Smoke Signals from Ecuador – All is Fine!
Portoviejo Ecuador – Birdwatching Magazine recently published “Blessed with Birds,” a story I wrote about the Brown Wood Rail and some of my birding experiences at the Poza Honda reservoir. It is a small part of a much larger manuscript that continues to grow! The March/April upgate from the editor Matt Mendenhall is a good place to start: From the Editor
Although my personal blog allows me to send a smoke signal every so often, this website for my art has been sorely neglected. I suppose we could blame it on the year of Covid, but my time has been spent in quiet creative mode and very little time on the internet. Using public wifi comes with a higher risk of crossing paths with that nasty Covid, and I’m totally happy spending long stretches of time in the apartment, which has lots of room for my creative projects. The nearby Parque las Vegas provides an easy immersion into the natural world, and for that I am extremely grateful. Without that balance, I might have gone a bit nuts!
With light at the end of the Covid tunnel, the museum directora and I discussed a possible show of my work in October of this year. Since many of my paintings are of the birds of Ecuador, we agreed it would be good to have the opening the week before eBird’s October Big Day. People would learn about the birds of their area as well as learning about this birding event, and perhaps more people will participate in the ‘Global Big Weekend’ at that same time. The museum calendar for 2021 remains in limbo, and perhaps all things will move forward when Ecuador’s presidential election is finished. If there is no show in the latter half of 2021, perhaps it’s time to have one in the USA.
There once was an artist who lived in a gym,
She had so many paintings, she lost one of them!
No, I do not live in a gym, but I would need the walls of a large gym to hang most of my paintings! Large paintings gobble up the wall space quickly, so many remain wrapped or stored, waiting for the next opportunity for a show. When paintings are doled out to random locations for display, it’s often difficult to lasso them back home when needed.
One particular wall in the apartment remained bare for a while until one day I thought, ‘The contemporary butterflies! That painting will be perfect for that space, especially when there’s a long narrow table below it. I went to the wrapped paintings and began searching – only to find it was playing hooky from roll call.
“Hmm,” I thought, “maybe it’s already hanging somewhere and I forgot…” so I walked through each room and scanned the walls. No sign of the painting.
So far, the painting remains MIA.
“What you make from a tree should be at least as miraculous as what you cut down.” –Richard Powers – the Overstory
Who knows when the next show might be, but it’s nice to have lots of time to work as patiently as needed – one painting surely has 1,000 hours invested. It has grown leaf by leaf, species by species, and I also spent time trying to identify the vine that wrapped up the trunk. The citizen science site, iNaturalist, provided identification within 24 hours! In order to paint something well, it’s good to know details about the details! I call this acrylic painting ‘The Friendship Tree of Life.’ It’s companion story has already been written!
Another Tree of Life painting incubates in my imagination, and I look forward to working on that one. It will showcase what many people might consider a very ugly tree, one that might be quickly removed from a manicured yard. The top half of this ‘Fruitilla Tree’ is mostly bare of leaves, yet it is often filled with six or more species of birds at one time. It provides very easy photographs of the rare Eastern Kingbirds on their winter holiday. They join Tropical Kingbirds, Yellow-bellied Euphonias, Blue-gray Tanagers, Tropical Gnatcatchers, Parrot-billed Seedeaters, swallows and martins, blackbirds and anis. To balance against the feathers are the iguanas and squirrels!
Sometimes a Great Egret crowns the very top as if its a perennial Christmas bauble! Many birds prefer a bare perch, one where they can easily scout for insects. I always look forward to visiting that Tree of Life at the edge of Parque las Vegas. Maybe I should approach this as a simple drawing that can be reproduced so that the public can take home copies with an identification key – and fill in the colors. If it becomes upgraded to a tree ‘mascot’ that the public recognizes, then perhaps the grounds keepers will never remove it!
My mind is racing with possibilities of this option. Thank you for listening.
“Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet” (African Proverb)
This quote makes me smile and might be considered appropriate to pair with a painting (in progress) of Ecuador’s Saffron Finches. There are seven birds (and two blurry ones) in this long and slender horizontal painting, which I work on late at night when the city is silent. It is about the same size as the missing Contemporary Butterflies. This new painting will occupy that spot on the wall very well!
Alas, I keep painting more, as each one is like bringing a new life into the world, one that wants a voice. Many paintings in the next show will have a message about being better stewards of the land, but hopefully this ‘Happy Birds’ painting will make everyone smile.
Water lilies and water hyacinths add charm to the little wetland pond at the park. Many times I look down and see a turtle swimming between the floating vegetation. When I was tired of working on details for the Tree of Life, I switched to this painting. Juggling two or more paintings at once works well for me.
Just before Covid altered our lives, I finished a watercolor-acrylic study of a Masked Water Tyrant on a Water Lily leaf. Sometimes I ‘work’ acrylic on top of the watercolor, lifting a bit of the pigments which brings it more to life. This works really well on details of feathers. This is the second study of these perpetually happy birds that are found only in Ecuador and in Brazil. I never grow weary of studying this member of the flycatcher family.
It’s always good to give the brain some new challenges, and this past year I worked on a dozen or so textile ‘seamless’ designs. After working out the pattern and then ‘repeating’ them as tiles, I checked for design flaws and reworked them several times. When finished, they were scanned and printed in black and white, then painted in detail vs other options in simple flat color. The bamboo worked well, and eventually might find its way for birding attire that blends with tropical settings. A local printer did a few tests on white cotton fabric; the results were disappointing, yet also encouraging. The designs looked great, but the color work was horrid. In a larger city there are surely better options, and in time that project will move forward.
Other works for possible textiles were first drawn in pencil or ink, scanned to the computer, then the originals were painted with watercolors. The maracuya/passion flower studies turned out well! I realize once again how blessed I am to have so many interests and the ability to see these projects evolve.
“Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.” -Rumi
I learned long ago that society and working on serious art (or writing) do not mix well. One-hundred-percent attention is needed when focused on artistic details. It is important (for me) to shut down the mind and all of the buzz from the outside world. I never realized what a gift these ‘traits of an artist’ could be until this year-long stretch of the Covid pandemic. Although many people might be ready to scream from extended periods of isolation, I focus on one of many projects and dive in. Almost instantly I am in total immersion while the outside world vaporizes.
As I recently stated on the blog, painting is hard work – as if there is a complete transfusion of my own energies into the painting. The painting becomes stronger with each session, and when I emerge from those painting trances, my energies are depleted. I recently slept for seven hours, was awake for an hour and then resumed sleep for another seven. Sometimes the body requires much more time for regeneration, repair and maintenance.
If my energy reserves seem depleted, I rest for a few days and divide my time between reading, writing and drawing. Drawing taps into a different mode and is like meditation with my eyes open. Pencil allows me to start and stop whenever the whim hits without losing focus. It’s easy to ‘pause’ and then hit the resume button. The stack of drawings grows, and most pair with specific quotations. (I confess that one drawing was lost for a short time. I found it in the HP Scanner.) Ah, there are so many projects and so little time in each day!
The Hide-and-Seek Chicklets
“The intense focus of art often transports me through a magic portal; time seems to stop as if I’ve stepped into another realm. Sometimes after a long session I am surprised to find that the day has weaned to night – or the night has weaned to morning. Emerging from a painting trance is like awakening from a deep sleep.” Lisa B.
This was a long update, but you subscribers are worth this ‘sneak peek’ of recent works as a look to the future. Thank you! The computer battery is almost dead, so now it’s time to Publish’ without time to proof. All mistakes are definitely mine!
The pencil drawings require their own post, so for now it’s best I get back to work! Those Happy-Bird splashes are waiting for my attention! Lisa Feb. 16, 2021 – Portoviejo Ecuador
“Nature can take care of itself if man would get out of its way.” – Lisa