Monday, December 26, 2011

Try, Try Again...

My friend Mary had the privilege of seeing a Great Gray Owl, and getting lovely photos which she allowed me to use as art references.  I had difficulties with finding the proper medium -- my watercolor attempt failed to convey the details of the plumage, and my acrylic attempt was just plain awful.  Finally I tried colored pencils, with which I'm fairly pleased.  The original photo showed lots of grass around the bird and log, which I left out because I was pretty sure I'd ruin it if I tried to put it in.  So I wound up with an owl on a log in the middle of empty space.  Not exactly realistic, but oh well.  Some days when it comes to artistic endeavors, you just have to accept your limitations. 
My artistic limitations stop at grass.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from me and the Hounds (Bodie and Georgie) and Best Wishes for the New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Watercolor Time

Actually, this is part watercolor (background/leaves) and part acrylic (bird).  I had a mishap halfway through which involved a large glob of blue-gray acrylic paint landing on the light-colored background, which made me quite unhappy.  Removing it resulted in damage to the paper.  I fixed it as best I could on the original, but fixed it even more afterwards in Photoshop -- possibly the only time I can recall of ever using the program to edit a painting. 
This is a Dark-eyed Junco as seen hanging out in my front yard.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Head In the Clouds

I'm currently having great fun reading The Cloudspotter's Guide: the Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (2006) which is delightful and funny and informative all at the same time.  Who knew?  The author founded the Cloud Appreciation Society, whose manifesto includes such sentiments as:

We believe that clouds are unjustly maligned and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.

We pledge to fight "blue-sky thinking" wherever we find it.  Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.

They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul.  Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save on psychoanalysis bills.

The Society's web site has a lovely photo archive, too.  I just sent them a photo of an odd cloud formation I saw a few years back:
It was a wild formation that covered the sky and swirled madly, changing second by second.  I looked through the Cloud Appreciation Society web site's information on various cloud types but couldn't quite figure out what this one was, so I am hoping they will be able to tell me.  I've never seen anything like it before or since.

I hope you are all finding fun books to read, too!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Recommended Reading

"Why do you do it, Flavia?" the Inspector asked in a suddenly different voice, his eyes on the mess I had made of the carpet.  I don't think I had ever seen him look so pained.

"Do what?"   I couldn't help myself.

"Lie," he said.  "Why do you fabricate these outlandish stories?"

I had often thought about this myself, and although I had a ready answer, I did not feel obliged to give it to him.

"Well," I wanted to say, "there are those of us who create because all around us, things visible and invisible are crumbling.  We are like the stonemasons of Babylon, forever working, as it says in Jeremiah, to shore up the city walls."

I didn't say that, of course.  What I did say was:

"I don't know."

--from I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (Delacorte, December 2011)

For those of you who have not discovered this series, you should know that though written for adults, the heroine (and narrator) is 11 years old -- but only in physical years. Flavia lives with her father and two older, despicable sisters in a British manor house fallen on hard times in the 1950s. Being of a solitary and inquisitive nature, Flavia found an old chemistry laboratory in a disused wing one day, and has enthusiastically investigated the nature of the building blocks of the universe ever since, with a particular penchant for poisons.

This knowledge, as well as her wise-beyond-her-years observations of people and the world around her, come in handy when murder strikes her village. She's a remarkable sleuth, not unlike what Sherlock Holmes might be, had he been a precocious 11-year-old girl. In this outing, her penniless father has rented their sprawling home to a film company over the Christmas holidays, only to have a star turn up strangled. Flavia determines to solve the crime while a raging snowstorm keeps all of the suspects trapped at the estate. Perfect reading for the holidays!

The first book in the series is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

It's a very unusual series and not to everyone's tastes, but I truly enjoy Flavia's trenchant observations, intelligence, and biting wit.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Dark-eyed Junco
my front yard
December 2, 2011

Autumn is ending...
Winter is on its way.