Saturday, March 29, 2014

Colored Pencil Woes

I continue to work on the lessons from the online course about drawing birds in colored pencil.  I have decided I really dislike one aspect of this medium intensely.  The propensity for colored pencil leads (the pigment actually, no lead involved!) to break when being sharpened.  No matter how carefully I sharpen or which sharpening technique I use, once the pencil's creamy center snaps, it continues to put forth broken bits of color.  This media is fretfully fragile, and at $2 per pencil that is a lot of money down the drain when a pencil repeatedly breaks when sharpening.  A major problem being that often the 'lead' can be cracked within the shaft because of improper handling, prior to purchasing.  I don't improperly handle my pencils, but who knows what they went through at the manufacturing plant, their travels or how they were handled in the store.  Open stock pencils, in particular may have been dropped on concrete floors by previous customers and I would have no way of knowing this when purchasing.  After this class, I will not likely use them in a way that would require repeatedly purchasing more.  It's a shame because if I could be certain a pencil is sound, I enjoy the marks they make.

Any who...

Here are the latest sketches done...

The only good Grackle is a drawn one.  No mess, no noise, no displacing of our native species!  ;)

We were supposed to draw a mockingbird egg, but I didn't have a clear reference photo, so opted for the Quail. 
Next up, the lesson I've most looked forward to... the nest!  :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (Find out what it means to me)

R - RUN... for you life!
E - ESCAPE... the worst death you've imagined!
S - STOP! ...Wait! Is running the wrong choice?!
E - Exhale
C - Control my pounding heart!
T - Thanks giving for being spared the worst death I could imagine.

That's what it means to me, today anyway. 

It's easy to forget that in this beautiful desert I enjoy so much, there lurks some true danger.  Today I had a brief brush with a threatening situation. 

I decided I wanted to get my exercise in, even though it was no longer morning, when I usually hit the trails.  It was nearly 1pm, but there was such a nice cool breeze today, I didn't mind.  I headed to the open desert and took the long, mostly level loop and decided to jog to get my heart rate up, sweat and burn some calories!  (Mellow Mushroom pizza and fiery margaritas from the night before must be dealt with!) About halfway around the loop, I stopped for a sip of water... of course I had my camera in my little pack and there just happened to be some fresh golden blooms on the cholla, so I snapped some photos.  After a few more photos and walking a minute more, I put the camera away and started to jog again, I was just making the turn toward the south when I noticed the view to the west, toward the distant Estrella mountain range, was particularly pretty today. Scattered clouds, saguaro, orange-red blossoming ocotillo and hazy atmosphere... I stopped and considered getting the camera back out...nah!  I'll just take it in with my eyes for a moment.

That's when I noticed a low humming sound coming directly toward me from the west... it sounded like a well running motor of some kind, immediately I realized there are no roads in that direction for many miles...wha?  OH, it could be a swarm of BEES!!!  (This here is prime Africanized or 'killer' bee territory, by the way!)  This thought process took all of two seconds, the sound was growing considerably louder and I could just make out a low fuzzy blob flying toward me at a good clip...definitely bees!!  That's when the 'R' and 'E' clicked in and I began a few hurried steps, which is when the 'S' came to mind... wait, Africanized bees relentlessly ATTACK noisy moving objects!  I stopped in my tracks with the bees yards away and coming fast... the 'P' happened here along with visions of my swollen, unrecognizable carcass being discovered on the trail.  I watched the large hazy mass become individual, buzzing, bullet-sized ovals, zoom straight at me, then over me by about 5 to 10 feet, and past....  Thus quickly followed the 'C' and 'T'.  

Have I mentioned I am freakishly afraid of bees and wasps?  Now, an individual little honey bee, busy collecting pollen, I've learned to appreciate, but a bomber bee, whizzing around quickly, will sorely test my ability to control an urge to flail wildly, scream, run headlong into trees, walls, pools, people or whatever happens to be in the path of my frenzied freak-out spasm... I am able to control that impulse about half the time.  Just ask my kids.  I have confessed that I'd rather be in a room full of rattlesnakes than with one mad bee or wasp, and I mean it.  I'm insane like that. 

So today, by God's providence I escaped the death of my nightmares, as these swarming bees were too intent on keeping the Queen surrounded than with going after that odd jerking thing in turquoise shorts.


On relaying this tale to my husband tonight, he informed me you are ALWAYS supposed to run from swarming bees (note to self, discard 'S') ...well I'm pretty darn sure I would have if they had begun to descend on least until they rendered me blind.  Shudder!  He did say they seldom attack when they are on the move like this.  Phew. It was over a mile, through open desert, no shelter in sight, before I would have reached the safety of my car. 

Now with that pretty picture in your mind, here are the pictures, taken a few minutes before, while I was oblivious to the brush with danger I was about to encounter. 

What a gorgeous day, 'la la la, la la'!

Ooooh, pretty. 

Shucks, that little bee buzzed off before I could snap his portrait!

The desert can be so tranquil and lovely...

Nice contrast with the cactus bones!

Good thing I wasn't wearing this color... wouldn't want that swarm to think 'hey look at the giant cactus flower!  Let's check it out!!'  ;)

Sweet dreams!!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sonoran Spring continues at the DBG

That would be the Desert Botanical Garden.  A place I love and try to visit as often as possible.  Spring there is glorious!   (for best viewing of photos, click on them to enlarge, then view as slide show)

A 'hover craft' bee in the wildflower garden.

red globe mallow

View of Papago through blooming desert.

Cholla cactus buds

A Phainopepla (male)

Feathers for the nest, black tailed gnat catcher (I think!)

Texas Mountain Laurel (which smells like grape kool-aid)

My favorite tree at the DBG, a Chlean Palo Verde.

Every branch is covered in yellow sweetness each spring.

The bees favor it too! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

2:30 am

It's 2:30 am, the mocking bird and I cannot sleep.  Perhaps he knows spring is too brief to slumber this cool early morn away.  Plenty of time to escape to dreams when the temperature remains above 100 degrees 24 hours a day, soon. 

As I'm wide awake, I will process and post more of spring's glorious flora, fauna and fabulously clear blue skies... God's gifts to our desert, and I like to think, to me! 

Cholla buds

Ocotillo buds

Ocotillo BUGs ;) (cute little guy!)

Curved-bill thrasher singing in Spring

First cactus flower found this year.

A small field of Coulter's Globe Mallow (not the same as the shrub)

Bee for perspective on size of Coulter's mallow.

Round tail ground squirrel.  I've seen more of these this year than ever before on S. Mt.

My happy trails, on a brilliantly clear day!

Strawberry hedgehog cactus in bloom

Tiny blossoms on unknown wildflower

Westerly view of the Estrella mountain range.


Easterly view toward Four Peaks.

honey bee on globe mallow (bush)

Add caption

Male Gambel's quail.

White Easter Bonnet blooms, very small! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The First Day of Spring!

In honor of the official first day of spring, here are photos of our glorious blooming Sonoran desert taken over the past week or two.  Here in the desert southwest we have been enjoying spring since late January, when the wildflowers first began to dot the landscape.  For us summer is breathing down springs neck... we are reaching temperatures in the low 80s each afternoon.  So we must enjoy our brief springs to the fullest.  

I have many photos of the spring wild flowers and cactus blooms, so I'll be adding them in stages as I have time to upload. 

Hummingbird in Creosote

I spy a spring cotton tail... and a second!  Can you see both?

Globe Mallow bud

Globe Mallow plant in boulders.

Richly colored orange cups.  :)

Couldn't decide on which photos... ha-ha!

Emory Rock Daisy and Desert bluebell (scorpion weed/phacelia).

Along the trail
Dainty Fagonia

Tiny white bouquets of the Pincushion flower.

Bright yellow Brittle Bush

Brittle bush with a view of distant mountains, so pretty.  Future painting?
Sun worshippers

The Lupine, rare! 

Mexican Gold Poppy