Sunday, November 1, 2015

Rusty, the Berger de Picard

What a face! I gained a follower on Halloween night when I kept slipping little bits of potato chips to this Muppet. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Color Pencil Pathways

The color charts for Prismacolor pencils look like pathways, new pathways for me. I'm getting ready for a color pencil workshop and making out color swatches is one way of familiarizing myself with the touch and feel of a new medium. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Garden Heaven

Beneath the big Seven Sisters rose, just outside my kitchen door, a little corner of garden heaven. Sedum, strawberry, rose, mother and child sculpture from my daughter, Copper Country watering can. #gardening #roses #michigansummer

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Flying, Soaring, Swooping

The seagulls along the Lake Huron shoreline put on acrobatic shows daily. Their springtime antics seem even more joyful. Good creatures of the earth and sky, they entertain me with their soaring and swooping.

Playful, graceful birds.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Why I Need to Write Every Day

It's an interesting factor in my life. Writing something every day helps. Whether I'm finding balance by writing, or whether it is the cognitive exercise, just the act of choosing words and stringing them together into something that makes sense is beneficial for me.

I started an Instagram account (I'm @wjeichler on Instagram) in mid February. Instagram, as many of you know, uses a square format photo, one that can be artful or insightful or playful or totally off the wall, to convey a feeling. Kind of like a poem, each Instagram post can be accompanied by words. 

I find that I really enjoy framing those words in my posts. Sometimes I use a sentence; sometimes I write a paragraph. In a way, Instagram has become my micro blog presence on the web. 

Lindsie Brown Verma, fellow blogger and native of Michigan's Thumb, commented on Facebook the other day about not finding time in her busy schedule to do the writing that she loves. I totally know what she is talking about and tapped out a little encouragement for her.

That's where the quote in this meme came from. I am realizing that the act of putting one foot in front of the other one, or, in the writer's way of saying it, putting one word after another, creates an energy that nourishes the day. Maybe it even nourishes the soul. 

Writing helps me focus. It gives clarity to thoughts. It brings purpose. 

Instagram's short format has taught me that, again.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

FDAC -- Day 5: Home Place Barns

FIVE DAY ART CHALLENGE – Day Five: Home Place Barns

Ed and I are rural people and our rural nature is defined by the four barns on the home places where our parents were raised.

All four of the home place barns are still in place – the Eichler barn on Whipple Tree Farm near Pigeon, the Graywood Farm barn (Pauline Geiger Eichler’s home) on Geiger Road south of Pigeon, the Sunnyside Stock Farm barn (Vallanee Rose Luedtke’s home place) on County Road Y near Lomira, Wisconsin, and the Valley Drive Farm barn (Stanley C. F. Hayes’s home place) on County Road K, also near Lomira.

For this last post in the Five Day Art Challenge we will take a look at art work related to the two barns that have been restored.

The Thangles Barn on Sunnyside Farm in Wisconsin is home to Thangles, the quilting notion and publication company owned and operated by my sister and her husband. Two years ago in April, I spent a week with my dad on the farm. During that time I did a little watercolor of the Thangles Barn in my art journal. Dad liked the sketch, but he and I figured that I had the colors a little wonky, so I did a color chart and he chose a color that he liked for another version of this little drawing.

I’m partial to this little piece of artwork since my Dad died within weeks of our conversations about color and the barn, and I have yet to attempt that second watercolor, one that will be informed by Dad’s color choices and made better by my art study.

The Graywood Barn is the subject of the two drawings, one done in ink wash and the second, colored with watercolor. I used a photo of the barn before restoration had begun as the subject matter for both of these pieces.

The color version of this work was my Christmas gift to Ed for 2014 and now resides in his office. I completed this work during a Pen and Ink With Watercolor class last fall.

For this final day of the FDAC I am tagging the photography sisters, Marye Keim Maarsen of The Netherlands and Charleen Keim Neer of Michigan. Born and raised in the Bay Port area, both share a love of photography. Their artistic eye will be a delight, I’m sure.

Thanks for following my Art Challenge posts.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

FDAC -- Day Four: Photos From Switzerland

I am participating in the Five Day Art Challenge on Facebook this week. Here is the entry for Day Four.

FIVE DAY ART CHALLENGE – Day Four: Today my focus turns toward photography, an activity that overwhelms my computer and my brain. I’ve narrowed the selection down to three photos from last May, all taken in Switzerland on the Pipedreams Tour which Ed and I have enjoyed immensely the last three years.

I used a variety of cameras on the trip. I relied on the lasting battery power of an Iphone 5. I used the Iphone’s resident camera and Camera Plus, a tidy app with an excellent stabilizer. I carried my Nikon 1 J3, a small bodied camera with interchangeable lenses. And I tucked my trusty point-and-shoot Sony Cybershot into my bag.

Each night, back at the hotel, I emptied the memory chips of the two cameras. The Iphone photos were transferred several days at a time. Because I was writing a daily blog, the photos had to be identified and catalogue, in a general listing, each day. Otherwise it would have taken hours to decipher them once we returned home.

Today, in honor of photography, I tag Kathy Kent, fellow knitter and photographer from the Thumb. Kathy’s eye for delicate color and great sense of composition will be a delight.

Again, thanks for following the Art Challenge and do take the time to peruse the Five Day Album on FB that accompanies this post.

I like the contrast of the glassy water and the velvet feathers of the swan.
The shadows on the neck and on the body would make this into a good subject for watercolor.

This photo was probably taken through a window on Swiss Rail. It really gives a great sense
of the steep side of the Alps.

Artists and craftspeople have added their talents to churches and cathedrals for centuries.
These grape leaves topped every column in a church and all of them were slightly different.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FDAC -- Day Three: Flowers

I am participating in the Five Day Art Challenge on Facebook this week. Here is the entry for Day Three.

FIVE DAY ART CHALLENGE – Day Three: Welcome back to my art challenge posts. Today’s theme is flowers as interpreted in sketches and watercolor. While I admire the genre of botanical art with its attention to detail very much, I also like doing flowers with a loose hand. All three of these pieces are from my sketchbooks or art journals. The Ruby Throat daylily was drawn from life, as was the dried rose. The peony comes from a photograph taken by LeVan Hawkins, Chicago area writer who is gracious enough to share his words and work with me from time to time.

The peony and the daylily shout “summer” to us in this before-spring-and-gee-but-it-is-cold-up-north month of February. And the dried rose, well, I save roses from almost every special bouquet. They end up in my box of things to sketch where they are a reminder of how even when colors fade and stems dry, the fullness of the rose, its essence, remains.

Today I tag Tamie Dell Cook, a graphic artist and scrapbooker from the Thumb. I used to work with Tamie at the Pigeon Progress Advance, many moons ago. I’m really looking forward to Tamie’s contributions to the Five Day Art Challenge.

In case some of you would rather see my posts and read about the art all at once, I have combined the FDAC Album from Facebook with the posts over on my personal blog, From Under the Willow.

Thanks for following along and be artful in some word or deed today.

Day Three: Flowers
Chloe's Rose is a preliminary sketchbook painting that I did for a framed rose that I
sent to my niece, Chloe Rose, on her 18th birthday. Caran 'd Ache watercolor pencil, micron pen.
Day Three: Flowers
Sketchbook page from August 2013. A single scape of the daylily, Ruby Throat, one of my
favorite daylilies. Sketches/painting done one evening in twilight and finished in the
studio at Cedar Bluff. Caran 'd Ache watercolor pencil, micron pen, Winsor and Newton watercolors.

Day Three: Flowers
From Art Journal #13, the first version of a drawing that is inspired by a photograph from a friend.
I call this "LeVan's Peony," after photographer and friend LeVan Hawkins. There is a second version of
this same flower in another sketchbook. Notice that the sun in the daily cartouche
 has peony petals for its rays.
When I see a photo on Facebook that I want to work with, I contact the photographer for their permission.
LeVan and other are gracious to say "Go ahead! Sketch and paint!" I'm grateful for that permission
since it links their careful eye with my drawing and painting efforts.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

FDAC -- Day Two: Cows

I am participating in the Five Day Art Challenge on Facebook this week. Here is the entry for Day Two.

FIVE DAY ART CHALLENGE – Day Two: Well, quite a few of you are enjoying the FDAC photo gallery and that is very cool. The Art Challenge, a positive way of using social media, helps connect ideas and people.
Today’s theme is “Cows,” with three sketches/paintings of my fledgling approach to bovines. I take photos of cattle whenever I can. I have also been known to sit with a pen and sketchbook at Junior Livestock Shows in the Thumb, as you can see from the rough sketches applied over auction listings. These sketches are from the Huron County Junior Livestock Sale in 2013.

When you sketch animals in the auction ring, you have to work fast. You begin to see the differences in ears and forelocks and heads and height as you sketch. A 1500 pound animal towers above the auction gates; a 900 pounder barely reaches the top rung. Animal by animal, you learn to see each animal as a separate creation.
Today I tag Howard M. Sharper who is a Saginaw photographer with an eye for light and nature. Be sure to look him up on Facebook so you can see his work.

Day Two: Cows. Graphite sketch of one of my grandfather's Herfords
 I used an old slide that my Dad took of this cow as the source photo.

Day Two: Cows. Purple Cow from Art Journal #10, March 5, 2014 entry
 The purple is ultramarine blue mixed with quinacridone red.

My journal shows that I cooked a Melissa Clark shepherd's pie recipe with beef, onions, and potatoes on this day, which goes to show how good old dairy cow (ground beef) can be.

Day Two: Cows: Michael's Cow, named for Michael Barone of Pipedreams fame
 While visiting two pipe organs in the Swiss village of Romainmotier in May of 2014, our tour group paused to hear the bells of a herd of Swiss cows. Michael walked over to the fence and urged their melodic Sunday ringing, hence the name, Michael's Cow. Pen and ink with watercolor on Strathmore mixed media paper.

And just because it is fun to see, here is Michael with the Swiss cows

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

FDAC -- Day One: Mountain Postcards

I am participating in the Five Day Art Challenge on Facebook this week. Here is the entry for Day One.

FIVE DAY ART CHALLENGE -- Day One: I have been challenged to do five days of art posts by Cathy M Winter, my Houston friend and fellow quilter. This first post illustrates my watercolor learning in the classes that I am taking at the Art Institute of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum here in Tucson. I'm finally getting the hang of washes and glazing.
The Five Day Art Challenge (FDAC) is fairly unstructured. You do five posts on five days (not necessarily contiguous) and you "tag" someone each day so that others who are woodworkers/quilters/artists/scrapbookers get a chance to gather their thoughts and show some of their stuff.
I was "tagged" about two weeks ago and have been getting my "ducks in a row." Today I tag Pat Smith who is an art quilter.
And, as before, the first three people who send me a private message with their name and address will receive one of these three postcards.
I also want to point you to George Covintree on Facebook who is doing an excellent series of black artists for Black History Month. There is a wealth of art in George's daily posts.
And, yes, I am missing my blogging. Hopefully by the time I am through February, I will figure out just how much the blog can reappear. I'm currently enrolled in two classes -- Color Mixing (ton of homework) and Watercolor II (bending my brain again in ways I didn't know I could do.)
Stay warm, all you northern FBers. Spring will come.

DAY ONE: Spiral Sun postcard
 Washes, glazing in watercolor. Pen and ink.

Sent to Cathy Winter

DAY ONE: Road Salt postcard
 Watercolor wash, pen and ink, salt sparkles on landscape.

Sent to Barb Dell

DAY ONE: Four Ridges postcard
 Watercolor washes, blue pen, sponged edges.

Sent to Kathy Kent

Friday, January 30, 2015

Seed Sorting

Marigolds, with their bushes of feathery foliage, volunteered a place in our garden last summer. More than prolific and dotted with hundreds of orange, pungent blossoms, the plants occupied more territory than some of the seeds that I intentionally selected and planted.

Apparently the marigolds, whatever variety they are, like the lake house garden because the volunteers germinated in droves. So we transplanted and moved and pushed them around on the south end of the garden.

Late in the fall, Ed noticed that the seed heads had matured and harvested a bucket full of flower heads, all populated with the long, tubular seeds typical of marigolds. He laid the flowers out on the garage floor and let them dry.

In January we broke the pods with the seeds, sort of a head, sort of a pod, off the rest of the plants and tossed the dried stems. The seed heads were dumped into a box and I've been sorting out the stems and chaff and leafy structures so that only the seeds remain.

So now we have handfuls of marigold seed to plant this coming summer. Certainly the gardens at the lake and at the farm this summer will have rows of bright orange marigolds guarding the vegetables and waving their festive flowers in the summer sun.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mark Making

A lot of the visual art world likes to talk about mark making. Mark making, the code words for just getting something down on paper, or cutting into fabric, or using your hands in clay, can be an intimidating thing.

Over the holidays I moved away from doing much visual art. I did a lot of cooking and baking and reading. I knit and I played keyboard. I visited with my family and watched football and concerts and dramas. I spent time with photography and Photoshop and did some writing. And I worked on a new website for my knitting company.

What I did not do was any mark making in the sense of picking up a pen or a pencil or some paint and just getting something on paper. By mid January, I needed a breakthrough to restart my drawing juices.

That breakthrough came late this month as I have been photographing birds at the feeders. None of the photo are stellar, but they do provide a source for sketching. This chickadee is the first of several sketches that might become watercolors. I'm just glad to see the work coming on the lines and shapes of these birds.

The next day I tried a winter tree in watercolor. I started with Alwyn Cranshaw's little book "You Can Paint" and copied the drawing and used the suggested colors.

I had been noticing tree "bones," the outlines of trunks and branches against the winter landscape as I drive across Huron County, but I had not put any of those observations down on paper. This one tree got me started. I didn't get out the right brush and I hurried the work, but I made some marks.

Finally, two days later, I grabbed a Technalo pencil (it is water soluble so it can be moistened with a brush and turned into graphite wash) and started drawing a pattern that has been scrambling around my brain. Now that I see the pattern on paper, I might take this further by making it larger and adding color.

All of this mark making feels good. The tools still work in my hands. My brain circuits are firing with color and line. I'm back to some mark making and that's good.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Great Caramel Corn Caper

I get a hankering for sweets in the weeks after the holidays. That's what happened last weekend when the kitchen was upended with a great caramel corn caper. The whole thing got started earlier in the week when I tried to pop some of the Glass Gem corn that Ed grew in the farm gardens this past summer.

Glass Gem, described as used for popcorn,  is one of the seeds that we bought at Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson. The corn kernels are dried and releasing from the cob, but when placed in hot oil, they turned toasty, but would not pop. Disappointed and still thinking that some caramel corn would taste really good, I turned to commercially grown popcorn and bought a bag of Jack Rabbit yellow popcorn at a nearby grocery.

We have a caramel corn recipe from a cookbook that's been in our kitchen for years that we like to use. It does not use a candy thermometer and the corn is finished by baking it in the oven. Perfect!

I pop the corn in a five quart IKEA pan (it is also my go-to soup pot) using olive oil, about 3-4 tablespoons in the pan, over medium high heat. I measure out a third cup of popcorn and, when the oil is hot, put two or three kernels in the pan. As soon as those kernels pop, the rest get added to the pan.

Now it is shake and slide time. I keep the pot moving so that the kernels will not sit in contact with the bottom of the pan and burn. It only takes a few minutes until the sound of the popping stops. That's when all of the kernels are popped and it is time to pour them into another bowl.

I cool the pan down a bit by taking it off the burner. Waiting a few minutes between batches means that the corn is less likely to burn in the pan.  The corn is divided into two baking pans (I use high sided foil pans, the two pans that I also use to bake granola).

Once there is enough popcorn (the recipe calls for 15 cups, but we were buttering, salting and eating!) it is caramel time. I make the caramel in the same pot which is already oiled and ready for the sugary caramel to cook.

After baking soda is added to the hot mixture, you have to work quickly to mix the caramel, now really sticky, into the corn. There will be chunks that form -- we like them! Baked for an hour in the oven this caramel corn really fit the bill for sweets for a January winter weekend. Most of one pan disappeared quickly and the rest was stored in a cookie tin for nibbles during the week.

The great caramel corn caper turned out just fine. Next I will have to try some of the different brands and varieties of popcorn that are available.  And maybe add some peanuts.

Ah, the joy of good food!

Friday, January 9, 2015

January Patterns

I find it difficult, in the first days of January, to wipe away the holiday lights and trimmings. Out on the split rail fence at the end of the driveway, we wound a string of clear lights that twine around the rails and provide bright punctuation to the dark nights in the depth of winter.

Photographing those light through a screened window turned each light into a four pointed star. Wondrous stars, they wandered into my camera and out into this pattern of dancing stars.

On Monday, January 5, the day of the full moon, the moon set in the morning (as full moons do) of a day that dawned very cold and windy. The kitchen thermometer said it was three degrees above zero outside and the wind was sweeping across White Rock Shoal. Floes that had formed the day before broke with the wind and became icy chunks that formed patterns as the waves pushed and pulled at the shoreline.

Here at Cedar Bluff we have been dragging our feet about taking down the Fraser fir upon which we hung a multitude of red balls and beads and vintage ornaments for Christmas. The beads and the balls and the tiny figures are all tucked away for next December, but morning and night, the lights burn brightly on the big fir.

I happened to spot a freighter, the Mesabi Miner, one the thousand footers that ply the Great Lakes, as it passed by at sunrise on Friday, January 9th. The morning was cold. Twelve above zero and there was a cloud line way out on the eastern horizon of Lake Huron.

My camera caught the reflected lights on the fir tree and the lights on the great ship and the soft tones of a winter sun rising across the great lake. Majestic moments like these form the patterns of January along the Lake Huron shore in Michigan.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Stepping Back

Willow Blog is about to take another big step. I'm thinking about my digital life as a very crowded room with lots of screens. Mobiles. Laptops. Desktops. Tablets. Facebook accounts and Twitter accounts. Well, anyway, I'm ready to step to the back of the room and lean against the wall for a while.

So, as of January 1, 2015, Willow Blog will be published once a week, probably toward the end of the week. I am finding that I could use some extra time and I know that I can gain it by four less deadlines per week.

"Deadlines!" you say. "But, gee, you are only writing a blog!"

And that is true. It is just a blog. But even a blog with short paragraphs requires careful writing and editing. And, as those of you who follow the blog know, there is always the photography. Each photo takes a minimum amount of time. All of that is time that I am planning to use in another way.

Some of those "other ways" will become more apparent as the year moves ahead, but for now, dear readers, know that I am writing and photographing and sketching and gardening and knitting and, yes, reading, as those minutes become a gift that I am giving to myself in the new year.

As always, thank you, thank you for reading. Your enjoyment and comments have been a huge boost to me.

Happy New Year, from under the Willow that shades us all.