Archive for August, 2009

The Geese

Monday, August 31st, 2009
Albuquerque sky

Albuquerque sky

I don’t have any photos of geese flying in formation, but since I returned from New Mexico, the migration has begun.

When I wake up before my alarm goes off, I hear one or two passes of groups of honking geese flying over my house.  It’s so quiet then that you can hear them in all – their seemingly lonely plaintive voices telling us the season is changing and the age-old movement from north to south has begun.  “Winter is on our heels, and we fly to safety…”

Because this geese thing has been going on for so long, I think we humans respond in deep ways whenever we hear these honking fliers in fall.  Well, I know it has a deep effect on me – sometimes I nearly start crying because something profound gets triggered in me when I hear the geese in the early morning darkness.  Something wild and ancient and wondrous calls to me.  I wonder what our cave-dwelling relatives felt?

Anyway, whenever I hear or see the geese flying south, I wish them the best of luck.  They have to fly so far and so long and through so many natural and man-made dangers that I’m humbled by their stamina and tenacity.  I wish them godspeed and a safe return in the spring.

Back from Albuquerque

Friday, August 28th, 2009
Carrie with Maizy

Carrie with Maizy

I’m back from Albuquerque and very happy to say that my sister Carrie is doing really well.  Here she is a week and a day after her surgery, up and about, enjoying the early morning sunshine after a wonderful and refreshing downpour the day before.

It was a difficult trip and we were all stretched, but Carrie’s friends rallied around the family and what could have been a really awful experience was somehow tempered and softened by all the caring and love that poured down on us all.

I will miss being around my mother and sister while Carrie recovers, but they say they will next come to visit me!  So I can’t complain at all.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Albuquerque Update

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

carrie-gardenIf you are interested in knowing how my sister is after her surgery to remove a desmoplastic ameloblastoma, you can go my sister’s blog MaizeysMom.  I wrote the post for her.

I’ll be here another week, during the most critical part of Carrie’s initial recovery.

Thank you, readers,  for your support and caring!

On My Way to Albuquerque Again…

Friday, August 14th, 2009

and am not sure I’ll be posting until I return, end of August.  On August 18, my sister Carrie will have her big surgery to remove the desmoplastic ameloblastoma from her jaw.  I may instead be posting updates about her situation at her blog site:  MaizysMom.

Meantime, I will miss my little animal friends:

Chipper & Charlie

Chipper & Charlie

Pippin

Pippin

Sam preening

Sam preening

Goofy office-mate Cedar

Goofy office-mate Cedar

To all you readers out there, have a safe and good next two weeks.

Summertime and the Living Is Hard

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

skinny-doe1

…for the does, that is.  We had about 3 weeks of triple-digit temperatures, and most of the wild browse is dried up completely.

For these still-lactating does, a lot of energy is expended to raise their fawns.  The fawns are mostly weaned, but the mothers still give their fawns a little pick-me-up now and then (and,  boy, are they rough with that milk bag!!).  There are two sets of fawns that regularly traipse through my little lawn (which is also very  brown), and they both look very good and healthy.  But their poor mamas!  Let’s hope the tide turns for them soon and that they fatten up again.

fawns-at-the-bar

This is a photo of the old matriarch doe, panting from a day that reached 109 F.  Poor thing!  I threw them all small apples from the fridge, which they eagerly devoured.

doe-panting

There is good news, though.  The nights are getting much cooler – finally! – and the leaves are noticing the change.  There is hope of better eating for the deer once the rains start coming again next month.

oak-leaf

Sam and His Rose

Friday, August 7th, 2009

sam-roseSam was “helping” me clean up my work space at home, and I gave him one of my miniature roses (no thorns)  from the vase on the table.

He seemed to sense how much I liked the rose and how special it was to me.  He very delicately tasted it, leaving only one hole in one petal.  Then he handled it carefully and hovered around it as if it was very special.

Then he asked me for a head rub.

I like this photo!

Vulnerable

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

VulnerableThis is my latest painting, finished this weekend.  This is a little Pine Siskin I found, seeking warmth from the late winter sun on a very cold afternoon.  He had found a warm spot on the concrete between my house and an herb planter.

He was all puffed up to conserve heat.  He looked so vulnerable.  That’s what I called the painting.

For anyone interested in knowing the techniques involved:

1.  First stage was laying in a couple of washes of yellow, then a brown (now I forget which one)

2.  Then I used a fairly dry brush to lay in the lines of the concrete.

3.  I splattered, using a very stiff bristle brush, spots and “dirt” that one normally finds on concrete outside; then I smudged various colors to imitate more concrete untidiness.

4.  The bird is a combination of washes and dry brush.  The crack in the concrete is mainly dry brush on the dry background.

5.  The shadow is a wet application of a layer of pthalo blue and a brown

Here is a detail of the Pine Siskin.

VulnerableCropped

How to Paint with Watercolor – Paints.2

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

paint-boxBefore launching into actual painting, there are a few other aspects to watercolor paints you might like to know.  While these facts may not have much bearing when you first start painting, in time they will become more important.

Tubes vs. Pans

When we were children, most of us were given watercolor sets in little tins that contained a number of dry pans of pigment.  These are student-grade paints that usually are extended with chalky fillers to keep costs down.  These chalky fillers also prevent the full luminosity of watercolor pigments to show on the paper.  Another good reason not to skimp on paint quality.

There are of course artists’ quality hard pans too, and these are very good paints, but they are suspended in more glycerin than tube paints – to keep them from cracking.  It takes a lot of wear on brushes to wet the pigments sufficiently to provide a good loaded brush of pigment.  (And it’s very hard to keep each pan clean of other pigments that will mess up the true color of the pan.)  Most artists use tubes of the thick, creamy wet pigment.  It’s wonderful to feel on the brush.  I feel one has more control, and it saves one’s brushes – which are not cheap to replace, if they’re decent quality.  Overall, I think using tube paints is superior from most standpoints.  I do have a set of hard pans – but just for traveling purposes.

Palette surface

You can buy a watercolor palette cheaply at most art stores, or even a supermarket.  Plastic ones are very cheap, but I prefer enamel or porcelain.  The paint handles better, doesn’t bead like it does on plastic.  Plastic gets stained and feels cheap somehow.  But if you are short on money, plastic works.

Lightfast qualities

Artist quality paints are manufactured as much as possible to be as lightfast – or permanent -  as possible.   You want your paints to be lightfast – pigments that have been proven not to fade or change color when exposed to reasonable light.  Winsor & Newton publishes a comprehensive brochure that lists every pigment’s lightfast quality, as well as its main ingredients, toxicity, characteristics, etc.  Here is a link that shows such information for Aureolin .

I’ll cover some other aspects of watercolor pigments in the next post.

Meanwhile, time to experiment:

1.  Set your pad of watercolor paper flat on your desk

2.  Get a jar of water and a large flat brush

3.  Place a dot of pigment on your palette (it doesn’t have to be a lot)

3.  Load the brush with water, and cover a section of your paper with water to prepare the paper to receive the pigment.

4.  While the paper is still very wet, brush on some pigment and tilt the paper toward you slightly.

The result should look something like this:

Pigment on wet paper

Pigment on wet paper

It really is lovely to see how the pigment seeks the water and runs with the downward angle.

You can also use the pigment on dry paper, and these would be such results (same loaded brush):

Pigment on dry paper

Pigment on dry paper

As you can see, the top half shows the loaded still-wet brush.  The strokes in the bottom half show how the pigment appears as the brush gets nearly dry.  The paper has absorbed most of the wetness of the brush.

All three effects are used in watercolor painting.

Here’s another wet brush into wet paper (“wet on wet”):

Pigment on wet paper

Pigment on wet paper

And now here’s the same image where I’ve allowed the original sample to dry, and I’ve used a semi-dry brush to make the red lines more defined:

Pigment on dry paper

Pigment on dry paper

Experiment and have fun with these techniques.

How to Paint with Watercolor – Paints.1

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

paletteCommenting on a previous post about “Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered,” Mandy asked what supplies would be useful for beginning to paint with watercolor.

First, let me preface this post with a very important point:  ART HAS TO BE FUN.  If you are going into art – in any media – with a sense of duty or obligation or if you think you can do something better than someone else to prove your talents, forget it!  It will become a chore and a yoke around your neck.  Creativity can’t happen under this heavy burden.  While art is a lot of things, the one thing that touches people most when they view art  is sensing a joy or passion from the creation.

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get down to practicalities.

You need some basic supplies:

1.  Watercolor paper (often called a “support”).  I’ve written extensively about what to use in some previous posts here and here.

2.  Watercolor brushes, which I’ve also written about previously in this post.

3.  Lastly, you need watercolor paints.

Since I haven’t written much about the watercolor paints I use, this post will cover paints.

Paints – What brands?

You can use whatever brands you like, but I recommend you don’t start with student grade paints.

When I began painting watercolors in earnest, I gravitated toward the tried and true standards of Winsor & Newton.  Winsor & Newton  is based in England and has been making pigments since 1832.  They now provide watercolor, gouache,  oils, and acrylics.  They are great paints, most of them tested for lightfastness and reliability in performance.  They also provide a brochure that shows each shade they offer, its properties (transparent, opaque, granulating, etc.) , lightfastness, toxicity, etc. Any reputable art supply store will carry this brand, as well as the mega art supply store online:  www.dickblick.com.  I get most of my supplies from Dick Blick as it often happens that the paints I get from my local store are not fresh.  Dick Blick has a fast turnover of paints so they’re always of good quality.

Please note, however, that Winsor & Newton produces two grades:  Cotman and Artist’s.  Cotman is the student version; Artist’s grade is what you should use, whether you are a student or a professional.  I know, the Artist’s grade is pricey!  But in the long run, you’ll be so much happier with results if you pay a little more now.  Besides, you don’t need a huge palette of colors to begin with.  You can start out with a basic dozen and then add more as you have money to spend.

Note:  W &N carries at least 2 sizes of paint tubes (5 ml and 14 ml) , so you can buy small tubes to begin with, which will be more manageable financially.  Unless you are painting very large works, these small tubes will last a long time.

Other brands I use are Holbein, which is made in Japan.  I find this brand very consistent.  Sometimes I find shades that are more intense and slightly different than Winsor & Newton, so I add a tube to my box now and then.

The only other brand I’ve tried is a relatively new one (since 1976) :  Daniel Smith, based in Seattle, Washington.  Not all the colors are lightfast.  You have to study them online (www.danielsmith.com) or request a catalog and read carefully.  But I love their quinacridone series for unique shades and intense colors!  I have about a dozen of their tubes.

The key here is experimentation.  You may find you like a range of colors produced by one brand and another range that suits you in another brand.

What colors to start with and how many?

If you are seriously penny-pinching, you can start with just 6 colors that contain the basics.   These are the colors I began with (all Winsor & Newton), which you can pick and choose from.  I’ve included a sample, but each computer monitor will translate them differently, so nothing will be entirely true – just to give you an orientation :

Aureolin

Aureolin

New Gamboge

New Gamboge

Winsor Yellow

Winsor Yellow

Carmine

Carmine

Raw Umber

Raw Umber

Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna

Cobalt

Cobalt

Pthalo Blue

Pthalo Blue

Mineral Violet

Mineral Violet

Hooker's Green

Hooker's Green

Sap Green

Sap Green

In the next post, I’ll talk about some interesting characteristics of certain paints and how to start using them.  Don’t worry, it’s a lot of fun and can be quite exciting!