Thursday, June 26, 2008

1 Billion Biting Flies & 1 Bat

I had an extended weekend in the northish part of Ontario. Officially called the Near North, but once you've been north of Superior, Sudbury and region seems decidely south. I went to Killarney Provincial Park. It was a short four days with so many things to keep me busy.

*Seeing a painted turtle high on a hill.
*Inspecting an unidentified swamp flower that sported golden balls of star-shaped flowers.
*Using binoculars to see magnificent pitcher-plant flowers standing as sentinels over the cranberry bog (but hopelessly beyond reach).
*Drinking coffee with good friends beneath a well-strung tarp.
*Eating fantastic fresh fish fried to a melt-in-your-mouth crisp at the Herberts Fisheries trailer (the only eatery I know of where I can bring my dog & watch yachts float by).
*Swimming with the fishies in George Lake while menacing storm clouds drift in and grumble.
*Admiring all the pink ladies slippers scattered along the trails.
*Mortal combat with horse flies as big as my thumb, swarms of deer flies, clouds of mosquitoes, sneaky black flies, and a smattering of no-see-ums. Although not quite invisible, no-see-ums are aptly named. They are tiny enough to fit through screens and you'll only know they're around when they bite. We were happy to see a lone bat flittering above the campsite on Sunday evening as it was certainly scooping up flies. By Monday afternoon we were tired of being everyones dinner, and piled into the car to head for home.

With all that activity, I didn't get time to sketch a single thing. That's what the memory banks are for.

Images: approx 3"x3" each, pencil on office paper

Thank you Cyd for spelling help. Gage turns out to be an American spelling variation, and as I insist on spelling colour with a 'u' I ought to be consistent regarding Canadian/British spelling. Gauge it is.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer Starts Here

For the longest time, summer seems to be just around the bend; then suddenly, it's here. June 5th was such a day. A massive warm front moved up from the south, bringing dense moist tropical air into our region. The entire clan, husband, me, two dogs were out for a hike. The air was so thick the forest was mute and the sound of our own breathing amplified in contrast. Our voices sounded flat and hollow as if spoken from within a darkened chamber. The clouds lowered and rain came. The forest smelled delicious (I like mushrooms). By the time we rounded the last bend, the clouds lightened to something approximating daylight and the rain let up. I knew it was summer. By the next day, a 30C heatwave set in for the week.

Image: 10"x13" Canson paper, coloured pencil

Sunday, June 15, 2008


And now the truth; all is not sweetness and light. This is me being grumpy. I was doing up my lily picture when my husband joined me to watch a Saturday sunset. And I got grumpy. Really grumpy. He was trying his best to be unobtrusive, peering at a newspaper, watching the sunset, quietly minding his own business, and I got grumpy anyway, snapping my pencils down, glaring off into space and and not doing any art. I had no reasonable reason to be grumpy; I just was. The unreasonable reason is that I absolutely hate having an audience to my scribbling, and I really wanted to get the lily done, and I'd gone through several versions, and I'd already misplaced a full set of watercolour pencils and only had the fat crayons to work with, and darn it his presence was disturbing my creativity. How petty is that. My husband is a saint for putting up with this stuff. He quietly walked away and let me do my thing. Is there a medal for that?

Image: 5"x7" sketch paper, coloured pencil and water-soluble crayon, drawn and painted while feeling very grumpy.

Sunshine for Breakfast

As soon as the weather turns warm, my husband and I like to sit on our deck during the peaceful time of the morning before the traffic wakes up. Saturdays and Sundays are special days, when my husband and I spend quiet time together, sipping coffee, bird-watching and reading the newspaper (that's my thing, not his). In the winter, we sit by the fire, but by late spring, we gather outside on our verandah. Seated on cushioned lawn-chairs, sheltered by a fabric gazebo, we can survey the garden, the road, and the neighbourhood beyond.
The current star of our overgrown garden is the lemon daylily. Precariously perched at the top of 3' stalks, some are bound to come crashing face first into the dirt. The night before I rescued this one to enjoy indoors, but the cats were too interested in snacking on its fragrant petals: the bouquet, for it's own safety, had to be banished outside. I love lemon daylilies--they have the strongest scent of all their kind (at least the ones I know) and they are first to bloom, filling in the gap between tulip time & summer time. The fallen lily added an elegant touch to our garden breakfast ritual, and the fragrance was sweet as sipped our coffee. I used garden weeds, Queen Anne's lace, and creeping charlie to add some frothy greeny to contrast the lily's single stem. Occasionally the best things in life really are free.

Image: 5"x7" Sketch paper, coloured pencil and water soluble crayon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Smell Lilacs--the last days of Spring

May 25th
I smell lilacs, I smell appleblossom, I smell sprays of dainty white flowers that have no name. It is spring, late May, the leaves are unfurled, and mosquitoes and blackflies are on the wing. All the trees are blooming. The scents of flowers thick in the air changing with every step I take. Lilac, honeysuckle, apple blossom, spirea, and I don't know what else, but all of it sweet and lovely.
On May 24th, I walked the ORTA Hiking trail, the Goodwood Tract between the 3rd and 2nd concession. Heading west and ever upwards, it is neither wilderness nor parkland. Everywhere, along its length, lies evidence of the hand of man, intermingled with an abundance of nature. Spruce trees line the pathway in dark stately rows to the south, and a low wall of feral gooseberries sprawls across the north side. A plank bridge, newly built and sponsored by "******" spans a fast flowing stream of clear water. An abandoned orchard is dotted with gnarled trees and punctuated by a rusted water pump. Apple trees, bent, broken, and broad bottomed, blossom there only to give way to a vale buttressed by the silver boles of maples. A slow meander of water, hidden beneath a blanket of lush grasses is revealed only by the sinuous saffron line of marsh marigolds in bloom. A blue sky, brushed in platinum cloud stands over all. The smell of flowers is everywhere, and green is more than a colour.

Image: pencil crayon on 11x14 bristol, over-cropped by limited scanner size. Conceived May 17th, under a soaking rain, trekked back a week later under hot sun, finally finished June 7th, sidetracked by singing mushrooms & finally posted June 10th.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Play With Your Food!

Okay, I'll admit in posting this, that I'm somewhat stretching my definition of art to squeeze this one in. I choose to call it a collage; materials used being fungus, wood and water. So there, bite me.
These are delicious yellow morels, collected from undisclosed locations (I would never share my hunting grounds). As I prepared them for eating, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful they looked. First, of course, I had to gently wash the sand off them. Then, as I don't like to share, I removed the slug that had already begun dining on one of them. Slug lovers, be reassured, the slug is now enjoying a roman holiday in my compost.
As yellow morels are a rare treat, found only in spring time in the woods, I fry them only in butter with a small bit of salt and pepper, as I don't want to mask their natural nutty flavour.
As these began to sizzle, things took a turn for the weird. The chambered caps, turning grey, began to pulse and ripple. They looked very much like those living brains in a jar so often featured on old Star Trek episodes. When the sizzling rose up in pitch and frequency things took a real turn into the Twilight Zone. I swear, it sounded like the brains had voices, but I'll never be sure whether or not they were singing or screaming. I showed no mercy and fried them up until they were brown and crispy, and then I ate them.


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