Friday, January 20, 2017

All Shall Be Well




"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."  - Julian of Norwich

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Wood



When I look at these photos of wood I am reminded of the cosmos and see whirling galaxies and black holes.  It brings to mind a strange experience I have sometimes when I first wake up in the morning.  In the few seconds before I even have a thought I can vaguely see vibrating cells that spin around a center that I can never quite see.  At times it looks like I am peering at a galaxy whirling in space inside of me and at other times it just looks like vibrating cells.  Then, poof, as soon as I have a thought it disappears. 

I have tried to google this and the closest thing I have found to describe it is the word "spanda."  Spanda is the "primordial vibration of the universe and of our being" and corresponds with "an awakening to a state of wonderment and subtle delight." (source Hridaya Yoga).


If you can imagine the photo above vibrating and swirling around in circles, that is what it looks like to me.  I am not sure if what I am seeing is Spanda, but I do love the concept.  It is described as the "vibration that pervades both the energies of one's body and the energies of the whole universe" (source Hridaya Yoga). 


I like the idea of playing with scale...to imagine the pine cone above as a supernova or the hole in a piece of wood as an endless black void.


“I promise you that the same stuff galaxies are made of, you are. The same energy that swings planets around stars makes electrons dance in your heart. It is in you, outside you, you are it. It is beautiful. Trust in this. And you your life will be grand.” ― Kamal Ravikant, Live Your Truth



I suppose it is just as possible for us to have galaxies whirling inside of us as it is that we are but a miniscule spec of life inside another cosmic being.  Who knows?  But it is lovely to ponder and just as pleasing to know that we will never solve this mystery...like reading a good book that never ends.

"We aren't here to solve the mystery.  We are only here to see that we are the mystery." - Matt Kahn



Friday, January 6, 2017

Taos Adventure



It is funny how things happen in Taos.  I have found it is best to make vague plans and be open to whatever befalls you.  Our first night at Mabel's, we were sitting in the lobby happily filling our gullets with mint-chocolate truffles when a woman walked by.  (As my dad would say, "She was hippy-dippy.")  I can't remember why now, but we started chatting with her.  Her name was Tenney and she had a lovely, friendly way about her.  We got to know her background story and how she was a freelance performer and how she used to live down the street from Sarah Jessica Parker.  She was a full time resident of Taos and at the very end of the conversation she asked us our plans for the next day.  We told her we were going to Ranchos church and then to the gorge, but beyond that we weren't sure.  She recommended going to Arroyo Seco, a little town north of Taos that is artsy and has pottery shops and the best ice cream ever.  I made a mental note and we bid our adieus.

The next morning we set out for the famous Ranchos church.  It was made famous by Georgia O'Keefe who painted the backside of the church (you can see it here).  It really is one of the most adorable adobe structures I have ever seen and last time I was in Taos I woke up before dawn (which for me is a rare event) and did a photo study of the sun coming over the church (and a requisite sketch of the backside).  


After visiting the church we wandered into a little store near the entrance to the plaza.  As I was looking around a man walked in the front door.  He clearly knew the owner and they were discussing something.  At one point the man asked us where we were headed for the day and I told him we were going to the gorge and maybe Arroyo Seco.  He said we should definitely visit Arroyo Seco and that we should do a hike a little north of town to a waterfall.  He said you go until the road ends...you think it will never end but it does;  pretty vague instructions but I didn't think we would have time.

After leaving the church we made our way over to the gorge.  I have a little fear of heights but I forced myself to walk across the bridge and nervously took the video below.  I had a fear I would drop my phone.


After the gorge we drove by the Earthships.  If you don't know about the Earthships visit my blog post here for more info.  As you can see below the structures are made from recycled materials.


Our next stop was Arroyo Seco.  I knew it was going to be small but I was surprised the whole town is no more than a half mile long.  George decided to go birding while my dad and I perused the shops.  Right in the middle of town was a small store called Rottenstone Pottery.  I wasn't really interested in buying pottery but something drew me to go inside.  As I scanned the room a table with a portfolio open caught my eye.  I walked over and looked down to see beautifully rendered etchings of birds.  As a printmaker I know how hard the process of etching metal plates is and these were so sensitively drawn.  I flipped through the entire portfolio and was truly blown away by the images.  I told the man working at the desk how much I loved them and he told me there was a book I could purchase by the artist, Ladislav R. Hanka

As the man wrapped up the book he told me to be sure to read the text as well as looking at the imagery.  Maybe he could tell I was a visual person because normally I might have just looked at the incredible renderings.  However this week I finally had time to start reading it and I am blown away at the beauty of the writing.  I am only halfway through and I feel like we are kindred spirits and he describes so eloquently the plight of the artist.  "In the studio, around me, at one point there lay several hundred plates --etched, burnished sanded, started over.  The birds had proven so provocative in their improbable variety that they had consumed me...Why does anybody need to make etchings of thirty warblers?...Transcendant moments of revelation were spelled by hours of frustration."  I greatly shortened the passage but I would end up re-typing the whole page if I quoted everything I liked.  It is rare you find the work of someone that speaks to your soul... but the combination of printmaking, birds and my museum/taxidermy background made this book the perfect Christmas gift wrapped in wings and wonder.

"Art is created from a driving internal need, a gripping passion; when it is no longer enough to be a hobbyist, enjoying a dalliance, casting a passing glance--when you feel compelled to be at it for hours, mesmerized, battling past your own feeble inadequacies, prepared to redeem yourself before the most severe tribunal of your own self-judgment, willing to meet your own impossible standards."  -Ladislav R. Hanka, In Pursuit of Birds


But our adventure did not end in the pottery store.  As I paid for the book I casually asked if there was a waterfall north of town somewhere.  The man said there was and told me to go look at the list of local hikes in the nearby grocery store.  He said it was on private land and you had to stop and pay somewhere...again vague directions.  After we ate way too much for lunch we weren't sure what we were going to do.  We really wanted the famous ice cream but were too full.  I hesitantly suggested maybe we go see the waterfall and work up an appetite.  George, of course, was immediately up for it but my dad said he could pass on it.  I was the deciding vote and I decided we should have our adventure.

So north we went in our weak little Hyundai rental car down the dirt road north of town without bothering to check for directions at the grocery.  We weren't sure where we were going but I eventually noticed a sign saying we had to pay.  We backed up to re-read the sign when we saw a man sitting in a truck in a nearby driveway.  Sure enough, he was the man who lived there.  He didn't speak clearly and could barely hear us as we asked further directions.  He just kept waving his arm and pointing in the direction we were headed.  So on we went...and on and on and on.


The twisty road turned from dirt to slush and then to serious snow. After twenty minutes or so of driving an SUV came around the bend.  We waved and a woman rolled down the window.  I asked if there was a waterfall at the end of the road.  She said "Yes, just keep going and you will see a gate.  But make sure to go this way and not that way! (pointing aimlessly in the air)" and then drove away with a friendly wave.

Every time we went down a big hill George and I had the same unspoken thought..."Will we be able to get out of here?"  And then a very steep hill emerged in front of us and our little car could go no further.  We hopped out to survey the situation and decided to park the car on the side of the road and walk a bit.  As we were getting out of the car a big, bad-ass four-wheel drive truck came around the bend.  They saw us and stopped.  Two Native American men peered at us and I asked if we were close enough to walk to the waterfall.  They said yes and to just go up the hill.  Then they gunned it and barely made it up the hill themselves.


I was a little worried about my dad's knees and about how hard a hike this would be.  But we eventually made it to a gate and then the road forked.  Not knowing for sure which way to go we went left ("go this way, not that way!").  After about half a mile it began to get very rocky.  The sun was getting low and I was more and more concerned that perhaps we should turn around.  We all felt a growing nervousness but no one wanted to be the one to say it first.  But soon the rocks opened up and revealed a tremendous cavern and lo and behold there was a thin trickle of water cascading down to meet the earth in frozen mounds of water.


I was so happy we had made it in one piece. Although it wasn't exactly the waterfall I envisioned, I loved the pitter-patter sound and the serenity of the cave. As I stood breathing in the cold, fresh air I felt deeply present in this place where earth, water and light came together.

We hiked back to the car at a brisk pace.  As darkness closed in our little car nervously scaled the inclines and we made it back to civilization.  It was fun to look back at the day and see how our fortunes were directed this way and that by the random comments of strangers.  The day had definitely delivered unexpected gifts and ice cream never tasted to good.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mabel Dodge Luhan House - Taos



After taking the scenic "High Road to Taos" we arrived at our lodging in Taos, The Mabel Dodge Luhan House.  I first visited this amazing historic inn while on a sketchbook workshop in 2012.  Both the workshop and Mabel's had a great effect on me.  Before the workshop I had never done watercolor sketching and Amy Bogard opened my eyes to a whole new world.  (If you are at all interested in journaling, sketching, or both please check out her workshop here.)  I also absolutely fell in love with the "house", its history, Mabel, and Taos. 


As you can see above and below, the house is made of adobe and couldn't be more quaint.  I absolutely love the shape of the doorways and the large wooden beams throughout the house.  Staying in an adobe structure is like being held by nature herself.  The first night I awoke in the middle of the night to the bone-chilling sounds of coyotes calling.  I even slipped out of bed and looked out the window to see if I could catch a glimpse but they eluded my sleepy eyes. 

Below is the dining room and it wouldn't be right not to mention the food is wonderful.  The first night we pulled in we were tired and hungry from our drive and the most amazing chocolate mint truffles awaited us.



In these two photos you can see the "vigas" or beams of the ceiling.  We spent quite a bit of time in the cozy lobby sitting next to a crackling fire in the kiva fireplace.


During the 2012 workshop I stayed in the Georgia O'Keefe room which was adorable.  But this time there were three of us and we splurged and stayed in Mabel's room.  You can see photos of more of the rooms in my blog post from that trip here.


Below is a sketch of the front doors of Mabel's from the 2012 trip.  The interesting teal-turquoise color frames the windows and doors.



Our final day in Taos we had to high-tail it out of there because a snow storm was coming.  As we were leaving I turned around to look at the house one more time and it was so peaceful watching the snow fall on the old adobe inn.


If you ever get a chance to visit Taos a stay at Mabel's is a must.  In my next post I will describe some of our adventures around Taos.  There is never enough time to explore everything there.

"In a cold like this, the stars snap like distant coyotes, beyond the moon. And you'll see the shadow of actual coyotes, going across the alfalfa field. And the pine trees make little noises, sudden and stealthy, as if they were walking about. And the place heaves with ghosts. That place, the ranch, heaves with ghosts. But when one has got used to one's own home-ghosts, be they never so many, and so potent, they are like one's own family, but nearer than the blood. It is the ghosts one misses most, the ghosts there, of the Rocky Mountains,..." -D.H. Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico


Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Mexico Adventure - High Road to Taos


Door to the Tower Gallery

They call New Mexico the "Land of Enchantment" and ever since my first trip I have fallen under its spell.  I don't know if it is the clear air of the high desert, the beaming sun, or the earthy adobe but there is certainly magic in this part of the world and I can't get enough of it.

Before Christmas we took a trip to travel and visit friends in New Mexico.  We had never flown into Santa Fe airport before and when I got off the plane I couldn't believe the airport!  It is certainly the cutest airport I have ever seen before.


After picking up our luggage from the single baggage ramp (about 10 feet long), we rented a car and headed toward the high road to Taos.  On our way we stopped at the Tower Gallery where my favorite New Mexico sculptor, Roxanne Swentzell, exhibits her work.  I love the beautiful curvy bodies of her forms and am in love with the way she expresses emotions through her work.  I am especially enamored with the feet and toes of her figures.


Once past the gallery we found the high road to Taos and were on our way.  It is always fun to stop and photograph the Sacred Heart Catholic church on the way.  It is such a lovely example of adobe architecture.


It doesn't take long before one is out in the wide expanses of New Mexico.  Maybe its because I come from lush Ohio but it is always breathtaking to visit the desert.  It is one place where you can really see the earth and the sky without interruption and it makes my heart sing.


You can't take the High Road without stopping at Chimayo sanctuary.  Chimayo has several interesting legends associated with it but the most well known legend revolves around "el pocito" ("little well").  Next to the main sanctuary is a tiny pit which contains holy dirt which is said to have remarkable curative powers. People come from far and wide to scoop a bit of dirt to bring to loved ones that need healing.  The tiny pit is said to be never run out of dirt.  So if you are planning on visiting be sure to bring a little baggie (but if you forget you can buy a container at the gift shop.)  


I had so many photos from the trip I am dividing them up into several posts.  My next post will be on our adventures in Taos so check back soon!

“Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.” ― Nora Roberts


Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Card Linocut



This year I told myself I wasn't going to make a Christmas card but then an idea popped in my head and I just couldn't help myself.  I have been obsessed by folk and embroidery patterns so I decided to try my hand at interpreting that into linoleum.


I started by finding embroidery patterns in some old polish embroidery books that I have had sitting around for years.  I also looked on Pinterest and in the end I combined two different patterns in Photoshop.  I then printed out my design and simplified it with tracing paper.  Once I was satisfied with my design on the tracing paper I flipped it over and burnished it onto my safety-kut linoleum.  Then I turned the music on and carved away.

I love how the plate looks before it has been inked.  There is something nice about the texture all by itself.


The hard part for me is the printing.  It would be easy if I just wanted twenty or thirty, but this year I printed over 100.  George had to help me in the end because my wrist wouldn't take it any more.  I was able to print them over two days and was exhausted when we finally pulled the last print.



I had so much fun photographing the print I couldn't decide on whether I liked the greens (first photo) or the wreath and berries (below).  I usually try and pick just one but some times you just can't decide and have to include both.


Below is a short video of me pulling the print.


I am so thankful to everyone who reads the blog.  This has been a big printmaking year for me with the launch of NessyPress.com and I couldn't have done it without all the encouragement from my friends, family, and you.  I wish everyone a very Happy Holiday and much joy in the New Year. 

"Happiness is there for the taking and making." - Oprah


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hand-painted Folk Ornament



I was shopping at Michael's when I spied these wood ornaments on super sale last week and I couldn't resist.  I love the shape of them and had the idea to paint them with red and white folk patterns and then stain the wood a bit darker to make them look old. 

Overall this was more difficult than I anticipated.  It might be that my paint was ten years old and stiff...or maybe I needed thinner brushes. I spent about two hours on the one in the background and accidentally ruined it.  I got a little carried away trying to fill in blank space and finally ended up having to paint the whole top red.  In the end I still like it so all was not lost.  I can't exactly put it into words but there is something so basic about putting paint on wood in a folk pattern that brings me so much joy. 

"Delight in the little things." - Rudyard Kipling

Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday Book Signing


I am excited to participate in a book signing this Friday with Christina Wald and Jeff Ebbeler at Sharon Woods. I will be signing my latest book, "You're Joking! Animal Jokes for Children".  Come out and see the holiday light display, get your books signed and finish your holiday shopping at the gift shop!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Nessy Press!




I am excited to announce the launch of my new website NessyPress.com where I will be selling my fine art linocut prints.  This website is the culmination of a LOT of hard work but seeing it all come together gives me butterflies in my stomach (in a good way).

The website will show all of the prints I currently have for sale.  It also has an "About Me" page and a page about "The Process."  In addition there is a spot to sign up for my newsletter if you would like to be notified when a new print becomes available.

Please visit the website and have a look (let me know if something doesn't work!).  And please share if you know anyone who loves large botanical linocut prints!

"The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them." -Elizabeth Gilbert



 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Halloween Cookies



I didn't think I could love candy corns any more than I do but these cookies elevate them to a new level.  Every fall my mom used to make us these cookies at Halloween and my brother, sister and I would happily decorate them (half the candy corns on the cookies and half in our tummies!)  They are truly delicious cookies and if you like candy corns you must try them!   

Halloween Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 recipe powdered sugar frosting

In small mixer bowl, cream together butter or margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Stir in vanilla.  Stir together dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture.  Chill dough thoroughly, 3 to 4 hours.

On well-floured surface, roll dough 1/8 inch thick.  Cut with pumpkin-shaped or round cutter.  Bake on un-greased cookie sheet in 375 degree oven 6 to 8 minutes.  Cool on rack.  Frost with powdered sugar frosting and decorate with candy corns.

Powdered Sugar Frosting

4-5 tablespoons milk
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
dash salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix dry ingredients first, then add vanilla and milk.  I have to admit I don't always sift but it is smoother if you do.







If you would like to download a pdf of this recipe click here.











"Cookies are made of butter and love [and candy corns!]" 
- Norwegian proverb


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Buckeye Haiku



There are two kinds of buckeyes in Ohio: the Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava) and the Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra).  Last summer I photographed the beautiful, spiky glabra fruit, but this time we found the smooth-shelled, spotted flava on our walk in Avon Woods.  I don't know if this species' fruit is always so big, but these buckeyes were enormous!


Below you can see George opening one of the fruits to reveal the rich mahogany fruit inside.


I wanted to end this blog entry with a nice quote about buckeyes, but when I googled "buckeye quote" I could only find quotes about Ohio State (my brother would say, "What else would you expect?").  So I decided to leave you with a little haiku I wrote about one of my favorite fall subjects.

In the deep dark woods
Fortune favored me today
Smooth rich brown buckeye


(If you just can't get enough buckeye haiku, find this image on my Instagram account for more!)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

African Violets



When my dad retired I needed something to decorate the tables at the reception party.  I looked around but couldn't find anything. I finally came across the perfect solution at Meier's of all places.  They were selling cute African violets and I bought 12 of them.  After the party I gave my mom three of them and I couldn't believe my eyes the next time I visited her house.  She had purchased pots, potting soil and fertilizer all specifically for African violets at the local garden store (Knollwood is amazing!).  I never would have known that you could even buy all those things...but boy were the plants thriving! The pots are great because it is a pot within a pot and you fill the outer pot with water and the plant absorbs what it needs.  They are called self-watering pots and I have now even seen them at Lowes.


When researching the plant I found out the plants are native to Tanzania and southeastern Kenya and that many of the species are endangered or threatened due to destruction of their native cloud forest habitat.  My mom also told me they don't like to get water on their leaves.  Wikipedia said that spilling cold water on the leaves can cause discoloration and that they plants don't like rapid changes in temperature.  I guess that is why they like those special pots. 


Another tidbit from Wikipedia is that African violets "have long been associated with mothers and motherhood."  It is interesting because my mom said her mother grew African violets and my next door neighbor said his mom grew African violets.  Last time I went up to visit my mom she had purchased yet another plant, so she now has five.  I think I am going to stick to my two remaining plants and see how it goes.



I also discovered there is an African Violet Society of America.  Their website is chock full of information on growing basics, propagation, watering, and grooming.  It sounds like there is a whole world of contests and events around designing arrangements with the plants.  And on the African Violet Society of Canada's page they have photos of various categories including standard, semi-miniature, miniature, and trailing African violets. 


But I can completely understand why people love this plant.  Last time I was at my mom's house I decided to take her plants outside for a little photo shoot.  I had the best time playing around with the gorgeous, moody lighting underneath her magnolia tree.  And they looked great tucked in around her hostas. Hopefully mine will thrive like her's have if my orange tabby boys will leave them alone.  If you have any African violet stories or advice leave me a comment!