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.
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!
I was busy in the studio last week doing the second and third steps in preparing three new paintings to hit the canvas. I’ve been wanting to start using the Mongol horse race reference I’ve gathered over my twelve trips there since 2005 and the time has come. Above is a color study, below is the previous step, the value study, in which all the darks, lights, and mid-range tones are worked out separate from color. It’s an important roadmap for coloring mixing since how dark or light is settled and the artist then can focus on hue and color temperature (how warm or cool).
Here’s the value and color studies for “Patient”.
And, finally, for “After the Race, Scraping Sweat”
I have not determined the final sizes yet but they’re not going to be too big.
In other art news, Inktober52 rolls on with me doing my weekly pen and in drawing to go with whatever the “Prompt” is. I post all of them on Instagram, the “official” social media platform for the event. You can see everything I’ve done so far here. I’ve also created a Board for them on Pinteresthere. I generally post new pieces on Tuesday.
And, if you haven’t done so, here’s the link to my Fox Studio Etsy shop. I offer coloring pages created from animals I’ve photographed in my travels and original drawings and small oil paintings. Coming soon will be my hand-picked selection of dip pen nibs for artists.
Live events, as everyone knows, are either postponed or cancelled this year. For artists it means no live exhibitions or shows, galleries closed and workshops going virtual. However, I recently found out about and signed up for a new marketing effort just for artists...Artists Sunday, which will be on November 29. The idea, like the other themed shopping days after Thanksgiving, is to establish one just for artists/craftspeople. There will be national multimedia marketing campaign to encourage people to patronize the participants when shopping for gifts. I’m excited about the possibilities and am really looking forward to it. Look for new items in my Etsy shop and here on my website.
Starting last Saturday, we had almost a week of smoke, so no gardening/fall clean-up got done. It’s a gorgeous sunny day today and it looks like we’re going to have a “heat wave” over the next week with highs in the mid/high 70s, quite warm for here on the coast and since our acre is in a sheltered area at the end of our street it will hit 80 in the shade. In the meantime some of the roses aren’t done yet, some still blooming like The Fairy (above) and some getting in a last repeat bloom like the David Austin Rose ‘Charles Rennie Macintosh’ below.
The Jackson Perkins ‘Happy Chappy’ ground cover rose hasn’t stopped blooming since spring. I love the warm colors.
There used to be a fabulous old rose nursery in Sebastopol, about four hours south of us, called Vintage Gardens. The sales part was closed when the fad for old roses died down, but the collection the owner amassed is still there and being maintained by The Friends of Vintage Roses. There was a blow-out final sale in which a few hundred old roses, many of them floribundas from the 50s-70s were under $10, a type that is not in fashion anymore. I bought over a dozen of them just to preserve them for the future, but also looked like they’d be great in the garden. And they are! And how could anyone resist a rose called “Lily Marlene? It’s one of the best reds I’ve seen. It’s also bullet proof and sturdy.
And, speaking of names, I HAD to have ‘Leaping Salmon’ given where I live on the north coast of California. This rose is a SPECTACULAR salmon pink in color and quite the climber, with huge long-lasting flowers.
And finally, last year for the first time I participated in the creation of a coloring book, part of a series showing the wildlife and plants in various ecosystems of the US. The next one is under way and the theme this time is Pollinators. Without insects and other animals to pollinate plants our plant-based food supply would be in great, most likely fatal, danger. Bees are probably the best know pollinators and they’ll be well represented in the book. I did some research, though, and found that the white-lined sphinx moth I photographed in our garden years ago is a pollinator! I’ve used three of my photos to show the moth in action. This is where I start….with a pencil drawing that sets the composition. I’ll tweak it a bit more and it will be ready for inking on heavy vellum, which I’ll lay over the top of the drawing. I used photos of penstemon, also from our garden as the “target plant”. I’ll also be doing a second page with two Hawaiian honeycreepers and will show that one next week.
On the Covid-19 front, we had a post 4th of July spike in cases, mostly driven by large gatherings of locals and their guests. We seem to have gotten past the Labor Day weekend ok. Last Friday there were no new cases the previous day, the first time that’s happened in awhile. So unless something dramatic happens this will be the last “Life Goes On…” post because that’s how it is day to day now with following our regular routines, able to get haircuts, massages, etc. and do our regular shopping with no drama.
Still doing my Inktober52 pieces every week. As always I’m always finding a way to use animals for my “solution”. For “Tail” I used one of the photos I took a couple of years ago of a pair of young skunks whose mom had brought them into our yard. It’s been quite popular. If you’d like to follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss any of my drawings, you can find me at www.instagram/foxartist/
The vegetable garden is really starting to produce. Peas (Hurst Green Shaft, an English variety) are almost done. Lettuces (Forellenschluss, the original of Flashy Troutback, and Merveille des Quatre Saisons) are being picked regularly, also ‘Little Snow Pea Purple’ the first pod pea we’ve tried and it’s producing like crazy. We like to let some of the green zucchini get big enough to stuff. We had a second helping of that last night.
The “big” experiment has been to try a turban squash. We have quite a nice microclimate on our property but would there be enough heat for one to really grow and get big enough to eat?
It’s looking hopeful so far! Our growing season goes until the first frost in or around mid-October so plenty of time, I think.
New to the garden and the last lilies to bloom this year are these spectacular ‘Gold Band” lilies from Old House Gardens, a wonderful employee-owned business that raises and sells heritage varieties of bulbs and tuberous plants that are often not available anywhere else.
Finally, back to the “Art Dept”. I currently have a show up at the Arcata Healing Arts Center, a lovely peaceful venue located at 940 Ninth St. Arcata. All the paintings are from my various trips to Mongolia, sometimes in realistic settings, sometimes using decorative motifs common in Mongol art. It will be there through the end of the year. The Center is open by appointment only, but quite a bit of the art can be seen through the windows. I love how my work looks on those warm golden walls!
Above is last week’s Inktober52 art. From the Instagram post: “I went out to take some new garden photos for ideas and there was our 11 year old tuxedo furball, Alexander A Really Great Cat, snoozing away under a day lily. Added a couple of Icelandic poppies for color. I’ve been experimenting with combining Cretacolor Aquamonolith pencils with pen and ink and that’s what I did here also using a Pilot Kakuno fountain pen.” You can see all my Instagram52 pieces here.
While Covid-19 is out of control in much of the country, here in Humboldt County, California we’re still doing ok. Bars, museums and other indoor only businesses have had to reclose, but the zoo is still open by appointment, along with hair salons, acupuncture and massage services (used both of those this past week) and other businesses. We did pass 200 cases this week, largely from people traveling out of the area and bringing it back.
The garden continues on its merry way this summer. Did the big blueberry picking a couple of days ago. Peas are almost ready to start picking. Two rows of garlic are harvested with more today and the rest within the next couple of weeks. We’ve been noshing radishes and raspberries along with the first of the native blackberries we’ve allowed to stay on one area of the property.
At this end of Long Border is a spiraea which is almost done, two verbascums, one pink ‘Southern Charm’ and one apricot ‘Clementine’ (slated to be relocated because it clashes with everyone else), a ‘Splish Splash’ geranium, my favorite hardy geranium. Every flower is different proportions of white and lavender. It’s self-crossed with the ‘Johnson’s Blue’ geranium (which is a deep solid lavender) so I’ve got quite a variety of variations.
In other art news, next week I’ll be hanging a show of my wildlife and animal paintings at the Arcata Holistic Health Center just north of the Arcata Coop at 940 9th St. No opening reception and the center is only open by appointment, but a lot of the art can be seen through the windows. The theme will be images that “create a peaceful and calm feeling”. Here’s one of the pieces that will be in the show…a domestic Mongol horse I saw, well, in Mongolia. The writing is “bichig” the Mongolia vertical script, which the Chinggis Khan adopted from the Uigher people, who were settled and understood administration, (yes, the same ones the Chinese are committing genocide against) because the Mongols had no written language. It’s used all the time today for fine art and advertising and is taught in the schools. I haven’t learned it but paid a Mongolian calligrapher to write out words for me. With my sign painter’s brush lettering background it was easy to transfer an outline and letter in the word “Peaceful”, which is the name of the painting.
I’m continuing to have fun with my weekly Inktober52 pen and ink drawings. We’re over halfway there now and so far I haven’t missed a week. What I’ve ended up doing is taking whatever the “Prompt” word for the week is and filtering it through using an animal of some kind. The current one, a sythesis of three species of tarsiers (a very small primate-like mammal), has gotten quite a satisfactory reaction, including a query from the Esterbrook Company Instagram account.
Otherwise, I’ve been finally getting around to delayed studio reorganizing, preparing some new offerings in my Etsy shop (stay tuned!) and working in the garden. We’ve only been going out to get groceries, pet and house stuff and haircuts. Definitely stayed home over the 4th of July. After a hiatus during which we had no covid-19 cases or just 1-2 a day the number has increased to up to 9 a day, often 4-5. Our public health officer says it’s because of locals traveling out of the area to places where the virus is prevalent and then bringing it back. Not sure what they can do about that. Mask compliance in our community is essentially 100% but we still will order sushi delivery and won’t be going to restaurants or brewpubs any time soon. But I do have a bodywork appointment next week so we’ll see how that goes.
In the meantime, this juvenile peregrine falcon circled around near a large sitka spruce on July 2 screeching his/her head off. I posted a couple of photos on my Facebook page and, as I hoped, within a few minutes a couple of serious “bird people” showed up, gave me a positive ID and said that it was young enough that it was still around its parents, so that meant a nest was somewhere not far away. We’ve been here fifteen years and this was a first!
The vegetable garden is taking off and I’ll post some photos of it next time. For now here’s a collie “lurking” in the grass, actually just “our” Peregrin being silly and posing for me.
It’s been three weeks since my last post. This will be the last one focused on Covid-19 news because here in Humboldt County we’re only getting one case every 2-3 days or so, no hospitalizations and no deaths beyond the four that occurred in previous months. The great news is that our county went to Stage 3 on Friday, June 8, which means restaurants can do dine-in and hair salons, massage places and a variety of other “non-essential businesses” have been allowed to reopen after applying to the state and getting certified. Groups of up to 12 unrelated people are now free to gather. We still have to have masks with us but if we can maintain social distancing we don’t have to wear them. Many of the state parks have reopened, as have lodging facilities, so there will be some kind of tourist season.
We’ve continued with our regular daily routine, working, going to the grocery store and maybe the feedstore or hardware store as needed. Took the collies to Hiller Park last Saturday for the first time since the pandemic hit so they could run around in one of their favorite places. The wild roses were in bloom. There was almost no one else there which we found a bit surprising.
In art news I’m still happily participateing in Inktober52. Haven’t missed a week so I’ve now done 24 pen and ink drawings. All of them are on my Instagram page here. Below is the one I did for the prompt “Stranded”.
I’m also joining in on the Draw Breath Facebook livestream on Mondays and Fridays. We had an excellent model a couple of weeks ago when the protests were going on, as you can see from the 2 minute sketches at the top.
In studio news I’ve replaced my Canon TS9120, an all-in-one that was cranky, cheap-feeling and unreliable. I also kept bumping up against the small platen for scanning. So I am now the much happier owner of an Epson XP15000 inkjet printer and an Epson Perfection V550 large flatbed scanner. Both were a snap to install and talk to the Mac just fine. The scanner is pretty fast and does a great job. Have only used the printer a couple of times but it is also clearly a step up.
Below is the vegetable garden on June 5. I’ve had to battle the slugs to get the beans to the point where the leaves have hardened off but otherwise it’s doing well. Once things are really up and coming I’ll be doing a post on our food growing efforts. The gooseberries are almost ripe and we picked the first blueberries and strawberries yesterday.
Finally, here’s an example from yesterday of the kind of “product testing” I do. I’m looking for the “perfect” sepia or bown ink to use in both my fountain pens and with dip pens. More are on the way but I did this sample sheet yesterday with the ones I currently have. All the animal heads are done directly with no underdrawing and are from my 2004 trip to Kenya.
There were four cases yesterday all connected to a single contact. No new cases yesterday. The total is now 98. Sadly, there was a third death, a 97 year old resident of the care home where there’s been a cluster of cases. “Advanced” Stage 2 reopening has started. The really good news is that lots of local business, around 850, have gotten their certifications and have reopened or soon will. Restaurants can now offer dine-in service and churches can reopen with limited capacity. Masks and social distancing still required. We’re doing fine, in our usual routines. We chat with the neighbors who we encounter on walks and they’re ok also.
There’s supposed to be a corker of a storm rolling in tonight, complete with thunderstorms, which is unusual here on the coast. Going to spend most of the day getting the vegetable garden planted and tidied up. From 4-6pm I’ll be sketching from the Draw Breath Facebook group livestream. It’s a public group so anyone can watch or join. Here’s a couple of pages of three minute sketches from the last couple sessions. These were done directly using a fountain pen.
Here’s another of my Inktober52 pieces. The prompt was “Bubbles”:
And here are a some of the roses currently blooming-
Like so many gardeners we are in a constant struggle with gophers. But not everyone has a collie to help find them. Peregrin can clearly hear them when they’re moving around underground and will immediately start digging. Which provides me with great photo ops like this…
We had a spike COVID-19 in cases over the past week or so, sixteen new ones since the 12th for a total of 88 as of today. Also two deaths, the first ones. There’s a serious outbreak at a local care home, both patients and staff, which is very unfortunate but at least can be isolated. Most of the others are connected to known cases or are “travel-aquired” but no details. Most of the rest are connected to known cases, plus some community transmission.
I went to our local coop for groceries yesterday. All the right things are being done. Masks required. Number of people allowed in store is controlled. People either kept moving or observed social distancing, except for the woman at the meat counter that walked up right between myself and a man who were the right distance apart. I said “Excuse me, this is less than 6′.” She got bit huffy but did move. Otherwise, it was all fine. Employees are taking care of getting products out of the bulk bins. Six feet of spacing at the check-out counter. Plexiglass between cashiers and customers.
Going into the Memorial Day weekend and we’ll be working in the yard ands garden and maybe going for a drive to a place where we and the collies can safely walk. It’s supposed to get quite warm next week, at least “warm” for us, into the mid-high 60s.
In art news, I’ve found a new, fun thing to do! It showed up in Feedly, which is what I use for a news feed. I follow a bunch of art blogs and sites that way. One called Apple-Pine described how she does small quick “location” sketches using a site called Mapcrunch, which can show endless random images from all over the world. Today’s effort is at the top of the post. Above this paragraph is the first one, a road in Russia. Below is the second one. A scene from Holland. Here’s the link to her pageabout it.
All it takes is some paper and pencils, pens or something for color…watercolors, felt tip pens whatever you want.
It’s been quite windy yesterday and today, so not much done in the garden. However, we did have this lovely visitor a couple of days ago…a black-crowned night heron.
And there are LOTS of tadpoles in the “frog pond” a small separate shallow pond off the main, big pond.
Finally for now, I’ve never been a big bearded iris fan, but I think that’s going to change. I always like the bicolor ones as a kid and decided to get ‘Sunset Sky’ and ‘Mother Earth. I plan to do sketches and watercolors of both of them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.