Watercolor Miniature

Creativity did finally come knocking two days ago.
I painted a small watercolour ( or 'watercolor' )and then another the next evening...by small I mean miniature. The desire to paint was strong but discouragement over the potential outcome had been stronger till about 2 weeks ago when I saw a really lovely card sized painting a friend of mine had done which was followed last week by seeing a really beautiful portrait done in miniature online.
I decided to simply cut into pieces a few pieces of watercolour paper. I told myself it would be an opportunity to really test the papers with the 3 different paints I own. Both paper and paints are student grade I might add: Daler Rowney's Georgian, Winsor & Newton's Cotman, and the last is either Reeves or Pentel.

Because I was kind of surprised at how much I liked the way the first one turned out ( it was referenced from a coffee coaster that depicted a cat in front of a fence surrounded by flowers ) I made a second painting based on a photograph I took of fall leaves covering a tire. Despite the fact that the materials are student grade it might very well be that the paper and paints I use are simply quite suited for small scale work.
And because small scale art requires a lot of concentration I think the grade of paint and paper are of less importance that the quality of the paint brushes. If I think back to the time when I first painted a miniature on a blown out egg of a peacock on a tree limb surrounded by morning glory flowers I have to wonder why it never really occurred to me to try this sooner.



reposted from my photography blog

Bears are difficult for me to photograph when I come across them. Difficult because they strike on a primal fear that I have to intellectualize past. This kind of gets in the way of things like having quick reaction on the camera controls, setting up the photo's composition...planning my path of retreat first tends to take priority and remains an ever constant thought. Because of this I am unlikely to ever get a good photograph of a bear without a really long zoom lens because large wild animals and people in close proximity simply don't mix.

I was reading in the Merritt News yesterday that a bear had to be shot last week- only the second one of the year. According to the conservation officer this is a very low number for this area. Merritt is surrounded by hills, mountains, and grasslands for many kilometers and part of the community backs right against the wilderness. Many residents have fruit trees in their yards and are in the midst of cleaning up their gardens so one would think that this is a tempting place for a bear to come...until you read a bit more and realize that wild food sources have been very plentiful in our region and that people are taking more responsibility in keeping their properties clear of edible attractants. The Bear Aware campaign has no doubt helped make people realize that bears are opportunistic creatures that will take advantage of people's bad habits- they will get into garbage containers placed out over night or root around the apples that start to rot on the ground which bears find very easily by smell. People are taking more precautions for the practical reason of safety.

This is in sharp contrast to the story that I read in the Vancouver province where one bear in particular had to be caught in a trap and then shot. The town of Whistler which is also located in a heavily mountainous area has no doubt always dealt with roving black bears in and around the community and this bear in particular for 15 to 20 years. I can't understand why food garbage on the scale that wealthy tourism-based Whistler must produce is handled in the same way as a community in the lower mainland.
Why can't they remove and relocate the green waste they produce on a daily basis to a remote location instead of doing this to the problem bears? Green waste can actually be part of a composting campaign but a bear will just come back unless you take it really far away where it may well die because it can't locate food.

A small town in the interior does not produce so much food waste and is far less likely to have maudlin ideas about dangerous wild animals. Hunting is part of what keeps the bear numbers down and the less encumbered management of bears which seems to be another problem closer to large urban areas. It is disgusting to read online comments made by ignorant people who know nothing about wildlife or conservation yet viciously attack the conservation officers who actually have to deal with the problem.

 In my opinion if people want to see and photograph wildlife they should go into the wilds to do so- not take advantage of an animals natural tendencies to scavenge for garbage and certainly not to take advantage of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service and it's resources.


Finding Creativity

I was thinking about creativity a week or so ago and lamenting that I seem to have lost a lot of mine in the past year. A few days before my grad reunion a friend of mine showed me a water colour she had just had printed up as a card. As an artist who enjoys painting in the field she too is trying to find her creativity during these cold months and she manages to do it and inspires me. But before I could really start to try for a good drawing (eventually a painting) my grad reunion was upon me and I made the reluctant trip down to the coast, prodded by the nagging of a friend.

Drawing anything and everything when I was a child

 In the course of touring the high school and listening to various people’s recollections of events and incidents during their school years I really tried to recall highlights of what was for me a horrible time.

I was a fan of Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber

 It wasn’t until the evening of the dinner that I really started to enjoy myself and acknowledge that I didn’t harbor any resentments because the people who had tormented me then didn’t leave behind any memories at all- and the few who did seemed a bit sheepish but kind and surprised me by remembering me as an artist.

I was so into comics and character designs!

 And it wasn’t them who quashed my artistic spirit: I spent this evening going thru all my old artwork looking for a picture of that nagging friend who asked me if I still had the “pictures you used to draw of me”. I feel so regretful that I must have either given them away or even destroyed them in a fit of anger over something. I am determined to draw another one of her and send it to her.
But it was while looking over all these old drawing I took the time to sort them by year and see that I wasn’t hampered by any insecurity over art at the time- or at a loss for ideas on what to draw. I drew what interested me at the time and was even objective enough to know where I needed most to improve and notice that what was flat in the 8th grade became rounder and more 3 dimensional by my senior years. I enjoyed looking at the remarks of Mrs. Eggenburger and then later Ms. Graziano on the backs of the drawings.

Illuminated letter project and the The box art project :
 I kind of got encouraged about creativity all these years later and delved into the later art as well and realized that some kind of insecurity has been hampering me lately that wasn’t present during high school or my years in China.

I wasn't scared of water colour then!

The moral of the story is it might actually be good to go back into your past and take a hard look and what you achieved despite any and all obstacles. Even if high school was hell on earth, people can be gracious decades later, reconnect with old friends and generally enjoy the show…hopefully the creativity will follow!

Some yearbook signatures


Falls Lake

I was missing the green-ness of home when I suggested to my husband and brother-in-law that we check out Falls Lake. This is a tiny little lake located within the Coqhihalla Summit Recreation Area. While I would like to have explored more of the park we came rather late in the afternoon of a sunny weekend. It was distinctly cooler and damper in this area compared to Merritt which lies within the southern interior bio-climatic zone. Forests of fir, cedar and pines cover the mountains and I saw wild blueberry among other plants.

The hike in is a kilometer and a half mostly uphill but nothing strenuous. It opened out onto a shore that had small boat access and plenty of room to set up a tent although there are no facilities. The water was alive with little trout coming up for whatever was landing on the water and I imagine the deeper part of the lake holds good sized fish.

It was a nice break from the usual brilliant sunshine of the Nicola Valley and I had to remind myself that one of the best reasons for living in Merritt was because of the absence of such a forceful and damp atmosphere as Falls Lake. It is almost typical of the brooding, misty feeling of the west coast tucked away into the mountains until the sun breaks out and makes it look like there should be a summer camp on the far shore!

To get there you drive to the Falls Lake turnoff which is located midway between Hope and Merritt, B.C. The road in goes for about a kilometer west and from there on you walk in. The Coqhihalla Summit Recreation Area itself is open to fishing, hunting, hiking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. It is a very historic area as remnants of the Kettle Valley Railway which operated from the 1900's to the 60'd can still be found here.
We concluded our day with a stop at Kingsvale which is located on the Coldwater Road coming into Merritt. Kingsvale appears to have been a small community that established itself along the Kettle Valley Railway. There is one very old but well preserved building beside the road and remains of a bridge and a few smaller structures.


Start of October

Time to update!
My brother in law from Switzerland has been living with us the past month on a well deserved holiday and it quite fun to have such an easy-going house guest...we are going to miss him when he goes home. Othmar took him hunting and scouting at least 3 times a week and I like to think my German improved a bit because of Roland.
Even tho I'm no great cook he never had a bad thing to say about my meals- even on the second day or so of his arrival and I undercooked the chicken! While I did fix that mess there wasn't much I could do about veggies from my beloved garden. A lot of things like tomatoes and gourds are still trying to ripen and we are starting to get frosts. A near total disaster that wasn't improved by the wind knocking down the corn and some of the tomatoes followed by the dog ruining a few more.
My brother in law witness Gazu coming out of the garden after stealing tomatoes! I really didn't think Gazzy would ever figure out the tomatoes came from plants but there were so many ruined ones on the ground I guess the smell gave it away. Still, the flowers were great and what now follows is my observations and notes on my favorite annuals:

On Seeds and Flowers

I don’t buy too much in the way of annual seeds anymore since I always have a stock of what I want to plant from the previous year as well as seeds collected from other gardens or exchanged with fellow gardeners. I sell seeds for about a dollar for a package; a plastic craft bag that contains about two to three times the amount of seed you will find in a typical seed package purchased at the store. All my seeds are fully dried and kept in refrigeration until purchase time. I have a pretty big collection of various flowers and vegetables many of which originated from a seed package purchased years ago. Since I’ve added to my flower seed stock from other sources there is more variety in form and colour in a lot of the flowers. For example, I only ever purchased blue bachelor buttons to my recollection but from collecting from other sources there is now more colour variety to be found in what now grows from the stock: pinks and purples for instance.
Likewise the single orange and yellow calendulas have been reseeded along with samples of double flowering forms and the colours will mix up nicely and even go pastel. This is ideal when a great variety of colour is what you are going for. On the other hand I also label certain colours/forms I like with an identifying tag and keep that seed separate which is particularly important for my poppies which tend to have a lot of variety.

Now what follows is a list of favorite plants for which I have collected a great deal of seed from. All are super easy to grow from seed and do well even in arid climates. Other than staking in the case of tall ones and a bit of thinning out for bushy ones they don’t require any special care…just water them every few days; perhaps a bit more in really dry, windy climates.

Bachelor's Button, Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus
Cornflowers have grown to about 2.5 feet in my garden and are almost startling in their colour, which is sapphire blue for the most part. There are also shades of purple and pink that show up. Cornflower tends to bush out at the top and produces a nice bouquet of flowers that even looks good when the blooms are gone; the remnants of the flower base forms a multi-pointed star the colour of dry straw.

Calendula, Pot Marigold - Calendula officionalis
I can’t say enough good about Calendula. It just grows and grows and grows. It is also a medicinal plant that is often used in making skin salves. Typically the flowers are yellow or orange, sometimes a blend of both. Flowers can be single or double. Calendula grows to about 2 feet in height and lasts throughout the summer and well into fall.

Cosmos - Cosmos bipinnatus
Cosmos is probably one of my favourite flowers. Typically it comes in shades of pink and purple although there are other varieties available. This plant grows very tall- up to 6 feet in my garden. It has large petals that sit on long stems and makes for a good cut flower. Leaves are rather lacy and soft. Because of it’s height it should be kept towards the back of a flower planting.

Feverfew - Tanacetum parthenium
Feverfew is an old time medicinal plant that strikes me as being overlooked. It has bright white flowers that last a long time and bushy green foliage that fills out gaps very nicely. It grows about a foot or so in height and does well in both shade and full sun. It is also very aromatic.

Nasturtiums – Tropaeolum majus
Nasturtiums do well in the shade here in Merritt. They will also flower in full sun as well but benefit by additional watering.
The collection I have range from scarlet to pale amber and bush out quite a bit as well as trail along the ground. Mine were elevated on a rock-lined border and rose to about a foot or so in height and about 2-3 feet in width since they had enough room to spread where they wanted. They are almost tropical looking in their habit with round single leaves attached to long stems. Flowers are also on long stems and are often hidden amongst all the greenery, which is very easy to thin out.
I understand the entire plant is edible- the seeds taste quite peppery when they are still green. A great cover plant.

 Poppy – Papaver rhoeus
Can’t get any easier. Shades of red, orange, pink and white often mixed in some combination; white with orange edges for example. Most have a central “cross” that is a contrasting colour; typically you find a black cross in the center of red flowers. Petals can be smooth or ruffled. Single, double, and pom-pom blossomed varieties can show up in the mix I’ve re-collected from and added to over the years.
These poppies grow on very slender stems and can reach 3-4 feet high. The wind can easily knock them down so consider staking or tying them to something solid or using other flowers as a wind buffer. Although I’ve tried them in pots they just don’t thrive in them at all.
Poppies are very prolific- one flower alone produces hundreds of seeds.

Poppy – Papaver somniferum
Opium poppies have such a reputation! This year was a bit troublesome for me as twice some person/s crept into my garden and ripped the seedpods off several plants. These plants are a well known source of many narcotics so consequently I don’t recommend planting them in lone clumps but rather interspersed among flowers of similar height. The flowers themselves are extremely large and can be single, double or pom-pom. Typically red, pink, white, and orange they often have a contrasting central colour rather like corn poppies. The leaves are ruffled mint green and are quite ornately twisted in the red flowered somniferums. They grow to about 3 feet high although the white variety grows about a foot taller and the pom-pom sorts seem a bit shorter.
Seedpods are charming and look very nice on the stems when they are dried and placed in floral arrangements.

Sweet Pea – Lathyrus odoratus
Sweet peas are climbers; they will wrap themselves around other plants so this should be kept in mind when planting them. They can be tied back to a fence but little tendrils do like to creep out and grab hold of whatever they can reach. What makes sweet peas such a popular plant despite their toxicity is their scent, which is given notice in the Latin name. They may require stratification (roughing the surface of the seed to allow for quicker absorption of water in order to facilitate germination) but I have not found it necessary even in this dry climate. Sweet peas come in a variety of colours from pastel pinks to deep purple.