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Author Archives: Harmony

“Shadow”: A New Watercolor Dog and the Search for My Blue Heaven

“Shadow”: A New Watercolor Dog and the Search for My Blue Heaven

 

A couple of weeks ago, back in the dark ages when I had not yet crossed into the light that is forty, I posted a few watercolor-washed backgrounds that were just itching for a dog, cat, or marsupial to inhabit them.

Among them was the bare beginnings of a pup, picked out in gold paint. Here, that pup is finished. Her name is Shadow.

 

"Shadow" loose watercolor dog by Harmony Harrison | from Shadow | www.harmonywithanimals.com

Shadow
watercolor on paper
about 5×7

 

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is the beginning of her painting.

 

The beginnings of "Shadow," loose watercolor dog by Harmony Harrison | from Shadow | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

Notice how much darker Shadow became from her inception to her completion. This darkness, I hope, is not some Anakin-to-Vader effect, but rather my continuing exploration into the depths of blue.

Shadow is done primarily in three colors: nickel-quinacrodone gold (a deep yellow), permanent alizarin crimson (a rich red), and indanthrone blue (which wants to take over the world).

I’m in love with the first two colors — gold and crimson make my heart leap and wiggle — but that blue… that blue… Its presence in the background was very dark, so dark that Miss Shadow eventually transmogrified from a yellow lab into a beautiful black lab, haloed by crimson to help her pop from the dark blue beyond.

So, I’m exploring different combinations of blues with some of my favorite other colors, and the effects of more or less water on the blueishness. Here we go, another peek into the odd scraps of paper from my studio:

 

Exploring watercolor combos | from Shadow | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

Exploring watercolor combos | from Shadow | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

Exploring watercolor combos | from Shadow | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 
 

We’ll see to what Blue Heaven this adventure leads.

Just Russell and me, and puppy makes three
we’re happy in my blue heaven…

 

 

In the meantime, while we wait for the divine to descend with the blue stuff, we have our beautiful Shadow to watch over us with her dark and patient eyes.

 

Detail of "Shadow," loose watercolor dog by Harmony Harrison | from Shadow | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

To all you painters out there: Got a favorite blue — one that is both earthy and, um, sky-y? (Like a manganese blue with a bit more depth, perhaps?) Do share. :-)

 

 

Happy Birthday to Me, and to All You Lovely Glaciers Out There: In which, you will be relieved to know, my life wisdom is not shared

Happy Birthday to Me, and to All You Lovely Glaciers Out There: In which, you will be relieved to know, my life wisdom is not shared

 

 

Today, I’m leaping out on a limb to publicly wish myself a Happy Birthday.

And happy it is: I’m turning forty!

 

Because all kitties need birthday cake! | from Happy Birthday to Me (and to glaciers, of course) | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

 

Though I am tempted to proselytize my profundity with deep and moving thoughts on the past four decades, not to mention the four-plus to come, I’ll rein myself in with this thought:

I have a whole year to inflict this on you, so why waste it all in one day?

And there, my friends, you have my philosophy in a nutshell.

I recently read that the purpose of paint is not to conserve it. That is, you don’t buy gobs and gobs of paint with the sole intent of sparing use, should the Ice Age cometh and you find yourself encapsulated in the frozen stuff, bereft of all watercolors.

Believe me, should an Ice Age flump down, Dick Blick will still be in business, though shipping may have slowed to glacial speed.

So, squeeze the paint out and smear it on. That’s what it’s there for.

But this sage advice does not stop me from mincing out tiny portions of paint onto my palette, the merest smear of crimson, the barest icing of gold.

There are two reasons for this: one, that perhaps I do fear an artless Ice Age, and you will find my survival gear stuffed with odd paint tubes that will have dried to mortar before the apocalypse could sneak up on them, and two, because I am still working out just where the heck on my palette all the pretty colors should go.

So, I am not taking this painterly advice for the nonce, instead smidgening out my streaks of paint and dabbling happily in their watery glow.

I am also ignoring the let-it-all-squeeze-out advice when it comes to doling out my personal wisdom, because I know this for sure: As much as I know now, on this milestone (or glacial scree) birthday, it is still a great big mass of unknowing, and that’s the way I would like it to be.

I was born in this world with a ready-made vocabulary, a pasteurized, processed language, factory installed. My mom says that I didn’t have a first word — when I started speaking, it was in complete sentences.

(With some exceptions: my mom also tells me that I spent my toddler years chasing cats down hallways, arms outstretched, crying “Leedle leedle leedle!”*)

* “Kitty kitty kitty!” But then again you already
knew that, as you, too, once spoke toddlerese.

My point, which I just remembered, is that it is very easy for me to hide behind language — writing and talking — that cascade of symbols representing direct experience. Rather than allowing my real life experience to sink into my bones — or, better yet, to rise up from those bones and dance — I am skilled at diving into abstraction and explanation, at which language excels.

Today, I don’t want to do that.

So, I am forgoing the blogger’s tradition of sharing my deeper thoughts with you on this great big birthday — but you ain’t out of the woods just yet.

Watch out for the rise of reflections in the future — say, Creature from the Deep Thoughts Lagoon, or Attack of the Killer Musings, or Wisecrack 9 from Outer Space.

But have no fear: Despite my threat of lashing the whip of B-movie doom, all proposed wisdom-dispensing will be couched in the comforting fluff of the animals.

Or in the paint tubes. Whichever comes first.

In the week before my husband and I took our recent trip up to see my family (who threw me a birthday party; hello, how awesome is that? Thanks guys!), I was, as you probably know, rather wobbly with a weird bouquet of thyroid symptoms, most notably utter exhaustion.

This added up to some seriously sedentary days. What better way to be sedentary than with a massive block of chocolate word processor at my side?

As I avoided the endless tasks of trip preparation, most notably scaling the tall, alpine peaks of the Laundry Range, no doubt carved by the last Ice Age, I wrote. A lot. I wrote in a strange fervor, pounding away on the keyboard until my tiny purple tablet cried Uncle and demanded to be recharged.

This went on for three days. In the end, flushed and panting, I had written 7500 words of a short ebook, most of these words in coherent order, and all of them about dogs.

Well, about dogs and their little-known area of expertise: Overcoming creative blocks.

I know! It totally makes sense.

Now, this tiny book is chock full of life lessons. I expect each one of you to hoard a copy in your survivalist bunkers, for the next time you and your loved ones are threatened by glacial crawl.

Glaciers aside, my birthday gift for you is this book. Except you can’t have it. Because it’s not done yet. So, to celebrate my birthday, you get this: a lick and a promise.

The lick is from a Dog Blog Clown.

 

Because you know you want to be licked | from Happy Birthday to Me (and to glaciers, of course) | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

 

And the promise is from me.

Over the summer, I will be revising the ideas in this tiny book, and in the autumn, when the wild geese ride the north winds and the maple leaves spin in a flurry of pre-election jitters, my dogs and I will present this gift to you.

Or, if I get totally sidetracked (like, if you crack so many jokes at me that I erupt in delirious bliss and I find myself afloat for months on end), it’ll be a Birthday-Christmas present.

Or, if a year accidentally passes, as they often accidentally do, a Birthday-Christmas-Birthday present.

You know how it goes. This is why gift cards were invented.

Now, to sign off. It has been a whirligig of a year. I’m grateful to have lived it. I’m grateful that you’ve been part of it. And I am grateful for all of this ding-dang life.

Happy birthday to all, and to all a good night.

 

 


 

P.S. Want to read some actual, real-life, deep and loving reflections on turning forty? Visit my blogging friend Naomi here. (To Naomi: “Ditto.”) :-)

 

 

Some Background and Some Backgrounds: Where I’ve been, how I’ve been, and a little bit of paint swished on paper

Some Background and Some Backgrounds: Where I’ve been, how I’ve been, and a little bit of paint swished on paper

 

 

Mystery watercolor background: Could it become a cat, a dog, or...? | from Background and Backgrounds | www.harmonywithanimals.com

Mystery Background
What will it become?

 

 

For all those who are following my thyroid saga (here and here), thank you for all the great words of support. I’ve gotten emails and comments from so many wonderful people I’m grateful to call friends. I’m savoring all your comments one by one right now. Thank you. ♥

Soon we’ll have a little party where we name that nameless dog. But first, a bit of background on the past week or so…

Last weekend, my husband and I road-tripped it to the Seattle area to celebrate my upcoming birthday with my extended family. This trip was very short — three days, two of which were spent ensconced in the car, hurtling up and then back down I-5.

I was (and still am) in my thyroid flummox, exhausted and worried. As lovely as the trip was, and as wonderful as it was to see and hug so many brothers and sisters and nephews and friends, and parents of all variety, I felt very anxious to return home.

See, thyroid problems wake up anxiety, my erstwhile roommate. I was in tizzy of worry about our cat Tucker, who was diagnosed last year with renal failure. I wanted to zoom back home as fast as possible to be with my kitty (and also to rest — which I need to do a lot when my thyroid’s out of whack).

 

 

Orange kitty head bump | Tucker and Harmony | from Background and Backgrounds | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

 

Need I have worried? No. Tucker was happy as a peach pie on a windowsill. He had excellent care from his auntie, Bojo’s mom. After all of our work on Tucker’s behalf — nutrition, vet care, fluids, energy work, animal communication, and more — our boy is starting to get more mentally flexible in his old age. Who’da thought?

But all kitties aside, one of the trip’s highlights for me was passing my phone around to share with family the paintings that I’ve published here on the blog.

After years of creative blocks (most of which I haven’t written about here yet, but will), it feels great to share my creativity with a grounded sense of assurance. You could call it assurance in my talent, or in the merit of my work, but it’s not.

It’s assurance in me. 

Family relationships are challenging, as most of us know, but in the moments when I passed the phone to one of my horde of siblings, or zoomed in on a painting to show a dog’s eyes in their beauty, I felt peaceful, proud, and creatively alive.

Perhaps this is one of the ways that we know we have found our true work — or perhaps it only comes when we’ve also done a lot of inner work. When that sense of peace, satisfaction, and quiet pride rises up from within, you know you’re on to something.

Speaking of being onto something…

 

Mystery watercolor background: Could it become a cat, a dog, or...? | from Background and Backgrounds | www.harmonywithanimals.com

Another background, soft and quiet…

 

 

Whenever I travel, no matter how short the trip, I schedule at least one day of complete rest afterwards. In the years before I was diagnosed hypothyroid, I had such a high need for rest that I eventually could only work half-time, and then, as the condition progressed, almost not at all. So I’ve come to respect rest. Rest is Queen.

In my resting time after last weekend’s trip, in the rare moments when I peeled myself away from the couch and obscure websites about P.G. Wodehouse, I wandered upstairs to putter about in my studio. Here, surrounded by cats and dogs and windows out to the trees, I swished paint across wet paper to make backgrounds for paintings-to-be.

Rather than share a finished painting with you today, I’m sharing a few of these backgrounds, with all their questions and possibilities. What will take shape on them? Something furry this way comes…

 

Mystery watercolor background: Could it become a cat, a dog, or...? | from Background and Backgrounds | www.harmonywithanimals.com

 

 

And then, of course, because I just couldn’t help but bring another dog into the world, I started to paint a little more…  Here’s a background, a work in progress, where a dog has just started to show her shape. Find her eyes, and you’ll see what she’ll become.

 

 

Mystery watercolor background: Can you see the dog emerging from it? | from Background and Backgrounds | www.harmonywithanimals.com

Spot the eyes or the nose, and you’ve got her made.
Work in progress

 

 

Again, thank you for all your love and support! I can’t wait to show you these paintings when the animals emerge from their splashes of background color.

 

 

 

The Dog Blog Clowns Ride Again! While My Thyroid and I Sneak Off to a Corner to Sleep

The Dog Blog Clowns Ride Again! While My Thyroid and I Sneak Off to a Corner to Sleep

    Every now and then, something happens in my life or on this blog that requires the presence of clowns. Not just any clowns, but Dog Blog Clowns.         The Dog Blog Clowns are like rodeo clowns, but for bloggers. When things fall apart, they ride in to distract us while I call for a clean-upContinue Reading

Oh No! Another Nameless Dog! (a.k.a., Name That Pup) (A post in which I am not as wordless as I make myself out to be)

Oh No! Another Nameless Dog! (a.k.a., Name That Pup) (A post in which I am not as wordless as I make myself out to be)

    My last week has been packed tight, which earned me the American Badge of Honor for Extraordinary Busyness. (Note: apparently, you’re no one in our culture if you do not bear this badge. Want mine?) The result has been odd — a strange, burbly wordlessness — the feeling that, at the end of theContinue Reading

Intuition and Paint and Birthdays, Oh My! Exploring the connection between intuition and art (with our party hats firmly in place)

Intuition and Paint and Birthdays, Oh My! Exploring the connection between intuition and art (with our party hats firmly in place)

  It’s birthday season here. A couple of weeks ago, I painted Two for You — two loose watercolor dogs on canvas — for my sweetheart to celebrate his birthday. Just this past weekend, my sister-in-law’s birthday popped up — and my own (fortieth!) is soon to come. (Want to see what I made my sweetie’s sister lastContinue Reading

“Two for You”: Celebrating my Sweetie’s Birthday with Two New Dogs (of the painted variety) and a Tropical Storm Named “Carrot Cake”

“Two for You”: Celebrating my Sweetie’s Birthday with Two New Dogs (of the painted variety) and a Tropical Storm Named “Carrot Cake”

    This week was my sweetheart Russell’s birthday. My gift to him was dogs. Watercolor dogs, of course.       He unwrapped his gift on the couch before a recently-blazoning carrot cake (more on the carrot cake later). When he pulled the canvas from the gift bag (more on the gift bag later), his faceContinue Reading

The Ridiculous Strikes Back! Two Acts of Artsy Silliness Revealed (plus a possible third, if you dare)

The Ridiculous Strikes Back! Two Acts of Artsy Silliness Revealed (plus a possible third, if you dare)

    Ridiculous the First In last week’s episode, you joined the intrepid artist as she revealed her serious side. Turns out I can’t be serious for too long at a stretch. This is what recently happened:       From across the room, this kitty looks like she’s underwater, hunting, of course, for sardines. I’mContinue Reading

And Now for Something Completely Different: In Which My Art Gets Un-Ridiculous

And Now for Something Completely Different: In Which My Art Gets Un-Ridiculous

      This dog. I painted her.     ***I just learned that this painting looks crazy-red on some tablets and phones. It’s gold in real life and on my computer monitor. Still learning the ropes of image scanning.***   Now back to our regular programming…   I had attempted an accurate rendition ofContinue Reading

Loose Kitties of the Night, and Other Weird Stuff from My Studio

Loose Kitties of the Night, and Other Weird Stuff from My Studio

The earth rumbled. The studio shook. And piles of paper fell with a deafening whump to my paint-speckled floors. So I have a bit of a filing issue. Case in point: When I was in college, I filed every paper that passed through my hands by shoving it under my bed. This would have workedContinue Reading

 
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The Beginner's Guide to
Animal Wisdom

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