Sale on canvas prints! Use code ABCXYZ at checkout for a special discount!

Blog

Displaying: 61 - 70 of 72

  |  

Show All

  |

Previous 4 5 6

[7]

8 Next

Groundhog Wars

June 23rd, 2009

Groundhog Wars

6-23-09
We have a family of groundhogs that has inhabited our neighborhood for many generations. They are a light-colored variety, almost strawberry blonde. We have had baby groundhogs under our porch, in our shed, and in our garden. They are cute and charming until they start eating all the produce. Our groundhogs, squirrels, and their kin seem to ebb and flow, depending on the predator population. Recently we have had a lot of foxes, coyotes, and large raptors and owls around, so the rodents are scarce. But we still have a groundhog family in the back yard hole, where the old barn originally was.
I was out hanging clothes on the line one afternoon not too long ago, and I heard a lot of noise coming from the shed, rummagings, scufflings, and shufflings that gradually became louder and louder. I looked up just in time to see the table by the shed door falling over and a groundhog barreling out of the shed. He disappeared around the corner in a flash. Then he peeked back around it as if to say, "What just happened?"
The encounter that really takes the cake was the come-to-Jesus meeting I had with a baby groundhog the first week of June this year. I was sitting on the front steps eating my lunch and saw a very small blonde furry rump in the grass beside my garden. It was a baby groundhog the size of a guinea pig, probably on his first foray away from the nest. I gave it some thought and decided that I had better give him an experience he wouldn't forget so that he would steer clear of my garden.
So I got up and ran straight at him across the driveway, yelling at the top of my lungs and waving my arms. He just sat there and looked at me in a puzzled sort of way. I got up to within six feet of him and he just stared at me. I gave him a good loud lecture about groundhogs, gardens, and what I would do to him if I ever found my lettuce eaten. I advanced on him fiercely, and he still just stared. He didn't seem to be frozen in fear, just curious.
He finally turned around and disappeared back toward the shed as if he had just remembered something else he had to go do. I imagine that he had some interesting things to tell mama groundhog when he got home. I will say this for him, we haven't put the electric fence up around the garden yet, but no one has eaten my lettuce.

Captive Tiger

June 16th, 2009

Captive Tiger

I finished my series of drawings and paintings of the bloodroot, and have been cogitating on what subject to choose next. Wild strawberries for June, maybe? But the tiger swallowtail butterflies have been flitting all over the place recently, and to me they say "June" better than anything. Every time I see one go by, my heart follows it.
They love the lilacs along our driveway. Last year I got some good photos of the swallowtails on the lilacs. And someone gave me a dead one they found, so I put it in the museum collection. But I was thinking that I really needed to see a live one up close in order to be able to paint them. I finally got my chance a couple of days ago.
I was sitting outside on the porch steps, and a gorgeous male tiger landed just a few feet away from me. I don't have a butterfly net. I didn't want to hurt him. So I went in the house and got a large glass bowl from the kitchen. I had to stalk him for a while, and stand very still, leaning over with the bowl upside down in my hands for what seemed like ages. But finally he cooperated and landed right at my feet. I eased the bowl over him before he knew what was happening, slid a piece of masonite under him, and had a captive tiger to study!
I spent about 45 minutes admiring him, photographing him, and watching him. Then I released him to go about his business. He sat for a few minutes more while I took a few more photos, and then was on his way, with my effusive thanks.
Now I am happily drawing tiger swallowtails in my study book. My museum specimen is a female, so I can include both sexes. Today I started a watercolor of a single swallowtail. I am also working on the layout for a painting of the swallowtail on the lilacs, from one of my photos. You can look forward to more about tigers as I progress.
The image here is of my captive tiger on the table on the porch.

Early June

June 3rd, 2009

Early June

I walked out of the house this morning just in time to see a V of geese fly over, headed north. There is something wild and wonderful about hearing them call to each other as they fly. We donít have any geese that are permanent residents here on our property, but neighbors of ours down the road keep a flock and we sometimes hear them in the distance.
We had a huge spruce tree come down in the windstorm this weekend. "How the mighty are fallen!" It took out two good-sized maples when it fell, and some of the high bush blueberries. It was part of the windbreak between our house and the road, near where Steveís dad kept his beehives. It leaves a good size hole in our skyline to the north. We will miss its shelter next winter, I am sure. As is the way of the woods, though, it will soon be replaced and the hole filled in.
Yesterday after I went to inspect the storm damage, I walked back through that patch of woods beside the road. That little nook of our land grows the deep-woods wildflowers, Canada mayflower, starflowers, and Jack-in-the-pulpit, too. Right now it is covered with a delicate carpet of blooms, so thick that itís hard to walk without stepping on them. I caught a brief glimpse of a reddish-brown thrush as it hustled away from me in the underbrush. I am guessing from the color of its back that it was a veery. I have been hearing one singing in the evenings this past week.
One of my happiest memories from childhood is that magical time of the evening when the sun would slant through the trees, lighting them all in gold, and the wood thrushes would begin to sing. We have had a thrush singing here in the evenings for years, from the tangle of woods on the other side of the road. Somehow it didnít sound like the wood thrush of my childhood. Its song is reedier, and higher pitched, without the low introductory notes. But last summer I was listening to the bird call record and realized when it came to the thrushes that what I have been hearing is a hermit thrush, not a wood thrush at all. It is an elusive singer; I have never seen it. But its song haunts my evenings now like the wood thrush did back in Ohio many years ago.

Spring Arrivals

May 29th, 2009

The summer residents are beginning to return to my neck of the woods. The neighborhood is getting noisy again, as the spring peepers tune up and the birds begin to sing their spring melodies. Here are some excerpts from my journal pages about the recent arrivals:
April 9 Phoebes are back.
April 10 I scared a pair of ducks up out of the stream behind the house. I think they are American Black Ducks.
April 15 We have a woodfrog chorus this evening, with one lone, cold spring peeper joining in. The sparrows are returning, and the first small fiddleheads are showing in the woods.
April 16 I got a glimpse of our groundhog tenant today, who was digging out the hole behind the shop in the early morning. It is a smallish blonde one (the groundhogs in this neighborhood seem to be strawberry blonde instead of brown). The diggings must be extensive; the dirt pile is getting bigger and bigger.
April 17 The mourning doves are back. The peeper chorus has started up in earnest.
April 19 The ticks are out, and the first daffodils are blooming. We didn't use to have ticks around here. They first started showing up around 5 years ago. I saw a pair of swallows, high above the meadow. I watched minnows in the stream for a while. They ranged from 1 1/2" to 3 1/2" in length. I guess that is what the kingfisher has been hanging around for. The ducks are definitely black ducks. I saw them this time before they saw me. The bloodroot is just beginning to bloom now. This is about a week earlier than it bloomed last year, and 2 to 3 weeks earlier than 10 years ago.
April 22 The white-throated sparrows are back, singing their sweet song in the front yard. The forsythia beside the silver maple is blooming. There are just a few small patches of tired old snow on the mountainside now. That's all that's left of winter.

Swift River Treasures Artist Statement

May 29th, 2009

Swift River Treasures Artist Statement

ďSwift River TreasuresĒ opens the treasure-box of the Swift River valley where I live, combining my passion for making art with my enjoyment of being an amateur naturalist. When I step out my front door in the morning, I canít take you along to enjoy the beauty with me. But I can capture bits of it to share with you.

Here is the process: I go for long rambling walks in the woods and fields near my home. Something catches my eye, some treasure of nature. I photograph it, and bring home a specimen for my museum if it is an abundant species. I take notes, writing about it in my journal. I learn all I can about it from my nature books and resources on the Internet. I put a photo page and an information page about it in my source book. I draw it carefully in my study book, investigating its structure and admiring its beauty. Then I make finished drawings, paintings, and prints of it to share. The finished artwork is really the tip of the iceberg, as far as the whole process goes.

I see myself more as providing a service than manufacturing a product. I am foraging for beauty here in the Swift River valley and sharing it with those of you who live in other parts of the world. I take so much delight in living here and learning about the treasures I find. My hope is that you will share in that delight with me.

The image shown here is a photo my mother took of the Swift River near our home.

Classes and Workshops Summer 2009

May 29th, 2009

CLASSES

BASIC DRAWING CLASS (FUN WITH A PENCIL)
Six-class series
Tues. 6:00-9:00 pm at Swift River Studio in Mexico or by appointment.
Learn to draw in this class that introduces you to basic drawing materials and beginning skills. Simple, enjoyable exercises and projects will develop your eye and hand. Topics covered will include: drawing tools and materials, line and contour, value (shading, hatching, and blending), texture, perspective, composition, and gesture.

INTRODUCTION TO CALLIGRAPHY
Three-class series
By appointment, at Swift River Studio in Mexico
This class covers basic calligraphy techniques using either Speedball pens and nibs or felt-tip pens. The following topics will be introduced: tools and materials, posture and hand position, line and letter spacing, basic letter strokes and formation, layout, simple Roman and italic alphabets, capitals, and decorated letters.

ARTISTíS STUDIO
Studio classes can be scheduled at any time for individualized study in a series or a one-time session. Choose to work on your own project, get help with a specific problem, or find answers to questions about your art. Let me know how I can help you.


WORKSHOPS

THE ARTISTíS EYE
June 6 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at Swift River Studio in Mexico, or by appointment
The most important part of drawing or painting realism is your ability to really SEE what is in front of you. In this workshop we explore a series of classic exercises for artists that train the eye and eye-hand coordination. Beginners and artists at any level of experience would benefit from this series. The exercises include both quick and sustained studies in contour drawing, value studies, gesture drawings, and weighted drawings.

ALL ABOUT COLOR
July 11 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at Swift River Studio in Mexico, or by appointment
Do you struggle to get the color you want when you are painting? This is a hands-on workshop for beginning, intermediate, or advanced artists who want to expand their understanding of color and how to use it. Topics will include: color theory; primary, secondary, and complementary colors; tints, shades, and saturation; color harmony, and color mixing.

PAINTS AND PIGMENTS
Aug. 8 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at Swift River Studio in Mexico, or by appointment
This workshop will take the mystery out of buying art supplies, giving you an overview of common drawing and painting materials and a chance to experiment with them. Topics will include: history of paint; pigments, binders, and fillers; pigment properties; lightfastness; Color Index numbers; why some paints cost more than others; and how to choose the right paint.

INTRODUCTION TO WATER-SOLUBLE OIL PAINTS
One-day workshop at Swift River Studio in Mexico, by appointment
Water-soluble or water-mixable oil paints have been gaining in popularity in recent years because they are nontoxic and easy to clean up with soap and water instead of harsh solvents. This one-day workshop gives you a chance to try them out and learn more about them. It is open to artists at all skill levels.
Topics covered will include: history of water-soluble oils, how water-soluble oils work,
sources and manufacturers, water-soluble mediums, color mixing, and tips for making the most of water-soluble oils.

All classes and workshops are ďhands-onĒ learning experiences, not just demonstrations.
Private lessons can be scheduled at any time. Workshops require a minimum of three students.
Class sizes will be kept small in order to maximize individual attention.
All classes will be held at Swift River Studio, 917 Roxbury Road, Mexico, Maine 04257, unless class size requires a larger venue.
Tuition varies depending on the size of the class. The base fee is $20 per hour for individual instruction. For example, a 3-hour class for 3 students would be $20 per student, or $15 each for 4 students. I am open to the possibility of barter if you don't have cash.

Email me at bgbell@gmail.com or call me at (207) 364-7243 to make the arrangements.

Bloodroot in Bloom

May 8th, 2009

Bloodroot in Bloom

Journal entry from 4-21-09
Bloodroot
The bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is blooming in a shady corner of our backyard today, near the bend in the stream. Down by the Swift River, about a ten-minute walk from here, the woods will soon be a carpet of white stars. But the plants here by the house bloom first. This is the earliest I have ever seen it blossoming.
A member of the poppy family, bloodroot is well named. The sap in the roots and leaves is a startling scarlet color. I accidentally broke the bud off of a small stem with my clumsy boots when I was photographing the flowers this week, and the stem immediately began to ooze brilliant drops of red. I understand that native Americans used it for body paint. Dry, the juice looks exactly like a bloodstain. In the hands of a good medical practitioner, bloodroot is a potent medicine.
The plants work their way out of the ground well-protected from the harsh weather they sometimes face. The flower bud is covered by a pale green pair of sepals and completely wrapped in the large lobe-edged leaf. The sepals fall off as the flower opens. Even after the flower is open, the leaf still wraps shelteringly around the stem. They look like a company of star-people with grayish-green blankets wrapped snugly around their shoulders, nestled in the dry brown leaves from last summer.
Bloodroot is a very simple and economical plant. Each one consists of one leaf and one flower stalk. They only open their blooms on warm, sunny days. At night and or on a cloudy day like today, they are shut up tight.
The image here is a photo of the bloodroot page I have been working on in my study book.

A Deafening Interlude

April 25th, 2009

I spent a lot of time sitting in the bloodroot patch yesterday afternoon, happily drawing flowers in my studybook. The birds were singing around me and a chipmunk was scuffling in the leaves nearby. I thought I heard a loon once, which is odd, because we donít usually see them here.
When I was done, I didnít really want to go inside. The sun was still bright and warm, and the temperature all the way up to 72 degrees for the first time this spring. So I went on a walk around the loop to the far end of our property. I stopped off at the place where the stream enters the meadow beyond the fence row. It widens out there into a little pond. (That is where I saw the kingfisher last week.)
I sat at the edge of the pond for a long time, watching the tadpoles lurking in the underwater underbrush, and listening to the peepers. I donít know how those tiny frogs can create such a volume of noise, but it is deafening when they are close at hand. It was so strange to hear such a racket and see no one. I have yet to catch a glimpse of one of these enthusiastic singers, no matter how hard I look. There was one in a clump of grass at my feet, I was sure of it, but he was either a ventriloquist or invisible. I never did see him.
After a while a muskrat slid out of the brush beside me and into the pond, and dived out of sight. He was almost close enough that I could have touched his wet fur as he went.

Exploration of Natural Design

April 24th, 2009

Exploration of Natural Design

In 2006 I undertook a study of the geometry of nature, and began a body of art that explored the exquisite design inherent in the world around us. I used "A Beginnerís Guide to Constructing the Universe" (subtitled ďThe Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, And ScienceĒ) by Michael S. Schneider as my main sourcebook.
The whole project was actually born in a moment of fixing a salad for dinner one day. I paused for a moment to hold up a slice of cucumber and looked at it with the light behind it. The symmetry and beauty of that simple cuke slice, the pattern of the seeds, and the threefold geometry of its construction were irresistible. I was hooked.
I made a large book (see the photo here of pages 6-7) and started keeping notes in it about geometry, number, and nature. I also created a series of paintings of the natural mandalas in cross-sections of familiar vegetables, branching out from cucumbers to zucchinis, squashes, and carrots. Most of them were painted on shaped round canvases.
In order to better draw attention to the beauty of the forms, I played with the color. A cucumber-colored painting of a cucumber slice is nothing but a recognizable cucumber. But a brilliantly colored painting of a cucumber slice displays its internal geometry in a way that goes far beyond salad. The delicate calligraphy of the structural elements in a carrot cross-section has to be seen to be believed.
This exploration eventually grew into my Moments of Transcendence work, a collection of miniature panels that began with the vegetable mandalas and grew until it encompassed flowers, seashells, pinecones, and more. But that is another story.

Out for a Walk

April 23rd, 2009

Out for a Walk

Today was the first really sunny warm day we have had this spring. The thermometer went all the way up to 62 degrees. I celebrated by going for a long ramble around our 8-acre woods this afternoon. I walked out the path on the west side of the loop to the far end of the property, and then came back along the stream that forms our western border.
Here is a laundry list of what I saw: a pair of ducks on the stream (black ducks, I think), a chipmunk on a stump, a fresh-dug hole in the path about 8Ē deep (who was digging for what there?), a robin, a kingfisher, some false hellebore putting its bright green sprouts above the ground (see the photo here), fiddleheads just beginning to show, deer tracks, raccoon tracks, water-beetles in the stream, a water-strider, and lots of small green sprouts peeking out from under the leaves. I heard a song sparrow and some wood frogs, but I didnít see them. Wood frogs sound quacky, like ducks.
I saw old signs of beavers, but no new work. They used to have several dams and extensive levees along the stream, and a house in our back yard. The largest dam is washed out. I think they must have departed sometime this past year.

 

Displaying: 61 - 70 of 72

  |  

Show All

  |

Previous 4 5 6

[7]

8 Next