Good To The Last Spot


Mule Deer fawn, artwork



This season’s fawns are already down to their last few spots. There’s still a smattering around their hindquarters though, like an outfit they’ve just about outgrown. Every year it’s the same, the last hint of their juvenile patterned coat remaining on the back half of the deer. It makes me wonder… why?

Perhaps because the hair is longer and it just takes more time to grow out? Or maybe there is some actual purpose behind their tail-end remaining camouflaged for a bit longer? * Anyone else have a theory? *

[For those that are interested in the process behind my digital art creations, I thought I would go ahead and share the original (unaltered) image that this was based on… Click here to view. When animals come to take refuge in the shady areas around the house, one of the frequent photographic hurdles I encounter in trying to expose the shot is an overly bright background and loss of detail or sharpness in the darker foreground critter. Nevertheless, I am often still quite attached to these photos due to compositional elements or subject matter. As I discussed in my last post showcasing deer artwork, applying artistic effects and filters is one way for me to try and salvage less-than-perfect images or perhaps let my creativity take me in entirely new and fanciful directions.]


Harsi / August 14, 2011 / artwork, mammals / 3 Comments

Making it Work

I sat down today to work on prepping those Mule Deer images I promised. Several young males (last year’s fawns) have been hanging about lately. Adult females and their spotted little ones share their company as they make daily visits around the perimeter of the cabin. They stop to get a drink of water, nibble on the plants and bushes, and to lay in the cool, shady areas. In photographing them, I managed to capture some wonderful expressions and behavior. However, as is often the case (especially if I attempt to shoot through the kitchen window), I found myself unhappy with the quality of the photos. It’s not that they’re horrible, they simply suffer from various problems like soft focus, contrasty lighting, improper exposure or unwanted objects. Using a graphics program like Photoshop, there are countless ways to attempt to improve or fix these issues. Some times I go that route… But, other times, I find that if an image needs a significant amount of manipulation it’s just more fun to unleash my creativity instead of trying to make it look like the perfect photograph I had imagined. By playing with the digital filters and brushes, altering the color palette or lighting, it’s possible to create a myriad of artistic effects.

I thought it might be interesting to start by showing you this image exactly as it looked after I downloaded it from my camera:

Mule Deer, male eating Toyon

This young male was so blissfully chewing away on the Toyon leaves, that he hardly seemed to notice me standing at the window taking photos. It was a beautiful few moments. But, the image looked so washed out and lifeless to me. I wanted to try and add more of the warmth and intimacy that I had felt. Also, the background was very bright and eye-catching, so I hoped to even out the light some, make it twinkle a bit, and highlight all the wonderful leaves.

Mule Deer, male eating Toyon (filtered)

I liked the way the deer fills this square crop and the painterly effect is very close to what I had envisioned. (If anyone is interested, I used the “Accented Edges” filter and then experimented with the color and exposure.)

I know it can be very hard to get a feel for the subtleties of the texture and brush strokes with the small size of web presentation. I usually do provide a larger version that can be seen my clicking on the image, but it is still a very limited view. So, here is a crop showing just a portion of the above image so that you can see more detail.

Mule Deer, male eating Toyon (filtered)


In this next instance, you can see an example of an original image which is really not very good. But, I so loved the composition and the delightful scene it portrayed that I wanted to try and do something nice with it.

Mule Deer, two males resting

These two young males decided to lay down near each other in late afternoon shade. They were just within view through my kitchen window and they weren’t going anywhere, but no matter how many photos I took, the glass distortion and lighting conspired to leave me with less than satisfactory shots. Additionally, there was that exposed (defunct) pipe jutting out off the ground next to the upper deer in every single image. It was the layered appearance of the background and the repeating shapes of the deer that had compelled me to take the photo in the first place, so I tried to focus on those elements when cropping and transforming it. (In this case, the filtering process also makes it very easy to seamlessly clone a portion of the background to obscure the unattractive pipe.)


Mule Deer, two males resting (filtered)


Though I don’t always succeed, it is always my goal to accomplish something that is better than the original photo. To create something that tugs at the essence of what I saw when I first lifted my camera, but then draws it out further… Exaggerating it to evoke an emotion or feeling that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.


Harsi / August 1, 2011 / artwork, mammals, photography / 2 Comments

Harsi / July 6, 2011 / artwork, birds / 0 Comments

Rambunctious Ravens

Have I mentioned the family of Common Raven (Corvus corax) that have decided to be our neighbors this year? I’m still uncertain as to where the actual nest was located, but the now fledged juveniles and parents have included the area around our home in part of their daily foraging activities. Ravens (like hawks and owls) invest a lot of time in the raising of their offspring and continue to feed them well beyond the time they can fly and have reached their adult size. So, imagine if you will, the entire family of seven jet black birds — each about two feet long with a wingspan of a little less than four feet — hopping around on the ground, flapping, begging and croaking loudly at one another. They have a rather dependable schedule of landing in front of our cabin just as the sun is setting. As far as I can tell, they then proceed to forage on the ground for the small fruits that have been falling from the heavy-laden ornamental plum trees. The clamor is impressive and the spectacle is well worth watching.

Now that I am feeling better (FINALLY!!), I’ll do my best to get some decent pics to share with you guys. In the meantime though, I had some fun creating this bit of digital art from various in-flight images. **Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version.** I think I was imagining polka dots when I first started creating, but looking at the finished piece I find myself fantasizing about a sky filled with countless moons as ravens wing their way home to roost for the night….


Common Raven & moons, artwork


Harsi / July 2, 2011 / artwork, birds / 2 Comments

Waiting It Out…

Bobcat on front porch, digital art


I had been going back-and-forth on this all week, but now it’s really official… I’m sick again.

My first instinct? To throw a tantrum. But then… that also sounds like a lot of energy to be expending when everything from my shins to my cheekbones hurts. (What IS it about fever that makes you ache in the most odd and obscure of places?!)

No, instead, I’m going to endeavor some sort of zen-like approach where I simply accept that there are going to be a lot of catnaps and fluids in my near future. Wish me luck!

[The above image is a digital piece I created from an old photo of a Bobcat (Lynx rufus) who decided that our front porch was as good a place as any to take a snooze one day.]

Harsi / June 26, 2011 / artwork, mammals / 2 Comments

Laurel Light

The sun has been BLAZING lately. I try my best to find creative ways to work with this element when it comes to photography. I’m including a few images that I took of the setting sun shining through a mosaic of Laurel Sumac (Malosma laurina) leaves. The effect in-person turned out to be much more spectacular than I was able to capture with these images. As long as I had them open in Photoshop though, I decided to play around a bit. Has anyone else ever experimented with the “Invert” command? It inverts the colors in any image, producing an end product that is similar to the way a film negative might appear. In most instances, I find the effect to be too harsh and obviously computer-generated looking. However, with a select group of scenery images and also with many abstract shots, it can produce some unique outcomes that I actually like. Click on the original photos below to see their color inverted. When I saw how these turned out, my thoughts immediately turned to batik — a wax-dyeing technique. Hmmm…. maybe that’s just me?


Laurel Sumac & sun

Laurel Sumac & sun


Anyone still having cool weather where they are?

Harsi / June 23, 2011 / artwork, plants / 3 Comments

15 Minute Art: The First Week

Boy, time just seems to be flying by lately! I thought I should probably post a brief update about my fledgling experiment to create a bit of artwork everyday.


:15 Minute Art, week 1


So, here’s a recap. Day #1 was the squirrel sketch I already posted.

On Day #2, I found an old drawing tool — a plastic template for drawing common geometric shapes (emblazoned with the catchy name “The Geometer”!). I thought it might be interesting to create a wildlife image entirely from this preset selection of ovals, triangles, squares and whatnot. Not sure if it translates or not, but the finished drawing is supposed to be a juvenile Great Horned Owl among some Eucalyptus’ leaves and flowers… in a very abstract way, of course.

Then, on Day #3, I totally forgot to do anything. Yup! That’s how crazy my head has been lately… three days in and I just completely spaced out. (In my defense, my husband returned home from Australia early that morning, then we went to a late breakfast, then I went out with my sisters-in-law to pick out bridesmaid dresses, then I came home, changed, and went back out again to have dinner with some relatives at my parent’s house. So… by the time I got home and finished putting up this blog post, I think my brain had just about had it for the day.)

Day #4 was a simple feather. I probably like this one the best.

Days #5 and #6 had a botanical theme. First a grape leaf and a few vines. Then, some lupine leaves, stems and flowers.

Finally, today, I decided to just let my mind wander for #7. Perhaps not the best idea! This started out as a stink bug (Family:Pentatomidae), but mutated into some sort of insect ghost rising up from a small collection vial. Hah! Don’t ask me!! It certainly wasn’t what I set out to draw… it just sort of happened along the way.

The same friend who inspired this project in the first place asked me the other day how it was “going”. I wasn’t really sure what to say. Truthfully, it hasn’t felt like as much fun as I had hoped it might be. It’s felt a bit more like homework than play. After sitting for awhile and thinking about why that might be, I’ve got a few thoughts. First, I’m still really hung up on making something GOOD. (I put the word in all caps so that it feels as weighty here on the page as it does in my head.) The adult in me simply hasn’t stepped aside yet and let the kid come out to really let loose and explore. Embarrassingly, I even found myself cheating a little bit… A couple times, if I started a drawing and didn’t like where it was headed, I’d quickly turn to a fresh page and say — “OK, the fifteen minutes actually starts… NOW!”  I know there was no rule against doing that per se, but it goes against the notion of just accepting whatever comes in the moment and going with it. Also, I think it would have been better to start with a medium that is less constricting than a ballpoint pen. Charcoal? Watercolors? Oils? Clay? Finger paints? I’m not sure yet… but something with color and something that lets me get a little messy and go a bit more crazy if I want.

I have to keep reminding myself that the purpose of all of this was to reconnect with my childhood self. Fewer hang-ups. Fewer preconceived expectations. More joy. Much much more joy. I figure if I can just get to that place, the GOOD stuff will follow. I’ll share another update in a week or so….

Harsi / June 22, 2011 / artwork / 6 Comments

Squirrel Squiggle

Last month, I wrote about my desire to create more artwork and also about some of the hurdles I expected to encounter. I was thinking that though it has been more than a little difficult at times, I’ve been so proud of myself for sticking with my “one blog post per day” plan. So, today, I’ve decided to try something similar and have challenged myself to create one new piece of artwork per day. Knowing that this will feel uncomfortable at first, and also knowing my tendency to get “stuck” when I don’t know WHAT to create or I don’t think it’s going well, I’ve decided to set down a couple rules:

#1 – The artwork must not be computer generated. (This is an arbitrary decision, but lately I’ve been wanting to spend more time away from the computer and just do something with my own two hands.) 

#2 – Consistency over quality. (One new thing every day… no excuses!)

#3 – Spend no more than 15 minutes creating.

Now, don’t get me a wrong… I don’t expect anything stellar to come from such minimal effort. I won’t have much time to really think about what I’m doing, make it look nice, or perfect any concepts. But, then, that’s sort of the point. A very good friend of mine sent me a link to this short video which pretty much summed up the troubles I’ve been having. [If you’re not up for watching the video, the basic message is to STOP getting hung-up on all the things that can distract and discourage you from creating art and just DO IT!] My hope in putting strict limitations on myself — odd as it sounds — is actually to make this a more freeing and playful experience than it might be otherwise. After all, it’s only 15 minutes a day and there’s no pressure to create anything super-impressive. I want the artistic process itself to become an inherent daily part of my existence — and I want that more than I want to create one or two awe-inspiring things. After only about a month of continuous writing for this blog, I am already finding it’s getting easier and more intuitive. I have high hopes that I might have equal success with this new experiment.

Gosh, with all this build-up, my little daily doodle of a Gray Squirrel might be kind of a let down…


(I hope not.)


Gray Squirrel, daily doodle



Harsi / June 16, 2011 / artwork / 6 Comments

Even The Sound of Your Voice

thickets tall photo art


Crickets call, courting their ladies in star-dappled green
Thickets tall, until the morning comes up like a dream
All muted and misty, so drowsy now I’ll take what sleep I can
I know that I miss you, but I don’t know where I stand

Joni Mitchell, “I Don’t Know Where I Stand”


I guess I didn’t really feel much like writing today… The house is so still. It’s just the sound of me typing and the crickets singing away. All I have to offer is a bit of art that I created from an image taken on our trip to Vashon and some lines from one of my favorite songwriters.

Have a peaceful night everyone. *sleepy grin*

Harsi / June 12, 2011 / artwork, lyrics, travel / 0 Comments

Wishing for Whiptail

Coastal Whiptail, selective color


The Coastal Whiptail (Aspidoscelis tigris stejnegeri) is a real favorite of mine and a lizard species that I never really got to see regularly until we moved to the canyon. They prefer hot and arid habitat with relatively sparse vegetation, which describes much of the habitat around here. These guys are proficient diggers when foraging for invertebrate prey and they are super speedy when they want to be. (There’s a cool video about half-way down this page on California if you want to get some idea of how fast they are.) Definitely not an easy lizard to catch, but I have found that with a slow and steady approach it is possible to observe them closely. Usually I start seeing them towards the end of May and then continuing through September or October. (Note: This may not be indicative of their actual seasonal activity, it’s just what I have noticed from my daily sightings over the last several years.)

I love this photo of a pair I was hanging out with one July afternoon a few years ago. They took a break from their courtship activities to rest awhile in the shade. Here you can see how wonderfully camouflaged they are:


Coastal Whiptail pair


The juvenile lizards are much more colorful than the adults. How awesome is that blue tail?!


Coastal Whiptail, juvenile


So, aside from wanting to share this great reptile with you all, I guess I’m kind of hoping this post will serve as a conjuring trick of sorts. You see, I haven’t actually seen one since last year and I haven’t had the chance to photograph one since May of 2009. I’m fairly certain this lizard’s population is relatively stable in this area, so I’m not worried that they’re not out there… it’s just that I’d love the opportunity to spend some more time in the field with them. Everyone keep your fingers crossed for me and maybe I’ll have a few more recent pics to share soon!

Harsi / June 3, 2011 / artwork, reptiles / 2 Comments