Monday, September 3, 2007

Country Life

Autumn Asters

Dave & I are on visiting my mother in the Cowichan Valley, a rural/suburban/urban area of southern Vancouver Island. Mom lives in Cobble Hill, which is mostly rural, but with a bedroom community aspect; many people who live here commute each workday 45 minutes (on good days!) south to Victoria. Mom is semi-retired, and moved over Dave & I are huge fans of bees & insects that pretend to be bees, so I'm always on the lookout for any of our native bees or bee-mimics. This hoverfly looked quite a bit like a bee, until you look a little closer.

As I was sketching the cluster of asters, Dave told me he was returning the ladders borrowed for our staining job to Pat, our friend of many talents, including farming (and printmaking, house painting, orchard pruning, etc.). What a perfect opportunity for me to grab my sketchbook and get some good stuff. So here are the fruits of my quick-sketch labours (you can click on any of them to view larger in a separate window):

Pat's Chooks

Black Australorpe Rooster

I am especially pleased with the effect I achieved in this image:


These chickens were in constant motion, and all clustered around the fence in front of me, hoping for a handout. Even though they soon figured out I didn't have any food on offer, they were still curious and watched me watching them. But of course, a chicken's attention span is short, so they soon started doing other chicken activities, and it was a blur of chicken-ness.

Pat raises chickens for eggs & meat; these were his egg chickens. Pat's also got a number of rabbits. This image was a bit of a trick to obtain, because the bunnies kept spooking. Even though I wasn't really that close, and I hardly moved a muscle, I think it was because I was watching them intently, which is certified predator behaviour, that upset them. So the colours are maybe not quite where they should be, but I'm pleased with the result.

White Bunny

The job of raising food for their own table falls mostly to Yasmeen, Pat's wife. She has a beautiful rampant veggie garden, with all sorts of lovely goodies. They've got a simple wood-and-poly hothouse which is exploding with ripening tomatoes (bunny poo is the world's best fertilizer!).

Yas' Roma Tomatoes

The greens & reds of the ripening tomatoes were a delight to try to capture in watercolour. I'm a watercolourist under duress; I don't do it very well, and haven't the patience to master it, but enjoy adding colour to field sketches and it's the best way to do so.

After I sketched for a bit, I gave their wee pony, Molly, a bit of a curry combing and hoof cleaning. She almost purred.

We headed home, and I decided (surprisingly for me!) that I'd not yet had enough sketching, so I worked on the prune plums in Mom's back yard:

I love the way the greens and purples merge together on the ripening plums. The colours are so beautiful. The knobby twigs are also very intriguing. This sketch was done in a semi-blind contour manner, which means that I spent some time looking at the sketch pad to orient my pen, but mostly looked only at the subject.

I noticed an abundance of large black slugs cruising through the un-managed field, so I thought I'd sketch a few:

I am pleased with the almost calligraphic quality of the lines on the mantle of the slugs. I watched the one on the dandelion inexorably charging towards the flower from a patch of apparently uninteresting grass. It was obviously zeroed in to the flower, as it spent a good amount of time chomping all the tasty bits out, leaving the green salad behind. Sound familiar?

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