Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pocket Treasures, continued


Well, now that I'm home and more or less reorganized, it seems time to tackle another little trail foundling. I confess that this one has been living on my shelf longer than it was ever in my pocket, since I gathered it to the fold two autumns ago.

This is the stone, though, that continually captures my eye and it's the one that led to committing my natural tchotchkes to paper. From the Schoodic Peninsula area of Maine.

Very cool


And this time "cool" is not a whining reference to weather.

David sent me to an article at BoingBoing, which subsequently led me to this website for the Periodic Table Printmaking Project. I'm only sorry for two things: 1) That there wasn't such a thing in front of me during my own table-learning-years and 2) that I didn't know about this project early enough to play. Although I should look and see if there are any elements left.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A rush... and it's over

Alternate title: If it's Wednesday, I must be home.

The last week in Cleveland was a blur of activity. The Garden of the Gods project panels are continuing, but at present are enroute from Ohio, so you'll have to wait to see how they're coming along.

We made a little excursion to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo last.. what was it? Thursday, I guess. Sketching was minimal, since I a) wanted to see a good bit of the park and b) wasn't there by myself. But, I managed a little quality time with the Aldabra tortoises and wisps of an uncooperative koala.

The Cleveland Zoo is actually two distinct facilities, one of which is a tropical rain forest building that does a nice job of talking about flora, fauna, scientific research, and conservation issues.

AND, January days when the temperature isn't predicted to rise above 32 F are "Polar Bear Days," and admission is half price. We had a great day! Cheap entry, hardly anyone there. Yeah, so the climb to the top of the hill was pretty cold, but other than that it was perfect.

Sunday was the last big day for driving and sightseeing, so we headed west along the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail, arriving in Sandusky for lunch. It was, of course, cold and windy along the lakeshore, but there were some marvelous assemblages of wave-stacked ice blocks draped along the edges.

On the way home we took a walk at Old Woman Creek. We weren't really dressed for hiking (wet sneakers in the snow are only amusing for so long), but still spent a little time on a nice trail through the woods to the edge of the estuary. Bald eagles... cardinals... titmice... nuthatches... white-throated sparrows... chickadees... red-tailed hawk. The sanctuary center exhibits weren't open, BUT! Look at these nifty tiles on their porch! Frogs! Each frog was about the length of my foot, maybe a little bigger. They remind me of a puzzle my brother and I had when we were kids. All of the puzzle pieces were shaped exactly the same.. salamanders. (And until this moment I could remember the name of the puzzle, but it escapes me now.) Escher would have been proud.


Monday it was one last trip to the now-dear Rocky River Reservation in the Cleveland Metroparks before starting to pack up the precious iMac and all my painting gear and the miscellaneous acquisitions of four weeks wandering new turf. Although I was ready to get back to more predictable sunshine and my own familiar belongings, four weeks in Ohio flew by entirely too quickly. How could I run out of time to do everything when I had an entire month?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Progress

First panel of Garden of the Gods project is "done enough" to carry on with the second panel. One more after this, then they'll be joined for the complete interp sign.

Headed back to Colorado next week, so trying to get as much done as possible before then.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Working. Honest.

It's kind of funny. One of the things I expected when I decided to spend January in Cleveland was that the skies would be gray and I would feel cold all the time. Sure, there are more gray days than blue here, but DANG. It's been downright balmy compared to home. WeatherBug says it was -14 F in Salida this morning. Here along Lake Erie the temperature hasn't varied but one degree either side of freezing in the last 24 hours. Crazy.

Yesterday was one of those delightful blue sky days, so a downtown Cleveland jaunt was on the schedule. After a slow start (guess whose immune system is finally faltering in the face of perpetual onslaught.... I've got a bit of a c-o-l-d), we wandered down to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. My Denver museum membership got us in for free (hooray!), which was a nice surprise.

The CMNH is a nice place, although a goodly number of the exhibits could use some upgrading. The bird hall in particular could benefit from a change of mounted specimens and better lighting. If you disregarded the variety of shapes and sizes, all the birds could have been female house finches: Just gray-brown and streaky.

Still, I liked the cultures hall, which exhibited artifacts of human cultures alongside the plants and animals that shared their ecosystem. And I was delighted to discover an aspect of Ohio I knew nothing about: the earthworks created by the area's indigenous peoples. And... there is an outdoor area with live native Ohio animals. It would have been a good place to draw, but the weather-wimp- fighting-a-cold didn't want to be outside too long. Another day....

It was a fun surprise to run across this display board in the dinosaur hall. I have done some work for the Garden Park Fossil Area in CaƱon City (which is what this display is about), including some curriculum development and web content for their education offerings at Hands on the Land. Can't wait to send this shot off to my client.


After that, we made a brief foray to the Tremont arts district, where we discovered a place not unlike Salida on a winter's day. Half the galleries were closed and none of the restaurants were open until 5:00pm. We were hungry, so we visited the places that were open and then went back to Tower City to get something to eat.

Today Cleveland's back to gray and I am back to work. Got my Zicam, got my box of tissues, got my Halls cough drops in assorted flavors... hot tea and warm slippers. I'm set. It's a good day to stay in and work on this gigantor illustration for an interp panel that overlooks the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The panorama of the Front Range will be 6 feet long... so I'm working on it in chunks. Southern section on the table just now, ever-so-slowly resolving itself into an image.

See? It wasn't my fault

The Blogger dashboard 'splains what happened with the comment process a few weeks ago. Well, sorta. I almost understand it. Everything seems to be working okay now. (But I can hear someone rubbing their little cyberhands together and laughing maniacally again.... BWAH ha ha hah.... )

Friday, January 11, 2008

Feeder Frenzy

We were deceived.

For a brief time the sun shone bright this morning, so we decided to take a walk at the Rocky River Reservation. By the time we climbed this hill, the wind was blowing cold and fierce and the sky had turned pewter once again. We stayed out long enough for me to get what I THINK was my first-ever good look at pileated woodpecker. Happy happy. Joy joy. And then we went home.

This afternoon D was headed to help out at Patchman Music, which involved a trip to Brecksville. I decided to pack up the sketchbook and go along for the ride, since the Brecksville Reservation (and Nature Center) would be right around the corner. Surely I could find a non-windy corner in which to sketch...

Of course, the minute I got there, it started raining.

So I drove around the park for a while, looking at woods and watercourses. There's standing water everywhere after the deluge earlier this week, and the creeks and rivers are running high and brown. (Think of the homewaters in, say, May.) I stopped in for a while at the Nature Center, a nice piece of WPA-era post-and-beam construction with big windows and stocked bird feeders at one end. The place was overrun with black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice (titmouses?), and white-breasted nuthatches... with a smattering of tree sparrows, downy woodpeckers, mourning doves, and juncos. Here the big woodpecker score was a brief appearance by the red-bellied beast. (Ch-CHING!)

I tried to sketch. Really I did. But I got dizzy from the sheer numbers of frenzied, seed-gorging creatures, not one of which stood still for more than a fraction of a second. When a SQUIRREL becomes the easier subject choice because it's sedate relative to everything else, well... that's just not right, I tell ya. After three pages of scribbles I gave up and went back outside.


It didn't take long for me to realize that I'd finally succumbed to the type of damp cold that I had expected to plague me this entire trip, but which I had managed to avoid so far.

Back in the car.

Harumph.

What to do?

I took a look at the map (I am FOREVER lost here without mountains or other point of geographic reference) and headed east-ish through the park. Just after I crossed over Chippewa Creek, I spotted this beauty of a strange tree, conveniently located across from a small parking lot. Perfect. I backed the car into a slot, put the windshield wipers on "intermittent," and settled in.

(Of course, I am once again stumped by identification. The branches above were quite white and gnarly, wiggly, twisty things. NOT something we have at home. I'll update when I get it figured out.*)

*I'm gonna have to start paying a research fee to my friend Kim, who, in addition to loaning me a pair of binoculars, sent me a great link to the tree guide on the Ohio DNR site. 'Tis American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)- a species completely not on my radar.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Beachcombing Lake Erie


Took a little break today before settling down to work and went for a walk along the lakeshore at Huntington Reserve. (More Cleveland Metroparks magic.) Yesterday set a new record high temperature (65 F), today was not far behind. This afternoon it started raining, so it was a good time to empty my pockets of the morning's treasures and make a little study.

I WANTED to collect a little dead fish, of which there were several splashed up on the beach, but I neglected to heed sage advice and fill my pockets with ziploc bags before leaving the house. Well...... also..... when I picked up the pearlescent beast and indicated my desire to drag it home, D looked slightly horrified. I've found it's best to expose friends to my compulsion in small bits... and since my room at the house is already amassing leaves and bark and twigs, it seemed best not to press the issue. (At least not until, say, tomorrow.)

So. Today, smooth stones and one mussel shell as they landed on the table from my pocket. I think the orangey one on the right is actually a piece of worn brick... it's porous and lightweight and the right color.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bark Bites


(Sigh.)

I hate this little painting.

But I like the subject: Rot. Decay. Cool fungus and moss and stuff that I don't often see in the dessicated West.

The problem, I discovered, (yes, yes, I should have known!) is that when you bring this sort of thing indoors, it almost immediately starts shriveling up and drying out and losing those aspects that were so appealing in the first place. This chunk of bark, which was a rich brown with glowing bits of sage-y green at Olmsted Falls, became a contrast-less mass of gray and grayer long before I got it all on paper. (Double sigh.)

But hey. I tried.

And then I got out the camera.

I mean, how cool are THESE? All on the same fallen tree trunk. (These at the Lagoon picnic area in the Cleveland Metroparks.) Identification lost on me once again, but there's a nice little library at the Rocky River Nature Center. I might go see what they have in the way of fungi ID books.



I've got another little chunk of something here to try painting later... something with a little more structure to it than the study above. It has dried out, too, but it's still got some contrast and form to it, so I'm hopeful.

PS

This is at the little park at Olmsted Falls. Plum Creek. Whence the evil bark chunk comes. Nice, eh?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Pocket Treasures


I don't know about you, but I have a rather compulsive tendency to collection. Bones, stones, sticks, leaves, dead insects, sticks that LOOK like dead insects, seed pods, shells, carapaces.... if it fits in my pocket, it often comes home to join my shelves of found treasures.

From time to time this habit has come back to bite me... as in the time I filled my pockets with Florida shells, only to discover one still carried remnants of a dead-but-not-forgotten former occupant. Discovery came, of course, AFTER my jacket took over ownership and proliferation of the accompanying odor.

Doesn't stop me, mind you.

For a while now I've had an idea to record this bounty, with a thought towards what might be an interesting exhibition of the collection. Guess what made it to the list of Articulated - And - Therefore - Obligatory-2008-Goals? Yup. The "Pocket Treasures" project. Now you all know about it, too... so I am quadruply obligated.

But it's an obligation I feel quite happy to fulfill. (I think of it more as an excuse to actually DO this little project, which here at its inception has no purpose except as an exercise in making little studies.)

As a testament to my project commitment (and as proof that I am not just goofing off here in Ohio), I submit to you Pocket Treasure #1: A perforated leaf from the trail along the Rocky River. I'm going to have to look it up, unless someone out there knows from which tree it comes. I have a theory, but not much along this river is familiar to me, particularly at this time of year.*

Next up? Who knows! I have to wander around to find out. And how good is THAT?

* Verdict: Northern red oak, Quercus rubra.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

ISO things to draw

Sun today, so out we went into the world!

Brr! Sun in Cleveland does not necessarily equal warmth in Cleveland, but we did manage a few little adventures. First, though, some time this morning in the coffee shop, where 2008 goals were finally articulated and shared. I discovered long ago that it's one thing to make a list, but it's another thing entirely to share it with a friend and become accountable for it.

After that it was some errands, my first experience of a "Roman Burger" (guilty pleasure on a sub roll), and my first good look at Lake Erie. (I saw waves during the snow storm the other night, but that didn't really count.)

Frozen pylons on the lake shore at Rocky River Beach

It was WAY too darn cold to sit out and sketch, but I poked around trying to find something to bring indoors to draw. The beach was covered with mussel shells which crunched and shattered beneath our feet. I imagine they are the remains of something quite unsuitable (zebra mussels, perhaps), although I don't yet know that for certain. An interesting subject to draw, but trying to pry them loose from the frozen beach was an exercise in futility. All I got for my efforts were cold fingers and shell crumbs. (sigh) Another day, perhaps.

What drew us down to the beach in the first place, though, was this lovely little natural ice sculpture. Its former identity as a small tree or shrub was completely lost to us until we got close enough to see its skeleton through transparent skin. From beach to crown it's more than 6 feet tall, although it looks smallish here. Ducks in the background are mostly mallards, but there were at least a couple of buffleheads and some gulls-to-be-named-later. Guess whose binoculars are sitting on the chair by the front door at home, left there during a last-minute suitcase rearrangement? (sigh)

Tomorrow I think it's another trip into the Rocky River Reservation (supposed to still be sunny and warmer), and then settling down to work is definitely in order. Maybe. Probably. Possibly. Could be.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New LatLong

Greetings from snowy Cleveland! It was shirtsleeves when I arrived on Monday, but snowed all day yesterday and overnight, to the tune of about 8 inches of sloppy white stuff. My brother tells me it's supposed to be 50 F at home tomorrow. Figures.

But I'm more or less moved into the temp digs. Precious iMac arrived via FedEx less than an hour ago, and we're both getting accustomed to typing from a different view. At home the window is at my back, but here I face a southish exposure, tree branches tracing across the white wall of the neighbors' house.

Speaking of neighbors, at least I know that until ambition moves those across the street into "pack it all up" mode, I'll be able to find my way home in the dark. Almost reminds me of something we've all seen on YouTube.

There's a pale blue to this afternoon sky, promise of a walk in the woods tomorrow. We're not far from the Rocky River Reservation, 2,552 acres of Cleveland Metroparks foresight. Can't wait to get to know it at least a little. We drove through it a little in the snow yesterday.... obligatory windshield shot to follow.