It has truly been a while since I’ve posted on this blog. A lot falls by the way side when you have a baby. Photography has been one of the last things on my list of to dos. But luckily, I decided to take my Nikon D300 with me when we went camping a few weeks back. Lett’s Lake, in Mendocino National Forest, is truly beautiful and I feel like the photos pretty much took themselves. I had some fun switching some images to black and white where I felt the colour was unnecessary. I’m not a landscape photographer; Ansel Adams pretty much did that better than anyone. No, I like looking for form, textures and sometimes the colour. However, there are a few landscape shots just because the landscape was calling out to be recorded. I do not profess to be any good at it. Below are my best shots, landscape photos included. Hope you enjoy.
Category: creative space
The Heir Apparent: Air Plants
Anyone who has read a few of my previous posts related to plants knows that I love succulents. They are beautiful and for the most part easy to keep alive ( provided they have the right soil to start with and do not get some random plant disease). I like having plants around, but I don’t like having plants that demand too much of my time. If they can’t learn to survive with a little bit of neglect…well…they’re toast.
Enter the air plant. What?!? Why have I not discovered them earlier? I knew they existed, remember my aunts having a few when I was a kid, but never considered getting my own.
My interest was piqued when I saw a beautifully tendrilled green plant, sans earth, sitting on the counter top by the cash register at my local nursery. I asked a few questions about it but didn’t buy it. Then I saw it in a few more shops, sometimes just as decor enhancements. Suddenly I was hooked on the idea of getting a few. When my sister visited me a few months ago we stumbled on a shop that had a few for sale and I picked some up.
This is how you care for it:
#1. Place in filtered not direct sunlight, indoors.
#2. Spritz with water once a week and set it upside down for a few minutes to make sure water beads don’t collect on its leaves. ( If you want to get away with watering even less, put your plant in a bathroom where shower steam aids hydration)
#3. There is no number three, THAT’S IT!!
I’ve since ogled a few more exotic looking air plants and added them to my collection. The really fun part is finding vessels to hold them. Your local thrift shop is a great place to find unique and cheap glassware.
Rhino Dung Magic
So, as it turns out, rhino dung is fantastic. Mixed in with the existing soil in proved to be the perfect environment for our lovely veggie garden. I’ve harvested two bok choi crops, tons of lettuce and some chard. The ones I planted in the planters..not so good. Probably too confined, and no rhino dung in those so of course they’re inferior!
We’ve also dig up another patch of ground, not a raised bed, in which we are going to plant the veggies that no animals tend to dig up, i.e. zucchini and spring onions. We’re also starting some tomatoes for that little plot.
Slowly but surely our garden grows, by both senses of the meaning. Our backyard is still monstrously huge and could stand another bed. The question is whether we can afford the water bill to sustain said garden beds. We plan on mulching with hay or sawdust in an attempt to trap the moisture. Let’s hope it works.
It Begins Anew
So, the hubby was home this weekend – the WHOLE weekend which was a true miracle as he usually works. So we decided to put in some time on the house. Our master bedroom is now completely sheet-rocked, our tub re-caulked for the third time (don’t ask), we have a treasure trove of great tiles from the Re-Store for our bathroom remodel(half off on tiles that day!) and…we started a garden!
It had to be done. We have a massive back yard. So big that we are completely overwhelmed and don’t know where to start with the landscaping. Especially landscaping on a budget. So, we thought, the one thing that was doable was re-assembling the planter box we’d taken from our previous garden at our old rental. Hubby had gotten two loads of composted rhino dung from work (he’s a guide at a place called Safari West here in Nor Cal) so we tossed that in and then went to our local garden center to pick up some regular soil to mix in and did a little cheating by buying our veggies already sprouted. Insta -garden!
Since we have no idea what rhino dung can do, we were afraid it might just kill the plants, so as a back-up I also planted a few veg in some little planters with regular soil.
Et voila! It was just about he easiest thing we could have done to feel like we were moving forward on making the yard our own.
Interior Decorating for Dummies, *emphasis on Dummy*
I’m an artist, so I should know about colour, right?
News flash: interior decorating is nothing like painting on a canvas. I know…a house is just as much a blank canvas as a real canvas for the creative soul…but this creative soul is having a dark tea-time of the soul as regards colour choice for our house.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to re-invent our space, which, when we moved in was awash with a sort of piss-tinted hue throughout the entire house (A+ for consistency I suppose), not to mention a musty, smoker-lived-here smell that we were anxious to exorcise. I happily ran down to our local hardware store, spent a few puzzled/overwhelmed minutes gazing at paint chips ( like a kid in a non-edible candy store you might say) before going with a gut instinct for a grey-blue tone.
Excellent. No problemo. The colour went on magnificently, only it was a little too subtle. “Dang!, I knew it!” I muttered under my breath. At the last moment I had let my husband cloud my judgement and went a shade lighter than I’d wanted to. Needless to say, though we liked the colour, we agreed it was too light and ended up repainting. No real problem, but additional time was required.
Then it came time to paint the hallway. I didn’t want a repeat of the last time. I wanted to go bold. I have this gorgeous Laotian tapestry we picked up years ago in Thailand and working from those colours I decided to boldly go purple. Crazy, I know. But I felt it in my gut, this was going to work and I would consult no one. Purity of vision and all that.
A trip to the hardware store, an unwavering finger proudly pointing at my colour swatch with the command of, “mix this” and four hours of painting later (I could have bought the $2 sample and painted a wall, but why go the wussy way?) my hallway looked….well, it looked like …a cut of pastrami had exploded on my walls. A mix between gaudy easter purple and say, SPAM…or as my sister-in-law put it, “sort of intestinal”. Yeah, that’s what I was going for.
Back to the drawing board. Back to the paint aisle where a helpful fellow wanna-be interior decorator gave me tips on the trendiness of brown and blue after overhearing my discussion with my sister-in-law…until she saw the colour swatch I was working with already and a look of horror edged into her expression and an “oh” escaped her lips, like “oh, that kind of blue, well then there’s no colour that will go with that“, that kind of “oh”.
When all else fails, stick with the colour you’ve got and just go with shades ( I don’t know that that is a design thing, but I have a gut feeling I’m right). So that’s what I did; a bolder shade of the existing colour. And you know what, I love it and so does hubby. In my books, that’s a success.
This interior decorating is harder than I thought. When you make a mistake, you can’t just paint over it with a big brush and a few strokes, no, you’ve got to cut in (gack) and roll for hours.
And gut instinct that works when painting on canvas does not necessarily work for painting walls. Lesson learned. I could benefit from reading a few decorating books.
After all the frustration, it is at last resolved. Now it’s time to sit back with my Winter Spiced Ale and enjoy.
..while sitting on my Craigslist find… Not bad, eh? But I’d still put me down more in the dummy column when it comes to decor. However, I do shoot half decent photos. So enjoy the illusion of a magazine ready home (hint: it’s all in the cropping!):
Long Time No Post
Let’s face it, I’m overwhelmed. I have a little too much on my plate and I need to at least acknowledge that fact if not change it.
The good news is that the plate is loaded with mostly creative ventures. The sucky news is that I have more ideas than time. If only I could leave the day job to do art full-time. But if my Farmer’s Market sales are any indication of my success, I’d better stick with the day job! Same ol’ artist’s sob story; can’t make a living from my art.
Only, I don’t believe that. I believe that one day I will find my niche and I will tap into an as yet undiscovered reservoir of art patrons who get what I do, like what I do and want to pay for it too! Yes, that got rather rhymy.
I’ve been plugging away at the Farmer’s Market, making myself visible, going through the chore of set-up and take down, for those few moments of joy when a person has the courage to actually walk into my tent and really look at what I do. When they laugh and enjoy any of my paintings or drawings, I feel immense satisfaction. I feel even more satisfaction when they like it enough to want to take something home, even if it’s just a little art magnet or card. Pieces of my expression out in the universe!
I’m trying to put out of my mind the other stuff, the business stuff like paperwork: applications for fairs and their fees, logistics of set-up and schedule, even casting my mind forward to tax time – YIKES! Panicking over cost vs income. I seem to tick something off the list and then add another two.
I’m actually losing sleep over this stuff. I never lose sleep, I love sleep. I’d chose sleep over breakfast, I’d EAT sleep for breakfast.
Just get through the season…i.e. the Christmas selling season, and then I will take stock. What works, what doesn’t. What I can and love to do and what I can do without.
I leave you with some drawings I’ve been working on. I’m considering having them printed as Christmas cards. I’m enjoying drawing tremendously and am wondering why I’ve been away from it for so long. I hope you enjoy!
Update on the Accidental Garden aka Hanging Gardens
So, as I’ve mentioned before, we didn’t put much thought into our garden this year being that we thought we were buying a house and moving out. Regardless of our neglect, the garden thrives on. And to his credit, my hubby waters the place every morning before he goes to work. In regards to actually planting anything, those that were are long gone:
This is the Bok Choi I planted in early spring hoping to have it ready before the heat…unfortunately my timing was again off, and it bolted. I kept it in the bed, hoping that they would have some seeds to harvest…but alack and to my horrified dismay: seed pods with no seeds in them! Can anyone say Monsanto? I blame them for everything!
But on to cheerier, hardier things:
Early summer my hubby discovered a squash plant of unknown origin growing in a corner of one of our raised beds. Actually, he found many, but pulled all but one. This move is something he regretted, because as the plant grew, it formed lovely flowers, but no fruit.
With our non-expert, non-researched, unfounded opinions, we concluded that the plant would be a dud because there were no other plants around it to aid fertilization. So my hubby, unsure of what to do with the many gangly arms the plant was putting out, decided to strap them along the top of our fence. If they weren’t going to bear fruit, they were at least going to green up the place and we were going to enjoy their blooms. Well, sure enough, suddenly the splendid thing started to bear fruit…and it turns out to be a most amazing squash (exact type not yet identified) that I had discovered I loved last year at the farmer’s market!
Well, if we wanted to stop it from bearing fruit we couldn’t. The thing is a monster growing machine of the most impressive kind. Our impromptu “Hanging Garden” is such a success it even reaches into our neighbors yard where it also hangs it’s fruit tantalizingly. We are not opposed to sharing, so when I finally met our neighbor the other day, I encouraged her to please pluck and use the squash encroaching on her side of the fence. Not just that side of the fence, but the back-end too:
The trick is to know when to pick them. One must wait until they are a deep red-orange for optimal tastiness, but weight is also a factor and I’m not sure if the stems can sustain such a load for too long. If anyone can hazard a guess as to the type of squash it is, please let me know!
I ventured out into the back field to take these shots, knowing full well I’d pay for it. You see, the back field is empty save for two things: moles and goat head weeds. Both have their disadvantages for gardens…and walking. We seem to have the mole problem taken care of this year, the goat heads are another thing. My hubby has been waging war with them since we moved here. If you’re not familiar with them, feel free to wikipedia the awful things. They grow, well…like weeds, and produce the hardest, spikiest seed that when in contact with anything rubber and full of air, aka bike tires, will pop them like no ones business. If one is unfortunate enough to track several of those into the house, and say those awful things actually relinquish their spiky hold on the soles of your shoes, then watch out! My bare foot has come in contact more than once with those nasty buggers hiding in the carpet tufts and has never failed in eliciting a scream of pain followed by a stream of expletives.
When visiting the field, one has to resigns oneself to the fact that there will be a lot of goat head removal before going even near the garden or the house or even drive-way (where our bikes reside). Check out the bottom of my flip-flops from my short photo-op adventure:
More than once, a spike has managed to make its way all the way through the sole to my tender tootsies. Nasty stuff.
Moving on from nastiness, I leave you with a few images of the glorious growth in our Accidental Garden:
(okay, we did plant the tomatoes, but also unplanned ‘cuz my boss begged me to take a few off his hands (he had over 60 tomato plants donated to the club and couldn’t fit them all)…so kind of accidental if you think about it…)
At the Farmer’s Market
Forward momentum. That’s what I’m all about these days. After an inspiring visit to Canada to see my sister doing her Farmer’s Market and other shows, I wanted to get started in my neck of the woods. I enquired about the local Farmer’s Market but didn’t hear back, didn’t hear back…and then suddenly an email on Friday asking if I could set up on Saturday!!
Well, I couldn’t say no, but I was also nervous about “yes” because I wasn’t prepared. But, I went for it. Luckily I could borrow a tent last-minute from my husband’s place of work, and a few tables from my mother in-law. It was hasty, but it worked out in the end:
I’ve now committed to the market every Saturday until the end of the season. That’s 12 shows total. I’m not sure it makes the most sense monetarily, but I am looking at it as excellent promotion. How is anyone supposed to know I exist if I don’t get out there? The wonderful thing is that, after only being here for a few years, I already know quite a few people in the community and they are quite supportive. It seems I have a lot of interest from tourists and locals alike with my pet portraits.
I’m selling pet portrait commissions along with small items such as prints, cards, small hand made ceramic charms and hand drawn magnets such as these:
As well as cards, which I’ve posted before, either here on this blog or at my sister blog: www.vieveandlynsker.wordpress.com where my sister and I share all things creative.
Yesterday I showed up at Costco, ready to buy a tent with walls, only to discover that “summer is over”, at least, according to retail land. So, I was a bit flustered having no back-up plan. But after a quick consult with my very capable and steady sister-in-law, and the help of her smart phone ( I need one of those BAD!) we were able to locate a shade canopy, not exactly the style I wanted, but available at Friedman’s. At that point, I would have bought anything at any cost because I just wanted to get a damn tent for this upcoming Farmer’s Market. Luckily I was in luck, because though the tent didn’t have walls, it happened to be on sale, so instead of $100 it was $89. Sold! What a relief.
I’m not totally where I want to be in terms of the perfect, most simple and light market set-up, but I’m getting there. Wish me luck!
Creativity with Kid Assist
My day-time job is teaching art to kids at the local Boys and Girls Club. I’m blessed that my working life still involves creativity. It has surprised me over the years how inhibited some kids can be, I had assumed that the joy of childom was to be very uninhibited. Instead, I find the majority are worried about things turning out just right or perfect. So, I approach art in as non-judgmental a way as possible and encourage them to “not do as I do and think outside the box”. Naturally, however, they want to copy me. I used to make an example piece before class to show the kids, but things always ended in disappointment because the kids couldn’t exactly replicate it which was frustrating and it stunted their imagination. At one point I tried to dumb down my art, but that didn’t work for me and I felt like I wasn’t setting a good example. I’ve arrived at the point where I say to the kids “I am A LOT OLDER than you- I’m 31, imagine how good you’ll be in 20+ years!” That seems to appease them a little bit. Also describing the project and then doing it alongside them, effectively creating and discovering together seems to be the trick.
Each week this summer we have a theme and I ended up with some pretty neat artwork by the end of it. I thought I’d share. This is not anything I would usually think to do, but because it was with the kids, I discovered I was less inhibited and in trying to teach the kids open-mindedness and a “let’s see what happens” attitude, I ended up opening up a lot myself. I’ll show you some things I made during Pirate Week and then Super Hero Week:
This was a project where I showed the kids pictures of pirates and encouraged them to come up with a character all their own. I demonstrated by drawing along-side them. They liked this guy so much that they asked my not to color him but photocopy him instead so that they could have a coloring page. I obliged.
We worked with acrylic paint. I initially started painting this guy to demonstrate how a painting looks finished once all the white of the page is filled in (kids have a resistance to “taking their time” and “filling the page”. I ended up really liking this guy. The kids encouraged me to add a parrot.
The next week was Hero Week. The theme was essentially about local heroes like firemen, policewomen etc., but what was much more inspiring were super heroes with super powers, so we stretched the theme for the sake of art!
I kind of drew a blank on what to do. I often encourage the kids to draw what they like and know (rather than something so outlandishly difficult that they don’t know how to draw it and end up begging me to do it instead), so that’s what I ended up telling myself to do and came up with: Super Artist!
I taught the kids about cartoons and the various cells they could draw. We went over a few conventions and then we went at it. I encouraged everyone to come up with their own hero they could be proud of. The kids as a group agreed that a hero is someone (or thing) that helps and protects others. So I came up with an octopus that saves the little fishies. I also turned this into a coloring page because the kids begged me. I was impressed by the kids’ creativity on this one ( wish I’d had the foresight to bring my camera to work and take pics of their amazing work!).
This was a watercolor class dealing with wax resist, sharpie outline and then salt for added visual texture. This was my demo piece and I really like how it came out!
So, though I’ve considered the art I do in the studio and the art I do with the kids very different things, I realized after those two weeks that the separation is beginning to blur. The more I bring what I do to the table, the more the kids seem to be into it and respond to the lessons and the more fun I have!
I appreciate all my kid colleagues who helped me with this break-through moment!
Le Jardin c’est Magnifique!
No credit to myself, the garden is looking pretty swell.
It’s my hubby who goes out every morning and waters the place. He also fought a valiant battle with earwigs and won. It took a bit to come up with a strategy, but once implemented the earwig populations was decimated. Our beer traps were not working so well- it caught snails and slugs but they weren’t the main issue. No, my hubby launched his attack at night, headlamp beaming on the hopelessly exposed earwigs who had unwittingly emerged from their day time hiding places to manger (pronounced “monjay” en Francais) on our romaine. The strategy? Flick as many possible into a bowl of soapy water. The survivors who missed the dip: death by rock. I myself was not out there. I was lying in bed, trying to sleep over the din of rock hitting its target- Crack! Crack! Crack! It must have been satisfying because he was out there for quite some time. He proudly showed me the shriveled and mashed carcasses the next morning.
I won’t show you shots of the massacre lest it unsettle you. But here’s a lovely escargot, another garden terror. Our method of snail removal is to toss them over our fence into the back field. This guy is blissfully unaware of his upcoming aerial flight.
Our spring onions have been way over grown since fall. We decided to keep them in to see what would happen. After all, isn’t this just one grand experiment?
Last month they started flowering, and now check out the seeds:
Unsure of how to harvest, but unwilling to resort to google, I simply picked up a bowl and started massaging the heads until the seeds fell, en mass, into the dish.
My sister had taught me a nifty trick with morning-glory seeds: to separate seeds from the husks, simply blow. Seeds are heavier and will remain in the dish. So I figured, maybe it’s the same deal with these seeds. Thankfully, I was right and didn’t end up with an empty dish.
So now we’ve got seeds galore. Not sure what to do with them as it’s a little late, perhaps, to be sprouting them for this year. But I feel like such a pioneer when I gather seeds instead of buying them at the store. I feel like, “wow, I am da shit, I keep a self-sustaining garden”. The next step would be to actually label the seeds I harvest as it makes for some awful guess-work when the next season comes around. So, yeah, I’m a pioneer but not a very organized one…
The elephant garlic that started to magically grow this year, having skipped the previous year when it was actually planted, had started to grow flowers on top. We caved and googled ” when to harvest elephant garlic” and learned that we were really late. For some reason we thought we had to wait until the stalk shriveled and dried. Not so, you’re supposed to wait until the bottom leaves brown but the rest is still green. Then stop watering for a few days to allow it to begin to dry and then pull it from the ground. So we scampered out to the garden ( as if a few extra seconds would make us any less late in harvesting the things) and we gingerly pulled them out and found:
Note the little garlics hanging off the roots. No idea what that is exactly- must be its way of propagating itself. I imagine if left in the soil we’d have a whole planter box full of elephant garlic come next spring.
They cleaned up nice. Hopefully they will “set”, that is, dry nicely. Maybe we don’t even have to really worry about that since we only have two and I plan on consuming those bad guys quite soon.
Our green beans are growing..or should I say green bean singular. I think I will need to buy a miniature frying pan, because at this rate, that’s what I’ll be serving up, one green bean at a time. I can’t imagine that we will ever have a handful all at once…but you never know.
I leave you with a few more shots of the garden and its bounty!