Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Taking a Hike

I may regret this tomorrow, but if so, it was soooo worth it!

 I've been wanting to explore this relatively new Pend d'Oreille Bay Trail that starts about a half mile from City Beach, snugged in between the roughly north/northeast shoreline of Lake Pend Oreille and the railroad right of way. It's been a long haul for the group pushing this project forward. Most of the land was privately owned so there has been much work to raise money to buy parcels or encourage donations of land and secure easements where outright ownership was impossible. And then too, much work to improve the trail, making it accessible not just to hikers but to bicyclists, wheelchairs and in winter, cross country skiers. If you click on the photo of the map, you may be able to see that the trail is not complete yet. There are plans to extend it about another mile, essentially connecting the towns of Sandpoint, Ponderay and Kootenai via a non-motorized route.

"Sitting Wall" installed in 2014 courtesy of The Rotary Club

This is my first "real" hike of the season, as I claw my way back to health and regain some stamina. It was so good to get off the pavement and onto the well-maintained trail, which although mostly flat, does have a few small elevations, something I really need. My usual daily walk is totally on pavement, perfectly flat and around a mile in length. (Even when I change it up by walking at City Beach or along Sand Creek nearby, it is all paved.) Time to find out how much further I can go. If I make it to the turn-around point and back, I will have tripled my usual walk.

The first part of the trail goes through "Humbird Mill Park", former site of one of the largest sawmills in the area. Although it closed in the 1930's, there are still vestiges of it along the lake.

And of course, the local graffiti artists have been hard at work.

There's more to see when the lake levels are drawn down in the fall, a practice that didn't start until flood controls were put into place with the building of Albeni Falls Dam in 1955. One historical account talks of piers the company built out into the lake to receive logs by float or by train. That might be what is showing just above the surface here or merely parts of the mill on land that once only had to contend with the natural levels of the lake.

A little further along the trail I spotted a bench, and then this place to enjoy a picnic with such a view!

But once out of the Humbird Mill Park section, the trail continues through trees, mostly shady and cooled by the breezes off the lake. 

The only sound to hear is the water splashing against the rocks, the wind through the trees and the occasional bird.

Maybe halfway to the turnaround point, I came upon this "Cairn of Thanks". It's probably 5 ft tall and inscribed with the names of people and organizations that helped make this trail possible. There are names on all four sides, but here are three of them.

I made it the mile and a half to the turnaround point, which actually is not far from my house as the crow flies - I'd driven to the trail and nearly walked home. This is also next to the former site of a smelter - still a hazard from lead in the soil and one of the next big hurdles in extending the trail. I looked back toward Sandpoint and City Beach area (the dark area along the water mid-picture) from whence I came. Can't really tell in this picture, but you can also see the long bridge filling the gap between that dark area and the mountains on the left.

And this is looking more or less east towards Montana - my big beautiful lake...

I was more focused on monitoring how I was doing as I trudged the bulk of the trail than noting "inspiration" along the way. But now that I had succeeded in reaching the turnaround point not too worse for wear, I made me way back a little more leisurely and with more awareness of possible "artsy" things. A yellowed leaf along the path...

and odd shadows far from a source.

But I was feeling the length of the walk and looking for that bench I'd seen earlier so I could take a sit for a bit. As I rested and let my gaze wander, that's when the truly "artsy" impulse kicked in. This shot was not because that big weed was aesthetically pleasing. It was an exercise in composition.

And after staring at the mountains for a bit, I picked out this formation and worked on framing it with foliage. This is cropped way down. The haziness is smoke from the many wildfires we've had in the area lately.

Then I spotted the post and dry grass, liking the color palette of the grass against the water. These have also been cropped.

And finally, as my eyes roamed the area around me, I spotted bright red berries. I have no idea what this bush is but it seemed odd that nobody - not even birds - had been pecking away at what looked like fully ripe fruit.

Now a bit rested and knowing I wasn't far from the trailhead parking lot, I completed my 3 mile hike, feeling great and so glad I seized the opportunity. How amazing that I trail like this is a 10 minute drive from my house. It mostly felt like I was far from civilization, enjoying a state park like the one I hiked at last year.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Next Up - Red

Have finished with the blue beads, moving on to the red ones, continuing to make what I had on hand go farther with the new beads. Wishing I had been able to find matte in the red but perhaps in the grand scheme of things it won't really matter. Really liking that small ashtray Susan sent me - nice and heavy and an easy size to handle when I hold it close to the needle picking up the next group of beads.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Another Sketching Experiment

Oak Street Food Court
Once a week I have a class downtown and park in pretty much the same place each time - by a small park with a food truck court on the other side. One day I had a clear site line of this tree, and its shape caught my attention. I've been scoping it out for a long time, thinking about how I would sketch it. Last week all things came together for a little urban sketching after my class.

What I had decided was to try drawing the main parts of the tree with a brush pen. I bought one as suggested for my art journaling and have only used it a few times for text. It didn't work as I expected and left me unsure of the advantages of brush pens over other types, where would be the best place to put it to use. Perhaps using it to make broad sweeping marks like for this tree is what it is meant for.

I'm still a little fuzzy about it but perhaps less so. It felt a lot like using a marker but I did figure out that the "brush" part allowed me to do finer lines too. With practice, I could develop a little finesse and can see how this one pen could take the place of several different pens - an advantage when working outside the studio.

I used a regular drawing pen (like a Pigma or Pitt pen but a different brand I can't remember at the moment) for drawing in the smaller branches and leaves. This side of the tree was actually in shade and the leaves so dense that those big thick primary branches disappeared behind them. But I couldn't figure out how to make that happen on the page. And then I noticed that this was a flowering tree, with beautiful pink blossoms here and there. It was at that point that I knew I'd be adding color at least to the tree. What color you see was added with Prismacolor Verithin colored pencils after I returned home.

After starting the sketch in my toned sketchbook designated for architecture and which I keep in the car along with a few sketching supplies, I remembered that I was going to draw this tree in a different sketchbook, one where I could draw just the one tree. Too late now - I was lucky I'd remembered to toss in that brush pen! So once the tree was done, I felt a bit obligated to add the truck and canopy tent sitting behind it. And the clouds that aren't shaped much like any clouds you'd see. Not much architecture there, but it does give some notion of the size of the tree.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Experiments with Sketching

Initial sketch in regular pencil
Before the hot weather arrived, before "summer" kicked in as a mind-set, I had a sudden urge for icecream served in a sugar cone. I don't know that I've ever bought cones to use at home, although I do remember my mother always having them on hand. They were the basic kind, a bit chewy if you took too long to licking away at the scoop(s) on top and the icecream crammed down inside started to melt. They were a bit tasteless too as I remember, but could have a satisfying crunch. They gave a restless child mobility, as mom handed me the prize and I could take off with it, no need to sit at the table until done. One less bowl and spoon needing to be washed as well. My first sugar cone was a revelation in flavor delight, probably had at a Baskin-Robbins (31 flavors!), my first waffle cone equally so, probably offered at a county fair. Either nearly rivaled the icecream in them for which one I was enjoying most.

Vintage icecream scoop

So I went off to buy a box of sugar cones and thought to sketch it in my comforts book. But then all these memories of the other kind of cone came flooding back, and I realized I'd be sketching the wrong kind of cone. So I searched the internet for an image to use, and was also reminded of the kind of scoop my mother had on hand. I haven't used one of these forever, having been given one of those metal ones that hold heat when you put it in hot water. Supposedly, the icecream will then not stick to it, come sliding right off. But I'm too impatient to wait for it to get hot enough, too impatient to heat it at all, not comfortable even when it sort of worked. Thinking I need to track down one with the metal piece that, when you push that lever with your thumb, tracks the bowl of the scoop, releasing the icecream without a glitch.

Adding water soluble graphite pencil

So with internet images before me, I worked on the initial sketches with regular pencil over a few days. Then it was time to experiment with some of my "liquid" media. First I played with my water soluble graphite pencils, a set that gives me options from dark to light. My childhood scoop had a black handle, so I chose the darkest pencil (8B) to lightly apply some graphite. I was amazed at how that bit on the paper darkened and filled in the spaces when touched with the barely damp brush. Can't say why these intrigue me so, but I am very much drawn to working with them. They are like magic. I used the lightest and next to lightest (HB and 2B) to shade the rest, trying to capture the reflections in the bowl that I was seeing in the photo I found.

Finishing with watercolor and Inktense color pencil

I took advantage of a special sale to add this traveling watercolor set to my arsenal, but had not tried it yet. I used it to color the cone and felt as stumped with the process as I did when I was using the cheaper watercolors in the art journal exercises. I eventually got the color down but it took a lot of time and trials. It was a relief to turn to my Derwent Inktense water soluble pencils to shade the background. I just did some light strokes with indigo, then went over the page with a damp brush. When you use so little pigment, you have to be more careful about blending, I soon found out. I changed my brush strokes which had followed those of the pencil to work around the shape of the icecream cone and you can see how that concentrated the color in a way different from the rest of the background. As a finishing touch, I added some purple to the icecream (I'd bought blueberry swirl to go with my sugar cones), laying down some fuchsia and indigo Inktense on a piece of parchment paper, then mixing them with a wet brush and applying to the sketch.

This was a good place to test all these things, and I am fairly happy with the outcome. Now all that is left is to pen my narrative onto the page.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Slow and Somewhat Steady

Two of four eyes beaded...

and starting around a very dour mouth...

I'm now wondering why I ever thought this wouldn't take long to finish up, that this particular UFO could reasonably be the answer to the third quilt I would need for ArtWalk. I grossly underestimated how long beading would take. And I have yet to continue work on what would have been my second quilt for the exhibit. I was so right to skip ArtWalk this year. Slow and somewhat steady, learning to pace myself, this has become the year's theme.

Monday, July 13, 2015


As I took my evening walk last night, the sun, tucking behind some clouds as it dropped into a crotch in the mountain range, shot out the sort of rays I've long associated with my late husband giving me a thumbs up or bit of needed encouragement. I know - it's just a common natural phenomenon, but I didn't remember seeing it much until after he died, and the first one came timed in a way I could only take as a sign that he was reaching out to me. But it really doesn't matter whether it is truly a communication from his spirit it or not. It is enough that it makes a connection that is helpful to me, and these many years later often makes me stop for a moment and think, just what did I do today that would have made him proud enough to want to give me that thumbs up?

Last night it got me thinking on other things, though. Had he survived the accident that took him, and any of the many other things that life might have thrown at him along the way, we'd be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary today. I wondered, where would we be and what would we be doing? We had never intended to stay in Wisconsin, where a job opportunity had taken us. We talked a lot about getting back to the Pacific Northwest or at least someplace mountainous, and he was always looking for something he could do at home, a small business venture, so he could retire early and we could move where we pleased. Would we have found the magic formula by now or still be in the upper Midwest?  Would we have ended up in Colorado as we sometimes talked about, or back in Spokane where we went to college and enjoyed living once upon a time? I suppose we could have ended up right here where I am now, although it was never on our radar. I know I have thought so many times how much he would like it here for even more reasons than I do.

I also wondered if my creative path would have gone the same direction - not sure that it would have for a lot of reasons. But in the end, I know these sorts of what if speculations are fairly pointless. I know that getting where I am today is very much because of him, his confidence in me and his lingering influence. I know he would have preferred to still be along for the ride - I'd prefer that too. But since he's not, I do the best I can, keep him in my thoughts and am thankful for the time I had with him. And most of all, remember him especially on anniversaries like today. We had a good life together, and I'm still benefiting from it.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

It's Good To Have Friends

My friend Susan noted that in my picture of beading progress, I was using an ashtray to hold my beads. I only have a few holdovers from the days when so many people smoked but soon realized how perfect the small simple ones I had saved would be for keeping beads in check and making it easy to scoop beads onto the needle. I occasionally check second hand stores to see if I might find a few more for those times when I'm using a lot of different beads on a project, but haven't had much luck. Susan, however, promised to check stores in her area and look what she came up with! Not just ashtrays, but also some small dishes in various sizes and shapes, all wrapped carefully in some beautiful batik fabrics. Now there's a friend - thanks! Time to go try them out...

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Remembering Allen

Wanted to share one of my favorite shots from when my late husband and I were "courting" in college. This was taken in probably 1974, and as he started jokingly to flail in a half-hearted attempt to escape my grasp, our friend Jean snapped this photo. Yeah - not letting this one get away! But he did get away from me through circumstances of an accident 15 years ago today. I still find myself getting weepy and out of sorts leading up to this anniversary without understanding why until I look at the calendar. Funny how our subconscious minds track these things. I used to go through the same thing leading up to Easter after my mother died, eventually making the connection that it was the special memories of her attached to that holiday that brought the emotional upheaval.

If I had not loved and been loved, I'd have no reason to weep. I'll take the tears that only come occasionally now, but I'll also laugh and smile at the memory of times like these, goofing off in a dorm room, holding on tight to a guy who had no intention of running, and who gave me and others so much during his time on this earth.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


Last week, I noticed that these beautiful sweet peas were blooming at that same abandoned house where I snagged some lilacs blooms back in May. Couldn't resist bringing some home, then couldn't resist taking some pictures.

I'm always fascinated with the delicate veining that shows up in some petals like these.

Today, I received this lovely notice from the Sacred Threads people:

Dear Sacred Threads Artist,

All of the artwork is arriving at the venue. It's exciting days for us as we see your artwork in person! Today, your artwork was received and logged in. All is well with your beloved work and we promise to take very good care of it while it is in our hands. Thank you for sharing it with us and our visitors.

I had checked yesterday and saw that it had made it Maryland - how nice that I got this confirmation from the recipient that my quilts had arrived safely at their destination.

Monday, I made an appearance in the studio - one can arrive there for many reason, but on that day I decided to attend to a little mending and hemming. I'd found three items folded on the floor in front of my bookcase and realized they were clothes I'd started working on last summer and never took the last step. Embarrassing how I can put things off, but it feels so good when I finally tend to these small things. Apologies to to my "artist tool" which became a utilitarian machine for a day.

Once again I have some room on my work table and today arrived in the studio ready to tackle the beading on Masks. This is going to take awhile, but I think it's going to do exactly what is needed. Here I'm stretching the blue seed beads I had on hand by adding two of the new delica beads (which are slightly darker and smaller) between each one. I like the affect.