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!
Most art shows have gone virtual due to Covid-19 but they’re still happening! I recently rejoined our local Redwood Art Association in time to enter the 2nd annual Humboldt Paint Out with was held from September 29- October 3, Monday through Saturday. The sticky part was that, due to a wildfire to the east of us it was smoky for the entire time (three out of four weeks total). Time to “make lemonade”. I was intending to head out and see what, if anything, I could find as a subject but saw the sun rising above the evergreens to the east of us and decided I’d try to capture that. Grabbed my painting gear walked three feet from my studio, set up and got to it. I had already decided to paint in gouache (opaque watercolor) which I’ve used on and off for decades. Here’s the result:
That same day I painted “Smoke” from the same spot trying to capture the visual texture and color of it. So instead of just photos I have some of it recorded in paint.
The next few days were really bad and we didn’t want to be outside at all unless absolutely necessary. But Friday, Oct. 2, rolled around and I decided to hit the road and head north. My original idea had been to do one painting at each of the lagoons- Dry Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Freshwater Lagoon, Stone Lagoon and I hoped that maybe some or all of them, being right by the ocean, might be clear enough to be ok. Alas, it wasn’t smoke but heavy fog that put paid to that idea. I’d also wanted to paint at Prairie Creek State Park, which is also part of Redwood National Park, so I went on north with fingers crossed. And when I got to Orick, not far to the south, SUNSHINE! And, although it was hazy, it the air was ok enough to set up and paint a scene of the namesake prairie. I’d taken one of our collies, Hailey, with me and she happily settled down at the base of my easel for the duration. In fact, she got a little stubborn when it was time to leave.
By the time I was done the smoke was starting to thicken so home I went back into fog and smoke. At this point I decided to stay home and finish up the event at our house and in our own neighborhood. When we bought the acre we built our house on there were almost no trees left from when the previous owner had it logged. But there was one special tree, a very old alder. I created the basic floor plan for our house and put the window over the sink such that it framed it. It was challenging to paint in the shifting smoke light but I finally felt I’d captured it. I’d been wanting to do this big old bole for years and had only managed a couple of sketches. I did it in the afternoon after I got returned.
One more day to go and, of course, it was smoky at first. On the road one takes before turning onto our street one of the properties to the north has a few very tall old pine trees, probably what’s left from a windbreak. After lunch the wind must have changed because suddenly we had clear blue skies! So I loaded up my painting gear and drove the whole couple of minutes or so to the corner where I could set up under some very old cypress trees. I work pretty fast. One of the things I like about gouache is that it dries fast so one layer colors quickly. Which was good because I had about ten minutes to go and back came the smoke. I’d taken photos when I gotten there so was able to get the last bits done in the studio (which is NOT cheating). I did have fun playing with color temperature.
On deadline day, Saturday the third, I scanned all of them, made necessary adjustments so they would be as accurate as possible and submitted them. And then waited, as we do when entering shows. The juror was Randall Sexton, a very accomplished artist who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since I’m not really a plein painter like those who do it as their main art activity I didn’t think much about getting an award. For me it was more about getting involved again in the local art scene and getting started doing location work in gouache. But…to my surprise and pleasure “Our Old Alder, Smoke Light” took 5th place! The reward was a check for $200, a $100 gift certificate from our local frame shop and another gift certificate from a local spa for a massage! I loved that the judge liked the one that is the most special to me.
And wait, there’s more! I also enter the RAA’s “Halloween” show. Once again I used it as a springboard to try out something new, a combination of pen and ink and watercolor. Once again my purpose was to have fun participating. Scott W. Prior, nationally known painter, was the juror and he picked “Quoth, The Raven” for an Award of Merit”!
So that’s what I’ve been up to for the last month or so. I’m currently working on a set of three oil paintings for a Nov. 13 deadline. In my last post I showed the value and color studies for them. I’ll post a full step by step when they’re done.
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.
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…
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.
I guess the big news here is that, at least for now, we’ve “crushed” the virus and plans for a partial reopening of businesses are being developed. We’ve only had a couple of new cases in the last couple of weeks for a total of 54. No deaths, currently no hospitalizations. We are required to wear masks now when out in public and to observe social distancing. Our public health dept. is doing a wonderful job, not only in dealing with Covid-19, but in the quantity and quality of their public communications about it. Locals can currently take a survey on what businesses they think should open first.
We’re going out for groceries, but otherwise keeping busy at home. On Sunday we’ll swing by the North Coast Native Plant Society place to pick up an order of….native plants. The ordering was done using a plant list on their website to make one’s choices of plant and quantity, then you downloaded the order form posted on their website, filled it out, photographed it and attached it to an email back to them. This was only one of four ordering options they offered. We will drive onto the property being used for the sale at noon on Sunday, pay with a check and then load up our plants. Everyone has a separate pick-up slot. It’s all been very well-thought out and organized so that they can still have their sale, but keep everyone safe.
In art news, I’ve been doing extensive repaints on some older paintings I’ve done of African subjects. I’ve entered three in an online animal art show and will get the results on the 5th. Here’s one of them:
And for serious fun I was invited a week or so ago to join a Facebook group called “Draw Breath”. Since live figure drawing isn’t an option now, a group of mostly illustrators who also attended or teach at my alma mater, the Academy of Art University, have arranged Monday, Wednesday and Friday livestreamed “virtual” sessions from 4-6pm. It’s a three way split screen with the model in the middle and an artist on either side drawing in real time and chatting about what they’re doing and why.
And, here’s some photos of the garden I just shot this morning. Things are really starting to take off. We’re supposed to get “real” rain tomorrow which is great.
And down by the pond on an old chunk of stump…
Finally (I have to pay attention to what my last image is because WordPress’ or some algorithm uses the final image in a post for the preview on other sites) here’s another of my Kenya pieces, a warthog…
More about the warthog in a moment, but first some good Covid-19 news. As of this past Saturday there were no new cases in Humboldt County for four days in a row! I don’t think any of us expect this to last, but it suggests that by following the shelter in place order for the past three weeks, we’re at least flattening the curve. There was no update on Sunday but there should be one today after 4pm. I’ve seen estimates now of a five or fourteen day incubation period, so we’ll see. In the meantime we’ve got plenty to do around the house and property and it’s sunny!
Now on to the warthog. During an art workshop safari I went on in October 2004, with the late Simon Combes, one of the places we went to was Lewa Downs Conservancy. The lodge was on a hilltop with a great view. We were watching Simon do a plein air demo and then set up to do our own. This warthog walked right in front of us less than 20′ away and stopped. I got some great photos, including this one.
This week’s Inktober52 prompt is “Red”. I don’t have any “red” ink as it turns out (that will be remedied, I hope, on Friday when my order of Dr. PH Martin’s Bombay inks arrive). But I did have a small sample container of Noodler’s Ink Burgundy and that’s what I used, as seen above. The nib this time was a Hunt 22, a good sturdy drawing nib. I started out by doing a graphite drawing. This solves all the drawing and value problems first so on the final drawing I can focus on the penwork.
I overlaid the drawing with a piece of Clearprint Heavy Vellum. It worked well but I prefer to do pen and ink work on paper so experimentation will continue.
In other news, I belong to a Facebook group called Sunday Paintout, which meets around 10am on, well, Sunday mornings every week. It’s not the best day for me but I participate when I can. Because of Covid-19, the paintouts are happening virtually. Members are going out on their own on Sunday morning and posting images of the art they’ve done and maybe the location they went to. Our ornamental cherry trees are in full bloom and I’ve had the itch to paint them so yesterday morning I got out my watercolors for the first time in ages and did this quick sketch. I used Winsor Newton watercolors on Saunders Waterford 140lb coldpress paper. It’s 8×8″.