Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Birds!

I guess I musst have birds on the mind, because most of my projects lately have featured them.  I'm taking an online class on Experimental Art (see button at the right).  It's a lot of fun, and the projects are intended to help us open up to be more creative and playful in our art.  Above is a project where we were to play with tracing images.  Since I've been (unsuccessfully) trying to draw birds in my backyard journal, I thought it would be fun to trace some birds just to get to know the basic shapes.  Then I transferred the images onto some old road maps, cut them out and collaged them.
This second piece started out with me just playing in my sketch book -- looking through books with pictures of birds and trying to draw them.  Then I added some collaged images from magazines, colored in and collaged the birds, and added some acrylic paint.  I think it would be fun to cut these out and use them in another piece, but for now I just want to enjoy this page.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A New (Bird) House!

Saturday there was a Gardener's Art Festival at The Growing Place, a wonderful garden center in Naperville.  I first heard about it Saturday morning, and wasn't sure it would be worth my time.  The air conditioned house was a tempting place to stay, but summer is all about hot weather and new adventures.  I'm so glad I went!  I heard two very entertaining speakers talk about attracting birds and the evolution of a backyard garden.  Not only was it interesting, I learned a few things too! 

I also had time to check out the artists' booths.  There were some really lovely things, but I was especially drawn to the booth where I bought the above little bird house.  Bob Knisley is from central Illinois, and he and his wife were sitting, surrounded by variations of houses like this.  Some were much more elaborate, but I chose a simple (read -- cheap!) one.  When his father's old barn fell down, Bob decided to re-purpose the wood -- with the original paint --  into lovely birdhouses.  What a great idea, and I couldn't resist bringing one home to grace our little bird sanctuary.  It will be interesting to see if any birds use it this season -- I think it might be a little late.  In case you want to contact Bob about his bird houses, his e-mail is

Speaking of hot weather . . . it's off to the pool!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Studio (and my "room-mates")

I know that several bloggers took people on tours of their studios over the week-end, and I need to find a link to tour some more for inspiration.  Because this is my studio right now.  You can see I've been playing with paint samples on the wall.  It was my son's room until he moved out two years ago.  Unfortunately, he still has a few things in the room:

Those are snake cages.  There's a "2-flat" for the two bigger boa constrictors on the right, and then a bunch of "condos" for the pythons on the left.  I've been sharing my studio with them for the past year while my son does some renovation on his house prior to moving them.

But I'm tired of sharing my space and I'm ready to evict them!  Paint and plaster dust notwithstanding, he needs to take them with him!  Especially now that I'm all inspired by seeing those great studios.  Don't worry, they are harmless and they never escape.  He comes and feeds them and cleans the cages.  But I already put most of my supplies in storage boxes (and back to the dining room table for my workspace - ugh!).  If you know anyone who loves snakes, I'll sell 'em -- cheap!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Butterfly Chair

We have an adirondack chair in the far back yard.  It gets sunshine while the rest of the yard is shaded by the house.  For the past two evenings, butterflies have been landing on it and stretching out their wings.  This little guy was the bravest of them, and posed for me for quite awhile so I could get his picture.  I guess I need to add him to my backyard journal. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Raining Again!

We have had more than our share of rain this season.  I can't even use the water in my rain barrel -- everything is saturated all the time.  So this morning I went out to work in the garden, and after about 5 minutes it started raining again.  This is what I picked so far:
Sugar snap peas (the first of the seaons - yay!), and the end of the lettuce and radishes.  I wanted to get all the lettuce and radishes pulled so I can plant some beans, but I really didn't want to be completely wet and muddy.  Maybe tomorrow.

Here's a page from my back-yard journal.  I did manage to squeeze a couple of drawing sessions in between the showers.  I'm taking an "Experimental Art Course" online -- it starts today.  (See the box in the right margin).  I'm hoping it helps me become braver about putting marks down in my journal!  Right now I'm still concerned about everything looking just perfect.  I need some freedom, and hopefully the class will help me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wasting time

Lately it feels like I'm spinning my wheels, attempting a lot of projects, but not really finishing anything.  Then I end up at the computer playing mindless solitaire games, and feeling frustrated with the whole process.  Last night I closed the solitaire program (I was losing anyway), and open Photoshop Elements.  I took this picture of a little bird earlier this week (not sure what kind it is, but he posed nicely) and used a background from some decorated paper I made a couple of months ago.  (Thanks to Lenore at Eat Write Create for the idea of using decorated paper as a background).  It was fun to dabble and come up with something I actually liked.  It just shows that we don't need tons of time or creative energy to create a bit of beauty.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Birding -- Day 2 (and 3!)

Here's our group of birders at the Arboretum yesterday -- that's before the heavens opened and we had to dash for shelter.  Someone had just spotted a Baltimore Oriole's nest and we were all trying to catch a glimpse of it.  We also came upon a Great Blue Heron, who decided to ignore us and go on fishing.  It was a little dark where he was, but the picture turned out OK.  He hardly looks real -- he almost glows.  But he was very real!  When it began to rain, we all wanted to stay out.  But then it thundered and we had to head back.  Except for the robins, most of the birds had found shelter from the rain as well.  (Speaking of robins, it's a very good thing I took the picture I did on Friday.  The babies were gone from the nest just a few hours later.  Now maybe Momma Robin can get a little rest!)
I've tried thinking of comparisons between the two birding experiences.  I think I learned more at the Arboretum.  Our guide there wasn't a naturalist.  She went through the ornithology program at the Arboretum, so she really knew a lot about birds.  But she also seemed to understand what those of us who were new to birding wanted to learn -- what the various calls sound like: she would periodically stop us just to listen and observe.  She also pointed out flying patterns of the various species, so it was easier to tell them in mid-flight.  The naturalist at the forest preserve was really nice and friendly, but he kind of assumed that everyone there knew what he was talking about.  And it was a bigger group, so I didn't feel like asking a lot of questions.

But the big birding adventure happened this afternoon.  Our son, Jordan, spotted an eagle's nest while he was driving up to work last week.  So we went to get a look at it this afternoon.  There were at least two eaglets that appeared, stretched their wings and settled back into the nest.  It was breathtaking to observe through the binoculars.  It's the first time I remember seeing a bald eagle in the wild!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Birding -- Day 1

This morning was the bird hike at the forest preserve.  There were almost 20 of us, which made it a bit hard to hear what the naturalist was saying, and we made quite a bit of noise, so the birds definitely knew we were coming.  But I did see a Baltimore Oriole going back and forth to its nest, and I can now identify an Indigo Bunting.  All in all, we saw about 11 species of birds, most of which I could already identify.  But still, not bad.  I was trying to juggle between my camera and binoculars, which quickly became impossible, so I ditched the camera.  But here's a picture Don took the last time we were at the Aboretum of a Baltimore Oriole perching atop its nest.  It's a great picture -- wish I could take credit for it!

I did want to get one picture of birds this morning, so when I arrived back home I went to the back yard and took this picture of the baby robins who can just barely fit into their nest.  Momma Robin is still making trip after trip to feed the little guys.  They'll be leaving the nest soon.
So this report was especially for Linda.  I do recommend taking a birding hike with someone who knows what they're talking about.  And I'll blog about tomorrow's birding adventure at the Arboretum if there's anything interesting.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Prairie Smoke

At the Arboretum again, and the Prairie Smoke was in full bloom -- these lovely, wispy, cotton-candy-like tendrils softening the landscape.  I have some that I put in my back-yard garden, but it's not blooming like that.  Maybe next year, if I take very good care of it.

And this little guy was nearby -- he could fly, but the way he was squawking, he was obviously waiting for mom to come and take care of him.  I'm enjoying the birds so much, I've signed up for two bird-watching walks in the next two days.  I bought some binoculars, and I hope it's not pouring rain on either day.