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Yes, this blog was meant to be shared with my mother (A Shared Blog … Well, Sort of!), but, sadly, she passed away on Friday, March 12th, 2010 from a brain hemorrhage. When I am able, I will write more, however, there is one thing that I would like to share with you today … it’s a poem that a dear friend composed for me and it’s titled Eternal Bloom.

Eternal Bloom

Among the flowers of the field
So many blossoms thrive
Which share their essence, unconcealed,
To keep our spirits live.

One bloom may shed a golden glow
Another, crimson hue
And after rains and zephyr blow,
A petal sparkles dew.

Yet now one flower made a shift
To live in fields above,
Elysian beauty whose dear gift:
The bloom of mother’s love.

Jean Hodgin, Professor Emerita and Poet Laureate
North Shore Community College, Danvers, MA

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For a couple of years now, at least, there’s been this mural on the wall of a pizza shop out in Gloucester, MA that I’ve wanted to photograph and post to this blog. But, every time that I’ve passed by the place, the parking lot has been full of cars (apparently, they serve great pizza) and there has been no clear view of the mural. Until today, that is!

Today, a Sunday morning, with comfortable temperatures but still not real warm, the parking lot was empty and I got my chance. Just check it out!

Beginning farthest to the left, that's not a real window! Look at the shadows, the depth created by the patrons farthest inside, the seagull peering in the window at the man eating a slice of pizza.

Beginning farthest to the left, that's not a real window! Look at the shadows, the depth created by the patrons farthest inside, the seagull peering in the window at the man eating a slice of pizza.

Moving to the right, here's an artist (maybe "the" artist) painting "plein air." Notice, again, the shadows cast by the strong sunlight.

Moving to the right, here's an artist (maybe "the" artist) painting "plein air." Notice, again, the shadows cast by the strong sunlight.

And, moving farthest to the right, the end of the building! Look how the artist has created the feeling that you are peering around the corner of the building, standing on the pier looking at Gloucester in the distance!

And, moving farthest to the right, the end of the building! Look how the artist has created the feeling that you are peering around the corner of the building, standing on the pier looking at Gloucester in the distance!

An overall view of the wall.

An overall view of the wall.

Finally, I am and have always been a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due! Here's the artist's signature and phone number.

Finally, I am and have always been a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due! Here's the artist's signature and phone number.

What a great sense of perspective! What a great use of shadow and light!

I just LOVE this mural! Don’t you?!

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And Spring I got!

I've already begun thinning the seedlings, but, I must admit that this is the hardest step for me. It just breaks my heart to do it even though I know that if I don't, there won't be room for the root (radish) bulb to swell.

I've already begun thinning the seedlings, but, I must admit that this is the hardest step for me. It just breaks my heart to do it even though I know that if I don't, there won't be room for the root (radish) bulb to swell.

Not too shabby for seed that’s nearly four years old, eh?

And, while Mother Nature and Old Man Winter have still not worked out their differences, fortunately, there are still plenty of other signs of Spring. Snowdrops are peaking through piles of dirty snow, the maple sugar sap has been flowing for a few weeks now and the daytime temperatures are hovering around the 45° to 50°F (sometimes even 55° and 60°F) range a bit more often than not. It won’t be long now before I can start working on my deck garden again. … Hmm! I think I’ll have to visit a local garden center pretty soon. … Then again, my houseplants, especially my maternal grandfather’s Christmas Cactus, could use some TLC too!

My grandfather passed away in September of 1984 and I became custodian of his Christmas Cactus. But, believe it or not, I've already repotted this plant several times, just not lately! As you can see, it is desperate need of repotting again.

My grandfather passed away in September of 1984 and I became custodian of his Christmas Cactus. But, believe it or not, I've already repotted this plant several times, just not lately! As you can see, it is in desperate need of repotting again.

The need to repot is especially noticeable here. See how small the "leaves" are? Notice another difference? In the shape of the "leaves" ... the one on the left is a November or Thanksgiving Cactus and the one on the right is a December or Christmas Cactus.

The need to repot is especially noticeable here. See how small the "leaves" are? Notice another difference? In the shape of the "leaves" ... the one on the left is a November or Thanksgiving Cactus and the one on the right is a December or Christmas Cactus.

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For the past couple of days, I’ve just been “exploring” a site called ArtBistro.com. It’s part of Monster.com and I have registered as a member of both sites (seeking employment has become my new and full-time job).

One of the artists posted a photograph that, I must admit, he did label a photograph but also labeled it a painting. Now, as a photographer, I’ve always felt that photography is equally art, that a camera is merely another tool just as brushes and palette knives are, film is merely another medium just as oils and watercolors are.

But, as I studied the photograph/painting, I began to wonder how he created the image. Was it done in acrylic? In egg tempera? In watercolor?

Then, I decided that it must be a digitally modified photograph!

Well, I did some “experimenting” of my own … on a photograph that my folks took years ago of a sailboat I had built (as a teenager) on its maiden voyage (I’m the strawberry blonde holding the tiller)! The original photograph was printed on textured paper, it’s dusty and has been folded. However, in my “experimented” photograph, I cleaned up as much of the dust as I could then added a couple of “lens flares.”

This is the original image of my "yacht"

This is the original image of my "yacht"

Here's my "yacht" photo retouched

Here's my "yacht" photo retouched

Well, then, what do you think?

Okay! I’m just bored and fooling around!

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Well, I sure hope so! I can tell you one thing for certain though, I know that I’ve missed blogging and now, I’ve got so much to catch up with that I don’t really know where to begin! And, I’ve never really been far away either, just incredibly busy.

For one thing, I finished another decoy head painting, a Mallard this time. (Hey Bill, looks like I’ve got a series going now too. However, with your third painting,

This is from a Charles Hart Mallard drake decoy in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

This is from a Charles Hart Mallard drake decoy in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

you’re still one ahead of me.) I’ve been using these decoy paintings to experiment with different media or methods for the details and such. For example, on the Canvasback painting, I used watercolor with airbrush and traditional brush and on the Mallard, it’s watercolor with airbrush, traditional brush and colored pencils with “stumps,” specifically on the bill (and no, that’s not Bill) and the neck. I’ve also been laying down the background color first which worked well on the Canvasback but not so well on the Mallard.

I’ve now started working on a decorative Green Wing Teal carving that was done by a friend named Francis X. McHugh. He passed away in late 2000 from lung cancer and, to my knowledge at least, he never smoked a day in his life! But he did carve decoys, which creates a very fine sawdust that’s more like baking flour and he used acrylics in an airbrush without wearing a mask or using some other means of ventilation. There’s a lesson in there folks! But, enough of that, now back to the painting. This time, I won’t lay down the background until I’m finished with painting the head, we’ll see how that works. In addition, I thought I might take photos of the work in progress then post them on this blog (or maybe another blog I’ve been putting together [on WordPress, of course]).

Another project that has been keeping me busy is my latest “e-commerce” venture. I’m now on CafePress! (Have patience, though, it’s brand new! A work in progress. I’m still learnin’ how the site works, how to promote it, and so on.) You see, I noticed a number of my images from this blog that many of my visitors seemed especially drawn to, so, I decided to open a CafePress shop where I submit my images, select products that I want my images to be printed on such as post cards, note cards, mousepads, mugs, sweatshirts, etc. and CafePress does the rest. Earlier, I had started putting my images on Etsy (note my Etsy page), however, that site took on a life of its own and became more of an outlet for my sewing or handmade items. CafePress will remain for photos and art from this blog as well as some new stuff.

So, what do you think? I’ve got so much more to write about but I’m still busy with other things too. I promise, though, I’ll be back with blog entries a bit more often ’cause I just can’t stay away from it! It’s addictive! 😀

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A couple of summers ago, I took a course called Environmental History. On the first day of class, as had been true in every other class I’d taken before then, we were asked to tell our classmates a little bit about ourselves. When I mentioned my interest in conservation art (or art for conservation), I was surprised that no one, including the professor, knew anything about it but I was also encouraged by the student’s and professor’s enthusiasm to know more.

Okay then, what is conservation art?

First of all, look in any dictionary and you will find that the term conservation means the preservation from destruction and/or neglect. Well, to me, because I am a nature lover, conservation means the preservation of wild animals, birds and habitat. Thus, in the case of conservation art, that means any art (though, in most cases, the genre or theme is nature or wildlife) that is used to raise funds for wetlands purchase and protection, or the preservation of threatened and endangered species, or the protection of wild lands against human encroachment, and so on. Admittedly though, when one mentions conservation art, more often than not, it’s “duck stamps” or waterfowl art that comes to mind.

Duck stamps?

Yes, they’re affectionately referred to as duck stamps! But, they’re really called migratory waterfowl stamps. Every duck or waterfowl hunter must purchase a Federal Migratory Waterfowl Stamp as part of their license, although, you don’t have to be a hunter to buy one, they are available for purchase by anyone. In addition to the Federal Duck Stamp program, many states also have conservation stamp programs and many of those are also required as part of a hunter’s license. And, again, these stamps are available for sale to non-hunters as well.

But now, back to conservation art … before any of these stamps are issued to hunters, stamp collectors or conservationists, they are art competitions or commissioned works of art. The granddaddy of them all is the Federal Migratory

Original artwork by William C. Morris

Original artwork by William C. Morris

Stamp Art Competition. It was started in 1934 as commissioned work then later changed to an art competition. I first learned about this stamp art program back in 1984 (or, maybe it was 1983), from an article that appeared in an issue of Smithsonian magazine, when the program was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. Well, the program is now 76 years old and, through the sale of those stamps, has “raised more than $700 million that has been used to acquire more than 5.2 million acres of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System” (see The Federal Duck Stamp Program).

Massachusetts Duck Stamp is “Unique”

Many state duck stamp programs aren’t nearly as old as the Federal program, probably around thirty-five to forty years old on average, however, for most state programs, it was the Federal program that set the standard, so to speak, when it came to the rules that artists must follow, that is, the design must depict “[a] live portrayal of [the duck].” But Massachusetts duck stamp art rules are “unique” in that the design must portray “a WORKING (not decorative) decoy of a duck, goose, or shorebird made by a known or unknown deceased, Massachusetts decoy maker” (see my earlier entry called “Massachusetts ‘Duck Stamp’ Competition to be ‘Revisited'”).

Canvasback Drake Decoy head by unknown carver. This working decoy is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

Canvasback Drake Decoy head by unknown carver. This working decoy is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

This is NOT a duck stamp entry but is from a series of decoy portraits that I’ve been creating as a personal project. The artwork is in watercolor and watercolor gouache applied using an airbrush and traditional brushes on Ampersand Claybord.

Conclusion

Of course, conservation art is so much more than just duck stamps. As was mentioned earlier, conservation art is any art used to raise funds for the preservation of all that is wild and can be rendered in oil, watercolor, colored pencil or graphite, or it can be sculptures in wood or stone or metal, and so on. Oh! And other labels apply to conservation art as well such as art for conservation, environmental art and art for sustainability, although fair warning here, some of these labels, in particular, environmental art can have other meanings too (in this case, environmental art is sometimes applied to outdoor sculpture that poses no harm to the environment). But, it really doesn’t matter what label you apply here or what medium you choose to work in. What is important is that the purpose of the art be for the preservation of planet earth and all of the life that call this planet home!

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Sometimes, it takes the observations of a special visitor to open our own eyes to what is so special about where we live. I mean, sure, as New Englanders, we know that we have some of the most beautiful coast line in the United States. And, we are especially noted for our splashy autumn foliage displays! But, who would’ve thought to be so enthralled over our cemeteries, or our recent display of various mushrooms, or our small but curious critters, and so on?!

If you want to see through the eyes of that special visitor, an Oklahoman who calls her blog “Drawing The Motmot,” then you must read a New England Love Letter, part 1 and part 2!

Thank you, Motmot, and please come back soon!

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