Saturday, July 22, 2006

Water babies & heirlooms

With geese wandering around loose, its a bit like having small dogs in terms of clean up after them. So every few days the driveway needs to be hosed down. The ducks LOVE this task and either stand in the spray or spend their time foraging noisily for uncovered bugs in the water that leaks into the grassy hollows.

Today, this Pekin stood like a little soldier under the spray from the hose, unflinching, enjoying the cooling shower. They are such beautiful ducks, so white and such little chatterboxes. They are so amusing to have around.

While shooing them out of the flower bed, I discovered the makings of a nest that one of the ducks had prepared. Last night when it was time for the geese to go into the barn, one female couldn't be found. Her mate, called and called to her but she was nowhere to be seen. She was finally discovered sitting on a nest of six eggs under the trees, tucked into an inaccessible nook and she wasn't going to be moved. About 10 o'clock last night she appeared under the living room window, calling loudly and wanting to go in. Obviously, the good idea in the early evening sun turned into something not so appealing later at night with darkness and strange sounds spooking her. Today, she abandoned the nest.

There are some heirloom tomatoes growing in the greenhouse called Green Zebra. When ripe they will be a golden colour with deep green stripes. It is interesting to grow the old varieties of vegetables. They are hardier and less prone to disease and the problems that new hybrid vegetables have. I also like the history behind them, knowing that some varieties stretch back over hundreds of years in their ancestry and that I am continuing to keep their legacy alive.

This sketch is of some of the unripe green zebras growing still. I look forward to tasting them soon.

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Friday, July 21, 2006


There is a theory that art should have meaning and should say something to the viewer. It should represent the artist's thoughts and emotions and they should translate into colour, light and shape. And sometimes it does do that, but more often than not, an image is simply that. It is a play of light and shadow that captures the artist's imagination or interest or it is a subject that becomes interesting once the drawing or painting process begins and it moves forward to completion. However, the Pareto Principle applies in most cases of art and 80% of art ends up relgated to the back of a storage drawer or is trashed.

In the last week, I have been the exception to Pareto's Principle and most things that I have produced I have liked. Not liked to the extent that I would put them up for sale or frame them all, but like to the extent that I don't want to hide them from others view or to tear them into a thousand pieces in frustration.

One bad drawing or painting by the artist's own standards can be soul destroying and even stifle creativity. Art and fear raise their heads again and seed the artist with self doubt of ability, self esteem and the future.

I believe that having spent the last two weeks sketching from life has helped my drawing ability and from there my confidence to put down strokes and make decisions on colour and form that were a bit rusty previously. Either that or its simply luck. I preer to believe the former scientific priniciple.

I started a watercolour of my husband the other night. He never understands the art process or why I do it and critiques what he doesn't understand. I'm about half way through this painting and have more layers to add to deepen tone and bring it to life. Its at the point where it will become a lot better or I will screw it up entirely. I'm building my portfolio of portrats so that I can start marketing them and look for some commissions.

I wandered in the greenhouse and field this morning, taking some photos of the growth stages of various vegetables. Here is what I call the 'salad bar'. There are about 8 varieties of lettuces and greens growing. I go out each day and cut a few for use in salads and top it up with cucumbers and tomotoes from the greenhouse as well as some fresh basil leaves that is growing especially well this year. They are grown in cut down chicken crates and put in a fenced in area away from marauding geese,ducks, rabbits and horses!

There will also be a bumper crop of grapes by the look of the bunches swelling in size now. There are white seedless grapes for eating and a lovely purple Pinot Noir grape for wine making. They too have really spread on both ends of the greenhouse and I anticipate in excess of 60lbs of fruit + from each of the three vines this year.

Everything is grown organically which is harder work but pays off in the end with taste and quality.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Multicoloured white

Definition from "White is a color, (more accurately it contains all the colors of the visible spectrum and is sometimes described as an achromatic color—black is the absence of color) that has high brightness but zero hue. The impression of white light can be created by mixing (via a process called "additive mixing") appropriate intensities of the primary color spectrum: red, green and blue."

There is a coloured pencil project available in Wet Canvas. The project is about "painting white without using grays". I am in the process of deciding on a reference to use for this project. I enjoyed coloured pencils and learned a lot in Cindy's class last winter. I've had a little break from cp's and its about time I got back into them again. They are time consuming to build the colours, but the time is well worth spending for the end result. Here is one of the references that I am considering using for this project. Its an image of my daughter and me, sitting on the patio in very strong light. I'm not sure if the image is 'white' enough. I need the image to say 'white' immediately. The other option of a flower image may be more suitable. But if there's one thing I hate drawing or painting, its flowers. I don't know why, but they never appeal to me. Yes, they look beautiful, but the thought of drawing them makes my creative side shut down entirely.

I have started on the second scavenger hunt, as the first finished with a clear winner. It wasn't me. I'm way to slow to even be in the running these days. But I enjoy the process and drawing from life forces me to observe closely those simple day to day items that I would often overlook in favour of something more exotic. Whoever thought I'd enjoy drawing the mess on the kitchen counter after supper!

Here are a couple of the drawings completed so far, including the kitchen counter tonight which I did in pen and ink in my Moleskine. I'm stingy using the Moleskine as I've nearly filled it. I have ordered another. Its crazy, I can never get them in Canada, so this one is coming from California. Borderless shopping. Whatever works. Other sketches here include my keys that I lug around daily like the jailor, and my nose. Its quite disconcerting to draw a nose that's disembodied.

The kitchen scene was done in my Moleskine sketchbook with pen and ink, and no underdrawing in pencil. The elipse on the bowl isn't wonky, its an eggshaped bowl (and weighs a ton!).

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Life cycles

The little chick that I nestled in my hand 8 weeks ago is now a large bird and ready tomorrow to travel with its pen mates to King's, the processor. When we raised the first batch of broilers a few years ago, I treated them more as pets. I talked to them, I let them out of their pens to play each day and I felt horrible when they went to the processor. I managed to cook the chickens but couldn't eat them. My memories of them were too emotional. But I got past that point and came to terms with their role in life and how to deal with it.

I have to admit that I still am not crazy about the thought of them going off and I do go in with them the night before and tell them I'm sorry (yes, I know, I'm a wuss). They come back, looking like supermarket chickens and I know they have had good lives and were treated well, fed well, and humanely killed. I can't offer them more than that in this life cycle.

I took this photo of the last group of chickens loaded into crates on their way to the processor. They have space, light, air and are calm and relaxed. I believe if the public knew the facts behind their average chicken dinner produced on a large commercial chicken rearing facility, they may reconsider who they buy them from. And the same applies to eggs. But I won't go into my rant about animal rights and humane treatment. If you want that argument, email me.

Pastel is not something that I'm good at drawing with. I see artists who produce amazing pieces with it and I can only wonder at the process and muddle along with childlike colours of my own. I loved the colours in this piece - the blues and yellows speak of summer. Unfortunately, the photo of the piece didn't come out well and I haven't done a scan of it yet.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Birds, birds, birds

I have missed my Sunday update of the goslings progress into the world. They are about 6 weeks old now and nearly half the size of the adults. Here is the first image of them taken in the barn just after hatching. And again at 2.5 weeks old. Here is last week's image of them. Their feathers are just starting to come in and they look like gangly teenagers, growing into their bodies. The funny thing is that you expect them to have the voice of an adult almost as they are so large. Instead, they have the same little baby peeping voices that they did as hatchlings. It makes me laugh each time I hear them. The photo was taken on Sunday, I just haven't had time to get it uploaded til today. Its been one of those weeks.

Here they are striding across the yard with Lucy, their mother. The goslings don't have names as of yet, but should. They are very similar in looks, one being just a little more yellow than the other. Its near impossible for me to tell the sex of them just by looking at them at this stage. That usually happens as they get older and the male geese are a little larger with deeper voices than the females and in the case of this breed, Chinese brown geese, by the knob on their head as they get older.

Four of the stock geese were sold and travelled to King's Point in Western Newfoundland. It was a six hour drive to transport them there, but the man who bought them did telephone and report that they made the journey unscathed, if not a little pissed off at the indignity of being in a crate for so long.

He asked if we wanted four peachicks. I haven't had any experience with peacocks personally, but remember people that I knew in England having them wandering estates for show. They are magnificent birds - at least the males - but they are also very noisy with piercing calls. Just as well we don't have neighbours. I'm still mulling over whether I want peachicks or not.

One of the reference images for the All Media Art Event was a peacock. I love the brilliant turquoise irridescence of the feathers and the elegance of the bird, so I had to paint it. Watercolour in my sketchbook.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Water & rocks

"If you want to know how much I love you, count the waves."

Waves are endless and constant. They ebb and flow no matter what the weather or the season. Sometimes they are hidden under ice or blurred with fog or snow, but they are always present. They are timeless and ancient, mysterious and beautiful.

Living on an island and having the ocean within sight is something I am never really accustomed to, even though I live near the ocean and have it within my sight as I drive to work, when I drive home, and throughout the day when I go about town on business. It is always there in some form, perhaps hidden by everyday life, but always there, moving, swaying to an age old dance. Each time I see the expanse of water stretching into the horizon, I am in awe of its beauty, strength and power. And I am drawn to it, fascinated and inspired by it.

Yesterday, I wandered on Middle Cove beach and without thinking bent to find stones ground smooth by the waves over time and coaxed to reveal their secrets of lines and colour. Wet and cool in my hand, they glistened and felt as if they were alive and telling their story of deep cold water, small fish, giant whales and storms. Those pebbles became a drawing, partially to complete a promised task, partially because there was no choice but to capture them on paper.

The ocean made me do it.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Who am I?

Since the Renaissance, artists have used self-portraits to answer the basic question, Who am I? A mirror or a photograph can tell a person what he or she looks like, but that outer image rarely reflects the whole self. Self-portraiture asks artists to think carefully about personality, character, mood, and physical appearance in order to make decisions about how to represent themselves

Here are some practical reasons why artists make self-portraits:

They get a model who is always available and works for free.
Self-portraits are a good way for artists to practice representing different expressions and moods.
Self-portraits advertise an artist's skill. A potential customer can compare the image in the self-portrait to the actual person and decide on the spot to hire the artist—or not!
Self-portraits live on. They preserve memories and let the artist leave his or her image behind—a way of fulfilling the human quest for immortality.

The National Portrait Gallery had a wonderful exhibition this year, this major exhibition brings together a painted self-portrait by 56 of the world's greatest artists from 1433 right up to the present day, including 14 by women painters. Works by artists renowned for their self-portraits such as Rembrandt, van Gogh, Kahlo and Bacon will be included alongside works by less well-known artists such as Pieter van Laer, Johannes Gumpp and Hans Thoma, whose self-portraits are of exceptional quality and interest. The international range of artists represented includes Carracci, Velázquez, Hogarth, Kauffmann, Courbet, Warhol, Hopper, and Freud.

The Self-Portraits of Albrecht Dürer

Rembrandt's Self Portraits The debate over why Rembrandt made nearly ninety self-portraits continues, but the first exhibition devoted to these works reveals a profound forty-year exploration of what it is to be human.

The portrait above is my own self portrait, done for a challenge in a thread in Wet Canvas. I have done a few sp's in the last couple of months and each one is unique and different. Each one isi a learning experience and a legacy for the future.

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