Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wonderful World of Insects, a BEEP Unit, Part 2

I taught the Insect Unit twice last week. Here are photos from the second group I worked with.

The Generic Insect is showing off its middle set of legs.

Here are True Bug, Housefly, and Butterfly. Their mouths tell who they are. From left to right a mouth that pierces and sucks, a mouth that works like a sponge, and a mouth that uncoils and siphons like a straw.

A chewing mouth that chews sideways, not up and down. Could be a Grasshopper, a Beetle, or a Dragonfly.

Deb Oexmann, Executive Director of Brukner Nature Center, talked about a Big Brown Bat, a member of the only flying mammal family. We could see that it was making sounds but we couldn't hear them because the sounds are not audible to our ears. She told us that, in winter, some bats hibernate in Ohio and some migrate farther south.

Out in the Brukner meadow, everyone had a turn  sweeping with a net for insects on the plants and  catching insects with plastic bug jars.  The day was barely seventy degrees so the insects were moving slowly.

They caught tiny black beetles with hard wing covers, as well as many species of ants  and bees.  The different species were recognizable by different color patterns and  different sizes.

They learned to identify female and male grasshoppers.  The females had ovipositors which looked like long stiff tails.  They insert these into the ground and deposit their eggs which will overwinter safe from the cold.  They found many species of grasshoppers, some small and some rather large.

Other insects they found included one butterfly and several stink bugs.  They also found flies which were species other than the common housefly.  They could tell this because the flies were small.  Once an insect is an adult its size never changes.

The group caught species from six of the seven groups of insects we discussed before going outside. The missing group was the dragonfly and damsel fly group. The group found many kinds of spiders, an insect relative, also.

Back at the Interpretative Center, the students separated into two teams and played Insect Jeopardy. The categories were Orders of Insects, Life Cycles, Insect Anatomy, This and That, and Insect Predators.

Leaving Comments

I changed back to word verification in which the commenter types in the displayed series of letters. More people seemed to be able to be able to use that system than the supposedly more open system of allowing blog comments. As I learn more I may change to something else. Thanks for taking time to look at my blog.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Portrait and Figure Studio, September22

As I was putting this blog together I realized that when I took this photo I was standing but when I was painting the sketches I was sitting. I'll remember to sit next time when I take the photo if I plan to sit when I paint. The reason will be clear as you look at the following sketches. I had a lot of difficulty getting the angle of the model's hair across her brow correct. When I was standing, the angle was slight but there was more of an angle when I sat...But not as much as my mind was telling me. A lot of art is painting what my eyes are really seeing, not what my mind tells me I see.

6X9 Four minute quick sketch

6X9 Four minute quick sketch

7X10 Forty minute sketch. I laid in washes during the first twenty minutes. After the model's  break so she could stretch and relax, I started by drawing lines with a Micron .05 pen to enhance the features. I adjusted the hair line several times to lower it and to lessen the angle. I added a few more washes,also.

7X10 Twenty minute sketch. By this time I was more familiar with the model's features. I still didn't get that hair angle right but I am pleased with the rest of the painting.

6X8 Twenty minute sketch. For the last portrait of the afternoon, I decided to paint the entire figure and give a hint of her surroundings as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wonderful World of Insects, a BEEP Unit

On Tuesday I taught the insect unit of Brukner Nature Center's BEEP (Brukner Environmental Education Program). This is one of my favorite volunteer activites. The students discussed  the noticable parts of insects, namely the Head, Thorax and Abdomen along with wings and six legs and antennnae. One student put on the Generic Insect costume.

In the photo above, students are wearing some of the unusual mouths of insects. One is wearing a mask featuring antennae and compound eyes. From left to right here are the special features.

1. an uncoiling and  siphoning  mouth part.  If you look closely at a butterfly nectaring at a flower you can see it using a mouth like this.
2.  a  sponge-like mouth for sopping up soggy crumbs,  That is a the kind of mouth a House Fly has.
3. a typical insect mask showing antennae and compound eyes,
4. a generic insect with head, thorax and abdomen, two pairs of wings, and six legs
5. a piercing and sucking mouth like mosquitos have (and True Bugs).  Do you know that all True Bugs are insects but all insects are not True Bugs?  These fifth graders do.
6. a chewing mouth in which the jaws move from side to side rather than up and down as mammal mouths do.  Dragonflies have mouths like this.

Inside the net covered box is an Insect Predator. Deb Oxeman, Executive Director of the nature center, took time from her busy day to show the group a Big Brown Bat that was brought to the center as a pup. Deb raised the pup which will stay at the center as a Wildlife Ambassador to teach visitors about bats. She told us that bats are no more likely to carry rabies than any other animal. Bats are important because they help to maintain the balance of nature.

After learning a few characteristics of seven of the most noticable groups of insects, the students walked to the meadow where they swept with nets for insects.

Plastic peanut butter jars were good for catching insects, too. The day was perfect for catching insects because the temperature was about seventy degrees, warm enough for the insects to be moving around but cool enough so they were not moving fast. The warmer the day the faster an insect moves because its body temperature fluctuates with the air temperature.

Happy Birthday, Sean

And many more,
 with lots of love
 from Grandma

PS. Check back this evening for more pictures.

Do you remember touching the Barred Owl at Brukner? You were three.

You were happy to see Uncle David at Christmas in 1989.

Do you remember Clifford, the Big Red Dog, that you took to bed with you when you were very young? I bet your mom and dad do.

Birthday number six. Chocolate cake with chocolate icing was your choice.

You became a master with the hula hoop.

This is one of those undated photos.

I talked you and Ted into being a model for a drawing I wanted to do for a book I was illustrating for Mrs. Beaver. I was happy I had willing grandsons. I think this was about 2001. It is another undated photo but I just reread my journal for 2001 and I know I was working on those drawings that year.

I hope I get back to Rue Dumaine before too long so I can eat one of your special dishes. As your mom says, it's nice to have a chef in the family.

I hope this is an interesting, eventful year for you with lots of good experiences.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On the Easel Today, Sept.20, 2011

I have three paintings that I am working on. I don't know how much time I will have to paint on these this week since I will be teaching an insect unit for Brukner Nature Center on two days and going to Portrait and Figure Open Studio on Thursday.

I also have a lot of housecleaning that needs to be done. I slacked off the housecleaning for three weeks after having minor surgery on my right wrist. Yes, I am left-handed but I seem to use my right hand a lot when I do housework.

Here are the paintings. The Rag Doll is first. I worked a little on the lace on the hem and added books to the bookcase. I want to do just a little more definition of the books. I don't want them to be very noticeable since they are part of the background. I am considering the fuzzy orange yarn hair. I may leave it the way it is. I may add a little more detail.

The next painting is of an Eastern Comma on Clear Weed. Tom took this photo a few years ago.

I did some rearranging of the objects in the photo. Here is my painting.

Because I rearranged some elements, I will spend a lot of time thinking about how I will do the background. It is one of those backgrounds that will "evolve". Every time I use that word, I think of my young grandsons playing with Pokemon cards. Pokemon characters keep "evolving" from one form to another.

The third painting that I am playing with is Yellow Waterlilies. A couple years ago I thought the painting was finished. I looked at it again when I was gathering paintings for the Farmers' Market and decided I wanted to do some adjusting. A painting is only finished forever when it is out of my studio and I can no longer do anything to it.

Here is the photograph of the original finished painting.

In the last week I have added definition to the petals and experimented with the raindrops. I am still not satisfied with the raindrops. I have also darkened the upper right. I want to do some major adjustments to the lily pad the lily seems to be sitting on. I don't know exactly what.

The first one is a photograph of the original painting. The second one I scanned into the computer. The two forms of reproduction cause the colors to be different. The colors in the scanned image are truer to the original.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Common Buckeye, an Ohio Butterfly

A couple weeks ago, Stephen and I took a walk at Charleston Falls. He decided he wanted to walk in Octagon Prairie rather than walk through the woods to the falls. Fall is a good time to find insects in the prairie and Stephen likes insects.

If you look really hard you may be able to find the Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia). I saw the butterfly flit by me and down into the grass. It took me a while to find it. There is a large plant whose stem goes from upper right to the bottom of the picture at a slant. One of its leaves juts out to the left near the bottom of the picture. The butterfly is just above the tip of that leaf. I took a few photos with my Fujifilm JZ300, hoping I had the butterfly somewhere in the photos. I did. Wonderful digital camera, wonderful computer. Here is the cropped photo.

I have seen quite a few Common Buckeyes this year. Some years I don't see any. I looked it up in Butterflies of Ohio, a field guide by Jaret C. Daniels and found out why this has been the case. He lists the Common Buckeye as a Visitor to Ohio, not a Resident. He notes that it is common in some years and rare in others. Wonderful field guide.

I wished I had a better photograph to put on this blog and Tom got one for me about a week later with his Canon with its macro lens and multitude of adjustment features. This butterfly was in the patch of prairie near Cedar Pond, another feature of Charleston Falls Preserve.

I awoke in a grumpy mood this morning but as I have sat here remembering this butterfly my mood has improved considerably.  The rest of the day will be good.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rag Doll...Finding Values with Gray Scale

I set the scanner to Gray Scale, printed off a copy, and wrote notes to myself...five of them.

1. More contrast here. If I darken the background on this side the doll's head will, by contrast, pop more to the foreground. I have to keep in mind that the doll has orangy-red yarn hair. Orange, red, and yellow have more power to attract the eye than a gray scale image shows.

2. The edge of the doll's leg is a bit lost. Sometimes we artists want "Lost Edges" but this leg is in the foreground. I don't want it lost.

3. The edge of the chair leg is fuzzy. I drew a line with a pen to remind myself to adjust the leg. A chair leg is sturdy so I want to think about defining it a bit more.

4. This spot on the rug sticks out. I want it to recede.

5. The dress needs more contrast. I can get that by strengthening the colors of the shadowed areas.

I always look for what seems to be working as well as what I want to change. If I don't, I get discouraged, just as a student does when a teacher only points out the flaws. I like the highlights in the eyes, the shaggy hair and the rug texture.

Below is the painting after I made the changes. I plan to work on it again after I consider a new gray scale version.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Progress Report on Rag Doll

This is the way the Rag Doll looked that last time I posted it.

This is the way it looks now. I still have the lace on the dress to define and work to do on the background. I will do some more shading in the dress, too. By the time I have made those changes, I may see other changes I want to make.

This is a doll that my mother made which is the reason I chose to use it as a subject for a painting.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Labor Day Weekend Storm

This is the yard of our neighbor across the street on Sunday morning.

This is the yard of a neighbor down the street. He was fortunate. The tree missed his car. There were others in the area whose vehicles were demolished by falling trees.

We were even more fortunate. Here, in our fire pit, are the branches that came down in our yard.

We lost electricity for about 24 hours, from about 2 AM on Sunday morning to 2 AM on Monday morning. Our plat periodically loses electricity so, 35 years ago, Tom and the boys installed a generator. A couple years ago, a neighbor upgraded the size of the gasoline tank so we are able to go five or six hours before refilling the tank. We had enough electricity to run most of the kitchen appliances and the pump that provides us with water. We could use lamps as long as we only used a few at a time.

However, we were without cable which meant we were without television, telephone and internet access. That is why I did not post my usual Tuesday blog.

Sonja and Eric stopped in on Sunday morning to see if we were all right and to pick up branches in our yard. Tom and Eric drove to the nearest gas station to buy additional gasoline for the generator. While they were out, Eric took this photo of the downed utility poles which were the reason for our having no electricity or cable access. The story is now circulating that there were four poles lying across the road and others that were tipped. Nine semis in the distribution center beside the road were overturned. There has been no reports of any human injuries.

I saw a news report this morning which blames the unusual storm on the winds from Hurricane Lee which are now in our area.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

The first Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) I ever saw was hovering at the garden phlox in a bed close to our garage door. I thought it was a hummingbird but it seemed a bit on the small side. As I continued to look I saw that I was looking at a moth of some kind. It had the typical thick body and feathery antennae of a moth.

I took these photos in the Octagon Prairie at Charleston Falls August 23. The moth is nectaring on a thistle. One article I read reported that they were difficult to photograph because they are always in motion and so require a high-shutter speed camera and bright sunshine. August 23 was sunny and my handy dandy Fujifilm JZ300 must be fast enough. (I also took a lot of photos that were bleared.)

Clearwing moths belong to the Sphinx Moth (Sphingidae) family. Their caterpillars feed on honeysuckle and virburnium. Adults feed only on nectar. Clearwings get their name because they have no scales on much of their wings.

Hummingbird Moths are found from Alaska and Northern Canada to the Gulf Coast and Florida. They are also found in Texas and California.

There is at least one other clearwing moth species in Ohio. One source reports three species.