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Animals Berkeley Drawing Gardening Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Painting Places Plants Sketchbook Pages

Barbara’s Baby Chicks and Garden

Auracana chicks, 9 days old, ink & watercolor
Auracana chicks, 9 days old, ink & watercolor

My best friend Barbara ordered baby chicks by mail. She’d built a little hen house from scrap lumber and had it all ready for them. So she was surprised when the bundle of chirping chicks arrived with instructions to keep them indoors at 90°F for several weeks. Instead of being in the garden when we came to sketch they were living in the upstairs guestroom/studio in a big box with a heat lamp.

We were greeted at the garden gate by Gertie, her big, old, sweet Sharpei/Mutt.

Gertie the Garden Greeter
Gertie the Garden Greeter

I tried to get her to pose for me but she was a bit unclear on the concept.

Garden path with cactus, ink & watercolor
Garden path at sunset with cactus sculpture. Ink & watercolor

Barbara’s garden (photos from previous post) is abundant with flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, wild birds, her ceramic sculptures (the 3′ tall cactus above is actually made of glazed ceramic), her mosaics and the fabulous scent of healthy growing things. It’s a small garden in North Berkeley, but feels like a visit to the country far from urban stress. Her next door neighbors are musicians and so our sunset sketching was accompanied by birdsong and live music playing softly next door.

Elephant, sun/moon plate and potted bamboo
Elephant, sun/moon plate and potted bamboo

One of Barbara’s many garden still lifes. Every few steps in her garden (and in her jewel of a cottage) there is another such treasure, but she is the best treasure of them all!

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Animals Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Painting Photos Places Plein Air Sketchbook Pages Walnut Creek

Borges Ranch, Walnut Creek

Borges Ranch Barn, Ink & watercolor, 7x5"
Borges Ranch Barn, Ink & watercolor, 7x5"

After waking up way too early and having loads of extra time before I needed to leave for my plain air painting session today, I somehow managed to get late anyway. When I finally got to our meeting place—Borges Ranch on the Shell Ridge Open Space in Walnut Creek—I decided to leave my easel and acrylics in the car and hike the ridge trail with my sketchbook, watercolor kit and camera.Then when I was heading back for the critique, I stopped at the barn and painted the quick sketch above.

Often when I’m plein air painting I’m jealous of all the people who are enjoying the day by hiking the hills instead of standing in one spot trying to capture all the abundant nature in two dimensions on a little piece of canvas. So this time I joined them and it was heavenly. After exploring for an hour or so I found a spot on the trail beside a large muddy pond where I sat and painted the picture below. It doesn’t make sense as a picture but when I look at it I can hear the buzzing bees (must have been a hive in a nearby tree), the birds chirping, and can feel the warm sun shining on me.

Warm sun, buzzing bees, a pond, a cyclist
Warm sun, buzzing bees, a pond, a cyclist

This was the first sketch in my new journal with the Legion Multimedia paper. It’s a dream to sketch on; the pen slides right along. The paper is nicely sized and while it won’t take the abuse that Arches cold press will, it does hold up pretty well as long as you don’t try to do more than 2 or 3 layers. This slight limitation will hopefully me keep me moving on to the next sketch instead of overworking one to death.

After the critique (and my lunch) it was mealtime for the farm animals and I couldn’t get any of their attention. This guy looked at me like I was really annoying.

Borges sheep chowing down
Borges sheep chowing down

Only the rooster seemed to have places to go and things to do.

Borges Rooster
Borges Rooster
Categories
Animals Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Other Art Blogs I Read Painting Sketchbook Pages

Sketching Parakeets at Petco

Parakeets at Petco, ink & watercolor
Parakeets at Petco, ink & watercolor

After we finished sketching the laundromat, we moved on to Petco. I can’t wait for longer days so we can do our Tuesday night sketchcrawls outdoors again. But it was fun drawing the parakeets. They were holding pretty still, puffing up and preparing for beds. I worried about them, hoping they have happy lives.

Albino Guinea Pig, ink and watercolor
Albino Guinea Pig, ink and watercolor

This little guy was kind of cute in a spooky, red-eyed sort of way, but even on sale I wasn’t tempted. When my sons were young,  I bought an adorable pair of long-haired calico guinea pigs and we had such fun playing with them…for about two weeks. And then there was the years of caring for them….

Medium Male Rat, ink & watercolor
Medium Male Rat, ink & watercolor

He looked way too much like the kind of rodents you do NOT want to see in your house. I’ve seen pet rats that had some charm, but this guy just looked way too big and ratty. My sister had a rat that I babysat when she went on a trip. The rat was in a cage beside my son’s bed and it pulled the wool blanket that was my Grandma’s from the bed into the cage, bit by bit, and chewed off the corners for nesting material.

Then a couple of years ago, when Alison of art blog Scribbles Adagio was creating a multi-media work that included scraps of old blankets, I sent a 12″ square of the blanket to her in Australia. She sent me back one of the finished pieces that now hangs over my bed, a keepsake partly composed of my Grandmother’s blanket.

And I still use that old blanket to keep warm and cozy when I watch TV, even though it’s full of holes, missing corners and a 12″ square.

Categories
Animals Drawing Gouache Painting Sketchbook Pages

Crow Planet

Crow on the fence, ink & gouache
Crow on the fence, ink & gouache

Ever since I saw a crow repeatedly drop a walnut onto the street from its perch on a wire above, fly down to check it, pick it up and drop it again, I wanted to learn more about them. So I’m reading Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness, a sort of “how to” for amateur naturalists who want to explore nature where it lies (or flies) without having to journey out to Nature with a capital “N.” I learned that crows drop nuts on the road, hoping a car will drive over it and crack it open.

The crow in the sketch above had been hanging out with some crows and a few squirrels on a neighbor’s front porch. This odd group was bickering over who got the peanuts and who got the walnuts that my nutty (pun intended) neighbor lady puts out daily (hourly?). When I showed up he took this  more watchful stance.

I used to dislike crows because  they seemed to overwhelm the landscape when they showed up and their noisy caws drowned out the softer, sweeter sounds of smaller birds. But I’ve learned to appreciate these fascinating birds.

Crows mate for life, have strong communities who help care for the young and sick members, and are quite smart. They play games with each other, can recognize individual human faces, can reason and use tools as this video demonstrates:

Crows are helpful too, since as omnivores, along with plants, they eat insects considered as pests by gardeners, and enjoy fresh roadkill, thus tidying up the neighborhood. They are well-suited to our increasingly urban, concrete jungle, which is why their population has increased. It is estimated that in the U. S. there are as many crows as households—about one crow per family.

If you want more information about crows, there is a good Crow FAQ here by a Cornell University professor who also seems to find them endearing, despite their usually undeserved bad reputations.

Categories
Animals Berkeley Life in general Places

A Walk on the Wacky Wild (life) Side in Berkeley

Deer sticking tongue out
Deer sticking tongue out

Berkeley, California is known as a nutty town, and this morning even the wildlife seemed wacky. I don’t usually post photos, but just couldn’t resist sharing these pictures from this morning’s after-breakfast walk in the hilly  neighborhood above Berkeley’s “Gourmet Ghetto.”  This deer couple above were camped out in a secluded front yard. One had a strange floppy tongue, retracted only when she chewed an itch.

OCD Bird
OCD Bird

This bird was stuck in a loop of peering into the mirror of a parked car, attacking his image, jumping atop the mirror, and then coming back to see if the bird was still there, and attacking it again. I tried to shoo him away, but he started the loop again when I walked away. Do birds get OCD?

Chickens on a log
Chickens on a log

These chickens had a huge yard to themselves but gathered together in one tiny corner, all trying to all perch on the same chunk of log. Makes you wonder about how important “free range” really is to chickens.

Catwalk 1
Catwalk (see below)

And then there are the people. These neighbors  built a second story bridge between their two houses for their cats. (above and below)

Cat crossing between two houses
Cat crossing between two houses

And these humble homeowners hung this on their modest bungalow in a neighborhood where even a 3-room shack is worth half a million dollars.

Happy Hovel
Happy Hovel

And then there were the bird lovers…

For Birds
For Birds

…and goose lovers…

Window Goose
Window Goose (I hope it's plastic!)

and Monkey madness and…

Monkey ornament
Surprised Monkey garage ornament

and just plain madness…

Australia: One hour tmie limit
Australia: One hour time limit

That’s a dismantled parking meter below the Australia sign.  Their whole front yard was filled with similar flotsam and jetsam.

Welcome to Berkeley
Welcome to Berkeley

Of course I would have preferred to sketch these sights, but I was walking with a non-sketching friend whose patience was already tried by my taking photos, let alone stopping to sketch. And now I’m even further behind posting all the sketches and paintings I’ve been working on.