Monday, April 19, 2021

Dog Day Afternoons

 First, the most important thing from last week:

Thursday, April 15 was TRUMAN'S NINTH BIRTHDAY!!!  Whee!  Hoorah!  Here is Pippin giving Truman a greeting on his birthday:

And here is Truman a few seconds later, realizing that Pippin is too close to his favorite toy.

Pippin made a valiant effort to take it away...

...but the birthday Hound prevailed!

Truman got a bit of chicken for his birthday, which is his favorite treat.  And he got a walk, although I'm not entirely sure if he really enjoys walks all that much.  Still, it was  a good day all in all.

The days, in fact, have been warm and sunny -- 70s and even into the 80s already.  Yikes.  The Hounds spend a lot of time lounging in the yard.  

As the temps get hotter throughout the afternoon, they seek out the shade.  However, there are no trees, so the shade is rather hard to find:

Pippin has mastered the art of maximizing his shade acquisition via the utility pole.

Truman, meanwhile, is trying to learn his technique, and while not quite as adept, is mostly getting it down:

Perhaps I ought to plant a tree.

Okay, on to the art...we had our two usual Zoom sketching sessions.  The first was a windmill:

And the second was a Japanese garden path with way too many trees:

My favorite watercolor piece from last week wasn't done during these sessions -- it was just an extra bit of fun.  My friend Mary has a metal garden goat named Noel who is quite charming.  I had used a pic of Noel to practice digital art once, and later Mary posted another photo and wondered if perhaps a second portrait might be fun--well, it was indeed.  

This time I used watercolor.  The photo showed him hiding partly behind a tree, but even though I didn't have to paint the entire goat, it was still a challenge, which I enjoyed immensely.

As for the oil painting efforts...astute readers may recall that last week I said it was Crowley's turn for an oil portrait, and to stay tuned to see how that went.  

Well, it didn't.  Not because of any oil painting fiasco -- I just simply never got round to it, because I wanted to take a break first with some colored pencil portraits instead, and ran out of time.  That's my excuse, at least, and I'm sticking to it.

So this is what I've got so far for the colored pencil Crowley -- this is from the final scene where he and Aziraphale are toasting their successful derailing of Armageddon ("To the world!").

It's not done yet -- there are some value fixes needed here and there, and it needs a background.  The reference photo has a busy background (they are dining at the Ritz), and the colors are quite bland:

So I am thinking of doing just a solid background color -- probably a sage green.  There is a photo of Aziraphale from this same scene which I also want to do:

I think a sage green would work well as a background for both of them. 

After I finish both of those, then I plan to return to the oil painting projects. Honest.  

That's all for now!

Except for the following alert to anyone who gets this blog via email subscription:

EMAIL SUBSCRIBER ALERT!  The blog hosting platform plans to REMOVE the email subscription service this JULY.  There is no alternative method for subscribing.  Sorry.  You'll have to bookmark the blog ( and remember to check it once a week (I normally post on Mondays.)

Monday, April 12, 2021

A Walk on the Wild Side, and More Art Attempts

 I'm one of those annoying people who wants to not only know what everything is, but likes to inform everyone she meets after finding out what things are so they'll know, too.  

Sometimes this does not go over too well.  When I first started hiking around in the natural areas here, I noticed wildflowers, and naturally wanted to know their names.  So I've been studying up, and have managed to learn a few here and there.  For example, this is called Columbia Milkvetch:

I spotted it at the Columbia Point natural area while walking the Hounds.

The hounds were not impressed by the way I kept stopping to stare at tiny flowers -- all they wanted to know was if they were edible.

And this is a type of phlox:

Truman had zero interest in it.

Neither did Pippin.

Finally, I believe this is Fiddleneck Tarweed:

Notice the utter disdain with which Truman greets this knowledge, since the Tarweed is not edible.

Oddly enough, the many people I later showed my photos to failed to share my excitement at having identified these little plants.  Sure, they're not showy by any means -- most of the flowers are 1/4" or so around -- but should they be greeted with resounding indifference merely for lack of the wow factor?  I think not!

So I shall continue my endeavor to learn the local wildflowers as the Spring progresses, and I shall continue to annoy my friends and family with bits of useless knowledge.  It's what I'm good at.

Okay, on to the Art.  We did two Zoom sketch sessions but one produced a drawing that was not terribly exciting (it lacked the wow factor, and when it comes to Art, that's a reasonable excuse to avoid showing a piece, if you ask me).  The second was all right -- the photo we chose was of a fountain in the shape of a dragon -- the only issue was that the photographer cut it off in odd places so that you couldn't see the whole dragon.  Whatever.  I drew it anyway:

And then I went to work on my Aziraphale portrait in oils.  Which was frustrating indeed.  You may recall that I haven't done any oil painting for around ten years, and very little even then.  My newest effort quickly taught me that it is awfully darned tricky.  First, I did the classic grisaille technique of a gray value study:

The idea is to glaze layers of color over this underpainting, allowing the values to stay true.  I tried painting a lavender sort of background, his coat, and his hair...but got the paint too thick.  It looked quite odd before doing the face, as you can see here:

And because the paint was too thick, it was taking forever to dry, and I got terribly bored, and decided to relieve my boredom by painting an acrylic version of the same photo.  Sadly, it wound up not looking very much like Aziraphale:


By the time that was done, though, the oil paint had dried, so I returned to that version, and tried thinner layers on the face, but for some reason (possibly the fact that I don't really know what I'm doing?), it failed to wind up looking anything like the grisaille.  And while it did look a little bit more like Aziraphale, it still wasn't quite right:

Dang.  So that was not an unqualified success.  I did learn things, though!  Next time I probably won't bother with an underpainting, for one thing.  

Before I tackle a portrait of Crowley in oils (he clearly deserves equal time), I returned to that other idea that vexed me last week -- the picture of Aziraphale rescuing Crowley from prison.  If you were paying attention, that idea was based off this fresco by Raphael (aim high!) which depicts an angel rescuing St. Peter:

If you look at last week's post, you'll see that I reversed this image, photoshopped Aziraphale and Crowley heads in, got rid of most of the bars and the guards, and then drew it on a canvas, where the painting attempt utterly failed.  The heads were too small for good details.  Next I tried it enlarged a bit as a colored pencil drawing, which I'm not showing as it started looking awful fairly early on.

Finally, I opted to pop the original fresco pic into, appropriately enough, Adobe Fresco, and just redraw and repaint it all digitally.  This took a while, but was much more satisfying as to results:

So no, I can't hang it on my wall unless I print out a nice copy which I can't do because the color printer isn't that good and it's out of ink anyway.  But it makes me happy.  

Tune in next week to see if I make any progress on a Crowley portrait in oil.  Such larks!

Have a great week in the meantime!

Monday, April 5, 2021

If At First You Don't Succeed...

 Today's post is 95% about art and 5% cute dachshund pics at the end for anyone who is feeling unenthusiastic about art.  For you folks, just scroll on down there!

For the rest of the readers, I'll just say it was a busy creative week here in between the dog walks, the swims at the gym, the Friends of the Library volunteer gig, the Zoom meetings, the baseball on TV (Go Mariners!  Go Twins!), and the weekly Crazy Rummy game that I never win.

First, we had three  Zoom sketch practice sessions instead of the usual two.  Yay.  Each reference photo that was chosen was one that I initially disliked, yet each one turned into a pretty decent artistic effort.  On Monday, we picked this scene of rocks and trees:

I thought the colors were bland, but Tina pointed out that one could always exaggerate them, and that she could see pinks and blues/purples in the rocks.  Then I couldn't decide whether pen or watercolor would work best, and muttered about that for a while until I remembered that I had a set of water-soluble ink pens in various colors which meant that I could draw with those and then wash watercolor over it to create a cool effect.

So that's what I did:

Much prettier than the photo, if you ask me.

At our next session, we chose this fish, which I found challenging because of the light spots. 

 It's hard to get good light areas in watercolor without using what's called a "masking fluid" to protect them from the paint.  I don't like using it because it takes a long time to dry.    But then I remembered that I'd recently bought a tube of white gouache, an opaque water-based paint, which I used quite successfully:

Our final practice session proved even more challenging.  This was the photo -- nothing easy here!  Tricky sky with that bright sunshine, tricky shadows, and a complex tree to boot.  Yay.

After considerable deliberation, I came up with a five-step process for depicting the sky which involved a gradated wash, some lifting out with a paper towel, some wet-in-wet technique, a little dry brush, and a bit of glazing.  Whew.  Then I did the water rather quickly with just mostly dry brush, and the beach with mostly wet-in-wet, and when all that was dry, I painted in the tree and the shadows.  Goodness, that was a lot of work, but hey, it turned out nicely, if I do say so myself:

Okay, now it's time for my new challenge:  oil painting.

Yes, I didn't have enough to do, what with the ink and the watercolor and the colored pencils and the acrylic paints, so I added oil paint to the mix.  I haven't done any for probably ten years or so, and had to go buy all new materials.  That's what retirement income is for, right?

My first idea for an oil painting bombed.   Possibly I aimed a little high -- the reference photo I tried to use was a fresco by Raphael, called the Liberation of St. Peter:

My clever idea was to turn this into Aziraphale the angel rescuing Crowley from a prison, just an imaginary scene, perhaps a reverse of that one in the actual Good Omens series where Crowley rescues Aziraphale from the Bastille.  First, I reversed the image (because I liked it better that way), and took out the guards and most of the bars, and then tried sticking the characters' heads on via Photoshop:

You can see that I tried several different Crowley faces.  Then I redrew it on paper in the actual size I wanted (11" x 14")"

Then I used transfer paper to put the image onto a painting panel (a gray-toned gessoed hardboard), and tried rendering a grisaille -- an underpainting in values of gray, which is traditional prep for an oil painting, and which can be done with acrylic paint.  It looked rather awful -- the heads were so small that I couldn't paint good details at all:

In a work, yuck.  So then I tried redrawing the picture to cut down the background in order to get larger faces: 

Which were still too small for good details even with my teensy tiniest brush, to I bagged that idea, transferred the drawing onto colored pencil paper, and sometime will get around to trying to finish it with colored pencils.  I can get incredibly fine points on those, and should be able to do the detailing I would like.

By now, some of you (I won't name names) will be wondering how long this post is going to be -- well, don't worry, we're nearly to the end (and to the cute dachshund pics).  

I have not given up on oil painting by any means.  But my next effort will be a simple portrait from a simple photo ref of Aziraphale, rather than a complicated attempt to futz about with a master artist's work.  To that end, I found a simple photo that I liked, a nice big close-up which nearly fills an 8" x 10" canvas panel, and yesterday I painted a grisaille value study of it, in acrylic paint, thusly:

Sometime this coming week, I hope to get the actual oil paints out and try some glazing of color over this...could be bad, could be great, could be something in between.  Tune in next week to find out!

AND NOW, without further ado, what you've lasted this long for -- ADORABLE PICS OF PIPPIN!

Isn't he the cutest thing EVER???

That's almost all -- I nearly forgot about the Bentley!  You know those two Funko Pop figures I bought of Crowley and Aziraphale?  Well, I found them a car -- Crowley drives a 1926 Bentley, and I found a model of one from that era -- the only such one available, as far as I could tell.  It's a little small for them, but that's only because their heads are so danged big!

Isn't that sweet?  

And yes, I am still twelve years old.  Why do you ask?

Have a fun week out there, everyone, and remember:  Don't Be Ordinary!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Getting Outside While We Can

 High winds hit here on Sunday, and are forecast to continue today, with gusts up to FIFTY mph (!).  It is often quite windy here, especially in the Spring, so whenever it is less than 10mph, I try to get out and about as much as possible.

On one non-blustery day we went to my favorite walking spot, the Columbia Point natural area, which Truman strongly objects to as he cannot use his stroller there, and he hates walking the whole way out and back unassisted, poor boy.

Still, I make him go once a week or so, as it's good for him -- he needs to lose a few pounds.

It is truly a lovely spot, and we had just missed a bit of rain, so the clouds were especially fine.

There are lots of trees in this spot that always look a bit creepy to me, kind of dark and barren and gnarled.

We had a creepy tree for one of our Zoom sketch sessions last week, much weirder than the ones at Columbia Point -- more like something out of the Wizard of Oz:

I did that painting digitally using Adobe Fresco.  

We also drew a vivid set of houses from the Venetian isle of Burano, which I did non-digitally using watercolor, though I wasn't terribly happy with the results.  Too brightly colored for my tastes.


On another non-blustery day, I took the Hounds to McNary National Wildlife Refuge just for a change of pace, and though I knew the Snow Geese were probably still around, I had no intention of looking for them...but as it happened, I saw a large flock far off in the distance as I pulled into the parking lot.

One minute later, as I was getting Truman's precious stroller set up, a raptor descended on the geese, sending into frenzied flight.  

The Hounds had to wait in the car while I snapped away.

The raptor (it looked to be a Red-tailed Hawk) gave up after five minutes, and the geese settled down, so we were then able to get our two-mile walk in.

Back at the parking lot, I took a couple more pics of the Snow Geese, and called it good.

Our final non-blustery outing of any significance was to a park in Kennewick where a group called the Tri-City Wiener Walkers was to meet up.  We had gone to a walk with them the previous Saturday and enjoyed it, so we tried again.  I think around eight people (and a dozen or so dachshunds) were at the first meeting, but at this second one, only three (including me) turned up (though with a total of six wieners).

It was a lovely day, so we walked all round the park anyway, and the Hounds seemed to be having an okay time.

But I was rather disappointed, as I had discovered after last Saturday's walk that one of the people there was a Good Omens fan.  I had not spoken with her, and was looking forward to chatting this time, but she did not turn up.  Bummer!

Well, the group leader said they would try again next Saturday, and hope for more participation.  I shall try again, and hope to see the Good Omens person there.  

Still no word on my garden landscaping plan -- I've been waiting three weeks now for bids from two different companies.  Phone calls and whining are going to take place today!

Have a great week, and don't let the winds blow you away out there!