Monday, October 21, 2019

To the Hinterlands and Beyond

Last week was a tad more adventurous than usual.  First, I went to the McNary National Wildlife Refuge near Burbank (not that far, maybe a 20 minute drive) in search of a rare bird that visited the area for many days, and which everyone else saw except me.  It was a Leconte's Sparrow, and I went several times, to the exact spot where everyone else except me saw it at the same time that everyone else except me saw it, and the reason I didn't see it was because I was in the right place at the right time on the wrong day.  Oh, well.  So it goes.

On the plus side, on one of those ill-fated mornings, I encountered a group of bird banders at the Refuge.  I'd never seen banding before, and they invited me to watch.  At one point they even let me carry a bagged bird to the banding table:

Most of the birds were either Dark-eyed Juncos or White-crowned Sparrows.

This is a White-crowned Sparrow:

A female California Quail ran into the net, and they don't band quail, but they did let folks get up close looks while they checked her over before releasing her.

Even though I dipped out (birder slang!) on the Leconte's Sparrow, I did enjoy my visits to the Refuge.

Here are a couple of male California Quails I spotted there:

And a Downy Woodpecker, who managed to avoid the nets:

My bigger adventure for the week, though, was a trip to Palouse Falls.  Boy howdy, was that fun...mostly.  The Falls is 78 or so miles northeast of Richland, and I headed north up the nice four-lane divided freeway for 30 or so of those miles before turning east on two-lane Highway 260.  It was a well-maintained road but I quickly realized that it was also in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

I drove and I drove and I drove through low rolling hills for miles and miles and miles and didn't see anything.  Or anyone.  No signs of civilization at all.  Now, I enjoy being away from civilization, especially dense civilization.  However, this was a little disconcerting even for me.  I began to fret.  What if something happened to the car?  THERE IS NOTHING OUT HERE.

I also had the Hounds with me, which made me fret even more.  What if something happened and I had to leave the car where there wasn't even a shoulder and walk miles and miles to anywhere when there wasn't anywhere to walk to and how could I leave the dogs alone in the car and how could I take them with me without a shoulder to walk on and what if I couldn't get cell reception if I stayed in the car and what if no one could get to me for hours and hours and it would cost a bundle because I don't have a roadside assistance plan and OMG GET ME OUT OF HERE.

Eventually I passed a farm house.  One.  And then another car passed me from the other direction.  Once.  I tried focusing on how pretty it was, because it was really pretty, and how I'd just taken the car in for service and also had bought new tires a month ago and everything was fine, honest.  Then, after thirty-five miles of this, I spotted the sign for Palouse Falls Road.  HOORAH!

It was another eight miles to the Falls, the last two of which were unpaved and incredibly bumpy and involved driving at 2 miles an hour but I made it!  "This better be worth it," I said as I got the Hounds out of the car and walked over to the view point.

Okay, yeah.  It was worth it.  Mostly.  Here is a cool rock formation:

And here is another view:

And this is what you see when you look the opposite direction -- not bad!

The Hounds were unimpressed.

Then I drove back up the bumpy road and when I got to the junction for Highway 260, I decided not to return that way.  If I turned the other direction, Highway 261 would take me south through slightly more populated countryside (farm houses galore!) and then lead to Highway 12 which passed through actual towns.  Whew.

First, though, I stopped at a spot called Lyons Ferry Park, to let the Hounds have some grass to pee and poop upon.

And then I stopped at a fish hatchery parking lot to check out a big boat that I spotted.  It turned out to be the National Geographic Quest, which does adventure tours for small groups.  They were following the Lewis and Clark trail, more or less.

The drive back was lovely, full of rolling hills that were covered with colorful autumn trees, and quaint little towns full of historic buildings.  This is one -- Dayton -- and this is its courthouse:

I enjoyed the drive back immensely, and I don't ever want to visit the Palouse Falls again.

In art news for the week, the local art folks were all busy with an annual event called the Tour d'Arts.   The idea is that you get to visit artists' homes/studios and check out their work and eat snacks and chat and maybe buy something.  I visited several of my new friends' places, and wound up checking out their work and eating snacks and chatting and I even bought something!

This lovely portrait of a quail and butterfly was painted by my friend Gail Roadhouse, and it's BIG.  Here it is on my living room wall:

It is obvious that I now need to liven up the space around it with more colorful paintings, so I'll have to get cracking on that.

I also continued with the  InkTober challenge, and did at least one drawing with ink every day.  I even used one of the official prompts -- "Overgrown."  I found a photo of some ruins in Cambodia on the copyright-free site Unsplash:

Later I added watercolor, though I think I like the unadorned version above better.

The next day I returned to drawing whatever I wanted, which was the Downy Woodpecker that I spotted at McNary:

Another time when I was out at McNary looking for that rare sparrow that I never found, I decided to tootle a few more miles down the road to Ice Harbor Dam to do my daily drawing.  The dam turned out to be too complex so I stopped at the Native American Memorial rock above the dam and drew that instead. 

I wound up drawing it very quickly, on account of a bothersome bee.  But hey, it counts!

I spent quite a bit more time on this drawing:

And quite a bit of time on this one, which was from one of my photos of Yakutania Point in Skagway, Alaska:

For the next day, I chose one of my pics of a Snow Goose:

I was running out of ideas on what to draw when I found a book called Pen & Ink Sketching Step by Step (Frank Lohan) which has tons of good stuff to practice on, like this old door:

I'll be making good use of that book.

That's my report -- just one more thing to say for today, October 21: 


Monday, October 14, 2019

The Continuing Adventures of InkTober

So far, so good!  I've done at least one drawing every day this month using ink in some way for the online InkTober challenge.  And I've been enjoying it -- so much that I'm planning to continue into November with a challenge of my very own.  Next month I want to do a painting every day -- doesn't need to be complex, can be a simple exercise, but it has to be done without ink.  What larks!

Anyway, I've already been collecting photos of potential painting subject matter.  This is a good time of year to find fall foliage, for example.

The sagebrush is turning yellow!  And here's a photogenic White-crowned Sparrow:

More of the same:

Some of the sumac is also turning lovely colors:

If the weather cooperates, I may venture farther afield in search of more autumn colors.

Meanwhile, here are my "InkTober" drawings for the past week.  On Monday I sketched at the library book shop where I volunteer (it was a slow afternoon with only three customers).  I did an ink drawing and then added shading using various gray Tombow brush pens.

On Tuesday I drew rocks.  I took a photo of BIG rocks on the bank of the Yakima River, then started off with a simple line drawing in ink.

Then I added shading using those same gray brush pens.

And then I tried adding watercolor on top.  Experimenting is a large part of the InkTober challenge fun!

On Wednesday I met up with a few hardy members of the Tri-Cities Urban Sketchers group at a vineyard.  It was 43 degrees and WINDY. 

Most of us sketched from inside our cars, including me:

Look how bundled up we are!

On Wednesday afternoon while walking the dogs around the neighborhood, I snapped pics of front porches that I found attractive, and on Thursday I chose three of them to draw.

On Friday I decided to work from one of my old photos of a Snow Bunting, a rare visitor to the Puget Sound area that I was lucky enough to see a couple of winters ago.  I drew it using sepia ink:

For Saturday, my friend Sandra sent me some photos that she thought I might like to draw from, including one of her beloved car, a MINI Cooper, on the beach.  I don't usually draw cars (or machines of any kind) and found it challenging, which is the whole point of the InkTober challenge!  I used the brush pens again:

On Sunday I decided to try out the official prompts.  InkTober organizers post a list of prompt words for each day, in case you need inspiration, though you are not required to use them.  The prompt word for Sunday was Ash.  My first thought was to do a drawing of Mt. St. Helens, but that didn't turn out, so instead I went with the more obvious:

Tomorrow's prompt word is Overgrown.  That could be fun.

When I'm not busy drawing, I'm having even more fun with Daniel Smith watercolor paints.  This company, based in Seattle, makes amazing watercolors, which I've been using for many years.  I thought it might be good to change up my standard palette a bit, so I ordered their sample sheets.

Each sheet has a small dot of watercolor for you to test out.  Just add a little water to see what each one looks like:

There's enough pigment in each dot to also test the color out on whatever paper you typically use, which in my case is 140lb cold press watercolor paper:

There are 238 dots on five sheets!!  I'm hoping to find a few new colors to buy to make my old palette fresh again.

Finally, here is a shot of what an artist's dining room table often looks like:

Mostly I eat in the living room at the coffee table.  I do clear off the dining table for guests, but then I can't find anything afterwards, having hidden stuff away out of sight.  Out of sight, out of mind...not a good thing for a creative person!

See you next Monday for more InkTober fun.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Happy InkTober!

InkTober is an online art challenge thing that started ten years ago, wherein folks try to do one drawing every day in October using ink.  That's it.  No other rules, just draw something in ink, that's all.  And then post it. 

I've never participated, but this year two friends decided to give it a try, so I joined in the fun.  I wanted to get into a daily drawing habit anyway, and this should help.  So far I've done it every day, and I've been trying to do different things -- location sketching, working from other people's photos, working from my own photos, using just ink, using ink and watercolor, doing stippling, using sepia ink or various shades of gray ink -- whatever I can think of to mix it up.

For Day 1, I did a drawing from the book Fair Is Our Land, a pictorial survey of the U.S. published in 1942 that I found at the Friends of the Library book shop.  All the photos are black and white:

This one appealed to me because I love drawing birch trees.

Then I chose to add watercolor -- I'm not sure which version I prefer.  I always take a photo of ink drawings before adding color just in case I totally ruin them, which is a good strategy!

On Day 2 the local sketch group went to a vineyard/winery, so I did an ink drawing there and added watercolor (and forgot to take the pre-color pic):

On Day 3 I went back to Fair Is Our Land, where I found this lovely New England church in Winter, which I drew using four different shades of gray ink.   I really like the way this one turned out.

Day 4 was another picture from the book, of pueblos, which I drew using sepia ink:

Then I added color, which I think was probably a mistake.  I prefer the simpler version above.  Oh, well.  The idea is to learn stuff as you go along with the challenge, and that's what I'm doing!

On Day 5 I thought it might be fun to highlight a specific pen and ink technique called stippling.  Stippling is nothing but little dots, applied farther apart for lighter areas, and closer and closer together as you get into darker and darker sections.  I learned the technique during the Scientific Illustration certificate program that I completed back in 2006, and it is often used in natural science illustrations.  I chose a pumpkin display that I found at a local nursery:

It's an incredibly tedious technique but quite effective.  I spent three hours tapping my pen on the paper making little dots to create that drawing.  My neck and shoulders were a tad sore afterwards.

I wanted to see what the pumpkins would look like with color added, as they were quite vibrant, but did NOT want to ruin the stippled drawing.  So on Day 6, I drew the scene again with simple line work:

And then I added watercolor -- so much watercolor that I pretty much obliterated the line work.  I could have just painted it directly without any ink.  As I said, I'm always learning!

So that's InkTober 2019 -- a successful drawing every day.  Now I just need to do it for another three weeks...oh, goody....

In other, and much more important news, PIPPIN HAD A BIRTHDAY!!!

Here is Pippin Pup, my sweet adorable dappled longhaired dachshund, when I first got him at ten weeks old:

And here is my sweet, adorable Pippin Pup on October 1, his SECOND birthday!

He is one happy, friendly, outgoing and funny little dog and I feel very lucky to have him in my life.