Saturday, June 17, 2006

Life and death

This morning, there was a loud thud against the dining room window and out of the corner of my eye I saw a bird hit the window then fall. I went outside to see if it was ok and found this beautiful, tiny yellow-rumped warbler on the ground, conscious but not moving. I picked it up and placed it on my flat palm where it stayed blinking and panting, but still didn't move. I put it in the grass in the shade and kept my distance, doing some gardening,one eye watching it. Within 20 minutes it died. Unfortunate, but it provided me with an opportunity to sketch it. Such a tiny perfect bird.

On a farm, life and death are as natural as breathing. People who buy their meat from a supermarket or butcher are often oblivious to the origins of their food and would likely be rather squeamish to know. I used to be like that too, but now I have a healthy respect for both life and death.

I worked on 'duck in a bucket' to expand the sketch from yesterday. I decided to use some black Mi-Tientes pastel paper and dug out some old pastels that I have had for years to see what I could do with them. I forgot just how messy pastels can be, but the effect is lovely as I tried to capture the highlights on the duck against the darkness of the background.

Today 17 Chinese geese were moved from the barn to an enclosure on the edge of the woods. Boy, they are noisy! It was a beautiful warm sunny day and the first time they had been outside their pen in the barn since they were born, about 8 weeks ago. There was a lot of herding but they seem to have settled in now. Catching geese is not an easy proposition as they flap a lot and are quite strong. Not something I'd want to do every day.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Groundwork and lists

I rarely start what I call a 'proper' drawing without doing a preliminary sketch first. Now the sketch can be loose and have inaccuracies or it can be detailed and precise. I like to have some idea of how the final drawing will turn out and if I even like constructing it.

A drawing is like many things that are started and not completed just because they don't feel right.

Here is such a sketch of one of the Pekin ducks whose overexuberance got her into trouble - getting stuck in a bucket. I've had the reference for this image since last summer, but only nowo am getting around to considering it as a drawing or painting.

This weekend I am hosting the weekend drawing event at Wet Canvas so have provided a variety of images for people to choose and create art pieces. The duck in the bucket is one of them. Bear in mind that this is a rough sketch, and started more as a doodle on some lined paper. I'm trying to decide the medium for this piece. Perhaps black paper and pastel or derwent pencils.

I've also been working on more self portraits. I completed one yesterday and another today. Yesterdays was done in graphite and today's in Derwent Drawing Pencils. I love the look and feel of these but haven't had a lot of practice with them yet. They are fat pencils that blunt easily so I'm learning as I go. But I love the rich,natural tones of them and how smoothly they go onto the the paper.

Here's today's efforts.

Loretta at Pomegranatesandpaper has unique List Friday going. Today the theme is What's Missing? List six things that you have lost and never found - youth and virginity not allowed..:o)

Here are some of my losses.

1. A gold bracelet from a very dear friend. I felt like I was confessing a sin when I said it was missing.
2. Forty pounds sterling that my tiny daughter took out of my bag, 'played' with and couldn't remember where she put it.
3. $100 stolen from my car while I showed the girls their first blueberries on the bush in Newfoundland (do you see a trend happening here??)
4. Too many single earrings and socks to mention. In vain, I keep the twin in the hopes the other will magically appear one day.
5. Baby teeth. At least three that I swallowed inadvertently. I felt cheated at the time as I thought the Tooth Fairy would fly over me without a second thought. She still arrived anyway. :o)
6. Two cats, both within a week of each other. Guinness and Murphy, both named after stout beer. Wonderful five-toed cats that I owned for years. They were great hunters, bringing home anything from rabbits to crows. I think they were outsmarted by a fox.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Parenting skills

Being around animals a lot, I see many of the same behaviours in them, both good and bad, that mirror human parenting skills. Or do I just want to see them to try to understand their actions and find a common ground for comparison?

Technically, there is a base of instinctive emotion that over rides all else in most humans and animals. There will always be exceptions to the rule due to internal and external factors. The difference perhaps being in how animals abandon or kill the weak or injured while humans continue to preserve life no matter what the quality or danger to the individual.

My own parenting skills were at zero when my daughter was born. I knew nothing about babies, had never held one or even seen one close up for that matter. They may as well have handed me a puppy for all I knew about what to do with it. There was an instinctive nature to protect and care for, but it took quite awhile for love to develop. It was not a 'love at first sight' affair. I think I took her to baby clinics weekly just for confirmation that I was doing something right. I was young (22), I had no relatives and few friends nearby, having just moved to the area, and my husband left for work in Madagascar when she was a week old. I spent a lot of sleepless nights, not only to tend to a crying baby, but worrying about her and me.

But she did survive and turned out well as did her sister, despite unorthodox lifestyles and parenting skills that were hit or miss or led by Dr. Spock.

What has made me think of this is the birth of a baby making someone a grandmother (no, not me). The discussion was of the practical skills in raising a baby. To bath the infant daily or not; to put it to sleep on stomach or back; to have natural feeding times or schedule them (that's what really floored me...would you really wake a sleeping baby to feed it??) It seems the art of child raising goes in circles with myths and discoveries being passed around. Through it all children survive and thrive no matter how helpless we feel or what a terrible job we think we are doing.

Children are resiliant. So are parents. Just as well, huh?

My drawing over the last 24 hours has been simple line drawings of more animals, plus another self portrait (yep, I'm on a roll) Here are a couple of the drawings, one of the Muscovy ducks. They are so unique and strange looking. It makes you realize how they create these amazing science fiction characters. No imagination needed, just look around yourself at the interesting animals.

The second is a Belgian hare. A large, sturdy looking animal. Hares and rabbits are always appealing to me. Their softness yet they have a manevolent stare sometimes...

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Older is better sometimes

Its funny how I am pulled back to older things in life. Its not a premature reminiscence of days gone by I don't think, but more a feeling that things of the past are more substantial and real than what I am offered currently.

That applies to art too. Yes, there is some beautiful work being created daily but I only have to look at some of the master artists' work from the 15 or 16th century to realize just what talent they possessed and how they plied their trade in the face of much more adversity.

With that in mind, I would like to recreate a painting done some time ago. The Art Renewal Centre is a site that I browse frequently for inspiration. William Bouguereau is one of my favourite artists and the simplicity of figures in his work appeals to be greatly. The work that I have started of his is called La Soif - translated as The Thirst.

Here is the initial line drawing. Its 11 x 14 and I will try it in coloured pencil. Don't hold your breath for updates quite yet as time is a real challenge for me at this time of year.

Animals, greenhouse and life take precedence many times, but I will always make room for drawing, it soothes the soul and keeps me sane.

Another challenge is the self portrait marathon from Crackskull Bob's site. A self portrait a week between June 8 and July 8th. I have found self portraits to be revealing as you never really know anything or anyone until you try to recreate them on paper or canvas. Each self portrait that I've done looks different than the last. I tried my hand at yet another today and find that, yes, its another version of me. A new day, a new me. Interesting. Self portraits show the world who you are or who you think you are. They are a unique record of the passage of time. Here is today's version of me. And to prove a point about each drawing being diffent, here are a couple for comparison, all done within the last six months.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I have had three people in the last week tell me that I should be writing a children's book around some of my animal drawings (and no, they weren't relatives). The concept is an interesting one, but I know little about where to start or how to start or even if I should start.

I have been a little inspired by an article in this month's Artist's Magazine in which Geordie Millar's large-scale drawings of a female moose chronicle the animal's imagined responses to the gallery viewers. The responses of geese to any viewer?? I have enough drawing inspiration residing in the barn to last for years. The initial image that sparked the book idea was my adventures with Blizzard, the orphan gosling. Since then there have been plenty more goslings and chicks and geese to choose from along with rabbits and moose and foxes and coyotes and bears...the list goes on.

Drawing them would be a pleasure for me as animals are my favourite thing to draw. Creating a storyline around that would be secondary. Perhaps the illustrations would spawn the storyline.

That being said and supposing I were to accomplish this, then there is the question of having something published and printed. Never a cheap proposition or an easy one. I had a browse online and discovered several 'do it yourself' versions that will print and bind books for reasonable prices if I wanted to see myself in print. Lulu is the web's premier independent publishing marketplace for digital do-it-yourselfers. What is a lulu? Well it's not your grandmother's kitty, that's for sure. Ever hear the phrase "Boy, that's a real lulu"? Well, even if you haven't, we think of the word lulu as an old-fashioned term for a remarkable person, object or idea.

Or you can turn your blog into a book. Might be the perfect way to keep a record of your writing and images. Blogbinders is one that I came across.

I'll have to experiment with the book idea and see what evolves. And for tonight, a sketch of Kit, the remaining horse. She's big and goofy, but loveable and will mug you in a second if she thinks you have treats!

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Muses and imagination

While browsing through other blogs and comments I started thinking about muses and what they are and how they affect imagination and creativity. We often think of them as a person and in mythology they were - if you believe ancient Greek mythology muses were any of 9 daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne; protector of an art or science

Not having any mythical daughters of Zeus living at my house I turn to more mundane muses.

Books: I live for books and get lost in them almost as deeply as I can become immersed in drawing or painting. In my mind, I paint images while I read. Its another reason why I feel disappointed in most cases when I see the film version of a book, as it doesn't reflect MY images.
I recall an interesting task in creativity that involved books. Go to your bookshelf and with your eyes closed, pick a book. Still with eyes closed, open the book randomly and trace through the page, stopping your finger at any point. At that point, open your eyes and read the paragraph that your finger points to. The challenge is to illustrate that paragraph. The book can be anything from a cookbook to a novel, historic or fictional. If you happen to open to a page of graphics, simply choose again til you hit text. Its a great inspiration when you're stuck for drawing fodder or inspiration.

Animals: Animals never lose their appeal to me. They have endles behaviour patterns, shapes, sizes, colours and personalities. From simple sketches, to full blown portraits of great details, animals always inspire me to test my abilities. I have access to endless domestic and wild animals to observe, photograph and sketch. Each day brings a new animal and a new composition.

Solitude: I need to be alone to create. If someone is in the same room, looking over my shoulder I can't draw or write. I am social, but I hate company when I create. Its a necessity, not a luxury for me. I have created a studio in a spare room in the house and can lose all sense of time while there but people always come looking for me, wanting practical things done, like cooking supper or knowing where a sock is or did I have the last muffin (with just two people living in the house, why does anyone need to ask??)

Water: I need an expanse of water to sooth my soul and help me feel at peace. I am lucky that I live within minutes of the ocean, so I can take myself there when I need to hear the water lap or roar. Both extremes are equally soothing and inspiring. That, combined with the scent of salt air and the wind whipping my hair do something to make me feel alive and real. Some days I feel as if I am dead and puraly a figment of my imagination. Ocean waves help bring me back to life.

Music: But not always. My choice changes with my mood. One of my current favourites is Billie Holiday. What a Little Moonlight Can Do is perfect drawing music...then again any of her songs are.

People: I have had and do have supporters of my art in real life. It started many years ago with someone very special who nurtured my ability and ensured I was inspired and inspiring. Now that first muse is no longer there, but others replace him in varying degrees. Never quite the same and that's just as well, he was unique and made me unique under his shadow. Current muses are friends and acquaintances from varying backgrounds who nuture in different ways, but who all help me achieve what it is I want and sometimes even help me know what it is I want when I don't.

I had a drawing to post here, but Blogger doesn't want to cooperate - AGAIN! This is becoming a problem when every second day it won't post images. Its making me consider other options for hosting my blog that are more reliable.

Update: My apologies to Blogger. I think the upload problem was an issue with my browser Internet Explorer. I changed over to Firefox and its far quicker and uploaded my image this morning with no problem.

The drawing is one I did some time ago now. The dogs, desperate to want out. I can almost hear the whimpers and see them scratching under the gate.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Happiness is....

While searching for some art magazines from years ago, I found a photo of myself taken when I was about 13, late 1960's - the official confirmation photo I believe. I remember my mother taking me to have the photo done at probably one of the few professional photographers in town.

I remember having myhair set the night before and having to sleep with rollers in which I thought the worst indignity. Then the dress. I still remember the stiff organdy material and the even scratchier petticoat underneath. It was a one off dress for a one off occasion and that's about all I do remember of it. A rite of passage for the Anglican church.

For fun I drew the image of that photo. Done in a Canson sketchbook 8.5 x 5.5, mechanical pencil of assorted leads, ranging from hb to 2b.

I look at myself in it and see part of the past, part of the future. Thirty-nine years have passed since that moment was captured. So much has happened in thirty-nine years. And I had barely an inkling at 13 of how any of it would turn out.

I spent the afternoon wandering through garden centres looking for scented leaf geraniums and variegated leaf geraniums. I found both and will put them in pots. I wish I'd taken my camera and my sketchbook with me as I wandered. The colours and people and greenhouses would have made great compositions and sketching sites. Next time.

How do you make ducks and geese happy for $9.93? You buy them a paddling pool.

There is a pond on the property but it faces onto the road and I am wary of having the birds there as people do have a tendancy to think the world is theirs for the taking and I don't want them to end up on someone's dinner table or worse. So its the paddling pool for them. Yesterday the Pekins dived into a wheelbarrow liner filled with water and expected the same today. So off to the store to find one - or two or three. The sales guy kept giving me odd looks as I bought three paddling pools. He must have thought I had a lot of kids!

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