gardening

Happy Summer Solstice!

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Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
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Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

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Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

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I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
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Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
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Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

–Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

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A Few New Works

I’m in the midst of my teaching credential program and don’t get a lot of chances to post new work when I have it…but I have some! And I’ve made time for a post.

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This one was started over our last trip to the East Coast to visit Grammy and Grampa, and it shows what it’s like to be at G&G’s house! So many animals and birds to watch and places to explore and flowers to pick!

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And here’s one of a sailboat, with a sperm whale and giant squid…I see more sea scenes in the future ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m going to be working on a few for the 2019 holiday card selection for Collage this whole weekend! While I’m learning a lot in the program, I can’t wait to be finished so I can work on art and writing more often…

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Snowshoes and Chickens

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Finished one I started a while back, inspired by a trip to Donner Lake near Tahoe. The area has a gruesome history, but it sure is beautiful. And scary, too–my daughter did not want to go on the trails behind the cabin we stayed at. Just a little too close to complete remoteness for her, I think.

I just finished reading an essay in Wendell Berry’s collection Home Economics about this very subject: it’s natural to feel wary and apprehensive about pristine nature, even while being in rapturous awe of it at the same time.

He believes we feel most comfortable living with nature, not in it, and I have to agree. He mentions the ecological phenomenon ofย  “edge effect.” I live on those special margins that seem to bring out and nourish the health of the wildlife in the area–my garden and little orchard and “developed” land abut a big track of oak forest that covers the side of the canyon we live atop. I’ve seen more birds, animals, insects, etc. than I ever have immersed deep in the woods (fox, moles, squirrels, red-shouldered hawks, turkey vultures, crows, wild pigs, deer, swallowtails, western jays, finches, doves, owls, praying mantises, skinks, fence lizards, garter snakes, to name some).

That being said, Berry also talks about how we “need” wilderness, as much as a physical reality as an idea in our collective mind. I, for one, definitely feel that necessity to know that there are still wild, scary places out there, with creatures that could, in fact, kill us.

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Also finished another drawing, inspired by my girls feeding the chickens. They love to dig for worms in the compost pile and feed them to the chicks!

And I’ve been featured on the Doodlewash watercolor blog and community…thank you so much!

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Steppe Horse Revisited

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Drawing and drawing colored in with Photoshop of Steppe Horse. The horse was inspired by the Land of the Midnight Sun painting by Eyvind Earle, and this has always been one of my favorite drawings I’ve done. Not just because of the subject matter (though I do really love horses and the steppes), but because I feel like my style really came into its own with this one. I always knew I would revisit it in watercolor, and I’m excited to be working on that piece now.

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I like stylizing horses this way because I think it compliments the expression of their movements and personalities. It’s easy to focus on line when depicting horses because, for me, that’s really what makes a horse a horse. I like making them a little stockier (like Mongol and Icelandic horses) too because I find that shape more aesthetically pleasing.

I’ve been collecting images of the Mongolian Steppes with mountains and hills in the background, but I need to do a little more research to find some steppe plants I’d like to depict in the painting…I feel really good about this one ๐Ÿ™‚

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New Works and New Domain Name!

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Finished a new painting for my sister-in-law’s engagement party invitation! Also works for Doodlewash’s May Challenge and sailboat prompt! Ocean/bay/sailboat themed! I completely winged this one, and I like how it turned out–I especially like the minimalist pelican and fish in there. And I love painting boats; I think it’s because of the lines–sleek and following the wind, beautifully shaped. The same reason I love drawing and painting horses. Here’s one I’m working on in acrylic, for a change:

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This is just the underpainting, plus a few layers here and there, but I really like the way it’s going. The plan is to do two more horse-themed acrylics and hang them up in the house somewhere. Also working on a little pencil drawing inspired by our chickens! Need to blacken some of the chickens, add some more detail to the ground and color in Photoshop.

And I finally got a personal domain name!! Instead of my name, which is hard to spell for some people on hearing it, I decided to go with wildcountryart.com–using some of the descriptor words in my blog subheading ๐Ÿ™‚

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Work and Leisure…

…pretty much the same thing for me ๐Ÿ™‚

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Working on a snowshoer. This one is inspired by Eyvind Earle, one of my absolute favorite artists. Our family recently went to Truckee around Donner Lake, and we did a bit of cross-country skiing. I hadn’t been skiing in 20 years, so I fell a lot in the beginning…but by the end, I had the hang of it!

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Don’t my kids look thrilled?

Also went hiking in Sunol, probably my favorite nearby park. And lucky for us, the Wildflower Festival was going on, so we brought home a mason bee house, some seed bombs, and some pressed flower bookmarks. I have a lot of pictures, a few of which I’m going to post later when they get uploaded, and many of these pictures are going to be interpreted into paintings. I’ve found that I really enjoy painting landscapes in the style I’ve developed.

I tend to get distracted by things and have been doing a lot of late night reading recently instead of more painting (which I want to do). I’m finishing up Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, after just reading Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. I’m also getting into David Orr’s Earth in Mind…and I have to say, all of these books, while having Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society, Merchants of Doubt, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Manufacturing Consent, and The Overspent American under my belt to name just a few, are not making me feel too optimistic about the future. But, these books are also getting me pretty fired up about teaching, and I hope after completing my credential program I’ll land an Environmental Science job.

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Paradise Country Progress Pics

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A work that has been picked up again and again over the past few weeks and finally finished today! I always start with a rough picture in mind, but I never sketch it out. The foreground and focal points are the first to be paint-sketched in.

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Next comes the broad strokes and general shapes of the middle ground. I gradually build on these, adding more and more detail. I always take a step back and look at the painting after each layer I do.

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More detail and more interesting shapes are added. I wanted to add one deciduous tree for a load of OCD-like detail, just because it’s like therapy for me–when I can get lost for a few hours. I was going to put in a windmill to the right of the house, but the tree overtook the space a bit.

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Next I add the tree-topped mountains in the back, along with the night sky. The darker value of the sky really sets of the shapes set against it.

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And…finish up with the details of the details: chicken feather colors and patterns, greenish-gray rock foreground and middle ground, ground cover next to the house, and all the little details of the house itself (which I LOVE). AND I add the stars: first I just dot the already-colored sky with plain water, let it dry and bleed to make a very shimmery, translucent area. Then, I dot some of those spots with white acrylic, to really make a glowing effect.

I’ve really been rediscovering the differences between liquid watercolors, like Dr. Ph Martin’s, and tube watercolors, like Grumbacher or Daniel Smith or Da Vinci. Also, the quality of watercolor PAPER really makes a difference too!