Sunday, January 24, 2016

Practice Makes Progress....hopefully

Still practicing....some failures, some successes.  The last photo of the dragonfly was made by my 13-year-old son as a visual aid for his research paper, and was his first serious drawing.  He's a natural!

I attempted the deceptively simple subject of the tightly closed hydrangea bud thinking that it would be an easy subject to sketch.  I was wrong.  This is my 4th? 5th? attempt, and I'm still not happy, but have decided to let it go and move on.  That is when I sketched, very quickly, the cocoon we found on a walk and brought home.  I needed to take my mind off of that hydrangea bud, so I just kind of haphazardly started sketching it.  It took just a few minutes and I was done and happy with it.  I find this rather mystifying.  The cattails were drawn with a combination of colored pencil and watercolor pencils. The watercolor pencils work much better in this particular journal which is only 90 lb paper and buckles and warps terribly with even a small amount of water.

This is what I do in the evenings now.  Sit by the fire with the cat and Pandora radio and sketch.  Sometimes I don't feel that I am really learning anything from all my mistakes.  But, I know that if I just keep practicing, it will come.....eventually.  I am inspired by the great Winston Churchill who said,  "Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential."

How do we make progress? by putting one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again until we get there.  Yes.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Nature Journal Page #3 - The Bird Grasshopper

watercolor sketch, Starr White, January 2016.

Schistocerca Americana, the American bird grasshopper.  It's official.  I am in love with bugs.  Me of all people.  It all started in the autumn of 2014 when we began learning about insects in our homeschool science course.  I thought it would be fun to capture a few specimens to study up close and personal rather than just in a textbook, and it has turned into something of an obsession.

Schistocerca Americana captured December 2015, central Alabama

I captured this beautiful specimen one soggy, wet December morning when I went out to cut evergreen branches for the house.  Enchanted by its lovely rosewood color, I decided it might be a fun subject to sketch.  Imagine my delight when I discovered those fantastic leopard spot wings!! I had absolutely no idea that a grasshopper could turn out to be such a beautiful, graceful creature. More evidence that supports the old adage - never judge a book by its cover. Like birds and fish, insects are amazing in their stunning variety - sizes, shapes, patterns, colors; and it is a lot of fun to try to capture all those wonderful details.

I just keep thinking about the hidden beauty of this amazing creature. Because I'm me and I think about things like this.  This great lumbering insect that most people would hardly notice, and if they did, they would probably think it was a bit on the ugly side.  And then it opens up those fantastic wings and wow.  It is magically transformed into a perfectly proportioned, graceful beauty with delicate, intricately patterned gossamer wings.  There's a life lesson in there, friends.  Look for the hidden beauty around you each and every day, and you are sure to be blessed in unexpected ways.

Monday, January 4, 2016


2016 has dawned on our little woodland cottage with quiet, cold, frosty mornings.  Finally, a little bit of winter after the warmest and wettest December in recent memory.  The crisp air feels fresh and clean just like the new year, and I am filled with hopeful expectations for the future.  I love, love, love the month of January.  It suits me to a 'T'.  I love the silvery outlines of the bare winter trees against the sky.  I love how the morning frost coats everything in diamond glitter sparkles and makes the most humble objects seem magical.  I love mornings like this one when the day dawns clear and cold and the scores of birds that visit my feeders chitter and chatter happily to their neighbors as if to say, "Morning! isn't it a fine day?"And most of all, I love the feeling of having a fresh start - a new beginning.
I have made many goals for 2016! I have to set specific, attainable goals rather than generalized ones or I don't usually make much progress.  So, I have decided to set a goal of practicing my drawing and sketching at least 3 times per week (a couple of examples from this week shared above).  I broke ground on a new butterfly/cutting garden back in October, and I plan to finish stage one before spring arrives mostly by preparing the ground for planting sun loving annuals and a few perennials that the fluttery beauties find attractive.  I also want to enlarge the vegetable patch and herb garden and experiment with new ways of cooking and eating what comes out of them.  I'm not aiming to become a vegetarian, but instead, adding lots more whole grains and vegetables to our diet while reducing the amount of meat gradually.  All of these goals will be accomplished incrementally - slowly, gradually, with baby steps.  That's the only thing that really works for me.  Being specific and setting comfortable, attainable goals helps me make significant changes over time.  There are many more, and happily a lot of them are just a continuation from the resolutions made this time last year.  I have made great progress this year in de-cluttering our tiny little house, and it has been so liberating!!! so that will continue with increased zeal for creating s-p-a-c-e to breathe and to think.  My motto for last year was "every object must earn its space".  If it isn't functional and used regularly or if it isn't cherished, it does not earn its space and is therefore passed on to someone else who can use it or love it more.  Now, there is still the matter of the 10 pounds I had hoped to lose.......  at least I didn't pick up any new ones! I lost a few here and there, but gained them back eventually, so hopefully I can change some of those old die hard habits that prevent me from making lasting progress in that arena.  And so many more!  How about you? are you like me? excited to think about making positive changes in the new and coming year, or are you more like my husband who thinks New Year's resolutions are silly and a waste of time?  (in fairness, I must add that he's the type of person who doesn't wait around for the new year to make positive changes - he's always striving to improve!)