Saturday, February 25, 2017

Spring pops on the Greenbelt

Last week, I got back on the greenbelt after a couple weeks of being laid up due to banging up my knee.  It was a sunny day, and the birds were very active so I really enjoyed myself.  Then it got all rainy and snowy again but I digress...

The one that got away was the shot of the 2 red-winged blackbirds engaging in an aerial territorial dispute.  Most of the resident birds have started their spring singing, letting everyone within range know who lives here and is looking for some company.  I tried to get a shot of the blackbirds but they were too far away and too active so I never got a good framing.

However, the blueberry bushes and several other birds were very happy to be more stationary so here's some of the shots from that walk.  The branches on the blueberry bushes turn reddish while they're budding out so it's easy to see which bushes are going to be really loaded with berries later this year.


And there were lots of robins scattered around the grass between the bushes and in the trees nearby.   They haven't yet gotten their new spring feathers yet so they look drabber than they will in a few weeks.


But the way I really know that spring is here is this one:  a towhee up on a high branch, singing to let the world know that he's there and available.  Towhees normally skulk in the bushes and stay pretty close to the ground so the only time I get really good views of them is in the spring when they're being very social.  I'm going to be trying for a shot that shows the red eye if I see one out and close enough to get those details.




Our weather forecast for the next week includes more chilly nights and maybe even some snow so I'll be looking at these photos to remind me that spring is really on the way.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Chasing the Yellow-billed Loon or why Rosario Head is so wonderful


On January 25th, my crazy birder friend Tina and I sallied forth in pursuit of a rare Yellow-billed Loon visiting from the Arctic.  Reports had been coming in for days so we changed our birding plans and Tina drove us to Rosario Head (near Deception Pass) via some fields in Skagit so we could also look for the wintering swans.  It was a fabulous day of birding despite the park facilities being closed for the winter.  The parking lot was chained off, the restrooms were closed but there were portapotties at the turnoff so we were able to act on Birding Rule #1 - use any restroom you can, because you don't know when you'll find another one.

Rosario Head is part of Deception Pass State Park and the hiking trails are well advertised.  We were looking to go up on top of the Head itself and look down on Northwest Island and Rosario Beach.  From this vantage point, we had excellent views as long as we were using a scope.  The visiting rare loon was frolicking behind Northwest Island and coming out on either end every so often to parade in front of all the visiting birders.  We saw at least a dozen other people and it was a weekday.  Clearly, this was a popular bird.

I was not able to get a photo of the loon, but here's one borrowed from the Audubon.org webpage.


This looks an awful lot like the Common Loon, except the bill is yellow instead of black.  So, once the bird pops out, it's pretty easy to make that id.

Once we'd identified the rare loon, we waited for an opportunity to photograph it while we looked for other birds and watched some dolphins frolicking in the water.  There was also a sea lion, probably, since it was much bigger than a seal would have been.   I was not able to get a photo of the loon but I did get some quality views of some other birds hanging out on the rocks just north of the head.  We were a fair distance up in the air and I don't have one of those honking big lenses for my camera, so I was only able to get a distant shot of the Harlequin Duck posing on the rocks.  I like the strong patterning on this duck and enjoy watching them play in the water.



All in all, it was an excellent day birding.  Like fishing, even a bad day birding is a good day so an excellent day birding is, well, truly excellent.  Here's hoping for many more days like this.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Gulls and more gulls in Canada

I've been back from vacation for a week now, and didn't blog right away because of the chores waiting for me.  Then, the flu struck.  *sigh*  I can't even gather enough brain cells to upload my art shots from the camera, photoshop them, and then talk about them.  So instead, you get bird photos.

Part of the reason for going to Parksville on Vancouver Island is the wonderful bay that the condo property sits on.  There are always birds there and depending on the tide, I can see a variety of sea birds that are normally much further out from shore or the kind of birds that like the exposed shoreline when the tide is out.   The additional attraction is if the weather is rainy and windy, the bay is so close that I can grab a quick outing when the weather clears slightly so even the worst weather day can still have some good birds.

And I got to refresh my birding ID skills.  Especially with gulls.  It's not hard to tell that a bird is a gull rather than an eagle or a hawk or a duck.  That part is pretty simple.  But which species of gull?  That part is much, much harder.  Fortunately for me, I remembered what part of the gull to look at to distinguish the species.  And the gulls really like hanging on the rock formations off the point where the hot tub is.  Yes, that too is part of why we go here so I can bird in comfort.





So, what do we look for to tell which gull species is here?  Face it, they are usually white with grey backs and a yellow beak.  What varies?  The size and shape of the bill, the bill markings (the one below has a medium size wide bill with a red dot on the bottom), the leg color (clearly pink here rather than grey or yellow, altho telling the pink and the gray apart can be difficult in less than bright light), and finally whether the wingtips are darker or lighter than the back.  The wingtips look like they should be the tail when a gull poses like this but with this guy, his tail is white, the wingtips are the longer grey with white stripes part.  There's some other things to look for like shape and contrast of white parts on the back, and relative darkness of the grey back, and if you've got a scope the eye color, but legs, bill, and wingtips will get most of the distinctions you need to really narrow it down.  



I'm calling this one a Thayer's Gull, but I'm not experienced enough with gulls to be totally certain as there's some hybrids that look a lot like this.  Part of my reason for wanting to upgrade my camera this year is so I can zoom even closer on some of these birds and do my ID later from the photo.  Which is why I have so many gull photos from Parksville.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dragons and more dragons AKA vacation prep


Today we're packing for a week out of town.  I got a new book, Dragonvale Art, visible at the left edge toward the front of the picture below, and it has inspired me to do some dragon sketching while on vacation.  I also wanted to play with my watercolor paints on actual watercolor paper rather than fabric so those got added to the supplies stack.



I am bringing along watercolor bars, Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils, the Dragonvale book, 2 small ceramic 4 compartment plates, sketching pencils and black markers, two plastic tubs of watercolor paints, lots of brushes, 2 different size sketchpads, 6 pads of watercolor paper of different types and sizes, my current dragon silkscreen and the black ink and the tools to screen with, 2 pieces of fabric with the laughing dragon screened on them, a piece of acrylic that I use to paint the fabric on and the blue tape to hold the fabric to the acrylic. And the fabric medium to add to the watercolor paints so they don't wash out.

In a recent Facebook post, I mentioned going for 50 dragon sketches this week.  Since the 50 collages week in my Fiber Arts program, I have gotten very comfortable setting myself impossible goals and seeing how close I get.  I assume I'll fail to make it but set the goal so my reach exceeds my grasp.  The 50 collages in one week assignment taught me that I can do more than I think I can if I just get going and see how far I go.

Speaking of reach, grasp, and the power of just continuing to make progress, I'm 35 page views away from 30,000 unique page views on this blog.   I started this blog in February of 2008 so it's almost 9 years of blogging.   A big thank you to those who have followed along and here's to another adventurous almost decade coming up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Reading while healing - Diane Fallon series

I have plans for blogging about what I did in 2016 and what I plan for 2017 but  healing from what should be my last major oral surgery has delayed that, probably until after my upcoming vacation.  Instead, I'm reading lots and lots of not too challenging books.  Partly inspired by a craving for order and happy endings, I've gone back and picked up the Diane Fallon series by Beverly Conner.   The first novel in the series is pictured below.




This series is very close to the spirit of the TV show Bones whereas I don't think the books it was supposedly based on are at all like the series.  Diane Fallon is a forensic anthropologist who is giving up traveling to foreign countries to document mass graves.  Instead, she has taken over running a small museum in Georgia and as the series progresses, there is a crime lab added to the museum and she becomes the local bone analysis person.  And she dates an FBI guy.   I recommend this series over the Temperance Brennan series because I prefer the writing and characters.  If you liked the Bones TV show, you might enjoy these.

I see my dental surgeon later today so here's hoping things are going well.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Soy wax fun from Jane Dunnewold

I've been playing around with Jane Dunnewold's techniques for using soy wax since her book, Vibrant Color, came out.  The painful part was always making the soy wax paste that can be used for a big variety of surface design techniques, including silkscreening, my particular interest.



Well now, Jane has come out with 2 different packages of premade soy wax paste.  So if you've been wanting to try some of these things out, but didn't want to invest in all the equipment to do it yourself until you'd experimented a bit, here's your chance.  Order before Dec 31 and get free shipping and an ebook version of the book above.  I have no financial interest in her success, just another artist who loves her clarity in explaining things and shares some of her interests.

Order here:  http://www.janedunnewold.com/soywax/

I'll be experimenting in this area in the next few months, in and around getting ready to move to Bellingham, and of course, I'll share pictures of what I do.  Happy Holidays to all who are celebrating now!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

More news sources, from a different perspective

This is a more visual form with a different ranking of news sources.  Using this and the one I posted earlier makes it pretty easy to see what the unreliable sources are and what ones are generally reliable.  Here's the link to the source I got it from.


While I'm pretty happy with the credibility of my current news sources, I'm also using these rankings as a guide to where to go look for what the crazies will be talking up next.  Maybe then I'll be less taken by surprise.

Edit added 10:40am 12/14/16:  Right after I posted the above, I got this post from Steve Barnes about the possibility of being wrong and hoping for outcomes that are the best for all of us, not just what I think is best.  Thanks, Steve, well said.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Getting multiple news sources

I've always tried to read different perspectives because I don't think there's much of a chance that I know everything there is to know about any particular issue.  But with the massive increase in websites and blogs in addition to more traditional news sources, well, it's a bit overwhelming.  This graph gives me a starting place.  The author is clearly self-identified as conservative (their group blog Mitrailleuse is in the upper right quadrant) so I'd probably put some of these things in a slightly different place but I like the idea.

http://mitrailleuse.net/2015/05/29/the-alignment-of-political-media-updated/


I got this from the website given under the graph and I repeat it here so it's super easy to find.  http://mitrailleuse.net/2015/05/29/the-alignment-of-political-media-updated/

I'm sure I'll have some amusement in exploring things I don't normally read and it will certainly be informative.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Silkscreening on porcelain

My daughter was doing some experiments with her etsy shop and wanted to try out some silkscreens on mugs.  So we played around in my studio as I had all these screens, stamps, sponges and she brought the paint  and some mugs.  She was happy enough with her results that she had me make several screens for her and I was intrigued enough that I ordered some paints and kept a couple of the test mugs.

I went for the bird images, of course.  Here's my test results today.  The blue bird was a bit blurrier than I would like so I'm looking for ways to thicken the paint just a bit so I don't get so much spread.



The flying heron on the other hand came out well.  I used a stamp for it and I'll be adding some colors after the black outline finishes curing.



All in all, I'm pretty happy with the results of this first bit of experimentation.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fresh cranberry relish recipe

I've been making this cranberry relish for Thanksgiving for at least 30 years now and I'm still enjoying it.  This year, I thought I'd share.  It is really good with leftover turkey in a sandwich, fyi.

before the food processor does its thing

Ingredients:

  • 1 navel orange
  • 1 lime (original recipe called for 1/2 lime but I use it all)
  • 1 tart apple or whatever you have on hand
  • 3/4 C pitted dates (if the package is 1 C, I use it all)
  • 12 oz cranberries
  • 1/4-1/2 C sugar, to taste
Basically, chop everything up in a food processor and mix it together.  Chill overnight to let the flavors mix.  I do the orange and lime and the dates first and since my food processor is small, I do 2 batches.  This makes sure the rinds of the fruit get chopped small enough.  It also uses the juice from the citrus fruit to keep the dates from sticking to stuff.  Then I chop the cranberries and apple in 2 batches, adding 1/4 C sugar to the second batch.  Put it all in a big bowl, mix well, and taste to see if it needs more sugar.  This year, it was a blood orange rather than navel so not as much sweet from the orange and I used the whole 1/2 C of sugar.

After the chopping & mixing, ready to chill
I hope we all have a good Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Greenbelt and Pokemon


It's been a rough month what with some major upheaval in my life and then the election.  So I've been spending lots of time on the greenbelt when it wasn't raining seriously looking for birds and since they're somewhat scare this time of year, finding some Pokemon.  This is part of my self-care, along with meditating and reading.  The nice thing about the greenbelt and Pokemon is that I can share them here.

In the fall, all the blueberry bushes along the greenbelt near Larsen Lake turn a gorgeous red.  And as some of the leaves start to fall, the bushes get a bit more sculptural rather than bushy.  I enjoy looking at them as part of the cycle of life and as beautiful parts of nature.




I start my walks on the bridge behind the Boys&Girls Club and usually I pick up some birds there.  Alas, on this walk, there were no birds around and instead I got this very common Pokemon Pidgey.
.



I also got lots of great nature shots showing the change of the seasons.  October & November are when we have fall here in the Seattle area and it's fun to see the contrast as the seasonal foliage goes away leaving the green stuff that's here all year.




I'm getting several common Pokemon on each walk and at least one new one every couple of days which is nice as I'm in that stretch of the game where I have to level up before things get really interesting.  Sometimes that makes me feel like this guy.



I hope you all are taking care of yourselves.  We're living in interesting times for sure.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Changing design in mid quilt

Thirty years ago, my husband, Jeff, went to a conference about using Tex and MetaFont to design fonts.  (This was back before DOS, even.)  As part of the conference, there was a competition to design dingbats.  Those little things that separate chunks of text in a book.  He did a nice set of 10 of them and 15 years later when I bought a thermofax machine and started doing silkscreening as part of my fiber art, I realized I could do a quilt based around his dingbats.  Synchronistically, a bolt of fabric that looked like hand made paper came into the quilt store where I worked and the fabric collecting was on.  Since his dingbats were abstracted from traditional Japanese crests, I also started collecting fabric with kanji printing in addition to text fabrics.  And so we come to the last few years when I felt I had enough fabric and started sewing.

I started with a non-traditional takeoff of the Log Cabin block which turned out to look really choppy once I got 6 blocks done and laid them all out together (see below).  Since this quilt is intended for our bedroom and I like to keep the bedroom serene and relaxing, this didn't seem like the way to go.  Unfortunately, I had already sliced up all of several of my fabrics so I put the blocks away for a while and forgot about it.



In preparation for an annual sewing retreat, I got the project out again and gave it a hard look.  I'm going to start over and do the traditional Log Cabin blocks but with the larger rectangles as the start.  Next step was to pull fabric from my stash and separate it into dark & light piles.  I went with fabrics that had a japanese influence and tried to stick with a narrow color selection.  Unfortunately, this set of fabrics has lost the whole text idea.  That's when I realized I needed to go even further with the personal aspect of the design and add text to the lighter fabrics.  I brainstormed some ideas of what type of text and again, brought the personal relevance idea to bear.  What 20 quotes from influential books would we each like to add to the fabrics?  So that's where we are.  Making lists of books that have had a big influence on us and then picking out the text we want to represent that book.




I'm expecting these ideas to evolve further as I progress in making the 42 blocks that will be needed for the queen size quilt.  And I'll post about what I do and how it goes as I babystep my way to the final quilt.  So far, my book list includes The Hobbit (read to my 4th grade class by the teacher in 15 minute chunks and the book that started me reading science fiction), Leaves of Grass, a gift from a friend who said the part about the charge of the soul reminded him of me, Citizen of the Galaxy by Heinlein,  and Lord of the Rings.  That takes me up through the end of High School.  I suspect The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightment will be there too as well as Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching.

I mention the details of the book list because this is the kind of fun that book people enjoy:  What would be your 20 books?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adoring my awkwardness or how to be happy while failing at new stuff

I've spent time in the studio this last couple of weeks thanks to finding out what was causing my general fatigue and correcting it.  And normally, I would have great pictures to show.  But.  I'm experimenting and doing some very new to me things and I've had strong resistance to sharing pictures of what I'm doing.  Synchronistically, this blog post from Gretchen Schmelzer came out and she gave me some insight into why I'm struggling with this.

Here's a great quote:  "I’ll put it simply. Without letting yourself be awkward you won’t learn anything worth learning. When babies learn to walk they totter and wobble and fall and get up and for some reason we don’t call this awkward—we call it adorable. But this is the blueprint for learning everything. We totter and wobble and fall down and get up. And we need to see it as just as adore-able. We need to adore that awkward part of ourselves. We need to adore it more, or adore it at all. Awkwardness is the sign that you are actually doing something different. If everything is going smoothly, it’s a good bet that you aren’t changing anything or learning anything new."

Wow.  The rest of the blog goes into more detail but this was enough to have my internal struggle just go poof.  Of course it feels odd and awkward.  I'm doing some totally new stuff and I'm not even mediocre at it yet.

So I'll be waiting to share photos of my studio work until I don't feel so awkward about it.  In the meantime, here's a photo of the warblers that graced my morning walk.  Not from my camera, as I didn't take it, but thanks to Cornell Ornithology Labs.  Tina and I had a 3 warbler morning with the Black-Throated Gray pictured below, an Orange-crowned, and a yellow-rumped.  They were all jumping around in a few trees giving us great views and a lovely walk.



Sunday, September 11, 2016

Embracing imperfection

I've been struggling with getting back into the studio.  I've just ended 18 months of low grade infection which was repeatedly misdiagnosed but is now gone, gone, gone.  And I'm just not bouncing right back.  In addition to the physical challenges, there's about 16 months worth of accumulated chores & clutter that need my attention.  And my habits have fallen into utter disarray.  So, bless you, Lisa Call,  for today's blog post about embracing imperfection and leveraging a small, doable task into a path for a larger goal.  See her blog post here.   Because a big part of my problem is feeling like I can't do enough today so I don't do anything.  Baby steps are clearly called for here and I apparently really needed some outside voice to tell me that.

The second great thing today was a FB post about a Turkish artist, Garip Ay.  I am particularly inspired by his piece pictured below.  Not because I do portraits, but because I like the combination of the marbling color and flow with the realistic style painted image.  It just really speaks to me so now my brain is churning with small steps I can take to move toward experimenting with this idea using my style of marbling and my bird photo based sketches.

See more at garipay.blogspot.com


This is a particularly promising path for me as the marbling can be done in small bursts, very quickly.  This means I can do a bunch of marbling in less than an hour (assuming the marbling tray and inks are already set up) and still have time to do some other work experimenting with the bird photos.  And not need more than 2 hours a day to make significant progress.

However, recognizing my low energy right now, and my challenges, I am not going to set myself up to fail.  I'm shooting for once a week making new stuff in the studio and the rest of my studio time can be finishing up the amazingly depressing backlog.  So, we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Birds & Books, or how I'm spending my recovery

I'm now a couple weeks past some extensive oral surgery and still in the recovery phase.  I'm feeling good enough to do some birding but mostly I'm reading a lot.  Hence, birds & books.

Tina and I chased the Snowy Egret seen in Pierce county recently.  This was a first seen in Pierce county and a fairly rare bird for western Washington state.  We anticipated a long wait for it to show and possibly some wading through mudflats to get to a nice viewing position.  Boy, were we wrong!  We drove to the location, got out of the car, walked over to the fence and looked down on the marshy area and the Snowy flew by.  Excitement ensued.  We were trying to find where he'd landed when he flew back by again and perched on a snag in clear view.  It's a wonderful feeling to chase a bird and get it within the first 10 minutes.



We ended up walking to the end of the fence to get a better view which is where I got this photo.  It's not a great photo but does clearly show the black beak and yellow feet which distinguish the Snowy from a Great Egret.

Having gotten the chase bird, we then relaxed and enjoyed checking out the marsh for other birds.  Tina, also known as Ursula Vernon's crazy-birder-friend-Tina, is a masterbirder and gave me a brief lesson in distinguishing Vaux's Swifts from swallows.  Both were present in good numbers so that was fun, learning something that I'd forgotten over the last 4 years of barely birding.

Unfortunately, I'm still at a stage where after an outing, I'm completely wiped out for a day or two.  Which brings us to books.  Worldcon is coming up so I'm reading science fiction mostly and one of the authors I discovered from a reference meander while doing the Hugo voting reading is Kristine Katheryn Rusch.  I ended up reading the entire Retrieval Artist series and enjoyed it during my surgery week and the immediate recovery period.  It's more in the entertaining SF mode but does have some interesting ideas about legal systems if there really were multiple alien cultures out there.  How would we resolve our differences?  What about the cultural things where something humans considered trivial was a death penalty issue for them?  The series is set in a far distant future where corporations have only grown in power and deals with the background I've mention and how that impacts the individuals enforcing the laws.  Fun stuff.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Electric assist tricycle with a roof, sign me up!

I love bicycling and I am excited about electric vehicles as an alternative to a second car so this story from Treehuggers caught my eye.  Read their full article here.    I'm glad to see that the list of vendors on http://organictransit.com/ has one in Portland and one in Port Townsend so I can go try one out and see if it will meet my needs.  Since most of my trips in a car by myself are less than 10 miles, this would be almost perfect.    Check out someone test driving it in the video.



Friday, July 29, 2016

Giant suction cup for creating green energy

This week's email brought this article from Grist about a new way to create electricity from wind.  I guess it's appropriate that the giant toilet plungers will be used in water, eh?  Gotta love the picture!


I'm still a fan of small local networks of energy production rather than the big grid but that's not going to be the first step.  The first step is feeding into the big grid with cleaner, less expensive energy sources and this is a less destructive part of that.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Blog moving to new website - finished dragon pillow in blues

Today's blog post is on what will be my new website.  I'm in mid-transition so lizcopeland.com still points to the old website.  But the blog is now on the new website.  Here's the link:
liz-copeland.squarespace.com.  Things are not finished yet so please hold the comments as I move everything around. Please update your saved links if you have them.  Eventually, my webpage name should take you right there.  *cross fingers*

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sunny day at Larsen Lake or why snags are important

Today's walk on the greenbelt was fabulous!  I remembered to put my heel lift in my shoe so my back was happier, the sun was out, the air was just slightly warmer than crisp, and the birds were showing off.  Before I made it out of the parking lot, there was a towhee calling from the tree next to my space.  After admiring him and his red eye, I glanced to the right and saw a Great Blue Heron on top of a snag.  They like to perch up high and preen in the sun and in the spring, the leaves aren't out enough yet to obscure them.


distance view

I headed to the trail with my phone in my pocket so I could take more shots like the one below.  This GBH was not at all nervous about all the people and dogs on the greenbelt today.  

closer view

I kept walking and got good views of some sapsuckers but they were flitting about, chasing each other so no photos of them today.  I'm glad to see they didn't abandon the greenbelt but just moved down the trail a bit to an area where there's more bird cover.

Since the pier is flooded right now, I instead headed for the trail that goes up the middle of the blueberry fields.  At the bend, there's a very tall snag that has been used multiple times as a nesting site by woodpeckers.  This morning, there was a flicker busy excavating a new hole.  He was also tolerant of me being on the trail so I got some nice shots of him going in and out of the hole.

Flicker making new hole

Unfortunately, my camera phone doesn't get enough detail on its own and I didn't bring the zoom lens for it.  So, no fabulous closeup for the flicker.  But you can see the holes above where the flicker is working.  They tend to start at the top and work down as that's how the snag dries out.  

And here's a shot showing how much more stump there is to be used.  I would estimate the flicker is about 30 feet up.  So this snag will be a woodpecker nesting site for years to come.  Also chickadees if I'm remembering things my expert birder friends have said about reuse of woodpecker holes by other birds.

Lots more room in the neighborhood

Definitely looking forward to getting out there with my camera real soon!





Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Watch another fiber artist in action

I'm down with the flu, again!, and thus have no work to share this week so here's a link to show what another (now local) fiber artist has done lately.  Carol Bryer Fallert-Gentry has documented Fossil Fantasy from idea to finished art piece here.  I'm looking forward to watching the whole thing as I feel up to it.

click for next image