10 June 2007

My Dear Stupid Neighbors

I decided that I needed a day off from doing art, so I took one. Part of the reason had to do with finishing up one portrait, trying to get new stuff done for eBay, and getting ready to start on a new portrait. I basically just needed a break from it all.

And the other part of the reason is my stupid neighbors. Yes, stupid, stupid, and stupid. At about 9:30pm I looked out my window and saw flames shooting up about 20 feet. I looked again and saw no one around. So, I called 911 (as did 5-7 other people). As soon you could hear the sirens on the fire trucks, my dear neighbors rushed out to put out the fire and then turned off all their house lights. As it happened, there was also a house fire about that time so the fire department was diverted.

So, once the fire trucks were gone, they were back out with a roaring fire going. So, I (and several other neighbors) called 911 again. The trucks stopped on their way back from the other fire. According to one neighbor with a scanner, the stupid neighbors had no permit for open burning and were told to have a smaller fire.

And a bit after the firemen left, they were building the fire up again. Since I was told on the previous call to call back if the fire restarted, I called 911 again. And then I got a visit from the fire chief, who was now stationed out here to watch the fire. According to him, they had a valid permit and were cooperative, so nothing would happened to them.

Well, being the paranoid person that I am, I stayed up until 1:30am and watched the goings on, just to be sure. (Hey, I have too many pets to evacuate with 2 minutes notice!) I also spent the time talking to the neighbor with the scanner. According to her, on the next call to 911, the sheriff was to be sent out and the stupid neighbors were to be cited.

This is where the story gets interesting. This morning, scanner-lady talks to a couple of firemen and they say there was no valid burning permit, a permit would allow them to burn things from 11am to 2pm (not 11:30 pm!), and the permit required them to call the fire department before they started any fire.

So, the question I and several others have is why weren't these people cited last night? Why were they allowed to continue until 1:30am?! Who's lying -- the firemen or the fire chief?

To people who live outside the West, this may seem to be blown out of proportion. And if I still lived in Iowa, I probably would never have called the fire department. But, here, things are very different. We have not had measurable rain since about March 2006. The vegetation is VERY dry. One tiny ember can start a huge fire in no time. For those that have read this blog last year, you will recall the huge fire (37,000 acres) and my evacuation which started from a few embers. And since my dear neighbors have a record of stupidity (scrape their yard and then complain about the blowing dirt?!), I do not trust them with any fire.

So, after staying up until 1:30am and then getting up at 5:30am (thanks to my cats), I'm not at my best. Even the nap I took doesn't seem to have helped all that much. I just hope I'll be able to get to sleep tonight and we won't have round 2 of stupidity!!! After all, I have lots of art to do tomorrow.

08 June 2007

Father's Day Portrait

Well, here it is -- the portrait for Father's Day that I was working. I'm actually pretty proud of me. Not only did it come out quite well, but I got it done in record time and ahead of schedule. YEAH for me!

As I said, the portrait is one of my better ones. Part of the appeal is the photo -- it's so loving. People sometimes don't think about how a photo really looks -- instead they think only that it is a picture of Uncle Bob. Well, not every photo makes a great portrait. For example, a 3/4 view is better than head on and not using a flash is preferable.

I also think I did a pretty job with it. The photo was lightly blurred since it was digital -- that is, when I got out my hand-lens to see the detail, all I saw was pixels. The hands were especially problematic, but after doing some hand studies in front of the mirror, I think I got them right. I also had to carefully balance the girl's light pink sweater with her father's dark blue shirt. I ended up darkening the former and lightening the latter.

One of the things I recently announced in my newsletter is that I'm only going to work on 1-2 commissions each month. (This will allow me time to do my art and still do some portraits.) I had two lined up for June, but when I saw the photos for one, I told the client I needed better ones. This worked out well, since I got an 'emergency' commission. So, now, I'm taking a day or two off from portraits before I start on the next commission. The next one up is a horse, cowboy, and cow in pastel. This should be quite fun!!!

06 June 2007

New Postal Rates

As everyone knows, the USPS raised their rates recently. Even I knew that. What I didn't know was how screwy they made all the other rates. For example, in March, I mailed an artcard in a padded envelope with a piece of cardboard in it (to prevent them from bending it) for $0.54. I mailed the same thing yesterday for....$1.13. Why? Two reasons. First, any padded envelope is a 'chunky' piece of mail (over 1/4" thick) and so is a parcel. Second, any envelope, padded or not, which contains something rigid, such as heavy cardboard, is a parcel. Thus, a 5x7 padded envelope which weighed 1 oz is now a parcel and ships for $1.13.

But that's not all. The same envelope mailed to Europe or Australia costs.... $0.90. Overseas, it goes as an airmail letter and not a parcel. You don't know how much a relief that is because they have now virtually eliminated air parcels, so parcels mainly have to go by Priority which starts at $20 or so.

Can someone explain this to me???

I have a couple of items to mail and I'll seem how much they cost. I'm really worried about sending cnavses since they are light weight but bulk so there's some new rate just for big, light items. If it starts getting ridiculous (or more so), I'll start shipping things by DHL or UPS.

What I find really interesting is that the USPS recently sponsored a 'class' on how to sell things on eBay at the local community center. I have known there is some connections between USPS and eBay since there are special eBay Priority boxes, but this is getting a bit too cozy for me. I can only imagine how much money eBay sells generate in terms of postage for USPS and now they want more? If they keep raising their rates (just like eBay does), the USPS may be surprised by the number of sellers switching to other shippers.

04 June 2007

It's 100!

The first time each year when the temperature hits 100 is always a bit of a surprise. 100 is hot, even in the shade, and especially when the highs had been 85-90. But give me a month, when it's 110, and I'll be saying how cool 100 is. It's just a matter of getting used to the heat.

While I was a bit hot at times today, I did manage to get a fair amount of work done. I made a few corrections to the dog portrait. I am about half done with the Father's Day portrait. And I finished an oil artcard. I do kind of wish I had time to work on my sculpture, but I've decided to be a bit more disciplined and get all portraits done ASAP. Besides, I'm not used to the heat yet and I would die if I went out and worked in a respirator at 2 pm.

One nice thing about the heat is that oils dry faster! Here's my latest artcard:

This bald eagle has good points and bad points. First the bad. The pose looks awkward eventhough it's really how the bird looked. Then I don't like the white feathers under the beak -- they look off, but I never could figure out why so I couldn't correct them. Now the good. I like the bright sunshiny white head. I did a great job on the eye and beak. I like the textured surface. Overall, it's fine -- not one of my best, but pretty good. It was, afterall, an experiment on using thin 'washes' of oil paints. I usually like a nice thick paint layer, but this was done almost like a watercolor. It came out well enough that I do plan on doing this technique with some larger pieces!

01 June 2007

Show and Tell

Well, I finished a couple more things, including the one portrait commission from way back when, and I actually got them all scanned in. So, tonight we are having show and tell!

First up, is the portrait commission:

This dog was done in oil on canvas as part of a demonstration for my website. I don't know whether it was that or just the problems of doing a black dog, but I had a hard time getting it done. I know I wanted it to be perfect, so I probably was trying too hard. At last, I just to hell with it and finished it off. As you can see, I don't think it turned out too badly. I still have to send it to owner and hope she's not totally pissed off at me!

Next is a pink waterlily:

This is just a small 5x7 oil on canvas of a pink waterlily. What I was more interested in was the water, the highlights on the water, and the lily leaves, but I didn't figure anyone would be interested in just leaves and water. So, I also included a flower. Why did I have to pick a pink flower??? Here's a little secret -- getting certain pink flowers to look realistic is tough, very tough. Normally, you have to mix white, permanent rose, and a bit of yellow to get the light areas. And then to get the dark, ... well, I've never figured that out for sure. If you add blue, you get a dirty purple. If you add black, it turns brownish. If you add purple, it turns brownish. I usually just keep adding layer upon layer until it's right. One of these days, I will figure out pink shadows!

Then a ruddy duck art card:

This is just a quick watercolor painting of a ruddy duck. Again, I was looking more to learn about the water and it's reflection than the duck. Although, I am rather fond of ruddies. The are just so perky. One of these days, when I have nothing else to do, I will do a larger version of this and I may even carve a ruddy duck decoy. (For those that want to see either of these, come back in about a year!)

That's it for now.