Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Truman Says, Buy Alex's Art!

Well, not really.  And hey, you can always go to my flickr photo site to download pretty pictures for free, but I think you ought to support your Plucky Local Independent Artist and the Plucky Local Independent Art and Frame Shop where her paintings are at:

Yesterday Allison showed me the mats she was working on for my stuff -- and what a fine job she is doing on them.  Here I try to fit them all in one photo and fail:

She hopes to have them framed and on the walls by next week but you can go in NOW to get early dibs on anything you like --just ask Allison to show you my FABULOUS paintings.

Look, MARY -- an OWL!  Doesn't it shout out to you?  I'm sure it does.

She had one piece nearly ready to go with a fine frame:

And she said a couple of the pieces might also sell as prints.  When I started to explain that I didn't know squat about having prints made but could find out, she said that she'd handle it all for me, does it all the time for her other artists.  I like that.  I wouldn't do this if it wasn't easy!

If you don't like birds (and who doesn't?), there are a couple of landscapes here and there.

Can't wait to see them with frames and on the wall!  It's a small shop on The Ave (AKA University Way) near the corner of 43rd on the west side of the street.  On the corner is an ICE CREAM shop, and then the Woolly Mammoth shoe store, and then Allison's amazing Four Corners Art & Frame Shop.  I know parking in the U-District is a hassle.  Combine your visit with a trip to the University Bookstore, which is across the street and has a parking lot in back.  Or come on a Saturday after 12Noon and park for free on campus behind the Burke Museum.

I think it's open Mon-Sat 10-5 and closed on Sundays but you can always call first.  And did I mention the ICE CREAM SHOP?

Tell all your friends!  Tell all your friends who love ART.  Tell all your friends who love art and nature and birds.  Tell all your friends who love art and nature and birds and who have money.  Support your plucky local independent creative folks, and help me to retire early!


Actually, he kind of looks as if he's saying, "OhMyGod I've been turned into a spokesdog!  Arg, the pressure!"  He is, after all, a Highly Sensitive Dog.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Birds of Spring

On Saturday I forced Truman to go for walks at TWO parks, poor guy.  (For those who don't know, Truman is a Highly Opinionated Dog with definite ideas on when and where he will go for a walk, which is "once or twice a week", "only if I'm driven or strolled somewhere away from my house", and "only one park in a day.")

First we went to the Montlake Fill, where the morning light hit the cottonwoods just right.

We saw our first Savannah Sparrow of the season -- they are here only in Spring/Summer, and we also saw lots of returning swallows.  Here's the sparrow:

We saw lots of Mallards out and about:

Then we headed over to Magnuson Park, where I wanted to do a little sketching at the wetlands ponds, and where I had to put Truman in his stroller much of the way, as he refused to walk ("we've already been for a walk!").  The flickers were busy excavating nest holes:

A Canada Goose had found a somewhat unusual spot to chill out:

Meanwhile, a Marsh Wren popped into view for quite a long time, singing away to advertise his territory:

I managed to get a video recording -- it's on my Flickr site and runs 38 seconds:

Truman was unimpressed by all the springtime bird activity, and he was very very happy when we finally got home.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dog Day

Chloe is visiting us this weekend, and Truman is delighted to have some doggie company.  And the weather is cooperating for outdoor breaks in the garden, where it felt near to 70 this afternoon.  I don't have anything to write about today, so I'll just let the photos speak for themselves:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Year of Art Gets More Interesting than Expected

Recently I took my painting of Truman to the wonderful place I've taken all of the art I've wanted framed over the years, the Four Corners Art and Frame Shop.  It's a tiny little place in the U-District, where Allison the owner works magic (seriously -- she takes one long look at the piece you've brought in, walks over to the racks of HUNDREDS of frame styles and instantly picks out the perfect one).

The walls are crammed with art by her and other artists, all for sale.  She admired my Truman portrait greatly, and we got to talking about different media and styles, and I said my usual medium was watercolor, and I usually painted nature and birds.  She invited me to bring some pieces in, and if she liked them, she would take on the cost of matting and framing and put them on the walls for sale with a reasonable commission.

So yesterday I went in with a portfolio.  Based on the crowded walls, I figured she might take five pieces at the most, so although I had around 40 works in the portfolio, I moved the ten best up to the front, intending to show only those, from which hopefully she would pick a few.

Well, she loved those ten so much that she wanted to see what else was there, and the next thing I knew, she was hauling out stuff left and right and arranging them on her work table in various groupings that "would look well together on the walls", and she wound up taking TWENTY-ONE works.  !

Not only that, she was my first customer, buying one of  the landscapes as a gift for her mother.

I don't know how long it will be before they get framed and displayed there, or how many will be put up at one time, but when I get that information I'll be happy to pass it along!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Think Small

Normally when I'm out sketching, I carry around an 8x10 or 9x12 inch sketchbook, but there are times when this is not practical.  Such as anywhere I go without intending to sketch, and run across an appealing subject, or find myself waiting for a bus longer than expected.  Since I never carry a big purse (8" max on the longest side), I needed a small sketchbook that could fit inside and go with me everywhere, and I found one that is 4x6 inches.  That, and a nice artist's pen, and I'm all set.

The first day I carried it around, I found myself waiting at the bus stop longer than expected:

The next day I wandered over to the waterfront near my office...and look, fingers appear for scale!

There is a very monolithic building nearby (Marine Sciences) which has a plaza surrounded by thick angular walls, very unusual:

One day I was walking Truman and spotted this fallen tree -- he got a little impatient as I stopped to draw it, but he survived:

While birding at the Montlake Fill, I happened upon a newly established trail that was bordered by a log and branch construction:

It's a fine little sketchbook, though limited to pencil or pen.  After five days in a row of that, I wanted to do something larger and with color, so Truman and I trotted over to the Quad on the UW campus to admire the cherry trees.  Boy howdy, was it packed with people (it was Sunday), several of whom, despite the MANY LARGE SIGNS saying Do Not Climb on the Trees, were, of course, climbing on the trees.  It took me a while to find a spot out of the way, where I focused on only one tree that seemed less bothered by oblivious people than the others.

You'll notice that I left all the people out.  On purpose.  They were annoying.

Truman was also annoyed, since it was noisy and crowded and children wanted to come over to pet him, which he endured with his usual "Fine, I won't bite you but I hate this" expression.

Here he is after I finished, clearly telling me he is Done and wants to go Home:

As a commenter on another post noted, like most dachshunds I've ever encountered, Truman is a highly opinionated dog!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Uh-oh...there are no birds, dogs, or paintings in this post...but hey, quiche!

Most folks know that I don't cook.  I mean, I can follow a recipe and I can cook stuff if really necessary, and I'm particularly fond of a hot breakfast, but all in all, cooking is simply Not My Thing.  Now, baking, on the other hand, is definitely my thing, though it tends to lead mainly to cookies and cakes and pies and other stuff that is not the sort of stuff one should be consuming tons of.  So a few days back I decided to wield my special culinary skill in the pursuit of healthier food.  I made quiche!

Well, okay, it has half-n-half (fat!) and lots of cheese (fat!) and eggs (protein! oh and maybe some fat...) but it also has BROCCOLI.  I'm quite sure the presence of broccoli counteracts everything else going on.  Plus, of course I made my own crust to avoid the transfat in store-bought ready-made crusts (don't use these! They all have partially hydrogenated oils!  Badness!).

Really, making the crust yourself is so simple -- messy, yes -- but so simple -- here is my effort:

Perhaps it has a few more finger dents in it than is acceptable in finer dining establishments but by golly, it is handmade and proud of it.  To fill it, I took a recipe from my Pillsbury cookbook for quiche lorraine and instead of the spinach and bacon, which I don't like, put in mushrooms and broccoli.  It called for 1-1/2 cups of half-n-half and four eggs, which I kept the same.  It also called for 8 ounces of Swiss cheese, which I didn't have and didn't want anyway -- what I did have was 4 ounces of cheddar and 4 ounces of parmesan-romano mixed.  In that all went:

That's what I like about quiche -- how versatile it is.  Other than the eggs and cream and crust, just toss in whatever veggies and cheese you like.  Or smoked salmon or ham if you eat that sort of thing.  Anyway, it came out  looking quite appetizing:

And I'm happy to report that it tasted great, too!


Monday, March 23, 2015

Respite from a Blustery Day

On Saturday Truman and I went exploring to new lands. The forecast was for rain off and on all day and it was very windy.  Not exactly good birding conditions.  I did some gardening instead, and noticed around 9am that it wasn't raining yet, so I tossed Truman in the car, intending to drive south to the nearest park for a short walk.  But raindrops spattered the windshield.  I noticed sun to the north, and turned to follow it to sheltered Hamlin Park.  There, Truman objected to the sound of strong wind gusts in the branches.  Sigh.

Thwarted again, I pulled a map out (yes, an old-fashioned map, as I do not own an intelligent phone) and looked for parks north and west, where the sun was shining.  And noticed, apparently for the first time in the decades I've been living here, a place in Shoreline called Shoreview Park, which included a spot called Hidden Lake.  Goodness.  How could I have not investigated this before?  A hidden lake?  Off we went!

When I turned into the park, I felt disappointed, as all I could see were playing fields and a playground.  Thankfully, the road climbed up and around these to a parking lot bordering a wooded area, where I found a map (yes, another old-fashioned physical map) showing trails, one of which led to Hidden Lake.

It was still very windy, yet it felt sheltered here without the annoying moaning and groaning branches, so Tru was happy.

Until, that is, I discovered that I'd missed the marker post for Hidden Lake, and we had to backtrack about a half-mile.  He thought we were returning to the car, and could go home, and balked at continuing on.  The lake was another half mile or so away, and we were both a bit tired from hiking up and down hilly trails, and there were no benches anywhere.  So after another quarter-mile I was delighted to find an empty platform just sitting off in the middle of nowhere, where it was very sunny.  We had a lovely rest there.

The lake was indeed hidden -- we could actually see it from the platform through the trees.  As we continued down the trail, it became less and less hidden.

While we'd seen a few people walking dogs here and there, we lucked out by arriving at the lake when no one else was there.  Truman immediately waded in for a cool-down.

Except for a pair of Mallards and a few Buffleheads, for the next ten minutes Truman owned that little lake.  He was a very happy camper indeed, and so was I.

This park was about a 15-minute drive from my house -- how could I not have known about it all these years?  It's a truly delightful place, and made for the perfect outing on a blustery day.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Has Sprung

Well, as is typical for Seattle in Spring, it is overcast today, but in honor of the new season, I went outside and took photos of my garden anyway.  There are always things blooming, though I expect to have sunnier, more flowery photos to show later in the season.

As always, the native currant (Ribes sanguineum) off my back patio is spectacular in early Spring:

A friend gave me bird ornaments for Christmas -- after I'd taken the tree down (it was a rather late gift...) so I hung them from the Ribes:

Here's a shot of the spirea off my carport -- and remember, folks, you can always click on photos here to open a larger version!

Next I tried to take a photo of the vinca (AKA periwinkle) that I planted last fall near the faux woodland stream, but someone got in the shot:

So I took a photo of the little pansy violets (what I call "Johnny Jump-Ups") in the flower bed instead:

Then I tried for another photo of the vinca....

So I went out to the front garden to snap a pic of the quince:

And then back to the vinca...I think this is the best I'm going to get of this plant:

I hope you are all enjoying the first day of Spring.  I know Truman is!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Great Blue Herons are Hard to Paint

I took this photo way back in 2009:

Since then, I've tried painting it more than once -- the first effort was not good at all because I tried to paint all the lily pads with no success whatsoever.  I tossed that attempt ages ago, so luckily I don't have to show it here!

So for the next effort, I just left the background blank so I could put the focus on the heron:

I liked the heron fine, but not the background.  It was okay, but could be better.  This week I decided to try again, and use a bit of artistic license.  Herons like to hang out in marshes, so  I dispensed with the lily pads and replaced them with marsh grass, kept soft in order to keep the focus on the bird:

I love artistic license!  I like this version.  I'm especially happy with how the feathers turned out -- here is a close-up of the midsection:

Usually in watercolor, one works from light to dark, but in this piece, for the feathers, I put the shadows in first and added the mid-tones and lighter tones pretty much at the same time, and when it was dry, put in a few highlights with white gouache.  Because there were so many feathers and different ways they lay, putting in the darks first helped keep the various sections well defined as I painted in the rest.  I think that worked out well!