Consumer -> Producer

Timmsy Tee and I did a little shopping today.  In the paper a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the Waste Commission of Scott County, in conjunction with the Rock Island County Waste Management Agency, was hosting a Compost Bin and Rain Barrel Sale today.  Tim and I have long flirted with the idea of getting a compost bin, but they are wicked expensive (usually at least $100).  The Waste Commission was selling the compost bins for $40, so we headed down to the sale this morning.  It was a beautiful, sunny, warm, breezy day, and the line reflected the pretty day and all the pseudo-hippies’ desire for a good deal.  We waited in line for 30 – 45 minutes, listening to the incessant chatter of the day-care mom next to us, and the occasional wise words from the straw-hatted back-yard prairie planter in line in front of her.  It was an interesting 45 minutes.  It was actually really encouraging to see so many people who were willing to wait in line for an environmental tool.

The bin barely fit in our car, but we were able to squeeze it in.  We have all the pieces put together, but we haven’t screwed it into the ground yet.  I’m looking forward to no longer feeling guilty whilst throwing away coffee grounds, tea bags, and vegetable peels.  Hopefully within several months, we’ll have some nice, healthy compost to mix in with our clay yard.

After getting the bin situated, Tim went to the gym, and I went for a jog – the first jog in at least 2 weeks.  I ran a mile without stopping, and then walked about a mile, just enjoying the sound of the creek and the locusts and the wind in the late summer, crispy leaves.

For lunch, we headed out to Bent River.  We spent an hour or so lounging in the back patio, eating 99 cent tacos, fries with jalapeno ketchup, and drinking the Bent River Pale Ale – delicious.

Inspired by the free spirit pervading Bent River, at our next stop, Evergreen Art Works, I bought a few things I’ve been wanting for watercolor painting – a paint mixing tray, note cards made of 140 lb watercolor paper, and a 24″ x 32″ “Incredible Art Board.”  The teacher at the last Figge class had one of these boards.  You can stretch and staple watercolor paper to it, and it won’t bend or warp.  She had also taped wax paper to one side of the board, so she could mix her paint right next to her painting.  You can also flip over the board, and use the other side (of course, before flipping it, you’ll want to make sure your paint won’t run).  It was kind of pricey (around $33), but I think I’ll really like it.  No matter what kind of tape I use, I cannot get my paper to lie flat after I wet it.  The paint settles in the valleys and frustrates me.

I’m really looking forward to working with the watercolor cards too.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I hate and am no good at painting backgrounds.  The smaller the piece of paper, the less background!  I’m getting several pictures printed at Walgreens, so that I have a variety of subjects to choose from – everything from flowers (might as well give it another shot) to bridges (architectural, straight lines are much more predictable than petals).  Here are a few samples of what I’m planning on trying next:

I'll just paint the Luce - not the background.

So, with all this consuming we’ve been doing today, we better start producing – producing compost and artwork.  Good thing tomorrow is Sunday.

Watercolor Class #2

I took my second watercolor class on Saturday. It was again offered by the Figge, but this class was held at the Stone Building at VanderVeer park.  We met in the hot, old building for about an hour while the teacher (a former art teacher at Pleasant Valley) demonstrated various techniques (how to use salt, Frisket, saran wrap, etc.) to produce different effects.  Then she walked us through her hand-outs, which contained several tips on color combinations and composition.  Many of the tips came from “Painting Flowers in Watercolor” by Karen Simmons, a book the teacher highly recommends.  After the introduction, we gathered up our gear, braved crossing Central Park, and settled in for some plein air painting.

The class instructions did not tell us we would be painting outside, so I wasn’t very prepared, meaning I didn’t slather myself with sunscreen.  I tried to pick a shady spot, but the damn sun moved, and I ended up getting pretty burned on my shoulders.  Despite the sun, though, the first hour/hour and half working out there was super relaxing.  The flowers I really wanted to try painting (nice, symmetrical, small orange daisies) were in the full sun, so I settled on some slightly more complicated flowers (from the Gerbera family, I think?).  They were a almost flourescent shade of fucshia, especially around the edges.

I settled in on the detailed work, painting the inner parts of the flower in tiny detail, outlining the leaves and pulling the color down the petals.  I used the end of a paint brush to “bruise” the paper where the vein ran down the petal.  The effect was very subtle, but interesting. I can’t find any good light this morning, so I apologize for the shadows on the pictures.

While working on the flowers, the time flew by.  The teacher came over periodically and gave me some tips on color (needed to add more purple to get the color truer).  Some park visitors wandered by and said the painting looked good, which made me happy.

Then, I had to start on the background.

I HATE doing backgrounds.

Backgrounds suck and ruin all of my artwork.

I need to start blowing up my subject matter, so that it takes up all of the paper space.

I was fairly happy with the flowers; at least, I enjoyed working on them.  But, once I started on the leaves, I quickly got frustrated.  First, I used the wrong color and made the leaves too dark and dead.  Then I was at a loss about how to fill in all the white space, so I just started adding random leaves in everywhere.  And, I added a nice, washed-out sky.

So, the painting is definitely not hang-up worthy.  But, it was a good learning experience.  I learned that painting outside sucks. You get sunburned, you can’t easily get fresh water, your subject material has the gall to move with the wind, your eye can’t capture the changing colors as the sun passes over, etc.  I am definitely more of a paint by photo kind of gal.

The five other students in the class produced some nice work.  One especially chatty student (a retired woman who just recently started painting), painted a very Salvador Dali-ish canna leaf.  It was swirly and crazy and super cool.  Maybe that’s the key to producing something beautiful – you need to “interpret” it and not try to make a carbon copy of it.

It was a good class, and I’m glad I took it.  I don’t see myself doing a lot of paintings of flowers/plants (I enjoy painting houses much more), but  it’s nice to spend 3 hours with a random group of people who are content to sit outside and try to create a thing of beauty while getting to know each other.

A case of the Sundays

It’s been another lovely weekend in the Longoria household.  Not that it hasn’t been without its faults.  I re-potted two plants yesterday morning (and froze my fingers off during the process – literally.  Just kidding.  Not literally.  I figuratively froze off my fingers) but not before I dropped them three times.  One plant, the rubber tree, was actually dropped by Mother Nature.  A freakish and evil gust of wind blew the plant off our patio table, and the plant crashed to the ground.  The pot was a complete loss, but the plant seems to be okay.  The next plant I repotted was our beautiful jade.  The leaves seem to be falling off quite easily, so I postulated that the plant needed more breathing room.  As I shook the plant out of the existing pot, I noticed that the 14-inch tall plant was completely root-bound in its original clump of soil.  The circumference of this base was maybe 3 inches.  I broke up the root ball a little bit and then repotted it.  As I was taking it in the house, the top-heavy jade flipped right over and sprayed soil everywhere in our kitchen entry-way.  I clean it up, repotted the plant, and then cleaned the outside of the pot, which was completely covered in soil.  I walked 5 steps into the living room and promptly dropped the whole pot.  Dirt sprayed everywhere.  I was still looking at it mournfully when Tim returned from the grocery store and helped me clean it up.  Hopefully the jade will survive.  It lost many, many leaves.  It looks…curly, somehow.  I don’t think it’s supposed to look curly.  I hope it perks up.

That was pretty much the end of the tragedies for the weekend.  Although today when I was jogging, I did get glanced by bird poop.  It hit my sunglasses and the edge of my shirt.  It could have been much, much worse.

The good stuff that happened this weekend consisted of me making super delicious chocolate chip cookies, Lucent’s ear infection improving dramatically (thanks to Tim religiously cleaning his ear and putting meds in it daily), me purse-shopping and not buying anything, getting a tremendous deal on A Brief History of  Time and The Universe in a Nutshell book duo at Borders, finding nice folks at BWW who shared their table with us and relieved us from a 40 minute wait, and watching Shaun of the Dead.

Timmy Tee is ill, though.  He has a super bad chest cold.  I need to start sending him to work with a face-mask and rubber gloves.

I watched 500 Days of Summer on Friday night.  Gotta say, I’m not a fan.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was good in it, but I found Zooey Deschanel to be affected and unrealistic.  They made her out to be some sort of guy fantasy.  I guess any girl with huge, blue eyes and a penchant for The Smiths is irresistable.  Maybe I’m just too used to seeing her sister on Bones.  Maybe one can only like one Deschanel at a time.  It’s interesting too, how being an architect is so often held up as being this laudable achievement.  I enjoyed architectural drafting as much as the next person, but I have to imagine that being an architect in real life is all sorts of tedious.  Drawing beautiful buildings would be awesome, but having to know thousands of building codes would not be awesome.  What’s wrong with being a greeting-card writer?!

I also finished I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (author of 101 Dalmatians).  I really enjoyed it up until the point that Cassandra (the 17-year-old girl who is constantly referred to as a “child” – is a 17-year-old really a “child?”!) falls in love with her sister’s fiance based on a single kiss.  Suddenly she is completely devoted to him.  It didn’t seem like realistic behavior for a girl her age, especially a girl who is continuously presented as being wiser than her years and more mature and insightful than her 21-year-old sister.  I liked the movie more, I think because you don’t get to know Cassandra as well in the movie, so her behaviour is less nonsensical.

I also attempted to do some watercolor painting.  I discovered that any talent I may have had has completely deserted me.  This is all I have to show for my attempts:

I decided to give color a rest and pick up my old standby, sketching.  I used a 2H pencil to sketch out Lucent, and then darkened it up with a nice charcoal pencil.

I think I need to find a good house to paint – maybe then I will find my mojo again.  If you have a good house photograph – one with interesting light and shadows (and uncomplicated detailing), please send it my way.  Maybe if I am beholden to an outside entity to do another painting and to do it semi-well, I’ll actually stand a chance.

I thought producing art was supposed to be relaxing…

Prior to this weekend, I hadn’t painted anything since I finished the sky/cornfield scene.  I was on vacation, then I took off a weekend, etc. etc.  I figured I should get back on the wagon before I forgot everything I recently learned (I’m getting my tenses confused here a little bit, please forgive me).  Well, I think it’s too late.  Or, maybe it’s not too late, I’m just too impatient.  I want to be awesome NOW.  I realize I’ve only painted 2 watercolors in my life, but I still want every painting I attempt to turn out fantastic.  But it’s not. or they’re not.  or whatever.

This was the first one I did this weekend:

It is based on another amazing Benny Hageman photograph.  At first glance, I thought this would be fairly easy to paint – it’s sky, corn, field.  But, cornfields have an amazing variation in color, but the variation is on a tiny scale.  I could get all the colors in there (orange, brown, yellow, purple), but not at the appropriate scale.  I tried flicking the brush to get tiny dots of color, but I ending up flicking orange into the sky.  And the sky, eff it, would not turn out the way I wanted!!!!  The colors would not flow together.  Argh.

So, I gave this one a rest and started on another I thought would be fairly simple – an orange & lavender sky with dark corn stalks in the foreground.  (Based on another Benny Boo photo).  Once I finished this one, I actually threw it away.  But, I pulled it back out of the garbage.  This is all about learning and getting better, right?  Maybe by keeping this one around, I can look at it and remember where I went wrong:

Primarily what went wrong was this – I got too impatient and just starting slapping colors on.  I did the sky first, and the colors didn’t flow together well at all.  And, I couldn’t get peach.  This sky is lavender and peach, and the peach was very elusive.  It was teasing me and mocking me and being very annoying.  I was also using “illustration board,” not watercolor paper.  It doesn’t take the paint as well as watercolor paper. Also, you need to tape off the edges because if the edges get wet, water gets between the layers and ruins the painting. When I removed the tape, I ripped a corner of the picture.

Before I put all my supplies away (or sold them on Ebay), I decided to do a little practice picture of Lucent.  Mom gave me a really nice set of Van Gogh watercolors (I had been using the basic 8 color Prang set that they have you buy for elementary school), so I pulled those out.  I wish I would have tried them sooner.  The very first color I tried was the perfect peach I needed for the sky.  Again, argh.

Anyway, I experimented with the colors and ended up with this:

I’m frustrated that nothing turned out the way it did in my head or in the pictures.  But at least I got some practice in, and I didn’t end up just watching 8 episodes of Bones this weekend!  I learned that I need to slow down and really focus in order to produce something of which I am really proud.

I need to start working on another house painting.  Today is nice and sunny, so maybe Tim and I can take a photography journey through Dport and see what inspiration we can find.

Ut oh

Today is such a beautiful day that Tim and I decided to exercise outside instead of at the gym.  Tim ran for a solid 2 miles, and I ran about 1.75 miles – not bad at all for our first outdoor run of the Spring!  Admittedly, my first run of the season is always good.  I think it takes my body by surprise, and ignorance is bliss.  After the first run, my body remembers how bad I feel the day AFTER that first run, and it doesn’t treat me as well during my successive attempts.

Once we got home, I really wanted to take full advantage of the good weather, plus I was already in my workout gear, so I pulled my awesome new bike up from the basement and set to filling up the tires.  I have Presta valves on my tires, and our standard pump didn’t work on them, so last year we got a mini pump.  I think the mini pump is intended just for emergency fillings, however.  Pumping a completely flat tire with a tiny pump is exhausting (especially after a 2 mile run), and it’s hard to work the angles.  I was pumping at an angle (man, that doesn’t sound good), and when I pulled the pump off the valve, the tip of the valve was bent.  Tim tried to straighten it out, and in the process the tip of the valve broke clean off.

Needless to say, I was devastated, “Oh no!!!!”  I literally felt like crying.  Instead I threw up my hands, shook my head, lamented how the world hates me and went and raked 1/2 of the front yard.  I realize my reaction was not in keeping with the inconsequentiality of the situation, but that was how I felt.  While I was busy taking my anger and frustration out on the front lawn, Tim calmly pulled the tire off the bike, pulled the tube out of the tire, bought a new tube, installed it, and presented me with a completely fixed bike about 40 minutes later.  He is generally pretty patient with my outsized reactions to annoying situations.

I tried to work myself out of my inexplicable bad mood as I cycled around the bike path.  I did a pretty good job until I encountered those stupid people who have no bike-path etiquette – the cyclists who INSIST on riding side-by-side on a 6 ft wide path, the parent walking down the exact middle of the path with their stroller, the oblivious wanderers, etc.  Overall, though, the ride did help me get into a better mood.  The sky is blue, the grass is green, everything is budding and beautiful, I don’t live in Juarez, life is good.

It’s only 2:30 PM, so we have a good portion of the day left.   Might do a little shopping (I really want (don’t NEED) a new Hobo wallet), maybe get a drink at the Great River beer garden, maybe start a new painting.  I’m getting 8 of Benny’s excellent landscape photographs printed out, so I’ll have plenty of templates.  Maybe I’ll start on this guy:

I need to do another house painting before I forget Tom’s lessons, but I have to get some good pictures first – ones with good light and shadows.

I’m afraid I’m going to be miserable tomorrow once my overly active today settles into my 33-year-old bones – I’m already nursing blisters and a sunburn from raking.  I best get as much done today as I can.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Stalks on Sky

I had a piece of scrap watercolor paper left over from getting my house sheet down to the correct size.  Since my house had no sky to speak of, I didn’t get the chance to apply Tom’s tips for painting clouds.  This scrap piece – long and skinny – seemed perfect for a sky.  I also had a super neat sky picture, taken by my brother Beentz, who is quite the photog.  I can’t find the exact picture in our mammoth library of pictures, so here are a few sample photos, so you can appreciate the kind of source material I have to work with.  I’m pretty sure Benny took all of these.

The picture I based the painting off was pretty similar to the first picture, only even better (you can kind of see it in the photo below).  To begin, I used my wash brush to wet the whole paper, then I watered down solid blue and painted in the blue areas, leaving white areas for clouds.  I then added in some purple mixed with brown mixed with blue, to add shadows and depth to the clouds.  Here is my first stage:

Here is the painting after adding in the cornstalks:

Here is the final draft, after layering in some more colors on the stalks (brown mixed with purple for the base of the stalks and the undersides of the leaves and brown mixed with orange for the lighter leaf sections):


I’m fairly happy with how this turned out.  Part of the reason I’m documenting these drafts on this blog, is so that I remember how I did this!  I feel I got lucky with how the clouds turned out, but hopefully I’ll be able to achieve a similar effect next time by following these notes.

I think I’m going to tackle a Lucent pix next time.  He’s mostly shades of tan, so that shouldn’t be too hard, right?!  Speaking of Lucent, do you want to see something gross?  Tim gave him a bath on Sunday and washed, literally, a whole Lucent’s worth of hair off the poor chihoo.  See for yourself: