Friday, December 28, 2012

Splat. Ow.

Fell off my bike Wed morning, and landed rather badly.

Left-handed self portait. A rough scab-map, if you will.
Broken wrist, broken elbow, cracked tooth, face full of scabs. I am quite certainly OK--but it's a distinctly uncomfortable and awkward version of OK.)

(And typing one-handed, as well as painting with the non-dominant hand, is slow work--so expect a bit of reduction in internetting from me over the next little bit!)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fruit Bats

Winter at the Oregon Zoo. On a cold and rainy day, the cave-like structure of the fruit bat habitat can not only give you protection from the wind and rain, but give you tons of delight, too. * Oregon Zoo en el invierno. La cueva artificial del hábitat para murciélagos frugívoros nos da protección de la lluvia y el viento, y también nos da tanta diversión.
Watercolor and ballpoint pen. * Acuarela y bolígrafo.
Even when the bats are still wrapped in their wings, not wanting to face the cold, they are delightful. And the complex layers of wings and legs all bundled up for warmth is a fancy puzzle! Bat origami. * Aun cuando los murcielagos están aún envueltos en sus alas, no queriendo meterse en el frío del día ya, me encantan. ¡Las capas complejas de alas y piernas que están envueltos para conservar el calor hace un rompecabezas interesante! Origami con murciélagos.

 "He's like a sloth! He's a really fast sloth." * ¡Es como un perezoso--pero muy rápido!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of the World as We Know It

Tonight the Maya Long-Count calendar rolls Happy new baktun! Excited by the idea of this ancient calendar rolling over all those zeros like an odometer, and also vaguely amused by the "end of the world" notion that popular culture has absurdly layered over this calendar event, I have stayed up kind of late to crank out an art project that's been brewing in my head for a while.

See, I was reading about the mechanics of vision at my museum job, and found myself very impressed by the complexity of the eye structures of trilobites. When I carved the linoleum block of this critter (very loosely modeled after the genus Dalmanites, but I totally didn't count the body segments so it's not accurate in the slightest), it was originally intended as a statement about vision: the role of vision in the creative process, and the importance of being able to communicate one's vision in order to nudge a project into motion. 
But of course, as I was printing this linoleum block and watching all the internet chitchat about the end of the world, I couldn't help thinking of trilobites in the context of their mass extinction, 250 million years ago. 96% of all marine species were wiped out, and 2/3 of all terrestrial vertebrates went extinct. That would surely qualify as a variant on the end of the world, no?
A note about my printmaking process: I'm not sure if it's some change in the printing ink I've been using, or a factor of the microclimate here in Portland, but my "legitimate" printmaking ink has been taking about 250 million years to dry of late. Nothing so frustrating as a perpetually sticky print! Tonight I experimented with using a paintbrush to apply dilute acrylic paint, and then fairly thick watercolor paint, to my blocks. I am totally digging the resulting effect (as well as the much more reasonable drying speed.)
I've also discovered that the risers of the stairs that lead in and out of our apartment are a great location for tucking small prints to dry. Which, of course, reminds my silly brain of the amazing hieroglypic-decorated stairways at the Maya ruins in Copan, Honduras

And yes, that's a younger incarnation of me, clambering up the side of an ancient temple in a balam-print dress. Has it really been 14 years since I visited Copan Ruinas? Time is a funny thing. In some ways, there's no reason to not call tonight the end of the world...Because really, isn't every single day the end of an era, and the start of a new one?

Happy, everyone. May we all breathe calmly as the new cycle rolls around.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Baby Elephant

I am happy to report that the 16-day-old baby elephant at the Oregon Zoo is exactly as cute as you would expect. * Tengo placer en declarar que el elefante que se nació hace 16 dias en el Oregon Zoo es increíblemente precioso.

She runs around a lot but also trips over her own feet sometimes. * Ella corre con alegría, pero es muy joven y por supuesto se caye de vez en cuando.

And when she had explored for a little while, she runs back to tuck herself in the safe shelter of her massive mom. * Despues de explorar un poco, suele correr a la albergarse cerca de su mamá enorme.

The difference in shape between a full-grown adult (above) and a baby elephant (below) is very interesting! * ¡La diferencia del forma de un elefante adulto (arriba) y un elefante bebé (abajo) es muy interesante!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Washington DC is a monumental city. I packed my black-paper sketchbook for last month's trip because I knew the dramatic marble would call out to be sketched. * Washington DC es una ciudad monumental. Llevé el libro de dibujar con el papel negro durante mi visita la mes pasada, porque supe que había un montón de edificios de mármol para dibujar.

Drawing all these giant pillars by daylight is certainly fun... *Claro que es divertido dibujar las columnas en la luz del día...

...but trying to capture the way they are illuminated after dark is an even more interesting challenge. * ...pero después de anochecer, con las luces prendidas en ángulos dramáticos--dibujando ésto es un reto aún más interesante.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Washington DC last month. We had to pay a visit to the Lincoln monument. (And it's beautiful at night.) * La mez pasada, durante nuestra visita a Washington DC, tuvimos que hacer la peregrinación al monumento de Lincoln. (Es tan bello por la noche.)

I started off drawing in white pencil on black paper. * Empecé dibujando con un lápiz blanco en papel negro.

Then I switched to watercolor.* Entonces cambié a acuarela.

There's a lot of warmth and color in a stark white marble statue, after all. * Hay mucho color y afecto en una estatua blanca de marmol, al fin y al cabo.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sankofa Cafe

When we visited Washington DC last month, the place we were staying was near a little community bookstore and cafe called Sankofa. They make some of the best tofu breakfast sandwiches we've ever eaten. Wow. * Durante nuestra visita a Washington DC en noviembre, visitamos un café comunitario y tienda de libros llamado Sakofa. Hacen las tortas vegetarianas de tofu más ricos que he probado, y desayunamos ahí varias veces.

Our first visit, we watched the election returns on TV while eating breakfast. Our second visit, we took advantage of the sunny morning to eat on the patio, and I painted the big "justice" artwork on the porch. The real colors were much better than my watercolor sketch. * Durante la primera visita, miramos los resultados de la elección en el televisor. En la segunda visita, aprovechamos el sol y nos sentamos en el patio. Bosquejé una obra de arte sobre el tema de justicia--los colores originales son más bonitos que lo que capturé con mis aquarelas.

I also liked the fragments of mural on the wall next to the patio--a woman's face, and three tree trunks, hovering in the blankness of the bricks. A work in progress, or an old work fading away? (Or perhaps it's perfect how it is right now.) * También admiré los fragmentos de un mural cerca del patio. La cara de una mujer y tres arboles, supendios en los ladrillos vacios. No sé si faltan algunas detalles, o si es simplemente perfecto así....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

National Portrait Gallery

We didn't have a lot of time to visit the National Portrait Gallery during my visit to Washington DC, so at first I didn't do any drawing while there. But two of the paintings stuck with me so much that I went back the next day and got quick sketches of them.

On the left, a portrait of architect H. H. Richardson by artist Hubert von Herkomer. This painting wins my "Best Smile" award--though I completely failed to capture the charm of the original painting in this fast sketch, even though I tried twice. (With the giant beard, the warm smile comes through all in the eyes...)

On the right, the portrait of abolitionist John Brown won my "Crazy Eyes" award. Not to mention the crazy hair. It was fun listening to people comment on the painting as they walked by.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Library of Congress

Have I mentioned the fact that I love libraries? I love them so much. It was delightful to get back and visit the Library of Congress during our DC trip. * Debo mencionar que a mí me encantan la bibiotecas. Me fascinan, en realidad. Así que estaba muy entusiamada a visitar el Library of Congress durante nuesto viaje a Washington DC.

The Library of Congress tour guide flat-out described the place as a "Temple of Knowledge." I love being able to enjoy such decadently ornate and monumental architecture outside of the context of a church. Books, education, learning--worth every mural, every inch of gleaming marble. * El voluntario que nos guió por la biblioteca declaró que es un "templo de sabiduría." Me encanta poder gozar arcitectura tan monumental y elegante fuera del contexto de una iglesia. Libros, educación, conocimiento--cada pulgada de marmol brillante, cada mural coloroso, es testigo al valor de aprender.

Of course, one often does learn that our history is flawed and problematic. Some epic murals from the 1890s can be fraught with sexism and colonial ugliness to my modern sensibilities. But perhaps that's just further proof of the fact that we are still learning, as we roll forward into the future?  * Claro que un parte importante de aprender, es darse cuenta que tenemos una historia problematica y difícil. Las murales de la decada 1890 pueden tener aspectos sexistas y colonialistas que me dan asco hoy en día. Pero ojalá esto signifique que vamos aprendiendo más a proceder adelente, ¿no?

National Museum of the American Indian

I had never seen the National Museum of the American Indian before. It was still under construction when I was last in DC. The curving form of the building was so striking that I had to to a sketch before we went in. * Nunca había visitado el Museo Nacional del Indio Americano antes; todavía estaban construyéndolo cuando estaba en DC hace 10 años. Las formas ondulantes del edificio son muy impresionantes- tuve que pintarla rapidamente antes de entrar.

I love the mix of ancient and modern in this museum. It really gives the sense of cultures that are active and relevant today, and that have very deep roots. *  Me encanta la mezcla de lo anciano y lo moderno en este museo--tenemos un sentido verdadero de culturas que son vivas y relevantes hoy en día, que tienen raices muy profundas.

I am a sucker for sculptures of animals, and they had a wonderful display of them on the top floor. There was a school group that came to that area shortly after I did, and they were so engaged that even with all my sketching time, I moved on earlier than they did! * Me encantan las esculturas de animales, y hay una colección de estas muy encantadora. Un groupo de estudiantes jovenes llegó a verlos un poco después de mi, y estaban tan fascinadas que--aunque yo pasé bastante tiempo en dibujar--todavía estaban charlando y discutiendo cuando yo fuí a ver la próxima cosa. 

The day before, I'd learned all about botanical illustration in the Americas, as done by European artists. I was terribly excited to find an example of botanical illustration by the Cherokee--how to identify medicinal plants. * El día antes, había aprendido much sobre ilustración botánico en las Americas, hecho por artistas europeas. Me emocioné tanto a encontrar un ejemplar de ilustración botánico hecho por el tribu Cherokee--cómo identificar plantas medicinales.

I was really impressed by the sculptures of Abraham Anghik Ruben: a mix of traditional Inuit legends with Norse viking influences, looking at the interplay of those cultures across the arctic region. Beautiful and very evocative work. * Me quede muy impresionada por las esculturas de Abraham Anghik Ruben. Mezcla imágenes de las leyendas inuit tradicionales con influencias de los vikingos nórdicos, explorando la dinámica entre las culturas del Ártico. Elegante y muy evocativo. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

National Musem of Natural History

On this recent visit to the Smithsonian Institute, most of my time at the Natural History museum was spent in the lectures about Mark Catesby. But we did get a chance to scamper through the fossil displays at the lunch break. * Cuando visité el museo de historia natural del instituto Smithsonian, pasé la mayoría de mi tiempo en el simposio sobre Mark Catesby. Pero sí logramos una visita muy rápida a los fósiles enormes, durante el almuerzo.

Fossils of a glyptodont, an ancient antelope, and a nautilus. White pencil on black paper, 2012. * Fosiles de un gliptodóntido, un antílope anciano, y un nautilino. Lapiz blanco en papel negro, 2012. 

Skull of Xiphiacetus, an ancient dolphin. White pencil on black paper, 2012. * Cráneo de Xiphiacetus, un delfín anciano. Lapiz blanco en papel negro, 2012.
In 2002, I spent part of the summer among these exhibits: the microscope I needed to draw tiny details of fossil leaves was located in the "Fossil Lab" exhibition space, so hordes of tourists watched me through a big glass wall as I worked! It was neat to relive all the memories of working in that museum. (Looks like the same microscope is still in the same place, too.) * En el año 2002, pasé la mitad del verano trabajando entre estos fosiles: el microscopio que usaba para dibujar hojas de arboles ancianos estaba en la exhibición del "Laboratorio de Fosiles." Así que miles de turistas me miraban mientras que estaba dibujando, tan fijamente como miraban a los restos de los animales extintos. Era lindo visitar mi microscopio otra vez--¡todavia esta en el mismo lugar! 

Sketch of my old NMNH staff ID card. Pen and colored pencil on blue paper, 2002. * Dibujo de mi tarjeta de identificación para el Museo Nacional de Historia Natural. Tinta negra y lapices de color en papel azul, 2002.

Monday, November 12, 2012

300 Years of Mark Catesby

My recent trip to Washington DC was triggered by an interesting day of free lectures. Mark Catesby was a scientist and an artist who published one of the first books about plants and animals of North America, Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, starting in 1729. As it turns out, he was heavily influenced by another favorite illustrator of mine, Maria Sybilla Merian--no wonder I like his work so much.

I met up with my wonderful friend Ikumi Kayama for the day of lectures at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. The topics included techniques for drawing, printing, bookbinding, and self-publishing in the 18th century, as well as the science behind the plants and animals depicted in Catesby's amazing two-volume work.

It was eye-opening to learn that after 4 years of gathering research, the book itself took 20 years for Catesby to produce. He didn't have funds to hire a professional engraver, so he engraved all the plates and hand-painted them each afterwards.

We were entertained by some of the strange myths that other science books of the time were publishing about wildlife in North America: the idea that turtles can hunt by slamming shut their carapaces on neck of a snake to chop its head off; or the idea that rattlesnakes can hypnotize a squirrel and make it run down a tree right into the snake's mouth, for example.

We were thrilled to look at an actual copy of one of the original books after the lectures wrapped up. A very exciting day for me, all told!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

There and Back Again

Transit passes, watercolor with pen, November 2012. * Boletos de tránsito, aquarela, noviembre 2012.
Just returned from a wonderful week in Washington, DC. I drew a lot, and am working on organizing it all into coherent mini-stories. In the meantime, here's a sampling of the transit fun we had on the trip: bus, subway, and bike-share on the east coast, plus the ticket from the MAX train that got us home from the airport when we got back to Portland.  * Acabo de regresar de un viaje muy divertida a Washington, DC. Dibujé mucho, y voy a organizar todo eso en un serie de cuentos cortos y entendibles. Para ahora, aquí hay unos ejemplares de los modos de tránsito que usabamos: autobús, metro, y bicicletas compartidas; y luego el MAX que nos llevó del aeropuerto de PDX a nuestro hogar. 

Transit pass, ink and colored pencil on blue paper, July 2002. * Boleto de tránsito, pluma negra y lápices de color en papel azúl, julio 2002.
I hadn't been in Washingington DC for 10 years, and I was glad to find my old sketchbook from 2002 before I left for this trip. The options of how to pay for your public transit are much more plentiful now! * Pasé el verano en Washington DC hace 10 años, y encontré mi libro de dibujos de aquella tiempo antes de este viaje. Tenemos más opciones de cómo pagar por tránsito público hoy en día, que en 2002!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fast Fungi

Brush pen and colored pencil on tan paper, with pressed lichen specimen. * Pluma tipo pincel y lápiz blanco en papel de color marrón claro, con especimina de liquen.
Eugene, Oregon is a town full of wonderful friends. We got to the Mushroom Festival a bit later than planned, because the morning conversations in the coffee shop were too fun to cut short. And then there were so many people to hug once we got to the Arboretum to see the event. But despite all that, I did manage to sketch some slime molds, mushrooms, shelf-fungus, and lichens before we had to catch our bus back to Portland. * El pueblo de Eugene, Oregon es lleno de amigos maravillosos. Llegemos al Mushroom Festival un poco más tarde de lo que habíamos planedado, porque era demasiado divertido seguir charlando en el café con buena gente y vaso de chocolate caliente. Al llegar al jardín botánico donde el evento tomó lugar, tuve que dar un montón de abrazos a tanta gente. Pero finalmente logré dibujar algunos mojos mucilaginosos, varias setas, y algunas líquenes antes de agarrar el bus de regreso a Portland.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mushroom Festival, Here We Come!

This Sunday, October 28, is the annual Mushroom Festival at Mount Pisgah Arboretum in Eugene, OR. I am excited about:
  • Seeing friends
  • Seeing how the Mushroom Festival Posters turned out in real life
  • Seeing how the Mushroom Festival t-shirts turned out in real life
  • Admiring hundreds and hundreds of fresh-collected, astonishingly beautiful, artistically inspiring wild mushrooms from the local area
  • Sketching those mushrooms. Oh yes. 
And speaking of sketching, here are some of the very early sketches I did when planning for the Mushroom Festival poster art this year. We were still trying to decide what species to draw, and this is how I was gathering data on the three choices.

I think that brown sketchbook paper might serve me well at the event too!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

One Foot in Front of the Other

This week was first anniversary of the birth of our twins, Alex and Ed. Nothing happy about this birthday, though--they were born 3 months early, and were too tiny and fragile to survive more than a few days. Coincidentally, the hospital's annual perinatal loss memorial was scheduled right on our babies' birthday this year. We decided to attend. And, we decided to walk there.

It's about eleven miles from our house in Portland to the hospital in Beaverton. We were lucky enough to have a beautiful sunny autumn day for the trip. Roughly every hour or so, we'd pause--for a coffee or a restroom, while we were in town; or when we got up into the hills above the city, we'd consult our maps of the hiking trails, or admire the view, or crack into the thermos of tea. These pauses were good chances to sketch snippets of the hike.

Walking can be very good for the brain. It gets me out of my head and reminds me that the world is a whole lot bigger than my own troubles. It takes work, but it doesn't take a lot of higher-level decision making. And it fills up the time--oh what a terrible combination it is, feeling sad while having time on your hands--it fills up that time with autumn leaves and wooly caterpillars and muddy lawns and rose gardens and chicken coops and mailboxes and radio towers and all the other random meaningless but meaningful things you run across while putting one foot in front of the other.

Big thanks to everyone--friends, family, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friendly bus drivers, random retired rodeo cowboys--whose kindness has helped us get through this very rough year.