It’s a new year! Time to blog again…

This great blue heron came by our pond on January 2. A great New Year’s surprise!

April 2, 2021 was the last time I posted a blog entry in 2020 on either of my sites (the other one being my SketchWild nature sketching and drawing site). I found, like I’m sure many people had, that I’d run out of gas and things to say for the time being. I also didn’t do much, if any art. Also, after decades of being super careful, the rotator cuff area of my right shoulder started to act up and I didn’t want to aggravate it. A number of my colleagues over the years soldiered on and ended up having to have surgery. No thanks. But I find now that I can, if I’m careful and don’t overdo it, draw and paint. I’m also going to start a series of exercises to address each of the muscles involved.

Last spring we got vaccinated and will get “boosted” next week. Even so, we’re being sensible about going out and around. My mom was an RN who remembered the time when there were no vaccines and the suffering and pain people experienced as a result. I had a high school classmate who might been among the last kids to get polio and shortly before the vaccine was available. He survived but ended up with one leg shorter than the other and died young in his early 50s from polio-related heart problems. I got all the vaccines as they came along and am very glad my parents did that. It wasn’t a foolish political issue back then, it was a no-brainer. Most people alive today don’t remember pre-vaccine days. I follow the science and fact-based evidence and I know how important it is be be vaccinated against a variety of diseases, including COVID.

New hobby!

One of the fun things I did in the fall as the outdoor gardening season wound down was to try out some succulents. And as I’m sure often happens, it becomes the “potato chip problem”…can’t have just a few. They turn out to sometimes be picky little devils and I’ve lost some. But most are doing fine. I bought this commercial grade restaurant cart to keep them at least somewhat safe from earthquakes and also so I can easily move them around to catch the sun. It’s worked out really well! Now I want to start sketching them.

That’s it for this week. I’m back at the easel and have my sketching gear warmed up so there will be ART next Friday!

Sheltering in Place, Part 10

Draw Breath Facebook group drawing from May 4, the anniversary of the debut of the original Star Wars movie (May the 4th be with you!). The model wore a variety of Star Wars-themed outfits. iPad Pro, Autodesk Sketchbook, pen and brush tools

It’s been thirteen days since the last post! That went fast. The good news is that the county went to Stage 2 on Friday the 8th. This meant some “non-essential” businesses are being allowed to reopen if they can offer curbside pickup. Masks are now required in public along with continuing social distancing, but many outdoor activities are now encouraged. Since then our run of almost no cases since early April ended on the 9th. Two cases that day, four the next (including two in an assisted-living facility and three yesterday. All appear to be community transmission.

Peregrin and Hailey on the levee

This past Sunday we had good weather (it’s been raining quite a bit) and drove up to the Redwood Creek levee at Orick. We like it for walks because the collies can be off-leash, we can see all around us, there’s almost never been anyone else there and the gravel walkway ends at the mouth of the creek so we’re right near the ocean. It’s about a three mile round trip.

Peregrin or Mr. P or The P

Our collie boy, Peregrin, turned four on the 6th. Hailey’s father is one of his grandfathers. They’re both from Romany Collies up near Portland.

The pond is looking good, nice and full (pics next time). The yellow flag iris (not invasive in California) I introduced years ago on the west side of the pond has now moved to the east side (more sun?) and is happily blooming away. I’ll do some life studies, maybe a watercolor, on Friday if we do get the predicted break in the rain.

Yellow flag iris

As I mentioned above, it’s been raining for the last few days, which is great for the garden. During one of the breaks, the dogs started whining and circling around a tree behind a cinder block compost bin. I peered and peered up into the tree and then ran for my camera. When I got back I found myself looking into the eyes of a opossum! I took a bunch of photos then I and the collies went back into the house to give the opossum a chance to safely come down and move on. But I hope he/she stays around. We don’t have ticks here near the coast, which they are famous for eating, but help with snail and slug control would be greatly appreciated.

American opossom, our country’s only native marsupial

We’ve since taken the suet feeder down for the year since it attracts a family of crows who are welcome but not right next to the house. But last Thursday “our” black-headed grosbeak family showed up for the summer! And not just the male and female but what look like a male and a female juvenile, possibly babies from last year?

Black-headed grosbeak male

Not very many bees or butterflies yet. And we haven’t had many of the latter for a number of years. The bees are either bumblebees or another native species of honeybee or European honeybees, which means someone not too far away has hives.

But this big butterfly showed up for a short time three days ago. It’s a swallowtail but not sure what species since it’s so much lighter in color than the tiger swallowtail. It also looked a little beat-up around the edges.

Finally, here’s my latest entry (at the bottom) in the Inktober52 pen and ink drawing event. I really had fun with this one although I was not enthusiastic at first because I’d done the same praying mantis a month or so ago for the prompt “Green”. But I’ve just gotten a selection of Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay inks and, although I have a couple of greens I decided the heck with it and used teal, red-violet and yellow instead.

Inktober52- Prompt: “Praying Mantis” Esterbrook 62 crowquill nib on Strathmore 300 vellum bristol

You can see the rest of the drawings I’ve been doing since the first week in January, including the “gree” mantis on my Instagram page here.

February Flowers In The Garden And A Hummer With Attitude

Male Anna's Hummingbird telling me who owns the place
Male Anna’s Hummingbird telling me who owns the place, 1-25-15

Unlike much of the country we’ve turned the seasonal corner out here in northern California. Unfortunately the day after day of nice warm sunny weather means that we’re not getting any rain, so we’re going into a fourth year of drought. At the moment, though, the garden is starting up again with the first bulbs blooming, plus a few other “early risers”. The Anna’s Hummingbird in the photo was in the yard at the end of last month. There’s usually hummers around in the winter and spring, dog-fighting for, well, just about anything it sometimes seems. This guy landed in one of the apple trees. I couldn’t get very close, so even with my long lens (Nikon 80-400mm) he was pretty tiny in the photos. But I thought it would be fun to share one of him in his full “don’t mess with me” display.

Here are some photos of what’s blooming today (all photos taken with a Nikon D750 and a Nikon 28-300mm lens):

White crocus
White crocus

Pink tulips
Pink tulips

Daffodils
Daffodils

Corsican hellebore
Corsican hellebore

Wallflowers I grew from seed brought back from England
Wallflowers I grew from seed brought back from England

Wallflowers I grew from seed brought back from England
Wallflowers I grew from seed brought back from England

Crocus "Pickwick" my favorite
Crocus “Pickwick” my favorite

Flowering quince
Flowering quince

Primroses
Primroses

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard Visitors This Summer

Things have been busy in the animal department for the past couple of weeks. It’s full summer now and we’re getting a lovely variety of birds coming in to the feeders and flowering plants. There have also been some mammal sightings- a pocket gopher was visible in the middle of the day today and we have 2 or 3 skunks that we have seen a number of times.

I keep the cameras handy whether I’m in the house or the studio and it’s definitely paid off:

Allen's Hummingbird

Red Crossbil (male)

Black-headed grosbeak (male)

American goldfinch (male) and Black-headed grosbeak (female)

Steller's jay

Purple finch (male)

California quail (male)

Pocket gopher

Striped skunk

Friday Features- FLASH!

JUST RECEIVED WORD“Morning Break”, below, has been accepted into the Mendocino Art Center Animal Art exhibit!  It will be on view there in Mendocino, California from Sept. 3-27.

AND…if you live in central Humboldt County, tonight is the opening reception for Wild Visions 2, a group show of nationally recognized nature and wildlife artists, including yours truly, at the Umqua Gallery, Arcata from 6-9pm. Lots of new work by all of us and some oldies, but goodies too. We snagged a great feature in the local paper this morning!

The other artists are Linda Parkinson, watercolor, who has done many commissions of birds and had her work published in American Falconry magazine; Shawn Gould, acrylic, who has done freelance art for National Geographic; Paula Golightly, oil and acrylic, whose day job is working as a biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service; John Wesa, well-known local serigrapher; and Derek Bond, egg tempera, who has recently had work accepted into the first Artists for Conservation juried show.

This is the first time all of us have shown together and we hope it won’t be the last.

BACKYARD BIRD WATCH

The two Allen’s hummers are showing up right around 1:30 every afternoon. How do they know? Can you imagine how tiny their wristwatches must be? Right now, if I only had room for one hummingbird friendly plant it would be Crocosmia “Lucifer”. If you have a little room for a truly red, red, red flower, you might buy a few bulbs.

WHAT ARE THESE? Answer on Monday

Cocorico

Ivory Triumph

Lichterlich

Lili Marlene

Mazeppa

Leaping Salmon

Oiellet Panachee

Hamburger Phoenix

GREAT QUOTE

“Am writing an essay on the life-history of insects and have abandoned the idea of writing on ‘How Cats Spend their Time’.”

W. N. P. Barbellion (Bruce Frederick Cummings) 1889-1919

Well, here’s some evidence:

Eowyn and Michiko

Peregrin

Persephone

Leopard at Berlin Zoo

Lion in the Masai Mara, Kenya

I think you get the idea.

(All photos copyright Susan Fox)

Friday Features

BACKYARD BIRD LIST

Hot hummingbird action the last few days. Two Allen’s hummers competing for control of the plants outside my studio window. I have now found an absolutely reliable way for animal artists, or anyone else for that matter, to procrastinate. Plant hummingbird-friendly plants right outside the window next to your desk. Wait for that “humming” sound, stop work and watch. Perfect.

Outside my studio window is what I call “the tropical garden”. South-facing and it’s where I’m putting all the hot color combinations; red, orange, yellow, lavender, etc. Front to back is red verbena, crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, kangaroo paw and red dragon persicaria.

One of the little gladiators. I sometimes think that they are really Rottweilers in bird costumes.

Looked up a few days ago when I was outside and saw what looks like a northern goshawk escorting a turkey vulture, probably away from the nest. I got about six photos. This one reminds me of some I’ve seen in my husband’s aviation books of comparatively tiny American fighter jets “escorting” truly huge Soviet “Bear” bombers.

ART TALK

So, to follow up on the source of the Wednesday post title “Pot of Paint”. James McNeil Whistler (of “Whistler’s Mother” fame) had utterly buffaloed the art community in London with what he called his “nocturnes”, impressionistic paintings of night scenes which he showed at a time when the eyes of the public and art critics were conditioned to seeing a high level of detail and what was called “finish”.

The leading art reviewer and taste-maker of the Victorian era was John Ruskin, the first prominent critic to champion the Pre-Raphaelites, who never let the vein of a leaf go unpainted if they could help it.

In his review of Whistler’s show at the Grosvenor Gallery, then known for showing “advanced” work, Ruskin wrote that he “he never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” So there.

Whistler sued for libel. What followed was one of the most celebrated lawsuits of the time. What makes it fascinating and relevant even today is that it turned into a monumental struggle between two very different philosophies concerning the creation of art. Ruskin represented the establishment view that art had a duty to be beautiful, uplifting and moral. Whistler adamantly insisted that Art had no duty outside itself, in other words, “Art for Art’s Sake”.

The trial lasted for eight hours. The jury deliberated for two and, in the end, returned the verdict for Whistler, but only awarded him only one farthing, approximately a quarter of a penny, in damages. Whistler mounted it on his watch fob. The good news was that the verdict saved him from having to pay Ruskin’s court costs, but it left him in debt, albeit with a moral victory.

If you would like to know all the delicious, gory details, buy, what else, A Pot of Paint- Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler vs. Ruskin, by Linda Merrill.

The debate goes on today, although without the level of consciousness that existed in the Victorian art arena. There has been more than one art show here in Humboldt County through the years that had a painting in it that someone found objectionable. The reason is usually some variation of the un-thought out idea that art is supposed to be beautiful, pretty and not make the viewer uncomfortable. Poppycock. Art has no responsibility other than to express the creativity of the maker. No one has the right to pre-censor what an artist creates or shows. No one has to buy what is produced, but they don’t have the right to demand its removal either.

ART FOR ART’S SAKE!

ART QUOTE FOR THE DAY

It is this sense of persistent life force back of things which makes the eye see and the hand move in ways that result in true masterpieces. Techniques are thus created as a need.

It is thus necessary to work very continuously and very valiantly, and never apologetically. In fact, to be ever on the job so that we may find ourselves there, brush in hand, when the great moment does arrive.

Robert Henri

Friday Features

BACKYARD BIRD LIST

Six or so red crossbills are still showing up most days. There was a group of fox sparrows last weekend. Our hummingbird-friendly plants are really starting to bloom. I was sitting here at my desk and look who showed up outside my french doors? I was able to grab the camera and get some shots through the glass. Sometimes lucky is better than good. Looks like a male Allen’s hummingbird to me.

Speaking of hummer plants, here’s my 50 cent, 4″ pot white verbascum that I rescued off an end-of-season sale table the year before last. Is that a happy plant or what? I’m going to have to move the poor little heather underneath it before it’s completely smothered. Or I may move the verbascum to a more spacious location. I didn’t think it would get quite this big.

ART TALK

I finished the bighorn painting and took it to the framer only a little wet in a few areas. When it was laying on the counter, I saw a spot in the sky I missed, which I’ll fix when I get it back. But it reminded me of one of my favorite artist stories:

Every year the Royal Academy in London has its Summer Exhibition. We were lucky to be in England and able to attend some years ago. The galleries looked like in old photos you see: work stacked from the floor to the very high ceilings. Those whose paintings ended up in “nosebleed” country called it “being skied”.

William Mallord Turner (b. 1755 d. 1851) was a regular participant, although his work mystified many of his comtemporaries and the general public. “Varnishing Days” were the three to five days before the exhibition opened when the artists could come in and put on a final varnish or touch up their paintings. Turner became somewhat famous for this and is said to have deliberately brought in unfinished paintings so that he could show off his technique. Imagine any of us doing that today? It would be like Robert Bateman showing up at the opening of his current retrospective, palette, brushes and paint in hand to add a few more snowflakes to his famous snow leopard painting. Turner showed up dressed for town and S.W. Parrott was inspired to create this permanent record, which is reproduced here in black and white. How do you dress when you’re in the studio?

PLANET SAVER TIP FOR THE DAY

Speaking of Robert Bateman, besides creating a lot of the best wildlife art of this or any other century, he is a tenacious advocate for the environment. You can read what he has to say at www.batemanideas.com

ART THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Thoreau

Friday Features

BACK YARD BIRD LIST

Red Crossbills showed up at the sunflower seed feeder yesterday and made a serious dent in it. A group came through last fall, but moved on after a couple of days. We’ll see how long these stay.

The goldfinches and sparrows are emptying out two thistle seed bags in less than 48 hours. They’re back within seconds of the refill. We live but to serve. We must have the fattest finches in the neighborhood.

Bonus photo with my new lens- an osprey diving toward the pond, at what we’re not sure since the goldfish pretty much stay under the branches we’ve laid around part of the edge.

All photos taken with my new Nikon D80 with the equally new AF-VR-Nikkor 80-400. I’m stoked, to say the least.

PLANET SAVER TIP OF THE DAY

Anyone with even a small yard can make it bird-friendly. Food, water and shelter are the requirements. We have the big pond, feeders, food plants, trees and brush piles. But a town backyard could have a bird bath (be sure to keep it clean), bird feeders and some small shrubs. If you can stand it and feel you have room, let a corner go “wild”. And consider not obsessively cleaning up in the fall. Leave some seed heads on the flowers and grass. Then sit back and see who shows up.

ART THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

“There’ll be moments when you get a spark, a gleam of light and BOOM!, you’re gone. It seems easy. But then it goes away, and it gets so incredibly hard. It’s like having sex in a wind tunnel.”

Robin Williams (who else?)