For my mother

For my mother’s birthday, and sometimes for Mother’s Day, I like to make something with her favorite flower, the sweet pea.

This year I also included her favorite thing to find on the beach: sand dollars.

SandDollars
Sand Dollars and Sweet Peas, Crayola crayons.

Drawn with crayons, I found it much easier to get that intense vibrancy of the sweet pea flowers than with other media. Those petals can almost burn your eyes, they are so bright! I also enjoyed making sand and water ripples with the play of light and shadow.

Did you know sand dollars are often purple while they’re living? Once they die, their skeletons get bleached by the sun and that’s why we see them as white most of the time. They also have millions of tiny wiggly feet! Watch this video on YouTube Live Sand Dollar Walking.

 

I love my mother. I believe I inherited my artistic spark from her. Even though she does not paint or needle felt, she is an avid knitter and seamstress. Growing up there were always fabric particles all over our house, bright bits of yarn, and the occasional stray pin. Beyond the example she modeled for me as a creative person pursuing her own artistic endeavors, she was and remains one of my greatest supporters. She always encouraged me in my art and still gives me kind words and genuine reactions to my work. Thank you, Mom, if you read this, for everything you have done to help me grow as an artist.

 

Here are some past pieces I have made for my mother.

 

Advertisements

Affordable Housing Poster Contest

I entered a poster design contest last month for an affordable housing event by Silicon Valley at Home (SV@Home). The theme was “It’s time 4 yes, Silicon Valley.”

I am proud to say I won second place! It will be framed and placed in the San Jose SV@Home office.

Time4YesHourglass_web
Hourglass ItsTime4Yes Poster Design, Photoshop

This was a really fun challenge. I have never taken any courses in graphic design, so I looked on Pinterest for ideas and then I sketched out a number of different concepts. I talked with my friends and family to narrow down the best design. (Thank you for your help and support, guys!)

A Griffin for Valkyrie

My good friend, Valkyrie Johnson, is so multitalented it’s easy to mistake her for a mythological being. She is an artist who draws, paints, sculpts, sews, felts, welds, writes, carves, sings, arranges flowers, crafts jewellery, designs clothing, edits video, and practically anything else creative you can imagine. And not only does her repertoire have breadth, it has quality. She is astonishingly good at many, many, many things.

Just look at these few pieces by her!

Top: New Friends. From left to right: Wooden Pendant, Lovers Egg,  and Stage Fright
All by Valkyrie Johnson

 

When I think of all the amazing things she can do, I am filled with an awe and admiration that I feel towards magical creatures. Watching her accomplish all that she has is like watching a griffin fly overhead, beautiful and inspiring and kind of terrifying.

Every year for her birthday I like to make griffin themed artwork for her. This is one I made for her back in 2011.

Brilliance_dA
Brilliance, needle felted wool over pipe cleaner.

And another I made way back in 2009.

Valky_Griff_Web
Medieval Griffon, mixed media.

This year I have begun a needle felted griffin in a style I’ve never attempted before with my felting. I am recreating a Medieval manuscript illustration in three dimensions with wool. This project will take some time, but here are a few in progress photos.

Check back again soon to see the final piece! And hear Valkyrie’s reaction to my gift.

Meanwhile, make sure to visit her website to see more incredible artwork: Valkyrie Johnson on WordPress.

Lumpsucker Fish

Inspired by a comment made by one of my friends, I decided to draw these adorable and bizarre fish — lumpsuckers. The first time I saw these little guys, I could not believe my eyes. They look exactly like vacantly staring pompoms. Just little fish lumps that stick to things with their sucker fins. I kept looking and looking for some clue that they were real and my husband (boyfriend at the time, on our second date) had to pull me away from the display tank so we could get out of the California Academy of Sciences before it closed.

I never did find convincing evidence that lumpsuckers are real and not just pompoms.

I drew this continuing my experiments with Crayola crayon fish drawings.

 

Lumpsuckers
Lumpsuckers, Crayola crayons.

James Baxter the Horse

I don’t often make fan art but occasionally something will jump up, punch me in the heart, and force me to make it. From the moment James Baxter the Horse rolled on his beach ball into the cartoon series Adventure Time, I knew I was destined to make a tribute.

Just look at him!

https://giphy.com/embed/G2PFZL26hdCHm

via GIPHY

He is perfection! The way he folds up his beach ball into a hat and trots off into the sunset is one of the most romantic things I’ve ever seen.

https://giphy.com/embed/GYH6LraGdVAru

via GIPHY

And as if the majesty of his imagery isn’t enough, his story-line makes for one of the best of all 274 episodes. He first appears in episode 19 of the fifth season.

So one day I found myself needle felting a James Baxter Horse.

 

Spots and stripes: baby tapir

All tapir calves have spots and stripes. These markings help them blend into their surroundings so predators won’t catch them easily. It also makes them gorgeous!

 

This bold fashion statement is the biggest challenge when needle felting these little ones. Here I’ll show you what this baby tapir looked like before the patterns were added.

 

A little strange and naked looking, isn’t it? Let’s get those fancy duds on!

 

 

Much better! The time and effort to make those spots and stripes was completely worth while.

 

These wonderful animals are endangered and vulnerable. For any new orders I receive for needle felting tapirs, I will donate a third to the Tapir Specialist Group who will use the funds to help protect and study tapirs all over the world.

Happy Ayyám-i-Há!

Ayyám-i-Há is a Bahá’í holiday celebrating the intercalary days of the Bahá’í year (days that fall “outside” the calendar year of nineteen months of nineteen days). These four or five days are a special time for savoring God’s generosity by gift giving, helping the poor and sick, and really appreciating life.

 

I like to celebrate it by making art that brings smiles to people’s faces. And eating good food!

“Joy gives us wings!
In times of joy our strength is more vital,
our intellect keener, and our understanding
less clouded.
We seem better able to cope
with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness.”
~`Abdu’l-Bahá

 

This year I made a crayon drawing that I hope tickles you a little.

PuffSnails2_web
Looking at Snails, Crayola crayons

Puffer fish are always funny to me, especially when they focus in hard with their big eyes. Here this little guy is thinking about those snails … or maybe you!

 

Wishing everyone out there, whoever you may be, Bahá’í or not, religious or not, a fan of my work or not, a truly wonderful couple of days! Happy Ayyám-i-Há, world!

Mimic Octopus WIP

Thaumoctopus mimicus, the mimic octopus, is deservedly famous for its ability to make itself appear like other species of marine animals such as a lion fish, a flatfish, a sea snake, a jellyfish, and more. In fact, the limit of its disguises is unknown.

Amazing abilities aside, however, it is also simply a ridiculously attractive cephalopod. The stripes of brown and white on the long undulating arms are mesmerizing. The horns on the tall alert eye stalks are more glamorous than any false eyelashes I’ve ever seen.

See for yourself: Live Footage of Mimic Octopus on YouTube

I’m working on capturing the loveliness of this amazing creature with needle felt over wire armature. Here are a few in progress photos.

Ethiopian Folk Tales

Reading fairy tales and folktales is a passionate hobby of mine. And although I love the Brothers Grimm and the Hans Christian Andersen varieties, nothing gets me more excited than fairy tales from non-Western cultures, especially anything from Africa. Not only are those cultures much more rare (and therefore precious) to encounter in my English-speaking Californian locale, but they are personally dear to me. I was born in Botswana and lived there for the first three years of my life. I have grown up with stories of Africa and music of Africa and friends from Africa. Not only that, my brother-in-law is Ethiopian and I have been granted the great joy of visiting his home country three times already. It is a wonderful place!

I would like to share with you this amazing website I recently discovered that has compiled nearly three hundred folktales from the various regions of Ethiopia: Ethiopian Folktales

The stories have English translations but you can also read them in Amharic (yay!) and the website even has the original sound recordings, collected between 1997 and 2001.

 

I find the stories fascinating and intensely inspiring. Here is a snippet of an Ethiopian folktale and an illustration I drew a few years ago.

The Donkey and the Hyena

Long ago, the hyena lived in the sky. Every night she opened her mouth and began to sing. She sang very loudly. Everyone on the earth below could hear her.

The donkey heard the hyena too.

Who is singing like that? she thought. What a beautiful voice! I want to meet her. I want to be her friend.

So the donkey prayed to God.

“Please,” she prayed, “please bring the animal with the beautiful voice down to live on earth.”

Donkey&Hyena_dA
The Donkey and the Hyena, pencil on paper