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I think I just got beaten by my own dog

>> Wednesday, March 30, 2011

So, you remember the fundraiser for Spay and Neuter Syracuse, called Pawcasso, that I blogged about a little while back?  To summarize, I donated a print of a painting I did of my dog.  I also donated a painting BY my dog, more specifically, a Basset hound ear painting:

Pawcasso 2011 was a lovely event, and there was an incredible number of pieces that had been donated by human and animal artists alike.  The donated art included paintings, photography, sculpture, prints, pottery, and fabric arts, and some of the contributing artists are extremely talented.  There were plenty of animal artists who contributed, too, including the expected dogs and cats, but also more exotic critters such as an elephant and a penguin.  There were also lots of other donations to the silent auction and raffles, ranging from gift certificates for everything from restaurants to car washes, and beautiful gift baskets. 

The venue was packed to the rafters, which is especially impressive when you consider the price of the tickets. There was barely room to navigate the bidding tables, and trying to do so with any kind of refreshment in your hand was certainly at your own risk of winding up wearing said refreshments.  It was wonderful to see so much community support for such a great organization.  I did plenty of bidding but got out-bid on most of the pieces I wanted.  I did, however, manage to acquire a painting by a humboldt penguin by stalking the bidding table right up to the minute before the silent auction closed:

I love those cute little penguin foot prints!

Simon's piece gave me a run for my money.  For a while the bidding was higher on Simon's painting than on my own.  I watched the bidding sheets with more anxiety than I would like to admit.  Apparently my ego did not want to have my artwork, which I had expended considerable time and effort on, sell for less than ear art by my dog.  I felt so relieved that my piece sold for considerably more in the end. 

Until last week, that is.  I got a call from the folks who sponsored the event to let me know that Simon won the award for "best animal art" for Pawcasso 2011.  *Sigh*.  I think my own dog just out-arted me!

Here's the budding artist, checking out his gift basket.  Too bad he's not a coffee drinker - looks like I shall have to appreciate the goods instead!


Canine Portraits

>> Sunday, March 20, 2011

I finally finished another piece of artwork that I've been working on, off and on, for the last several weeks in my spare moments.  Presenting Toby:

Does he look familiar to anybody?  In case you can't quite place the face, try looking here.  He's faithful friend and walking companion to wonderful Adirondack Naturalist blogger Ellen.  Ellen, thanks so much for the opportunity to draw Toby.  He's just so darn cute!

I have started doing a few commissioned pet portraits here and there, and it's great fun.  After all, my favorite subjects are always critters of one sort or another.  They've been a good challenge, both in how to capture canine personality in pastels, and also in how to work with tricky lighting and angles.  This is Sandy, who I drew a few weeks ago:

Now to go clean all the pastels off my person... oops, and off my keyboard too.


Photographing a Super Moon

>> Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tonight is the "super moon", meaning the moon is full at the same time that is is at the closest point to Earth in its orbit.  I have read it appears about 14% larger and 30% brighter than usual.  The last time we had a super moon was 1993.  And for once, Syracuse had crystal clear skies on the night of an astronomical event.  Hooray!

My husband and I meandered over to Devoe Road, which is one of the high hills in Camillus, west of Syracuse.  I actually watched a lunar eclipse from the top of Devoe Road many moons ago (pardon the pun) with my Dad.  So, when I was trying to think of a good spot to watch and photograph the super moon, Devoe Road popped into my head.

Here's the view, just as the sun was going down behind us:

Apparently it popped into a lot of other people's heads, too, because we had a fair bit of company up there.  Most folks, however, drove up and snapped a few photos and left.  Not one even had a tripod, and most were using a flash.  All found it too chilly to linger.

It turns out we had some deer for company, too, although I didn't realize it until I came home and downloaded the photos.  If you look closely you can see them in this photo, lined up along the tree line:

We also stood for quite some time listening to coyotes howling at the moon.  Truly spine tingling.  How I love that sound!  Someday I hope I get to hear wolves howl at the moon.  I bet its even tinglier.

The moon rose almost at the same time that the sun was setting.  There was still a fair bit of residual light in the sky when the moon first appeared, which made the first few shots somehow less atmospheric than I had envisioned.  We had a lot of trouble with the white balance, and wound up changing the k values, which my husband tells me has something to do with kelvin scale.  It worked, and we finally started to capture the incredible orange color of the moon on the horizon.

As time went on, we got better at fiddling with the settings on the camera, and came up with some really cool photos.  Unfortunately, capturing the texture of the moon, versus the amazing atmosphere of the hills and trees, required different camera settings.  Without photoshopping two shots together, it was one:

Or the other:

As we were contemplating loading back into the car to thaw our completely frozen fingers, a woman pulled up and snapped a few photos, and suggested we go back down the hill toward the Erie Canal, since the moon was reflected in the water.  It turned out to have been a wonderful recommendation, and I got in a few more quick shots before we went home.

Overall, a chilly time, but great fun, and a great learning experience about photographing in low light setting.  I am so glad my husband had the patience to read the user's manual for the D90, and to relay the info to his impatient wife.  Without him, I would probably have been cursing and unable to get any good shots.  So I guess, really, tonight's photos are a joint effort.  Thanks spouse!


Attic Ghoul

>> Saturday, March 12, 2011

For lack of more inspired blog subject matter, I thought I'd post another Rocky update.

Rocky has healed beautifully.  He no longer wears the cone of shame, he's eating well, using litterboxes faithfully (after a few false starts, to the detriment of a now pee-soaked suitcase) and purrs his little brains out whenever anyone visits him in his attic.  His shaved fur is slowly growing back.  He's gained weight, and looks great.  In fact, he's a beautiful cat, in a hulking, no-necker, body-builder sort of way.

He is, no exaggeration, the most affectionate cat I have ever met.  When I say he purrs his little brains out, I mean he purrs so hard he starts cooing, which turns into little cooing meows, because the purring just isn't letting enough enthusiasm out.  He's almost embarrassingly demonstrative.  He has discovered laps, and he nuzzles.  He head butts whatever part of a person he can get to, and writhes around on the floor in pure ecstasy when we focus on petting him.  He has decided, quite simply, that he loves humans and he loves being "owned".  Rocky radiates pure adoration.  It's so cute, and so very lovable, especially since he looks like a tough, battle scarred warrior.

Only trouble is, he wants to stay upstairs in the attic, by himself, forever.

That whole "let's integrate Rocky into our household" thing just isn't happening.  He hates EVERYONE with fur.  He hates the dog, and he really, really hates the other cats.  He seems to have forgotten that he once got along just fine with Tucker and Pippin outside.  Whenever another cat is nearby, either in his attic, or in any other room of the house, whether he's protected in a crate, behind a closed, solid wood door, or free to wander around, he starts growling and hissing and spitting and yowling.  He sounds possessed.  I keep expecting his head to spin around 360 degrees.

The other cats look back at him (or the crate, or the closed door that he's behind) in frank surprise, then eventually hiss back.  Weenie Wednesday weighs in at a delicate 7 lbs, compared with Rocky's 15 lbs of burly, rippling muscle.  Yet after getting hissed and growled at on Monday through our closed bedroom door, she waltzed right up to the door, shot out a sleek, petite black paw right under the door, and ripped a gash in the top of his ginormous hairy foot.  I stared in shock as blood started to ooze out of Rocky's paw.  I could just envision Weenie turning her back on the other side of that door and waltzing away swishing her tail, as if to say, "That's what you're going to get if you're a stinker and hiss at ME."

I escorted Rocky back to his attic solitude where there's no room for footsie under the door.  And then I cut Weenie's claws.

So, we're left wondering if keeping Rocky is going to work after all, or if he really ought to have a new home where's he is the only cat.  Finding a home for an adorable kitten is tough - finding one for a battle-scarred adult male cat who won't share with other pets is even harder.  And making sure it's a good enough home to meet my standards is nearly impossible. 

Yet integration is going to be stressful for everyone.  Our oldest cat, Tucker, who's 10, recently had an unexplained episode of vomiting blood, and shows signs of possible early stages of kidney disease.  I would really like to keep his stress levels down.  Then again, he's endured the introduction of 3 dogs and 5 other cats in the time we've had him, so perhaps I'm not giving him enough credit - you'd think he'd be used to it by now.

We've paid our dues when it comes to integrating aggressive cats before.  Our old cat Max spent six months living in his own room when we first acquired him, because he was violently aggressive.  And after months of work, slow introductions of him to the others, and everyone acquiring a lot of scars, he only ever managed to establish a reluctant and tense understanding with the other pets.  Shall we grit our teeth and batten down the hatches for another long, drawn out attempt at integrating someone who doesn't want to be integrated? 

Sigh.  It's so hard to know what's best for everyone.

For now, I guess he's content enough in his attic.  He kind of reminds me of the ghoul that lived in the Weasley's attic in Harry Potter.  It's a good thing we have a big house.

(Ellen - are you having better luck than I am with your new foundling???)


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