Feature Friday 6: Summer sunflowers

It’s almost August, and summer is in full swing here in humid Florida! We come into the house after morning chores totally soaked with sweat, and have about six to eight weeks more of that to look forward to. According to the news, we aren’t the only ones this year. While it is past the time for sunflowers to bloom here in the very deep south, apparently they are blooming in parts to my north. Honestly, here in the US is there anything that says summer like big, blooming sunflowers?

Summer sunflowers

our volunteer sunflower plant earlier this summer
our volunteer sunflower plant earlier this summer

Kicking off the Friday features are a pair of posts all about sunflowers, complete with enough good photographs to make up for the snapshots I am inflicting upon y’all.

  • Bill Swartwout started it with this collection of recent sunflower pictures. He even includes some interesting facts about sunflowers, which appeals to my inner geek in a major way.
  • Also feeling the sunflower power, Bob Decker shares his recent sunflower photos from North Carolina, along with the mention that sunflowers were a part of the “three sisters” gardening by native tribes.
volunteer sunflower next to the chicken fence
volunteer sunflower amid the volunteer squash in the compost pile

More art blog features for your summer reading pleasure

Getting back to my Friday features from around the art blogosphere, I think this is the perfect place to continue a conversation that started in the comments of my post about my Daisies in tinted charcoal, then Steven expanded his thoughts and added photo examples for a full blog post on how much software editing is considered fair game in fine art photography. If that wasn’t enough, he seems to be exploring his software filters and asks which filter is better for a photograph of an historic and landmark brick building on campus near him, then applies a completely different filter to some photos from his recent trip to Alaska. I find it soothing to see someone else who thinks about his art as much as I think about mine. More feature links:

  • Anne Haile has an intriguing post about the ancient language of flowers. While I’ve known that various flowers have had specific meanings throughout history, but particularly in Victorian England, I’ve not explored that topic with my usual geek intensity yet. I really need to research this, as it has some very interesting application to floral painting.
  • Jim Cook from HotShot PhotoGuy caught some fascinating photos of some eastern bluebirds – first two males squabbling over who would nest with the female, then the happy couple nesting in a wooden birdhouse he has.
  • Sharon Popek has done more book-themed photo compositions that involve multiple photos, including using her edition of Fanny Farmer’s Cookbook, one I have on my cookbook shelf as well (great resource, if you ask me). I would never have thought of doing photo mashups like that, but that is what makes the art world so interesting!
  • PencilPaws has a new drawing, this time an apparent family of monkeys from Bali. She used tinted graphite, which I have seen at the art store and looks similar to my tinted charcoal. She has the patience to do the finely detailed lines of the fur, so be sure to check it out.

Final thoughts – I need to draw and paint some sunflowers

Writing up this post made me realize that while I like sunflowers, and have joked about having “sunflower envy” in the past, I have not yet made any drawings or paintings featuring these lovely cheerful flowers! (Insert shocked gasp here.) I know all spring just about everyone and anyone was doing up sunflowers as the national flower of Ukraine, which is actually a bit odd considering sunflowers are a new world plant and did not appear in Europe until after the 1500s (similar to the potato and its association with Ireland among other European countries). I remember thinking at the time that if I did one it would surely get lost in the shuffle, but I don’t have any excuse for prior to that despite having several potential reference photos saved at Pixabay.

The big takeaway here is that I should try my pencil and brush at doing a bit of sunflower-themed artwork. It is definitely on my to-do list now. I have an oil pastel flower piece currently in progress, and I do have some artwork that I still have not blogged, so I need to try to keep out of the summer doldrums and just power through, sweaty mess and all.

Feature Friday 5: Let’s get blog-retro

It’s Friday once again, and this week I grew a brain and started this post the day before, in the spirit of the old army saying: “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” Soldiers being the eloquent creatures we’ve been since the dawn of time, call this “the five Ps,” although most would add in a sixth word starting with P that is not family-friendly. Last Friday I failed to plan, and when the thunderstorms rolled in about midmorning to mess with our satellite internet, I had nothing ready to go. Once bitten, twice shy … at least for now. With two weeks’ worth of links to share, let’s get this round-up started!

Blog links for your weekend reading

  • Jim Cook at Ramblings of a Hot Shot Photo Guy took some lovely travel-brochure style photos of a Japanese garden in Fort Worth, Texas called Mono No Aware. I think he captured to quiet beauty of the place so nicely. (Remember, I make no claims to being a photographer myself, as I have proven in previous Feature Fridays.)
  • Sharon Popek posted photos from her experiments using clear glass and liquids. I always thought photographing liquids in transparent or translucent glass would be so much easier than drawing or painting it, but apparently I am mistaken in that idea, and there is real technical know-how required for photography as well as drawing or painting.
  • Bill Swartwout freely admits he was in the right place at the right time to get the gorgeous colors in his beach photo at Ocean City, Maryland. I could so see that as a painting, or maybe three paintings – and I mean that in a nice way. It’s a great photo, but the painter in me would love the chance to try my brush at it.
  • Siena Blue posted her blog hop featuring the blind contour challenge. Overall, she is happy to have gotten someone new to play old-fashioned blogosphere party games (that would be ME) and is thinking of doing another one. I’m down for that! Let’s bring back all the fun stuff bloggers used to do back in the day like link round-ups, blog hops, link parties, and if we can get enough art bloggers who are up to it, maybe we can resurrect the old blog carnival idea. (If you blog your art – or are thinking about blogging your art – do join us. It really is a fun and motivating way of blogging.)
  • Hiding behind the pen name of Pencil Paws, is another animal and wildlife graphite artist who looks to be restarting her blog with a lovely drawing of her two cats, along with the story of they came into her life (spoiler alert: they were rescues). I like her careful and meticulous style, and hope she decides to continue blogging her artwork.
  • Finally, the blogging powerhouse known as Judith shows she isn’t shy of tackling a deep and somewhat dark chapter in art history with her exploration of the “degenerate art” of late 1930s Germany, along with some commentary about being lefthanded and how back in the day adults tried to “correct” this. Her post gets deep from almost the first paragraph, but it really impressed me, not just her research but some of the conclusions she reaches by the end. I am the type of person who believes we should know all of our history, not just the pleasant parts, because when we forget the bad stuff, we have this bad habit of repeating our mistakes.

Links to art supplies

For a few years now, I have been splitting my art supply budget between Jerry’s Artarama and Dick Blick art supplies, because each carries some items I like that the other does not. Jerry’s does not have an affiliate program … but Blick does! I signed up this week, and am now an affiliate as well as a customer, which means if you use my links to purchase something from their site, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Personally, I love it when they run the eCard sales, where you get an eCard code in a certain amount that arrives in your inbox two weeks after you’ve ordered. I still have to figure out where all the promo items like images and banners are in the platform, but I figured I would make a general announcement. I’ll be putting together a page with my personal recommendations, because I do indeed have my favorites from them. If the link looks funny to you, it’s because it runs through a tracking system. Both Blick and the platform have a good reputation online.

Obligatory eye candy snapshots

This being a blog all about my visual art means I need to have at least one image in the post, even my link round-ups. I thought this week I would feature the squash plant(s) that have grown out of the compost heap that are still going strong despite the heat of summer settling in (and wreaking havoc on my poor Swiss chard plants). This started out back in the autumn, October or November, when I bought some picturesque produce to get reference photos for my still life drawings. The butternut squash got wet and started to mildew, so we tossed it out on the compost heap to let it continue its breakdown. Usually, I don’t expect seeds from a grocery store-bought vegetables to sprout since I figure they are picked early to keep them from getting too bruised in transit. The seeds sprouted, and they must be dreaming of world domination at this point.

the squash plants have spread out from the compost heap and are shading the grass in the chicken yard
this is only about one third of the squash plants’ growth

Just an FYI: this particular snapshot is from a week or so ago, and the plants are colonizing the open area on the other side of the fence con mucho gusto. My husband has needed to trim some off to keep the footpath to the pumphouse and water spigot for the pig pen clear, because squash vines can be a bit tangle-foot-ish.

yellow squash flower among the green leaves
big yellow-orange squash flower in among big squash leaves

We’ve been trying to get nice snapshots of the flowers I can use as reference photos to paint, and I got to say it is difficult to get nice photos in the bright morning sun here in Florida, especially on the humid mornings when there are dew drops everywhere reflecting the sunlight. I still intend to keep trying for that one decent photo of a big honkin’ squash flower – seriously, the one that opened yesterday was bigger across than my hand. I also need to start bringing some of the squashes in for a nice picturesque pile. There will also be bean blossom and bean group snapshots soon as our summer garden beans are budding.

I still have one more daisy piece from the three day challenge over last weekend, plus a daisy drawing I forgot to post on the blog from last summer that may interest you. I also have the final painting from my candle light series a couple weeks ago that I just have not gotten around to posting. Then it will be time for a new art challenge – if I don’t see one that I like, I’ll just post one here and see who wants to play along with me.

That’s pretty much all I have for today, though I will leave y’all with this market research question: When you have bought artwork (original or prints) what was/were your main motivation(s)? Inquiring artists want to hear!

Feature Friday 4: June already

It is June already, and 2022 is almost half way done! Oh wow, I have about a month before I need to start posting artwork for holiday cards, because things are just weird in the various supply chains and delivery. Usually, I am all about, “One holiday at a time!” but this year it looks like if you want to order something to be printed up and shipped to you, it will be a good idea to do that earlier than usual. We could cry and moan about it, or we can adjust fire and use however many brain cells are still working to plan ahead. I am trying to stay ahead of supply chain hiccups by buying when things are in stock and also on sale, instead of waiting until we are low. Sometimes it works, other times it just doesn’t despite my best efforts.

This being a visual art blog, I’ll bet some of y’all are thinking, “Where are the pictures?” We’ve had a couple minorly busy days with family visiting earlier today, but I do have an in-progress snapshot to appease you. This is my third in the candles’ flame series I started last week as an art challenge that came to screeching halt when our ISP upgraded and our equipment was no longer compatible. (My internet doesn’t feel faster, though we do have more bandwidth.) I am still thinking I’d like to do this in watercolor as well, just to compare how the two media turn out when put side-by-side.

in-progress photo of the third piece in my candlelight series, 11 x 14 oil pastel on primed paper

Now, for your weekend reading enjoyment, here is the link round-up part of Feature Friday!

Interesting and fun art blog posts I’ve recently read

  • I am not the only one who remembers the old blog hop/blog carnival idea from back in the day! SienaBlue is hosting an interesting one, which involves blind contour drawing. Blind contour drawing is pretty much what it sounds like – you draw without looking at the paper. I am wondering if any of my photographer blogging buddies are brave enough to try? Oh, and hat tip to Judith for sharing the info on her blog as well.
  • Steven from Backyard Image shares photos from Kauai, Hawaii where he takes advantage of jet lag to be awake early enough to get sunrise pictures. Apparently he has been doing this off-and-on since 2014 and has quite a collection at this point. I know both of my parents think Hawaii is the most beautiful state in the union, and they love to visit when they can. Looking at some of the photos, I can see why.
  • Sharon posted some nice photos of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. While I have been to DC, we didn’t get to go to the Smithsonian so I was interested in the beautiful building. I’ve visited the train station in DC the most often now, usually with a layover to change trains.
  • Jim of Ramblings of the Hotshot Photoguy posted photos from his visit to the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Texas (north of Dallas). Another place I have not been to, as when we lived in Texas we were closer to Houston than the metroplex. I had to look up where in Texas it is, because Texas is BIG, even the way my aunt drives (and Dad says Grandma drove fast too).
  • Bob from Carolina Footprints posted wildflower photographs, some of which grow down here in Florida like the coreopsis and daisy fleabane (which I can assure you, do NOT repel fleas, I am disappointed to say because I have these wild on my property). His post shows why he is the photographer, and I am not. If you missed my snapshots of wildflowers in my second Feature Friday, it makes for an … interesting … comparison.
  • Finally, a Facebook post instead of a blog post, but Daily PaintWorks featured my watercolor painting Pumpkin Close-Up on Wednesday, which gave me a feeling of validation. Sometimes, it is the thing that looks minor to others that just gives that wonderful feeling of, “Someone else likes my artwork also!”

June 2022 frame and art giveaway

Since it is June, and I did have a new frame (and artwork) giveaway planned for this month over on my Facebook page, I thought I’d post links and the image. For the record, that frame was not easy to get a decent photograph of – since it is brushed metallic, I had to turn off the flash. Then of course there is the constant challenge of getting it all in frame and in focus. Making it into a graphic in Facebook’s preferred size was the easy part for me. The post will be pinned to the top of my page at FB, so people should not have any issues finding it, but just in case (never underestimate FB’s ability to mess up your searches) here is the direct link to the post itself. I should probably stop there, since I really don’t want my feelings about FB to take over what should be an enjoyable feature here.

the Facebook graphic – getting a photo was the hardest part for me

Oh, one last thing – the voice on the Anchor/Spotify podcast thingy isn’t me. I suppose I should find a decent enough microphone and start recording my own voice at some point in the near future.

Feature Friday 3: Back in the Saddle

There is an old saying about how if you fall off your horse, the best thing to do is to get back in the saddle and finish the ride. Y’all probably noticed I missed a couple of Fridays in a row, but not to worry … I even have the perfect sketchbook page to share for this! I’ll likely be doing similar post beginnings, though I can’t guarantee I’ll have the appropriate drawing to share (or maybe I will?).

first drawing using my new tinted charcoal - a horse saddled up and waiting for the rider
saddled up – sketchbook page, first drawing using my tinted charcoal

Some of you might recall the little teaser I dropped at the end of my charcoal drawings post where I mentioned getting the Derwent tinted charcoal set – first the small six-color set to try it out, then the biggest set of 24 pencils before I even got this far on my first drawing because I love how they feel on the paper along with really loving the resulting drawing. I stopped messing with this particular sketch as I realized I stumbled across the first practical lesson for tinted charcoal: use the lightest shades first. See that saddle blanket? While waiting for the big set of charcoals to arrive, I had picked up a black charcoal pencil and doodled in the border design. When I got the big set and pulled out the one called sand to pencil in the rest of the blanket, I realized as soon as I try to blend it with a paint brush, the black will smear. So, like Bob Seger sang, it was time to turn the page. I’ll be revisiting that reference photo in the future, because I really do like it, and will certainly be doing a color version, though I might do a monochrome version just because it looks like a good piece to do in only one color. I just have not yet decided whether that will be black or one of the brown charcoals.

Blog posts I’ve enjoyed over the past couple weeks

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening to videos and podcasts on the subject of blogging, partly as a refresher course and partly to see what has changed over the decade I wasn’t blogging. The fundamentals are still the same: write your blog for people to read and enjoy, and the search engines will follow. Some of the stuff we used to do back in the day (like this link roundup feature I am trying to resurrect) just fell by the wayside, and I am not seeing a reason why other than the “oh, that’s so 2008!” statement. If gas station prices are going to look like ’08, then why not blogs?

Another thing I see that hasn’t changed is that the good blogs all have a “why” for their existence. This dovetails neatly with the recent article I read about how an artist’s statement helps the fans and viewers to better grok the artist’s body of work. I wanted to link to this article, but apparently that is one of the email-subscription only pieces, as the Inside Art site skips that day in the post sequence. The short version of this point is I am giving the concept some thought about how to expand my artist’s statement beyond, “I make art to bring some beauty into the world.”

So why am I blogging again? I got frustrated with Facebook. It’s (*bleep!*) difficult to link back to previous posts – and most days it’s (*BLEEP!*) difficult to even find a post again unless you leave a tab open with it. Facebook may be “more” interactive than blogs (which is a very debatable point, IMO) but it is not what I think user-friendly ought to be. (I should note that I never intended to have a FB account, but it seems to be expected, and a good portion of my family is on there. I’m just trying to set up a lemonaide stand with the FB lemon.) Last summer, I got frustrated enough with trying to find something again on FB that I announced to hubby, “I am going back to blogging!” And after a brief stint over on blogspot, I made my way here, back to my own domain and even back to WordPress. Now, it’s time to work on improving the site. If you are not already a subscriber, now would be a really good time to subscribe, either through a reader or by email, because I am only getting started here.

Speaking of starting, on Monday I’ll be participating in a new three-day art challenge, where the theme is “fire.” I’ve done it in colored pencil, twice, so I will be experimenting with other media. Right now, I think I’d like to break out the oil pastels for this, though I might try my brush with either watercolor or acrylic. Stay tuned!

Feature Friday 2: Florida wild flowers

Another quiet week on my blog reader, but April can be a busy time of the year. Just a couple links to share, then I will inflict my personal (ahem) “style” of photography on y’all, because I had ample opportunity to whip out the little digicam yesterday on our trip in to the feed store, and there are so many pretty wildflowers blooming around my little rural corner of our county.

But first, some real photography from Deb Beausoliel who blogs at Beautiful Sun, a translation of her family name. Her topic (after a big fall last month) is sunrises, which being a morning person she prefers over sunsets just because she has them mostly to herself. Now, as a painter who wields brush and pencil instead of camera, I can say with all certainty that capturing a sunrise or sunset is mostly the domain of photographers, unless a painter has an almost-photographic visual memory or such an encompassing grasp of light and shadow to work from imagination. I probably could not even make a mess with my soft pastels fast enough to capture the perfect moment of optimal color in the sky and how the light hits the surrounding land without the light shifting before I could get it on paper. When I do a sunrise or sunset work, I use a reference photo to “hold” the light still so I can work out the perfect colors and get the surrounding landscape shadows correct. Photos may not always capture what the eye sees, but it can get it close enough when a photographer knows what she or he is doing – and I can definitely work with that.

Local Florida wildflowers

As fun as a skyscape or cloudscape or sunrise/set picture can be, right now my inspiration is a lot more down-to-earth: there is a new series of wildflowers blooming around the property and along the sides of the roads on the way into town, and I do not really know what they are called, and Google image search has been not-exactly helpful. Apparently, I need to upload the snapshots online before I can use Google Lens, since I do not own a touchscreen device. As my son used to say back when he was in high school, “Le sigh.” These are likely called weeds by the local population, but I still want to figure out what they are so I can title drawings and paintings with a little more detail than, “pretty flowering weed in my Florida yard.” Here is the one I tried to look up on Google, which gave me two different names depending on which photo I used, and both names were genus names with almost 500 species each, so between my two attempts to identify this plant I have over 900 possibilities.

medium blue-violet trumpet-shaped wild flower here in Florida, called the Carolina wild petunia
delicate blue-violet to lavender flowers, approximately an inch in diameter, now identified as Carolina wild petunia

When hubby took a snapshot of one of these plants from above to get the five-lobed shape as the focus, Google first tried to say it was in the campanula genus, commonly called bellflower. The problem with that is in the above snapshot I took this morning, which clearly shows the flowers having a trumpet shape, not bell. The above snapshot returned gentian genus as its result, and while it does look similar, all the online sources for gentians say they bloom usually September to December, except one species which has the common name spring gentian but doesn’t look like this. Perhaps I should only use the digicam for reference photos, and try to identify local flowers after I’ve drawn and/or painted them in a botanical style?

Update: This has been identified as Carolina wild petunia, which is native to most of the southeastern US.

The other flowers I really want to draw and paint are along the paved county road heading back from town. Yesterday, with critter food in the truck bed, and Mexican food in the cab with us, I persuaded hubby to pull off the road for a couple minutes to snap some photos of these lovely fuchsia colored flowers:

bright fuchsia-pink wild phlox
eye-catching small fuchsia colored flowers, identified as a wild phlox species native to Florida

There were actually a couple other variations of this flower all around me: one variation had white in the center instead of a darker fuchsia, and another had the lighter color as the middle with the darker as the outer color. These flowers are a little smaller than an inch in diameter, and I had the worst time seeing the screen on the digicam just because it was sunny and bright. I didn’t spend too much time with it, because our lunch from the little family run Mexican restaurant smelled delicious (and it was) and I knew hubby’s stomach was growling.

Update: These bright pink wildflowers are a native wild phlox species, with the natural variety.

A pair of peahens wandering around

Finally, the reason I pulled out my digicam at the feed store for the second week in a row (remember the gorgeous purple morning glory blooms last week?) is right here:

a pair of peahens walking around a parking lot
a pair of peahens hanging around the feed store
a pair of peahens, perhaps a bit camera-shy as they walk away when the camera comes out
they must be camera shy peahens, as they went out the door and around the building when they heard the digicam turn on

The employees and owner of the feed store had been putting a little bit of scratch out for them, and since it was a lovely mild day the doors were propped open and the two peahens actually walked into the store, but turned and immediately left when they heard my digicam turn on. I remarked it was a bit of a shame, because with the backlighting from the door I could see the iridescent blue of their neck and shoulder feathers so nicely. On the drive though town from the feed store, while I was looking at the digicam’s screen, hubby commented, “And there is the peacock,” but traffic was moving too fast for me to try to snap a pic of him. Ah well, there are plenty of photos of peacocks on the various royalty-free stock photo sites, but finding photos of the peahens is not as easy, and I’ve been thinking of doing another peafowl painting sometime this summer to go with my Peacock Portrait acrylic sketch from last year.

We did go get our new goat on Monday, and are once again on kidding watch as she is due soon, which means I’ll get to do the whole bottle-feeding a baby goat routine again. The bright side to this is I now have tinted charcoal to use for my drawings, so here’s hoping I can get some good cat-free drawing time. Maybe I’ll even be able to identify these wildflowers (or flowering weeds) I have blooming around me this week.