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!