Saturday, May 24, 2014

Blog resurrection and talking about Sketchbook Skool!

It's been over a year since I last posted. It's been a crazy year that I won't go into; mostly health stuff that I just plugging through.

I've settled into my new studio space; I pinch myself every morning. If I don't have the wherewithal to actually do any work I at least drink my tea in there.

But I've not been totally idle and done a few things: mostly studies and practice stuff. Working mostly in watercolor and pen.

I had the good fortune to discover Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene's Sketchbook Skool which has really gotten me back into working in my sketchbook/journal and enjoying it thoroughly. They've come up with a great idea for an inexpensive (I know that's relative :) ) online course with a bunch of wonderful teachers. 

What I've personally gotten out of it is getting out of the rut I was in and thinking I felt too yucky to draw or paint. I'd convinced myself I felt too sick to draw or do any artwork. (get over it already!) I don't have to be prolific: just draw a little everyday. And when I get out draw as often as I can. And usually, even if I'm feeling low, it will pull me out of it.

I still have a hard time drawing in public; due to an episode when I was in highschool when some guy came up to me and started giving me a hard time because I wouldn't show him my sketchbook contents. (I know: another get over it already!) But I am getting over it and reading the posts from all the other students dealing with the same shyness and insecurities has been a great help. 

I have to say that my fellow students in this class have been an inspiration on multiple levels; they are just the greatest group of people I've even been a part of. No arguments: no flaming (that I ever saw). Only encouragement, support and sharing their own fears. Some serious laughter as well. :)

Here is the link to my Flickr album for 2014... let me know if the link doesn't work.

The picture above is posted there and is from the last teacher (6 teachers in a 6 week semester) Tommy Kane who had us, very slowly with as much detail as possible and cross hatching... draw our kitchens.

You can see this in the upper left hand side in my streaming gallery right here on the blog too: including past work.

I still have some assignments to post and hopefully will update it as I work on other projects as the year enfolds. And on July 4th the second semester of Sketchbook Skool starts and I'll be reporting on that. I'm going to try week by week for the whole semester. 

Stay tuned. :D

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Magical Visitor, Hooking Rugs and My Future Studio

First the  picture below is a new friend who came to visit my back yard and hunt my bird feeder. I saw her swoop down numerous times but never catch anything. I'm rather sorry about that as now I'm worried about her as I assume she was hungry to be hunting out in the open and in the day time.

She's rather small so I decided it's a she. :) She was here all day Sunday from when I first saw her out my window at 9:00 am until about 6 and the sun was setting. I think the workmen (see story below) scared her off or she went on to hunt elsewhere.

I hear owls all the time. But I've only seen one here once and that was a very long time ago and I hadn't lived in the hollow long.

All in all it was a thrill to have her here. I'll post the little ink and watercolor sketch I did in the near future. She was truly magical.

For the last year or so I've been planning then building an addition onto my house. Anyone whose done something like that knows the impact on one's life that causes. :) Add my health issues and I've not been focusing on this blog.

The addition is a garage with a studio space above attached to the house by a two story breezeway. Not only can I just walk from the house into the garage (in Winter!) but from the house into the studio.

The studio is amazing and less then a week away from completion. If all goes according to plan it will be done and all the little things finished and painted and I can start moving in.

 I'm going to create a separate page on this blog to post the pictures of the whole project. But a sneak peak is the picture above. It's turned out better then I'd ever dreamed. The guys that worked on it are true craftsmen and I'm eternally grateful.

I decided, along with redoing my studio I'd revamp this blog and it's focus. While the garden and kitchen are still important in my life my real focus has
reversed back to my art and craft work.

This past year I've done little art work; mostly due to the above health issues but also I've had no place to work (old studio is storing just about everything that had to be removed to start the construction). Aside from a little art journaling I discovered Rug Hooking. Or rather re-discovered as one of my Grandmothers used to do a little rug hooking and taught me.

This is a picture of a printed pattern I got from Deanne Fitzpatrick. I found her just searching the internet and loved her work:

 I chose my own yarns, fleece and colors. I'll be talking more about this craft in the future but one thing I'll add is I'm taking Dianne's online workshop, "Getting Wild with Wool" and loving it. She offers several.

I'm currently working on one I designed based on one of my Raven paintings you can see in the above Flickr feed. (assuming it's working properly again)

 My plans for this blog; which are subject to change at my whim... :) are to discuss and show what's going on in the studio in general, the processes of the work I'm doing, as well as some tutorials for some of the things I do. 

(I'm going to reproduce the "Birth of a Block Print" I first posted on Facebook a couple years back as a tutorial. As well as create one for the rust prints (see the rusted Raven in the above Flickr feed). This is the same technique that I created my logo/avatar image seen above.)

If there is anything in particular that you know I do and want to see how I do it leave me a comment or email me. I'll be glad to see what I can do.

As I said, the studio should be done in less then a week so I'll be getting to work and have some news and another update soon.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Random Thought on Composting materials

I've been reading a lot lately on how to get compost materials for your compost piles.
Suggestions are asking neighbors and municipalities organizing community piles where you can go get leaves, grass clippings etc.

These are great ideas. However, I want to tell a story as a little warning to make sure you find out the lawn/gardening practices of whomever you may be getting your materials from. I wrote this up some time ago for a newsletter for a CSA I belonged to once... but it's worth retelling:

Years ago (never mind how long :) ) when I was in Middle School my Dad went organic. We lived in the suburbs and pretty much became the laughing stock of the street. There are a lot of interesting story/lessons from back then besides the one I'm telling. (like getting grubs in the lawn and the neighbor with the perfect lawn telling Dad I told you so; only to have a family of skunks come through; eat the grubs and move on. We only had to fill in and reseed the holes they left. But we never had grubs again.)

Dads pride and joy was his compost pile. It was pretty simple; just throw stuff in, cover it under and turn it once in awhile. It made beautiful compost. The worms loved it.

And while we only had a 1/5 of an acre of lawn and gardens there was never enough.

So Dad asked the neighbors if they would bring him their leaves and grass clippings.

The guy with the perfect lawn was amused and said sure: you can have my clippings just come and get them when I put the bags on the street for the garbage men. So Dad went and got them and put them in the compost and turned them in.

Next day he came in at breakfast time, after going out to turn the compost.... I took one look at his face and asked what was wrong? He said... they're dead. All of them. Every single worm in the compost was dead.

Why? Because the neighbor with the perfect lawn used not only weed killer but pesticide on his lawn. It went directly into our compost and killed every single living thing.

So Dad had to dig out, bag up and throw out his compost and moved the pile. He never asked anyone for extra material again.

It was a great lesson for a young gardener (me) to learn (and an old one too) and really pointed out to me why going organic was so important for the long term (that and we were the only known garden on the street that had toads).

So, please, if you use other peoples lawn and garden materials in your compost; find out what they use in their own garden practices; otherwise whatever it is they use will be in your garden too.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July update

It's been a long time since I posted here... since April. My excuses are:
1) I started a blog about living with LMS.
2) I've been focusing on improving my lifestyle (see above link)
3) 2 is working so well that I've got all this energy and have been working in the garden, hiking in the woods (looking for fungi!) and generally being busy and having fun.

So no apologies. No doubt once winter hits and I'm stuck inside you'll hear more; particularly about the Studio; something I've been neglecting from all of the above.

The above picture is from my Night Blooming Cereus which blooms once; occasionally twice a year and only at night. If you've never experienced the sight and scent of this flower then go out and find it. It's worth the wait.  

The Garden is doing really well this year. The no dig technique in the veggie beds is working great. Anywhere the results are a little iffy are places where the wind blew off the mulch during our snowless winter even though I've re-mulched it. But the soil is getting more and more fertile and arable each year. Some of the beds I can plant with my hand as the soil is so fluffy. The soil is just full of worm casings and there are a ton of worms working at it.

We're past lettuce season; it's all bolted now. But the Kale is going well. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are doing really well but the ones outside not so much. There are rumors of tomato blight on the east side of the state near Boston which is bringing fear into the hearts of all who grow or eat tomatoes but were hoping it stays on that end. For those that don't remember or were unaware we had a blight come through the North East USA in 2010 that pretty much killed off the entire tomato crop of the region. I blogged about it back then. Keeping positive thoughts on this. :)

My perennial beds are doing really well and I'm going to try to find the time post pics. Of my fungi hunting walks in the mountain here too. I've been looking for medicinal mushrooms like Chaga, Reishi and such; found both but not enough to harvest. Or with the latter it was on public land so couldn't pick it ethically. But I found it and took pictures; which I'll share soon.

I've hired someone to help me in the garden this year. He's been reclaiming much of the old gardens and yard that started over growing after my diagnosis in 2001. The old rose arbor garden, where I used to sit and teach a lot has been uncovered and we've found 5 of the 8 climbing roses and an apothecary rose, which will be transplanted. I've felt bad for them all these years and it will be good to rescue them.

There is also a garage being built which will have a rather large art studio over it, attached to the house. Hopefully that will be done by Autumn and soon after I can move into the studio space. They just finished pouring the foundation; slab next then framing, etc.

So there are tons of things going on; renewing and rebuilding. I can't promise I'll post an update here soon but I'll try. As I said: things will slow down come Snow Fly.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Early April Update

I thought I'd better poke my head in here to assure those I've been getting messages from that I'm doing well.

Been a busy two months with various treatments and procedures. I've got a window for a little over a month where I'm resting up. I've got some things I want to accomplish including update my blog.

Since just what I need is even yet another project; I'm going to create a separate blog just to discuss the LMS part of my life. While it is a part of the whole which is Me.... I want this place to be dedicated to the studio and garden (and the infamous Random Thoughts). I'll post here when I get that set up.

It will be my hope that it will be an inspiration for those dealing with LMS, cancer and other “terminal” illnesses.

So.... meanwhile back in the studio. I've not done a lot. But I have done a few things.
I do try to still do something creative everyday even if it's just reading about another artist or watching someone's Youtube video. :) Hoping that at least the brain synapsis are keeping connected. :)

One thing, is above, and is still a work in process but almost done. It's a little 2” x 2” canvas. It was fun to work on it; while it's size made it fast it took enough thought to make it interesting. Basically it's an acrylic painting with a photocopy of a little “grid” drawing (more on grid drawing in the future) I did in my journal that I copied and then pasted with gel medium over acrylic paint and then embellished with ink pens.

I liked doing something this small. It's a nice quick way of getting something accomplished and yet is reasonably quick and fulfilling.

I'm going to put little nails into the upper sides and hang it on some wire.

I've been taking a few online classes; free and one paid:
I took Cathy Johnson's Watercolor free class which I loved.
And Pam Carriker's Pursuing Portraits.
I've learned a lot from both of them.

So it will be interesting to see if any influences show up in my work.
I want to get back into the acrylic painting.

And I've been thinking of creating a tutorial for making my paper mache prints.
Any interest out there?
I miss teaching but don't have the energy to do it one on one anymore so this will be a good way to at least pass things on.

The Garden is waking up.... early, like everywhere else on the East Coast and perhaps elsewhere.
Though the weather shifted to a more seasonable chill and rain.

The greens in the greenhouse are up and growing but not big enough to eat.

I planted some Spinach in the coldframe but nothing is happening yet.

But the Daffodils are up as are the Hellebores and the tree buds are swelling. I'll have my Magnolia blooming soon. Today the sky is blue and it's supposed to get up to at least 55F.

I'll try to take some pictures soon.

The bad news is the ticks are worse then ever this year. After my bout with Lyme in the autumn of 2010 and winter of 2011 I have a serious tick phobia. So I'm very nervous when I go out and check myself the minute I go inside.

We've stopped feeding the birds and squirrels a week or so ago. We cut them off slowly to get them to start foraging naturally. As well as to make sure there is no seed around when the Bears wake up. :)
Those of you who have been reading this since the beginning may remember our Bear visits.

Well... hopefully I'll have some more artwork to show you soon. Stay tuned. :)

And lest I forget; Happy Easter, Ostara and Passover!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Seed Catalog Advice, Garden Planning, Black Squirrels and Happy Imbolc/Candlemas/Groundhogs Day

Happy Imbolc/Candlemas/Groundhogs Day! Or whatever your Religion or Lifestyle calls this Cross Quarter day. :)

It's the Celtic New Year for me; when the Light begins to return as the days start to noticeably become longer. And this is the day I've been waiting for as my personal New Year this year. I've always loved Imbolc and it seemed the right focus for me to see as the day I leave behind all the bad aspects of the last year for me. I still have some healing to do; and treatment in the next few weeks; but I'll get through it.

The work we're doing this month at Creative Awakenings is on “Presence – the Sacred Moment of NOW” (a new, small but growing group working on Spirituality in Creativity (and vice versa)). This works well with where I am at the moment in my healing. While I'm much better I'm not far enough along to just start running around and while I have my moments of frustration I see having to restrain myself and Be Here Now (to quote Ram Dass); a good way to start my new year.

That's not to say I don't have things to Do. But much time needs to be spent simply Being still.

One of the things I plan on doing this afternoon is to start planning The Garden. February is a good time to do this here in the North East USA. Even in a mild Winter as we are having now.

As always most of my seed will come from High Mowing Farm. A small family owned organic company in Vermont.

Beware many of the catalogs out there; most are no longer owned by the families that started them in the years past and are owned by huge companies. Some by the same company. If you suspect your old seed company isn't living up to it's past qualities then you might look into who their parent company is.

I know people who are having issues with older and/or bigger seed companies in recent years who are now turning to smaller family owned companies. One of the most common issues is wrong varieties in packets. Nothing like giving garden space for a eating tomato only to find you're growing nothing but sauce tomatoes.

While Vermont may be a long way from you I'd suggest you give them a try but if you want to find something nearer to you there are some guidelines I'd suggest:

* Buy certified Organic. (I no longer get seed from companies that aren't 100% organic. I've dropped some folks I've done business with for years because I noticed their organic line is getting smaller as is their open pollinated. If Organic seems like an after thought then it probably is. Better to focus and support/vote for those that are totally dedicated to organic seed production.

* Buy open Pollinated when you can.

* Buy Heritage seed when you can; keep these delicious well producing species going before the big companies kill off the varieties in the name of easy marketing and GMO promotion.

* Buy untreated seed.

* Make sure the company is really owned by a family. No parent company is involved.

* The company really is small. I'd rather do business with several small companies with small inventories then one huge one who gets their seed god knows where.

* When you call with a question a human answers the phone. A better sign is when you have to leave a message for the person who can answer you because he or she are in the fields.

* It's as local as possible. Vermont is one state up from me so HM Farm is a good choice. Check out whose closest to you that fills the above criteria.
High Mowing Farm isn't the only seed company that covers the above and more so look around.

I'll report in a few days or so on how the plan is. I'm hoping to get my order out in, at the most, two weeks.

I leave you today with a photo of Shadow. His story is a few years ago we had a black squirrel show up at our winter feeder. Turns out they are the same squirrel as our gray squirrels but have some gene pigment that shows up sometimes. I've seen the black squirrels in Toronto; where gray is the rare one. But never seen one anywhere else.

This year I have three black squirrels amongst about ½ dozen grays. So the population is growing. Since I can't tell one black squirrel from another: I call them all Shadow :)

Sorry the photo is of such poor quality but it's taken with an iphone.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I'm back. (no pun intended; really!)

On the other side of the spinal surgery... but not over it by any means.

I'm afraid there is no Garden or Studio update but I thought I'd better report in for those of you who have been asking (or wondering) how I am:

I'm very glad, again, that I have a sense of humor as I find myself rather amusing. It would seem one of the life lessons I'm not getting (and so Life must keep trying to teach me) is that you can't predict what's going to happen. Both the good and the bad.

The surgeon warned me “This is going to hurt”. I figured I've been through a lot in the last ten years: 7 cancer surgeries and one radiation treatment. So I figured I was emotionally and physically prepared for the surgery to remove two tumors off my spine. I've hurt before and gotten over it and moved on.

I was both right and wrong. I'm actually doing well when you consider what I've been through in the last couple weeks. I've already weaned myself off the prescription pain meds. Just the occasional OTC as needed; mostly at night.

But I'm having some trouble dealing with being physically immobile to the degree that I am. Mostly all I can do is sit in a recliner. Any activity; including trying to draw or anything more can't be done for more then a few minutes.

Getting my supplies set up and ready to work is about all I've been able to accomplish; much less actually do something with them. :)

I had all these plans for my recovery. I had a stack of Art magazines I'd saved up for months. Seed Catalogs piled high to go through and plan the Garden with. Simple things I was shocked to find I couldn't do.

I signed up for Traci Bautista's Doodles Unleashed workshop and Jan Fox Designs 52 Play Dates. I saw myself sitting, relaxing and following their lead so that I could stay creative. Only to find (can we say Duh? :) ) my arms are attached to my back and it hurts to move them and I have to move my position every 5 minutes or I'm in agony.

(hopefully I can play catch up soon on both workshops that, btw, look great: good job to the teachers and the students.. at least I can watch :) )

The good news is I have a short attention span so it's easy for me to move from one thing to another but a big part of me loathes not being able to do what I want, when I want and for how long.

And better news: I can now sit up for a bit with the keyboard in my lap (where I am now) and communicate to the outside world and I've started on the magazines and catalogs some. I'm even walking around the house a bit.

So there is a light at the end of this tunnel and so, I feel that once again, I am ready to Get Over Myself. In short increments. :)

Hopefully, in the following weeks I'll have some reports of results of some kind of Creative expression... as well as the plans for The Garden in 2012.

(the above picture is from one of my Art Journals and seemed appropriate for me relearning to Soar!)