Thursday, January 12, 2017

Total Reverse Shoulder Replacement Scheduled for Tomorrow!

Today is the final day before my total reverse left shoulder replacement. I've spent it, thus far, preparing my studio for my 3 week absence and our living room for my 3 week residential stay! Fortunately, a friend of a dear friend has loaned us her electric relaxing chair - somewhere for me to sleep for as long as I'm not allowed to lie down. My arm will be in a sling and supported by a pillow, if the directions are correct. The chair works smoothly from a hand-held device that reminds me of a remote control unit. And there's even a small pocket to put the control in when I'm not using it - so I won't lose it and be unable to change the chair position! I can easily envision hilarious film clips of folks stuck in such a chair with a sling and spilled drink on top of wet book along side a table full of drawing supplies - should I even feel like drawing while I'm somewhat limited in motion!

A total reverse shoulder replacement involves putting the new titanium ball where the socket now is, and the new socket where the collapsed head of my humerus bone now is. At least that's how I understand it!

I have no idea when I'll be back to write - I can certainly type one-handed, but prefer using both ever since my high school typing class. And I'll be able to read the blogs of others while I'm recuperating. Wishing you all creative moments, joy, and good will as we slip back and forth between winter and spring!

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Completed: Two More Bird Portraits

As I continue to prepare for the upcoming surgery, there were two bird portraits that needed to be completed, plus several others that required signatures prior to going out tomorrow to State College Framing and Gallery Shop for exhibition. The gallery has requested 7 bird portraits, so they are now packed in bubble-wrap and nestled safely in a box. I'll be bringing the two frames that were removed from the birds that sold last time around while there. The shop can put them on the two - the Downy Woodpecker and the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. That will dress them up and show them off a bit!

Meanwhile, here are some photos from today's painting session.

Here is the last version before making corrections today:

Below, I decided to remove the wing on the left side and also the foot that is on the tree. If you click on the image, you'll be able to see that foot penciled in. It seemed to distracting to the composition, so I eliminated it.

Below, the completed painting, which I think is more successful than the earlier version.

Here are a few others recently completed and requiring a signature. So far, the Red-Winged Blackbird is my favorite of this bunch.

The Kestrel and the mad Carolina Wren

Red-Winged Blackbird in the wind

Friday, January 06, 2017

Getting Ready for Surgery...

In our efforts to make things as smooth as possible, especially for Frank, while I'm laid up recovering, we are doing all sorts of odd things. Today, Frank picked up a month's worth of dog food for Spunky, plus her allergy meds, from the vet. Spunky has chronic pancreatitis and is on a strict diet necessitating food from the vet. Having it on hand so Frank doesn't need to run any unnecessary errands while caring for me makes things a tad easier for him.

I also went on-line to order some odd products that are hard to find in our local stores. Some of it is dog medication, some of it is for us. I also ordered a few historical fiction novels for reading when I'm stuck in a chair with a sling for 3+ weeks. And, I couldn't resist ordering some watercolor books, while I was at it. The SPLASH series of watercolors is terrific for bringing to the pubic wonderful watercolorists who are developing a new or unusual style/supplies/etc. They encourage others to experiment with new media, new styles, new approaches, new compositions or subject matter from different perspectives. I ordered SPLASH 2; 5, 15 & 16 - mostly used, but in good condition. The books are edited by Rachel Rubin Wolf. You can find a list of her books here.

I've been squirreling away novels for a few months, ever since I finally decided to have this surgery. So now I have a large selection from which to choose my reading material - from Reader's Digest shorties to serious WWII novels to southern US historical novels to light hearted romances. I'm discovering that my right hand is not liking so much time on the computer...or my iPad. So I won't be doing to much of either - despite my desire to stay informed! My right hand is my painting hand and I value it highly. Risk taking is silly, at my age anyway.

And I've already make appointments with my physical therapist, who will be coming to our home twice a week for 3 months to get my new joint and atrophied muscles back in good working order. It would have been good had I been informed 10 years ago that my problem was not simply aging and arthritis, but a totally degenerated bone that would do nothing but continue to cause problems - which arthritis also does, I realize. However, the total reverse shoulder replacement surgery was only initially used starting about 5 years ago - and my doctor says the recovery time is much less and that all pain will cease with this surgery (after the recovery period, of course).

And now you know more than you wanted to, right? It LOOKS like it will be ghastly and painful. And, I suspect, it will be both those first weeks. Inserting foreign objects into the body is not a happy adjustment for said body. But I trust my surgeon and Spirit.

All will be what it will be.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Just a FEW Christmas Photos...

Here we are with our great-grandchildren (identical twins) now aged 4 1/2 years old. Amazing how time flies.

And here are the two little Christmas Elves on Christmas morning prior to handing out the gifts.

And finally, here is our Spunky puppy - she loves her Christmas stocking and she loves unwrapping her treats that are inside the stocking. The second photo shows her disappointment that she didn't get anything else!!!

I hope you and yours had a wonderful celebration this holiday season as well!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Upcoming Shoulder Surgery

I do hope you had a wonderful holiday season. We had grandchildren arrive and stay for several days, plus a grandchild with her twin daughters come and stay a few days. It was a glorious week of family celebration!

Meanwhile, our tree is down and holiday decorations have moved back to the cellar for another year. All in preparation for an upcoming surgery. For many years I have had severe shoulder and arm pain. We now know it is caused by a condition known as AVN:

"Avascular necrosis (AVN) (also known as osteonecrosis, bone necrosis, bone infarction, aseptic necrosis, and ischemic necrosis) is a condition in which the bone "dies" as a result of a loss of circulation to an area of bone tissue."

The head of the humerous (shoulder ball of ball joint) has collapsed (probably due to an unknown injury at some time during my life). Thus I cannot move the arm easily or without muscle pain. This condition is why I have been unable to continue my art quilting - and I dearly LOVE to draw with my sewing machine. However, my shoulder joint is simply unable to support the movements required in smooth machine quilting.

The repair of my shoulder involves a "reverse shoulder replacement" - meaning they will be putting the ball of the joint where the cup now is, and the cup where the humeral head has collapsed. At least that is how I understand it... A 3D printed image of my diseased joint is being created so the doctor makes the perfect sized parts to replace the problem parts. Such new ideas in medicine continue to amaze me!

And so it is that I have turned to painting birds in acrylics and portraits and animals in watercolor. I am right handed and the problem shoulder is my left - thus using my right hand for painting is unaffected (unless you count arthritis!). As I age, like all others, I have made adaptions for the limitations that my body puts upon me by the aging process and/or diseases. I am delighted to return to painting, and actually have sold more paintings than art quilts over the years, so I will see the positive in all of this and move on with life.

Surgery is scheduled for Friday, January 13th, which I consider to be a good luck day. Meanwhile, I'll be getting things ready to make it easier for Frank to manage the household tasks and our dog without my help for at least several weeks. We've been generously loaned a wonderful electric chair that will offer me a comfortable place to sleep while I'm still wearing a sling (3 weeks minimum). They even delivered it to our home today, with the help of my honey and our son-in-law, Steve. So far, I find the chair a perfect fit - the woman who used it before me is about my same height - we are short gals and require chairs that don't leave us with our legs protruding straight out from the chair!!!

More as life continues...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Little Hummingbird is Added to the Bird Portraits - well almost added!

Developing a painting from an idea, photo, or real life requires some fore-thought and planning. Aside from the obvious color choices, the composition is probably the primary concern, followed by the balance of dark/light, positive/negative space, and so much more. One reason why I chose to do simple bird portraits was because I could eliminate many of the typical concerns of an artist as they approach their subject and simply focus on the primary portrait of a particular bird.

As you probably can guess from my writings, I have been a bird lover and watcher since childhood, when my grandfather was kind enough to point out different birds as they landed in his garden or sang from his apple tree. He gave my my first bird books, The Little Blue Bird Book and The Little Yellow Bird Book. I still have the blue one some 60 years later - although I couldn't locate it if I tried!

As this little female Ruby Throated Hummingbird is coming out on the canvas, I find her subtle shadings much more complex than I had realized they would be. Isn't it strange how we can be so familiar with something and still not know it in detail? That's another reason why I've chosen to do bird portraiture. I want to be more observant to all the subtleties as well as the obvious traits of my little feathered friends.

Adding the beak and eye certainly brings the bird more to life than the subtle shadings of her breast! The beak is several different shades of gray, not all of which are yet captured.

Making the eye really look like a living bird's eye has much to do with creating the roundness of the eyeball via shading and with the wonderful highlights or reflections in the eye itself. Some birds have brown, black, green, blue, even yellow eyes. So it's important to notice precisely with eye color belongs to the bird on the easel! And creating the reflections - that is really what makes the eyes dance and come alive for me.

And it's a process, a deepening of color here; a lightening up of tone there. Every stroke counts - so noticing just what goes where and whether or not you want the bristles of the brush to show through the paint or not, these all impact the finished piece of art.

My little hummer is not yet complete. As Christmas approaches, my studio time is somewhat more limited. That and a myriad of appointments on the calendar. I will continue posting both the Red-Bellied Woodpecker and the Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird as then move towards completion.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Painting Process for a Red-Bellied Woodpecker

I begin with a light pencil drawing directly on the canvas. I lay in a few colors, just to get a feel for the bird, the colors, the mood, and as a simple place to start.

Colors are added in layers - hoping to achieve the wide variety of feathers as they are affected by their colors and the lighting. Starting with the darker colors allows me to place lighter colors on the surface, overlapping the darker colors, as would occur in life.

It's time to add some detail so that I can better relate with the bird I'm working on. Adding the highlights in the eye and beginning to add some color to the beak, both of which enliven the woodpecker for me.

I work on gallery-wrapped canvas - and this requires that I paint around the edges in case the buyer does not wish to frame the completed piece. The woodpecker is on a young tree, so that required painting the top, middle, and bottom edges to some degree.

Or course, the bird itself must also be painted around the bottom edge of the canvas. I turn the painting on it's side so that the paint will dry without sticking to my easel and then running the risk of losing some paint to the easel!

It's time to add the bright reds - which really set this bird apart from others (as do the black and white wings, added later). Generally speaking, the colors are pretty intense when added - they can be easily muted and toned down or up to the proper degree as work progresses.

Here some of those reds are, indeed toned down a bit, giving more of a feathery appearance than just paint brush lines! Also, some lighter areas are added to the breast area as depth and dimension are beginning to appear.

Also, the eye is being developed at this stage, which helps me better related to the bird and create harmony between the feathers and the areas that stand out like the beak, the eyes, and the bright red on the back of his head.

More muting of the reds, softening of the feathered strokes.

Now it's time to begin detailing the wings, which I've totally ignored until this point. Looking at it tonight, I realize that the wing on the left side by the tree seems to protrude too much away from the bird's body. It also appears to be too high on that side, making the bird look off balance, to say the least.

That's work for tomorrow. It's always good to have time to get away from a work in progress so that when coming back to it, the awkward parts stick out, the colors that don't work appear off key, and it's time to rework whatever needs to be done to create a solid piece of art work.

And a bonus photo! The porch is just outside my studio door and I can hear when the flocks of birds arrive. At this time of year, our year-round Bluebirds come for meal worms and a variety of finches come for thistle seed.
It snowed last night, so the birds were on our porch this morning for food. Here is a Bluebird with a dried meal worm in his beak taken from the feeder.