Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Two Wrens

Two Wrens / Oil on cradled beech / 3x9 / $48 including shipping

THIS PAINTING IS A DEPARTURE for me on several levels. First, it's on wood - a box-like structure of beech, called "cradled beech." I usually paint on canvas, but saw this in the art-supply store and decided to try it. It was fun to paint on, but a little small, and deeper than my regular canvases. So I probably won't be doing a whole lot of paintings on this support - though it would be nice for a small, vertical floral. 

This is the first of three (so far) paintings of birds on plain black canvas. Those of you who have followed my painting for years know that I am often entranced by images at this point - on the black canvas, without color or pattern. I often want to leave them like this, because it highlights the images so strongly. But I have found that many people don't like the black. 

So - if you love the image but don't like the black, I will paint over it for you, with a color or colors of your choice. Or, if you'd like me to decide and paint whatever background I think would work, that's OK, too. Just let me know! 

And maybe you will like the birds on the black background. We shall see. 

A Final Thought

"I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird 
and not enough the bad luck of the early worm." 

- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Hummer by Purple Flowers

Hummer by Purple Flowers / oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 includes shipping

IN THE MIDDLE of the unpronounceable tropical storm, and in the midst of the even-stronger straight-line wind that blew through a few days later, hummingbirds showed up at the feeder. 

How is it that a wind that can break giant limbs off ancient trees can't keep a hummingbird quiet? 

I found an explanation of sorts from Science Daily, which described an experiment being conducted (this was 2010, so it's probably already done) at the Extreme Fluids Lab at Los Alamos National Lab. 

Hummers' wings move in a sort of figure-eight pattern, so they get lift on the upstroke and the downstroke. Other birds' wings don't move this way. The figure-eight oscillation gives them a huge lift, and allows them to hover. And they adjust the angle of the wing-stroke constantly, to let them weave their way though huge winds. 

But another article, from Backyard Wildlife Connection, said that scientists put hummers in a wind tunnel, and found that the little birds couldn't fly in wind stronger than 27 mph. But I saw them out there! Maybe they were flying just in the lulls between the big winds. 

Here is a cool video about hummingbirds and the way they fly. You have to scroll down in the page a little to find it.

For Today

"By the way, did you fellows know that a hummingbird weighs as much as a quarter? Do you think a hummingbird also weighs the same as two dimes and a nickel? But then she asked a question of her own: How do they weigh a hummingbird?" 

- Calvin Trillin

Monday, August 10, 2020

Puddle Gulls

Puddle Gulls / oil on black canvas / 8x10 / $88 includes shipping

WELL, I GUESS I took a week off last week. It wasn't planned, and there really wasn't anything wrong - I simply lost my momentum. 

And how much of life is really about that? I think a fair bit - at least of my life. 

While I do love starting things - projects, days, exercise regimens - I find sustaining them far more difficult. And finishing things? I am a Grade-F finisher. 

The Bird A Day project is one of my more well-sustained ventures, probably because it makes me so happy. I still love making the bird paintings, and I love it when you all buy them. The whole thing is very positive - and is a giant help to finding my way in life, post-Peter. 

So here's to the unscheduled week off, the chance to catch a breath in the hot August Confinement days. I recommend it. 

For Today

I'VE BEEN ENJOYING making limericks this week, for reasons I can't understand or explain. But it's fun! Why not try one, or 100? (It's a little addictive). 

Your standard limerick is five lines, with the rhyme scheme AA/BB/A. The rhythm is anapestic, which means two unstressed syllables are followed by a stressed one. 

The first and second line each has three anapests - da dum, da da dum, da da dum.

The middle two lines have two anapests each - da da da da dum, da da da da dum

And the final line goes back to three anapests - da dum. da da dum, da da dum

Of course, there are minor variations, squishing, squashing, etc. Limericks are supposed to be fun! 

Here's one that I made up to go with the painting above. Please add yours in the comments below, or email them to me at

There once was a gull with a thirst
Who looked for a fountain, but first
He found a small puddle
His joy wasn't subtle!
And in no time, his thirst was reversed.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Thurston Owl the Third

Thurston Owl the Third / oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 includes shipping!

YES, MY CULTURAL LEXICON includes "Gilligan's Island"! In fact, though I can barely remember what I did yesterday, or what I am supposed to do tomorrow, I can sing you the entire theme song of "Gilligan's Island." 

I would also more or less brag that I could tell you stories of the episodes, but first off, that would be a lie, and second, it would be more or less meaningless, since, as far as I recall, each episode went pretty much this way: One of the marooned people figures out a way to get off the island, Gilligan flubs up the plan, and they remain marooned. 

I've heard people my age (and even myself!) look at the current youth culture and rue the fact that today's teens and 20-somethings will one day run the world. I can bet that my parents looked at my brother and me being entranced with "Gilligan's Island" and had similar misgivings. 

For Today

The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship. 

The mate was a mighty sailor man
The skipper brave and sure
Five passengers set sail that day
On a three-hour tour
A three-hour tour

The weather started getting rough
The tiny ship was tossed
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Minnow would be lost
The Minnow would be lost

The ship set ground on the shore of this
Uncharted desert isle
With Gilligan, the Skipper, too
The millionaire, and his wife
A movie star,
The professor and Mary Ann
Here on Gilligan's Isle

That's all I remember! Or at least, that's all I thought I remembered, but "no phone, no lights, no motor car/Not a single luxury" did resonate. So the same tune recurred with new words on the closing credits. Here's how that part goes: 

Now, this is a tale of our castaways
They're here for a long, long time
They'll have to make the best of things
It's an uphill climb

The first mate and his Skipper, too
Will do their very best
To make the others comfortable
In their tropic island nest

No phone, no lights, no motor car
Not a single luxury,
Like Robinson Crusoe
It's primitive as can be

So join us here each week my friends,
You're sure to get a smile
From seven stranded castaways
Here on Gilligan's Isle! 

 - written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Small Owl

Small Owl / oil on black canvas / 4x4 / $48 including shipping


THERE'S AN AD ON TV - I think it's for replacement windows - that proclaims that "Faster is better." 

This morning, I started wondering about that statement. Initially, I thought that it was all wrong, that, in fact, most times, slower is better. 

But is it? Is there some inherent value in slowness? I do think there's a benefit to slowing down in life - to taking the time to look around, to contemplate, to wonder. But all the time? Would I want a generally slower life? The covid, and Peter's death, have forced me into a somewhat slower life than I used to have, and while that is OK for now - and good thing it is, since I can't change it - I certainly wouldn't want it to be even slower. 

I tend to work very fast. In journalism, speed (with accuracy) is a treasured commodity, and I had it. 

Now, I paint fast. Very fast. This used to worry me - but then I read that Vincent Van Gogh always painted as quickly as he could - and I think I understand why. By painting quickly, you outrun the voice that tells you that you suck, that you're the worst painter in the world, and that surely, that mark there, or that one there, or those three dozen there, are wrong wrong wrong. Paint quickly enough and you're gone before the voice starts its utterance.

So, I don't know. Maybe faster is better. 

I bet the window installers wish people would spend as much time thinking about their product as I've spent thinking about their slogan. 

For Today

Poetry of a different type. I hope you will take some time to go through the site. Slowly! 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wren Looking Down

Wren Looking Down / oil on black canvas / 4x4 / $38 includes shipping


MY BRAVE AND HAPPY DOGS have a few deep terrors, and they were all on display last night.

Lulu never showed any fear of anything until Independence Day. A neighbor down the street had been setting off fireworks for hours, and while the dogs were in the house, none had paid them any mind. But while Doc and Lulu were still out, a couple fireworks went off, and I found Lulu huddled on the doorstep, shaking.

Last night, thunder boomed and lightning sparked, and through the storm was miles away, (sadly - we've had no rain since June), it was enough to make Lulu plaster herself against me, where she stayed all night, hot and solid, but apparently safe enough, with me to guard her.

Terror No. 2 was Koko's, and I caused it, knowingly.

Though I am living in a cave these brutally hot days, with all the curtains drawn and only the most necessary lights on, I'd foolishly cooked a pan of quinoa, and the heat from that one culinary endeavor had pumped the temp in the living room into the 80s - and this, despite the fact that the A/C is working as well as it can.

So I apologized to my dear Carolina Dog, and then I turned on the ceiling fan and watched as Terror No. 2 took hold. Koko's ears flattened, her tail went between her legs and she ran, slinking, low to the ground, into the bedroom, where she stayed until long after I'd shut off the fan. Because of her, I almost never use it, but it sure cooled the house down.

Terror No. 3 came as we were going to bed. Koko, Woody, Lulu and I were in bed, but Doc was... where was he? I called. Nothing. No little clicking toenails, no lumpish flop on the other corner of the bed. I got up, to make sure I hadn't left him in the yard, and no, I hadn't. He was inside - standing near the place where the living room ends and you turn to go into my bedroom.

This is apparently a scary corner - Abby used to be regularly afraid of it, for no reason that anyone could ever see. And here was Doc, clearly terrified and unwilling to walk past whatever it was. Far as I could see, it was nothing. An unadorned corner. Haunted? A sudden memory of Puffy? (From time to time, she would sit in that corner and swat the dogs).

I saw nothing. A box on the floor seemed to be capturing his attention - but it had been there for days, so it seemed unlikely that this was the Scary Thing. Still, I moved it and called him and called him and finally, he scrabbled around the corner, nails slipping on the fake-wood floor, like a cartoon dog whose paws spin and spin before gaining purchase. I am glad to report that he made it safely into the bedroom.

I always wonder what they can see and hear and sense that we don't - and most days, I'd do pretty much anything to trade places for five minutes. But not last night!

Here's everybody, safe and sound. That's Koko in the back, with the big ears. Lulu Belle is lower left, and Dr. Cooper is snuggled in between the girls. 

For Today

"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."

- Anonymous

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Crow with Red Legs

Crow with Red Legs / oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 includes shipping

DO YOU ALL KNOW about tomatoes and mint? They taste amazing together! 

For my birthday last year, Peter made me an herb garden. He planted lavender, mint, lemon thyme, cilantro and sage, in pots just outside the back door. 

I also have a big pot of rosemary, years old, a couple pots of chives and a small pot of wilty basil. 

I had a half-dozen tomatoes from my friend Anne's garden, so I set about making a tomato salad, and went out to the herb garden and picked basil, rosemary, lemon thyme and, what the heck, mint. 

So here is the salad: Slice your tomatoes, and put them in a layer on a platter or a plastic container, for those of us who are utilitarian about such things. Feel free to add cucumbers, if you have them. Sprinkle that first layer with a touch of sugar, plenty of salt and pepper, and a bit of olive oil and balsamic. 

Then put down your herbs. Then add another layer of tomatoes, and again the sugar, salt, pepper, oil and balsamic, and up and up, herbs and tomatoes or cukes or both, until you run out of room or tomatoes or both. Let it sit for a few hours, if you can. It gets more and more delicious. 

And the best part was that this afternoon, I put a whole layer of mint in - and good heavens, it's amazing! Maybe everyone knows about this, but I've never had those two tastes together - and I wish I had. I will have this every day that I can, as long as the tomatoes keep coming. Summer on a plate.

For Today

"It's your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you."

- Rumi