Monthly Archives: April 2011

Neptune’s Horses

Seashell sketch

Neptunes Horses

 …or Triton’s Stallions?  I thought I had already posted this, but somehow I skipped it.  A couple of weekends ago I went to Depoe Bay, Oregon, with my dear friends from Loosely Bound for a “retreat”.  We laughed and sewed and left behind the news and the Internet and all the rest of it, and I found a shell in a kitchen basket to sketch.  Not native, I’m sure, but colorful enough to merit trying Liz’s new watercolor metallic pencils.  The paper wasn’t quite the right weight to withstand the water wash, but I like the way the ripples looks like sun rays when it was scanned.  And the horses?  Shirley, who spends a good deal of time at the coast, told us that when the surf is high like it was that Saturday, and the wind blows it back on itself, it’s call Neptune’s Horses… or was it Triton’s Stallions?  Next time I’d like to focus just on those stallions, they were breathtaking.

Cracked Crab

Colored pencil sketch of cracked crab shell

Cracked Crab

At the coast last weekend (notice I didn’t say beach, most of the sand seems to have been sucked out to sea…) I found a crab shell, which when I picked it up was whole.  The colors and patterns were captivating – greens and purples and oranges, so vivid and clear!  Tiny arrows and horseshoes and stars in a beautiful ivory shade stood out from the spots.  But sadly, by the time I got home with it, safely tucked under the car seat, it had dried into a dull ghost of its colorful self, and a huge crack had split it nearly into two pieces.  Soaking it helped a bit, but the greens were gone.  Even so, I was determined to sketch, and the arrows and other patterns were still clear.  As I worked to capture the intricate edge, I realized how much  it reminded me of piecrust.   The light penetrated the shell and shone eerily orange through the eye sockets…  Life and light comes and goes, as Triton’s stallions thunder up and down the beach.

Let the Weeding Begin…!

Sketch and closeup of henbit weeds

A weed is just a plant out of place?

 I think this is “henbit” – fascinating name, especially given my current fascination with chickens!  I’ve always like this weed – it’s fuzzy, it’s purple-ish, and the tiny blossoms always light up in the sunshine.  If you pick a stem, and look VERY close, you’ll see that those blossoms are almost like orchids, with deep purple spots down inside their fuzzy throats.  Lovely!

Frog Eyes

Sketch of Red Legged Frog

Red Legged Frog

Another Ben Hame sketch.  Being snowbound is a luxury for anyone with a sketchpad and a fistful of pencils.  My original intent was to sketch from my own photo references, but the combination of the all-pervasive light reflecting from snow everywhere, plus my Oregon light-starved eyes, made it impossible to see the laptop screen well enough.  The solution: magazines and books and still life.  This froggy was featured in (I think this is right) a Nature Conservancy magazine article about my own Willamette Valley!  When asked to name the frog, Henry, age 2.5, didn’t even blink before responding, “Frog Eyes”.

Chinese Ritual Bronze Bell

Sketch of Bell
Antique Chinese Bronze Bell

Browsing the bookshelves at Ben Hame last week yielded a heavy, luxe edition of “The MacLean Collection – Chinese Ritual Bronzes”, and on page 145 I found this fascinating specimen.  The colors in the aging bronze ranged from lichen green to bright orange rust, and the dragons at the top seemed to be trying to scratch their own backs with their teeth. 

Lemon Still Life

Two lemons on a plate

Lemon Still Life - 8 x 10 prints on fabric $20

A well-stocked refrigerator at Ben Hame yielded a bag of lemons.  I chose the two that were slightly misshapen, a hand-painted plate, and set out to do something a little less picky, a little faster, a little simpler than I usually do – primarily because I was semi-babysitting.  My young friend Ethan, age 5, was so busy having “Pac-Man Time” on his IPad that all I had to do was listen for the beeping to stop… easiest babysitting I ever did.  And I like the lemons, too!

Snowbird Porker

Sketch of piggy bank

Ben Hame Piggy

The ski chalet at Ben Hame is famous in certain circles for the ubiquitous pigs – skiing pigs, sitting pigs, pigs on placemats, beaded pigs, wax pigs, embroidered pigs, pig-handled cheese knives, bacon in the warming drawer… the list goes on.  My personal favorite was this antique cast iron piggy bank.  The moral of the story: be careful what you start to collect.

Technicolor Betty

Colored pencil sketch of hen on nest

Technicolor Betty

This IS Betty… I think.  With chickens, it’s hard to say.  

When I went to Tracy’s to take a few photos, she opened the nest box door of the Palais des Poulets and said, “Quick!”  And there was Betty, reigning supreme.  All fluffed up in the warmest, coziest corner.  Talk about your photo op…   I felt like such an intruder, but intrude I did.  It was worth it, because now her simple form, her elegant shape, can be studied, capture, preserved, celebrated. 

She is black, with a red comb, and a caramel beak.  But black is in the eye of the beholder.  I see feather upon feather, black over purple and green and pink.  Layer upon layer of rich, fine line as filaments meet and link to form feathers.  Have you ever really explored a feather?  Pull the little lines apart, smooth them back.  It’s nature’s zipper, reassembling itself magically.

And what is black?  It is purple plus yellow, red plus green, orange plus blue.  I was amazed to learn that all complementary colors in paint add up to black.  A black feather is a rainbow on a quill. 

Betty, you are not ugly.