‘Tis the Season

Watercolor painting, used as the front of my 2016 Christmas card

The front of our 2016 Christmas Card

December marks a special time where kindness to others is focused on more than usual. In that spirit I wish only good things for you. Seasons Greetings! My artwork for 2017 will be filled with children doing the joyous, magic things that give us hope. That is how I plan to keep a positive outlook.

Our granddog Gilly, playing with a Christmas bell

Grand-dog Gilly playing with a Christmas bell

2016 has been a long year! 2017 could prove even more difficult when facing a Trump presidency built on bullying. As a former school teacher, I have spent countless hours educating students to demonstrate positive behaviors. Many after school hours were spent practicing self control skills with children who hadn’t mastered them. I have been thanked by former students who said social skill instruction proved crucial to their success serving America in the military. As an instructor, my biggest challenge was helping bullies lose bad habits and demonstrate positive behavior. Now America has elected a bully ( definition: a blustering, browbeating person; especially: one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.) I will not debate any of the reasons Mr. Trump was elected, but even those who voted for him know he shows patterns of bully behavior learned when he was young. He stands as a role model for our children who represent all of our hope for the future. Most Americans are wonderful role models for our youth. We must be even more proactive and vocal especially now when the message passed on from the top is that it’s acceptable to bully those who don’t look and think like you, or disagree with you.

To all I wish you joy and promise to treat you as I want to be treated. You don’t have to agree with me to get my respect. Your behavior earns it.

Thanks for listening!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

 

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Whatever the Problem, Birding is the Answer

After months of bad news including biopsies, surgeries, recovery, setbacks, etc., a birding adventure seemed in order to help force the healing process.

In search of bluebirds, hummingbirds, and jays, Steve and I set out for northern California and the small coastal town of Mendicino.  Some of you may remember Mendicino as representing the fictional Cabot Cove in the TV series “Murder She Wrote”.  We stayed at the Hill House Inn, a quaint hotel also featured in the TV show.  This friendly hotel has the most beautiful, hummingbird-friendly gardens I have ever seen.  (Thank you Ms. Toni, the gardener)

No bluebirds in sight, but as for hummingbirds, Stellar’s Jays, and and barn swallows, we saw and photographed hundreds!  It was awesome.

I observed, sketched, photographed, and painted both Allen’s and Anna’s hummingbirds.  They posed on lovely plants and fed from a broad variety of flowers.  For five idyllic days I wandered the gardens feeling the magic flow through me.  Mental healing began.  As this post is titled:  Whatever the problem, birding is the answer!  As I write this blog post I’m back in the real world, well on the road to full recovery.

I had already planned a July demo – “Watercolor bluebird painting”.   This painting portrays a bluebird originally photographed some years ago by my husband. Watercolor painting of a bluebird perched on a china pitcher In remembrance of my father Albert, who’s birthday was July 14th, I perched the bird on a small china pitcher.  I chose this pitcher because the backstamp represents several emotional connections with my father:  “ROYAL ALBERT” ties to his name, “ENGLAND” is a place beloved by both my parents, and “FORGET-ME-NOT” because anyone who knew him, never will forget him.Backstamp from china pitcher used for watercolor painting

Thanks for listening!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

 

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Free as a Bird

Watercolor painting of birds perching on the hand-lettered text Watercolor painting of a Red Tailed Hawk, by artist Barbara BromleyWatercolor painting of a bluebird, by artist Barbara BromleyI have been a birder for as long as I can remember. Chasing after birds as they flew actually made me feel free and unencumbered. It was the birds of prey that caught my attention first. The hawks and owls with their fierce eyes were a pleasure to sketch and paint. In Florida I discovered brown pelicans, watching in wonder as they dove beak-first into the ocean to catch fish. They way their bodies “kerplopped” into the water in such a bizarre fashion intrigued me. Then there were the Osprey diving feet first to grab fish with their talons. Sometimes they misjudge the size of their prey and are pulled under the water to certain death.

When I met my (eventual) husband Steve, I found a fellow bird lover in his mom, who introduced me to wrens, finches, and bluebirds. We observed these lovely critters together as they fed from the feeder just outside the large picture window of her Michigan home. Winters were hard, but the birds in her area thrived thanks to the massive quantity of seeds in her feeder. Who needed TV? We had ready entertainment watching a great variety of birds just outside the window.

Watercolor painting of a Rufus hummingbird, by Barbara BromleyIn Texas the hummingbirds provided me with a favorite subject to sketch. I’d work on five different drawings in various poses as the hummers got “nectar” from our feeder. Every year a male black-chinned hummer would arrive perching on our peach tree waiting for females. After mating, off he went to chase another! The females laid eggs then raised two babies alone.

Watercolor painting of a Rufus hummingbird, by Barbara Bromley

While living in Texas our entire family observed the pea-sized eggs in a nest constructed of spider silk and lichens. As the young hummingbirds grew the silk stretched to accommodate their growing bodies.

photo-hummer-on-nestP1Another Texas favorite was the roadrunner, which mates for life. I observed one wandering about seeming greatly disturbed only to find his dead mate close by, the victim of a fast-moving car. It always amazed me to know that roadrunners are capable of working together to kill a rattlesnake, not quite the cartoon image from long ago…

In Massachusetts the nuthatches caught my eye as they moved down a tree trunk head-first. Another treat was watching marsh wrens at Great Meadows. When the babies were fledging the parents had to come out of their hiding places in the reeds to feed them. I was ready with camera and sketchpad!

sketch-singleducking-standing-P1duckling-sketch-P1

In Kentucky it was the common mallard ducklings that ticked my fancy. The young would follow their mommy anywhere including a busy street. I’ve also been shocked by the number of cooper’s hawks winging their way through housing developments instead of the forests for which their wings and tails were designed.

Get ready for my next blog about birds I’ve know “personally”.

Happy Birding to ALL!

Artfulbarb

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

Happy Birthday Sam!

Our eldest grandson turns six tomorrow, August 10.  Happy Birthday Sam!

Watercolor painting of grandson Sam on his sixth birthday

One day Sam, you will understand how you helped turn our “world” into one filled with magic and wonder.  You weren’t the first to do that however.  Your uncle Nick and your Mom were, but they weren’t as perfect as you!  Perfection is reserved only for GRANDCHILDREN.

“Being a grandmother is our last chance to act like a kid without being accused of being in our second childhood.”  – Janet Lanese

My current life is filled with proof of the above quote.   The bird on my head in the photo below is just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to you Sam, I have photos of me playing in the dirt, climbing on a playscape, and hiking up a slippery hill with the hope that I land on my feet instead of on my rear end.

Photo from Louisville KY zoo, of grandson Sam, and Grandmother Artful Barb, who has a bird on top of her head

Then there are the times we spend together where every piece of art equipment in the house is used to create a joint masterpiece.  Let’s face it:  you can never have too many art supplies!

Finally the magic of baking.  You on the stool and me trying hard not to sample too many goodies.      The clean up was always interesting.  It appears that you cook just like our master chef – Grandpa.  Always focusing on the creative part, not so much on the aftermath….

Very soon we’ll be eating cake, singing happy birthday, and generally celebrating your big day.

With any luck my “elephant memory” will hang on to your special day to relive the magic again and again.

Love, Grandma.

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The Little Things ARE the Big Things

Watercolor painting of an uncle making soap bubbles for his nephewwI have always known that little things matter.  Recently I’ve remembered that the little things often ARE the big things.

After a week spent vacationing in the Whalen House in Grand Haven MI, my mind replays lovely memories.  There were gorgeous sunsets, incredible views of Lake Michigan, and the red light-house just across the road from our rented cottage.   All glorious, ostensibly big things.

But what stands out two weeks later?

  1. Watching my eldest and his wife make soap bubbles with their nephews.
  2. Seeing the delight on my daughter’s face after she returns from geocaching with her boys.
  3. Sitting in the sand with my extended family, visiting while watching the grand kids build sand castles.
  4. Watching the love of my life, Steve, grill for the billionth time for his family (sometimes “mad skills” mean lots of work…)
  5. Photographing little items that might be fun to paint, like the tea cup covered with clover decorations that I discovered in the living room.  It will please the Irish in my family so much!
  6. Visiting over wine and pie in the “man cave”, a little hut outside the main cottage.

Most of the things listed could happen anywhere.  Often business encroaches on the important “little things”.  Today I remind myself again to do better:  listen more, send more notes, respond to emails more quickly, etc., because the little things really are the BIG things.

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