It’s a new year! Time to blog again…

This great blue heron came by our pond on January 2. A great New Year’s surprise!

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.

New hobby!

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!

Test Driving Dip Pen Nibs

Once upon a time (back in the mid 1970s), when I first had professional art aspirations, my first media was pen and ink, heavily influenced by medieval illumination and Alphonse Mucha. I used them for many years when I was a freelance graphic designer. In the early 1990s, after getting a BFA Illustration from the Academy of Art (then) College, I was able to realize a childhood dream and spent two years in private study with a local artist learning to paint in oil. And since 1997, that’s what I’ve pursued professionally. But I never quite let go of pen and ink, using it for sketching on my travels. Everything from sketching animals…

…to spending a morning drawing these ruins I saw in Evora, Portugal.

The revival of location sketching with the urban sketchers movement and more has inspired me to return to my roots. I’ve been using Sakura Micron pens for years for my Mongolia journals, both for writing and sketching, along with other trips, but had become increasingly irritated with them. They don’t seem to hold a consistent tip anymore, which means I can’t trust them. I did some research and finally settled on what now appears to the the high quality standard, Copic Multiliners, and bought a full set of them. But…dip pens still beckoned. They have a feel and make a line that can’t be created any other way. So for a year now I’ve been building a collection of nibs via Etsy and eBay and, using Jet Pens excellent reviews, buying a half dozen different bottles of ink, experimenting a bit between my painting work. But can I use them in the field without making an unholy mess? Well, late 19th and early 20th century artists like Joseph Pennell, Henry Pitz, Earnest Watson, Arthur Guptill and William Robinson Leigh did it. And that led me to the wonderful world of inkwells, including ones made specifically for traveling. I’ll be doing an inkwell post in the future, along with discussions of nibs, ink and paper. Once my SketchWild site launches I’ll be offering dip pen drawing instruction. If you think you’d be interested in that let me know in the comments.
Over the past month or so I’ve been “test driving” nibs while also trying out possible painting subjects. Of of yesterday, here’s what I’ve done:

I was treated to an EXTREMELY rare sighting of wild bactrian camels, a herd of sixteen or so, heading south in the Gobi in 2016. They crossed the road in front us and were a long way off, but my photos were good enough to do these little movement studies, freehand with no pencil underdrawing. I used a Hunt 100 Artist nib and Platinum Carbon ink on Strathmore 300 vellum bristol, a 12×9″ pad. All of the drawings in this post were done on that paper.
I was considering entering a juried show that required corvids as the subject. I ultimately decided not to enter but did have fun trying out possible subjects with my dip pens, once again directly with no pencil underdrawing. I’ve had fun getting nibs from a variety of countries including Italy, France and England. Even some from the era of the Soviet Union with a hammer and sickle on them, purchased through Etsy from someone who lives in Ukraine! And they’re a really nice nib!
The subject here is takhi/Przewalski’s horse, all photographed in Mongolia. This sheet really shows how different the various nibs are. Hunt 100 Artist/Platinum Carbon ink; Gillott #290/Platinum Carbom ink; Gillott #170/Platinum Carbon ink; Gillott #303 EF/Noodler’s Black ink; Gillott #404/ Perle Noir ink; Esterbrook 356 Art & Drafting/Diamonte Jet Black ink



Contining on: All done with Higgins Fountain Pen India Ink. Hunt #102 crowquill; Hunt #108 crowquill; Gillott #659 crowquill; Esterbrook #48 Falcon; Hunt #100 Artist (new); Gillott #293 Public Pen; Hunt #103 Mapping; Hunt #100 Artist (new); Hunt #100 (vintage)

Over the last couple of days I’ve done a series of small drawings on the Strathmore 300 vellum bristol. This time, unlike the ones above, I did do a light preliminary pencil sketch. They took maybe an hour and change at most. The purpose was to explore how each nib feels when used for an actual drawing. All of them have things I like about them but I found I really did like the Gillott #303 Extra Fine quite a lot.

Race horse-Hunt #100 (new)
Domestic bactrian camel-Gillott #303 Extra Fine
Domestic Mongol horse-Gillott #170

On the ones above I added the background shape both to pop out the white of the light sides of the animals and to see how filling in an area would work with that particular nib. All were ok, but want to experiment more.

Siberian ibex-Gillott #29
Pika-Hunt #102 crowquill; not thrilled with how the fur came out but that’s why it’s good to experiment

And the Copic pens? Love, love, love them. I’ve joined artist Cathy Johnson’s “Sketch With Me!” Facebook group. She does virtual events one weekend a month. This is what I posted in October, an arrangement of squash from our garden. Copic pen and watercolor in a Stillman and Birn Zeta series wirebound sketchbook.

The WildArt Mongolia Expedition, Part 4: The Birds Of Boon Tsagaan Nuur And Art In The Field

Our campsite near the shore of Boon Tsagaan Nuur
Our campsite near the shore of Boon Tsagaan Nuur; the dark square to the left is our toilet enclosure

My last post about the Expedition, which you can read here was about the leg of our journey that took us to the Gobi lake, Boon Tsagaan Nuur. Today’s post is an album of the birds we saw and that I photographed. We also had time to get our paints out and do some location work.

There isn’t a good standard bird guide yet for Mongolia, although one is being prepared, so I sent a batch of photos to Axel Braunlich, who is probably the leading expert on birds in Mongolia. He was kind enough to take the time to identify them for me. If you are interested in birds, and Mongolia is one of the world’s hotspots for birding with 427 species (you can find a list here), I highly recommend Axel’s blog “Birding Mongolia”.

All of these species, except the bar-headed geese, which I had seen on the Tuul Gol (river) near Hustai National Park in early May of 2005 on my very first trip, and ruddy shelducks, were new to me.

As we arrived within sight of the lakeshore, we spotted bar-headed geese
As we arrived within sight of the lakeshore, we spotted bar-headed geese

These geese are famous for their migration route...over the Himalayas at altitudes approaching 30,000 ft, the same as an airliner.
These geese are famous for their migration route…over the Himalayas at altitudes approaching 30,000 ft, the same as an airliner. One can imagine them landing on Mt. Everest (28,000+ feet) and waving as a plane flies over.

Once down on the lakeshore we saw, at a tantalizing distance this large group of birds on a sand bar
Once down on the lakeshore we saw, at a tantalizing distance, this large group of birds on a sand bar. Unfortunately the ground between them and us was ultimately too soft and there were also flood-fed streams. Sharon and Odna did their best, but finally had to turn back. I was able to make out great cormorants, eurasian spoonbills, gulls and terns, plus some ruddy shelducks in the water. Yesterday, as I looked over my photos to make my choices for this post, I saw that there were at least sixteen grey herons out there also.

Wild greylag geese flew by at one point.
Wild greylag geese flew by at one point.

There was also a long-legged buzzard.
There was also a long-legged buzzard.

It was interesting and a little odd, since I live on the north coast of California, to see shorebirds in the middle of the Gobi.

Long-toed stint
Long-toed stint

Common sandpiper
Common sandpiper

Little-ringed plover
Little-ringed plover

Kentish plover
Kentish plover

Curlew sandpipers, juveniles
Curlew sandpipers, juveniles

Mongolian gull
Mongolian gull

Black-headed gull, juvenile
Black-headed gull, juvenile

Common tern
Common tern; adult and juvenile (who was begging for food to no avail)

White or eurasian spoonbills
White or eurasian spoonbills

Pied avocets
Pied avocets

Ruddy shelducks
Ruddy shelducks

Common shelducks
Common shelducks

We didn’t just birdwatch, but got out our painting and camera gear.

Magvadorj and Tugsoyun taking advantage of the afternoon light
Magvadorj and Tugsoyun taking advantage of the afternoon light

Little did I know until he was done that Magvandorj was doing a painting of me painting.
Little did I know until he was done that Magvandorj was doing a painting of me painting.

Tugsouyn's expressive interpretation of the scene
Tugsouyn’s expressive interpretation of the scene

Sharon and Odna enjoy the sunset
Sharon and Odna took a stroll down to the lake to enjoy the sunset

The next morning, which was, shall we say, a bit brisk, found Magvandorj up catching the morning light
The next morning, which was, shall we say, a bit brisk, found Magvandorj up catching the morning light.

Sunrise at Boon Tsagaan Nuur
Sunrise at Boon Tsagaan Nuur

A local dog showed up as we broke camp, hoping to find some food that had dropped to the ground.
A local dog showed up as we broke camp, hoping to find some food that had dropped to the ground. He’s the traditional herder’s dog, called a “bankhar” and is in his short summer coat.

Last photos of the lake before departure.
Last photos of the lake before departure.

It wasn’t easy to leave this wonderful place. But, by golly, through flooded rivers and streams and a long detour, we got there and were able to have the best parts of the day, afternoon, evening and morning, when the light was the best for painting and photography and the birds were active. Now it was time to head west and farther west with the Gobi Altai Mountains paralleling us to the south. At some point we would turn south and cross over them through….snow leopard territory!

EBay Auctions- 2-23-09 both SOLD 3-2-09

peacock

PEACOCK  oil on canvasboard 8×6

I photographed this handsome guy at the Denver Zoo last year. He was one of eight who were showing off for each other. Spring had sprung!. Click here to bid

morning-near-goose-lake1MORNING NEAR GOOSE LAKE  oil on canvasboard 8×6

Goose Lake is in the far northeastern corner of California and extends over the Oregon border. There is a state park with a very nice campground. This scene is from the surrounding area. It was a beautiful fall morning!

Click here to bid

Friday Features

IN OUR OWN BACKYARD

Last night my husband and I were sitting in our spa at dusk and what should we see ambling along the edge of one of the flower borders but a mom skunk with one baby. Niki the collie, who got thoroughly skunked a month or so ago, immediately went to the other side of the spa and gazed with great interest toward the pond. Good dog.

The skunks went right onto the patio and then under the engawa (Japanese style veranda), at which point we called it a night.

BACKYARD BIRD LIST

Same as last week, except one of the first hummingbirds, an Allen’s I think, found the verbascum and lavender, which are starting to bloom. There was an article in the news today here about the songbird die-off. Pretty depressing. The only local bird named that we have seen here is the Rufous Hummingbird. Time to plant more hummingbird friendly plants.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

You think you know your pets, but sometimes………..

Niki and Eowyn, en flagrante something or other. Got another one that I’m going to upload to www.icanhascheezburger.com. If you haven’t been there and you have a sense of the ridiculous, highly recommended.

ART THOUGHT(S) FOR THE DAY

Two Views on Art:

Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue. Those of us who aren’t artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we’re stupid.

Jules Pfeiffer, famous artist

Anyone who sees and paints the sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized.

Adolf Hitler, failed artist

Pond Visitors

It’s been interesting over the last year seeing who shows up at our pond. Photos will be forthcoming as soon as I get over a particularly persistent cold which is going around our area. Today we spotted a red-shouldered hawk for about the fourth time, so we may have our first winter raptor regular. The west end of the property (1 acre total) is being allowed to revert to native forest, but right now it’s shrubby grass. He’s perching up in a big Douglas fir next door, then flying over to some dead cascara buckthorn trunks and carefully inspecting the ground. Not sure what he’ll find. Mice, voles and shrews most likely. Maybe a frog or two.

Other avian garden visitors these days are juncos, robins, goldfinches and Steller’s jays.

The pond has also drawn a great blue heron (apparently a neighborhood regular named “Bill”), a great egret,  male and female belted kingfishers and, to our surprise, a double-crested cormorant. In the spring, to our utter amazement and delight, a movement caught our eye and we looked out from the living room just in time to see a juvenile osprey lifting off! No ducks yet, which I find kind of ironic, since that is was I thought we would get this fall. A friend gave us some teal decoys for a joke, but even they haven’t worked yet.

Turkey vultures occasionally circle over and there are resident ravens and crows.

I keep my camera handy so I can shoot reference as the opportunity presents itself. Missed the osprey and cormorant, but have gotten the hawk, heron and egret.

Just finished Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in nature! She is an amazing writer.

On the animal welfare front, I highly recommend Nathan Winograd’s new book Redemption, which presents a whole new way of looking at animal sheltering in this country.