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.
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.
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.