The Seagulls are Free

June 23, 2013: A little over a week ago my husband suggested, with snark, what is next a seagull? Well why not? On Lake Superior we saw seagulls that flew majestically diving and plucking fish from the open water, they were wonderful and beautiful.

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Traveling Seagulls, charcoal and chalk on newspaper, Mary Champagne

I have a copy of Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull that my daughter and I have started reading. She is at just the right age where she still enjoys for me to read to her and short stories are not as satisfying as they use to be. I found the following quote moving and thought I would share it here:

“Instead of our drab slogging forth and back
to the fishing boats, there's reason to live!
We can lift ourselves out of ignorance,
we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence
and intelligence and skill.
We can learn to be free! we can learn to fly!”
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Freedom Seagull, pencil and oil pastel, Mary Champagne

The Traveling Seagulls are on newspaper with charcoal and white chalk. The second picture is done in a soft pencil and the background is in oil pastel. I am still working out the oil pastel medium. I really like it, but don’t know how best to work it’s strong suits. (As I think this is the third post I have featured a picture where I have used it. Practice, practice.) I think it works well here. Oil pastel colors really pop, and I think here it adds interest and texture.

This is not fine art. The White Ibis

June 15, 2013: Last weekend I was out with my cousin. She was flipping through pictures her son had taken when our attention was drawn to a photo of a white ibis. She allowed me to barrow the pictures of it. I have been trying out some oil pastels that I had bought at a garage sale this summer. I set to work and created a reproduction of the bird from a combination of two pictures. Afterwards, I had set it over the fireplace mantel to analyze it, looking for mistakes and doing touch up work. When I walk into the room it catches my eye with all the white space. I did a layering technique to the mulched ground. I was happy with the results. I like the shine and vibrancy of the oil medium. Then I took a picture up close for this post and well, this is not fine art. Huh. This is more like poor art.

I went for a jog after my daughter went to bed. I was contemplating trying new mediums. Then something that I had read recently on MadArtLab came to mind, “we shy away from new things. We fear failure. We disparage mediocrity. We refuse to try. I think that there is value in poor art, more to be learned from hard-earned failure than simple success, and so much to be gained from curiosity that it defies words.”

On foot, I rounded the corner away from my street and rounded another corner onto a bike trail. I was thinking about what is art, specifically. Certainly this Ibis that I had created wasn’t fine art, but then what is. I picked up my pace and jogged past the community garden. There were two men working their plots. One was dressed in a brightly colored shirt and was wearing a straw hat, an outfit may be purchased for just such occasion. He walked the neat rows of his garden plot, careful of the small vegetable shoots. The other man hoed between the rows. A picture of cultivation. They seemed to like just where they were. I jogged on and the gardens gave way to lush green grass. The evening air was coming in big air movements, stifling my jogging efforts. The preserved turf turned to unkempt grasses and wildflowers. I had the compulsion to stop and touch them. I slowed and suddenly everything seemed heavy and mortal and real. It was like I had arrived. This was *fine* to me. Fine art must come from not just technical beauty, but a feeling! I walked a distance enjoying the change in thought and scenery. I managed to the final turn on my trip and ran the rest of the way home.  Here I preset the Ibis.

The White Ibis, oil pastels, Mary Champagne

The White Ibis, done in oil pastels, Mary Champagne

Visiting the Shiawassee River State Game Area

June 9, 2013: Last weekend, Ted, Elaine and I went for a walk around the Shiawassee River State Game Area. It was Memorial Day weekend and with the sun returning to us after some rainy days, we felt the call to the outdoors.

The camera charged and our feet ready for the business of hiking we began a walk down a trail. Our first journey was cut short by a change in the river. The river had eroded away the dike, leaving no place to put our feet without getting thoroughly wet. We smiled remembering we are not in charge of what rivers do and made our way back for the car. I wondered what it would be like for all of the fish and crayfish to find themselves new homes along the new river’s way.

Certain of our second stop we unloaded out of the car. Right away we were greeted by a pair of Baltimore orioles. Bold in color, timid by nature we observed them at a distance. Pairs of blue herons occasionally made their way across the sky. The low wet lands were calm. The water was smooth like a paved path with the only break in the plane from lily pads poking the surface not yet unrolled. My daughter thought that she should be able to walk on the surface. The slight movement of air currents moved the tops of the tall grasses. It was a peaceful day. Yet the birds were all in commotion.

Shiawassee Black Bird

Loudly calling were the blackbirds. The males would take their perch and sound off, raising and lowering their tails, announcing their territories and attracting mates; making a beautiful display. There were tree swallows dancing over our heads and geese honking while making their trip in v-shaped patterns while traveling north. We spotted a snowy egret in the distance and some coyote tracks. There were some early butterflies out for the sunshine. The dragon flies were also around. My daughter took to shaking the grasses to spook them up.

After returning home, I did a quick sketch of a picture that I had taken with a red winged blackbird in the foreground. I highlighted it with some watercolor. Then trying out my new sketch pad, I sketched out a red winged blackbird, putting a dab of oil pastel where the red patch belongs.

Red Winged Blackbird

Swan Lake

June 1, 2013:  A couple of weeks ago I was working on this swan painting. Like most birds, I have a fondness for swans. They look graceful in the water and like they are overcoming the impossible when they take to flight. Their bulk defies gravity with determination and use of their wings. I often see them while walking the wetlands not so far from where I am. These swans are finicky though, and hardly let me get a look at them. I set to painting one in a way that I never get to see them, close up and in the face. I was entertained at the swan’s bright bill and blue eyes. It was a quick watercolor painting. I shared it at Paint My Picture and now I have also shared it here.

Swan at Swan Lake

A short while later, after starting the swan watercolor, my sister had talked about a trip that she had taken to a place called Swan Lake. Her picture was beautiful. It appeared just like how I would expect a mystical forest with a pond to look, complete with swan gracing its pond. I have been working on landscape pictures and I took to working on sketching the photo. I have been focusing in on water. I always seem to shy away from trying to capturing it. But alas the world if filled with water and avoiding it is well, silly. So here is my sketch of Swan Lake.

Swan Lake