Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Grandma Moses Paintings Now at the Dayton Art Institute

Tom and I celebrated our fifty-fourth anniverary by going out to eat and then to the art museum to see American Sampler, Grandma Moses and the Handicraft Tradition.

Both of us enjoyed the show.  Tom had never seen crewelwork and was impressed by the beautiful pictures Anna Mary Robertson Moses (1860-1961)  made with worsted wool.  One crewelwork picture is on the cover of the flyer advertising the exhibit.  I scanned both the front and back so you can read about some of the upcoming special events associated with the exhibit.  Click to enlarge.

 Both of us enjoyed the farm scenes she painted. Tom was raised in the country and though I was raised in what would now be called a suburb, I had many aunts and uncles who lived on farms.  Every time we visited the farms, I did things I never did at home...played in the cornfields, jumped off the loft into mounds of straw. When I was six I even fell into a fresh cow pie.  I expect you know another name for cow pie.

Grandma Moses didn't begin painting until her hands were too gnarled to sew.  She used housepaint in the beginning and whatever she could find that she could paint on.  One of her first projects was painting on her wall because she ran out of wallpaper.  She was fond of using glitter on her winter scenes to give the snow the effect of sun shining on it.

I had a hard time deciding what to buy in the gift shop as a memento of the visit.  Even now I'm thinking, "If I go back, I'll buy the children's book with a spring poem by Robert Frost and pictures by Grandma Moses."  What I bought was a children's book about Grandma Moses.  I have about a dozen other books in this series.  They are inexpensive, have nice reproductions of the artist's work and give a brief overview of the artist and his or her work.  There are amusing cartoons to accompany the text as well. One of her paintings is on the cover. Click to enlarge.  These books are written and illustrated by Mike Venezia.

In the hall leading to the exhibit hall there were "thread paintings by Mary Borkowski, a Dayton folk art painter.  These were mostly silk embroidery on silk.  They are very different from Grandma Moses crewelwork but are still considered folk art because Mary Borkowski was untrained in the fine arts and had a unique vision just as Grandma Moses did.

The last section of the American Sampler exhibit includes text that explains how some of the embroidery stitches are made.  It also includes samplers made by young children and women  who used the samplers to decide what stitches to use for future sewing projects.  The samplers are another example of folk art.

The exhibit will be in Dayton until February 21, 2016.  I hope you live close enough to visit it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Brukner Nature Center, Butterfly Transit Wrap Up for 2015

Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae)

What is most exciting about the duskywings is that we saw the first ones officially seen in Miami County.  Enough people had seen the caterpillars to know  these butterflies were probably in the county, but we were the ones who found them.

Learning what butterflies exist in our county is one of the important aspects of doing Butterfly Transits.  Butterflies have specific needs.  By tracking the butterflies we can see if their preferred habitats are being disturbed in our county.

The five most seen species on our transit this year were the Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae)...

The Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta)...

The  Azures (Celastrina) ...

The Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)...

And the Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)...

We saw 32 species this year which is an increase of 4 over 2014 and an increase of of 3 over 2013.  It may be that we are getting better at finding the butterflies.  We hope so.  There are some butterflies that we saw in earlier years that we didn't see this year.

A graph of the total species observed.  Click to enlarge.

We can track how the species fluctuate from year to year in our county.  The scientists, using our data, can correlate our numbers with weather and factors other than habitat that are likely causing the fluctuations throughout the state and the country.

This is our third year of walking the butterfly transit.  We were learning how to do it properly in 2013 so Ruth didn't send in our results.  She sent in our counts for 2014 and will send in the records for 2015.

We saw 541 butterflies in 2013, 338 in 2014, and 571 in 2015.  Again, click to enlarge.

Both graphs are part of an Excel report put together by Molly Simonis, who is temporarily part of the Brukner staff.

At the Butterfly Conference in Toledo this spring, we learned that the numbers throughout the state were low in 2014 compared to previous years.  It will be interesting to see if the numbers are larger this year.  The raw data is due in by December, 2015 so it will be a while yet before we know.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

On a Rugged Path, a Watercolor Impression

Sometime I would like to do another version of this painting.  This time around I was doing a lot of experimenting, not sure exactly what effect I was going for.

When I started this, I was painting at a friend's house and I hadn't printed out the photo I was working from.  I had the picture on my camera.  I would take a look at the photo until the camera shut off, paint what I remembered, then find the photo again, look at it again until the camera shut off and paint again.  I was OK with the process because it gave me a chance to test my visual memory.

Below is what I had by the time I finished the painting session.

When I came home I printed off the photo so I had it to work from for the rest of the steps.

I noted immediately that I had painted the trees and the cliff taller than the photo shows them to be.  I rather liked the exaggeration.

Session 2

Here I was thinking about the figure on the trail.  Should I make the figure dark or the the cliff dark?  How much contrast would be effective?  I was also concerned about the edge where the almost nonexistent trail and the cliff met.

Session 3

I decided to make the cliff dark and strong.

Session 4

I added Orange Lake and Quinacridone Gold to the cliff but wasn't sure I liked it after I had done so.  I started defining the roots and rocks with Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Blue.  The dark shadows are mostly Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna.  I masked off some spots for more rocks and the little stones mixed with them.

Session 5

A session of bits and pieces...more shadows around the tree roots, more definition of the rocks, more playing around with the edge where the cliff and trail meet, more fussing around with the color of the cliff.  I scrubbed out some color, added some color. My painting buddy reminded me to add the distant trees and ground cover.

Last details...This is the point at which I sit my painting on easel in my studio which is in the basement. Every time I go downstairs for something, I stop on the steps and look at it from a distance.  What needs a bit of touch up?  I adjusted the base of the closest tree, added a little bark texture to the trees, scrubbed out a bit more on the cliff, added a bit of shadow here and there to the rocks and roots.

And then, I stopped.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Carpathian Walnut Tree

This photo doesn't quite catch the impression the tree made on me when I went out to dispose of the trash last night. Its branches shone white from the light of the spotlights on the corner of the garage.

The tree branches spread over more than a third of our backyard.  The swing gives you a clue to its size.  The leaves are all down.  Some years when the conditions are just right the leaves fall all day long like rain.  Usually that means we have had a sudden hard freeze.  This year the leaves fell gradually like those of ordinary trees.