Balanced Living for Creatives

Balanced Living for Creatives

December 26, 2010

New York City sketches

I had a great visit to the big apple. My purpose was to seek out contemporary art and artists. I went to a lot of different galleries, in Chelsea, SOHO, and some others. I also went to both the Museum of Modern art and the Metropolitan. I spent a great part of my young life in these museums. It was nostalgic to visit them, even though there were great changes at MOMA. Much of the art is the same as I remember. It is very energizing to to be around art, to see what emerging artists are creating, to remember the modern artists, and to connect with the old masters. Of course, I also found a little time for a few small watercolor sketches, hard to do in the cold of winter.

November 11, 2010

Wild Berries in the 'Hood

For my class about drawing berries, I went around my neighborhood and collected samples of berries. Within about a 4 or 5 block radius, I collected about 20 different types of wild berries that were growing down into the alleys here in Denver. Amazing that there would be so many different ones. In the fall we hardly notice the things that are still growing around us. The leaves are fallen or brown, or maybe the autumn leaf colors attract all our attention. But the berries are there, if we pay attention. Here are some drawings of berries.

November 7, 2010

Tweet Lights

Lights at night, garden silhouettes, reflections on the pond so still. Sculpted figures coupling over the water, I see your form, reflected.

Another twitter nature poem.

October 15, 2010

Tweet Thunderstorm

Twitter Poem: Thunderstorm, wind-rain, dark-light. Leafy boughs heave and dip. I see they are in love with the dripping wet and bending their stiff limbs.

October 9, 2010

Tweet Ole October

Twitter poem: Ole October, a shift in wind, and yellow leaves...just a few...flutter, then angle down. Do trees lose their green coats in anger or in joy?

October 2, 2010

Tweet Water Plus Paint

Twitter Poem: Water plus paint makes a beautiful watercolor: Black clouds looming, wind whipping and raindrops in my colors...just makes my painting sing!

September 28, 2010

Tweet Two

Twitter Poem: Two squirrels, leaping from tree to ground and back, gathering fall goods. I feel a quiet joy, the rightness of life, past links to future.

September 25, 2010

Charcoal and Newsprint Fix

I'm still working on figuring out how to get more meaning in my artwork. I want to get to the place where my artwork is meaningful to me and also to viewers who see it. Although I think its better that I just need to get my meaning into it and not think of how others will see it. Lets see, it's not just "meaning" that I'm trying to accomplish, it's about getting to the core of myself, putting more of myself into it. Not just another pretty landscape, even though people like those. Where is my life's meaning in a landscape? Right now it is not there in my artwork. I will find it, though. I've gone back to the beginning in art education and right now I'm working everyday in an 18 x 24 newsprint pad, with charcoal, just working out of my head to try to grasp some inner insight to what topics or images or style of working would be stronger for me.

September 24, 2010

Need to Be Happy

I was just thinking this morning that everything you need to be happy is already there inside you.

Twitter Poem: Nature's language spoken by orchids: simple forms express shape wildly divergent. Sexy lips of lovely colors shout welcome to all in beauty.

Wow that's bad poetry-hee hee hee.

September 23, 2010

Tweet Breath of Fresh Air

Twitter Poem: A breath of fresh air, the warm autumn sun bathes my face, a gentle breeze rustles the yellowing leaves. Now I relax in peace. Life is good.

September 20, 2010


Wildfires are breaking out everywhere. The plains and the foothills canyon are especially vulnerable. Though fires are part of a natural ecology, there are so many houses now in these areas that almost every fire has loss of structures and sometimes people. The world is so crowded. Such a big change over even my puny lifetime.

Twitter poem: So dry, grasses crisp beneath my feet. Touch this unpleasant, mournful plain? Dormant still looks like death. Dream, so, the verdant dreams.

September 18, 2010

Tweet Listening

Listening to Beethoven and drawing nuts. Life, so ironic, cannot be imagined, only lived. Who can say what paths we do tread? It's all good.

September 17, 2010

Painting in Washington Park

Slow down, you move too fast... Had the best day painting in Washington Park. "Feelin' Groovy" was running through my head the whole time. (and who do I have to thank for that?) Three wonderful things happened: 3) a gaggle of geese swooped low and landed on the pond, 2) I looked up just in time to see a young man on his knees proposing to his surprised beloved on the other side of the pond, 1) girlfriends of the beloved on this side of the pond shook-up and sprayed bottles of champagne, right into the pond! Still Feeling Groovy!

September 4, 2010

Art is Broken

I came across Art is Broken many months ago. It makes so much sense and I have been struggling with the questions since. In my studio in front of me at all times, I have posted in large letters:
Why do I paint this subject?
Why do I paint the way I do?
Why should anybody care?

I'm still trying to answer these questions. It's tough, but until I do, I think MY art will be 'broken' and not do what I want it to do. I've tried out every which way to paint, in many mediums, I feel accomplished in working and can do what I want with any materials. But the art has no meaning, it feels unconnected, and doesn't capture people in a strong way. It's like--oh it's one more pretty landscape out there. I mean boring! Then I start to question Why do I care about my art??? I can do it and just enjoy the process, but I feel the need for it to mean something more. I can't seem to find a topic or subject or purpose that continually works for me. So Why do I exist? So if anyone has any comments or suggestions as to how I can better make my art have meaning both for me, and for other people, I would love to hear it!!!!

Art is Broken

I came across Art is Broken many months ago. It makes so much sense and I have been struggling with the questions since. In my studio in front of me at all times, I have posted in large letters:
Why do I paint this subject?
Why do I paint the way I do?
Why should anybody care?

I'm still trying to answer these questions. It's tough, but until I do, I think MY art will be 'broken' and not do what I want it to do. I've tried out every which way to paint, in many mediums, I feel accomplished in working and can do what I want with any materials. But the art has no meaning, it feels unconnected, and doesn't capture people in a strong way. It's like--oh it's one more pretty landscape out there. I mean boring! Then I start to question Why do I care about my art??? I can do it and just enjoy the process, but I feel the need for it to mean something more. I can't seem to find a topic or subject or purpose that continually works for me. So Why do I exist? So if anyone has any comments or suggestions as to how I can better make my art have meaning both for me, and for other people, I would love to hear it!!!!

August 28, 2010

Songs of Nezahualcoyotl

Not forever on Earth,
only a little while here.
Though it be jade it falls apart,
Though it be gold it fades away,
Though it be quetzal plumage it is torn asunder.
Not forever on Earth,
only a little while here.
--poetry of Nezahualcoyotl, the "half-starved coyote,"
Lord of Texcoco, Aztec aristocracy, sixteenth century, before the magnificent culture was wiped out by the crude Spanish barbarians.

August 18, 2010

The Flatirons

This is another palette knife painting. It is based on a view of the Flatirons, a geological formation located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, near Boulder, Colorado. After the Maroon Bells, it is probably the next most painted/photographed scene in Colorado.
The Flatirons, Rockies Oil on Panel 9 x 12

August 17, 2010

Reverting to Wild

I discovered an interesting phenomenon when I identified this plant growing in my vegetable garden. It is a Raphanus raphanistum, or wild radish. This plant is a domesticated plant that has reverted to wild or combined with a wild plant so that it has the strongest qualities of both domestic and wild. It grows and is resilient like a weed. It is pest resistant and large like a domesticated. I found this one starting to grow in my garden. It looked something like a radish plant so I let it grow on. It was interesting to watch, definitely not the radish but I didn't know what until it flowered. The leaves are edible, like a radish (Raphanus sativus) but the root is not edible. Unlike the domestic radish, the root is long, whitish, and woody.

There is another plant growing near my garden that started as a domestic plant. I planted it one year as a sugar snap pea. It was not very prolific so I decided not to plant again. But then I saw it was growing up on its own from the previous years planting, so I let it grow. But because the sugar snap is a hybrid of regular pea and something (chinese snow peas?), as it grew in it reverted to wild, to something else. It has grown back with a vengeance. It would gladly take over the entire space. It's a viny weed, and grows quickly and thickly like the bindweed vine, only worse. There is no fruit, just tiny white flowers. I have to stay on top of it to keep it out of the vegetable garden, but it amuses me to let it grow up around the raised bed.

August 16, 2010

Not a Mystery

It's not a mystery any longer. It's simply a yellow squash. For some reason, I thought it might be one of the wild species that grow native here in Colorado. At least, it could have been something exotic, not just a garden variety summer squash. Even so, how did it get there? It is not the same cultivar as what I have planted for the past two years. My best guess is that it was a seed that was dropped by a squirrel.

August 13, 2010

Mystery Growing

Here's the mystery squash beginning to fruit out. It's still small and has a lot more growing to do. So far only one fruit, but many blossoms.

August 9, 2010

White Heron Rises Over Blackwater

the white heron
rising over the swamp and the darkness
his yellow eyes and broad wings wearing
the light of the world in the light of the world--
ah, yes, I see him.
He is exactly the poem I wanted to write.

--Mary Oliver

July 17, 2010

Mushrooms in the Lawn

Mushrooms are popping up in my lawn. These two beauties make a lovely image. Can anybody identify these babies?

July 7, 2010

Urban Nature

These are some sketches I've done in Denver. I'm a member of Urban Sketchers group. One is a band that is playing during the People's Fair in the park. One is at the Chalk Fest, with two artists at work in the street.  One is outside the Paramount Cafe, along the outdoor 16th Street mall. Yes, I know it's not nature, but I love urban sketching--sitting and watching people has always been my favorite activity. Sketching is great fun, but I truly had to train myself to draw fast to capture people's gestures and poses. These are all sketched in pen with watercolor washes over the top.

July 1, 2010

Diamond Pattern in Basket

This basket was created using a coiling technique. The materials are sisal and waxed linen. The waxed linen cord can be stitched in different patterns, with the core sisal material showing more or less around the stitches.

June 25, 2010

Mystery Squash

This squash plant has appeared, growing out from under the garden bench. Since I did not plant it, I have no idea what it is. I hope it gets fertilized so I can see the fruit and identify the plant. I wonder if it may be a wild native plant. Where it came from? I've no idea. That's Mercedes sitting up on the bench. She has no interest in the mystery squash whatsoever. Unless it turns out to be edible, of course.

June 23, 2010

A Small Natural Basket

Here is a small natural basket. It was done using the twining technique. It's got sisal cores, with sisal, jute, and wool weavers. This mini-basket will soon be for sale in my Etsy shop. I'm opening a new section in my O, Sweet Nature online shop called "Leaf Motif". It will include arts AND crafts with some connection to leaves or plants. Many things from nature's materials, as well as some botanical art prints.

June 17, 2010

A Scrap of Poetry

...the water of the ocean divides with perfect courtesy, just to let you in!  -- Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver is my favorite living poet. Her words most often touch on nature and how she experiences it. I admire her greatly.

June 12, 2010

Radish Greens

Springtime radishes are still flourishing in my garden. I have two kinds going--red round as in this drawing and long narrow red and white. Both are tasty! 
Sometimes I slice them for salads, but mostly I just like to eat them whole. And I don't waste the greens! If you eat wild edible greens, you know that the greens from radishes and beets are fantastic as cooked greens plus much easier to collect since they are there in the garden.  The greens are picked along with the root.
In my gardens past, it always seemed a waste to eat just the root crops of radishes and beets. So now I have them as greens early in the season and then cook them into curries later in the season. Too bad the potato vines aren't edible. THAT would be a bounteous crop. Potato and tomato vines are toxic, I believe. So no nibbling there!
This is a pen and ink rendering of a Raphanus sativus.

June 11, 2010

Oxalis stricta

This is a field sketch of the common yellow sorrel. It grows freely in waste areas or disturbed areas. There's only a small patch here so I'm gonna let it grow and hope it spreads itself further. Sorrel leaves make a nice addition to salads, a bit of a spicy flavor. It's a quick pencil sketch with watercolor added.

June 9, 2010

Edible Wild Greens

Time for spring tonics and wild greens. I've been eating from the bounty of my yard, aka weedpatch. So far, I've had lamb's quarters as cooked greens, purslane in my salad, and dandelion greens as both cooked greens and salad. Free food! Who could ask for more from nature? Okay, maybe I could ask for honey, but that would require the cooperation of bees and I don't have a hive, anyway. I do have lettuce and radishes in my garden. Soon the beets will be ready. Gotta wait a while for beans and tomatoes. So much to look forward to!

May 28, 2010

Surf and Shore

This is an oil painting, semi-abstract in nature, done entirely by palette knife. The palette knife (painting knife actually) is great for impasto or thick swaths of paint. Basically I started in one corner and worked my way down and across to complete the painting image.
Surf and Shore, oil on panel, 9 x 12.

May 25, 2010

Plaited basket

This is an example of plaiting. It is a simple construction, this one being thin strips of plain paper. Baskets are often made with this technique, using natural materials such as flat reeds.

May 18, 2010

Iris Leaves in Coil Basketry

At a crafts guilds fair, I saw a woman making baskets from natural materials. I got inspired to make some baskets. Here is the start of a coiled basket made with plant material from my garden--Iris leaves, vinca vines, and stems from rosemary (for a lovely scent). Unfortunately, it's not the right time of year to collect Iris leaves. The ones I used here were from last year and are very weathered from being on the ground all winter. At the end of summer or fall I will collect some more Iris leaves and see about doing some basketry work with them.

May 8, 2010

History of Plants

Plants have moved through the world through the fabric of human society. Sociology shows us how and why people create communities, move on, interact either violently or cooperatively, and ultimately create an environment where humans thrive. Perhaps a good term might be sociobotany to describe the way that humans have sought after plants, often for profit, sometimes to death. I am interested in the history of plants within human society. For instance, this capsicum is one of the chile peppers developed from native South American plants. 600 years ago Europeans sent out huge exploratory ships trying to find alternative routes to the spice islands and Asian spice regions. Piper nigrum, common black pepper, was a cherished and necessary spice in early European society, both for flavoring and for making stored meats and foods edible for longer periods. The first expeditions, a la Columbus, made their way to South and Central America regions and they did NOT find black pepper, or cinnamon, or any of the other economically important spices. What they did find was chile peppers, potatoes, a cinnamon-like plant, tomatoes, corn, and many other horticultural finds that quickly made it into culinary traditions of many lands throughout the world. The chile peppers, especially, were adopted in Asia and Southeast Asia. Today, Asia is the greatest producer of some types of chile peppers and it seems as if the hot pepper has always been part of that region of the world. This chile pepper is the jalapeno, a cultivar of Capsicum annuum. What medium do you think it is? Graphite? Ink wash? Black watercolor? It is done 100 percent digitally in Photoshop.

May 7, 2010

Desert and Prairie

Desert and prairie plants fulfill a unique niche. People often think of a desert as devoid of life, however life abounds in even the harshest desert conditions. Plants, insects, small animals, as well as their predators, such as hawks, vultures, coyotes or foxes. Most of these living things have created unique survival strategies and are well-worth studying to understand their behaviors. This watercolor painting shows the abundance of the plant life found in desert/prairie areas.

April 21, 2010

Native Seeds

Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is a local nature reserve. It is in the process of being rehabilitated from the military arms manufatury. It is a Superfund site, one that was called a "nature preserve" mainly because it is too toxic to reclaim for residential or even commercial use. The dumpsites and radiation areas are well covered up, sent to underground disposal areas. The site is being returned to a natural environment. Buffalo have been brought back and are thriving. Eagles are nesting and many other types of birds, animals, insects, fish are being returned to the area. Part of the rehab is to exterminate the invasive species plants and reseed with native plants. The nature preserve is open to visitors and there are trails that go through parts of the preserve. On a recent visit, a volunteer was collecting seeds from the four wing salt bush. This native plant is prevalent in prairie areas and volunteers will help to spread the seeds of this shrub and other native plants to far reaches of the preserve to help bring back the native environment.

March 12, 2010

Watching the Grass Grow

This cheat grass (Bromus tectorum) is one of the first grasses to start growing in the Spring here in Denver. And it is the first one to go to seed as early as May. This is because it is not a native plant. It is an invasive grass that has become the most common plant in Denver alleys and along byways. It is crowding out the native grasses. Cheat grass differs from the native grasses in that it goes to seed twice a year. The native plants seed out in the fall, but cheat grass seeds out in the spring and again in the fall. This gives it an edge over the hardy native grasses, which typically are extremely diverse in species. Now there is mostly cheat grass wherever you see grasses greening up in the alleys. Yes, it is spring and the green is coming back. Sap is rising all around and I, too, hope to get some energy back as the weather warms up.

March 9, 2010

Watching the Beans Grow

Most life processes are not visible to us. Yet, seeing how plants grow is one of the most fascinating things for me. I love to watch time-lapse images of plants sprouting, growing, moving. To see it happen is like watching a dance. I don't have the techno equipment to follow a bean plant as it grows, but I did do the low-tech, second grade science project of placing a broad bean seed inside a glass cup with some water. For this one, I logged and sketched it as it grew. Then I created this pen and ink illustration of the seed rooting and sprouting. I did this drawing to accompany a children's science article that I wrote about the growth process of seeds. Doesn't it look like a creepy little SF alien? Feed me, Seymour.

March 8, 2010

History of Watercolor Painting

Painting is an ancient practice. Watercolor painting likely graced the walls of paleolithic caves in Europe. After all, mixing colored pigments with water is a simple process. Watercolor paints were used in creating manuscripts as early as Egyptian times, but especially in the illuminated manuscripts of the European Middle Ages. Watercolor paints, as we know them, owe their formula to painters during the Northern Renaissance who experimented with binders and mediums for painting. Thus watercolor as an art medium begins roughly at the time of the Renaissance. Albrecht Durer (1471–1528), a German Northern Renaissance artist, who painted several fine botanical, wildlife, and landscape watercolors, is considered one of the earliest watercolor artists.

March 4, 2010

Native Insects

There's no question that sustaining native plants is important. But when you connect it to the state of native insects, the presence and health of native plants becomes critical. Many insects have evolved to survive by eating only the plants in their native environments. When the number of native plants is reduced by invasive plants or by introducing non-native species as in gardening, the availability of edible plants for some insects is also reduced. This accounts for the reduction of numbers of diverse species in some areas. Killing off or driving off large numbers of native insects may have dire results for an ecosystem.

February 20, 2010

Mixed Mice

Love the little miceys! Pen and ink drawings.

February 18, 2010

Narcissus bulb and roots

This is a narcissus (paperwhites) bulb with its shoot at the top and the first row of prop roots descending. Sometimes simple graphite drawings are pleasant to work on in the evenings after the day is done. Cozy up under a blanket and let the pencil flow over the smooth paper.

January 18, 2010

Art and Gardens

Is there greatness in a garden? Or is a poem about a garden or a painting of a garden greater than a garden itself? If you were to sing about a rose, is that somehow greater than growing a rose? Or can the force that drives a garden be considered the greatest artist of all?

January 7, 2010

Etsy Shop

I've just opened up an etsy shop to try to sell some artwork online. Who knows if it will actually sell some things for me. I've started with just a few items and then each day I'll add a few more.  I'm continuing to use the O, Sweet Nature moniker and so my shop address is   So far, it is taking up a lot of my time to create this online source. I wonder if I'm not better off just spending the time on painting or drawing. If anything sells, it will be worth it. Now I have to get my website (also O, Sweet Nature) up and running. All these places need to be linked. Then perhaps I might actually get some visitors to these sites.

This is one of the items for sale at etsy. It's a small watercolor, only $35, but the shipping is almost half that, so who knows if it will get any buyer interest. Wonder if I should charge more?

January 6, 2010


I'm trying to find a way to make my artwork more meaningful and engaging to people. So I am asking myself these questions about my art:

Why do I paint this subject?
Why do I paint it the way I do?
Why should anybody care?

The inspiration to begin questioning and improving my art came from this site:

I recommend a visit there for all artists.

January 5, 2010

Ginger root

This is a small graphite drawing of a ginger root. It's worked on a very smooth, Strathmore 500 plate finish paper. Love the way my pencil point just glides over the paper. Smooooooth.

January 2, 2010

More soul from Vincent

"Sometimes I have such a longing to do landscape, just as I crave a long walk to refresh myself; and in all nature, for instance in trees, I see expression and soul, so to speak."  --Vincent

Yes, I, too, am drawn towards landscapes as expression. It's the act of being out in nature, experiencing the "soul" of it, and then communicating that in painting or drawing.