Archive for November, 2009

Winter Mushrooms

Monday, November 30th, 2009


On my walk yesterday I came across a totally rotten felled tree trunk filled with these tiny mushrooms, which were sprouting from various crevices.  You can see just how small they are by comparing them with the pine needles nearby.  They were exquisite fairy mushrooms.

The recent rains have brought out lots of fungi and lichens.  The mosses are brilliant kelly green.  So while the last of the beautiful fall leaves are falling to the ground, we get a little sideshow from the lowly spore germinating lives that proliferate in damp dark places.

Tis the season…

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

deer turkey2…for turkeys!

We had about 20+ invade our street and empty lot next door over the weekend.  Even the deer look sort of puzzled by it.  What were those turkeys doing?  Convening a meeting to come up with ways to avoid being eaten for Thanksgiving?

I had to be sure Chipper didn’t see them.  While the other birds of my inside flock don’t mind these small-headed large-bodied cousins, Chipper freaks out at the sight of just one of them.  I managed to be successful!

deer turkeys1

Good Morning, Pippin!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
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Charlie always comes out of his sleep in the mornings full of cheer.  Unlike Chipper, his other cockatiel friend who has moods and is more complex emotionally, Charlie is consistently Mr. Sunshine.  Every morning is a new beginning and a great one.  It doesn’t matter if the sky is dark and gray and coming down in sheets of water, he’s up to singing.  And unlike Chipper, who has never known any other life than the current one, I think Charlie does remember.  The contrast between his old life and this new glorious fun one must be something that makes him happy about the present.

One of his rituals is to come out and serenade his little girl friend Pippin who lives next to him.  She loves it!

Rutting Season

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Well, it’s that time of the year when any mature single blacktail buck seeks single willing doe in estrus.  This little clip shows one buck smelling the air for signs of a doe ready for mating.  You rarely see mature bucks with racks in town.  Usually they go about in bachelor groups throughout the year on the fringes of town.  But they throw all caution to the winds and come rampaging into town to seek their intended.  I nearly ran into one of two bucks chasing after one doe in heat as he raced in front of my car one early evening.

This is a group of does and some fawns from this spring.  The unfolding “show”  has them all upset.  The doe that this particular buck is after is quite agitated.  At one point you can see her urinating to attract the buck to her scent, and he follows his nose.  So no doubt we will see the results next June….

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Waiting for the Vet

Friday, November 6th, 2009

photoTwo of my feathered friends needed to see the vet today – Pippin the lovebird for a routine visit, Chipper the cockatiel for a sore wing.  That wing has been sore for some weeks, so I wanted to be sure nothing was broken or cracked.  (Chipper is very klutzy for a bird and tends also to frighten easily by loud jay calls or unexpected noises, so he’s more apt to bolt and bump….)

Anyway, nothing was broken – just muscle sprain.

But here we are, the birds feeling more secure on my shoulder waiting for the doc.  They are uncharacteristically quiet and still!

I find that adding a drop of Bach’s Rescue Remedy to their water  and feeding them a drop of that diluted mix – either before they go to the vet or right afterward – helps them recover very quickly from the stress of such visits.

Painting in Gouache, Part 2

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

I was showing the progression of my last painting “The Meeting of Curious Minds” in  my last post, in an attempt to show how gouache can be used.

I finished adding a darker undercoat of brown to the trunk of the madrone tree.  I also finished the hummingbird.  I did not want to delay doing so, because I needed to see how the small bird fit in with the trunk and foliage before continuing further.  As for the leaves, I did reserve the lighter color of the paper underneath, as in this case it would have been a lot of work and a waste of paint to have to paint over the darker area.

owl more trunk

Here is a close-up of the juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird:


The next step was to work on the leaves of the poison oak.  Then the fun part began when I smeared big blobs of white paint with a stiff bristled flat brush onto the trunk to provide the undercoat of the bark that covers the lower regions of the madrone tree.  Some daubs were thicker or thinner, to simulate the variety of shades one encounters normally in nature.

owl white daubs

The rest was then take up with further refining the look of the bark, to make it more realistic, using shades of black to gray and some browns.  I spent quite a lot of time working and reworking the leaves, to get a balance between recognizable and super realistic.  To have done too much would have detracted from the rest of the painting.

And then the final.  I really enjoyed working on this piece, and I really love how gouache enables me to do many things that would take much longer in pure watercolor, and/or be extremely difficult to do.

owl finished

Painting in Gouache, Part 1

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Finished painting

Finished painting

Gouache is not as common a medium for fine art now as it should be, in my opinion!  Gouache is mostly used in the present time by illustrators  and designers because the colors are brilliant, they dry fast, and they are opaque like oils.  Unlike watercolors which require working from light to dark and reserving the white of the paper for lighter areas, you can work from dark to light with gouache.

It is an old medium.  It was used in the 14th century (and probably earlier) and known also as “bodycolor.”  Wikipedia states:  “Gouache differs from watercolor in that the particles are larger, the ratio of pigment to water is much higher, and an additional, inert, white pigment such as chalk is also present. Like all watermedia, it is diluted with water. (Gum Arabic is also present as a binding agent, just as in watercolor.) This makes gouache heavier and more opaque, with greater reflective qualities.”

Some artists of note who have used it often:  Albrecht Durer, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Nicolas Poussin, Edgar Degas, and others.   I’d say that was good company!

As a matter of interest, I thought I’d include some photos of the progression of my last painting “Meeting of Curious Minds,” which is mostly gouache, with some watercolor.

I used a multiple-ply acid-free cotton rag illustration board for the paper support.  While you could use watercolor paper with gouache if you used thin washes, most of the time you must use a stiff inflexible support for gouache, as the thicker parts of gouache painting will crack if the support is bent.

After sketching the basic lines of the piece, I painted an undercoat for the tree, the hollow,  and the owl to give me some basic tonal values to work with.  It all looks rather ghostly so far.


I next worked further on the owl, adding more darker areas over which I would use white gouache later on.  The beauty of gouache is that you can paint dark colors as an undercoat and, depending on how transparent you make your gouache strokes, you can allow that undercoat of fur or feathers to show, as they often do in nature.  I figure that if I mess up here, it’s not worth continuing.  So I always tend to do the hardest parts first so that if I do make irreversible mistakes, I don’t waste too much time!


In the photo below, I’ve finished the owl, adding pure white feathery strokes of a fairly well-loaded brush.  I’ve worked on the aged, non-growing wood of the madrone nesting hole, and also darkened the interior of the hole so that the owl is seen in better contrast.  Now I must work on the rest of the trunk.


I see that in order to bring out the contrast between the rich hues of the tree trunk and the craggier, lighter bark that lives on top of the smoother trunk underneath, I have to make the background much darker than I have so far.  So out comes a darker brown, as well as the first greens of the poison oak that has insinuated itself onto the tree.  The hummingbird also begins to appear.


To be continued…