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.