Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tree Music

As I was trying to find reference photographs I came upon the Bend, OR file. It was nice to go back through and re-visit the trip from this past summer. In doing so I came upon several photos that may not be what I need today but inspired the thought for future work.

I have been doing a series of Snowy Owls this past year and want to move on to Great Horned Owls. I found a great picture of one sitting on a branch. Hoping to start working on that some time very soon. But, for now will continue the leaf theme for the upcoming mini show this weekend.

While looking at leaves, small birds, etc. I saw a information board photo I had taken. I do this to remind myelf of where I have been, what I have seen, the names of trees, birds, & places. The sign was titled: Tree Music, the area was filled with Aspen Trees. On the east coast this is the time of year we hear a lot of tree music. The leaves on the trees are at the end of their color, many are brown, making all kinds of musical sounds. Then there are the leaves already on the ground, making noise as the moving air blows them around and the whispering sounds of walking through the leaves. It is a very calming sound, makes me want to go for a walk.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Tree

The leaves are almost gone but this past week while in Floyd, VA I saw this tree that was striking and made me think of Halloween - the black & orange color theme!
Halloween-All-Hollows-Even
Summer's end - Samhain time of preparation for the cold winter. The time of year when physical and supernatural worlds are the closest and magical things could happen.
according to wikipedia.org

Heading up to the studio to work on some of those magical things. Marilu & I are putting together a Mini Holiday Nature Art Show opening this Saturday Novemeber 5th. Yes it is almost Novemeber! Come by 3 N. Main Street, Mt. Airy, MD from 11 - 3:30 on the 5th watch demonstration and see the creations we have come up with for the winter celebrations. 

View from my back door early this morning, Blacksburg, VA

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Seasons

Websters dictionary says that seasons is "action of sowing" - "one of the divisions of the year" - "a special period" - Sowing is "to plant seeds for growing esp. by scattering".

I do believe that is what Mother Nature was doing this week, the winds blew the leaves, pods, seeds from the trees, scattering the seeds to rest during the winter waiting for spring to come. Autumn is a special time of year, the sky is bluer, the trees give us one last show before the winter rest comes. Walking in the woods, listening to the sound of the leaves under foot. The smell in the air, the crispness in the air and in the fall fruits, apples, hmmm.

Each year I collect leaves, I don't need more leaves but there is always one that is so beautiful that you just have to pick it up. Since, I plan to use the leaf image in my work for the mini show coming up in Nov. I have a reason to collect a few along the way. Leaves are wonderful to use in making monotype prints.Not only do they leave lovely negative shapes but transfer the ink in multiple layers.

Enjoy the season, take a walk, breath in the clear crisp air and prepare for the seasons to follow.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Along The Blue Ridge Mountains

Just a few miles up and over the Blue Ridge Mountains the leaves have already hit their peak color. The cold front that is now blowing through has taken many of the leaves off the trees. Our timing was pretty good last weekend. My husband Rick, friend Sarah & I took a day trip to Floyd, VA and along a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a bit windy but not too mad. The worst of the wind was in those overlooks that give you panoramic views. We were up near Buffalo Mountain. As we came down and were in-between the trees we were sheltered from the strong winds. Along the Parkway is private land, farms, we saw cows, horses and wild turkeys.
There are sycamore trees, wild rhododendron, pines here & there. Seeing the leaves falling always inspires me. Life has been some what busy with moving to a new location. Still trying to get the studio space to flow. But, the leaves have helped me figure out what I need to do for my up coming mini holiday show. I purchased several shapes & mini sizes of different kinds of canvas/boards. I kept going through pictures trying to think how to make small pictures work for a holiday winter type show. As I think of those leaves, the colors, the movement, I do believe that most of the images will be leaves. Some prints, using monotype & linocuts to create them and maybe some mixed medium painting type pieces. Might have to have a few little birds in there too.
 


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Elements - Water - Air - Earth - Fire

Listening to the wind blow this morning, dealing with pastels in the rain, leaves falling to the earth and wild fires out west. Since my work is influences by nature, I deal with the four elements all the time. They are part of my life as they are part of every one's life. There is a fifth element, quintessence, "quint" meaning fifth and the belief that this element is beyond the material world. The dictionary says quintessence is: "the purest essence of something". I used this as a title to one of my charcoal drawings, not knowing the connection of the fifth element.

Recently, I went to Chincoteague Island for a plein air painting weekend. It was hosted by my good friend Jeanean Songco Martin. It was a bit rainy over the weekend, there were breezes to deal with and mosquitoes. Marilu & I were in search of birds and trees. We found both, but in the area we were searching the mosquitoes were heavy and hungry. We found an area we could pull off the road in the National Wildlife Refuge and stay in the car to work. We jumped in & out of the car taking photos of herons, egrets, other shore birds and trees. We settled on a tree with some vine twisted around it from bottom to top. We could not identify the twisted vine, it was not poison ivy which is often seen on tree trucks but it was interesting so we took the time to do a field sketch. We were able to do some sketches of Great Egrets & Snowy Egrets as they were caring for their feathers, sitting in the trees over a swampy water area.

It did not occur to me then but as I look back at taking those moments to sit in peace and quite. To draw what we see in nature, I believe that it was a quintessence moment. It was the purest form of nature, watching but not interferring, recording what we see and taking that moment of peace as a private moment.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bird Myths: Life - Death - Creation

I came across several references to birds flying in and out of windows, into your house and pretty much all of them said that it meant there has been or will be a death in the family or of a friend. It referenced the soul leaving the body on death and going into birds. As birds are the in between of the earth and after worlds. Birds are messengers.

I took this to be a good sign, as my mother-in-law had passed away this year and had not seen our new home. She loved watching the birds come to the feeders, her favorites were finches and hummingbirds. Maybe it was she who came for a visit.

Birds have been a strong theme for Marilu & I over the last several years. It seems to me that this increased greatly after our trip to Alaska. The myths on birds there are strong, the eagle associated with royalty, strength, courage, often thought of as a hero and a hunter. The raven is just as powerful in the world of myths. Ravens are both heros & tricksters. The raven presented many gifts to humans, light from the sun, moon & stars, names for plants and the formation of the earth (Denali - the great one).

Being in AZ this week I noted the reference of the phoenix, burning up every 500 years to rise again from the ashes. May have something to do with the heat around here.

The last note on birds for today is the Owl, symbol of wisdom, patiences & learning but also thought of as dark, a night hunter and secretive. One of my favorite birds to draw. I read a Navajo myth that the owl stopped man & woman from a quarrel allowing the creation of the human race.

If you want to do a little more reading on the subject of Myths and Birds you might want to look at http://www.mythencylopedia.com/ I found much of the information there along with a few other sites. 

Marilu's scratchboard of raven

Linda's monotype of raven

Linda's pastel of snowy owl

Marilu's scratchboard of snowy owl

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Bird in the Hand

Moving In: We were moving into our new home in Blacksburg, VA the guys were unloading the truck, doors were open and a bird flew in...confused it was trying to find a way back out. The front room has lots of light and it could not fine a way out through the windows.

One of the guys opened the door but it flew passed and tried a different window. Even more confused in landed on a box. I was able to go around to the back of the bird and gentle cover it with both my hands. It did not move, I am sure he was a bit stunned. I walked him over to the door stepped out clear of the house and opened my hands.

He flew away unharmed and happy for his freedom.

I know there is a myth or something that speaks of a bird flying into your home and bringing you luck. That will have to be a little something I do some research on for another days blog, who knows maybe tomorrow. Until then I feel privileged to have had that moment with the bird resting in my hands.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Something New

Last night as I was sitting outside watching the activities of the evening it got very busy. Hummingbirds were all about male & female cardinals flying around, woodpeckers in the woods and a female deer comes flying by in full out leaps across the hill, just beautiful. We heard other noises in the woods as we look up we see something, not a fox too big, not the wolf-dog that lives down the road, too small, not a dog for sure, it was two coyotes! Surprised us, we have heard that they were in the woods but over all the years living here we have never seen them until last night.

The coyote has been moving east and south over the years and population increasing so no surprise that they are here. Just a nice surprise for us to be able to see one or two. Of course they were too busy and too fast for me to get my camera. Nice way to end the evening.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Light Shows

Just a week ago I was in AZ and it is the monsoon season. This brings big billowing clouds, high temperatures, beautiful sunsets, heat lighting, sand storms and thunderstorms. One night was especially full of clouds and the sunset was amazing, pinks, yellows, oranges, reds just breathtaking. As the sun was going down the light show began, heat lighting but it was behind the clouds jumping from side to side and up and down. My son said it looked liked the flashes from paparazzi photographers. Then the thunderstorm started rolling in with lighting going across the sky parallel to the ground. It was an impressive evening.

Back in MD I saw a different kind of light show. Early morning as the sun is rising and the wind is gently blowing the dappled light goes across the trees. The leaves play a little tune and the trees rubbing on each other have the sound of deer or elk as they call out for their mate.

It takes time and patience to try to capture these moments via the camera or by painting. I am sadden as I will be leaving MD soon and one of the paintings I always wanted to do in plein air was the evening sun going behind the mountain, the back lighting of the trees from the back of my studio. I will continue to take pictures but creating the piece as you see it is so powerful for me. The timing is hard, as you only have an hour at most to capture that light.

I did a pastel of trees years ago with the eveing light viewed from the front of my studio, each evening at 5:00 I would set up outside and paint till the light changed enough to stop for the night. I worked on the piece off and on for a month. Some days the clouds changed my lighting, it was a lovely way to spend my evening. I will miss the mornings with the soft light and the evenings with the back lighting. With time I will find new light shows to spark a new piece of work.
AZ Sky

Frederick, MD

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Day To Myself

Still in AZ the weather reports called for rain on Sunday and around 108 degrees. Did not see the rain till close to midnight but good day to find something to do inside. Made watermelon gazpacho, sounded like something nice and cool to have over the next couple of days.  I do not want to turn the oven on but I find when I can not get to my studio I usually like to bake. Baking is not an option today, at least I can do something creative in the kitchen.

Once that was done I settled down with a small piece of paper that I had toned maybe a year ago. I knew what I wanted to go on it just had not gotten to it yet. Hummingbirds, a Mom & her baby, newly fledged but still dependent on Mom. I was luckly to be in Tucson at the Sonoran Living Desert Museum and saw 3 hummingbirds with various stages of babies, one on her eggs, one with brand new babies and the one I did a pastel from, just learning to fly.

The piece is done with soft pastels, toning white BFK paper, using my kneaded eraser to put out the light areas and then going back into it with pastel sticks & pencils. It is 4X6, need to do a couple more this size for a mini show coming up at Fells Point this fall. It was a nice day to myself, a gift.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Discoveries

I am always amazed at Mother Nature and often surprised. Travels in OR took me to Bend not in the middle of the state but close. The Deschutes River runs through it with National Forest to the west. One of my discoveries was that near Bend is Lava Butte. I had not thought about lava flows being part of the landscape of OR. There are many waterfalls, lakes, trees snow covered mountains and the remains of volcanoes. Lava Butte is part of the Newberry Volcanic Monument. You can drive up to the Butte and walk around the red & black rocks of the cone volcano. The view is filled with Ponderosas Pine, Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Mtn. & South Sister Mountain.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Time to Smell the Roses

Life gets in the way sometimes and we forget to take time to smell the roses. Being on the road a lot this year it has been hard to keep the creative spirit going. A friend reminded me to take a moment and smell the roses. I was in Portland, OR when she sent this note. I had the opportunity to go to the Chinese Gardens and do just that, smell the roses. The garden is small, tucked in the middle of Portland on the corner of China Town. It has little spaces to just sit and meditate. Giving you moments to just be, it was a good way to start to slow down.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hazy, lazy days of summer.....

It's July in the mid-Atlantic.  That means Hazy-Hot-Humid.  It doesn't bring on strong desires to hike in the woods.  At any rate, the wildlife is laying low too.  Very little activity except early morning and late evening.  Even the birds are quiet in the middle of the day. 
I guess this is what I take all those photographs for while on vacations in search of wildlife.  To work on during the hot days in the coolness of my studio.  I've been gravitating toward the images from Alaska, all the while remembering the cool breezes and icy glaciers.  Some of the eagle photos are high on my list.  I've sketched one out that I think will make a dramatic scratchboard.  But I'm also enamored with a photograph that a friend took while in Costa Rico.  It's a Blue and Gold Macaw.  He got a great head and shoulders shot and the blue colors are amazing.  He's given me permission to use it, and that's what I'm working on now. 
There are several exhibit opportunities coming up this Fall.  The Art at the Mill in northern Virginia is always a popular show; the miniture show will be held again this year at the Gallery at Fells Point in Baltimore; a two person show with my daughter in Frederick in September; several venues throughout the region that accept one or two pieces for a month; and the big event of Art-o-matic in Frederick running late September into early November.  Also, Linda and I will continue to collaborate on exhibits every chance we get.  Wow, I think I'd better get busy!!! 
These and other events will be listed on the Calendar pages on our websites as the dates are firmed up.  Check it often at http://www.marilutousignaut.com/ and http://www.lindaharrisonparsons.com/.   I've also recently joined the group of artists represented by The Artist Angle.  You can see those works and order fine art prints online at http://www.marilutousignaut.theartistangle.com/.  
                                                                                      marilu

Monday, June 27, 2011

Red Tailed Hawks

We have a Red Tailed Hawk family at the edge of our woods.  Perfect location, overlooking a small meadow of tall grasses.  For several days I have heard their plaintive cry in the woods.  Today I was treated to the sight of them.  Two adults and two juveniles.  The adults sat on our old wooden fence calling to their offspring.  I suspect it was a parenting thing...the adults trying to convence the young ones to come out and hunt for their own food.  And like most teenagers, the kids didn't want to give up the good thing they had going.  So they stayed high in the trees.  I'll try to keep an eye on them for the next few days, to see who wins. 

I hope to get some better close up pictures of them.  I love putting the bigger birds of prey in my artwork.  Birds like this make good scratchboard subjects.  At the present time, Linda and I have an exhibit at The Kentlands Mansion in Gaithersburg, Md.  A number of the pieces in that show are of Eagles, Hawks, Owls, and my newest scratchboard of a Peregrine Falcon.  Stop by and see it if you are in the area.  It's there till the end of July. 
                                                                                      Marilu


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Meaning of Life Video

Saw this some time ago on FB and while tring to figure out if I have correctly upgraded groups on FB I ran across it again. It is a YouTube Video so here is the link we shall see if it works...
http://youtu.be/aNN1VKeS61g

http://youtu.be/aNN1VKeS61g.com

Thought I would see if the .com made a difference...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Silver Linings

Lots of changes are going on this year. I keep looking for the silver lining. Currently back in AZ with a week of 109 degrees. Thought the hummingbirds had gone away because it was just too hot for them. But, saw them back this morning enjoying the cactus fruit along with many of the other birds. Might try to put the feeder back out. The sugar water had spilled onto the glass table top and baked to a hard lollipop state. Took a bit of soaking to get that off.
The morning is nice, I can still sit outside with my coffee and watch as the sun plays along the edges of the cactus, the eucalyptus tree and near by buildings. The shadows always intrigue me, patterns of leaves against the light bark.
The saguaro cactus has been interesting seeing the last white flowers, the fruit literally bursts open and the birds just love it. After the birds have finished the fruits drop to the ground. The saguaro flower opens at night and can remain open throughout the day. The lesser long nosed bat comes in the evening to feed off it's nectar, the birds and bees take over during the day. But, the fruit, lush and red seems to be their silver lining, their dessert. It has given me reasons to be up and out early in the morning. Since it gets to so very hot by mid day, everyone is out walking, running, riding, or writing on their computer at 5:00 a.m.
As with everything in life we learn to adapt to life changes, locations, climates, or situations.
Saguaro Cactus Flower, blooms in June

Cactus fruit for breakfast

How do you keep your tail feathers from getting stuck - very carefully

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

'And what is so rare as a day in June?' Lowell

A rare day in June indeed.  Sun is shining but so far the temperatures are on the cool side.  That will probably change before long.

The hummingbirds are doing their best Luke Skywalker impressions today.  Darting and dive bombing each other like seasoned Jedi.  There are three of them and three feeders....wouldn't you think they could figure that out?  But there they are...chirping their threats, flaring their tail feathers and doing their best to look fierce!  It's just not working....they are still adorable.

There are does browsing the woods with new born fawns tucked away in the tall grasses.  I've seen racoons and foxes lately.  Spring and early summer is a great time for spotting our resident wildlife.  A nice thing to do on a rare June day....
                         Marilu

Monday, June 6, 2011

Box Turtle/Tortoise is back

We have a family of Box Turtles that come up each year. We are thrilled to see them checking out the location in our backyard to which they will again lay their eggs. The babies hatch late summer, we have seen these tiny little guys come out from under our ferns or tall grasses. They are about an inch in size, we feel very lucky to see the babies most years.

The Box Turtle or Eastern Box Turtle is common along the whole east coast, the other half of the country has the Western Box Turtle. But, the proper term is not turtle for these guys they should be called Box Tortoise according to the scientific information, tortoises have webbed feet or claws, live entirely above water and  don't migrate. They go to water to bath or drink. Where a tutle has flippers and lives in the sea, fresh water or marshes. The terrapin is semi-aquatic, the Diamondback Terrapin is the state reptile of MD. The box turtle/terrapin are close relatives.

That's it for knowledge of turtle vs. tortoise. I just get great joy each year in seeing our Box Turtles return.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

King of the tree tops

Sunday morning, a little bit of rain here and there, cool morning but not cold and the hummingbirds are out having a field day. Tag, relay race, hide and seek. They are amazing to watch, they fly to the top of the dogwood to watch, then come speeding down to run off the other hummingbirds that come to their feeder. There are two that have this relay game, one flies into the mountain laurel, the other to the feeder, they switch places and at one point they both ended up in the mountain laurel, looked at each other and took off in opposite directions.

While all that is going on there is a third hummingbird who hovers closer to the ground, hiding in the tall grasses so the others do not see him (looks like a young male). Working his way up to the top of the grasses then shooting over to the feeder. Just makes me smile, they are so funny.



Friday, June 3, 2011

Bears Back

It has been a year since I had seen the black bears in our woods or so I thought. Last week I thought I saw the bear way up in the woods. But, since no one has seen them, it must be just the shadows in the woods.

Until yesterday when my neighbors just down the hill have seen a black bear trying to get to one of their bird feeders. Making 3 attemps but no luck yet. They are smart and determined it will be interesting to see when and how this young black bear reaches the goal of the bird seed. Here is the picture they got of the bear.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Strawberries, deer, ducks & groundhogs

I discovered the deer that walk through my backyard each day like strawberries. I had brought back some plants from the new house in Blacksburg. Transplanted them to hanging baskets. They were doing fine, strawberries nice and red. I come out the other morning to find the one basket the deer usually don't brother had no leaves and no strawberry just a few green stems sticking out. One plant down two to go.

As I was driving into Downtown Frederick I like to drive by Baker Park. The lake always as ducks in, near, around it and they like to cross the street to get to the other side. They are very use to cars and often go right up to the four way stop to cross the street there. It makes you smile as you sit in your car waiting for a line of ducks to cross the street.

And to end the day along Rocky Springs Road were two groundhogs trying to cross the road but as two cars were coming in different directions. They opted to back up, doing what looked like a groundhog version of the moonwalk dance step. It was the kind of thing that made you laugh out loud. I don't think I have ever seen a groundhog just come to a stop and go in reverse.


This morning is misty you can tell the heat is on it's way. As I sit with my morning coffee and listen to the birds I am enjoying the mountain laurel which is as full as I think I have every seen it. I am hoping to do a bit of plein air painting in pastel before all this beauty escapes me.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hummingbirds and Mountain Laurel

The Mountain Laurel are in full bloom. They were a bit late blooming this spring, wetter and cooler then the last few years. The hummingbirds love to sit in the Mountain Laurel. It is their little hiding place. They come to the feeder, then go sit on the branch in a small open area of the Mountain Laurel. Then if another hummingbird happens by they have an advantage and can zoom out of their cover to run them off. They are amazing little warriors.

This all happens so fast it is near impossible to get a good photo. But, I will keep trying until then I will take pictures of the Mountain Laurel which in itself is beautiful. There is one section that is much pinker then the others. The root system of wild laurel is interconnected making them very difficult to transplant. Why this one cluster is so pink compared to the others I do not know. But, they are just lovely. My favorite time of the day is morning as the sun is creeping through the trees. I sit with my coffee, my cats, the hummingbirds and watch the sun sparkle on the leaves and bark. No better way to start my day.
white wild mountain laurel

hummingbird scratchboard by Marilu

pinker mountain laurel

Saturday, May 21, 2011

re:Mountain Laurel Art Show

All it took was a little sunshine and the Mountain Laurel are just blooming away. Just in time for the art show this week.

Here is a link to The Arts Map, which will give you details and directions: http://www.theartsmap.com/detail.php?id=8075


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Long Way Home

I needed to take a ride out to Main Street, Burkittsville to check on the location of the South Mountain Hertiage Society. I will be teaching a plein air workshop June 4th & 5th and wanted to see different places that would make nice paintings. There are many, the building itself is an old church that was used as a hospital in 1862. To the back of the church is a graveyard, over the hill farm land and fields, barns, buildings, rolling mountains, sycamore trees and lots of charm.

I drove down from the church, there is a apple orchard. In the opposite direction is Gathland State Park, Appalachian Trail, old structures, buildings, picnic areas, gardens, flowers (lady slippers were spotted) and of course lots of trees.

My plan is to paint on that Sunday Morning at the church, go the park for lunch and paint there in the afternoon. I sat at the park long enough to do a small watercolor painting. What a great afternoon. I continued exploring and came on another Main Street, drove through there came out on a major road and started heading back towards Middletown, where I ended up on another Main Street. As I was heading back home I decided to turn up Gambrill Park Road, up and over the mountain, finally finding Humburg Road, which is small, with lots of twists and turns. I pulled off on the side to sit by a flowing creek. The sound was very relaxing and the prefect way to end my day.

Burkittsville, MD

Gathland State Park

Humburg Road, Frederick, MD

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hummingbirds

The hummingbirds are back. They let me know they are here by coming to the window of what ever room I am in, hovering there so that I know it is time to put the feeders back out. Hummingbirds are very territorial and amazing little warriors. They run other hummingbirds off and stand guard waiting in the Mountain Laurel Trees to run any invaders away.

Each year I learn something new about hummingbirds. The first year they found the feeder they not sit, they would take a quick drink and fly away. The second year they were more comfortable and stayed awhile. The next few years they started landing on top of the feeder or in the mountain laurel and just sitting there.

They come in the morning and in the evening, some during the day but always a.m. and p.m. I love sitting outside with my coffee and watching as they return each day. There is a family unit that comes regularly, and as of last year an invader, a darker male, his green is so dark it looks black. The other birds are not happy that he wants to share their space.

Hummingbirds are very vocal, they make a lot of noise for something so small. I have only heard a hummingbird sit and sing one time. He was all alone, sitting on the feeder and making a little chirping sound, not all that pretty compared to some birds but it was another of those first for me to witness.

May we all have those wonderful hummingbird experiences on Mother's Day.

Hummingbird - Tucson, AZ

Square Art

I have heard that it's hip to be square. I know pushing it again, but, thought I would try one of the tree pieces as a square format. It...