.

I'm continuing to apply the techniques I learned at the workshop and I continue to be pleased with the results. And I still love my rake brush (look closely at the texture of her fur - that's the rake brush at work). I've always admired people who paint realistically but have a painterly feel to their work. I am thrilled that I'm finally beginning to see that quality in my work as well.

Another change I've noticed is that I am not depending on my reference photos as much; not painting as literally. In the photo for this piece, the light was very even and Madeleine had no shadow areas. Once I got her basic shape down, I painted from "feel" not from the photograph and I added shadows around her snout and body that were not in the photograph. I'm really happy with how this added life and volume to her portrait.

But what is off with her eyes and ears??? I can see that something is off but I cannot for the life of me put my finger on exactly what it is. If I cover one half of her face, the visible eye and ear pairs work, but with them all together there is something off. If you can spot the problem, let me know!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Raven Painting Demonstration

Have I kept you waiting long enough?

As I had mentioned in a previous post, the Seerey-Lesters were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge at the painting workshop I attended a few weeks ago now. They encouraged us to take pictures as John demonstrated the concepts, so that we could reference these photos later and refresh our memories. And they very kindly gave me permission to share these photos on my blog.

John is working on a masonite panel with a coat of mid-value gray. He uses this technique so that darks and lights are immediately apparent. In this first picture, he is painting in the main dark and light areas of a raven, after using vine charcoal to sketch the basic shape of the bird onto the panel. The model was a taxidermy specimen.

The following sequence of photos show how he develops the scene. He uses very thin washes of acrylic, building up the details and textures with each wash. Almost all of this painting was done using a rake brush (like a flat brush, but with the tips of the hairs clipped in an almost sawtooth pattern to provide a great brush for textures and very thin lines.) They are amazingly versatile brushes, but rather hard to find. I ended up having to buy my Loew-Cornell rake brushes online for the workshop, but now I'm hooked on them.

Once John was happy with the values, he began to add thin washes of color.

Here is John Seerey-Lester's finished painting with the model. John completed this in about 4 hours, while talking us through what he was doing and answering questions along the way. Some lucky person attending the workshop bought this painting. How cool is that to have a painting hanging in your house that you actually watched the artist paint!?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In Memoriam

I am very sad to report that one of my muses died yesterday. We're not sure of what or how. Yesterday morning she was fine and then our landlords found her dead under the coop yesterday afternoon. She was such a beautiful chicken. I hope that she is now in a vast eternal cornfield with lots of grasshoppers and no foxes.


I know that I had given you a workshop teaser last week, and then haven't posted since. Well, as these things seem to go, I was so excited to get home and start trying out all of the new painting information I learned at the workshop and then I promptly got sick. At first I thought it was just an annoying summer cold coming on, but no, it was my body telling me that I'd overdone it for long enough and I needed to take it easy whether I liked it or not. It is rather hard to argue when you feel like you've been hit by a freight train, so once I could crawl home from the work week, I basically slept the weekend away. By Sunday evening, I finally felt like I had enough energy to start a painting. My chosen subject matter will probably not surprise you.

I've been pleasantly surprised at how much information my brain was able to retain from the workshop and I could instantly see a difference in my painting. The lighting for this photo is not the best, but hopefully you get the idea. I am looking forward to continuing to practice more techniques from the workshop and trying to hone my painting skills!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Few More Chickens and a Workshop

I'm still enamored with "our" chickens. This page was sketched during their feeding time this evening.

I am seriously tired. Like please-let-me-sleep-an-entire-week-away tired. My in-laws came for a visit at the end of June. The motherboard/server at work that stores all of our customers' files, graphics, past ads, photos, logos, you name it, died and we had to start every project we'd been working on from scratch. (Yes, there was a backup but it took two days just to access that. Deadlines wouldn't wait.) A lot of overtime hours were racked up that week! Our IT guy took it in stride saying "Well, I didn't know if I could still pull 36 hour days at my age, but I guess I still can.". (and yes, our IT guy is waaaaay more tired than I am, so I shouldn't be complaining.) And then I just got back from a week-long painting workshop.

A painting workshop? I know, I know: poor me. But let me tell you; spending a week doing exactly what you want with like-minded people and fantastic instructors IS exhausting! My brain is so full. But it was an amazing experience. The workshop was held in Bend, Oregon through Art in the Mountains and our instructors were John and Suzie Seerey-Lester. I couldn't believe that I was able to take advantage of this opportunity - so often I can't afford to go to an art workshop because I'd need to fly just to get there, then rent a car, etc., etc., or I find out about the workshop after I've used up all my vacation time at work. This one was just a (long) day's drive away AND it was specifically focused on wildlife painting AND with artists whose work I was familiar with and who had good teaching reputations. I feel so lucky that everything came together for me to be able to do this.

I'll be blogging more about the workshop over the next few weeks as the experience sinks in. I learned so much and am now very anxious to put it all into practice. Here are a few pictures from the workshop to tide you over:

John Seerey-Lester starts a raven painting for a class demonstration.

Another day, another painting. The Seerey-Lesters put their all into the workshop,
teaching all day and then giving us extra instruction time in the evenings. Clearly they love to paint and love to teach. John also tells some great ghost stories.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Portrait of a Rhode Island Red

Never thought I'd be learning the names of different breeds of chickens! This one from "our" flock is a Rhode Island Red. She's very curious (nosey?), being the most likely of the hens to peer in our windows, turning her head to look in with one eye and then the other. I think she intimidates our cat a little.

A quick pencil sketch led to this pen and colored pencil study.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Few More Photos

We have of course been very domestic lately, mostly because of the move, but also the soggy weather. But once the rain let up (1.9" of rain in June to date - unheard of in these parts) we slipped outside when we could. Here are a few photos from our forays:

I actually managed to get this photo of a western tanager at work during
my lunch break. The back patio area is surprisingly a terrific bird habitat.

A mountain bluebird in all its glory. How can seeing this not make your day?
When I zoomed in to see what was in its beak, it looked suspiciously arachnid.

These nestlings were nearly ready to fly. A few days later and we
probably wouldn't have seen them.

And I can't leave you without a picture of the Divine Miss M,
having an afternoon bath in the sun.

I know I haven't posted any art lately. Soon, I hope!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Quick Update

We've officially settled into our new apartment! We're enjoying discovering all the little perks and quirks of our new home while still digging out from under the mountains of packing boxes. Madeleine is adjusting to her new habitat well. Here she is, posing next to the funky shower curtain we opted for. The bathroom walls are made of what seems like shower stall material, and are a pale lavender (see the lower left-hand corner of the photo). Since we can't repaint the room, we've embraced the odd color instead.

One of the many delights of our new abode arrived last weekend - our new landlords started a flock of chickens! This just happens to be something Paul and I have talked about doing ourselves someday, so we are enjoying this test run. Madeleine watches the hens through the window very intently, but I can't tell if she sees them as prey or just a curiosity. I'm sure there will be lots of sketches of the hens as soon as I can find my sketchbooks.

And the spring rains have arrived at last. It has rained every day for the last two weeks. It made moving a muddy mess, but we need the rain. Today I noticed mushrooms popping up in lawns all around town. These intriguing ones are from our new yard, and look like something you might see in a medical textbook on diseases of the, er, personal nature. I'll try to identify them as soon as I unearth the box that my mushroom field guide is packed in.

I can't exactly say when I'll be back to blogging on a regular basis again. My ancient computer isn't even set up yet; Paul and I have been sharing his. But I wanted to post a little about our new life and let everyone know that although this whole having-to-move process over the last few months has been extremely stressful, we are really thrilled with our new situation. Thanks for all of your support and well-wishes!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Spring Sabbatical

A little bird reminded me today that I've been absent from the Blogosphere for a while now. We've been busy apartment-hunting, packing up our lives, getting our apartment ready for house showings, and trying to get outside and catch Spring as much as possible. It's been a colder than usual Spring, but the first brave wildflowers are blooming and the birds are slowly coming back.

The hooded mergansers are pairing up.

The osprey are back.

And my jacob's-ladder is blooming.

We were starting to panic, but we finally found an apartment...and it is walking distance from three bakeries, a Dairy Queen, a cafe with gelato, and a locally-made ice cream stand. Life can't get much better than that! We'll be downsizing a little in the main living areas, but I will have space for my own art studio with natural northern light so I'm not complaining about the tighter quarters. When you've been married for 21 years, you've seen it all anyway. We'll be moved in by June.

If I have time, I do want to share some before and after shots of the place as it is a diamond in the rough. Its low ceilings and small rooms could make for either a depressing and cluttered claustrophobic space (as with the previous tenants), or a simple and cozy retreat (my goal). If you love interior design challenges as much as I do, you should check out Apartment Therapy I stumbled onto the site while looking for design inspiration for small spaces and they just happened to be having a "Cool Small Space" contest. And they have a fabulous sister site called Re Nest that focuses on green design and DIY projects with recycled materials.

Given my to-do list for the next two months, I may be absent from the Blogosphere more often than not. But stay tuned - when the dust finally settles in July, I should have some exciting art, stories, and photos to share!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Third Time's The Charm

Can't help but sing!

You may remember waaaay back in November, that my beloved, academia-bound husband was supposed to have taken his oral exam as part of his PhD process, but on the day of his exam one of the professors on his committee came down with the flu. The exam was rescheduled for February, but in January another professor on his committee realized he had a conflict for that date and they rescheduled yet again for April. I am ecstatic to report that this time, finally, the exam went without a hitch and Paul passed and is now officially ABD (all but dissertation). Whew, we can breathe again!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Flicker WIP and My New Best Friend

Still plugging away on the flicker drawing. I decided that instead of eliminating the grass at the bottom of the piece, I would embrace it and embellish it instead. I have mixed feelings about the results. I'm also not sure I like how the bottom is so abrupt and cut off compared to the airy feeling of the rest of the edges. But I am simply playing here and I may start all over again once it is completed and I figure out what works and what doesn't work. I'm also thinking that a thin wash of color, whether watercolor or colored pencils, might be nice, too.

Over the last six months, I had been getting more and more discouraged with my drawings and sketches. They seemed rougher and less confident than they did a year ago. It struck fear in my heart, worrying that somehow I had already reached my artistic prime without knowing it and now it was all downhill from here. My ever-wise husband, after hearing me moan over my fate one too many times, suggested I borrow his reading glasses and try sketching with them on. I admit to being skeptical but in the name of marital harmony, I did as he suggested. A few successful sketches later I sheepishly returned them to him and then ran out to the store to get a pair of my own. Meet my new best friend:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Break from Painting

After painting over 75 pieces in the last 11 months, I need a little break from the brushes! My Micron pens were calling out to me, so I dusted them off and found my Bristol paper and got to it. He's a work in progress (still needs many more black circles on his plumage yet) but critiques of this guy are most welcome.

Work In Progress - Northern Flicker (red shafted) - Pen & Ink

Unlike most woodpeckers, flickers tend to forage for food on the ground a fair amount. One of their favorite snacks is ants. My subject here was settling down to munch on a tasty ant hill when I snapped the reference shot. I was trying to incorporate some of the grass into the scene but I don't feel that's a terribly successful part of the piece. The grass doesn't read as flat and thin to me, but more rounded. I will probably just darken the bottom of the piece enough to hide the grass. I want to further develop the gradation behind the bird as well.

You'd think that all of those little dots in the stippling would drive me crazy but aside from a crick in my neck and shoulders (which my wonderful husband voluntarily massages out for me) I find the process very soothing. In fact, my inner critic doesn't make much of an appearance with this type of work at all.

And soothing is exactly what I need right now. This apartment-hunting process is getting to Paul and I. I am trying to believe that a perfect apartment really is out there just waiting for us to find it, but this is a discouraging process that makes me think a little less of humanity. It blows my mind what people consider acceptable living conditions and how much they charge for the, um, er, honor. How can you call someplace a two bedroom apartment if one of the bedrooms has no source of heat? Why would you show an apartment that has trash in the front yard and broken windows? And what is it with landlords who set up a time for you to come and look at a prospective apartment and then don't show!? - This is what has happened with an apartment we really liked. We wanted to get in for a second look and then talk about signing a lease and the guy has blown us off twice! He apologized profusely the first time, but we haven't heard back from him the second time. If he does eventually call back, do we give him a third chance, given that we really like the apartment (private yard area, big windows and lots of storage, great neighborhood, and a sound barrier between the floors!) or is this a preview of what kind of landlord he's going to be? *Sigh*

On a happier note, both the osprey and the tree swallows are now back in town. I feel badly for them though - we've had snow squalls and wind gusts up to 50 mph. At one point last Thursday it was nearly white-out conditions. Welcome Spring!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Expecting Tree Swallows

Any day now the tree swallows should be back. My painting for today was inspired by my anticipation of that event. The return of the tree swallows, even more than the return of the osprey, convinces me that Spring really is just around the corner. The background of this painting feels more like summer though; hot, dry fields under a strong sun. I'm not quite ready for that yet!

I had the weekend to myself this week and planned it out so that all of the "have to" stuff got done yesterday, allowing me to spend the entire day today painting. I started out making a huge color mixing chart with my acrylics, painting delicious colors and playing with color wheels. Then I tried to paint an image that has been on my mind for weeks - a very monochromatic scene of snow and ice with dried cattails and Canada geese. A lovely scene in my head but a disappointment on paper. So I decided that before the frustration made me quit painting forever, it might be prudent to just take a break from painting and after a therapeutic piece of chocolate (Trader Joe's Pound Plus dark chocolate, if you're interested), I switched gears and worked on a baby quilt I'm making for a friend. She had her baby in October, so I'm a little behind schedule, but it will be lovely when it is done. And nights here stay cool/cold through May anyway.

After the break, I felt like I might be able to convince myself to give painting another go and I was surfing through my reference photos trying to figure out what to paint next and this image jumped out at me. The texture of the wooden nest box interested me, and I thought perhaps the blue of the swallows might make an interesting accent color against the yellow-brown earth colors in the background. That part didn't work out as well as I had hoped - the birds just weren't big enough for the blue to make an impact - but overall I am pleased with the painting, thank goodness! Our nearest Trader Joe's is 500 miles away, so if I keep painting disasters, I'm going to run out of chocolate!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Royal Tern

Detail from test painting

Last month Paul bought me some new acrylics made by M. Graham. I've been itching to try them and I finally found a few minutes this weekend to give them a go. I'm no connoisseur of paints, but I definitely liked their consistency (very smooth - I suppose what people describe as buttery) and the color seems nice and vibrant. The sand has Naples yellow in it - a new color to my palette and one I like very much. I think I will have to get a few additional colors as I wanted the water to be a turquoise but my only blue is Ultramarine and that's just too dark for it.

We went for another walk along the river this afternoon. The osprey should be back any day now, but we didn't see signs of them today. We did however hear a spotted towhee, which is always a good thing. Tree swallows should be the next birds to return. This time of year is so exciting as every week brings new arrivals.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Landscape paintings are not something I have a lot of experience with nor a burning desire to paint, but my last two paintings just happened to have both been landscapes. One of the coast and then this one of mountains. Maybe my latest subject choices are subconscious symbolic representations of my own search for a new personal landscape/home. I just love the color scheme of this one. The muted blues and browns are so soothing.

Our apartment search continues. I think I am beginning to have a problem with my craigslist habit. I have it bookmarked both at work and at home and I find myself checking it constantly just in case the perfect new apartment has just popped up in the listings. We've toured quite a few apartments in the last week or so. This being a college town, there are a lot of apartment listings that sound good on screen but end up being pretty shabby in the light of day. But we've also seen a few promising places along the way. Having lived in a basement apartment for the last 6 years, I find myself willing to overlook some cosmetic issues if a prospective apartment has big windows with lots of light. For example, one of the places that is tops on our list so far features a bedroom painted an orange that harkens back to the 70's, but I can work with that because of the fantastic windows with mountain views. At least there's no shag carpet.

Monday, March 15, 2010

More Signs of Spring

A robin joined the throngs of sun-starved people along the river this past Sunday.

Where the winds of disappointment

dash my dream house to the ground
and anger, octopus-like, wraps its tentacles around my soul
I just stop myself. I stop in my tracks
and look for one thing that can
heal me.
- Maya Angelo

I found this inspirational poem by Maya Angelo on a blog* that I find very inspirational anyway, so it was a double-whammy of inspiration, which is A Good Thing because I've lost count of how many whammies we've had of the uninspirational kind lately. Our apartment saga took a major turn for the worse this past week and it is looking very probable that we will have to move. We spent the weekend looking at available apartments, except for a lovely one hour walk along the river on Sunday. However, that one hour walk did us a world of good. Firstly, every person in town that owned a cute dog was out walking, too. Secondly, the birds were amazing. Not a lot of diversity yet, but the few species present made up for it in sheer exuberance. The red-shafted flickers were dueling through their calls, as the song sparrows were dueling with their songs and we spotted a female common merganser floating down the river, her beautiful dark green head glistening in the sunlight.

I know that I have hardly posted any art lately. I've just been so distracted by things that it has affected the success of my paintings and I am loathe to post this particular set of paintings publicly. However I AM STILL PAINTING, regardless of the outcome of the pieces. Come hell or high water, I WILL complete the challenge - even if my art table is a packing box and I have to sit on the floor!

*If you or someone you know is dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, I highly recommend Parasites of the Mind: a Healing Blog
It is so important for PTSD sufferers (and their loved ones) to know that they are not alone and that there is a way to heal!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Female Hairy Woodpecker enjoying the sun

It was in the 50's and sunny this past weekend. Today it snowed. That's March in the northern Rockies for you. You may have noticed that I've switched out my Blog Header. It was high time for a change. The jury is still out as to whether I'm going to stick with this one or try another idea. It's been a long, dark, weird winter this year and I am ready for some serious revamping and rejuvenating this spring. I've got the restlessness of spring-fever for sure!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Signs of Spring

Since Spring is officially still about a month away (and around these parts, early spring is probably more like two months away) I think I'm jumping the gun a little with my post title. However, the local chickadees and house finches have been tuning up their songs and it is no longer pitch black when I leave work, so I have reason to be hopeful.

This is a quick watercolor sketch of a mourning cloak butterfly. I haven't seen one this year yet, but they hibernate over the winter, sometimes emerging on warm winter days to take a sunbath before resuming their hibernation.

Today is the one year mark of when I began blogging about art and nature in earnest. It is too bad that I haven't been able to blog in earnest lately. About a month ago, our landlords decided to sell the house we rent an apartment in, so now my evenings are often taken up by dreaded cleaning and other preparatory house showing activities rather than being able to paint and blog to my heart's content. I hope that - despite the market - the house sells quickly, and to some nice people who will let us stay in our cozy little apartment!

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Personal Portrait

I love birds and I love painting birds, but this evening I painted a portrait of our cat Madeleine and it was a totally different experience. Transcendent, perhaps. When you are THAT familiar with your subject, it makes all the difference in the world. I was smiling affectionately the entire time, joy in my heart as I painted the scene that greets me every morning as I get out of the shower. There's a rug in our bathroom that is the exact same color as her eyes - I swear I didn't choose it for that reason - and she sits on it, waiting patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) for me to get out of the shower and feed her. It is one of those daily routines that is just so dear to my heart.

I splurged and got myself a pad of Arches cold pressed watercolor paper. This painting has been floating around in my mind for a while now, and I knew I wanted to paint it on cold pressed paper. As I have said before, I really like the hot pressed for fine detail, but I can't lay down a wash on it to save my skin. But cold pressed is a dream to paint loosely on and I wanted this to be a pretty loose painting.

As a follow up to my last post bemoaning the lack of waxwings this winter, I have to mention that today a good friend and I went for a walk and spotted a few waxwings in a clump of mountain ash trees near work. Barely a handful, but waxwings none the less. It made me very happy.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Waxwing Painting

Had you given up on me? I'm still here, plugging along. Life decided to throw us a few curve balls in January, but all one can do is keep picking oneself up and dusting oneself off again. I've only been able to grab a few minutes here and there to paint. The process may be slower that way, but it still gets done.

Waxwings, both cedar and bohemian, form huge winter flocks in our valley and are a frequent sight around town this time of year. They've been on my mind lately because I haven't seen a one this year. Rumor has it that the weather to our north, in Canada, is more inviting to them and so they are not gracing us with their usual winter visit, making this mostly bird-less winter even more so. I miss them. I miss their high pitched calls, their undulating flocks, and the way they can completely cover a bare tree with colorful, noisy life. They especially love the mountain ash trees, gorging on the berries and sometimes getting drunk on the fermented ones. When they are spooked, hundreds of birds take off at once in a great whoosh and circle around the sky a few times until they decide it is safe and return to the trees, twittering and rustling. Seeing them just lifts my heart in the middle of a long, dreary winter. But not this year.

All is not lost, however. We are now entering February and the ducks will start coming back. I am hoping that we might be able to squeeze a quick trip down to our wildlife refuge this weekend to see if the pintails have returned, or at the very least the goldeneye - we get both Barrow's and common goldeneye. So you'll have to stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More Ruddy Turnstones

Apparently I have not yet got the ruddy turnstones out of my system! This one was a very quick watercolor study, the challenge being to paint as loose as possible while still keeping important features such as the eye and beak from becoming abstract. To all you birders out there, does this convey essence of turnstone? Could you hazard a pretty good guess as to what bird was being painted (if you hadn't seen my spoiler title)?

I want to say thanks to everyone who left comments on my post about my painting inner dialog. It is reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who has such a harsh inner critic, but at the same time it is a shame so many of us have to deal with one.

Meanwhile, we've been enjoying above-freezing temperatures lately that will hopefully melt away all the ice so that we can safely go bird-watching again. It is very hard to spot birds up in the trees when your eyes are glued to the ground in front of you! I hope things are warming up for you in your favorite outdoor spots.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ugly Painting, Cute Cat

Madeleine keeps me company while I work. The painting was going well at this point.

The watercolor study in my last post was in preparation for an acrylic painting I did this past weekend. Everything was going quite well with the painting. I was especially excited because it was looking painterly rather than just representational. But then I got a little too enthusiastic and went too far. In my reference photos, there was a beautiful reflection in the wet sand that I really wanted to include but I pushed the wet sand value too dark. It is amazing how quickly a painting can go from success to disaster. But I am embracing the fact that for quite a while, I felt that the painting was successful. I don't often feel that way while painting. Usually when I am painting, my inner conversation goes something like this:

- This painting is coming along nicely. Ooo, I think a dab of paint right there would be just right!

- OMG, now look what you've done! That looks nothing like the reference. What the h*** were you thinking???

- I know I know, I screwed up. But hang on, I think I can fix it. Wait - if I just do this and then add that... There! See, it's fine now.

- Geez, you've GOT to be more careful. You were lucky you could fix it that time. Next time you might not be able to... Aaahhh! Ahhh! What are you doing now??? That looks terrible! You might as well just quit now. That's only going to end up in the trash anyway, so why waste more time on it?

- Could you please just shut up? I can't paint with you yelling.

- Well, why bother painting anyway? You'll never be a real artist. People will laugh at your stuff. Do you honestly think you have any talent? HA! I've seen 12 year olds who can paint better than you.

- Please shut up. Go away. You aren't helping. So I messed up this painting, but I can paint well.

- You are only as good as your last painting and this IS your last painting, Sister. You're getting worse at this, not better. You used to paint better 15 years ago. What the h*** happened?

- Okay, fine. That's enough. I've got to take a break. I can't paint with you yelling at me like this.

- Quitter. You'll never amount to anything if you just give up like that.

*Sigh*. Anyway, as I said, this conversation did NOT play out in my head this time, despite the big disaster. I take that as a very good sign. This is something I have noticed over the past seven months with the 100 Paintings Challenge - those kind of inner conversations happen less often when I paint on a regular basis. Note to self: keeping painting on a regular basis. And practice painting wet sand!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Watercolor Study #?

I need to sit down and count up all my paintings from the Challenge again. When I stopped posting every single thing I painted, I lost count of what I'm actually up to. I vaguely knew when I'd reached 50, the halfway point, but since then I keep painting without counting. So here's #? of a ruddy turnstone, a beautiful shorebird that is much easier to identify than the groups of sandpipers that are so hard to tell apart that birders collectively call them "peeps". Ruddy turnstones are found along the East, West and Gulf coasts in winter. However, I took this picture in Florida one June. Apparently the flock of turnstones that my subject was a part of had decided not to bother with the long migration to the Arctic for the summer and opted to stay in Florida year-round. Given everything that birds have to cope with during their migrations, I can't say I blame them.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

White-tailed Trogon - Acrylic 12" x 16"

Nothing like starting the new year with an old friend! I can't remember the last time I broke out the acrylic paints and did a complete painting. Probably when I did the sea gull painting that's featured in the header of my blog, which would have been about two years ago.

This painting was inspired by a great book by John Agnew - "Painting the Secret World of Nature" and the trogon I photographed at the Seattle Zoo. Mr. Agnew does a lot of murals and diorama paintings for museums and zoos. (Give you three guesses what I'd like to do someday...) The book has demonstrations about painting backgrounds and atmosphere to suggest the environment, without painting every little intricate detail - perfect for a recovering hyper-detail painter like me. However, I'm still struggling with adding scientifically accurate elements such as epiphytes and types of leaves found in the rainforest where the white-tailed trogon lives. Sure I can google-image the stuff but I find it so hard to then realistically incorporate those things into a painting. For example, what size would the leaves be in comparison to the bird? (Any artists out there - please leave your thoughts on and experiences with this in the comments section!) Maybe I should just stick to subjects in environments that I have an in-depth familiarity with. *Sigh* But it still felt really good to paint with an old friend.

Hope everyone had a wonderful New Years Eve (I was asleep by 10 pm).