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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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)

A love affair with birds

I don’t know who started it, but I belong to a family of birders. Compared to a truly avid birder, we aren’t, but compared to the folks who aren’t sure what a robin is, we’re absolute bird nerds.

I think this is a wren. I should have written it down.

Growing up, we had a couple blue bird houses in back and a hummingbird feeder hanging off the deck. But my grandparents maintained a monstrous contraption of a bird feeder, with suet, thistle, sunflower, and probably a couple other extensions. My grandfather had a longstanding contest with the local squirrels, but unlike me he was actually pretty successful in building baffles to keep the little moochers off. It wasn’t until recently that the trees had gotten too big and too close, and the squirrels could just LEAP directly onto the feeder.

But for years, the squirrels foraged under the feeder and the birds fed at their appointed places and splashed in their heated (in winter) birdbath.

My Grandparents received Birds and Blooms magazine, and whenever we arrived at their house for a visit I would immediately grab a magazine and flip through the pages looking at all the spectacular, brilliantly colored, photography. I never read the full length articles, just the short little blurbs and funny stories. But oh, those pictures.

Phone calls, letters, and conversation centered on the happenings at the bird feeder—what notable bird visited, or the time the fox came through with a half-eaten something in his mouth, or the day the hawk visited and ALL THE BIRDS avoided the yard for hours. I imagine, if there were a zoologist historian at some point in the future, they would like to have my grandmother’s letters. But given that they are all written in cursive, they won’t be able to read them.

The aviary is my favorite part of the zoo, and I always try to stop and listen to the birds, even though I have only the barest grasp on which birds I’m hearing. Now that I’m grown and have a house of my own, I have a sunflower seed feeder.

I hang it off a tree branch I can reach from my deck, so I had no illusions about keeping the squirrels off—though I do throw cups of water at them sometimes when I feel like they’ve been on the feeder Every Single Time I’ve been out there.

I don’t mind at all when the cardinal in the tree outside my bedroom window scolds loudly because the feeder is empty. I love watching the housefinches, chickadees and the occasional titmouse pigging out on the feeder.

Blue Jay (those Jays…)

After a lifetime of drawing horses, I was surprised to find an affinity for birds. I really love painting birds, and half the time I really love how the paintings come out. I attribute it to the hours and hours I spent poring over Birds and Blooms, staring at breathtaking hummingbirds, titmice, tanagers, orioles, chickadees, bluebirds (east and west), blue jays (east and west)…of course, the more shy, insect eating birds I know essentially nothing about (there are armies of wrens and warblers and sparrows that I’m only seeing now because I have an uncle and an aunt who are Real Avid Birders with a Really Nice Camera).

I’ve started to experiment with different looks and feels for my bird paintings, and will probably start asking various wildlife and raptor rehabilitation centers if they are interested in having a piece to auction.

What about you? Do you bird watch? Or are birds those mysterious avian monsters from that Hitchcock movie? Which of these birds did you like best and want to see in the Etsy shop? (The Blue Vireo is already there)

Seal of Approval

We’re right in seal-whelping season so I thought I’d share this adorable little seal pup I painted. I’ve been on a wild animal kick lately. My whole life I’ve been focused on drawing horses, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m enjoying branching out. It’s fun and challenging to draw new animals. I’ve been rather surprised and delighted how cool the pictures come out!

Brush shaped markers have always been among my favorite tools. Almost two years ago my husband got me a set of water-soluble brush pens, then my brother got me an expansion. I love mixing them with proper watercolors like I did for this adorable little guy. His background is watercolor, primarily Daniel Smith brand, but he himself is brush pen. The brushes fit with the way I think about light and dark, allowing me to put down color in dark places and bleed it gently away.

When I was a kid, we used to visit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute‘s tiny public aquarium, which always had two seals. I’m utterly embarrassed that I couldn’t tell you what type of seal they were–probably harbor seals, because this is New England.  I loved watching the seals swoosh by through the water with no effort at all. So sleek and fast! I have always wanted to touch one to find out what they feel like. Is it like wet dog??? If any scientist out there knows, please tell me. (But nobody go harassing these adorable creatures in the wild. It’s sort of like any other cute little ball of fluff in the wild—if you touch it, you probably just ruined its chances at survival.)

Harbor seals are protected species nowadays, threatened by habitat degradation, chemical contamination, collisions with ships, entanglement in nets, and illegal feeding and harassment from people. They provide food for sharks and killer whales, making headlines on Cape Cod by bringing Great White Sharks (back?) to the region.

Harbor seals live up and down the Pacific coast, Alaska, and New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. The Marine Mammal Center estimates there are only 500,000 harbor seals worldwide. Pretty crazy to think about, actually.

They are remarkable animals, born swimmers (literally), able to hold their breath for at least 2 minutes when they are only days old, and then even in their sleep (up to 30 minutes!) once they are adults. They also molt. Which. I just find interesting.

 

 

 

EPSON MFP image

 

Anyway, this fun little piece is available on all sorts of things on Redbubble (you know the drill) and I’m also selling fine art giclée prints through my Etsy shop.

Do you have a favorite Marine animal? Tell me about it, maybe I’ll give painting it a try!