Archive for February, 2009

Light, Glorious Light

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Well, I’m back to blogging, now that my new modem is in place. Hooray!

Light has been on my mind. In these waning days of winter, every day that there has been sun it has felt like Christmas to me. I’ve always loved light, reveled in it, and re
quire it. No dark rooms for me! If I don’t have light, I start wilting.

I guess that explains why I emphasize the effects of light in my paintings so much. I love the way light plays with natural objects – how it glows through flower petals, revealing the intricate veining within (detail of Crocus Alive and Squash Blossom Ballet).

I also love how strong light provides contrast and shadows (Lizard at 11:10 and Feather Stone Study below).

With the sharp contrasts, the object being painted stands out and shouts to be noticed. (Hello, Mr. Lizard!)

Currently, I’m working on a project that also shows strong contrasts. I’ll include a photo of the finished painting when I’m done. It’s a bit of a departure
and experimental. First, I’m combining watercolor and gouache. Secondly, I wanted to try Ampersand’s Clayboard. The results are unexpected and kind of weird (in a good way). I’m having fun with it, and that’s the point of doing what you love, after all.

Blog, Interrupted

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Hello, readers!

I’ve been having internet connection problems. After crawling around amongst various cables and trying connections, swapping out old cables for new, etc., it was determined by my internet provider that red light on my modem was a sure sign that it has joined the Land of Dead Modems. (Having dropped it several times over the past year I’m sure did not help its longevity…)

I’ll be getting the new modem on Tuesday and will be able to blog again after that time.

Meantime, hope all of you are well. Have a good weekend!

All in A Day

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Although I had a day off of work today, I got up early as I was fasting for a series of blood tests (new doctor, new baselines, etc.) and needed to get to the lab before breakfast.

This moon setting greeted me as I drew back the curtains before dawn, and I thought it was beautiful. If I’d had a tripod, the moon would have been more clearly delineated – I could see through my camera lens that the moon’s details were extremely clear – but standing in the below-freezing air with snow on the ground was not conducive to sticking around stockstill.

After my bloodletting, I had a delicious breakfast at the local co-op and enjoyed seeing last night’s snow sparkle in the sun.

By the time I got home and finished grocery shopping and errands, the snow had largely melted.

Ms. Doe was snoozing in the empty lot next door and looked quite content.

One of her friends was seeing if the birds left any sunflower seeds to snack on – all birds everywhere seem to be messy eaters.

She must have found something, because she and her friends stop by every day…

And inside the house, my little feathered friends were busy, as usual.

But such activities always end up with snoozes as the afternoon winds down and things get mellow.

Here Charlie is taking a little nap inside Chipper’s cage. Where is Chipper? He’s in his box at the bottom of the cage, also napping. Charlie is happiest wherever Chipper is.

And so, the animals had their day, and it was good. It was good for me too.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

A Statue Lost and Found

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

While I’m on the subject of Nurnberg, Germany, here is another photo to show you.

During World War II, my stepfather was an MP (Military Police) and was stationed in Nurnberg during the trials held there after the war. He, like other military fellows, would do some sight-seeing during time off.

The Allies destroyed about 90% of the old part of Nurnberg during bombing raids in 1945 because this city was considered to be so historically important to the Nazis. It defies belief – first, to see the extent of the devastation of the deeply loved buildings and cathedrals, and secondly to see how they were lovingly reconstructed out of such rubble.

My stepfather was also present when the concentration camp at Dachau was liberated. He told us that that experience defied belief too, but I need say no more on that subject.

On my first visit to Nurnberg, I brought with me the image above. I wanted to see if the statue still existed. My friends were unfamiliar with it, so we would show it to some oldtimers in the old city. Finally, a little gnome of an elderly gentleman recognized it and explained where it was – and not far away from the center of town.

The statue represents Kaiser Wilhelm I and it stands directly across from a church called Saint Igidien. I had no idea of the size of the statue from the old image, as the bombed-out buildings around it made it hard to find a reference point for size.

I was glad to have found the statue, bringing to a close a circle begun by my stepfather. But there was no real joy in it. The bronze statue was riddled with holes where mortar hit it during the bombing. That is how it is in Nurnberg: such beauty juxtaposed with the scars to remind one of the past and its terrible human costs.

The Amazing Albrecht Durer – Part 2

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Albrecht Durer made several self-portraits, this one painted in oil in 1500, when he was 28 and already well-known.

Some years ago, while visiting friends in Nurnberg, Germany – Durer’s home town – I was able to actually enter the “Durerhaus” which is now a museum.

Durer’s home/studio is located just outside the Kaiserburg – the King’s castle. The Kaiserburg itself is well worth seeing. It’s built on top of the highest hill in the old town of Nurnberg, through which the Pegnitz River flows.

The streets are cobbled, the oldest buildings are half-timbered, and very Bavarian. I fell in love with Nurnberg and ended up going back two more times to visit. It is a city of ancient culture and amazing art that one feels was lovingly created. This art is not only in museums, but everywhere: on city walls, in ancient sculpture in passing, within churches at eye level and in reach of touching. What we would rush to place in a museum is so prevalent that it’s just everywhere.

In this photo, on the right are the thick walls of the castle. The columns at the far right flank a gate through which the heavy war horses would clatter down the cobbles.

The Durerhaus is in the middle of the photo, next to the castle walls.

Durer’s studio is at the top of the house facing the castle. The next photo was taken inside a re-creation of Durer’s studio and work room. Not all of Durer’s life was spent in his birthplace. He spent some years traveling to many parts of Europe, learning new techniques. Durer’s trips to Italy apparently had an enormous effect on him.

Durer’s studio is fascinating as it shows different types of methods (woodcuts, silverpoint, oils, etc.) and contains materials used in Durer’s time, including the creation of pigments made from minerals, insects, and semi-precious stones. There was no buying of prepared paints and artist’s materials from a store. Much of what was used was made from scratch.

This is another shot, taken from the studio window, showing the castle walls and one of the towers.

For me, medieval times came alive when I walked these cobbled streets. It is easy to block out the modern world just by walking down an alleyway and letting the imagination go back in time.

But before leaving Durer’s world altogether, I wanted to be sure his Eule (Owl) got the opportunity to be seen. Here he is!

The Amazing Albrecht Durer – Part 1

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

As a teenager, I was greatly inspired by Albrecht Durer’s art, especially his handling of very small creatures and natural objects. For his time, he seems to have been a forerunner of still lifes and nature studies.

According to Wikipedia: His watercolors mark him as one of the first European landscape artists, while his ambitious woodcuts revolutionized the potential of that medium. Durer’s introduction of classical motifs into Northern art, through his knowledge of Italian artists and German humanists, have secured his reputation as one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance. This is reinforced by his theoretical treatise which involve principles of mathematics, perspective, and ideal proportions.

“His prints established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Renaissance in Northern Europe ever since.”

The painting above is called “Blaurackenflugel” – or, Wing of a Blue Roller. The detail and coloring are marvelous. This piece was painted in 1512.

This sketch of “Papagei,” or Parrot, was sketched circa 1500 and was used in a drawing of “Adam und Eva.” Apparently, a close friend of Durer kept parrots, which made Durer’s rendering so accurate. (Those parrots would have had to endure a lot of cold in the winters of Germany!)

The “Das grosse Rasenstuck” – or Large Piece of Turf – is a masterpiece of realism.

I had the opportunity to visit Durer’s house and studio in his home town of Nurnberg some years ago. I’ll include some photos from that visit in my next post.

Chinese New Year, In Style

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Every year our town celebrates the Chinese New Year in order to commemorate (in the words of our Chamber of Commerce) “the contribution that thousands of Chinese workers made” in the Gold Rush era. That contribution, of course, was all the horrifically hard, back-breaking work the Chinese did to build railroads and do manual labor, and to endure prejudice and discrimination. Sigh…

But we were certainly all joined together in anticipation of loads of fun this morning. A Parade! I know, the Chinese new year was in January, but better late than never to celebrate.

We had about 45 minutes of different groups and entertainment walking past us onlookers. There was some live singing – some in English, some in Chinese. It was lovely.

Of course, everybody who was not Chinese also had to get into the act, human or otherwise.

Cassandra was decked out in red and so she fit into the bright and colorful theme of the day. Here she is waiting her cue for the line-up.

And what, I ask, would be more fitting than bagpipes in a Chinese parade? Three cheers, Southern Oregon Scottish Bagpipe Band!

The Rape of Europa

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I recently watched a most unusual and deeply affecting documentary. “The Rape of Europa” chronicles Hitler’s rise to power and his ever-growing desire to collect the world’s art masterpieces for a grandiose museum he was planning in the city of Linz, Austria.

That museum never materialized, but throughout the duration of World War II, Hitler and Herman Goering amassed vast collections of some of the world’s most famous art treasures. They did this through escalating greed and systematic stealing from the great collections – privately- and state-owned. And of course, collections owned by Jewish art lovers were taken without any regard whatsoever.

Over the years, I’ve read a fair amount of literature and history about World War II, Hitler, and the Holocaust. Somehow, this film did more to underscore emotionally for me the wholesale and senseless destruction resulting from this war than anything else I’ve read and seen.

There is a large amount of film footage from the 30s and 40s in this documentary – of Hitler exhibiting “degenerate” (read: modern) art before the war began, of the looting and destruction of art meccas like Florence, Italy, and so much more.

But there are also amazing stories of courage and dedication – of how the Mona Lisa and the major works of art from the Louvre were spirited out of the museum to the French countryside before Hitler invaded France, of individuals who risked their lives to hide and save the cultural icons of their countries.

And there is the story of the “Monuments Men” – museum directors, curators, members of the Army, and others who worked to protect art and other cultural treasures from destruction during and after the war. It is estimated by the US, that the Nazis stole about 1/5 of all the known artworks in Europe. According to the Rape of Europa website, “While the Allies returned most of the displaced art in the decade following the war, much of the loot is still missing. Tragically, unique masterpieces were destroyed and lost to posterity forever. Other works of art—the last, forgotten victims of the war—survived but remain unidentified, traceable only with costly and difficult investigation.”

This DVD is quite amazing and very moving. I was left with the idea that recurs throughout human history: Art is what makes us human and art is worth saving at great personal cost..

Foraging for Cockatiels

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

I mentioned earlier the need for our companion parrots to do more foraging for their own food, rather than have it always put before them in a food cup.

It’s a lot more challenging to get the smaller parrots to forage. Their food is much smaller and impossible to wrap singly in paper, as I do with Sam’s food, using the large Harrison’s pellets. Also, cockatiels and lovebirds don’t hold their food like larger parrots do, so it’s harder to hide items for them to extract easily.

However, I finally hit upon one thing that works really well for my cockatiels. I decided to make use of the cockatiel’s innate need to pick at things. If you’ve ever held your tame cockatiel to your skin where there is a mole or scab, you know he/she will make a beeline for same and try to remove the offending blot.

Cockatiels like things to be smooth and mar-free!

So….using large grapevine branches that have cracks, I now place the Harrison’s fine pellets into the cracks (this ONLY works with dry food). Or I may place a piece of a large pellet in the crack for them to work on. The cockatiels are drawn to the items in the cracks like a magnet, and they don’t just pick and drop them. They eat the pellets, perhaps simulating more what they would find in the wild on branches and in the treetops. (This is Charlie casing his cracks, pellet in beak.)

I think it’s these tiny things we can do for our birds that helps them to be more stimulated and engaged in their living with us humans. For sure, it makes me feel so good seeing the bright eagerness in their eyes!