Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Leatherleaf Mahonia

My front flower bed has been taken over by Soloman's seal which makes it virtually impossible to walk in or weed that bed.  In the corner of this bed lives a Mahonia plant that I hardly ever notice because it is next to a dogwood and hidden by all sorts of treachery.  But a couple weeks ago I decided to try and clear some of the incredibly prolific Soloman's seal and this is what I found.

I have always loved the beautiful soft green-blue berries on this plant but I never noticed the striking orange color of the leaves.  The contrast between both color and texture of berries and leaves is a feast for the eyes.

And the red stems are also interesting.  Their shape in the above photo reminds me of a thin, red, furry spider.  And in case you thought this plant couldn't get any more showy, check out the deep blue-purple color the berries will become in a month. 

But beauty often comes with a price and, although the plant is beautiful, I just realized it is considered invasive.  I know for sure this plant is a Mahonia, but there is Mahonia aquifolium and Mahonia bealeiM. aquifolium is native but M. bealei is from China.  My suspicion is this is the invasive one. If anyone out there can confirm this leave me a comment. 

Before I realized this plant is banned in several states I had already chosen this quote because this song popped in my head when I saw these I am going to leave you with it anyway.

"Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe."
-Katy Perry

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Wabi-sabi Peony

I love peonies at all stages of their life cycle.  George was asking me why my top two photos (above and below) were photos of a peony when it was past its prime.  I thought about it and it comes back to the idea of wabi-sabi.  It is easy to appreciate a flower when it is in full bloom.  Everything is perky, erect, saturated and striving toward the sun.  But after that, the stamens relax, the colors fade, and the inner parts, once hidden by all the fanfare, are revealed.  And if you keep watching you realize these inner parts are quite spectacular and hide the plant's most precious cargo.  I don't believe there could be a more beautiful metaphor for our lives than that.

But to be fair...all the stages are beautiful and I wanted an excuse to post all my favorite peony photos from this year. So here are a few more, including an amazing, gigantic, yellow Itoh peony my mom bought me last year plus a few of the old standards.

As I was looking around for wabi-sabi quotes I found this one by Amy Krouse Rosenthal that I thought captured the moment perfectly:

"I was noticing how more and more I was feeling both happy (acutally, content) and sad at the same time.  Happiness always seemed to be tinged with sadness, and strangely, vice versa.  I started asking around if anyone knew a word that meant happy and sad at the same time.  ...It is feeling content, peaceful, hyper-aware of loss, in awe, perfectly, gently happy/sad.  What is the word?"

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Swiss Chalet House Sketch - Cincinnati

This weekend my friend Christina and I sketched a house in my neighborhood.  This style of architecture is called "Swiss Chalet" and there are a number of them in Cincinnati.  They were built around the turn of the century and are characterized by "low pitched roofs with front gables and wide eaves with decorative brackets." You can see some amazing examples here.  I LOVE the colorful details and when I imagine myself living in one I picture myself in the alps dressed in full folk costume swinging a bucket of freshly squeezed milk. 

My friend Christina is truly an amazing artist.  I have learned so much from sketching with her.  She was almost done inking hers when I just finished my pencil sketch.  You can see her sketch is one of my favorite sketches of hers.  Thank you Christina for getting me outside to sketch!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spruce Pollen Cones

There is one street in my neighborhood where it has become my practice to try to be present the whole length of the street.  I do this in different ways.  I usually try to clear my mind, but more often I try to focus my attention on my surroundings.  Often I listen to whatever sounds might come my way... or I feel the wind on my cheek. 

About a month ago I was walking like this when a little bit of color caught my eye as I walked under this spruce tree.  When I looked up I was astonished to find these lovely red pollen cones at the ends of all the branches.  It was hard to take a picture because the wind was pushing them to and fro and I stood there mesmerized by their movement. 

When I found this Mary Oliver quote I thought it a perfect description not only of my experience, but of this entire blog. And I thought as long as you all will keep reading I will never tire of telling you about it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Star Wars Linocut - Max Rebo

This Wednesday I am participating in a Star Wars Tribute Show called "May the Fourth Be With You." I made a Max Rebo linocut for the show.  If you don't remember, Max Rebo was a member of a 12-person band that played at Jabba the Hutt's palace on the planet Tattooine.  If you are interested in this character there is more information than you ever could imaging on this website.  Apparently Max had quite an appetite and he signed a contract where Jabba paid the band with an unlimited supply of food which made the other band members mad.

My incredibly talented friends Christina Wald and Kevin Necessary organized the show.  You can see the details in the poster Kevin created below (click to enlarge). If you are in Cincinnati, stop by the Brew House tomorrow night at 6 for our opening party!  There will be droids!

I also took a few process shots while making my linocut.

I printed 8 copies but only had 6 turn out in the end.  I lost one to blurriness and one to my fine lines getting clogged.

One of the fun things they asked us to do for the show was to write a short summary of why Star Wars was important to us and to choose our favorite quote.  Here is what I wrote:

My childhood is filled with memories from the Star Wars trilogy.  I remember hiding small toys under the front hood of our Star Wars landspeeder, shoving action figures in the holes of our maple tree, and being annoyed when I thought I lost Yoda’s staff.  I also remember the amazing Halloween costumes my mom made us.  My brother had a full-body furry Chewbacca costume where he looked out the mouth and my sister twisted her long hair into princess Leia’s side buns.  One year my brother and I were matching Jawa’s with costumes made of itchy burlap.  The magic of those years would not have been the same without Star Wars and whenever I hear the first few notes of the soundtrack I am transported to a galaxy far, far away.

If you would like to purchase this print visit

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. “ - Yoda