Thursday, July 31, 2008

Squatters!

Okay, so when we moved in to a house with a yard, I was quite looking forward to seeing what sorts of plants we could grow and critters we could attract. And then, of course, reality set in. The previous occupants FED the SQUIRRELS. (sigh) They provided homes for them, higher in trees than our ladder will reach. The little monsters are bold, bold, bold.

But the squirrels have started to catch on to the new regime. They no longer stride up before our feet expecting handouts, and they're not perched in our faces at the windows.

The previous occupants also apparently had a dog which, near as we can tell, they NEVER cleaned up after. We owe our friend Susan for the rest of our lives, as she tackled doody duty while we were schlepping our belongings on moving day. Two large lawn bags worth. As the DM observed, "Even the dog would have been grossed out by it."

You would think that all that dog-and-squirrel activity would have made this place unattractive to neighborhood cats. You would be mistaken. There have been a couple we've chased out of the yard on a regular basis, and one we were fairly certain was making camp under the back deck.

But then the month-long roof replacement ordeal began and we ceased to see stray cats in the yard. Of course, the fact that we couldn't even GET in the back yard for more than a week probably skewed our data set.

The roofers finally cleaned up and got everything out of here on Saturday.

On Sunday, we discovered THIS:


Yes, indeed! Somehow during all the construction noise and dirt and chaos, this stray cat managed to birth kittens under the deck (three of them, in complete mockery of my previous post) and to raise them to the roaming- about- the- yard stage.

I am not opposed to cats, although I am quite allergic to them. I am, however, opposed to cats roaming about in the big, wide world making trouble for themselves and other critters. This little cadre is, of COURSE, encamped as far back under the deck as it is possible to get... and so far every time we step in to the yard they make a beeline for their squatters' base.

I called the local animal control office and was told, "We don't do cats." (WHAT!?!?) So I guess the next step will be to call the animal shelter and see if they have suggestions for enticing wily feral cats into transportation units.

The kittens are, of course, ridiculously cute.... and everyone looks healthy and happy. We just have to find them a place to be happy and healthy other than under the deck. Anybody want a kitten?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Good things come in threes


Well! At the end of a long and brain-mushing day I received a nice little correspondence from the Director of the Xavier University Art Gallery, to which I had applied for another juried exhibition. (The third such application I proffered this summer, and the astounding third success!)

Hooray! We're in! The juror, Dr. Eric Lee of the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio, selected 76 pieces from 433 entries for the exhibition. Two of those 76 will be familiar to readers of Brush and Baren. Linocuts "Early Snow - Ponderosa Pine" and "Shadows and Reflections" both evolved before our very eyes right here in the blogosphere.

The exhibition doesn't open until September 26, and it runs through November 7. I'm sure I'll make more noise about it as it gets closer.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Going buggy

In honor of my friend Jean-Louis, and thanks to my friend Margie (she brought me the critter)... today a small study of a moth. I am not so good at subtle, and this beast was very subtle... but it's good exercise to at least try such things.

I've been down most of the day with a nasty headache.
We're having very odd, unsettled weather today and my sinuses feel as though they are going to explode. If it ain't one thing, it's another, eh?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Argh.


I've been trying to draw for a couple of days now, but am tied up in contract stuff and making travel arrangements for upcoming workshops. It's been nearly impossible to arrange a flight to Portland, Maine at a decent hour, so when I suddenly found something workable and reasonable yesterday, I snapped it up.

Too bad it was a flight to Portland, OREGON.

Sheesh.

Thankfully, Orbitz is really easy to work with. I called them right away and they cancelled the flight with only a $7.00 charge. And they were pretty darn cheery about it, too.

So... I'm feeling not unlike Wamba here. She looks a tad grumpy, but she's actually living the good life at the "Swiene Parradies" (Pig Paradise) in Holland. Swiene Parradies is a pastoral retreat for rescued pigs... my friend Robin D'Arcy Shillcock and I visited there on a misty afternoon a couple of years ago. Sketchbook pages got a little wrinkled by rain... but it was a nice, quiet way to spend some time.

It's all good.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Birthday weekend

Yesterday was the DM's birthday, so we had another adventure! This time we traveled an hour downriver to the Royal Gorge Bridge. I hadn't been there in more than 15 years, and the DM loves crazy touristy places, so off we went.

It certainly has gotten touristy since the last time I was there. A tad expensive, too... but still... Where else can you involve yourself with an impressive list of claimed superlatives AND kitsch, all in the same day?

We walked across the bridge: the highest suspension bridge in the world. (1,053 feet above the Arkansas River.)

A view of the bridge, with the gorge and the Arkansas River below.

We rode the aerial tram: longest single span tram in the world. (2,200 feet long and 1,178 feet above the river.)

We rode the incline railway: steepest in the world. (45 degree angle of travel.)

View from the bottom of the gorge (via incline railway).
The line across the upper corner is the bridge,
the little dot in the middle of the sky is the tram
.

We DID not ride the skycoaster, this crazy bungee thing that swings riders out over the top of the gorge. No, thank you. (Although the DM said that if it had been less expensive, he might have thought about it. I might have disowned him.)

It was a ridiculously hot day (95 F +, methinks), but we had a good time. Neither of us is much for heights, which was the irony of the day, but together we were somehow braver than normal. I still wasn't big on looking down.

The most superlative giggle of the day came from this sign, at the head of a PAVED trail to the tram loading area. Put us both in mind of Audrey II.


I'm not sure what might be more dangerous than cactus in that particular habitat (primarily piƱon-juniper scrub and lots of cholla and prickly pear), but okay. We kept our guard up.

Bird list from the bridge: swallows, swifts, and vultures. Whaddaya expect?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Twiggy


There are a lot of conversations about sticks in this house these days. The DM plays a curious instrument called the Chapman Stick... so you can imagine the sorts of confusion and innuendo that goes on around THAT. But this is an actual stick from an actual tree: the perpetually shedding willow in the side yard. We picked it up weeks ago, and I always intended to make a sketch of it. I just love the gesture and grace of that twist!

Of course, the sketch didn't happen right away, and the twig was put in the box of "stuff" that I cart around for students to draw. Out of sight, out of mind.

And so it remained until last week in Crested Butte, when one of my workshop participants pulled it out of the box during a sketching exercise. She promptly declared it "harder than I thought it would be," and back into the box it went.

Today I lost patience with all the other items on my "to do" list, so went hunting for The Stick. That subtle, delicate twist WAS quite a challenge. I don't think I really got it quite right, but it felt great to try.

Friday, July 18, 2008

15 seconds of fame, or, television as time machine

Once upon a time, in my pre-blogging universe, I had the fabulous opportunity to be part of a lynx reintroduction project here in Colorado. I've worked on many projects with our state's Division of Wildlife, but those two days in April 2006 were a major perk of volunteerism, and definitely highlights.

On one day, I was able to travel with the team to a remote (and snowy) forest area to participate in the release of several lynx. Lucky me, I even got to open one of the crates and watch this confident little female stride out to meet her new territory.

On another day, sketchbook in hand, I was able to observe the "exit exams" for a second group of lynx scheduled for release. The exams and application of radio collars required, of course, that the animals be sedated for a short time. (No less than 20 minutes, since the antidote to the drug can not be given before then, but no longer than 20 minutes if possible.) My happy task was to sit in the corner with my sketchbook and watch sleeping cats. Their exams typically only took 10 minutes or so, but it was important to keep an eye on them while they were still knocked out, just in case they had trouble breathing or some other problem. (None of which happened, thankfully.)

This is George. He snored.



When it was all over, we returned the lynx to their enclosures and administered the antidote. A few days later these cats, too, were released.

It was all very exciting and fun (and furry! ah-CHOO!)... and "oh- by- the- way- there's- a- cameraman- from- National- Geographic- here- don't- pay- any- attention- to- him."

It's been more than two years, and although I have lots of photos from that day, I had more or less forgotten about the cameraman.

So imagine my surprise when, during yesterday's lunchtime perusal of PBS (thank goodness it's the ONLY channel for which we get decent reception) I saw MYSELF! Just little snippets in the background, mostly transferring lynx from one person to another but, hey! Tick off a few more seconds in my alloted 15 minutes of fame.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Entertainment on a shoestring

My friend Debby over at Drawing the Motmot noted that Garrison Keillor has a thing or two to say about how we will entertain ourselves in the $4.00+ per gallon, post-SUV era. As Debby is a fine banjo player, she enjoyed his prediction that banjo sales would increase.

Not being a banjo player (but being happy that adding a musician to my household has turned out to be a good environmental decision), what struck me most were Mr. Keillor's comments about community design:

".... it’s also showing most of us that we live in communities whose design is based on the assumption of cheap gasoline — big lots with backyard privacy make for a long drive to the grocery store.

In the big old-fashioned city neighborhood, if you’re bored in the evening, you just stroll out the door and there, within five or 10 minutes, are a newsstand, a diner, a movie theater, a palm reader, a tavern with a bartender named Joe — whatever you’re looking for."

They reminded me again how fortunate I am to be living where I am: in a small town with more than the usual share of artists, musicians, and community-minded shop proprietors. The DM and I can (and do) walk to groceries, coffee, cafe, bakery, pub, bookstore, workout, bank, post office, library, mountain hikes, movies, theater, and river. I can't bring myself to complain about fuel prices, in part because I saw first hand how our prices were artificially low more than 20 years ago, during my first trip abroad. But I'm also not really feeling this particular pinch very hard.

When the DM came over to Crested Butte for a couple of days last week, he lamented that he had just spent nearly $50 to fill the tank on his car. But he did so with a twinkle in his eye, and I knew he would laugh when I pretended exasperation - "Well, yes, but DARling! It's the first time you've been to a gas station since you arrived in APRIL."

We're not without our financial worries here in the Heart of the Rockies, we're artists and musicians, after all! Housing prices are out of reach, natural gas prices went up 23% last month. And of course those rising fuel costs make transportation of all the rest of our goods more expensive. But we're happy that our community design allows us to use our feet to reduce our footprint at least a little- and to entertain ourselves with art, music, friends, and an abundance of natural beauty just by walking out the door.

I'm sure there's a bad pun here about a life that's hard on the soles but good for the soul, but I will refrain from using it. I need to walk over to the post office.

Music at the bandshell, Riverside Park
Entertainment via foot and tush

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's a winner!

Still doing email triage after being away for almost a week, but it's nice to sift through the junk and spam-filter-dodging bits to find some delightful sentences. Like this one that arrived via the Chair of an exhibition: "Run Rabbit Run has been selected for an award in Washington Printmakers National Small Works 2008 by our juror, Ann Shafer, Assistant Curator for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Baltimore Museum of Art."

Cool. And so much nicer than being told that my computer will dissolve and life as I know it will come to an end if I don't forward a line of hula dancing chihuahuas to everyone in my contact list within 23 seconds.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Whew! What a week!

Rolled in from the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival this afternoon to discover the roofers were actually working on the house. Call it a good news/bad news thing. The good news is that they seem to finally be making progress. The bad news is that we didn't expect to come home from this....


.... to major pounding and scraping and thumping on the roof and a pile of old roof rubbish all over the yard.

(Note: If the atmosphere looks hazy to you, it is. It is dry, dry, dry here, and fires are burning across Colorado.)

HOWEVER... the week that started with a great group of students also ended with a great group of students... and I enjoyed great groups of students in between. I'm kicking myself that I neglected to take photos of the books created by my handmade journal class... but here are a few students enjoying perfect sketching weather in Crested Butte.




Crested Butte experienced record snowfall this past winter (400+ inches), with mixed consequences. There is still snow in the high country, so wildflower blooms at alpine elevation are "behind." But, WOW! Look at the lupine!

As a result of the winter ravages, and despite an aggressive supplemental feeding program, hundreds (maybe thousands?) of Gunnison Valley mule deer were lost.

What's bad for deer turns out to be good for wildflowers, though. A local biologist speculated that fewer deer meant less nibbling on young columbine plants... and... well.... there are some spectacular shows of our state bloom this summer.

Thanks again to the thoroughly delightful folks who took the pencil-and-paper-plunge and spent time sharpening their sketching skills with me. Best wishes for the remainder of your summers!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Road blogging

Oops, bad me. I have half a million things in the trunk of my car for my workshops, but did I bring the cable for getting photos off my camera and into the aging laptop? No, of course not. So.. an un-illustrated (dare I say naked?) post from the road.

We're off to a great start in Crested Butte. Weather today was perfect, the flowers are beautiful and the bugs were minimal. I had a GREAT class to start things off, and it has set a wonderful tone for the week.

If you teach, you know what I mean. Class dynamics are an interesting phenomenon, and they make all the difference both for the group and for the facilitator. The group today were engaged, enthusiastic, friendly... downright FUN. The morning flew by and I think everyone made a step or two forward in their skills. It was an all-around satisfying day! Thanks, all of you!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

T-shirt revisted

In the way of these things, Someone decided they wanted a different bird in the lineup for the t-shirt design of last weekend. Hm. Of course I carved the first version as one piece... but through the joys of digital technology and a suitably editable design... no need to start over.

The first version looked like this:


Bird #4 was deemed icky. (I'm afraid I had to concur. I knew better when I carved it.) So... I set up a new tiny plate (2.5 x 2.5 inches) and carved The Replacement:

Through the wonders of digital technology, I scanned the replacement print and dropped it in over the top of the previous Bird #4. Put the whole shebang together with the text and voila! A new design with limited amounts of anxiety. Sure, I had to carve another little bird and print it... but it sure beat having to do the entire line over again.

The problem now, of course, is that I won't be making any prints of the original line to sell AS prints because they won't match until I do some physical splicing of the plate. Oh well.... a challenge for another day.

I expect t-shirt order forms will appear on the RMBO website some time soon. The anniversary party is in August.

Workshoppin' next week

Workshop participant Margot enjoys a comfy bench view for sketching.

I'm off next Monday to the luscious mountain town of Crested Butte, where I'll be teaching field sketching and bookmaking workshops all week at the Wildflower Festival.

Last I looked, Tuesday and Thursday classes were sold out, but there's still room on Wednesday and Friday. Even if you don't want to draw or make books, there are a ZILLION things to do at the Festival. And the view just can't be beat.