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.