December, 2020 Winter's just around the corner. How did that happen? The usual way I guess - just the passage of time. This year, so many things are distorted and time's near the top of the list for me. Even so, there's much to appreciate and be grateful for - all of you, for example!
Snowy Owls and Other Winter Animals
For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, December brings the shortest day of the year, the beginning of winter, and the time the earth rests. For many it brings snow, ice, and cold. The nights are crisp, and when the sky is clear the stars are especially bright. My favorite season has changed over the years, but these days it’s winter.
The animals, of course, live all year round, but some seem iconic symbols of winter – white animals, or animals with ‘snow’ in their names, or animals who live in the far north. It’s these whom I’ve chosen to feature in this newsletter.
The first is the snowy owl. What a wonderful creature, beautiful and mystic. Made popular in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, I’ve been an admirer of these birds for many years. Yes, the eyes are riveting, the plumage striking, and the bird’s power obvious, but for me I think the best thing is those fluffy white legs and toes. Just makes me want to cuddle one until I remember those claws!
This bird, by the way, is a great example of something that often amazes me about the other animals. She lives in harsh conditions and must hunt every day for her food. Yet she has everything she needs in herself. She doesn’t need blankets or clothing or central heating or weapons or refrigerators and on and on…
I created this mixed media piece early in my exploration of that medium. It’s primarily watercolor on rice paper glued to a piece of hardboard. In addition to the watercolor, I used colored pencil and gouache. Inscrutable text is a motif I use over and over again in my mixed media pieces. In this one, I used the Anglo Saxon runes to transliterate ‘power of stillness.’
I’ve made many of these needle felted reindeer, and each one has been, simply, fun!
I begin with a wire armature. Winding pipe cleaners around the armature helps the wool adhere. The needle felting proceeds in layers. I begin with dense wool called “core wool.” The core wool is usually white, but it also comes in a variety of colors. I continue working with this core wool until the shape is almost complete.
At this stage I add the antlers which I form by twisting a length of rusted wire. I leave wire ends at the base and wrap these ends around the head. Subsequent needle felting keeps it in place. By the way, reindeer (called caribou in the western hemisphere) are the only species of deer where both females and males have antlers.
The final layer, which some needle felters refer to as the pelt, is made from wool which mimics the colors of the animal’s fur. Finishing touches include adding the eyes. Some needle felters felt the eyes from wool. Others use glass eyes made for dolls and stuffed animals. I nearly always use black glass beads.
As an artist, it’s fun to find a signature finishing touch. For my needle felted animals I use a small metal tag engraved with my name and tie it to one of the back legs.
So I covered them with a somewhat thinned coat of gesso (so the abstract would show through a little bit), then added collage branches. Now for the birds! Back into my comfort zone! But beyond showing you the pieces I did in the virtual retreat, I want to express my unbound thanks to Laly for putting this together. It was no small effort, and thousands of artists across the world took part. It was a wonderful couple of days and a welcome break to the current atmosphere. For me, Laly's a heroine, plain and simple! Check her out on the web. You might enjoy her classes.
And, of course, a Polar Bear
How could I have a newsletter issue about winter animals without a polar bear? Well, I couldn't! I'm certainly not alone in having the polar bear as one of my very favorite animals, and I've loved the sight of them for as long as I can remember.
My goal with this little mixed media painting was to portray a kindly bear in a fanciful setting. It was a fun painting to do, and a bit unusual for me, as I rarely use this shade of blue. It's really blue, isn't it?
There's a famous polar bear sighting area on the shores of Hudson Bay in Churchill, Manitoba. The bears gather there in the autumn waiting for the ice to form, at which point off they go! It used to be a great desire of mine to go there are see them. But I don't want to go anymore. I think it just might make me sad. Plus, getting there would be pretty difficult, especially for a reluctant traveler. So for now, I enjoy seeing them on tv, on Secrets of the Zoo, for example.
A Milkweed Christmas is here and waiting to make you smile!.
My latest illustrated book, A Milkweed Christmas - The Inn at Ivy Knoll is ready to make you smile. It's available in paperback on Amazon, here. It's also available in hardback as well as paperback on Lulu.com here. Signed copies are available in my Etsy shop here, though my monthly discount coupon doesn't apply, as I'd be selling them at a loss. Here's the description and, below, a short video featuring some of the illustrations.
A beautifully illustrated and sweetly told account of the Milkweed animal community's observance of that most blessed holiday, Christmas. This year, the hares of the Inn at Ivy Knoll are hosting festivities on the big day, but that's just part of the story. There's much more! The animals, as they do every year, have filled the whole season with fond memories, special traditions, baking, celebration, and, more than anything else, love..
Book trailer: A Milkweed Christmas - the Inn at Ivy Knoll
I'm offering you, my precious subscribers, a 15% discount in my Etsy shop, TheFoxesGarden. Any sales from the Bear section will go to Idaho Black Bear Rehab. Everything in the shop is hand made by me. From December 3 to 17, just use discount code DECEMBER15 at checkout. I ship the day after I receive your order, and domestic shipping is free. Click on the image of the fancy reindeer to visit my shop! (By the way, the only items that are not discounted are my books Tales of Love and Courage from Milkweed Manor and A Milkweed Christmas - The Inn at Ivy Knoll. If I discounted it, I'd be selling it at a loss.)
The News from Milkweed In November 2019 I published my first illustrated fiction book, Tales of Love and Courage from Milkweed Manor. This year, I'll be publishing two more, Dark Days at Milkweed Manor (the sequel to Tales) and A Milkweed Christmas. My days are filled with writing and illustrating these books about the animals living in the Milkweed community, and I'm pleased to bring you news from this charming place.
Little Paige is ready to star in the festivities while her anxious mom wait nearby. This is just part of one of the many heartwarming activities the Milkweed animals celebrate each Christmas.
More Wintry Animals!
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Glad you're here!
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