Tuesday, December 31, 2013

VIRTUALLY VISITING VENICE

The Virtual Paintout site for December is Venice, the city built on water.  Through the ingenuity of Google Street View, the location is now available to explore.  

Virtual visitors are able to walk the streets, cross the bridges, ride the boats, peek in shop windows and wander down almost every alley.

The whole city is an artist’s dream. Picturesque views were everywhere.  So it took a while for me to come up with three watercolors to submit to the Virtual Paintout blog site.

My first choice was a view across the Grand Canal looking toward an island and the San Giorgio Maggiore Church.

Google Street View captured this location with the morning sun and soft shadows left by the mist in the air.  I moved a gondolier from another angle into the scene to add a little interest.

Next I “rode” a gondola down a canal under the famous “Bridge of Sighs.”

 On the other side of the bridge was this picturesque scene.

My third choice was from an open plaza where a variety of kiosks were set up to sell items to the crowds.

“Art for Sale gave me an opportunity to paint a painting of paintings.

As I said, only three entries are allowed in the Virtual Paintout but I spent hours exploring the city and finally painted one more just for fun.

I call this “Tourist Trade” mostly because my impression of Venice was this beautiful city is trading its magnificence for the cash brought in by thousands of visitors.  I found the streets crowded, the shops full of expensive souvenirs, a lack of green space and no children.  It looks like Venice has become a kitschy theme park for swarms of tourists.  Personally I think they could stand to limit the crowds and spend more effort preserving the history.  And, perhaps making the city and its magic at least virtually available is one great step in that direction.

These paintings are going up for sale in my Etsy Shop.  I sold a lot of paintings over the last two months and I need to re-stock the shelves.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

STOPPING BY THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED


Morning temperatures finally “warmed up” to less than arctic so I got out my snowshoes and wandered about the Hundred Acre Woods.

Being fine today doesn’t Mean Anything.  It may hail a good deal tomorrow—blizzards and whatnot.

 It appears the Woozels have been out again.  Or maybe  just some deer.

Winter fog makes everything seem fuzzy white.  The rodeo grounds look much different than they do on a sweaty summer day.

Sometimes the fog lifts with the morning.  Here we see a picturesque sunrise over our fair city’s sewage plant.


The same river that swamped the campgrounds was now almost frozen in its bed.


 Freezing fog has the ability to crochet lace on every surface.

Even barbed wire fences appear like the doilies my grandma used to decorate her sofa.


 On a side note my sourdough bread is looking and tasting better all the time.

I’ve had a lot of success since I figured out how to keep the rising dough warm by stashing it in a picnic cooler along with bottles full of hot water. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

THE NIGHT I RODE THE POLAR EXPRESS


It was early winter in Idaho and I was four years old.

Similar winter weather a few years earlier. In this photo I am the baby in my mother’s arms.
 The winter had been snowy but the plows were still able to keep a way open for travel to the farms in our community.  Then in late February a storm hit that clogged the roads, followed by an ice storm.  Not even bull dozers could break a trail.

Mom was working alone to maintain the farm, milk our two cows and care for my brother and me because Dad had taken on a winter job in Pocatello, around a hundred miles to the east.  He came home on the Union Pacific train when he could get away on weekends.

 After two weeks of isolation Dad came from the train crossing on skis to get us.

 Not the same toboggan and not my mom, but you get the idea.
He also brought a toboggan and snowshoes. The next morning I was packed on the toboggan with our luggage.  Mom put on the skis which she had only worn once before.  The snow was so crusty my seven year old brother was able to walk on top of the drifts.

Our journey was shortened to two and a half miles because we were able to travel across fields and pastures with occasional pauses to go over or through the wire fences across our path.

The plan was to meet the east bound passenger trail as it slowed to pick up mail in our small town.  Dad had flagged the train down before since that was his way of getting back and forth to work.

I don’t remember much of the trek except for the part where I had to go potty really bad.  Plus, even though I was snuggled down between our packages on the toboggan I became so cold I must have really set up a protest.

Of course my parents didn’t want us to miss the train since there was no station to wait in and probably not another one coming until the next day.  So we stopped at a neighbor’s farm on the hill above the tracks while Dad and my brother hurried ahead to flag down our ride.  I remember relieving myself in the chamber pot our neighbors kept under their bed.  Then my boots and gloves were removed and my feet and hands were warmed in a basin of water. 

I remember the sound of the whistle of the approaching train and the panic to shove on my boots. I remember the rush down the hill, Mom struggling with the skis and the waiting train in the gathering darkness of that late winter day.

I clearly recall being terrified of the titanic black steam engine hissing and panting on the tracks and how Dad helped load our toboggan in the baggage car.

A gentleman who looks very much the way I remember my new friend
There was a friendly conductor who offered me a chocolate peppermint candy.  I also remember how pleased Mom was that I politely accepted it and how she praised me later as we settled down in our seats in the passenger car knowing I really didn’t care for peppermint.

 Me with my brother the following summer.
 I specifically requested Santa to bring that cowboy hat
.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

MY QUEST FOR A MAGICAL CHALLIS OR SOMETHING LIKE IT

Last weekend I traveled to a town that was hosting an art walk.  Several shops were showing off their wares of hand-crafted items, art work and trinkets along with demonstrations and refreshments.  One of my favorite places had mostly second hand and repurposed pieces for sale.  The store owner was working on making yarn out of some alpaca wool so she could use it for knitting.  She was quite a character and we had a fun visit. I found a basket full of mittens made out of pieces of wool sweaters.  The mittens were lined with polar fleece and very warm. 

They were just what I needed to fit over the gloves I wear when I'm taking photographs in cold weather.  I've already tried them out and they work great.

However, mittens sometimes make me feel like doing this.

The demonstration I enjoyed the most was being done by Heron Glass. They'd already shown the group some glass blowing and now they were going to make a glass "candy cane."

The apprentice, who's name I've forgotten, began by heating up three colored glass cylinders in the furnace.

Meanwhile Ralph gathered a glob of clear glass from the other furnace.

The trick was to put the clear glass around the colored glass shafts.

Like this.

Then  Mary brought over another glob of hot glass to add to the project.

That piece went on the other end and Ralph cut it off with some big shears.

The whole thing was smoothed together using this tool on a metal table.

It already looks like candy.

Now while Ralph heats up the piece, Apprentice is preparing another hunk of hot glass.

Here's the piece red hot and ready for the next step.

Ralph sticks Apprentice's hot gob on the end.

Then in a maneuver almost like a dance Apprentice takes one end and steps back.

Gently and slowly they stretch and twist the hot glass.

...and stretch, twist...and pull...

The piece was even longer than this when it got too cool to pull any more.
They carefully laid it down and broke it into two pieces, ready to be made into something beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful...these are a selection of the items for sale in their store.

Can you imagine decorating a tree with these bobbles?  Wow.

Their work was skillful, delightful and way, way out of my price range.

I couldn't even afford a paper weight.

  Still there were globs of glass they'd cut off the end of their vases before they were finished.
  
These little trinkets had been made into colorful refrigerator magnets.  They were more within my budget so I bought a couple.  Then I decided the best strategy was to Run Away! Run Away! since all I could do after that was maybe return with a shrubbery.

Friday, December 13, 2013

SNOW PHOTOS

One of  the reasons I enjoy snow is the way it makes taking good photos so easy.

Grandkids are good subjects.
The problem is getting them in and out of all the coats and boots.

The reward for going out on the cross-country trail early

One of my excuses for not picking all the plums

Even the lamps in the park look artsy

Marshmallow world

Pine cone photo straight out of the camera


Pine cone photo with Watercolor Photoshop effects

Detail of my watercolor painting, "Snowshoes" enhanced with some extra flakes

Another part of the same painting


The whole painting, "Snowshoes"

See this and more of my paintings for sale at Watercolors by Leenie