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.

National Postcard Week 2021

Wednesday, May 5, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
national postcard week 2021

It’s National Postcard Week 2021 and I didn’t get my crap together. I had selected a great vintage card and was going to photoshop Maxy’s head on, but I didn’t get it done in time to have the cards professionally printed. So this year I’ll be sending fewer cards, with an uglier, more personal touch.

national postcard week 2021

I’m not counting these as paintings, because I’m doing them in about 15 minutes each. And they aren’t turning out great. Some of it is I’m trying to paint new things. Some of it is that the postcard paper is really crap. The images are inspired by various card sets…flowers and different tarot cards. Mom and Kirsten did such an amazing job on their tarot cards for the Trail of Terror, I thought some fun small cards would be good inspiration.

national postcard week 2021

I’m going to have to practice the cat cards more if the shelter is going to do a pet portrait thing in June and I volunteer to paint. I mean, the middle one above looks like some kind of demon. Of course, I wouldn’t use postcard paper and probably not acrylic either. It’s easier to fudge gouache and blend it better I think.

Bob was so romantic. He found this vintage postcard of the dining hall at Brook Lodge and sent it to me for National Postcard Week 2021. The card is from the 1960s. We ate dinner here on Memorial Weekend many years ago, and Bob proposed to me by the water surrounded by forget-me-nots.

It has turned cold again. We had a fire last night and will hopefully have a few more over the next few days. I did get the radishes, arugula, carrots and beets planted last weekend. Bob and I planted 30 trees at the shelter over the past two weekends as well. We still have a few weeks before greenhouse day, so hopefully the warmer weather will catch up. Really looking forward to having the martini event behind me.

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 #31 and Weather Blues

painting #31

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 – 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.