JUST ME :: and a stack of blank pages

:: Living creatively ::

About me

This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realise it is play. The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is. I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right there, when you want to get away. When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. That is very serious!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Crested Barbet

If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.
Chinese Proverb

Crested Barbet - pen and watercolour in Agenda Planner Journal - Maree©

I heard the Crested Barbet's warbling song early this morning, so I rushed out with my sketch-book, knowing that they sit still in once place for a long time, stretching their warble for so long one thinks he's going to run out of breath!

Had plenty of time to do a quick outline sketch, filling it in with detail as he warbled on. A few quick stokes of colour and I was done!

The Crested Barbets are regular visitors to my garden and seem to know when the feed tables contain fruit - the love apple and banana and will sometimes swallow grapes whole!

I used only 4 colours on this quick exercise - Payne's Grey, Orange, Alizarin Crimson and Burn Sienna, all from Daler-Rowney. Oh, I almost forgot - and Sap Green for the leaves.

Farm gate in Magaliesburg

"Live out of your imagination instead of out of your memory."
~ Les Brown

Farm gate in Magaliesburg - watercolour in Moleskine - Maree©

The town of Magaliesburg in Western Gauteng, has these lovely little meandering roads leading off the main road, going to the various properties and farms, some on the banks of the Magalies River. This entrance to someone's farm is not far from a little Bistro we frequent and, as we drove past, this gate caught my eye and we stopped so I could do a quick sketch. Wonder what's on the other side of the gate?


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Little Green Patch in Tarlton

This little green patch on a hillock caught my eye as we drove past the other evening on the way to Magaliesburg, the sunset casting a golden glow on the distant fields. I did this sketch from memory once we got home.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Veld fire on the road to Magaliesburg

We were on our way to Magaliesburg the other day and to my amazement! a veld fire sweeping across the hills! Some areas that had not previously burnt were still brown and dry, but it always puzzles me how the fires start in good weather with no lightning. A passerby's cigarette...?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Hills of Magaliesburg

From where we live in Tarlton, South Africa, the small village of Magaliesburg is just a short 13km drive through some wonderful scenery, especially during summer, when the area turns the most amazing green after a brown and dusty winter. Although our first rains have fallen, much of the landscape was still dry and in danger of veld fires in October.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sketching in soft-cover books

Blue gum tree in soft-cover book

I'm feeling a bit distracted these days - I get like that when I've got a lot on my plate - besides sketching daily, doing larger paintings once or twice a week and my Private Daily Journal - I've also started an on-line art class with Cathy (Kate) Johnson on "Keeping an Artists' Journal" and I'm also participating in a sketch-book exchange between South Africa and Australia, which you can read about on Artists' Circle.

To centre my thoughts and ground my energy a bit, I took and old soft-cover book with me to record little sketches of grasses, weeds and indigenous flowers on our property. Before I started on the grasses, I couldn't resist doing a quick sketch of this Blue gum tree - I'll use the sketches that I do in these soft-covers as reference for larger paintings at a later stage.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Painting with Watercolour pencils

'Magalies River' in Moleskine watercolour sketch-book

I bought some Watercolour pencils yesterday morning, for the first time ever, NEVER worked in them before, but thought I'd get them seeing as they're on Kate's list of supplies for the 'Keeping an Artist's Journal' class, which starts today. I got the Derwent AQUAtone set of 12 as well as the Derwent Aquarelle set of 24 because it had some different colours.

We went to Wicker Tea Garden in Magaliesburg for lunch, so I took the small AQUAtone set with me. I did this sketch of the river bank, asked the waiter for a glass of water and voila! instant colour on the spot.

Can't say I'm mad about using watercolour pencils, feels like I'm back at school colouring in! But as far as portability and instant colour with little fuss is concerned - they just fitted into my purse - I'll certainly be using them again. But the colours seem to be fairly muddy - don't know if it's me or if it's the colours. And the colour range is also very limited - tried mixing the colours on the paper, which just made it muddier.

The Derwent sets of watercolour pencils are available in nice tins, easy for carrying around

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sketching in anything available

I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven.

- Emily Dickinson

The Red Bishop on my fence post...

I was cleaning up and came upon some old books, so I carried them to the patio with a cup of tea and was busy going through them to decided which ones to throw out, when the Bishop in all his glory caught my eye. The male's buzzing song alerting the female to the nest he's building for her is always the first to alert me of their return. I was so excited to see them that I grabbed one of the books, opened it and started sketching him sitting on the fence post. I then rushed to get some paints and got his colours while he was flitting around, showing off to the female. So now none of the books are being thrown out - I've found a new use for them!

He only carries these colours during the breeding season and in Winter reverts to brown similar to the female, below.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A lazy art Sunday

My art table yesterday

A lazy Sunday - spent the whole day sketching and journaling yesterday - what bliss! - also scanning previous sketches that I hadn't had time to do yet and filing them on my MAC.

My Feint 6-Quire Daily Journal. I mostly use it as my daily thoughts journal, but also do some accompanying sketches. This is yesterday's post.

The above journal entry reads :

"Sunday - 8th November
The Red Bishop is back, dear Journal, and covered in all his breeding finery! On Friday I thought I caught a glimpse of him, but wasn't sure.

"Red Bishop" - 'Euplectus orix nigrifrons Linnaeus'

He was sitting on the Tiger Grass under the Acacia Karroo eyeing the bird bath. Hoped to catch him bathing, but he decided the feeding table was a better option."

Southern Red Bishop - I edited out the writing lines of the Journal

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sketch in Agenda Art Journal

"Exploring space and colour"

I have this old, leather bound, 1997 Agenda Planner that is now filled with watercolour paper cut to size and some of the old note paper, which I use as an art journal. I did the above sketch on one of the note papers to try out a new green I was mixing using Thalo Blue and Burnt Sienna and was quite pleased with how the green turned out. I also experimented with Indigo and Cadmium Yellow on this, which I used on parts of the tree.

I'll use anything I can lay my hands on for sketching and using old diaries and planners is a great, inexpensive way of building up a collection.

Agenda Planner filled with watercolour paper - I used a 6-hole punch to do the holes for the paper.

If you would like to make your own sketch-book in an easy, quick and fun way, go to 'An Artist's Sketchbook to Make'.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What you have

Many of us spend our time wanting and wishing for things we do not have - a new car, a new house, a bigger studio, a holiday home somewhere exotic, new clothes, furniture, etc. And often we do get these things.

Here's the thing - how often have you stopped to be thankful for the things that have come your way? How often have you noticed that you actually received that which you wanted? If it had been on a list, we could have marked it off and seen just how much we do receive and how much we do have to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Whooping Cranes

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
- William Blake

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!

"Whooping Crane" in Moleskine Watercolour sketch-book - Maree©

From the first minute I saw the program on National Geographic about teaching fledgling Whooping Cranes to migrate, I'd lost my heart to the plight of these stunning birds. My heart went out to the youngsters, having to take the lead from their human benefactors, taking on the massive job of imprinting the migration route into their memories, and every
set-back or loss in the program had my stomach lurching.

The Whooping Crane was once at the brink of extinction. It is making a steady recovery thanks to intensive management efforts in Canada and the United States, and as of December 2004, 468 Whooping Cranes existed in the wild and in captivity. All birds for the reintroduction come from captive flocks.

Whoopers are the tallest of all birds in North America. An adult male stands 1.5 m tall, weighs as much as 7.5 kg, and has a wingspan up to 2.5 m wide. Despite their size, cranes average a flight speed of about 45 kmh.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Mushroom on my lawn

“I am... a mushroom;

On whom the dew of heaven drops now and then."

- John Ford

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!

Field mushroom (Agaricus campestris) 3cm diameter and 4cm tall - in Moleskine Watercolour sketch-book - Maree©

This mushroom popped through my lawn yesterday and is white with the most gorgeous pink underside and small indented warts on the cap. At the moment it is 1½" in diameter and about 1½" tall - still a baby I think.

After Googling mushrooms, I found that it is an edible field mushroom, (Agaricus campestris) which is related to the edible button mushrooms often used in cooking and salads. But I wouldn't even think of trying to eat it, just in case! There are many similar mushrooms which are deadly.

The cap is white, may have fine scales, and is 5 to 10 centimetres (2.0 to 3.9 in) in diameter; it is first hemispherical in shape before flattening out with maturity. The gills are initially pink, then red-brown and finally a dark brown, as is the spore print. The 3 to 10cm (1.2 to 3.9 in) tall stipe is predominately white and bears a single thin ring. The taste is mild. The white flesh bruises slightly reddish, as opposed to yellow in the inedible (and somewhat toxic) Agaricus xanthodermus and similar, toxic species. The spores are 7–8 by 4–5 µm (micrometre), and ovate. Cheilocystidia are absent.

Field Mushroom (Agaricus campestris)
This common mushroom is edible.
It is related to the edible button mushrooms often used in cooking and salads.
Do not eat any mushrooms you're not sure of!
This info from Hilton College

At Gardening Eden, a nursery in South Africa, one can even buy mushrooms to plant in your garden!

Mushrooms belong neither to the animal nor plant kingdom, but form a phylum all on their own. This is due to the fact that unlike plants, fungi are unable to produce their own food through photosynthesis, as they lack chlorophyll, but resemble animals in their ability to draw their sustenance from animal and plant matter which is dissolved by enzymes and ingested.

Current estimates put the number of species in the fungal kingdom at approximately 1.5 million, in comparison with, for example, flowering plants at 250,000 species.

The role of fungi in the ecosystem is vital. Fungi are one of the largest contributors of the decomposition of organic matter, returning nutrients to the soil, which in turn is utilised to sustain other species of flora and fauna. The majority of the fungi kingdom cannot be seen with the naked eye, and needs to be viewed with a lens or microscope.

The reproduction unit of all fungi is known as the "spore". When this spore lands on a suitable substrate or base, and growth conditions are ideal, it will germinate by sending out a germ tube which becomes attached to the base or substrate.

This tube develops in to the "hyphae", which in turn will expand and develop into a network of hyphal threads, known as "mycelium". This mycelium, hardly ever seen, is the vegetative body of the fungus responsible for its nutrition and formation.

The mycelium will continue to grow and branch throughout the substrate for as long as it can obtain nutrients from it, and conditions of temperature and moisture remain favourable. This mycelium may continue to grow for a long time without forming any sex organs, but once two sexually differentiated mycelia meet, and plasmas of conjugating cells unite, if external conditions are ideal, a "fruit-body" will appear. A mushroom or toadstool etc. pops out of the ground!

(This info from Eco Travel Africa)

(Photo by Pamela Kaminski)