Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Val de re, Val de ra

Oh, I love to go a-wandering, etc., etc.  As I participate in my daily treks through the neighboring foothills, I'm constantly amazed by the ever-changing topography of our forests and mountains.  Sometimes, these changes take place over an elapsed period of time, from season to season, for years at a time.  Sometimes they take place in the blink of an eye. Each Autumn, we fret over the falling leaves that clutter up our yards, and go about the chore of raking and burning (if your state allows such activity), or turning them into mulch, etc.  Each day, as I walk the dogs in the forest near our house, I can't help but notice the accumulation of leaves around me.  Literally tons and tons of leaves, yet the next Spring and Summer, these leaves are gone, decomposed into the food that feeds the forest.  So, raking seems like a lot of wasted work to me, but then, we must keep up the over-all appearance of our properties, so rake on home owners.  The forest that I hike in was once used for logging, and I like to look for traces of that enterprise from decades ago, and the changes since then. Along the many spur roads which branch out from the main road, I'll see the stumps of these fallen trees from long ago. What I find interesting is the newer, more recent growth of trees sprouting up from the rotten stumps.  I mean, there are some stumps that easily measure 6 feet  or more across, which now have 75 - 100 ft. tall trees sprouting from them, and their trunks may only measure 1 - 2 ft. across.   I can only imagine how tall these previous trees were.  In fact, along one of the spurs that I hike each day, there is a dead giant of a tree that shoots up about 250-300 ft.  For the past 7 years, I've wondered what would happen if that thing ever came down.  Well, earlier this week, we had a fairly violent wind storm sweep through, and I got my answer.  Now, the whole tree didn't come crashing down, but about 25 ft or so of rotten wood from the top was ripped off and thrown down onto the trail, impacting somewhat the surrounding trees at the base of this behemoth.  Glad I wasn't in the vicinity at the time!  For the past year or so, the Forest Service has been working on a project to thin out the trees from around the main road and some of the spurs, to let more sunlight in and aid in the growth of the rest of the forest. 

I noticed one tree that had been cut down a couple of years ago just as Spring blossoms were starting to show up.  Talk about dead tree walking.  This tree went through the whole seasonal cycle, as if it were still attached to the base of the trunk!  The blossoms turned into beautiful blooms, which were then replaced by a full growth of leaves which lasted through the Summer, only to turn into striking reds and golds as Autumn returned.  Sadly, that tree is now just fodder for the rest of the surrounding plant life.  If I didn't know where it was, I would not be able to see it beneath the wild vinca that has taken over and covered it up. 

Unfortunately, some of the aspects of the ever-changing forest are not especially appealing.  For years, I used to take the dogs up there and let them run around off-leash, exploring their surroundings.  About a year ago, as we were heading back to the 4-Runner at the end of our daily trek, I heard this awful howling and screeching, and knew it was Addie, our Chesapeake Bay Retriever.  She had stepped into a trap of some sort, and was crying out in pain and in panic.  It took me about 20 minutes or so to be able to finally pry the damn thing open and release her.  Thankfully, those old saw tooth traps have been outlawed, so this had flat edges, but there still would have been enough force behind the spring to break her leg nonetheless if it hadn't closed on the fleshy part of her paw.  I used the hook part of the anchor chain to pry open the trap enough to get her foot out, then hurled that trap as deep into the woods as I could so the poacher would not be able to use it again. So now, I keep the dogs on leash on our daily treks.  May not be as much fun for them, but I'm not going to take any more chances.

Naturally, another aspect of hiking in the foothills which I really appreciate is the abundance of wildlife. Sometimes this was problematic, as when we suddenly came upon a couple of young deer that ran right in front of our path, and Addie and Cooper took off in hot pursuit (this was prior to the trap incident).  Boots gave chase for a while, but then quickly returned and waited out their return with me. In addition to the deer, we'll see elk and, on occasion the bear that roams the woods.  I know there is a cougar up there also, but so far, I haven't spotted him.  I'm sure he has seen us, but hopefully, having three dogs as my hiking companions has discouraged any close encounters of the cougar kind.  One of my neighbors up there who has a cabin on the edge of the Forest Service land, once awoke to see the cougar lounging on his deck.  Another time, he saw the cougar sitting there along the road to his place with a young elk that he had just felled. Perhaps the cougar is what those poachers were after, who knows?  Anyway, such is life on the mountain trails in the foothills by my house.  Val de ra ha ha ha ha ha!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Another Horse Portrait, plus "Artist of the Day"!

I just added this horse portrait, titled "Profile" to my FineArtAmerica Gallery, so I thought I'd lead off today's post with this follow-up to "Back in the Saddle Again", my most recent post.  Naturally, I'll be adding "Profile" to my Etsy Shop as well.  And if you're looking for all kinds of gifts that might feature this artwork (mugs, T-shirts, calendars, pillows, etc.), be sure to check out my CafePress Storefront.  Links to all of my Galleries/Storefronts are located in the side panel.  "Profile" is an original graphite portrait, dimensions are 14" x 17".  While I'm waiting to get into town to scan the new pieces I've completed over the past few months, I've been looking for older pieces that haven't been featured previously.  Pretty much everything can be found on my website, but the other galleries/storefronts are not always "mirrors" of what is on my website, although I guess, eventually that is the goal.

Panda Bear
Now, for this edition's "Artist of the Day", I'd like to introduce you to Jurek Zamoyski, from Great Barrington, MA.  Jurek joined FineArtAmerica around the same time that I did, but so far, I don't think that I've featured him yet on any of my "Artist of the Day/Month" posts.  That's not too surprising, considering that there are a few thousand artists posting on FineArtAmerica. That is why I rely on the various groups that I belong to on that site to gather my prospective artists.  Makes the task a little bit easier, yet still provides me with an unlimited number of very talented artists.  Jurek's portfolio at FineArtAmerica consists mostly of animal portraits, although he does have a wide range of other subjects as well.  I hope you'll take some time to visit his Profile page and browse through the rest of his galleries.  Here are a few examples of his artwork.  As usual the links beneath each image will take you over to their respective pages at FineArtAmerica.  From there, you can navigate through the rest of his artwork.  

Snow Leopard

Jurek has had a special affinity for animals ever since he was a child, and I think you'll agree that his portraits capture the essence of the subject, and reflect the very soul of the animals through their eyes.  Jurek paints on wood board or canvas, using a variety of water based paints and inks, and his own style is based on Mische Technique.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Back in the Saddle again!

Out of the Shadows
Whew! I didn't realize it has been almost 6 months since my last post!  Talk about a busy summer around the old homestead, tending to the property, the gardens, the dogs, etc., etc.  So now I face the daunting task of trying to get back up to speed with all of my online storefronts/galleries.  Let's see, I found out today that 25 of my Etsy Shop listings had expired.  That was job #1.  Oops, 6 months behind on blog postings - working on it.  As many as 15 messages from my various groups on FineArtAmerica - working on it.  No pins on Pinterest during this time either - working on it.  CafePress has a whole new look and easier flow to it since May, and I want to try and update my storefront there as well.  And the big kahuna - revamping my website!  Now, that one will definitely take some dedicated effort and concentration.  Started working with WordPress back in the Spring, but wasn't overly thrilled with the progress at the point when work stopped.  It's soon enough in the process to re-evaluate and possibly start over if necessary.  In either case, this will probably be my main focus over the upcoming months.  And, of course, there's the blog.  The plan is to get back to it now, if not every day, at least three times per week.  I'll keep everyone posted on progress on all of the other fronts, as well as continue with my Artist of the Day features.  Just in the past day or so that I've been starting to get back into the flow, I've noticed a lot of great artwork by many different artists through FineArtAmerica, and Etsy, ArtFlakes, etc., so look for those posts during the upcoming months.  I also have about 5 new pieces to scan and add to my various portfolios, and I look forward to introducing them to everyone in the near future.  For now, in keeping with the title of this first post, here are a few of my horse renderings to get the ball rolling.  You've probably seen them before and already know the drill, but click on the links under each portrait to go to their respective pages in my FineArtAmerica Gallery, and from there feel free to visit the other galleries on the site.