Sunday, August 27, 2006

Brushes and Layers

I'm finally getting around to learning about brushes and layers in Photoshop. Sure, I experimented all last winter making fatbook pages with photographic images and design elements that I mostly cribbed off the web but I have been studying the sites of various illustrators and trying to figure out how they do some of the things they do. I am so danged curious; I think I have to unravel every puzzle. So anyway, I met Kathy, a local artist who scans in her own drawings and then plays with them, she made me curious, and I found a few web tutorials (free of course) and this is my first project. I already had the quickly drawn image scanned into my computer (something I did months ago in preparation for a painting) and then I used brushes to make textures and chose colors and added text and a duplicate image a little offset and so on. Dang, FUN!

If any of you are more experienced at this than I am I would appreciate being pointed in the right direction to improve my skills. Do I just keep playing? Keep looking at the work of artists who are more experienced than myself? (I have a feeling that is the answer.) In October I plan to take Photoshop at Mac Camp but other than that I am all self-taught.

Only a few more days to prepare for Art in the Pearl. I completed 2 new paintings this week but I am still tweaking on them so it is too early to share. Instead I will give you pictures from the garden. The first is of a yellow watermelon that is finally ripe. These guys are smallish and very sweet and juicy.

Next come a couple of roses. The coral one is "Touch of Class" and has the most beautiful buds and shape of blossom. Unfortunately she lacks a powerful scent but we forgive her for that. She is long stemmed and high steppin'.

Next is the buttery, apple spice scented David Austin rose named "Graham Thomas". This rose grows to phenomenal size and is covered with blooms from May to late fall. Really an awesome rose.

We got our act together for a change and put some corn up for the winter. We scalded it first out on the deck on our Y2K outdoor burners, blanched it in ice water, then cut it off the cobs for the freezer. I didn't count the bags but there were a couple dozen at least and we still have another wave of corn getting ripe.

The last photo is of a honey bee's butt that squirmed its way into a blue salvia blossom. It struggled for quite awhile to get back out; that's how I was able to shoot a good picture. What a life; wallowing in sweet nectar all day and flitting from flower to flower. The busy, happy bee.

Time for me to get to work too. September is the month that always makes me think of getting down to brass tacks again; waking up earlier and reining in the lazy summer routine. It is my version of "back to school" (I always loved school) as I set new goals for myself and work to broaden my experience.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Blackberry Time

Summer is full on us here beside the Willamette River in Oregon. Quite near our house is a wonderful park where the Molalla River flows into the Willamette. Our entire family loves this park; it is the perfect place to bring a picnic lunch as there are many picnic tables under big, old shade trees and lots of parking near them. John and I got up early this morning to walk the park trails and pick blackberries. At this spot we saw a green heron (their legs are the unbelievable color of pale copper green) and a turtle sunning herself on a log in the river.

These are the blackberry bushes lining the trail in the park. The berries are just coming on now but soon there will be the smell of blackberries cooking in the sun all through the park. We make cobbler out of the berries every year. I will be taking them to some gatherings soon so will try to remember to post the recipe with pictures. (I know, I still owe you the Rhubarb Crunch recipe. One of these days when the world slows down a bit.)

In one place the trail winds along the Willamette. I think everyone with a boat and a pair of water skis was out on the river today.

Here they are. We tried to decide if we like them better than raspberries and couldn't make up our minds. John likes them better. I'd hate to choose.

Beautiful hot, dry summer. A golden field containing Queen Anne's Lace. On the other side of this meadow is a third river in this drainage; the wonderfully named Pudding River.

A couple of my favorite bloggers have illness in their families this week and I am so sorry about that. I can't stop thinking about them and about how I have grown close to them by visiting them daily on the net. One woman I do know from Artfest. She is an angel who rescues forsaken dogs and her husband is ill. The other I know only from what she has shared in her writing. Please join me in sending these dear ones supportive thoughts of healing and strength. We can only feel humble and small when illness strikes. Take care of your health now and make the most of every moment.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The August Garden

The summer is speeding by. This is the month that I make a new calendar for the coming year; it is a tradition that has gone on for quite some time. I have a coil binder that I use to bind the pages together after I have rubber stamped on the numbers and letters and painted the borders to my satisfaction. For some reason it gives me immense pleasure to touch these pages of the life that is coming and to give thanks for the time that may be allotted to me. I used one of my new fuchsia coils across the top and it looks wonderful. My only "date" so far is Artfest in March which I have optimistically penciled in.

Went for a walk through the beautiful garden this morning and shot some pictures to share. The bumblebees were bumbling, the hummingbirds diving and the crow calling to me to let me know that we are all ALIVE and blessed. These are the best of the treasures.

Stupice tomatoes. They have a short growing season and are the first we harvest. They are Italian I think and pronounced stoo-pee-chee.

This is a tall perennial sunflower named rudebeckia. It is tough, generous and a large presence at the back of the flower border.

The buttercup is my favorite squash. We make a wonderful soup in the fall with this squash. I can hardly wait. It is the deep, orange color of pumpkin when cooked.

You probably have sunflowers too but they are always a welcome sight in the summertime. You will only ever need to plant them once and the birds will thank you each fall by planting them again for the following year. We never harvest the seeds. They are just for the birds.

My dear friend and relative Christine from Denver gave me the wine colored hollyhock seeds one year when we visited her there. They have come up as volunteers ever since. Thank you Chris, we think of you every time we admire these beauties.

Gosh, the peas are making out with the sunflowers. Everything is in love with everything else. It is okay. Don't let nature's promiscuity frighten you.

Onions drying on the deck. Before this the slats held an enormous crop of garlic. Nice harvest, Mr. Farmer.
These are the right-side-up peppers but we also have some that are growing upside-down, with the peppers pointed up like ... like ... upside down peppers. The upside down ones are called chilis de agua. The farmer knows the names of all the chilis. He crosses them and grows new ones all the time. He grows many many many varieties.

We love to disagree about blue flowers. I was enchanted by them at first sight but the mister says they are not natural looking. I have 4 bushes of them now. Dont ever try to disagree with me. I'll go all j-cat and plant hydrangeas everywhere.

We are still swamped with strawberries. These small, long guys are my favorites. Extreme flavor and sweetness. I almost got a tummy ache this morning trying to eat them all.

Gladiolas that the birds planted. Truly. They came up from seed one year where none had been before. Now we have a big stand of them. They remind me of proper old ladies that go to church. Very formal and stiff they are.

The queen of the weed kingdom, showing off again. She is such a ham.

I couldn't resist a verdant overview. Cucumbers and chayotes in the foreground, corn in the middle ground and douglas firs in the background.

The corn is ripe now. Time for the dish with the peppers, onion, butter and sweet corn. Soo-weet Iowa corn as Liz likes to say.

Echinacea blooming sweetly. Such hot, improbable colors. Nature's all dressed up today.

We have canna lilies that remind us of the Yucatan where we first saw them.

This is a shot of John's clever composting system. He made a cage of inexpensive pig wire and layers leaves collected in fall with the scraps from the kitchen.

The bees adore the flowers on the artichokes. So do I. This is my favorite purple I think.

Another artichoke blossom. I recently read that eating artichokes was like trying to make a meal out of licking postage stamps. That was pretty funny but I thoroughly disagree. I love to make a meal out of licking lemon juice and butter off of artichoke leaves. And then the heart! Oh, that's heaven.

The trees are loaded with apples again. Maybe we'll have enough to have a cider pressing party this fall.

This is an artichoke that didn't produce a choke to eat this year but it is pretty anyway. Sort of like a bromiliad with the red center.

Put it altogether and you have dinner ... here we have succulent beans, blanched and then tossed with sage, parsley and lots of garlic and olive oil in a frying pan for the finish. The cucumber salad has lemon basil, onion, tomato and rice vinegar. Yum.