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Sunday, 27 April 2014

Bluffer's Park Sunrise

We haven't done a sunrise jaunt for almost a year and a half. Planned one for Sunday morning and activated my weekday 5:45 alarm to wake us up for Sunday as well. Of course, unlike a weekday, I wasn't awake half an hour before the alarm but was peacefully sleeping lol! Sunrise was to be 6:17am this morn. Couldn't lie in bed after the alarm.

It takes a good 20 mins to get down to the Bluffs from our place so in reality, we missed the best part of the sunrise, where it touches the top of the bluffs, just rising above the horizon line over the lake, but it was still gorgeous.

The lake was beautiful, the gulls were funny and plentiful, one chasing another which had a fish in its mouth. We saw a pair of Flickers on the path near the shoreline. Wish we would have spotted the deer that the foot prints in the beach sand belonged to but in order to get lucky there probably a 4am alarm would have been more appropriate. Not! There were a couple Long Tail ducks and a Merganser but a bit too far for good shots.

We headed over towards the boat launch area, the main parking lot and the swans were putting on quite the show. There was a pair of Trumpeters displaying towards each other, probably a courting pair as opposed to an aggressive pair of males as it first appeared to be when they flew in. The Buffle Heads took off as soon as the swan ruckus started.

What a beautiful morning. So uplifting, makes you feel good all day.......and hungry for breakfast when you get back to your place :-)

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Leucistic Pigeon

We were surprised and delighted to see the famous leucistic pigeon down at the Bluffs. We've caught others' images of him but hadn't run into him ourselves. Considering we've only been there 3 times since moving to Scarborough in October, I guess really, the odds were small. We did see him the last visit though :-) How cute is he! He has a name too but I'd need to go search for it. My brain keeps saying "Sammy" but not sure if I am recalling it correctly.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Dare I Hope?!

Having gotten my new glasses, out of necessity not desire right now, since I kinda caused the breakage of my pair I've had almost 3 years, and seeing the Mary Pratt show has made me yearn for painting again. Photography is all fine and dandy but really, it does not hold the thrill painting held for me.

I ended up having to get bifocals. I have worn glasses for distance since age 11, grade 6. I am blind as a bat, can see maybe 2 ft without them. Alas, over 40 my eyes began to change and I could no longer see close with my glasses and especially not with contacts. Therefore, I have arrived into that "middle age/old age" glasses needers' category as a brand new wearer of bifocals. Do I like them? Not every glance I take. They are challenging but I put them on with confidence and positiveness like the optometrist suggested. After 2 days of wearing them, if it never gets better, I could live with how they work if I had to, I wouldn't have much choice anyway lol!

It'll be quite a text to see if I am able to paint again. Basically, if I could see my reference, I couldn't see my painting surface or mixing plate of paint. However, we'll see. I am determined though it may in the end not be up to me.

Once I finish the large drawing I am doing, which seemed possible but this past weekend and the one before, I got no time in on it really, I have a painting planned to begin. The inspiration came from a photo I took of my daughter at my birthday dinner at a Mexican restaurant near my Dad's. I loved the light from the window, though the cell did take away a lot of the info in the light areas and it did lessen the contrast, the photo had a certain appeal. There is one issue in it that I feel weakens the composition, the arm that goes off the picture plane on our left, her right. I will need to see what may work with that in the drawing stage. If I had intended to take the photo for reference for a painting, I'd have put thought into that better.

What I want for the painting is a bokeh like background, not in focus as it would more be seen by the eye as well as take literally a back seat yet hints of that it is, a bar and chairs and light and bottles detectable as an environment. It may even need a backing off of strong colour, some desaturation since I do not want the colours in the background to be as distinct as her fighting her for visual attention. Also, I want the mid ground, like the plate on the wall, to be not high detail but that there not be this huge jump from a focused figure into a highly blurred background. I want more detail to read in the objects behind her. Of course, she is the focus, namely her face and eyes. To help me work this, I have played with 3 variations on the reference photo. They aren't perfect but they'll keep me focused on Not making the background detailed. I will most likely need to render the mid ground blurred and simple shapes then pick and choose how much detail needs to be brought up slightly. As well, it will take some skill (and luck) to get it all to balance so it doesn't look like foreground, mid ground and background are 3 separate paintings, it will need to visually balance and morph well. This'll just be worked out instinctively as I paint as I'm not one to create a perfect finished reference.

There are blown out areas in the highlights, missing all kinds of subtle information, such as down her arm, as a cell will do (if I had Known, I'd have used my DSLR and taken the shot in RAW) but, I hope to be able to paint the figure not so much highly realistically but that in the end the shapes and values will be much more than just "realistic rendering". The effect in the reference is a big ole' intrusive focal stealing white forearm. These kinds of things will need some attention in the painting. One of the reasons for it appearing so focal is that it is the closest thing to the camera of her, therefore some consideration in the drawing stage needs to be taken with it. The rays from the lights are a creation of the cell phone too, not sure if they will be included. If they are, it will be because I like the effect, the dreaminess, and only if I feel they add something to the painting as a whole.

John, my partner and a painter (much better than I lol!), pointed out to me a shape in the background, the 2 ceiling panel lights and the round light below, as well as the oval speckled area below (the bottles) look like a beard - add together and they could create a sort of face - objects that in any way visually create a "face" are usually best to avoid duplicating in your painting was his advice, so I will take that advice, it is good.

I will be doing this on a panel, in the long vertical format that I so love but rarely do lol! It won't be a huge painting, the head will be smaller than life size, which suits the way I paint.

Below, I have 3 rough reference images. The original photo, one to give me a blurred background and one for a bit more detail to the mid ground. I won't be beginning this painting till next Spring unless by some miracle I finish my drawing early. There is no guarantee my painting will come back but I believe with my glasses situation, hence vision situation corrected, it has half a chance :-) If it proves to still be elusive, well.....there's always photography and pencils.

If this painting works, I have a more difficult one of my son ready to go from years back too.

original shot

blurred background

semi blurred mid ground

Monday, 21 April 2014

First Winter Common Gull of the Subspecies Kamtschatschensis?

Today, down at Bluffers Park in Scarborough, we saw what struck us as an odd marked Gull. It had hawk like markings on the underbelly and under tail. Brown to black tipped wings, a grey area in the center of the back, and a black brown tail. His bill and legs were pink, with his bill having a black ring around the end. I tried to get some shots of him but most were not crystal clear.

Looking him up, the Kamchatka Gull is the only image that matches him perfectly. However, it got confusing when we began seeing that the juvenile Common Gull also comes up and so does the Juvi Mew Gull, and even the first year Herring Gull.

Did we see a Kamchatka Gull? It's doubtful, but the First Winter Common Gull of the subspecies Kamtschatschensis seems to be an exact match. Though in Ontario?! I'd be doubtin' er. Wouldn't that be a rare bird sighting? I think that'd be rarer than rare, a rare bird sighting for us.

My pictures are below and a link to identification on the web from a source on the web is also just below. It'd be so nice to find out what this gull was.

If I learned anything, I tell yah, anyone who can accurately identify gulls and all their stages and hybrids, kudos to them because it looks pretty near impossible to even Attempt to try lol!

Kamchatka Gull Info Source

Quick Stop at Halls Rd.

Going into Whitby to pick up my kids, we decided to head early and stop at our old favourite area, Halls Rd. In spring, all kinds of cool migratory birds, such as Ruby Crowned Kinglets, etc. can often be seen there and quite close. There weren't any yet however, there were lots of cool ducks on top of the regular Mallards! We saw Blue Winged Teals, Shovellers, Buffle Heads, Gadwalls all frisky, and Coots (not technically a duck). They were less timid too and I managed to get closer images of them.

It was a nice weekend. Having spent time with my family, things were nice and happy, and seeing my kids and having lots of fun with them, getting out to Kleinberg to see the Mary Pratt show, going for a long hike and seeing our old area - can't ask for a better Easter and birthday weekend.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

McMichael Canadian Collection and Miracle Forest Walk

Saturday, we had planned to go to the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg to see my favourite artist's work, Mary Pratt. It was fantastic to see so much of her work all together and in person. I love her work and I feel she is a much better, more genuine painter, than her husband Christopher Pratt. I've never been a big fan of him, or Alex Colville, though I did go to a showing in the mid 80s of Coville's work. Mary Pratt though many refer to her as a photo realist, is far from that. Much of her work is very abstract shapes which visually create the realism of the subject depicted. She worked from photo reference, or slides if you will, but they were reference. She also worked from life here and there. Lots of times, the subject an artist wants to paint cannot reasonably be accomplished from life. She loves what I love, exciting and unusual light through, on and surrounding material such as glass, metal, synthetic items, material, etc. She also paints the very things that encompass her personal world. She isn't gimmicky and her work seems raw and honest. Though I don't care for every single painting she's done, over all, I admire her.

We looked though I joked I'd skip them, at the Group of Seven's work too. Not a big fan, never have been (apologies) especially of the over painted cartoony large finished pieces by Harris. When you see what these guys were truly capable of in their small on site paintings on hardboard, the atmosphere they captured, it is hard to imagine why those other pieces even exist. Gawd forbid that all Canada would ever be known for artistically is that small  body of stylized churned out work and Emily Carr. That would not be good in my opinion, embarrassing. There are so many stronger living artists even. But, most of the Group of Seven's small pleine aire pieces are little gems.

We looked at the Morriseau work as well. Quite interesting, brings back college art history sessions, and I do very much like his work.

After we left the gallery, having bought an early birthday card for my Dad, and a cool little magnet for myself with a native artist's work reproduced on it, we headed outdoors for a walk through the forest that backs onto the gallery property which has quite long trails. There was a lot of post ice storm destruction results seen everywhere :-( We saw a few birds, cardinals, a fly catcher, chickadees readying a tree hole for a nest, gold finches, sparrows, a flicker, wood peckers, a vireo or warbler (not sure which) a cooper's hawk flying, a turkey vulture, 2 pairs of ravens, crows, robins, etc. We also heard the spring peeper frogs in abundance. There were tons of interesting little beauties in the plants and last year's dried foliage to be photographed. There was the Thom Thompson trees even, ones I am more used to seeing in the Muskokas than 45 mins from Toronto.Enough to keep my eyes busy all day :-)

Being Easter weekend though, the day would not be complete without nature's own rendition of "Jesus with Staff" silhouetted against the background sky light, looking as if he was just resurrected lol!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

My D90

I've had the opportunity to use my replacement camera, the D90 I bought recently, that replaces my shot D70 temporarily till I can afford the Nikon DF.

My D90 in many ways, has proven to produce better images than the D70S I had, which I was completely happy with in most respects. One thing that is welcomed with the D90 is the higher ISO ability and less colour noise (the little colored specks that fill in dark areas when there is low light and a high ISO setting like 600 and above used). There were ways to reduce noise using Photoshop on my images that I took in lower natural light conditions but it tended to compromise the sharpness of the subject/s too much and even a program such as Sharpinion couldn't resurrect them completely in all circumstances. The D90 I see has far less, almost nil noise in a dark image shot at 600 than my D70 had. I am happy :-) This is an aspect as an artist that I wished so much existed in a camera way back even before digital was around in consumer SLRs. You just could Not point and shoot a camera in very low light, no flash, such as evening light on a face, candle light on a table, lake shots up north in that last indigo light over the water and expect to get a clear shot or grain less image. I hate tripods, always have, I like to swing my camera and hold it and compose by moving around, to be able to grab something fast. I also despise the flash, I want naturally lit images, as I see them, the light being why the image appeals to me in the first place 9 times out of 10, so I Love the fact that a DSLR can now take a pretty good image, close to what your eye sees, free hand! A second thanks has to go to Image Stabilization too. So, both those factors being invented and implemented into SLRs, bring a camera closer to what I want to be able to do with it. If only it was there when I was deliberately shooting images for painting reference back when I was painting.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Birthday Post - Rattray Park Visit Last Weekend

True to form, I try to docuwrite about any Conservation area walks or trips we make. Last Saturday we went to an art show in Port Credit, Mississauga, Ontario which I wrote a bit about in my previous post. While we were there, we visited a park that was right on the shores of Lake Ontario. We had already looked on Google to see if there were any areas we could walk in and take some shots, see some cool things....there was and very close :-) Rattray Marsh. I'm one for cleaning up garbage in these Conservation areas, and we've done it ourselves. Granted, I have to admit, garbage is minimal in our usual haunts, though you do see the odd Tim's cup and stray Kleenex, lost flip flop or a stray pair of grey washed up underwear on the beach (I even have pics) but I tend to give the benefit of the doubt (especially to the lost Tim cup owners) that it was an accident, unknowingly dropped, couldn't catch it as it blew away, they meant to throw it out on their way out or whatever. However, we happened to choose the annual clean up the park day for our visit to Rattray. Soooo, needless to say, it was swamped, yet fun.

We saw Goldfinches, and we saw and heard Sparrows of the white throated brand, tons of Robins, ok lots of dogs on leashes (yay they were on a leash!), and I even was fast enough to grab what I later see is a Flicker as it flew overhead near the shore. We also saw Killdeer, flying and on a flat muddy area across a small marshy area just across from Lake Ontario's shores. Cool thing too, the Toronto Skyline, CN Tower and all, was visible but through the hazy sunlight atmosphere. I got some cool rock shots (we think the rocks are dropped there) and some neat shots of plant textures.

You Know it's a nice warm sunny early spring day too when you see those little hideous black spiders run in and out of the shoreline stones. I once saw a documentary years ago, probably 20+, on TV. It suggested that spiders Have to be from another world because most of the human population hates spiders. Hard to know but I count in as one of those people - I hate spiders! I often have nightmares about them. It didn't help that our old apartment was a haven for them, you could not reach into any crack or crevice without feeling an icky clinging crackling web on your hands