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Inking and traveling

We went to the south of France for my mother-in-law's birthday, so I have not worked in my normal Inktober style for many days now. The material is too messy and copious to work with elsewhere, so I just took along some fineliners and a sketchbook. I amused myself doing some drawings with both hands at the same time (one subject that is more or less symmetrical and trying to capture both sides of it at the same time using both my right and left hands. Interestingly, I noticed that I looked much more at the left side, being left-handed; so next time, I will try to look at the right side more often.) and drawing my MIL's water pitcher. The day we got back, I drew some trees, inspired by the art in the book The Tough Princess, and some from my imagination.

I did a thumbnail for my next Yupo piece last night, but I don't know when I will get to it. I have once again spent my morning trying to fix my scanner, when what I need to be doing is preparing for Sprout's birthday next week.

Inktober 2019 - Days 3-9

 This post brought to you by The Fun Side of Technology!

After having spent almost two hours trying to get my scanner re-connected to my computer, I give up and present you crappy photos instead. The way the ink sits on top of the yupo paper makes it really tricky to photo; the ink causes lots of shine and glare in places.  That means I have to tilt the camera, and often details get distorted or lost.

Anyhow, I have been quite busy, and some days, I was only able to work on thumbnails, and Saturday not at all due to having guests over.  So here are three other pieces I have done so far.

This one was an experiment after I saw that I was not going to be able to "write" on the yupo with water and apply ink the way I thought I could after seeing someone else do it on YouTube. Instead, I applied the water in a heart shape and then sprayed on black ink and alcohol, then walked away and let it dry on its own with no manipulation.  Because it looked rather bare in the center there all by itself, I fiddled with stencil-type applications and smearing the ink.

"The Heart"
I really would have prefered to scan this one because you can't see the details in the wings and tail.  In any case, it did not turn out as well as I had hoped, and if I were to do it again, I would change the posture to really convey a sense of suffering and distress and make the beak easier to see. I did another smear technique ont he background and then added some crosshatching to try to make it less blah.

"The Transformation"

My latest effort is my favorite, but it did not come without a failure first. I first had a scene with this character walking down a dark colonnade, which ended in mud and poorly executed scale and perspective. I poured alcohol on the paper and wiped it "clean," resulting in the light gray values you see below.

The hair was so fun. On the right, around the ear, I had to fill in some more after the sketching was done and was too afraid to apply the ink and alcohol in the loose, free way I had employed at the beginning, resulting it the too-dark patch. I did touch it up before trying to scan it, but I forgot to take another pic of it.  I am overall happy with this one.
"The Mistress"

Somethings I have learned:

1) Wear gloves when working with Yupo because the grease from your fingers leaves prints that show up after the piece is inked. Not cool.

2) Kneaded erasers and soft pencils are great for preliminary sketches. I had rotten luck with harder erasers (don't know brands).

3) It is good to pencil sketch, but because the fineliner's ink can be rubbed off, it is tricky to ink over something and then try to remove the pencil lines!
In this post about my birthday, I mentioned that I would come back to that lovely table which was holding our new pottery.

Consider me back. :P

While at Guédelon, we watched many artisans at work, including the carpenters. Farmer Boy declared that when we got home (insisted, in fact, that AS SOON AS WE GOT HOME, irregardless of that being 10 p.m.) J would help him make a stool. However, on the road, the idea morphed into making a replica of this table we saw at Guédelon:

Much to Farmer Boy's chagrin, the table-making did not start that night but the next morning:

He and J worked hard, assembling and shaping all the pieces:

Understanding how to go from a cylinder to a properly centered cone. Hint, you have to start from a square:

And not to be outdone, Ti'Loup got to work on his own piece of wood, making lots of wood dust on the way:

The finished keepsake:


Well done, guys!

Inktober Day 2

I don't know if I will keep up these daily posts or not. I am thinking about doing it once a week. We shall see.

FWIW, I scanned and reposted yesterday's final effort, which you can see here, if you are so inclined.

As I said yesterday, I am using Yupo, a synthetic paper, which I had not even heard of until a couple of weeks ago.  I saw a couple of YouTube videos about its possibilities and thought using it would be a fun way to learn and progress through the Inktober challenge.  First of all, it is challenging. :P So far I haven't gotten the ink to do what I want it to. I think the main thing is that I am impatient. I need to let things dry more on their own before trying to do the next step.

Today's drawing gave me a particularly tricky thing to overcome because yesterday I had successfully used some masking fluid to protect a couple of lines of branches on my tree. It worked so well, I thought I would use it instead of white glue (which I did use yesty as well and saw others use to great effect) to cover the areas where my feathers were. Why did I do this? For one, this masking fluid is a bane to my watercoloring existence, which is what I bought it for, and therefore, thought it would be a good way to use it up.  For another, drying time. So. Much. Faster. than glue.  However, covering it with quite a bit of ink and spreading it thin did not go well. I had lots of gray over my feathers and had to seek for other solutions to get them white again (white Daler Rowney* acrylic ink and white gel pen).  I am using a very-near-empty bottle of Dr Phil Martin's opaque black ink, but I should have Rohrer’s India ink arriving soon. I also use some fineliners and micron pens for the line work.  Oh, yes, also alcohol. I don't know if it is isopropyl or not. Yesty I used 70% and today I found a bottle of 90%.  I used a bit of my granulation medium for watercolors, too.

ink 2 feathers.jpg

The shaft of the biggest feather is too dark, but I wanted to scan it today and didn't want to put more wet ink on it.

"Sounds like you are writing another happy story," said J. :P

Speaking of happy-happy, I didn't have red ink for the blood and so used fabric paint, of all things, toned down with some sepia ink.

* I also have the Daler Rowney sepia ink and am not happy with how orangey it is. :(

Inktober 2019 - Day 1

Stupid question, but how did it get to be October already? Seriously.

This year, the whole family is in on the inking fun of Inktober. The kids get in and get it done and then move on to other things like watercolors, crafting, etc.  I will share some of their stuff at a later date. J is drawing, too, using the challenge as an opportunity to work on his knife designs.
What am I doing?

Long, long ago, I had an idea for a story featuring a young girl named Rook. Seeing as how it was in 2004-2005, and I was already writing on another book, I shelved the idea. Over the years, teensy, tiny tidbits from the the story and world have occurred to me. I don't think I am ready to start writing it yet, even though I have been toying with the idea of taking a stab at it for NaNo. Therefore, I have decided to use it as my "theme" for Inktober. I have no intention of it being an illustrated story, but I do think I can capture the mood of it in ink, and that might set the story to percolating even more strongly.

So, in true me style, I am trying out some new supplies like Yupo paper to achieve this (and copious amounts of India ink, which--OOPS!--I don't have any more of! Thank the Lord for the Internet). Should be lots of fun. And I shall learn a lot along the way. Because when you are starting from zero, you can only accrue knowledge, right?

The Yupo paper is quite small, as this in-progress photo shows with my micron pens for scale:

I might do scans for better image quality as I go along, but I didn't want to wait for the ink to dry this time, so phone photo it is. I think it looks better in real life. :P

Scanned copy:
ink1 rookery scan.jpg

"The Rookery"

How about you? Doing Inktober this year?

Happy Birthday to Me

FYI: Today is not my birthday, Wed was.

Since buying our home, we have seriously cut down on travel and days-away-from-here, mostly because of having animals.

However, we have been wanting to take to the kids to where we lived after leaving Paris and decided my birthday would be a good occasion/excuse to do so.

Being self-proclaimed freeloading plebeians, we decided to picnic, cookout, and camp as we visited our old haunts. For the occasion, the unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of rain turned out to be blessings.

We first drove to La Borne, a potter's village some 20 minutes from Sancerre. Here is a link to a French Wikipedia article for anyone who reads French. A record of the oldest known pottery oven existing around there dates from 1260, just to let you know the heritage of the place. Today it has ceramists and potters from all over the world living there and in the environs. While it was nice to revisit it, this trip was not our best experience there. Many things were closed, and I got an overall dilapidated feeling from the village.  While there were some truly gorgeous and fresh pieces to be seen at some of the ateliers, many artists were still doing the same things from 10 years ago.  Pottery can have a timeless feel, but certain glazes, forms, and colors become quickly outdated, to my taste at least. Still, we were happy to offer the kids commemorative bowls* for my birthday, and I found a water pitcher that was both practical and pretty enough to come home with me.  J got a couple of bowls to match those the kids picked out and some new raku espresso cups. Here are a few of the pieces:



(I plan on making a post about this table later on. Watch this space. But maybe not too closely. :P)

Afterwards, we drove to the butcher's shop we used to frequent to buy some meat to grill that night and swung by Chavignol to pick up some crottins de chèvres before heading past our first house** and the rental where Sprout lived as a baby. Contrary to the lack of prosperity La Borne seemed to be experiencing, Sancerre was packed with tourists and boasted many new shops.

I thought of you,
asakiyume, as we drove down to the Loire, past "my" old milkweed patch. I asked J to stop the car and got out in hopes of finding some dried pods to recover some seeds. Alas, it was much too late in the seasons, and naught but a few battered green leaves hung amidst desiccated foliage and crumbling brown flower heads.

Changed too was our old fishing spot, the wild Loire having wiped out the young willows and ash trees that had made that small arm of the river so charming and intimate.  We decided to pitch our tent there despite that and a couple already present with fishing gear and dog but no visible evidence of wanting to stay the night.
Enter the best part of our trip. The kids explored and watched minnows and frogs in the water and herons and egrets above. Farmer Boy and I even had the brief pleasure of watching a kingfisher dart past.
We used our campfire to make our very own artist's charcoal for sketching, an experience that will have to be repeated under better circumstances, but still a success. A 5-minute sketch I made the next morning while J was packing up the camp, but first the birthday artist in situ:



(Of course, I had to retouch it from memory when we got home. That version is in the photostream journal on LJ. I didn't get it right then,
either, but that is OK. The point was just to relax and do something fun. I plan on playing more with charcoal in the near future)
J shared the apéritif of wine and peanuts with the fishing couple, and we supped on grilled steak, whole roasted eggplant, baked potatoes, chiles from the garden and homemade pickles. I forgot my chocolate pudding dessert at home, but I had brought sparklers for everyone and used my birthday candle to write a message to myself in light, which J photographed:

(I ran out of candle and had to use the flashlight for my name. :P)

Of course the kids had to get in on the fun, and who could blame them?:

It was so fun to spend the night with the kids, all sleeping together in the tent. Now don't get any ideas about me sleeping well, but still, it was nice, their excitement giving shine and meaningfulness to the new memory we created in that old place.

One memory that did stay true--something I loved but actually hadn't thought about--was the beauty and diversity of the greens along the river's banks. This photo doesn't really do it justice, but it was such a soothing and lovely sight to me that I wanted to record it. It isn't something that will stay in the forefront of my mind, but knowing it is photographed and written down somewhere makes me feel like a more worthy guardian of the memory.


The next morning, we fried eggs for brekky and headed off for the most anticipated part of our visit. I have blogged before, many years ago, about Guédelon,( in chronological order: here and here and here), so I won't go into the whole project here, but we spent a day touring the castle and grounds. Much to J's chagrin, the children's favorite part was seeing the farm animals and collecting shed feathers from the resident peacock.


They also liked smashing rocks in the quarry and getting absolutely filthy.


A few highlights from the artisans:

The dyers' and artists' atelier, where they transform on-site plants and raw minerals into dyes and pigments:



Middle Ages inspired pottery and tasks:

A tile-maker.

A potter at her wheel, and some pieces waiting to be fired:

Just one photo from the interior because this is getting to be a very photo-heavy post: the ceiling of the camera (vaulted chamber or room) reserved for important guests :

Once again, old memories  shone brighter than what awaited us.  Guédelon is still a fantastic place to visit; it just looks more like a business now, I guess you could say.  Our first guides and the people we talked to were mostly volunteers, and they had a passion for being there. Now there are still spots for very temporary volunteers, but the workers are all on a salary. I know that is a good thing for them, but it felt like, as the project has grown, the raw fun of it has been rubbed a bit thin. I understand this can sound like a very shallow, uninformed, and uppity thing to say coming from one such as myself, just privileged to peek in from time to time, but me feelin's is me feelin's. I do intend to revisit again someday in the future, and I might find it even more far gone from that first blush of discovery, but I still love the project, the vision, and the savoir-faire that is being acquired and shared. And of course, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to see it if they can.

Exterior as of 12 Sept 2019
* They had seen several things they liked, but being 8, 5, and 3 respectively, we settled on buying them things which were less expensive and as sturdy as one can get where pottery is concerned.
**Which has now become a holiday house rental!

Glass Bottle Warning

At 5h15, I was awakened by a boom and the sound of breaking glass. My first thought was, "Is J home? Did he break something?" (He works the night shift), but no, he finishes at 5h15 and his work is an hour away.  No other sounds accompanied the first one, but still I got of bed and did a turn on the second floor, stopping to listen at the stairs that lead to the kids' bedroom. Nothing. Outside, nothing.  In my very coherent state (not!), I decided that burglars would not be breaking in so "late" of a morning and determined that perhaps a picture frame had fallen from the wall, something that has already happened here.

I dozed fitfully until 7h00, and then a strange smell began to tickle my nose. J had stopped to nap on the road home, so I was the first to discover not a fallen picture frame but an exploded bottle of kefir water.

All that was left of the bottle in its original location was the base.

I thank the Lord and prayed in gratitude all day as I cleaned shards and glass powder from all over our 24m2 kitchen that the explosion had happened when everyone was safely in bed. It very seriously could have been lethal; the largest pieces were projected just past our dining table, 4m away from where the bottle stood.

I am not sure what happened. I always respect the headspace when carbonating beverages through fermentation.  My hypothesis is that I was using a glass bottle from the French equivalent of a dollar store, and perhaps it was intended to be more decorative than useful.

We have now moved our kefir bottles to the inside of a cabinet.

If you ferment drinks, too, please be careful!!!

The Man saves the Man

Once again, we came to a season when one of our roosters was not really being the gentleman that he should be. For weeks, I hesitated over butchering him because a) killing one's chickens that have been slated to be part of the flock is hard and never fun, b) I saved him when he was crushed in his egg as a chick, c) I need another line of genetics to keep improving my flock and after bringing in Marek's disease only God knows how, I prefer the known dangers of the birds already here.

While reason C was a vote in his favor, it was also a strike against Lucky Fluffypants and an almost-attribution of a one-way ticket to the soup pot: He didn't have enough hens, and I don't want to buy in any more.  We can't be building individual pens everywhere to deal with each and every scenario for our fowl, so when the hens in his pen started looking too beat up and he started showing overt aggression to one in particular, we decided the easiest solution was to process him.

Heart-heavy, but believing it had to be done, I carried him toward a temporary holding coop.  Suddenly J asked, "Why don't we put him with the ducks?"


Yes! Why not?

So that is what we did, knowing we could always kill him later if we had to because of incompatibility or depression. But no. It has been more than two weeks now, and while Lucky Flufflypants certainly misses living with his ladies, we now have a tried and true option of rehousing fowl.

*applauds J's brilliance*

How kind of you

Did you automatically read that subject line with a sarcastic tone?  You should have.

Last year, I was on the look out for a kitten or cat or adopt to help deal with the rodent invasion we were having, an invasion that had been brought into our house. I could not sleep because of the scrabbling in the walls and ceiling of our bedroom, and traps were just not cutting it. I finally got a handle on things though and stopped asking around.

Well, just after Christmas, some kind soul decided to dump three cats out in our little hamlet of three houses. Aside from our three-legged rescue cat from Mayotte, there are no cats here. No one at the other two farms wants cats around, and because a) I had wanted a cat to help with rodents, b) I don't like to think of abandoned animals trying to fend for themselves, we set out food.

Yes, I would have been happy to have a cat or two; on a farm they can be really useful.  It would have been nice had they not been feral and if we would have been ASKED first.

So, one of the three is completely wild, a big black tom, and we hardly catch a glimpse of him, thinking he has disappeared only to see him again. The second is a young male, who with lots of coaxing has finally become friendly enough that will be able to take him and get him fixed (gotta call the vet!). The third was a pregnant female! And of course she is still wild and fearful and will not let us near her. We were planning on catching her and fixing her, too, but now she is pregnant AGAIN.

So now we have Bengali, the nice male, and three little kittens who have been abandoned so the mom (Grisou) can eat for her next litter. Oy oy oy. Naturally, since Grisou is afraid of us, her kittens are little wild things, too. :(

We cannot financially see to castrating and spaying all of them, even if we can catch them. I have no idea what we are going to do. :-/

Here is a crappy phone photo of them that I was able to get before they realized I was there and fled to the four corners of the hamlet:


The mom is the gray and white blob on the left, with a black kitten hiding her face, then two black and white kittens, far right, with Bengali almost front and center.

Thibault Prugne, Illustrator

Two weeks ago, I blogged about a festival we attended near our home where I encountered the work of Thibault Prugne.

Not knowing what was inside, I entered a reception tent and saw this first piece hanging just to my right.

I was charmed by the scene, the perspective, the chiaroscuro. A quick glance around showed that the rest of the works exhibited were by the same artist. J, more perspicacious than I, had spotted the artist's bio posted outside, and I went back out to read up on the expo.

This photo in itself is neither good nor, perhaps, entirely important if you can't read French, but I show it to refer to something therein that might have contributed to the reaction I had to Mr. Prugne's work.

At the bottom of the bio, you see a photo of the artist in the middle of painting. Holding this image in mind of a creator at work, back I went to look at the creations themselves. And after enjoying a few pictures, notably the one below, my eyes welled up with tears.

With the light reflecting off the plastic framing, creating distracting overlays of people and tent framework, it is hard to get the impact, I know, which is why I encourage you to go check Thibault's website, linked above. (I don't feel comfy posting a bunch of photos that are not mine, even if I cite the source and link back.)

It is hard, too, for me to describe the conjunction of elements that brought about the tears. It was something about the combination of saturated and muted colors, ofttimes used simultaneously, which gave an impression of both immediacy and a patina of time. It was something about how the artist's portrayal of whimsical wistfulness bordered on--but didn't quite cross over into--melancholy. It was something about the feeling of movement, the recurrent lines that seemed to pull the characters forward into something new, something beyond the horizon. It was the thought of the artist's hand at work, bringing to life his imagination.

And that last bit gave me my own whimsical--and definitely melancholic--gut-punch of failure to get any art done. Here was someone succeeding beautifully at living his artistic dream. Here was someone doing. Someone putting paint on paper. Even as I felt sadness at my own lack of creating, I rejoiced at seeing the fruit of someone else's labor.

I know I would never create the same way--my style and execution do not lean in the same directions, so this is not about wanting to copy another artist--but I know that if I don't practice I will never create MY best way. I will never learn and grow and improve and someday be able to illustrate my story ideas. I will never put paint on paper and get it out in the world.

So, yeah, I know I have not done Thibault Prugne's work justice but I wanted to blog about it because it was the first time in a long while that I have had an opportunity to be so moved.


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The Wayfarer

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