Friday, April 27, 2012

Portrait of a Girl with a Bird



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Portrait of a Girl with a Bird, 9x12 canvas paper and acrylic

My girl with a bird is finished at last! And, I couldn't be happier with the way she turned out. In the world of Barnum's Winter, I imagine this shy and gentle lady sneaking away from the crowded parlor of her parents' estate to seek the more melodious company of the aviary, singing quietly in a silver toned warble with her feathered companions. She's a timid thing though, so if you'd like to hear her, you must be sneaky and hide yourself behind a fountain or bush to listen secretly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Summer Sketches No. 3

I've been so proud of myself for painting such nice faces recently. But, they've all been from directly in front. I thought it was high time to start drawing some profile faces too. I checked out a lot of books illustrated by Arthur Rackham from the library this week (one of my favorite illustrators), to get a better idea of how it's supposed to be done. And, I spent a goodly amount of time staring at Norman Rockwell pictures (not actually one of my favorite artists, but I like his shapes). I drew so many girls with little pert noses that I became thoroughly sick of pert noses and the girls they live on and started to draw imps and goblins and all of their big-amazing-nose'd glory. I rather like them and I hope you do too! 
Keep on practicing and I will too!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Vignettes: Denver's West Side


Last weekend, I brought my camera along to my neighborhood grocers. There exist far more polished sections of Denver, to be sure. But, I think the West Side has character -- a vintage patina and certain homey sort of urban-exoticism. It'd make for a boring vacation, but it's a nice place to call home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Summer Sketches No. 2


1. Learning to make fabric folds for my painting's blouse.
2. Exploring the world of bows.
3. A fun sketch of a girl making soup, with hands no less.
4. First layer of skin tone on my painting.

I finished my sketches with pen this week as further practice with lines. And, I'm working on making pretty photo collages for the blog too. Yes, I'm learning to be a better painter, but I'm also learning to run a decent blog. And, that too takes practice. Everything takes practice.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Soup of the Gods


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I'm not really a fan of Olive Garden, with one gigantic exception: their Toscana soup. You know the one. It has potatoes and sausage and bits of kale. Delicious. I got a bee in my bonnet this weekend to give it a try at home. It's amazing what a person can accomplish in a day with a little help from Google and modern grocery stores that sell kale in April (!).

Once again, I've been shocked and amazed at how easy cooking can be when one's willing to try. And, I'm feeling rather grateful to someone named GenYChef who posted the original of this recipe. The biggest change I made really was to cut the recipe in half, for the mister an I have no use during the week for soup that feeds eight.

Toscana Soup
(serves 4-6, or dinner plus lunch the next day!)

21 oz chicken broth
4.5 cups water
2 pieces bacon
1/2 lb spicy Italian sausage , loose-ground
2 large russet potatoes , skin-on and cut into small chunks
1/2 large red onion , finely chopped
2 garlic cloves , minced
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2 tablespoon black pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder , ground
1 cup kale leaves, chopped

Directions:
1. In a large stock pot combine the water, chicken broth, salt, and potatoes and set to a low boil.
2. In a separate pan fry up the bacon until slightly crispy and set aside; save the bacon grease.
3. In the same pan used to cook the bacon add the Italian sausage, onion, and olive oil and simmer on low until the sausage is browned and crumbly.
4. Chop or tear the bacon into small bits and add to the cooked sausage, then add everything into the soup pot.
5. Mix the garlic, spices, and cream into the soup pot and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
6. Five Minutes before serving mix in the chopped kale leaves.
7. Sprinkle on a little Parmesan if you feel so inclined.

Monday, April 16, 2012

An Ode to Banana Nut Bread


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Our friend Mike is the son of a legendary baker. Everything his mom touches turns magically into pretty much the most delicious thing you've ever eaten (a feat made even more impressive by our altitude). The first time I ate her banana nut bread, my brain nearly exploded because it was so dang amazing. It's moist and heavy and not too sweet and actually tastes of banana.

Happily, she is also the generous sort and never hesitates to share her recipes. So, now we can all eat the world's most amazing banana nut bread. Good to note: This banana nut bread tastes even better after it's sat for a day.

Mike's Mom's Banana Nut Bread


3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 mashed bananas
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/2 - 1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream together sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Mix together dry ingredients and add to first mixture. Add the bananas and sour cream or yogurt. Mix well. Fold in walnuts. Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350f for 50 minutes to an hour. Let cool before cutting and enjoying.


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Monday, April 9, 2012

Summer Sketches No. 1

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Sketching is learning, and though I have a lot to learn, I decided to start with hands this week. I spent hours and hours drawing hands - my own and from pictures in books. There are countless drawing books in the world, but I find the books about "how to draw Anime and Manga" to be the most helpful for most human anatomy. The drawing style has a lot of strong lines, which is something I struggle with constantly. And, because Manga and Anime are such broad genres, the books tend to provide a huge variety of practice poses.

Since I put so much time into my hands this week, I wanted to make a new painting to show them off. "Portrait of a Girl with a Bird" is now well underway. She has a long road to travel before she's finished, but I think she's off to a good start.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Another portrait of a girl reading

Here's my next portrait of a girl. I guess if I want someone to sit still perpetually, I might as well give her something to read, right? For this portrait, I made the eyes a bit softer around the edges and a little more naturally spaced. I think I like them more this way, though I find myself preferring the colors of the first portrait. Ah, well, she's a beauty regardless of what I'd do differently next time.

Normally, I abandon my brushes and pencils each spring and pick them up again only as summer draws to a close. But not this year. Oh, I'll still have my garden and my summer adventures, but this year I'll not leave my pictures behind. I solemnly vow it to the internet at large.

My first seeds are planted, my peach tree is in bloom, the weeds have already began their yearly march across my flower beds, my bicycle is tuned and ready to gallivant throughout the summer city. So, this week I'm beginning a new happy habit: Summer Sketches. Look for the first set next week!

This original painting is now in my shop, waiting for a happy new home!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Barnum's Spring

Peach Tree Blossoms
Peach Tree Blossoms

Baby Asparagus
Baby Asparagus

My garden is starting to wake up for the season. I found these beauties stretching out after their winter nap. Alas, my asparagus is only two years old, so I won't start harvesting it for another year or two, but it's so exciting seeing those perfect little spears popping up! Cutest vegetable ever.

What an early spring! Here's hoping we don't get an April freeze!