Thursday, September 17, 2020

Mid-Winter Afternoon at Sandymouth, Cornwall


“A Fine Winter’s Day at Sandymouth”

(North Cornwall, England)


Watercolour on 140-lb., Not,

Saunders Waterford Watercolour Paper

9” x 22-1/2”


Click here to make this your Own

Sandymouth? Where is Sandymouth?” I wondered, as I looked at a small painting in an exhibition. I had been in Cornwall for 15 or 16 years and hadn't heard of it, much less been there. I finally found it on my Ordnance Survey Maps and the mystery was solved ... it was found at the join of two maps, and so I had overlooked it all those years. It was just a few miles north of Bude. Eventually I made it down there, and quickly decided that the off-season was the best time to go, like most places in Cornwall. Not because of crowds, in this case, but because of having to pay to park in a private field; something as a Cornish resident I felt shouldn't apply.


The tides on the Cornish coast are large, even at neap tide, compared to Oregon ... I don't know why that is. Beaches, however, vary in how the tide acts. As an example, Sandymouth is what I call a “fast tide beach”. As you can see in the Watercolour above, the shore is covered with rocks and pebbles, and intersected with volcanic dikes, from the cliff bottoms on the right out to the level sands on the left. At high tide most of this is covered, and it takes awhile for the sea to drop far enough to expose the sands. At low tide on a spring tide the sea recedes much farther out than seen here and you can walk a long ways on the level sands. Every so often a larger wave will break and will come farther in on the sands than you might expect. But the exposed sand doesn't last long, and soon the tide turns and relatively swiftly the sands are inundated by the sea. Even on a spring tide you have maybe an hour to hour and a half. Thus I have coined the term “fast tide beach” for such. Tregardock Beach, south of Trebarwith Strand and Tintagel, is just such a beach. It's not that the tides are any shorter in time between low and high, but that the sands are so level that when the sea recedes, a great distance is exposed, and when the tide comes back in it seems that it comes in faster because so much ground is being covered.


In the above Watercolour, it could be we are at low tide on a neap tide. But if it's a spring tide then the sea would either have a long ways to go farther out, or be on its way back in. Without referring to old tide tables, I couldn't say which. During the course of the year, the sands also shift so that in this painting more of the sand is in amongst the rock, making it easier to reach the level sands to the left. Sometimes it's a real pain clamboring over the rocks to get there. I did another painting from the other side of the sea stacks, seen here, looking south on a low spring tide which shows the extent of the sands. That painting won the St. Cuthberts Mill Award for the best work on paper in the 1999 exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists, in England.





A Rufous-sided Towhee came into camp, and pecked around for a bit. It's a bird I am quite fond of, with its red breast and black head with garnet eyes; a secretive bird given to rummaging around in the undergrowth. I didn't expect to see one out here on the edge of the Ponderosas.




While still smokey, it has thinned out the last couple of days, as the wind has been coming from the southwest, and the fires in that direction are further away. Only an easterly breeze would really clear the air, however.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Bodmin Moor Snow

“Bodmin Moor ... Snow”
(Cornwall, England)

Drawing in Sepia & Black Chalk heightened with White
on 90-lb., Not, Turners Blue-grey Watercolour Paper
from Ruscombe Mill
6” x 9-1/4”

Still in Poldark Country, as we have been since the end of July, and with this work we are now on Bodmin Moor. This is also Jamaica Inn territory, which has been made into a film a number of times, my favorite being the one with Jane Seymour. Here we are looking north from the Logan Stone on Loudon Hill to the southern prow of Roughtor (pronounced Row, as in argument, -tore), the Second highest of the two Cornish mountains, the other being Brown Willey, out of view to the right (a mountain in England is a hill over a thousand feet). A logan stone is a balanced rock like that in the foreground; usually, if you can get on the thing, you can rock it with your weight alone. Between here and Roughtor, which is about a mile or so away, are to be found many bronze age hut circles, and remains of small field walls, like those to be found on Dartmoor to the east.

Thinking of Claude Lorrain again not only of his Liber Veritatis, but of the whole of his work, I give the following quote from CLAUDE LORRAIN: PAINTER AND ETCHER by George Grahame, writing at the end of the 19th century (this biography of Claude is found in the Delphi Classics series volumes on Artists):

“The eye gradually accustomed to the Claudian world, bewitched by its sunlight and its atmosphere, begins to dwell with pleasure on the ruins and the marble palaces, the wooded hillsides crowned with convenient towers, the meanderings of impossible rivers. You have but to surrender yourself to the charm of this unreal world to lose sight of its unreality and live in it as one lives in a dream. The artist gives us the “great key, To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy, Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves, Echoing grottos, full of tumbling waves And moonlight; ay, to all the mazy world Of silvery enchantment!” We are carried far away from this workaday world of ours into an ethereal domain whence all toil, distress, and terror have purposely been banished by the painter. The inhabitants of this ideal world are as gods. Its skies are all but cloudless. All the rough places in it are made smooth. Such is the Claudian landscape, the quintessence of reality distilled in the alembic of a poet’s soul. Surely only the sternest moralist will condemn its charm. When at last you close the book and turn from this world of Claude’s to nature, you feel for a moment like a man who steps from a concert-room, where he has been listening to the music of Beethoven and Mozart, into the din and glare of the street.”

Looking through the Liber Veritatis or a series of his paintings, we are entering a world that never was ... but I for one would like it to have been. Consider strolling about in a pastoral & mythical Arcadia á la Claude, happening upon, nymphs & dryads, the odd satyr, joining in with a dance of villagers and mythical demi-gods, hoisting a flagon of wine, or three, with Bacchus and his merry retinue, having a chat with the local river god on a golden afternoon, as he lugubriously takes his ease beside his cooling stream on a golden glowing afternoon. My preferred mythology, of course, is the dark and wild mythologies of my Norse forebears, and the Ring Cycle, but there is something to be said for taking a break, now and then, from Brynhilda's Hel-ride, the slaying of Grendel, or raiding the tomb of Angantyr the Berserker for the cursed sword Tyrfing, and repairing to the sunnier climes of the Arcadian southlands to kick back for awhile.


Nature story ... A Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel was nibbling on a strawberry remnant, when a chipmunk came up behind him and nipped the base of his tail, and ran off, chased by the ground squirrel; the ploy didn't work, however, as the ground squirrel got back to the strawberry first. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”, as a little known Bard once said.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Blue Seas ... White Surf.

“Blue Seas ... White Surf”
(Cornwall, England)

Watercolour on 140-lb., Not,
Saunders Waterford Watercolour Paper
8-1/2” x 12-3/4”

[Note: “Not”, in the Media description above, means “cold pressed” ... that term is used in Britain, cold pressed over here.]

Still in Poldark Country, as we have been since the end of July, and with this work we are now down near Lands End. Here we are at Cape Cornwall looking out to The Brisons, islands just off shore. Out of view, to our left a couple of miles, is Sennon Cove, and there the shore turns 90° to the right, and a mile or two along the coastal footpath will bring us to Lands End, the westernmost tip of Cornwall, and England for that matter. From there, once past the Scilly Isles, twenty something miles offshore, it's next stop America.

The Sea around Cornwall is unlike any other I have experienced in the rest of Britain. This in fact may, or may not, be true; perhaps if I had experienced other coasts year around, they might have proved to be as interesting and variable. But I do think those Seas around Cornwall are special. In Summer they can be downright tropical in colour, with greens and turquoises to rival any found in lower latitudes; and then the grey and greens of Winter, when a lowering sun breaks through the cloud and illuminates the thin turn of a cresting wave from behind, turning it into a stained glass of grey-green-gold, just before it breaks; and the next day the grey green has metamorphosed into a blue so deep, it brings tears to your eyes. In the Watercolour above it is late September, and somewhere far out to sea, some hundreds of miles away, a storm has sent big swells rolling onto Cornish shores. There is an offshore breeze, but not enough to change the blue to green or grey; and being protected by the cliffs behind, the breeze only begins to really affect the breaking waves out by the Brisons, and beyond them, blowing the spume seawards. I've only witnessed this effect a few times, where the colours are predominately ... Blue Seas & White Surf.


The birdlife around camp has slackened off compared to what it was a few weeks ago ... another sign of Autumn? The Western Tanagers seem to have moved on about three weeks ago. I did see a Bald Eagle yesterday, and that was a nice surprise. The Hummingbird is still about, Northern Flickers, the Nuthatch, and Woodpecker, are still residents. Oh, there are still birds about, but not a many, and a lot of them are LBJs (little brown jobs), that I haven't been able, nor had the time, to identify.

The eighth day of San Francisco smoke, was last Saturday, the 29th, but by late morning the wind had shifted around to the northwest, and pretty much cleared it away. There were occasional drifts coming through until the next evening when it got really smokey  about 5 pm. The wind was then from the northeast so I reckon this was smoke from thirty to forty miles away, up in the Ochoco National Forest. The moon was a deep red orange, low in the east when I spotted it in the late twilight. The wind shifted again overnight and since then has been generally good. This morning there is a slight smokey haze across the flat to the east ... the respites have been welcomed (the day did turn out to be pretty smokeless, and an enormous full Moon rose as twilight deepened).


And just when I said the birds have thinned out (which they actually have), the morning of 2nd September has been quite entertaining with birdlife. The Chickadees were out in force, loads of LBJs, mostly warblers of various types, were flitting about the truck, looking in the wing mirrors, and taking special interest in my water filtering bags hung in a tree filtering my melted ice water, and generally doing birdy things.

There is a Douglas Squirrel, that I've seen hardly at all, that today was up in the small tree eight feet to the left of my vehicle. It cut off a cluster of pine needles, letting it fall to the ground, and then climbed down and ignored it. Later one of the Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels came along and nibbled on it ... wonder what that was all about?

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Sun Setting over Fox Cove.

“March Sunset from Fox Cove, #2”
(North Cornwall, England)

Watercolour, Gouache & Sepia Ink, with touches of Pastel
 on  90lb., Not, Turner's Blue-grey Watercolour Paper
from Ruscombe Mill
5” x 7”

[Note: “Not”, in the Media description above, means “cold pressed” ... that term is used in Britain, cold pressed over here.]

A mixed media work like this begins with a sharpened stick, a twig really, dipped in  sepia Acrylic Ink, and the cliffs and rocks were broadly blocked in. The acrylic ink was used as it is waterproof, once dry. Many times I use Walnut Ink, even though it is not waterproof, but not when the paper will be saturated with Watercolour washes. In that case I might outline the forms in pencil first, then lay in my Watercolour washes, and then work in the Walnut Ink over that, and then continue working with Watercolour and Gouache, with a not quite dry brush effect ... you might say a dry wash; the ink might bleed a little, but not a lot ... then true dry brushing to finish off. I have digressed from the description of this work where I used Acrylic Ink, straight off ... I probably began with a light pencil line to place the horizon. Once the ink was dry, Watercolour and Gouache were used for the painting. Much of the inkwork would have been supressed by the opacity of the Gouache, so some of it would be re-established with the stick and Ink again. Finally some judicious touches of Pastel were used in the sky.

Arriving back in Treyarnon Bay, Cornwall to sell my little flat, after my first four months in Oregon, this was my first sunset. We are standing at the head of the cove looking down the length of it. The view in the the last post, “Blustery Day at Fox Cove,” was from down the left side looking across the mouth of the cove to the promontory on the right. The spine of rock in mid-cove, in this little study, was out of view to the right in that larger Watercolour. You will see that it is #2, in the title above. Number one is in Helmsley, Yorkshire, with, and can be purchased there, framed. The above work is unframed. In the other one, the sun is just at the bottom of the bright orange strip of cloud above the horizon. In the image above, the sun has just slipped below the bright yellow edge of cloud below the orange strip, so that it is behind the light blue clouds just above the horizon. These light blue clouds have a number of openings allowing light to glow through, and the sun may briefly shine through one of these before it disappears below the horizon ... or it might not ... that is part of the enjoyment of a cloudy sunset ... will it show through, or won't it ... will there be good colour, or will it fade away as a grey bland evening. In this case the colours never got any better than this, and once the sun actually dipped below the horizon, that was pretty much it, but it was good for this little while.


Bitterbrush leaves are on the turn. About the end of the first week of August, the first yellow leaves appeared. At first I thought they were late flowers until I took a closer look, and saw they were leaves; now about 10% of the leaves are yellow. There is another bush, related to tha gooseberry, that is even further into the yellow. Autumn is here already, even though the days are still getting into the high 80s, and low 90s.

The Seasons come and the Seasons go. The weathermen and the newscasters will tell you, for example, that the 21st of June, the Summer Solstice, is the first day of Summer. Shakespeare would disagree, and so would I ... it is Mid-Summer's Day, not the first day of Summer ... Mid-Summer ... the longest day of the year, and thus the shortest night ... A Mid-Summer Night's Dream. Summer begins six or seven weeks earlier. In Padstow Cornwall, Summer begins on the 1st of May, and is celebrated as such. I celebrated 23 Maydays in Padstow, and I sang the Mayday songs with them, and I fully agree with the them ... “them Padstonians is right, Bey!”. Thus Autumn begins in early August, and the Autumn Equinox in September, the 23rd I believe, when the night and the day are of equal length, is not the beginning of Autumn ... It is the middle of Autumn, as the leaves are telling me now. Of course the Seasons are not to be pinned down to a particular date; they vary with the climate and latitude, and even altitude, but for England, and Oregon, and even in the Upper Midwest, where I grew up, it generally works that way. Midwinter ... 21st of December ... the shortest day of the year ... snow lay heavy on the ground, when I was a boy living outside of Lake Nebagamon in northern Wisconsin ... not the first day of Winter ... Mid-Winter.


Since last Saturday, the 22nd, there has been a smokey haze over the landscape from the wildfires around San Francisco 500 miles to the south. Friday night, the stars and the Milky Way had been glowing at their best, but when I awoke and looked across the flat, to the hills, a mile or two away, there was what looked to be a mist and a positive fogbank. The fogbank soon burned off with the sun, but the mist remained and as the day progressedprogressed got thicker. I couldn't smell smoke and I saw nothing to indicate it was close by. I'm not convinced that the fogbank wasn't just that, a fogbank ... it acted like one and there has not been one since; only this continuous smoke haze. Anyway, that first night I could see no orange glow in the sky in any direction, so I reckoned there was no fire close by. I was still not certain that it was smoke. I have no cell connection in camp, and my car radio died some time ago. The next day I went to town for supplies, I was able to get internet radio a few miles from camp, so I heard about the smoke from the wildfires around San Francisco. The fifth day of smoke, Wednesday, it was almost clear in the early morning,  but buy evening was the worst day yet; reminiscent of the Montana wlidfire smoke I experienced, when camped on Brooks Lake, north of Dubois, Wyoming, back in  ‘17. Last year was good in that I had no smokey days all Summer long, except for the second time, in ten days, that I passed through Crater Lake National Park; that smoke was from a wildfire way to the west near I-5, I believe. I wonder how long this smoke will last?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Blustery Day at Fox Cove.

“Blustery Day at Fox Cove”
(North Cornwall, England)

Watercolour on Saunders Eaterford,
140 lb., Cold Pressed Watercolour Paper
12” x 18”

My usual walk out to the sea-cliffs, from my Treyarnon Bay abode, was to proceed south along the country lane for a couple hundred yards, then turn right onto an even smaller lane. This took me about 600 yards straight out to the cliff tops, the last hundred yards or so through the fields. On the way I would pay attention to see if the local Mr. Badger had recently crossed the road on his accustomed route, or if Master Fox had  deigned to make a recent appearance. Once through the fields and onto the cliff-top, and the coastal footpath, you would be at the head of Warren Cove. Now between Treyarnon Bay to the north and Porthcothan Bay to the south there were six smaller coves: from Treyarnon south being Wine, Pepper, Warren, Fox, Minnows, and Rowan Coves.

So, now being at the head of Warren Cove, if you turned right  (north), and proceeded onto the promontory between Warren and Pepper Coves, you soon would come to the earthen ramparts and ditches of an Iron Age fortification. From here if you looked across Pepper Cove to the next promontory, and then beyond Wine Cove you could make out further ramparts in line with the ones you were standing on. It is my theory that these three now separate lines of fortification were once all connected as one line of ramparts, and that during the intervening 2000-2500 years has seen the sea eroding the coves deeper into the land, thus separating the single line of ramparts into three. Originally this rampart probably would have had a timber palisade on top and a fortified gate. Inside the ramparts, further down the promontory between Warren and Pepper Coves, are the remains of a fogou, or souterrain, as it is known in Scotland. This is a short tunnel excavated out of the rock. Although there are many theories, no one is really sure what they were for. For me this one was dug so that millennia later I would have a place to shelter from passing showers ... well that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Back at the cliff-top at the head of Warren Cove, and turning left instead, within yards the footpath crosses over a Bronze Age round barrow, some 3000-3500 years old. Who was buried here, I wonder? We'll never know. Pausing for a moment and looking south towards Porthcothan, a mile or so distant, other round barrows can be seen. Proceeding around the wide promontory, between Warren and Fox Coves, will bring you to the north side of the mouth of Fox Cove. This is the headland, in the Watercolour above, with the wave smashing against it. Just to the right of where the wave is crashing is a steep path down into the cove, making it accessible at low tide; and at the lowest tides the water's edge is almost out to the tip of the promontory ... you wouldn't think that you could walk down there, looking at these rough seas in the painting; but you can. The difference between the lowest and highest Spring Tides of the year, on this coast, is about 27 feet. Here on the Oregon coast it is just a few feet ... not impressive at all, and I have no idea why the tides on the two coasts should be so different.

Fox was my favorite of these little coves; Fulmars nested there in Spring. In the painting you can make out the Quies (the distant islands) beyond the tip of the promontory. To their right and out of sight, you would eventually spot Bull Rock, just off Trevose Head, where the lighthouse is (see the post before last and the one before that). In the Watercolour, we are on the south side of Fox Cove on another wide promontory between that cove and Minnows Cove, another accessible cove with a bit of scrambling.


A Hummingbird flew into my truck a couple of days ago. “Yes, yes, we've heard this before,” I hear you say, but this time it was in for about five minutes! At first he was just checking out any red items in the truck, paying especial attention to the rolled up top of a bag of tortilla chips, which must have resembled a large red flower ... he kept going back to it. Eventually, while checking out items on my dashboard, he decided that there was nothing for him there, but was stopped from flying off by the windshield ... just like a big old fly, he tried it several times, before settling on a brush case to think over the situation. He sat there cocking his head, no doubt thinking “I can see where I want to go up there, but something invisible keeps interdicting my flightpath ... maybe it's a force field.” Quietly I told him it wasn't a force field, but only glass, and that there were open doors to fly through, but would he listen? Noooo. A couple more attempts at the windshield were made, interspersed with sitting on the brushcase and philosophising about Life, the Universe and Everything. He looked very bemused ... yes, a hummingbird can look bemused. Stop philosophising, I told him, and just fly out one of the doors. Show me you're smarter than a fly. But he was determined to test the laws of physics. Finally, being afraid he was wasting too much energy in his abortive attempts to pass through the force field, I went outside and waved a hand on the outside of the windscreen (that term is for my British readers), and a moment later out through the door he flew. That's all there is to it, I shouted after him. That proved he was still smarter than a fly, since when I do that to them, the flies just buzz to another part of the windshield/windscreen, and/or hide in the crevices between the objects on the dashboard ... fly out the open doors? “Doors ... whut doors?”, the flies drone in inquiry. And that's my Nature tale for today.

By the way, the Hummingbird was back the next day checking out my red tail lights. Also he wasn't bashing into the glass, as his wingtips were brushing against it first and he kind would lose power, before trying again.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Afternoon Light in Kynance Cove.

“Late Afternoon Light after the Shower”
(Kynance Cove, Cornwall, England)

Watercolour & Gouache, with Sepia Ink
on Ruscomb Mill Turner's Blue, 90#,
cold pressed Watercolour Paper

6” x 9-1/4”

Continuing on from last post's theme of using Turner's Blue Watercolour Paper, this view of Kynance Cove is more akin to Turner's use of the paper, while the last post of my Sepia drawing was more akin to Claude. In neither one am I attempting to emulate J.M.W. Turner or Claude Lorrain, but if I had not seen either of their works, I probably would never have thought of using this paper in quite this way. Actually that might not be true. As a young man (in preparation for a Summer long hitch-hiking journey, from Michigan's Upper Peninsula out to the Maritime Provinces of Canada and New England, drawing and painting), I was doing a Watercolour a day, and studying several Watercolour “how to” books, by such artists as, Ted Kautsky (sp?) & John Pike, but the one that I found most useful was a small 75 cent Studio Vista pocket book on Watercolour painting by the British Artist Rowland Hilder (I got to meet him centuries later at a Royal Society of Marine Artists Exhibition, before he passed away, and tell him so). In that book he talked about painting on coloured papers, which were difficult to find in the darkest corners of the Upper Peninsula; but a seed was planted.

It was on that hitch-hiking journey, while looking out to Sea, in the gloaming, and watching the rising of the Moon, from the cliffs on the eastern shore of Maine's Monhegan Island, I was inspired to go to England. The island's Cathedral Wood was out of view, from my vantage point, and as I looked around, musing, I wondered whether Scotland might look like this. The Moon rose a little more. Maybe you should go and see, I thought; and yes, you could go to that little school of art, Heatherleys, that you saw ads for in that British art magazine, “The Artist”, that was occasionally to be found in art supply stores; yes, you could improve your drawing and painting skills. Art was merely a hobby at that time. The Moon rose higher, and as I fixed the idea into my head, I wandered back to Cathedral Wood, and spent the night rolled up into my blanket roll ... no sleeping bag on that trip, folks! And in the fullness of time, two years later, I walked through the doors of the Heatherley School of Fine Art and the rest is history. Instead of the two years in England that I planned, I ended up in residence for 34 years ... 23 of them in Cornwall.

With the seed of coloured papers planted by Rowland Hilder's little book, I finally found suitable papers once I arrived in England. Eventually I discovered how Turner and then Claude had made use of them. In my early days at Heatherley's I got a pass card to the Student's Room at the British Museum, which was really the Prints and Drawings library. You would go in and look up what you wanted to see, then a curator would trundle off into the abyss, and eventually return with what you had requested to see; in my case it was usually Turner sketchbooks ... I hadn't discovered Claude yet. The Turner Bequest was still at the British Museum (the Clore Gallery at the Tate Britain hadn't yet been built to house his bequest ... in fact, it was just the Tate, since the Tate Modern hadn't been built yet either), and I eventually worked my way through much of it, discovering Turner's use of coloured, and especially blue-grey, papers. There is one Gouache on blue paper of Luxembourg in the Bequest that I would die to own, and another in a private collection of a Sunrise over Rouen ... perhaps when I win the lottery, I can persuade the one in private hands to be relinquished ... make them an offer they can't refuse.

Ah, but anyway ... Kynance Cove ... it lies down on the west coast of the Lizard Peninsula on Cornwall's south coast, not far from the southernmost point in Britain. In fact the Lizard is just an inch or two off the right of this painting. Kynance is not an easy place to access. Oh it's easy enough to get down the footpaths from the carpark, but once down there the tide has to be watched so you don't get cut off. You never seem to have enough time down there. It's also a place to be avoided in Summer, as the traffic on those narrow lanes can be worse than Hyde Park Corner during rush hour. I only went there a few times in all my years in Cornwall, and always in the off-season. It’s quite a trek down there from the north coast ... at least in Cornish driving terms. Bedruthan Steps might get crowded in Summer, but even then if you watched your tide-tables closely, you could go down early in the morning as the tide was going out, come back up about when the first Summer people were arriving, and then in the evening, after the tide had come back in during the afternoon and was beginning to go back out, you could go again ... and most of the visitors were now gone to their holiday abodes for supper. But then, I lived near Bedruthan Steps, at Treyarnon Bay; perhaps Kynance Cove could have been figured out if I had lived as close.


I thought I was finished talking about chipmunks & ground squirrels, but I have begun to tell some of them apart, as individuals, and they have been highly entertaining. Although I haven’t bought strawberries every time I've gone to town for supplies, they have remained cheap and I've only missed them a couple of times. The last two purchases have seen a couple of the berries beginning to spoil, and so I cut thebad parts off and the squirrels and chipmunks got a bonus that day. Even though I'm pretty sure that they haven't actually seen me putting out the remnants, they do connect the strawberries with the truck, as they can smell them before I've eaten them, when they come past checking for the remnants on the ground. The remnants I have for lunch get distributed once I've finished eating, but the ones for supper get distributed as I settle in for the next morning's breakfast. I usually have one kept  back in reserve so that one of little guys doesn't get everything ... it doesn't always pan out that way. Sometimes the chipmunks get there first. They tend to grab one and run off with it, especially if they detect I'm watching them. Thus usually more than one gets strawberry remnants ... either all chipmunks or a mixture including the juvenile ground squirrels. If “the Big Fella” gets in on the act he usually stays put and scoffs down the remainder; “the Big Fella” is the main adult Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel. If he gers there first then that's usually all she wrote. He also doesn't get all paranoid with me watching. When he misses them altogether (even the one in reserve), he seems to know it and will come past periodically grumbling away; at least that's what his chittering sounds like.

During the hot weather we've been having, the majority of days this past month, “the Big Fella” has sometimes come and plunked himself down on the ground by my open door and stretched himself out, just like an old dog ... not longer than a minute, or so, but that's probably a considerable length of time, in ground squirrel minutes. Their vision must not be in colour, as they snuffle around finding the strawberries by smell, rather than sight, since they sometimes miss one just an inch away, when if they were seeing it in colour, they could not miss it. They seem to be attuned to faces, at least the eyes, as they know when I'm looking at them, even if I'm perfectly still. Like most living creatures, including mankind, they notice movement straightaway. Sometimes when I'm watching them eating something, and I'm perfectly still, I might do the old up and down eyebrow movement, and they will immediately stop chewing. They might continue eating, after a suitable time with no further motion on my part, but sometimes they might have run off after the eyebrow twitch.

Natural foods I've observed them eating, are the flower heads of Lupines, as well as the leaves. The grasses are now getting attention, now that the seed heads seem to have ripened to their liking. I”ve seen the chipmunks up on the Ponderosa branches nibbling at the base of the needles. “The Big Fella” dug up some sort of insect pupa (so it looked like), right by the truck and nibbled away at it; there was a viscous yellow fluid that was inside. He ran off with it, no doubt thinking my interest in watching him was a desire to eat it myself ... not until I know what it is, Big Fella. Very occasionally there will be a bad bit of broccoli or baby carrot that I have to throw out, and I have discovered they like those as well (and avocado remnants) ... haven't seen them running down a deer and devouring it just yet, but considering the variety of things they do consume ... well, time will tell.

The ground squirrels are bulkier than the chipmunks, so that “the Big Fella” has about four times the mass of the slimline chipmunks; even the juvenile ground squirrels that are just a tad longer than the chipmunks, are heftier ... maybe twice the bulk. You wouldn't think that they would make any sound when running, but sometimes, when they are chasing each other, it does sound like a miniature pair of horses tearing past. Most of the time, however, they are quite silent in their movements. Oh, and the ground squirrels do climb trees ... Just not as high and a bit awkwardly, compared to the chipmunks.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Sepia Drawing of Trevose Head Light.

“March Showers passing Trevose Head Light”
(North Cornwall, England)

A Wash Drawing in Sepia & Cobalt Blue Watercolours,
heightened with White, and with Walnut Ink
on Ruscomb Mill Turner's Blue, 90#,
cold pressed Watercolour Paper

6” x 9-1/4”

Click here to make this your Own

Claude Lorrain’s (1599-1682) drawing book, the Liber Veritatis (the Book of Truth), lies in the British Museum, and we are fortunate to live in an age were we have access to so much great Art on line. Perhaps that is one of the few fortunate things, considering the polution, global warming, pandemics etc. that we also have to put up with (don’t get me started!). I have a book, published in the 70s I believe, with all the drawings of the Liber Veritatis in black and white; excellent for information, but being not in colour, missing most of the subtleties of the originals. Ten years ago I downloaded all 200 drawings of the Liber ... back then it took awhile with the slow connection we had at the time. Claude Lorrain began that drawing book, as copies of his finished oil paintings, to provide a record of his works ... if it wasn't in the Liber Veritatis then it wasn't a painting by him, but a forgery ... thus, the Book of Truth. Like many long term endeavors, things changed over time, so that towards the end some of those drawings were drawings in their own right. The book consists of a folio of eight pages of a cream paper, then a folio of eight pages of a blue-grey paper, then cream, blue and so on. The blue paper is similar to that used by J.M.W. Turner almost two hundred years later.

Although Albrecht Altdörfer was probably the first painter to paint pure landscapes, some two hundred years earlier, Claude is really to be considered the first consistent painter of Landscapes. Yes, I know that Annibale Caracci also painted them a bit earlier, and that Poussin (contemporary with Claude), could also be considered, but Caracci's were part of his larger oeuvre, and with Poussin the Landscape really forms a theatrical backdrop to his all-important figure arrangements. With Claude you can consider his figures as mere staffage, and really an excuse to paint his landscapes ... those golden-glowing atmospheric visions of a mythical Arcadia. And of course the times demanded the “staffage” to tell a story ... of history; of mythology; of religious import; of whatever. But Claude was a Painter of Landscapes, pure and simple, and every Landscape artist that followed owes him a debt, whether they've ever heard of him, or seen his work, or not. The mighty J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), the only Truly Great British Artist (as far as I'm concerned), knew this, and it's fascinating to see two Turner's juxtaposed with two Claudes in the National Gallery in London.

But back to the drawing ... with the blue-grey paper you have a middle tone already there, so that when drawing, the sepia washes and Walnut inks will form your darker tones, and the heightening with White (chalk, gouache or Chinese White), will form the lights; also the sepias & warm browns harmonize so well with the blue-grey of the paper. In a lesser way, a cream paper will serve the same purpose, as far as the tonality is concerned, but you won't have the lovely warm/cool effects produced by the use of the blue paper. I've gone a bit further by also adding Cobalt Blue and Winsor & Newton Naples Yellow to the palette. The Cobalt Blue helps delineate the Sea, and the Naples Yellow warms the chill of the white, where necessary. Of course I'm not producing a “Liber Veritatis” here, with this Watercolour Drawing of Trevose Head Light (even though it was created after the large Watercolour and therefore a record of that painting), but I do have several sketchbooks, that I had bound with the blue-grey, cream or buff papers of my choice, for use when drawing out in the Wilds. Incidentally, Turner used the blue paper to create exquisite Watercolours by mixing Chinese White, with the Watercolour, essentially making them Gouaches (opaque Watercolours); his “Rivers of Europe” series are absolutely stunning.

To modern eyes, many will have a problem with Claude, since Landscape Painting has come a long way in four hundred years; but when looking at any paintings from the past, you must approach them within the context of the times in which they were painted ... your pleasure will be all the greater for a little preparational history study before hand. Do pluck out your “modern” eyes, and insert your early “17th century” ones when lookng at Claude.

[Note: Yes, there are the contemporary Dutch Landscapists to be considered, but few people outside of the Netherlands saw those paintings. And many of those Artists, had been to Rome, and were thus aware of Claude, who, though from France, spent most of his working life in Rome. Being based in Rome, in those days, pretty much guaranteed that knowledge of your work would be spread throughout Europe.


It seems that the birds have stocked up on their share of calcium, as the eggshells are only being dabbled at. As I suspected, they must be interested in them mainly during the nesting season. So I will pick up most of them, and dispose of them in my garbage bag when I leave camp, leaving only a few tinier bits in case someone needs a calcium top up.

There are about 40 or 50 juvenile scrub jays in the area, and sometimes they are all in the vey large fire ring, about 50 feet from my vehicle. There must be some trace minerals, or something, that the birds and chipmunks need, as every camp I am in they are attracted to the fire ring. I first noticed this at my camp at Lincoln Portal, 16 miles south of Aspen, Colorado. Kept an eye on it ever since.

A small flock of female and juvenile Mountain Bluebirds were observed feeding a couple weeks back ... not as show-ey as the sky blue of the males.

Another Hummingbird flitted through my truck a couple of days ago.


There is not much Rabbitbrush near my camp, mostly Bitterbrush and Sagebrush, but what there is now in its prime, the flowers having come out in the last couple of weeks. The plant itself is a lovely spring green, adding another variant green to the High Desert, now that the grasses are all ochre. On the way to town for supplies there is much more Rabbitbrush on show.


Yesterday, and I do mean yesterday as I am posting this today, a thunderstorm trundled by to the east. A bit of rain fell here, enough to cool down the evil heat that had been building since early morning. I still find it interesting to hear these storms coming, an hour or two before they arrive. It's almost a subsonic rumbling that you're not sure you're actually hearing, at first. It could be a distant plane, you think, or maybe a pickup truck pulling a caravan, bouncing down the dirt road. But no truck appears, and the susonic rumbling continues long after any plane would have long gone. The sky might give it away, if I walked out to the road where I have a more unobstructed view, and eventually it does, even here in amongst the trees. I removed my two 5 gallon spare petrol containers from my trailer hitch platform, and took them off 50 yards from my SUV ... no sense sitting having a bomb attached to your Faraday cage if lightning strikes. But all the thunder was to the east, and no actual lightning was to be seen. A bit of rain fell. The wind came up for a bit, and the sun only came back out about an hour before sundown, with the dark clouds persisting eastwards, long after the thunder had ceased ... you could still see the distant thunderheads far far off on the distant eastern horizon, glowing pink in the sunset, hours after the rain. It's the slow build up that I find interesting ... I've not really noticed it before this year, and it's happened several time since April.