Sunday, December 17, 2017

Quiet Time

First snow 2017
We received the first snow of the season here in the L-C valley last night. It wasn't a lot, maybe 3"- 4", but it was enough to soften everything and make the valley look more festive for the holidays. It won't last more than a day or two, but I always love the first snow of winter. It gets me in the mood for the Christmas season and makes me feel peaceful.
Winter sunrise from the duck pond
Like a lot of people this time of year I find myself busy and hurrying trying to get projects and shopping done and I miss the beauty of winter, so this December I've taken a little break from all of that. I hadn't planned it that way, but continued problems with my back and having my husband off work for part of the month has helped (forced?) me to slow down more. 
Roughed-legged hawk and hoarfrost
I've taken some quiet drives, had some talks with God, and just enjoyed the beauty and wonder of His creation at this time of year. 
Old farm equipment and hoarfrost
 It's helped. I feel calmer and I'm trying to let that sink in for the remainder of the year and hope to bring it forward into the next year ahead.
Kingfisher on a cold morning
I don't know for sure what next year will bring. I have some ideas, but I'm taking this quiet time to try and listen to God's guidance and plan for me instead of rushing head-long into things.
So, what about you? Are you taking time to be quiet and listen? God is speaking through nature and the Christmas season. Can you hear his call to your heart? 

Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas season!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sometimes You Win.....

Oregon duck stamp entry
But not always.
Recently, I entered another duck stamp contest for the state of Oregon. The species choices were ring-necked duck, harlequin, bufflehead or ruddy duck. I chose to do a pair of ring-necked ducks in early pre-dawn light mainly because that was the species I had the best reference for. 
Ring-necked ducks
I basically combined these two images into a final painting.
I worked very hard to depict the ducks accurately and was satisfied with the piece when I sent it off.

The judging took place on Nov. 4th at the Duck Pond Winery, but I was not chosen. I didn't even make the top five. Was I disappointed? You bet. I had worked hard on that piece and knew the competition would be tough. I just didn't realize how tough. The top five paintings were incredible in their level of detail and realism. 

You can view the other entries here:

So, you win some, you lose some. You just never know who you will be competing against or what the judges are looking for. I have to admit that I had to ask myself some hard questions after this because if I intend to keep competing I'm definitely going to have to up my game. Is this something that I want to do or am I satisfied with just creating art that makes people happy. Well, I decided I want to do both! Sometimes a little healthy competition stretches us to do better and I'm just competitive enough to want to play with the big boys and girls in this realm. I don't have to win all the duck stamp contests, but I'd sure like to win more than just one and in the process if it helps me create better art then it's a win-win situation all around.

So what's next? Well, there's a contest for Washington in December and N. Carolina in January. I am planning on entering both. I have been out the past few days gathering reference photos as the ducks and geese are migrating through my area. I have a lot of work ahead of me if I hope to do better on these next contests!

Oh, and I almost forgot! I will be getting my painting back in the next week or so and it will be for sale on my Daily Paintworks site so watch for it there. It might not have won a contest, but it still could make someone happy! 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Beyond Blessed

The long awaited opening of my solo show was Friday night, October 6th at the Valley Art Center in Clarkston, Wa. Though a little nervous about the event I went with a light heart full of hope and anticipation. I'd had a little conversation with God that morning about my hopes for the show and felt like he was replying, "Just trust me on this." So I tried my best not to worry, to just go and enjoy myself. 
A happy and relaxed me before the show!
 I arrived a little before 4 p.m. and the volunteers at the gallery had everything ready to go. They had hung and placed my art in such a way as to really make it shine and I was so pleased. 
Miniature paintings tastefully displayed.
View of the front window.
 My guests started arriving shortly thereafter and within half an hour the gallery was full of art lovers and friends!
My first guests!
More guests!
Many of the people were good friends I've known a long time. Some were past clients. Some folks were new acquaintances and some I had never met, but all were excited and interested in my art and I was incredibly humbled by the fact that they had come and by the wonderful compliments they had for my work. 
 I was trying very hard to take time to visit with everyone that came, but at times it got a little crazy as more people were arriving than I ever dreamed would come.
A quiet moment with a very dear friend.
 And then it happened.....I had my first sale! One of my past clients fell in love with "Lady Bluetail" the rare little bird that visited our valley last December and the first painting I had completed for the show.
Lady Bluetail
 It was interesting to visit with folks and find out their thoughts on my work and what appealed to them. There is no way to predict what will resonate with someone when you paint it, no way to guess what will sell. I certainly had my favorites, but I was surprised and delighted when many people started gravitating toward my painting "Feel Free to Hunt" which depicted an encounter I had with a coyote as I watched it hunting one day. The story behind it can be found here:
Me and "Feel Free to Hunt"
No one was more pleased than me when it became the second painting to sell that evening! And more good things just started happening from there! 
Ready to Go-black lab pup
There were many moments in the evening that really touched my heart and blessed me beyond measure. One of those came when a past client of mine saw this drawing of a black Lab puppy. He fell in love with it and bought it, then searched me out and asked if the puppy in the drawing was his Cassie. Some time ago he had gotten this little black lab pup and asked me to do a portrait of her. I took many photos of her then completed a portrait for him. A while later I had completed this drawing using some of the other photos I had taken at that time, but had never told him about it as I was using it for an example when I met with other pet portrait clients. Incredibly, he recognized his dog in that drawing and was moved to tears when I told him it was indeed his Cassie. Of course, that got me crying, too. It's incredible to me that something I've created can touch someone that way.
Maggie - "It's my chair"
Another touching moment came when I saw a good friend standing in front of this drawing of my dog Maggie. He seemed very serious and lost in deep thought as he looked at it. Her knew Maggie very well and it sparked some good memories of her and his dogs and walks we shared. Again, some deep emotions welled to the surface and again, I was deeply touched by this response to my art.
Special friends at my show
The journey to this show has been an incredible experience for me. My opening night was a great success because of the love, support, and prayers of so many people who believed in me including family, friends, clients and the hard-working volunteer staff at Valley Art Center. I can not express my thanks enough to all of you, those who were there and those who couldn't make it. But mostly I would like to thank my Creator for giving me the talent to be an artist and showing me how I could use it to enrich the lives of others. It has long been my dream to paint in this way and God has been answering that prayer in amazing ways. This scripture verse came to me today from Ephesians 4:20,
"Now glory be to God who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of - infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes."
Thanks to God and all of you, I am beyond blessed!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Counting the Days

The paintings are finally done, the framing is all complete. Everything is labeled and priced and packed. My first solo show is just weeks away and I am excited, apprehensive and relieved all at once. 
This has been an interesting journey for me, bigger than any project I've ever taken on. I have had to work harder at painting than I've ever done in the past in order to have enough pieces to put in the show. I've had to be extremely organized and dedicated so I could reach my goal. I have had to paint most days and have had to plan the next painting while still focusing on the one I was working on. Early on in the process I often asked myself, "what in the world were you thinking when you said yes to this??" Because I have primarily worked on commissions I had very few pieces in inventory which meant I had to work that much harder to meet the number of paintings needed. But, I did it!
The photo shows my progress from a few months ago. Almost all of these are new paintings so you can gauge just how much work was involved here. This is about two-thirds of what I completed for the show. 
Me and one of my favorite paintings
 Now that I have the work behind me I can take a deep breath, maybe have a glass of wine and figure out what happens next. Perhaps now I will concentrate on more challenging individual pieces that I can really take my time on or maybe I will focus on entering more duck stamp contests. The next steps on the path have not been revealed yet, but I'm hopeful they will be soon. In the meantime, I'll be anxiously awaiting the opening of this show and hopefully getting to visit with many of you there!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Busy, busy, busy!

Me and the 22", 15 lb. zucchini

Well, folks, I apologize for the lack of posting, but I have had more than my share of things going on this past month. I can't believe how incredibly blessed I've been this year with the produce coming out of my garden.
Tomatoes from my garden

 I picked the mega-monster zucchini the other day and have picked well over a hundred pounds of tomatoes with more on the way. Canning, freezing, dehydrating and eating fresh produce is competing heavily with my painting time and there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day. 

Balin napping
 The only one getting any rest around here is the dog who thinks the best place to sleep is in my studio, under my table with his head on the air conditioner vent. 

Female black-chinned hummingbird and blue salvia

Juvenile Cooper's hawk
 I have taken brief breaks to enjoy the hummingbirds and hawks visiting my garden as well as the recent eclipse which was spectacular even at 97% here in my neck of the woods.

Me with kestrel painting
I have gotten most of my paintings framed and ready for the show, but still have a few I'm working on and hope to add to the total in the next few weeks. The count-down is on so I really don't have a lot of time left.

Mystery duck stamp painting
 And finally, I decided to enter another duck stamp contest with a deadline coming up in the next few weeks. Sorry, I can't show the whole painting, which is almost finished, until after the contest, but here is a little close-up teaser of the drake. Can you guess the species?

I hope this helps you all to know that I haven't disappeared. I'm still here, just lost in paint and vegetable matter! Hopefully, things will ease off a bit after the show and I will get a little vacation. Until next time, I hope you all are enjoying your summer!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wood duck Reborn

Wood Duck Reflections from Nov. 2016
Some months ago, in November to be exact, I painted a small piece featuring a male wood duck. I had done it for two reasons. First, I needed a piece for my show and second, I needed a piece featuring a duck as part of my portfolio. I kind of whipped it out in a hurry, threw it on the pile and moved on to the next piece, but I was never really satisfied with it. It was okay, but not my best work and it seemed to lack punch. Now, months later, it surfaced again as I was beginning to start the process of framing these thirty pieces for the October show. Looking at it again made me cringe. So.....having a little time on my hands (not really!) between framing, painting and now processing an abundance of veggies from the garden I decided to rework it. I figured since it was on it's way to the "not likely to make it to the show" group if I ruined it by reworking where was the loss? I was actually being uncharacteristically brave in this regard. Usually I fret over ruining a piece entirely, but some of the good things that have come from having to paint constantly is that you start to gain a little confidence in your abilities and your medium.
I decided that what I disliked the most was that the water color was too close in value to the duck and had intended on just making it a lighter shade of blue. Then I thought, why copy my photo reference literally? An idea dawned, one thing lead to another and I found myself masking out the duck and slapping some warm shades of Naples yellow, dioxizine purple, magenta and cadmium orange across the board. Wow! Without adding anything else the painting completely gained some life. Still, it needed more.
Painting in process with frisket film overlay
 Now I got a little nervous. Things were going pretty well and I didn't want to have to repaint those gorgeous sunset colors, but I knew I wanted to add some dark reflections of vegetation to the top of the painting as well as some reeds or grasses around the duck. To see if this would work I took a piece of clear airbrush frisket film, laid it over the painting and proceeded to experiment with colors and shapes. I used this same procedure in the painting I did last year of the kestrel. When I was satisfied, I removed the film and proceeded to add the reflections and vegetation. Finally, I tweaked the highlights and darks on the wood duck itself.
Evening Reflections-Wood duck- 8 x10" acrylic

Here is the final piece now. I think it has much more life and it will definitely be going to the show in October!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Red-tail Hawk Nest

Red-tail hawk nest in sycamore tree

Each spring for the past few years I have had the unique blessing of nest-watching some species of bird. I never pick the species ahead of time, but wait for the bird to present itself to me. This year I had a sneaking suspicion it might be the red-tail hawk as several of them kept crossing my path early on. Then one day in February I discovered a pair building a nest in Swallows Park, one of the parks I frequently walk in. The trees at that time were still bare and the nest was high up in a sycamore tree and easy to see if you were looking.
Red-tail hawk journal page
 Over the course of the next several weeks I watched the pair bring nesting material, mate and interact with each other. Red-tail hawks mate for life, but I had no way of knowing if this was their first nest or just one of many. At any rate it seemed to take them a very long time to build it to their liking.

Finally, on March 23rd, it was move in day! Both birds were at the nest when I arrived and as I started to take photos the female launched off the nest and came low over my head, a rather intimidating sight through the camera lens as she came at me!
Female red-tailed hawk
Then following her, the male launched and flew over the top of me circling three times before flying off. As I soon discovered, red-tails are very territorial and protective of their nest. Were these two letting me know my presence was not welcome?
Male red-tailed hawk
 As I walk in this park frequently it was easy to keep track of the birds progress. Though I couldn't see into the nest I had a clear view of it from below. By doing a little research and observing closely I was able to determine when the eggs were laid and when I might expect them to hatch. The eggs would be incubated for 28 - 35 days primarily by the female with the male taking over to give her a chance to stretch her wings. Most days there was little to see, but the female always knew I was there.
Red-tail on nest
On the morning of May 1st, I observed the female standing on the edge of the nest looking in. She appeared to be feeding something then gingerly stepped back into the nest and settled down. I was fairly certain the eggs had hatched and checked again that afternoon. This time she came off the nest and joined the male circling overhead. The two birds flew together with legs dangling as when they are courting, then the smaller bird (the male) folded his wings and plummeted from the sky. Like a heat seeking missile he rocketed over my head, banked sharply and landed effortlessly on the edge of the nest where he sat looking in until the female returned. It was at this time that I got a really good look at the two birds together and discovered some clues as to who was really who. Except for slight differences in plumage color, male and female red-tails are marked the same. Males are one third smaller, but unless the birds are side by side this is difficult to discern. I had always assumed the bird I was seeing on the nest was the female, but at times it could have been the male. Now I could see that the female was darker and her breast was more heavily marked. But the best identifier was her beak. It was deformed quite noticeably with the bottom mandible too long and twisted to one side.
"Broke-beak" on her nest
 I nick-named her "Broke-beak" and as the days went by she and I got to know each other quite well. I also learned a lot about red-tail attitude when it came to their nest. If I got too close or looked too long she would come off her nest and scream at me.
Sometimes both parents would be present and would circle above me hurling insults. I would try to hide under the now leafed-out trees, but I could see their shadows as they hunted for me. It was a bit intimidating! Even if I camouflaged both myself and my camera, they seemed to always see me and our dance would begin. They would circle and scream and I would hide under the trees.
I finally saw the first fuzzy head on May 9th and while they grew rapidly it would take them on average 42 - 48 days to be big enough to leave the nest. At this young age they are called eyasses (pronounced EYE- ess-ez) and even though they are fuzzy they already have that fierce look that all raptors have. I watched to see how many chicks there would be as they can have between 2 - 5, but the nest was deep and they stayed hidden until the later stages of development. Also, the sycamore tree had leafed out and it wasn't always easy to see without upsetting "Broke-beak". Eventually, as the chicks got bigger and more active they would sit on the sides of the nest and I determined that there were two.
Young red-tail testing its wings

 By the end of June the time came for the chicks to fledge. On the 21st I saw one standing on the edge of the nest, wings spread to a stiff breeze. I thought I would see it go, but it waited one more day. On the morning of the 22nd I arrived to find one chick had flown to a lower tree while the other called from the nest. Both parents were present to watch over the process, protect and encourage their chicks. But on this happy day, my presence was not appreciated and both parents told me about it.
 The second chick waited one more day and fledged on the morning of June 23rd. By that afternoon all the birds had disappeared from the nest area. It was so quiet! I walked all around beneath the nest and no adult screamed at me. Beneath the nest I found the remains of a few of their recent meals; a dead mouse, a partial bird, bones, feathers and their castings ( regurgitated pellets containing undigested parts). These were the only clues left indicating that the birds had been there at all. I suddenly felt a huge emptiness. For the better part of four months these birds had been a daily part of my life and now they were off to live their lives away from my curious eyes. But I was happy, too, in that I had been given the privilege of watching their life unfold before me and to this point their nesting had been a success.
Fledgling red-tailed hawk

I thought I had witnessed the end of the story and I wished I had actually seen the chicks fly. The story, my journal and photos documenting their journey seemed incomplete without that last piece. As much as I wanted it to be different I had to settle for what I had to that point and be grateful and satisfied. But the story didn't end there. A little more time in these birds lives was granted to me because several days later I heard the chicks back near the nest area calling for food. I was able to locate them easy enough. All I had to do was listen for them calling or if they were silent I listened for the robins squawking their alarm call letting everyone know there was a predator in the area. I learned that the young juveniles would stay near the vicinity of the nest for about 2-3 weeks while they gained strength in their wings and waited for the parents to bring them food. Then in a few more weeks after that they will be hunting on their own.
Juvenile red-tail hawk
One of the last times I saw the chicks was on July 4th. I was walking in a different part of the park when I heard them calling. As I neared their location they took to the skies and thankfully I had listened to the little voice that said "take your camera today". They flew above me circling and calling giving me several opportunities for photos and I took many. In my mind they seemed to be showing me just how well they could fly, but were also telling me farewell. Then one caught a thermal and rose high in the sky as red-tail hawks are prone to do. 
Juvenile red-tailed hawk
 I smiled broadly and thought how appropriate that they should become the birds they were meant to be on Independence Day.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hummingbird Series - Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummer (male) and Larkspur - 5" x 5" acrylic
It seems like this last pair has taken forever to complete! I struggled with this one because of my lack of good photo reference and familiarity with this tiny hummer. I had photos of a male in flight and a perched female, but I wanted to do one more set of a pair feeding at a flower. How hard can it be to come up with a composition? Well, apparently it can be harder than you think.

I first started with the flying pose, but then couldn't seem to find an appropriate flower to have the bird feeding on. All my photos showed the birds at my feeder, not at flowers, because when they came through eight years ago I didn't have any flowers blooming for them to feed on. Then I thought I would just do the pair perched on something, but didn't have reference for that either, so....back to idea number one.
Calliope Hummer and Larkspur (female) 5" x 5" acrylic
The next problem was finding the appropriate flower to have them feeding on. Since these little hummers are more common to mountain meadows at 4000 to 11,000 feet in elevation I didn't feel it would be correct to have them feeding on say, zinnias, so I packed up the dog and the cameras and headed for the mountains in Idaho to gather more reference and, maybe if I was lucky, find one of these hummers there, too. 
Camas flowers near Moose Creek Reservoir, Bovill, Idaho
In the past I have seen Calliope hummingbirds at Moose Creek Reservoir. That is where I decided to go and the photo shows the type of habitat that one might find a Calliope in. It was beautiful there and I found lots of wildflowers to photograph like the blue camas flowers in these photos.
Camas flower
 I set out a hummingbird feeder while having my lunch hoping to lure one in, but had no luck with that. Instead, I had to be content with photographing wildflowers and butterflies and being pollinated by thousands of pine trees releasing clouds of pollen in the breeze.

Back home I went over my photos again and finally, FINALLY, was able to come up with a composition I liked that accurately depicted our smallest hummingbird. (Did I mention that accurately depicting the size of your hummingbird next to the flower it's feeding on is another challenge when you don't have a photo that shows the size difference of the two?).

So, this hummingbird series is officially finished and with this final pair my quota of thirty paintings for my upcoming show has been reached, with over half of those paintings completely new work in the last six months. This puts me ahead of my deadline and releases me to be able to paint at a more leisurely pace and to tackle my next challenge, another state duck stamp contest due in August. As a reward and a celebration for reaching my goal I think a few days relaxing in those mountains I just visited would be just what I need to recharge the batteries and refill the well of inspiration!