An Observant Cardinal


An Observant Cardinal: in watercolor and charcoal               By: Mary Champagne

January 25, 14: My daughter did not feel well today and in my concern for her, I just could not seem to do any of the things that I was suppose to.  When she had decided I could leave her side, I went to work on some birds. I was inspired to do a pendant. This past week, in the evening just before falling to sleep, I have been reviewing bird images, thinking about just what sort of bird poses and gestures would communicate best on a pendant. (A pleasant task.) I have been excited by the idea of *wearing* a framed delicate bird. Through a process all my own, I used charcoal and watercolors to create the image, then preserved and framed this one. Using up-cycled chains, I created a necklace from which the pendant will hang. I am excited by the results and will wear it this week to check the preserving process, but thus far I am hopeful.





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

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.”

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