Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Wonderful Year

Sometimes I get frustrated and discouraged.  Sometimes I feel that the world is full of terrible catastrophes.   I keep this cartoon on my refrigerator door to remind me of what is really important.  Thank you, Patrick McDonnell, creator of the cartoon strip, Mutts.

I hope you had good things happen in your part of the world in 2011 and I hope that good things continue to happen in your part of the world in 2012.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Playing with Glazing Techniques.

I took this photo at Charleston Falls in 2010.  I was hiking in the afternoon and the sun was bright.  Everywhere the shadows were interesting.

Yesterday I decided to use this as a reference photo for an 10 inch by 8 inch painting.  I did enough of a sketch to position the various components and then began laying down pale washes of color using a Stephen Quiller No. 12 brush made by Richeson.  Naming the manufacturer of the brush is important because all No. 12 brushes are not the same size.  The No. 12 brush is the largest brush in the photo below. Its full body holds a lot of water and color.

With it are some of the other brushes I use.  I rarely use the smallest bodied one, a No. 2 Escoda.  Instead, I use the No. 4 Escoda for most of the detail work.  That is the second brush in the line-up.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rain, Rain, Rain

It is not raining at the moment.  Wonderful.  After the rains this past week, our area  has a new record for the second highest amount of precipitation in a year since records have been kept...54.75 inches.  Our average precipitation ranges from a little over 37 to 40 inches.  In first place for the most rain ever recorded  is 1990 with 59.75 inches.

Since 2011 is nearly over, that record is not likely to be broken.  That's fine with me.  When we came home from the Christmas program at the high school on December 15, we drove home through rain.  That's life.  But when we arrived in our plat, the electricity was off.  That's bad.  The sump pumps that keep our basement dry run on electricity.

Sure enough, there was water at the foot of the basement stairs.  Between Tom and me, we started the emergency generator and within a half hour, the sump pumps had pumped out the water.  Of course, I had a few soaked rugs to deal with. 

If the electricity does not go off ,or, if it does and we are home, our basement has been staying dry.  Earlier this year when the back basement wall was leaking, that was not the case.  Since then we have had the sump pump hole near the back wall deepened.  That turned out to be a bigger job than expected since the original hole's depth was down as far as the bedrock.  The handy men had to use a tool that is the baby brother of a jack hammer to deepen the hole.

I drive past the  new extension to to the bike trail on my way to Charleston Falls.  Yesterday the trail was  partly underwater. 


To the left and right the floodplain waters threaten more of the trail.

But a floodplain filling with water means the falls are beautiful to see.  At the right on the upper viewing area a man is taking a photograph.

The intermittent falls that sometimes doesn't flow all year was splashing over its ledge.

The trails were soggy.  This puddle extends into the prairie grasses on either side of the trail.

I had the choice of backtracking and taking another trail or wading through along the edge.  Guess which option I chose.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Finishing the Yellow Waterlily

Yellow Waterlily...13.5 inches by 10.5 inches...watercolor

This is the way the painting looked in September.  I had matted, framed it and exhibited it a year earlier.  I was disappointed in the painting.  I had finished it at the last minute and it just didn't shine the way I wanted it to. 

This is the photo Tom took at Biltmore Estates in October of 2009 which was my reference photo.

The day was dreary and rainy and the flower was a bright spot.  I tried to make it brighter by strengthening the yellows but it still didn't pop out from the background.  This time I put several washes of Antwerp blue over the background and washed a little yellow into the area behind the lily.  I laid washes of Antwerp blue, Winsor green, New Gamboge, and Magenta mingled in various ways over the nearest lily pad.

I like the painting better now that the lily has become more prominent.  Still the painting is very different in coloring from the photo I used for my inspiration.  Playing with colors is part of the fun of painting.

The white mat was a distraction on the original painting.  Now a white mat looks better.  I also experimented with two other matting possibilities.  All three possibilities are below.

The colors in the final example are the closest to the mats and also the painting.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dark-eyed Junco, a Winter Visitor

The Dark-eyed Juncos started showing up here in October.  The birds' arrival is a sure sign of approaching winter.  This is one of the birds I never noticed until I began bird watching.  It mingles with the other sparrows at the feeders, another  nondescript bird until I looked at it closely.  Now I don't understand how I couldn't have noticed it.  It is the only one of the small sparrows  dressed in a tuxedo, dark in a neat suit of feathers except for its very white breast.   To me, now that I know it, it looks very different from most sparrows with their various  feather patterns  of browns, grays, blacks, and whites.

It is easy to pick the junco out when it flies across our yard.  Its tail is dark on the upper side, edged by a white feather on either edge.  

The juncos will be with us until April.  When they leave, we know spring has arrived.

The photos were taken by Tom from our dining room window.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finishing Projects...Eastern Comma on Clearweed

Tom took this photo of an Eastern Comma on Clearweed several years ago at one of the county parks.  In September I showed you an unfinished 7 inch by 5 inch watercolor I had started using this photo as my starting point. 

Clearweed (Pilea pumila)  is common in the wet woods throughout our area.  Its leaves are distinctly shiny, a very pretty leaf.  The leaf has a prominent central vein and two noticeable side veins.  According to the sources I checked  it belongs to the nettle family.  Clearweed gets its name because its stems are translucent.  There are no stinging hairs on them as there are on some nettles.

Eastern Comma larvae feed on a variety of nettles which explains why Tom found it where he did.  The larvae feed at night so they are hard to find.

The Eastern Comma is a woodland butterfly.  It winters over in tree cavities or under bark or in other similar places.

It feeds on fermenting fruit, tree sap and animal droppings. 

The Eastern Comma belongs to the genus Polygonia or Anglewings.  These butterflies have irregular wing edges. 

Although the butterfly is bright with its wings spread, it is hard to see with its wings closed.  The underside has streaky dark colors, much like the bark of trees on which it often sits.  A slender silver comma brightens the middle of each hind wing on the underside which gives the butterfly its name.  You can find the comma IF you know to look for it.

This is the way the painting looked  when I last showed it to you.  I wanted to keep the focus on the butterfly.  The color did most of the job.  I also wanted to make a background that was a little sketchy.  Donna suggested adding the orangish seed head of some low lying plant that is in the photograph at the upper right to help the composition and join the right side to the left.  I decided I preferred the seed head in the lower right.  Marsha suggested leaving the left wing a little less precise than the right wing.  I like the effect and am glad she suggested it.

When I started shaping background leaves,  I lost a lot of the texture I had made by laying plastic wrap on wet watercolor.   I am not sure whether I am happy with losing it.  If you click on the painting and enlarge it  you can see a little remaining texture.

I still plan to go back and correct the ends of the antennae.  The knobs should be dark and oval with light tips.  I noticed that when I was looking at Comma butterfly photos on the Internet.  One of the problems with any photograph is that there are areas the camera sees as dark when there is really color present.  That is why I like to paint on location.  Our eyes see more color and shape than a camera records.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

December 3, 2011

This is the way Charleston Falls Preserve looked about 8:30 AM.  That's frost on the ground.

By the time we returned to the parking lot the frost was gone and across the prairie I could see the tents set up for the Christmas Open House.  The Open House has been occurring for as long as I have been associated with the parks.  It's always the first Saturday in December.  You can see a corner of the overflow parking lot in the lower right hand corner.

The day was a wonderful Christmas gift to everyone.  The temperatures rose into the fifties (Fahrenheit) by afternoon and by evening were still in the upper forties.

Tom and I arrived shortly before 6 PM.  The festivities were scheduled from 6 to 9.  Portable lights were set up around the parking lots.  Already, thee overflow parking lot was filled, except for one spot close to the main lot.  We took that one.  Sheriff's deputies, park staff and volunteers guided the visitors to parking.

The trail to the falls was lit by luminaries.  Tom used time lapse photography to take the following pictures.

The lit trail

The boardwalk and sycamore tree

The falls

John is playing Christmas carols.  Across from him, one of the visitors sits, enjoying the music and the evening.

Santa Claus was at a three-sided shelter at the first bench inside the woods.  Tom didn't get a picture of that.  It would have been a long, long line of small children and parents waiting to talk to Santa.

We followed the trail across the prairie to the  tents set up beside the Education Office.


There were cookies and hot chocolate...

Christmas cards to decorate...

And, for those who were brave, a chance to sing Christmas carols to music played by request to a keyboard artist.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Finishing Projects...Rag Doll and Trillium No. 2

I decided to finish some watercolors that I had laid aside.  Four were very close to being finished.  Two others may not be finished by the end of the year but they will be closer than they are now.

This is the way Rag Doll looked when I showed it to you on September 13.  My mother made this doll so it means a lot to me.

This is the way she looks now.  I took the painting along one day when Marsha and I painted at Donna's.  Donna suggested putting the shadow behind the doll. This gives solidity to the doll.   Marsha suggested adding Orange Lake to the shadows of the shoes. The orange-red in the shadows helped to join the blues and whites of the shoes and dress to the rest of the painting.  I also grounded the chair by having strands of the shaggy rug overlap the chair legs and added books to the book shelves.  I am pleased with this painting.

Here is another painting I worked on.  I started two similar paintings of Large-flowered Trillium.  The first one I finished  long time ago.  I decided to use slightly different colors and composition on this one.

This is how the second painting looked when I started playing around with it.

And this is how it looks now.  I am still thinking about it. I liked it better when the background was brighter. I think I may add a multitude of faint trillium in the background.  Normally, trillium grow in groups.  I may leave it as it is and use what I  learned from this trillium and the one below when I paint a third painting.  The painting below also shows how I positioned it on the paper.  The card is to be  folded where the white and the painting meet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November 15, 16, and 30

Up until November 15, we had weather that wasn't much different from the latter part of October.  The morning temperatures might be in the thirties in the morning but by afternoon, the temperatures would be in the fifties and sixties.  This is a time of year when I am glad we are in southern Ohio rather than northern Ohio where the temperatures would be five to ten degrees cooler.

But even though the temperature was in the fifties and there was no breeze so walking at Charleston Falls on November 15 was pleasant, I knew I was walking on a November day.

This photo was taken about three in the afternoon.  To get the exact sky, the camera shows the grass as much duller than it actually was.

The bright green of the trail and the ominous sky mean November to me.  I wasn't especially pleased to see the sprinkle of red along the tree line.  The red comes from bush honeysuckle, an invasive species which holds its leaves long after the native plants are gone.  The birds eat the berries and spread the plant everywhere.

But I did enjoy listening to the falls.  All three were flowing, the two that always flow and the intermittent falls which flows only when we have had unusual amounts of rain.

We'd  had so much rain that the Great Miami River was spreading over its floodplain again.

I walked the following day, too.  It was a bright and sunny day.  There was a lovely sky.  The park staff was leading a group of children on a tour of the special rocks of our part of Ohio and teaching the importance of all rocks.  The children had never thought of aluminum cans as coming from rock or of rocks being important in the manufacture of their techie toys like cell phones and computers.  And of course, they talked about salt as being a rock.  As they hiked back to the buses in the parking lot, they stopped at a jumbled group of erratics brought by the glaciers of long ago.  Each child climbed on one and jumped off, shouting, "Thank you, rocks."

Officially, for me, winter arrived on November 30.  We had our first significant snow.

But, by afternoon, it had melted away.