Thursday, March 25, 2010

Glory on my Morning Walk

So much to do, so little time..... but I still had to stop and share these pictures with you. Thank heavens for the sun, plus the colors and patterns of spring! Aren't these glorious?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm Flattered

I've been thinking a lot about blogging lately. Some folks on the QuiltArt list were recently lamenting that posting links to blogs might be a frivolous effort to build traffic to an artist's blog. I happen to like seeing links to blogs. If I have the time to check something out, I will. I like the feeling of being part of a community of artists and I think blogs help us get there. In her book, I'd Rather be in the Studio, Alyson B. Stanfield sums it up well: "Blogs help you build an audience by connecting with readers on a very personal level." (pg 105) I agree; I feel I get a glimpse into the personality of an artist through their blog. This might be the personal connection I need to look further at someone's art. Leaving comments can lead to relationships which can lead to who knows what kind of opportunities. Still, though I do enjoy writing this journal, I often ask myself, "Is anyone reading this? Is it worthwhile?"

Well, I received a wonderful compliment from A. Carole Grant. She gave me A Sunshine Award, gifted by her to blogs "... that have positive and creative blogging." Isn't that nice? I'm very flattered. Thank you, Carole! This is a wonderful boost.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Start of Spring

You've probably all seen lots of flower bud pictures already, but please indulge me as I post my own. I didn't discover the emerging flowers until today after I made a dent in storm damage clean -up from last month's brutal snow storm, followed up by the devastating Nor'easter last week. What a mess! But what a happy day to discover the flowers. Just to be different, I'll post black and white pictures I took in the rain tonight.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I'm afflicted with a madness I can't control. I don't know what's come over me. A while back I painted a piece of fabric with the intent of using it for a specific project. It didn't work out. I kept it on my design wall because I was certain it would work for my next piece. No, not even close.

The fabric collected dust on my wall for about six months. I even covered it up with new things I'd painted. But now, it is suddenly front and center. One night I dreamt about this fabric so vividly that I remembered it when I awoke: this fabric wanted to be the main attraction of a piece of art.

Well, I've got lots to do, lots of looming deadlines, and I can't get this fabric out of my head.... so, I've started to quilt it. Lots and lots of lines in pink, red and black, with metallic gold to come. Very tedious and time consuming; should be dull and boring, but I'm actually enjoying this. I can't seem to move on to anything else (including my "must do" pieces) until I get through this thing. I don't know if it will be worth it, but I'm driven to work on this. Has this ever happened to you?

P.S. I'm not so involved in this that I haven't noticed the wonderful turn in the weather. In my attic studio, I've been joined by many little spotted friends who've been taking rides on the fabric while I quilt. HA!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Trying new things

I've added more color to my charcoal girl, both watercolor crayon and fabric paint. I have to admit that I like what's happening here. Now I have to figure out what to do next. I'd appreciate any and all suggestions.

Today, I spied a swan in a small pond while I was out running errands. In the hopes that he (maybe she?) would still be there on my return trip, I grabbed my camera when I passed by home. I'm usually reluctant to take my camera out in the rain because I'm afraid I'll damage it, but I was emboldened to try by a photographer's tip that rain can make some animals more visible. Here's the picture I managed to get; it's not hard to figure out why swans were once considered royal birds.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Costa Rica: Feathers and Flowers

I think it's time to wrap up my Costa Rica travel memoir, so here's a bundle of flowers and birds. Thanks for indulging my memories!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Long Arm of the Internet

A month ago I received an email I thought was spam. Someone was gathering donations for their institution's auction and would I like to participate by donating a piece of artwork? The email was well written and the links within it were real, so I asked the writer how she got my email address. As it turns out, the woman in question is an art quilt supporter and had seen my piece, Together II, on the SAQA 2009 auction webpage. She liked the piece, felt that it conveyed a spirit of cooperation, and hoped I would consider making a similar piece for the Smithsonian National Zoo's auction this spring. She felt it would be a good fit to the conservation message they are advocating.


After I got over the initial shock, I said yes. I'm so flattered that someone was willing to work so hard to get in touch with me. This is a great example of how the internet can work in our favor as artists. I'm thrilled that SAQA still has this page accessible to interested parties. And now, perhaps, someone new will see my artwork and become a patron (a girl can dream!).

Here's Together II. I'll be working on Together III in the coming weeks so I can have it in Washington in time.

P.S. You might read about this experience in the upcoming fundraising letter from SAQA to support their website. Please give as generously as you can because, hey, you never know!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Costa Rica: Bugs and Such

By popular demand, here's the post about the creepy crawlies that we saw in Costa Rica. Now, let me preface this by saying that I find all these creatures fascinating. In fact, I wanted to go along on a night-time bug walk to see all the action at night. Unfortunately, the stars did not align for that to happen. (I guess I'm just going to have to go back some day to do it!)

At any rate, there are so many spiders, bugs, lizards, reptiles.... you name it, they've got it in the jungle. Here's just a sampling of what we saw. There were many missed opportunities -- like the 4" long scorpion in the bathroom that we didn't stop to take pictures of and the leaf cutter ants that kept coming out blurry-- and a lot I'm sure I didn't even see. Most of these pictures were taken around our inn, just walking about. I am bummed I missed a picture of the crocodiles that were in the river by the inn, but that's probably a good thing; I was kayaking at the time and needed to pay attention.

Let's start with lizards. Most of them scampered about quickly, but every once in a while we got lucky. This ground lizard let me get very close to him; I think it's because I had just watched him eat a cicada and he was too full to flee.

This is a saddled anole. The area beneath his neck swells up like a bright orange balloon when he's defending his territory or courting. I only managed a fuzzy picture of one with his dewlap all expanded, but here's a nice close up. Did you know that the saddled anole is the largest in the family and that it's tail is twice as long as its body?

We saw this female black iguana, resting on a tree by the bay. She had come out to gather up some sunshine for the day at her gorgeous seaside address. According to some sources, they are the fastest of the ctenosuara family. The males can grow to almost five feet in length.

Have you ever gone on the Jungle Cruise in Disney World? For years I always thought that the bug noises they piped in were a bit excessive. Well, I stand corrected; the locusts / cicadas are positively noisy at night! And man, they make a major thunk when they run into things. So, I was not too distressed as this wolf spider captured one and carried it off. It was actually pretty cool.

Doesn't this one look like a yellow pin cushion? Actually, it's a yellow crab spider. These wee little spiders spin webs that are more than a foot across. And, just because they're small doesn't make them harmless. They're actually poisonous and can cause problems for humans unlucky enough to be bitten.

Crabs, by the way, seem to be everywhere. I got a kick out of these who looked so menacing but were actually tiny little fellows living in the puddles within flowers and on the ground.

Because it rained so much while we were there, some creatures were more visible than usual. I almost stepped on this pile of mud -- only it was actually a giant marine toad. These toads are predators and come out more frequently in wet weather. This guy was one big lump.

One morning at breakfast we spied this gorgeous praying mantis lurking about. I have lots of pictures that show how big he was (he was very grand) but I like his smile best on this picture.

And now, lest you think all I'm doing is recounting my vacation, I thought I'd also let you know that I've finally spent a little time in the studio. I painted some fabric,

I drew a pattern for a new newspaper hand piece I'd like to make, and

I experimented with charcoal on fabric. I sealed the charcoal with a fixative and now I'm seeing how well it holds up to water spritzing -- I blended some water soluble crayons around the girl. I'm excited about this and, as soon as I'm done here, I'm going to color all around her and see what happens.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Costa Rica: Sport Fishing

Now I know that this topic isn't going to be of interest to everyone. Some might say, "What's so exciting about sitting in a boat, waiting for a hapless fish to bite on some bait?" Well, it just so happens that my son loves to fish. He loves to be out on the water in the early morning. He avidly reads fishing magazines, trying to learn the habits of different fish and then matching lures and weights and lines to those habits. And, because my son usually goes off with my husband to play sports, I don't get to be with him that often. So when the opportunity comes to go off fishing, I go along. I don't get seasick, I love to be out on the water, I don't get bored just sitting about looking at the horizon when things are slow, and my son is happy to have my company.

And so it was that one morning, my son and I left with a captain and his mate and sailed 32 miles off the shore of Costa Rica to go fishing for a day. People hadn't been too lucky lately; the water had been at 86 degrees Fahrenheit and the fish were sluggish. We were hoping to break that trend.

After catching bonitos for bait, we cast out some lines for sailfish. What luck! Within 30 minutes, my son had a huge sailfish on his line! He had to put on a belt to help leverage the rod as he reeled in the fish. Sailfish are the fastest fish in the ocean and dance around the surface and put on a good show as they are brought into the boat. Here are some action shots:

And look at that big fish! My son brought him in after a twenty-five minute battle. The captain estimated that this fellow was about 7 feet long and 120 pounds. Not to fret; after this photo, we put the sailfish back in the water and watched him swim away -- a little sore from the effort, but not hurt. The hole from the hook heals rapidly and the fish is hunting and eating again in no time. We hooked another sailfish but alas, he got off the line after about five minutes.

We switched gears then and started to fish for dinner. It's common courtesy to fish for fun for a while, then to fish to feed the folks back on shore (and for the crew). We decided to try for mahi mahi, also known as dorado and dolphinfish. Success again! I caught the first fish, one about 50 pounds. Though they are not as big as sailfish nor as heavy, they are much harder to bring in. They are powerful, fast fish that dive deep. It's like bringing up a soaked piece of lumber that's battling against you. My son was laughing at my struggles; it took about twenty-five minutes to catch the fish. But he stopped laughing when he caught his own fish and he was soon dripping in sweat from the effort. Together, the two fish weighed about 90 pounds, enough to feed everyone at the inn that night, including the staff, with some extra for the crew.

And though it may seem macabre, I feel compelled to share a picture of the mahi mahi up close. Nature sure made a beautiful fish; look at the gorgeous colors!

As we headed back, we got a wonderful sailor's omen: we were surrounded by more than 300 dolphin! They frolicked and played around our boat for about half an hour. We were only blessed with this sight because we were so far out at sea. We have some video of the encounter but I can't post it here and, quite frankly, watching it may make some people queasy.

So, what should I share next? After this post, I'm figuring you might want a flower or bird show. On the other hand, I can get all the "icky sticky" creepy crawly stuff out of the way and post about lizards, crabs, spiders, and toads. Which would you prefer?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Costa Rica: Scuba Diving

Sorry I've been away from my blog a bit. I'm sure you've all heard about the snow storm that battered the Northeast -- well, I was one of those displaced persons they talked about on the news. We came home this afternoon after being out of power since Thursday evening. It was quite an adventure and I have greater appreciation for the struggles people experience when going through these Mother Nature trials.

At any rate, on our second full day in Costa Rica we went scuba diving. The underwater landscape here was different from any we'd seen elsewhere. Huge rock formations rise up from the ocean floor. The currents here were stronger than any we'd regularly encountered and coral grows flatter to the contours of the rocks. It was fun to see all the fish species specific to the Pacific and some of our favorites that we'd seen before. The currents churned up the ocean matter a bit so visibility wasn't as clear as in other places we've been diving, but by the same token, they made the diving a bit more fun and challenging. Here's a sampling of what we saw. There's not much color in these pictures; we dove deeper, our flash diffuser wasn't working, and the sun didn't penetrate that well here.... at least it seemed that way to my inexperienced eye.

Moorish Idol the size of a dinner plate

Relatively young hawksbill turtle, sated after eating a sponge

White tip reef sharks resting at 63 feet

Threebanded butterflyfish, alone in the expanse

Aside from all the breathtaking underwater scenery and sights, we had a few particularly exciting moments. One: we listened to whale song while we were diving. Very cool! Two: we came round a rock outcropping just as a group of seven white tip reef sharks zipped by hunting (no, they are not dangerous to humans). Usually the sharks are just lounging on the ocean floor, so it was really exciting to see them in action. Three: Though endangered, we saw several hawksbill turtles. Four: After four days of testing, we all passed our open water skills testing and we're now certified scuba divers. Hurray!