Monday, January 28, 2013

A Painting Emerges

For Christmas, I created a butterfly painting for my sister-in-law, Amanda, and thought it would be fun to share pictures of the progress.

As I was thinking about Amanda, I remembered Job, my brother/Amanda's husband, saying along time ago that Amanda liked fairies.  So, as I sat on the porch doodling I sketched some butterfly fairies.

However, I wasn't sure if Amanda's interests had changed, and I chickened out on the fairy idea, but kept the butterflies.  I choose to paint the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly since all summer I have been obsessing over it and my Passion-vine (check out the post here.)

Now onto the canvas and paint.

The first thing I did was a light sketch of the subject to make sure the balance and composition were good.  When I first started painting, I tried to sketch with a pencil, but I had trouble covering the pencil lines up when the background was light-colored for example; the sky.  Now, I sketch with the lightest shade of gray paint to get an impression of how the painting will look.

The background was the next thing to be added so you can paint freely, and then get good edges on the things in the foreground.

My paintings often go through an ugly faze.  In this case, the background was too busy and dark colored.  The movement of the background also distracts from the vine spiral which is the movement that I want your eye to follow.

Ah,  that's better.

More foliage.


 Details, Details, Details!

Add caption

Ta-dah!  The finished Gulf Fritillary painting!

What do you think?  Do things you make go through 'ugly' fazes?  How do you over come these challenges?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Happy Birthday, Blog

Today's the one year anniversary of my blog, and I'd like to say 'Hooray!'  I've really enjoyed coming up with ideas each week, and writing and illustrating each post with photographs and sketches.  I'm proud that I have posted at least once per week this year. Thank you all for reading and commenting without you it would be difficult to continue putting in the effort to make interesting articles.  Thank you Jacob, my super husband, for edits, encouragement, and reading each and every post. I look forward to more trips through the woods, activities around the nature center, digging in the dirt, painting, and who knows what else.

Why I like writing my blog...
  1. It's an excuse to take photos, and it makes me want to learn more photography techniques 
  2. I am more thoughtful about what I see
  3. It's way to share the things I do including art, nature activities, gardening...
  4. I've learned of many other bloggers with great sites. 
Some popular posts from this year.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Foliage Follow-Up

Pam at Digging posts pictures of beautiful foliage to remind us that there's more to plants than just flowers, and that foliage adds to the garden all year long.  I decided to follow her lead with pictures of two of my favorite leafy January plants.  

Two years ago, I fell to temptation and bought a packet of Shasta Daisy seeds.  I realize now that there are many TX natives that would have been better choices, but I'm learning.  The blooms I got last year were pretty scraggly, and quickly over taken by sunflowers.  However, during the winter it's a different story, the daises' bright luscious leaves take center stage all winter when everything else is dull.     

I love my winter lawn of weedy grass and, well, weeds.  It's so soft and sweet just like a carpet.  It dries up just about the time my Elm tree is completely leafed out, and the sunflowers take over.  

What's your January favorite foliage? 
Post a comment or link to your blog/photos.  If you join in with Foliage Follow-Up on your blog please link back to me and Pam in the comments section of our blogs.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Big Sister Museum

When it's rainy and cold outside, visiting a museum is a great option.  

I, along with several Nature Center co-workers and my brother Jack, got a tour of University of Texas' Natural History Museum also known as Texas Memorial Museum.  The informative tour was lead by Dr. Pamela Owen (thank you, Dr. Owen.)

The Great Hall

Jack pointing to Big Thicket National Preserve
where he'll be working this spring.
This Austin museum focuses on Texas Natural History.  It has 4 floors covering Paleontology, Geology, Native Animals, and Evolution.  Amazing treasures are on display throughout the grand building.

The Paleontology Floor hosts fossils from each time period.  Here's a saber-toothed cat,
a giant armadillo relative, and a swimming reptile in the background.

The Cretaceous Period Display- Central TX was under a shallow sea.
The Mosasaur, large marine alligator like animal, was found in South Austin

Some beautiful minerals

I think of UT's museum as the grownup sister to the Austin Nature and Science Center.  We have the Dino Pit where you dig up fossils; they have the actual fossils on display.  We have live animals; they have taxidermied animals. We have a minerals, insects, and skulls...they have them, too.  We have the Naturalist Workshop and Trade Counter; they have the Paleo Lab.  The nature center is hands-on, outdoors, and informal, whereas the Museum is a treasure vault, classic, and formal.  The two places are complements with different takes on the same theme.  Another bonus is that both UT's Museum and the Nature Center are free to visit. 

What do you prefer Nature Centers or Museums, informal or classic?  I'd love to hear from you.

 A meteorite is one of the few things that you are allowed to touch.
But, what an amazing thing to touch!  It was in Space!

Quetzalcoatalus northropi, the largest flying animal ever found 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Up Close Contest #2

It's been almost 6 months since the last up close contest and I thought  it was time for round two.   

I've cropped some of my photos (Jacob took two of the photos :).  All the photos were taken in Austin, TX, and several have even been in previous posts.  Your job is to name the subject of the photo, and bonus points will be awarded for being as specific as you can.  For added fun, the person who gets the most correct answers will get a prize; a choice between three small watercolor doodles painted by me. Ties will be broken by a random drawing.  Submit you guesses by noon on Friday to my email address  Answers and the winner will be revealed on Friday afternoon!

Good Luck!






Here are the watercolor doodles from which the winner gets to choose!
The pictures are small in size (8.5"X5.5"), but big in fun!

English Cottage

Abbey's Desert


Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Favorite Photos of 2012

Pam Penick of Digging, a fun Austin gardening blog that I enjoy reading, posted her favorite photos of 2012.  She got the idea from another blogger named Les at A Tidewater Gardener, and I thought it would be fun to add my favorites from 2012, too.  I had a really hard time choosing, and I'd love to hear which photo you like the best. 

I took a series of Sunflower People photos in June,
and I love this one because it looks like it is blowing a kiss.

I love the way the light falls on this spider-wart flower with fresh green background.  I think the photo illustrates the feeling of spring time hope and rebirth. 

I've been crazy about Passionvine and Gulf  Fritillary Butterflies this year.  
Is this a flower or an alien?

It took me a long time to get this photo.  I followed the butterfly around my yard for quite a while.  I love it because you can see the egg being deposited by the Gulf Fritillary.

It's not everyday that you get to photograph an emerging butterfly.  The butterfly is so fresh and perfect.  You can almost see the scales on the brand new wings.

A Widow Skimmer Dragonfly
I like the way the early morning light highlights the dragonfly's wings and white tail.  I think the texture of the tent caterpillar nest adds interest.

Pied-billed Grebes are just so much fun!
You can see them looking at the camera; checking out what I was doing. 

Robins in the spring grass probably looking for worms.  I like distance in this photo.

The Mockingbird was posing with a prize catch for this photo.  
The bright sunflowers contrast with blue sky.

Kids and wildflowers, what more can I say?  
They are concentrated on the activity of making flower bracelets.  

Standing on raised deck there wasn't anything such as a tree to frame the photo so I used my husband :).  Jacob looking out onto the mudflats for shorebirds gave the picture depth, and a story.

If you have a blog post your favorite photos from this year, and link back to Les at A Tidewater Gardener, and send me a link in the comments section. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sprucing up the Flowerbed

Happy New Year!

During my holiday time off from work, I've been in the garden and my front herb/flowerbed is looking splendid.  When we first moved to Austin four years ago, this flowerbed was one of the first areas we planted.  Some of the original plants are still doing well and some have become compost, but its recent face lift will hopefully pay off in the coming year.  

Eighteen Snapdragons will brighten the garden!  Austin's mild winter allows me to grow cool weather flowers.  During the summer the same space will host Zinnas, and Sunflowers.

The rosemary bush in the upper-right corner is one of the plants that I planted four years ago.  I added the mini terrace and a bunch of mulch to help water soak into the soil.  The curvy lines of the terrace make your eyes wonder around the whole flowerbed.  

The bunches of light green/tan sticks leading away from the lower right corner are Mexican Marigold.  The marigold is another original plant, but it needed some attention.  I dug it up, cleaned out dead roots, and moved it away from the rosemary bush so hopefully it will bloom again in the fall.  You can also see some of my garden art: a grouping of three favorite rocks, Jacob's creature, and a homemade ceramic tile/placard.

I like having larger natural items among the plants including logs and rock statues.  Here is a horse head, and a sitting person or monkey.