Sketching and Birding at Olana

Today the
New York Plein Air Painters (NYPAP) had a paint out at Olana, the 19th century home, studio and designed
landscape of Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church, in memory
of NYPAP founder, Ted Beardsley, so there were artists painting
everywhere on the grounds.  I saw several artists I already knew and met several more whose names were familiar to me, but whom I had never met, and then others who were entirely new to me. Such an enjoyable and inspiring day!
This was my first, but definitely not my last, visit to Olana. There are paintable vistas in every direction. I decided to do a series of sketches, rather than a finished painting, since it was all new to me and I wanted to experience a variety of vistas. There were interesting birds at each spot where I sketched, so I kept my binoculars on and my eyes open.
 Here is my day is pictures (click on images to see larger image and read what birds I saw at each location):

Periodical Cicada– the first I’ve seen this year; I know there will soon be many more
A big thank you to all those who organized this day’s paint out. It was a wonderful day!

Silver — 1998 to May 23, 2013

Snuggling while I was working at my computer

Silver sold a painting for me once. When I first saw dark blue pawprints on my recently finished painting of Stonehenge, my initial response was neither appreciation nor joy. Silver, always energetic, mischievous, and into everything, had taken advantage of my brief absence from my studio to leap onto the table She had walked through the wet blue paint on my palette, across the freshly dried watercolor painting, and then along the table and windowsills, leaving a trail of bright blue prints all around the room. I hurriedly scrubbed as much of the blue as I could off the paper, but faint marks were left in the middle of the sky. Unfortunately not faint enough to qualify as sky, the marks ruined my painting… or so I thought.

After some mulling, it occurred to me that perhaps I could hide the marks by covering them with a flock of birds. Not where I’d normally place birds, but it was the only hope for this painting, so I added them. Someone saw my Stonehenge paintings on facebook and came here to look at them. She decided to buy the painting with the flock of birds, saying she particularly liked that one because of the birds. Thank you, Silver!

 That pretty much encapsulates what Silver’s presence in our family was like. Vibrant, playful, and curious, Silver was an active part of nearly everything that went on in our home, adding her own unique personality to the mix. She loved the dogs and enticed the Aussies into chasing her down the hall almost every evening. I wrote this about Silver in an article about our pets a couple of years ago:

Silver, one of my two cats, sashays in front of the dogs, then crouches, swishes her tail wildly back and forth, and suddenly darts down the hall, Petra and Rowan chasing playfully after her. Moments later she confidently strides back into my studio, hops up on the table, and walks through my palette, then leaves a trail of blue paw prints across the bookshelves. I love this cat. I am never bored with her in the house and it would be hard to be lonely. Her mischievous, playful ways are balanced by her quiet poses as she sits on an upside down box or even on a piece of paper and solemnly watches me for long minutes, clearly just wanting to be near.

Silver was Arielle’s cat– a gift for her 11th birthday. Arielle had asked for a kitten for her birthday, and I’d heard that there was a stray kitten at the animal hospital. We went to see it, but the kitten had been adopted. Instead there was a skinny one year old cat who was climbing up the inside of her cage. Arielle took her out, and the cat climbed right up to her shoulder and walked back and forth between our shoulders and heads, constantly on the move, constantly purring. I reminded Arielle that she had wanted a kitten, but was proud of her when she decided that she’d rather give this lonely, affectionate cat a home.

Silver adored Arielle from day one, and even though Arielle hasn’t lived at home much for seven years now, whenever she would visit Silver would be either in or just outside Arielle’s room. For days afterward, I’d find her hanging out by Arielle’s door a couple of times a day. Since Arielle went to college, Silver began to connect more deeply with me as well, and most of the time she was somewhere near me, whether roaming on my desk or painting table, purring on my lap, or sitting beside my chair.

Silver loved all people and often greeted visitors at the door and would beg to be picked up as soon as they settled in a chair. She loved to go to the vet; it was a new place to explore and there were new people to see– all good in her mind. She even loved her crate and was happy to hop in and go for a car ride.

It is so hard to wrap my mind around the idea that this vibrant, loving cat is no longer here. She was with us for so long and was a warm, loving part of every day for me in the past few years. I miss you so much, my little gray shadow. This house will never be the same without your playing, your pranks, and your purring.

On my lap, watching my face
She loved to sit in baskets, boxes, and wastebaskets
Sketches during Silver’s hyperthyroid days (once treated she was calmer)
Helping me with my work
Watching the birds with me

My last sketch of Silver

My Lawn is Not a Proper lawn

No chemical carpet here, but a tousled medley of grasses, wildflowers, and color. My sister echoed my thoughts, when she said it looks like a fairytale. Wandering through the grass and flowers barefoot inspired me to write this:

My lawn is not a proper lawn
It has more other plants than grass.
Some people call them weeds, I know
But here I welcome them as friends.

Dandelions, Buttercups, Speedwell, Violets
dot the earth and add bright color.
Clover grows rich and dark,
 feels cool and soft beneath my toes.

Ground Ivy spreads her purple robe
under trees, throughout the shade;
Blackseed Plantain and other “weeds”
Are lush and green through summer’s heat.

My lawn has life and shape and color
Always changing, ever bright.
I like it just the way it is
And never want a proper lawn.