Category Archives: nature

A walk in the garden

I finally did it!  I retired from my life as an MRI radiographer last Friday. It was sad to leave my work family who I’ve shared my professional life with for many years but more than that it was a joyous release from the stress and demands of a busy imaging department. I don’t go in for parties much so we settled for a happy, relaxed breakfast for 28 on the waterfront  just a few blocks from the hospital where I’ve worked for the last 20 years. It was a lovely farewell and then I wandered round Salamanca Market and the waterfront with no sense of guilt for frittering away my precious time!

The most common questions I’ve been asked about retiring is ” what are you going to do now?” along with the absurd “will you be coming back part time?”

I’ve got a gazillion plans and projects – so many that I got myself a monthly planner for the art room! I’ve been a tad overwhelmed by how much I have got planned so I’ve given myself permission to just have a 2 week holiday before I jump into any big  projects. Then there are all the small pleasures I didn’t seem to have time for when I worked, like an evening walk around the garden…….

….all those patterns and colours are sure to find their way into one of my future art projects!

 

Sunsets

Sunsets with their riot of colour  can be a tricky subject. It’s that fine line between glorious sunset shades of red, yellow, orange, pinks and purples and a garish clash of over the topness.

I’m hoping I managed not to cross that line with this prarie sunset.

Prarie sunset.
Prarie sunset.

Eco printing.

After a weekend visit to the Tasmanian Craft Fair I was inspired to try my hand at eco dying. The Writer bought me a beautiful autumn eco printed wool scarf in Italy this year which I love – the colours are soft oranges and muted browns on a cream ground. I treated myself to a locally made silk scarf with a smokey grey and burnt orange print of eucalyptus leaves at the fair and headed home with a plan to try it myself. (Craft fairs will do that to me – I have a list of three new crafts to try from this fair!)

So I did a lot of googling and found some great articles on how to eco print and had a stab at it. My first attempt gave me some gorgeous colours despite my slapdash approach! I would have pre mordanted the cloth with alum if I’d had any but really I couldn’t wait to try it so I just spread lots of eucalyptus leaves and rusty slabs from the old corrugated  roof I ripped off the Potter’s shed onto a length of calico, placed another piece over it and rolled it all tightly around a metal pipe. Then I wrapped it with string and placed in on a rack above simmering water. I covered the whole thing with foil to seal in the steam and left it to do it’s magic for a couple of hours.

Eco printed fabric bags
Eco printed “Rust and Eucalyptus”

I love the rusty colours and those smokey greys. I was a bit too liberal with the rusty metal additions and lost the eucalyptus pattern but didn’t mind as I like the abstract design that emerged.

The next day I went out and bought some alum from my local art supply shop. It was pretty pricey but will last for ages and as I’ve got the bug I’ll be getting my monies worth out of it. So, armed with the alum  I pre mordanted my second batch of fabric by soaking in a 10% alum solution overnight ( 10% of the weight of the dry fabric mixed with enough water to cover the fabric). Mordanting helps the dye from the leaves attach to the fabric. Then I repeated the process of layering the wet fabric with leaves ( I used maple leaves from the garden this time), rolling and tying. Then into the steamer for 2 hours. This batch was more successful at capturing the leaf shapes and I managed to get some subtle greens as well.

 

I’m a quick project girl and I love the fact this requires so little time and yields such interesting and unpredictable results. I can see me doing a lot more eco printing and dyeing in the future. Can I see me keeping a detailed note book of each experiment as every googled article suggests? Nope! I know I should but I also know I won’t – best just to acknowledge my lack of crafting rigour and get on with the dyeing and enjoy the anticipation every time I snip the string, unravel the cloth and release the print.

Eco dyeing has been a comfort to me this week, making something beautiful feels like a small antidote to the madness that has been the US elections.

 

After the snow…

Last week I was working on a commission for a client of Lone Mountain and here it is after I added in the foreground trees covered in snow. I echoed the purple /blue shadows on the mountain in the foreground and really piled on the snow on those tree branches. It was very satisfying laying on thick swodges of snowy blues and whites to build up  believable snow laden trees.

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Lone mountain painting.
Lone Mountain. After the snow. Acrylic painting.

After the snow settled I started in on an entirely different scene of the impressive cliffs of Moher in Ireland. What a contrast to all that snow! Now it was green, green grass and those stark  cliffs plunging into the ocean. The client wanted me to focus on the light on the foreground grasses and that bright sky against the distant grasses, and I’m happy with the end result because she’s happy!

Cliffs of MOHER
Cliffs of Moher . Acrylic painting.

Steinbock stalking in the Gran Paradiso…

I was driving along in the glorious, summer sunshine when a glimpse of light bouncing off something caused me to suddenly swerve onto the verge of the road and come to a spine jolting halt. The Writer craned his whip lashed neck in all directions looking for whatever it was that had caused this aberration in my usually impeccable ability to get us from A to B without running off the road.I waved my hand in the general direction of a pile of boulders excitedly yelling “horns- I’m sure I saw horns”.

We were  heading up the Valsavarenche, one of three valleys that make up the Gran Paradiso National Park in Northern Italy, and we were steinbock hunting!

Grabbing the cameras we stealthily sidled out of the car – I’m no sure why ,since any animal in the vicinity had surely heard the gravel flying as I skidded to a stop. Anyway , sidle we did, pointing and whispering as we tried to catch a glimpse of anything moving on the rocks above us. It wasn’t long before  The Writer began to mutter in a rather scathing manner something along the lines of  ” wishful thinking…”

Just as the muttering started to gain momentum I shouted “over there!” and pointed ( in what I hoped was a “I told you so” sort of way) at a lone steinbock leaping over the rocks just metres away. His long, curled horns quickly vanished from sight as we started clicking away. I back tracked down the road following the line of the rocks and as I rounded the corner so did the steinbock. He politely posed , nibbling first on a patch of grass , then on the low branches of a pine tree, twisting and turning his handsome head as if to show off his sweeping, serrated horns.

Steinbock. Gran Paradiso
Steinbock – heading off over the rocks.
Steinbock lunching. Italy
Head down – munching lunch. Steinbock.
Steinbock. Gran Paradiso.
Just a little lunch. Steinbock.

The Writer was still hanging round the car hoping for a return of the steinbock so I headed back and nudged him in the general direction of the photo worthy horns. We spent a happy 20 minutes tracking  and shooting stills and video and came across a couple of other young bucks frolicking over the rocks and alpine meadows.

Feeling very blessed to have had such luck we happily mooched on back to the car and decided we still had time for a quick walk  in this beautiful valley.

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Waterfall. Valsavarenche
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Gran Paradiso. Valsavarenche
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Valsavarenche. Rain coming.

 

There were a few cars in the carpark and as we hoofed it up the track we met a couple heading back with cameras and tripods slung across their shoulders. The Writer, deciding they were kindred spirits, regaled them with tales of our successful steinbocks potting advising them to head on back down the road where, if they were lucky, they might find a one with enormous horns posing on the rocks. They thanked us politely but not with what you would call effusiveness. I did think I caught “30 something” in amongst their rapid fire Italian and assumed they where asking how far to the big horns. “No,no – it’s only 5 minutes from the carpark ” I assured them.

We felt a little silly a few minutes later as we rounded the corner to find a herd of 30 something big horned steinbock grazing in the meadows!! They obligingly munched away as we clicked away. They waited while The Writer set up his tripod, they arranged themselves in picturesque groupings, draped themselves on the nearby rocks and generally behaved as any well educated model might. They knew the moves, they could hold the pose and they were politely disinterested in the photographers.

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Steinbock herd
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Posing Steinbock

On the way home, we passed the rocky slope where we’d seen our first steinbock earlier in the day. In unison we turned to each other and said “ours was better!”

Looking back at our photos from the comfort of our living room several weeks later we’re still in agreement. It was a thrill to catch a glimpse of horns , see them disappear and then track silently until we came across a proud and majestic wild animal , alone on the rocks. The herd seemed altogether a more domesticated group!

What do you think?

Sardinia.

I was expecting the beautiful beaches of Sardinia but this small island has so much more to captivate and delight the senses. I’m not downplaying  the beaches though as I’m a big fan of turquoise waters, small sandy coves and coastal flora!

Beaches

 

The water is warm and inviting and not only did I do my fair share of swimming and snorkelling but I managed to fill up my sketch book and break out the pastels for a painting session. It was a bit frustrating with the pastels as I just didn’t bring enough colours to really capture the full gamut of greens and blues in the water but I enjoyed the simple ink and watercolour sketches.

 

Ink and watercolour. Sardinia
Capo Coda Cavallo

Wildflowers

The wildflowers were in full bloom everywhere. Fields of dinner plate sized Queen Annes Lace carpeted the countryside and along the coast were the yellow curry plants with their pungent perfume, bright pink pigs face, delicate purple and pinks of flowers I have no name for yet and more of those QALs.

Culture

It’s not all beaches and flowers, there’s plenty of culture and history when you need a break from all that blue and green sea! There’s a rich history of Nuraghi settlements and burial necropoli to explore as well as the influence of the conquering Spanish and the early Christian churches. I found the Nuraghi  necropoli sites very evocative and was impressed with the innovative architecture of one of  their protective fortresses with it’s maze of passageways and stairs.

The early Christian churches have some wonderful carvings and were set in lonely fields and on stoney outcrops giving them an air of mystery and romantacism.

We even stumbled upon a cheery festival and saw evidence that the traditional costume is still worn on special occassions.

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Traditional Sardinian costume at the cherry festival.

Evening light

A short stroll down to the local beach in the evening rewarded with a moody evening light. The pine forest on the headland cast dramatic shadows and the setting sun silhouetted the wetland trees.

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Evening. Tanaunella beach . Sardinia
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Evening light in the pines

Rocky landscapes

The wind has weathered the rocks creating interesting rockscapes.

 

Hinterland

There’s  a hinterland of mountains and rolling farmlands wiith small villages scattered across the landscape that provide an interesting contrast to all that coastal scenery.

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Sardinia
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Sardinia
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Sardinia

Light and details. Tuscany

There’s  something special about the light in Tuscany. The last few days has been a parade of misty mornings, sunny days and stormy afternnons resulting in some stunning landscapes. Here’s just a few.

Tuscan morning
Morning light. TUSCANY

 

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Stormy skies. Tuscany
Evening light Tuscany
Evening light. Val d’Orchia. Tuscany

When I haven’t been absorbed in the larger landscape I’ve been seduced by the details. The polished doorhandles, small window decorations, intricate patterns on the church facades. Everywhere is detail and it brings another level of richness to travelling in Italy.

Rome. Doorknocker
Ornate doorknocker. Rome
Church facade. Orvieta
Church facade. Orvieto

 

window detail
Window detail. Tuscany

Sometimes the two coincide in a happy moment of serendipity as happened this morning while I was visiting a small and beautiful 12th century cloister in a tiny village. The sun came out casting wonderful shadows through the black and white arches and lighting the fiery red geraniums in their terracotta pots.

detail and light
Sunlit cloister

Amidst all the pleasures of travel light and detail are top of my list.

Hakea magic unfolds.

Hakea bud
Hakea bud.

Out for my walk at the weekend I picked a branch of Hakea that was sporting some tiny buds. I liked the geometric pattern against the green leaves. When I got home I plonked it in a bottle of water on the kitchen sink and got on with the 101 things I had to do that day.

Emerging Hakea flower
Emerging bud.

While I worked my way through the day’s “to do” list magic occured at the kitchen sink.

Slowly  the brown outer petals ( I know there’s another word but it escapes me at the moment!) opened and a tightly packed lime green ball emerged.

 

 

 

 

Hakea bud.
Unfurled Hakea bud.

…and then the petals dropped one by one to the counter top and the lime ball expanded bursting into a giant sunshine yellow mass of stamens with just a hint of pink on the stems. I was pretty impressed by the speed of change from a tightly closed brown bud to this stunning fluffy ball of sunshine. Little did I know what was to come!

 

 

 

10The next morning brought another surprise – overnight the stamens had fully unfurled to delicate slim ‘pins’ with tiny lime tips. The white pins were sticking into a bright red pincushion flower. The transformation was amazing! Where did all that sunshine go? How was it changed to red? As the day progressed the white stems deepened to a blush pink and the bright red took on darker tones.

 

 

Now I have a beautiful vase of Hakeas gracing my kitchen in all stages of development. I’d love to plant a bush or two but first I’m going to do the wildlife test and put the remains out on my lawn ( once the blooming has finished) and see what the wallabies think. Going on previous form Hakea will be viewed as a tasty addition by the chef to the garden buffet!

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