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On “location’ at home the first day of the Humboldt Paintout with Peregrin

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:

“Smoke Light”

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.

“Smoke”

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.

“Hazy Morning, Prairie Creek”

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.

“Our Old Alder, Smoke Light”

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.

“Neighborhood Pines”

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”!

“Quoth, The Raven” pen and ink, watercolor on hot press illustration board

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.


Life Goes On…Part 13

Ten two-minute sketches from last Monday’s Draw Breath group’s Facebook livestream

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.

Looking west, beans on the left, squash on the right with peas next to them. Potatoes, shallots, leeks and radishes in the raised bed, carrots in the blue kiddie pool that someone in the neighborhood put out next to the street for free. And that’s one of our rough collies, Peregrin, looking at me.

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.

Life Goes On…Part 12 (new title)

My latest for Inktober52- Prompt: “Robot”

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”:

This was a return, after a very long time, to the whimsical animals I often did as an illustrator

As always, you can follow my current art adventures on Instagram or Pinterest.

And here are a some of the roses currently blooming-

‘Citrus Splash’- Jackson & Perkins
‘Leaping Salmon’- Pierce 1986, purchased from a now defunct rose nursery
‘Crown Princess Margareta’- David Austin, 1999
‘Golden Celebration’- David Austin, 1992

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…

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.

Sheltering in Place, Part 6

Prompt: “Green”- hope we see at least one this year

Sheltering in place continues with no drama other than Peregrin, one of our rough collies, getting skunked right in the face a few evenings ago, so his temporary nickname is Stinky. I got the deskunker on him right away but here’s still a whiff of it up if we get close.

Peregrin, age 3, aka Stinky Dog

This afternoon I’ll start making a few masks for us to wear when we go out. Did a lot of research and dug through my fabrics for tight-weave cottons. We’ve got coffee filters and some old vacuum cleaner bags for filtration. The local grocery stores seem to be doing their part to keep carts and conveyers sanitized. We’ve also got almost an entire box of disposable gloves that my husband bought for his airplane modeling. There will be a trip to the store tomorrow.

We had one last corker of a wintry storm come through over the past couple of days with good, heavy rain. Nippy this morning, but yesterday afternoon really felt like spring has sprung. Which means plenty of exercise in the garden coming up. Daffodils are almost done. Roses are leafing out nicely. Apple trees have flower buds on them. Tulips are in full bloom.

Here’s an update on the international online art event I’m participating in called Inktober52. The original event called for doing a pen and ink drawing a day for the month of….October. This time it’s one a week for the whole year. So far I’ve had no problem doing my weekly piece. My intention had been to post them in one month batches here on the blog, but that kinda got lost in all the pandemic news and prep. Things have settled down into a routine now, so in this post I’ll get caught up. You can see the first batch here. And I posted a few last time here. The one at the top is the latest, just done yesterday and posted on Instagram and elsewhere this morning. If you want to follow me on Instagram I’m here. There’s a board for them on Pinterest here.

Prompt: Spider- a visitor to our backyard
Prompt: “Wave” – reference from local beaches
Prompt: “Elf”- the bole of a very old red alder tree on our property
Prompt: “Tower”- me in front of a redwood tree in Prairie Creek State Park, just north of us
Prompt: “Elephant”- an elephant I saw in Kenya

The Art Life: Not Just Art

Alexander
Alexander A Really Great Cat

I have the good fortune to work at home doing something I love. It also means “visitors” every day. Our two rough collies and three cats wander in and out, sometimes just to say “hi” or to hang out. The last few days Alexander has come in, sprawling across my desk in front of my iMac to get his tummy skritched and combed out. He was a slightly scruffy little shelter kitten who we got when he was about three months old. He’s grown into a phlegmatic 8 year old, 16 pound furball.

(And wouldn’t you know it, as I was proofing this post in he came. Pause for tummy combing….)

DSC_2607.jpg

(Ok, I’m back.)

Being at home also means that if I, say, spot a juvenile great blue heron down at our pond I can grab my camera and get some photos.

DSC_2466

After work tasks include watering the vegetable garden and picking what’s ready. We got a very late start this year, but Humboldt County’s warmest weather is in September/October so we’ll get at least some goodies in the freezer like peas for winter solstice dinner.

Vegies

We picked our first real harvest a few days ago. Shallots, a yellow zucchini, Hurst Green Shaft peas (got the seed in England and haven’t found an American source for this awesome variety), Blue Lake green beans, and French haricot verts. Potatoes will be ready in another month or so. We’ve also planted regular green zucchini and summer squash, both of which will start to be ready for harvesting soon. I also, because I had them, threw some brussels sprout seeds from 2012 into the ground just to see if any would germinate. Thought I might get two or three. Well….I’ve now got a clump of over a dozen that are too close together. My plan is to carefully transplant them into a row once the rains come and the weather is cooler.

I think we’re going to dig a small root cellar on the north side of the garage since there are five varieties of garlic on the way, plus some heritage onions. The peas and beans will be, respectively, shelled and cut up for the freezer, where they will join the three gallon-size ziploc bags of blueberries our bushes produced this year. Did I mention that I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” right now?¬† :0).

In the meantime, last night I rummaged around for dinner wanting to use the zucchini while it was fresh and some mushrooms before they were goners. And came up with this…

squash dish

I set water to boiling for the shell pasta and then sauteed the mushrooms in olive oil and butter. I added the zucchini and let it cook for a bit, then added some finely sliced leeks. It’s seasoned with a bit of salt, basil, parsley and oregano. When the pasta was done I dumped it into the vegies and stirred everything together. Dinner was served in our Portmeirion “Borders” pattern china that we got at the factory seconds shop in England¬† twenty years ago.

As for art, as you saw last week, I’ve got some new small horse paintings under way. I also started this one, getting the brush drawing done. You can still see the pencil marks from where I projected the preliminary drawing for transfer and then made some corrections. But darn, I kinda like the way it looks now, so I might just call it done and keep it around. We’ll see.

DSC_2577

A New Dog! And Winter Birds At Our Pond/Bathing Pool

Hailey (Romany's Hadley)- our new 10 month old collie girl from Romany Collies
Hailey, our new 10 month old collie girl from Romany Collies

We haven’t had winter yet here on the north coast of California. The storm door has never opened and there’s been, until today, only one round of rain in our rainy season. It was really cold for a few weeks, but recently we’ve had warm, record-setting days when it’s gotten up over 70F.

But our winter birds are around and I got some nice photos of them bathing in our pond a few weeks ago. I’ve posted some of my favorites.

The big news is that we have a new collie! Our dear old collie boy died unexpectedly back in October and it was a hard loss for us. Being without a collie in the house left a big hole in our hearts. After searching around for a responsible breeder we found Romany Collies, located up near Portland, Oregon. I contacted them and it turned out that they had exactly what I was looking for….a older rough collie puppy. We brought her home on Janauary 13. Hailey is 10 months old, which is perfect. She’s a good girl with a fun personality, a solid temperament and is as sweet as can be. We love her lots.

Hailey on her first outing to Redwood Creek. Her recall is already reliable enough that we could let her off-lead.
Hailey on her first outing to Redwood Creek. Her recall is already reliable enough that we could let her off-lead.

She also is pretty entertaining. This is known as "Collie Pose" (although I know other dogs do it too)
She also is pretty entertaining. This is known as “Collie Pose” (although I know other dogs do it too).

We like to sit down by our pond in the afternoons after work and during the day on the weekends. A variety of birds are often around including, in the winter, a black phoebe, flickers, juncos, sparrows, robins and chestnut-backed chickadees. I recently caught the last two at bathtime. The robin was really enthusiastic!

robin 1robin 2robin 3robin 4robin 5robin 6All done!

chickadee 1chickadee 2

Feline Friday + The Family Dog

I’ve got a rather intense project under way, about which more soon, so for today I thought I’d just share some photos of our family critters, three cats and a collie. The cats all came from a shelter, Niki from a responsible breeder.

Alexander, a Really Great Cat, relaxed

Eowyn, who in her younger days probably could have slain the Nazgul, is now happy to help me out with paper support

Michiko, our tamed feral; we couldn’t resist that face; she brought us a dead gopher last week

Niki, our tri-color rough collie boy, self-appointed guardian of all creatures great and small