Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Mushroom Pages


Chrome-footed Bolete, Tylopilus chromapes, Prismacolor pencils on 8”x10” Stonehenge Paper.

Anyone who follows this blog can’t help but notice the mushrooms sprouting up amongst the posts like, well, mushrooms after the rain. A life-long fascination of mine, begun by my father, for whom mushrooming was a tradition of ancient lineage, their intrusion on my blog is inevitable. While I follow in his footsteps, I often take a more aesthetic point of view, deriving greater joy in finding, admiring, photographing them, and sometimes rendering them in full colour, than I ever do eating them (with the exception of a fresh yellow morel, mmm…irresistible).

For those of you who share my enthusiasm for things neither plant nor animal, let this page serve as a guide to all things fungi on the Drawbridge. As there are many more to come (I am loyal to my loves) you can also use the search box at the top, type in ‘mushrooms’.

The Lost Art of Mushrooming – A tribute to my dad who guided me through the forest.

Play With Your Food – Bizarre events in the kitchen.

Don’t Eat These – Inedibles are fun too.

Jewels of Autumn – Pungent Cort, a beauty inspite of it’s name.

Food or Pleasure – too beautiful to eat, the Fading Scarlet Waxy Cap.

True Blue and Edible Too – only a photo will do for the incredible edible Indigo Milky.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rivers Edge, Gargantua River


Rivers Edge, Gargantua River, Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Here, an impression from latest hike on the Coastal Trail, heading from Gargantua Harbour to Warp Bay. From these two points the trail heads through shaded woodland, and eventually catches up to Gargantua River that flows into Warp Bay. The river tumbles darkly over the granite before it slows into a sinuous ribbon of transparent nutrient rich tea coloured water. The habitat about the river is rich with life, moose and beaver, lynx and wolf, but the river belongs to the fish. Trout lurk below, twining together through the shadowed depths, rarely emerging to the eye. This is their domain.

This year, I was lucky enough to see these furtive aquatic creatures, and a glimpse of them is enough to impress their image on my brain. My original reference is a snapshot of the tangled alder growing on the sandy banks of the river. I was fascinated by the twisted patterns they made and the mysterious depths within them, but when it came time to render them onto paper, the fish intruded and insisted (quite rightly) on taking the centre stage.

Image: 15”x15” watercolour paper, watercolour wet in wet wash, followed by acrylic gel & fine sand, finished with coloured pencil. If you click on the image, you’ll get to see the heavy texture of the paper, almost like a rough canvas. The coloured pencil went on well this time, sticking tight when moderate pressure was applied, and smearing like oils when layered together. While flash photography didn’t capture this, from a slight distance, this piece looks slick and wet like a fresh oil painting.


Works In Progress, the Chrome-footed Bolete on the left on Stonehenge paper, almost finished, but in need of tweaking. On the right, another mixed media, painted in gouache and watercolour, followed by the infamous sand, then pencils. This one is challenging me to think and work in the negative shapes (sky and sky holes) more than ever before as I want to keep it looking loose and spontaneous and don’t dare to pencil it in first. Not sure why I do this to myself….

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tastes Like Chicken


Mmmm… This is the Sulphur Shelf fungi (laetiporus suphureus), ready to eat, cleaned, sliced, spiced and fried. Also known as the Chicken Mushroom, for reasons obvious to anyone cooking and tasting them. So the old adage, “tastes like chicken” may often be meant facetiously, and has appeared in some off colour jokes I won’t mention here, but it this case it really really does.

09102302sulphurshelf Here it is just getting ready in the pan.

09102301sulphurshelf And here it is on the cutting board. This is one of the most easily identifiable edible mushrooms around. Supposedly common, it’s been awhile since I’ve found one to eat.

And the sad thing is, when I found it, it was the most beautiful mushroom in the woods, all hot peach and sulphur yellow, growing in voluptuous layers across a fallen tree, surrounded by the yellow greens of early autumn. And what did I do? I screeched ‘ooh, ooh, ooh’ in excitement and hurried over tear off a few lobes for myself. While I wasn’t completely oblivious to it’s aesthetic appeal; I tore off lobes in such a way as to leave the bulk of the mushroom intact, a spot of beauty for other passersby to enjoy, but for some reason I was so overwhelmed by the possibility of eating this choice morsel that it never occurred to me to photograph it first. And this on the same day that I snapped the flag, and the windmill!

Have I learned to not let appetites get in the way of aesthetics? Probably not. Or should we learn to appreciate our appetites in a full and rounded fashion? Better yet, for there is something wonderful about finding food in the forest, and something more wonderful that this still can happen. A single feral apple, a have dozen wild berries can be a superior culinary treat to anything found in the store.

November 1st, 2009 Update!

This is an elderly, and therefore not particularly edible, chicken mushroom still on the tree. Aged beyond edibility, but still splendid to look at; found in Eldred King Forest, York Regional Forest.

And now, a Work in Progress, just to keep the art theme going. The Rivers Edge WIP is sitting on my wall, so that I can digest and assess before I continue. On the left are my snaps of the chrome-footed bolete as found on the trail to Warp Bay, in Lake Superior Provincial Park. I never positively identified them, so I could be wrong, but I enjoyed them as visual treats as they were so rosy I was completely mesmerized by them. The artwork is coloured pencil on 8”x10” stonehenge paper; a rather conventional treatment (for me), but I did notice that while my usual swirly line-work is absent, it appears in the shapes and composition.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Changes & Work In Progress

You may have noticed a changes in format. I spent Saturday at the library fiddling with adding a third column to this blog, something I've been wanting to do for quite a while, but was afraid to. In the end, it was very easy, but required a great deal of trust in strangers. I googled the term, found instructions and followed them. And, wow, it worked! You can check out the instructions at Blogger Buster.

It's Autumn, and while the weather is lovely today, I'll be indoors more and spending some of that time tweaking my blog. The idea of multiple blogs to suit different purposes has occurred to me, but frankly, I just don't have time, so in the next few weeks/months (hey, I'm still on dial-up and technically challenged) I'll try to add in some navigational info so readers, including me, can find stuff, because this blog is starting to resemble one of those vast mounds of shiny junk that truly weird people collect--which might be saying something...

In other news: I added a Guestbook on my Casual Connections page, on the hunch that sometimes people might want to say something off topic from a particular post, or just want to say hi and don't like twitter, or just like signing guestbooks, etc...

Thanks very much Mariette from Seattle for starting things off. It's also another way to contact me, as I get email notification for each signing, and it allows for private messaging. I still haven't figured out whether I should chat back there or not. Advice on that welcome.

And on the note of Who's Art is it Anyway, here's another 'found' installation, seen in Walker Woods, Uxbridge. Surrounded by fall colours and stately maples, being confronted with a Canadian Flag glowing with light and lurking in the depths of the woods (off trail) intriguing to say the least. The top photo is also from Walker Woods, and is the fallen remnants of a windmill.

And finally, that WIP (Work In Progress). A new mixed-media coloured pencil. 15x15 on 200lb Saunders watercolour, watercolour wash, acrylic medium plus sand, and now the prisma colours. The watercolour makes it look more complete than it is, but I actually have a long way to go as I going for full coverage and burnishing on this one. Rivers Edge, Gargantua River, Lake Superior Provincial Park. Of course, this is an interpretation, and not a representational landscape.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Human Studies – Life Drawing


I originally attended life drawing sessions (live model) in order to improve and acquire technical skills. I was completely surprised at what else I’ve gained.

*A clear view of ourselves as one of the panoply of mammals on this planet; the anatomical similarities are many from the curve of the spine, to the mechanics of the hip.

*I’ve gained respect for the human animal; the form of the body, it’s grace and beauty, and the mind that animates it both in action and repose.

*And of course many kudos's to the talents and courage of those willing to bare all for the artist, and a great appreciation of their creative spirits as revealed by their poses.

Image: 9”x12” cream Stonehenge paper, Prismacolor coloured pencil.

For newcomers to this blog, a few more selections of life drawing.

Nuts and Bolts and Solidarity Forever


The Legend of Ondine


It’s a Man


A View from the Other Side


Two Artful Nudes


PS. Fellow bloggers, I will be turning this into an ‘anchor’ page so while comments are welcome, eventually, they’ll be hidden, and this little ps edited out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Baldhead River & Orphan Lake Trail

Mouth of the Baldhead River as it empties into Lake Superior, accessed by the Orphan Lake Trail (dayhiking) and the Coastal Hiking Trail.
This is a scene often photographed, and just as often not. It is a long stretch of cobble and pebble beach and very linear in quality. Artistic licence, and a rather liberal dollop, finally allows me to share the breath-taking panorama, a vista that combines the opposing forces of the smashing rhythms of Lake Superior slamming in from the west and the inexorable flow of Baldhead River serpentining out from the east.
The Orphan Lake Trail is what I call the Lake Superior Sampler, as it's 8+ kilometres offer glimpses of all the that the vast Provincial Park has to offer. If you complete the circle you will see a burn scar, a mature deciduous forest, a cliff-top view of a quiet inland lake, the rugged shore of an inland lake, the vast coastline of Lake Superior (shown), a river mouth, a water fall (which you can dip your toe into, and, more rarely, swim in an upper pool), a spagnum bog lined boardwalk, a dizzying view of a vertical cliff-face. Did I miss anything?
Next year, I'm thinking of dropping off a new letterbox to tempt you in...shhhh!

Image: 7"x14" grey Stonehenge paper, coloured pencil. Prisma colours, a limited pallet of egg yellow, turquoise blue, indigo, raspberry red, white, cream, and light pink. I love optical mixes! Thus ends the experiment. I just have no interest in doing this one as a water colour or mixed-media. The pencil has spoken!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Life Drawing Tuesday-Costume Drawing

It's been awhile since I posted Life Drawing. Here's the fiancée again who's 'other' forbids nude modelling. Such a great model, we don't mind the costume, although in this pose, from my pov many details are hidden by that skirt (hand, wrist, feet). I had to do a good deal of guessing to figure out where the legs where, the skirt is so voluminous, and of course, after her first break, all the folds fell differently, so the remainder of the work on the skirt was guess-work and memory. Had great fun with the colours and I must say I am now in love with Stonehenge paper.

This is done in a new location, a renovated building once used as the municipal offices for Whitchurch Stouffville, now call 19 On the Park, a bland name but thankfully not corporate. I would have preferred the alternate name "Clock Tower Theatre" which would have been much more fun to say and memorable. It is meant to be used as a theatre, and it is a vast and empty space. Even clothed, the model was cold, and I wore a sweater.

We get stage lighting, which I thought would be excellent, but it depends on where you sit. The previous week, I was on the opposite side and the lighting was just awful--harsh, flat, with stark dead shadows and zero mid-tones. This time, it was fantastic, back lit, nuanced. I had fun.

PS. I'll keep calling these "Life Drawing Tuesday", regardless of the posting date, Tuesday is the night I draw. And if you don't like nudes--don't look. None will be risqué unless you are so prudish that you avert your eyes in art galleries and at public nude sculpture.

Image: 9x12" Cream Stonehenge Paper, coloured pencils, life drawing, costumed

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baldhead River Lake Superior

Failures, experiments, and something new. This is an oil pastel. It began as an abstract watercolour meant to be a background for a linocut. The paper is new to me (hotpressed watercolour) and has some unfortunate qualities. The sizing, for instance, seems to have disintegrated in the first soaking, a quick dip. This meant the watercolour applied soaked right through and went spotty.

No matter, so I decide it will be a background for a coloured pencil piece. I add my matte gel medium with sand. It goes on so smooth and transparent I add another layer, with gusto! And start my cp work. The beginning was good, so was the middle, but I couldn't get the ending. I got to the point wherein nothing would change. I kept adding colour with no results. I discovered by gently brushing with a soft brush that the coloured pencil wasn't sticking to the paper. Time to give in and crumple, right? Wrong!

I hate wasting paper, especially anything I bought and paid for at an art store. I pull out my oil pastels that I had retired as being 'not my thing'. The oil pastel sticks, and I basically redid the piece in oils on top of the cp's. So once again, an almost abandoned piece spurs me into trying something new.

Two morals: waste not, want not, and failures can be great opportunities for learning.

And to all a good night...

Image: approx. 7"x14", hot-pressed watercolour paper, watercolour, coloured pencil, fine sand, acrylic gel medium and oil pastels. The scene is the mouth of the Baldhead River, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Orphan Lake Trail/and Coastal Trail. More on that later. I plan on trying this over again, in different media. Next up, Grey Stonehenge Paper and coloured pencil, no experiments--I want to play things safe for a change.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Gone Feral

090927footprints_sand Sun, surf and sand on Lake Superior

090927me_gargantua Me on the beach.

090927randyHusband being manly in a primal way—making fire.

I promised myself I would do homework on my holidays. My art kit was ambitious. I brought a full set of water soluble coloured pencils, a fresh pad a watercolour paper, a full 5x7 sketch book, a stack of office paper, 7 pencils, 4 coloured pencils, and a brush pen. There’s probably more, but you get the idea.

The reality is, I barely touched those supplies, neither did I read any of the six books I packed. I simply could not, would not tear my eyes away from a world that was overwhelming in complexity. And it wasn’t only the eyes that watched the colours change in the sky and the shapes of the waves rolling in, but feet feeling the soft grit of sand, and hands feeling the velvety tops of mushrooms. It was my nose inhaling the scents resinous scent of pine, the dry scent of autumn leaves or the dark pungency of damp loam. It was my tongue tasting the sour tartness of thimbleberry, the last of years fruit crop, and the sweet chill of Lake Superior’s water. And my ears that filled with the sounds of wind in trees, windblown sand skittering across the beach, and waves roaring, rushing, lapping, at the beach.

I chose to immerse myself completely in the sensory overload that the wilderness offered; walking until I my feet hurt and body ached (we stopped counting after 75k), swimming and feeling the full force of Lake Superior both in the chill that worked its way through me, and currents that pushed and pulled, and most of all (when there was time), just plain sitting, staring, seeing, listening, feeling, smelling a world full of rhythms that altered in subtle ways from moment to moment, always to circle around to its beginning but never quite the same way.

I decided to trust that leaving mind and body open to experience the world would have far more creative returns than pushing pigments about on a piece of paper. Now that I’m home again with a roof, a floor, and a desk at hand, I’ll see how much I can retain and retrieve.

PS. 300+ snapshots should help jog the memories along through the dark days of winter.

There was so much to do; I was, for a time, completely immersed in a world that was completely compelling. It demanded my attention all of the time. I walked for miles (counted up to 75km and then gave up counting) until my feet hurt and my muscles ached and joyfully (mostly joyfully) kept going. I swam in water that was, as I like to truthfully say, ‘eyeball freezing cold’ and loved it. I loved it better when it was warmer than that and the rollers came in strong enough to ride.

About the photos: yes, I took all these photographs, including the one of myself. 10 seconds on the timer just wasn’t as much time as I thought it was to get into the planned position. I actual like that snap of me as it is rare to get a self-portrait so completely lacking self-consciousness. ;-)


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