Friday, October 25, 2013

Algonquin loons

...and what would a trip to Algonquin be without a few shots of some Loons.  We weren't sure if they would still be around and I was really happy to see a pair of them doodling around in the bay shortly after we arrived.  Loons, like all birds, replace their feathers twice a year, and some birds have "2 sets of clothes" and their winter feathers are different from their breeding feathers.  This pair of loons spent most of their time preening and pulling out feathers to be replaced by their winter coat which is quite different from what you expect to see.  Both of them were quite accommodating to our canoe and let us get quite close to them as long as we didn't do anything alarming.  These are full frame shots with no cropping...

Loon, winter plumage.
This loon was well on its way into it's winter feathers, you can see one small feather that has come loose just beside its neck...the water around them was at times littered with floating feathers!

"Grandpa Loon"
This one was more "loony" looking and had barely started it"s moult. I called it Grandpa loon because he/it had a white beard just starting to appear under it's chin.  I don't know how long the whole process takes but they really can't fly very well at all during the moult. The other of the pair that was almost finished must have been saying "hurry up" its getting cold out here, we have to leave!

Classic loon photo
and this is the quintessential Loon shot. They do this a lot, ruffling and flapping their feathers to get them to dislodge.

All in all I took quite a few shots of the Loons, some of which will eventually be turned into paintings.  We certainly enjoyed our trip to Algonquin, (except for the noisy, ignorant campers) and we really lucked out on the weather ...a huge contrast to what is out the window this morning - cold, wet. sloppy snow covering what is left of my flowers and grey colourless sky.  There was a nice little flock of Gold Crowned Kinglets in the tree outside the studio, I expect they will be moving south away from this ugly weather.

a Busy Life

I guess that is what I should have called this blog!  Here it is almost the end of October and I finally have a few minutes to share. August went by like a shot, we had our children home from their diplomatic posting and we were busy, busy while they were home as well as playing catch up into September with our usual fall chores. September is canning month for me - tomatoes, chili sauce, salsa and pasta sauce.  This year our cucumbers decided to keep on giving, so I had to make pickles (2 kinds) and relish.  In between all that chopping, stirring and canning I have the gardening to take care of - at least one trailer load of garden waste goes out, usually two.

We were rushing the chores a bit in September because I knew that I wouldn't be here much in October!
The first of the month we left for Algonquin Park for some camping, back country canoeing, fishing (for Sandy) and some painting en plein air (for me)  The weather was amazing - our neighbours were disgusting - It might have got nasty if we hadn't had the canoe and could escape out onto the lake for most of our trip!

Algonquin morning
This was the view point from the bay where we were camping the first morning we were there.  The sun has such a special quality at this time of year and when it hits one of those gorgeous colourful trees they almost seem to vibrate with colour.
 This is a bit closer to where I was standing - I don't think the camera can really do justice to the sparkle of the sunshine on the water, it was like the brightest of diamonds.

The purples in this shot really struck me - since I started experimenting with pastels I have been making a very conscious effort to really look at colour.  I already consider myself a fairly skilled observer (kind of have to be to paint realism) but now I am really looking at the colours of the landscape and assessing a name, a value, a hue to what I see - and isn't fall the perfect time to undertake such an exercise!
This was taken from the canoe somewhere out on the lake, I had to take 2 cameras with me so that I could capture beautiful scenes like this as well as be ready with the big lens if any wildlife appeared....and I had to do my share of the paddling as well! If you notice the water has a bit of "texture" to it in this protected cove...but down the lake, oh my! there were waves and white caps 12" to 18" high!  That was a real work out, at one point heading right into it I didn't think we were making any headway at all but we kept at it, putting in along the shore when we were tired and called it a really good day when we made it back to camp.

 I took this at one of those spots we stopped for a rest, it had a lovely sand beach, the sun was warm and we were sheltered from the wind.  There was a walking trail just up a hill that led to the "Booth rock" which was a popular hike for many who wanted to see the fall colours from an elevated vista.
Fall Ferns
The next morning dawned once again very sunny and warm and this time dead calm. We decided that we would head up the Madawaska river into Whitefish lake.  It was so pleasant to glide along in calm water and just enjoy what was around us.  I kept hoping for a moose or fox or even a raccoon to pop out of the brush but no luck on that.  These ferns caught my eye - so colourful when they turn from their summer green to the rusty brown, oranges, yellows (burnt sienna, umbers, ochres, lt. sap green) of fall.

I had fun with reflections!
Look again...
 No...this isn't up side down, there are a few tiny ripples there.

Algonquin - Madawaska river
And this shot has to be my favorite of the trip, and there isn't even a lot of fall colour in it but I just like it - the over all colour, the composition and especially the reflections of the clouds in the water - you can't see that texture up in the sky on a sunny day!


Next post - a few more shots from Algonquin.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Aren't they lovely!  Stopped by a couple of yard sales earlier in the summer and found these - all jumbled together in a ziploc bag, totally covered in grey dust so that I could barely tell what colour they were....but for the HUGE outlay of.........................10¢.................yes that's right, just one thin dime for all that colour and possibility!

I have to confess that up to this acquisition I was not a fan of soft pastels - too messy and I didn't really know what I was to do with them after a lifetime of mixing paint on a palette, but since I have been working extensively with coloured pencils I have learned a thing or 2.  It took me a couple of hours to clean them all - I started with a good shake in a tub of rice but that didn't seem to see much results when they were sooooo dirty, so I ended up wiping each one down with a paper towel.  I have no idea what brand or what quality they are, some are harder than others, some are very soft and smooth but for starting out and having some fun they are all that I need.

What I need now is some reference material to work from...almost all of my photography is close-up shots of flora and fauna and I certainly could learn to render those with pastel as many do but mmm.....I would really like to be able to loosen up once in a while from the uptight precision that I normally paint and just go with the flow on something different - maybe balance the uptight side of my brain with a looser, softer approach and play with a few landscapes.

I'm going to have to start carrying 2 cameras with me when I am out and about - one for any birds, bugs and butterflies that are going my way and another to capture some nice scenic views!

....another confession....I spent some time on-line studying the work of a few pastel artists who's work I admire and I did attempt a copy of one of their pieces - just to see if I liked it and could render something even "similar" to their work. You know what...I had FUN and my attempt wasn't half bad if I say so myself, in fact I can't wait to see it framed up and hanging on my wall!  I won't show it to you, it was just for me as an experimental piece.  However, I will definitely be looking for a few nice places to either work en plein air or to get some scenic pics to work from. After working so close up for so long I am now craving a wider, more expansive view least some of the time :-)

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Canadian coins
The September issue of Colored Pencil Magazine has been released and - Canadian coins - has been included in the special Canadian edition!  The editor found the piece through my membership with CPAL on Facebook and sent me a request which unfortunately ended up in my "other" message folder. I rarely remember to look in that file ( I know some don't even know it exists) so when she didn't get a reply she thankfully took the time to track me down last minute.  They actually used the piece twice, once on the index page and again in the gallery of work by Canadian coloured pencil artists.

Thank you so much Colored Pencil Magazine!

here is a link to preview and purchase the September issue:

Monday, August 26, 2013

just a few photos from the summer

As usual it has been an extremely busy summer for me and I haven't had any time in the studio at all.  I usually have the camera fairly close by when I am working in the garden or when we are out camping and have quite a few pics to sort through. I seem to have better luck finding the time to get things posted on my Facebook pages when I am busy so it is past time for me to get things updated here in blog land.

...and you know that summer is starting to draw to a close when the anemones start to flower!
Red-spotted purple butterfly
Butterflies in the garden have been few and far between this year, we have just had our first Monarch feeding on some flowers in the last few days.  We usually have a few of the "Admiral" variety around throughout the season, this one has a few scratches and a chunk missing from his underwing.

spider web 

a pretty pink Gerbera daisy in the morning light
3 photos from early June
Swallowtail butterfly on lilac

Clearwing hummingbird moth

Meadowhawk? maybe....I'm not up on my dragonflies

In June we visited the Mountsberg raptor centre and I was able to take some really nice closeups of a variety of captive birds.  All of the birds at Mountsberg have a reason for being there, mostly due to an injury of some sort.  It was a hot sunny day when we were there and the 3 yr old bald eagle was really enjoying his shower.  
Please visit my Photography page for more pics of the birds at Mountsberg.

 They also have a small farm with a variety of rather tame animals as well as a lake for fishing/swimming and picnicking and some very nice walking trails as well.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Well, since my last post I have been from the extreme southwest of our province, up into the Bruce Peninsula and a few other places in between looking for the lovely little birds that spend their winters in the Caribbean, Central and South America and then fly thousands of miles north into the Canadian Boreal Forest and even as far as the northern Tundra to mate, nest and raise their young before turning around and flying all the way back to their winter homes.

Many of these little things are no bigger than a mouse, although much more brightly coloured when they arrive in their breeding plumage. When they return to the south some of them will have changed into a more subdued colour scheme and are much more confusing to identify.

Warblers are very tiny and very quick little birds, always on the move through the branches looking for spiders, caterpillars and other bugs that we can't even see.

Bay Breasted Warbler
This year I was hoping to find and photograph a Bay-Breasted Warbler as I didn't have even an identifying photo of one. As luck would have it - and trust me when birding you need lots of luck - we saw Bay Breasted warblers very often this spring!

Chestnut sided Warbler
I also wanted some better pics of a Chestnut sided warbler and again hit the jackpot - I have a few really nice pics that I will be using as reference for a painting eventually. This shot I thought was cute with the warbler framed by the leaves.

Yellow warbler
We didn't see as many Yellow warblers as we have in some years but there were still enough to get a few good pics of them- these happy little guys are still my favorites I think.

Black and White warbler
and there were quite a few Black and White warblers this year as well - they make their way up and down tree trunks much like a Nuthatch or creeper behaves.

Eastern Phoebe - a Flycatcher
Along with the warblers come the Flycatcher and Vireos. These  usually tend to be a bit larger than the warblers and much less colourful - which makes them much harder to identify! Some you can only tell what they are by learning their call and behaviour, they move just as fast as the warblers and once they get up in the trees with even small new leaves on the branches they are very hard to pick out.  I am learning the easy ones but most just confuse me!

Blue Headed Vireo
 Next time I will share a few more pics of warblers etc and also a few shots I got of some captive raptors at a raptor show that I attended. Although we are having a really slow start to summer weather, a day here and a day there separated by rain and cool temps the flora and fauna are still doing their "thing" so I have some nice butterfly and flower pics to share as well.

Thanks for stopping by!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blue cup and Green grapes

Blue cup and green grapes
...I guess I better show you the finished piece before I start uploading some pics from spring migration!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

grapes stage 3
I have finished 3 of the grapes and started the layering process on the background

Spring Migration is just about here!

I have a few new pics on my photography page for you! I teach at C2C convention this coming Friday and then I will be out of the studio for most of the next month walking the trails during spring migration. Mother Nature is dragging her heals kicking and screaming out of winter this year but the birdies are slowly returning regardless of the cool temps and snowy days we are still having.  I put my Oriole feeder out yesterday - my records show that they had already arrived by this time the last few years so any day now I am sure they will be sitting in the apple tree.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Icy Interlude

As it seems to usually go, life gets in the way of your best plans. A week ago today we were carefully stepping over and around our yard surveying the results of an ice storm. Although we suffered some pretty severe damage to the old maple trees that ring our property...and a large limb through the roof of our cargo trailer, we consider ourselves lucky, considering that there are some homes to the north of us that went without power for almost 5 days due to the toppling of a whole row of hydro poles.

Needless to say, we were up all night so the lack of sleep plus the unexpected yard work has put me behind in the studio....I have spent some time on the grapes project and will probably get it finished sometime today!

Monday, April 8, 2013

grapes stage 2
I have continued to reinforce the colour sequence on the grapes, added some reflected colour on the cup and a darker value in the shadows as well as first layer of cast shadow on the 2 grapes sitting outside the cup. I think I will start on the background now, it is difficult to judge values without having a full range to work with....I hope there is enough cover on the grapes to keep them clean once I start using the darker pigments on the background!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

grapes stage 1

Here is the first stage - 2nd attempt.  I have a nasty head cold and trying to make decisions about sequencing is difficult with a fuddled head and a drippy nose....The only thing to do is start over when this happens, you can't fix or hide mistakes when you are attempting realism, discipline and a very critical eye is required throughout the whole process.
...good thing the paper has 2 sides!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Photo reference for blue cup with grapes 
Working in coloured pencil today, gearing up for my class on Photo-realism techniques at C2C next month! I'll be back later with some photo updates as this piece progresses.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Free Bunny pin cushion pattern and tutorial

Hop on over to my sewing page to find the bunny...and don't forget to have a look around and leave a comment!
Thanks everyone!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pages Update

Crackle top Ginger snaps recipe on my Gluten free page
Some older works in my Portfolio
Classes update
Something new on my sewing page

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New Work

Thicket - American Tree Sparrow
currently exhibiting at Paint Ontario
Lambton Heritage Museum, Grand Bend Ontario

Titmouse - Plum Blossoms
acrylic on panel
Currently exhibiting at "Paint Ontario"
Lambton Heritage Museum, Grand Bend Ontario

if you are interested in either of these paintings please visit Paint Ontario from
March 9th to March 31st 2013
or email me for information

Monday, March 11, 2013

another kick at the can.....

Hi All!

I'm going to give this another try....  I tried to limit this blog to my artwork and photography which are my greatest passion but I have many other creative interests that over my life time have shared space with my career as an artist and art teacher - my hobbies I guess you could call them. I've sewn clothing and home decor my whole life,

roman blinds in our family room

made quilts for our beds, knitted sweaters for myself and my family, embroidered my jeans and blouses as a teenager in the 70's,
yes, I still have one of those shirts!

crocheted scarfs and doilies, tried needle punch and needle felting, created boxes full of decorations for Christmas,  Easter and Halloween,  made all sorts of funky garden decor items to accent my perennial gardens, candles, weaving' name it, I must have tried it! Some I loved, some went into the "won't try that again" bin.  Currently I enjoy my sewing and quilting, I am having fun with felting old wool sweaters and the cute stuff I can make from them and I also try and squeeze in some time for sculpting seasonal characters in papier mache.

Man in the Moon

I have added a tutorials page where I will occasionally be sharing some of my how-to's with you. First up will be a pin cushion perfect for Easter!

  I have also added a page for gluten free recipes. I have suffered my whole life with "irritable bowel" that turned out to be not just a gluten allergy but full blown undiagnosed celiac disease. I love to bake, always have and I even won a few ribbons for my baking ...and so, to come to the realization that I have to re-think what I have eaten my whole life was quite a life altering moment for me!

 So I cheated...and I cheated...just a little bite won't hurt will it?  Well it did, and it having had a good look at what I could eat from the dry and tasteless pickings in the "gluten free" section I set about to reinvent all of my treasured baking recipes as gluten free versions and you know what...if you start with a good recipe converting it to gluten free wasn't that hard and the results are nothing short of AMAZING!  Cookies, cakes, puddings, pies, sticky gooey cinnamon buns - Gluten - who needs it!

GF Bread...well, that was another story!  I can't tell you how many "bricks" went into the compost or out to the bird squirrel feeder until I finally had it right.  My recipe smells like wheat bread, looks like a whole grain wheat bread and most importantly tastes like wheat bread.