December 30, 2009

Sea Anemone.

I have to be careful not to accidently take a sip of the glass of orange water that stands in front of me and which I have used to clean my brush.
Today we had quite a little quake. It lasted a long time and everything that could rattle, rattled. I had read that animals sense an earthquake in advance but Athena clearly does not have that knack. She slept until we started to feel the house shaking and was as surprised as I was. She then sidled up to me, seeking protection, and I had to shoo her out the door because even though our earthquakes are never severe, I thought it might be better to be outside. The  5.8 magnitude earthquake's epicenter was 22 miles southeast of Calexico, in the Baja.

December 28, 2009

Mastercarve rubber stamp.

I had this big block of Mastercarve just waiting to be sliced into. I used a soft pencil and drew the design on paper, turned it over and, using a bone folder, transferred the drawing onto the Mastercarve. With a Speedball lino cutter I cut away the parts I did not want to print. It was surprisingly easy and the slicing and cutting very therapeutic and relaxing. With a very old ColorBox pigment stamp pad, which still worked very well (must be 10 years old), I quickly printed up some correspondence cards which I am now off to write and get into the letterbox before the mail lady comes by. Sharing is more than half the pleasure of making things.

I have 'ColorBox - various colors' on my shopping list for when I go into town this week because I know I will be making more stamps.

December 27, 2009


Pen drawing using Dr. Ph. Martin's Hydrus watercolor.

December 21, 2009


Yupo is a synthetic watercolor paper. In fact, it's not paper. It's 100% polypropylene. I haven't done much watercolor painting ever but when I did do it, the wetting and stretching of the paper seemed a lot of work and even then my paintings bubbled. Yupo did what it promised and it was easy to work with and on. Worth a try if you are into watercolors.


Clearly can't get enough of posting large photos.

This weekend I received so many pictures of the snow in Europe that I thought I would show a Christmas picture from the Southwest. We are still at 21 degrees C during the day and oh my goodness, we are going down to 18 degrees on Wednesday.
I like living in a warm part of the world and then again, I don't. There is something about snow this time of the year providing you don't have to drive or walk in it.
Let me remember. No, this is definitely better.

My brother sent me this picture of a tropical bird in his garden in the Netherlands. It is quite amazing to see that whole flocks of these kinds of birds appear to have settled quite happily in wet and presently cold little Holland.

December 20, 2009


I have not only been playing with photographs but have almost finished a rosette pillow made out of folded felt circles. This kind of work is called fabric sculpting, which is a really good description. I will be looking for more of this.

Mexico City.

The brightly-painted open-topped trajineras (barges) that trawl Mexico City's mysterious ancient canal system past "floating islands" (chinampas).
Having fun with this and using older pictures.

Monterey California.

I have just found out how to post larger images on my blog. The one below is a picture I took of a shed at the Botanical Gardens in Tucson. The photo above was taken from the pier in Monterey.


Life is a serious business.

She laughs when she chases a ball, but other than that I have a very serious model. 


It seems like a very long time ago that I worked in Italy. I have had some wonderful opportunities in my career to get to know other places better. You work on your assignment during the day, and in the evening you have to find a restaurant to eat and take your camera along. This was not such a good shot but I have been Photoshopping and added some purple, some pink and a vignette and I like the results. Got to start somewhere to learn. The picture was taken in Rome.

December 1, 2009

Guinea Fowl.

Nothing better than brewing a pot of tea, putting on some music and just coloring in a drawing. I drew the bird a while back and had been wanting to give it some color. I am working on a rather large project that requires  quite some drying time before I can move on and what better to do in the meantime than get a brush and some acrylics, the pot of tea and coloring away.

November 25, 2009

A great big melting pot.

I dream about this. Ripe, sweet figs.
Last spring I planted my third Mission fig tree and again during the summer I lost the tree. I am determined to try again. Though I must admit, I don't see a lot of fig trees around here, so I might be trying the impossible.

I must have tasted my first fig, picked from a tree in our garden, when I was about 5. That's when it all started and since then I am always looking for fresh figs. When I am unable find them, dried figs, but even better, fig jam will do as a replacement.

One of the best lunches in my life was when we took a boat in Istanbul to see the beautiful old houses on the waterfront of the Bosphorus. Towards midday the ferry docked in a small town of which I have forgotten the name. There we had to wait for several hours to take the same boat back to the city.

I found my way to a long line of women in front of the public toilets and I paid some money for a piece of paper which was very frugally handed out by a woman in a black caftan and scarf. I looked at the 2 sheets of paper that she gingerly had laid in the palm of my hand and hopefully looked up at her. It was clear that it was all I would get.

Walking down the main street we bought bread, grapes, olives, cheese and figs and we found a place on the banks overlooking the water to have our picnic. If you have never eaten fresh Turkish bread then you have missed something. The perfect combination of these simple foods and the luscious, ripe figs have left a lasting impression on me and added to my fig fascination.

When I was visiting my mother in Holland this fall I passed a Turkish grocery store and outside stood a basket with ripe figs. Soon the shop-owner and I were picking out the best and ripest fruits for my dessert that evening.

Holland has become a great big melting pot over the years and when I am there I much enjoy shopping a little at the Indonesian toko for my spices, and at the Turkish or Moroccan grocery stores for the things I cannot find in my area of the U.S.

November 21, 2009

Flat stitch embroidery.


Look what I found! It pays to tidy up the boxes tucked in the back of a cupboard. I made these little posies years ago. Little is the word, because they are each less than 2 inches big, flat stitched on tightly woven cotton seed bags.

I grew up surrounded by women with ever busy hands and so it was natural that I started doing the same at an early age. I learned a bit of everything but became the mistress of nothing. Still, I am glad I had a chance to learn so many different things.

It's so nice to see the returned interest in handmade things. I subscribe to many blogs written by (mainly) women who create by knitting, crocheting, sewing and many other techniques.

In a world where mass production leads the way, originality is hard to find except..................when something is made by hand.

Naturally, I embrace the new trend in handmade things. I have begun to notice that it's okay that something looks handmade. In fact, it should look handmade because it is. None of that perfectionism to emulate a mass produced item. Totally my cup of tea.

All these great items can be bought on Etsy, at SeeJaneKnitYarn, Sineminugur, TheRullofFabric, Boojiboo, TeaPartyHats, AshAshToys, Artwallah, Asherjasper and TheSittingTree.


November 18, 2009

Seed Pods.

Seed pods are always a grateful subject whether you are drawing, painting or making photos. Camilo, my gardener had finished the Autumn pruning of the trees in the garden and had put all the seed pods from one particular tree together in a bunch. The tree itself is not amazing in any way and is planted at the side of the house, where it can hardly be seen. It is on the south side where the sun blisters most of the day in the Summer and where a tree is most needed.

Camilo knows I like things like seed pods, broken egg shells, unusual stones, dead insects and other things that we find while working, so he was happy when he gave me the bundle and so was I. I have been using them in different ways but photographing them gave the most pleasing results.


November 16, 2009

Tiny the lizard.

The other day, as I was brushing my teeth, I felt something run over my foot. It was a lizard. Extremely tiny and almost translucent. At first I prepared myself for the hunt, but then thought better of it. It not only required that I look for and actually find my glasses but I don't think they do any harm. They even eat insects, so I just let it be. It will find its way out again.

Then today I remembered I had made a picture of one a while back. It was just as small and also had no coloring. Imagine my amazement when I blew up the photo and saw the above. Tiny lizards are very colorful, except I couldn't see that with or without my glasses.

November 15, 2009

Tortoise shells.

A chilly wind has been blowing all day. People are actually wearing jackets but they won't die of hypothermia even if they are wearing shorts because the sun is bright in the sky and temperatures not low.

I spent most of the day making table top photos. Working with light and depth of field. I light the subject with two lamps and use a white backboard. Like I say, it keeps me off the streets.

The tortoise shells in the picture are medicine containers that I purchased at different Pow Wows in the Southwest.

November 14, 2009

Crazy dog.

A gift from my brother. Yes, the same one who sent me the card with little girl and very large dog.

Not very many people here will remark on this little sign at my front entry to the house. "Chien lunatique" as you will probably have gathered means, "Crazy dog" in French and my brother and I got a good laugh out of it.

When Athena was a puppy my brother bought a sign that read, "ATTACK PUPPY", which I had on my gate for a long time.  I don't need it anymore. Everyone in the neighborhood knows Athena and her exuberance.

Athena herself would be the first to say, "What do you mean by exuberant?" "I am always perfectly composed". "Well, almost always".

November 13, 2009

Sis and Dog.

I have never really been known for my attachment to animals. We always had them when I was growing up, but we lived in the same house in toleration. The dogs and cats were never overly fond of me and neither was I of them. I will not even go into the menagerie we had except that it included rabbits, chickens, a goose and many more different animals over time.

Even if there was a moment of interest from my side, I always ended up being slobbered on or worse, as in the case of Mimi, the marmot, peed on. That was usually the end of a very brief love affair.

Both my brothers are animal people and when I told them that I had taken a dog they raised their eyebrows. When I told them the dog was a Weimaraner, it was the cause of some hilarity.

My brother sent me the above card "Sis and Dog" and he was right. Athena and I, at first sight are perhaps not the perfect match. She is a sleek runner, all muscle and energy, and I, well, let's just say that I am none of that.

I can't think of a decision I made, that was so out of character than taking home that little puppy and yet being so very glad I made it.

Athena is my constant companion, who accompanies me almost everywhere and who give me quick, little lick when she passes me somewhere in the house. She let's me know when I have worked enough and should be walking. She puts up with me, and I with her when she decides to dig her way to Australia or is so giddy with happiness that she forgets she is now too big to jump up and try kiss your face.

It turned out to be a match made in heaven, after all.

p.s. Athena has her own blog. Click on her name to go there.

November 5, 2009


A friend of mine sent me these pictures taken by a surfer. Amazing results. Makes you want to take up surfing. I couldn't find out who the photographer is as there are several surfing photographers out there doing similar things.

November 4, 2009

Pen and Ink Still Life.

I have a tendency towards broad strokes and avoiding detailed work but you can't do that with pen and ink because it just becomes messy. So this is a study in self-discipline too really.

November 3, 2009

Pen and Indian ink.

In spite of having a boatload of new inks and paints what did I use? Indian ink and a nib pen.

November 2, 2009

Bocas del Torro

Posted by Picasa
When you travel there is always a story to tell.
Sitting in a steamy, rather overfull bus somewhere on a road in Panama (I usually travel by public transport in Latin America), I speculated if I would make it to my final destination on time that day. There had been a little rockslide and it had taken some time to clear the road before we had been able to move on.

I was headed for a small island between Bocas del Torro and Bastimentos, and still had to make my way from Almirante, through the Chiquita plantations to the island of Colon by way of water-taxi and then on to the island. The prospect of staying in an eight room Caribbean guest house on a remote island with white sandy beaches was exciting to me and I was also ready to stay in one place for a week.

Only one of the rooms was to be mine of course, and there were no glass panes in the windows but hurricane shutters. The island had no electricity but there was more than adequate compensation: the sound of waves running up the beach, fresh fish for dinner, a mosquito net to sleep under and a lantern to read my book by in the evening.

When I finally reached the jetty from which I was to take a boat for the island, darkness had already fallen and I was told that no one would be willing to take me there now because of the risk hitting the coral reef.

When in despair, show it! The man in the tatty grass hat who approached me said he would take me for $50.00 (the usual going price is $5.00) and I accepted without thinking twice because the sirens of the island were calling me...rather loudly.

The moment I nodded, things started happening. The little crowd of onlookers suddenly became part of a flurry of activity and I realized I had just bought dinner for them all. My bags were lowered over the flimsy wooden quay into a well of darkness and an animated discussion in Creole flared up.

For the time being, it seemed no one was in the least interested in me so I peered over the edge of the planks to see where my belongings had gone. My eyes widened as I saw the really small vessel swaying to-and-fro in the  iridescent, oil slicked water. It was definitely a considerable way down from where I was standing which made it look even smaller.

The realization that I would have to lower myself that far down to get to the  boat, which was also in perpetual motion, was so daunting that I think fear dulled my brain, and the next thing I knew was, I had dropped myself from a standing position, with a great big thud, to sitting flat on my rear. I looked up at the astounded faces above me while the rickety jetty shuddered. Without giving a thought to any splinters that might end up in my behind, I scooted forward and before I knew it, had plopped myself into the boat.  I can't say how I plopped into that boat, but no other word covers the action that got me there. It was a totally brainless maneuver. No one was more amazed than I, that I had, granted very unelegantly and in a very unconventional way, ended up in the boat.

I rewarded the round whites of the eyes gazing down at me in puzzlement from the dark above with a broad encouraging grin and precariously settled myself down in the middle of the boat. I was ready to go. I did hear a soft "She be a strange one" in that delicious english they speak in the Caribbean.

As we left the harbor of Bocas, under the dark sky without a moon, I relaxed a little but chugging out to sea it slowly dawned on me that I was soon going to be in an enormous expanse of water bound for a practically unhibited island with broad shouldered men who would have no trouble tipping me overboard or worse. I brooded about this as one of men lay flat on his stomach at the front of the boat with a torch and yelled instructions to the other at the engine where to steer, so that we wouldn't hit the coral reef. They seemed busy enough though, to forget about me being in the boat.
Still, I could hear my mother's voice ringing in my ears: always be careful Elza. Well, I hadn't listened to her this time, had I?

Our progress was slow. Very slow. Not a light to be seen, even as we neared an even darker mass than the surrouding blackness, which was indicated to me that this might just be the island. Not a light anywhere. Inside my head it was even darker as I scolded myself for having being so impetous and impatient.

We went back and forth along the shoreline of the island to find where I should be dropped off and finally, we saw a faint glow and then a long jetty loomed up. It was too soon for me to be relieved though. Had I just faced a downward drop from a jetty, I was now looking at having to climb my way up to a jetty that towered above me as the boat rolled beneath my feet. Despair was becoming a familiar little companion on this trip.

From above there came a hand, a rather small hand which belonged to a very small man from my perspective as I stood in the rolling boat, and looked up at the dreaded height of the jetty. The swell of the waves raised and lowered me while I knew I was never going to get up there and contemplated my alternatives, when the hand from above grabbed mine, and strong hands were placed on my behind and before I knew it I was unceremoniously heaved onto the wooden jetty above me. Delivered like a sack of beans.

As I mustered all my dignity, I put on my hat, picked up my little rucksack and strode, on very wobbly legs, over the jetty towards the faint light under a tree.

As I emerged from the dark, I passed the other guests as they sat at their evening meal and I managed a calm and friendly, "Good evening", pretending I was returning from an evening stroll on the beach, while being very aware of their amazed faces as their eyes followed me, their mouths agape. "She be a strange one", each must have thought in their own way, as I disappeared into the darkness again.

October 19, 2009


I am working in a sketch book made in India and I wouldn't be surprised if it's the famous Elephant Dung paper. However I think that it may be produced in Sri Lanka. More elephants there, you see. If it were made in India, it would possibly be made from cow dung. Got to make do with what you've got, I say. Still, my pencil occasionally collides with rather sizable pieces of straw no matter what chewed it.

Whether or not there is poop involved, it works fine for what I am doing: making rough sketches for designs that I am going to stencil on fabric (very excited). While drawing these, I became suspiciously aware of their familiarity until I realized that I grew up with this design. My family had a company that made gorgeous (now there's a word I seldom use) embroideries on evening gowns, bridal gowns and all kind of gowns. I call them gowns and not just dresses because they belonged to another world, where people dressed up and went to the opera, wore gloves and stolas, and, for heaven's sake, used cigarette holders. Those people did not wear a dress, they wore a gown and an especially gorgeous one if it had been through the hands at Holland Artistic Embroidery Works.

October 18, 2009

We all look forward to.....

I think that most ladies living here look forward to having lunch at the Garden Cafe. They close in the Summer you see, and that makes life here a lot harder. It's not the scorching temperatures that we mind or the lack of a gift store that isn't part of a discount chain store. (Prickly Pear, where are you?). The hardest part of getting through the Summer is that, other than good oriental and Mexican food, there are no restaurants where you can while away an hour of your busy day with a friend, and eat a Strawberry Turkey Salad, a piece of excellent Torture or Killer cake, a Tri-tip salad or a bowl of home made Tortilla soup sitting under a canopy of trees and umbrellas. I mean, having lunch at Applebee's just is not the same experience, and life is really about experiences, isn't it?  So from Mother's Day, when they close, until when the heat dips under 100 again, we live like desert creatures with few niceties in our lives. Dressed in shorts and tank-top, we make a dive for our car where we will burn our buns on the hot seat, dive into the supermarket, where we stand a very good chance of freezing to death in the first 3 minutes that we are there, before we head on home again in our car that has managed to heat up in that short time to oven-like temperatures.

The Garden Cafe is open!

October 17, 2009

Photoshop meets the 50's.

I have something in mind that requires a bright, yet simple design and suddenly I found I had made this very 50's looking sketch of seedpods. I drew and colored it only once, but with the help of Photoshop I was able to see it in different color combinations and make my choice. Personally, I like them all.

October 16, 2009

Sweet pears.

When we left my brother-in-law's house (Jasper's dad and the one with the trendy fireplace) he filled our hands with bags of pears, walnuts and flowers, all from his garden and my mother made one of my favorite Autumn desserts. It really doesn't involve a recipe. As boiling potatoes does not involve a recipe either. Peel and cut the pears into quarters. Cook very slowly with some water (it doesn't take much water - perhaps half a cup, a stick of cannella (cinnamon for non-desert dwellers) and some Port wine. Again doesn't need to be much wine either. No sugar and just simmer on low until the Port and water start to form a sauce. I like it with yogurt, ice cream or custard (the last two are just wishful thinking).

October 15, 2009

Mini make-over.

Before I left for Holland I had already decided that my little studio corner of the house needed some attention. It is after all right by the front door and has been a workspace ever since I decided that the dining room table was almost larger than the dining room itself and that made no sense. Also, living here decidedly ended my entertaining days. Living in France you always have guests, especially if you live near Paris.
I am an Ikea shopper, in case you hadn't noticed and after landing in Phoenix I made my way to Ikea for a couple of Fira (and ABBA crab pate, which does so well with boiled eggs on toast). You can see by the roses, that I didn't waste any time fixing up those little cabinets. I even made tiny, polymer clay drawer pulls. I used a piece of the purple and gold sari I have as curtains on the adjacent window, to cover the drawers. The accents are the same green as the walls.

The two pictures below the drawers that now hold my ink, paint and other craftsy materials, are of the frieze my brother Chris made for me when the house had just been built. I love them. I will probably have to break out the walls if I ever leave here because I would hate to part with them.
P.S. Before you think that all my paint and stuff fits in those few tiny drawers....I have a large workspace in the garage and I use the guest room closet space for storage too. 

October 14, 2009

Enkhuizen harbour.

Reluctantly I move on to new things with one last look over the harbour (US English harbor) of Enkhuizen. I was fortunate to live in the center (centre: as I learned it) of town in a fine house with a bell gable (klokgevel in Dutch) built somewhere in the 18th century. I miss going around the corner to buy fresh bread, cheese and vegetables from the people you were on first name terms with. Some are still there, some have closed. Delft Blue Pottery is making a revival in Holland. Who would have thought it? It was okay for your grandmother to have but it really was for visitors. Now of course, I wish I had not given away all I bought for friends in other countries, but had kept some for myself too. All I could find in my house was a tiny pair of clogs, a little tile I recently received and a very old little dish.

October 13, 2009

These are not mushrooms.


The falling leaves, the warm light and the evening breeze all indicated that Autumn had arrived in Holland but all the days of my stay were sunny and mild. One could not wish for more in the country of my birth. Fleur and I made up a super tale when we found these mushrooms all about fairies and dragonflies and the sparkles on the water of the pond, which you see, is not really reflecting light but are really water fairies catching the light on their capes made of spiders' web and silver fish scales. (I am turning off the light now, so go to sleep).


Related Posts with Thumbnails