Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

2014 Update

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Well, I cannot believe it’s been nearly a year since I last posted a blog entry.  My life has changed a lot in many ways and not at all.  But happily so.

My flock is doing very, very well.  They do love living here in Albuquerque with me in my little cottage.  The cockatiels Chipper and Charlie are about 14 years old, Sam is about 12, and Steve around 12 also (3 of which have been with me).

Steve is doing very well too, despite his chronic underwing wound.  Having been a rescued African Grey with serious emotional and physical problems, he has really turned around and become a happy, well-adjusted (for him) Grey.  He is still phobic about being removed from his cage, and he doesn’t take any chances if he thinks someone wants to pull him out and take him to the vet.  So he sticks close by his cage.  But he’s a happy guy and we have a wonderful connection.   He is the most gentle and sweet bird with a bit of  Grey playfulness shining forth now and then.  Here are some photos of him from last week.  He is actually not perching on my knee (though he has done that from time to time), but is sitting on a perch on his cage door asking for head rubs.

photo 2


photo 1

Steve’s underwing wound originated with his first owner who neglected him and didn’t provide any kind of stimulation.  At first, we thought he was mutilating himself; but I’ve since learned from my vet here that Steve has a chronic problem with ingrown feathers under one wing.  This may be the original cause of the wound – Steve’s attempts to remove the discomfort.

The bad thing is that he always has a bit of a bloody wound or scab under that one wing, but if I take him to the dreaded (but wonderful!) vet every 2-4 months to have it debrided and swabbed and checked for ingrown feathers, he does very well.  He may eventually die of an infection, but so far he has lived with it without complications.  It must present him with pain every day, but you would not know it except that he is slower moving than most Greys and he doesn’t stretch or lift his wings in greeting, as most parrots do.

My excellent avian vet and I have gone over possible surgical solutions, but he has so little skin left in that area, and the stress would be extreme for Steve.  We both feel Steve needs to be allowed to live happily with some minimal help along the way.  Here he is, after a thorough drenching shower, happily chewing up foraging materials with his humidifier spewing its helpful wetness into a very dry New Mexico fall season.

photo 5

Sam is a wonderful companion and loves going for walks on my shoulder out into our garden.  For longer walks, I put him into a small soft-side parrot carrier, which he loves.  He is easy-going and a very simple guy – though he doesn’t take well to strangers.  He considers my mother and sisters strangers…still!  After 2 years.

photo 4

And my most recent avian accomplishment was to get my two cockatiels to room in the same cage.  I had begun them together when I got Charlie, but they proved to be too competitive then.  But they’ve mellowed also and spend so much time in each other’s cage that I thought it was time.  And it’s working out great and saving me some much-needed space (this is Chipper below – Charlie was roosting somewhere on top of my cupboard when the photo was taken).

photo 3


Although I haven’t been painting for some time, I still explore ways to create.  Recently, I had a real desire to embroider again and I combined that desire with creating a liturgical item for my local priest, called a pall (it covers the chalice used during Mass), and this was the result.  I love embroidery, which I used to do a lot when I was in my 30s.  Eventually I will get back to painting.  However, it may have to wait till I have more time when I’m not working regularly.


The fall here is always beautiful – spectacularly so:  cold nights, warm golden days with soft, very dry, breezes.  The annual balloon festival is in full swing, and I am very grateful for everything.  May your fall be lovely and may you keep warm and toasty this winter!


PS  BunRab, my house rabbit, is fine too.  She is currently shedding her spring/summer coat and looks rather tatty so did not want to be photographed!





New Artistic Talent

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Here she is!  My niece Sidney – new talent has now burst onto the art scene.  She paints with bold colors and has an excellent sense of composition.  And a terrific smile.

I especially like the tree waving to everybody.

What else have you got, Sidney?

Stained Glass on Paper

Monday, January 4th, 2010


When I visited my mother in Albuquerque, NM recently, I was delighted to discover that she still had this piece I’d made when I was a freshman in high school.  I don’t recall what stained glass this replica was based on – some medieval cathedral in Europe – but I had a lot of fun making it.

First, I sketched the piece on a sturdy piece of paper parchment.   To create an “aged” look to the piece, I used a method my freshman high school art teacher taught us:  Using a very hot iron, I “ironed” the piece until the parchment paper began looking slightly browned.  I then painted my sketch with some student-grade watercolors (many of the colors are not as vivid as they once were originally).  Obviously, this technique would not be advisable on anything you want to keep for posterity – though I have to say, despite all odds, this piece has survived pretty well for over 40 years!

The piece is somewhat dull until you hold it up to the light.  Then, like light showing through real stained glass, the image becomes vivid and pops out of the darkness.

Here is a detail of the kings’ heads:


More Egg Art

Sunday, December 13th, 2009
Back of decorated egg

Back of decorated egg

When I recently visited my mother, she gave me some painted eggs I had made when I was younger. I’ve written about eggshell art previously.   This particular egg has always been one of my favorites.  I painted with what I had at hand at the time:  watercolor for purple background; India ink for black to outline the three kings while reserving the white of the natural egg, and nail polish to add the “lacquer” at the end, and to strengthen the egg shell.

For the inside, I pasted a Christ Child in the background and stuffed the foreground with dried flowers.  It’s taken a beating:  parts of the shell have broken away, and there’s a significant crack.  But it was fun to see it again.


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…

The Meeting of Curious Minds

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Meeting of Curious Minds-websiteI finally finished this painting – whew!  The tree is one of my favorites:  a Pacific Madrone with a hollow.

And the owl is a Barn Owl.  Have you noticed that I like Barn Owls?  I think they are my favorite owl.  That’s a juvenile ruby-throated humminbird who is checking out the owl.

What I used:  watercolor and gouache.  The gouache was especially helpful in enabling me to create the tree bark and add essential highights to the owl’s wispy facial features.

That green stuff, by the way, is poison oak!  It often climbs up madrone bark.

Sidewalk Art, Revisited

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

photoOver a year ago, I included a blog entry about this man of mystery.

He is still around and become even more mysterious.  He’s looking cool and very sharp with those blue shades!


Sunday, September 6th, 2009

StubbyWhen I visited my family in Albuquerque, I went through some old family stuff and found, to my delight, this ancient crayon drawing I made of my first dog Stubby.  She was a Poodle/Scottie mix and I chose her out of a litter of pups when I was 9 years old, after which I made this sketch.  She had been lying asleep on my bed in the sunshine.   (I later got a prize for the drawing in school, which I was quite proud of.)

Stubby was a darling little thing and became a fast buddy to me, my sister and brother, and of course  my mother in particular.  After all, Stubby spent more time with my mother – while we were in school – than we did when we were at home.

Nevertheless, I was quite happy that I chose her for my family.

Here is the entire gang when we were oh so very young…

1964 Santa Ana with Stubby.2Stubby was extremely particular.  When she was old enough, it was decided that she would be bred to a Scottie to produce a litter of pups.  She’d have nothing to do with the male dog chosen for the task.  And yet, a couple years later, she fell head over paws for a roguish Beagle that roamed the neighborhood.  That was not a planned mating, and the resultant pups were anything but cute.  Well, a few of them turned out OK, but one in particular was quite homely.  She had a nearly smooth Beagle coat with dark Scottie  coloring.  But then she had these weird wisps of long hair that stuck out all over the place.  It was as if the poodle genes had been fighting the Beagle genes and neither side won.  We called her Grizelda.  She was the last pup to find a home, but we found one eventually – to an elderly, rather eccentric woman who doted on her in breathless accolades about Grizelda’s many sterling qualities.

Stubby was a loyal and fierce protector of the family and was with us through thick and thin, tolerating and accepting all the various other animal additions to the family, including cats!

1969 Yuma and Stubby CatWe were fortunate to have had her in our young lives,  and still miss her now and then.


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.