The tolai hare is the only rabbit/hare species found in Mongolia. They’re usually seen in rocky or semi-desert areas. My subject was one that I saw one evening at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve. I was positioned up in the rocks above the spring-fed stream waiting for argali sheep to show up when this hare hopped out from behind some rocks into plain view. What made it even better was there was a hoopoe perched on a rock not far away. Both species are very skittish and bolt at any movement. Here’s a couple of photos of hares I’ve seen during my trips to Mongolia.
Also at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu. You have to see them before they see you to have any chance of getting photos. Sometimes they wait until you’re so close that you’ve almost stepped on them and then they explode from right at your feet, which really boosts one’s heart rate!
During the 2016 WildArt Mongolia Expedition we were enroute to the Great Gobi A Strictly Protected Area to explore critically endangered Gobi bear habitat (saw tracks and scat but no bears, not surprising when the total population is currently estimated to be 40 of them). The Fergon van that carried our equipment was stopped by a blocked fuel line. We all got out of the SUV and poked around while that was attended to. I spotted this tolai hare right away and got some decent photos before it bounded off.
Here at Fox Studio I share mostly my studio fine art, stories of my travels and interesting things going on on our rural acre’s garden, pond, etc. A few years ago I decided to set up a new site devoted to nature sketching in general and pen and ink drawing in particular, including tutorial posts on that media and what I’ve learned about various nibs, ink, etc.
I’ve carried a sketchbook with me on my travels since 1989. I’ve scanned over half of them now and use examples from them to demonstrate points I’m making about nature sketching.
I also report on the results of my various tests of nibs, inks and more. In the example above I was testing for water resistence/waterproofness. As you can see there’s great variation.
One of my goals is to share the art and stories of pen and ink artists of the past through my “Great Pen and Ink Artists” series, which started with Charles Dana Gibson of Gibson Girl fame. I’ve also unearthed quite a few pen and ink artists of the past who are pretty much forgotten now but who wrote excellent books on how to use this classic art media and I’ll be doing posts in the future on them. J. Geoffrey Garrett is one of them. There’s next to no information about him, not even a Wikipedia entry. He seems to have worked entirely or mostly on location in his home country of England. So that’s an overview of what’s on tap at SketchWild, which you can findhere. I’m also selling sets of pen nibs selected specifically for artists at my Fox Studio Etsy shop, which is here. I’m also offering original art in pen and ink, oil and pen and ink/colored pencil, a downloadable tutorial “A Beginner’s Guide to Sketching” and downloadable coloring pages.
Back in another professional life before I became a painter in oil I worked in gouache and also a mixed media technique I learned at Mark English’s Illustration Academy. I also used watercolor and pen and ink for some illustration class assignments when I was getting my BFA Illustration at the Academy of Art (then College) from 1987-1989. Since spring is on the way I thought I’d share four that have a landscape or plant subject…two that play it straight and a two where I, well, didn’t and went for a humorous touch.
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.
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.
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.
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″.