Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Up and Down January

As I type, I hear rain pouring down outside. We're supposed to have warm weather today, possibly in the high sixties Fahrenheit but by the weekend the temperatures will be back in the teens.  This area gets a lot of up and down weather all year around. It has been especially noticeable this January.

 Charleston Falls, week by week, recorded the ups and downs.On January 5, we still had snow from the storm on December 26.

By January 11, the snow was gone.

It was chilly enough on January 17 that there were a few icicles hanging from the cliff walls.

And by January 24, the beautiful ice columns were forming on the falls.

But today, if I were to take a hike, the falls would be a rushing torrent.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Three Necklaces in Polymer Clay, Experimenting with Spacer Beads

Lilian Nichols has been giving us a lot of tips on bead making along with the special techniques she has shown us. 

This is the first necklace I made. If you have been following the polymer clay blogs you have seen some of the changes I've made along the way.

Here is the latest change. After sanding the leaf shapes and the round beads until they were silky to the touch I put two coats of liquid Pledge Floor Care with Future on them and then buffed them a bit more.

I used ready made spacer beads on the leaf necklace.

This is the second necklace.

 I used bicone beads as spacers on this necklace. Here is a short video showing how to make bicone beads.

I used a homemade bead roller that Tom made for me to make the two larger sizes of football-shaped beads.

There is a commercial bead roller which makes two sizes of the same shaped beads but much smaller ones. 

When I had figured out the amount of clay I needed for each size, I wrote a note to myself on the direction sheet so I wouldn't have to rely on memory the next time I made the small beads.  The bead roller is above the directions in the photo.

I used the commercial bead maker to make the small striped football shaped beads in the necklace below.

 I used one half of the round cut-out to make each small blue-green bead and one  round cut out to make each translucent squarish bead. 

I  mixed glitter into the clay for both of these types of beads before I cut out the  circles and shaped them.  The blue-green beads are basic round beads.  The translucent beads were squared off by pressing all sides with a block of wood.  Fingers  would work to get the squarish shape also.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Spring Is On Its Way

It's 19 degrees Fahrenheit as I am typing this but I have spring flowers thanks to our ninety-one year old neighbor across the street. Earlier this month we had a week of warm weather, around 60 degrees one day. She noticed that the buds on her forsythia were swelling so she brought some branches in and forced their blooms. On Sunday when Tom took her a piece of his birthday cake, she gave us two of the branches.

Can spring be far behind?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

Early this month, Tom took this photo through our dining room window. We both enjoy watching Carolina Wrens. This was one of the first birds I learned about when I began volunteering at Brukner Nature Center in the 1980s. Larry, the education director at that time, identified it by song one day when we were walking in the woods.

Its song is distinctive.  Birders use the mnemonic, "teakettle, teakettle, teakettle" to describe it.   He told me they had been wiped out in this part of Ohio during the cold, snowy winter of 1977-78 and were just beginning to move back up into our area in the 1980s. Since then, Tom and I have had some interesting encounters with the little birds.

Tom took this at Stillwater Prairie Reserve. The wren had a nest on a shelf inside the park district's shed.

Since then we have had them nest several years in our garage on a shelf.

One year we were lucky enough to watch four fledglings hopping about in the garage from lawnmower handle to table saw and back to the lawnmower handle as they strengthened their wings. The parent tried to shepherd them toward the opening in the weatherstripping at the bottom of the garage door. Fledglings 1, 2, and 3 quickly found the opening but Fledgling 4 was dense.

Evidently, bird brains are not created equal. The bird would not follow the parent who patiently and repeatedly flew down toward the opening and even walked through it. The bird would reappear through the opening, twitter to Fledgling 4 and then walk through the opening again.  Tom and I must have watched for fifteen minutes.  We even discussed opening the door but we didn't want to disrupt the concentration of the persistent parent.  The persistence paid off.  Fledgling 4 finally followed its parent out the door and into the big wide world. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ida, Portrait Redo, Part 3

Before I repainted this portrait I looked through the head and figure drawing books in my library and decided this diagram from Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm was the simplest one for me to use. But, being me, I continued to look through the various books. After the third painting session I saw some diagrams in Burne Hogarth's Drawing the Human Head which made sense to me. First of all he divided the basic head into thirds, rather than quarters

He also had diagrams of what happens as the head turns. I knew the photo I was working from was almost a profile but not quite. However, I wasn't sure how to adjust for the turn of the head. These diagrams were helpful.

I noted that the distance A to B is the same as the distance C to D. I had looked at these diagrams before but the meaning never really came through to me. Neither of these examples were the far turn that was in my photo but in the next set of diagrams he drew a right facing head that was close to my photo. Thanks to the button on the computer that gives me a mirror image, I turned the right facing diagrams into left facing ones.

And, yes, the Ida in the photo has her head tilted up just a bit so this diagram was helpful also. Again I reversed the image with computer magic.  Ida's head is not tilted nearly as far up as this diagram shows but it reminded me of the curved nature of the human head.

With the information from Hamm's book, I repainted from the original ... this. 

After looking at the diagrams in Hogarth's book, I drew these short green lines on this image using software on our computer.

That was a help.

But I decided I needed more guide lines.

I continued painting and adjusting and finally stopped at this point.

I continue to look at the painting and I see adjustments I could make to improve it. However, I have learned about the proportions of a profile and, as a bonus, a bit about what happens when a head turns. I'll set this aside and work on something else.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ida, Profile Portrait, Part 2

Some of you have realized that I am using acrylics for this portrait because I have been painting and then painting over what I have painted. This is easily done with oils and acrylics but not easily done with watercolors which I often work with.

This is the palette I am using.

I am also working without a preliminary sketch. I do this in hope that I will gradually train my eyes to see proportions without sketching.  Sometimes I see the proportions and sometimes I don't. I am having trouble seeing the proportions with this profile but I keep on practicing.

This is where I was at the end of the first session.   I had blocked in the rest of the square behind the crown of the hat with light blue to help me get the shape correct.

I adjusted the hat in front of the face.  I also raised the eye and added shape to the lips.

I added black made from Cadmium Orange and French Ultramarine Blue to more of the hat to give  shape to the face as well as the hat.  I also began adjusting the ear.

I added some basic shading on and around the ear. I also added a bit more definition on the rest of the face and a few shadows in the hair. The back brim is also roughed in with black.  Notice that I have not yet covered all the lines from the square I painted in the first step.

Before I began the third session, I looked through my books on drawing faces and made some discoveries which caused me work differently.  I'll tell you about them next time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ida, Profile,Redo, Part1


To the left is the photo I took.  To the right is the sketch I painted. Ugh! I am tempted to make excuses but I won't. The biggest problem was that I didn't give her enough "brain". Is that because I am more interested in faces than in the backs of people's heads?

I looked through my collections of portrait drawing books and settled on using this diagram from Jack Hamm's Drawing the Head and Figure, copyright 1963, page 27. It is number 7 in a series of 9 steps. I traced over the head outline with a computer software product, the brush from Jasc. If you look closely you can see the square divided in fourths that he used as a starting point. Further along in the book is the step by step drawing of a male's head, which he draws with different proportions.
I thought that I would get enough information by simply crossing a horizontal and a vertical line. As I proceeded, I wished I had taken time to draw the entire square guide. But I didn't start over. I blundered on.

Next I sketched in the hat, hoping that would help with proportions.

As it turned out, I adjusted the hat several times before I was happy with it. Next I painted in what I saw as the shape of the face. (I saw that shape differently as I progressed further.)

I blocked in the features and left the sketch for the day.   The new sketch is better but more needs to be done.  More in Part 2 which I will put up tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Starting a New Year...Diaries

Charleston Falls, January 6, 2012

Since the people whose blogs I follow have been writing year end summaries, I began thinking along the same lines. I've been blogging for a little over two years and have learned a lot about a lot of things, one of the reasons I decided to begin blogging. I have met some interesting people, too.

Tom worked with computers most of his working career so he has been a good help when I have bogged down because my brain is not in tune with those who design computers and software. I keep telling myself I know a lot more than when I started.  Jeanne has been a big help helping me navigate the blogspot options. 

I know more about the natural history of this area because blogging encouraged me to explore and do a bit of research. I have probably painted more because I had an incentive to produce something to show you. I still have trouble getting in the mood to pick up that paint brush. It is much easier to read another mystery. (One of my New Year's resolution is to read fewer mysteries. They are easy to escape into and they always come to a resolution. Life doesn't come so neatly packaged.)

Since 1997, I have been keeping a daily diary. Each morning, I sit down with a cup of green tea and think back to the day before. Just what happened? Sometimes I remember easily and sometimes I ask Tom, "What did we do yesterday?"

This year I am rereading a page each day from 1997, 2003, 2008, and 2012 as well as writing about 250 words for each day in 2013. I enjoy reliving experiences that I would forget if I didn't have my diaries as reminders,, special family occasions, get-togethers with friends, wonderful days when I've seen something special in the natural world, books I've read and enjoyed, things I have learned about painting.  I write 250 words because that is the number of words I can squeeze onto a page.

Sometimes, 250 words are not enough.  In the beginning, I would continue on a page from a notebook, tear that page out and insert it into the diary.  But then I really grew gabby.  Too many inserted pages were threatening to break the diary bindings.  That's when I began using Red n' Black journals as auxillary books.  Last year I managed to write all the extra words in one Red n' Black journal.  In 2011 and 2010, I used 2 such books. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

House Finch...Haemorhous mexicanus

This is my favorite of Tom's recent male House Finch photos although the next one shows the red on the rump better.

In the 1980s when Tom and I began seriously watching birds, this was one of the first "new" birds that we came across. There were lots of them at our feeder. And it was one we didn't know existed. Birding friends explained why our parents had never pointed out this bird. It wasn't in Ohio when we were children.

I found more information in Birds of Ohio, a field guide by James S. McCormac and Gregory Kennedy with contributions from Chris Fisher and Andy Bezener.  In 1940, the finches were released in Long Island, New York where they had been kept as cage birds.  They are native to western North America.  They expanded locally in New York and began spreading .  They were first detected in Ohio in 1964.  That was the year our daughter was born, the second of our three children and we were not spending time watching birds.    They had colonized the entire state by the 1980s and that was when Tom and I noticed them.

Uncommon in Ohio, but sometimes here in the winter, there  is a similar looking bird, the Purple Finch. Usually, the females are found with both species and this is helpful to the birder since it is easier for many people  to distinguish between the females than the males.  The Purple Finch female has definite markings. As you can see from the next two photos, the House Finch female is as nondescript as a L-B-J (Little Brown Job) can be.

Wonderful camouflage.