Make Way for Ducklings

Some red, white and blue, leftover from July 4th.  The first is an old t-shirt I got at my favorite camping spot, Kings Canyon National Park.  It is next to Sequoia National Park, maybe a little more known.  But they are identical in beauty and magnificent ancient trees.  Some of the tallest and oldest in the world.


The second, just a sampling of cookie cutters I’ve used to make zillions of cookies over the years, for every holiday.  The tiny bird cutter came with a group of mini animals that were also used to make play doh critters when my son was a toddler. I think I loved playing with play doh as much as making cookies.


On the day after the July 4th festivities, the animal shelter gets a lot of stray dogs whose owners have not taken care to make them feel safe from the noise of fireworks.  Extra volunteers were called in to assist.  As I was leaving the shelter to go home, one of the officers brought in a mother duck with her tiny babies found in someone’s pool.  Although I do not live in a rural area, there is a very large marsh near my house that is protected by the city and maintained by volunteers. So on the way home, a friend from the shelter and I delivered mama and ducklings to the marsh.  What a joy to see them make their way out to their new home.




My map art continues. I altered, condensed, and added to my map piece of Camargue this week.


A final note on ducks. As I was driving mama and babies to the marsh, I noticed that the ducklings could not Quack, but rather, made a very tiny almost inaudible peeping/chirping sound.  Quacking must be something acquired along the way like the bark of a dog as it grows out of its puppy stage.  But I did find that a duck’s quack is translated into different sounds depending on a person’s language.

Bengali: gack-gack,     Danish: rap,     Dutch: kwak kwak,     Finish: kvaak kvaak,     Norwegian: kvakk kvakk,       Swedish: kvack kvack,     French: coin coin,     German: quack, quack,     Hebrew: ga ga ga,     Italian: qua qua,     Russian & Ukrainian: krya, krya

Now you will know at least one word if you visit countries speaking these languages.






Hope and Expectations

Many years ago I visited Avignon, Arles, and Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer in Southern France, and also a region called Camargue. It is an area of saltwater marshes (sea origin) and freshwater marshes (river origin). It is a huge migratory stopover for over 350 species of birds. I was especially excited to see the area, because as a teen I saw a movie named “Friends”.  It was shot in Carmargue and I wanted to see the wild horses depicted in the film. The movie also had a beautiful Elton John song by the same name which made the place seem even more enticing.  I didn’t see any of the wild horse, but settled for a book that featured them.  Just goes to show you that it’s probably better to travel without expectations.  But all of the places I visited were charming and wonderful.  At one point, my friend and I were on a bus that doubled for the local school bus. It stopped to pick up the children to take them to their homes.  Here are a couple. One shy, the other waving to the camera of this tourist on their school bus.


The city of Arle was one of the places where Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin painted.  This hotel below was named after Gauguin.  I don’t know if that brought in more tourists.


So all of this is leading up to the new piece I have almost finished in my map series. Besides a map, it incorporates some images made with linoleum stamps I made, and hand stitching along with machine stitching. I’m going to add a little more hand stitching.


We’ve had constant changes in weather lately, which is extremely enjoyable.  A few days ago we got some of our summer dry heat, and today is cloudy, chilly, and even had a few rain drops.  I think the plants and birds must be confused though.  Our Chaste tree started blooming with the summer air.


I saw a lone Monarch butterfly one day.  I wasn’t able to get a photo so I painted a picture.P1030748

The warm days still had cool evenings with some unusual light.


Charlie, Maggie and Lucy just go with the flow in heat or cold as you can see in this shot of Charlie.


My life is made up of simple things, but I am constantly aware of the larger issues that are always in the news, that sometimes seem hopeless.  But there are good people living each day with hope, and people to inspire hope like President Obama did with his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and writers who have written about it to encourage us…

“Hope is the thing that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words and never stops at all”.

Emily Dickinson










Train Sightings

I’ve been continuing my work on my map series.   Many years ago I visited the house where the painter Claude Monet had lived.  He established an artist’s colony at his home in the village of Giverny.  His gardens and water lily ponds were the subject of many of his paintings.  If you are visiting Giverny, it is a short train ride from Paris to the city of Vernon.  Besides cutting up maps, I’ve used a large variety of materials in the series.  This one is primarily fabric.


I’m not quite finished.  I need to embroider a lot more flowers for the garden, along with some stitching in the lily pond.


Today, while cruising the neighborhood, I drove through the adjoining city of Lomita.  It has a lot of charming older homes.  But right in the middle of the residential streets, is a small train museum.  It actually seems like the setting for Thomas the Tank Engine’s Shiny Time Station.  All the elementary schools in the area go on field trips to the little museum.  I remember accompanying my son’s class many years ago.



There’s a cute park across the street where you can eat your lunch, if you bring one.


But it’s pretty unique to have a train museum on the same street as your house.


My parting shot is looking out of my little house (studio).  I was sitting in there today looking at a book of Vermont called “The Soul of Vermont” that I got from the library “books for sale” shelf.  It has gorgeous photos by Richard Brown that include all the seasons in Vermont.  We have had beautiful weather here, but we don’t get to experience real true “seasons”. Our seasonal changes are very subtle. Vermont has been on my places to visit list for a long time, but now I feel a real push to go.



“Most parts of the country enjoy robins and pussy willows in March, but in Vermont we get mud”.

Richard Brown, “The Soul of Vermont”









Spice of Life

There are so many things I see that make me want to pick up a paintbrush, pencil, needle and thread, and make something.  So much creative influence and inspiration.  Can’t seem to stick to just one medium.  Below is a sketch from my recent drawing class with a little ink and watercolor added.


I finished my large mixed media using paper, fabric, acrylic, colored pencil, thread, and stamps I made from linoleum.


On my very first post, I had a photo of an applique I made from a Cezanne painting called “Basket of Apples.”  It was all hand sewn onto a piece of fabric in the shape of France.  It was part of my ongoing map series, but I just recently sewed it to a backing.


While perusing the internet I came across some beautiful envelope/postcard art.  I love the whimsy and colors on each of these examples.

The first is by artist Amy Rice.   The second is by Viv Sliwka whose blog is called Hens Teeth Art.

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This third one is a postcard Pablo Picasso sent to Jean Cocteau in 1919.


So wonderful.

Well, I didn’t have any vintage envelopes or postcards on hand, but I had a 1941 book of French literature, in French, that someone had written a lot of notes in, also in French.  I thought I’d practice with some quick sketches and then used oil pastel for color.



I’m definitely going to do more.  Maybe try watercolor.  I like the addition of the handwritten notes.

Perhaps trying a variety of things that bring challenge and fun IS the spice of life, even if it’s as simple as paint, pencil, needle and thread.




That Night He Had a Stomachache

Back from another drawing class.  Today was a landscape using pastels.  I’ll finish next week and post a photo.  I’ve been trying to finish some of the pieces I started a while back.  That would include my map series.  Some of them are maps made with different mediums and some are pictures made with maps.  This first one is a map made of old postage stamps.  I put the continents on the kind of paper I remember my mom using to mail packages.  Instead of twine though, I stitched with a shiny, metallic looking thread.  I’m still deciding if I want the strands to be thicker.


Probably, because you have to get up fairly close to see them well.


The next one I used old maps and arranged them to look like a quilt.  I’m not quite finished.  I need to add some “binding,” (made of paper).


This last one  also needs some a binding, but with fabric.  Old maps and paint chips, fabric and stitching.  Another quilt.


I’ve been jumping around using different mediums.  I decided to attempt an acrylic of my first sheltie in an expressionist style. I’d been looking through books on The Fauves.  He was primarily black with a little white.  My teacher said that black should never be used, but rather a mix of dark colors.  It was too late for that, because I had already finished.  But my son approved, telling me it looked like an Eric Carle painting.  He’s the one that wrote “The Hungry Caterpillar.”  OK, I’ll go with that.


To keep with children’s animal themes, I’m finishing up with a photo of a very quirky planter, (actually two).  One does not hold a plant at this time, but the plant in the deer continues to thrive despite the VERY small space to grow.  It even flowers every spring/summer.


On Saturday he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon.

That night he had a stomachache.

Eric Carle,   “The Hungry Caterpillar”



Enjoy the Detours

I started a map series a while back.  I have finished some, and others are still in the works.  I’ve always loved maps.  I guess it’s the same reason I loved collecting stamps as a child.  The names of places are intriguing and I always want to know where a place is located.  Not only were the names interesting, but the different types of patterns to depict things like vegetation, forests, mountains, rainfall, and climate on different continents were also fun to compare.  This first piece is my take on such a map.  As always, I used a mix of materials.

Africa, using acrylic and hand stitched embroidery thread on canvas.


For this next piece I made four linoleum stamps of one section of four continents.  Again with acrylic and hand stitching on canvas.


Orange (eastern part of Asia with Japan), Green (northwestern part of South America), Yellow (southeastern part of Africa with Madagascar), Red (southwestern part of Europe).  I found it interesting how they fit together like one continent.  I will post more pieces as I finish them.

I read a beautiful book ironically titled “The Names Of Things,” by Susan Brind Morrow.  The author is a translator of contemporary Arabic and ancient Egyptian folktales into English.  Doing research in Egypt and Sudan from 1988 to 1990, the memoir describes the months she spent living with nomads, her base in Cairo, and her experiences as a woman traveling alone in an Arab country.


Maps and books on foreign countries remind me of the places I’ve been and the places I would like to go.  Of the places I’ve been, there were magical times.  But I remember times when I tried to ask directions, and didn’t speak the language, so I wound up being sent in the opposite direction. And another time sleeping in the airport because my flight was so late that no more were leaving till the next day. Frustration usually set in.  Recently I found a quote by an unknown author that I truly believe, because in looking back, getting lost or getting stuck for a night at the airport just added to the adventure.

“The real happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.”

Enjoy your detours.




Heat Wave

Autumn.  When I was teaching ESL to adults I would have them brainstorm at the start of each new season and list the colors, clothing, weather, activities, etc. for that season.  Then they would take the ideas from the list and make sentences, if they were beginning students, and a paragraph if they were more advanced.  And so, at the start of this new season I am reminded of their lists of ideas as fall clothing and decorations replace the summer displays at department stores.  At home as well.  My son had pulled out a tray of olive oil drizzled yams from the oven, and the color…well, autumn.


The beach and the color blue was never associated with fall, but today in Los Angeles we experienced the first day of a heat wave.  A walk along the shore this morning at 9:30 was quite warm.  Actually hot.  But the ocean was cool on your feet and the color matched the royal blue of the sky.  Gorgeous.



I saw an excellent movie with a phenomenal true story.  The name is “Pride.”  It takes place during Margaret Thatcher’s term as Prime Minister.  The miners in Wales were on strike for a year.  A small group of gay activists decided to collect money to help the families.  The unfolding story of awareness, growth and solidarity was truly uplifting, and demonstrated what can be accomplished by being open to the idea that equality is not exclusive. The characters really made you feel the struggle, the Welsh countryside was beautiful, and Bill Nighy once again showed the British mastery of the art of acting.


Besides my mixed media pieces, I’m working on a map series.  I’ve loved maps since I was very young.  My brother and I had a stamp collection as kids, and the names were so “foreign” sounding.  Iran, Mozambique, Borneo.  We’d have to look up the locations on a map.  It was always a mystery what these places were actually like.  The world seemed much larger then.  Now we are so connected to every name in a world atlas.  But the names, locations, even the different types of maps were interesting.  I remember that the ones depicting vegetation were the most colorful, with stripes resembling a rainbow.  In my map series I’m using many different mediums.  Below is one that at this point resembles a quilt, but it is only in its beginning stage.


“Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished?  Yes; work never begun.”    Christina Rossetti, Author

Begin something.