A lot of people ask us what San Miguel is like during the summer. Here it is in August during our first trip in 2004. A late afternoon shower was arriving from the west over the Sierra Madres on the horizon. We had this incredible view from our apartment rooftop terrace which took in not only the views to the west but a fabulous 360 degree panorama. I remember watching this storm approach and being awe struck by the beauty, the intensity of colors, and the power displayed before our eyes.
Each day during the rainy season, which starts in June, the rains move in in late afternoon and roll across the sky, bathing the land with a brief shower or two, watering the plants, trees, and crops so that everything is green and in bloom. It’s the lush time of year, and the colors explode. Summer is magic in San Miguel. And after the rains come the cool breezes and the fresh smell after a shower. Those skies full of drama and color are one of the things I miss from up here.
Yesterday was an exercise in imagination. Today I’ve gone back to the same reference and painted what was really there. I showed Melissa, who took the picture, my painting, and her comment back was that she’d seen something kind of medieval when she took it. So it was fascinating to me that we’d each thought of something totally different.
I like the moth as itself, but its pose, strangely suspended as it is, gets the mind to wandering, creating creatures of its own.
I rarely, rarely do anything that’s fantasy. This image just spoke to me from the first moment I saw it, and I had to make it mine. The original picture is a white moth taken through a window at night. Thanks to my fellow artist friend, Melissa, for graciously allowing me to use her photo as my reference. She has a great blog to match her wonderful art — artist books and paper sculpture — and this was taken during her artist-in-residency at I-Park in Connecticut through her studio window.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll do the actual moth, but I wanted to turn it into what I saw when I first looked at the photo, which was a ballerina. Of course it wasn’t, except to me. I just thought it was so cool. My lady has no discernible slippers, and she has some fanciful antennae. She’s really some kind of lady turned moth. You can decide what she is to you.
I love birds but I especially have a fondness for hawks, eagles, and owls. Back in the mid-80’s I went on a bird banding trip through Earthwatch banding hawks and eagles from the top of the Goshute Mountains in Utah. I’ve been hooked ever since.
These four owlets (see the one with his back to us on the right?) were part of a clutch raised in Benecia, CA two years ago by Freda and Diego, a barn owl couple who’ve been residents in an artists’ studio building for several years. They used to have a web cam which posted on its own website and also Cornell Ornithology bird web cam site. I watched them from when the eggs were laid in March 2008 through their fledging some two months hence. They have incredibly expressive faces and bobble their heads up and down and side to side when they’re trying to focus on something. It’s extremely endearing and I fall in love everytime I see a new set. This year, Freda and Diego’s cam wasn’t functioning so I watched a nest box from Italy, TX.
This is a similar painting to a couple larger ones I did two years ago from the same clutch. They appear as in a fog because of the low light in the box, with colors muted and their shapes almost ghostly. Lots of pale washes and softening edges to get the foggy effect and indistinct shapes of the trio, intent on some unknown curiosity on the box floor.
After more than 700 years the Moors were finally left cornered in Granada, Spain, once having ruled all of the Iberian peninsula and much of western Europe. Their stronghold was the magnificent Alhambra, a castle and fortress on the grandest scale. It remains today as one of the wonders of architecture in the world. We had the privilege of visiting it on our trip through Spain. This is an outside wall with flowering trees at the base. The whole of the Alhambra is so vast that one tiny perspective like this is like viewing one crevice of the Grand Canyon. You simply have to go to really appreciate it. There is ornate room upon room, sprawling through what must be dozens of acres. And there is a summer home higher in the hills just to the east of the main complex, where the rulers spent the hotter months in the coolness of the mountain breezes and shade.
In 1492 Queen Isabella and her husband, King Ferdinand, decreed Spain to be Christian, forcing the Islamic rulers out and those not of the faith to convert or be expelled. There’s a poignancy among the grandeur that is Alhambra, made sharper knowing of the vibrant culture that the Moors brought to Iberia and the educational and academic advancements that resulted. All this was swept away in an instant, causing a religious diaspora of Jews and Muslims alike, ushering Spain into the beginning of what would be a darker, less open period that included religious persecution and the likes of the Spanish Inquisition.
The lady finch was one of my first daily paintings, almost a month ago, Our sunflowers continue to bloom and dry out, attracting the pair of gold finches. What a delight! My kitties, Dove and Chaplin, get excited to see them on the flowers so close to their perch inside the studio window. But the window pane keeps everyone on their best behavior. The finches watch the window while they eat just to ensure those humans and cats stay safely inside.
One of the sunflowers rests right at window’s edge. This week its seeds were at just the right stage and so we’ve been blessed with particularly close views of this spectacular mister. Today’s effort is in honor of his visit and the privilege it’s been to have him share my flower garden.
While we were building our casita in Alcocer outside of San Miguel we rented a place that was part of a large house with a fantastic yard and lots of flowers. We felt like lords of the manor, it was so stately in appearance. Roses climbed the property wall, different ones constantly blooming. The ones just inside the main gate were showy red beauties that I kept my eye on to see their latest production. One morning when we’d not been there too long I took a series of photos of the roses to capture how the rain droplets they’d collected shown like jewels on the their petals.
For some reason the red on my screen isn’t quite matching the painting in real life, no matter my attempts to color correct. Reds are tricky and my computer makes this a little dull. But I love all those droplets everywhere, the rose just out of the shower.
Maybe the title is redundant since sandlings are little regardless. But I just think of sandpiper birds that way. I had to look this guy up to see exactly what he was. A sandling, as it turns out. They are the whitest of the sandpipers and they can easily be spotted racing up and down repetitively at shore’s edge. He’s in winter plumage as they migrate to the artctic and subarctic to breed and change plumage there to their summer ware.
I love these little birds but unfortunately I’m not loving this painting as much as I’d like. Some days are better than others and this is not one of my “on” days. He definitely has motion but the surf isn’t quite what I wanted. And unlike the heron I did flying against the sky last week, this solo bird doesn’t hold his own so well in this composition.
I’ve wanted to paint some koi for a while now but have felt like everybody does it. It’s sort of like everyone painting Venice. Dave and I have a theory that we’re the only living artists who’ve not yet painted the Grand Canal. I try to refrain from cliche as much as possible.
But today I had nothing else in mind, and with time quickly slipping past me I needed something to just kind of play with. So I returned to our Florida pictures from the Amelia Island trip where I remembered there being some photos of koi that we spotted in a pond in one of the little towns we visited. My version is kind of mysterious, which is why I chose this particular picture. The little fantail is the only thing for sure, everything else being kind of murky and dreamy. Those little circles to his right used to be coins dropped in his pool, but I turned them into part of the mystery.Â He’s just part of that very big ocean out there.
We’ve had a pair of robins build their nest on our side porch for the past two years. They like the curve in our downspout as it angles down from our roof. It’s a perfect spot since it’s sheltered from the rain, and from our perspective it’s perfect, too, because we can watch the progress of events from Dave’s studio window. Mama doesn’t get disturbed and we get a ring side seat.
The nest has remained in place since Spring until last week when I got busy with porch cleaning, front and back, knocking down the remnants of mud dauber nests, their progeny having made their way out as evidenced by the holes at the ends of the little tubes. I never discourage them from making their nests since I like watching them form perfect cylinders, just like human potters, with mud and a bit of saliva. Well, of course we humans don’t use spit, but you get my idea. So while I was at the process of tidying I decided it was time for the robin’s nest to go, and I pushed it down with the broom handle. To my surprise, it remained wholey intact, a wonder at the birds’ ability to form such a strong temporary shelter made only of mud and grasses and yet successfully helped to rear two baby robins this year. Stuck in neatly among the dried golden grass swirling in the interior was a perfect black and white feather.
For my painting I looked up images of robin’s eggs in nests to get the color and configuration right since my nest was empty, save for the feather. Babies have long ago flown and I see lots of robins everywhere, as we do all summer and especially in Spring when everyone is busy raising their families. That little feather is like a true feather in their cap, the nest, for having done well yet again this year.