June & July - Catching Up

 I've been missing in action for the past couple of months.  Thought I'd try to catch up just a little! 2021.05.31JuneJournal.wm-4

This is the header for June in my journal.  I used a photo I had taken in England as a reference.  I loved the mix of daisies and wild grasses that filled the orchards.  


One of the biggest tasks of June, was getting the family genealogy archive downsized to a more manageable level.  In all, there were 34 boxes to go through.  Daunting to say the least! 


Thankfully, my sister came to help!  We managed to pare those 34 boxes down to 13.  Five of them hold the actual genealogy records and our Mom did a fabulous job of putting that together.  One of these days, I'll get it scanned and hopefully be able to downsize those boxes into 4 or 5 books.  Both my Mom and Dad did extensive writing about their lives and even before their deaths, I had been helping to compile their memoirs into a book format.  I work on it here and there and hope to have my Dad's done in the near future.  They each have 3 boxes of memoirs and memorabilia.  And then I have 2 of things that I've kept over the years.  We downsized my stuff too!  So in all, just 13 boxes - much more manageable than 34!  It took us a week!  


The thunderclouds were amazing the day I took my sister back to the airport!  This is the aftermath, which wasn't nearly as epic, but still beautiful none the less!  We seem to be going from extreme to extreme.  It's either rainy and cool for a week or overwhelmingly hot and exceptionally dry.  I'm so grateful that we have had the rainy periods as it is easier to make it through the hot dry spells.  


July's journal heading is a watercolor of mountain pines and aspen.  Fitting as I've been trying to spend a day every week in the mountains!  It's definitely my happy spot these days.  


I really love the watercolor tabs on my journal!  July will finish off this one and I'll start a new one with August.  


Some of my mountain visits start in the early hours of the morning, so that I can get up there just as the sun crests the horizon.  Love these early mornings.  This was in early June.  The East Troublesome Fire spread through this valley and the ridge in the background.  The meadows have recovered beautifully.  The trees are struggling.  Most of the ones you see as red will die before next summer if they haven't already.  In places, there are still healthy trees, which are a joy to see!  


I make a point of painting each and every visit I make to the mountains.  On this visit I did an oil Plein air of Big Thompson Creek.  Can you see the elk that was watching me from the bend in the river?! 


It had been a while since I'd done a plein air oil painting.  I got caught up in the excitement and forgot to do the things that help me create a more successful painting.  I'm still happy with it though!  For me, painting is mostly about the journey.  In truth, I have little space left on my walls for more paintings.  One of these days, I'm going to have to put some up for sale! 


I loved those early mornings before the sun came up!  June had some amazing sunrises!  


On this day I hiked up to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I scrambled down a steep slope and found a steady perch on a large rock where I did this watercolor plein air sketch!  Such a gorgeous spot!  I could have spent a lot more time there, but rocks aren't the most comfortable place to sit for long periods of time.  


I feel like I always struggle painting water, but I'm really happy with this one!  Using a white gel pen helps me add highlights after the painting is done. 


Beautiful Albertal Falls!  


Another day I went to Brainard Lake.  The Indian Peaks Wilderness is probably my favorite spot in Colorado.  We spent countless hours here while I was growing up.  My dad climbed most if not all those peaks in this view and led many hikes and climbs over the course of his life.  I've been up a few of them too, especially Mount Audubon, the peak on the right.  I've climbed it at least three times.  Also the ridge to the left, which is mostly out of view in this photo.  Niwot Ridge is the gateway to the peaks on the left.  I'm not nearly as capable of intense hikes like these now, so I opted to take a slow walk around Brainard Lake in the foreground.


I stopped along Mitchell Creek and did a sketch in gouache.  It's an opaque form of watercolor and handles a little differently.  The colors are more intense, so I was out of my comfort zone!  But fun to try and I think I captured the feeling of the place. 


The Marsh Marigolds and Globe Mallow were in bloom, so I was glad to be able to capture them in the sketch! 

There were lots of other things that happened in May, June and July - mostly house hunting in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska.  I made 4 different trips to look at 12 houses.  I made one offer - refused as they had what they hoped were better offers.  I later heard that they fell through.  So, for the time being I'm staying put and have taken my house off the market, but I do need to find a job in the near future.  

One of the happiest things to happen in June was getting the entire family together for the first time in 16 months!  Love this photo of the grandkids with me!  

The whole family!  We took these at a park near where I live.  It was an overcast and damp day, but we were able to get our photos in between rainstorms!  While I've been blessed to see each family group individually during this past Covid-impacted year, I dearly missed having my family all together.  To finally be able to gather together was emotional and wonderful!  Truly, it was the best gift I've had in a long, long time.  


May Journal & May Issue of CQ Mag

Lilacs are the theme for May's journal!  Lilacs are probably my favorite flower, especially when it comes to scent.  All the more treasured due to their short bloom time! I was a little late getting this one set up, but managed to get it done on May 2nd.  I played with a looser version of lilacs than I've painted previously.  

There have been lots of changes going on in my life for the past couple of weeks, and it is reflected in my task list.  Notice all the packing!  Well... things have changed again, and so that's going to get postponed if not cancelled for now.  More on that in another post.  

The RV repairs have hit some snags.  We replaced the battery disconnect and the relay, which controls the flow of power from the batteries to the RV.  But now, there is no power flowing to the relay, despite everything appearing to be intact.  So, once again, we are at square one.  I really need to get this fixed so I can get it sold.  I'm not using it and it costs me money every month in insurance and it's taking up space at my good friends farm.  Time to let it go, but it sure seems to be a struggle to get it ready to sell.  I don't want to invest lots of money into it, but it does need a few basic things in running order.  Sigh.  

I changed the Covid tracking this month in anticipation of a possible move to either Nebraska or Iowa.  Despite their lower populations, I discovered that their rates of infection and deaths are in the top 10 states in the USA for covid infections per million people.  Colorado is 44th.  

It has been good having a spending tracker.  Helps me to see where my money is going.  I was trying to do this on a spreadsheet on the computer, but I wasn't getting it filled out.  With this, I'm able to put the receipts here and fill it in more consistently. It appears I spend money on the cat, on books for the kindle, and snacks.  Need to work on the snacks and eliminate them!  That would probably help my weight!  I struggle with craving salty crunchy snacks.  Goldfish crackers are my snack of choice.  Carrots just don't have the same impact! 

So, here it is the May spread.  I may need to re-do the house hunt/pack portion to reflect how the month has already changed for me. 

Crazy Quilt Magazine May 2021

Crazy Quilt Magazine: Crazy Quilt Magazine May 2021

Crazy quilting, 2020 Challenge Project, Issue #3

Find out more on MagCloud

In other news, the May Issue of Crazy Quilt Magazine is out!  Featuring the work of 8 crazy quilters and their 2020 challenge projects!  Beautiful work!  I hope you'll check it out!   


Painting A Long with Plein Air Live 21

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It has been so wonderful to focus on painting this month.  It's something I really miss when I'm not able to do it.  This past week, I took part in "Plein Air Live".  It's an online 3 day Plein air painting convention that Plein Air Magazine and Streamline Publishing has put on since it hasn't been able to their big in person conventions.  I was originally scheduled to attend the convention in Denver last year, but due to the pandemic, it was cancelled.  I was so glad when they put the convention online so I could attend anyway!  Learned so much.  So in the fall, I did Realism Live and then the convention was cancelled again this year, so once again they did Plein Air Live.  

It is three intensive days of painting demonstrations, presentations, and each day ends with a "virtual Plein Air" paint along to a video that they provide.  The painting above was done on day 3.  I feel like I struggle with moving water, but I'm pretty happy with this little 7"x5" study.  

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The paint-a-long on day 2 was this Newfoundland Bay.  Think my time on each of these was around an hour total.  

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What a delight to have them feature it the next morning in the day's intro! 

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Eric Rhoads commented about the "very, very good brushwork"!  What fun! 

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On Day 1, we painted this scene from the California Coast.  I didn't catch the exact location, but I love the contrast of the yellow cliffs with the brilliant blue water.  

All of these are in the 5"x7" range,  oil on Ampersand Gessoboard.  Watch for a sale of my small oil works coming soon! 

The May issue of Crazy Quilt Quarterly comes out in two weeks and I'm running behind on it, so no more painting until the issue is out!  I have some big dental work coming later this week, which I'm not looking forward too, so I'll be juggling the magazine with that.  Then, I'm looking at putting my home up for sale in May and moving, though I'm not sure just where yet.  Lots of changes coming.  

#pleinairlive #pleinairlive2021 


Organizing the Photo Archive

This is the first of two posts on working with photos and slides.  In this first post, I cover how I organize our large archive of family photos dating back to the late 1800s up to the present day.  In the next post, I will cover how I scan slides, as well as a little bit about scanning photos and how I organize those digital files and back everything up.   

These steps are what have worked well for my sister and I as we work our way through thousands (and thousands!) of photos.  I’m sure there are other methods, but this is how we have done it. 


First Step, start a calendar of important family dates. 


I did not start with a calendar, but as I progressed, I realized I needed to keep track of ‘what happened when’ and having it all in one place that I could refer to without having to open box after box was very helpful.  Mine is created in Microsoft Word.  If there is interest, I will add a post later about how I created this.  


The calendar includes important dates such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces.  I also added the dates of holidays, house moves, trips, and other events to the calendar when I could.  To find dates for the calendar,  I used the dates found on photos and slides, in saved calendars (I had a few years of my Mom's calendars as well as several years of my own) and Christmas letters, etc.  My Mom kept most of the photos in dated albums, which at least got us to the correct year most of the time! As we went, we transferred those occasions to the calendar.  Now it is all in one place and I refer to this calendar all the time while sorting photos, as it is very helpful in dealing with unlabeled photos.  


Step Two is sorting the photos. 


I sort the photos three times: first by decade, then I sort each decade by year, then each year by month.  I write the (decade/year/or month) on a piece of copy paper and lay it out on the table or the floor depending on how large the pile of photos is.  Then I place photos on the papers according to the photo labels (hopefully!) and if not labeled, using my best guess.  

Once I have finished the first sort by decade, I put each decade in a box or large envelope.  I deal with one decade at a time.  Otherwise, I find it gets too overwhelming.  Then I sort each decade into years in the same fashion. Then each year gets put into a photo box marked with the year.  



If more than one year is in a box, I add a ¼ page of copy paper labeled with the year that I can easily see.  This paper tab is a good spot to write down the known large events such as trips, ages of children, what year they are in school, etc. This is how I kept track of things until I started the calendar.   While it might seem repetitive, I found it helpful to have both. Here is a diagram of how I quarter the sheet of paper. 


Once the decade is sorted, I work on one year at a time.  I do my best to sort chronologically into months.  While this may not be a necessary step if you have few photos, for the large number that I am dealing with, I find it very helpful.  


Step Three is labeling photos.  

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My sister and I have discarded many photos because we had no idea who the people in the photos were. An unlabeled photo is worthless if you don’t know who it is.   


As I put the sorted photos into the final boxes, I do my best to label them.  Here is my formula for labeling. 


-    Use a photo safe archival pen, such as a Pigma Micron Pen.  Pencil fades quickly, ball point and  most other types of pen bleeds through and then fades or smears, and many modern inks are damaging to photos.  I’ve tried the photo pencils, but they don’t write cleanly enough to be easily readable years from now and I found that they smudge, making it hard to read. 

-    Date the photo with year, month, and day if known

-   I use this format, which I also use when scanning and saving photo files on the computer: 2021.02.13 (Year.Month.Day) This allows the photos to easily be sorted chronologically on the computer. 

-    Names, both first and last.  

-    Location

-    Occasion 

A photo label might look like this:

19xx.xx.xx Lillian (Suzi) Fernandez, Princeton, NJ, High School Graduation

When we sorted large groups of photos with the same subject, we sometimes labeled just a couple of photos and then clipped or banded the photos together.  This saved time during the initial sort and downsize but still allows for accurate labeling in the future when there is more time. 


Some additional tips and suggestions.

-       In going through 100s upon 100s of photos, it didn’t take long to figure out that we didn’t care about the photos of scenery, flowers, wildlife, etc.  What we loved were the photos of people we knew and especially photos of them in their home, their yard/garden/farm/job, etc.  We didn’t care about photos of their friends unless it included family members or the people we all knew.  And truthfully, will your grandkids want that photo of your friend cluttering up their closet 50 years from now if you aren’t in it?  We found we didn’t even care for photos of just their pets. Those photos are for the people who took them generally.  We wanted to see the people.  So, we discarded close to 2/3rds of the photos.  

The truth is that few of our “family” photos are spectacular.  They are snapshots.  They meant something to the people who took the photo.  Years down the road when the stories that go with the photos are lost to time, the photos will have lost their meaning. 

Once in a great while, we kept a special scenery photo, but truthfully, not very often!  Having said that, my Dad especially, was a pretty good photographer.  He was able to tell a story through his photos.  But he wasn’t professional and most of them do not really have “artistic” merit that would inspire his children, grandchildren, or even great grandchildren to print one of these photos to hang on their wall.    For example; My Dad worked as a weather scientist for many years and became very interested in clouds.  Throughout his life he took hundreds of photos of clouds.  They had meaning to him and we did keep a few to share this bit about him, but how many photos of clouds did we need to keep to demonstrate his love of clouds?    

In the same way, my folks were avid birders and traveled all over the country and the world in search of birds.  They took thousands of photos of birds – adequate enough to identify the bird and say, “I saw this bird and here’s proof”, but again, like the cloud photos, not good enough to say, “Wow!  That’s an amazing bird photo that I want to hang on my wall!” Same for flowers.  I’ve kept a handful from each category to illustrate their memoirs, but I didn’t need a thousand photos of ducks to show their love of birds.  We chose the best of the best.

I also keep a box for undated photos that I cannot figure out.  Most of the time, as I work through other photos, I find similar photos that help me determine a rough date, which is good enough for me.  


Photo Storage


I use photo boxes about the size of a shoebox to keep the photos in.  They take up far less space than photo albums and it’s easier to sort and reorganize.  The ones I currently like best are from Hobby Lobby (You'll find them near the scrapbooking materials).  They have a nice finish inside, a metal label holder and a well-fitting lid.  In the past I preferred the Michael’s boxes, but lately the quality has gone down significantly, and I returned the last batch I purchased and went to Hobby Lobby instead.  I’ve found that most of the cardboard inserts provided in photo storage boxes are not high enough to be seen above the photos and too many of them are out of cheap cardboard that warps excessively making them worthless.  I just recycle them.   Instead, as noted above, I quarter a piece of copy paper, writing the year in bold on the upper left. Below it, I write any known events that year including the ages of people who are likely to be in those photos as it helps me date things and is very helpful if I don’t have the calendar list on the computer at hand. 


Once I have the photos in the box with dividers in place, I lay any larger photos on top.  If there are photos larger than 5"x7", I place them in 12"x13" oversize boxes like those below.  

These are also handy for keeping larger documents like college diplomas, marriage licenses, etc.  There aren't a lot of these large photos in my family, so I have one box dedicated to my Dad, one for my Mom, and one of general oversize photos for my kids and I.  Then there is one empty box left in case I need it for something else.  

When we did our big sort, going through 18 moving boxes of photo albums; we worked one box at a time, one album at a time.  One of us would focus on the calendar and labeling while the other removed photos.  We threw nothing out until both of us had gone through to make sure there was nothing else to keep.  Generally, we left the photos we were discarding in the album and only pulled out the ones we wanted to keep.  Many of the albums had labels written on the album itself and when that happened, one read the label off while the other wrote it on the back of the photo.  We managed to get through all 18 boxes in a week of steady work!  I had also gone through 3 or 4 boxes of loose photos prior to this, so we incorporated all of those photos into this organization as well.  

What a relief to have all those photos downsized to something more manageable.  I'm looking at moving in a couple of months and I hope to fit all those photos into only 4 moving boxes now!  

Next comes the task of completing the scanning of slides.  Most of the photos my parents took from about 1960 to the late 1980s were in slide form.  I'm pretty certain that we lost a box of slide carousels along the way somewhere as there are photos I remember having seen that we have not been able to find.  I'm over halfway on scanning slides, but details of slide and photo scanning will wait for the next photo archive related post! 


Challenge Completed! 5 Days of Painting!

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I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 
Today's painting is of a scene in Rocky Mountain National Park in the Kawuneechee Valley.  It's the headwaters of the Colorado River.  One of my favorite places in the park.  It's changed a lot since I took this picture sometime about 10-15 years ago.  First the pine beetles came in and ravaged the trees, and then this past summer, this area was burned in the huge fires here.  One day it will regrow, but it won't look like this again in my lifetime.  Loved painting this beautiful memory! 

Like the other studies this week, I hope to do a much larger painting in the future of this scene.  

I did a value sketch, but I think I actually captured the values better in the painting for once! 

This was at 20 minutes.  I needed less than 10 minutes more to get the finished result I showed above.  

Here is the completed study with the reference photo (Modified as usual to simplify things and make it easier for me to paint and not get caught up in details).  

In all, I was able to complete 6 paintings this week!  All are 7"x5".  The top three are on old canvas boards I had.  I'm glad to say I've used all of them up that I had in this size - finally!  The bottom three are on my favorite surface, Ampersand Gessoboard.  I used Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable oils on these.  They took a bit of getting used to, but I love not having to use solvents or oils in the painting process.  For brushes, I order mine from Rosemary & Co Brushes in England.  I used Rosemary Shiraz in short flat #6 and a #2 filbert.  

At the end of this coming week, I'm participating in "Plein Air Live".  I did it last year and learned so much!  Hoping this year is just as good!  



Painting Challenge Day 4

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I chose another Colorado scene for today's challenge study.  This is a spot on a walking path fairly close to home.  Last summer, the girls (daughter and daughter in laws) went on a weekly walk together mid-pandemic.  It was a wonderful chance to spend time together, masked and outdoors, after not having seen anyone for months.  Along one area, the vista opened up to the south with a view through the trees of fields .  I loved this spot and often stopped and took a photo.  

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I started off with a value sketch.  Which I promptly ignored as I started painting. 

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At 20 minutes into the painting, everything was looking somewhat flat and "not right".  So I revisited the value sketch and painted for another 10 minutes, resulting in the painting at the top.  Much better!  

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Here's a look at the finished study along with the photo reference I painted from.  I do see a few things that I could improve upon, but I'm pretty happy with this one and think I'll try to paint a larger version in the future.  

Lessons learned today:  1 - trust your value sketch and stick to it!  2 - premixing paint really speeds things up! (I did some but not enough today and it slowed me down) 3 - Forget the clock and just have fun! Be surprised when the timer goes off!



Day 3 Painting Challenge

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No painting yesterday as I had other obligations.  Made a point of painting this morning.  This scene was from a photo I took on a hike with my oldest son a number of years ago.  It's a view of Long Lake with Niwot Ridge in the background in the mountains west of Boulder & Longmont.  It's probably my favorite area in Colorado and sits just to the south of my other favorite area, Rocky Mountain National Park.  

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I spent 20 - 30 minutes on this - I lost track of the time as "the cat" upended my glass of water in the middle! In the past, I would have called this a "block in" and continued on. What I'm learning with these quick studies, is that the colors are more vivid, the essence more heartfelt if I stop at this point. This is a groundbreaking revelation for me, as in the past I would have continued on and the colors would have become duller and the scene less emotional. (see the end of this post for an example) Now if I could just figure out how to bring this expressiveness into a larger studio piece!

As for other things I want to work on, I'd like to get better with those far distant colors so they recede into the background better.  I may make that the focus of my next challenge.  That will need to wait until later in the month as next week is turning out to be super busy and will finish with "Plein Air Live", an online intensive 3 day painting workshop.  I loved doing it last year and learned so much! 

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This is the value study I did for today's painting.  These little sketches don't take long, but they make such a huge difference in my painting.  

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Despite yesterday's obligations, I did make time to do a value sketch.  I may do this painting tomorrow.  Or I may stick to scenes from Colorado.  This scene was an old vacant home in rural southwest Iowa that I fell in love with.  I love the way the house is surrounded with bridal veil spirea bushes and the lilacs and trees in the yard.  In some ways, it represents a "dream" home for me.  I think I was too vested in the emotional reaction I have to this house to paint it yesterday, so I let those obligations be my excuse not to paint.  So for now, I think I need to stick to less emotionally charge pieces.  

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Here's an example of what I was talking about earlier.  This is a Plein air painting I did last summer in Rocky Mountain National Park.  This rough block in has vibrant colors and really captured the essence of what drew me to this scene in the first place.  

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I spent another hour working on it and this is the finished result.  I fell into a common trap with Plein air painting that we call "chasing the light".  This is where a quick value study can help as well.  This particular day got hazier as the sun rose higher in the sky and the light was less brilliant. As you can see, the painting got duller and the light that I had been drawn to changed.  While I'm still happy with it as a painting, I wish I had been able to keep the immediacy of the block in.  If I had it to do over again, I would have left the background untouched from the block in and worked harder at maintaining the foreground color. Lessons learned! 

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Despite it not turning out quite like I had hoped, I liked it well enough, that I did hang it on my wall along with two others I did last summer!