Posted on Leave a comment

Urban Raptor

One of our artists lives by the Los Angeles River. This week some wildlife (unrestrained by quarantine travel restrictions) came to visit. Here is her account of the Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) that lives on her street.


A few weeks ago I was FaceTiming with friends while walking to the mailbox, when something big and silent flew right over my head. My jaw dropped. It had a long narrow tail like a falcon– I knew it wasn’t a Red Tailed Hawk. I decided to do some Birding from Home and see if I could catch sight of this elusive newcomer again.

In the morning, I sat on the porch with my coffee and kept a keen eye out. I noticed a huge crowd of little birds. Aside from a noisy pair of mockingbirds, there are Cedar Waxwings, mourning doves, fighty little hummingbirds, bright yellow Western Tanagers, phoebes, sparrows, and even blackbirds. I kept coming back at 7:45, but no hawk.

One morning, I slept in a little bit, and came outside to an eerily quiet street. Aside from the constantly noisy mockingbirds, the other little birds were being veryyyyy quiet. Interesting. Someone must be hunting… I took a seat and waited.

..and finally spotted a Cooper’s Hawk!

Over the next few weeks I kept coming out to check on my new neighbor, but she was too good at social distancing!

Finally I got my chance.

I couldn’t believe she was perched so close by.

Then I tried to get closer by taking pictures *through* the binoculars, with interesting results!

Looks like I shot it with a Holga! 

Here you can see how the head shape is so different from a Buteo (Red tails and Red-shouldered). Tiny little beak! Long, narrow tail. Amazing flat top hair style!

These pictures don’t do justice to her deep amber eyes, which have a fierce red gleam in the sunlight.

Accipiters are known for their agile hunting style. Unlike Red Tails who drop down suddenly on their prey from above, Accipiters often hunt in wooded areas, turning tightly around trees to pursue small birds.

My neighbor was perched with one foot lifted, looking around and listening carefully. Suddenly she launched herself from the branch and wheeled around to silently dispatch some unlucky squawking thing in the next tree over, which sadly I couldn’t see!

Stay tuned for updates on this fascinating neighbor. And remember–be like the Cooper’s Hawk and practice social distancing!

Posted on Leave a comment

OGRs in the Garden

Ogres are fairy tale creatures, meant to scare the listener or reader with their fearsome looks or behavior. A charming exception to this image are the movie characters, Shrek and Fiona.

To a rose lover and history buff an OGR is an Old Garden Rose! Generally, these are roses that were known to cultivation prior to 1867, at which point the first Hybrid Tea rose, “La France” was introduced. This was the beginning of modern Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Grandifloras, Miniatures and Shrub roses.

Old roses existed in Europe long before but were generally once-blooming per year. These include the Alba, Centifolia, Damask, Gallica and Moss roses. The famous “Apothecary’s Rose” or “Red Rose of Lancaster” is a Gallica.

In the late 1700’s there was fierce competition by explorers, collectors and botanists (plant scientists) to bring back the newest and rarest of botanical “finds” from their distant travels. In the mid 1790’s several China roses made it to Europe causing a sensation with their ability to be ever-blooming. One of the botanists active during 1843- 1861 was named Robert Fortune. He worked in China, Japan and Taiwan collecting some 250 plant species.

Fortune’s Five Colored Rose (before 1844) also known as Smith’s Parish (red), rediscovered in Bermuda in the 1960’s.

Once China Roses (and “Tea-scented China Roses”) were introduced, their ability to bloom multiple times per year brought them into breeding programs resulting in the Bourbon, Hybrid Perpetual, Noisette and Hybrid Tea roses.

Rosette Delizy a charming Hybrid Tea Rose with tea fragrance. Nabonnand, 1922
Monsieur Tillier, lovely multicolored Hybrid Tea rose of salmon, pale pink and purple. Berniax, 1891

Bermuda Mystery: Priscilla’s Rose, found in the garden of Priscilla Brewer

Lovers of OGR’s and Antique Roses know that rare or varieties thought to be extinct can be found in surprising places like old homesteads, very old church grounds, towns and countries with a long, sea-faring history such as Bermuda. Bermuda Mystery Roses include candidates for “Hume’s Blush”, locally known as “Spice”, “Slater’s Crimson China”, locally known as “Belfield” and five others.

Bermuda Kathleen (a sport of Mutabilis) on left; Mrs. B. R. Cant and Mons. Tillier at center; Bermuda Trinity at right.

Older roses have a soft charm to them, are scented, and are remarkably care-free; requiring little pruning, are hardy and remarkably disease-resistant. Organic rose gardening is a balancing act, allowing beneficial insects, using compost tea, mulching with compost, amending the soil to feed the plants and the beneficial soil microbes.

My thanks to Antique Rose Emporium, helpmefind.com (rose search), Dave’s Garden, Wikipedia, Monticello.org, Smithsonian.org and the Bermuda Rose Society for their websites and published works. Any omissions or mistakes are my own.

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!

Posted on Leave a comment

The Annunciation in Many Mediums

The spark of inspiration, combined with artistic skill and patronage by wealthy families or the Church are often the “back story” to many of the world’s great art pieces.

On a trip to Italy, we amused ourselves by capturing the many attitudes and poses of Mary and the Angel as we toured museums.

I’m particularly fond of the story of the Annunciation, where an Angel of the Lord visits a young woman, saying, “Hail, Mary!” Here, I found that angels can have multicolored wings.

As we are avid readers, we were laughing to see how Mary is often seen reading. Sometimes she is surprised, or annoyed, or turning away from the interruption.

Annunciation, Alesssandro Filipepi, called BOTTICELLI c.1489-90 Tempera on wood

The earliest examples we saw of the Annunciation were done as fresco (pigments painted into wet plaster on walls) or egg tempera (pigments bound with egg yolk and/or egg white) on animal skin parchment or painted on wood panels. We were astonished to see how brilliant the egg tempera was even though 600 years had passed!

Only in the later Italian Renaissance were the pigments bound in oil medium, usually upon a ground of gesso on panels or canvas. In contrast to the tempera, some of the oils had darkened. Or, reactions had set up between the lime in the fresco and the pigments themselves.

Annunciation, Alessandro Allori, Firenze, c.1603, Oil on canvas.

In most of these and other paintings of Mary, her gown and robe are painted in the most valuable and expensive pigments of the day. Both she and the angel (and a dove) may have haloes of gold, are surrounded by gold leaf or by rays of shell-gold paint. Great care was taken in depicting her surroundings, whether she is kneeling, sitting by a tapestry, or architectural elements- the artist used the “newest” style of perspective.

Our sincerest thanks and appreciation go to the fine art museums of Italy especially in Rome, The Vatican, Florence and Venice for their exceptional collections and efforts to maintain and restore these treasures for future generations to enjoy!

At Ancient Earth Pigments we strive to make sure that the pure pigments we sell are as versatile as possible. In the individual descriptions of each pigment, you can read whether it will be suitable for the medium you use, today, or the type of art you wish to learn in the future! Families of artists or friends can share a stock of pigments, each artist mixing with the binder or medium of their choice for their project- be it pastel, fresco, egg tempera, watercolor, gouache, oils, acrylics or even ceramics. One of my teachers is using our pigment to tint the grout around her inlaid turquoise jewelry!

Here is one of my works in progress- “The Annunciation” in egg tempera on sheep skin parchment. I’ve completed Mary’s face and headdress. I’ll deepen the values of her blue gown. The archways and background will be detailed now that I’ve established where I want the dove’s beam of light to fall.

The Angel is sometimes depicted as a child. The Angel’s face has had its under-painting of green shadows. Now, I can add the layers of translucent skin tones on top. Lastly, I’ll define the fingers and hands with stronger highlights and shadows. I’ve also shown some of my favorite tools. Wish me luck!

The above image, copyright Linda D. Nelson, 2020. This image may not be used for any purpose without permission by the artist.
Posted on Leave a comment

Resin Art With Ancient Earth Pigments

Our friend, Heather, makes beautiful resin art, usually with acrylic inks and mica powders. We’ve asked her to create a painting with her choice of Ancient Earth Pigments, to highlight applications of our products. Enjoy her slide show of her process!

Resin Art requires many layers, so the artist needs to be patient and plan ahead for drying time between transparent and translucent layers. The artist must develop a strong sense of design, a very good understanding of values (light to dark), and excellent grasp of color. The artist may choose complimentary colors, a triad of colors, analogous colors, or to neutralize, tint (lighten) or shade (darken) for the best outcome.

The finished piece, “Sea of Dreams”.
All images this page copyright C. Heather Liu, 2020

We at AEP thank Heather for sharing her process with us and her great photos with you. Visit Heather’s Instagram page, where she shows other examples of the art she is doing.

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!