I’ve been spending a little time on oil pastels, and I am so pleased with how the one above turned out. I’m using a Sennelier oil pastel set. They blend beautifully, and there’s something nice about just being able to grab them and get to work on the couch without water and brushes. I did a little quartet of pieces below. I am anxious to do some more painting for sure, especially with the oil pastels. I like the soft pastels, but I haven’t figured out how to blend them without rubbing a hole in my finger tip. There seems to never be enough time to do everything I’d like to do.
Our garden is reaching the end. We have some cherry tomatoes that I’m not sure will ripen. And we’ve had these monstrous cucumbers.
Honestly I don’t even like cucumbers. They are slimy. But I did make three jars of refrigerator pickles and I think they turned out ok. It won’t be long before I start cleaning up the gardens. Some of the asters are still in bloom, but everything else is starting to look kind of dead. The temperatures have been in the 70s during the day and it’s been sunny and lovely out. It seems hard to believe that it’s nearly October already.
I’m done with Amazon. Their refusal to pay corporate taxes, the way they treat their staff members, and the horror that is Amazon Prime delivery services has finally ended it for me. So for me, it’s no more amazon. I’ll be paying more to place orders at independent stores and will be supporting hopefully the USPS (even UPS and FedEx are better than Amazon Prime deliveries). Today I ordered a book from The Book Beat in Oak Park, Michigan. Last week I ordered two from Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately we don’t have any great independent art supply stores around here, so I usually order from Blick. My favorite peanut butter is cheaper on Amazon, but I ordered directly from the company. And don’t even get me started on Etsy:
Anyhow, in July please consider shopping local or supporting independent sellers online. It can really make a difference in their lives! Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite local or online independent retailer.
It’s been raining a crap ton (over four inches in the past week). Everything is wet, inside and outside the house. Ants have moved into my office. But at least we haven’t had to water? Consumer’s Energy gouged electric rates daily from 2:00 – 7:00pm. That’s not an exaggeration. It was literally a 50 percent increase. When it rains forever, it’s pretty humid. And the only way to beat it back is using air conditioning. Which is now much more expensive. At least it’s not as hot as it is in the west right now.
I did start the summer reads with Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time. It’s pretty good so far. Lots going on this week, and at this point I’m not sure how everything is going to shake out. In the meanwhile, try to breathe deep and appreciate the little things.
The painting of Star for the Pet Portrait FUNdraiser for the Humane Society is done. Or, at least as done as it’s going to get. It’s framed, too, which should help. I hope the owner is pleased with it. This is painting #42 in gouache, and the first summer painting completed. I enjoyed working on it. As I’ve been doing donation letters at work, I’ve had YouTube painting videos on in the background. For whatever reason, I decided maybe I should try watercolor as well.
So here’s painting #43, my first attempt at watercolor. The sky is good, I think. The rest still needs work. It’s an interesting medium and feels a bit more loose than either gouache or acrylic. I think maybe it also is more of a celebration of color over line?
We had more rain and storms last weekend, but fortunately no power loss or damage. We’re due in for rain every day this week, which will give me back time spent watering. I hate to think of the weeds once the sun comes out again! In Portland temperatures are nearing 110 degrees. Once again, the west is so dry. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the wildfires start. Our arugula is pretty much shot. No green beans or tomatoes yet. The flowers look pretty good though.
News is starting to really come up about the danger of the COVID Delta variant. Michigan is now completely open and I doubt very much if it will close again, no matter the numbers or deaths. Right now we are planning in-person events for the shelter in the fall. Hard to know what that will actually look like. I’ve been working on a variant of the Whole 30 diet plan to get rid of inflammation. It might be starting to work? Giving up sugar is a killer, though. Worse than bread, pasta, salt, or alcohol.
It seems I am working on a lot of things and not getting a ton accomplished these days. I have found May to be a strange month. The weather was either much too hot (90 degrees!) or much too cold (frost predicted for Memorial Weekend!). I came down with a bad case of hives of unknown origin and have been on a course of steriods that initially had me feeling AMAZING but now has me feeling the sickest I’ve been in a very long time, both mentally and physically. I am hoping June turns out better all around.
I did finish another baby blanket. This one is for a girl; the nursery theme is pink, blue and gold dinosaurs. The blanket is Bernat Softee Baby in navy and pink, hdc waffle stick with an L hook. I think it turned out ok. Now I’m working on what I hope will be the final baby blanket for a long time. It’s again in Bernat Softee Baby, but in navy, light blue and gray stripes. I’ve switched from British mysteries on Britbox to British gardening shows in an effort to relax and de-stress. I wish to be as zen as Monty Don’s dogs.
Mom and I did the greenhouses and the cemeteries. Mt. Hope did manage to raise Jeanette’s and Alberta’s stones. What a difference! I was very pleased to see them. I have planted the vegetable garden and it’s coming along well. I put in six new perennials in the monarch garden at home, plus all the annuals. It will be a pain to have to cover them for frost this weekend. We’ve had almost no rain at all. Bob and I planted 30 pines and dogwood trees at the shelter at work. You can see a video of my garden on my YouTube channel here.
Mom and I took an online course on Udemy from Nick Stewart on painting with fountain pen ink. I haven’t had enough time to really get into it. I love the idea and I love the way his look, but so far I’m not having much luck. Maybe I’ll have more time over the holiday weekend?
We are doing a FUNdraiser at work with pet portraits in June. People will pay $20 and submit a photo of their pet. In return, an “artist” will create the pet in drawing, painting, fiber art, etc. The original image and the artistic image will be posted up online and people will vote for the best representation. The artist could win a $50 gift card. The person who made the donation will receive the original artwork in the mail. Most of them will be done by Board members and volunteers, so they won’t be professional. Some of them might look like the work of a toddler. But it’s all to raise money for the shelter pets. I did this quick study (less than an hour) in gouache to show what could be expected. This is technically painting #41, since I’m not counting the few postcards I did for National Postcard Week. This isn’t really a finished work, but it is my first attempt at an animal.
As we approach the end of April, we can enjoy weather and hobbies. Or maybe not? Painting #39, crochet and unfortunately snow this late in April. I don’t have in my notes snow after April 9 since 2007, so this year is a bit unusual. It is also snowing where my friend Beverly is, in Kentucky. My thoughts are with her and her family.
Latest gouache painting #39, Twin Palms Court. Need to work on letter painting for sure. I think the brighter colors up front and more faded in the back is helping to show more depth of focus, as suggested to me on a recent Reddit inquiry. The palm tree on the near left might look more like grass, though the ones in the back are a bit better. The best bit is the pole for the sign I think. I’m working on another pink motel now. Perhaps pink motel is the new theme? I’d like to work on something a bit more abstract, but how does one do that and still get the perspective correct without using a ruler? And once you pull out the ruler, it seems not as abstract. Suggestions?
It’s cold. How cold? Cold enough to snow yesterday and ice up the car this morning. The sun is out and the temperature is supposed to reach 45 so I would guess the snow will be gone this evening, but it’s still supposed to be cold tomorrow. And maybe 80 degrees by Tuesday again. I’m picking up trees from the Calhoun Conservation District tomorrow for planting on Friday. It’s possible I selected too many trees since they were so inexpensive and I felt I was helping a good cause.
Put the hummingbird and oriole jelly feeders up last weekend. This next weekend I’ll be planting radish and arugula seeds. This time of year always goes so fast!
I’m crocheting another baby blanket. It’s Bernat Baby Softee yarn in pink and navy. It’s a HDC waffle stitch on an L sized hook, so it’s super soft and drape-y. The yarn is more likely to split, so you have to keep one eye on it with the other on Rebus on Britbox. After this (weaving in the ends will take forever), it’s back to the shawl and more blankets for the cat room. Staff members are loving the different colors.
The average temperature for this upcoming week should be around 47/25 so it looks like we’ll be having nicer weather than what we deserve (or should have). The maple in our backyard popped over the weekend. I’d expect with these upcoming temperatures, we’ll be seeing more signs of spring shortly. I need to get out on the Bark Park trails and see how the pussy willows are coming along. Friday is the first day of spring, and we’re mid-month now. I really need to get my bike out. I’ve done so little exercise this winter I totally expect to not be able to even get in ten miles.
This little image didn’t come out very well. It’s actually not a bad impression of the reference image, but it’s still not great. Still, in the interest of posting successes and failures, here’s painting #35, in gouache on watercolor paper. I have so many reference photos, but this weekend I just couldn’t get enthused about painting any of them. Maybe it had more to do with motivation and mood than potential images. I did manage to play the recorder each day, so at least I have that going for me.
This week is short, but full of dreadful meetings. Planning on doing continued creek cleanup at Mom’s house this Friday, and hopefully this time I won’t fall in the water. Last time I was in the water, but got stuck in the mud and fell over backwards. Then, as I laid there on my back, my hip waders filled with water. I wound up being wet and muddy from toe to neck. I’ll bring an extra pair of pants on Friday just in case.
Ok, I’m fairly pleased with this one, painting #34. I think the tree on the right could use a little more work, but overall, not bad. The reference image was from a Smithsonian magazine, and it’s done in gouache on watercolor paper.
It’s warmer today and tomorrow, but I don’t want to enjoy it because the next few weeks will be back to cold. Close to average for this time of March, but still. I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to spring, as I don’t like people being outdoors making noise. I do however prefer to not be cold. My lungs seem to enjoy warm, moist air. The opposite of Michigan six months out of the year. I should have gotten my bike out for today. I’m not much motivated to do anything except play the recorder. I am motivated to do that. I’ve been also playing a bit of Beat Saber on the Oculus Quest 2. And watching British mysteries in the evenings while I crochet blankets for the cat room at the shelter.
You may be asking yourself…what? The recorder? If you are a certain age and went to school in Michigan, there’s a good chance you were forced to play the recorder in elementary school. And 30 kids playing the recorder at one time is just as horrific as it sounds. Who knows why we did it. I barely remember. But I recently came upon a professional recorder player on youtube and it really is a lovely sounding instrument. As recorders are hella cheap (for the kind you can learn on, not professional quality of course), I picked one up and decided to learn to play it. And it’s really quite nice. I don’t recall picking up another instrument so quickly. Also, whereas with my other instruments I’ll get tired of playing after awhile…aching neck, sore mouth, etc. there is none of that with the recorder. If only my experience in elementary school had been better, maybe I too would be a professional recorder player now. Here’s a nice little bit of recorder playing for reference:
Painting #31 is an acrylic study of a photo I took some time back. It could use a little more work, but I will likely leave it as is. I’m doing an online class on painting nocturnes now, which is interesting, but I’m having some trouble finding reference photos I like. Am I improving? Who knows. But the time spent painting is time not spent fretting about stressful or unhappy things. It’s impossible to paint and mentally deal with anything else other than paint, brush, and paper. I’ll take it.
The weather is endless gray days and snow. We’ll have a few minutes of sun here and there, and thankfully it’s not been bitterly cold, but I’m feeling the strain just the same. It’s harder to get out of bed and damn near impossible to get off the couch. I did read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which is the first book I’ve been able to finish in some time. Like a year. I don’t know if it’s just my mood or if my new glasses are helping my eyestrain some. I know it’s only 61 days until the official start of spring and we’ll probably have a February thaw and the end of winter will happen. I’m trying to plan on bright things, like a surprise Twin Peaks Day package I’m sending out and Valentine’s gifts for the staff members. Still, it’s a struggle. It’s hard to write letters when I don’t have much to say. It’s hard to take photos when everything is the same color of gray all the time.
Painting #30, and the final painting of the Class101 online course. It’s a gouache study of the Windsor Riverwalk, though it was not painted from a reference but instead my imagination. It might have turned out better if I had painted what I actually saw in my mind’s eye and remembered instead of a stylized view of it. Maybe it would have more feeling and would be less flat? Though there are still things not right with this painting, I have learned some during the process. The Class101 instructor gave virtually no feedback; most of the videos were not really instructions, but videos of her painting. Not a lot of tips or helpful information, aside from setting up a color chart with all of your paint colors so you can see in advance what colors will work best for your image. Honestly, I am learning more by posting on the Facebook and Reddit painting groups I below to and asking for advice on my paintings. I’ve started up another class, this one on nocturnes, and the instructor is providing such good advice I’m actually taking notes.
It’s been a rather mild winter so far, most days in the low 30s for highs. We’ve had a few days now with partial sunshine, which helps the old mood for sure. And now we’re half way through January, with only 64 days until the spring equinox. The world may well be falling apart – Trump was impeached for the second time yesterday and COVID numbers are high, high, high – but the inevitable march towards spring continues. I’ve repotted my office plants, which I’m sure was a huge shock to them, and I’ve ordered seeds for the vegetable garden as they are predicting significant delays again with gardening supplies. Who knows what spring or summer will look like? People over 65 in Calhoun County can sign up to get the vaccine, but there’s a very long wait list.
There’s no making waves in these parts these days. Everything is cold and gray. The temperatures have hovered around the freeze/thaw cycle since before New Year’s, and we haven’t seen the sun in longer than that. It’s sort of interesting, as the temperatures warm up just enough to start melting the snow which creates fog and then the fog freezes in the air and on all of the surfaces. We had an ice storm over the New Year weekend (and survived it without a working furnace!). It looks like the weather will be more of the same for the ten day forecast, and continued clouds. It is hard to tell between 6am and 11am, 4pm and 8pm. All the same gray. It’s hard to get motivated to get out of bed or to do much of anything.
I’m continuing on with the Class 101 painting class. This section was about making waves. I’ve decided that I don’t really enjoy painting waves. It’s hard to find a good reference photo that worked with the assignment. The painting above (#27, for those who are counting) is in acrylic and had several attempts at it. You were supposed to start with a lighter color and go in for the darker tones. These two paintings were supposed to feature light on top of the waves.
This one is in gouache, and was started with darker and then lighter added in. The shapes are maybe a bit better but it’s still weird. I look forward to moving on to the next lesson and seeing what the assignment is. And I just look forward to painting. Even when it doesn’t turn out how I’d like, I love the process and learn from it. When I’m not painting, I’m often thinking about painting.
I did clean up my office plants a little. Added more soil, fed them. They are looking better. My office itself is a little cleaner, too. I am ready for the January thaw already. 72 days until spring.