Lessons from the hyacinth

Hyacinth and jonquils

Our warmer-than-normal February temps have prompted a profusion of spring blooms to burst forth from the garden. The pink hyacinths are earlier than their purple cousins so they get to share the stage next to the little sunny faces of the jonquils.

I am always struck by the life lessons I learn from the garden.

After photographing the hyacinths, I started the post-processing in my studio and noticed there were details that the camera had captured which hadn't been evident to my naked eye. The cluster of the hyacinth with its lines and forms often distracts me from seeing the subtler and smaller details.

I was struck by the beauty of each flower within the cluster--how it looks like a watercolor brush has streaked the pink color down the center of each petal. I was struck that in the center of each blossom were intricate details. And then I noticed the light dusting of hyacinth pollen on the petals.

I have to ask... if I missed so much detail in this simple flower (and I was really looking) how much detail and beauty gets missed in the world around me throughout the course of a day... a month... a year?

I don't want to miss beauty like that.

Up close and personal with a hyacinth
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I'm finally publicly sharing my Disney California Poppy Series paintings


Over four years ago Hubby and I visited Disneyland. While there we stopped in the art gallery on Main Street and ended up having a very long chat with the cast member who worked in the gallery about the paintings on display that were beautiful interpretations of classic Disney characters by various artists employed by Disney. It was wonderful to see the iconic characters revisited through the eyes of each artist. That conversation fanned the embers of the dormant creativity that was beginning to burn inside me again. As we wandered through Disney California Adventure later in the day, I conceived the idea of doing a series of mixed media shadowboxes that incorporated my own watercolor interpretations of different classic Disney characters into compositions with California poppies and call it my Disney California Poppy Series.

The first I created was Tinkerbell. It was a first in another way too because it was the first time I had painted with watercolors in a very long time. I reproduced the original painting into hi-res prints that I handcut, layered, glued to wood blocks, and embellished to create the shadowbox art below.

Original Tinkerbell shadowbox

The Tinkerbell shadowbox hangs on my studio wall today as a reminder of what motivated me to begin creating and painting again.

I painted and created a shadowbox with Snow White next.

Snow White

In order to have copies for my portfolio that I was slowly populating I also created digital versions of the shadowbox art in Photoshop (which is what you see above).

But I didn't share my work publicly. I guess I thought that because it was connected to Disney that I couldn't. I figured that unless I was an official licensed Disney artist I wouldn't ever be able to share my work with others beyond my family and close friends. So I've kept my paintings private for all these years. That insecurity about sharing them eventually led to me abandoning the rest of the series all together. I put away the many sketches that were all ready and waiting for me to paint them and bring them to life with full color.

Since that time, I've watched as social networking platforms such as Pinterest have caused an upsurge in the sharing of art. As I've nosed around I've come across many beautiful reinterpretations of Disney characters (click here to see some). Some of my favorites have been of the iconic character Mary Poppins (click here to see some).

It finally hit me that I probably should share my own work even if I wasn't an official licensed Disney artist!

That's the first big leap I'm taking with this post. The second big leap is that I'm also sharing a work-in-progress that I need to finish (something I rarely do). It's always been hard for me to share unfinished works or rough drafts of anything. I drove my college art history professors crazy because I'd never want to show them my papers in rough form. If I was ever a published author (something I'd like to be someday) I'd probably drive my editors nuts too, so I really need to overcome this tendency.

So taking my cues from illustrators I admire, and I am sharing a piece of art before it is complete.

This is Alice on a Golden Afternoon in the California Poppy Series. I'm thinking she won't become a shadowbox. Instead I'll complete the painting of each character and then digitally marry them against a background I paint once I know what I want.
Alice (comp sketch)

Picking up where I left off after years of a hiatus is going to be tricky, but I think I can do it. Alice is my next big creative hurdle I must clear. Wish me luck.
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Believe it or not, the bearded iris is blooming

Believe it or not, the bearded iris is blooming

Yes, it is true. Early spring comes in February in our Mediterranean climate, but even here this is early for bearded iris. It's normally set to bloom around late March at the earliest with April being it's typical month. I suppose its sheltered spot with lots of morning and mid-day sun made this iris think it was later in the year. I'm not complaining. It's a wonderful spot of deep rich purple in a garden that's pretty devoid of blooms otherwise.
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A squeasel-kat's* guide to stealing the perfect napping spot by Lucy Maud

Steps 1-3

Steps 4-5

Step 6

Step 6 continued

*squeasel: a rare hybrid breed of animal that is a cross between a squirrel, a weasel and a meerkat. Sometimes mistaken for an oriental shorthair tabby but far more of a holy terror.
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Enjoying the harvest of the first winter lettuce

Enjoying the harvest of the first winter lettuce

I don't normally post on Sunday, but today Hubby harvested the first of the winter lettuce for our late lunch, and I had to share a photo. He's making a salad and grilled cheese sandwich for me as I type this.

Yeah, my husband is pretty awesome.
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A sick kitty takes precedence over photographing camellias

February means camellias

Outside the windows of the north side of the house, the camellias are blooming right on time like they do every February. And despite they're glorious display, I can't get out to photograph them right now.

I've been tending to our sweet kitty Lydia after a complex surgery last week to remove a large and aggressive tumor we found quite suddenly on her abdomen. Fortunately, we have a trusted and very talented veterinarian. We found the tumor, got her in to see him the following day and he scheduled surgery to get it out and, in his words, "in a jar where it belongs".

Lydia has been the ideal little patient as I've kept her isolated in a warm and cozy recuperating space I arranged for her in my studio. She heals while I work. And she's enjoying the one-on-one time with me immensely even though having to wear the "cone of shame" is not something she enjoys at all.

For now the camellias outside have to wait (hence the repost of the image above). I'm hoping the camellias will still be blooming when we finally get clearance from the vet that Lydia can resume more normal activity. That may be later today. We'll see.

Update: Lydia got clearance from the vet to begin resuming more normal activity and exploring more of the house than just my studio. She doesn't have to wear the cone-collar anymore unless she starts biting her incision site. So I'll still be watching her like a hawk.
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Hello February, hello narcissus

Hello February

At the base of the olive tree
the narcissus bloom
sunshine yellow
amidst the drabness of winter.

Sit still and quiet
breath in
and smell their heady fragrance
wafting on the breeze
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