Saturday, July 30, 2011

studio update

hosta leaves work in progress, coloured pencil on Colourfix paper, 6.5" x 23"
copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is the Humpback Hosta Leaves piece as it looks now. There is much to be done but I am pleased so far. I am letting it sit with me for awhile so my subconscious can work out where I want it to go next. Also, I am unable to continue with the background as I am out of the pencils that I want to use. I haven't been to the art supply store in ages so I guess this is to be expected. Time to draw up a shopping list!

While allowing time for the above piece to percolate in my noggin, I moved on to a different project, one of my first art loves actually, pen and ink. I love to draw and I love working in ink. I get lost in a happy place when I am crosshatching shapes and values! :-) I am working on a series of simple little illustrations, done in pen and ink, coloured with cps of course which shall be offered up for sale as matted originals. (sorry for the dark picture, I fiddled with it but this is as good as it is getting)

Pen/ink/coloured pencil originals, copyright Teresa Mallen

They are conveniently sized in a 4 x 6 inch format and with a mat will fit nicely into a store bought 8 x 10 inch frame (the customer buys the frame of their choice).Very affordable and would make a great Christmas gift! Yes, I am preparing for a pre-Christmas open studio sale and a November studio tour. I am even thinking of images for holiday cards. I don't mind thinking of Christmas while in July. I really like winter and I have not let big business ruin my experience of the Christmas season. Might even put on some Christmas music while I work on them - I can hear your groans! LOL

Well it is early afternoon and a perfect summer day so I am leaving the studio. I am going to scoot the vacuum round the place and after that I intend to head to the meadow to pick some daisies, brown eyed Susans and Queen Anne's lace to arrange in vases. After that I am going to weed my huge front flower bed. Somewhere in there I shall squeeze in time to brush the goats (they love being brushed) and time to sit on the veranda with a glass of wine while cloud watching. I love watching clouds...

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jonah Day

Jonah on the front lawn

yesterday was Jonah Day

Jonah eating a lily stalk

Jonah is our one year old Saanen wether (wether in goat lingo means he is a castrated fellow). He won't be fully mature for another year or two and right now he is like a young teenager, rather gangly with his long legs, has a good appetite and sometimes he seems to be bored. I had been watching Jonah for a few days as he has seemed a little down. Perhaps it was the extreme heat getting to him or perhaps he was ill in some way. I wondered. Perhaps Jonah was feeling neglected. Up until this spring, Jonah has been the baby of the herd. But now there are kids getting lots of attention and I think this was bothering Jonah a bit. So yesterday morning as I scratched Jonah's forehead, I declared the day Jonah Day.

We had a lot of fun pampering and spoiling Joe-Joe (his nickname). He seemed bemused at first, especially when he got let out of the field for a walk around the lawn. He got to graze some forbidden goodies and he got to explore places he has only gazed at from afar. As the hours went by, he got lots of extra hugs, cuddles, scratches and treats. By the end of the day he was certain he was King of the herd! Of course our herd Queen was quick to dissuade him of that notion. Poor Joe lives with bossy dominant females!
two Alpines and Jonah's mom

momma Rainah (herd Queen), her family, Jonah's little brother (can just see his legs) and Jonah

All the goats were spoiled yesterday...well they are everyday. Here they are enjoying some Virginia Creeper that my husband cut and draped on their fence.


It was quite a bit of fun lavishing all of this abundance upon Jonah. Watching his reaction, it was if his self esteem took a great boost. Such a simple thing to do really, all that was needed was that we pay him extra attention.

This day got me thinking, what if we started a Jonah Day type of movement? What if everyone looked around them to see someone (human or animal) that could use a bit of special treatment? Maybe a parent, a neighbour, a spouse...why not? Pick someone and then treat them like the blessing that they are in your life. Bake a favourite snack, watch a movie together, go for a walk, have a heart to heart conversation, laugh, dance, give flowers, share a coffee or a glass of wine, go overboard - for an entire day! Wouldn't our relationships flourish? Isn't savouring our loved ones what life is all about? Everyone deserves to have their own day. Don't wait for a birthday.

So go ahead, pick someone and declare it 'their day'. And don't forget to give yourself a special day too. There is an art exhibit at the National Gallery that I want to see in August and you can bet it is soon going to be Teresa Day! :-) 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

reminded me of something

Stuck in a rut, predictable? I like to think of it as style - my fondness for the horizontal format. This is what I am working on now, the paper is Colourfix (sanded pastel paper), and the image is 6 1/2" high and 23" long. I think of this piece as a cousin to Neptune's Leaves (NL can be seen in my right sidebar and a segment of it is in my header). The main similarity is that the background is going to be a gradation combo of aquamarine and teal-ish colours. Also, the subject matter is based on leaves which shall be funked up according to my imagination.

The inspiration comes from pictures I took of one of my hosta plants. The shape of the leaves and the graceful curving lines were what got me. As I looked at my small preliminary sketch of these two leaf shapes, I kept having the thought that the lines in the leaves reminded me of something. Once I worked my drawing up to the 23 inch long version, I saw it - the lines remind me of the curved ridges on the throat of a humpback whale! Humpback Hostas, how is that for an obtuse title? :-) 

As you probably can tell, I am letting the tooth of the paper show so that I can benefit from the glow of the red paper. By the time I have all my layers on, the tooth shall be more covered more but the red shall still be influencing the look of the piece. No burnishing here. My favourite medium of art work to look at is pastel so when working on sanded papers, I like my work to have a sense of pastel about them.

Summer is whizzing by, it shall be August in a few days. I was sorting some garden pics last night. When I saw the lilac pictures, I was struck by how having all the lilac bushes in bloom seemed such a long time ago...I would like to hit some sort of summer pause button!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

remembering mellow

Two mornings ago, quite unexpectedly, I found myself transported to a deep mellow mood. It happened while I was in the barn. I was sitting next to Rainah, milking her, when the music on the radio was interrupted by the morning news. The UN was declaring a famine in Somalia. Words poured forth - drought, civil strife, tens of thousands dying, mostly children, an estimated 10 million people on the move seeking water, food and shelter. In the peaceful moments of sitting in the breeze coming in the open barn doors, stroking the side of my sweet goat my mind struggled to grasp the concept of millions of people wandering a drought parched land seeking sustenance. I sat, humbled by the fresh milk in the pail, humbled by the knowledge that just feet from the barn there were freshly laid eggs to gather from the hen house, a vast vegetable garden was thriving with enough vegetables to feed us for a year, a cold frame of salad greens was overflowing, ready to be eaten. Oh the abundance of it all. Who were we to be so blessed?

Immediately, in that moment, a deep awareness of how petty my days concerns were consumed me. How could anything I face that day possibly compare to not having enough water or food? Have you ever stood in front of a full pantry or refrigerator and looked at all that food, whining that you didn't know what you felt like eating and perhaps being too lazy to cook something? I have.

I spent the rest of my time in the barn in a sort of haze. Everywhere I looked I saw abundance, blessing, stored hay and grain to feed our animals, a lush summer landscape in the yard and fields, no drought here. Back in the house this mellow mood of deep peace and gratitude stayed with me. Time seemed to have slowed. Beethoven's Symphony #6  (the Pastoral, one of my favourites) came on the radio. Just how much bliss could one take? I stopped what I was doing and listened. Yoga seemed the best accompaniment and a few poses later, that crick in my neck that I had awakened with was gone.

The day continued like that and it was profound.

Two days later, I am stilll haunted by that news cast. I am also haunted by our abundance. I am a gal that practices staying in the present moment and counting my blessings isn't a new revelation but the depth of my recent awarement is something I wish to hang onto.

Simple things like a loaf of freshly baked bread and a pile of just harvested rhubarb waiting to be made into a cake takes on new meaning when you try to comprehend starvation. How casually we voice phrases like, "I'm dying of thirst." Yet, somewhere in the world, literally thousands are.

So, I seek to remember this mellow mood and to maintain that peace. Life has thown a few curve balls in the past two days and I could use a strong awareness of peace and contentment. My studio time has been eaten up by a real estate deal that has unraveled, something beyond my control. (Some of you may recall my ongoing challenges with settling my parents' estate.) There are more issues here than I wish to recount but suffice to say that it takes a great deal of my time, requires me to be out of town and in general uses up a significant amount of energy.

Consciously seeking balance is a life line to sanity. My tag line (in the header) of adding beauty to life isn't some trite little phrase. It is how I survive the rough bits. Something as simple as trolling the roadside ditches to gather daisies, chickory and Queen Anne's Lace and filling my home with their beauty keeps me grounded in the wonders of this journey.

Enjoying the hollyhocks outside my kitchen window helps too! Whatever you are facing today, I wish you peace. If necessary, go snip some ditch weeds, it helps. Most importantly though, lets remember that it isn't all about us. If you can give to an aid organization to help the victims of this famine, I encourage you to do so. We simply have so much...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

he has it covered, sort of


It all started yesterday afternoon as I worked in my studio...maybe it was too peaceful. I was startled out of colouring mode by the sound of my husband's chair shooting violently across the wood floor in his office. Suddenly the chickens were in an uproar of panicked clucking. There was shouting and clapping. By the time I got to the window, I had missed everything.

I saw puzzled goats huddled high up on their sleeping platform in the lean-to. I saw our German Shepherd tearing around under a pine tree with his nose to the ground and his tail high in the air - a high tail means business! So what was afoot?

I dashed downstairs and out the door my husband had left flung open. Not a sound from the chickens now, just eerily husband was nowhere in site. I was grabbing shoes when my husband appeared from the forest by the house and panted "fox". Well that explained everything!

 Mark (my husband, tired of typing husband over and over) filled me in. He was at his computer in his office when he saw a movement on the front lawn. A fox was running after our free ranging hens.Several hens dashed to a pine tree right in front of the barn and the goat paddock. The fox disappeared under the low boughs after them. Mark by now was in hot pursuit clapping and shouting. The scared fox darted back out and headed towards the woods. It did not have a chicken. Mark was now chasing the fox. You know, to scare it so badly that it won't return. :-) I am very sorry I missed this bit. LOL

The dog was keen on the scent of the fox at first but being old and wise he decided that his 'dad' was messing up the hunt by making all that noise. He quickly realized there were chickens out in the yard somewhere...we nabbed the second predator and got him back to the house. :-)

It took us a while to find all of the panicked chickens so we could do a head count. There were lots of feathers stuck in the branches of the pine tree and it was unclear if the fox had already been here and had returned for a second one.

Now that the initial raid was past, Roosty was having fits (Roosty is our rooster, if that isn't obvious. He is a beautiful Barred Plymouth Rock, honestly that is the only reason we kept him. He is gorgeous, this is what happens when an artist farms, beauty probably counts more than it should!) Roosty was doing his job of corralling his hens to a safe spot inside the goat field, tucked into the base of some raspberry shrubs.

All the hens are okay. This time...The fox will return.

Fox tracks are here all winter and one can see where they come right up to the barn and around the house. This spring we could hear the foxes barking close by so I have no doubt the den isn't far. We have seen a fox too but it hasn't been bold enough to strike. Our neighbour saw two foxes the other day in the afternoon and called us to warn us. Mark said that the fox was thin and it is no doubt a mom with kits. (I actually had a moment of weakness and tried to think of some food I could put out for her.Yeah, I know, it was only for a moment.)

The fox family leaves scat near the barn so the turf gets claimed. Andy, our dog, then reclaims it. :-) 

The hens are spooked today and Roosty is ever more vigilant. He no doubt thinks he has it covered, easy to assume when you are behind the safety of a fence! The chickens are in 'lock down' which means they are confined to the goat pasture, lean-to area and hen house. Which is pretty terrific really. Even if given the chance today, I doubt they would wander far  - for the ones who had to fly up into the tree, the memory of the fox below won't soon be forgotten.

No doubt we will lose a hen or hens to some kind of predator eventually. When we first got chickens, everyone felt compelled to share their stories of how their hens got killed by raccoons, hawks, coyotes, foxes, dogs, you name it. We bought extra chicks for a bit of insurance and built a Fort Knox of chicken houses. Expensive small grid fencing, the works...and then we let them free range in the daytime. :-)

So today, it is once again quiet in the studio, Roosty is on patrol, the dog is dreaming of prey and all is good.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

deferred pleasure

Looks yummy but eating had to wait...

This morning was fruit photo shoot time. I am creating a file of photos for a new series I shall be working on, probably sometime later in the fall. The series will involve various items being featured in a mug, the yellow mug in the picture above. The plan is for the various drawings to be small in size ( 5 x 7"or 8x10", small for me anyway) and hopefully executed fairly quickly. Depending on if things go according to 'the plan', I may offer these small works for sale matted but unframed. They would be in a price point that would make them affordable for people who would love a work of mine but are unable to buy a larger piece. I am looking ahead to a pre Christmas Studio Tour I shall be part of and I also plan on opening up my home gallery for some pre Christmas shopping dates as well. Yup, I have plans :-) but as it is just the beginning of July all plans are subject to change!

I cropped this next photo so you can see the gorgeous reflection of the yellow mug on the plums. It is so dramatic it almost looks fake, like I must have touched up the photo. Ah the happy surprises one sometimes sees when it is time to start uploading the photos.

The berries started to wilt in the heat and so did I so it was a good time to head inside back to the studio. I don't know about the 'plan' though - as I look at my photo references I am starting to feel the urge to paint big, maybe funky and bold...oh dear...

At least we can eat this mouth watering fruit now!

Monday, July 4, 2011

maybe a wind machine

Press kit photo shoot, sounds glamorous doesn't it? It is more like agony for us folks here, that would be me the model and my poor husband, the photographer. Yes, the time had come and it could not be avoided any longer - I needed a new picture of myself for my press material.

The main driver for this hideous activity is my website. I am currently putting together an entirely new website and it is so past the time that I do this. My current website has languished for an embarrassingly long time with no new uploads to my gallery and while I have been tweaking info along the way, it needs major work (for starters I needed new web software so I could have more bells and whistles, me and new software, ugh). So, major work is underway...that is good...ah but the photo I used of myself in the past just won't make the transfer to the new site. For one thing my new website is going to have a nice green background colour, carefully selected to colour coordinate with my brand colours and the image snippet in my header. (You will get the idea once the new website is revealed.) A major problem is that the green sweater that I am wearing in my old photo clashes terribly with the new background. Drats. Okay, it isn't the best photo either and my hair is a lot longer than I wear it now and I need a fresh pic for other press material so darn it all, a new photo simply needs to be taken.

A picture of oneself, goodness, doesn't sound too difficult does it? Unless you are a perfectionist and a spend thrift like me. The perfectionist bit explains itself. The spend thrift bit comes into play as I am determined to do this with no budget. As a self employed artist, all expenditures are kept to a bare minimum and going to a professional photographer is just not something I am willing to pay for.

I have put this off to the last hour but my bio page on my website needs the photo now. So this past holiday weekend, while others were at the beach, camping or chilling at a cottage somewhere I was fussing and fretting over a photo shoot. One look in the mirror quickly revealed that the scissors had to come out. I cut an inch off my bangs. Okay, you could see my eyes now and my husband trimmed the back (yes, this spendthrift has only been to a hair salon maybe three times ever and the last time was probably 25 years ago). Then the what to wear decision, can't clash with that background you know. Don't want to look too seasonal, i.e. winter wear or a summer look, didn't want a busy pattern, oh dear. Finally a simple white top was chosen. Next, the studio. Time to frame the shot. Don't want the hanging plant to look like I have something growing out of the top of my head, that painting behind me needs to be changed, the chair in the background needs to be get the idea, a professional photo studio starts to look more appealing...Then we have to fiddle with lighting!

Now I am not going to show you my bloopers. While I may cut my own hair, I do have some pride! LOL But below you will see one picture that didn't make the cut. I don't know what my quizzical expression is referring to but you can see that we haven't worked the bugs out of the lighting. In some pics I look very washed out, some I look like I have spent my life near the equator, some lighting choices left me with a glow in my bang area that looked like a bald spot... Sheesh...

Finally after some angst and yet with limited nashing of teeth (i.e. it went easier than last time), I have settled on the image below. It will do...But perhaps a professional photographer would be best next time, or perhaps a whole team of experts, you know, hair, make up, the works. :-)  And maybe a wind machine!!!! Don't all glam shots make use of a wind machine? LOL

So what do you do when that professional picture of self is required? Do you struggle like me or do you simply hire the job out?

Anyway, I have this done for another significant chunk of time and I am much relieved.

Does anyone know what the shrub at the top of the post is called? It is in my backyard and I haven't been able to identify it. Whatever it is called, it is a prolific bloomer, simply covered in a mass of very fragrant white blossoms. Beautiful!

Friday, July 1, 2011

a blog rethink

 Why blog? That is a question I have asked myself in recent months. Over time, I faced the reality that the reasons I had started a blog were simply no longer relevant to me.

Initially, I started my blog as a way to help my students stay motivated. I felt that if people who had invested time and money in learning cp techniques could have a way to still be in my studio, watching over my shoulder (as it were) long after our classes ended, it would help them in their artistic journey. Too many promising students were letting life interfere with their art and I was hoping to stir them out of this neglect. I also wanted to have a place where interested collectors could see my newest works as they were being created. Eventually, I realized that a lot of my students didn't read blogs, mine included. They also didn't read the helpful websites that I referred them to. As for collectors, well the feedback there was that they didn't have time to read blogs either. Humm...

Eventually I got bored with just sharing my works in progress. How many times did I want to go over why I chose the support I did for a particular piece and why I chose the brand of pencils that I did? I started sharing more of my life, not just studio stuff. Garden pics were shared, renovation projects (Remember all of the restored chairs? LOL) And then I started talking about the livestock...that was the last straw.

While in California, at the CPSA convention last summer, I became aware that the chickens and goats I had talked about in my blog were somewhat of a focal point for people. (I was getting introduced to people as, 'This is Teresa Mallen, she has chickens and goats.") In hindsight, I think I was naive. I guess I hadn't thought anyone was reading or at least paying too much attention! I started becoming a bit uncomfortable trying to answer questions about why on earth I had goats. So much for my art work!!!

Upon returning, I felt shy about sharing my life outside of the studio. I got busy and didn't know what to do about blogging. I started to ask myself why I would want to continue. I reasoned that I could make the blog just about art, simply a vehicle to talk about my next show, an award win or show a new finished piece. I seriously considered that.

Finally a decision was made, I was going to just be myself after all. I have been revamping this blog, new template and all and I have rewritten my profile info. My disclaimer is now posted right up at the top - this blog shall now include chat, info and pictures of many of my passions - both inside the studio and out. I hope that readers will find something of interest here and for those of you who simply want a blog about art then I would ask that you just ignore the other posts. Thank you for bearing with my discussion of my months of introspection. Now that we have that out of the way, it is time to move forward. I am excited about sharing my interests with you.

The pictures above were taken today in our meadow and in the woods along the edge. I had the great fortune to stumble upon the nest late one afternoon while the baby birds were just leaving, learning to fly. What a wonderful time that was.

Finally, more baby goat have seen the Saanens (the breed of white goats in the last post) and here are the Alpines (a breed originally from France, the Saanens are a Swiss breed). The first photo shows twins Ella, Dukah, and their mother Rainah.

The next photo is of baby Ella...she is a fireball. Day two she was dashing about chasing chickens. Something she still loves to do. The chickens don't like being bunted around so they scatter with noisy clucking when she comes running.

To all of my fellow Canadians, Happy Canada Day. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (William and Kate) are here in Ottawa today. The city is in a bit of a stir so tonight I shall forego the fireworks on Parliament Hill and plant apple trees instead.

So why do you blog? :-)