Nov. 26, 2013: The bare ground is giving way to snow. Our lives are changing and slowing down as the landscape freezes into place. During the gray days of fall, before the snow came and illuminated our lives, I was reminded of Edgar Allen Poe’s writing. He seemed to completely understand darkness and ruminating. Just how I feel in fall, as the days shorten, the skies cloud over and the air feels damp. Below are some passages from his poetry.

....A route obscured and lonely
 Haunted by ill angles only.
               from Dreamland

...This land of Eldorado?"
 Over the mountains
 of the Moon,
 Down the Valley of Shadow.
                from Eldorado

...Deep into that darkness peering, 
        long stood there wondering, fearing,
 Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever 
        dared to dream before;
 But the silence was unbroken, 
        and the stillness gave no token.
                from the Raven

In watercolor on newspaper by Mary Champagne

Tamerlane Tree
watercolor on newspaper
by Mary Champagne

A folded song bird.

A folded song bird.

October 10, 2013: Post first written: October 1, 2013: I noticed today the song birds have left on their migrations. I have not seen a humming bird in a couple of weeks, the gold finches are no longer at my feeder. I can spot flocks of black birds and starlings. In tribute to the colorful song birds that are traveling south, I have folded a little paper bird and made us a little poem to enjoy in their absence.

Origami song bird by Mary Champagne

A little paper bird for you and shared with love from me,
It was folded up one summer day under a graceful swaying tree,
It called to me from a longing of loveliness 
           and realized itself right here,
Its only purpose to bring thoughts on song birds, for you and me.

Contemplating the Bad Lands and Humming Birds

Contemplating the Bad Lands and Humming Birds

September 28, 2013: Post first written: August 26, 2013: I like quiet time to contemplate ideas and put things into some sort of order. But, even after quiet thought, the thrill of discovery still blows my mind. For instance, the grandeur of the Bad Lands in South Dakota. I know it is made up of unconsolidated/loose earth that was laid down and through processes of erosion, make up the beautiful and almost unnatural landscape I saw a couple of years ago. They are impressive in such a way that is absolutely amazing. And to experience them is made even more precious with the knowledge that they will someday be gone, completely eroded away. We get a glimpse into the past while enjoying the absolute present.

Badlands in South Dakota

Badlands in South Dakota, I took this picture about three years ago while traveling through South Dakota during the winter.

It is at just such formations we have learned more about our former earth partners, the dinosaurs. Reminding us we weren’t the first to trod here. With life being finite, time seems limitless to such creature as myself.

But even with knowing all this there is a large gap in my understanding of things were. There is more than one thought that birds have evolved from dinosaurs. What that means, I don’t know, but I like to think what that might mean. Just such thoughts had occurred to me, when I was reading a book of poetry that my friend Becky had sent to me through the mail. “On Wings of Song, poems about birds”. Various poets are featured in the book, but one poem in particular by D. H. Lawrence got me thinking.

I can imagine, in some otherworld
Primeval-dumb, far back
In that most awful stillness, that only gasped
and hummed,
Humming-birds raced down the avenues.

Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chipped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast,
                succulent stems.

I believe there were no flowers then,
In the world where the humming-bird flashed
ahead of creation.
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with
                His long beak.

Probably he was big
As mosses, and little lizards, they say were once big.
Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.

We look at him through the wrong end of the long
telescope of Time,
Luckily for us.

D. H. Lawrence

Unlike the musings in the poem, the humming bird in life is not a formidable creature. Small in size and hardly a threat. The poem sets us up for some fancy and wonder, separating ourselves from the here and now. Perhaps it is possible to have such a world where it is possible to have such a hummer? How impressive it would be. I like how the poem is filled with wonder and yet grounded in how we all have our place and time.

Thanks for the book Becky! It is a great read! It was very kind of you to share it with me.

Well after talking about humming birds here is a picture of a humming bird. It is of the everyday variety! It was a quick, late night painting so please be kind. 🙂

by Mary Champagne

Timeless Humming Bird, painted in water color by Mary Champagne

The roosters were at the fair.

August 18, 2013: All of life moves on, the summer, the seasons, time. And I felt like, for a while, art just did not fit in until, well today. In taking pause, I remember a trip we made to the fair this last month.

The idea was planted when a man working the counter at the tractor supply store told my daughter that we should go visit a real country fair and make the trip out to the thumb. My daughter excited, we proposed the idea to my husband when we got home and made plans for the weekend.

Going to the fair is not foreign to me. As a kid, I had owned and showed rabbits and chickens at the county fair. My sister and I would spend every day at the fair taking care of our animals and making our way up and down the fairway. It was a kind of celebration for a year’s worth of work, keeping those animals alive during the hot summer days and during the cold January nights. And there were rides to boot! The community came out to celebrate, maybe not our triumphs, but to follow in the yearly tradition of the rides and elephant ears and derby. It was a fun time for me as a kid.

The smells and sights nearly completed the memory that I had of the fair and the experiences that I had as a kid. My daughter was instantly in love. She savored every moment. My husband is convinced 4H would be a good choice for her.

We walked the animal barns. In fact we walked the animal barns three times. I have since asked my daughter what her favorite part was. She reports the Ferris wheel. Although, she was afraid to ride it at first, edging around it until curiosity got the best of her. We ended up riding it over and over again that day. She also reports she liked the cows, rabbits and chickens. I understand why with the cow. We did moo at one and it *did* moo back. The chickens were wonderful. The small-stock barn was over filled with rabbits and chickens, a testimony to the resiliency of country people making due during a recession. The roosters crowed the entire time. Even in the heat they would stand and crow, challenging each other over and over. The roosters were fun to watch. In remembrance, I have created The Rooster, in pan watercolors. I am out of practice, but it was fun to paint!


The Rooster, by Mary Champagne, done in pan watercolors

Edit: I have updated The Rooster picture, with one that is the dried version photographed in natural daylight. Enjoy!

June’s Sketchbook

June 30, 2013: With it being the end of the month, I will share some highlights from my sketchbook. I have been playing with shadows, landscape/perspectives and with a new medium, oil pastels. It is fun to take on new challenges and see where this takes me. I have been doing quite a bit of practicing and I think I am honing in on a master painting. I have a couple of ideas on the mediums and subjects. Over the next few weeks, I will get to work and that will be my challenge for July.

June 2013 Sketchbook, in oil-pastel, watercolor, and pencil

June 2013 Sketchbook, Mary Champagne, in oil-pastel, watercolor, and pencil

My daughter has had some pull in what was posted in this sketchbook. Not everything here is a picture of a bird and particularly there is a picture of my daughter at the park and the other is a bunny rabbit. My daughter is insistent that I include a picture of her bunny named Cinderella! As she said, “I would like it to be on the internet.”

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.


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!”

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