Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Month of Orange: Olivia, for JKPP

Olivia, for Julia Kay's Portrait Party
8x10 inches, colored pencil on tan sketchbook paper

Volunteer Halloween activities and activities outdoors have taken up much of October, and I have spent precious little time in the studio.  I did make a series of note cards, using a Gelli plate and fallen leaves, and I experimented with painting over photo copies of vintage found photos using shaving cream and acrylic paint, but I hadn't really worked on any portraits for Julia Kay's Portrait Party (an online group in which I find lots of inspiration) - until last night.  It has turned chilly and the rain is making all the fallen oak and maple leaves into a sodden mess, so the only sensible thing for me to do was sit down to play with colored pencils.

I took a photo that Olivia provided to the group, altered it in Photoshop, then worked from the cropped and altered image.  I simplified the large shapes as much as I could and still maintain a recognizable image, then worked in a very limited palette, with texture plate under much of the paper to add visual interest.  I rather like it, though I need to do more to decide if this style is one I really like.

Anyway, Happy Halloween to anyone who ventures here.  It's raining in southern Wisconsin, so I doubt we'll get many - if any - trick or treat children.  More Reese's peanut butter cups for me.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Month of Orange: Poe, Stoker and Shelley

The photo doesn't have anything to do with writers of horror, but it is the shelf in my kitchen. My orange for the day.

I agreed weeks ago to a couple of fund raising events at the local historical society.  There was an afternoon event where I used dice to tell fortunes for children and their parents.  I've done it before, but not for years.  I found directions for "divination by dice" online and used the regular fortunes for the adults and "softened" versions for the little ones.  Inevitably at least one person stops, and gets a funny look, and says, "How did you know...?"  But really, it's just a game.

The evening event involved three people who did fifteen minute readings from classic horror stories in the darkened and decorated Lincoln-Tallman restorations.  I prepared a reading from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and performed in costume, in the bedroom where Abraham Lincoln stayed in 1859.  I had a good time - and I hope my listeners did too. I wish I had a chance to hear the Poe and selection from Dracula, but you can't have everything.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Month of Orange: A Walk in the Woods

I've been busy trying to take more photos of old headstones at Oak Hill cemetery for Find A Grave, and also getting my reading from Frankenstein ready for the RCHS event on Saturday.  And I've slowly been clearing out flower beds, though I hate to pull out anything before the frost actually kills it.  Still, it is a delight to be outdoors.

This afternoon my husband and I drove to Carver-Roehl park to just take a leisurely walk, listen to the squirrels making a racket in the dry leaves, the woodpeckers in the trees.  Winter will come, soon enough.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Month of Orange: Indian Summer

We are having a few days of Indian summer, warm days following the first killing frost of the season.  I still cannot bring myself to pull up all the annual plants that are still blooming, even though I know I should take advantage of the mild days before cold comes again.  I have been making sure to get outside for a while each day, even with my script to prepare for the Halloween event at the Tallman house this weekend - a 15 minute reading from Frankenstein.  That will be done - but weather like this cannot last much longer.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I couldn't post yesterday because we were in Madison with out long-time friends watching the Badger football game from the warmth and comfort of a State street bar.  We weren't sure if this was the 39th or 40th year of watching a Badger game together, but we were possibly the oldest people in the eating and drinking establishment.

Finding orange is getting a little harder, especially if I want to find a photo that is not either a pumpkin or a flaming orange maple tree.  Still, nothing wrong with either of those.

This is a giant pumpkin from the Peck farm stand between Spring Green and Madison. Love the giant pumpkin.  There used to be one nearer, perched on top of a local silo, but storms blew it down  few years ago, smashed it to smithereens - and it has never been replaced.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Month of Orange: Pink Pumpkins

We saw these "pink" pumpkins at a farm stand on Monday - to me they look more peach than pink, but hey! 

I've been busy the last couple days with my twilight cemetery tours - Chill at Oak Hill.  I dressed up in black Victorian garb and led 40-50 people each evening through the older parts of our historic cemetery, telling some of the creepier stories I know -  a terrible well digging accident, a murder/suicide, a lynching, three different clairvoyants, and a couple of supposed hauntings.  Actually it was fun for me, and I was excited by how interested people seemed. I wish I had a photo of the beautiful sunset each night, but I was too busy to worry about finished before sunset to worry about taking pictures.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Month of Orange: Wisconsin Hillsides

This is another photo from our weekend jaunt along the Mississippi River, and the driftless areas of western Wisconsin.  What is there to say that isn't already clear here?  We live in a state blessed with low key beauty which seems to peak on warm sunny days in October.  It is then that our trees, every bit as pretty as those in places like New England, change daily in shades of gold, russet, and flaming red, set off by fields alternating green and gold.

It's hard to see scenes like this, spotted from a wayside park on a county road, unless a person decides to abandon the four lane highways, and slow down.  Of course we have the luxury of being retired, and no longer in much of a hurry.

Fall Song

Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries – - -roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay – - – how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.

- Mary Oliver

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Month of Orange: Great River Road

We have a personal tradition of every autumn heading out, in the convertible if weather allows, and driving much of the Great River Road along the Mississippi River - Wisconsin's West Coast.  Sunday was unseasonably warm and summer-like, so we filled up the cat bowl, threw some clothes in a gym bag, and took off.
 Our first stop was the Harbor View Cafe in Pepin - best known as the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Pepin a a very small town right on Lake Pepin, which was beautiful Sunday, filled with sailboats.  We didn't make it to Pepin until after one in the afternoon, but we still had a wait, so popular is this eatery.  I started with butternut squash soup, delicately seasoned with lime and cumin, and very good indeed.  The main course was fine too, though not orange, so not pictured here.  It was risotto balls filled with melted cheese with a side of roasted vegetables.  Too bad we live so far away from The Harbor View.

We didn't have any idea of how crowded the highways and little towns would be on Sunday.  Apparently everyone with either a convertible or a motorcycle was out, enjoying the blue skies and warm temperatures. It was something of a shock, although everyone was so happy that it was hard to even object to the roar of the Harleys.

After spending the night in Trempealeau, we headed to Lacrosse for some views from Granddad's Bluff.  I had seen the summer view several times, but never the colors of autumn.

After that we cut back across the state, sticking to the small county roads that twist through the hills and coulees of the driftless area of western Wisconsin. 
Our trip home took us to Peck's Farm Market near Spring Green, where I indulged in some time at the petting zoo (I have a weakness for the white deer and the goats), bought some apple butter for morning toast, and gawked at the pumpkins and squash.
It was a fine little jaunt.  Perfect, pretty much, with lots of shades of orange to discover.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Month of Orange: Fresh Farmers Market Carrots

Is there anything as fine as really fresh vegetables from a local farmers market?  These sweet beauties caught my eye on Saturday. Those odd looking greenish brown items on the left are ground cherries, which also are quite nice, though not so versatile as the carrots.

I'm feeling silly tonight - thought I'd share a line from the late great Shel Silverstein:

What did the carrot say to the wheat? Lettuce rest, I'm feeling beet. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Month of Orange: Pumpkin Patch Painting

I have gotten out of the habit of daily painting the past month or so.  This time of year I want to be outside as much as possible, knowing that cold weather is on the way.

Pumpkin Patch, 5x7 inches, oil on paper

Habits, including good ones, can fade.  Since I prefer to keep my painting habit, I sat down a few days ago with a small scrap of mat board and did this little study of some pumpkins.  I put rather a lot of color in the acrylic under painting, and tried to leave a bit showing when I added the oil paint.

It isn't a masterpiece, but the colors are cheerful, and it fits the season.  It's going to the gallery today.

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Month of Orange: Lobster Roll

OK, I'm cheating, but I had to show off my lunch from our trip last month.  I'm counting the toasted roll and fries as orange.  We took a Holland America cruise from Montreal, to Quebec, to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, to Bar Harbor, and finished up in Boston.  It was great fun.  Beautiful scenery, light houses, flowers, history, the works.

When we tendered in to Bar Harbor, the day was not very nice.  It was cold and raining.  Luckily for us, we had spent a week in Acadia National Park about twenty years ago, and had wandered up and down touristy Bar Harbor then, when the weather was warm and sunny.  The weather being what it was this particular day, we ducked into one of the first restaurants we saw near the water, and I ordered this wonderful lobster roll with sweet potato fries and (to quote the young woman who served us) a "wicked hoppy" IPA.  When I took this photo I had already polished off a cup of clam chowder so delicious and filled with tender clams that I wanted to purr like a cat.

There is nothing more to say.  That lunch was just about perfect.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Month of Orange: Road Trip

Sometimes we take out our convertible for a drive on the back roads.  That's what we did yesterday afternoon.  Actual designated Rustic Roads are nice, but lots of ordinary rural roads are long on beauty and short on aggressive traffic.

I took this photo through the windshield of the car.  Do those field of picked corn count as orange?

How about this not-so-rustic roadside farm stand?

We both enjoy taking the Colsac III ferry at Merrimac.  It's free, and a grand way to see the Wisconsin River.  The life preserver is orange - and so is the trim on the railings.

We ended up in the town of Roxbury, at a supper club called the Dorf Haus Supper Club.  I suspect we were the only people there who didn't know everyone else.  The bartender made a fine old fashioned (a must for Wisconsin supper clubs), and the German fare was altogether satisfying.  I liked their decorated entrance, too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Month of Orange: Silk Wreath

What a joy it is to be able to be outside this time of year!  Today skies were blue, the weather was moderate, and the trees are starting to turn just a bit.

My orange for today is an old silk wreath I hang inside on a door with colored glass.  I like Halloween, but I tend to put out decorations that are just seasonal, not much that is meant specifically for a holiday.  That's not counting my plastic light up pumpkin, of which I am unreasonably fond.

Our house is full of harvest gold.  When we moved in in 1990 I was wild to get rid of it, but after a while I just gave up and embraced it.  At least this time of year the old fashioned color looks good - or at least appropriate. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Month of Orange: Painting at the Neighbor's Place

Some folks just have a sense of how to decorate outdoors.  Me, not so much. I plant, and sometimes I water or weed, but I don't decorate.

Down the street and around the corner neighbor is a retired art teacher, and it shows in her back garden.  About a month ago she showed up at my door and invited me to come paint or draw at her place.  Even though I am something of a loner, I said I would, and I showed up with a sketchbook. I did draw - nothing to write home about, but I also took some reference photos.  This delightful woman has all sorts of potted plants, bird baths, feeders, sculptures, and so on.  I liked the red here in the chicken and the terra cotta pots.

Close enough to orange for me.

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Month of Orange: Construction Signs and Barriers

Janesville has had more than its fair share of road and street destruction/construction this summer.  First one half of Main Street, then the other was dug up right down to the water mains.  Stage one of the project is mostly done, though there are no plantings yet to replace all the trees and shrubs and planters that were removed.  At least half the street is finished.  The other half has some concrete now, though the sidewalks still must be reconfigured, lighting put back in, and who knows what else.

It is a mess, though we are assured by city officials that the downtown is experiencing a rebirth, will be better than ever when this phase of roadwork is complete.  I hope so, and I hope that people who have been scared out of downtown this year so far, gotten out of the habit of visiting downtown businesses, will return once all this orange disappears.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Month of Orange: Impatiens

Now that it is flannel shirt weather, the impatiens that drooped during hot weather have perked up.  They'll look good until they get zapped by a hard frost.  The older I get the more difficult it is for me to maintain long beds of flowers, so I've taken taken to scattering around large plastic pots of the shade loving flowers in my garden.  An added benefit is that if frost is forecast early in the fall, I can drag the pot into the garage over night and keep the color going a little longer.

Sometimes less is more.

The Peace of Wild Things
By Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Month of Orange: Mums

The weather is cooling down, and some of the annual flowers have already taken a one way trip to the compost heap.  Cool nights and damp weather agrees with the garden mums and the pansies that have stepped up to take the place of the summer exhausted plants.  I like this cobalt blue pottery planter, but discovered that any old plastic pot can show a pop of color with just some hardware store spray paint.  The blue pot on the left is an example.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Challenging Myself - A Month of Orange

I decided that I need a distraction from distressing national and local news stories, worries about a sick beloved kitty, guilt over neglecting exercise and not doing artwork.  So it occurred to me to take on a little challenge, something positive. 

The colors in our yard are gradually changing, and I began putting a few autumn decorations out, and many of them feature some shade of chrome yellow, or orange.  I will keep an eye open for those colors, photograph them, and share them here.  Maybe I can find some good quotes or poems to go along.

This photo is of a black eyed Susan vine.  It's an annual, planted to replace the honeysuckle vine that finally reached the end of its days.  For weeks I thought the seeds were duds, didn't sprout, but then a couple weeks ago I checked the trellis on the south side of the house and there they were.  ll that was needed was patience.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.