Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rhythm of Our Walks

Before I explain today's topic, I have to tell you that I spent some time today painting chickens.  Not just any chickens, mind you, these were Chinese chickens.  It was fun, but since they're not finished yet (as in not fully recognizable), I'll do "show and tell" later.

Anyway, today I was uploading photographs from the third day on vacation when I realized the walks D and I took had a definite rhythm.  I'll show you what I mean and then tomorrow you'll be able to predict what comes next.

So to begin, our walk always included a visit to Animal Planet:

The horses were in a different field on this day so I was able to get a better photo.  Aren't they something?  Then there was the farm at the almost half-way point in our walk.  The first day when we passed the farm I was disappointed that there were none of the expected horses in sight.  But then much to my delight on the second day - ta-Dah!  Ole Blue Eyes!

Every day I took photographs of the scenery.  No matter how many times we see the same features the light may changes, the wind may blow, or I may just think it does.  Whatever the case may be, taking more photos is essential (even when I have to speed walk to catch up to D who has learned not to wait for me).  This is a dramatic view of a level stretch of road that seems to end at the Gap between the two mountains at the south end of the lake.

 Once back at the lake, at some time during every day, I have to take more shots of the lake - just in case I missed something in the past seven years at this particular camp or in the past 32+ years we've been at this lake.  So here is a "reference" photo of a man fishing.

And that's the rhythm of our walks from beginning to end.

Monday, August 29, 2016

More at the Lake

On our morning hikes, the wildflowers were a real treat.  Because we were farther north than we are at home, the flowers we had already loved and lost at home were in bloom in Vermont.  The chicory is such a lovely color!

I've always been drawn to barns.  They are such important buildings and usually are quite old having seen generations of the same family come and go.  Some outlive their families and even the family home.  Such is the case with this barn which I have photographed gazillion times trying to find just the right photo to use in a painting.  I thought I had it with the next photo taken near the beginning of our second day, clockwise walk.

But no.  The barn itself was too far away making the setting the star instead of the building.  So I tried taking the shot using a different orientation and voila!  This is it:

Yet there was still an issue.  Look at the hay wagon (or whatever it is; I'll have to check with D).  First, it covers up a good portion of the barn.  Second, it shows a solid, flat side.  Boring!  We walked on a bit with me stopping every 10 paces or so until I had the perfect picture of the barn and wagon.

Now I can take the barn and wagon from this photo, plop it down in the landscape of the second barn picture, and Bob's your uncle.  

 Naturally there are many barns all over this area.  Near a apex of the mountain was this one - a real beauty, too.  Maybe after fussing with the setting it will be another painting?  Looks a bit windswept with those clouds behind it, doesn't it?

I've said it before, I love draft horses.  This was my first photo of these horses from a distance.  They look black so my guess was Percheron.  ???  While I love these animals for their looks and their history as workers, I know just about nothing about them.  So why do I like them?  They're beautiful!  After I post more photos of these beauties, maybe someone can tell me more about them.  How about it SILs?

When we got back to the lake, it was still windy and the water was choppier than usual.  But it was a great day for sailing as you can see below.

Our vacation certainly was giving me a lot of super images to think about for painting!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Return from Vacation

Friday we returned from another vacation in Vermont.  We had our usual great time which, if boiled down, consisted of:

  • walking
  • eating
  • painting
  • eating
  • reading/napping/swimming
  • drinking/eating
  • reading
  • sleeping
Definitely, as you can see, it was an arduous time.  

When we got there and did the minimal bit of unpacking, we walked out on the balcony and took the required photo:

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you have seen a version of the above photograph every year for as long as this blog has been around.  The next photo, however, is a relatively new one: a moon rise.  I did lighten the picture enough so you could see more than the moon and its reflection.  It was a stunner.

That picture was taken after dinner on the first evening.

The next morning, D and I got up and started a first for us at the lake; we began a 5-mile, everyday, walk up and around what to us is a nameless mountain (though I am sure BD1 knows what it is).  The first day we walked counter-clockwise which meant that the steepest section was in the beginning of the walk and was probably at least a mile long.  More on our progress on this walk later.

After the walk, E, BD1, and I began painting.  They are both very accomplished watercolor painters but had decided they wanted to try oils for a change of pace.  I volunteered to take my supplies up to the lake and help them begin a painting.  That way, they'd have an idea if they wanted to invest all the time (and money, too, of course) on a course in new medium this coming fall. 

I didn't take any photos of their works (each of us worked on two paintings) even though they did very well and had nothing to hide from public view.  It just wouldn't be right unless they could write their own descriptions.  Anyway, my two paintings were a scene from China and one from Italy.  Choosing the subjects was quite difficult as the canvas size was small, but the two scenes were well suited to it.  Here is the one from China - the one closest to being finished.  At the lake I painted on this one (using only brushes instead of my usual palette knife) for five days and again today.

It's clearly not finished, but I like the way it is shaping up.  The Tibetan monk was photographed in Tienamin Square and the setting I snapped on the outside of the Summer Palace.  Loving both photographs, I decided to combine them - and throw in the chickens for the heck of it and for all the fowl we saw in Beijing.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

August Flowers

What a muggy, hot day it was today, and I guess we are in for some more.  That's August for you, I guess. 

It's later than it should be so I'll only take the time to show you a couple of pictures from the garden.  Now remember, I've mentioned that the garden really hasn't been tended this year due to all the construction with men and machine traipsing all over the backyard.  It's not all their fault, of course.  The work did keep us busy, too.

Anyway, now that the season is farther along and since we're finally getting some rain, we do have a few flowers poking up.  But the first to share with you is a house plant that is doing remarkably well in its summer residence.  The stephanotis is huge and is sending new runners out all over the place.  It hasn't looked this healthy in a while. 

To prove how well its doing, there are two clusters of buds (one on the left and another on the right) on their way to popping open.  It's the first time it's bloomed in years!  I've looked to see if I can find more, but it's hard to see in among all those leaves.  Since it is touch-sensitive, I don't want to go digging around in the foliage.  Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Our new delphinium was doing very well until the heavy rains hit; I hope it was the rain and not one of the rabbits.  Anyway, it was fortunate enough to have a friend nearby to lean on.  I should have staked it but forgot.

The last picture is one of my favorite flowers.  Of course, I can't remember its name right now, but it's very tall and looks like a rudbeckia.  It is way back almost among the lilacs that are the back border of our garden.  The color of the flower is like a bright light in a shaded place.  Its very pretty leaves (that don't show in this picture) are very dark green - all of which make the blossoms appear to float in the air..

I hope your garden is giving you pleasure, too!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ansel Adams - Early Works

Today we traveled with a friend to Cooperstown to go to the Fenimore Art Museum.  We were going to one of their "Food for Thought" lectures which we have attended and enjoyed in the past.  Today's topic was the early works of Ansel Adams. 
I was very surprised at the difference between the early and his later more well-known photographs.  Or more well-known to me. This exhibit showed Adams' growth over his life and that was the most interesting thing of all.  His first photographs are admired, but many left me unmoved.  His subject was the great outdoors even early on, but the drama I think of when the subject of his work comes up was rarely there.  Instead, I saw the influence of Japanese woodcuts in some of his compositions (those I liked); they influenced many artists of that time period.  I learned of his devotion to getting just the right light, waiting for the more dramatic clouds, and his desire to convey what he was feeling. 
Some of the facts of Adams' life struck me as intriguing.  He was born in 1902 in San Francisco, was frequently ill, and didn't do well in school.  In fact, he left school after finishing 8th grade.  He hoped to be a great pianist but had to realize he didn't have what it took there either.  So what impressed me is despite those "failures" he applied himself thoroughly to the art of photography including all the chemistry and math required and was very, very successful. 
But to me, many of the photos I saw today did not strike a responsive chord. Nothing unusual in that - no one is going to love everything they see in an art show.  Nor is it surprising that I love his later work when he manipulated the development of his photos to get what his vision demanded.  What is surprising to me was how much the fact that even an artist as incredible as Ansel Adams needed time to develop, even his work changed over time, and even an artist of his stature had some clinkers in his work.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Stay True to Your Vision

This is Day 5 on the newest Lake Willoughby painting, and I think it has maybe only one more day of work before it is finished.

When I went to class, I was disappointed with the fact that I hadn't done any work on it this week, and also disappointed that I no longer thought it was as successful as I had originally thought.  Yes, I had taken a "dark and stormy" photo and turned it inside out, but gradually it lost its luster. Something was definitely "off".  

So here it is as it was when I went to class today:

When I explained my dissatisfaction to Sharon, she asked her usual leading questions that made me find the answer.  She asked, "What do you like?"  

My answer was, "The sky."

"What else?"

"The lake,"  I responded.  Then, of course, it became obvious.  The hills weren't "alive with the sound of music" or anything else.  They were downright dull.  A bit more conversation, and by the end of the class, this is what I had:

In brief, if I were going to work with the brights of the storm, I couldn't wimp out two-thirds of the way through.  I have to learn to stay true to my own personal vision.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Jason Yenter's "Peaceful Holiday"

There was no entry yesterday because I forgot.  We had returned home from a weekend spent with daughter and grandson and dove right into the end-of-the-weekend chores.  Not a good excuse, but it's the only one I have.

Today was the usual Monday-so-it-is-laundry day, but I did get some quilting done on my Improvisation quilt.  That's a good thing as it is going to be in the Schenectady Guild's show this fall.  It would be better if it is finished, don't you think?

Anyway, last Friday the first block in the BOM was completed!  Well, except I did not "square it up" as you will see in the photo below.  This is the Jason Yenter "Peaceful Holiday" pattern, and this is the center block:


I had thought I had cut the very center blue carefully, but you see that there are no snowflakes on right or bottom.  Didn't notice that until I had appliqued the round medallion.  Drat!  I guess I will have to embroider some snowflakes there as it is bound to nag at me.  

Some of this was foundation pieced which I love in a pattern like this as if you are careful, the points will be perfect.  However the rest of it was pieced the usual way - which would have been all right if the pattern had given the measurements for those units once sewn so any errors could have been caught immediately.  I can see that I will have to re-sew some of those corners.  

Going wonky this early in the game is not a good thing!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Renovations and Races

Excitement is beginning to build regarding the renovations going on here.  I think I mentioned that the area rug and an ottoman for Garden Room have arrived plus the blinds for the family room.  Today another blind arrived; it's quite a long package so I didn't open it.  At first I thought it might be for either the kitchen or the Garden Room.  But then I reasoned that since the first one was not a honeycomb type, the more recent one probably isn't either.  That means that it is most likely for the kitchen.  We'll have to wait and see.

Today, D had a meeting in the morning so I spent my time up in the studio working on the block-of-the-month Block #1.  My hope was to finish it today.  That didn't happen.  There were a few interruptions by workmen needing to check on things, and as usual, the sew took longer than anticipated.  So before that block was finished, D came home.

That meant that I had to scurry around and get ready to go to the race track for our annual day in Saratoga.  I may it more difficult for myself because I had laid clothes out earlier that really weren't appropriate for the heat.  After two or three attempts, I finally found something cooler yet still comfortable.  Except for the shoes which at the end of the day are now in the wastebasket (they are now too small).  We did have fun despite the blister, though, and D was fortunate with his bet on one of the races - a first for us.

We returned home to find the workmen had managed to lay the floor in the family room.  It looks beautiful!  All in all things are beginning to take shape.  Now if we can just get the workmen to put in the necessary shelf so D can have his TV back, all will be well in our world.  We will be able to wait for the furniture to come in.

I hope.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

News on the Construction Front

The painting is almost finished in the family room; there are only a few minor touch ups left.  The construction men were back today, and now the carpeting has been torn up!  The echo which had been living in the Garden Room has moved to the family room.  The new room now has all the too-heavy-for-us-to-move furniture from the family room so the once lovely room now looks like a storage area (or the "lumber room" as such places were once called) while the family room has new life.

We are now being told that the construction will be finished by Friday.  I am skeptical.  While the only big thing to be done is laying down the flooring, there are numerous small bits and pieces.  Covers for the floor electrical plugs, shelving to attend to, vent covers, doors painted, backsplash in the bathroom, etc.

Then the heavy items have to be moved back.  And chipped paint touched up.  La, la, la . . .

Well, here's a nice thing - or at least something that makes me feel good.  This past weekend I finished a small embroidery project that was lots of fun to do.

It's a kitchen towel which will be at least one of two.  One of the women in my sewing club was working on a similar project the last time we met, and she very kindly let me use her teapot template for the embroidery.  The towel I selected has a white background with green borders so I chose a variegated green-to-orange embroidery thread.  It was fun to work on as the stitch is a simple one and the changing colors kept my interest.   This kind of work is very soothing which also makes it possible for one to participate in any conversation going on around one.  Time passes quickly and so does the project.

I have ordered a few more stencils so I can do more of this kind of stitchery . . . while waiting for the family room to be finished!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Who's Driving?

Willoughby is the subject of yet another painting - the beginning of which I showed last week and asked if you could guess the subject.  Today I'm going to begin with the photograph that is the inspiration for this painting:

Now here is the beginning of the painting that I posted last week.  It isn't easy to see because, well, there isn't much there!  I started it towards the end of class and, as I had done with the Venice painting, I wanted to limit the amount of drawing.  In this one, though, I did do a little.  I changed the proportions of water and sky because of the difference in proportions between the photo and the pad I am using.  The photograph is printed on 9 x 12 inch paper, and the painting is on 5.9" x 11.8" pad. 

Fortunately, I was able to find time during the week to work on it a bit more.  I had decided I wanted to work with the colors that are only hinted at in the photo.  All the speckles in the water (the lower portion of the painting) are an orange masking fluid.  It's like rubber cement, and it's purpose is to keep that part of the paper white even if you paint over it.  That application turned out to be a mistake - lesson learned this week.  But I do like the sky.

And here is what I did today. I have added more ominous color in the sky and in the water.  There's also more work in the hills going down to the water where you can now see the beginnings of the cabins clustered near the shore.  The mountain on the right is greener than it was.  While you can't see them yet, the raft (left of center in the water - small grayish mass) and the buoy (just right of center but closer to the bottom - red stripe around its middle) are now in the picture.  You can also see my attempts to minimize the dotty effect of that masking fluid in the water on the right (liking the dots into lines).

It definitely isn't done, yet.  Sharon has even said that this is just the first one, and that that in the second one, I'll avoid the errors I made here.

D isn't liking this one too much - at least not yet.  He wants the cabins and everything else to be more identifiable, more distinct.  I understand his point, but I don't know yet just how close to realistic this is going to be.  So far I am really enjoying the direction this painting is going, and it seems to be in charge, not me.  

I don't seem to be driving this bus!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Flowers at Long Last

This has not been the summer for flowers.  At least not for us.  We were too busy when it was time to either purchase plants or plant seeds.  The activities we had to see to tended to overwhelm our days and weeks leaving neither time nor energy to think about our outdoor spaces.

Finally the day came when I could stand it no longer.  It didn't happen until last week when D was away, but at least it happened.

I went to our local nursery and bought two pots of flowers.  Since July was gasping its last breath, my purchases were very inexpensive but still lush and beautiful.  I got them home and managed to plant the railing planter on our front porch (which then necessitated washing the porch and the rockers and Clive - our resident clivia).  Then the larger of the two pots I had purchased went into the wooden tub by our front new and improved front steps.

Of course, in the frenzy of planting, I did manage to break off a bloom or two.  I couldn't let them go to waste so I brought them inside where I think they look very pretty in one of my Alice vases:

Nice shadows, too.