Monday, September 19, 2022

Just Another Good Omens Needlepoint Done

It's nice to have something to do while watching baseball games on TV, and I watch a lot of them (the Twins and the Mariners).  Needlepoint projects are perfect.  I can spread the supplies over the coffee table and just stitch away, and I don't need to fret too much about losing my place in the complex patterns because with baseball games you only need to look at the TV when you hear the sound of a bat making contact with a ball.  Yay!

I've done three needlepoints during this year's baseball season, all images of my favorite characters from Good Omens.  Two of them were 35,000 stitches, and the latest one that I just finished was 62,000.  Wahoo!  

Here's the photo I used for the pattern -- it's my own colored pencil drawing of Aziraphale the angel holding his beloved books:

Very complicated!

And here is the needlepoint, which looks a little skewed here because the stitch tension tends to warp the canvas a bit as one goes along.  I'm currently in the process of blocking (straightening) it.

Next I'm going to do Crowley, with wings.  It's also 62,000 stitches, which will definitely get me through the playoffs and the World Series and far beyond!

Monday, September 5, 2022

In Which I Ignore the Zoom Group Art Choices

 As I believe I've explained here before, but for the benefit of any imaginary new reader out there or just old forgetful readers, I do three virtual art sessions a week via Zoom with four friends.  On Wed/Fri we choose a photo to work from, and on Mondays we can work on whatever project we like.

About a month ago, for the Monday project, I decided to do something that would take more than one Monday -- a painting of Aziraphale's bookshop (yes, that would be Good Omens again).  I came across this pre-production photo, which had lots of fabulous details and wonderful lighting:

We never actually see this view in the series itself, as some furniture was changed or moved around, and that gorgeous staircase top was never shown.  (We've been promised a view of the upstairs in the upcoming second series, so maybe it will turn up then.)  

I decided to use Strathmore mixed-media tanned paper, as it had worked well for an earlier piece I did of the bookshop -- this one, in fact:

Well, as things turned out, the toned paper wasn't really necessary, as I wound up covering every single inch of it.  But I enjoyed working on it, as it has the smoothness needed for fine detail work, with just barely enough of a surface texture to allow for some watercolor blending.  

I started with a simple pencil sketch to place the basic objects, and put in a few details in brown ink.  And then I used white gouache to add highlights, and watercolors for the rest of this very complex picture.

Here you can see the start of those details, and the simpler sketch:

The piece is 8" x 10".  I used VERY VERY small brushes to get the fine details, especially in the staircase top and railing, and for the books.  (Most of the books are about 1/16" wide!)  This is the smallest brush I used (Princeton Velvetouch 5/0 Spotter):

I wound up enjoying the process so much that when the Wed/Fri group sessions came around, I often ignored whatever picture the others chose to work on, and just kept painting away on the bookshop.  And I worked on Tue/Thu/Sat/Sun too!

Most days I could only handle about an hour of painting.  I had to enlarge the original photo 300-400% to see the fine details, and would work on one or two square inches at a time, and go bug-eyed after a while.  Also, the tiny brush can't hold much paint -- perhaps 1-2 strokes -- so I was constantly reloading it.  It was quite slow-going!  

It all took a month to complete, and I love the results:

Now I don't have a Monday wonder if there are other photos of the bookshop that would be fun to do?   

Wait and see!

Monday, August 29, 2022

Pelican Post (just that -- a pelican!)

 On one of our riverfront walks, I spotted a pelican swimming in close to shore.  

It has seen something that got it excited.

A dead fish!  Oh joy.  

The pelican tried about a dozen times to get the fish down...

But no matter which angle it tried, nothing worked.

The fish was simply too big to swallow.

The poor pelican eventually gave up and swam away in search of smaller prey.

That was the most exciting thing I saw last week, and it was pretty darned swell.

So that's my update for now.  See you next time there's something cool to post about, and until then, stay safe, and stay happy!

Monday, August 22, 2022

Art Catch-up Plus Fightin' Coopers

The weekly Zoom art practice session with friends far away continue.  We started these virtual meetups back in the Summer of 2020 as a way to stay in touch and have something fun to do during the Great Pandemic.  There are currently five of us participating regularly -- three friends from N. Seattle/Shoreline area, one from near Chicago, and me.  

We did twice weekly art practice sessions until Tina, the organizer, retired earlier this year, and have now added a third day.  On Wednesdays and Fridays, Tina shares her vast collection of images -- basically, stuff she liked on Instagram, Pinterest, et al, which includes lots of landscapes, buildings, plants, animals -- she has a good eye for images that might be fun to try drawing or painting.  We spend some time agreeing on a photo we all can work with, and then we draw and paint that same photo in our own ways.  We spend about 90 minutes on each piece, chatting away, and sharing our work at the end.

Here are some pieces I did from the past two weeks of these Wed/Fri sessions:

Flower from the primula family, done digitally on the iPad using Adobe Fresco.

We chose this pic because of the dramatic sky.  I used watercolor.

Definitely the most challenging picture of late, which I also did in watercolor.

Tina loves Japan, and has saved lots of photos from there.  This is part of the Honen-In temple grounds in Kyoto, done with ink and watercolor.

On Mondays, we have a session where we all work on our own projects, such as finishing up a piece, or a longer work that will take several weeks such as an oil painting etc.  Recently I've been working on a drawing/painting on Mondays that will probably take a few months (unless I work more on it outside the sessions).  It's a complex picture of Aziraphale's bookshop, which I'm doing on toned paper using a little ink but mostly watercolor and gouache. 

After three Mondays, and a few extracurricular sessions, this is how far I've got:

It's 9x12".  Some of those books are 1/16" wide, and I've been using a teensy brush to paint them:

There are a whole lot more books to go...yay! 

So that's the art update.  Now, on to the Fightin' Coopers!

At one of our regular parks there have been two juvenile Cooper's Hawks hanging around, and one day we got a treat -- they were in a meadow, flying at each other in an aggressive manner.  No blood was shed, it was more for show, apparently.  Or possibly one had caught something the other one wanted -- we'll never know for sure.  But I did get some good photos of the encounter, which lasted just about five minutes.  

The two birds often displayed what's called "mantling" behavior, where they spread their wings over prey to protect it from greedy siblings et al, but there was no sign of any prey (I looked over the area after they left -- nothing but grass).

They mostly just spread their wings and yelled at each other, as siblings do:

There was an occasional respite...

But they quickly got back into the fray.

Note how incredibly puffed out the lower hawk is -- trying to look as big and fearsome as possible by fluffing out those feathers.

Possibly they are having territory disputes, and soon one or both will need to move on to new areas to set up their own hunting grounds away from both each other and their parents.  

Glad I had such good timing on what started out as just another dog walk.  Five minutes earlier or later, and I would have missed the whole encounter.  Yay!

That's all for now.  
Hope you are all doing well out there, wherever you are!

Monday, August 8, 2022

Brief Crow Update

 Just a brief update on the crow I helped rescue.  If you read last Monday's post, you'll remember that a young crow in my yard was limping, and that I was able to shoo it into my garage.  Volunteers from a wildlife rescue group came to get it:

They took it to a wildlife rehabilitator, and a week later I received this from the rescue group folks:

After he's fully recovered, he'll be released back by my house to rejoin his family. 


Monday, August 1, 2022

How to Rescue an Injured Crow

Last week there was a young crow hanging out next door at my mother's home, which got stuck in a window well, and that was very exciting for everyone.  Well, mostly for me, as I was somehow tasked with extricating it, as it was too young to fly.  I made a ramp, the bird got out, and hopped away and out of sight.

Later, the same crow turned up in my front garden, and it was limping.  Somehow, it had become my problem once more.  So this time, I decided it was time to call the experts, as I know better than to try handling a wild, injured bird.  I got my car out of the garage, and encouraged the crow to hop inside the garage by waving a big stick at it, and then closed the garage door.  It's climate controlled in there, you see.  Then I called the wonderful Blue Mountain Wildflife nonprofit, which rescues all sorts of critters.  Two lovely people came within half an hour to pick up the injured crow.  Yay!

Inside the garage with the pan of water I provided

The Pros ("Crows can bite really hard," one told me.  He seemed to have firsthand experience.)

Success with the net!

Heavy gloves needed to pick up bird

They transported the bird to a local wildlife rehabilitator, and if it can be healed, then the crow will be returned to its family here in our neighborhood.  Whew.  

It's always something.

Otherwise, nothing much is going on here due to the annual excessive heat that we get every summer.  A week or two of 105-115 temps, which means walking the dogs at 7am, if at all, and spending the rest of the day inside with the AC going full blast.  

I did get some drawings done:

Temple in Kyoto (ink)

Colorful doorway (watercolor)

Village street in France (ink, watercolor, and gouache on toned paper)

Statues in a Japanese forest (ink, watercolor, and a bit of gold leaf)

And last but not least, an update on that needlepoint I'm doing of Aziraphale.  Here is the picture I used for the pattern (my own colored pencil drawing):

After two months of work, here is where I'm currently at:

Halfway, more or less!  A little over 30,000 stitches completed.  Now that the bottom half is done, it's time to work upward from the center, and give the poor angel a head!

That's all until next time (whenever that might be).
Hope you are all enjoying your summer (without 115 degree days!).

Monday, July 18, 2022

Blog Schedule

I'm going to stop posting here every week.  Instead, I'll wait until there's something worth posting -- maybe only putting something up every other week, or even once a month.  Just depends on whether I take a photo or three of something fun, or have enough new art to put up here.  

Whenever I do post, it will still always be on a Monday, so that's the only day anyone needs to check up. 

Just two drawings from this past week:

Chess pieces in ink and water-soluble brush pens on toned paper

Tree frog in watercolor

Hope you are enjoying your Summer out there!