Wednesday, December 4, 2019

International Cheetah Day ~ Painting and Drawing My Favorite Animal

Detail from Kilimanjaro 1989
Oil on wood panel, 2018

International Cheetah Day
December 4th

I think I started trying to draw cheetahs by the time I was in Ms. Skeehan's class in 1st grade. At some point in grammar school I did a report on cheetahs and bush babies got bumped from my number 1 spot of favorite animals. When I found out, as a little girl, that cheetahs don't attack humans I of course wanted a pet cheetah. The problem is that many people feel the same way and never grew out of it. 

Here's a little ink sketch I made in high school, in 1986.

These beautiful animals don't belong in homes or in places far from their own habitats with folks who have no idea how to care for them. Most die within a year or two. Believe it or not, this is one of the biggest conservation challenges. Dozens of cubs at a time are are being smuggled out of Somaliland and most of them won't survive the journey. Along with the captive pet trade, another enormous issue is that they have been driven out of 91% of their historic range.

Cheetahs are the most endangered big cat in Africa. Their population of 7,500 individuals is down from 100,000 and without help they will be extinct, in the wild, in the next 15 years. 

Here's a video from the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Please watch!

Young Cheetah
Ink on paper, 2007

Here's a video of a rescued baby cheetah by the Born Free Foundation.

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For my last solo show Through Time and Place: 5 Decades, I knew I had to paint a cheetah. Seeing them 30 years ago in Kenya was an unforgettable experience!

I remember standing inside the van with my head popped out of the open top, 35mm with telephoto in hand. We were only 10 to 15 feet away from two brothers sitting on a hill. It was just my family of four, our guide Francis, and these two beautiful cheetah. They looked like they were posing, sitting there so regal and graceful. I remember staring in to the eyes of one of these beautiful beings and it was ... emotional, magical and indescribable. 

You can see, below, I was working from some of my old old Africa photos for reference.

Kilimanjaro 1989, 2018
12 x 12"
Oil on wood panel with gold metal leafing

I am planning on doing a life size painting of a cheetah for my next solo which will be on endangered  and keystone species and our fragile planet. Stay tuned for that!

Meanwhile here is a news clip about the problem of cheetah smuggling with footage of many of the cubs, please click HERE 

If you would like more information or to donate to help cheetahs, click on the links below.

Cheetah Conservation Fund
Born Free Foundation
Wildlife Conservation Society
5 Things to know about Cheetahs-BBC (with videos)

Blessings, Light and ...
Happy International Cheetah Day!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Painting Alaska and the West for my Solo Show

As you develop your awareness in nature, 
you begin to see how we influence all life 
and how all life influences us. 
A key and critical feature for us to know.
~Tony Ten Fingers/Wanbli Nata'u
Oglala Lakota

There is something incredibly evocative about images of the west. Perhaps I feel that way because I grew up in California, and for a brief time in Alaska, with childhood road trips throughout the Southwestern, United States. For a solo show, where I was painting places that stuck with me and stayed in my memory in a deep and lasting way, I had much to choose from when it came to my early years.

I had been around Arizona, Utah, Nevada and did an acting job many years ago in Albuquerque but had never made it to parts of the Southwest that one of my favorite painters called home. In December, 2015 I finally made my "O'Keeffe" pilgrimage to New Mexico. I fell in love with the blue sky, red earth and adobe architecture. I could have painted all 32 paintings of Santa Fe and Taos!

With so much incredible beauty it wasn't the easiest decision to narrow down but for my solo show I chose to paint part of the Taos Pueblo.

Detail of Taos 2015

Taos New Mexico 2015
8 x 10" 
Oil on wood panel with gold metal leafing

This next painting symbolizes the early 70s when my family lived in Alaska. I love the 1970s patchwork fabric my sister and I wore in the reference photo. It also shows me in my petticoat which I wore over everything including my red snowsuit!

In my previous solo show I had only used metal leafing in gold. For this series of paintings I introduced silver metal leafing which I felt worked really well for some of the cooler landscapes. By cooler I mean in color and feeling and in some instances the weather as well. I used the silver tone for the Scottish landscapes and California seascapes, as well as these next two landscapes below.

Anchorage Alaska 1971
8 x 8"

My paternal grandparents moved up to Mariposa in the mid 70s to build a home. I loved being up in that part of California, visiting Yosemite (only about 45 minutes away) and seeing the deer everywhere! We ate raspberries and blackberries out of my grandma's garden and collected more for her homemade jam. Well, that is if we got to the berries before the deer did! We used to play on the property behind their house, pretending to live off the land, while getting our hair caught on the manzanetta branches. 

In the summer, it would get so hot we'd head out in our striped tube tops and terry cloth short-shorts to fish, swim and jump off the wooden island in the middle of the lake. My favorite thing was walking with our older teenage cousins to the only pizza joint in town to drink root beer and play pinball on Captain Fantastic. 

As I grew older and would go visit, I was mostly on a mission to visit my grandparents and the beauty of the natural world in the middle of California. In early spring the deer would walk through the fog and would seem to float by. The trees appeared like mystics with stories to tell.

Mariposa California 1977
8 x 10"

“We must protect the forests for our children, 
grandchildren and children yet to be born.
 We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves 
such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.” 
– Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation
Growing up in Ventura, where it was often foggy and cool, we'd take day trips up to Ojai which was only twenty minutes up highway 33 and usually about 10 degrees warmer. My favorite place in the small downtown area was a tiny and narrow Native American shop. I absolutely loved it! Being in there transported me to another time and place. I remember a suede and fur papoose hanging in the window, dolls in native dress on the shelves, and all sorts of unique silver and turquoise jewelry and, best of all, old beaded moccasins. I always thought that wearing them would be the most magical feeling in the world.

These beautiful moccasins, below, belong to my grandmother who was gifted them many decades ago by her Aunt Dorothy. They are very fragile but a wonderful representation of old leather beaded moccasins. While they were not from Ojai, they were the perfect still life to represent that magical shop from my childhood.

As you can see in the next photo, I had gotten pretty far along with the leather and had added the gold metal leafing but no beads yet!

I had to use a 000 brush. Basically, the smallest brush I could find at Blick. It looked OK close up but the important thing is to be able to stand back a couple of feet and have them look effective when you are taking in the painting as a whole.

Taadaaa!!! The painting where it should be ... in Ojai. Its new home.

Ojai California 1979
10 x 8"

Each of us is put here 
in this time and place
to decide the future of humankind.
Did you think you were put here
for something less?
~Chief Arvol Looking Horse

Blessings and Light!


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Monarch Butterflies ~ Painting and Conservation

Monarch Butterflies

Growing up in Ventura our street was a stop off for monarch butterflies on their migration. Speaking of their migration, they have they longest of any butterfly. The eastern migration starts in Canada and ends up down in Mexico! The trees at the end of my street, Vista Del Mar, would be covered in thousands of these orange and black beauties every year. Some time after I left someone cut the trees down and the monarchs never came back. 

I just knew I had to paint these beautiful butterflies to represent where I grew up.

They were specifically painted for my solo show in December of 2018. If you missed my last post, here is my artists statement for that show. 

This exhibition is a reflection upon five decades and many places: The cities in which I have lived, countries where I have traveled and destinations that became pilgrimages. All have affected me in ways that are personal, powerful and life changing. These works are varied, as are the memories and connections I have with these places from my “Five Decades.” I hope you’ll enjoy the journey! 

My usual way of starting on the wood panels is to first use a clear gesso or medium to seal the wood. It doesn't completely keep the paint from absorbing into the panel but it definitely helps. Then I sketch the composition with a sanguine or burnt siena colored pencil or pastel. If I was painting on canvas and not using gold leaf I would just paint the composition in with a brush. You can see the reddish brown sketching above and the first layers of orange paint on the butterflies.

This next photo, I'm much farther along. I've added more variations to to orangy-gold in the wings, along with the black. At this point, I was hesitating in adding the white spots. I thought the painting might feel to chaotic but I decided to go for it.  

I made the spots a bit grey to soften them and then added the gold leaf. After the gold leaf I always go back into the edges where the paint meets the gold.

And ... VoilĂ ! 

6 x 12"
Oil on Wood Panel, 2018
Gold Metal leafing

The butterflies sold to my dear friend Shea who I met during High School in our hometown of Ventura. This photo was at the reception, a week before I turned 50, last year. 

We lose a million to two million acres of habitat a year but we can help by planting milkweed (like swamp milkweed and butterfly milkweed) for the larva and other flowering plants like zinnias and even chives, for the adults, which they need to nectar on. This all helps to create backyard habitats for these beautiful butterflies. They also love various types of daisies, purple coneflower, goldenrods, butterfly bush, cosmos, some species of salvia, Viburnum, Mexican sunflower and then Tithonia (Mexican Torch) for when they come through in the fall. 

Check out this video on monarch butterflies.

You can also make a "butterfly puddle" and leave out fruit for your butterflies!

This one from the University of Minnesota and while it's very informational it also kind of cracks me up in its down home local TV vibe. ;-)

How to build a Monarch Garden in 7 Steps

Happiness is a butterfly, 
which when pursued, 
is always just beyond your grasp, 
but which, if you will sit down quietly, 
may alight upon you. 
~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Blessings and Light!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Ojai Birds and Bats ~ My 2018 Solo Show

Not every winged Creature is considered a bird or a bat. 
Some wings are made of magic.

~Raani York, 2013 

One year ago I was painting like mad to finish 32 paintings for my solo show in December. The show was called "Through Time and Place: Five Decades" and it was my way of celebrating my 50th birthday! I wanted to honor the places that I love and that have influenced me while also feeling very productive as my birthday rolled around. 

They dip and dance 
like barn swallows at dusk 
glancing wingtip-to-wingtip 
against a lavender sky 
barely touching - 
yet, each creating thermals for the other 
to catch and ride - higher and yet, 
higher - towards a pale star... 
Kate Mullane Robertson

I used the money from the painting sales to go on my Saint Francis walk last spring. It was another way of marking my 50th, getting in shape, and also being in touch with the gratitude I feel for surviving a life challenging illness 10 ago when I turned 40. It was quite a full circle moment!

The following was my artist's statement for the show.

This exhibition is a reflection upon five decades and many places: The cities in which I have lived, countries where I have traveled and destinations that became pilgrimages. All have affected me in ways that are personal, powerful and life changing. These works are varied, as are the memories and connections I have with these places from my “Five Decades.” I hope you’ll enjoy the journey!

Ojai, California, 2017 (The Swallow)
Oil on wood panel, 2018
8 x 8" 

The painting of the bird in my mom's hand above, and the one below of the bat, both represent Ojai, California. I have spent so much time in that little town. Not only is it 20 minutes up the hill from my childhood home of Ventura but my sister, parents and many friends have moved up there over the last 10 to 20 years. 

True hope is swift, and flies with swallow's wings.
― William Shakespeare

The baby swallow had flown out of its nest, under my parents tile roof, a bit too soon. It hadn't been quite ready and we were worried it would become hawk food. We spent half the day encouraging it to fly but before that happened I managed to capture a photo with my mom's outstretched hand. It was so cute! And yes, it finally took flight. We were very proud. :)

Little Brown Bat

Not long after my parents moved to Ojai in 2007 we had a little visitor in the guest room.  It was a little brown bat and when I say little, its tiny furry body could have fit in the palm of my hand! It was so adorable! Fortunately, that bedroom has a door to the courtyard and we were able to encourage his swift exit without too much drama. OK, there might have been a little drama. It's not every day you expect to see a bat hanging from the shade next to your bed! 

There are currently 77 Endangered and 
Critically Endangered bats 
on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 
and we anticipate this number to increase 
as a new assessment is currently underway ...

~Bat Conservation International

"Trish Wimberley looks after hundreds of orphaned baby bats and rears them until they can be released into the wild. It's a tireless, never ending job which keeps her awake all hours (she apparently went 3 nights without sleeping once)."

There are 50 bat species in the United States but there are 1,300 in the world which make up a quarter of mammal species! The little brown guy I painted, that was hanging out in the guest room, was a micro bat. There are a lot of large tropical bats which are called flying foxes. The largest is the Malayan bat and it has a 6 foot wing span! The smallest is the bumblebee bat which has a 6 inch wingspan. Some can fly up to 50 miles an hour! They can live between 10 to 20 years. Isn't that crazy? I never knew until I researched information on bats for this post!  

Check out the "Bat Watch" in Austin Texas! Very cool! 

Leonardo da Vinci was absolutely fascinated by bats and the phenomenon of flight. He produced a famous drawing of a glider with bat wings! I know these little mammals freak people out, mostly  based on age old myths and lore, but they are amazing animals who are also eco-friendly pesticides! They are an important part of ecosystems around the world!

Ojai, California 2017
Oil on wood panel, 2018
6 x 6" 

This is an incredible video which shows high speed video of bats in flight at Brown University. At 10:45 you can see how amazing they are in flight by observing their skeletal structure in action! 

Speaking of bats and art, here's one of my favorite munchkins, Natalie, from the art studio where I teach. I love how proud she is holding her charcoal bat tone drawing!


Hope you enjoyed seeing two more of my paintings from my last show. I've already posted several of my oil paintings from the 2018 show, in my posts from Hawaii and Scotland. Lots more to come! 

Blessings and Light!

Twinkle, twinkle little bat 
How I wonder what you're at! 
Up above the world you fly, 
Like a tea-tray in the sky. 
~Lewis Carroll

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Art Inspiration, Velzyland and Turtle Bay ~ The Last of Hawaii

Nature always wears the colors
of the spirit.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kevin Surfing Big Sunset Beach 
Pastel on sanded paper
9 x 12"

I can't believe this was a year and a half ago! Both the pastel (above) and my time in Hawaii.

Here's some Hawaiian music to enjoy while visiting this post!

North Shore, O'ahu

The last year and a half has flown by, as time does, but really it is hard to believe! It was such a special time being with Kevin, Shannon and Makena on O'ahu. Velzyland was the first place Kevin took Makena to surf and it was beautiful, as always.

Kevin and Makena putting her fins on her surf board ...

The next photo is of my sarong drying in a tree. It was designed by my Aunt Cheri and handmade by batik artisans in Bali. I love the bamboo design!

Waiting on the beach watching Makena and Kevin surf some fun waves at V Land ...

Come forth into the light of things.
Let nature be your teacher.
~William Wordsworth

Turtle Bay
North Shore, O'ahu

Turtle Bay wasn't too far up the road from Kevin's old place, at Sunset Beach, and maybe a couple of  miles north of Velzyland. It's really the only big resort in the area and it is in a prime location, as you can see!

They also make a great poolside Mai Tai but I suggest limiting it to one! They are tasty but they do pack quite a punch!

I don't know what the name of these trees are, pictured in the photo below, but I love that they look like they are wearing hula skirts!

Kevin took the next couple of photos of me on the beach in my "monkey dress." Difficult to see the monkeys in this photo!

Here, below, you can a monkey! Anyway, it's on the beach to the West of the main part of the resort right by the horse stables.

Turtle Bay has a number of horses on their property. It was fun to photograph my friend's daughter with the horses because they absolutely loved her!

I was so inspired by this moment I decided I had to paint it! Of Course, with some silver leaf and a bit of artistic license!

A Moment in the Grass
12 x 16" 
Oil on Wood Panel

One of my absolute favorite things about the islands is listening to live Hawaiian music, especially at sunset. It is so magical and you feel you have been transported to another world ...

The view out of the car window heading to the airport.

Malama Ka 'Aina
Respect/Care for the land

A little goodbye Hawaii sketch of my lei ...

Hope you enjoyed the Hawaii posts even if they were about a year and a half after the fact!

Lots of art and other adventures coming up.
Hope you're all off to a beautiful fall!

Aloha nui loa!
Blessings and light!