Saturday, September 26, 2009

End of September Notes, and a Poem

spotted in a consignment shop

No news to report. It's rainy, cool, and the garden flowers, even the nursery mums are looks pretty ragged. The maple is starting to shed its leaves more quickly now. The hummingbird has apparently packed his wee bags and headed south, so the feeder needs to come down and be cleaned and put away. I'm slowly bringing the potted plants inside after their summer in the sun. The cat has discovered the spider plant, so it needs a new spot. It' ll need to be hung from a hook, since the cat has found nothing so tall it cannot be leaped upon.

I've been experimenting with acrylic paints with mixed success. There is nothing I'd care to show anyone else yet. I'm scheduled for a workshop in November, so I want to be familiar with my materials and not come in completely unprepared.

After the Heat of Late September
by David R. Clowers in Wisconsin Poets' Calendar 2009

After the heat of late September
the leaves have given up
their struggle to be green, and have settled
for the relief of red, yellow, and orange.
They have abandoned all
their possible winter hangouts,
having been enticed, perhaps,
by the same devious breeze
that previously sold a gaggle of geese
on a timeshare resort, somewhere
far to the south from here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

That's It

11x14 inches, watercolor

I think I'm finished here. I'm down to picky picky details, so unless someone points out something major that I can still fix, this fellow is going to the "to be framed" pile.

Yesterday was a good art day for me. My painting of the chapter house stairs at Wells Cathedral was accepted into the state show for Wisconsin Regional Artists Association, and yesterday was the workshop and awards at UW Madison. Mine didn't earn any special extra awards, but it was a honor to hang with so many fine paintings and photos. I traveled with a local friend and it was a fine early fall day. We had good talks, a fine lunch, and went shopping for art supplies. Overall, thumbs up.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Great River Road Trip

One of my favorite things to do once the signs of autumn arrive is to take a drive on the Great River Road, along the Mississippi River. This year we took the convertible, top down. Recent days have been warm and bright, perfect for a drive. We like to drive north from LaCrosse on the Minnesota side, stay in Red Wing at the historic St. James Hotel, then drive down the Wisconsin side as far as Prairie du Chien.

This scene was taken down by the river after a good meal at the Staghead restaurant in Red Wing, Minnesota.

We get out to appreciate every view. This one was taken near Lake Pepin. Driving top down, one can really appreciate the sounds of the trains as they rumble and whistle along between the river bluffs and the water. The sound seems to echo in a way it does nowhere else. The smells too, of fields, farms, the railroad and the river all are part of the experience.

It is a real sadness to me that the great steamboats like the Mississippi and American Queen are not running this year. Someday I want very much to take a cruise from the upper Mississippi south during the fall season when the leaves are turning. This small replica boat, The Pearl of the Lake was doing a short day cruise on Lake Pepin, a wide part of the Mississippi where the Chippewa River joins the larger river.

One of my favorite places to stop on the trip home is a town of fewer than 100 people called Stockholm. There are some fine old river town buildings, a nice coffee shop, a gallery, antique store, and a bakery. These geraniums were basking in the warm sunshine.

I feel blessed to live so near to so much water related beauty, the Mississippi River, Lakes Michigan and Superior, and thousands of smaller lakes and rivers, and even more so because now I can visit them on these glorious early autumn days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Still Plugging Away on a Portrait

This is as far as I got on my Old World Wisconsin man this afternoon. I have to say that his scarf gave me fits. I will probably go back later and smooth out the fringe, though I don't want that part of the picture to be overly important. Looking here, I see a bigger contrast up near the , rather than on his face, which is what I want to emphasize. I think when a background goes in that will lessen the contrast in the area of his hat.

I welcome any comments on how I might handle the background. In the original photo there is a doorway, part of a window, but I think I just want color. I welcome suggestions on what you would do.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Project

I finished up some picky picky details on the Different Strokes cupcakes watercolor today, and then started a project that has been percolating in my mind for a year. Last year we took a day trip to Old World Wisconsin in Eagle. It was a beautiful day, as many of these early September days are in this neck of the woods, and I took lots of reference photos of buildings and animals, but my favorite was of this hatted and bespectacled man with a broad smile and waxed mustaches.

So I launched into it, even though there are unfinished drawings sitting on the table in my studio. So far I have managed to enlarge the portrait and make a line drawing on newsprint, and then get it transferred to a half a sheet of 150 lb. Arches paper. Now I'm building up the layers on his face. The frisket is still in place, though it will come off tonight. I haven't made any decisions about the background yet. I think, oddly enough, that his fringed scarf will be the hardest to do. I worry about the likeness, but since he isn't a close friend or relative, I guess I can make him look however I want. This portrait is turning out to be less stressful than my self portrait. Besides issues of likeness, I think it's because this one is twice as large. My painting teachers have always said larger is easier, and I'm coming to agree.

Silly me, I always show my husband works in progress. Usually this isn't a great idea, but when he saw my Old World guy he recognized him right away. His response was much more positive than his response to the cupcakes was; he seems to like realistic landscapes and portraits, but not paintings of food.

Oh well.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Scenes from the UP and a Poem

We spent most of the week on a driving trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the UP. My husband and I like listening to books on tape, and have developed a fondness for Lilian Jackson Braun's cozy "Cat Who" mysteries, set in the area "four hundred miles north of everywhere." It was through these little novels we learned about the abandoned copper mines that dot the rocky landscape. I took this picture of a crumbling building at the Delaware copper mine.

Animals are on the move, many meeting an early demise on the roads. We saw lots of porcupines, raccoons, skunks, deer, and this turtle.

We stayed at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, a lodge and cabins and a golf course built during the Great Depression. The setting is peaceful and serene, very quiet after Labor Day. In the UP some of the maples are turning red, though the overall look is still summery. I took warm clothes and was too warm.

We stayed near Copper Harbor, at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. One day Dick hiked and I went poking through stores in town. This scene was right outside a bookstore filled with current best-sellers.

We took a boat tour over to the Copper Harbor light, which is part of a state park. The skies were clear, the water calm, and Lake Superior was a blue jewel every day. Hard to believe that summer is essentially over, especially considering the sunshine and warmth.

Cicadas at the End of Summer

by Martin Walls

Whine as though a pine tree is bowing a broken violin,

As though a bandsaw cleaves a thousand thin sheets of
They chime like freight wheels on a Norfolk Southern
slowing into town.

But all you ever see is the silence.
Husks, glued to the underside of maple leaves.
With their nineteen fifties Bakelite lines they'd do
just as well hanging from the ceiling of a space
museum —

What cicadas leave behind is a kind of crystallized memory;
The stubborn detail of, the shape around a life turned

The color of forgotten things: a cold broth of tea & milk
in the bottom of a mug.
Or skin on an old tin of varnish you have to lift with
lineman's pliers.
A fly paper that hung thirty years in Bird Cooper's pantry
in Brighton.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Nest and a Poem

The Caged Skylark

As a dare-gale skylark scanted in a dull cage,
Man's mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house, dwells —
That bird beyond the remembering his free fells;
This in drudgery, day-labouring-out life's age.
Though aloft on turf or perch or poor low stage
Both sing sometímes the sweetest, sweetest spells,
Yet both droop deadly sómetimes in their cells
Or wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage.

Not that the sweet-fowl, song-fowl, needs no rest —
Why, hear him, hear him babble & drop down to his nest,
But his own nest, wild nest, no prison.

Man's spirit will be flesh-bound, when found at best,
But uncumberèd: meadow-down is not distressed
For a rainbow footing it nor he for his bónes rísen.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fair Album

Click on this picture to enlarge. I only noticed the sign in the upper left corner after I loaded it on the computer. Too funny!

Yesterday while my husband was away on one of his epic bicycle rides, I drove to Elkhorn, my hometown, for a visit to the Walworth County fair. I have a nostalgic affection for this fair, since I exhibited muffins, cookies, banana bread, some really bad sewing, and a few watercolors there many years ago as a Sugar Creek 4-H member. Grandpa Pierce, leaning on his cane, held court in the Simons hybrid seed corn tent, taking orders for the upcoming season and chewing the fat with other old-timers. Grandpa was always good for quarters for midway rides to get us kids out of his hair. Later, when my dad sold John Deere tractors, we hung out in that area.

These days I hardly see anyone I know at the fair. A couple years ago I got my sister to come wander around and eat roasted sweet corn with me, and once in a while I see a former classmate. If I'm lucky I find my brother in the farm equipment area like Dad used to be, though yesterday he was working at the store. I spied a former rival from another club (now matronly woman), introduced myself, but it was clear she did not remember me. I, like Rip Van Winkle awakened after years only to learn he has gray hair, am no longer am part of my old community.

So I headed to the animal barns.

I love the critters, from the cows, to the pigs, to the sheep and goats. In the middle of the days most animals were napping, trying to ignore all the folks wanting to scratch their ears. This pig was awake, though his neighbor was sound asleep, grunting softly, running in his sleep.

The food hasn't changed much, lots of sugar and fried foods. I love the taffy stand, though I know that a $5 bag of sugar isn't what I need. I did get an order of quesedillas and a horchata, and later bought a mammoth cream puff to bring home and split with my skinny husband.

It's fun to watch the little children on carnival rides. When I was a kid we paid for rides with coins, not coupons, and you could usually get enough change for another ride by rummaging around the seats where centrifugal force wedged them in the back crevices. I took this photo by accident, just pressed the button by mistake, but the crazy angle sort of captures the feeling of the ride.

My last stop on my way out of the fairgrounds was at the camel ride. I chatted with the man running the operation, and asked him if the camels were cousins to llamas. They are, you can see the family resemblance in their faces. Asked if he thought the camels minded walking around in a ring with folks on their backs, he smiled and said this was an easy office job compared to carrying, say, salt across a desert. These camels lie and work in Wisconsin, and the Elkhorn fair is almost the end of their season before winter.

There lots more, arts and crafts, the horticulture building, the grandstand with sulky races and tractor pulls. I enjoyed the trip, a traditional end-of-summer activity in this part of southern Wisconsin.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hungry? Got Cupcakes!

Sometimes other people's ideas just call out to me. This little watercolor in a notebook is a study for a larger painting I'm planning. The source photo comes from a blog called Different Strokes From Different Folks, so there will be lots of cupcake paintings around online. I suppose I could change this, make the paper liners different colors, add a patterned cloth, but I like the simplicity of this image. I also am grooving on the swirly frosting and the colored sprinkles.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mixed Media Series

11x11 inches, mixed media

All summer I have been experimenting with using tiles made from recycled styrofoam meat trays. Sometimes I paint them with acrylics and add collage elements like rice or tissue paper, and sometimes I add gold leaf. This series features skeletonized leaves and old bird cards, the sort that used to come in baking soda boxes. This one features a red-eyed vireo. The tile is just 4x4 inches, but framed with a wide border I think they make nice accent pieces. To help keep framing costs down I get leftover pieces from a friendly framer for a much reduced price. This mat has a nice linen texture.