Misc. Project Updates

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.

Painting #40

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 0 No tags Permalink

Painting #40 is a postcard-inspired gouache piece. Forty paintings. Am I getting better? I don’t actually think so, though I continue to learn new things. I’ve hit the wall again on what I want to paint, so it’s been awhile since I’ve done any painting. Work has been stressful and I’m just plain tired, so that isn’t helping the old inspiration either. I also haven’t been playing recorder. I think things will get worse before they get better, with the martini event just over two weeks away. And my god, the nightmares I’ve been having. Though I’m sleeping, it’s not good quality and I wake up more tired than before I went to bed. Something’s got to change. I’m starting to feel a bit desperate again, which is never a good feeling.

sleeping Maxy

Bob and I planted trees at the shelter last Sunday, the ones purchased from the Calhoun Conservation District. We still have more trees to plant. When trees are only $1 a piece, it is quite easy to order a lot of trees and not think about the reality of planting them. Next week is National Postcard Week and I’ve done absolutely nothing to prepare for it. Is it too late? Depends on how much pressure I put on myself I guess. I’ve been biking on the spin bike and outside again as well. I’m going to do whatever I can to stop snoring (any tips or advice?), and exercising an hour a day is my current plan. So far, no good. Maxy is the only one in our household getting good sleep on a regular basis (see photo above). He is 18 and is a treasure.

Crabapple trees are blooming. Geese are walking around with their babies. One day will be 82 degrees (yesterday) and two days later it will be in the low 50s (tomorrow). It has been a month of extreme highs and lows, and it still doesn’t feel like spring is settled in for good. Mom’s deck is done, and it looks great. Aside from the tree planting and the new exercise routine, I’m too tired to work on any projects. Maybe after the martini event?

Painting #39, Crochet and Snow

painting #39

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.

Painting #39

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?

snow

Snow

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!

crochet

Crochet

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.

Painting #38

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
painting #38

Painting #38 is the latest piece. Part of it still seems really flat. It’s from a photograph in a Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Sometimes when painting just isn’t going good, I think I should quit but in reality I should probably paint more. Bob gave me some good advice on inspiration and things to try, and a commenter on Reddit gouache had some great feedback for me.

This morning Bob and I went to get my Johnson & Johnson vaccine when it was announced that the CDC and FDA were requesting a pause on it because of blood clots. I’m going to try to get the Pfizer instead through a walk-in clinic over the next three days.

We may be getting snow on Thursday, but I don’t expect it to stick. The perennials are coming up, and I need to weed the garden. Kitten season has started at work, and of course we are short-staffed.

Misc. Weather Updates

weather

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.

Painting #34 and Misc. Updates

painting #34 gouache

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 #32 – Twin Peaks Inspired

Wednesday, February 3, 2021 0 No tags Permalink

Painting #32 is a Twin Peaks inspired piece in gouache. As you know, Twin Peaks Day is February 24th. Hope you plan on celebrating with a piece of cherry pie and a cup of black coffee. You know I will be.

I’m not sure about this piece. Some of it is not bad. Other areas could use some work. It’s my first nocturne, which was a challenge. Maybe acrylic would have been better? I don’t know. My next piece is sketched out and is a sci-fi theme. I’ll probably do it in acrylic. I think the scale is a bit wrong already on the drawing, but I’ll adjust it as I go. It’s never about how the pieces turn out really. It’s about how I feel when I’m painting, which is pretty awesome.

I’ve been working on crocheting a baby blanket and have been watching a ton of movies in preparation for the Oscar nominations. The Golden Globe nominations came out today and honestly they sucked. Really nothing that I’ve watched was nominated, and believe me I’ve been watching a wide range of movies. Have you seen anything you’ve enjoyed lately?

Next week is supposed to be hella cold. The next two weeks will be well below average temperatures, maybe 20 degrees below normal. We’re supposed to get a bit of a snowstorm the end of this week as well. Things are somewhat stressful at work as we are trying to hire three positions. I predict I will have some Saturdays in my future to work.

Painting #30 – Windsor Riverwalk

Thursday, January 14, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
painting #30

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.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Friday, January 8, 2021 0 No tags Permalink

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and actually I don’t feel fine. What a week it has been. Everything seems unreal, and I wonder if things will ever go back to at least where people acted normal out in public. Once we’ve seen this anarchy, it may always be just under the surface if not bubbling over. I can make an analogy to the shelter world. Once a dog chooses to bite and gets the reaction it is looking for, that tool will always be available. It’s why you can’t adopt out dogs with a bite history. Did you ever expect to see insurgents storm the Capitol building? Maybe yes, if you watched them in Lansing, Michigan. And now that they know it works and they can do it whenever they want to interrupt democracy? It’s anarchy.

Between the intolerable state of US affairs and the UK COVID variant that is quickly spreading in the United States, the world feels a bit unstable. The shelter will be closed through March but what will actually take place? Will people actually take the vaccine? Will it be available, and will it be safe long-term? Are we merely in the bubble between a constant stream of pandemics now, brought on by overpopulation and climate change? What happens when everyone is evicted and there are no jobs?

In the meanwhile, I paint. I am still finishing the Class 101 online class and will be starting a nocturne painting class after that. The Class 101 was good as it got me painting things I normally wouldn’t paint and using some creativity instead of just trying to reproduce an image. But in other ways, it’s not really my style of painting either. I always do like having assignments or prompts to work on accomplishing. It gives me purpose. The above image is painting #29, twinkle lights on a balcony in gouache. And here is my helper:

I am thankful for the life we have built at home: me, Bob and Maxy. I’m thankful for my extended family. I’m thankful that I can mentally get away from the world and paint, that I have a job that for the most part I enjoy. That I am surrounded by cats. That I have friends, and Netflix. That the days are growing longer and there are 70 days until the official start of spring.

Making Waves

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.

making waves acrylic

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.

making waves gouache

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.