Monday, November 13, 2017

I Didn't Sketch A Thing This Week

I haven't sketched anything since a week ago Sunday.  Some of my friends manage to sketch inside, working from photos, but I just don't find that very inspiring.  I want to go out, but it's too chilly.  Luckily, it wasn't too chilly for dog walks.

Truman and I visited our favorite walking park, Magnuson (as opposed to our favorite birding park, the Montlake Fill).  We had a lovely long walk during one of the few respites from the rain.

There were Buffleheads on the ponds.  Why are they called Buffleheads?  What is a "buffle", anyway?

There's no such thing.  They were originally called "Buffaloheads" back in the day.  This somehow got shortened to Bufflehead, perhaps when there were no longer so many buffalos around to compare them to.

This is one of the park's many art installations - a series of giant steps up a small hill near the boat launch area.  Truman did not climb up or down these steps.  He had a little help in posing.

Lots of autumn leaves still falling....

Another downside to autumn weather is that it reduces the number of lunch time visits Truman gets from his buddies Winston and Chloe.  Their human walks them over twice a week, but only if it's nice enough.  We got just one visit last week -- here is Tru waiting anxiously for their arrival.

He loves romping with his best bud Winston.

Afterwards they enjoyed lounging on the sofa.

So instead of sketching, I found another way to entertain myself indoors.  My friend Nicole discovered a new company that makes wooden toys with moving parts, called UGears.  She bought a rather complex kit and seemed to be enjoying it, so I decided to get a much smaller, simpler kit to try out.

It was called the Theatre, showing scenes from a stage, and it had 70 pieces to put together.

The instructions were nice and clear, and the quality of the pieces was excellent.  However, it used toothpicks as axles, which I had to push through the center of multiple gears, and they simply would not fit.

The instructions recommended using candle wax to help get the toothpicks through, but even that didn't work.  I broke about half of the toothpicks they provided.

Eventually, after much struggling, I managed to shove them through with carefully controlled brute force.  I've since learned that some of their kits don't bother with the evil toothpick axles.  I will definitely avoid them if I get another one.

I also managed to put a couple of pieces in the wrong way while trying to put it all together, but I did get it put together.

Not only that, it actually turns the way it is supposed to turn!  Miracle!

There is rain in the forecast for every day this week.  I think I'd better find something inspirational to draw indoors.

Monday, November 6, 2017

And Now Come the Dark Times

The 2017 baseball season ended this past week, and I am sad.  What do I watch on TV now?  Nothing.  Well, maybe a little football, which is not satisfying in the slightest, but at least it's not basketball.

The Dark Times of No Baseball coincide with the Dark Times of Seattle weather, when it is too gray or too wet or too windy or too cold to go outside, where I like to be.  On one such day, I had Winston and Chloe over, and here is how we spent our time:

The pillow above was a gift from my neighbor -- it says, "A room without books is like a body without a soul."  (Cicero)

On one day last week it was sunny enough to go out -- but not warm enough.  I took a few pics of the last interesting stuff in my garden for the year:

Purple Smoke Tree 

Roses still blooming! 


A few rocks that I painted

On Friday it SNOWED for four hours.  Here is Truman expressing his opinion of his snow jacket:

On Saturday I co-lead a field trip at the Montlake Fill for Connie's intermediate birding class -- it was 35 degrees when we started at 8am, and it was 35 degrees when we ended at 10am.  It was so cold I didn't even want to take my camera with me.  Despite thermal undergarments, layers of clothing, hand and foot warmers, muffler, ski gloves, and Minnesota Winter Hat, I was still too cold after the first hour and by the time I got back to my car, I was worried I wouldn't be able to drive because I could barely feel my feet.  It's too early for this sort of thing!

At least we had good birds --  a Eurasian Wigeon among the regular American Wigeons, a few Ring-necked Ducks, a Hooded Merganser, Bald Eagle fly-bys to startle the large rafts of coots, and a Merlin that conveniently perched a few feet from a Cooper's Hawk for a nice class teaching moment.  But please stop me before I volunteer for this sort of thing again.

On Sunday, Tina and I went to Third Place Commons to do some nice, warm, indoor sketching.  It was nice to be comfortable, but not so nice regarding subject matter.  Mostly, it was People, and you know know much I enjoy sketching People.  In fact, I dislike it so much that I managed to draw one of the restaurants without any people at all even though they were moving in and out of my view:

Unfortunately, there just wasn't anything else there I wanted to draw, and Tina wasn't finished yet, so I was forced to do People.  And as is always the case, they kept moving on me.  I started one sketch, and five seconds later the person got up and left.  I started another one, and the person was joined by a second person who blocked my view of the first one.  Another one kept uncrossing and recrossing her legs, another kept moving her arms about -- people just do not cooperate!

Tina finished her sketch and I suggested going downstairs to draw the colorful gumball machines -- a spot where there are few people about.  We both drew the machines, and then she put an octopus on top of hers.

Yes, that's right -- an octopus.  You see, she recently took a class on drawing from one's imagination, and one assignment involved creating an imaginary creature that you could put into drawings or make up stuff for it to do -- and she created Toby the Octopus.  Toby now appears in many of her sketches (up in the Common Room, she drew a set of giant chess pieces there, and had Toby playing chess with them).   In her gumball drawing, Toby proudly sat atop the machines, holding a shiny coin in one arm.

My drawing looked boring in comparison, and I said so.  "Well," Tina replied, "put your own  imaginary creature in it -- how about a bird, like an owl?"

So I put an owl on top of the gumball machines.  "I think you should paint him purple," Tina suggested.  Well, I wanted at least some creative control over my own drawing, so I added a little rosy color to the purple, named him Oswald, and called it good.

Oswald the Owl just might turn up in more sketches in the future -- keep an eye out for him!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Autumn Colors and Pesky Birds

Truman and I went out quite a bit the past week thanks to cooperative weather.  First, we visited the Montlake Fill to check out the autumn foliage there:

The next day we just strolled around the neighborhood, where I picked up some chestnut detritus and did a little watercolor illustration of it:

The next day we went out with Nicole to Magnuson Park to do some sketching.  The mountain was out!

I took Tru for a short walk there, and he posed ever so nicely against the autumn foliage:

Then I sketched some big piles'o'rocks at the park:

Back home, I practiced leaf painting with this gorgeous maple:

I couldn't quit get the red color right, but am happy with the results nonetheless.

On Friday I joined the Seattle Urban Sketchers at Swanson's Nursery, where they had scarecrow displays:

Our big day was Saturday, when Truman and I joined Nicole and Tina for a visit to the Skagit Valley.  We left at 9am and got back at 4:30pm.  I spent all Sunday recovering.

We started at Wylie Slough off Fir Island Road, where it was too foggy to see much.

We did get a few shorebirds, like these dowitchers, close enough to view.

And there were lots of yellowlegs as well.

The fog started to lift just as we headed back to the car.  I found out later that a Black Phoebe, a rare visitor to our parts, was spotted at this same place a short while after we left.  Sigh.  That would have been a Life Bird for me.

 Next we stopped at the Hayton Farms reserve to look for Snow Geese.  We found a flock sitting way out on the water (at the horizon in this photo), too far for pics.  We also had a few dozen fly overhead, again, too far for photos. 

We did get large flocks of Dunlin (a shorebird) here.

Later, I found out that a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, a rare visitor to these parts, had been spotted at this location a short while before we arrived, and then it vanished.  Sigh.  That would have been a Life Bird for me.

Next, we drove the twenty miles or so up to the tiny town of Edison for a lunch break.  Along the way, we noticed this Great Blue Heron standing sentinel:

Edison, WA is the birthplace of journalist Edward R. Murrow.  We did a little shopping here and ate our lunch.  Truman was welcomed everywhere we went.

Then we headed back south via a different road that wound around Padilla Bay.  We stopped at Bayview State Park for some sketching.

Our last stop was the town of La Conner, where we parked by a broken-down warehouse next to the marina.  We did more sketches there before heading back to Seattle.

On Sunday I had planned to go to the Montlake Fill to join Connie for the monthly bird count, but there was dense fog in my neighborhood that morning, and as it is hard to see birds in fog, I opted to stay home.  Later, I found out that an American Tree Sparrow, a rare visitor to these parts, had been seen by Connie at the Fill that morning.

What can I say...SIGH!!!!!!!  Actually, at this point, I'm feeling more like a good old  DAGNABBIT!!!!!   That would have been a Life Bird for me.

Maybe I'll go down to the Fill today.  You never know!