Monday, April 25, 2016

Edge habitat

April is here, so the sides of my oft-visited fire trails here in Mill Valley have updated their attire from mud and mushrooms to a few native flowers but mostly rattlesnake grass, dandelions, thistles, and Scotch broom.

I remembered a phrase I heard from biologists many years ago about "edge habitat."  The principle being that when you take a nice whole habitat and you cut it up in unnatural ways, such as installing a fire road, invasive and weedy things tend to overrun these "edges."  And either crowd out native species or otherwise degrade the environment.

Of course, there is some very delicate beauty in a stalk of rattlesnake grass and my dogs and I get a lot of joy out of fire trails. (Including using them as a spot for sketching, as today.)  And, technically speaking, not all habitat edges are man-made nor are they detrimental.

Anyhow, I'm not about to start a campaign to rid ourselves of fire trails. But I do wish I could rip up all the weeds as I walk along.  Does one need permission?

So what about other kinds of wholeness, brokenness and what grows at those disrupted edges?

What edges have I (or my environment) created in my mind, heart, digestive tract?  In my social life?

(If I hadn't been too lazy to read Colin Campbell's "Whole", I bet I'd already know the answer about the digestive tract question. Although I trust several folks who have read it and generally avoid processed food.)

Where will it be worth investing in some more wholeness?  And maybe some weeding? I'm sure there's a relationship to meditation here.  Those weeds are just a little harder to see.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Kai the parrotlet

Say hello to Kai, a parrotlet who lives in San Jose.  A new patron saw my dog drawings at Bica Coffeehouse and commissioned this piece for his wife for Christmas.

Turns out that Kai's "mama" rescues these birds and has about 15!  This was actually my first drawing or painting of a domestic bird, but my practice on dogs and wild birds seems to have served me.  I was going to include here some meaning for the name "Kai", but when I searched on it, I found it exists in many, many languages with many different meanings.  So I'll have to go back to my patron and ask.

Whatever else Kai may be, he sure looks intelligent, doesn't he?  

8" x 10" Schmincke watercolor, Derwent watercolor pencil and Micron pen on watercolor paper.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Give California Coast artwork for the holidays and benefit Glide!

Right now, if you get yourself to Bica Coffeehouse in Oakland (on College near Rockridge BART), not only can you enjoy the best chai in the Bay Area, but you can also buy one of my hand-pulled linoleum prints for just $50.  AND, if you are one of the first five purchases, then 100% of those proceeds will go directly to Glide.

For more photos, see the Flickr album.

Here are some photos of a few examples from the recent collection, which I've titled "Pacific Plate."  They are printed on either archival Rives paper or a page from a vintage atlas.  Thanks for letting me share!

elsa_bica.jpgMy cute niece posing with the newly hung show.IMG_7088.JPG




For more photos, see the Flickr album.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

More prints!

I'm just in love with carving and printing this series of members of our California coastal ecological web!   All of what I'm sharing here are prints I've pulled at home, but hoping to get these to a real press soon for some really rich printing of these same carvings.  I have also signed up for a screen-printing class at Richmond Art Center, so who knows?  I might go nuts with that too.

River otter - 8" x 10"

Tiny otter from scrap lino piece - about 3"

Harbor seal lounging around


Sea anemone

Sea Hare (a type of sea slug)

Another sea anemone



Sea otter

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Illustration Friday - "Old"

The topic for this week's Illustration Friday is "old."  While many submissions (so far) are depicting what "old" looks like for humans, I went a little sideways and stuck to my marine life theme.  I almost submitted one of my shark prints, since sharks are such ancient creatures.  (They've been around for 450 millions years.  Humans, only about 200,000. Blip!)

But I wasn't sure if people would make that connection, so I did a search on the term "fossil" and was reminded of our friend the trilobite.   They really set the record for OLD.

Carved in linoleum, printed on an old map.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Plankton a go go

Original drawing

 I decided that to go with the apex predator prints of sharks (a Great White and a Blacktip), I'd like to have some images of the opposite end of the spectrum - plankton!

Started with the black and white drawing.  Transferred this (flipped) onto linoleum and carved so that most of the images would be white (or "not printed") and then did that again and carved a second one to do the reverse.

I love the abstract qualities of the plankton!

Dark plankton print on origami paper

Light plankton print on purple plain origami paper

Monday, August 24, 2015

When you love your subject, it shows

"Bonded" Uniball and Schmincke watercolor on paper - for Shelley
I remember feeling so worried about focusing my art on things like dogs - that this somehow would not be "real" or "important" art.  Now, I'm so relieved I didn't pursue that worry but just stuck to what interests and sparks me  I believe that if you have a strong connection with your subject, it always shows up as energy in the finished art piece.

This latest thing (not sure whether to call it a drawing with watercolor or a painting with ink drawing) was a great reminder of that for me.  My lovely cousin Shelley just finished a very difficult program of study and I am feeling very proud of her for pursuing her dream so vigorously.

So I stole a very sweet photo of her two rescue dogs off her Facebook album and based this surprise piece for her on the photo.  She'd written that she'd "waited 20 years for dogs bonded like this" - and I knew exactly what she meant.  There was resonance on this subject on many levels.  I felt nothing but joy and flow while working on it.

It's great to know this is all possible.  I've long since decided that the guidance of "do what you love and the money will follow" isn't for everyone.

However, I do think I believe in this: Do what you love, and the work you love will follow.  It may not be the work that pays your bills (in my case, it's work I do in my non-paid time), but it'll be there for you to lift your soul.  Not too shabby, in my opinion.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tank greets you from a distant land

This year's print exchange (sponsored by the Brooklyn Art Library) is on the theme of "Greetings from a distant land."  I made a print of an assemblage robot named "Tank", and that is also the title of the print.

Tank is from a distant land in a few ways.  He has that aura of outer space just by virtue of being a robot, plus his parts all served another purpose before he was created as this sculpture.  His bottom half, for example, is part of a former espresso pot.

Here are my 12 prints ready to mail back to them for the big swap!  I've come to learn this is called a "Varied Edition" since I used different ink colors and papers.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sharks in progress

I usually wait until I'm all done with something and then share on this blog, but I'm going to try out blogging more often and showing stuff in progress and how things connect.

Today I'm thinking about sharks and bears.  After I took part in the awesome printmaking class at 3 Fish Studios (see yesterday's post), I started noodling on what would make a next good subject for printing.

Firstly, I have sharks on the brain.  Here are some sketching I've started.

Last week, my boss Matt was talking about a friend of his who was about to attempt the (rather insane) feat of swimming from the Golden Gate to the Farallon Islands.  Rather insane because, sharks.  Namely Great White Sharks, or Carcharodon carcharias.  Matt asked me if I was familiar with the islands and knew about the sharks.  He mentioned a book written about it, which I bought and devoured (rather shark-like) in one night.

The book is "The Devil's Teeth" by Susan Casey. I really felt torn about this book. Way back when, I worked with Peter Pyle at PRBO and coordinated the shopping and such for the Farallon Patrol.  (So, yes, I definitely know about the islands!)  The radio to the scientists' house on Southeast Farallon Island lived on my desk in Stinson Beach office. 

Later Peter was my landlord when I rented his house in Bolinas, just steps away from the beach (so glorious.)  He was always such a solid, smart and personable guy.

So I was thrilled with how well Casey captured him and described the value of the research he and Scot did on Great Whites but very bummed at how things played out - all of which was unknown to me since I'd been out of touch and Peter's not really the type to gush all his personal details! However, this book renewed and deepened my gratitude that I was able to work at PRBO (now Point Blue) and get to work with these biologists while learning so much about birds and marine life. What a treasure, loved every second of it.

And while I can't be a researcher myself, I can use what I do to explore and enjoy sharkies - and that's drawing them.  I think they'll be good strong subjects to print too, can't wait to try that.
I'm also thinking about bears because of this tragic situation with the mama grizzly in Yellowstone who idiotic humans are threatening to kill.  I'm in the camp of "if the hiker ventured into Grizzly turf when she has babies nearby, then Grizzly allowed to eat human."  It's heartbreaking and angering to me.

I've signed the online petition but it might do my soul some good to draw and print up some bears.  I don't know if I'm just spitting in the wind, but it's what I can think to do now.

I also renewed my effort to volunteer for Beach Watch again.  I was bummed last year when I didn't get into their training.  I thought a returning volunteer would be top of the list.  It's possible that when I told them how excited I was to do some sketching, they got the idea that the sketching would interrupt survey protocol, but I assured them it would not.  We'll see if I get any response from them this year.

In the meantime, say prayers for our apex predators today, dear humans!!

Update August 14: I decided to try my hand at a submission to Illustration Friday.  The topic this week is "Heart."  The illustration at left is a good example of why I love challenges or assignments.  I never would have combined Mexican tin hearts and my love of sharks without stumbling on the "Heart" prompt. I first thought I might put a dog in the center but then thought it would be funny to put a shark in there and it grew from that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Learning linocut printing at 3 Fish Studios

First print of "Tank"
It felt like excellent and speedy karma.  I took a photo of a beautiful tote bag at the San Francisco Ferry Building and posted to Instagram, but had that nagging thing where I wanted to make sure to attribute the image to the artist if I could find out who it was.  That search led me to 3 Fish Studios, founded and operated by Annie Galvin (artist of the bear with poppies image) and hubby artist Eric Rewitzer.

So my reward for proper attribution was to discover this studio was right here in San Francisco and what's more - they give classes on how to do linoleum prints of your own!!  I signed up immediately.

The class goes over two Tuesday nights.  We learned how to transfer our image outline to the linoleum and how to carve on the first night.  Then last night, we had the real bang up fun of putting ink to those plates and creating images... I haven't had that much fun in ages.  I'm in love with this printing thing!

Big ups to our kind and knowledgeable teacher, Orlie Kapitulnik.  She kept it on track, encouraged the embrace of imperfection and was very generous with what she knows.  Here is one of my favorite tid-bits from last night's instruction.  She was describing how to listen for a certain sound quality of the ink and brayer rolling through it to know it was ready to put on the plate.  She said (paraphrasing from memory):

An example of the Chine-colle process we learned
"Now I have a very specific way of remembering this sound.  You know when you go to a bar and they haven't cleaned it for a long time and it's all sticky?  And then you set you arm down while wearing a thinnish cotton sweater.  Then after about an hour you lift your arm off the bar?  That's the sound."

We printed on clean white paper and then played with printing on various ephemera, which I just loved.

The bear painting by Annie on a tote bag.
I'd carved a robot based on a sketch I made of a found-object robot made by Will Wagenaar.  (I bought this robot a few years ago via his Etsy store and have been collecting his stuff slowly since then.)  Will named this little guy "Tank."  He's got a base made out of a stovetop espresso maker and forky hands.  Just love him.

Tank printed on typing manual page
Orlie also showed me how to create a print with a carving I'd done on a mounted linoleum block (which because of the wood attached would not find through the presses.)  This is the image you'll see here of my dog Lulu.

I will be submitting many of the Tank prints to a Print Exchange project I've signed up for via the Brooklyn Art Library.  This year's theme is "Greetings from a Distant Land" - we each send in eleven prints in an edition and get back 10 original prints from various other participants.  So fun.

I hope they like the Tank.

Lulu printed on white paper by hand (from mounted block)

Tank in red.  On left is first press, on right is the second, or "ghost" print.  Like them both!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Beach week sketching

Thanks to my very generous mom, our family had a week at a wonderful house near the Pacific Ocean and I had lots of time to relax and sketch.  I brought my full oil painting kit out but really enjoyed doing the ink and watercolor - plus it always seemed like family time was more important than "go off alone and do plein air" time (at least in this situation.)

Here are my pages from the week - all done from life (not photos).  The first photo is a view from the front porch, drawn in the owner's guest book as my thank you.  I loved the flags left over from the Fourth of July.

To see these bigger, click on the first one and keep clicking to page through them all.

This is a rough sketch of view from front porch.

View of egrets on the lagoon.

My dog Lulu in the big backyard.

I got tuned into the tide chart since Grayson was being fearful of waves.

Another view from the front porch, early morning.
Great day on Thursday when Mom's watercolor journal ladies came to visit.  They were fabulous.

Very quick sketch of Elsa carrying her surfboard.  She moves fast.  

Front porch again, with poodle and raven.