Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Early birds

It's been a tad on the hot side in Seattle of late -- upper 80s, even 90 at times.  This means I can't enjoy being outside much, which is irksome, as when the sun is shining, I like to be outdoors.  And of course, I want to go look at birds.

Thank goodness I am an early riser, even on weekends.  On Saturday I got up at 5:00am, and was down at the Fill by 6, where Truman and I were able to check out the birds in cool comfort.

There were lots of juvenile sparrows hopping about -- I'm pretty sure this one is a Savannah Sparrow, though I'm open to other opinions:

This Violet-Green Swallow was over by the athletic fields:

And back on the Loop Trail, this Anna's Hummingbird perched nicely:

Truman likes the grass by the main pond, which is stiff and dry in the heat now, and he had a lovely long roll there:

I'm now caught up with photos, so may not update for a few days.  Stay cool!

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Palm, The Lighthouse, and the Owl

No, that's not the title of a new fantasy novel.  It's what I drew or painted the past week or so.  First, the palm -- we had six fire alarms in our building the past week, most tedious (apparently they were all related to dishwashers or microwaves) and I finally got a clue by the last one to grab a sketch book on the way out.  The alarms take around 20 minutes to clear up, the perfect amount of time to find a subject and do a quick drawing:

Next, remember how I was impressed by the miniature paintings at the Edmonds art festival?  Well, I tried painting a 3" x 3" piece with acrylics, and boy howdy, was it hard!  I have lots of tiny brushes, but none seemed to handle the paint very well when it came to fine details, and getting the thickness or thinness of the paint needed for particular sections also proved to be quite tricky.  Perhaps next time, I'll stick to watercolor. Anyway, here is the Mukilteo Lighthouse, with a tea bag so you can appreciate the small size of the painting:

Finally, I finished up the illuminated "O is for Owl" picture, which used 22K gold leaf, watercolor, and colored pencil.

In other art adventures, Tina and I went to the Shoreline Art Festival on Sunday, and it was very different from the Edmonds festival.  Edmonds had a juried art show, with overall high quality, plus art/craft vendors.  Shoreline had art/craft vendors, a juried show, and a room called simply "more art" where they put everything that didn't make it into the juried section.

Tina entered a few of her photgraphs, and I entered one small watercolor.  Our stuff got into the juried show, thank goodness, for the "more art" show was full of wretchedly awful art.  But even the juried show had quite a few pieces that were just plain bad -- the only explanation I could think of was that there wasn't enough good stuff to fill the walls, and the poor judge had to pick the least hideous pieces from the reject pile to stick in there.

The other thing I noted was that only a couple of pieces had sold -- Tina told me that things did not sell at this festival, and given the overall lower quality, I could see why.  My piece didn't sell, which was fine -- I like it a lot and had deliberately priced it high, comparable to the prices on my work at the Four Corners gallery, in the hope that it wouldn't sell.  So it got to come back home where I can enjoy it.

So my overall impression is that the Shoreline arts festival is a low-rent version of the Edmonds one, and probably not worth bothering with next year.  I do plan to enter miniature paintings in the Edmonds festival next year.

Friday, June 26, 2015

I Heart Pollyanna

The reason there has been radio silence on this blog for the past few days is that my house was burglarized on Tuesday.  First, we are fine -- I am fine, Truman is fine, Dog End is mostly fine though in need of a new back door.

That piece of plywood is covering a window that is old with loose fittings.  Sometime during the day on Tuesday, while Truman was at daycare and I was at work (having taken the car, which I rarely do...yay), an observant burglar noticed that the top half of the window had slid down.  It was wide open.  I normally have a cover over the top of the window, so it may have been open for some time without my noticing.  Even the nice police officer who checked out my home went through the door twice before noticing.  Anyway, they got in easily (what they call a "crime of opportunity"), grabbed the laptop off the coffee table, and from the hall closets they grabbed a much older laptop and two old cameras.  Luckily, I had my newer camera with me.

So this was disturbing to return home to, but I am a huge fan of optimism and positive thinking (I own a DVD of the classic Hayley Mills film, Pollyanna, an all-time fave).  Nothing was very valuable, Truman was not home at the time, and I wound up having lovely catch-up chats with many of my neighbors.  While my deductible on the home insurance was $1000, the estimated replacement cost for the four stolen items came to $1800, and my insurer has already cut a check to me for that $800.  Plus they will replace the door (with a solid one!).  I bought a new laptop for $500, have no interest in replacing the other 3, old items, and am now $300 in the black.  Yay!

Also, sometime Tuesday night/early Weds, the Seattle PD busted the ringleaders and several members of what they called a "prolific burglary ring" operating in north Seattle (where I live) over the past several months.  Sure do hope they were the ones who gave me $300 and an improved back door.

Okay, enough of that nonsense.  What I really want to post about is what I was going to post about before having to deal with police and claims adjusters:  my latest art project!

I had an idea for an illuminated letter "O" with an owl inside.  I haven't worked with gold leaf in simply ages, and was eager to use it again -- until I started working with it, and remembered just how difficult the process is, and how extremely sensitive ultra-thin sheets of 22K gold leaf can be (burglars apparently have no use for it, as it was out on my art table and still is).  Anyway, here is a play-by-play of How To Lay Gold Leaf On A Painting Surface.

Here are the supplies:  sheets of gold leaf, fake rabbit-skin glue (no bunnies were harmed!), tweezers, Exacto knife, small brush for painting glue, squirrel hair brush (probably fake...but if not, do we care about bald squirrels?), bristle brush, and (not shown) burnishing stone and waxed paper.

STEP 1:  VERY carefully cut out a piece of gold leaf with an Exacto knife, a piece about twice as large as the area you want to cover.  DO NOT BREATHE -- any disturbance of the air anywhere near the leaf will crumple it up.

STEP 2:  While continuing to remember to breathe only away from where the leaf is, carefully paint glue onto the surface where the gold will go -- because the glue dries very quickly, you can only lay down pieces of gold leaf in approximate half-inch sections at most.

STEP 3:  Take the squirrel-hair brush, apply it to your forehead for some oil (you are definitely sweating by now, due to the hot bright lamp needed to see and the tension of proper breathing techniques), then touch the bristles lightly to the piece of leaf you cut out to lift it:

STEP 4:  CAREFULLY transfer the section of leaf to the area with the glue on it and touch it down.  This is the only thing this specialty brush is ever used for.

STEP 5:  Wait about 10-20 seconds, and then tamp down the leaf with the bristle brush:

STEP 6:  Go on to the next section, repeat.  When the entire piece is done, wait at least one hour and preferably 24 hours before burnishing the gold leaf with a smooth agate stone (and a sheet of wax paper between):

Done!  Wasn't that easy?

Now you can paint in the background with watercolor.

Oooh,  shiny!  Gold leaf application is tedious but satisfying, and there's just nothing else like it -- I've tried gold inks and paints, and while some are quite nice, it's still not the same as the real thing.

Come back next week for the finished piece.  And remember to keep your doors and windows locked!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Random Unconnected Photos Plus a Visit to a Juried Art Show (where no photos were allowed)

This post has no theme!  Just a random selection of photos from this past weekend, and then an account of my visit to the Edmonds Art Festival juried show and the nifty idea it gave me.

First, the floribunda rose in the front garden continues to bloom in a furious fashion:

Anybody need a bouquet?

Next, I spotted this odd insect on my house:

It was there all day long, and eventually I opted to touch it lightly to see if it was actually alive, and it unfurled its wings from that top "T" that looks more like sticks than wings, and flew away.  Turns out to be a Plume Moth,  which makes a habit of furling up its wings.  Very cool.

Our next unconnected random pic is of a Spotted Towhee at Magnuson Park, which I took even though I have a gazillion photos of towhees, simply because the bird was looking at me in a curious fashion:

Finally, the last photo is a picture of a picture -- I went to a party on Saturday in West Seattle (failing to stop in at Mary and Scott's home, Chez Aurora, to say "hi" because I was not driving) where I knew I'd find a lovely garden to sketch.  So I took along my art supplies and spent a happy half hour or so drawing (until I heard a concerned voice from the patio ask, "What did you do with Alex?").

It's supposed to hit 90 later this week (and weekend) which is too hot to go outside.  Luckily, I have indoor projects.  You see, on Sunday I went to the Edmonds Art Festival to check out the juried show.  I wanted to see what my competition might be like should I enter it next year, and what sort of prices people were asking.  I felt my work was comparable in quality, though I immediately noticed that nearly all of the paintings were larger than what I typically do.

And those larger paintings were not selling very well.  Prices were high overall (I'd say averaging around $2000) and of course, the smaller works down in the $1000 range were the ones selling.  Even so, I'd say that only 10% or so of the paintings had sold (and this was the third and last day of the show).

Even the smaller paintings were mostly 16" x 20".  I doubted my usual 5x7 or 8x10s would fit in well, and I don't like to paint large.  But then I encountered a special section of the show -- miniature paintings!  The largest was 5x5 (nothing bigger allowed) and most were 4x4 or 3x3.  Most artists had themed series of 3 or 4 pictures with similar landscapes or still lifes etc., which would look really nice if purchased and displayed as a set.  The prices were naturally quite low -- averaging $75 - $100 each -- and lo and behold, around 70% of them had sold.

Well, this got me thinking.  I already prefer to paint small -- why not go just a little bit smaller, and become a miniaturist?  I went to the art supply department of the University Bookstore yesterday and found 3x3, 4x4, and even 2x2 canvases to try with acrylic paint, and of course, I can chop up my watercolor paper to any size I like.  Heavens, I buy watercolor paper in 22x30" sheets -- that would make oodles of tiny paintings!

So if it is too hot to spend much time outdoors this weekend, you will find me inside, experimenting away with itty-bitty paintings.  All I need now is a magnifying lens!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Saturday in the Sunshine

Goodness, it has been a sunny warm June -- very much summer long before Summer officially began.  Except for fretting a little over the roses (and trying to remember to water them regularly), I am OK with sunny warm Junes.

On sunny Saturday morning, I went to the Fill, where an Osprey was seen circling the baseball stadium, several goldfinches were brightening the bushes, the Mallards were molting, and a Willow Flycatcher serenaded me with its delightful fitz-bew! call.  (Willow Flycatchers never say anything without an exclamation mark at the end.  Fitz-BEW!)

Here is my set-up by the Main Pond where I did a little sketch in ink, water-soluble colored pencil, and watercolor, while Truman waited ever so patiently.

Here he is facing the pond that I was sketching.

And here is the finished sketch -- I drew in the circle at home before heading out, just for fun.

After our sketching and our bird walk, Tru seemed a bit warm, so on the way home I stopped at Magnuson Park for a quick stroll down to the lake.  There we met some rather unusual people.

At first I thought they were from Friday's Mariners game, where it had been Star Wars theme night, and they just couldn't stop wearing their outfits.  But it turned out they were donning them as part of a charity walk, simply because they could.  They kindly offered to pose:

Tru was not thrilled to be handled by a Storm Trooper.  He felt much better when we got down to the beach and he could go wading.  Here he is post-wade, drying off in more of that lovely sunshine.

Happy SUMMER, one and all!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Things That Fly

During a lunch time stroll to the Montlake Fill last Wednesday I spotted the Ospreys again -- only this time there were three of them circling over the lake in close proximity.  A nesting platform has been raised near the slough in an attempt to discourage them from using the baseball stadium lights, but I saw no sign that the birds are adding sticks to the new spot.  They like to be on the tallest thing around, and the new platform is considerably shorter than the light poles.

As I watched, one of the Osprey flew over to a light pole and called repeatedly until its mate joined it.  The third bird ignored them and kept flying over the lake.

A little farther along the path I found a few Mallards engaged in preening:

Down by the wooden bridge over the slough, there were dragonflies -- a hot summer day around mid-day is a great time to watch dragonflies and damselflies.  Here is a Cardinal Meadowhawk:

And here is an Eight-Spotted Skimmer:

After a couple of weeks of hot sunny weather, it is refreshingly cool today after a bit of rain last night and lots of wind.  Feels good, and the rain is good for my garden, though I hope the Saturday forecast for a return of the sunshine (in the low 70s -- perfect temperature!) hold true.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Another photo post: Shake!

I did take some bird and dragonfly photos at lunch time yesterday down at the Fill but have not had time to edit them, so guess what?  You get Truman today!

Here is the exciting "sports mode" sequence of action shots showing how a dachshund shakes himself after rolling around in the dirt:

And here is what a dachshund looks like when he knows who owns the lawn furniture:


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bee Happy

Since I had a relatively quiet weekend, I have no more updates for today, so instead I present a series of photos I took on Sunday of a bee which took a liking to the foxglove in my yard.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Invasion of the Hounds

Last Sunday I had occasion to watch Winston and Chloe at my home for about seven hours and it was great fun, especially for Truman.  He tried diligently to show Winston how great the wading pool could be:

Winston remained dubious.  Unless there is a Mallard floating around in it, he is just not interested in leaping into water of any kind.

Truman persisted, and Winston deigned to take a drink as if it were a giant water bowl.

So since it was extremely warm, I took matters in hand and gave Winston a bit of a boost.

Which lasted all of about three seconds.

Oh, well.  Perhaps if I put an animatronic duck in there, he'd get more excited.

Next, the Hounds decided to smell the roses:

They even smelled one of the new ones which had no blooms:

Winston preferred the more established rose:

Either that, or he was sniffing the rose fertilizer, which has fish oil in it.

All in all, it was a delightful way to spend a sunny summer afternoon.