Sail Boats

I’ve been sailing exactly twice.

I feel like this is infinitely better than never having been sailing at all, but also sort of sad, because only twice.

Friends of ours had a boat, and invited us out a couple times to some little lake. I remember basically nothing about the surroundings, I was enthralled with the feel of floating on the lake, pushed by the breeze, and how you watched the water. They let me bask on the prow, and I learned important things like how to duck the boom.

I was probably twelve. It was pretty awesome.

That does, however sum up pretty much everything I know about sailing. Except for the things learned from movies, and we all know how reliable those are.

Purple Sail on a Teal sea-available on Redbubble and Etsy

I love the idea of sailing, though, even though I know that sailing in a big open space like the ocean would probably scare the snot out of me. I know about the horse latitudes and I’ve seen one too many Big Storm movies, being swept out to sea means you die! And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you get swept out to sea.

I’ve been practicing smaller sail boats this year—just a few, and they look radically different when I don’t have a picture of a sailboat in front of me.

When I was a teen, I went straight to more complex ships (though, still nothing like a brigandine, think Dawn Treader), and I guess they looked alright? I mean. I was mostly interested in the decorative prow (which was shaped like a horse, obviously). The novel I was working on in high school involved the Prince of the Horse-lords becoming a seafarer. He was a side character, and I think the plot significance of his ship was that he was well traveled—and I think he used it to make alliances with countries to the south. I’m realizing now that was a bit of a wasted opportunity if he didn’t use it that way, and I can’t remember for sure if that’s what he did or not. Wow. Never thought I’d forget anything about that novel.

Red Sails

I love it when tall ships are living museums and you area allowed to board and explore these shockingly small wood vessels that crazy people used to cross the Atlantic.

Black Sails–I need more creative names for these ships.

One of my friends passionately loves tall ships, and he can free sketch gorgeous ones when he’s bored in meetings. I know where to go when I need a ship for my Zare Caspian stories.

What about you? How do you feel about ships? Have you been sailing? Did you like it?

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Chicka de de de

Remember that love affair with birds? Still going strong. One of my favorite visitors to the bird feeder (though, lets be honest: almost everything is my favorite so long as it isn’t the squirrel) is the chickadee. I remember watching them at bird feeders in touristy locations—they were the only birds brazen enough to brave the proximity of the crowds. Sparrows are pretty brazen, too, but they spend their time under picnic tables rather than feeders.

My feeder is dominated by house finches and cardinals, but I do have goldfinches, titmice, and chickadees…and in the wintertime I see juncos regularly.

This spring blue jays and starlings started hanging around more, and I’ve noticed more robins in the front yard.

A sketch, and Inktense scribbles in blue and purple.

It had been a while since I’d noticed a chickadee, and one came and sat on a branch quite close to the deck doors—I was surprised that I had forgotten just how tiny chickadees are. I mean, I could probably fit 2 of them on the palm of my hand if they were so inclined.

Such a loud voice and big personality in such an incredibly tiny body—specially compared to the other song birds I’d gotten used to seeing.

Blending with a wet paper towel.

I painted this charmer for my mother as a mother’s day gift. I’m so very pleased with out it came out. #firsttry

Brushing in the branch.

I’d been experimenting for a while with inktense blended backgrounds, and had a really solid idea in my head of how to use the brush pens. I guess it shows. Inktense is such a versatile and sometimes befuddling medium. You’ll be seeing more of it in the coming weeks.

Brush pen, already a little blended. Drying before adding the black.

Have I mentioned that I love the brush pens? Love them. I love putting the color where I want it deepest and then coaxing it out further.

All blacked! And some sharpie paint pen highlights for the branches and white patches.

I still adore my Daniel Smith watercolors—I’ve developed an affinity for their particular granulation and vividness. I’ve been using them so much I’d forgotten just how special they were. My past weeks challenging myself with artist’s loft supplies have been…eye opening…and challenging. So, successful? You’ll be seeing some of that practice, soon.

Prints of the chickadee are in my Etsy shop, if anyone is interested. Just have 5×7 up there now, but 8×10 could be arranged!

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Big Cats

One would think that with Disney’s The Jungle Book being a big part of my childhood, I might like tigers less. Shere Khan was only one of the most scary villains—though, simultaneously one of the most…noble? Not that hunting a child is noble, but his motivation was less self-serving than say, Scar’s. Actually, come to think of it…big cats are these terrifying, massively dangerous wild beasts…but it’s just hard not to like them.

Especially when big cats apparently have the same inability to resist cardboard boxes that their domestic cousins have and they are also openly fond of basking in the sun.

When I was a kid, I had this little plastic tiger cub who was classically named—Stripe. My brother had the same tiger, except white, and named Ghost Tiger—but we called him GT for short. Very creative names!

https://www.redbubble.com/people/ravenslanding/works/36640902-tiger-eye?

Tigers are very hard to paint, incidentally. I’ve really struggled to capture their bone structure. For some reason the leopard comes easier—perhaps because the leopard is more sleek?

I don’t have any childhood leopard memories, I think I might have had a plastic leopard at one point, but it was not as important a toy as Stripe.

I want to paint a series of big cats, glamourous big cats like these—and also more comedic big cats. Big Cats in Little Boxes, sounds fun and challenging!

Glamour Leopard is Glamorous

I have a hard time cartooning from scratch—but I’m trying to learn. I spent so much of my life wishing I could draw photo-realistic things that it’s been a huge mindset shift to accept that my strength lies elsewhere. It’s not that I can’t be photo-realistic, but the pieces that really shine with emotion and are fun to look at aren’t those. I’m better at whimsy, and better at evocative. And I’m finding that I like artwork that looks like art. Especially with so many amazing photographers out there, I don’t feel the need to duplicate their work, I’ll make it something new.

Both of these cats are done in colored pencil, over a watercolor background and inked blacks. They are both up in Redbubble, I haven’t put them in my Etsy shop yet, though. Do you think I should?

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Mounting

The Midas Report May 2019

We had a few good weeks of steady progress in May. I had, this spring, but some focus on mounting block etiquette, expanding previous training to include “mounting from anything that might work” out and about. Last winter was rough on the trees, so there are a number of little wood piles here and there about the property, and I’ve been using those as training opportunities. The first time I asked Midas to walk up to one he gave it, and me, VERY dubious looks and was extremely reluctant to partake in this venture. It took several tries to get him to come to the right spot so I could scratch his back and praise him from where I stood on the wood pile (and that was after circumventing it on foot to make sure it was a wood pile and not a wolf pack or something.)

Exploring on a long rein ❤

As an aside, here: There was a day after our first or second exploration of the woodpiles that Midas was just really distracted. He kept staring at something in that portion of the woods, no matter where we were in the ring, and was skittish going down the driveway—which at this point in the spring we’d been down several times in the recent past (including extensive sessions standing still in the middle of the driveway waiting patiently.) FINALLY I figured out that there was a new woodpile. So, I rode him directly to it, he came peacefully but on HIGH ALERT ready to evacuate just in case it was an evil woodpile. We got within 10 feet and stopped to observe.

He finally noticed the big stand of grass next to the pile. I pointed to the grass (from his back, mind you, so just in his peripheral) and said, “you can eat that, if you want” and he decided it was not an evil woodpile if it had grass next to it.

The grass was destroyed. We searched the rest of the pile and it was deemed safe. He was perfectly calm and mannerly the rest of the ride.

Sleepy face of a relaxed and happy horse.

Anyway.

I’ve been trying to teach him to come to the mounting block. Monty Roberts teaches horses this, and I love it. It’s so useful. Endo the Blind, this eye-less Appaloosa, does it and he can’t even see. Midas should be able to learn. The idea is that the rider goes and stands on the mounting block, then calls the horse, who comes and positions himself so the rider can mount easily.

You might not remember this, but we used to go rounds with Midas to get him to stand at the mounting block long enough for someone to get on. (Way back at the beginning). This is such a common problem with horses in general that there are comics about it. Horses seem to wait for you to position, them, then when you climb onto the mounting block or fence, they sidle out of reach.

I’ve been working on Midas off and on for years about mounting block manners, and he is actually quite good about the mounting block. (For me, anyway. When one of the littles leads him up, all bets are off these days). This spring I decided that there was no excuse, he should come up and present himself even if I don’t lead him up to it before I climb up. I’ve also found that teaching him something new really helps with mounted work.

Midas already knows how to be sent and called in from a circle, so that’s where I’d started in the past. I’d stand on the mounting block and work him on the line, sending, circling, coming back. Mostly without tack, sometimes ending with a little bareback riding.

I refreshed him on that, and then practiced parking him a bit away, telling him to stay, then walking to the mounting block and summoning him. I did this with tack and without, but always with the 14’ rope.

He’d come, and I was frankly surprised at how readily he marched to the right spot with a proud look on his face. I’d shower him with praise and scratch his neck, withers, and back.

He even did it without the rope to reinforce if he pretended to not know what I was asking.

This spring I also started going out in the big field again—it’d been a while since we’d been out there working in hand (used to with the inlaws). We marched around the field and did some basic groundwork in hand, and he was good. Then I’d go do something else entirely with him.

Then, last week I tacked him up and we marched into the field in hand. I didn’t have a full plan, just wanted to do something different. I had the rope and stick with me, but started with just asking him to follow me this way and that without the rope or me touching the reins. He was only so-so on that, so I attached the rope to the bitless bridle. Ended up at the farthest edge, climbing up onto the little coop and asking him to present himself so I could mount.

And he did.

Came right up, cuddled close so I could easily swing aboard. I was so surprised. It took a bit of doing to unclip the long rope from his bitless bridle, and then I rode for a while in the field one-handed because the other was occupied with my stick and my 14’ rope. But you know what? It went great. He was relaxed and easy, and I was relaxed and easy.

All the work I’ve been putting into riding with seat and legs, for both our sakes, paid off. We calmly looped around the field, this way and that, at walk and trot. It was amazing.

The next time I rode, I asked him to come to the big wooden mounting block the kids use. He sidled right up. I rode him up and down the driveway before the littles arrived and we gave them pony rides in the woods, then I asked him up to a woodpile so I could get back on. He came.

I am so pleased that he seems to have really learned and understood and embraced this little thing.

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Green Thumbs and Paint

It’s well reported that plants clean the air. Green is a relaxing color, and the outdoors is proven to reduce stress, etc. etc.

I *love* plants. I have a harder time walking out of a garden center empty handed than just about any other type of store. I tried counting over the winter, how many plants were in my house—not even really counting the army of annuals that I’d moved from my deck to the guest room upstairs—and I lost count. The plants winter in the guest room because it is the brightest room in the house and they would all die if I tried to keep them somewhere else.

So Green. Done this winter.

It’s scientifically proven. Oy. Poor things. Every winter I drag in my herbs with the hope that I can keep them alive indoors, but they never quite make it through with the limited light. This winter I bought a grow light in February, and more of them made it than before.

If I did the plant count today, there would be…um…sixteen on the main floor and fifteen on the bedroom level. Not counting the plants in with the fish (three bettas in three bowls). And that’s with all the other plants out for the summer (including my lemon trees, rose of Sharons, clematis, and assorted herbs).

I suppose that makes it sounds like I have a green thumb…it’s more that I read labels.

When I don’t read the label, I buy plants that won’t ever survive in my house and they die. This is what happens in the fish tank (to be fair, though, the labels on those plants are utterly useless), and I have yet to sort out what’s going on there. Java ferns, anarchis, nameless ground covers…all die. I’ve only just turned to the internet for solutions, feeling pretty dumb for taking so long. Apparently, they sell substrate just for water plants, to build a proper eco system with bacteria and everything. Not to mention even water plants need light.

We’ll see how that experiment goes.

This was from a year or so ago.

For all this…you’d think I’d be better at painting them, but I feel woefully inadequate. It has taken me forever to render a succulent that I actually felt proud of. But, I did! Finally. I’ve managed a little better with roses, but I’ve been at roses longer.  

I guess that’s a huge part of both gardening and painting, you just have to keep practicing, keep training the eye, keep trying. And…possibly read the instructions.

(A number of these pieces are for sale on Redbubble)