Friday, October 23, 2015

autumn painting

Yesterday, I went to Stella Niagara in Lewiston, New York, for a painting class. This time, the theme was autumnal scenes. I started by drawing a fence, with fenceposts. 

Then I added the other elements of the picture: horses, a tree, grass, a bushel basket, apples, and pumpkins.

It is time to start adding color, one element at a time. At this point, the colors seem to be a little bit too dark.

I've adjusted the colors and have added details. It is looking autumnal, except for one thing...

... the tree. It was just too green. I added some browns and reds to the tree, and it is looking more like autumn.

All of the paintings are finished. Each person in the painting class has a different idea of how to depict autumn. We have a great variety of subjects. Each painting says something about the personalities of the artists.

Here are the rest of the paintings that were made on Thursday. Every time we paint at Stella Niagara, we express our amazement that, in the space of about two hours, we go from a blank piece of watercolor paper to an image that says something about how we see our world.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

october sketch crawl

Today is the day chosen for October's sketch crawl day. Alas, it is too cold to sketch outside, so I set up a still life in the living room. The elements that I put in the still life were a vase, a stuffed bear, a jar of honey, and a leaf.

First, I started by doing a freehand sketch of the vase, trying, but not succeeding in making both sides identical. That does not bother me because making both sides identical with a freehand sketch is a difficult task! Fortunately, there are ways of compensating for that.

This is how I compensated: I got out a sheet of onion skin paper. I used onion skin because I don't have any tracing paper. I chose the side of the vase that I liked the best and traced it. Then I flipped the onion skin over and I placed it on the other side of the vase. When you draw directly over the line that you have already made, applying some pressure to the line, the graphite from the pencil will make an impression on the sketch paper. When you take the onion skin paper away, you can see exactly how inaccurate your original sketch was. Simply erase the original lines and reinforce the new line.

I used the same technique as above to get both handles on the vase. Then I added the bear, erasing lines from the vase that were no longer needed because the bear was sitting in front of the vase.

Here is the completed sketch, with all of my planned elements included. At this point, the only drawing supplies you need are simple ones. I used a number 2 pencil, a Pink Pearl eraser, and a piece of onion skin paper.

Because I have decided to use pen and ink as my medium, I begin inking in my drawing, starting with the bear. For this project, I am using Faber-Castell PITT artist pens. I really like these pens for drawing. They come in a variety of widths, so that I can get anything from a fine line to a almost paintbrush-like effect. At this point, I have used two pens: an F for the lines and an SB for the thicker lines and for the bear's hair.

This is the completed drawing. I have used two additional pens: an M for slightly thicker lines and an XS for very narrow lines (the writing on the honey jar). I also added shading, which gives some idea of the light source. I used the SB pen for the shading. The drawing technique that I used for shading, was "stippling," which basically means that I made lots of dots.

So that's today's sketch crawl. I hope that you enjoyed watching the process of making a pen and ink drawing as much as I enjoyed making the picture.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Virtual Sketchcrawl

A sketch crawl is an event for people, not necessarily professional artists, to get together and to draw. It is something that groups of artists do all over the world. People do sketch crawls at museums and they do sketch crawls outside and they do sketch crawls anywhere that it is possible to make a drawing. The opportunities for sketch crawls are virtually limitless.

If the group of artists is an internet group who don't live in one city or town, that group can participate in a virtual sketch crawl. They pick one day and they each go out into their own communities to draw. Then they post their pictures onto the website so that they can see one another's work.

I have been participating in monthly sketch crawls with a Facebook group. In August, I took a chair outside and sketched the black-eyed Susans that filled a large portion of my garden (see above). It was originally just going to be a sketch but I decided to embellish upon it and make it a mixed media drawing, with doodled leaves, instead of realistic leaves.

I showed the sketch to my family and friends. They all agreed that I should use the sketch as a basis for a painting. I agreed that would be a good idea. I chose to do a mixed media painting on panel. I had purchased two pieces of panel as an experiment, to see if I liked painting on that sort of surface. I copied my original sketch freehand on the panel and then I painted it with acrylic paints.

After the paint dried, I filled in the background with India ink. I chose to make the background very dark so that the flowers would pop out. I wanted the painting to be decorative, rather than realistic. After the ink was dry, I used a correction fluid pen to add the white doodled vines and leaves.

Here are the sketch and the painting together. 

The painting is finished and is framed. For me, it is a happy painting. The black-eyed Susans are now well past their prime outside but I will always have a reminder of these lovely flowers, even when the wind blows piles of snow on top of the garden and the trees are completely naked.

If you are interested in doing a sketch crawl, either get a group together or look online for a virtual sketch crawl, and go for it. You never know where it will take you.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Tea time for Sweet Suzie Bear

Synopsis of Previous Bear stories: Bearnacle Bear took his ship to sea and was the unfortunate victim of a terrible storm. He was taken prisoner by the humans. Eventually, he escaped and was able to retrieve his ship and crew and return home. He had been away for so long that the crew, which found shelter on an island, had a whole collection of bear cubs. One of the bear cubs was Sweet Suzie Bear. Bearnacle Bear and his crew had been rescued by the Sea Monster and the Mermaid, who are usually quite elusive.
The bears and the humans later became friends. Sweet Suzie Bear grew up and went to art school in the Land of the Humans and later became curator of the Bears Art Gallery. Her most recent exhibit was titled "Modern Art Bear." It received positive reviews in the publications of bears, humans, and giants alike.
Later, Bearnacle Bear took a group, including Beartrand, the radio station bear, and Sweet Suzie Bear, to visit the Land of the Giants. Sweet Suzie Bear kept detailed journals and had a great time. Unfortunately, Beartrand Bear suffered from seasickness . I'm going to be a sailor, he wrote.  Let's not and say we did, he added later. 
Back at home, Sweet Suzie Bear enjoys a relaxing moment with a cup of her favorite tea and a jar of honey. She writes in her journal:

Ever since I returned home from visiting the Land of the Giants, I have been busy planning for the next art exhibit at the Bears Gallery. It is currently a work in progress. There will be a variety of art styles represented in the next show.
Also there will be paintings of Bearnacle Bear's and my visit to the Prince of Whales and to Mouse City. I will also share the tales of the mice, which they like to title "Mouse Tails."
To be continued.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

your sketchbook... don't leave home without it

Today, I walked to the beauty parlor. It was a nice, toasty day, and the walk was delightful. I was still feeling happy from having seen an adult deer and a fawn running through the back yard. What beautiful creatures! So I walked. The beauty parlor is approximately three miles from my house.

I had a few errands to run. I figured that I may as well get more than one errand done while out walking. One of the errands was to go pick up a copy of the local weekly newspaper so I could see the article that I had written about domestic violence. Sure enough it was in the newspaper. You can find the article at training hairdressers to recognize signs of domestic abuse

After I picked up the newspaper, it was time to go to the beauty parlor. I had loads of time so I took my small sketchbook out of my purse and looked around for a magazine. Instead, I made a freehand adaptation of one of the pictures in a children's book. It features rabbits and scarecrows. It was a lot of fun. So... here's a rabbit and a scarecrow...

Monday, June 8, 2015

The chair project

In mid-May, I saw an article in the PennySaver with the title, "Calling All Artists." I found out that there is a committee that was formed to raised money so that Kaegebein Elementary School could have a playground on the grounds of the school. One of the fundraisers that was chosen was a chair auction. I decided that sounded like an interesting activity for me so I called the school to find out more about it. Plus, I think that all kids should have access to a playground so I wanted to help with this process, and this seemed like the best way for me to help.

I found out that the chairs in the library had been replaced and that it was the old chairs that were to be decorated and sold at the auction. I went to the school to fill out a form and to pick up a chair. Above is the chair before I started painting. It was just a regular, well-used chair. I sat on it and thought that it was a nice-sized chair but, then again, I am five feet tall (aka "fun sized") so I can appreciate a smaller chair.

The first thing that I did was to paint the chair white. Immediately, I discovered that I did not have a big enough paintbrush for the job at hand. I went to the hardware store, where I decided against the big paintbrush that's used for walls. Instead, I chose to purchase a paintbrush that is meant to paint trim in a room. 

I covered the chair white that so that any color that I added to the chair would be more visible. Also, once I started drawing my design, my pencil lines would be more visible, too.

That turned out to be a very messy job. My shirt sleeves were covered in white paint. I washed the shirt in a special soap and put it in the laundry at once, which seemed to do the trick of paint removal.

It was at this stage that I realized that a child's chair was actually a rather large object. I managed to polish off a large (read "enormous") tube of acrylic paint. I went shopping for more enormous tubes of acrylic paint, in a variety of colors. The shopping trip was fun and, after buying my art supplies, I got to do a little shopping at the downtown Buffalo farmers' market, where I bought honey and flowers for my garden (still a work in progress).
I started drawing my floral design and then I began with my underpainting.
I painted one portion at a time. When I got to the main part of the chair, I decided to go with an oversized flower. Since I like insects, I chose to add a bee to the picture. This is one time when it is OK to sit on a bee!

I add the background and a few more details to make the painting more complete.

Here is a view of the back of the chair.

Another view of the chair.

Here is yet another view of the chair.

Here I am, with the finished chair. It has been sprayed so that the colors don't run. This is, by far, the largest painting that I've ever made. It was an interesting project for me, and it definitely took me outside of my comfort zone. It was different and challenging to paint a three-dimensional object. All in all, it was a good experience, and I feel that I have grown as an artist for having done this project.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Giant tales continue

Synopsis of yesterday's episode: The bears arrived at the Land of the Giants. They enjoy the hospitality of the giants, and then settle in to listen to the giants tell stories.

Continuation of Sweet Suzie Bear's journal: As Jack, the Little Giant, told his story, I saw that some of the bears were having fun with the large dishes and utensils in the banquet hall. They climbed into teacups and posed for pictures. They tried manipulating spoons and forks, and they all looked very silly. 
That was a fun time. 
Sitting on the ground underneath a tree was delightful. We heard the story of the Big Giant as we sat underneath the tree. It was a huge tree. I'm not sure of what kind of tree it is, but I think that it is an ash tree. A mountain ash, maybe.
The Big Giant related this tale:
My name is Bobby Allen. I've been wandering this land for many years. Even among the giants, I am big. There are stories that I eat the tops of trees as if they were broccoli, but that isn't true. Tree bark isn't especially tasty, even after soaking in a marinade for a week. I eat regular food, like the other giants, just more of it.
I spend a lot of time walking in the forests during the winter, when the trees are naked and the squirrels have fled. I step on the snow and it squeaks beneath my feet. The forest is where I go for quiet. There is a woman who lives in a small house in the forest. She is a human and not a giant, and she left the Land of the Humans many years ago because she wanted to live in the forest. She built her house from the fallen trees and she collects the apples that grow and she collects the berries and the nuts and the garlic that grows wild and the dandelions when they are young and she makes soups and she cans the fruits and so, she has more than enough to eat year round. 
The woman's name is Adelise. She plays the flute in the forest. The animals listen to her play, and they dance. I had heard about Adelise playing the flute for the animals but, until I saw her and heard her play the flute, I could scarcely believe it.
I've never heard flute playing like that. Adelise could coax the plants from the ground and she made the squirrels dance up and down the trees. But there was someone who didn't really like hearing the flute. He was a man named Oscar. He was either a very tall human or a very little giant. I don't know which. He was extremely grumpy. He went to live in the forest to get away from people because he said that he didn't like them. I saw him a few times when I visited the forest. He never bothered me much because I am such an enormous giant but he wasn't very nice to Adelise.
One day, Oscar stole Adelise's flute so that she could not play any more. Adelise was so sad that her flute was gone that she didn't do anything. She stopped taking care of her food and she didn't sweep her little house. She didn't go outside to visit the animals or to find water in the brook. The squirrels stopped dancing up and down the trees.
Oscar took the flute back to the cave where he was living. It was a small cave and very damp and kind of cold. Maybe that's why he got to be so grumpy. Oscar put the flute in a box filled with stuff that he stole from people in the city and people in the countryside. 
Oscar tried to play with the stuff. He pulled a yo yo from the box and played with that. He played with a deck of cards that was three cards short of a full deck. He played with some old seashells. He clanged the cymbals together with so much force that all of the animals outside of the cave scurried away. 
As Oscar was playing the the stuff, his attitude changed. He played and played and played and he realized that it was fun to play with stuff and, maybe, it might be fun to play with friends.
Oscar returned everything that he had stolen. He made friends with the squirrels.
Oscar never did learn how to play the flute. He returned the flute to Adelise.
Oscar began to sing the songs of the forest. Adelise played the flute. The animals came to listen to the music of the forest. One day, Oscar was not there anymore. Adelise looked for him, day after day. She walked away from her little house in the forest. She walked across fields and she climbed hills and she got into a canoe and paddled across a lake, but she could not find Oscar.
So she returned to her little house in the forest. The animals welcomed her. It was dark. The animals told her that the sun forgot to rise because she didn't play the flute. Someday, they said, Oscar would come back for her.
I met Adelise after Oscar had gone away. She asked me to share her story, and, so, I have. It is the story of how the little human and the big giant became friends, even though no one believed that little humans and very big giants could be friends.
Adelise reminded me to tell this story so that you would know that you can be friends with anyone, no matter what they look like, even if they are bigger than your house.
Now, I need to find some broccoli, so I will say good night.
With that, the big giant lumbered off. He footsteps sounded like thunder, which woke up Beartrand, who was getting used to solid ground again.
I think that I will make a painting here in the Land of the Giants.
Bye bye for now!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Tale of the Little Giant

Synopsis of yesterday's episode: George Junior talks about his life and his experiences and how he decided to become a cook.

From Sweet Suzie Bear's Journal: We have arrived at the Land of the Giants. George Junior and I hopped off the ship together. We spent a lot of time chatting during the voyage and have become good friends. My dad said that he was happy about that because he needed to attend to Beartrand. My dad didn't want me to be alone and I'm not alone because I have my friend. Beartrand has not been well. He is the most seasick bear that I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of seasick bears, including my dad, so that's saying a lot.
Anyway, George Junior and I were both excited about being in the Land of the Giants. I brought a camera so that I could take pictures of everything being large. We went to a tea house so that we could have some tea and scones before the evening's welcome and story telling session... and the tea cups and pots were so big! We were served our tea in a child's tea party set. It really was funny. Of course, we had to be photographed with the giant tea things. I'll share another funny tea picture tomorrow.
And so, the giants served us a delicious dinner, with soup and stew and salad and something very chocolatey. George Junior knew what it was. He said that it was a moose. I am sure that I have never seen a chocolate moose but he insisted that it was a moose. Hmm. He is a silly goose... I mean human.
Then, it was time for story telling. The Giants are well known for their ability to spin a yarn and it is hard to tell if it is a true story or just fiction. Here is the story that I heard, as best as I can recall.

My name is Jack, and I am a Little Giant. Everyone thinks that all giants are big but that is not true. Some giants are bigger than others and others are littler than others. I am one of the littler giants.
When I was a very little giant, I climbed a beanstalk. I always loved beans and the very best beans were on the top of the beanstalk. My mom read to me a story about Jack, who climbed a beanstalk and found all sorts of magical things when he climbed the beanstalk. Well, I decided that I was Jack, so I could climb the beanstalk, too. There was only one problem. The other Jack must have been very, very tiny, and he must have been cousins with Tom Thumb because he really did climb the beanstalk. I was just too big. I climbed the beanstalk, and it broke and I fell on the ground with a big THUD! Oh, that hurt. My sister, Claire, watched me, and she chuckled but she didn't laugh too hard.
Claire and I decided that, since I couldn't climb a beanstalk, I should draw a picture and jump into it. So I got my set of watercolor paints and I drew a picture of someplace that I would really like to go. It was a beach. I drew the high tide, which was coming in, and sailboats, and lots of sand and lots and lots of seashells. And I jumped into the picture. I don't know how I did it but I was in the picture. Claire landed on top of me. We giggled and rolled on the ground for a while before we got up.
Claire and I walked on the beach and we tripped over the seashells because there were so many. They were every color of the rainbow. I had never seen so many colorful seashells but, then again, I painted the seashells so that's how they got to look like that.
My picture was too small for Claire and me because, even though we are little giants, the sky was too low and we had to bend over so that our heads would not hit the sky too hard.
We walked and walked and walked. We found a place where we could have ice cream and we had 20 scoops each because the cones were very tiny so each scoop was finished in half a bite. That meant that we could have 20 flavors of ice cream. It was the most delicious ice cream that I ever ate.
All of a sudden, it started to rain! The colors in our beautiful little world began to run because I made the world with watercolor paint and watercolor runs when it rains too hard.
So we fell out of our little beach back to our own world, where it was dinner time.
We walked home, feeling very happy. When we got to the house, we saw a very big giant standing there. He was taller than the house. He was the biggest giant that I'd ever seen. He had huge foot prints. I walked up to him and asked him if he was coming to visit us. He said, yes, and that he had a story that he wanted me to tell."

Tomorrow: The Little Giant shares the story of the Big Giant.

Personal Note: When I was a little girl, my father used to tell stories of a little giant to my sisters and to me. Apparently, he made them up as he went along. None of the stories were written, so we don't have any record of the stories. I was very young when he told the stories so I don't remember them. But, in the spirit of inventing stories, as my dad did, I am making up new Little Giant stories.
I dedicate this and all other stories about giants, large or small, to the memory of my father, Roy Gerard (1920-2012). Thank you, Pop, for giving me the love of storytelling. I will love you forever.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

George Junior's story

Synopsis of yesterday's episode: The sea voyage continues. Sweet Suzie Bear describes life on the sea in her journal. She enjoys swimming with dolphins and she wonders at the flying fish that are attracted to the ship's lights.

From the journal of George Junior: When I was ten years old, my dad and I got lost at sea and were rescued by Bearnacle Bear. My dad had just started working as a fisherman and he wasn't very good at steering his boat. So we got lost and we drifted aimlessly until the bears rescued us. It was an amazing experience because my dad was a prison guard and Bearnacle had been kept in the prison for, I think, two years. My dad said that he was very mean when he was a prison guard. After Bearnacle ran away, my dad understood that he had treated Bearnacle and others badly. He said that he did not like the person whom he became and he tried to change himself so that he could share kindness with others. He learned how to catch fish so that people could eat and be well fed. My dad talked about "paying it forward," but I never really understood. I think that it means that, if someone does you a favor, you do the same favor for a third person, preferably someone who doesn't expect it.
Anyway, my dad and Bearnacle ended up by becoming good friends. After Bearnacle brought us safely back home, he stayed with our family for about a week. He told us story after story about the sea, and my dad was happy that he had become a fisherman.
Being on the bears' ship after we were rescued was a real adventure for me. I was so happy to be there. I got to see every part of the ship. My favorite part was the galley, where all of the food was made. I was permitted to help prepare the food. That experience changed my life. Until then, I never thought of anything besides skipping rocks on the water and throwing snowballs and chasing my cousin through the house. After that, I thought about food. I thought about cooking food and baking food and I became a cook, sometimes in a restaurant and sometimes in ships.
My dad and I were happy to be invited to come on the bears' voyage to visit the Land of the Giants. My dad said that we can learn a lot from the bears. My best friend among the bears is Sweet Suzie Bear. She found art in the Land of the Humans and I found cooking on the bears' ship.
I spent the morning looking at a few of the paintings that Sweet Suzie Bear has made on her various sea voyages. But now, I'm going to go bake a really big cake because dinner will be our last meal aboard this ship.
Early tomorrow morning, we will land on the shores of the Land of the Giants.
I've never seen a real giant up close. I've heard the legends of Big Foot. I don't know whether to believe them or not. I'd rather just see the giants for myself.
Off I go. The cake won't bake itself.

Tomorrow: The Bear Ship arrives at the Land of the Giants, where everyone and everything are really large. A special meal is served, followed by entertainment (storytelling).

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sweet Suzie Bear swims with dolphins

Synopsis of yesterday's episode: The Bears came out of hibernation. Bearnacle Bear set sail, with Beartrand the radio announcer bear and Sweet Suzie Bear. Beartrand was quite seasick but he managed to cope and his talents as an announcer were very much in demand during social events. Sweet Suzie Bear was more adjusted to ship travel, as she was born during Bearnacle's first journey and, as a result, had her first sea journey when she was very young.

An excerpt from Sweet Suzie Bear: We are getting closer to the Land of the Giants. I had been there when I was a little cub but I barely remember anything, except that the Giants were indeed very large. I am looking forward to meeting them. I have been told that they are the best story tellers in the world and that they have a whole series of stories about a Little Giant. I am looking forward to hearing the stories.
The trip has been beautiful and quite delightful. Bearnacle is a great captain. He is happy to be at sea and he really knows everything about the ship. Anytime I have a question, he takes the time to give me a complete answer. Like I wanted to know about the flying fish that come out when the lights are shining from the ship at night. It was amazing to watch the flying fish jump up to four feet out of the water and then go back in again. They come in large schools of fish and they jump as a group and, wow, that is amazing.
One of these days, I might paint a picture of flying fish jumping as a group.
I played a little bit with mixed media but, mostly, I just watched the water.

Yesterday, we got treated to a show of dolphins leaping and dancing near the starboard side of the ship. A few crew members got into a life boat and jumped into the sea from that. They danced with the dolphins in the water. I watched for a while and then one of the crew members invited me to come dance with the dolphins, too, so I did. The water felt cold at first but it didn't take long for me to get used to it. I swam with the dolphins and, oh, there is nothing like it. What a treat! I will never forget swimming with the dolphins! It was one of the most joyous experiences that I've ever had.
Tomorrow, we will arrive at the Land of the Giants.
Bye for now!
Sweet Suzie Bear

Monday, January 26, 2015

Beartrand goes to sea

Synopsis of Friday's episode: The bears went into hibernation amidst the snow and wind and coldness of winter.

When the bears awoke from hibernating, soft little leaves had sprouted from their buds and the trees were covered with flowers. It was time for Bearnacle Bear to take another voyage with his crew. He had some guests who were coming along for the trip to visit the Land of the Giants. The guests were the human fishermen George and George Junior, the radio station announcer Beartrand, and the artist Sweet Suzie Bear.

An entry from the diary of Beartrand, the radio station bear: It has been four days since we left our homeland. Before we left, there was a big parade to celebrate our sea journey. Very few bears have ever visited the Land of the Giants. We only know about the Land of the Giants because of the shipwreck that Bearnacle experienced while on his first voyage as a captain.
I remember when I first met Bearnacle. It was shortly before I interviewed him. I had no idea that he was a sea captain.  I even thought that Bearnacle regularly stowed away on ships and that he was a petty crook. Well, nothing could be further from the truth, although, as it turned out, Bearnacle did stow away on a ship when he was a cub and he didn't want to go to school. So he wandered away from school one day and he saw a ship in the harbor with the gangplank down. He wanted to look at the ship and he walked up the gangplank and started poking around below deck. Before he could get off the ship and go home, the ship departed with Bearnacle on it! The ship's crew treated him like a mascot and, after that, Bearnacle decided to be a ship's captain. When he returned home after a short sea voyage, Bearnacle's parents were mad and his teachers were mad and his brothers were jealous!
Well, anyway, I never got to have such an adventure when I was a cub so I suppose that I should be jealous, too. But no. I don't think so. I'm happy with the path that I took. I always wanted to be a radio announcer. I loved all of the new music and I sang in a band. I didn't sing well. Mostly, I just yelled the lyrics. Mom and Dad kicked me out of the house for making all of that noise. They said that I could come back in the house when I wasn't singing, which would be dinner time because they knew that I wouldn't make such a racket when I was enjoying my food. They told me that I could start singing in the house when they started going deaf. I still can't sing and Mom and Dad are still not deaf.
They were happy when I chose talking over singing and they were happy when Little Sister Bearlinda chose singing over talking. She talked incessantly, even in her sleep, but she sang like an angel. She even joined the opera.
Anyway, that was all a long time ago.
Now the sea voyage. It's my first. I've never traveled in a big ship before. On my first day, I got sea sick. All of that rocking in big waves. I thought that the ship was going to tip over. I made the mistake of telling Bearnacle that we would probably tip over and he laughed and laughed. I'm not sure why that was funny.
Needless to say, we didn't tip over.
I am now used to the waves and to the ship moving this way and that. The scenery, though. That's a challenge for someone who lives totally on land. It's always water that reaches up to touch the sky. Every day, the water looks the same. Sweet Suzie Bear assures me that the water really looks different and that the color of the water reflects the color of the sky. I'm not sure that I see that. She sets up an easel every morning and she paints the sea and the sky. She says that they are hard to paint so she wants to practice as much as she can.
Her paintings look like sea and sky paintings to me. It doesn't look like she has a hard time painting them.
She didn't get seasick but, then again, she was practically born on a ship so she was born with what Bearnacle calls "sea legs."
I hear a bell so it is dinner time. One of my three favorite times of day! After dinner, we're going to have a dance, and I will be the emcee. What fun that will be.
Well, I'll write again later.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hibernation Time

Hibernation:  Hibernation in bears lasts up to seven months. Bears do not eat, drink, pee, or poop when they are hibernating. Hibernation is almost like being in suspended animation or stasis. Bears will go into hibernation when the weather becomes cold and, when spring begins, the bears come out of hibernation. The bears hibernate because, in the winter, their favorite foods (nuts and berries) become difficult to obtain. Bears survive on their stored fat. Shortly before hibernation time, bears eat massive quantities of food, building up fat in their bodies. The bears' heartbeat becomes extremely slow, about ten beats per minute, and the bears' body temperature drops dramatically. During hibernation, bears can lose anywhere from fifteen to forty percent of their body weight.

Bearnacle Bear, Bertrand, Sweet Suzie Bear, and all of the other bears have gone into hibernation.

Hibernation Haiku:
snow falls on oak trees,
covering branches with white.
Time for bears to sleep.

Naked trees stand tall
all the fruit has been picked clean
nothing left to eat.

A dark den awaits
as bears sleepily crawl in
hibernation time.

The sun sets early
and stars glitter in the night
earth's beauty is cold.

Sleep well, little bear,
may your dreams be beautiful
in your long, long sleep.

Monday's tale: The bears wake from their hibernation, and Bearnacle Bears and friends begin their voyage to the Land of the Giants.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Floral painting in a Chinese style

Today, I went to Stella Niagara, in Lewiston, New York, for a painting class. Normally, I go twice a month to this class. Two weeks ago, the class was canceled, due to terrible weather. It was snowing sideways, creating whiteout conditions, so I was happy to stay at home and paint a bear. Today, it was relatively warm and it was sunny, so I went to paint at Stella Niagara.
The theme of the class was flowers done in a Chinese style. We had to adapt the lesson because we didn't really have the proper tools to make the painting look Chinese. The main tool that we were lacking was a very soft paintbrush. Our instructor, Virginia, told us that we would find the paintbrushes to be difficult to handle and that we would need one class session just to learn how to manipulate the paintbrush. We will have such a lesson at some point in the spring.
This morning, before I went to the class, I watched a video on the Internet that demonstrated a Chinese technique of painting flowers. It was interesting to watch. The artist used a lot of paint and a lot of water. He began to paint immediately, without making a sketch first. He spoke in Chinese, without any subtitles, so I didn't understand a word of it, but I did enjoy watching it. Click on the video below and you can watch and listen, too, if you like.

The painting at the top was the start of my painting. I used red paint and added lots and lots of water. Here, I am adding details to the flower, as well as a little yellow.
Here, I am beginning to add leaves. and to paint in stems, very lightly.

I add more leaves and more detail, until I reach this point. This is when I decide that the painting is finished. One of the more challenging things for me when doing watercolor is making the decision not to paint anymore. It is very easy to overwork a watercolor painting!
And here we go! The completed painting! A large flower, which is really a pleasure to see in the middle of the winter. It is a type of lily. I had a load of fun making this painting. Watch the video and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow, we hibernate

Synopsis of yesterday's episode:  Beartrand Bear enjoyed the reception and he also interviewed Sweet Suzie Bear. She let him know that she wanted to go to the Land of the Giants, along with Beartrand Bear, Bearnacle Bear, and his crew. 

Beartrand Bear enjoyed a wide variety of foods and he walked around the gallery, viewing the paintings. There were a wide variety of styles. Most of the paintings featured bears in different places. Some of the bears were realistic and others were abstract. A few of the paintings featured only color and form and no bears or humans or giants. One of those paintings looked very geometric and fascinating. One side of the painting was all primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), and the other side of the painting was all secondary colors (orange, purple, and green). Beartrand took a look at the artist's statement.
"In art school, I spent a lot of time making color wheels, as do all art students. I learned that colors are connected to each other and that the world is full of color. Art is about color and shape. And, because color and shape are life, art is life. Without art, the world would not know joy. Our world would be less colorful and more dull. I am so fortunate that I can share this vision with the world through my painting. Therefore, I have named this painting 'A World of Color, A World of Life.' As you go about your life in the beautiful Land of Bears, I hope that you will always notice the colors of the world.'"
Beartrand Bear went to the studio to finish reporting on the evening's event. He was happy and ready to hibernate.

Friday's episode: The Bears hibernate. There will be a surprise waiting for you on Friday.  Tomorrow, I will take a break to share the painting that I will do at Stella Niagara at my art class there.

Notes about today's painting: Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) contributed to a movement called De Stijl, which is a Dutch term, meaning "the style." Another name for De Stijl is "neoplasticism." The style is nonrepresentational and abstract. It is focused on geometric shapes. The painting above was based on Composition II in Red, Yellow, and Blue (1930). This style of geometric shapes and colors can be seen in Frank Lloyd Wright's stained glass windows in the houses that he designed, such as the Darwin Martin house in Buffalo and Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Celebrating Modern Art Bear

Synopsis of yesterday's story: Beartrand Bear went to the opening reception of the Modern Art Bear show. He interviewed Bearnabus Bear, the owner of the gallery. He was surprised by Bearnacle Bear, who invited him to join the next sea voyage, to begin after the bears wake from their hibernation. They were going to visit the Land of the Giants.
Beartrand wondered when Sweet Suzie Bear would be ready for an interview but, in the meantime, there was food to eat and conversations to be had. Bearbara, the opera singer, pushed through the crowd to talk to Beartrand. She always liked hearing her voice on the radio and she looked disappointed that he had put his microphone away. He realized that she would like to be interviewed so he took his microphone out of its case and pointed it at Bearbara's face. Her face lit up because she truly thrived on attention.
"Bearbara, what motivated you to come to the opening of the Modern Art Bear show?"
"Oh, I just love modern art, almost as much as opera! The two go together sort of like peanut butter and jelly."
"Peanut butter and jelly?" asked Beartrand, surveying the table full of food. He suddenly realized that he was holding a microphone but no plate. He picked up a plate and tried to put food on it but failed because he did not have a free hand. Bearbara did collect brie cheese, Camembert, crackers, melon balls, grapes, and strawberries. She began eating delicately, trying not to crunch while she was being interviewed.
"Oh yes, peanut butter and jelly. Soup and crackers. You know. Things that go together. Anyway, I thought that I would meet people and talk to the media and do all of those fun things."
Suddenly bored with the interview, Bearbara abruptly walked away. Beartrand turned off the microphone. He filled a plate with food and started eating. He was hungry and knew that it was time to fatten up before he began his hibernation cycle. Just as Beartrand took a taste of the brie cheese, up walked Sweet Suzie Bear.
"Would you like to come to my office? I have time to do the interview right now. The owner of the museum is going to give a fundraising presentation and, as you've already interviewed him, you don't really need to go to that. Oh, and take a look at this painting. We were thrilled to be able to acquire it."
Beartrand read the artist statement: "Several years ago, a bear took a sea voyage. It was his second voyage as captain of his ship. He traveled to the Land of the Giants, where he met creatures who looked like humans but who were much larger. In fact, the humans that the sea captain met were afraid of the giants and called them by such odd names as 'Sasquatch,' 'Big Foot,' and 'Yeti.'
"I had gone on the sea voyage as an observer, an artist in residence so to speak. It was my goal to document the journey across the sea, as well as day-to-day living in the Land of the Giants. This mixed media painting, which was done in marker and in watercolor, captures one of the friendly exchanges between a giant and a bear. The giant, whom I painted, was my host during my visit. He too is an artist, and his media of choice is sculpture. He prefers to create abstract sculptures that express the idea of longing for something that he cannot reach and dreaming of crossing the sea. He has never left the Land of the Giants. I titled the painting 'Giant Hugs Bear' to depict the warmth of this giant."
--Bearta, the artist Bear
Beartrand finished reading the artist statement, and he followed Sweet Suzie Bear to her office. He got out his microphone and switched it on and announced that he was going to interview the curator of the Modern Art Bear Exhibit, Sweet Suzie Bear. Even before he could ask a question, Sweet Suzie Bear began to talk.
"Thank you for coming to the exhibit of Modern Art Bear. I suppose your listeners want to know something about modern art. Well, modern art can be representational or nonrepresentational. In other words, there is either a picture you can recognize or there is a picture that just looks like shapes and forms.
"I really like nonrepresentational art because it challenges the viewer to think and to look very carefully to find meaning in the art. There are as many meanings in a painting as there are bears looking at the painting. Some bears are afraid to describe what they see in the painting because they think that they may be wrong.
"But I am here to tell you that you don't have to worry about being wrong. Your interpretation of the painting is just as valid as mine or anyone else's. Your enjoyment of the painting is what matters. Even if you don't like the painting, that is OK. You will take something away with you, even if you find the painting to be just one big yuck.
"We would love it if you would come visit the gallery at least once before you hibernate. Please think of it and come soon."
Beartrand looked at Sweet Suzie Bear. "Wow. That's great. I'm glad that you mentioned the Land of the Giants because I will be reporting from there after my hibernation is finished. Do you have any advice on what to look for in the Land of the Giants?"
"No," said Sweet Suzie Bear. "I was there only once, when I was very young. I'd love to go. Are you going in Bearnacle's ship?"
"Yes," said Beartrand. He looked at the microphone and wondered how he had managed to lose control of the interviewer. He was supposed to ask the questions.
"May I please come with you? Please? With a cherry on top of the nectar pie?"
"Um. I will have to ask Bearnacle."
Beartrand suddenly remembered that he was interviewing Sweet Suzie Bear. "Do you have anything else to add about this exhibit?"
"Yes," Sweet Suzie Bear said. "There are a wide range of styles represented in this show. Please come. You'll have a great time, and we are looking forward to seeing you."
"Thank you so much," said Beartrand. The two shook hands and Beartrand left.

Tomorrow: Eating like there's no tomorrow because it's almost time to hibernate.

Notes about today's painting:  Today's painting is based on Self-portrait (1907) by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Pablo Picasso, who was born in Spain with the given name "Pablo Ruiz de Picasso"), was the son of an artist who taught at the School of Fine Arts in Malaga, Spain.
Pablo Picasso was one of several artists who pioneered the use of collage in painting. He was instrumental in creating several art movements, including cubism and surrealism. He was considered to be creative and original.
The self portrait is one of Picasso's earlier works, when he was transitioning from representational to nonrepresentational images to express his artistic vision.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Opening Reception for the Modern Art Bear Show

Synopsis of Friday's story: Beartrand Bear tried to interview Sweet Suzie Bear but was foiled once again. The first time, he was foiled by the presence of a school group. This time, he was foiled by a caterer who came to discuss the menu for that evening's reception.

Beartrand Bear brought his handy dandy microphone to the reception at the Art Museum. He could tell that Sweet Suzie Bear was easily distracted and that doing the interview with her was going to be more challenging that he had anticipated.
A line had formed outside of the Art Museum. The bears and even a few humans were dressed up and were ready for an evening that involved food and fundraisers. A tall bear stood near the door. Beartrand Bear recognized the tall bear as Bearnabus, the owner of the art gallery.
"Would you like to talk to my listeners about the Art Museum?" asked Beartrand breathlessly as he waved the microphone as close to Bearnabus' face as he could. Since Beartrand was a rather short bear, he couldn't reach the microphone to Bearnabus' face.
Bearnabus took the microphone and held it to his face. "Of course. I am always happy to talk about my Art Museum. It is a real treasure in Bear Land. Even the humans who come from the Land of the Humans and the giants who come from the Land of the Giants like visiting our Art Museum and seeing the creativity of our artistic Bears. I would also like to mention that everyone is welcome to donate to the museum so that we can have more exhibits like the Modern Art Bear show."
"When can people come visit the show and how do they make donations to the museum?"
"The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from ten o'clock in the morning until seven o'clock in the evening for the next two weeks, which is when we go into our hibernation cycle. As for making donations, we have cans and jars and envelopes for these donations. We also offer memberships to the museum. When you come to the museum, just ask about the membership and one of our helpful staff will be happy to assist you."
"Thank you very much," said Beartrand Bear.
After waiting for about fifteen minutes, Beartrand Bear and the rest of the bears were able to go inside the museum when a museum guard opened the door and announced that the reception would start momentarily.
Beartrand was looking at a painting of a bear posing with a human in what looked like a tropical jungle. He began reading the artist statement by Sweet Suzie Bear.

"As a student at the art academy in the Land of the Humans, I met a family of giants. One giant, named Tina, asked if she could pose for a photograph with me. She wanted the photograph to be done in the wild forest, so we went out to an area with big leaves and giant trees. After the photography session, I used the photograph of Tina and me as the basis of a painting. When Tina isn't posing for photographs, she is an opera singer and vocal coach."
Then someone poked his shoulder. Beartrand jumped and then turned around. It was Bearnacle Bear and his first mate, the father of Sweet Suzie Bear.
"Hey Beartrand," Bearnacle Bear announced without even bother to say "hello" or "how are you" or any of the things that were said at the beginnings of conversations. "We are going on a sea voyage to the Land of the Giants and we want you to come with us so that your listeners can hear the giants stories. There is a special giant that everyone calls the Little Giant. All of the stories are about the Little Giant. Will you come with us?"
Beartrand was so startled at the invitation that he almost forgot to respond and he almost forgot that he had a live microphone in his paw.
"Um, er. Yes. Oh! The microphone. Listeners! I am going to have an adventure and I will share it with you." Beartrand turned off the microphone and stopped taping. "When do we leave?"
"Three days after we finish hibernating."
And with that, Bearnacle and his first mate ran over to see Sweet Suzie Bear.
Beartrand wondered when Sweet Suzie Bear would be ready for an interview but, in the mean time, there was food to eat and conversations to be had...

Tomorrow: The reception continues.

Notes about today's painting: "Self Portrait with Monkey," painted in 1938, was one of many self portraits painted by Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist who was married to Diego Rivera, a famous muralist. Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) painted many self portraits. Her artwork was described at various times as naive or primitive or as surrealistic. Frida Kahlo disagreed with the surrealistic label and said that her paintings represented reality, rather than dreams.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Modern Art Bear: A Bear Screams

Synopsis of Thursday's story: Beartrand Bear went to the art museum to view the new exhibit, titled Modern Art Bear, and to interview the curator, Sweet Suzie Bear. 

Just as the interview was supposed to begin, Sweet Suzie Bear's assistant entered the gallery, out of breath from running.
"The caterer for tonight's event needs to talk to you. It is something about a change in the menu," said the assistant.
"So sorry," said Sweet Suzie Bear. "I do have to take care of this. Will you come to the event tonight? There will be delicious food and loads of nectar, and we can do the interview then. Why don't you invite your listeners? The event is open to the public."
"OK," said Beartrand. "I'll be back tonight."
Sweet Suzie Bear and her assistant left, and Beartrand walked over to the painting titled "A Bear Screams." He wondered what the artist was thinking and what the bear in the painting was screaming and covering his ears. Beartrand remembered a time when he was screaming and covering his ears. It turned out that he had an ear infection and his ears were ringing for about three weeks after he went to the Bear Clinic. He was just a bear cub at the time and his mama bear poured all sorts of smelly stuff in his ears so that they would stop hurting. It was winter, and he was happy when it was time to hibernate. After he woke up, his ears did not hurt anymore.
But the painting. The Bear did not look happy. Beartrand took a look at the artist's statement:
"What is the difference between a bear singing and a bear screaming? Visually, maybe not too much. Either way, the bear is trying to get out a message that is probably urgent so the bear is using unusual methods of communication.
"The screaming bear holds his ears to shut out the world, so that he can experience his inner world. Or maybe the screaming bear holds his ears to hear his thoughts in a world gone mad with chaotic noise.
"As an artist, I decided to use color and image to depict the over stimulation that we receive on a daily basis from a glut of sensory information.
"The colors of night and of life that flow on and on, like a river, are things that I hoped to translate to canvas."
Beartrand Bear stared at the painting for quite a while and then walked back to the radio station. He hosted his jazz program during the afternoon and then returned to the art gallery for the big event.

Monday's story: More modern art paintings at the Bear Museum and a surprise for Beartrand Bear.

Notes about today's painting:  Edvard Munch's "The Scream" was painted four times, between the years 1893 and 1910. Two of these were done in pastel and two were painted, probably in oils. Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was Norwegian, and the styles that he was known best for included expressionism and symbolism. "The Scream" is considered to be an autobiographical painting. For more information about this fascinating painting, take a look at this webpage: The Scream!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Modern Art Bear Museum, part one

Beartrand Bear woke up early in the morning. He was excited about going to the art museum and reporting on site about the newest art exhibit. He had made an appointment to have the art museum's curator, Sweet Suzie Bear, tell him about several paintings that were being featured in the exhibit.
After a delicious breakfast of bread and jam and tea, Beartrand Bear set off for the art museum. It was a cold day. Beartrand wondered why he hadn't started hibernating yet but he figured that a good hibernation could wait until after the art museum visit.
When Beartrand Bear, carrying his handy dandy microphone and recording device, arrived at the art museum, he saw Sweet Suzie Bear surrounded by a group of bear cubs and their teacher. Sweet Suzie Bear called Beartrand Bear over.
"I'm giving this class a tour of the museum, and you are welcome to join us," Sweet Suzie Bear said.
The group immediately went to the stairs and climbed up one flight, where the new exhibit was being displayed. A colorful sign was on the door. It read, "Bears in Modern Art: A Retrospective."
"Does anyone know what the word 'restrospective' means?" asked Sweet Suzie Bear. No one did. The students, the teacher, and Beartrand did not know the meaning of the word "retrospective."
"Well, usually, the word is used to describe looking back at the career of one artist. What has that artist done in the past and how did the artist's work change over time? At our museum, we are using that word a little differently. We are looking at a subject, which is Bears in Modern Art and how bears have been depicted in paintings. Does anyone have any questions before we go look at a painting?"
"What is modern art?"
"Are the paintings big or little?"
"Where is the bathroom?"
Sweet Suzie Bear answered all of the questions. She said, "What is modern art is a very good question? Does anyone have an idea?"
"It is art that is not ancient, like cave art," said one small bear cub.
"That is a very good answer," said Sweet Suzie Bear. "There is a little bit more. Modern artists create new and different things by painting or with sculpture. Their artwork does not have to be realistic. It is up to us to decide what the artwork means."
The group went into the exhibition hall. Sweet Suzie Bear led them to a portrait of a bear wearing a hat and and reddish orange sweater and the group discussed the painting. They agreed that the bear looked cold and that it was probably snowing outside. They said that they saw a teapot and that the bear probably wanted tea with honey.
"Have you noticed the artist statement on the wall?" Sweet Suzie Bear asked. "That's where the artist describes what he or she was thinking and feeling when the painting was being made."
One of the bear cubs read the artist statement:
"I used to love watching my Mama Bear wear her wonderful hats. She had hats of every color that she would wear when she went out. Now, she prefers to wear her favorite hat.
"This painting is made on mixed media paper with acrylic paints.
"The painting is my expression of joy at the thought of my mother going out into the world, wearing her colorful hat and her bright sweater."
"OK group," said the teacher. "It is time for lunch!"
The teacher led the cubs away from the painting and told Sweet Suzie Bear that they would return after their lunch.
Sweet Suzie Bear told Beartrand Bear that she would do an interview with him while the students were off having their lunch.

Tomorrow: The interview and another painting

Note on Today's Painting: This painting is an adaptation of a painting by Henri Matisse (1869-1954).

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Home Again!

Synopsis of yesterday's episode: Bearnacle Bear and the crew are welcomed to the Land of the Humans when they bring George and Little George home. Bearnacle is even given the key to the city by the mayor. After a week of new friendships, it is time for the ship to return to the Land of the Bears.
We had a tearful goodbye with our human friends and we got into our ship and sailed away.
A few days later, we returned home. It felt good to see our own coastline. We had been gone for a long time. My parents looked older than I remembered them. Their faces looked tired, but happy.
We ate the best foods and drank our fill of nectar. We were serenaded by the Bearish Chorus, made of bears of all ages. It was a delight to hear all of the Bear music. We all sang the Bear Anthem together.
Late at night, I walked alone to the coast. I wanted to see the sea. It would be a while before I would go on another journey of exploration. For now, I was going to heal and enjoy home and family.
The sea monster and the mermaid were just off the coast, floating gracefully in the calm sea. The sea looked like a sheet of glass, reflecting the full moon.

The mermaid sang:
Sun and moon and stars
shine beautifully for you
they will never leave.

A cold wind blows through
and old leaves fly from the trees
they are swept away.

The snow flies sideways
underneath dark cloudy skies
of frozen winter.

Crocuses pop out
with pastel colors and light
World being reborn.

The sea monster added, "We are never far. You can see us when you venture forth again. We'll just say so long but never good bye."

And with a swish of the tails, both the sea monster and the mermaid were gone. Later, I told my friends about the sea monster and the mermaid and her songs but all assured me that I had probably enjoyed too much nectar.

Back in the radio station: Beartrand Bear said, "Well, that was one heck of a tale. Thank you so much. That suggestion of nectar was a good one. How about if I treat you to a glass or two?"
"OK," said Bearnacle Bear. "But I want to tell you one last thing before we sign off. I just want to tell you that Sweet Suzie Bear did go to the Art Academy in the Land of the Humans. She's the curator of our Art Gallery, and she's opening a new exhibit titled Modern Art Bear. Why don't you go there and do an on-site story?"
"Thank you, Bearnacle. I believe that I will. Now, how about that nectar?"


(Tomorrow: Sweet Suzie Bear and the Modern Art Bear exhibit)