Saturday, September 09, 2006


There are days when I do make progress, despite interruptions and other areas of life that take my attention. Today I made a concerted effort to add some more layers to the drawing of the golden retriever. Its starting to take shape now so I will start sculpting the shapes now, adding mid and dark tones. I put down some colour in the background but I'm not pleased with it so far. And now I wish I hadn't added any at all, but its too late to go back, so I have to continue on with it. I'm sure it will improve with more layers (I hope).

Today I wandered around the farm, picking more tomatoes from the greenhouse and some sugar peas from the vegetable bed to add to tonight's supper. There are still lots of grapes despite a number of people arriving for a 'pick your own' adventure. The Pinot Noir grapes have some colour now too. They're a beautiful blue with that wonderful dusty bloom that dark fruit has. They're more a painting in the making than something to be picked and eaten.

Jalapenos are coming thick and fast too, and will be dried or frozen. I'll make a number of them into 'poppers'. I split them just enough to take out the seeds, add a piece of sharp cheese to the middle, then wrap the pepper in bacon and bake in the oven. They're so good. Too good...

Cayenne peppers are growing well too but show no signs of turning red yet. Next month perhaps they'll ripen as will the jalapenos if I leave them on the plants that long. Its rather nice to have some red jalapenos as well as the more common green ones. They're a little hotter when they're red I think and the colour is just beautiful.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Animal portrait

I am overdue adding more animals to my portfolio so I've made a start on a dog portrait. This will be a golden retriever and as always I start with the eyes and nose as they tend to be the focal points of a portrait. While the rest is very important and pulls the image together, the eyes still draw the viewer in.

This is just the start and the eyes and nose still need a fair bit of work, but the 'bones' are there. This drawing is 9 x 12 on Bristol Vellum using Prismacolor pencils. I love seeing the image appear out of the white paper, its always magical.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Buddy and BD are two male Muscovy ducks that are the last of 8 that were the original ducks that were bought. 4 males and 4 females. In the first year of their life in early December they were attacked one night by coyotes who killed one of the males and all the females. It broke my heart at the time and I still dislike coyotes. I know they were doing what coyotes do, but why my ducks??!

By the summer, the 3 remaining males were not getting on too well so one was sold to be companion to a Toulouse goose and that worked out fine. The remaining two stayed here and are inseperable. They lounge around and are large and slow moving, preferring to stay in the shade and snooze than wander around like all the other ducks.

Muscovies don't quack. The males give a sort of soft hiss that sounds rather like a large dog panting. To those who don't know them, it sounds agressive but they are far from that. When I come home, they see me and start hissing and wagging their tails like little dogs. Its so funny to see.

I noticed the other day that Buddy has become rather pale around his eyes. These ducks have strange growths around their eyes and beak called caruncles which are usually bright red. After a little research it turns out that these ducks are prone to anemia!

Each evening Kit, the horse, is fed sweet feed which consists of oats and grains and corn mixed with molasses and the other birds have access to scratch mix, a similar concoction without the molasses. The ducks come waddling over to claim their fair share and stuff themselves with it given half a chance. Unfortunately it isn't high in protein, unlike the 18% feed which they had been eating previously.

Also Buddy had a great time eating mice (yes, I know ewwwwwwww) but the barn was full of them and he was doing us all a favour. But the mouse population got out of hand and poisoned bait had to be used to control it (there were hundreds, literally, of mice caught) so the ducks mouse entrees were no more. It seems the lack of protein in his diet caused the anemia. The solution? Tinned dog food. So now, without a dog, I'm off to buy dog food then ensure the happy ducks get back to their rosy glow of health once more!

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006


My mind is at a standstill tonight. No, that's a lie, its not. Its whirling with thoughts and niggling little worries and a bit of frustration combined as I consider all I have to do in the coming weeks. I am hiring an assistant. After working alone for so long, its a daunting proposition. I need someone to assist but I don't enjoy the prospect of training someone. And the adjustment of considering workloads for another person fills me with a little dread as well. But I'll manage. I may lose a little more sleep, but I'll manage. Then there is the drawing course I'll be starting in 9 days. I am creating my lesson plans now and it will go ahead but with less people than I originally anticipated.

Meanwhile I'm having a drawing slump. Yes, I draw but it looks more like wild monkeys createad it. I've started and dumped a number of drawings. I need something to inspire me. I think I will start another negative space drawing. WHile fiddly to create, it was also satisfying to oomplete. Also another animal image is calling me and I want to work in colour. I seem to have played with sketches and bits of watercolour and ink for too long. I want a large piece of paper and colour. Tomorrow...

Meanwhile, tea anyone??

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Constable and turkeys

I sketched this cottage during the weekend in watercolour. It is Willy Lott's Cottage near Flatford in Suffolk and is the same cottage that was painted in John Constable's famous painting "The Haywain" in 1821. Flatford Mill was owned by Constable's father and the house on the left side belonged to a neighbour, Willy Lott (a tenant farmer), who was said to have been born in the house and never to have left it for more than four days in his lifetime. Willy Lott's house has survived to this day practically unaltered, but none of the original trees in the painting exist today. The water level is also higher as that area of East Anglia has sunk into the sea by 30cm since Constable's time.

Until a few years ago I had never seen a live turkey except on television or in a photo. When I visited the Liens to purchse my first chickens, I met their turkey. It was a huge tom - a bronze turkey and it filled the doorway of the barn. I've never seen such a large bird before. It wasn't agressive, but it sure was big.

Since then there have been many turkeys in the barn. And so far all have been white turkeys. They are rather interesting creatures and very curious, investigating everything and everyone who enters their pen. They do also have an agressive streak like most birds and if there is an injured bird or any sign of blood they keep attacking. This is what happened to one of the older turkeys. Some pin feathers were pulled in its wing and the bleeding attracted more attention, so it was removed from the pen to provide the bird time to heal before being returned. As a result, the turkey wanders around the barn and out into the yard, exploring its new found world. It makes funny little barking noises, rather like that of a seal or small dog, not the gobble gobble, that people associate with turkeys. Like most animals, their voices change with age and it is 6 months or so before they have their adult voices.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sunday - plein air

I've become so used to sketching lately, its as if I've forgotten about other mediums. And today was no different when I took my sketchbook with me to Torbay beach. The tropical depression, Ernesto, is causing large sea swells here so while I sketched a bridge over the river leading the the ocean, I could hear the surf breaking on the rocks behind me and feel the occasional bit of spray from the waves at my back. The river flows from the hills in Torbay down over the rocks to meet the sea. Wild ducks, who are now almost tame, enjoy the shallow, fast moving water and linger at the edges, occasionally squabbling amongst themselves.

I decided that this scene needed an injection of colour. The day was bright and sunny and warm. The light was sparkling on the water and the greens of the valley constrasted with the subdued colours of the bridge and stones. I used coloured pencil for this sketch, but at the scene, the drawing was done with my mechanical pencil in an ordinary Canson sketchbook.

I am amazed how I can lose myself even in public once I start working on a drawing. I become absorbed and nothing distracts me. Well something did distract, a loose dog whose big wet nose jerked me back to reality with a chuckle.

I moved on later to Quidi Vidi Lake in downtown St. John's. I sat in the sun, fighting wasps and finally moved to some large stone slabs laid around a statue to have some peace. The stones are huge boulders, dressed no doubt to be flat on top and are arranged in arcs surrounding The Rower. I sat and sketched with rapidograph pen til I was approached by a woman who was admiring my sketch. She was Russian and in broken English told me that she too drew and painted. It was a lovely encounter and I enjoyed meeting her. I watched her and her young family take photos then move on to feed the ducks on the lake.

Then home again. I had spent the morning making paper. A messy business that needed me to be outdoors to do it. While waiting for some paper to dry I sat by the backdoor and started sketching the view for a Scavenger Hunt list item. I felt like Snow White, as every animal decided to come visit me, take a sample of the slurry that I was making the paper from and try to walk on the drying paper. Ducks and chickens invaded my space but were still amusing and I included some of them in the sketch. The view from the backdoor. Its a rather unusual view compared to the average home where the fence acts as the boundary. This fence was created to keep the old dog contained so he wouldn't come to harm. The dog is now gone but the fence remains, like a little piece of security in a huge 15 acre landscape. Its now more an oasis and sanctuary for timid creatures escaping the wild world.

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