Monday, June 28, 2010

Pelicans in the Jaws of Disaster

Brown pelicans, once endangered, are now at risk again; this time from the BP oil spill. Like many of you, I am sickened by the photos coming out of the Gulf.

Brown pelicans also battle for survival with fishermen who call them “pesky” and compete with them for some of the same fish. Many of these anglers carelessly leave their fish lines behind tangled in the mangroves, estuaries and waterways where pelicans live and breed. Some of these birds succumb in a fatal death struggle to escape the lines wrapped around their wings and feet.

I have observed these fascinating birds; painted them and drawn them. They may be awkward on land, but their patterns in flight are elegant and graceful. Their feeding dives are ruthless and straightforward when they spot a mullet’s scales shimmering beneath the water’s surface.

Living near the coastal waters of Southern Florida, I not only worry about the pelicans, but the other wildlife that abound here: sea turtles currently nesting on our beaches, herons, egrets, ibis, gulls, wading birds, dolphins, manatees, alligators, crocodiles and countless other seabirds and animals. I’m afraid the oil may reach our shores, and it could be deadly for them and to the hundreds of brown pelicans that call these waters home.

Our fabulous seafood, harvested, caught, and eaten in our wonderful restaurants, our entire way of life will slowly and steadily come to a screeching halt if we don’t find a way to stop this man-made disaster. Yet, all it seems we can do is pray.

You may want to read my article: “Mangroves at Risk—an Oily Predicament” by Carol Allen Anfinsen at

Friday, June 25, 2010

This is The Farm That Carol Built

Well, almost! I literally combined several pictures to create this painting. Maybe that's why I'm having such a difficult time completing it.

When I was on vacation last year, I took photos of an old farmhouse and barn in Minnesota. Then I photographed a piece of fence, and then some hollyhocks. When I got back home, I found a photo of a more modern farmhouse, but it had the exact fence I wanted already covered with hollyhocks . I added that photo to the mix, and then decided that blue morning glories would look simply smashing with the red flowers. Are you as confused as I am about now? Do you get my point?

This painting has been a real bear for me. I've had so much feedback not only from myself, but from others, that I'm still not certain where I want to take it. I have learned that painting with acrylics is not my favorite thing to do. They dry too quickly, and the colors don't mix. It's a matter of overlapping different colors until you get what you want.

Strangely, most of the bird paintings you can see on my gallery are done in acrylics. I was able to get the feathering I wanted just because the paint dried so quickly! I do prefer using acrylics as an undercoat and then brushing oil paint over the top of it for depth and color.

As with all my "works in progress" it's all about the details. I will continue to work on this painting until I feel that I have solved some of its glaring problems. Those of you who are more experienced painters than I, please feel free to give me suggestions for improvement. Please put on your artist's hat and peck away!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Completed Rooster Painting "Star Billing"

Yes, I know, this painting is totally off the wall for me. But hey, it is a bird, and I’ve done a few of those. There’s just something about a rooster that made me want to paint one. And then there was that photo my friend sent me of her daughter the veterinarian’s pet rooster “Chicken Nuggets.” (see below)

For better or worse, I became star struck. I finished off my painting with a layer of oils on the rooster and the bale of hay. I think it made the rooster "pop," but the lighting on the painting didn’t quite capture what it looks like in person. That may be because the paint is still wet. Wet paint fools the camera and sometimes gives it a glare that prevents the proper contrast.

"If I were a rich man," er artist, and I’m not, I’d hire a photographer to take pictures of all my paintings. But where’s the fun in that?

My challenge was to make the talons and legs stand out against the similar color of the hay. I used Winsor & Newton Indian red, yellow ochre, and mixing white. In areas that required more shading, I added a smidge of burnt sienna. The same mixture was used on the beak, with a bit more yellow ochre.

There are thousands of rooster paintings out there. I hope mine is a tad unique; if not, I’ll go back to the drawing board or “forget about it.”

I’m currently working on an all acrylic painting of an old farm. I used several photos and combined the parts of them I liked. For some reason, this painting has been difficult for me. I got so much feedback from other artists in my league, that my original vision of what I wanted became fuzzy and confused. Here is one of the original photos that inspired me.

I put the painting aside for a few months, and now I’m going to attack it again, this time alone and with my own peculiar style. I’ll give you a peak at it on my next blog and maybe get some helpful comments or suggestions from you.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Time Off for Love

When you live in Florida, you get visitors. This is the place to come when winter starts scratching its cold fingernails into your psych. But in June, when the temperatures sore to 98 and the humidity is almost as high? Yes, if you're a school teacher.

My son the teacher and his family have been spending some time with us, and we have been having a great time, in spite of the heat. We enjoyed the beach yesterday. Yes, Southern Florida's beaches are still clean and beautiful! We saw pelicans, dolphins, gulls and sea birds, diving for fish and bobbing in the water. Overhead, parasailing beachgoers strapped to bright red, white and blue balloons dotted the skyline. A wonderful day!

After our swim, the Edison Estates and the gigantic banyan tree were a big hit, followed by a chow down at Joe's Crab Shack on the wharf. The children had their first experience at cracking crab and picking out the sweet meat. A shark's blood drink was the topper, followed by fresh key lime pie, tart and creamy.

We crammed as much as we could into the few short days they were here. Lakes Park and the water play area and train helped us to cool down. We saw an alligator, many wading birds, and this anhinga who paused from his fishing to dry off his wings.

In the evening, playing games with the grandchildren before going to bed was the perfect way to end each day. My next blog, I'll get back to my usual artsy diatribes, and my "rooster in progress."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Star Billing," A Work in Progress

In my last blog I showed you a preliminary sketch for my upcoming
rooster painting. Here's a small refresher.

I had visions of bright lime green and turquoise to set off the bright red comb and the orange-red feathers. I wanted a theme, so I perched my rooster on a bale of hay and let him strut his stuff. The title "star billing" popped into my head and stuck. The only problem? In the process of making that vision a reality on canvas, I got "star struck."

I bought a stamp and proceeded to lay acrylic stars over the background. I'd never done this with acrylic, and some of it globbed rather than stamped. At this point in time, I'm not sure if I'll stick with 100% acrylic paint, or move onto a layering of oils, at least on the rooster and bale of hay. This will give the painting an added dimension and make the rooster more three-dimentional. I may change my mind.

As you've seen in my past "works in progress," the painting does not have the depth nor the detail. The last few coats of paint matter! The "devil is in the details," and this is what separates an artist from a dabbler, so to speak. It is amazing what depth is added and life when the final small details are finished. A highlight here, a highlight there makes all the difference. My gut tells me when a work of art is complete.

I hope my stars don't make you dizzy! I was looking for something unique and different to set my rooster apart from the millions of other fowl paintings (forgive the pun). Enjoy, and please leave a comment and vote either for or against the stars. Shall I lose them? Keep them?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Poinciana Extravaganza!

After many of the birds fly north for the summer, including the "snowbirds" (tourists), my morning walks are pretty static; with one exception: the current eye-popping display of royal poinciana trees. This display is something the snowbirds miss out on, along with the hot humid weather. I think I'll take the wild splash of color.

Because of the frosty weather we had in Feb. and Mar., the poinciana's bloomed later and better than ever. I had to snap a few pictures for you before the blooms are gone. Poinciana's are not indigenous to Florida. They are transplants from Zambia and Madagascar. They are known by many names: royal poinciana, flamboyant tree (no surprise there!), flame tree, and peacock tree; although not one tree has srutted as far as I can tell.

The canopy on these trees, or "umbrella" as I like to call it, can reach up to 60 feet in diameter, yet they never grow much more than 40 feet tall. The poinciana is a real treasure down here. It's almost bug free, it loves our hot humid climate, it manages to survive drought, and it tolerates our salty sand. The only downfall are the long brown pods that form after blooming and drop to the ground. Hey, I'll take that trade-off any day!

I was concerned that my son and his family, who will be here next week, may not see the blooms or a lot of other birds and wildlife because it's so hot. But "lo and behold" this morning I saw two large box turtles sunning themselves, a redwing blackbird coming right at me with its red epaulets exposed, and a young tricolored heron; a rare pleasure for me. The heron had a bright blue bill, pink legs, and the buff-colored plumes of courtship. Unbelievable! I was so caught up watching this bird, I forgot to photograph him. Hey, I'm an artist!

Next Tuesday's Blog: "Star Billing," my rooster work-in-progress.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"With These Hands--Love"

The oil is still wet, and I may have to take another photo before I upload to my gallery; but for better or worse, the painting is complete. I have tweaked it again, and again, but can't quite capture the model's expression. I think it makes a nice painting none-the-less. Portraits are difficult at best. I hope you like the finished product.

I have only one address thus far for mailing the prizes. If the winners will please email me a personal message with their mailing adddress, I'd appreciate it.

I'm currently working on a landscape scene done entirely of acrylics, and my rooster is in the beginnning stages. There are so many rooster paintings out there, why am I crazy enough to do one? I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess. And I just plain like roosters. I think they are beautiful birds in their own right.

I have my preliminary sketch done and have transferred that sketch to canvas. I've plotted my color scheme using a color wheel, and I'm ready to roll. I did try to give you a digital color sketch showing you what I had in mind, but the program I use is on my old computer and it crashed in the middle of the process. My old PC is on it's last gasp, believe me! I'm going to have to purchase new software for editing pictures, I guess.

Stay tuned for pictures of my next acrylic landscape and for the finished rooster I will title: "Star Billing."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's Never Too Late

My daughter was an Art Education major. She followed in my footsteps as far as creativity goes. What she doesn't have is time. I keep telling her that most of us can't paint full time in the beginning. We must work, raise our families, be good neighbors and serve in our communities and churches. But I know it still hurts.

I had to hang up my brushes and a burgeoning free-lance writing career because of pressing personal problems and concerns. Life is full of ups and downs. We never know from one day to the other what will happen next. Will we have a job tomorrow? Will our marriage survive the push and pull of every day living, and attacks from outside influences? Will our children be healthy? Will we get married at all? Will we have enough money for college? These and similar questions hang over us our entire lives. The answers come as we live out our lives.

Just because we take a "time out" for family or work doesn't mean we're quitters. Just because we can't write or paint today, or next month, or even next year, doesn't mean we won't ever paint or write again.

If you find yourself in limbo as you live your daily life, remember your life can change on a dime. Live in the present and enjoy each moment! If and when your circumstances change, it's never too late to start again. It's never too late to start doing the things you always wanted to do.

 This small ibis that I dubbed Inez, inspired me to try again. She never gave up, and neither would I.
Have you read her story? Here is a link for the eBook:

Book  is also available in paperback and hard copy. For FREE preview click on the Blurb picture book link on the right column.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mixed Media -- Mixed Bag

The term mixed media means using more than one type of paint, substance, or paper on a single piece of artwork. I don’t know if this is a trend, a fad, or a permanent part of the art experience. I have tried it myself with “mixed” emotions. True, it’s fun and creative, but will it last the test of time, i.e. public opinion and longevity?

I do know that when black gesso is applied to a panel or canvas, the light is trapped and doesn’t radiate outward. I discovered this on a piece that didn’t seem to have a sharp focus when I tried to enhance it in my photo program. I didn’t get the glow that I normally see from a white canvas.
It’s true that acrylics or oils placed on black gesso “pops” and glows at the start, but loses that lightness when photographed. My painting “Egret Reflections” was started with a black gesso background. I sketched my design on the canvas using white carbon paper, and applied a light coat of linseed oil over the canvas before applying oils.

I was pleased with my first application of oil paint and how it seemed to really zing. But it did lose some light properties in the photographing process.

“Hibiscus Glory” was a commissioned painting. The client requested a black background as she had seen a painting of a huge flower in the Florida Keys that she liked, and wanted a smaller version (and less expensive). We used her yellow hibiscus plant as a model.

On this painting, knowing that the flower would lose its glow if I used black in the background, I sketched my drawing on the white canvas, and applied black gesso to the background. I did fill in the drawing with acrylics first, putting yellow behind the flower so the yellow glow would come through the finished flower. This procedure qualified for the designation of “mixed media.”

I enhanced the background somewhat; black gesso loses its sheen over time. I’m not as fond of using it unless it is mixed with other acrylic paints to give it more depth and variation. When using both acrylics and oil, you must remember that acrylics go under and oil on top (never the reverse!) A wipe of linseed oil over the acrylics helps the oil paint adhere to the canvas.

What are your experiences with mixed media or black gesso? Love to hear from you!