Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vanity & Breakfast

Great Blue Heron preening its feathers
ink, charcoal

Great Blue Heron preening its feathers
ink, ink wash, charcoal

Great Blue Heron looking at a fish
ink, charcoal
Some days, there are no animals at the dam when I visit. The next day, same time there are animals. Today, I saw a Great Blue Heron. There were no mallards or really, any other wildlife at all. The heron saw me and started to move to the opposite side of the island and out of view. But it had a few feathers out of place that needed to be rearranged or a flea to be evicted so it stopped, mid-stream, and dealt with this personal matter. And I was able to draw the gesture --like Degas almost --at some damsel's toilette!

The heron disappeared from view for a while then reappeared as it hunted along the opposite shore. I even saw it catch a fish. But then it did an uncharacteristic thing: with the fish in its beak, the heron jumped up to the top of the stone wall and let the fish fall to the ground. It then made several attempts to sort out the geometry of the fish and its beak and sinuous neck so it could swallow the darn thing! It makes me think of those days when the cream has gone sour, the toaster doesn't work and you've accidentally poured orange juice on your cereal.

It all worked out, and the heron disappeared into a swampy spot where I couldn't observe it any more. It was just a little show.

Bonne journée!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I was so busy

At the dam this morning: I was so busy noticing the Little Green Heron far below me that I failed to see the Great Blue Heron close by. The Little Green Heron is rarely seen here and is very shy. I saw it a few days ago so I hope it will stay a while. Maybe I'll be able to draw its portrait.

The heron was right there in the heavy flow of new rain from the other night's showers. I saw the heron catch a scaly breakfast before he decided the dam wasn't private enough. I spent the rest of the hour drawing the ripening Black Walnuts overhead and the Autumn light filling up this room, this space between the dam and the bridge. It's very lovely. I hope you get out today and experience the real world too.

using an ink wash: a geometric simplification of the dam
directly overhead: black walnut fruits

Monday, September 17, 2012

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The activity behind this blog is my time spent with things that I want to get to know better. It's an odd compulsion: I want to take them in. I want to eat them. I want to make them part of me. Taking a photograph won't do it. I need some proof of my engagement with that thing or that place. A drawing or painting of some sort is the only thing that will do.

These drawings were done during a recent visit to the Museum of FIne Arts in Boston. I'm returning their briefly this morning to rendezvous with a friend and visit an exhibit about Japanese Tea in the Asian section of the museum. She's a bit of an expert! There are some absolutely wonderfully beautiful things there.

This large statue is not in the Japanese tea exhibit but it is magnificent and you can't miss it if you pass anywhere near it. The curators have placed in front of a tall divided window. In the mid afternoon, the sun illuminates the grape leaves seen in silhouette as they climb in lines behind the hulking benediction of the "Seated Bodhisattva".

A very small jar in the form of a grebe (a type of waterfowl). The jar would contain tea. Probably just enough for two cups. I really don't know. Perhaps I will find out more today. Here's another view of this marvelous object:
Finally, there's one tea bowl made and decorated by the great Kenzan Ogata. To find out more about Kenzan, I suggest you read Bernard Leach's "A Potter's Book"
Bonne journée!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rainy Day

sketchbook doodle
It's raining in Boston today. I understand that these are the tattered remains of Hurricane Isaac which battered New Orleans a week ago. There are periods of warm, humid stickiness and then blinding drenching downpours.  This morning after getting my kids off to high school, reading the newspaper and washing the dishes, I walked down to the river during a lull in the rain.

A cormorant (a rare visitor at the dam) perched on a log on top of the dam. A single mallard scuttled back and forth along the edge dabbling for breakfast. A social flock of mallards could be seen downriver just past the island. They were just doing normal duck things: eating, dabbling, bathing and bickering.

However, as soon as I pulled out my charcoal pencil, the heavens opened up and soon rivulets were running down my pages. I was drawing in the rain. Have you ever done that? It's kind of fun and it forces a certain economy of means and method. I was completely soaked. When I got home, I took a hair dryer to the poor little sketch book. Here are my few drawings, still a little damp.

sketchbook spread: The Pleasant Street bridge

sketchbook spread: duck silhouettes

Rain is pouring down and my charcoal pencil breaks so I pulled out a litho crayon. The top duck here is charcoal and litho crayon

I like this one.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Water Over the Dam

South Natick dam
© Rob Dunlavey 2012
I think it's been a one of the drier summers but when I look back through my drawings from previous seasons, I see plenty of views of the bare stones and gravel in the river below the dam.  At this time of year, the low water allows ducks free access to all that flowing water affords: mobility and lots of forage to sample in the swirling currents. They busily dabble in all places and attitudes. I've seen them wantonly follow their beaks as they inch down the dam's face surveying the passing water. At a certain point, gravity gets their attention and they scuttle upward or are forced to abort and fly away.

They are always earnest and good natured about these small predicaments. If only me and my kind could show such equanimity in the face of such inevitable slights! It's funny, ducks get aggressive and nip at each other's tails and napes but they quickly settle their feathers and get on with the business at hand. The emotional lives of animals seems so much less-stressful than humans. But this is a wistful digression!

Mallards at the algae salad bar
charcoal, ink
© Rob Dunlavey 2012

Rocks below the dam
charcoal, ink wash
© Rob Dunlavey 2012

charcoal, ink, ink wash
© Rob Dunlavey 2012

This sandpiper has set up housekeeping at the dam in the last few weeks. It is fun to watch. He bobs and dips his tail and is in near-constant motion prospecting for little bugs to dine on. Don't you love his bright eye?
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