The Hot Summer Zoo

In trying to make sense of the last year in terms of my creative activities, I’ve realized how much the work I did became compartmentalized in terms of what was going on in the world at large. The first part of the year (recounted in my previous post) was very much influenced by a continuing hermit-like existence. Without distinct deadlines, I felt like I had some space to try out some different things, while continuing to keep up a regular output of Quadra Cats comics to post once a week — until the Heat Dome hit.

A watercolour from years ago, but it seemed like the right image to express how hot it was!

I live on Vancouver Island, off the west coast of Canada, which is generally renowned for having very mild weather, in what’s called a Mediterranean climate. It seldom gets really cold (and even when we think it’s really cold, the rest of Canada laughs at us), and it usually never gets hot enough to please those sun-loving types who like to (shudder) lie in the sun and tan. It’s a great climate for gardening. So when we got temperatures of 38-39˚C for a week in late June, without it even cooling off much at night, we weren’t prepared. Most houses here don’t have air conditioning (and our heat pump, which also cools, had broken down and we couldn’t get parts due to supply chain issues) and most of us had no idea how to cope — we all learned a lot of strategies in a hurry from the internet, though!

My studio and the bedroom, being upstairs, was uninhabitable. We camped downstairs with fans blowing on us and wet bandanas on our necks. My cats were spread out flat on whatever was the coolest bit of floor they could find and needed to be sponged every hour to ward off heat exhaustion. I took cold showers (I never take cold showers, ugh). I got up early in the morning (more ugh) to water my poor garden while it was still cool. None of this was conducive to making art, or doing anything else, really. We just endured, obsessively checking Environment Canada’s weather site and drinking ice water.

Fortunately, the Dome dissipated just in time for the Zooly Art Challenge! Still frazzled by all that heat, I felt like all I could handle would be to do the tiny sketchcard sized paintings that I do from time to time. And if the heat came back, I reasoned, I could easily work on them downstairs — which I did, when we had another, lesser, heat wave soon afterwards. I didn’t do all 31 prompts this year; between the heat and trying to rescue my garden, I was much less motivated than usual. But I did get a nice little collection done. Here are my favourites:

For some reason there were a lot of fluffy white birds involved this year. Clockwise from top left (as will all ensuing descriptions be): Secretary Bird (dig that headdress!), Egyptian Vulture (competing for best top-feather style with Secretary Bird), Silkie Chickens (hm, good floof, but all over), and a Snowy Owl with something (no doubt pithy) to say about all those headdresses.

Then there were the working/domestic animals: Ankole (an African cattle breed), Bactrian Camel (This one was, in fact, drawn right from the linked Wikipedia page), Australian Cattle Dog (this one’s a Blue Heeler — if I could have a dog, it would be one of these), and a hunky Belgian Draft Horse.

Creatures of the water were not neglected; here are an Axolotl (albino), a Vampire Squid (the name was inspired by its dark colour and cloak-like webbing, rather than habit—it feeds on detritus, not blood), a Sea Pineapple (this one had us all scratching our heads because no-one had ever heard of it), and a Slate Pencil Urchin (which turned out much better than I thought it would).

And then there were the cute critters: Capybara, holding court (they are famed for their gregariousness and strange attractiveness to a huge variety of other creatures); a Fennec Fox, which uses those amazing ears to detect… well, anything, really in its desert home; an Egyptian Mau, a rare breed considered one of the progenitor breeds of the modern domestic cat; and a White Rabbit — with a prompt like that, I had to put in a nod to Lewis Carroll.

All of these little paintings were done with some combination of ink, watercolour, coloured pencil, and gouache. They are 2.5×3.5 inches. If you are curious, I highly recommend doing a search on any of the animals that intrigue you — I have learned so much over the years by looking up and reading about the animals I draw. I’ve provided links to their Wikipedia pages for starters.

Next post, I’ll finish up 2021, after which it will be time to talk about my very exciting January project which I’m just wrapping up now. So stay tuned — looks like I’m back in the swing of things for blogging!

One response to “The Hot Summer Zoo

  1. Pingback: Little Bitty Paintings | Karen Gillmore Art·

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