Shades of Gray

I made an offhand quip yesterday on one of my photographs that here in the midwest, we are truly in the world of ’50 Shades of Gray’ during the winter.  And though I have not read the book or seen the movie so many are discussing of late, the idea of all those varying shades of the color ‘gray’ or ‘grey’ (spelling depending upon where you live) is really one worth thinking about a little more.  And maybe worth fiddling with when one opens one’s paint box this time of year.

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And so I braved the brisk temps and headed outside to take some snapshots.  And to think about this oh-so-gray world in which I currently reside.

There is the gray to be found in a foot print in the snow.  This one maybe by a large dog, who shall remain nameless.  There is some green-ness just under there.  Maybe.  A hint, perhaps.gray 1And the earthy grayness of lichen on the bark of a fallen stick….  gray 2The rabbits seem to dig deeply into the snow with their little feet, creating little indigo spots deep within their prints.  gray 3 Some folks like to show the entire spectrum potential for gray, from darkest near-black, to white.  And a spot of red thrown in, just for show.  Like the right pair of boots in an otherwise monochrome outfit. gray 4I love greeny-gray.  My family and students often tease me that I make up colors that I see.  But I find that there are so many to see.  And not all of them have names.  And perhaps this particular shade of greeny-gray exists only in a certain light and at a certain temperature.  gray 5Sometimes, those who guard the out-of-doors while it rests are those with the most fantastic display of grays.  Perhaps it’s his skin tone that brings out those watchful green eyes, yes?gray 6The grasses are iced over with ice, which in theory has no color.  But when blanketing the golden blades, the gold shines through, making a quality of gray that shimmers with some bits of ochre.gray 7Violet, from red to blue, is a long time friend of the color gray.  At least in my mind’s eye and upon my paint palette.gray 8The skies here, desperate to be blue again, manage a milky white on most days.  A gray, tinged with blue. gray 9Fallen sticks treat us with a rainbow of grays, from the greeny-greens of the lichen to the violet depths of the moist twig itself.gray 10Under all of this frozen snow and winter finery, there are plants, awaiting the spring, which we hope cannot be too far off.  But yet, the greens and golds here aren’t yet alive.  They are wilted with the gray of winter’s waiting.  The color of non-color.gray 11Spring is not far off, for on the forsythia, there is the golden-gray and  of new life ready for a warm snap…gray 12And thanks to the ice, we get a magnified view of their potential….gray 14How do you define and delineate the color that marks this season for you? Stop on over at SketchShare (find us on Facebook and be a part of our group!) and let us know! Because gray is a many colored beast.  gray 16



Deep Winter


I hear there is a movie out called 50 shades of Gray or some such. Perhaps it is about wintertime in the midwest.

It is the dead of winter.  Finally our Ohio Valley is enjoying a proper snowstorm, as I am of the opinion that if it must be cold, at least the snow is nice to look at.  And it is cold.  10 degrees with a cutting wind that makes it feel even colder which is pretty brisk for this area.  The snowflakes aren’t really flakes, so much as tiny biting ice crystals.  My chickens came out to look around this morning when I went to open their coop and feed them.  I haven’t seen them out of doors since, which means they aren’t as dumb as folks might think they are and they are enjoying the day inside looking outside, much as we are here in the house.  I imagine them knitting….

I’ve been back home from Taos for a number of weeks now and have a number of Ginger story drafts going which feels really good.  It hasn’t been full time art and story though. Lots of catching up to do at the shop and around the homestead.  My oldest kidling, a sophomore in college, left to study abroad in Brazil so there was all of that to attend to. (passport, visa, packing, laundry, organizing what’s left behind, vaccinations, etc. etc…) With him off on his Big Adventure, I was at least able to re-claim my studio space which he had occupied since leaving school before the holidays.

Meanwhile, the younger has been in the throes of firming up her own collegiate plans. She is a scientist at heart. An explorer with a heart full of creative curiosity.


science rocks
Long ago we traveled to a far away land where the landscape was still forming and ferns looked like something from the age of dinosaurs. If you’ve not been to New Zealand, I highly recommend it. And yes, the sulphuric smell in the hot pools was pretty intense.

Thankfully, to begin her university studies, she won’t have to venture too far from home as she’s opted to attend The Ohio State University in the fall just up the lane in Columbus.  Alas, I suppose this means we will remain mostly Ohio based for the time being.  Though I could see some part time living here and there happening…. One can dream, yes?

This past weekend we took a tour of the science facilities at OSU and were thrilled with what we encountered! The Geology building featured my kind of architecture which felt very Old World and fraught with legend.  Turns out that the gargoyles are all creatures that exist (or have in the past) in the Real World.

skullMy favorite part of the day’s touring by far was the Insectary and Greenhouses.  Here we encountered some awesome insects (and I mean awesome in the truest sense of the word).  Below is one called Amblypygi which you may recognize from the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  The professor doing this part of the tour called me ‘The Brave One’ for opting to hold any creature available.  AmblypygiThis next one is a Blonde Arizona tarantula.  In spite of her rather intimidating visage, she was really quite sweet.  I have always thought of tarantulas as the Labrador retrievers of the arachnid world. When the kids were growing up we would sometimes visit our long-time veterinarian and friend Dr. Jeff Werwa  for a ‘backstage tour’ where he would show us some of his more interesting pets. One of them was ‘Betty’, his beloved tarantula who eventually died of old age.  She was as big as a dinner plate by then which made this little lovely seem like just a tiny wee thing.  tarantulaOn the very top floor of this building there was a lovely greenhouse where plant scientists grow a huge variety of plants for their research.  In spite of single digit temperatures and gale force winds outside of doors, it was warm and moist inside.  It reminded me of our local Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati where my fellow intrepid sketchers Vanessa and Christina  and I go to draw, especially when the weather is poor.  We did just that last week in spite of all there is to do in our work and with our families.  It is good to take a few hours and sketch together quietly when we can.

The first sketch I did was of a stone sculpture of a monkey hidden in the greenery near a large philodendron.  Vanessa drew the same plant at a different angle which you can see in her post with her sketches.  Krohn 5I love to draw at Krohn.  There are so many little magic spots that are like little worlds in themselves.  In some of the darker, more hidden corners there are sweet little lights which give some ambiance to the underbrush….krohn 8I have sketched at Krohn a lot over the years, often with Christina and Vanessa, and we always come away refreshed from the lovely humidity and the life giving feeling of being near such beautiful, well cared for living creatures.  This time of year these places are even more precious and I am thrilled that my Madeleine will have a place to soak up sunshine, humidity and plant life on a cold winter’s day next year at University.

I’ll leave you here with a few of my older sketches below. There will be more sketching at Krohn, I’m certain.  If you see us there, do say hello and see what we are up to in our books.  Or perhaps, bring your own sketchbook to this jewel in the crown of our fair Queen City.  It’s a great way to really see this magical place.

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