Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Coral Tree Pod Linocut - Photos & Sketch

It is always hard for me to choose the subjects of my linocuts because there are too many good options.  But the colors of this coral tree pod I found last year in Costa Rica were so stunning I knew it had to be made into a print.

I wrote a post about all of my Costa Rica sketches last year and here is what I had to say about this pod:

"Our first destination of the trip was Bijagual Ecological Reserve.  The reserve is a beautiful rain forest teeming with biodiversity, trails, rain, and rivers. One day Christina and I took a short walk down to the Bijagual river.  As Christina sketched I spent time looking for rocks for a little project I will blog about later.  When we were about to leave, something caught my eye on a little island in the middle of the stream.  I saw a bright-colored seed pod but couldn't quite make out if it was worth the effort to cross over to retrieve it.  Luckily some of the students had left their binoculars on the shore and when I looked through the lenses I was super excited to see these crazy purple colored pods with bright red berries hanging out.  As I made my way over to the berries I could see they were from a tree that had washed down the river.  Luckily Paul Foster, the director of the preserve, showed up soon after with clippers and identified the tree as Erythrina.  He was also excited to see this plant as he had been wanting to plant some of the seeds for the preserve.

I fell in love with everything about this plant.  I don't think I have ever seen a plant before with such an amazing color pallet... I also loooooooooove the bulbous pods and how they curl around to make a bumpy, purple, red, and cream sphere about the size of a grapefruit.  Plus the red seeds were literally hanging by thin papery strips that allowed them to move in the wind.  You can't get more eye-catching than that!  As Christina put it, these seed pods look like they were from an alien planet.  You can see her sketch here. "

When I start a linocut I like to print out my reference photo to the actual size of the print.  In this case that is about 2 ft wide by 3 ft tall.  I tile the image, print it on legal size paper, and then tape it together.  Once I have it printed out I do a light trace onto my paper.  I do it lightly because I usually end up altering the shapes.  In this case the pod had wilted and shrunk a bit when I took the photo so I had to plump everything up a bit.  Plump, me up!

Below is a video of the sketch process from start to finish.  (Please turn your volume up so you can hear the took me forever to get the music set just right!)

Some times when I am in the middle of the sketch I feel like the print could go any number of ways.  I really liked the sketch at the stage below.  I thought it would be cool to do the print with just the inner pools as the focus. 

But of course I can't help myself and have to continue just to see what it would look like if EVERYTHING had linework to indicate shape.

And usually by the end I am convinced the whole thing needs lots of lines!  Plus, I have done all that work and I don't want it to "go to waste."  (But just doing the inner pools is still a good idea and may some day get explored.)

Below you can see the watercolor sketch I did while in Costa Rica and that I did indeed "plump it up" in my pencil sketch.

The next step in the process is to figure out how I am going to do the colors.  I am still debating whether it will be a 4 or 5 color print.  It is helpful to have a color sketch to help me figure it out.  I know for sure the first color will be cream and will be applied underneath all the other colors.   So hopefully tomorrow I will transfer the outline to my safety-kut and get carving!  I will be posting more process images along the way so check back soon!

"It's not choosing the 'right' path that matters. It's knowing what ignites your passion. Once you've figured out what brings you joy, you don't have to worry about finding the right path. Any path — any path — will take you there." — Ron Shaich

When completed, this print will be available for purchase at

Monday, June 19, 2017

Madisonville House Sketch

Last week a friend of mine put her house on the market and it was also her birthday so I decided to do a sketch of her house.  (If you know of anyone looking for a house in Madisonville message me and I will send you a link to the listing.)  After I finished the drawing I realized it needed a little life in it so I added a few of her chickens walking down the driveway.  And then after I sent it to her it was also suggested I add her cat in the window.  I think it really made the drawing.  But my friend also has two dogs, three more chickens and a turtle so I had to cut it off somewhere!  I will be sad to see her go but I wish her good luck in her new adventure.  Happy Birthday Tiffany!

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” ― AndrĂ© Gide

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Periodic Cicadas

Although the HUGE cicada emergence isn't expected until 2021, we had a fair number of them emerge this year.  Apparently some cicadas are 4 years off the main cycle and they are the ones we are seeing this year. These cicadas are called periodic because they emerge every 17 years as opposed to the cicadas we hear every summer.

I have to admit I don't like when they land on me, but I did have lots of fun photographing them this year.  If you get up close to them they really are quite striking.  The one above appeared to be smiling at me like a kind old sage...or maybe an alien.  Either way I love the expression on his face.

I was also impressed with the color of the wings.  The delicate copper-colored veining that fades to black and the way the light reflected on the transparent wings was incredibly stunning.

And I love to look at them from the above.  Their symmetry is so cool and you can't help but notice the bulging red eyes.

Below you can see a cicada casing.  They crawl up from the ground, attach to a plant and emerge as an adult cicada.  They are only above ground a few days to mate.

Below you can see two cicadas mating.  I came across them in the middle of the road and had to move them because a car was coming.

I was quite impressed at their ability to walk and mate at the same time.

When my friend Christina saw these photos she said they looked like an Art Noveau design and I have to agree.  I may have to make a linocut design of this some day.

If you ever need proof that magic exists in this world, you just need to consider the cicada.  They live in the dark earth drinking the nectar of trees for seventeen years.  They then crawl out of the dirt as a brown nymph and must break out of their shell to emerge as the colorful creature you see below.  The transformation is mind-boggling.  And although they are only above-ground for a short while, it appears as if they have a raucous good time.

"It's hard, to come back out of the dark.  It's harder still, when you emerge, to hold onto the learning, to the gifts imparted by that deep, rich cauldron of wisdom whose potion you tasted while you were there." -Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Chapel St., Cincinnati - House Sketch

For years I have driven by this house near the corner of Victory Parkway and Madison Ave. and thought, "we should sketch that house... it is so interesting."  So yesterday Christina and I walked from my house over to Walnut Hills and spent a beautiful morning sketching this unique house. 

Christina is amazing and finished her entire sketch, watercolor and all, while we sat there.  You can see her sketch here.  But I was only able to finish my pencil sketch and finished later at home.  Sometimes it is hard to look back at a sketch and see all the "mistakes" I've made.  When I see that in other people's sketches I always tell them that is gives it character (and I truly mean it).  But somehow, when I see it in my sketch I just think it looks terribly wonky or googly.  However, I am at least able to see the things I like about it too.  And in this one I liked the color palette. 

George came to pick us up and bring us to lunch and snapped this photo of us sketching.  Somehow I ended up getting a sunburn on the tip of my knee (oh, the dangers of sketching!).  Although I haven't sketched in a while and felt a bit rusty, I am always thankful Christina gets me out there and back at it again.

“A man's mistakes are his portals of discovery” ― James Joyce

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Creative Juice Group Exhibition

I am excited to be part of the Creative Juice Group Exhibition that opens May 5th at the Park National Bank Gallery at UC Clermont.  The opening is this Friday from 6-8 pm.  As you can see above my Maple Helicopter linocut will be on display along with the work of 21 other Cincinnati artists.  The show will include both 2D and 3D pieces in a wide range of media including acrylic, watercolor, pen and ink, fabric, photography, henna, linocut and woodcut.

This show came about because every Monday you will usually find me attending a group called "Creative Juice".  This group is a motley crew of artists and creative entrepreneurs who meet to discuss all aspects of the creative process.  We have lively discussions every week on topics ranging from how to use social media to market your business to the best programs to make your website to how not to fall apart when you face rejection.  There is hearty debate, laughter, sometimes tears, coffee and a deep sense of community.  If you are interested in finding out more visit our Facebook page or

So one day last year we got on the topic of having a group art show and Frank Satogata suggested we have one at UC Clermont where they have a beautiful gallery.  We applied and were accepted and now it is finally happening this week!  Below is the show postcard. 

Last week a group of us headed out to UC Clermont, loaded the show in and had a really nice time hanging the show.  I love it when you are worried about something and it not only goes well, but is actually fun.  These women are amazing and talented and I am so thankful to them for reminding me of the joys of working together.

If you are in Cincinnati please come out to the show.  The show runs May 1st to June 28th.  The gallery is located in the Snyder Building, Room 140 at UC Clermont College.  For driving directions and a campus map visit the gallery website here.

“When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of “Me too!” be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdos are your tribe.”― A.J. Downey

Photo credit: Christine Kuhr

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ewok Embroidery

Last year my nephew saw the cat embroidery I did for my mom and asked if I could do another.  I told him I could but was confused because he doesn't have a cat and he said, "I don't want a cat...but can you do an ewok?"  I told him I would think about it.  And that is how I came to this fun project.

Not wanting to be too obscure, I chose the most famous ewok of all named Wicket.  If you don't remember Wicket appeared in Return of the Jedi and helped the Rebel Alliance defeat the Galactic Empire during the Battle of Endor.

I finished the embroidery in January and had just given it to my nephew when I got the email about the upcoming "May the Fourth Be With You" art tribute show.  Last year I did a linocut print of Max Rebo for the show and I knew I wasn't going to have time to pull together a print.  But luckily my nephew gave me permission to put Wicket in the show (although he won't be for sale).

Below you can see the completed embroidery.  I had so much fun going to the bead store and searching for the perfect stone for the top of his staff.  And if you were wondering, yes, there is more ewok under that scarf! 

I normally like to end with a quote but, seeing how Wicket spoke Ewokese, I will leave you with a short Ewok phrase and a Yoda quote..."Yub Nub!"

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

If you are in Cincinnati "do or do not" come out to the show. The opening is May 4th at the Brew House from 5-11 pm. "May the Fourth Be With You!"

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bundleflower Linocut - Final Print

I am so excited to finally post my latest linocut print... "The Bundleflower."  As you may know this has been a marathon print for me and I have been slowly blogging about the long process.   My first post was about the bundleflower plant and carving and printing the first and second colors (cream and burnt orange).  The next post was about carving and printing the third color, red.  And the third post was about carving the final plate.  Below you can see each step of the four-color reduction process where the plate is carved away more and more with each color printed.

This video shows me inking the plate with the last color, dark brown.

And here is a video of me burnishing and pulling the final print.

I originally planned to print twelve 4-color prints.  But after I printed the orange color I liked the plate so much I bought six more sheets of paper with the intent to just print the orange plate and keep it as a final record and print.  However, after I printed the red color I couldn't help but be curious what it would look like on the orange and I ended up printing all the colors.  This resulted in twelve 4-color prints and six 3-color prints (the six prints were missing the original cream color).  I was thinking I might offer them as is (with a white background) or I might add a watercolor background to them.  Here you can see the two options.

Below are a few detailed shots of the print (from a gazillion angles!).

I had the bright idea to bring half of the prints up to the porch to photograph them.  But between the cats and the prints still being slightly damp it was a harrowing experience.  Plus my light was fading and I really only got a few good shots in before it got too dark.  I had to re-photograph the following day but it was fun to see them all together. 

This print has truly been quite a long journey for me.  At every step of the way there were so many directions I could have gone, but in the end I had to choose a single path and follow it.  I fell in love with the plate after each carving and wanted to stop and not move on.  It was hard for me to destroy the plate with each new color... but then I would fall in love all over again after the next carving.  It made me see how easily I get attached to things and don't want them to change.  But I quickly learned that change might very well bring something fabulous!

The final print is available now on my website

Before I end this post I wanted to especially thank my husband George.  Without his love, support, food, and burnishing muscle this print would not have been possible. Also, a big "Thank You" to all my friends who lent a hand (Margot!) and an ear to me during this project.  And finally if you have stuck with me this long through this post I would also like to thank you! I love my tribe!

Please help me spread the word by sharing this post and with whoever you think might be interested.  Thank you!