Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Urban Sketcher Strikes Again

One day earlier this week I was wandering all over the hallways at lunch time, looking for something to sketch, because it was raining out and I couldn't sketch what I really wanted to -- that is, something outdoors.  I guess I'm not that diligent of an "urban" sketcher, since the urban part rarely appeals.  The rest of the Urban Sketchers I've met have no trouble drawing buildings, people, street scenes, cars -- while I pretend not to see these things and wind up finding a potted plant to sketch instead.

That rainy day, though, I had no choice -- every subject was inside a building and I'd already drawn all of the potted plants near my office.  The hallways proved frustrating, as whenever I found a promising view, there was nowhere to sit, and when there was a spot to sit, it was already occupied by a student.  The nerve of them!  They were sitting in the library, studying!

So I wandered over to the building across the street to find a seat near the windows where I could look out over the canal, but the only free seat looked out over the verandah instead, where a fellow in a suit stood talking on his cell phone.  People again.  Then I noticed it was a person I knew -- Scott.  Hah.  Would it not be mildly amusing to sketch someone I knew?  Why, yes, it would, though of course he noticed, and gave me the Stink Eye.

I shan't post the sketches I did here, as they were only so-so, because Scott kept moving his position slightly.  Honestly.  Models are so hard to train these days.

I felt as if I needed a Secret Identity in order to sketch people, a disguise to make me feel more anonymous and comfortable about invading their privacy.  Probably a cape, tights, and a top emblazoned with URBAN SKETCHER  would be too conspicuous.  I'll have to think about this some more.

Meanwhile, the next day it was sunny again, thank goodness, and I was able to stroll over the Montlake Bridge at lunch time and down to the point of the little park by the marina.  There I found a lovely view which demanded a two-page spread.

It's supposed to sunny and warm again today, so I will avoid buildings and people in search of things to draw.  Maybe I ought to turn in my "Urban" Sketcher badge....

Oh, and Attention, Mary!  Better get down to the gallery before my stuff is all gone!  The owl is still available (original):

And so is a nice print (much cheaper!) of the aspen trees:

Avoid May 16-17 as that's the U-District Street Fair weekend.  Unless, of course, you like that sort of intense urban activity!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Winston Goes Wading

You probably know by now that my dachshund Truman loves to go in the water any chance he gets.  Meanwhile,  his best buddy Winston has never shown any such inclination.  He clearly thinks Truman is a bit nutty for getting wet on purpose.

However, this past Sunday we discovered how to get Winston wet -- he may not have the swimming gene, but he sure does have the duck hunting one!

Michelle and I took the Hounds to Hidden Lake at Shoreview Park, where Winston was unable to resist the lure of the Mallards.

He was frustrated by the way they kept swimming farther away from him.  And he was also quite unhappy with the way he had to get very wet in order to keep chasing them.

Absolutely no ducks were harmed -- in fact, they seemed utterly nonchalant about the presence of Winston in their midst.  As soon as he gave up and returned to shore, they paddled right back in close, taunting him.  He would wade back out, the ducks would idly paddle out of range, he'd give up again, they would paddle back.  At one point Winston got tangled up in a pile of branches, getting wetter and wetter by the second.  Possibly he won't be quite so determined to get himself a duck next time!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Beginner's Luck

Breaking news:  after six days on display, one of my watercolor pieces just sold (at Four Corners Art & Frame).  It was this one:

That was a fancy, expensive framing job, too.  Cool!  I'm a little surprised that two landscapes have now sold, and not one of the bird paintings, but it's early days yet.  We just need to get a few bird lovers into the shop!

And no, I won't be quitting my day job any time soon.

Bird Sex!

I'll bet that got your attention.  I have a photo-sharing site on Flickr (  where most of the photos I post get maybe 30 or so hits.  One day I put up a short video of Mallard Sex, and the next day, it had several thousand hits.  It does make one wonder what people really want out of the Internet, doesn't it?

Anyway, during a dog walk to Hidden Lake in Shoreview Park, I noticed a male Belted Kingfisher perched on a tree limb.  I aimed the camera at him just as he flew off to another tree -- where a female kingfisher waited.

And the next thing you know, they decided to start the baby kingfisher-making process.

They were way far off, so I couldn't get sharp photos, but it's pretty clear what's going on.

 Very exciting dog walk, indeed.

Oh, and because I'm sure you want to know, here is the direct link to the Mallard video:

Or just watch it right here:

Isn't nature study fun?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Art Update: at the Gallery

Allison at Four Corners Art and Frame now has some of my original watercolors nicely framed and ready for viewing!  And the rest are matted and hanging out in the bins for the perusal of fine-art appreciators.  Hope you can check it out sometime (though avoid May 16/17, which is the U-District Street Fair weekend, unless you like that sort of thing, and also, the shop is not open on Sundays).

These were on a loveseat when I was last there, but will soon be on the wall.  Ignore the glare.  They look fabulous.

Less expensive art!  There are also a few prints available.

She chose a stunning frame for the eastern Washington landscape.  I'm quite pleased.

Meanwhile, this past week I did just a couple of small sketches -- while out and about on Earth Day during my lunch break, I happened across a festival at Red Square (where I scored a few free tasty snacks).

On Friday I had to be at the office (usually that's my telecommute day), and it turned out a small subset of the Urban Sketcher group was meeting that day to sketch inside the main library on campus, and I managed to join them briefly.  This is the view looking down at the Allen Library atrium, where there is a display of books and a lot of raven sculptures hanging from wires overhead, which portrays a Native American myth.

My next art project is to paint the tool shed -- a very large canvas upon which I hope to put a simple beach scene to liven up that corner of the back yard (while cleverly using up some old house paints that are cluttering up the inside of the shed right now).

Friday, April 24, 2015

How Blue Does Your Garden Grow?

I have some new readers (welcome!), so I'll briefly describe the home and garden situation here.  I was ever so lucky to be able to buy my home, "Dog End", back in 1997.  It is a vintage 1949 house and it is all of 630 square feet with two small outbuildings and a carport, so I was a Tiny Home aficionado before the Tiny House movement!

I did not, however, have a Tiny Yard -- the lot size is 5000sf, and if you deduct the house, driveway and carport, and the two little outbuildings, you have over 3500sf of yard left.  When I bought Dog End, the yard was all grass.  There was a Douglas Fir and a Western Cedar (still here!), and a decaying cypress (gone) but otherwise, just lawn.  I soon discovered that I hated mowing grass.

So I got to work taking out the lawn and replacing it with shrubs, flowers, and paving stone pathways. It took a long, long time, and it is definitely still a work in progress as I love to experiment with new ideas.  As the growing season moves along here, I shall post periodic updates.

This is from last year around this time:

I have a nicer lawn chair now.

This time of year, the garden sprouts bluebells and forget-me-nots -- they are "weeds" (in that I never planted them) though I like them and rarely yank them out unless they're too close to the roses.

This was taken last Sunday:

I am very fond of garden statuary -- last time I counted, there were 35 stone critters out there.

I also have random Bleeding Heart plants that I didn't plant, either.  I love volunteers!

I added a conch shell to the beach scene area:

I'm contemplating sticking a 3-1/2 foot tall lighthouse behind the pelican statues.  Meanwhile, over at the new arbor, a Steller's Jay found a good perch:

While weeding this weekend, I discovered another plant I never planted (this happens a lot -- though I do actually plant a lot of things myself, honest!).  I have no idea what this is but it's quite lovely, and very tiny -- about one inch high.  I nearly missed it entirely:

Tomorrow and Sunday is the annual Florabundance plant sale sponsored by the Arboretum and held at Magnuson Park's Building 30.  Get there early!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Brief Dachshund Post

The Hounds went to Golden Gardens beach last Sunday and had a nice walk, though sadly the surf was too much for Truman, who normally loves to go wading.  He did not like the fact that the water came running at him.  So  he didn't go in.

Instead, he and Winston just ambled along, enjoying the sunshine and the sand.

Winston, who is definitely not a water dog, was highly suspicious of the waves as well.

There are handy benches along the beach that are perfectly placed for that moment when you are nearly finished with your walk but want to take a small break before heading to the car, a few relaxing minutes to bask.  With, of course, a damp sandy dog on your lap.

The gray cloudy skies have returned today, threatening rain, and the forecast for this coming weekend is not looking good.  Darn!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sketching report

Anytime it is sunny (and warm!), I get outside to sketch, and this past weekend was sunny and warm.  On Sunday I took my supplies to the Montlake Fill, where I piled them into Truman's stroller and had a lovely walk around the Loop Trail, watching birds, and pausing here and there to sketch.

As you can see, Truman likes to take over the stroller while I'm drawing.  I am lucky that even though he is a young dog, he has no inclination to bound and romp all over the place, and thoroughly enjoys relaxation.

This is a willow in a small cove near the crew house at the southwestern end of the Fill.  Green Herons sometimes hang out here, and Great Blue Herons like this spot a lot, as do the coots.  A pair of Pied-billed Grebes has been resident for several years, and I got to see their nest last summer and watched them raise a couple of youngsters.

Our second stop was at one of the memorial benches scattered around the Fill.  This one has a view of Mt. Rainier in one direction (clouded over that day) and the UW Husky stadium the other way.

Truman enjoys relaxing on benches, too.  Here you can see the proper accessories for a sketch outing:  binoculars, water bottle, container of snacks and (not shown) the camp stool for when there's no handy bench about.  (And don't forget the sunscreen!)

I tried to sketch the stadium, but part way through I realized I'd not planned my time well.  It was 10:30am, and I was planning to be home by 11am to go on a dog walk with Michelle and Winston (photos tomorrow!).  I had arrived at the Fill at 8am, but had dillied and dallied too much and spent more time looking at birds than sketching, and I also ran into birder friends to chat with.  So I rushed through this sketch to finish up.

Advice for outdoor sketching:  take food and water, bring a camp stool, and don't plan anything afterwards for hours and hours!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You can never have too many photos of Marsh Wrens and Great Blue Herons

Or can you?

Even though I already have a gazillion good photos of Marsh Wrens and Great Blue Herons, I keep taking more.  They are both fabulous birds.  And they are often seen in the same spots at the Fill, being fond of water and all.

Last weekend I saw a Marsh Wren perched atop a cattail that's been singing away over by the crew house -- very likely the same one seen a week or so ago.

He was busy picking fluff out of the cattail and zooming off with it.  Must be nest-building time.

Meanwhile, right next door a Great Blue Heron was skulking behind the reeds.  You can often walk right past one without seeing it, they are so good at blending in and being ever so quiet and still, until something startles them and they take off a few feet from where you are standing, which startles you with the sudden movement and the loud croaking call:  FRONNNNK!

Check out that amazing wingspan!

So I will keep taking photos of these wonderful birds, even though I have a gazillion.

A bird I don't have very good photos of (including the ones below) is the Osprey -- I'd love to get better ones, but whenever I see them, they are always WAY HIGH UP and FAR AWAY, or moving too quickly.  The one I saw at the Fill on Sunday was definitely way too high up and far away but I snapped these photos anyway because it was being chased by a crow.

Here's the Osprey:

And here comes the crow, flying fast below:

And gaining on the Osprey!

And getting above the Osprey in order to dive-bomb it, and chase it away.

It's times like these when I wish I had a professional camera -- or much better, my friend Tina, who is a professional photographer.  Sigh.  Oh, well.

That wraps up the birds of the Fill from this past weekend.  Good stuff!

Monday, April 20, 2015

If This Isn't Nice, I Don't Know What Is

The title is a Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. title, something his uncle used to say at moments of simple joy, and I borrow it here because I say it myself a lot when I'm out looking at birds, especially on warm sunny days.  And we had an entire weekend of warm (70!) sunny days.

What a simple joy it is indeed to amble around the Loop Trail at the Montlake Fill, occasionally encountering fellow birders and friends, admiring the spring foliage, perhaps pausing to do a sketch, with a well-mannered dachshund in tow.  Not to mention enjoying the birds.

Here is a Yellow-rumped Warbler foraging:

And here is another Yellow-rumped Warbler just pausing for a moment to allow me to snap its profile in all its glory.

Next is a Black-capped Chickadee foraging:

And finally, for a change of from songbirds and foraging, here is a stunning male Wood Duck just drifting along:

In the non-bird category, the turtles can be seen warming themselves up in the sunshine on nearly every available log or stump:

There were more birds this past weekend to enjoy, and a little sketching, and plenty of dog walks, but I shall save something for tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Return to Kubota

Remember how I messed up my first attempt to paint a Kubota Gardens landscape?  Of course you do.  It was green.  WAY too green.  So many trees!  So many shrubs!  Just a massive mess of greenery and the thing is, that's what's there in the original photographs.  Lots of green.  It's a very green place because hey, it's a garden.

My mistake in the painting was to paint what was there.  This often works, and is, in fact, one of the "rules" of the Urban Sketchers manifesto -- "Paint what you see!"  No making stuff up, no popping in an elf where there isn't one.  No painting shrubs blue when they are green.

However, I am a firm believer in artistic license, though not to the point of adding elves to my paintings.  Really it is just selectivity -- carefully picking and choosing what to put in and what to leave out or de-emphasize.  And I'm definitely still trying to master that skill.  It's tricky!  I want to draw and paint everything in the scene, when I ought to be emphasizing a focal point.  I remind myself of this all the time, and then when I paint the actual picture, completely forget about it.  Perhaps if I tied a string around my pinky as a reminder?  Does that ever work?

Anyway, the past few days I returned to my tried and true method of a pen drawing with watercolor on three Kubota Garden scenes, and they made me happier, despite the fact that I forgot about focal points again.  There is green, but not as much green.  So here they are -- and now I am going to go find a piece of string.

And remember -- you can click on a picture to make it bigger!  Always fun!