Monday, April 29, 2013

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure
as long as life lasts."
                                                                                                                     - Rachel Carson

Male yellow-headed blackbirds gorging themselves on insects.

We just had one of the best birding days EVER. The kind where you feel exhausted at the end of the day because of the sheer number of birds observed. Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on the Great Salt Lake is an important fueling stop for migratory birds, many of which have traveled from South America and are still headed further north, some as far as the Arctic. Phalarope, white-faced ibis, avocet, coot, great blue heron, great egret, cattle egret, stilt, white pelican, grebe, ducks, swallows, raptors, curlew, whimbrel, western kingbird; our senses were on overload.

One of the most amazing things we saw were flocks of male yellow-headed blackbirds in a feeding frenzy. I'm not that knowledgeable about the types of midge-like insects that live in marshes but whatever they were, there were millions of them. From a distance, the swarms rising up into the sky looked like dark smoke. Everywhere we looked, there were yellow-headed blackbirds on the ground eating these insects. We'd never seen so many of these beautiful birds all in one place.

Swallows collecting mud for their nests.

Clark's grebe enjoying a morning swim.

An avocet taking a well-deserved break after its long journey.

Unfortunately my artistic endeavors have hit a bit of a snag. I've got tendonitis in my right wrist (in three places!) and have to wear a brace for a month. I still manage to sketch and paint a little but my hand cramps up pretty quick. Hopefully as I get used to the brace that will improve.

Brace or no brace, there are important things that must be attended to.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Another Landscape Attempt, Part III

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
                                                                                                                - Thomas Edison

Still not finished, despite the frame.

And so I keep trying. This painting is so, so close but those grasses in the lower left corner are driving me nuts. They feel unnatural, contrived. I may end up painting most of them out. The color of the water appears unnatural as well, but the other day I was driving along and noticed a similar scene and the water was indeed that color. I may still tweak it, though. I'm also undecided on what I think of the mountain reflected in the water.

It may sound like I'm being critical and have a lot of doubts about this piece but I really am pleasantly surprised at how it is turning out. It would just be wonderful if I could resolve the trouble spots and have a "keeper" landscape painting in the end. I found the perfect frame for it, after all.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Every Artist Needs A Studio Cat

"The smallest feline is a masterpiece."  - Leonardo da Vinci

Color theory a la the cat: orange and blue are compliments, orange and pink are not.

There were so many great cat quotes I could have chosen for this post! But being a huge fan of da Vinci kind of tilted the scales that way.

As you may have already guessed, Paul and I have a new family member. We finally felt that we had mourned our beloved Madeleine long enough and it was time for a new cat. I searched the websites of all the area shelters looking for suitable cats. We knew we wanted an adult cat as we didn't have the time or energy to deal with a kitten, and adult cats have a much harder time finding new homes. We went to this one particular shelter with two cats in mind but a different cat chose Paul the minute we walked in. She sat on his lap for 40 minutes, waiting for me to realize that the choice had already been made.

The poor thing had a two hour car ride home in one of those lobster boxes (that I lined with a soft blanket), but she dealt with it without a peep. She'd start purring in the box if we talked to her. In fact, she doesn't ever seem to stop purring and her paws never stop kneading. Even as she's falling asleep, her paws will be slowly flexing. She has an amazing range of little vocalizations too, one of which sounds just like a Tribble from the original Star Trek TV series.

Here's the new arrival, on the futon chair in my studio.

A few sketches I've managed to make when she's not demanding ear "skritches".

We are having trouble choosing a name for her, though. We thought of Tangerine Clementine - Tiny for short, since she is so petite. We considered Bisquick, and Tribble, and Clio (Greek goddess of History, for my husband's profession). I'm leaning towards Ruby, my husband really likes Tikka (pronounced Teak-ah). If you want to add your voice to the mix, give us your vote or, if you want to confuse us further, suggest a name we haven't thought of. Meanwhile, I'm being called back to cat servant duty - and I love it!