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 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 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!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cecropia Linocut Print

Every other year Tiger Lily Press creates a calendar to raise funds for their programs and I was very excited to participate this year.  The calendar includes original screenprints, linocuts, woodcuts, suminagashi (marbled paper), and letterpress prints using one or two colors.  Each participating artist is asked to print 100 copies of their print to be included in the calendar so if you would like to buy one you'd better act fast as their are only 100 of these in existence!  You can purchase the calendars here.

When I started working on this project I knew I wanted to create something that would be interesting in one color and I immediately thought of some photos I had taken of dried cecropia leaves on our Costa Rica trip.  The structure and lines of these leaves are truly amazing so I decided to have a go at making a linocut of a leaf.  Above you can see my sketch and below the sketch is transferred to the linoleum.

I was relieved to find out that all the artists involved would have a helping clean pair of hands to help print.  My helper was Susan Naylor, the Interim Director and Studio Manager and head of the calendar committee.  Susan is an incredible printmaker and it was truly a wonderful experience to work with her and soak up all of her printmaking know-how.  Below you can see we had lots of fun mixing different colors and testing them to find the perfect color for the print.

Once we found the color we liked we added a little magnesium carbonate to help it dry faster and rolled out the ink.

Susan created a jig for the Vandercook Proof Press to hold everyone's plates.  And the paper was pre-printed with letterpress type so the calendar would be consistent.  Below you can see Susan loading a new page into the jig.

I should have gotten video of us rolling the cylinder across the plate but, alas, I only took a short video of the final reveal (you have to give me a mind was tired after printing 100 of these!).

Below you can see the final print in the drying rack. 

The beautiful thing about this calendar is that it was designed so the buyer can easily cut the bottom portion off and frame the print.  Each print is 6” x 8” and suitable for framing in a precut 8” x 10” mat and framed in a standard 11” x 14” frame.  That means for $45 you get twelve original prints by Cincinnati artists which is quite a bargain if you ask me!  So if you are looking for a gift for the person who has everything, this is the perfect solution.  You can either purchase a calendar online here or you can pick one up in person at the Tiger Lily Press Print Sale, November 5 at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.  Please share this with your friends and come out to the sale to see some amazing artwork!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lessons from a Nut

When you reach the ground after a long fall you first have to dust yourself off and realize,
“I’m OK.”
Then you gain confidence and understand,
“I am one tough nut.”
And finally, it is then you realize,
“Oh...I am meant to be here!”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Datura Linocut Print

As many of you know I get much of my inspiration from my walks around my neighborhood.  A few years ago I noticed a very interesting pod growing near my neighbor's driveway.  I went home and looked it up and learned it is the pod of the Datura plant.  Ever since then I have been photographing it year round because the changes in the pod are quite fascinating. I knew I wanted to make a linocut of this plant but had a hard time choosing just one photo.  As you can see below I chose a photo from the spring when the pod is green and spiky.

Below you can see my final sketch.

This project was a big change for me because I decided to use linoleum rather than Safety-Kut.  In the past I have been hand-burnishing my prints because you can't run Safety-Kut through a press because it mushes (for lack of a better term).  But hand-burnishing such large prints has been very hard on my back (plus I have been bugging my husband for help with those). So this time I decided to switch to linoleum and joined Tiger Lily Press to have access to their press.

The project started a bit rough because I had a hard time transferring my drawing to the linoleum.  I tried scanning, printing on a laser printer and ironing the image onto the linoleum with no success.  I also tried a transfer marker but that didn't work either.  In the end I flipped it over and burnished it which barely transferred the graphite enough for me to essentially re-draw the image onto the linoleum.  Next time I will uses Saral transfer paper.

In order to carve the linoleum I had to buy new tools.  I ended up purchasing Flexcut's Deluxe Palm Set and quickly realized I should have bought the Micro Palm Set.  Even after receiving the Micro set I bought a few extra individual smaller v-gouges.  I bought the Flexcut tools because I really like the sliptsrop they sell that allows me to sharpen the tools regularly.  Below you can see a time-lapse video of the carving process.

When I am carving I also like to have a reverse image of my sketch so I can look between my carving and my sketch without having to reverse things in my head.  I scanned the sketch, printed it tiled, and then taped it together.

Above is a close-up of the carving and below is the finished carving before inking.

I decided to hand-burnish a proof at home to check and make sure everything looked OK before going to the press.  To make it easier on me, I used color straight out of the can and printed onto thin rolled paper.  Here is a video of pulling the proof.

The image below shows the plate inked after proofing.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to have the "carve lines" in the negative space around the pod.  Originally I wanted to hedge my bets and print some with the lines and some without.  I researched how to use a mask and contacted one of the most amazing printmakers I know, Vanessa Lubach, about how to do it.  She said she prints the linocut onto a piece of paper or thin card and then cuts out the parts to use as a mask.  She then uses rolled up pieces of masking tape to attach the mask to the plate after inking.  Below you can see my plate masked off (some of the inked lines showed through the mask a bit but didn't print.)  It was one of the few things that actually went smoothly during printing (except I forgot to use the mask a couple times).

After proofing at home I took the plate to Tiger Lily and was excited to finally print using a press.  But using a press has its own set of problems.  I spent three very long days of printing and really struggled to get a good print.  The image kept appearing smudgy.  I tried everything from changing my ink, stripping the plate,sanding the plate, changing the pressure, changing the blankets, changing the direction, using more ink, using less ink, changing the paper, wetting the name it, I tried it.  I have to give a special thank you to Susan Naylor for helping me print and for endlessly brainstorming about how to fix the problem.  (Susan you are a woman of infinite patience!)  On the third day I got maybe two or three prints that were mildly acceptable but then the smudgy problem came back.

After a while I started to question whether I could even pull a good print from this plate.  In order to make myself feel better I ended up bringing it home and hand-burnishing five or six prints.  I felt lucky just to have some good prints.  I am still determined to figure out how to pull a good print using the press and I think one more day of tinkering might get me there. 

If you would like to purchase this print visit

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 
 -Maya Angelou