Saturday, May 12, 2018

Playing with Watercolor

Since I am not driving all over the state in search of early butterflies I have been trying to get back to my art work. My main focus is improving my watercolor skills, with mixed results. For subjects I am going through my photo archive and selecting photos that I think will be relatively easy to paint, mostly flowers at this point.

Above is a columbine, I selected a photo of an individual flower and tried to paint it without any preliminary pencil or pen work. I am relatively pleased with how it came out. Native columbines are such a  pretty late spring flower and it was fun to try and paint the rather complex shapes.

My next attempt was the above image of 3 cosmos flowers. I have painted this subject before with as I recall not much more success, for some reason these are tricky flowers to paint.

Perhaps it is the color of the flowers, pink. There is no such thing as pink watercolor paint, there are various shades of red but no pink. So to get pink you have to add water, lots of water, which makes a wet paint that I find tricky to control. I am finding it hard to get the brush loaded just right. Paper towels are necessary, at least for me so that I can remove some of the moisture from the brush prior to painting. Still I think this attempt is better than my previous attempt, which isn't saying much. After a lot more paintings maybe I will try again.


I tried something a bit different with these daffodils. I drew the image first with pencil, then inked the outline lines and then added color. I started with a light yellow wash, removed some of the paint in some areas, then allowed the paper to dry. The next session I added some darker yellow and orange shading. Allowed that to dry and then added the shadows and the background. I am fairly happy with how this one came out. At least they look like daffodils. Again the reference was one of my personal photographs.

For all my paintings I am using a half sheet of Fabriano Studio Watercolor paper, the cold press, 140 lbs 9 x 12 inch sheets. It contains 25% cotton so isn't as expensive as 100% cotton paper but stands up better to water etc. than a 100% wood pulp paper or a lighter weight paper. 

These next two photos are both of "Violets", though the ones above are wild (and I think native) while the ones in the photo below are house plants that come from another continent. I don't think they are actually related but I may be wrong.

Anyway I usually have at least one African Violet plant that I keep in my bedroom (the windows face North which my African Violets seem to love). Right at the moment one of the plants is in bloom so I thought I would share a photo of them This plant flowers a kind of salmon pink, not my favorite color, I prefer a dark purple but I tend to purchase plants that are on the sale table so they usually don't have flowers when I buy them.

Earlier this week I took a trip into Boston, got off at Park and walked across the common and through the Garden. The flowering trees were putting on a show and the swan boats were out and about on the pond. Above is a photo of a swan boat at the boarding shed. It was a beautiful day, I ended up at the Library for lunch and then headed out to the smaller Blicks store for some spare colored pencils. Next update will have a colored pencil drawing. Something old that I have finally finished.

In the meantime that is it for today, comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Finally Spring

It is the First of May, hope you have a happy May Day. I almost can't believe how long it has been since I last did a blog update. But to be honest I haven't been doing much to blog about. Playing games on my tablet, reading or listening to books, food shopping, those have been my main activities, and there isn't much in the way of interesting blog content in those activities. Hmm book reviews maybe but that has never been my thing, so I will spare my readers.

That said in the past few weeks I have pulled out my brushes and the watercolor paints and paper to do some playing around. First I painted some imaginary flowers, then I cut the resulting painting into 2 inch strips and then using an ink pen I added some top doodles. The results are in the top image, a couple of almost done bookmarks. I plan on coating them with Acrylic Medium and then calling them done. I have plans to do some more watercolor painting. I am not very good, but hopefully well get better.

These next two photos show what else I have been doing since Christmas, knitting socks. So far I have 3 pair finished, and a couple more pairs where the first sock is about half way done (I am doing the heel)

I am working with mostly wool yarns that has some nylon incorporated, the grey socks above have some Alpaca, which means a soft yarn with a lovely hand. I am knitting on double pointed needles, size 2 for the grey socks, and size one for the multi colored socks below, they yarn is dyed with gradations of color, I just knit. The socks don't have the same color gradations, but then the yarn didn't seem to have repeat gradations. I wasn't sure I would have enough for the 2nd sock so I didn't even really try to look for a repeat. Still I don't care, I love the colors in this yarn and found the gradations fun to work with.

For those who haven't tried it, sock knitting is fun and sort of addictive. Esp. if you can find a pattern that is well written and have had some experience knitting. There are various on-line sites that offer free patterns, though I found the Paton's Next Steps Four, Socks and Slippers booklet excellent for the beginning sock pattern (grey socks). I also recommend the Ravelery web site for all things knit, they have free patters and a large community of knitters. You need to join to get the patterns but the site won't bombard you with e-mails.

Our weather, here in Eastern MA was fairly warm in February (for that time of year) but March was snowy and cold so I wasn't doing many trips into Boston. Above is photo I did make on of my late March Boston visits. This is a photo of Boston City Hall from the Quincy Market area, the statue is one of Boston's past mayors, Kevin White, I think but I need to check

The above photo was made from Boston Garden looking toward Beacon Street. The pink azalea was inside the garden, and the white tree was in front of  one of the buildings on Beacon. The photo was made about a week ago, in late April. 

I made the above photo of a violet in bloom this past weekend here in Brockton. There are also various bushes in bloom and some of the trees in my neighborhood are starting to leaf out. I can say that Spring is finally arriving here in Southeastern MA.

Not sure when I will be updating the blog again. I am not currently driving so my access to woods has been severely limited. This means I won't be visiting my favorite sites for spring wild flowers this year. Lack of mobility is also going to limit the number and kinds of butterflies I can photograph. Maybe I can get back to doing more art which I can post, only time will tell, and I am sure there will be more socks.. In the meantime comments are welcome. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Happy New Year 2018 - Chicago Street Art

I want to wish all my readers a Happy 2018, may you have good health, good luck and good times this coming year.

Per usual I spent Christmas and New Year's at my sisters in Chicago. For the first part of my visit the weather wasn't too bad so on a couple of days (one cloudy) I was able to get out and about with the camera. Then a cold front came in and it was too cold to spend much time outside and with the wind chill factor dangerous to exposed skin (temps were below 10 degrees F on a couple of days) so my photography trips were called off, it was just too darn cold.

Anyway Chicago has a lot of hmm, lets call it street art. These first two photos are buildings that have been painted to call attention to themselves. Both of these are restaurants, the top one a barbecue place and the one below I think was a Mexican Restaurant.  For the barbecue place they just painted the building over the entrance. In the one below they painted the entire rear of the adjoining building, fake windows, fake arch, fake courtyard and even fake stairs. I am sure that in the summer there are tables in this area and it must be a pleasant place to sit and eat. The fountain is real.

Please don't ask me where these restaurants are, I have no clue other than on the North side of downtown Chicago and toward the lake, Lincoln Park area (I think) I do all my wanderings starting on foot from my sisters and usually walk toward the lake (east) and usually south (toward downtown) but I don't really bother with street names or addresses. If I end up over by the lake and Lincoln Park I know which buses will get me back to her house otherwise I am happy to just wander. 

But Chicago also likes to put up sculptures and other types of art works on street corners and in small parks.

The colorful bends above are to mark one of the areas that make up the City of Chicago, The sign says Lakeview East, different areas have different signs.

Above is one of the Corner Sculptures I found, I don't recall what the marker said about it. It just sits out on a street corner, I would think that they might be worried that someone would try to take it, but then again maybe not.

Near a Children's Hospital I found a small park, there was a sculpture of children playing a circle game in the center of the park, and this one on the corner, not sure what it is supposed to be.

As a final photograph, Chicago has a Nature Museum located a bit north of the Lincoln Park Zoo. It is near a pond and also fairly close to the Lake (Lake Michigan) Instead of a lawn with mowed grass they have landscaped much of the area around the building as native prairie: using native shrubs and plants. The photo above is of some flower heads (seed heads) left from last summer. I don't know what the flower is/was but thought the seed heads interesting.

I have visited the Museum in the past, they have a butterfly room with live mostly tropical butterflies, it was fun to try and photograph them, they also have exhibits showcasing native animals and their habitat.  A good place to visit with young children, when my sister and I visited food was in short supply so I suggest a packed lunch if you are in the area and want to visit.

That is it for today, not sure when my next update will be or what it will be about. I am finding that I don't have a lot of motivation to get out the camera when it is freezing cold or the ground is snow covered. Ah well, per usual comments are welcome.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Rejected Photos and some art

I have been working on next years (2018) calendars. Every year I try to select the best photographs I have made over the past year and create calendars for family and/or friends. This year there are 3 different calendars.: one with bird photographs, another with butterfly photos, and the 3rd with, this year anyway "Landscape" photos. Not that all of the photos in the Landscape Calendar are really of landscapes. Feeling that just landscape photos would get boring (the area I make my photographs in is fairly limited) I included some photos that are more close up photos of nature, not long distant shots so I have fudged a bit.

The bird and butterfly calendars are in a way a bit easier to pull together, I just pull out my best photographs and select from there. Since I need 14 photographs for each calendar I usually don't end up with a lot of extra. Esp. as I don't want to repeat species in each year. But with the landscape calendar there are some months that are harder to make the final selection for. So this blog post includes my "rejected" calendar photos. They didn't make the final cut, but were selected as possibles.

The above photo was a possible March. For the Landscape calendar, photos are made in the month they represent. This one was made in March at Ponkapoag Golf Course, showing the Sugar Maples that line the road leading back to the Bluehills Reservation area around the pond.

The above photo was made in Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA in April. Powered boats are not allowed on lakes in the state parks, but some visitors bring inflatable kayaks or canoes such as seen here.

This photo was made in my local city park in August, and shows this year's swan family, parents and cygnets swimming away from me. I used another photo of the swans in the calendar, one I liked better, and didn't want to repeat the image, so this one got cut.

The photograph above was made at the Governor Ames Estate, Easton, MA in July. This is what I mean when I say that not all of the photos are "Landscapes". Still nature, but not a long distance shot. I really like this photo of water lilies, but it just didn't fit in for that month.

This photo was made at Daniel Webster, MA Audubon site in Marshfield, MA in June. It shows the fields where the bobolinks make their nests. The fields are mowed toward the end of every summer so that the trees don't take over, but it is done after the young birds have fledged so are out of the fields. I just liked the range of values and colors in this photo, but it just didn't fit so got eliminated.

Hope you enjoyed this peak behind the curtain so to speak and like viewing my "rejected" photos.

Lately I have been trying to get back to some of my other loves (drawing and sewing) so above are two bookmarks that I have been working on. I painted a made up landscape on some watercolor paper, then cut the paper into strips and added ink work over the painting. There are a couple of more that I need to finish, but these two are the ones I have done so far. I apply acrylic medium to the fronts and backs which not only makes them waterproof but pretty durable.

That is it for today. Per usual comments are welcome

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fall Berries

Every plant that flowers produces seeds, some plants encase the seeds in pulp and an outer cover to temp birds, insects or other animals to carry them away and eat them. Today's blog showcases photos I have made in recent weeks of various berries.

I don't usually see these berries ripe. I think the birds and chipmunks get them as soon as they are ripe, or it could be that I just wasn't paying enough attention. But the above photo made at the Governor Ames Estate in Easton, MA., Sept. 4, of a single remaining berry on a Canada Mayflower plant is an exception. Canada Mayflower is a common native plant of New England woods blooming with white flowers in the spring (usually May).

Roses start blooming in early summer (mid June) and will usually bloom through early July. The fruits of the rose flower are called Rose Hips. We have several native rose species here in MA. and to be honest I am not sure which one is represented in the above photo, made at Daniel Webster MA Audubon, Marshfield, MA. on Sept. 24, 2017. A source of food for birds they are also can be used by humans.

Another native plant of the forest floor is Wintergreen. The red berry above is the fruit of this plant that prefers acidic soils, and is the original source of the flavoring Wintergreen. Native Americans used this berry for many purposes including making a tea. I photographed these plants at Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA. on Sept. 29, 2017.

Here is another native plant of the forest floor. You have to be paying attention to notice this small berry growing among the low growing leaves, though the red color does attract attention. This is Partridge Berry and is unusual because the single fruit is formed from the two flowers that bloomed in early summer. I found these plants in my local city park, (Brockton, MA) though it is a common plant in this area. Photographed Sept. 28, 2017.

The above berries are of the Bittersweet Nightshade, also called Climbing Nightshade. This non-native plant can be found in waste places and often in your own yard where soil has been disturbed and weeds allowed to grow. I photographed this plant at the Golf Course at Ponkapoag Pond, Canton, MA., Oct. 3, 2017. They are pretty berries but toxic to humans so should not be eaten.

The red berries above are an excellent winter food source for birds. They are hard so birds seem to prefer them after they have softened due to time and frosts. These are the berries of the Winterberry bush.  There are several species that are called winterberry that have bright red berries, I believe this is Smooth Winterberry as I photographed it growing at the edge of Ponkapoag Pond, Canton, MA., Oct. 3, 2017. A native bush that is a good addition to a yard where the owner wants to have bird friendly plantings. The small white flowers aren't showy but they do attract native pollinators and bloom early summer.

These are the berries of the Pokeweed plant. The berries are poisonous to humans but young leaves can be eaten after appropriate processing. That said they are a food source for birds. The plants are large and bushy and can often be seen along roadsides. I photographed these at Great Blue Hill, Canton, MA, Oct. 4, 2017. Native Americans used the plant for medicinal purposes and the berries can be used as a dye.

As a reversal of how I used to do the blog, above is a drawing I recently made. It is Inktober time, that month in the year where artists are urged to create a daily ink drawing for the 31 days of the month. I don't know how well I will do this year, so far not too well, only 2 drawings finished, but I may do better. In any case I managed this one of a couple of spotted wintergreen plants with their growing seed pods. I used a dip pen and  India ink for this drawing.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome. Please note that I have provided links to appropriate pages for each named plant, though the link for the Rose Hips is to a page that discusses uses.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


 It is officially Fall, the autumn equinox was last Friday, Sept. 22.  Here in New England Asters are the native wild flower of fall. They are mostly white flowers with yellow centers, though there are some pink, violet, lavender or purple ones also. They bloom in the woods in the shade, and also in the open fields in the sun.

The photos today are of various Asters I have photographed in recent weeks. Identifying an aster isn't always easy, there are 100's of varieties world wide and about 40 here in New England.

I am not sure if the flowers above are Flat Topped White Aster or Toothed White Topped Aster, I didn't photograph the leaves which would tell me, though I know I photographed the flowers at Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Mattapoisett, MA. on Sept. 1, 2017

Also photographed at Nasketucket Bay was this Whorled Wood Aster. I lucked out with a splash of sunlight to illuminate this plant as it was growing beside the path in the woods.

I think the above photo is of Calico or Starved Aster flowers, I photographed this in the power line cut at Ames Nowell State Park, Sept. 21, 2017. In this instance the flowers were a pale lilac, quite pretty.

I believe the flowers above are from a Small White Aster, though there is at least one other species that is possible. I suppose I should be taking one of my field guides with me on my walks, but I hate carrying the extra weight. Photographed at Great Blue Hill, in the Blue Hills Reservation Sept. 23, 2017.

These next two photos are both of New England Asters, our largest and showiest of the Native Asters that bloom in the fall. They can have a fairly wide color range from pink to a dark purple. These were photographed at Forge Pond, Hanover, MA. Sept. 24, 2017.

The yellow in the above photo is one of our many varieties of goldenrod. 

I found this web site if you are interested in reading more about Asters, also the New England Wild Flower web site lists all of these species, links to their site are attached to their names above. Please note  my Wild Flower guides are old, recent genetic information has caused the Asters to be reclassified (Latin names) and NE Wild Flower Society uses some different common names. If you garden some of these asters have been developed as garden plants, usually easy to grow, it is nice to have some flowers that wait until fall to bloom.

I thought I would end this post with a Dragonfly photo, this is one of the Autumn Meadow Hawk dragonflies, which one I am not sure, I am told that to make a correct ID the dragonfly needs to be examined under a microscope. Since I never capture what I photograph I have to be satisfied with just a general ID. Still I think it is a pretty picture. I can tell you that this is a male, males are red, females yellow, and it is one of the white faced species.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Introduction to some Mushrooms

Mushrooms, we have all seen them, either on our lawns, or in the woods and even in the supermarkets. But there is more to the group than the standard white mushroom with gills that we purchase in boxes at the Market. Depending on the source mushrooms have been broken down into at least 12 groups, only one of which is mushrooms with gills.

I have always been fascinated by mushrooms and when I acquired a digital camera and started wandering the local woods and parks I also started photographing anything that I found unusual or interesting.  Today's photographs are a selection of some of those photos, some made this year (2017) but others made in previous years. I am not going to try a identify these photos with specific Latin names, only the general group to which they belong, nor am I going to address edibility, if you are interested in that I suggest you purchase one of several guides that can be found either on-line or in a bookstore.  It takes more than a photograph to correctly identify a mushroom, smell, spore prints, etc. are details given in books that I am not even going to try to touch here. Note: I rarely pick the mushrooms I see, so correct identification usually isn't possible.

Before I start identifying the photographs I want to say that all mushrooms have a couple of things in common no matter the shape of the fruiting bodies, and what I have photographed are "fruiting" bodies, they are fed and created by fungi networks (mycelium) that live in soil, wood or other organic substances. The second trait they share is they reproduce by spores.  

OK, on to the photographs, the mushroom in the top photograph (by the way the color is accurate, I did not Photoshop this photo other than to resize it for the web) is a member of the Polypore or Shelf Mushroom group. I believe that this is actually a Sulphur Shelf, but since I am not sure the species of the tree it is growing on I wouldn't eat it. I found this growing in my local Brockton, MA park just this past week. I actually pulled the car over as I was driving by so I could walk back and make the photo.

The mushrooms above are a member of the Coral Fungi family. They sort of look like coral don't they. I believe this is a Ramaria Sp. but could be totally wrong.  I found these in Borderland State Park, Easton, MA. in 2011. 

These spiky white balls are a member of the Puffball family. They have no gills, and while some members of this family may have stalks they still release their spores through slits in the outer covering that occur as the mushroom matures. Photographed this summer in my local Brockton Park. I believe this is Lycoperdon echinatum, but can't swear to it. 

One family in the Mushroom category looks like a "standard" mushroom until you look under the cap to find there are no gills. The spores are released through tubes, so the underside looks spongy. This family is the Boletes. This a semi large family and I am not sure what the above is, perhaps chestnut Bolete (Gyroporus castaneus). Photographed in Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA. this summer.

These next three photographs are of mushrooms that belong to the Agarics or gilled mushroom family, which includes most of the mushrooms found in the supermarket. This group is very hard to identify by looks alone as their appearance can mislead the identifier at different stages of growth leading someone to think they have an editable mushroom when in reality it is deadly poisonous.

The white dots on the above mushroom are the remains of the volva (the membrane that covered the mushroom as it developed, and ruptured as it emerged above ground). There are so many types of gilled mushrooms that I haven't even attempted to name these three. The one above was photographed in my local Brockton Park this summer.

Gilled Mushrooms often grow in in clumps, above are a trio that I found growing in the woods in Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Mattapoisett, MA. this summer. 

This larger clump also photographed this summer was found in Ames Nowell State Park. Can I say that I love to photograph clumps, well I also find individual mushrooms interesting but the clumps really spark my interest.

There are other families of Mushrooms that I haven't photographed (to my knowledge), they include Morels, Stinkhorns, Jelly Fungi, Cup Fungi, False Morels, and Hydnums (Tooth Fungi). I took my family names from a Petterson Mushroom guide I borrowed from the Library. Other information comes from a couple of web sites I have found that are devoted to North American Mushrooms. 

David Fischer's American Mushrooms,   Mushroom Expert,
and Merriam Webster Visual Dictionary 

The first two sites are packed with photographs and detailed information about mushrooms and how to identify them. They also both have information about guide books for those who wish to pursue an interest in Mushrooms.  But be warned both sites are complex and finding exactly what you want may take some time and a bit of browsing. The Webster site identifies the structures of a mushroom.

One last photo, and this one has nothing to do with mushrooms. It is a Doe that I photographed in the Power Line cut at Ames Nowell State Park. I rarely see or even hear deer on my walks even though I know most of the locations where I walk have them in residence. On the day I was in the park there were very few other visitors and none of them must have been in the cut prior to my arriving. This deer was eating until she heard me. She stood like that for about a minute (time for me to make a couple of photographs) and then took off. She looks healthy and well fed so hopefully she will survive the coming winter. She was fairly large so I am assuming a mature Doe, White Tailed Deer, sort of wish it had been a Stag but one takes what one can get.

That is it for today. Took me far too long to pull this post together, hope you enjoy it, comments are welcome, esp if you can identify any of my mushrooms.