Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hellooooo from the Butterfly House!

As I may have mentioned at some point, I spend an evening a week volunteering at a local botanic garden in their Butterfly House. In the evenings it can get kind of slow with not a lot of people around (sometimes the butterflies are lazy in the evening, too), so I often bring my camera with me.

I thought I'd share some of our butterflies with you!

What butterfly house would be complete without a bunch of Monarchs flying around? I thought this picture was interesting because you can really see that little black spot in the middle of the bottom wing. If the butterfly has that black spot along that vein, you can tell it's a male!

This one is one of my absolute favorites. He's called a Gulf Fritillary and until I worked at the butterfly house, I'd never even heard of a fritillary. There are many different kinds, and I love all of the white on this one.

This butterfly is an Eastern Comma. It was difficult to catch the light just right, but when the sun shines on him, the bottoms of his wings take on this amazing purplish tone.

When some butterflies feed, the fold their wings up behind them. Others lay them down flat. And yet others will flutter them around constantly, making it very difficult to get a good picture....!

The two pictures above are the same type of butterfly. If there was anything exotic or tropical in the butterfly house, I would have guessed it was this guy... but no! This is a Giant Swallowtail and he is actually native to Pennsylvania. Who would have thought? And they live up to their name, they are huge! I never saw one of these back in Maryland... and I think I would have noticed :)

And of course... there are CATERPILLARS!
These are caterpillars of one of the longwing butterflies.

With all those butterflies around, there is bound to be a lot of mating going on. We actually had someone come in yesterday and ask right away in a very excited tone, "ARE ANY OF THEM MATING!?!?" Those of us working had been joking about it all afternoon- yes, there were definitely a lot mating yesterday. And then the group of people kept finding them and cracking up at how many were stuck together in various places. Some of them will stay together like that for HOURS. And no... they are not discrete.

So with all the butterfly lovin' going on, you start finding eggs on the bottoms of leaves, and then caterpillars emerge. Eventually they will form a chrysalis. So in the butterfly house, we get to see the entire life cycle of the butterfly!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Some very nice people & some great reading!

Upon my return home late last night, I'm starting to regroup and try to settle back into a normal (though different) life again.
I checked my email this morning and was quite surprised, and flattered, by some folks who found my artwork and decided to feature me on their sites. What an honor and so kind of them.

The first is a blog, and she sums it up by saying on her banner, "A little bit of this... a lot of that!"
She blogs about events going on in her life and is such a fun writer- she makes you really feel like you were there with her at an event she's written about. She also does some tributes, or the occasional review, sometimes with a give-away. I like blogs that have a good variety of content and aren't always about the same thing, which is why I like hers. You never know what you're going to get. One day a post might be about a birthday party, another post might be about a home makeover, the next day maybe it's about one of her many wonderful experiences being a Mom.
She wrote a lovely post about my artwork and I was so flattered to read it- even included some information about Hydrant Hysteria. It was like reading a whole biography of myself :)
and I enjoyed reading about how her son is a nature lover in the making... Yay!

The next was quite a surprise since I often hear about this website,
They're mentioned a lot on Etsy forums, so to get a convo on Etsy from them stating I'd been included in their recent posting about caterpillars (which are all ridiculously cute, but how can anything with caterpillars not be?) made me do a double-take to make sure they were contacting the right person.
I definitely smiled when I read the first sentence on this blog post which stated, "Caterpillars are lovely and fun on their own before they even become butterflies." My thoughts exactly!
If you enjoy cute caterpillars and want to see some adorable handmade ones, the post is here:

The last is a wonderful blog, which has a lot of poetry, along with photos and stories too. Her writing style is really beautiful- both the poetry and her journal-style posts. She sent me an email via the contact section on my website to let me know that she had included my fireflies ACEO illustration to go along with her poem, "Catch and Release." You can click the title to read her poem- it's so beautiful and well written. Very significant. I was honored to have my artwork included with it in her post. I think a lot about when my sister and I used to go outside and catch lightning bugs. Now at 19, she's almost all grown up (and at 30 so am I, I guess...) and the poem made me think of how I miss those moments with her when she was a kid.

But she might not be above going out and catching some together if I mention it on my next visit home :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

She had a very happy life

I know it's been a while since I updated, and I'm a little at a loss for what to write. I'm generally hesitant to get too personal with things online as it just seems like an inappropriate medium for that, for me. But with other blogs I'm following, if the author has had a loss, I've always taken the time to read about it out of respect to the author. I never felt it was wrong of them to share that online, so not sure why I myself am uncomfortable with it. But I also think that unless I do write about it, it would be impossible for me to just slip back into "okay, business as usual, everything is fine and normal... dum dee doo."

So, this past week was one of the hardest of my life. I lost my grandmother on the morning of July 20 (Monday). We were quite close, and she lived a long and wonderful life, I know. She was 90. She passed away peacefully (in her sleep, next to her husband, who loves her more than anything else in the whole world) and that was the most important thing to all of us. It was difficult having to hear over and over that "she's in a better place" and on the day of the funeral, the empasis on "this is a sad time but also a joyous time." I guess if you are religious, it helps to hear that. I'm just not one who can think that way... there was joy in the fact that she did not suffer, but for me, that's it. I see no joy in the fact that she's no longer with us. None.

The things I would say I've learned from her were to live life to the fullest and HAVE FUN. My grandmother was a party girl, loved to tell a good story, enjoy friends and family, and just have a good time no matter what she was doing. She was kind to everyone. When I was a kid, she was kind of like a kid, too. She'd tell me silly stories and laugh with me at all of the disgusting things (potty humor) that kids tend to laugh about. She was also quite the fashionista, which I sure do wish I had inherited some of. When I was growing up, she was always travelling with my grandfather to some place exotic... which is probably where my travel bug comes from. And she just had the best sense of humor. She loved comedy and loved to make people laugh. That's what she was all about.

I'm not usually one to tell others how to live their lives, but there is something I've done for a while now that I would advise others to consider, if they do not already live this way. It may be morbid, but in the back of my head there is always the awful nagging thought that every time I see someone it could be the last. I try to spend as much time with loved ones as I can. I try my best not to be too busy for them. I try not to put work over family. Try to make sure you don't have any regrets. Getting over the loss of a loved one is difficult enough without adding thoughts of "If only I hadn't been so busy... If only I had called more... If only I had visited one last time... If only I hadn't let that last call from them just go to voice mail" etc.

I even try to treat my pets this way. Pets don't live forever, and their humans are all they have. They depend on us for everything. While we have other friends and family to spend time with and enjoy, they don't. I try to make them as happy as I can because I know one day, they won't be here, and when that time comes, I don't want any regrets.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Grapes II.... Complete!

I actually finished this painting about a month ago, but kept putting off the inevitable scanning process. I spent the entire morning today scanning it in, then brought it outside to spray it. The frames arrived a couple of days ago, and it kills me a little to have them just sitting there in the box without the paintings in them.

This is the 2nd painting of grapes that I created, both being 15" x 30". I ordered identical frames for them because, while not technically a diptych, they do look nice side by side. I'll be sure to get a picture of them together after I attach the frames.

Also spending today getting ready for the Lititz Art Show this weekend. It's such a shame that there aren't any stores around here that offer the Hahnemuhle (I can actually spell that now without having to look it up somewhere!) Sugar Cane paper I'm using, nor the inks for my Epson. That means I always have to order those and of course, it takes at least a few days for them to get here. No such luck running a quick errand for emergency supplies!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Facebooks! and Twitters! and Blogs! Oh my!

If you've been trying to start a business online (or offline), or you're just trying to market yourself, you've probably noticed that you're limited to only......... about 48392038 ways to do it.

Long, long ago (circa 1995) in the land of the World Wide Interwebs, there was simply having a website for yourself.
Remember that? And those silly basic HTML pages??

This is me.
These are my pets!!!
I like frogs!
I listen to the Beatles, and Tom Petty, and Steve Winwood, and Tom Cochrane.
I like Chinese Food and raisins and Indian food and sushi.

Look at all the cool colors and fonts I can do

(Are those old pages still somewhere out there?)

Photo-sharing became pretty popular, too, for obvious reasons.
And then there was Flickr, where you could share photos with friends AND with total strangers, post messages, join groups- it's almost limitless!

Then blogs were the next big thing, and everyone had to have one of those. (Makes sense, it's a great way to keep people updated on your latest news or anything else interesting.)
Then websites like blogger came along, to help those of us who didn't want to pay for web hosting, and/or didn't know enough HTML (or were just too lazy) to lay out and consistently update a blog of our own.

Facebook has been around for a while, and it seems like 99% of the people you talk to have one (or maybe two, one for themselves and one for their business). Facebook is kind of a hub- you can share photos, blog posts, long updates or short updates, and even interact with friends and fans.

And Twitter came along. Twitter was okay, too- quick mini-updates the length of a text message if you don't feel like doing a whole blog; plus, Twitter is more interactive.

However, the more involved you get with trying to promote yourself online (as I can tell, since I'm guilty of having all of the above), the more you find that there are OTHER sites you simply MUST join to get the most out of your promotional experience!

I don't even want to try and come up with a number for how many twitter applications there are...
"Get 1000 followers in a day!" (Noooo-ooo-oooo!)
"Find your target market on Twitter NOW!"
"I have 43000 followers! Follow me and I'll show you how!"
Or the numerous tweets/various forum posts pleading, "Follow me and I'll follow you!"

And if you've got a blog, you start reading about how to find readers and get THE MOST AND BEST out of your blog. You simply MUST be a member of Digg, Technorati, Entrecard....... Hell, I've even got the "share" button on here and don't know what half of the websites do.

With Facebook, you can make yourself a business page, but then you've got to find some fans. You can share it with friends, but you don't want to annoy your friends with promotions or business related events. If you're lucky, some friends might become fans though. And if you're still lucky, some actual fans of your business (art, in my case) might even become fans. But it seems like it's becoming more like Twitter in the "Fan me and I'll fan you back!" mentality.

Is someone who became a fan of my Facebook page, just to get me to fan them back, really going to care at all if I've just started a new drawing or finished and framed a painting?

It seems impossible to keep track of it all, with needing usernames and passwords for each and every one of these (and of course, for security, a different unique password for every site). And how can anyone have time to actively participate in all of the recommended sites?

Are we spreading ourselves too thin?

If you've got an online shop (etsy, 1000 markets, ebay, other?), have any of these sites been useful to you? Or do you feel the same way?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Goals, Dreams & Inspirational Rap

Here's the progress of my Passion Flower painting as of this morning!

As I was painting this morning, I had on some Snoop Dogg and while taking in his lyrics, I thought about how his music has been inspiring to me.

It seems that, in general, hip hop music isn't thought of as being a positive influence. However, regarding art and my goals related to it, some of the most positive and inspirational music I listen to comes from Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z.
Of course, I had "Doggystyle" and "The Chronic," on tape back when I was in high school. I defaulted to hip-hop in college (after exhausting my classic rock catalogue) when, for the most part, the new rock scene was downright pukeworthy. If you think about it, it's pretty awesome that these rappers are still around, making new music that I still enjoy after all these years.... which is more than I can say for the majority of rock bands I listened to back then. And that is beyond depressing. :(

So what on earth do I have in common with hip-hop artists? Well there is an inherent similarity of being artists. But for anyone who has personal dreams and goals, no matter what they may be, following your dreams, working hard, and never giving up are common themes throughout a lot of rap music.

If you want to listen to some yourself, check these out:

Jay Z featuring Chris Martin- "Beach Chair"
"Some said HOV, how'd you get so fly?
I said 'from not being afraid to fall out the sky' "
Jay Z- "I made it"
Snoop Dogg- "Beat Up On Your Pads" a song for his football league kids
Eminem- Lose Yourself
Eminem- Til I Collapse
Young Jeezy- "Dreamin' "

What are some songs that you've found to be the most inspiring?

Monday, July 6, 2009

An Etsy shop for flower lovers....

If you're following my blog, my guess is that you like art, and bright colors, and flowers (and other naturey stuff)! Soooo, I want to write a feature on the beautiful accessories found in Etsy shop, "Satin Dolly".
I love her use of bright colored polymer clay (and fully admit to being jealous of her talents, since I would love to be able to create with polymer clay!) and she even has a similar fashion philosophy to mine:
"I think that wearing bright accessories will actually make you feel happy and enjoy life." (from her shop.)

(The yellow rose above is my personal favorite item from her shop, the "Paradise City Ring.")

I asked her a few questions about her craft and her shop.

How long have you been working with polymer clay?
I have been working with Polymer Clay on and off for a few years. A couple of years ago, I made magnets and sold them on ebay, and was so thrilled. But I only did a couple and that was the end of it. Just recently this March, I began using Polymer Clay again. I then started making magnets again and quickly realized that it wasn't working out. So I started making roses. I don't even know how I taught myself how to make them, but I practiced for awhile and tried my best to sell what I thought was pretty.

Is it a difficult medium?
It's not difficult at all. The hard part is using your imagination and creating what you see in your head and on paper, and transferring to the clay. Using the clay is easy to work with. But I always in-vision these extravagant pieces, and yet I make them so simple looking at the end. I personally like simple jewelry, but I have to add some pretty color to my accessories.

How did you learn about polymer clay and what made you decide to try your hand at creating with it?
I learned about polymer clay about 11 years ago. My parents and I had annual passes to Disneyland, and we would take weekly trips just to hang around and get coffee. One time while checking out the shops, I met an artist there that was creating Disney Character sculptures out of polymer clay. Instead of just observing, I studied what he did and asked him tons of questions. He was very kind and answered every one, and then handed me 3 colors of clay and told me to practice at home. I tried, but it wasn't working for me at the time. I should have kept practicing. Now I'm loving every moment of it, and I can't get enough.

Some of SatinDolly's own favorite items:

"Go Green Ring"
Her thoughts about the ring:
"I was really hesitant about using this color on a rose, but I fell in love with it when it was done. I was actually going to create it as a hair clip instead, but my boyfriend suggested a ring and I couldn't have agreed with him more. To me, it just looks amazing. The color, the shimmer, I love it all."

"Ali Rose Pendant"
Her thoughts about the pendant:
"This has to be my favorite color out of all the clay I have. It's so vibrant and beautiful, it only made sense to make a rose out of it."

"Earthy Blue Rose Pendant"
Her thoughts about this pendant:
"This is also one of my favorites. It's such a summery color and almost peaceful. Every time I look at it I want to go to a tropical island and watch the waves on the beach."

Find SatinDolly at these links:

Etsy shop:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Praying Mantis drawing done!

I started this drawing a couple weeks ago in an airport during a layover on our way to Alaska. I worked on it occasionally during the trip, and managed to finish him (her?) today.

Does it look familiar?

When I was creating my "30 Bugs in 30 Days" ACEOs, my husband suggested that I include a Praying Mantis in the series. I liked the idea, so it became the 8th bug.
When I finished the little card, I was happy with the composition and thought it would make a nice full size drawing (full size for my drawings being 9" x 12" or so).

I'm going to display this guy at my feature artist show in August (I'll post more about that later). He's going into a 16" x 20" frame (which I'm painting green with some leftover paint from the Hydrant project) and will be double matted in white with a green inner mat.

A little about the original idea behind this...
When I began sketching out the Mantis ACEO, I knew I would have to somehow compensate for the fact that most people do NOT like these bugs! (I personally think they're very cool.) They're BIG, they have alien faces, and the way they walk is... kind of creepy I suppose. I decided the way to make the Mantis card a little more acceptable to the general public* was to add in some pretty flowers. No hearts or rainbows or glitter, the flowers seemed sufficient. I chose hydrangeas since I thought the blue hue would accompany the green Mantis nicely.

* Not that "being accepted by the general public" is what art is about, but one of the main reasons that I like drawing bugs is to bring attention to their beauty. This mantis is no exception, and the last thing I want is to have people take one look at the fact that "GROSS IT'S A PRAYING MANTIS OMG!!! EEEEEWWWW!!!!!" and 5-alarm-freak-out about it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Caterpillars in the Garden!

I can't believe it's already mid summer!
Where is 2009 going!?

Upon my return from Alaska, I see all the gardens and landscapes in the area are in full bloom! It makes me miss gardening a little bit.

Particularly I miss all the bugs. Part of why I loved gardening so much was seeing the many butterflies, moths, caterpillars, bees, beetles, millipedes, potato bugs....
(At least I am volunteering some time at the Hershey Butterfly House this summer so I will get my fix!)

This bug here is a Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar that I painted a few years ago. The original painting is 20" wide by 16" tall. Looking at the painting of him always makes me happy because it's so bright and SO much larger than life!
The original painting is currently framed and hanging (for sale) at Gallerie 13 in Mechanicsburg, PA. I've also got prints of him available in my Etsy shop.

Here is one of the reference shots I snapped in my garden which inspired him:

He's chomping on some dill that's going to seed. Dill is one of the host plants for Swallowtail butterflies- meaning that it's a plant they want to lay their eggs on because the caterpillars eat dill. When the eggs hatch there is an instant food supply ready and available! Apparently these guys also REALLY like parsely, so if you want butterflies in your garden but you also enjoy raising parsley, I suggest you plant a lot of extra to share with these guys! :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Back home.....

Mendenhall Glacier

Normally I would have guessed that I would be sad upon returning home from Alaska, a place I've always wanted to go, and knew I'd fall in love with. In fact, I am ready to plan my next trip to Denali.... But I'm happy to be home!! For one thing, I missed my pets!

Besides missing the pets, Alaska Airlines made coming home a lot easier to look forward to! I want to thank them for the delight of rearranging our travel plans without informing us, which then allowed me the luxury of burning off calories by making me run with my carry-on across 3 different airports end-to-end, sometimes more than once! (with some asthma issues thrown in for good measure), an unplanned flight to and night spent in Chicago, missing a half day of work on Wednesday, eating no actual meals on Tuesday (dinner consisted of 1/3 a bag of Cheezits! YUM!), and conveniently having no customer service desk in Minneapolis.
You silly airline!
I mean I love Cheezits and all, and I have been trying to exercise more, so I'm really thankful that they conveniently removed us from that flight that would have gotten us to Minneapolis, thus connecting to get back home, on schedule.

After a day like that, anyone would be glad to come home from where ever they are.

And now, what I know you've been waiting for.....

A bumblebee on a giant Dandelion.
His fuzzy bee butt was a neat reddish color!

Is this a bee?
It looks like a bee.
He buzzed like a bee.
But I can't find a picture of him anywhere online to confirm what he is. He must be in the bee family, I just want to know what kind he is. I just LOVED his yellow knobby antennae!