Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sorting It Out

Sorting through some seashells I gathered on a recent trip to the beach.  I gathered these the lazy way - just scooped them up in a net bag, took them down to the water and washed away most of the sand.  I like bringing them home and dumping them out and sorting through them to see what I've got.

Being a lover of texture, these are my favorite bits - pieces of broken sand dollars that have been eroded by the surf into interesting and highly textured little pebbles.

After a very satisfying morning of sorting, sifting and bagging, I have 9 bags of assorted seashells and sand dollar pebbles to make something with.  Now the question is, what to make?  I'm fighting a bad case of the creative doldrums right now, so they may just sit in a drawer for a while until I can figure out what to do with them.  I have so much creative energy and nowhere to channel it right now, and this little exercise helped me with that for a while.  Now I guess I will go and polish the silver or something..........

Thursday, June 27, 2013

In the Interest of Full Disclosure......

Remember this sweet little green girl?

Well, I've been trying to paint her this past week.

Actually, I made four attempts.  They are in order left to right.  The sad part is, the very first one was the best! I should have stopped there, I suppose.  But, in the interest of full disclosure, and because for some strange reason I felt the need to share my failures as well as my successes, here they all are.  Each has something good in it, but I couldn't quite seem to pull all the elements together into one nice painting.  I think I bit off more than I can chew at this stage in the learning process.  I can pull off each individual element respectfully, but I just can't put them all together.  I found trying to make shadows and trying to paint the background in around the anole's body the hardest part to get right.

So, I tried.  I really did.  But now I am ready to move on.  Maybe I just need a little time and distance from this effort, and I can maybe revisit it again in the future.  For now I have made notes on the back of each one and numbered them and will file them away.

All my life I have had the attitude (I don't know why!) that if I want to do something, I should just be able to go and do it and do a good job of it.  For most things, this has worked out reasonably well, and I am thankful for that.  But art is something else entirely.  It is teaching me patience and persistence - two qualities I have in very short supply!  It is going to take a lot of practice - a lot of work I know.  I love making art, but it does not come easily to me.  And when things don't come easily to me, I usually walk away - move on to something else.  But, I love it, and so I will keep coming back and trying again.

Thank you all for sharing this journey with me!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Texture on Tuesday - Mimosa Tree

The mimosa or Persian silk tree.  Lovely, no doubt, but I'm afraid it is considered an invasive weed here in the deep South.  They are gorgeous when they're in full bloom as they are now, and they are attractive to bees and hummingbirds, so we have to take the good with the bad.  For now we will enjoy their feathery soft fronds and their beautiful, silky pink powder pouf blossoms and try our best not to think about what happens in the fall when they turn brown and ugly and drop seeds from what seems like millions of clusters of brown seed pods.  No. We won't think about that.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stacking Stones

Thanks to the suggestion of my lovely and talented blogging friend Jules, I tried my hand at some "land art" this week.  I had expressed to Jules my conflicting feelings about placing manmade objects along my trail through the woods, and she was very kind and encouraging and pointed me to some great links on the subject. (Just Google "land art" on Google Images to see what I mean)

I had seen similar things before, but had never really considered doing it myself because I was stuck into thinking that land art had to be huge and complex and had to "make a statement" in the landscape.  But then I saw pictures of simple arrangements of stones or even sticks and leaves, and my mind was opened to new possibilities!  So, whilst down at the swimming hole with the boys, I decided to try my hand at making some simple stone sculptures.  As you can see, it became quite addictive!

And, believe it or not, I learned a few things from this little exercise.  As in life, if you want to go higher, you have to start out thinking BIG.  If you think small, you can't go very high.  Also, each stone must be laid carefully so that it both sits firmly and steadily on the one below but also provides a sturdy foundation for the next stone to be laid.  I think there are some valuable life lessons in there somewhere.  

Thank you Jules :)

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Murder Mystery!!

The last photo of Fred - alive that is.  I caught him playing king of the mountain the other morning and had to snap a photo.

This is how we found him this morning.  He had been murdered!  All of his appendages have apparently been eaten by someone, because we can't find any evidence of them in the tank.  No claw (he only had one, poor thing), no legs, no antennae, no (gulp) eyes!  Who could have done such a thing?!!!

Suspect #1 - the baby bluegill bream we caught in the minnow trap down at the swimming hole over the weekend.  He's a beautiful little fish with a nasty personality.  He is anti-social and has been nipping and biting at the other fish since we put them in the aquarium.  And even more damning is the fact that he is now inhabiting Fred's hidey hole!  I've seen him try to get in there a few times and Fred would run him out.  Jealousy is a good motive for murder, isn't it?

Suspects #2 and #3 - the other two minnows we caught and put in the tank.  A spottail shiner and a creek chub.  These two have seemed to be very skittish overall, but we have seen them nipping at poor Fred's cold, lifeless body.  They're eating him!!!  Hunger is a good motive, too!

And finally, suspect #4 - Ethel the other crawfish.  See her underneath the rocks on the right?  Notice the dead body's close proximity to her hidey hole!  And those claws  - capable of dismembering a body, no?  Many times the murderer is a family member!

So, we have four suspects - all with a motive for murder.  Where is Poirot when you need him?????

Monday, June 10, 2013

Art al Fresco

Squeezing in a little practice time while the boys are having fun on the slip-n-slide.  Aaaaah, summer fun.

Our little old cottage is very dark and cozy like a little chipmunk's hole, which is nice and cool in the hot summertime.  but, not so good for painting and stitching.  I can't see! So, I take my watercolors outside.  Today I am practicing variegated ivy leaves.  So fun!  Can you guess what I might be planning in the future?  A painting of someone small and green, perhaps?

And of course, every artist needs her trusty assistants always ready to lend a helping hand or give an opinion.  See that porch?  I love it.  I won't let my husband paint it.  It would ruin the "patina"!  He just shrugs his shoulders.  He knows me by now.

Variegated ivy is the perfect subject for learning how to use watercolors.  I am experimenting to see what kinds of effects I can get.  The spots on that big one at top left are the result of dropping big droplets of water on dry paint to see what you get.  You get big spots.  Not exactly what I was hoping for.  Oh well, live and learn :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Morning Mist and Wildflowers

Up and out early for my walk this morning. Singing "Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day!"

The wonderfully exotic flower of the Florida anise.  The scent is hard to describe.  Most people don't like it, but I do.  It's an earthy, musky, spicy smell that permeates this area in the morning.

A beautiful and delicate little wildflower called Indian Pink, although the bloom is bright red with a little white star popping out of the center when it opens.  I think it should be called something like firecracker, because it reminds me of fireworks.

I'm not sure what this one is.  Is it foam flower?

Lovely purpley blue spiderwort.  Terrible name, lovely plant.

I hung this bird feeder in a dogwood tree on the trail that runs alongside the creek.  I'm not sure how I feel about adding artificial ornamentation out here.  It was hanging on the back porch last year, and the only thing that used it was a family of red wasps that would get really snippy if you accidentally bumped into it, so it had to moved.  I'm still trying to decide if I should leave it here.  It does look nice, I think.

I love it when this happens.  A shaft of morning light pierces the deep shade and illuminates like a spotlight.  Gorgeous.

Not sure what this one is either, but I think it might be mealy sage.  Really, can't we come up with some nicer names?

Stumped on this one too, I'm afraid.  It's much more blue that this photo shows.  Purpley blue seems to be a very popular color amongst our local wildflowers.

The most precious one of all - a sweet offering from my baby boy.

Happy weekend everyone!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mud Bugs

The boys and I spent the morning playing in the creek.  Wading in the cool water, turning over stones, skipping rocks across the surface of the swimming hole, which is still much too cold for swimming.

I love the ferns and mosses at the water's edge.  Even on the hottest summer day, it is cool and inviting down here.  I think our stream must be spring fed, because it is always icy cold.  In fact, some of the older folks around here tell me that they used to bring their watermelons down here in the summertime to cool in our swimming hole.  They would all gather and come down here swimming and then sit on the sand bar and eat fresh, cold watermelon.  I think of that a lot.  And I think further back to when the Creek Indians called this land their home.  I believe this has been a very special place for many generations.  There is a sacredness to it.

Here, my son is hand feeding minnows some bread.  They don't show up well in the photo, but there were about a dozen or so.  He's so patient.  He sat there,  still as a statue, for a very long time. He's my quiet, patient one; and he has my love for animals.

I spied this little guy sitting on the bottom of the creek bed.  He's tiny!  Can you see how large the writing on the sour cream container is compared to him.  He's a mudpuppy!  Ain't he cute?  I think those spiky little appendages on the side of his are his lungs.  He was so sweet!  Of course, we wanted to keep him, but not knowing how to care for him, we sadly let him go.  But not before giving him a name - Lester.  Don't ask me why.  He just looks like a Lester.  Hopefully, since we go down to the creek almost every day in the summer, we will see him again.

We also uncovered several crayfish (we call them crawdaddies around here).  They're easy to find, because they are so neat and tidy.  You can always spot where they have been tidying up around their hole under a rock - it will be swept clean of mud and algae.

They look just like tiny lobsters!  Now, we did end up bringing a couple of these home.  My 8-year-old nearly cried when we had to let Lester go, so I caved on the crawdaddies.

Here is the smaller one peeking out from underneath a cave we made for him in the aquarium.  I Googled crawfish, and it turns out that they are easily kept in freshwater aquariums!  Ours has been standing empty for several months, because we had to give the fish away.  It's only a 15 gallon tank, and the fish I bought were too large for it.  It's so nice to have something alive in it again.

Here is the larger one checking out his new digs.  He's much bigger than the other one who is cowering in the cave above, but he is missing his left claw, so I think they're pretty evenly matched.  They do tie up every now and again, though.  I'm thinking of naming them Fred and Ethel.  What do you think?

Oh! And that reminds me....thank you to everyone who suggested names for my little chameleon friend in the hose box.  Valerianna and Margaret suggested Ivy, and I think it's perfect! Because she is colored exactly like the variegated ivy she has made her home.  So, Ivy it is.....and she has a whole family living with her!  There's a strapping young male who's large and in charge, and there's a sickly old one with a stump tail whom I have already named, affectionately, Grandpa.  Hopefully, I can get some photos of them soon to share with you!

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Whilst unreeling the hose from its box to water some potted hostas, I spied with my little eye.....something green!

And very first.

But, as I began talking to her in the soft baby voice that I have always instinctively used when talking to animals (why do we do that, do you suppose? and how do we know that we should?), slowly, she began to turn her delicate little head and eyes to look at me!

She eventually decided that I meant her no harm, and she began to satisfy her own curiosity about me.  "Who is that giant? And why is she looking at me so kindly and talking to me in such a sweet soothing voice?  She's awfully big and funny-looking, but apparently, she seems to want to be friends...soooooo...."

"Hi-ya!"  "What's your name?" she seemed to say.  Oh! isn't she sweet!  I love her, and I have to think of a name for her.  Will you help me?

OK. Being the nature nerd that I am, I have some fun facts for you.  This gorgeous little girl is an American Green Anole, also sometimes called the American Chameleon.  Like other chameleons, she can change her body color to closely match her surroundings, although she is pretty much limited to shades of brown and green, (notice how well she blends in with the variegated English ivy in the above photos) and she can move each of her eyes independently if she wants to.  It's fun to watch her turn and move her eyes around to get a better look at me.  Turns out that this pot of hostas and ivy, which is situated close to the box which contains the garden hose, is the perfect little home for her.  She has a water source (the hose drips a little), lots of leafy cover where she can hide well-camouflaged from both prey and predator alike, and she can lay her eggs in the soft potting soil in these (old, dilapidated, needing to be replaced) pots.  I can tell she is a little female because of the pale stripe running down her back, and I think she is pregnant!  I've been looking at/playing with these little green lizards all my life, and I've never seen one quite so plump.

I just love her.  I find myself eagerly trotting out to water my potted plants a couple of times a day and looking for my little friend.  I just don't know what to call her.  Annie the anole seems a bit lame, doesn't it?

Leave me a comment with your ideas for a good name for this gorgeous little green girl.  And don't be surprised if you start seeing anoles showing up in my artworks that I share with you! :))))