Wednesday, October 28, 2009

tufted titmouse

Tufted titmice around here often seem to pause askew. Sideways-looking and head cocked a bit: I've seen a Pomeranian at Dog Park with the same kind of look.
These birds carry around the distraction of a goofy name. "Titmouse" actually means "small bird" (tit from Scandinavia and Iceland for "small," and mouse from an Old English word, mase, meaning "bird"), but who knows that?
One spring I heard the most wonderful, bright sound and singing and found it to be from a titmouse. Not so often in autumn they sing this way; still, I "look" for the sound in the backyard whenever they're around.
The sketch is mostly charcoal. Maybe this titmouse looks just-landed, about to dart again, which is how I saw him.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

M and T.S. Eliot

M, after noticing that I added a subtitle to my blog, said to me," at the still point of the turning world."
"What's that, M?"
"It's a line from Burnt Norton. From Eliot's Four Quartets."
Soon after, he brought me the Collected Poems of T.S. Eliot, marked and open to these lines.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Please click on this towhee's image to make it larger; the truer rectangular shape of the sketch will result.

Here is a quick sketch of a towhee-- a Rufous-sided towhee--done from an even quicker thumbnail sketch that I did last Thursday after the towhee came into our yard. I'd never seen a towhee before, but I knew immediately that this was no robin. Look at that dark head! And upright tail.

The towhee was in and out of our apple tree and mostly on the ground below it, rifling around in the fallen leaves. Kicking around. ("Rifling" is an odd verb isn't it.)

This sketch is mostly gouache and charcoal. I did put in the white belly that bird books show, but I did not actually see the white belly. I was looking down from a deck and besides, the bird's belly was mostly covered amid leaves and stems and branches.

The thumbnail sketch here (below) impressed what I saw into my mind's eye until I could identify the new bird. Even now, the thumbnail brings the towhee alive to me. The bird books' photos are wonderful, and this gouache sketch gets something of the uprightedness of the towhee's look and movements. Still, it is the thumbnail that opens my live memory.

Monday, October 12, 2009


We go to Gretchen's cabin when we can, once or twice a year. We walk around in the woods, unless it's raining heavily as it was Saturday, and we have a wonderful lunch at the round oak table. Then we clear the table and set up for painting practice. This time at the cabin we had three vases of autumn flowers on the table with us, many of them chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemum is one of the four friends of traditional Chinese painting. It is the flower that "braves the frost." Below is a footnote about painting the four friends:

As with orchid, bamboo, and plum, painting the chrysanthemum as an independent subject was a fairly late development (about the x century), inaugurated and influenced by the literati. The associations of the chrysanthemum as the flower of late autumn, announcing the coming of winter and able to blossom in the cold, were developed through the xiii century.

This footnote is on the first page of the chapter on Chrsyanthemum Painting in The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, which was first published, in stages, in the late 1600s. Besides bravery, pride and dignity are ascribed to the chrysanthemum in the chapter. My sketch is quite simple. I used charcoal and zinc white with a touch of grey green. The stem is darker green. The sketch needn't suceed; I was just spending time with the upright-graceful bloom. While I was at it, I did two quick watercolor sketches of thin branches outside the oak table's window. Here is one of them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

black- capped chickadee

Busy, and bossy, a pair of black-capped chickadees at my feeder just above Alice's shoulder while Alice and I paused beside the feeder during a yard-scoping tour. Buzzing at us in flight and in voice, these two, pretty darn fearlessly. I did this 5x5" sketch of a chickadee in the late spring. The bird is remarkably still here!
Alice told me about an "Ay" from Egyptian history, someone around the court of Tutankhamen, also pronounced "eye." Maybe you all know about Ay? He is not familiar to me, so I'll not list this Ay in my profile here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Persian chicory

I hope you like this translation/amplification of chicory.

It is gouache and pastel and some charcoal on a soft paper, probably Stonehenge. It is 5"x5." I saw chicory on shining gold field grasses and came home and did this little painting.