Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Meadow Beauty and a Rooster


This rather unusual drawing of flowers is really a fairly common wildflower. I first became aware of it in Florida, but it grows over much of the southeastern U.S. and even up as far as the lower New England states.

This flower's proper name is Rhexia mariana while its everyday name is "Pale Meadow Beauty". I am working on a similar drawing of a plant in the same family called Virginia Meadow Beauty which I will be showing you in the days ahead.

There are about a dozen species of meadow beauty native to Florida. This species, Pale Meadow Beauty, is common in the sand hills, flat woods, bogs and marshes from the northern counties of Florida south to the central peninsula. (Wunderlin, 2003)

In Florida, this species blooms from early spring through the fall.

Now I want to show you a photograph I came across some months ago and which I saved because it delighted me so much. I have actually been thinking about showing it to you ever since I saved it, but somehow never got around to it. Well, tonight is the night!

In my own picture file, I named this photo "Our Fearless Leader". The rooster is right out there in front with his "harem" anxiously watching him demonstrate that this bridge is perfectly safe. As you know, I spent a number of years helping to take care of chickens when I was growing up in Alabama. I can almost hear the sounds the hens would be making as they nervously observe their fearless leader! This picture causes me to chuckle every time I look at it. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Well, another show featuring Christmas carols is coming on EWTN and since I never get enough of the traditional religious carols, I think I will turn up the sound and sing along!

I will be posting again on New Year's Day so until then, peace be with you all.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Reflections


Tonight's title of "Reflections" has a double meaning. I have done another drawing of something reflected in water -- an interesting challenge to anyone who tries to paint or draw -- and the subject of my drawing led me to further reflections on that subject, namely trees. I hope that sentence was sufficiently confusing!

First, the drawing itself. It is a simple drawing of winter trees reflected in still water. I am not really talented enough to bring the subject to life -- or so I think. The simpler the image the better the artist needs to be! At any rate, I had done what I have done and now I am showing it to you.

As I have mentioned before, when talking about my great fondness for trees, I was very attracted to dead trees for many years. I loved their stark beauty (and still do) which was created by the process of decay. Storms break off pieces of branches and limbs often sculpting something quite magnificent. When I first saw the photo that inspired this drawing, I was struck immediately by the similarity these barren trees had to dead trees. Actually, the photo that I worked from had a lot more stuff in it -- fir trees, a road, a house, etc., but I really wasn't interested in drawing any of it other than the trees.

I took a look at this drawing using the topographic selection in the pixel software, but it looked much the same as the original -- so it seemed rather pointless to show the result.




I did come across another photo of a reflection that I find fascinating because it takes my eye a half second to figure out exactly what I am looking at! It is not an image that I feel like drawing, but I kept it because it is unusual and very beautiful.

Going back to my reflections on trees, I was reading a bit about this new movie Avatar. Evidently, the trees are very much involved in the lives of the indigenous "people" on the planet (moon) called Pandora -- sort of like a fellow species with which the native people communicate. The greedy capitalists actually bulldoze the trees including their "Hometree" leading to the eventual defeat of the capitalists. The story reminds me of one of my favourite Alan Dean Foster books entitled "Midworld" in which the native people "meld" with all other living organisms on the planet. They, too, live on a Hometree. Read it if you get a chance since it seems to be a simpler version of Avatar.

That's enough reflecting for tonight!

Peace be with you.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Feast of St. Stephen


Today is the Feast of St. Stephen. So, I decided to show you an icon which I did not draw. I am not sure who drew it as the article it was in did not say; however, it looks very much like the style of one of the artists whose work is available through Monastery Icons.

Anyway, it shows St. Stephen dressed as a deacon, including his tonsured hair. He was greatly loved by the early Christian community for his concern and caring for all the poor, the widows and orphans in the early church. He was stoned to death by Jewish people who were angry at the Church -- probably because there were so many Jewish converts. Do you recall where the witnesses of the stoning laid their cloaks? They laid them at the feet of a zealous, young Jewish man by the name of Saul, later to be known to the world as St. Paul.

I seem to remember telling you before my story about my experience at St. Stephen's shrine church in Jerusalem -- but just in case you have forgotten, here it is again. I went to the church on one of the days that the tour group had a few free hours. Everyone else seemed to want to rest or shop, but I knew where I wanted to go and so made my way to the Church of St. Stephen. It is supposedly built on the spot where he was stoned to death.

After spending some time praying in the church, I went out onto the grounds around the church. I was actually looking for shade as it was a very hot day in April. Suddenly I saw a lovely stone lying on a pile of stones and I went over to pick it up. My plan was to take the stone as a souvenir. As I picked it up, I was cut on my finger by another rock with sharp edges that was lying just under the one I wanted. The cut was small but deep and begin to bleed profusely. I stood there watching my blood stain the rocks around me and actually felt blessed. I was shedding a little of my blood right where St. Stephen had bled to death from deep cuts made by the sharp rocks that had been thrown at him. Ever since then, I have felt a real sense of friendship with the first martyr of the Christian Church and so I remember him today and ask him to pray for me and for all who read my blog.



As for my art work, here is a second drawing I did of Jatropha interregima. This time I show more of the tree along with flowers and buds. I would really like to see one of these in person as a profusion of the beautiful flowers would be lovely! Maybe one of these days...



Of course, I have to show the "topographic" image as well. It is like playing with a toy for me to use the Pixel Perfect software on almost everything I draw these days. I try changing my drawings with all sorts of different options, but usually, the topographic one is the only option I really like. It does not work as effectively on this drawing as it has on other flower drawings -- maybe its because the tree branches take too much of the focus away from the flowers.

Well, I hope everyone who celebrates Boxing Day by chasing the bargains is tired but happy with all their purchases. I will be posting again on Monday which is another day for celebrating martyrs -- the Holy Innocents. I will tell you more then.

Peace be with you.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve, 2009



This picture is not my photograph nor my drawing -- the only claim I have to it, in fact, is that I came across it some weeks ago and saved it to my collection.

As most of you know, I have a deep feeling for trees and so I tend to collect photographs and drawings of ones I find particularly inspiring. Such is the case with this one. Supposedly, it is a photo of a tree at the edge of the woods with the moon resting just behind the top of the tree. The strong moonlight is enhanced by a clear atmosphere which appears to cause the bits of snow on the branches to sparkle like Christmas lights.

These days there is, of course, always the possibility that the scene has been "photo-shopped" especially considering how difficult it would be to take such a photo as this. So I am of the opinion that most probably, this is a daylight photo that has been worked on so that it now appears to have been taken at night. What do you think?

Tomorrow is Christmas Day and I hope that everyone who reads this blog will be having a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. I will be going to Mass tomorrow morning as the midnight one is just too crowded for a person in a wheelchair.

May the peace of Christmas be with you all.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Spicy Jatropha!



Tonight's drawing shows a bit of a branch on a tree. One of the names for the tree is "Spicy Jatropha". The proper name for the tree is Jatropha integenima.

Jatrophas is a genus of approximately 175 succulent plants, shrubs and trees in the Family of Euphorbiaceae. The name Jatropha is derived from the Greek "iatros" which means physician and "trophe" meaning nutrition. This gives rise to another common name of "physic nut". Jatropha is native to Central America.

I tried to find out more about what Jatropha integenima is used for medicinally, but very little information is available.



Of course, I had to use my "topographic" software on the drawing to see what happened and, as usual, it created a picture with more drama than the simple original. I don't know if you noticed the comments at the end of Sunday's posting. Someone found my blog by accident and wanted to know more about the so-called topographic software I keep referring to. The topographic part of the software is just one, small portion of a much larger package. Unless you are looking in the right place, you would miss it entirely. I described the software for him and I hope he will be able to find the topographic part should he purchase it!





One last item I want to share with you tonight is the front of a Christmas card I received today. This card is from one of my foster children -- Lenny who lives in Zambia. She was just a little girl when I first became her foster parent and now she is growing into a beautiful, young lady. Inside the card she had written a Christmas message to me in English -- a language she did not know at all when we first started corresponding. I am so proud of her.

My next post will be on Christmas Eve. Until then, peace be with you.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Topographic Special



First let me introduce you to my latest flower drawing. "Lotus Blossoms" (above) was an effort to capture the delicate petals of the Lotus water lily. I am not satisfied with what I was able to achieve as the petals and pads (leaves) need to be almost transparent -- something I have never been able to do with my rather limited drawing software. You will notice that I also applied an art deco type frame as I did in a previous drawing of the Lotus.

What I did do was try the topographic method on this drawing and several other "water lily" drawings. I found this to be very successful although the nature of the art work is changed dramatically. I don't really object to this, however, as the result is quite pleasing.


First, is tonight's featured drawing. I think it handles the transition fairly well although the result is not quite as dramatic as the next one.


This is the first Lotus drawing I did with the frame. It is called "Resting Lotus". I am definitely pleased with the result I got when I used the "topographic" software on this one. This is another drawing that achieves, I feel, an almost stained glass window appearance.



Finally, I tried the software on the "Water Lily Reflection" drawing I did a few months ago. I am very fond of the original of this drawing and used it in my latest book. However, if I had known how pleasing the topographic image was going to be, I might have held off publication until I got this new software!

So there you have it -- three more drawings topographically renewed! It would be wonderful if I could get some feedback from people about these images. I have been trying to figure out how I might get people to respond. Maybe I should have a contest and offer a prize...

Well, first I will wait and see if asking nicely once again prompts someone to respond! That would be a nice Christmas present for me.

Meanwhile, may peace be with you during these last days before we celebrate the birth of Christ.



Friday, 18 December 2009

Apple Blossom Time


Here is a drawing of some apple blossoms. My previous drawing of similar blossoms was actually of crabapple blossoms. These then are the "real" thing although I must confess that I have no idea which type of apples would come from these blossoms!




Once again I did the "topographic" thing and once again I really like the effect. The reversal of the colour of lines from black to white and the changing of the other colours creates a very pleasing effect -- or so it seems to me.

I am now thinking about making a collection of these topographic images. As you know, I have posted about 5 such images thus far. I have discovered that this process does not work well for all flower drawings, but for many, such as the magnolia blossoms posted recently, the software creates a look that reminds me of stained glass. I even used the first one I did -- the Giant Milkweed -- as an illustration in my newest book "Stations Icons". Meanwhile I will just continue to post them in the blog for you to enjoy.

As I write this, I am listening and half watching a concert by The Priests from St. Malachy's Church in New York City. They are singing Christmas songs and the music is really putting me in the mood for that holy day of Christ's Mass. How has it gotten here so quickly?

I think I will go and pay more attention to this beautiful music.
May peace be with you.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Final Icon



Well, here is the final icon required for my novena book.

I have had a fondness for St. Jean Marie Vianney (also known as the Cure d'Ars) for some years due to my fascination with any priest who has been given the gifts of wisdom and understanding to a degree that they are enabled to almost read minds in the Confessional -- priests such as St.Jean Vianney and St. Padre Pio. So both of these priests are included in my novena book.

As well, this is the Year of the Priest in the Roman Catholic Church and St. Jean Marie Vianney is the patron saint of priests. So everything just seemed to come together to make it right to include him in my list of saints.

You may not be able to read the writing on the scroll he is holding; so I will type the text here:

"Above all, assist us at the hour of our death, Saint Philomena, powerful with God, pray for us. Amen"

Saint Jean Vianney had a great devotion to St. Philomena and even had a shrine built in her honour in the parish church at Ars (France) and taught the parishioners to have a devotion to her as well.

St. Philomena was an early Christian martyr who, supposedly, was a young, Greek princess who was martyred sometime during the 4th century. She had been known to the Church during the the centuries following, but it wasn't until 1802 that something definite was found.

On May 25th of that year, excavators in the ancient Catacomb of St. Priscilla in Rome came upon a well-preserved shelf tomb sealed with terracotta slabs in the manner usually reserved for nobility or great martyrs. The tomb was marked with three tiles, inscribed with the following confusing words: LUMENA -- PAXTE -- CUMFI. However, if you place the first tile last and separate the words properly, a very intelligible sentence emerges: Pax tecum, Filumena, which, when translated into English, reads: "Peace be with you, Philomena." Also inscribed on the tiles were the symbols of a lily, arrows, an anchor and a lance which would appear to indicate virginity and martyrdom. Inside the coffin there were the remains of a girl of about twelve or thirteen years of age along with a vial (ampulla) of her dried blood. Since then, as awareness of St. Philomena has grown, she has become the patron of hopeless causes -- similar to St. Jude.

So, if you are facing a situation that seems hopeless, try asking St. Philomena to intercede on your behalf.

May peace be with you all.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Happy Birthday!


Sorry to be so late in posting tonight. You might have thought it was because I was busy celebrating my birthday, but, no, it was because I had to attend a deadly Annual General Meeting for my co-op. We had to approve the annual audit (after listening to it being read) and then vote for 5 new board members. I just got home a short time ago and even then I left prior to finding out who we now have on our newly constituted board. Oh, well, tomorrow is soon enough!

Anyway, I have posted a recent drawing of a magnolia tree branch. This is the type of magnolia found in the northeastern U.S. and in eastern Canada. It has sticky flower petals and not much of an odour. Unlike the kind of magnolia trees I grew up with with their large, white blossoms and a scent that is almost overpowering.




I treated this image with the same software that I continue to play with and was very pleased with the result. To me it seems that the software turns this particular image into something that looks almost like stained glass. I find it fascinating.

Anyway, I am not going to tell you all about magnolias as I think I did that some months ago when I posted a drawing of the southern type of tree. As well, I am really tired and ready to get myself organized for bed.

I have had a wonderful birthday with so many nice cards, emails and phone calls. I feel truly blessed. God is so good to me.

Peace be with you all.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Another Feast Day

Topographic Image

Today is another feast day for Our Lady -- the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Under this title, Our Lady is known as the Patroness of the Americas, but she is particularly venerated under this title in Mexico and Central America. I have drawn her image and posted it here previously, but my drawings do not show nearly clearly enough how totally like an Aztec Our Lady appeared. She came to an Indian who was a recent convert to Catholicism and she called him and all his fellow native peoples "her children". She was dressed like an Aztec even down to the black sash around her waist which was tied in such a way as to denote pregnancy. Our Lady's appearance as one of them, opened the floodgates to conversion an over the next half century, more than 8 million native Americans became Catholic Christians. And we still have the proof of that appearance with us after almost 500 years: the cactus-fibre tilma on which Our Lady's image was imprinted in some way that scientists have never been able to explain. Amazing!

Now for tonight's drawings...
The one above is of the same subject matter as the one below: the Angel Trumpet flowers. The one at the top of this posting has been treated with the software that I have talked about previously. I prefer the version above to the actual drawing. I feel the original drawing is rather boring while the "treated" version is somehow more interesting. I would ask you what you think, but no one ever responds to that question except my friend, A.


Untreated Image




Finally, I have a new drawing of a colt. As usual, I wish it could be better. I seem to have an even more difficult time with colts than I do with adult horses. It is kind of like drawing a baby picture. Neither drawings of babies or colts are just a matter of making the big smaller. Babies have a whole different facial presentation than children or adults and I find that colts also present similar problems. Anyway, I tried once again with the thought that sooner or later, I am going to get it right!

May peace be with you all.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

California Poppies


The State of California has such a beautiful State Flower: the California Poppy.

I have always been attracted to the shade of orange found in the California Poppy -- they are also found in shades of white, cream and yellow -- but this "orange" shade is my favourite. Drawing the flowers required that I "mix" my colours until I had just the right shade and I enjoyed that process very much. As many of you know, my two favourite colours are the shade of blue I often use for the robe of the Blessed Mother and the various shades of orange from bright orange to burnt sienna.

The Family name of these flowers is Papaveraceae, the Genus is Eschscholzia and the Species is Eschscholzia californica. The flower is native to the western North America from British Columbia/Oregon down to Sonora in Mexico. Depending on the temperature of a given area, they can be found blooming from February through September.

Interestingly, their petals close at night or in cold, windy weather and open again the next morning. They also may remain closed during the day when the sky is overcast. They produce small black or dark brown seeds (see below).




The poppy was named for a Russian botanist by the name of Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz when it was first described in the early 1800's. The Russian ship Rurik made a scientific expedition along what would later be the coast of the State of California and presented the world with its first knowledge of the plants and animals found along the western shoreline of North America.

The poppy leaves were used medicinally by Native Americans and the pollen was used cosmetically. The seeds were used in cooking. Extract from the California Poppy acts as a mild sedative when smoked. The effect is far milder than the extract of the opium poppy which contains a different class of alkaloids.

This is one State Flower that is not at all endangered as it grows everywhere it is planted. In some areas it is even considered an invasive species. It is difficult to keep it from spreading, however, as its seeds often end up in the grain that is harvested in the far west, especially California.

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As most of you already know, I have published my second book and it is available online through Blurb. If you go to www.blurb.com/bookstore and enter sallie cosby thayer in the search box, you will be taken to my books: Rosary Icons, Stations Icons and The Rosary Icons. These can be purchased now through Blurb.

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Happy Feast Day


Surprise! I have been working on another icon -- the first one I have drawn in over a month. I guess the Guardian Angel one was the last one before this one.

Anyway, this is called "Holy Family, Joseph's Hands". I felt like this was a good day to show it to you as it is one of the beautiful feast days of our Blessed Mother -- the feast of the Immaculate Conception. So Happy Feast Day!

As for the icon, I was interested to observe how the expressions on the faces appeared after I finished drawing them. I never really decide beforehand when I am drawing just what the facial expressions will be. I leave that up to the Holy Spirit. To my surprise, Our Lady ended up looking as though she had suddenly remember Simeon's prophecy to her that her soul would be pierced because of what would happen to her Child. The Child is looking at Joseph, it seems to me, as though He wants to be reassured that everything is going to be all right. Joseph looks as though he is just trying to be the strong one in the family at that moment. It is a drawing that brings forth feelings of sadness in me when I gaze upon intently. What does it make you feel?

I apologize for being late with tonight's posting, but I have been very busy working on my book of the Stations of the Cross. I finally finished it and have now prepared it for ordering. I did this with some urgency as I have already had two people look at the draft copy and tell me that wanted copies of it for gifts. So I will be notifying them tonight by email that the book is ready for ordering so that I can place their orders right away and have the copies here before Christmas. Now I have to get serious about finishing the book on Novenas.

My sister in Tennessee is supposed to be calling soon so I had better get this published now or it will be even later before it gets posted.

Peace be with you all.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Milkweed is back!



I felt it was time for another drawing of milkweed. This strange-looking, green variety is called Asclepias asperula or "Antelope Horns".

Asclepias asperula is, like the other milkweeds, from the Family of Apocynaceae and the Genus is Asclepias, of course. It is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Besides the name of "Antelope Horns", it is also known as "green-flowered milkweed" and "spider antelope horns".

Like several other species of milkweed, Asclepias asperula is a food for the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. The alkaloids in the milkweed make them unpalatable and even poisonous to predators. Of course, since the area where they are found is cattle country, ranchers have to watch out for and try to control the milkweed as it can be poisonous to livestock. As I have mentioned previously, the books always say that it is dangerous for humans as well; however, not if properly prepared for eating.

One Texas botanist is said to have called this particular species of milkweed, "outrageously weird" the first time he saw it on his travels to southwestern Texas! It is pretty strange looking -- you will have to admit!





As I have done with the other two Milkweed drawings, I treated this one with the new software I have to see what would happen. You see the results above. So far only one reader has commented on the changes this software creates in a drawing. Her comments were positive. I would really like to have some more input if any of you find the topic interesting at all.

The software is for creating a "topographic map" of a photograph. I should try an actual photograph with it sometime just to see what happens.
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My friend returned the draft of my second book to me this evening along with her copious notes -- which I must now go through and see if I agree or disagree. Then I will be ready to place the first order for the finished copies of "Station Icons". If you want a copy from the first order, let me know soon, please.

I am tired again tonight as I went to a place near Milton today which was like a little bit of Heaven. A dear friend took me to see the Serbian Orthodox monastery and we had time to spend looking at the walls and ceiling of the beautiful, little church which were covered with icons. Oh, it was so wonderful to be surrounded by marvellous iconography by a real artist working in the ancient way. The location is also quite lovely even though it was very cold. I want to go back again in the warmer weather. There is so much beauty in this old world -- what a shame there has to be so much ugliness and violence as well. Sometimes I think God must be very sad.

Peace be with you all.

Friday, 4 December 2009

A Long Day



I apologize for being totally wiped this evening, but I have just tried to cram too much into one day!

The drawing, by the way, is called "Horses Kissing". As usual with me and horses, it is not a very good drawing, but I couldn't resist giving it a try.

I really am not going to last much longer as I desperately need to get to bed. I am expecting a phone call, so I must stay up for that. However, the phone had better ring soon or else I just may sleep through it.

Here it is just the beginning of December and the Christmas activities are already about to do me in!

I promise to write more on Sunday evening.

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Milkweed, NOT


Well, I decided to take a break from milkweed plants and show you an entirely different type of floral drawing!

This is a plant I once knew as Aristolochia elegans. However, it name has been changed and it is now called Aristolochia littoralis. Why this change occurred, I do not know, but I am sure a botanist could tell us. Meanwhile, I will just accept whatever decisions they make.

The Family name of Aristolochiaceae remains the same and the Genus is, of course, Aristolochia. It is also called Elegant Dutchman's Pipe (notice the Sherlock Holmes' pipe shape of the unopened flower in the drawing) and Calico Flower.
I will be using the more common name of "Calico Flower".

The purplish-brown pattern on the surface of the flower is reminiscent of calico fabric, a popular fabric of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You may or may not be familiar with the song: "School Days". There is a line in that old song which goes: "You were my maid in calico; I was your bashful barefoot beau; I wrote on your slate 'I love you so'; when we were a couple of kids."

This plant is native to Brazil and is considered an invasive species in the southern United States. However, with its beautiful foliage, unusual flowers, freedom from pests and ease of growth, it has become quite popular. It is an evergreen vine with large, trumpet-shaped flowers with intricate brownish-coloured markings. It produces winged seeds in dry capsules that split and allow the seeds to escape -- floating like small parachutes.

These are very unusual flowers with heart-shaped, bright, green leaves. You will often see them growing in dense clusters hanging tightly to fence wire. I remember seeing the vine growing in profusion along one whole side of the chicken-wire fence that enclosed one end of our large chicken yard when I was growing up in Alabama. It was very popular with the chickens as there were always bugs or caterpillars hiding in the thick, cool foliage.

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I have almost finished the revisions of the Stations of the Cross book. I have changed all the images of flowers that I had thought of using as divisions in the book -- to more suitable images. I have almost finished changing all the typos I had found. I have asked a friend to read it through one more time and she will be doing this over the coming weekend. So by sometime next week, I should be able to place an order for the first finished copy of the book! I am very pleased and this gives me more energy to continue working on the third book in the series.

May peace be with you all.