Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Elephant Linocut

I decided to make a linocut print for my Christmas card this year.  Above you can see the final print and below are photos of the linocut in process.  I really like using Safety-Kut for the carving block because it is so soft.  If you have never used it, it is like a giant eraser.

I ended up using oil-based ink which rolls beautifully and allows a long work time before drying out.  Some people like to use water-based ink because it cleans easily, but I use vegetable oil to clean with and it is not so bad.  The only other problem with oil-based ink is that it does take a few days to dry.  I think it helped that my house is really dry in the winter.  Plus I moved all the prints to dry on top of the radiator covers which I think helped speed the process.  By the end of the day every radiator in my house was covered in elephants!

Below you can see my dining room turned into crafting/printing room for a weekend.  I printed 108 and it took me all day.  Although it was exhausting, it was fun to see the table slowly fill up with prints.  I think that is why I like print-making.  In a very short amount of time you can create something where there was nothing before.  And look at the beautiful repetition (yay, yay, yay!).

After three or four days the prints were dry.  We packaged them up and sent them off into the world because seriously, who doesn't want to receive a cheery, red, linocut elephant in their mail box?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Land of Medicine Buddha

Aside from the elephant seals I was also impressed by some other great beings on my California trip...the giant redwood trees.  And a great place to see them is the Land of Medicine Buddha meditation and retreat center.  The center is located on 108 acres of coastal foothills and is next to 10,000 acres of redwood forest.  It offers a meditation trail which leads visitors on an exploration of the "Eight Verses of Mind Transformation" (you do not need to be a Buddhist to visit).  I especially loved walking the trail and coming around the corner to discover treasures like the Buddha carving above.  The combination of the redwoods and buddhas were not only visually stunning, but their serenity was palpable and one could truly feel a sense of awe and tranquility. 

When we entered the retreat center we were greeted by huge redwood trees (above) and a giant prayer wheel (below) that you can turn.  You can choose a mantra of your choice according to your need.  I didn't know it at the time, but the prayer wheel physically contains at least 170,425,600,000 mantras inside.  There is a great description of the wheel here.

Below my friend Jodi is turning the giant wheel.

Farther up the trail we were greeted by more prayer wheels and this awesome bell.  There were detailed instructions on what to say when turning the wheels or ringing the bell.

At the end of the trail we found this temple which was closed but contained the largest Buddha I have ever seen.  I wish we could have gone inside to see it better, but I was impressed nonetheless.

It was easy to feel serene and humbled while walking among these giants.  And it's amazing to think how long these trees have stood in the same spot taking whatever comes there way.  Come wind, rain or shine they stand steadfast as an example to us all.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

California Beach Beauties

Last week I visited my friend who lived in Santa Cruz and we took a walk one day along the beach at Capitola.  As we were walking up to the boardwalk this step caught my eye and I marveled at what the ocean, sun, and wind can do to a piece of wood.  It seems the ocean slowly reclaims everything.  I love the way the boards of the boardwalk are gradually turning the same blue-green color of the water.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Año Nuevo State Park to see the elephant seals.  I want to specially thank Steve (above) for taking me out in the cold, pouring rain even though he was feeling sick and for giving me a wonderful tour. (In the photo he is standing behind a whale vertebra.)  It was raining so hard at times I couldn't keep the drops off my lens but it was totally worth it. 

Seals have always held a special place in my heart. The word "cute" doesn't even come close to describing their fusiform, blubbery bodies with their huge, soulful eyes.  The sleeping beauty above was a large male bull who returned to the area to mate.  He was one of the first males to return and was apparently resting up before all the action began.  We had an incredible view of him and were able to see (and hear) that he was snoring.

The seal below was probably a female, but could also have been a young male.  I was able to watch it haul itself out of the ocean and make its way towards a large, sleepy group higher up on the beach.  I think Steve thought I was crazy but I admitted to him that if I could, I would love to snuggle up to next to them and nuzzle and kiss those sweet cheeks.  It reminded me of the dog on bugs bunny... " I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him...".  I don't think I can quite say enough about how much I love these animals.

Below is a terrible little video I took with my phone, but it shows the incredibly cute undulating motion they use to propel themselves while on land.

I know I say this at the end of many of my posts, but truly if you ever get the chance to go to Año Nuevo  it is an amazing experience, rain or shine.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cicada Skirt

About a month ago my friend Amy and I collaborated on a little project.  I stamped her skirt with my cicada stamp and she embroidered 3-D red eyes on top of the stamp (Amy is an amazing embroiderer - check this out).  And to top if off she completed the whole look with her amazing red wellies.  I think it is quite possibly the world's cutest cicada skirt.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Creative Juice Weekend Retreat

It's been a week now since our Creative Juice Weekend Retreat and I thought I had said it all in my last post.  But as I sat here looking at the milkweed pod above it got me thinking that it is good to change up our routines every so often.  And it's good to take time to retreat from our daily lives.  There was minimal cell phone coverage (on my phone anyway) and I loved getting away from the computer and doing something with my hands.  If I hadn't gone on this trip I would have missed understanding that milkweed pods are jam-packed-full of beautifully organized seeds with gorgeous fine white hairs that will carry them away with the slightest breeze.

And I would have missed the chance to come across this old farm machinery slowly being taken over by a country field.  Few things excite me as much as rusty, old metal machines with repetitious parts and a fading patina.  I couldn't get over the lovely blue color on this one!

As I mentioned last week we also did small craft projects like drawing on rocks.  If you missed it, Margot wrote a post with more photos, including our aluminum metal-crafting work plus Christina's amazing watercolor sketches of our trip.  It's so nice to have a small project that you can complete in under an hour while chatting with friends. 

I wanted to end this post by encouraging everyone to take a break from their routines, retreat and get outside.  And then I remembered the following quote by Edward Abbey that I think says it way better than I ever could.

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
-Edward Abbey

(click images to enlarge)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Creative Juice Retreat - Fabulous Finds

I attend a weekly artist/freelancer group called Creative Juice and last weekend I, along with three other intrepid "juicers," retreated to an adorable house in Adams County.  The plan was to have a women's weekend chock full of crafting, collecting, creating, and conversation.  And the weekend did not disappoint! 

The group was composed of myself and three incredibly talented artists: Lisa Ballard, Margot Madison and Christina Wald.  It is an amazing thing to be around a group of creative women.  Each person brought something to the table and as we crafted and conversed it felt like I was a young girl again having the time of my life at a slumber party. 

And I loved the walks we took each day.  Normally when I go for a walk with friends I am the one always stopping and slowing down to look at something.  But in this group every few minutes we would hear a squeal of joy from someone who had found a treasure that had to be admired, collected and photographed.  To be around others who have such attention and an eye for beauty is exhilarating and indescribably fun!  Lisa (above) was particularly excited when her snail "Fred" made an appearance and came out of his shell. 

Margot found the above turtle shell and Lisa immediately fell in love with it.  When we got back to the house she found the perfect spot to photograph it in an old tray sitting outside the front door.  She played around with different items and positioning and in the end decided it was also  incredibly beautiful all by itself.

In addition to our walks we also spent our time crafting.  Below is a sneak preview of one of our projects.  Margot did a more complete post of our weekend's handiwork on the Creative Juice blog here.

The photo above shows Margot with a hard-won bouquet of sumac.  Lisa and Margot had to brave many a thorn to collect them.  Even the stray dog we hiked with us thought they were crazy for venturing into that thorny patch. 

We had so many fab finds that I had to divide my photos into two posts so check back soon for more juicy gems.  Although I loved the creating, crafting and collecting, in the end my favorite part of the weekend was spending time and connecting with three extraordinary women.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!    

(click photos to enlarge)

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I have been loving the plants I find on my walks this fall.  When I saw the seed head above I literally had to stop in my tracks and just take it in for a while.  If anyone knows what it is please leave a comment to let me know.  I would love to plant this in my yard!

This fall has been interesting for me in that I have had a cell phone with a camera for the first time.  Originally I thought I would only use the photos from the phone for reference for art projects and continue using my Canon slr for blog photos.  My main concern with the cell phone photos was that they have a harshness of clarity to them.  It's like they have been sharpened and had the saturation turned up (see the third image down of teasel).  But the ease of carrying such a small camera won me over and I have been surprised by how much I enjoy taking photos with the phone. So I have been trying to balance using both cameras and this blog entry has a mix of the two.

When I got the phone, however, I was super annoyed when the phone started "doing" things to my photos that I didn't ask it to "auto-awesoming" all my photos! WTH? I am not normally a fan of applying pre-made filters to my photos. Not that I am against filters... more that I am a control freak and I like to meticulously edit them myself. But I have to admit, every so often I liked a random one here and there. Above is an example of one I liked of George birding in Caldwell Nature Preserve.

See how the above photo is a bit over-the-top and the photo below is more natural?  I know it isn't really a fair comparison because the lighting and subjects were different, but I tend to like a softer image as opposed to a hyper-realistic image where the colors are pushed to their limits.  Perhaps in the future I will do a direct comparison of the same subjects with both cameras.

As I try and navigate new technology one thing always stays the love of getting close to my subjects.  Of really stopping and taking the time to look and see them...  to know them.  Take a look at the seed head below!  I love the way the layers have dried and folded up to let go of their precious cargo.  I wanted to end this post with a quote and I liked the first one I found.

"Love’s secret is always lifting its head out from under the covers, “Here I am!” - Rumi