Monday, July 25, 2011

Hummingbird Hawks

As the summer continues here at HummerLand . . . 

I've had some photographers stop by to try their hand at capturing my little gems. I think a couple of them are hooked and may be coming back.

Yesterday afternoon we had another violent thunderstorm move through. High winds took  down five large trees on our property.  Our electricity was lost but restored again in about three hours. This morning a group of residents survey the storm's damage.

While attempting to photograph the hummingbirds today, a Hummingbird Hawk Moth attached itself to my lens. I ran inside and got my point and shoot and got a photo of it before I shooed it away. It's an interesting creature with an uncanny similarity in size, shape and color to my little bird buddies.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My "Working Toes" Are Famous!

One of the many fun blogs I follow is called ToeMail. "It is a collaborative photography project featuring original photographs of toes of both genders, from the newborn to the elderly, photographed at outdoor or indoor locations around the globe."
 Today my toes were featured. Check it out here!

"Toe Ring"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Very Hot And Humid Here in NJ

The heat index here today was 115 degrees. It was so humid that my eyeballs were fogging up when I went outside from the air conditioning into the soup. The black flies have been torture on the horses and I am spraying them with fly spray 3 or 4 times a day. I use OFF on their legs which is the only thing that seems to give them any relief for more than a few minutes. Jerry set up six fans out there, so they are getting hot air blown on them from all angles. We also have a large cooler of cantaloupe and watermelon, seconds from the local farmer, that they get four or five times a day along with a bath or two to cool them down.  The extreme heat is especially tough on my old guy, Rembrandt. 

Photo taken here at the Sandarosa.

Even though we've had very few rain storms, they say we're not having a drought here. This is due to some severe thunderstorms we have been having about every ten days or so. The last two dumped a lot of rain in a very short amount of time. I am very thankful for them, even though we had to get a new TV cable box and go out and buy all new phones for the house, workshop and the barn. They all got fried from a close lightning strike. I was on the back porch watching the hummingbirds going crazy when it hit the transformer 300 feet up the road from us. I felt the charge go through my arm and let out a scream. We were only without electricity for five hours, Thank God! Now if I hear even distant rumbling, I unplug everything of value from the wall. The weather is so strange these days. There was no real warning of the last hit. I would be happy to see it happen again, the rain that is, without the lightning strike. I hope some of the other folks across the country that are suffering with record breaking heat and drought, will get relief real soon too.

Here's one of our young "yard dogs" after the last downpour. During the storms, the hummers just have a ball, getting blown around while they bathe and play tag, all the while cheeping  and flying around wildly. It's very entertaining to say the least. Notice this youngster's single red feather on his gorget.

See more hummingbirds this week on my SketchingEveryday blog.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monday's Child

 Is  Fair  Of  Face . . 

"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."  ~ William Shakespeare

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Watercolor Flower Vignette

The week before last on, I focused on flowers and a few of the *elements and principles of design. Our sketching challenge was to sketch from reference photos I posted. I am doing a watercolor painting of one of the vignette compositions.

*A vignette is a drawing or painting that involves a group of overlapping shapes placed somewhere on the paper, that is also surrounded by varied shapes of blank space. The mostly mid value image area should be an interesting shape which should run off the sides of the paper, not corners, in at least one place, usually 3 or 4. It should not go off the paper directly opposite one another horizontally or vertically. The edge of this shape should be dominantly hard. 

I pre-mixed my colors in the little round palette here and set up to view my drawing and reference photo while working. Getting inspiration and the essence from the photo, I'm not slavishly copying every detail. I have outlined my loose, painterly, one wash approach below.

I traced the flower drawing onto 140lb. Arches Cold Press paper and first wet the back side thoroughly to allow for a longer period of wet-in-wet manipulation. The front was then wet thoroughly where the mid value will be, except the white flowers and white shapes which I avoided with the clear water. I never attach the paper to a board and paint on a non-porous surface. Freely stroking in various colors while the paper is wet with the biggest brush I can use, it was a 1" flat for this tiny 5.5 x 7.5" piece. I have deliberately softened some edges to avoid a stiff cut-out look. The edges are harder with more contrast where I want you to look and softer in less important spots.

After the wash was dry, I did go back with a darker value in a few areas and added some details with softened edges, like in the stem shapes here. This approach was then repeated with the pink flowers, completing the main washes in one step.

Although never fitting all of them into a painting, I try to remember the *Elements and Principles of Design during planning and execution. A successful painting should have a clear focal point, harmonious colors and good shapes with variations in size, texture and value.  Ideally my finished piece will entertain the viewer, evoke some emotion and invite them to connect to it for a few seconds or so.  

If you have any questions, comments or advice, I would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and keep those brushes wet!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bachelor's Buttons, Nachos and Hummingbird Lovers

Today's post is about this and that. Just some random thoughts, pictures and daily happenings here in the Pine Barrens of NJ at the Sandarosa.

Bachelor's Buttons and Queen Ann'e Lace are in bloom here in fallow fields and on the sides of the country roads. I cut these last Sunday. They were growing around the barn at my hay guy's place. 

I put them in a bucket outside my studio and meant to sketch or paint them for our flower sketching challenge  but it never happened. Now they are beyond peak, so I guess I'll have to go find some fresh ones. I only took a few photos. Wish I had taken more. Wow, look at the close up of that flower head!

What's your favorite lunch? Mine is Nachos. This is how I make them; nacho chips, fresh salsa, shredded cheese, black olives and jalapeno peppers. Micro for 1 min. with a cover and it's delicious. I swear I could live on Nachos and Beer. Too bad it's not a little more nutritious.

The next day I used some fresh peppers from Jerry's garden. The little dark green ones are very hot, so I cut them up real small and boy were they good!!

Today Nancy and Frank "THE HUMMER HOUNDS" came to visit. I met them about five years ago at a hummingbird presentation I did at the Wild Bird Oasis. I invited them to come to my place and partake of the Hummingbird Happiness. They did and have been coming several times a season ever since.

It was great to see them and share our stories and enthusiasm for our little friends!! 

And remember folks, the invitation still stands for anybody else wanting to come visit me and my tiny gems here in HummerLand this summer!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Flower Paintings

My Summer Sketching Series, 2011, is now into the second month. I am trying to expand my audience by delving a little deeper into composition and design.

Participants will be encouraged to sketch flowers and make a pleasing composition using the Momma, Poppa, Baby Theory and the Rule of Thirds.

Here are some of my flower paintings from my archives to help demonstrate what I'm looking for.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Baby Raccoons and SandyLand Update

Guess who's living under my hay barn? OMG there are three little fuzzy-bear rascals and they are SOO CUTE! Momma took over Chuckie the wood chuck's home under there a few weeks ago when it was so hot here. The family has been living there ever since. Jerry took these snaps of them last night. I need to do a stake out from the big barn and try to get some good shots of them soon.

Snowflake is a very good mom and very strict and protective of the cubs. She has also taken over our feral cats, Ziggy and Leah's turf and food.They don't seem to mind it though and instead look forward to watching mom and the kids. The two cats can often be seen looking under the barn and waiting by the hole for the babies to come out.

We got some more plants and Jerry welded up more plant stands. We had to stake them into the ground as one tipped over in the strong wind. Thank goodness it missed the Jeep! Here's the studio entrance, taken this morning.

The screened porch off the kitchen is a favorite spot to hummer-watch any time of the day! The butterfly bushes are just starting to flower at the very top, but they should be exploding with blooms any day now.

Princess loves to roll around on the cool stepping stones in the morning.

She'll survey her territory to see who's been around during the night. Then up on the porch to watch the hummingbirds, deer, turkeys, birds, cats, squirrels, and chipmunk action for an hour or two.

I've gotten up early the past couple of mornings and taken Rembrandt for a spin through the woods. He's been looking awful mopey lately. At 31 years old, his teeth are not good and he doesn't do well in the heat. He has not been eating his hay at all, not moving around as he should and not pooping very much. It's been so hot and dry the past month, there is no pasture to speak of. I knew he needed exercise and lunging just wasn't enough. He starts out pretty slow and stiff, but by the end of our rides both days, he was so strong! Trotting through the trails, stirring up flocks of turkeys and herds of deer, I was applying a lot more half halts than leg! Looks like I'll be riding regularly this summer, 'cause he's been doing sooo much better since I started. It seems to have helped me and my back too. It's good getting up and out early. It makes the day so much richer. Here's a photo of him this morning after our ride. The watermelon and cantaloupe has really perked him up too. I've increased his Cushing's medicine which I think is helping and I started wetting some chopped hay mixed with Cavalor Senior which he has eaten a couple of times now. There was more manure in his paddock this morning, and his attitude is much more spirited so that is encouraging. With a horse this age, it's constant attention and tweaking of diet and routine to keep him strong. Oh, what Jerry and I wouldn't do for our old buddy! (And all of our animals!)