Forestry Friday … New Forestry Picture Book Project!

drawing, pencil,children's book, illustration, forestry

Preliminary sketch of Timber cover art in pencil.

Mary and I are collaborating on a new forestry picture book. We are deeply into the thick of the process. Our original forestry book, Forests, Trees and Woodcame out in 1993. It’s now out of print and this new book will take it’s place, (Red Tail Publishing 2016).


Testing the Waters

I’m working on a project that required a new technique. If you followed my last several posts, you’ll know what technique I’m talking about. I did a mixed media illustration in which I completed the pen and ink portion, then soaked and stretched the illustrated paper.

Test sheet, pen and ink, watercolor, watercolour

Test sheet.

I didn’t do this without testing my inks first. I took nearly every ink pen that I had available for drawing and wrote with it on a piece of watercolor paper. This included some color inks too. The refillable inks used were Platinum Carbon Black in the Yuketake Brush Pen, and the Pentel brand ink in the Pentel Brush pen. I put down the brand and type/size as my test lines. Then I soaked and stretched the paper. I dabbed off the excess water and let the paper dry. All inks came through the stretching without running. You can see the process in

I selected three watercolor brushes to use for painting over the lines. First I applied Viridian with a 1/2″ flat brush, fairly gently. No problem with running here. Next I applied Cadmium Red with a #12 round. I swirled in the paint without incident. Finally, I applied Cadmium Yellow with a stipple brush. I scrubbed it in with the stiff bristles. I fully expected the ink lines to degrade. It didn’t happen. All the pens I tested proved acceptable.

You may wonder, why not just draw it out after the paper is stretched. It’s just my preference. I like drawing detailed pen and ink on a firm surface. I also like a drawing board I can handle wherever I choose. The stretched watercolor paper is fairly firm, but I like a firmer surface for drawing. I also like having all my pencil guide lines erased before soaking. Erasing can put more pressure on the paper and I don’t like doing it on a stretched surface. Also, soaked pencil lines are very difficult to erase after they’ve been soaked and dried. Once the ink drawing is done I erase the pencil. This is why I decided to try soaking and stretching after the pen and ink was complete.

Forestry Friday … Steam Donkey WIP

This huge steam engine has waited silently for years. Seasons passed, leaves turned, and its only visitors were the wild creatures paying it no attention.

steam donkey, Willamette steam donkey,Willamette Iron Works, logging, logging history

The Willamette Steam Donkey. Photo courtesy of Mark Lathrop.

Steam donkeys were the cutting edge technology for powering logging operations a hundred years ago. Serving as yarders, they brought logs to the landing. They were the loaders, too. These huge machines provided any heavy lifting that needed to be done. Steam donkeys replaced horses and oxen for moving logs.

Steam Donkey, pen and ink, drawing, pen, pen & ink, watercolor, watercolour, logging

Steam Donkey work in progress.

I’m doing a mixed media watercolor painting of this steam donkey for a forestry education fund-raising auction. The auction will be held at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference coming up in February. You can follow the progress on this piece in my future blog posts. I’m using a Canson Bright White 90 lb hot press cotton paper. I sketched out my pencil guide and am inking. I’m inking with a brand new Lamy All-Star extra fine point pen.

steam donkey, Willamette steam donkey,Willamette Iron Works, logging, logging history

Mark at the historic site.

The pictures were taken by my friend, Mark, who has graciously given me permission to use them for this project. He had the awesome duty of leading a team of historians to the donkeys to record the site. Keep following for more on the story behind this steam donkey.

una coppia di setter irlandesi per augurare a tutti buona domenica

Here is a rendering of Blitz and Teka by another artist, Gabriarte. It was from a photo of the girls in the previous post. Thanks G!

Disegni & Ritratti

copia di setter irlandesischizzo a matita

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This Forester’s Bliss

Mary aka, Sneaking Bliss, loves writing about bliss.  Today she is celebrating a birthday and a big one at that.  Some birthday bliss is just what she deserves.

The Backdoor Artist, Mary, portrait

A little sketch I did of her while preparing to do a watercolor portrait.

Thinking about the day that she entered the world makes me reflect on the bliss she has brought me and so many others.  It is difficult to sum up all the experiences we have shared together.  Sometimes the journey has been like a bullet train moving way to fast leaving us wondering where the time went.  Other times it was like a wagon train head West, a difficult journey, but full of spectacular sights and hope for the future.  I’ve loved the journey with her.

Mary digging for gold.

Mary digging for gold.

It is your birthday today Mary, but I feel like the one who has been given a great gift.  Thank you for being my bliss.  Happy Birthday and I love you.

“If they gave me a fortune my pleasure would be small.  I could lose it all tomorrow and never mind at all, but if I should lose your love dear I don’t know what I’d do. For I know I’ll never find another you.”

The Seekers – Tom Springfield

I’ll Never Find Another You

Mary with gold

Come Hang Out With Us


Publishing Birdies and Beasts

Replay the Fun
The Backdoor Artist and I joined Mark Mitchell of
Make Your Splashes, Make Your Marks
You’re Invited to replay the Free  Q&A

RECORDED June 20, 2013
Publishing Birdies and Beasts

Mark Mitchell, illustrator extraordinaire and proprietor of Make Your Marks, Make Your Splashes Illustration Course  Interviewed Mary Livingston, The Backdoor Artist, and me Thursday, June 20, 2013.


The Blind Date – His Side

watercolor, watercolour, sketch, portrait

Mary has always been my favorite subject.  I painted this just after we were married.

Thirty years ago today Mary and I were married.  After all this time I would still choose her.  I am a lucky fella.  This is the story of how we began.  Mary wrote her version of events and it is posted on her blog Sneaking Bliss.  Read them both and enjoy.

drawing, pencil, sketch, portrait

An early sketch I made of her when we were just dating.

Greg was a friend from high school and junior college.  He called me up because he had a favor to ask.  We met at my folk’s house for lunch and that is where he laid it on me.  Greg asked if I had any plans for that night.  I told him I didn’t and then he explained that a mutual friend of ours had broken up with his girlfriend.  Kelly, the girlfriend, called Greg and asked him out on a date.  Greg tried to beg off on it by telling her that he and I already had plans, the big liar.   At that point she told him that she had a good friend at work that wanted to come along and that it would be a double date.  Greg was powerless against her and agreed.  Now, his next problem was to convince me to go with him.  I don’t mind helping out a friend and I wasn’t seeing anyone at the time, but I had never been on a blind date or a double date for that matter.  What could possible go wrong.  A young college guy has standards you know, especially when he doesn’t have a girlfriend.  Greg was a big strapping fella about 6’2” and after a good long while, the sight of him begging me to go was more than I could take, so I finally agreed.  

Kelly and her friend worked at a camera store at the local mall.  That was where Greg and I were to pick them up.  I was dreading the walking into the store and meeting this strange girl that my Dad would probably describe as “pie faced”, not good.   I have five older brothers and they were never going to let me hear the end of it.  Greg and I sauntered on into the store where we were greeted by Kelly.  She called her friend over and introduced us to Mary.  It turned out she was pretty darn cute, but she had a deer in the headlights look about her.  I was thinking that maybe it was going to turn out okay.  We waited while the girls closed the store.  Then it was off to the movies.  We went to see a Charles Bronson movie called “Borderline.”  On a scale of 1 to 10 as a date movie, it was a -2.  Kelly jabbered the entire time and when the date was over I really had not gotten to know Mary.  We dropped her off at her car, an old Triumph Spitfire, and with no kiss goodnight she was out of there.  On a date scale of 1 to 10 it was about a 1, although the bright spot was that Mary seemed nice.

drawing, pencil, sketch, portrait

I did this was from a picture taken of Mary before we met.

I went by the camera store pretty regularly, because my good buddy Terry worked there.  I got to talk to Mary on occasion and decide maybe I should give it another try, but this time without Kelly.  So a few weeks later I ask her out again, and she agreed.  Oh yah, I was a fast worker…not.  This time we were going to an Air Supply concert.  This was a big deal since Redding rarely had major talent showing up in our podunk corner of California. Okay it wasn’t ELO or Arrowsmith, but hey this was Redding after all.  I don’t know what happened next, but somehow Kelly horned her way in, but it didn’t become a double date.  It became a date with Kelly’s best twenty-five friends.  Not the intimate date I was hoping for.  We all went for pizza afterward and it was so noisy that I still didn’t get to have conversation with Mary.  On the date scale it was about a 3. 

It did leave me intrigued with Mary.  I figured the third time’s the charm.  I would ask her out and there was no way in hell Kelly was going to be there.  So about a week later I went by the store and asked her out one more time.  I was going to make sure we would have a chance to get to know each other.  I was on a roll.  No more lolly gagging around.  When I asked her she said “I’m going out with someone else.”  Ouch, I was too late.  She was dating some other guy.  It just wasn’t meant to be.  She had moved on.  I still went by the camera store to meet up with Terry, and I would talk to Mary once and a while.    

Fast forward six months.  There was a birthday party for my friend Wayne at his parent’s house.  They were gone and it was going to get loud.  My brother Pete, friend Rick and I were driving over to Wayne’s house at about 9 pm.  It was a long driveway to the house with rocks like boulders and potholes like moon craters.  It was dark and there was a small car ahead of us.  It was a Spitfire, Mary’s Spitfire.  She was driving so slowly around the potholes and dragging her undercarriage over the rocks.  That car had about 3½“of clearance.  We laughed at the sight of her trying to negotiate that road.  When we all reached the house she gravitated to me, since I was the only person she knew there.  Terry had invited her to the party and he was late.  She was mad a Terry for abandoning her with all these strange people.  Good for me and bad for Terry.  Mary and I finally got that chance to talk and dance.  We were having a great time, to the point that the other girls there were getting a little catty about this female interloper. Not me, I was doing great.  The guys started wrestling, you know show off their manliness.  Rick and I were wrestling team alumni and there was alcohol involved so Rick toyed with his opponents and I just watched. When Terry did finally arrived about two hours later Mary started giving him a dressing down for showing up so late.  After, a little more alcohol Terry challenged her to a wrestling match.  He wasn’t prepared for what happened next.  It was the drunk verses the angry woman, with swearing and pain.  She served up some wup ass!  When she was done with him, he announced that if we thought she was so easy to beat then we should wrestle her.  Then he volunteered me.  She was fired up and ready to wrestle.  I figured well, why not!  Did I mention there was alcohol involved.  She didn’t know I was a wrestler, so I went easy on her.  I didn’t want to humiliate her, but there was no way I was going to let her win.  She was a good sport about it and we enjoyed the rest of the evening.  When it was time for her to leave I walked her out to her car.  She was sitting in her car and we were alone and in the dark.  I leaned over and we kissed.  It was long kiss, a nice kiss, and just the beginning of many more kisses.   

Happy anniversary honey, I love you.


FIRE At The Mill!

We weren’t expecting to have a fire threaten the mill.  The photos below tell the story.

pencil, sketch, drawing

Firefighters in pencil.

I added this sketch of the firefighters after “Z” at Zeebra Designs called for folks to draw in her post Time Out For Art – YOU CAN DO THIS.  Here you go Z!

The rain has been replaced by wind and dry conditions once again.  Fire returned, only this time instead of in the woods, it was at the mill.  With winds blowing 25 to 30 mph a fire broke out at the mill next door and was being blown right at our site.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters

The fire started next door.

It was all hands on deck.  The crew poured in from all over the plant site to fight the fire.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters

Everybody pitch in.

Hoses were laid and water was flowing onto the fire.  Soon, the regular fire crews arrived on scene.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters

This firefighter is patrolling for spot fires.

We were afraid the fire would spread into the pole stacks, or God forbid, the chip pile.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, fireline

Clearing fireline.

Our dozer was building a fireline in case the fire tried to jump the canal.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck

The logging trucks had to stop while the fire was being fought.

The air tanker arrived ready to drop fire retardant.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck, air tanker, fire bomber

Air tanker

The effort continued on the ground and we held the fire at the edge of our mill site.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck

Eating smoke.

Then the Helicopter arrived with the Bambi Bucket.

Air support.

Air support.

The helicopter was scooping water from the Sacramento River to dump onto the fire.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck, helipoter

Making the drop.

With the spread of the fire was stopped, mop up operations began.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck

Mop up operations.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck, fire engine, mop up

Mopping up is putting out all the smoldering embers.

Our crew moved fast to get water on the fire and the fire department responded quickly.  Together we were able to stop the fire before it could get into our yard.  As a result of everyone’s quick action this wasn’t a big problem for us.  I’m not certain how the neighbors fared, but I think they did okay also.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck

The crew at the other mill were busy battling the fire in their chip pile.

This is just another reminder that we are in for a long fire season this year.

The Return of the Sandhill Cranes

pen and ink, colored pencil, sandhill crane, crane, wildlife, nature, photography, Poison Lake, Ash Creek Wildlife Refuge

Sandhill Crane

The Sandhill Cranes returned to Northeastern California late this Winter.  I have been fortunate enough to see them on several occasions.

crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California

A lone crane feeding at Poison Lake.

crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California

Sandhill Cranes

crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California

Poison Lake

crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California

Cranes with friends.

crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California

Which way do we go?

crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California


crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California

Ruffled feathers

crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California

I think Big Bird must have been a crane.

crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California

Poison Lake

crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California

Sandhill Cranes of Ash Creek Wildlife Area.

crane, Sandhill Crane, Nature, wildlife, photography, California