A few months ago my family and I moved from the Western side of New York state to the Eastern. I have not been blogging and painting as much as I would like recently. With the move, new home, and a new job I have lost my daily practice habits. I am surprised how little brain power I have at the end of each day. I hope to reinstate my daily practice this spring as it is a vital component of my goal to improve my art skills. I also seem to be a happier and better-composed person when I am regularly creating.
Oddly one of the things I miss about Western New York is the snow. Much of Western New York with its proximity to the Great Lakes finds itself receiving many feet of snow over each winter. I am not typically a winter sports person being limited to snowshoeing and hiking in the winter months. I am not the person who watches a lake effect snow storm on the radar map with excitement for the next day’s ski trip. Although I am not the type to constantly complain about the weather I don’t enjoy cleaning off the car and shoveling the walk.
The Albany region receives snow but very little when compared to Western New York. I found myself wistful for a white Christmas as the holiday neared. Luckily a bit of snow did arrive before Christmas. As winter worn on I found myself thinking about the quite Forrest of Allegany State park covered in a blanket of snow just after a storm. Right after a storm, the woods are always silent as the animals have tucked themselves away to protect against the cold. There is something magical about fresh snow falling off pine branches in a sparkling cassacade illuminated by the recently unveiled sunlight. Then as the light warms things up just a few degrees the animals reemerge and the forest is full of bird song and other noises again. I guess you never know what you are going to miss.
In addtion to my son’s solar system (which I hope to blog about soon) some of the few paintings, I completed this winter are scenes featuring deep snow drifts. A couple of watercolors and oil pastel paintings. Which I am sharing here.
Interestingly most of the snow I have seen here fell during February and March with spring around the corner.
Soon the snow will be gone as the days grow longer. I look forward to Spring. Every season has something special about it we just have to take the time to look.
This week we were lucky enough to travel to Tennessee for the Great North American Eclipse of 2017. It was a very surreal experience. A brief dark sky in the middle of the day. The insects and birds suddenly go quiet and the the dogs in the area all started barking. The only time one can view the sun’s corona the plasma aura around the sun is during an full eclipse. My journal entries really don’t do the corona justice but then again nether do the photos. It has a slight blue ting in person but in most of the photos it just appears white. In some of my drawings I depicted the corona in gold and cooper to relate the sun message. Keeping an art journal is great for one’s art practice. It helps institute a regular reason to apply your skills. As I have said before art is persistence not raw talent. You can experiment with new techniques and ideas without using up a large amount of reasources. Even if your entries don’t work out like my Corona entries. You still learn from the activity.
It is easy to get lost in a Pinterest board of exotic landscapes, animals, or cultures. I do like to paint things I have never seen in person or have had little close contact with. Often what is new entices the eye and can catch one’s interest in a way the familiar cannot. Especially things on the other side of the Solar System or Galaxy at least for me anyway.
But, don’t underestimate what you interact with every day. We grow our skills when we create based on what we see around us. Even the most mundane things in our world. There is beauty everywhere. The humble blade of grass holds the loveliest translucent shade of emerald green. An ant can be an amazingly complex being to study and recreate. My backyard is full of wonders. Accuracy in art is based on the close study of a subject. We are in a stronger position if we study what is near us already.
Reference Images I Took in My Backyard Today for Future Work:
Below are some small bug studies that were inspired by my backyard. For the bee and Firefly, I did have to fall back on stock images (the little guys just don’t hold still long enough) but seeing them in my backyard inspired me to draw them.
Little Bug Studies in Color Pencil and Watercolor:
I have many lovely friends living in my backyard from hummingbirds to squirrels. Squirrels are really something I should start drawing as I see them every day. For now, I have a few bird paintings to share with you that I have done recently. My watercolor work is not as strong as I would like it to be but I know if I keep painting the things around me I will improve. Art is not raw talent it is persistence.
Hummingbird Art Journal Entries:
Ink and Watercolor Hummingbird
Wet on Wet Hummingbird
Ink and Watercolor Hummingbird
I also have a family of Goldfinches living in my yard. The male loves sunflower seeds he will snap them out of seed heads while they are still mostly green. Growing sunflowers are a great way to attract birds to your yard. Below is a composite of a sunflower field not far from my home and the little seed raider in my backyard.
The Sunflower Thief in Oil Pastel on Watercolor Ground