Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tea, Hollyhocks, and Kittens

I'm a little sounds so much better than weird.  

So maybe today's rambling will make you feel a little more normal.  My topic for today is to share a few things about me that most people wouldn't know.  I've loved tea for many years now but just recently began enjoying iced green tea.  When I'm in my usual routine, I'm drinking a smoothie in the late morning.  After lunch, I often switch to iced green tea.  Sometimes I add a little stevia to give it a bit of sweetness.  It took me a while to develop a taste for green tea.  It's got so many health benefits that I didn't give up and now I enjoy it.  Did you know there's flavored green tea?

In Great Falls, Montana there's a little shop on Central Ave.  In Cahoots For Tea (the shop's name)  sells loose tea and all the tea accessories you could wish for.  You can buy the teas by the ounce and the flavors are wonderful.  It's just a great little splurge to pick up a few ounces of a favorite like Picasso Blue or a new one like White Raspberry Champagne.  The green teas I have enjoyed most are peach and pomegranate.  I transfer the tea leaves from the little zip top bag to glass jars.  I store the jars in a cupboard away from light and heat.  It's easy to remove the label from the plastic bag and place it on the jar.  The little metal infuser holds quite a bit of tea but only a teaspoon makes quite a bit of tea.  When I make my tea, it's super concentrated so I just need to add a little to the top of a glass of iced water.  So the concentrated tea is kept in a glass jar in the fridge.  It takes up less space, no need for a full pitcher.  It's quick and easy to add to a glass without all the prep every time.

My other favorite drink this summer has been iced water with mint leaves and a squirt of lemon juice.  The fruit and herb infused waters are popular now as an alternative to carbonated soda.  Just one or two mint leaves, given a gentle twist, give the water fresh mint flavor.  If you decide to add mint to your garden, note that it spreads like a weed!  I'm going to need to plan how to bring some live herbs in over the winter.  Fresh herbs are worth it!  So for a spin on drinking more water, try lemon (or lime) and mint!  I've also tried cucumber slices and that's surprisingly delish, too.  These combinations are easy to do and I feel so much better without soda.  While I'm working on drawings or paintings, it's too easy to pull out the snacks and candy...I've got quite a sweet tooth.  Sometimes I forget to drink my water and keeping these drinks close at hand helps so much.  

Changing topics... I've got to get this out there...

I stalk other people's flowers.  

There.  I said it.  I feel a little creepy about it and hope other people don't bat an eye BUT I think I'd be suspicious of someone walking around the neighborhood with a camera like I do.  (Click on Continue Reading below left...)
I told you I'm quirky and you might call me weird instead.  It's like I'm hunting because I'm in this observant, quiet state.  I walk with purpose, making a beeline to the place I've already scoped out.  The look in a cat's eye as it's preparing to pounce on a toy.  Yep.  That's the look.  Composition.  What does it look like vertical, horizontal, zoomed it tight...  It's a squint with concentration; I'm studying the light and judging the shadows, wondering why I wasn't out at dawn again.

 Oh, yeah.  I'm a mom and I need my sleep...I will choose sleep over great photos.  

While I'm doing the mom's taxi cab thing, driving to drop off or pick up, even while I'm listening to my chatty teens, I'm looking at gardens and yards along the way.  I'm mentally taking note of a view that caught my eye.  I do this on the interstate, too.  Driving kids to and from the orthodontist is just under an hour so I take in the views along that drive, too.  My mind is working all the time, thinking about the perfect conditions for getting some art reference photos.  The seasons come and go so quickly...the settings that affect the photo will be completely different in a day or two.  That's true with flowers more than anything.  Get the shot now and paint it in February when spring feels like years away.  With smart phones and tablets with built-in cameras, there's really no reason not 
to capture the moment when you see it.  It takes just a little bit of time and Instagram makes it
easy to add a few filters and you love that shot even more.

Here are some photos of hollyhocks down our alley.  I needed to have been there taking photos a week before and several hours earlier in the day.  I knew this but life is like that.  This is my work and I'm still learning how to see it that way.  Circumstances being what they are, it's required to just do what I can when it fits in to the big picture.  The photos are pretty nice but the true test will be when I begin drawing for a painting.  That's when I find out how much information I didn't get.  The rough weathered surface of the garage is just a wonderful backdrop for these delicate pink beauties.



I do enjoy looking at their petals which remind me of tissue paper.  The shadows across the bloom on the left is quite nice, especially as I mentally compose what it could be as a painting.  Lately, I'm finding that the way I'm working with getting to the details of the petals, I need to work bigger.  The paintings I've done this summer are 8" x 10" in size.  To capture much detail like this makes me desire to do, it will be harder to capture it in a satisfying way.  My smallest detail brushes do not seem to be small enough and they are wearing out quickly.  The photo below has been edited to have a black and white surround.  The focal point is kept as color view.  This view would help with sketching to tune out the background greens.  I would probably have to do more editing to change it back to its original state to use it as a reference for painting.


So if you see me headed down the street with camera in hand, I'm headed to
find a view that I've just got to get before the opportunity is gone.

Shadows and color.  The photo below has some fantastic shadows although earlier in the morning the shadows would have been closer to the hollyhock blossoms.  I could alter that myself when I draw it but it gets tricky keeping it all accurate to include all shadows that would be included.  Alter it too much and later I'm just feeling lost.  The varying pinks between these stalks and their yellow centers just give my eyes a delight that's hard to describe.  Those greens are just lush and fresh...
I'm sure I'll be working a while to include all those buds but it would be great.


 No watercolors being painted at all.  Trying not to freak out here.

The past two weeks have been a real challenge with the progress I tell myself I should be making. The good news is that my studio has been undergoing a great transformation.  The changes are not complete yet.  It's becoming a more useful creative work space.  I'll take any advice on working from home.  It's all taking much more time than I anticipated.  I get frustrated but I know that is just wasted energy.  Keep moving forward, even if it's small little steps with a few steps backward.  Don't throw in the towel this time.  My vision and attitude have to stay positive and looking forward.  Breathe through the interruptions and remember that family comes first.  I'm doing the right thing when I'm dropping these efforts momentarily for what my family needs.  The kids are off to their first day of school.  The house is quiet and I'm here, in the studio, getting things done.  

I have a new assistant now.  Her name is Lucy and she is a sweetheart.

In many of Sandra Bullock's movies, her characters are named Lucy.  (Another trivial fact about me, I love Sandra Bullock movies.  Do you?  Two Weeks Notice, Miss Congeniality...)  Just recently this little precious bundle of curiosity joined our home.

I'd first seen the kittens while working at the computer.  I looked out the window to see Lucy looking back at me.  She was perched up on the grill lid.  We came to understand that she was living under our shed with her sister (we named her Lily) and knew we couldn't leave them there.  Our plan was to keep one and find a home for the other.  We fed them daily for a week, talking to them and playing with them.  Lucy was much more interested in getting acquainted.   At this point they were probably 4-5 weeks old.

Lucy peeking out from under our shed.

Lily, a calico/tabby, her sister.

Last Friday, we were getting ready to take the kittens in as soon as Lily would let us pet and hold her.  Lily was very timid.  Lucy always let her sister eat first.  We hadn't seen Lily for a day or two and I became concerned.  She was cautious but very adventurous when people were not near.   I found her little body and some other animal had been pretty rough with her.  They were so little and unprotected.  It was too late.  She did not survive and we were sad that we lost her.  I'm still sorry that these sisters aren't together anymore.  I realized we couldn't waste time getting Lucy situated and safe.  We've had such smokey skies with all the fires and the nights are getting colder in north central Montana.  We had no more reason to wait.  We brought her in, now at day 6 inside, she has made great strides in learning her new life surroundings.  She's already found her new favorite spot for napping.  Lucy will definitely be loved and spoiled because she has won our hearts.  For now she's limited to exploring my studio when not in her temporary wire crate home.


There's more I'd like to share today but maybe I'll have to sneak in another post this week.  I know I need to close for now and get on with this day.  I'm working on completing 6-8 drawings on tracing paper in prep for new paintings.  I hosted a really enjoyable art workshop day here in the studio two weeks ago and I'm working on sharing about it.  You might want to check back in a few days because I can't wait to share next Thursday.  And if for some reason, my intentions are derailed, please do come back and visit next Thursday.  

School started yesterday and it's been crazy here but I'm still plugging away...even in the midst of all the family activity, I'm here today.  Next Thursday, I'll be here, too.

Are you grabbing the camera or pencil and sketchbook to capture a view you love?  Do you Instagram?  If you want, leave a comment with what draws your eye to 
want to grab your camera before the moment is gone.


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