Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

A new year, a new decade, and a blue moon. Good things are coming, and I'm excited. :-)

Here's to a happy (and safe!) New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Generations Knife

Now I get to show you the completed photos! :-) I hear the recipient is pretty happy. :-)

Remember, if you click on the "Generations knife" tag at the bottom of this post you can see all the pics together!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Doberman Pinscher dog scrimshaw pendant

Yay, I can finally post this! :-) Well, I shouldn't say "finally" I guess, I only finished it on the 23rd!

This project is a pendant featuring a Doberman Pinscher dog named "Rosie." It's a 30x40mm pre-ban elephant ivory cabochon, set in sterling silver, and it was a commissioned Christmas gift. I scrimmed it in full color, and it used 8 different mixes of ink. So I guess you could call it an 8-color scrim! I'm also big on gradation and tonality, so there is light and dark within each color of ink. It takes me a loooong time to build up the layers from light to dark, and then to layer the various colors. But the process is so worth it to get the right look!

I'll show you the work in progress pics. These are photographed under various lighting conditions over several days. Please pardon the weird yellowish tone to some of the pics.

The outline lightly transferred to the ivory (out of focus, sorry):

The outline heavily scrimmed. That's not really something that has to be done, it's just my style of working, I think it helps make tiny images a little easier to "read"!

Okay, so at this point I had this major dilemma of what order I wanted to work in. Originally I was thinking I'd start with the darkest areas. But I didn't want to. I want to go light to dark like I'm drawing even though I think most people go dark to light. ;-) Yes, that right there is the extend of my rebellious streak I think! But I figured doing the eyes and nose first made sense:

And then the pink of the ears and muzzle:

Then all the tan areas (this took a few layers to get it dark enough, but I didn't photograph all that):

Starting the dark reddish brown:

Building up the dark color on the face:

Starting work on the neck:

Then I forgot to photograph it for a while until all the dark color was on:

Added a darker tan to the tan areas (yes, I do sometimes "backtrack" to work on colors):

At that point all that was left was to darken the darkest brown areas with the last layer of color. And then it was done!

And with a penny for scale:

What I hope you can see in this pic is that it ends up pretty heavily engraved, though you can't really feel it much with your fingers. There is NO surface ink. It's all down in the dots, and I buff these things down quite hard between ink layers!

The pendant with the original reference photo (the color in the original photo was pretty bad, that's where knowing the subject matter comes in handy!)

re-establishing normal

Whew. I'm back.

We left here at 6:30am on Christmas day and headed for southern California. I unfortunately managed to come down with a cold two days before Christmas and was feeling pretty amazingly crappy that day, and slightly less crappy each day thereafter. We stopped in Riverside to visit with some of Dad's relatives, and then drove onward to San Diego for the traditional couple of days with Mom's family. It was so nice to see everyone, I just wish I would have felt better. I wasn't very good company!

I got back yesterday evening. Traffic yesterday was AWFUL for almost the whole drive. Ugh.

Some pics from the trip:

I went to the ocean while I was doing there. This is at La Jolla:

Seals have taken over what used to be the Children's Cove. Now people are not allowed. I have pretty mixed feelings about this. I'm pretty sappy about things that involve animals, BUT I swam there as a kid.

Brown Pelicans:

Pyramid Lake (along side I-5 in the Tejon Pass):

Descending into fog on the return trip. Eventually the fog turned into rain. Lots of brake lights on the way home.

I have four new scrim projects to show you, but I need to organize a whole bunch of photographs first. I'll be working on some price quotes and preliminary sketches in the next couple days, but am not officially starting work again til the 4th. I have a bunch of house work to do in the mean time anyway, and if there's a nice day outside I'll do some serious barn-cleaning.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Happy Ho Ho Ho

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Seasons Greetings! Etc!

My work is done, my presents are wrapped, myself is sick. Tis the season.

Have a good one, and don't overdo the egg nog or you might end up like this guy:

It's break time, see y'all in a while. :-)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

that time of the year

Here's that enormous tree I was telling you about. For size reference, the top of the frame of the rooster drawing on the wall behind it is over 6 feet off the ground. So pretty!

This is what happens when I have to decorate cookies. It's fun to make them pretty, but my warped sense of humor also comes out:

Last night Mom and Jan and I went to "A Winter Night's Yodel" which is a bluegrass/old timey musical performance held in Sutter Creek. I think I've been to this four times. There used to be other musicians involved, and I miss them, but it's still a great show! Left to right on stage is Cactus Bob, Sourdough Slim, Prairie Flower, Michael P. Kennedy, and Robert Armstrong. I confess to having a ginormous crush on the feller in the dark brown hat. Oh those dimples! ;-)

Four days to finish the scrimshaw piece I'm working on. Can I do it in two? I'd like to have a little break! It's looking fabulous, can't wait to show you!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O Christmas Tree

I find humor in strange situations.

Mom and I went to get a Christmas tree this morning. There was a very limited window of opportunity between various appointments she had today, so it had to be right then, and could only last so long. We went to the Davis Ranch tree farm in Sloughhouse, same place every year, and searched for a cedar tree, which I think are wonderful but a certain oldest brother of mine says look like overgrown ferns. Pish posh, they smell great and aren't as prickly as some of the others.

Anyway, although this tradition sometimes has its challenges I secretly delight in finding the perfect Christmas tree, and always try to make sure that *I* am the one who finds that tree.

I picked a big one. A huge one. The biggest tree we've EVER had. It was love at first sight. It's glorious. And it had a pretty substantial trunk to cut through, by hand I might add, all alone I might add.

Mom went to get the truck and move it closer to my selected glorious tree, only to find that the truck wouldn't start. This has happened a few times lately. Okay, no panic yet, probably just needed a jump start. She went up to the parking lot and talked to the guys who worked there, and one of them drove out with some jumper cables. And... that didn't work. It wouldn't start.

Okay, cue some panic. Not for me, I was feeling mildly amused at this point, which is kind of twisted, but I've been through so many incidents with my car that it's hard to get all that worked up about it anymore, especially when it wasn't happening to my car! So, a phone call to AAA, and 35 minutes later a tow truck showed up.

The driver asked what was wrong. "Engine won't turn over at all?" I replied "nope." He says go ahead and give it a try, let's see what's going on. So Mom turned the key and the pickup fired right up. I doubled over with laughter at this point. Twisted, right? It was just so ridiculous. I mean, breaking down while getting a Christmas tree, planning to have the truck towed away with the tree in it, waiting for a tow truck, and then it starts up anyway!? Aaaack! The driver said it was fear of the tow truck that inspired the pickup to start. Heck, maybe he was right.

SHEESH. It's almost as bad as the time the refrigerator repair man came out to fix the fridge and found the problem was that the plug had come out of the outlet.

Anyway, it was exciting, Mom was late, I single-handedly unloaded the tree into a bucket of water and then took the truck to the garage and mooched a ride home from my very wonderful mechanic (who occasionally reads this). :-)

The tree is now in the house, but not decorated yet. Tomorrow perhaps.

I'm 100% frazzled trying to finish Christmas projects. Aaaaaack! I had some setbacks and burned several fingertips with hot glue this evening. Fun. I was counting on doing our family Christmas thing on the 24th like usual but it just got bumped to the 20th and that totally messed up my planned schedule of when to work on various projects.

It'll all get done. It always does.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

a few things

1) Remember all those chicken illustrations I did for the APA Standard all those years ago? A little bird told me I'll get to see them in print next year! Finally! It's a little ironic though, I was kinda counting on those to be some sort of big break for me, and now when they finally come out what's happened is that my art focus has totally changed, I've practically stopped showing, and by then I will probably no longer have most of my birds.

2) Yes, I'm planning to sell most of my birds unless I have some major change of heart in the next couple months. I think the time has come. This is a long-winded topic that needs its own posting (not tonight). I don't make this decision lightly, it's kind of huge.

3) I am having a solo art show at Hutchins Street Square in Lodi in February. The whole month. The opening reception is Friday February 5th, in the evening. If you're local, please oh please come see me. I'll bake dessert! The show will be drawings, paintings, and hand-pulled prints. I'll see about bringing some scrim on opening night but I won't be leaving such tiny items there on display. I need to come up with a title in the next week. It's all animal art. I'm thinking maybe Fur and Feathers (like State Fair!) or Animal Style (like In n Out Burger!). I know someone will affix kinky meaning to the latter of those. I'm open to ideas.

4) I am thinking of changing the title of my blog. I'll always be The Chicken Lady, but things have changed. I just want to warn you that you might show up here one day and find the blog has a shiny new name.


So there I was, driving south on I-5. It was overcast and drizzly, and the geese were out in large numbers, flying high overhead in somewhat disheveled formations. To the west, I saw a flock of thousands of Snow Geese, some in the air but most on the ground. I looked at them longingly, wishing I could photograph them but realizing how incompatible that is with driving.

Yes, it was really a "duh" moment. Because there on the seat next to me was the camera bag containing The Beast and the telephoto lens. And there was a frontage road. And I was in no hurry to be anywhere. Woo hoo! I took the next exit and headed back north to the field.

That's the most geese I've seen together like that. AWESOME.

The big mostly-white ones are Snow Geese. The little mostly-white ones are Ross's Geese. Juveniles of both those species are darker/grayer than the adults. The big grayish brown ones with pink bills in the first photo are Greater White-Fronted Geese.

I have always wanted to shoot photos like the middle ones you'll see here!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

checking in....

I didn't mean to disappear after the last post! Thank you everyone for the kind comments and emails about Jessie. I know a lot of you who read this knew her at some point in her life and I appreciate what you have said. I often catch myself expecting her to be out back waiting by the door.

Anyway, I haven't been hiding out, I've been super busy. I was determined to finish the knife on Friday so that I could leave town on Saturday. By 1:30am Saturday morning I decided I was not going to finish the knife on Friday. ;-) After about 11 hours of dots that day my focus was pretty shot. So I finished Saturday, and left Sunday. I always feel a little self-conscious tooting my own horn, but I did an awesome job. People portraits that look exactly like the people, and exactly the old-timey look I was going for. Woot! I think the final recipient needs to see it before the rest of the world does though, so I'll post it after Christmas.

I went up north on Sunday, in the mountains east of Redding, and spent a few days with friends (delivering the knife, conveniently!) The weather sucked and it rained much of the time, but it was fun to have our annual Christmas get-together.

I drove home today. Along the way I saw a field full of snow geese along side the interstate. Well guess what, I just happened to have The Beast camera with me! I exited, found the frontage road, backtracked northward to a farm road that cut between the fields, and took some AMAZING shots of thousands of geese. I'll post those another day. I love it when that kind of opportunity presents itself.

I have eight days to do a full-color scrimshaw piece, start to finish. And I have four days to finish the Christmas present I'm making my mom. And right now, I really need to catch up on sleep from the last few days! Good night!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


February 28, 1995 - December 11, 2009

I'd known for about a week that today was the day, but it wasn't something I much wanted to talk about. As weird as it was to have so much advance notice, it gave me time to come to terms with it. I really struggled with knowing that we were going to put Jessie down today. I wasn't sure it was really her time. She was alert, and happy, and eating well, but physically her poor old body was failing. I wanted some sign, some look, some assurance that it was really "time." I felt that from her yesterday, and I feel at peace with the decision now.

I knew Jessie for half my life, which seems just totally wild. We got her as a puppy when I was a sophomore in high school, and a year later we got her little sister Nellie, who died almost exactly a year ago. Jessie was a good dog. I don't mean for that to sound understated, it's really the best compliment I can think to give her. When you think of "good dog" think of Jessie. She was a dog with many aspects to her personality. Loyal. A little aloof, affectionate but not overly cuddly, smart, focused, happy, sneaky...

She was my brother's hunting dog when she was younger, a job she excelled at with no real training. Somewhat later in life, she was my hunting buddy, though we were after rodents and there was no retrieving involved! If there was an award for the world's best rat hunter, Jessie would get it. That dog loved to hunt, but she was as gentle and trustworthy as could be with my birds.

She used to run away every chance she would get, and that's probably the thing about her that annoyed me the most. I swear that dog could hear a gate open from miles away, and if she could sneak through it she would. You'd see her stop and look back over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching. She feigned deafness long before she really did become deaf, trotting off across the neighbor's property pretending not to hear me calling her back.

In the last year, after Nellie died, I felt like I really got to know Jessie on an entirely new level, and I'm grateful for that opportunity. She tended to be overshadowed by Nellie's personality, so getting to know the old Jessie for her own self was wonderful. She was never house-trained, and was always a "ranch dog" but I started sneaking her in the house sometimes when I was here alone, and gradually she spent more and more time inside. I enjoyed having her around, and she seemed to like to hang out when I was working in the studio. Unfortunately in the last while she became very accident prone as she lost some control of her functions, and she had to spend her time outside again. I missed having her around in here!

In the end, though her spirits were high, those old legs and hips were failing fast, and it wasn't fair for her to be alone outdoors in the cold winter. I would say she died while she still had her dignity.

We had a fine day today, she and I. It was gray and drizzly outside, not exactly right for frolicking in the yard. So I put a blanket on the floor next to my engraving bench, and she spent the day snoozing in the studio, toasty and warm. She ate the pepperoni off the pizza I had for lunch. My break times were spent flopped on the floor next to her, thanking her for being a good dog.

I am going to miss that dog so much. It already seems weird that she isn't there, and that she won't ever be there again. I hate this part of owning pets. I hate loving and losing, but all the years of joy they bring to our lives overshadow that in the end. I believe she's back with Nellie now, maybe they're out hunting somewhere in the cosmos, young bodied and healthy again.

Rest in peace Jessie, there's a bunch of people missing you.

A few flashbacks:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

oh that cat

I needn't ever feel guilty for not planning to buy my cat a fancy bed to sleep in.

A cardboard box full of styrofoam packing peanuts apparently works just fine. :-)

He found this all by himself. :-)

December 10 work in progress

Nope, it's not done. This will be the last work in progress photo, because next time you see it, it will be done! But its purchaser gets to see it (this weekend) before the blog does, and I will leave it up to him whether or not I post the finished product before Christmas (this is a gift, after all). :-)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

December 8 work in progress

I dunno, you think the guy on the right needs a little more definition? ;-)

brrr, frosty!

This morning was a frosty morning, which looks a lot different than a snowy morning!

Check out those ice crystals! The top photo is an extreme closeup.

Frozen puddle. The waterers all froze too, but they thaw pretty quick once the sun rises (or I pour hot water on them, depends on the weather).

Jessie's foot print on the deck:

Cutest cat in the universe:

Shylah says, "you think this is cold? Wimp." (She was born in Canada).