A New Landscape

So I didn’t get a story done for yesterday.  Maybe New Year’s?

But I do have another painting to share!  My mother absolutely adores Chinese landscapes with the round mountains and waters and stuff.  So I decided for her present I would (try to) make her one.  Though having never done it before I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t turn out well.  Even now I’m rather amazed at how well it *did* turn out (even if I see flaws that I’ll have to work on for next time, it still turned out a lot better than I thought it would.)

She loved it, of course.  And it was so frustrating to keep it secret since as soon as I finished I wanted to yell HEY COME LOOK WHAT I DID! oh no wait, it’s for you, you can’t see it…

Anyway, now that the gift is given and it doesn’t have to stay secret, here is my Chinese inspired landscape:

Chinese Landscape ©2014 Eliza Murdock

Chinese Landscape ©2014 Eliza Murdock

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Happy New Year

So, I have not entirely abandoned my hope of giving you a story for Christmas (yes, I’m pretty much looking at *you*, Sonja).  In the meantime, however, here’s something I painted 🙂

Rising Sun ©2014 Eliza Murdock

Sun Rising ©2014 Eliza Murdock – watercolor on canvas

I’m Back!

Oh lord and do I have some stories, not all of which are from the Arizona trip.

The dangers of “Farm Fresh”… there were chickens in my eggs this morning.  blaaaahhhhhh…

My friend’s camera is that epic sort of thing that has, y’know, whole different settings and lenses and wide-angle and shutter speed stuff.  So I didn’t bother taking a lot of pictures with my crappy little “point and click” digital camera.  So pictures will mostly have to wait for my friend to upload hers.

I did, however, paint pictures!

Sagebrush Range ©2014 Eliza Murdock

Sagebrush Range ©2014 Eliza Murdock

Desert Dusk ©2014 Eliza Murdock

Desert Dawn ©2014 Eliza Murdock

Also helped save two stupid goats who tried to off themselves by eating the bark from the stump of the freshly cut down Rhododendron bush, cut down precisely because it’s poisonous to most animals.  So we had to dose them with a ton of activated charcoal, which I happened to have with me, saving a trip to town and wasted time.

I wouldn’t recommend going rock climbing pulling a horse trailer filled with sheep.  That was something else, too.  Those poor sheep!  Trust me, it wasn’t that we wanted to, it was the only way out of where we were.

I’ve got a lot more to share, but that’ll be for later.  For now, enjoy the two poems inspired by Oloriel‘s prompt at We Drink Because We’re Poets:

This week, I would like you to pick a letter from the alphabet and write a poem – so that each word in your poem starts with that letter.

If you pick, let’s say, the letter “M”, each word must obviously start with M, any and all. Which means that if you do not pick “A”, you cannot use “and” and so on.

 

Scrimshaw

Someone said she sought solace
Some sweet sanctuary
Skin softened, smoothed, sensual;
Saffron scented smoke swirling skyward.

She sipped sobriety slowly.

Silk-swathed slumber,
Sacred stones, solitary sentinels
See sunset stars, sundials, survey
Such significant sights.

So simple, sanity succumbs.

Sapphire sands shift, settle,
Surrounding sandled steps.
Seraphims sigh singing Sappho’s signs…
Silent soon, she slips southward.

Sanguine sublimity subdued.

Statues standing silent
Sans seeing, scattered
Scant sincerity sent seeking
Sceptered serpents.

Sometimes stained shells survive scratches.

The Toast

Titan toasts, to tokens these!
There thick the texts told,
Tiger’s teeth tearing tithes to threads!

Taken true, tainted taels
Turned thrift to trickery.
Temptation takes ten-fold throats.

Thunder thrust toward twilight treasures
Tossed, tumbled trove;
Torrid trysts trod tiptoe.

Topaz temples tailor traveler’s talismans
Thirteen, twelve… then two:
Time, tomb.

Trials taught, tempests tamed.
Takeup, takeup! True tribulations told.
Talented troubadours toast their trials.

October 31st

OKAY!

I’m not even going to think about how long it’s taken me to post something, nor that this was the first thing I’ve managed to actually finish writing in… ooh, over 2 months?  The important part is- OOH LOOK OVER THERE!

 

>.>

 

Did that work? No? Okay well, here, thanks to we drink because we’re poets I actually wrote something.  And then I used MS Paint to draw, because I have art to show you, but I haven’t gotten around to actually getting any of it into my computer, so in the mean time, enjoy some themed stuff and I’ll try to post something more substantial soon!

Monday Poetry Prompt #27: Old Hallows Eve

Fear Itself

The echo of steps
Not quite in step with mine
Breathing too marked
To be a trick of the wind
Hair on my neck
Standing straight on edge
My ears throb
With every pulse
A tingle in my skin
A twisting of my gut
A scream not quite out of my throat
When I turn and see
Nothing there.

 

 

We had our company Halloween party last Friday, because today is ‘end of month’ and too crazy to even contemplate taking an hour out of the middle fo the day to have fun, so we did it Friday.  I dressed up, see?  In my medieval Turkish garb.  Even though I did try to bribe the judges with a dance… I didn’t win the costume contest, but I didn’t expect to.  It wasn’t very “Halloween-y”.  The pirate, ET, and Dude from the Big Lebowski won.

Me and my partner *did* win the Pumpkin Bowling, though.  That’s where you take a smallish pumpkin and roll it at bottles partially filled with water to help give them weight.  Half way through, after three of the four pumpkin bowling balls had been destroyed, they made us turn around and bowl backwards through our legs.  That was not convenient, given what I was wearing.

 

20131025_120819

 

And here’s some MS Paint art that I promised.  A misty scene and yesterday’s sunrise.  I’ll post more watercolor this weekend. 🙂

 

mist

 

 

sunrise

 

I MADE A THING!

I’m so excited right now!  (not to mention my neck is sore and my hand is cramped) but LOOK!  I MADE A THING!  I’m so proud of myself!  *dances around, pointing enthusiastically*

This is a post-card sized gouache painting in medieval illumination style. All original artwork. The figures are Odin and Frigga. The runes are transliterated English, and are a paraphrasing of a verse in the Norse Edda (the saga myths) which says "Hail the Gods and Goddesses, and all the generous earth."

This is a post-card sized gouache painting in medieval illumination style. Original artwork. © Eliza Murdock 2013

This is my first attempt to do a picture after the fashion of medieval illuminations, such as these.  I gotta admit, I’m hooked!

The figures are Odin with his two ravens, and Frigga shown spinning. The runes are transliterated English, and are a paraphrasing of a verse in the Norse Edda (the saga myths). It says “Hail the Gods and Goddesses, and all the generous earth.”

Odin, Frigga, and the overall layout are entirely original, but I did base the ship on this carving:

Found here: http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/norse_ships.htm

Except for the border lines, I did this all free-hand.    Here are my ‘in work’ sketches

Pencil sketch of Odin

Pencil sketch of Odin

Pencil sketch of Frigga

Pencil sketch of Frigga

Finished sketch

Finished sketch

And when I went to ink in the lines, I realized I didn’t have a fin enough tipped pen to do it!  This is post-card scale, remember, it’s very small.  Though hey, I’ve finally found a USE for my insanely small doddle skills!  Anyway, so I had to get out the finest liner brush I had and painted the outlines in.

painted outline

painted outline

As you may be able to see, some of the details were added after the sketch, such as the extra detail in the waves, or even while I was painting, with the carvings on the ship prow and stern.

 

And now… I’m going to go take a nap!

When I wake up, I’ll make apple soda!  Seriously.

Lessons from Jane Austen: On Being a Woman

So Dean Kutzler‘s suggestion was a biography, and even though I have one already it’s hardly an exhaustive one, is it?  So I’ve decided to write on an aspect of my life that in many ways is responsible for my involvement in crafts like spinning, weaving, and embroidery.

Now, this *may* come as a shock to some of you, so be sure you’re sitting down.  If you have not, in fact, noticed by now, I am a woman.  I know, I know… “Eliza!  How did this happen??” you cry.

Well, I’ll tell you.

It happened when my sister introduced me to something called Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

Ah yes, I can see the confusion on your faces. “Wait… does that mean you weren’t a woman before that?”

Yes.  I wasn’t.  I was a girl.  Well, actually, I was a tomboy, (which, in many ways I still am) but I was a girl.

“Ah, semantics.”

Yes and no.

One annoying thing about American culture is a lack of, what I’ll call “rights of passage” observances.  Oh, we have superficial ones, like 21st birthdays or sweet 16s but as a whole, there is no meaningful, cultural marker of the transition from childhood to adulthood, with the conveyance of both benefits and responsibilities.  It makes me sad.  But that’s not for this journal.

Growing up, I never wanted to be like the popular girls.  I didn’t *want* to be stuck-up and more worried about my clothes than my grades.  I still don’t wear make-up except for *exceptions* like friends’ weddings or the like.  I didn’t spend time doing my hair, or doing my friends’ hair, or them doing mine.  I had very different sorts of friends.

We spent time hanging out in the woods building forts, or throwing jelly beans around her cabin watching stupid funny movies.  I lived in the country, so a lot of my own free time was spent out in the woods behind our house, making tee-pees with tree branches and a tarp, and climbing trees and playing in the ditch (I used to make whole villages on the banks of the “river” (i.e. drainage ditch water) and weave exceptionally tiny baskets out of grass and fill them with puffs from the cattail heads like they were cotton.)

So I was a tomboy.  I never wanted to be girly, and since I equated all irritating “girly” things as what it meant to be a girl, I didn’t want to be.  That’s not to say I ever wanted to physically be a boy, I just didn’t want to be a girl.

So I was about… I’ll guess 24 or 25 the first time my sister brought this movie in called Pride and Prejudice.  I was absolutely enthralled with the movie, because in some ways, for the first time I had a standard by which to say “That!  That’s what it means to be a *woman*, that’s the kind of woman I want to be!”

Not like Eliza’s younger sisters, silly, ignorant, idle, vain… I wanted to be like Eliza! (well, probably at the time I was more like Jane, very quite and reserved) but Eliza really got my attention.  She didn’t have to put on airs, chase after men, or be terribly concerned about the condition of her petty coat.  She was strong, she had a quick and sharp wit, the goal of her life wasn’t the ‘getting of a husband’… I could go on for two pages about why Eliza Bennett became what I decided was the ideal woman.

Helped along, of course, by Mr. Darcy’s description of “a truly accomplished” Lady:

‘…A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.’

‘All this she must possess,’ added Darcy, ‘and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.’

So even by these standards, I do fail rather miserably.  I love music, but I have no real knowledge of it.  I can at least claim to have a greater range of musical tastes than ‘your average American’.  I can sing badly in the shower and loudly in the car, but not well.  I have a little skill at drawing, though I do *adore* dancing!  That is one area I really do have some talent in.  And by dancing I don’t mean busting it on a dance floor, I mean I have done Jewish Folk dance, Scottish Country dance, Irish step dance, belly dance, etc, and I love each one dearly.

The only language I know – modern or otherwise – is English.  I know a bare smattering of Spanish words, even less Hebrew, and the only Swedish or Finnish I know is what I sing along to with my music.  When I visited Holland I at least tried to sound things out and figure out what they meant.  (Falafel!  I know that one, that’s what I’ll have! *grin*)  My friend was delighted, actually, making good natured fun of me.   She said no one else had ever come to visit her and tried to read the street signs or dragged her to the grocery store to see what was different and what was the same.  And she made fun of how I held my fork 😛

I can’t claim any special ‘something’ in my air or speaking.  Rather I suppose I’m quite coarse at times, and this tends to be where my tomboyishness really shines through.

But I do so love reading.  I’m so glad you put this in, Mr. Darcy, it really is one of my few saving graces in your list.

So there we go, I really fall quite miserably short of Mr. Darcy’s accomplished woman in most areas, but that was 200 years ago, so surely I can update a little, right?  I can obviously add writing to the list, since Jane Austen was an author, and that’s something to aspire to as a woman!

This is where the arts and crafts come in.  It’s too late for me to try to learn Latin, I’m certainly not going to enroll in Miss Kitty’s School For Fine Ladies anytime soon, so I had to improvise a bit on that list of Darcy’s.

It’s not an easy task to remake a dedicated tomboy into a Lady.  Especially not when you really have little but yourself to guide the process.  And… it just struck me that a lot of my crafts would probably have fallen well below Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s societal stations in life.  But I’m going to ignore that in favor of the 200 year time gap and just go with it.

So back to the SCA (my historic reenactment group), I went to an arts and crafts event and learned how to do blackwork embroidery.

Up to this point, I had never done any kind of needlework in my entire life.  I had barely ever threaded a needle!  But here I was, creating these gorgeous designs on a bit of fabric and thinking “Wow!  I did this!  Me!”  And that was the beginning of my absolute love of crafts.

I learned to embroider, and sew, and spin, and I learned basic inkle loom weaving, and I did repousse, and Norse wire weaving, and I sewed a vaguely Turkish garment, and I learned silk painting, and I make paper, and I learned to cook!  And I write, write, write!

And I’ve learned to draw and paint better than I ever thought I could.  I am old fashioned, I’m really not ashamed to admit it.  I like doing the things that I associate as being feminine, not girly – which I hate –  but feminine.   Because they make me feel like I could fit into the world of Eliza Bennett.  Because, in doing all this, I feel like a woman!
… anyone know a Mr. Darcy?

Tools of the Trade?

So, someone asked what I use to paint with.  It seems a somewhat odd question, doesn’t it?  I’m watercolor painting, so I’m painting with… watercolor.

Okay, after a few minutes thought, I realized maybe it isn’t quite as straightforward and obvious as it sounds.  So I decided to show you what I paint with.

I use the water-filled brush that came with my water color kit, a small square brush that I’ve used for years with my acrylic paints, then a few days ago I bought the large soft brush in the middle – a number 12 round – and the fan brush at the bottom – a number 4 fan – to have some greater options in coverage and brush strokes.

The pen is a proper fountain pen, which is what I use to add detail lines, outlines and my signature block.

The water colors themselves are part of a small travel kit I bought myself last Christmas as a present to me.  I got it on Amazon because it was on sale (and it looks to be again!) and I thought, hey, I can afford that price, and it’ll be a good kit to play with to get a feel for the medium.  I really didn’t expect it to be such high quality!  (Or maybe it isn’t and I just don’t know the difference?)

Here’s my well loved inside view:

So that’s the basics.  I’ll be lazy on the paper and say… it’s water color paper.  The large size I got as a gift from my friend who hasn’t painted in a while and passed on a pad of it to me to use, so I don’t know what weight it is, but it isn’t *super* heavy.  The postcard stock is just a postcard water color paper pad.

The only other tools I use are the board I mount the paper on (it’s an old, large chess board, but thin and light.)  I tape it down using basic blue painters tape which both holds the paper still, keeps it from warping too badly when wet, and gives it that lovely finished edge I’m loving so much!

And, of course, you can’t have water color without water.  I have two reservoirs I use, the small one is an old jam jar (yay, recycling!) which works great for travel as it fits in little pockets well.  The daily use one is an old veganaise jar, and the top can double as another mixing tray in a pinch.

There you have it, this is what I use to paint.  It isn’t terribly expensive, depending on what your budget is.  A few brushes, a water color kit on sale, and some blue painter’s tape with something to tape it to, and you’re ready to go!

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a fun little play I did, painting my “cave art tools”

🙂

Weekend Watercolor

I painted this weekend.  Quite a bit.  I’ve scanned my favorite 5 in to share.

Red Trees

I really like this pallet.  The reds and golds have captured my interest, which is why this is now the third iteration of this particular pallet.

Irish Mother Earth

A gift for my sister.  She loved my Mother Earth painting so much, I painted one just for her, with her Scot/Irish red hair.

Navajo Churro Sheep

A dear friend of mine raises Navajo Churro sheep.  They’re absolutely gorgeous!  If I had a spinning wheel I’d buy pounds of it to spin!  As it is, I’ll have to console myself for now with just painting pictures of them.

Palm Sunset

Generic sunset from a tropical beach.  Showing this now, but it was an offshoot of the inspiration for the next picture, because I want to save the best for last:

Concrete Sunrise

This.  This is my favorite so far.  This was the view out my kitchen window this morning at 6:30 AM when I went down to get a glass of water.  The sun was still behind the mountains, but the sky was just beginning to grow light, and the trees and hills were perfectly silhouetted against it in black.  It was so beautiful I immediately went back upstairs and started to paint it.

Forests

I realize I may not have properly prepared you for how my muse works.

I know I started out posting writing, almost exclusively.  But as I’ve noted earlier, I can really only do one artistic endeavor per day, and currently my muse has sunk her teeth into painting and won’t let go.

I even tried to write a story using the following picture as an illustration.  I got three sentences.  Three.  Instead, I just went and made another painting.

And then today I made yet another, which I wish I could accurately convey to you how much this was *not* the picture I had started painting, but that as I went, it turned into this and I could not be happier with the result.  (remember, I did warn you to expect more Autumn-themes)

Sometimes I just need to switch creative gears, sort of like letting the writing part rest a little, but the muse still needs to express so I find another way to do it.

I’m still writing, just… very little and very slowly when I do.

And yes, I am very, very sorry that I left that sci-fi fairy tale hanging like I did.  I will finish it, I just don’t know when.  But I *will* finish it.

In the mean time, I really hope you guys like my art as much as you’ve liked my writing! ❤

(If not, I understand totally if you stop watching me.  It’s cool!)

 

The verdict is officially in: not only do I absolutely *love* watercolor, I apparently really like trees.

Just a bit more!

I’m one of those people who will very easily ruin something by doing “just a bit more” to it.   One reason I feel I’ve had so much success posting my writing as soon as I’ve written it is it forces me to *stop* tweaking it.  Even if my tweaks don’t ruin it, publishing it defines a point at which it’s set in jello, if not actual stone.  It’s not as tempting to go back and fiddle and fiddle until I’ve driven myself mad.

That said, I still do it sometimes.  Just not nearly as much, and usually the time that has passed between when I stopped working on it and when I go back to fiddle allows the changes to be more clearly defined in my head and more useful to the final product.

I also do this with art, usually to a more devastating degree.  Because mostly you can’t go back to an earlier version if you decide something you did ruined it.

However, I’m getting better at knowing when to just stop, and knowing when I really need to add more.  That fine line between just enough and too much, between improving and ruining.

Looking at my leaf, I really liked it.  I was amazed that it turned out as well as it did.  The colors were well blended, the shape was recognizable but also a little unusual, and I really liked the ‘runs’.

But it also felt very flat.  And the more I looked at it, the more I wanted to keep going on it, but was being held back through that fear of ‘ruining’ it.  Which is why I’m glad I kept the label of “practice piece” on it, because otherwise I might never have worked up the guts to go back and try to improve on it.

I looked at more leaves on the ground, freshly fallen with Autumn, and tried to get a feel for how I could change mine to look more real.  I watched a bunch of watercolor youtube videos and got a good idea to add a slight shadow to ground it to a surface instead of just floating on a white space.  I let myself play with a couple different brushes and darker colors.

 

I can see a few places where I need to blend colors better, but all in all, I am  *delighted* with how well the changes came out.  The barest shadow adds depth – but with a lightness that suggests it without beating you over the head – and the darker colors make it feel more ‘real’ to me.

I also added a bit of a poem at the side which reads:

When the earth sighs
‘Neath the burden of the year
And the land cries “Enough!”
Then laid to rest
Are the dreams of yesterday
Never quite finished
The tasks laid out before us
Cut short as Autumn falls
Leaving undone
So many best laid plans

 

Sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone.   Sometimes you need to be brave enough to keep going.

Don’t ask me how to tell which is which, still haven’t figured that out.

😉

 

I picked up two new brushes, some watercolor postcard stock (pre-printed on the back), and some tubes of wet watercolor paint at the store yesterday.  I’m very excited to play in this medium more, both the watercolor itself and mixing my art with poetry or writing.