Sunday, August 23, 2009

Indigo Milky – True Blue and Edible Too

Sometimes only a photograph will do. You wouldn’t believe me if I painted it this colour; you’d assume it was ‘artistic licence’ so here’s the photos. I promise, I did no fiddling with colour and no retouches. I photographed these against natural backgrounds so that you could compare the luscious colours.


This mushroom, also known as the lactarius indigo is true ultramarine blue. Commonly known as the Indigo Milky for the colour of the milky substance it exudes when cut or bruised. The sliced images shows it off in full. I’ve only found them on two other occasions, once as a fungus infested sliver of wood that bled a bright blue ‘paint’. I had no idea what it was at the time.


This one is edible, and a pretty safe bet too, as there is no other mushroom like it. However, since I’ve only found onsey’s, and spongey oldsters at that, I’ve never been tempted. I do wonder what they taste like, but I may never find out. This one won’t be eaten.


Hope you enjoyed this jem of the woods. Found in York Regional Forest, Hollidge Tract. Previous one found in the Eldred King Woodlands—it’s all about habitat.

And for the nitty gritty science details, click here.

More Mushrooms at Kastle Kaos

Friday, August 21, 2009

Storm Warning—Dangerous Weather


I’m not one to run for cover at the first grumble of lightning.  I walk daily, and camp a fair amount, so I’ve been caught outdoors through some truly awful weather in my life.  I’ve seen disco ball lightning, green skies, and rotating clouds (mesocyclones) and once, an infant funnel cloud.  I’ve heard the skies above me roar like a hundred freight trains (I was camping that night, and miraculously, fell asleep to this sonnet to awake to downed trees all around).  So, needless to say, I don’t often let a distant rumble dictate my actions.  In fact, storm warnings being frequent in summer, I have a tendency to ignore them entirely, and soldier on through rain, sleet and snow.  However, out last night for my walk, things just felt different.  The distant rumble of thunder bothered me not at all, but a peculiar stillness in the air was oppressive.  The sweating heaviness of the atmosphere that pressed in from all directions, and there was a sundown darkness at what should have been late afternoon.  This time I cut my walk short, before even a drop of rain touched down.

At home, I the television screen was painted solid red with storm warnings blanketing the entirety of Southern Ontario.  And the weatherman, who gleefully pumps up every spot of turbulence in an ordinary storm, actually looked remarkably tense, as he listed town after town under tornado warning, ours included. 

I did the next thing I rarely do, and herded the cats into the basement.   This, not for their safekeeping, but to protect my dear husband, who, at the sight of a black funnel cloud bearing down, would surely spend all of his time hunting for them.  Once the fluffy ones were safely stored, of course we trouped back upstairs to watch the show.  Such spectacles are irresistible.  Beneath the centre of a mesocyclone (a horizontally rotating cloud, numerous yesterday) it was eerily calm.  Not a breath stirred the leaves as the rain came down and lightning flickered, but soon enough, the wind picked up and as I said, “hmmm…the skies are looking a little greenish” we trouped back below to the basement and sat things out.

Nothing happened our way, but a serious damaged occurred elsewhere, with several tornadoes touching down in Vaughan, Woodbridge, and a town called Durham, and those are the confirmed cases.

Image: watercolour postcard sized, the best I could do from memory.  The sunset in the aftermath was astounding.

And here: some YouTube action I thankfully missed out on. Vaughan Tornado

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rhapsody in Blue – life drawing


Somewhere, scribbled onto paper, the original text of this post lies.  But, in the way paper, it seems to have been misplaced.

So here we go again.  Another life drawing.  Coloured pencil on black Canson paper.  An odd pose; for me a challenge.  In hindsight, I should have been smart and turned the paper upside down before getting too far in to it (the legs may have made more sense).  I found the legs going up the wall quite puzzling but an intriguing pose, nonetheless.

Hah!  There it is.  Found it!  My scrap of paper.  Here goes…

Sometimes it’s hard to ignore the music.  Working at home, I tune into talk radio stations (usually CBC) but local stations too.  Some of it is newsworthy, some entertaining, and some hopelessly banal, but the babbling chatter is comforting in an empty house.  I also find that human voices are more easily tuned out than music, and is yet still mildly diverting when distraction is necessary.

During Life Drawing, which is a group session, I am given no such choice.  Classical is played by consensus (I keep silent on the matter) and I’m uncultured enough that I associate most of the playlist with the Saturday Morning cartoons of my childhood (Bugs Bunny & Roadrunner, a fact which nicely dates me as well).  While this exposure is teaching me an appreciation for the finer things, any music at all, for me, is intrusive.  It changes things; it gets into my brain and affects my mood and spills out through the conduit of my hand onto the page. 

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue filled the air while I drew this.  I was more than halfway finished before I realized that my hands were keeping furious pace with the music. Knowing nothing of classical music, I had no idea of it’s title or composer, and yet, look at those colours!  I chose them, as I always do, on a whim, because they ‘felt right’ and so absolutely right they were.  Sometimes the intrusion is not such a bad thing if the music is right.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dearly Missed – loss of a pet


Something I’m not comfortable with is public mourning; even of a dog.  So please forgive me if I held off on sharing this for a few weeks.  This is Zandor.  He came from the Ontario Humane Society Newmarket branch, where he had been picked up as a stray and housed for a month.  His estimated age then was four to six years old, but we were privileged with his presence for another thirteen years; do the math and there is something here to celebrate.

What I mostly feel when I think of him, is a million regrets.  He was not the dog I had hoped for.  I wanted a dog that was lively and energetic.  I wanted a dog I wrestle and play with.  I wanted a dog that I could train for dog sports like agility and schutzhund.  I wanted a dog that would chase a frisbee and play tug-o-war.  He was none of those things. 

He was gentle, mild, loyal, strong.  Always desperate to please.  He was happy in our company, he learned to swim too cool off.  He enjoyed being brushed until he was too old for it.  Had I known anything about training in his youth he would have made a perfect beginners agility dog, but I dismissed the possibility due to his laid back character.  He never did a thing wrong, and he never ‘needed’ training of any sort.  He was friendly with everybody except for one time on New Years Eve when he turned ‘cujo’ on a guy who approached me in a threatening manner.  He was stunningly beautiful, even to the end with his long glossy red and black coat and wolfish looks.  In other words, he was absolutely and positively perfect.

Now he is gone.  It was a long ride, and the past year was a geriatric downhill slide that was awful to behold.  I’m ashamed to admit that somewhere inside me, at the end, there was a sense of relief, that I would no longer have to witness, day by day, dying by increments.  My mourning began some years ago; the first camping trip without him, when he was no longer fit for the rugged hikes we do.  Then again, my first walk in the woods without him, when he could no longer keep up with my ‘exercise’ pace in the forest.  The losses continued.  Blind eyes, wobbly legs, falling down again and again, the times on the trail when he would collapse and bark, unable to continue and we would wait and hope he would catch his breath.  Then the debates were on, leave him home and deny him the joy of the forest or risk his life with too much exercise? Eventually, of course, we kept him home; we had to.  And the last year, the restless senile wandering, the incontinence, his world dwindling in deafness and blindness, a continuous reminder of how we ourselves may find a lingering end. And the constant debate.  How long do we let this continue, when is euthanasia humane, and when is it merely a matter of convenience?  I still don’t know if we waited too long, or not long enough for in the end we made the decision for him. 

Sorry I have nothing uplifting to say, no comforting platitudes.  Life can be full of joy, but part of it is down right ugly.  And then we move on as best we can.

Image: 8x10 watercolour on hot-pressed paper.  After the first wash in umber, I wanted to abandon it, but my husband begged that I would give it to him, even at that early stage.  I spent the remainder of the day fighting with paper that sucked pigment like a sponge, leaving streaks and lines no matter how fast I tried to apply the wash.  I knew it would never turn out like I’d planned, kind of a fitting punishment for not appreciating Zandor enough for being the wonderful perfect dog that he was.


Here is a life drawing of my husband.  This was a few weeks after Zandor’s passing.  We were visiting friends for the weekend, and relaxing in the gazebo.  Once my husband found the plush puppy, he kept it with him, on his lap sitting, on his hip sleeping, but always in contact. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Cats in My Life

0907304cat1 Lennier & Archer.

Considering this is, first and foremost a personal blog, I’ve had very little to say about the cats in my life.  Unlike dogs, cats seem to occupy the private spaces in the home, unseen but no less loved and cared for.  While the dog is part of our public persona, the cats lie close to the soul.

Our household is home to three cats.  Lennier and Archer are siamese, and are often found piled up together.  When not performing mutual grooming rituals, they can be found soliciting human attention at great volume.  Archer sings opera, enunciating every vowel with perfect pitch in both the high and low ranges.  Lennier sings the blues and has the nasal twang of country and western.  Both are demanding and demonstrative of affection and are fairly typical siamese.

Then there is Riker.


He has a less vaunted pedigree (that would be none) and is in fact grey and white (I’m not a stickler for photo-real painting) He is more typical ‘cat’ in being aloof and mysterious.  He does talk in a plaintive meow, but unlike the siamese, he does not expect answers (at least not verbal ones).  His remoteness is not his fault.  Archer rules the household, and he jealously guards his favoured position.  So Riker lurks in the background, awaiting his opportunities.  While I am Archer’s personal property, Riker discovered that my husband is free for the taking and so Riker claims him.  With my husband, Riker demands brushing and petting, usually by drooling on and kneading his  shoulder until my husband pulls out the comb.  Riker has long hair and enjoys being brushed by him, or just sharing the couch for a good game of hockey on tv.

I could tell a million more stories about my beloved cats, but while unfailingly amusing to the converted, cat stories can be stale fare for remainder of the population. 

Image:  these are part of my White Cat Project, where I’m exploring catness with watercolour washes.  The truth is, it is actually an ongoing practice of the ‘toilet paper demo’ I found on Wet Canvas (jee, now that’s a great sales pitch!) actually titled Showing White with Primary Colours.  These two are available for sale at Etsy, Cat Pile, White Cat (not the most imaginative titling there).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In Search of Textured Paper—Part II


Life Drawing Tuesday, again. The model’s clothed, as her fiancé has problem with her posing nude. Our loss, entirely, as she is a wonderful model, and very creative. Costume drawing is an extra challenge, if you haven’t already memorized the anatomy that goes underneath.

This paper was prepared just slightly differently from my previous ‘sand’ papers. This time I made a liquid slurry of acrylic gel medium, fine sand, and watercolour, and brushed it on. It was very thin, and the sand almost invisible, but it added great texture, as did the brushstrokes. I think it I almost got it right, but it is no panacea for pencil crayon. Mistakes are even more difficult to hide (although the option exists for scraping in paint-over (NOT!), and for all its texture, it does not layer well, and it burnishes to a flat awful mess. However, pure colour goes on thick as lipstick and just as bright, and the whole result has the painterly quality I’ve been after. Coming into a life drawing session with a fully painted prepared piece also means I get a ‘finished’ piece from a sketch.

Thanks for looking.

PS. Dear readers and bloggers, but I’ve been off gallivanting through the woodlands of the Magnetawan River and am rather behind in my blogging. I’ll see yours this weekend when I get to the library wi-fi again (maybe sooner if I can manage)


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