Here are a few shots from a lecture with live animals at Emily Oak Nature Center, Skokie Park District. I like doing these events because it gives me a chance to take and share reference shots for art. A rescue, conservation and education group, Big Run Wolf Ranch, brought two wolves, a coyote, a porcupine, groundhog and. The one who stole the show was the skunk. Skunks are adorable! They have soft, silky fur, the sweetest faces and are not stinky at all if they have been de-scented properly.
In September 2014, I went to a lecture given by Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education at Emily Oaks Nature Center, Skokie Park District. This a wonderful group that helps injured birds, cares for birds that cannot return the the wild and participates in breeding programs for at-risk species. Part of their mission is educating the public about the value of raptors to the environment. The lecture was a joy because I got tons of great photos of live owls up close.
I love having a good reference photo to draw or paint from. You can get high resolution owl photo downloads from this event from my morgueFile account here. There are nice close up shots of a Great Horned Owl (above), Saw Whet Owls, a Barn Owl and a lovely Barred Owl.Scroll through the various images to find them; for some reason items in “most recent images” are not coming up in chronological order.
I went hiking late September which was a good time to try out some aperture priority shots in the woods. These shots are from Marengo Ridge in McHenry County, Illinois. I ran into a patch of poison ivy going after one shot but thankfully did not get infected by it. It’s pretty inconsiderate of nature preserves to also preserve poison ivy. I won’t complain if that goes extinct and please do not tell me if it has a purpose in the larger biosphere.
Definitely, if you have limited time to be creative, I think photography is the fastest media to create with; especially for people who have high end cameras in their pocket with high end smartphones. I envy the high end smartphones since they can do so much a computer can and the image quality of the cameras just keep getting better. I saw a gentleman just the other day notice a reflected light off a car and pull out his phone to capture it.
I trucked around a DSLR for these two shots. The daytime sky is recent, I ran home for the camera after walking the dogs. I was after a mint green color cicada on a tree, but he dissed me and flew away. You can never rely on wild creatures to stay put.
This nighttime shot makes me laugh a little because the only photography professor I even had told my class he would fail anyone handing in pictures of the moon or their pets. The man had apparently had enough of both of those subjects. I saw this as a photograph the second I got off the train and walked past it. I would make an argument about the light off the rails of the tracks being the emphasis, the moon is incidental.
This shot was also little hard to get because the airline routes changed the past year and now planes go directly overhead on route to O’Hare International Airport, Chicago. Many good shots were less interesting to me because there could be as many as three and four planes in the shot. I had to wait for the planes to fly away. Also, I had to wait for a guy with a DSLR to get his shots and clear out, because he saw the same thing I did and he beat me to the tracks.
Do you have an old wooden salad bowl? I was given one but I also see wooden bowls crop up a lot at thrift shops and yard sales. Get one if you want to recycle it into a mosaic art bowl. This is a fun, easy project to make an old wooden bowl into something much nicer.
I had tried a few different kinds of soft carve media blocks as an alternative to linoleum. I did not like any of them! The prior brands were easy to carve but were not good for fine lines -or even clear lines- as the edges would cut raggedly or crumble. I carved the blocks as soon as I bought them, in case the soft media blocks can dry out and harden with time like linoleum. Then I tried a Staedtler Master Carve block and it was totally different, holding fine, clear lines like linoleum while being as easy to carve as a pencil eraser. I am so hooked on this product!
This is the carving I did with the block. I used Dockyard Microtools 1 – 2 mm V and U gouges to do the carving. I wanted the pattern of the cat to be hair-like and to also have cuts in the block delineate the fur. I also like carving with gouges a lot, seeing the line appear in one cut as it curls away from the block. Sharpie marker is helpful to get the design on the Staedtler block so it can be carved; once the ink was dry it did not smudge or wipe off.
I was thrilled with how smooth and easy the gouges cut through the block. This media would be great to carve with an Xacto knife or any other block print cutting tools. I carved the background around the cat because I wanted to print the noise and have that as a comparison to the positive image.
I used my preference of an oil-based intaglio ink to print. Oil-based ink takes longer to dry but does not smudge and has a richer, deeper color. Both the positive design and the background noise printed wonderfully with the Staedtler Master Carve block. I used an Asian paper with some mulberry tree fibers and shiny silver flecks in each sheet for printing. The final print on this paper is very lovely. It makes me feel like a cozy cat is curled up on a snowy day so I titled this piece “Winter”.