Thought I’d share some of the pictures I’ve been taking of things I’d like to paint.
Thought I’d share some of the pictures I’ve been taking of things I’d like to paint.
My version of the basic “brown paper exercise.” Still a work in progress.
One of my Chrysler Imperial bushes put on it’s first bloom a few days ago, and I got a few pictures while it was at it’s peak. Some of the petal edges show a little burning — it was probably in the bud during our last cold snap and got a little frost bit. Still it has that gorgeous blue-red I’ve always seen on Chrysler Imperials, and it smells as good as it looks.
Both of my rose bushes made it through last year’s extreme drought conditions with very little help from me. At times they were completely leafless, but every time it rained a little, they would put out new growth. Then they endured the winter with no extra protection from the elements. A lot of people think that roses are too fussy to bother with. I used to think that, myself. That was before I learned that roses had names, like “Don Juan,” “Madame Plantier,” “Dublin Bay,” “Fragrant Cloud,” and, of course, “Chrysler Imperial.” For some reason, plants with names like that all of a sudden seemed worth whatever effort it would take to be able to have them co-habitate with me in my yard.
Madame Plantier and Don Juan were two of the first roses I fell in love with, through some gardening cards I subscribed to for several years in Kentucky. Finding those two roses in a local gardening center was a different matter, and eventually led me to on line searching, and the Antique Rose Emporium (ARE). Although I was still living in Kentucky at the time, I was able to order a Madame Plantier rose to plant in my front yard. In a few years it grew into a big, spreading, wild-looking bush with attractive, small leaves, fewer than average thorns, and every spring would produce a huge crop of pinkish buds that opened into saucer-sized white flowers with a wonderful, old-fashioned fragrance. I miss her.
Since returning to central Texas, I’ve experimented with roses in containers. ARE has a list of some that are supposed to do well, but I suspect I didn’t have large enough containers, because after a couple of years they started dying. When I brought home the two Chrysler Imperials winter before last, I went out and got a couple of 32 gallon garbage cans, drilled a few holes in the bottoms, and planted them in those. Why don’t I just plant them in my yard, you ask? Because a few short inches below the surface it’s all concrete — heavy gray clay mixed with gravel of varying sizes. Hell to dig through, tends to repel water, which means the soil above it can stay soggy for weeks if we get a lot of rain. And one thing you learn about roses if you do any research at all is they need “well-drained” soil. They like a lot of water, but they hate wet feet.
The interesting thing about the roses ARE sells is that all their root stock were foundlings — cuttings gathered (or “rustled” — more on that later) from abandoned farmsteads and cemeteries, where they’d been thriving with no help from gardeners for years. And it seems that some time in the early eighties or thereabouts, some intrepid souls took to sneaking in to some of those places and snipping off bits of the plants, taking them home and growing them in their own gardens. The story of the Texas Rose Rustlers is colorful and entertaining, and unfortunately, they don’t tell it on their website any more. But their “Etiquette of the Rustle” page, and the “About” page at ARE contain some kernels of the story.
Now that it’s spring again, I’m thinking of expanding my garbage can garden, at least by one, so I can get another specimen of one of the first container roses I tried. She’s called Dame de Coeur, and is the most electric red and has the most knock-your-socks-off wonderful fragrance I’ve ever encountered. I love my Chrysler Imperials, and want another Mister Lincoln someday, too, but the “Queen of Hearts” is the next red on my list.
Well, they didn’t specify whose home to take a picture of, so I chose one of my backyard Purple Martin condo. One of the not-so-many good things about living on a semi-bald prairie.
I have high hopes they’ll do the same this year. Early last week a couple of males, accompanied by one female, did a couple of fly-bys, and landed on the roof a couple of times. Now if I can just keep the starlings from chasing them off. It might be time to get a starling-eradication device.
I got the idea for this quilt months and months ago. I had all these smallish pieces of fabric, because I have a friend who likes to hang out in fabric stores. Being one of those people who is attracted to bright or shiny things, I invariably ended up buying a handful of “fat quarters” or other pieces less than a yard. They were always in some random kind of pattern or batik that suggested water, or clouds, or sedimentary rocks, or some other bizarre thing. But I didn’t know what I would ever do with them.
I found the picture on a site with other pictures of “Rocks under the microscope.” Gabbro is an igneous rock made up of chunks of different minerals — not always the same ones. It’s a hodge-podge. I like hodge-podges. I like the opportunity to use the word hodge-podge in a sentence, or three.
I thought “Ah ha!” That would make a cool quilt. (Now let me issue a disclaimer, here: I am not a quilter — have never read a book, even though I own one, or taken a class in how to make a quilt. I know how to use a sewing machine. That’s it.) With my typical “Damn the procedure and full steam ahead” mindset, I found a piece of fabric that I could use as the ground matrix — that’s the darker gray stuff — and started planning out how I would assemble the jigsaw puzzle of all the various fabric “minerals.” What held me up for all those months was how was I going to patch together a bunch of odd-shaped pieces and keep them from unraveling around the edges, and then attach them to the back?
Then I discovered a lovely product that you can iron onto a piece of fabric, turn it over and remove the paper backing, and iron the first piece to another. Oh, happy day. I was on my way. Everything else was all done off the cuff, on the fly, by feel, or by guesswork. In other words — standard operating procedure for me — I made it all up. The real miracle is that it all actually worked. Sometimes I amaze even myself! (All right. Maybe I amaze only myself, but as long as someone is amazed, I have accomplished something.)
Something else I recently finished, although I had begun to doubt I ever would, was a correspondence writing course. And this is old school correspondence, using paper and envelopes and going to the post office to have the thing weighed and paying postage. Yeah. And I started back in…well, maybe I don’t want to think about how long it took me. The point is, I sent in my last assignment yesterday, and I did learn a lot from taking the course. Not just about writing. I learned about my own thought processes, and to what lengths I would go to avoid interviewing another human being face-to-face. Gah. Need to get over that. Need to chant my mantra “People don’t bite. People don’t bite…” etc.
So, now that those things are no longer sitting on the back burner simmering down to unrecognizable sludge, I can work on some of the newer things that have spent less time on the back burner. Time to get out the paints.
Right off the bat, when you read that title, what do you think? Yeah, I know. But it’s not about guns. Oh, no. The Texas Shootout — billed with the tagline, “Where East meets West, to see who’s best,” has nothing to do with guns. Or shooting. It’s a mule and donkey show. Or a donkey and mule show. Depending on which critter you favor more. Yeah. So, of course, I had no idea there was an annual mule and donkey show right here in my own back yard, as it were, and I only found out about it this year. But better late than never, as the saying goes.
The event was held last weekend in the newish Brazos County Expo Complex, and I found out about it on Saturday evening. In time to go see some of the event on Sunday. By which time a lot of exhibitors had already left. No matter. I took my camera and got myself over there to see me some mules.
I walked through the barn area and watched some riders walking and jogging their mules and donkeys around the exercise ring, and saw this overly excited guy standing outside his stall.
…or maybe he just had his eyes closed so he could concentrate on whatever he was listening to.
When I went into the arena, there was a class being judged. A donkeymanship class. Not only is the name a little whimsical, but the donkeys in the class were putting their own interpretations on the exercises. I thought, “how basenji-like.” So no wonder I like these alternate equines. Like basenjis aren’t your daddy’s Labrador, donkeys aren’t your daddy’s quarter horse. They have their own way of doing things. Sometimes it’s the same as your way, and sometimes it ain’t.
At another point in my peregrinations around the barn area, I stopped to watch another mule in his stall, munching on some grain in a sack.
And I heard this incredible noise start up from somewhere close by, but all the other stalls were empty — or so I thought. When I peeked over the solid wall part, I realized why these guys were making so much noise. They just wanted to make sure I’d see them!
I couldn’t stay for the rest of the show because I had to take the camera to my brother, but I watched a couple of mulemanship classes (yeah, I know), which were also pretty entertaining. The mules were all sizes and colors. One probably had a quarter horse mom, because he walked with his head down at cow-eye level, another could have had a Belgian (draft horse) mom — it was big and muscular. And there was one I was sure had an Arabian mother because she had the prettiest face. I found out from her rider that her mother was a mustang (I bet there’s some Arabian blood in that mustang herd).
So when I got home I looked up some of the mule and donkey farms on line to see if there are any close by, and maybe I’ll be able to go visit some of them and get some more photos. Turns out most of the farms I found listed close to home have miniature donkeys. Criminally, insanely cute little creatures. And miniature mules, too. Oh, I am in trouble.
After I saw Avatar, I wanted to add Pandora to my collection of planets, of course. The colors were sumptuous — that’s the only way to describe them. Some were Earth tones; some were like the vivid colors of deep sea creatures, but flying through the air. I was blown away.
I thought I would photograph the entire planet-building process this time, and put it on my blog in case anyone wonders what all I do with my time. This project took most of a day.
I started with some of the same colors I use to make Earth — White, Leaf Green, and a combination of Chocolate and Sand. I left out the Light Blue Pearl, and added Turquoise, and Spring Lilac (Fig. 1).
For the next step I slice off three sections about one third the width of each of those little divisions in the Sculpey blocks. I roll them out into “worms” all about the same diameter (smaller around than a pencil), and cut them all off to the same lengths (Fig. 2).
Next comes the fun part. I moosh (that’s a technical term, yes, but I don’t think you’ll find it in a dictionary) the little worms into one big worm and twist it around some to blend the colors a bit randomly. At this point, depending on just how much blending you want to do, you can keep wadding the colors together, rolling them back out, and wadding them down again. For instance, you probably can’t tell that the brown is really a combination of two colors now — they’ve become almost completely blended. For a lot of my planets, though, I want the appearance of land masses, ocean, and sky/clouds to be distinguishable, so I stop mooshing here (Fig. 3).
Now I need to make a worm about the size of a pencil or a little thicker, so I usually have to cut the big worm into three or four sections. In Fig. 4 I have a Pandora worm and an Earth worm ( I know what you’re thinking — this doesn’t look like the earthworm you dissected in biology lab), the right size to start slicing.
I slice off sections about 1/4″ (0.5 cm) give or take a bit, and roll them into quasi-spheres about the size of peas (Fig. 5). I say quasi because none of them are perfectly spherical. They have lumps and bumps and flat places. It’s called “terrain.”
I usually let the baby planets sit and cure for a few hours before I get out the planetary axis drill (Fig. 6) and poke holes through them. Then in the oven they go to harden up all that molten magma in their little interiors. And Presto! Pandora. You can see some of the other planets and some of the jewelry I made with them in previous posts. Just click on the “planets” tag in the tag cloud.
I started out with the planets, and a few simple bracelets on stretch string, but now I’ve started making bracelets on memory wire with some odds and ends of glass beads to complement the planets. The nice thing about the polymer clay beads is that they’re almost weightless. I had made several memory wire bracelets with glass beads that got so heavy it was hazardous to make any sudden moves with the arm wearing the bracelet, or it could go flying off. Oops.
But now I’ve got something better than the glass beads, because I made them — and they’re planets! And the newest one is Pandora.
As usual when I’ve been away for a while, the first thing I had to do to this blog was add the WordPress update. It will be interesting to see in what ways it will mess with my mind this time.
Crazybasenji is coming up on its first birthday. It has taken a direction completely different from what I originally planned, but in retrospect, I can’t say it’s a bad thing. I had planned to write more about the wildlife collection where I have spent so much time since I came back to Texas. But my efforts to find a real job prevented me from spending as much time there in 2009. That, and I was making an effort to find my own creative/artistic outlet — or at least settle on fewer than five.
I did a lot of flailing about over the past year, going from feeling positive and enthusiastic about some job or other that I felt sure I’d get, to thinking I needed to find a way to support myself with my art, to being sure I was going to end up living on the street with three hungry dogs and all my possessions loaded onto my Radio Flyer wagon. But don’t want to dwell on that. I finally found a job and went to work last week. It’s only part time, but I can pay my bills, and still have time to make things. And post pictures of them here!
I’m still making tiny planets and stars, and now I’ve added comets. These are not much longer than my pinkie finger, and they all have pin backs so they’re wearable. A few days ago I was reading Havi Brooks blog where she was talking about dealing with tax time and using metaphors and such, and she said,
It’s a cave!
A Secret Money Cave where it is safe — and desirable — for me to be with my treasures and be present with what I have.
And I thought of a dragon in a cave lying on top of a pile of treasure, and I got the idea to make Custard.
His name, of course, comes from The Tale of Custard the Dragon, by my favorite poet, Ogden Nash. You can find more of his silliness here. I put a thimble in the photo with him for scale. If you’re familiar with thimbles, you know that means Custard is pretty tiny, so his little sister, Thimbellina, is even tinier. And she’s pink!
I’ve seen a lot of blogs with year in review or decade in review posts. So. 2009 pretty much sucked. Most of this decade I spent taking care of my dad, watching him slowly lose his struggle with dementia, while at the same time managing to hang on to his sense of the ridiculous and his basic ornery nature. I’m glad I came home.
Next. More stars and stuff.