Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Birding begins!

I actually got back into the field and got a full day of birding in last weekend with the last of the winter incursion of Snowy Owls. Three friends and I drove up to Canada and walked along the dike on Boundary Bay where there have been numerous owls sitting on the driftwood piles. There were lots of people, a few of them ignoring the signs about staying on the path, and the owls were mostly tolerant but did once in a while give a gruff look for trespassers. These owls show up about every seven years, depending on the food supply in the Arctic tundra where they normally live and it's always a treat to be able to see them this close.

After the owls, and a moderate wait at the border to get back into the States, we checked out the West 90 area in Skagit County. There are lots and lots of bald eagles to be seen. This group of young eagles looked like a bunch of crows from a distance but that's mostly because I'm not used to so many of them being in one spot.

Besides the eagles, we had great looks at several other raptors (Northern Harriers, a Rough-Legged Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawks) and a delightful look at several Western Meadowlarks. It was a great transition to spring birding.

My walks on the greenbelt this last week made it clear that the birds are definitely in spring mode. The swallows are back at Larsen Lake, swooping and skimming over the water, the Flickers are pounding on everything they can find, and the smaller birds are jumping around more. One of my favorites of the tinier birds is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, pictured below. They are a greenish brown color that fades into the trees quite well but they jump around so much from branch to branch that it's fairly easy to tell they're there. This one cooperated in getting a couple of nice shots.

I really liked the composition on this one. Skulking little birds, the true challenge of Spring!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

An experiment with discharge paste

My "Business of Art" class is coming to a close, with just a couple of assignments to be finished off before graduation later this month. So, I've been hitting the studio and actually making things! What fun.

I started an experiment with Jacquard Discharge Paste this last week. I started with this fabric, which has a tendency to appear very dark and more uniform when photographed at a distance. Since that's the way I do the photography for show submissions (at least for bigger pieces), I'd prefer that the visual texture be more obvious. I also wanted to see what the discharge paste would do on a fabric other than black. Most discharge work I've seen and liked was on black because commercial black fabric is created by overdying and the discharge usually doesn't get all of the underlying color. But I digress....

The instructions say to paint the discharge paste onto the fabric. They also mentioned thinning it with water if you wanted less discharging. So, I thinned with water and then applied with a sea sponge as I wanted to maintain the visual texture the fabric already had. As you can see below, I didn't get as much of the texturing in the discharge as I would have liked, and it's a good thing I thinned it because it discharged to almost white.

I didn't want such a bright white, but more of a subtle lightening, so I overpainted the discharged areas with Cobalt Blue Setacolor transparent paint. I like the results and will be playing more with discharging and overpainting later. I will also share those experiments, so stay tuned!