gouache, coasters, and summers on the porch

Paint is funny. Colors come from mostly the same selection of sources, what changes is the binder. And that binder makes SO MUCH difference. Gouache is more opaque than watercolor, but shares some of my favorite features in that you can wet and reuse after its dried. This piece, the rearing rose gray, is me trying to get a better grasp on layering and start to mess with mixing wet paint again. With my watercolors, I have gotten so absorbed in my many little trays that I forget to mix the colors while they are wet. (Can you tell the horse is free-hand with no reference picture? I can :-P). I appreciate the way white gouache behaves. Makes dapples easy.

And yes, that circle was done with a coaster.

This particular coaster set belonged to my grandparents. It’s woven wicker inside wood. It was the outdoor coaster set which we used on the screened porch. After we made our sandwiches with deli meat and filled our plates with chips (a treat!) we’d take our soda (also a treat) out to the porch and eat on the blue stained furniture while we talked and watched the birds at the feeders. They had a lot of bird feeders. Thistle, sunflower, peanut butter, suet, and of course sugar water for the humming birds. My grandfather had built an elaborate baffle (or three) to keep the squirrels off. He also had a heated birdbath for the winter and every year asked for birdseed for Christmas. We’d easily spend hours watching the local wildlife–and there was plenty–besides a bazillion song birds there were the rabbits, squirrels, doves and fox.

Every time I use one of those coasters to draw a circle–or keep a drink from leaving stains–I think of those lazy summer days. A lot of my early fiction writing was on that porch, too, thanks to the advent of laptop computers. I cherished that time. Soaked it up like a sponge, and look at the memories with gentle fondness. I try not to wish to return to the past…but I would go back there.

Someday, I want a screened porch in the shade of my own. While I have invited quite a lot of wildlife onto my deck by attempting to maintain a container garden, it’s not quite the same. My kitchen, sadly, is not arranged for me to sit and watch the bird feeder.

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Stormin’ Cat

When I was a kid, we had a Maine Coon cat.

His name was Hero, and the city kids who happened through our suburban neighborhood were once heard identifying him as a bobcat.

He was a really awesome cat–a great hunter, and very affectionate. Of course, combine the two and you become the hunted. Hero was known to jump out of the bushes and attack our legs, or steal the hat off my head in the winter, or bear-hug you (with claws) if you tried to leave before he wanted you to.

There was an orange tomcat named OJ two doors down that sometimes came into Hero’s territory, and we’d hear the noisy posturing of the toms and let the dog out to chase off the interloper.

Our dog was a miniature black poodle–actually a pretty well trained little guy, trained by my mom and the indoor Siamese–and he would happily chase off OJ and then come back to touch noses with Hero.

There is something special about going outside and being sought out by the animals that live outdoors–just for companionship. I have fond memories of going out to play in the yard and being joined by our giant fluffy cat.

I should find a picture of him and paint it.

But this gray fluffball spoke to me, reminded me of him. Fear the might of the angry Maine Coon! He just looks like he should be named after Gandalf the Grey, Stormcrow, Lothspell, Mithrandir….just about any of those really work, I think.

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Charlie

I got new brushes for Christmas. And They Are Amazing.

They are the Black Velvet brushes, and painting with them is so different. They are far softer than any of my other brushes, and come to a much finer point.

What does that have to do with Charlie? Because Charlie was the first full painting I did with them. He’s also painted in gouache, which was fun. Holbein brand, if anyone’s curious. I don’t have anything to compare them to, but the internet says they are some of the best and I like them.

Charlie was a rescue from a hoarding situation, adopted out by the Middleburg Humane Society. Nobody really knows his breeding, but it involves fancy movers. Before he bulked out like the hulk, I would’ve said Morgan–Lippett like–but now it seems more Percheron or possibly Cleveland Bay. And Charlie did bulk out, he wasn’t a very gawky youth, so it wasn’t obvious he’d just KEEP GETTING BIGGER but he did. It’s amazing what a difference a few years in a good home with good food and work will make.

Charlie’s a sweetheart, thinks everyone is there to see him and expects treats. He takes treats politely, though, which I’ve always appreciated.

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Reach out, stay in touch.

English Labradors

Thought you might enjoy seeing this piece I did as a gift this Christmas. Schultz and Rylie were my in-laws’ English Labs. Different as night and day, both entirely and completely lovable.

Schultz has been gone for a couple years now, and Rylie for a year. It’s still odd not having them to greet us when we visit.

Schultz generally conducted himself with dignity and restraint when greeting at the door (but boy, that was a big bark if he was so inclined). Rylie was pretty much always exuberant, always loving, always underfoot.

Neither of them would have tolerated those hats for a moment.

I don’t normally work with colored pencils, but it really seemed best for capturing the buttercream coloring of the dogs–Rylie darker than Schultz.

They leave these gaping holes when they move on.

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The Mud Horn

Redbubble

Are you watching the Mandelorian? Did you see the finale? Man. This is what I want when I start into a Star Wars story. It’s so grounded. So inspiring. It’s like…Firefly meets Star Wars.

I’ve enjoyed a handful of Star Wars novels, none of which are canon anymore. Most of them by Timothy Zahn. James Corey (the pen name for a duo) has a couple good ones also.

I predict that soon, the Mudhorn signet will have almost as broad a reach as Boba Fett’s signet. Well. Ok. Maybe not, since you have to have Disney + in order to see the show and fall in love.

But it *should* because it’s that good. So I pretty much immediately drew a Mud Horn signet in ink (prismacolor) and put it on Redbubble so I could stalk their sales and buy myself something. It’s a brilliant plot.