Finding time to work on my mosaics became next to impossible since I began work at Wild Birds Unlimited. However, I needed something to do when hanging with my son at my ex's. I used to grade. Last year I was revising old teaching materials to keep on this website, and even last fall I was working on a presentation for TCA. But I needed something else that didn't involve Latin.
One day while listening to a friend reading from her novel on a zoom, since I wasn't home and couldn't work on a mosaic while she read, I decided to draw. I have done this before when she read, usually when I am in England and this is happening in person. But I never took it seriously. It was more always training to learn how to "see" properly--relationships, shapes, proportions, etc.
I was pleased enough with these drawings and started carrying art supplies with me. I soon invested in some quality colored pencils.
There is a simplicity to the shape of a bird that makes it suitable to draw. And I find it amusing to recall that one of the first drawings I remember giving to someone was of birds from a big book of birds. It was a gift for my grandmother who always kept bird feeders. And here I am drawing birds now.
Some birds turned out better than others. But with each bird I gained experience. I was finding photos of birds I liked online and then saving them to my phone to draw later.
Besides learning how to layer and blend colors, I was also learning about different kinds of bird feathers. I wasn't satisfied with just a white background though, and contemplated what I could do.
I discovered small sized colored paper of archival quality that I believe is designed for a Cricket cutter/printer. I began with a pack of different shades of green.
Then I decided to try some blue paper for a pair of cardinals. The male I did mainly sitting on a hospital floor when my mother was dealing with acute appendicitis. But that's the point: these drawings are small enough that I can do them anywhere. It's very relaxing.
As an experiment, I had seen a photo of a swan diving. I liked the play of shadow and light on the water that comprised the splash and wanted to see if I could recreate it. Thus, here is a swan. I am pleased with the result.
After the cardinals and swan, I wanted to go back to hummingbirds. Although some of my early birds were not local, I decided more recently to try focusing on birds that could show up at my feeder. Thus, while awaiting the return of black-chinned hummingbirds, I decided to try drawing a couple.
When I choose a photo to draw from, I am looking for something expressive in the face or body position. In fact, the first color that I put down after a base of white (so that the color will pop from the background and not combine with it) is on the face. I like the eyes and the balance of the beak as it flows into the facial features. The bodies still need work, but I'm getting there.
And my most recent drawing, a Bewick's (pronounced like the car, Buick, I believe) wren, because I have one at my feeder.
I'm very happy with this one. And I should think about what I'm drawing next but instead I think I will finish my taxes.
Most of the birds on colored paper are now in frames and on my wall. Maybe when I get too many of them I will start selling them, but I really need to talk to a professional first to make sure I'm not doing anything wrong. For instance, I should probably use a fixative on these but have never used one. The frames I'm using are also pretty cheap but provide a clean, matted look.
Oh, and I'm finally rounding a corner on my mosaic owl. I'm pretty sure I'm going to add more color to it--more leaves and branches--but the owl itself is done. It's not as good as I would like it to be, but much better than not being done at all.
At the beginning of June I got a job at Wild Birds Unlimited in south Austin. The hours I used to put into working on my mosaics are now spent promoting birdseed and feeders. But I do have a mosaic under works... I hope to finish it by Christmas. I'm a little further along than this but this picture will do.
It will be a white barn owl. But in the meantime I have been applying my artistic skills elsewhere--that is, at work. When we got a black glass "community" board, I took over (and they happily let me). This is what's currently on it.
This is what it looked like in September. I've only been changing out sections, leaving some things the same:
I'm really enjoying using the chalk paint markers and keep looking for other surfaces to write on. Our binocular case was next....
I ran out of space for new things on the black board so I put an old white board/bulletin board outside by our front door to add more timely news items:
I've also been experimenting with designing some print/digital materials. At work I don't have access to the Adobe Creative Suite and I'm just creating things in MS Word, using a lot of work arounds that I have used as a teacher:
I'm enjoying thinking up and creating such things. It's nice to have an outlet for my artistic talents. And I'm learning lots about birds that I didn't know.
Oh, I guess I should include yesterday's pumpkins. This year's hedgehog turned out quite nicely.
I didn't get a picture of it lit up because I discovered we were out of candles. I did a simple Jack O'Lantern after the more complicated hedgehog:
I've also been working madly on a presentation for the Texas Classical Association, which is next weekend. I guess it has been sucking a lot of my time up as well as work. That presentation and materials will be available in the RES SCHOLASTICAE section.
I spent most of April debating what I wanted to create next. To kill time I decided to cut glass and make borders on future ornaments. I ended up with a dozen, trying different color combinations, before I decided upon a cardinal for the next real project.
It took me a while to find a photo of a cardinal that I liked. This cardinal is for a friend who always shared photos of cardinal in the snow at her feeder in Michigan. While this photo doesn't show a cardinal at a feeder, I did think it was lovely and doable for my skill level.
I sketched out the design on a small mirror. I know at some point I need to work with larger mosaics but working small costs less.
Soon I was cutting glass, which is always soothing to do in its own way.
Then I played around with a color check.
Time to start gluing. I may not have mentioned before but I use Mac Glue, which has been in short supply during Covid. But I have enough to last for a while. Once the border was completed, I couldn't help adding a few of the thin branches with berries. Then I began the big branch. I feel guilty because I honestly don't know what kind of tree has these berries in winter and usually I research such things, but I didn't this time. What I did know was that I wanted the transparent glass for the berries, opaque for the cardinal. (This is similar to what I did in my owl mosaic with the leaves being in transparent glass.)
I had originally intended to make the wings darker but I was unhappy with the look. I settled on just some edges on the feathers. I'm not entirely happy with the wings, but overall in the end I thought it was enough. However, it was about this point that I decided that the cardinal needed to face the other direction.
In the end I think the cardinal facing the other way turned out fine. I had toyed with adding a few white tesserae for snow, but thought it looked better without.
Even one of my cats approved. Can you see her in the reflection?
I have been putting on the back of the mirrors/mosaics how many hours went into the work. This one was about 30 hours. I'm not sure what project will be next. I guess I can always work on ornaments in the meantime.
I have an English friend who always sends Christmas cards with robins--English robins, not our bigger, less adorable American robin. I wanted to make a mosaic for her and thus picking an English robin seemed right. So I started looking at photos of robins.
I liked the cheekiness of the robin with the cocked head, but wanted the flowers that appear in the second photo. I decided to combine both in my sketch.
I thought this should work fine and thus turned my attention to cutting the new red glass which I had bought.
I liked that this red was really a mix of red and orange as well as other shades in between. That would be important for getting the colors right on the little robin redbreast.
For the border I settled on light blue and white to represent the sky. I left an opening at the top right to have the flowers break through the frame.
I decided to put in that first flower in the gap, followed by beginning the head. I confess in my eagerness to just get on with it I had forgotten that I was going to sort out my different shades of red to make the coloring look more realistic. But more on that in a moment.
Once I finished the robin and added a couple more flowers and buds, I decided I didn't like him. It was flat looking and didn't look like feathers. Unless you knew where the face was it was difficult to see. The shading was all wrong (or absent). Plus he no longer seemed centered but more on the right hand portion of the mosaic. I had some choices. I could scrap it altogether, or I could just remove this robin and redraw/recenter it.
In the Roman world there is a process for removing a leader who has fallen out of favor from public monuments: damnatio memoriae. A person's image or his name (or both) would be removed -- totally chipped away. And thus I removed this robin and even some of the flower. The glue that I use, Mac Glue (a craft glue), had fully set and I was amused to see that some of the glass broke instead of the glue giving way. Eventually I got everything cleared off.
I decided to draw the other robin because I thought he would fill the space in a more balanced way. I was mindful of the shades of red and orange for his face and chest, making myself redo any section that wasn't fitting together quite right.
I'm still not 100% satisfied with my robin, but the coloring and shading is better, and the balance of the piece is definitely improved. I added more greenery and pink blossoms, petals, & buds.
I do think he is lovely in the sun and I am pleased that I never gave up on him.
I turned to owls next, screech owls, because I wanted to make a gift for a friend who discovered owls in his tree a few years ago after a storm split the tree in half. It took me a while to find some pictures to inspire my design. I relied on these two the most.
I sketched out a design and began cutting glass. My preference is to cut centimeter strips which I then snip into centimeter squares and further into four more squares. But I also cut half centimeter strips, as you can see here.
For the branches, I cut glass from a sheet that had a range of colors which would help with shading and texture.
I also had a brown sheet of glass with many shades which would work for the feathers, along with some white. I try to cut up as much glass as I can before I begin the design itself because it does save time.
I decided to cut the leaves in a particular diamond shape. I made a point of making different sizes. Eventually towards the end of the project I also cut some little yellow leaves to add interest. Here I am just getting an idea of what the leaves will look like when in place.
After cutting the glass, especially glass for a specific purpose like the yellow glass for the eyes, I put them in little cups and labeled the lids.
I began with the border, determined to keep those lines of glass as straight as possible.
I left an opening in the corner so that I could have a leafy branch break through the boundary of the border. Ironically, I accidentally used a different grey glass (that didn't look as natural) and I actually had to remove this branch and replace it with the more natural grey. But I was just excited about getting some of the leaves placed.
I tackled the big branch next and was pleased with how the colors worked out.
I really wanted to play with the leaves more--I really liked all of that green--but knew I needed to do the tails next and work the branches and leaves around them. I dared another set of branches on the right, but knew it was time to tackle the owl faces.
The eyes had to be right or this mosaic would not work. All the dried and drying glue makes this look rough, but I feel I was able to capture the piercing glare. You can see where I am erasing the lines of the design as I work. (I often thing how nice it would be to work on just glass and have the pattern/drawing underneath the clear glass.)
With the eyes done, I finished the outline of the owls. I wasn't ready to settle into working on the feathers, so I added more leaves. Did I mention that I loved the leaves? Not sure why but I just thought they were fun to add.
Finally finished after 83 hours of work. (I decided to keep track this time.) I took it outside for some good light for this shot.
On the back, on the left & right, I put two messages. The first in Latin.
m. Feb. an. MMXXI anno secundo coronae. Ginny Lindzey LXXXIII horis me fecit.
February 2021, 2nd year of the corona virus. Ginny Lindzey made me in 83 hours.
The second was a haiku:
High in the branches
the owls gaze down with wise eyes
studying the world.
It now resides on my friend's wall. (The line down the middle is a reflection of a cord for the blinds.)
With the new year, I have returned to a format a bit larger than the ornaments. A friend had requested I try a peacock, so I started looking at photos. I had settled on this photo, but it seemed to be missing something.
I didn't think the image was interesting enough or dynamic. I did begin to sort colors of glass which I would need, but I didn't begin until after I happened to be looking through some images from the Villa of Poppaea at Oplontis. (There was a discussion about the color yellow that was used in fresco painting in the area around Pompeii.) When I saw this picture, I said to myself, "AHA!"
Look at the way the tail breaks the frame! Perfect. I was going to do a yellow/gold border like this one, but also wanted to keep the yellow/brown grass from the original photo. Romans also liked red, so I went in that direction.
I traced out my design on a mirror and played around with colors to make sure everything would look okay.
First, I would need to make the border, and I was determined that the outer edge should be as straight as possible.
Admittedly I had to pull off part of my beginning line of red because I realized it wasn't lined up with the bevel in the mirror. But it didn't take me too long to complete the square.
The full border I knew would not be perfect because I am still cutting my glass with nippers. The sizes would not be perfect and it would be more difficult to have perfect straight inner edges, but I tried.
I feel like I get the most done on Sunday during Zooms with friends. We drink Prosecco, one friend tats, the other reads from her novels, and I just work on my mosaic. Sunday Zooms have been the best thing to come out of this pandemic. But I digress.
Once the border was about 98% done, I began the tail.
I was really pleased with how the peacock "eyes" in the tail feathers were coming out, both in shape and color. As I finished the tail, I also completed the border that is adjacent to the tail.
Before continuing with the body, I decided I better get the grass in.
I wasn't sure that I would like the grass, but I think it turned out okay. The rest of the body didn't seem to take quite as long to do. I was afraid that my design had shifted since I had to erase the initial lines but the peacock fit.
It's tricky to get a straight-on photo without getting myself or my phone in the reflection. I took a couple more photos outside to get the sunlight reflecting off of the glass and mirror.
All in all I am very pleased with how this turned out. I was sad that I promised it to a friend, but she is a teacher and her school is returning to in-person learning. I think she needs this guardian more than I do.
My last ornament ended up a little rushed. As the holidays raced in, I found I didn't have as much time to play with glass. I picked a black crested titmouse because I have several visiting my bird feeder right now. They are perky and cute.
The end result seemed a little more squat and less cheerful than the photo.
But I thought it looked fine on the tree with the others.
Merry Christmas and IO SATURNALIA!
Since I had received my order of 2 inch circle mirrors, I had to make a few more using this size. I ended my last post with the three mirrors I had made framing patterns on. Romans liked birds as do I so I decided to keep the bird theme going. I sketched out three birds--two repeats, the chickadee and wren, and a black crested titmouse. But more on him next time.
I decided to work on the chickadee first. This is the photo I was working from:
One of the biggest problems I am having is making an eye that is so small and somehow distinguished from the surrounding black. I used purple glass but I know you cannot tell. In addition, I think his head is a bit too flat but I didn't want to tear up the glass and redo it. I could live with it. This is what the ornament looked like before I cleaned all the excess glue.
He looks better on the tree.
Here he is with the first chickadee:
I turned my attention to the wren next. They are such cheeky little birds. Here's the photo I was working from.
I started with the thin branches and buff chest/stomach.
In the end I realized that this little wren, which I really like, was based on the same photo as the first one. To make it look different, I turned it on an angle when gluing the string on the back.
And here he is with his fellow wren:
And the black crested titmouse will have to wait for next post. It is the ultimate (last) ornament, with the chickadee being the antepenultimate and the wren being the penultimate. As a Latin teacher, I had to use those words. I couldn't stop myself.
After the wren and chickadee, I ordered 2 inch round mirrors because I thought that the square ornaments looked a little awkward on my tree. My son had requested a hedgie ornament, so I started looking for a picture online that I thought might work.
I was interested in the idea of this hedgie with flowers, but didn't like the composition at the time. (Admittedly it looks fine now!)
I did like the composition of this hedgie with a watermelon slice, but didn't think a melon would work for a Christmas ornament.
So I combined the two, taking the flower from one and the sitting hedgehog from the other.
I made the frame first, then added the grass and the flower.
It took me a couple of tries to get the hedgie on because I wasn't getting the proportions correct. In retrospect, I think I made it too small. I added a little butterfly to help fill the space. It's a little more cutesy than I would like, but my son approved.
When the 2 inch circles arrived, I immediately started to edge one while I pondered what to do first. I don't know why I chose the light blue glass, but I did. And as I edged the circle, I started thinking of water.
So I looked at heron pictures again. I wanted one with a fish and finally found one that I thought could work.
In the end, I think I was trying to squeeze too much into the 2 inch circle. I also didn't seem to get the glass as snug together as I thought. Sometimes the angle of the light keeps me from seeing this while I'm gluing. Also, it looks a little chubby--more like an ostrich!
I'm glad I included the fish, even though I flipped it around from how it is in the photo.
But cleaned up and polished, I think they look fine on the tree, so I'm satisfied.
In the meantime, I decided it was time to experiment with more interesting borders for the circles than just a line of tesserae. So here are three new borders... what will go in these?
With Christmas around the corner I am madly trying to make ornaments, trying to see what works and what doesn't. While I want to get back to doing the little quarter size ornaments, I wanted to see what a couple of the 2 inch square ornaments would look like with open spaces (not completely tiled) and without grout. The cardinal and even the dove look a little dark on the tree.
I also wanted to practice on simple border patterns. There's not much room for a proper mosaic border (Roman style, in my mind) on something this small, but I could manage a little something.
(This was a picture from when the glue was still drying.) If the pieces weren't all hand cut, it might be easier to fit them in. Even still, I am pleased with this frame.
As you can see, I had sketched out the wren and then started choosing or cutting glass to fit.
I also had made a blue frame with a perhaps odd pattern going around.
Because this frame was so colorful, I thought I would contrast it with a black and white chickadee.
I sketched out the chickadee in an upside down perch, which I thought looked fun, and began to cut glass.
I think the end result is fun. He may be my best bird yet. It's a shame you cannot see that his eye is actually made from purple glass. It is surrounded by the black and doesn't show.