Tuesday Birds-The Canorous Cardinal

The Canorous Cardinal

Cardinals are the main bright spot in an otherwise drab and dreary winter landscape, unless you are fortunate enough to have a snowy winter landscape.  Cardinals are magical in the quiet beauty of falling snow. When spring arrives, they become just another one of the many bright and colorful little birdies showing off their warm weather feathers.  For now, cardinals provide all the color we get until the season changes.  They are the stars of the winter landscape.

Cardinals in the Snow

Red dashes along a brown ground are frequently cardinals foraging around for dropped seeds from shrubs or left behind by other birds. Once the foraged meal is done the sweet sounds of a singing red beauty can be heard from the upper branches of a nearby shrub.  When the branches are covered in snow, that bright bit of red fluff singing his heart out is a sight to see. It might even bring on some added cold chills.

Down in the Valley where the Chickadees can be heard with their continual chatter, the Cardinals are a bit peeved.  Carson Cardinal was quite annoyed and said to Cameron and Caroline. Will those Chickadees ever stop chattering? It’s so hard to sing above all the chatter.  Nothing stops the chatter more effectively than the sight of a glorious red bird preening about in the snow-covered branches of a tulip poplar. When he begins to sing the beautiful melodious tunes as his friends join in harmony, the Chickadees quickly become quite mute.  The Chickadees cannot remain chatterless for long, so if you catch sight of a bit of red flitting through the branches, stop and listen. The reward will be worth it.

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For more information about cardinals follow the link to All About Birds.

The Guardian Eagle

The Guardian Eagle

High on a ridge overlooking the valley, the Guardian is perched in the top of the old oak tree. From his vantage point, he can see the goings on down in the valley while at the same time keeping up with the fishing situation on the backside of the ridge where the river flows into the lake. Eliot Eagle has long assumed the role of Guardian of the valley.  From his perch, he is on the look out for predators such as the Hawks who are always disrupting the serenity of the little dwellers of the valley, specifically the Chattering Chickadees, as they insist upon grouping together in the old pine tree.  The Chickadees, though they are always on the look out, tend to feel safer when they know Eliot is keeping his eagle eyes out for the little birdies and those who would stir up trouble.

As the subject of many of her stories, Caroljean Chickadee loves to expand on the mystery surrounding Elliot Eagle and the other eagles nesting around the great lake in the winter. According to Chickadee legend, the great bald eagles are direct messengers between God and humans. Of course, Chickadee legend was derived from sources like One Green Planet and American Cowboy Chronicles. Caroljean Chickadee is known for her ability to weave tales around facts she has gleaned from various sources on the internet. One of her tales had Elliott Eagle taking part in an ancient Greek legend. Another had him as the star of a cave painting over 130,000 years ago. Elliott never blinks at these stories. Nor does he refute them. He just remains in the top of the old oak tree watching over the valley.

Next time you are privileged to catch a glimpse of Elliot or one of his majestic cousins, Chickadee legend will have you staring in awe and wondering if the one you are looking at is related to those eagles featured as the star of an ancient cave painting. Or maybe the one you see is descended from the eagle the Aztecs believed fought a panther and won to be the sun god.  It’s possible your eagle is related to a past honorary guest at festivities celebrated by any number of cultures from most Native American tribes to Irish folklore.  You can count on Caroljean Chickadee  to share the latest Eagle story.  But don’t ask Elliot.  He’ll never tell.

The Eagles appearing in these two paintings were photographed at Reelfoot Lake State Park in Tennessee at the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge in West Tennessee and on Kentucky Lake on the edge of the Land Between the Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Both Refuges have many events for checking out the Bald Eagle populations in the parks. The image used for the featured painting came from a bald eagle recently cared for at the Reelfoot Lake Refuge. After healing, the eagle was released back into the wild.

Roseate Spoonbill

Driving through the St Marks Wildlife Refuge in Florida, my eye was caught by a group of pink birds standing still in the marsh water. I had never seen pink birds before outside of flamingos in the zoo. At first I thought they might be flamingos until I stopped the car and got a good look through the camera lens. A friend had painted a painting of a one with its head turned completely around and resting on its back. That’s where I first heard of Roseate Spoonbills. There were so intriguingly beautiful until you get a good look at the unfortunately ugly spoonbill.

Maybe that ugly snoot is what made this spoonbill bury his head underwater. Can’t blame him. All About Birds says “The flamboyant Roseate Spoonbill looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its bright pink feathers, red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and giant spoon-shaped bill.” Audubon describes the spoonbill as “Gorgeous at a distance and bizarre up close.” Both of these descriptions are very accurate and maybe that explains my immediate fascination with these unusual birds. For a couple of weeks, I drove through St. Marks checking up on the flock of spoonbills. They moved around through out the Refuge for those two weeks. Every time I saw them they were in a new location sometimes with just their flock and sometimes with other wading birds.

The first day I saw the spoonbills, they were standing very quietly in the late afternoon. Not moving, just standing. In a post on her blog, Audrey Oxenhorn describes the spoonbill as a reminder of the “importance of being weary.” In this photo, the spoonbills certainly looked weary as they stood unmoving in the still water. Another blog, Auntyflo, says that spoonbills like silence and they are a reminder of how silence can be the best form of communication. These birds certainly looked like they were enjoying silence but how do you really know? Do Spoonbills talk? They were standing in a marsh with no wind or waves, no trees or grass. not interacting with each other. Some were grooming themselves otherwise they were unmoving. Maybe they do like silence.

Whether Roseate Spoonbills like silence maybe a little hard to prove but they definitely have a Dr. Suess like bizarre look. The spoonbill’s beautiful pink color keeps them fascinating despite the strange bald head and long spoon shaped bill. I looked for them every day for about two weeks. They never failed to fascinate. One day I watched one walking through the waterway swinging the that bill back and forth through the water very methodically. I couldn’t tell what if anything her was catching but it must have been something. He looked quite content as he moved on down through the water.

One day I went looking for the spoonbills and couldn’t find them. They were gone. Moved on to someplace more quiet apparently. I was sad at the loss of my game of spotting the flash of pink lurking in the marsh or behind the tall grass. I wasn’t happy with the first painting, so maybe its time for another go at a spoonbill painting. I’ll try the silence thing while painting to “communicate” with them. That could help the painting process. Worth a try!

Eyes of the Heart

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“I shut my eyes in order to see.” Paul Gauguin (from Skinnyartist.com)

How can one create with eyes shut? Gauguin’s statement would seem to not make any sense. Does he mean painting with a blindfold on? Many paintings out there look as though they have been painted with a blindfold on. Many more look like they need to have been painted with a blindfold on. But is this to be taken literally?

Gauguin, in my opinion, is talking about the heart. Let the heart see with the heart’s eyes. That is a difficult thing to do when the brain’s eyes want to remain in control. There is the natural inclination to recreate in exact detail what is physically present.   It may be necessary to actually close the eyes to get the right visual. It may take practice. It may take concentration to let go of one set of eyes to allow the others to open.

The art of opening the heart’s eyes and allowing them to take over does not necessarily mean losing realism. The heart’s eyes are eyes of feeling, eyes of emotion. Emotion is the spark that lifts realism out of simple recreation and gives it life. Emotion is the spark of any form of art that lifts it out of boredom and lights a fire.

A blindfold is not required to paint with the eyes shut. It just takes getting in touch with the heart’s eyes. Of course, painting with a blindfold may make for new and interesting art. It could even start a new movement in “blindfold painting.” Who knows, it may become all the rage. Anything can happen when the physical eyes are closed and the heart’s eyes are open.

Bottled Sensation

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“Painting from nature is not copying the object, but realizing one’s sensations.” Paul Cezanne (from The Painters Keys)

Seasonal changes and their effects on artists are likely as different as one artist’s work is from another. Copying nature improves with practice. The tough part is the “realizing one’s sensations” part. Each season brings new and different sensations.   It takes a conscious effort to realize those sensations. Translating the realizations into art is easier said than done. Copying is not the same thing as imparting sensation into a painting.

To realize one’s sensations into art is a topic for some concentration. Opinions abound on how to get in touch with one’s senses. It’s not the practice that matters. It’s taking the time to experience the sights, the smells, the tastes, the touch, and the sounds. In spring, the new green leaves are more intensely green in the spring. The smells are freshness, new growth. The tastes are raindrops coaxing out the new growth. The touch is the softness of tender new shoots. The sounds are the breezes scattering the petals of the newly blooming flowers of the trees. Summer brings a whole new set of sensations. Fall another and winter still another.

Realizing the sensations is one thing. Translating them to art is another. One can describe sensations, talk about them, think about them. But can one put them on paper or canvas? It is a high goal. I wish someone would figure out a way to bottle it. It would be so much easier. Open a bottle of Sensation Realization and pour it over the canvas. Presto! Instant sensation. Somehow, that just doesn’t translate as anything with real feeling. It sure sounded good. One can always hope. And in the meantime, keep calm and continue painting.

Weekend Inspiration–Forging Van Gogh

 

Van Gogh’s energy, so evident in all his work, is not as easy to emulate as one might think.  Follow the Master Forger as he helps three artists try to capture Van Gogh’s energy in self portraits.  My first attempt at painting was a go at emulating Van Gogh.  While the emulation was not so successful, a love of the incredible energy of Van Gogh’s painting style sparked the passion to keep painting.

Brushing up Adventure

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“The bold adventurer succeeds the best.” Ovid (from The Painter’s Keys)

Suddenly the realization dawns that things have gone stagnant.  The same direction is going on and on, endlessly.  Everything is feeling redundant.  It’s a circle going round and round.  What can be done to stop this looming boredom?  Maybe its time to go for some bold adventuring.  How about trying a bit of whitewater rafting, at least on paper.  On paper, there’s no danger of falling out of the boat and cracking a head or other various bones on a rock.

White water rafting involves skill and good equipment.  It requires knowledge and common sense.  Most of all white water rafting requires the willingness to go for adventure. Merriam-Webster defines adventure as, “the encountering of risks.”  The risk begins by strapping on a helmet and life jacket.  Next get into the boat.  Then push the boat out into the current.  A battle to hang on ensues.  The fast water picks up the craft and begins to toss it around as it moves swiftly down the river.  The task of steering the boat away from rocks and other obstacles will take over all focus.  The adrenalin starts to flow.  An adventure is in progress.

How does adventure happen on paper or canvas?  It starts with the willingness to try something new, beginning with fresh equipment.  Choose a bold new direction and get caught up in a swift moving river of adventure. See where the fast moving water leads.  It could land in an entirely new place.  Or it could end up back at the beginning but with a fresh new infusion of energy producing adrenalin.  You never know where a white water river will take you.  Strap on a brush and go with the flow.

Sensing Sensitivity

Spanish Moss Mary Gwyn Bowen

Spanish Moss
Mary Gwyn Bowen

“Sensitivity to touch is one of the key distinctions between an artist and a person who is just using paint.” Van Waldron

Is sensitivity a key element in successful art?  Much is written about the senses and sensitivity.  Opinions are all over the board on whether sensitivity matters and whether artists and creative people are more sensitive than others.  Does it take a deeply sensitive person to create the type of art that touches the senses of the audience?  Do viewers instinctively react more forcefully to art created by the more sensitive artist?

One artist describes the feeling of acknowledging this sensitivity.  Vanessa Turner writes, “I have often felt that I was more sensitive than those around me, more affected by my surroundings and the energy of an environment than your average person.”  Artists capture what is missed by so many in the hustle and bustle of daily life.  Some would say artists are merely taking the time to stop and look around more often.  Artists spend time contemplating surroundings and therefore see more.  But that explanation is too simplistic.  Otherwise many more people would be artists.

Carolyn Edlund of the Artsyshark.com interviewed psychologist and researcher Douglas Eby of TalentDevelop.com.  Eby says “being a highly sensitive person is a trait in 15 to 20 percent of people but it seems to be much more common among artists.”  Eby quotes from an article on CNN saying “people with this trait tended to have more brain activity in the high-order visual processing regions.”   Evidently artists have more brainpower!

The highly developed sensitivity of the artist’s brain transfers into the hands of the artist and onto the art in the form of energy.  Art lacking deeply felt sensitivity is just draftsmanship. Without energy the art falls flat.  Technically correct art is without emotion.  It takes emotion to touch others.  It takes sensitivity to create emotion.  Of sensitivity, Vanessa Turner states, “It makes life beautiful.”    And that beauty is what shows up in the art.

Mossy, Knife Sharpening Green

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“All theory, Dear Friend, is gray.  But the Golden Tree of Life springs ever green.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (from Brainyquote.com)

Landscape painters, ceramists, make-up artists, soap makers and more love this mossy green pigment.  Chromium Green has been available for two centuries and has recently been discovered in the paintings of J. M. W. Turner dating to around 1812.  Few warnings accompany this lovely green paint reputed to cause only some minor skin irritation in a few people.  Those who eat it could have mild stomach upset so it is probably best not to ingest it.  Otherwise Chromium Green has a wealth of uses.Screen shot 2013-10-09 at 10.14.24 AM

Brittanica reports Chromium Green as having been discovered by French chemist Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin in 1797.    The name derives from its multi-colored compounds.  Merriam-Webster says “Chromium Green is a moderate yellow green that is greener and deeper than the average moss green, yellower and duller than the average pea green or apple green.“ “This natural green provides landscape artists rest in a summer painting saturated with vibrant greens,“ according to Daniel Smith.com. Natural Pigments.com has the scoop on the Turner discovery and is also a great source for purchasing the pigment.

While you are obtaining the pigment for mixing paint, you can also grab a bar of Chromium Green for sharpening your knives and sculpting tools.  A bit of Chromium Green in your roofing tiles will add some UV protection.  If you happen to be considering building a spaceship, Chromium Green can be mixed with other metals for “super high performing aerospace products.”  Or just add it to your camouflage for high infrared reflectance, whatever that might be.Screen shot 2014-02-13 at 10.32.24 PM

For many artists, Chromium Green is a must have for the paint box.  Mossy greens add a wonderful richness in any painting.  Chromium Green is beautiful in ceramics, as well.  Other non-artist fans of Chromium Green may be found on the rooftops fitting the tiles.  Or that spaceship your neighbor is building could feature some bits of Chromium Green in the materials but I wouldn’t get too close.  He may be guarding his spaceship in his infrared reflectant camouflage with the knives he recently sharpened on the leftover Chromium Green.  It’s probably best to stick with the people who only use Chromium Green in artist materials.  Steer clear of the ones with the spaceships and the knives.

Colorful Fridays–Soapy Violet Make-up

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“A color is as strong as the impression it creates.” Ivan Le Lorraine Albright (from Susie Gadea)

Organic mineral compounded Manganese Violet is short on talk from artists.  Few have much to say about this rich reddish purple and direct compliment of Chromium Green. Manganese Violet has been around since 1868 where it was first discovered in Germany and called Nuremberg Violet.  Winsor Newton introduced it to England in 1890. This purple hue is non-toxic and shows up in a number of unusual places.

Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 8.46.48 AMVasari Colors rates Manganese Violet as “Gemlike in mass tone” and “makes pinkish violet tints when mixed with white.”  Gamblin’s website says Manganese Violet is, “ a moderate purple that is redder and duller than Heliotrope, bluer lighter and stronger than average amethyst, bluer and stronger than Cobalt Violet, and bluer and deeper than average lilac.”  Holliday Pigments gives Manganese Violet a good semi-transparent rating.  According to Cameo.mfa.org, Manganese Violet, “has poor hiding power and has not been widely used.”

If you don’t wish to make use of your Manganese Violet pigment in paintings, it can always be used to make a nice non-toxic eye shadow.  No eye shadow?  Well, the pigment is also good for tinting hand made soap.  Gardeners will find Manganese Violet is a vital mineral in the diet of African Violets but it’s not for the color of the blooms.  Manganese Violet is essential for the healthy green color of the leaves of African Violets.  Maybe African Violet leaves are Chromium Green.

Here is a demonstration of a Manganese Violet wash: