Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How neglected is my garden?

Let me count the ways.

I finally pulled up the Lawrence of Arabia rose (dead for 2 years...I was still mourning its deep brick red blooms I guess) and planted this daphne in the location thus vacated. This poor daphne has been sitting in a pot for 6 years. I know this because I bought it from Heronswood Nursery 2 years before Burpee closed the nursery & garden, and that was in 2006! Which would mean I've had the plant since 2004 and it's now just getting planted.

In another part of yard so long covered in weeds, dead and alive, I discovered a dinosaur had laid some eggs! Now, that's what you would call long-neglected. Looks like one has just hatched and is ready to go.

And I was blessed with a visit from the Three Graces themselves:

And here's a fairly respectable part of the garden...what a coincidence, it's the part visible as you walk up to the front door. And look! Looks like someone has mown the lawn...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A triptych in cement

Voila! The cement pad/path. Done over 3 days (Sunday, Friday and finished today). Friend & fellow artist Anne helped on the first part (which is now the beige-y gray parts in the front), and then I did the middle gray part last Friday and then the rest today. Hopefully, they'll eventually all dry to the same color!

21 Bags of cement @ 50lb each. Just add water and mix in the wheelbarrow. That would be 1 bag at a time. Borrowed the neighbor's mold, but I was also able to form several freehand (a bunch of the ones along the edges are free-formed to make for a more graceful edge). I was surprised at how easily one could free form them. Although it took a little longer than just dumping the cement in the mold, and they tended to look like loaves of bread with a flat top.

Now I just need some topsoil to fill in the cracks and plant some ground cover, once it's all set and cured.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Inifinite Loop, picturesque chickens, and gocco fail!

Infinite Loop

Acrylic, medical test strips, blood.

I couldn't stop making these mazes, and so now I have six. This is all six mazes stacked up, creating an infinite loop. I haven't permanently attached them to each other yet, but most likely will eventually.

The neighbors got 3 hens a while back and they seem to enjoy my yard quite a bit. I'm happy to have them around, hoping that they'll do a good job of eating my slugs and fertilizing my plants.

On the Gocco fail...

I've been wanting to try pressure printing on the Gocco for a while now. This is a very successful technique in letterpress printing that allows you to print with a fair amount of detail just by inserting something behind your paper and printing it against a flat sheet of inked plexi on the print bed.

I thought I'd try the technique and see if it works. So here's the setup—a simple design cut out in fairly thick fun foam, an open screen that has some texture in it, papers of various thickness.

I inked up my open screen, stuck the fun foam design on the print bed, and placed the paper on top of the fun foam and printed as normal. And as you see to the right of the fun foam design, what I printed was the entire inked up area. The design was no where to be seen.

I also tried it by placing the fun foam design between the plexi staging glass and the screen. That achieved more or less the same result.

Back to the drawing board...

Friday, June 18, 2010

A video!

My friend Steve Messick made this video for me, the making of Dream On. Thank you, Steve!

I'm embedding a copy of it here, but the embedded version is chopped off. A full and better quality version is available on youtube.

On other fronts, I'm doing concrete work today...already mixed and set 350lb of cement pad/pathway this morning, debating if I should just finish the job today and get it done and over with, or if I should finish up another day. I have another 300lb of it to go.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Spotted Towhee Fort

It's a new fashion in spotted towhee housing!

I had been weeding and cutting back the dead sage bush when I suddenly discovered a spotted towhee nest, with 2 little spotted eggs in it. The nest nestled in the sage, about a foot and half off the ground. A bird had been squawking as I worked but it took me a while to see the nest.

Having removed much of its protection, I piled some rhododendron cuttings around the nest site for some protection. But I still stayed up half the night worrying, as I could hear the resident owl hooting through our open window. Plus, we get all the neighborhood cats roaming through our yard, not to mention the raccoons.

So this morning, I piled more rhododendron branches around it. Mama towhee sat quietly in her nest as I piled the branches high around her. She's better protected now, but I can still get a glimpse of her:

I wonder if there's a way for me to declare my yard a wild bird nesting sanctuary and weeding is now forever forbidden?!

And by the robin's nest, we have a new cement pad!

This area was very uneven (not to mention weedy), and every year, as I get up on the ladder to pick/prune the grapes and peach, I think, for sure I'm going to break my neck this year. So now I've graded the spot, and with fellow artist Anne's help, started putting in a cement pad. I'll fill in the in between areas with some topsoil and Corsican mint.

This is also in a very sunny location, so I figure it'd be a good spot for my parents to sit when they come visit. Unlike me, who likes to sit in the shade, they like to sit in the sun!

The plan is to extend the cement pad down this path, gradually narrowing the width of the pad until it's more path-like than pad-like. Maybe I should name the cement pad The Robin's Pad?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A mama to be! We hope...

OK, sorry, that was slightly misleading. We're not talking about me here, we're talking about this here:

Do you see her? Her head is poking out between the two grape leaves on the upper right corner.

I noticed the nest a few days ago but didn't actually see a bird until yesterday. I'm pretty sure it's a robin. I did see a robin a few days back with a bunch of nesting materials in its beak.

It's definitely a robin sized bird, but I've not been able to see much of anything except the top of her head and flashes of orange. I can see that she's got white eyeliners on, and between the three choices of birds that size with black head and flashes of orange (robin, varied thrush and spotted towhee...anything else?), robin is the only one with the white eyeliner, I believe. Although, this seems rather late for a robin to be nesting? The nest is also not very high up, definitely within an arm's reach.

She's been sitting on her nest for at least 24 hours now. My coming and going don't seem to bother her, which is good, because I had long planned to work on a project right by that grapevine where she's put her nest. Plus it is right on the path to the mailbox.

At least this is better than where the finches put their nest two years ago—right by the front door! Everytime someone went in and out, the mama bird would fly off. Eventually, they never came back. I checked in the nest, and there was nothing there. I guess she never laid any eggs.

Earlier this spring, I noticed a finch checking out the nest they left behind, but thank goodness, they moved on.

More on mazes...

They are so much fun to make! I'm going crazy making them. If you call two more mazes crazy. I guess that's as crazy as I get. So Maze III and Maze IV are almost finished, hopefully by tomorrow night. I'm also thinking of screwing all 4 of them together. Their starting and end points already line up (I made III & IV with that in mind), so it's an option.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Maze II

Still just having fun, and still acrylic, medical test strips, and blood. Must do something about the camera situation here. This is terribly out of focus and colors are off. It's much more red-bluish in real life and less orange-y.

So all of these have been following more or less the same process—each panel is gesso'ed and gets several coats of paint (whatever leftover colors I have). After I attach the test strips, I either sand the test strips lightly or I take an X-acto knife and I peel off the black plastic off the surface. This reveals the paths that lead from the blood droplet to the little machine that reads the glucose (the faint white lines). Then I coat the whole surface with gel medium.

At this point, the panel is black & white (the colors of these particular test strips) and whatever colors the panel already had. Once the gel medium dries, I paint the whole thing with a diluted color. Because this paint is thinned quite a bit, the original panel colors come through this layer. Then I pull some of the colors off the test strips by laying down a wet rag and rolling the rolling pin over it. So I basically pull a relief print onto the rag:

Then I figure out what colors I want the open spaces to be, and start working on that.

I probably have another 2 or 3 panels worth of the black & white strips before I start on the black, white, and blue strips! I'm thinking that I should make a really big maze!