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Anniversary Present

Dear readers,

It has been a long time since my last post, but a number of unexpected things have happened that have kept me both from blogging and from artwork.  However, I am back again, and I am here to share with you something that I’ve kept a secret since I first thought up the idea back around March of this year.  My parents celebrated their 35th anniversary on September 13th.  Since it was a milestone year for them, I wanted to make some kind of artwork for them that would be meaningful.  I came across several beautiful poems that likened parents to the roots of a tree, the strong, steady foundation that holds everything together.  I liked that idea very much.  It inspired me to start working on a poem of my own, personalized to mean as much to my mom and dad as possible.  I had to work in complete, delicious, secrecy.  They are so involved in what I create and what I’m up to in my studio, so I had to go to great effort to keep this a secret.

It all started when I went to Junk Bonanza last April.  I went with my mom, but I had a secret agenda.  I wanted to find something with a 35 on it, or even letters to spell Happy Anniversary.  I knew it would be tricky to buy it when she was right there with me, but I was determined.

I came across a booth that had many small metal numbered tags, post office tags, cattle tags, you name it.  Under the guise of searching for “junk supplies for my sculptures”, I began to look quite thoroughly.  Luckily for me, my mom said she was going to move on to the next booth while I looked.  And then I found it!  A metal tag with a 35 on it.  And not only that, but above the 35 were the two letters H and W.  How perfect could it be?  H for Husband, W for Wife, and a 35.  Awesome!  Just so my mom wouldn’t wonder what I had bought, I purchased a few other little items so she wouldn’t single out that one tag.

And here it is.

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Early in the summer, as soon as the leaves were full on the trees, I went for camera walks, getting pictures of our trees to go with some sort of tree poem.  The tree that has the most sentimentality for our family is the enormous maple tree that is in our front yard, towering over our house.  It’s been a part of our lives for a long time.  My dad remembers stringing up a tire swing in it as a kid, and my brothers and I used to play in a tire swing from that very tree, and now, my parents’ grandkids have two tire swings hanging in that tree, too.  It’s a trusty old tree, complete with wooden board “steps” nailed onto it from my childhood.

As you can imagine, I decided that this was the tree to draw.  As I photographed it, I included the house, which was build in 1926.  My brothers and I grew up in it, and my dad and his brothers and sisters, and even his dad and his brother.  It’s got so much history and so many memories for us all.  I couldn’t draw that tree without this beloved house nestled beneath it, so my plans were made.

I started the drawing on June 17th.

The drawing is clayboard, just the second clayboard I’ve done.  It’s a big drawing, as I wanted it to be dramatic for Mom and Dad’s wall.  Keeping it very secret, I worked on it only when they were nowhere near, and I had to cleverly hide the drawing, the supplies, and all other evidence that I was working on anything in my studio.

Meanwhile, I spent several nights up late in bed, writing and rewriting the poem I wanted to give to them with the drawing.  I found some amazing tips on how to paint letters neatly on a wooden board, and I got started on that.  I mixed a couple of ideas I found online for sign-painting to get the result I wanted.  I painted the board black (just an old board that was in the basement…I sanded it fairly smooth first), and then printed the poem on regular printer paper in the font I liked.  I then took a white charcoal pencil and colored the backs of the papers generously.  After checking, re-checking, re-checking, and re-checking the alignment of the papers on the board (it took 4 sheets of paper to get the lettering big enough to fill the board), I taped them in place.  I then took a ball point pen and wrote over the words firmly, causing the white charcoal to transfer onto the wood.  When I lifted the papers, I was so surprised by how neat it looked!  I then took a cream-colored acrylic paint, diluted it quite a bit, and painted the letters using mostly a 00 paint brush.  It took quite some time, but I was really pleased with the result!

Ah, but the wooden sign didn’t take long at all compared to the drawing.  A clayboard is essentially an un-inked scratchboard…it is simply white clay on a Masonite board.  You add the ink (or paint or whatever else you’d like) yourself as you wish.  I used Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens for this project, using mostly brush tip for the application of inks.  Anything on the board that is not white had to be inked over first.  I used a variety of grays and blacks to get the desired values in this drawing.

The house part of the drawing was by far the most challenging.  I definitely do not have a mathematical brain, and all of these angles and corners and straight lines were certainly out of my comfort zone.  I spent many hours (days, even) with a straight edge and a pen, drawing and re-drawing all of those squares and lines and shapes over and over until I finally felt things were in place.  I then got to work building values, which was done using shades of gray pens.  The beauty of clayboard is that you can draw in the traditional sense, but you can push it further by treating it like a scratchboard.  You can take your X-Acto knives, your blades, your fiberglass brushes, and you can scratch away the ink.  It’s a beautiful thing! 🙂

I am happy to say that my parents were both completely unaware I was working on anything.  I never thought I could keep this a secret all summer long.  I was so excited to give this to them, and they seemed pretty excited to get it, too. 🙂

Anniversary Present

– The clayboard drawing measures 16 x 20 inches in size.  It is made with a set of Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens (the Manga set of 8), some other very fine pens for detail and texture, a couple of different X-Acto knives, a fiberglass brush, some other scratchboard tools, and steel wool to remove smudges or marks in larger areas.

– The wooden sign is made with just an old board that was in the basement (note the hole in the upper left corner), sanded, and painted with black acrylic paint.  White charcoal, printer paper, and tape for the lettering, and cream-colored acrylic paint for the poem.  I sealed the board with a satin varnish.

Ok, at long last, here are the pictures.  Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to photograph something this large without getting some shadow and lighting issues.  The photos do not do this drawing justice, but they were about the best I could do.  I did not take one single progress photo – I couldn’t afford any evidence to be found! 😉

The drawing.

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A few close-ups.

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The poem.  (Click to view larger.)

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And the finished, framed, and displayed artwork as it looks on the wall.

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Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.  I love you both so much!

 
 

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Summer Adventures with a Macro Lens

I invested in a macro lens some time ago, and though it has taken a long time and a lot of trial and error, I have become steadily more excited about the possibilities that such a lens can provide.  I’ve taken thousands of photos this summer, I’m sure, and a great many of them were with my macro lens.  So I thought I would share a sampling of some of my favorites.  Every photo in this group has some kind of living creature in it…some are hidden very well, so look carefully! 🙂

There are a couple of photos here which were not taken with a macro lens, but they fit in here anyway.  Spiders, bees, weevils, moths, caterpillars, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, and even a Hummingbird Clearwing are among this collection of photos.  A lot of the photos have been cropped to better show the insects.  Unfortunately, I had to resize them as my blog is running low on space.  The original photos are typically much clearer than what you see here, but I wanted to share the pictures anyway.  A particular favorite is the pair of photos of the grasshopper (or possibly a locust?) on the leaf, so that all you can see is his shadow and a pair of antennae, and then his worried little face as he looks over the edge of the leaf right into the camera.  I smile every time I see that picture. 🙂

Fall is upon us now, and I hope you all are ready for it.  Hard to think summer is over, but the sweatshirt weather is always nice.  Have a great day!  I hope you like the photos.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Photography

 

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Ah, Winter…

A few weeks ago, we got a big snow storm.  It’s been a brutally cold and difficult winter for us in Wisconsin, so we are very ready for spring to come.  It’s been in the 40s F lately, so that’s much improved.  However, I did get some photos of this drastic winter that I decided I may as well share.  Snow, while a bit frustrating at times, is pretty, I must admit.

We had some over 2 feet of snow at the time that I snapped these shots.  It was pretty crippling for awhile.  But it’s melting and settling pretty fast now, which is good.

Enjoy the photos!  Thanks for looking. 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Photography

 

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Icicles and Sunbeams

Though I just posted some winter photos, I can’t resist posting more.  In truth, our winter here in Wisconsin has been brutal.  Very, very cold and a lot of snow.  Despite the struggles that causes us, I have to admit that it does make for a pretty world to photograph.

Day before yesterday, I was unable to resist going out with my camera as the lighting was warm and pretty.  Despite the fact that it was only 11 degrees F out there, the sun had that hint of spring warmth, and the icicles were dripping.

The sunshine shone like a brilliant star out there, and I was so glad that came through in the photos.  The shafts of light coming from the sun made it look so star-like.

I also have some photos of icicles, which I tried to photograph as they dripped.  I’ve never had a camera able to capture that quick drop of water until now, so as you can imagine, I took many, many photos and then deleted the uneventful ones later.  I encourage you to enlarge the images so you can see the water droplets larger.  They are quite mesmerizing.  Just these perfect little upside-down worlds.  Another interesting thing was that there was always one large water drop, and one tiny one following it.  Like a perfect little marble.  So pretty!

I hope you like the photos.  Thanks for looking.  Stay warm!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Photography

 

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Winter Lace

To glance out the window today was a good idea here, because a recent snow and drizzle has frozen onto the branches of the trees, and they are wrapped in a winter lace.  The photos I am sharing were taken on two separate days.  Yesterday’s weather was very heavy and foggy, shrouding the landscape and adding a sense of mystery to the woods.  Today, the clouds were lighter, and the air clearer, so that the trees glowed white against a pale blue background.  It was beautiful.  Some of the photos were taken with various settings to portray different moods in the images.  It was hard to stop snapping photos today.

It is scenery like this that inspired me to write the poem for our Christmas card for 2012.  You can see that poem, the 2012 Christmas card, as well as the original Winter Cow drawing here.

Thanks for looking!

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2014 in Photography

 

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Cloudy Fall Day

It has been rainy and cloudy the past day or so.  I like rainy days…it’s cozy and snug in the house.  However, there was a break in the rain yesterday, and the light outside was rather pretty, so I thought I would hike around a bit with my camera.  While the lighting conditions weren’t quite ideal, it was still kind of beautiful in its own way.  I always enjoy macro photography…a good macro lens is one of my “someday” purchases.  However, I can do some decent macro with the lenses I have now, so I am happy for the time being.

It’s not the most breathtaking fall color this year, but it’s still beautiful.  I always enjoy the mustard yellow leaves and the cherry red leaves.  One of my favorite things about photography in the fall is trying to capture a single brilliant color with a very subdued background.  One stark leaf over a grayish background.  The eye really is attracted to that one pop of color and makes the composition that much more interesting.  Another thing I like, oddly enough, is the withering leaves and plants.  Somehow, a brown leaf, brittle and curled up, can be a thing of beauty.

As always my pets make an appearance here and there too. 🙂

So here is some of what I photographed yesterday.  I hope you enjoy the pictures and are enjoying fall.  Thanks for looking.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Photography

 

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Keweenaw Peninsula

Last week, I went up to the Keweenaw Peninsula for a vacation.  It was fun, beautiful, and very relaxing.  We had a lakefront cottage we stayed in that was wonderful, and the view of Lake Superior was excellent.  We sat out there for hours while there, just watching the water crash on the shore.  The shoreline was a red rocky beach and even though it’s September, we wandered down into the water some.  The water was surprisingly comfortable to be in even thought it was sweatshirt weather.  The natural beauty up in that peninsula was breathtaking.  There were waterfalls, thick, dense forest, and of course, beautiful views of the grand lake.  Lake Superior is one of the most beautiful places I know.

One of the best parts of the vacation was the covered canopy drive, where the trees closed over the road completely so it was a lush, green shelter.  It was rainy when we drove through there, and I am glad for that because it seemed to make the greens brighter and the bark and ground blacker.  It was beyond description how beautiful it was, so I might as well share some photos now.  I hope you enjoy.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Photography

 

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