Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Meadow Beauty and a Rooster


This rather unusual drawing of flowers is really a fairly common wildflower. I first became aware of it in Florida, but it grows over much of the southeastern U.S. and even up as far as the lower New England states.

This flower's proper name is Rhexia mariana while its everyday name is "Pale Meadow Beauty". I am working on a similar drawing of a plant in the same family called Virginia Meadow Beauty which I will be showing you in the days ahead.

There are about a dozen species of meadow beauty native to Florida. This species, Pale Meadow Beauty, is common in the sand hills, flat woods, bogs and marshes from the northern counties of Florida south to the central peninsula. (Wunderlin, 2003)

In Florida, this species blooms from early spring through the fall.

Now I want to show you a photograph I came across some months ago and which I saved because it delighted me so much. I have actually been thinking about showing it to you ever since I saved it, but somehow never got around to it. Well, tonight is the night!

In my own picture file, I named this photo "Our Fearless Leader". The rooster is right out there in front with his "harem" anxiously watching him demonstrate that this bridge is perfectly safe. As you know, I spent a number of years helping to take care of chickens when I was growing up in Alabama. I can almost hear the sounds the hens would be making as they nervously observe their fearless leader! This picture causes me to chuckle every time I look at it. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Well, another show featuring Christmas carols is coming on EWTN and since I never get enough of the traditional religious carols, I think I will turn up the sound and sing along!

I will be posting again on New Year's Day so until then, peace be with you all.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Reflections


Tonight's title of "Reflections" has a double meaning. I have done another drawing of something reflected in water -- an interesting challenge to anyone who tries to paint or draw -- and the subject of my drawing led me to further reflections on that subject, namely trees. I hope that sentence was sufficiently confusing!

First, the drawing itself. It is a simple drawing of winter trees reflected in still water. I am not really talented enough to bring the subject to life -- or so I think. The simpler the image the better the artist needs to be! At any rate, I had done what I have done and now I am showing it to you.

As I have mentioned before, when talking about my great fondness for trees, I was very attracted to dead trees for many years. I loved their stark beauty (and still do) which was created by the process of decay. Storms break off pieces of branches and limbs often sculpting something quite magnificent. When I first saw the photo that inspired this drawing, I was struck immediately by the similarity these barren trees had to dead trees. Actually, the photo that I worked from had a lot more stuff in it -- fir trees, a road, a house, etc., but I really wasn't interested in drawing any of it other than the trees.

I took a look at this drawing using the topographic selection in the pixel software, but it looked much the same as the original -- so it seemed rather pointless to show the result.




I did come across another photo of a reflection that I find fascinating because it takes my eye a half second to figure out exactly what I am looking at! It is not an image that I feel like drawing, but I kept it because it is unusual and very beautiful.

Going back to my reflections on trees, I was reading a bit about this new movie Avatar. Evidently, the trees are very much involved in the lives of the indigenous "people" on the planet (moon) called Pandora -- sort of like a fellow species with which the native people communicate. The greedy capitalists actually bulldoze the trees including their "Hometree" leading to the eventual defeat of the capitalists. The story reminds me of one of my favourite Alan Dean Foster books entitled "Midworld" in which the native people "meld" with all other living organisms on the planet. They, too, live on a Hometree. Read it if you get a chance since it seems to be a simpler version of Avatar.

That's enough reflecting for tonight!

Peace be with you.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Feast of St. Stephen


Today is the Feast of St. Stephen. So, I decided to show you an icon which I did not draw. I am not sure who drew it as the article it was in did not say; however, it looks very much like the style of one of the artists whose work is available through Monastery Icons.

Anyway, it shows St. Stephen dressed as a deacon, including his tonsured hair. He was greatly loved by the early Christian community for his concern and caring for all the poor, the widows and orphans in the early church. He was stoned to death by Jewish people who were angry at the Church -- probably because there were so many Jewish converts. Do you recall where the witnesses of the stoning laid their cloaks? They laid them at the feet of a zealous, young Jewish man by the name of Saul, later to be known to the world as St. Paul.

I seem to remember telling you before my story about my experience at St. Stephen's shrine church in Jerusalem -- but just in case you have forgotten, here it is again. I went to the church on one of the days that the tour group had a few free hours. Everyone else seemed to want to rest or shop, but I knew where I wanted to go and so made my way to the Church of St. Stephen. It is supposedly built on the spot where he was stoned to death.

After spending some time praying in the church, I went out onto the grounds around the church. I was actually looking for shade as it was a very hot day in April. Suddenly I saw a lovely stone lying on a pile of stones and I went over to pick it up. My plan was to take the stone as a souvenir. As I picked it up, I was cut on my finger by another rock with sharp edges that was lying just under the one I wanted. The cut was small but deep and begin to bleed profusely. I stood there watching my blood stain the rocks around me and actually felt blessed. I was shedding a little of my blood right where St. Stephen had bled to death from deep cuts made by the sharp rocks that had been thrown at him. Ever since then, I have felt a real sense of friendship with the first martyr of the Christian Church and so I remember him today and ask him to pray for me and for all who read my blog.



As for my art work, here is a second drawing I did of Jatropha interregima. This time I show more of the tree along with flowers and buds. I would really like to see one of these in person as a profusion of the beautiful flowers would be lovely! Maybe one of these days...



Of course, I have to show the "topographic" image as well. It is like playing with a toy for me to use the Pixel Perfect software on almost everything I draw these days. I try changing my drawings with all sorts of different options, but usually, the topographic one is the only option I really like. It does not work as effectively on this drawing as it has on other flower drawings -- maybe its because the tree branches take too much of the focus away from the flowers.

Well, I hope everyone who celebrates Boxing Day by chasing the bargains is tired but happy with all their purchases. I will be posting again on Monday which is another day for celebrating martyrs -- the Holy Innocents. I will tell you more then.

Peace be with you.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve, 2009



This picture is not my photograph nor my drawing -- the only claim I have to it, in fact, is that I came across it some weeks ago and saved it to my collection.

As most of you know, I have a deep feeling for trees and so I tend to collect photographs and drawings of ones I find particularly inspiring. Such is the case with this one. Supposedly, it is a photo of a tree at the edge of the woods with the moon resting just behind the top of the tree. The strong moonlight is enhanced by a clear atmosphere which appears to cause the bits of snow on the branches to sparkle like Christmas lights.

These days there is, of course, always the possibility that the scene has been "photo-shopped" especially considering how difficult it would be to take such a photo as this. So I am of the opinion that most probably, this is a daylight photo that has been worked on so that it now appears to have been taken at night. What do you think?

Tomorrow is Christmas Day and I hope that everyone who reads this blog will be having a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. I will be going to Mass tomorrow morning as the midnight one is just too crowded for a person in a wheelchair.

May the peace of Christmas be with you all.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Spicy Jatropha!



Tonight's drawing shows a bit of a branch on a tree. One of the names for the tree is "Spicy Jatropha". The proper name for the tree is Jatropha integenima.

Jatrophas is a genus of approximately 175 succulent plants, shrubs and trees in the Family of Euphorbiaceae. The name Jatropha is derived from the Greek "iatros" which means physician and "trophe" meaning nutrition. This gives rise to another common name of "physic nut". Jatropha is native to Central America.

I tried to find out more about what Jatropha integenima is used for medicinally, but very little information is available.



Of course, I had to use my "topographic" software on the drawing to see what happened and, as usual, it created a picture with more drama than the simple original. I don't know if you noticed the comments at the end of Sunday's posting. Someone found my blog by accident and wanted to know more about the so-called topographic software I keep referring to. The topographic part of the software is just one, small portion of a much larger package. Unless you are looking in the right place, you would miss it entirely. I described the software for him and I hope he will be able to find the topographic part should he purchase it!





One last item I want to share with you tonight is the front of a Christmas card I received today. This card is from one of my foster children -- Lenny who lives in Zambia. She was just a little girl when I first became her foster parent and now she is growing into a beautiful, young lady. Inside the card she had written a Christmas message to me in English -- a language she did not know at all when we first started corresponding. I am so proud of her.

My next post will be on Christmas Eve. Until then, peace be with you.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Topographic Special



First let me introduce you to my latest flower drawing. "Lotus Blossoms" (above) was an effort to capture the delicate petals of the Lotus water lily. I am not satisfied with what I was able to achieve as the petals and pads (leaves) need to be almost transparent -- something I have never been able to do with my rather limited drawing software. You will notice that I also applied an art deco type frame as I did in a previous drawing of the Lotus.

What I did do was try the topographic method on this drawing and several other "water lily" drawings. I found this to be very successful although the nature of the art work is changed dramatically. I don't really object to this, however, as the result is quite pleasing.


First, is tonight's featured drawing. I think it handles the transition fairly well although the result is not quite as dramatic as the next one.


This is the first Lotus drawing I did with the frame. It is called "Resting Lotus". I am definitely pleased with the result I got when I used the "topographic" software on this one. This is another drawing that achieves, I feel, an almost stained glass window appearance.



Finally, I tried the software on the "Water Lily Reflection" drawing I did a few months ago. I am very fond of the original of this drawing and used it in my latest book. However, if I had known how pleasing the topographic image was going to be, I might have held off publication until I got this new software!

So there you have it -- three more drawings topographically renewed! It would be wonderful if I could get some feedback from people about these images. I have been trying to figure out how I might get people to respond. Maybe I should have a contest and offer a prize...

Well, first I will wait and see if asking nicely once again prompts someone to respond! That would be a nice Christmas present for me.

Meanwhile, may peace be with you during these last days before we celebrate the birth of Christ.



Friday, 18 December 2009

Apple Blossom Time


Here is a drawing of some apple blossoms. My previous drawing of similar blossoms was actually of crabapple blossoms. These then are the "real" thing although I must confess that I have no idea which type of apples would come from these blossoms!




Once again I did the "topographic" thing and once again I really like the effect. The reversal of the colour of lines from black to white and the changing of the other colours creates a very pleasing effect -- or so it seems to me.

I am now thinking about making a collection of these topographic images. As you know, I have posted about 5 such images thus far. I have discovered that this process does not work well for all flower drawings, but for many, such as the magnolia blossoms posted recently, the software creates a look that reminds me of stained glass. I even used the first one I did -- the Giant Milkweed -- as an illustration in my newest book "Stations Icons". Meanwhile I will just continue to post them in the blog for you to enjoy.

As I write this, I am listening and half watching a concert by The Priests from St. Malachy's Church in New York City. They are singing Christmas songs and the music is really putting me in the mood for that holy day of Christ's Mass. How has it gotten here so quickly?

I think I will go and pay more attention to this beautiful music.
May peace be with you.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Final Icon



Well, here is the final icon required for my novena book.

I have had a fondness for St. Jean Marie Vianney (also known as the Cure d'Ars) for some years due to my fascination with any priest who has been given the gifts of wisdom and understanding to a degree that they are enabled to almost read minds in the Confessional -- priests such as St.Jean Vianney and St. Padre Pio. So both of these priests are included in my novena book.

As well, this is the Year of the Priest in the Roman Catholic Church and St. Jean Marie Vianney is the patron saint of priests. So everything just seemed to come together to make it right to include him in my list of saints.

You may not be able to read the writing on the scroll he is holding; so I will type the text here:

"Above all, assist us at the hour of our death, Saint Philomena, powerful with God, pray for us. Amen"

Saint Jean Vianney had a great devotion to St. Philomena and even had a shrine built in her honour in the parish church at Ars (France) and taught the parishioners to have a devotion to her as well.

St. Philomena was an early Christian martyr who, supposedly, was a young, Greek princess who was martyred sometime during the 4th century. She had been known to the Church during the the centuries following, but it wasn't until 1802 that something definite was found.

On May 25th of that year, excavators in the ancient Catacomb of St. Priscilla in Rome came upon a well-preserved shelf tomb sealed with terracotta slabs in the manner usually reserved for nobility or great martyrs. The tomb was marked with three tiles, inscribed with the following confusing words: LUMENA -- PAXTE -- CUMFI. However, if you place the first tile last and separate the words properly, a very intelligible sentence emerges: Pax tecum, Filumena, which, when translated into English, reads: "Peace be with you, Philomena." Also inscribed on the tiles were the symbols of a lily, arrows, an anchor and a lance which would appear to indicate virginity and martyrdom. Inside the coffin there were the remains of a girl of about twelve or thirteen years of age along with a vial (ampulla) of her dried blood. Since then, as awareness of St. Philomena has grown, she has become the patron of hopeless causes -- similar to St. Jude.

So, if you are facing a situation that seems hopeless, try asking St. Philomena to intercede on your behalf.

May peace be with you all.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Happy Birthday!


Sorry to be so late in posting tonight. You might have thought it was because I was busy celebrating my birthday, but, no, it was because I had to attend a deadly Annual General Meeting for my co-op. We had to approve the annual audit (after listening to it being read) and then vote for 5 new board members. I just got home a short time ago and even then I left prior to finding out who we now have on our newly constituted board. Oh, well, tomorrow is soon enough!

Anyway, I have posted a recent drawing of a magnolia tree branch. This is the type of magnolia found in the northeastern U.S. and in eastern Canada. It has sticky flower petals and not much of an odour. Unlike the kind of magnolia trees I grew up with with their large, white blossoms and a scent that is almost overpowering.




I treated this image with the same software that I continue to play with and was very pleased with the result. To me it seems that the software turns this particular image into something that looks almost like stained glass. I find it fascinating.

Anyway, I am not going to tell you all about magnolias as I think I did that some months ago when I posted a drawing of the southern type of tree. As well, I am really tired and ready to get myself organized for bed.

I have had a wonderful birthday with so many nice cards, emails and phone calls. I feel truly blessed. God is so good to me.

Peace be with you all.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Another Feast Day

Topographic Image

Today is another feast day for Our Lady -- the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Under this title, Our Lady is known as the Patroness of the Americas, but she is particularly venerated under this title in Mexico and Central America. I have drawn her image and posted it here previously, but my drawings do not show nearly clearly enough how totally like an Aztec Our Lady appeared. She came to an Indian who was a recent convert to Catholicism and she called him and all his fellow native peoples "her children". She was dressed like an Aztec even down to the black sash around her waist which was tied in such a way as to denote pregnancy. Our Lady's appearance as one of them, opened the floodgates to conversion an over the next half century, more than 8 million native Americans became Catholic Christians. And we still have the proof of that appearance with us after almost 500 years: the cactus-fibre tilma on which Our Lady's image was imprinted in some way that scientists have never been able to explain. Amazing!

Now for tonight's drawings...
The one above is of the same subject matter as the one below: the Angel Trumpet flowers. The one at the top of this posting has been treated with the software that I have talked about previously. I prefer the version above to the actual drawing. I feel the original drawing is rather boring while the "treated" version is somehow more interesting. I would ask you what you think, but no one ever responds to that question except my friend, A.


Untreated Image




Finally, I have a new drawing of a colt. As usual, I wish it could be better. I seem to have an even more difficult time with colts than I do with adult horses. It is kind of like drawing a baby picture. Neither drawings of babies or colts are just a matter of making the big smaller. Babies have a whole different facial presentation than children or adults and I find that colts also present similar problems. Anyway, I tried once again with the thought that sooner or later, I am going to get it right!

May peace be with you all.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

California Poppies


The State of California has such a beautiful State Flower: the California Poppy.

I have always been attracted to the shade of orange found in the California Poppy -- they are also found in shades of white, cream and yellow -- but this "orange" shade is my favourite. Drawing the flowers required that I "mix" my colours until I had just the right shade and I enjoyed that process very much. As many of you know, my two favourite colours are the shade of blue I often use for the robe of the Blessed Mother and the various shades of orange from bright orange to burnt sienna.

The Family name of these flowers is Papaveraceae, the Genus is Eschscholzia and the Species is Eschscholzia californica. The flower is native to the western North America from British Columbia/Oregon down to Sonora in Mexico. Depending on the temperature of a given area, they can be found blooming from February through September.

Interestingly, their petals close at night or in cold, windy weather and open again the next morning. They also may remain closed during the day when the sky is overcast. They produce small black or dark brown seeds (see below).




The poppy was named for a Russian botanist by the name of Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz when it was first described in the early 1800's. The Russian ship Rurik made a scientific expedition along what would later be the coast of the State of California and presented the world with its first knowledge of the plants and animals found along the western shoreline of North America.

The poppy leaves were used medicinally by Native Americans and the pollen was used cosmetically. The seeds were used in cooking. Extract from the California Poppy acts as a mild sedative when smoked. The effect is far milder than the extract of the opium poppy which contains a different class of alkaloids.

This is one State Flower that is not at all endangered as it grows everywhere it is planted. In some areas it is even considered an invasive species. It is difficult to keep it from spreading, however, as its seeds often end up in the grain that is harvested in the far west, especially California.

______________________
As most of you already know, I have published my second book and it is available online through Blurb. If you go to www.blurb.com/bookstore and enter sallie cosby thayer in the search box, you will be taken to my books: Rosary Icons, Stations Icons and The Rosary Icons. These can be purchased now through Blurb.

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Happy Feast Day


Surprise! I have been working on another icon -- the first one I have drawn in over a month. I guess the Guardian Angel one was the last one before this one.

Anyway, this is called "Holy Family, Joseph's Hands". I felt like this was a good day to show it to you as it is one of the beautiful feast days of our Blessed Mother -- the feast of the Immaculate Conception. So Happy Feast Day!

As for the icon, I was interested to observe how the expressions on the faces appeared after I finished drawing them. I never really decide beforehand when I am drawing just what the facial expressions will be. I leave that up to the Holy Spirit. To my surprise, Our Lady ended up looking as though she had suddenly remember Simeon's prophecy to her that her soul would be pierced because of what would happen to her Child. The Child is looking at Joseph, it seems to me, as though He wants to be reassured that everything is going to be all right. Joseph looks as though he is just trying to be the strong one in the family at that moment. It is a drawing that brings forth feelings of sadness in me when I gaze upon intently. What does it make you feel?

I apologize for being late with tonight's posting, but I have been very busy working on my book of the Stations of the Cross. I finally finished it and have now prepared it for ordering. I did this with some urgency as I have already had two people look at the draft copy and tell me that wanted copies of it for gifts. So I will be notifying them tonight by email that the book is ready for ordering so that I can place their orders right away and have the copies here before Christmas. Now I have to get serious about finishing the book on Novenas.

My sister in Tennessee is supposed to be calling soon so I had better get this published now or it will be even later before it gets posted.

Peace be with you all.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Milkweed is back!



I felt it was time for another drawing of milkweed. This strange-looking, green variety is called Asclepias asperula or "Antelope Horns".

Asclepias asperula is, like the other milkweeds, from the Family of Apocynaceae and the Genus is Asclepias, of course. It is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Besides the name of "Antelope Horns", it is also known as "green-flowered milkweed" and "spider antelope horns".

Like several other species of milkweed, Asclepias asperula is a food for the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. The alkaloids in the milkweed make them unpalatable and even poisonous to predators. Of course, since the area where they are found is cattle country, ranchers have to watch out for and try to control the milkweed as it can be poisonous to livestock. As I have mentioned previously, the books always say that it is dangerous for humans as well; however, not if properly prepared for eating.

One Texas botanist is said to have called this particular species of milkweed, "outrageously weird" the first time he saw it on his travels to southwestern Texas! It is pretty strange looking -- you will have to admit!





As I have done with the other two Milkweed drawings, I treated this one with the new software I have to see what would happen. You see the results above. So far only one reader has commented on the changes this software creates in a drawing. Her comments were positive. I would really like to have some more input if any of you find the topic interesting at all.

The software is for creating a "topographic map" of a photograph. I should try an actual photograph with it sometime just to see what happens.
________________________
My friend returned the draft of my second book to me this evening along with her copious notes -- which I must now go through and see if I agree or disagree. Then I will be ready to place the first order for the finished copies of "Station Icons". If you want a copy from the first order, let me know soon, please.

I am tired again tonight as I went to a place near Milton today which was like a little bit of Heaven. A dear friend took me to see the Serbian Orthodox monastery and we had time to spend looking at the walls and ceiling of the beautiful, little church which were covered with icons. Oh, it was so wonderful to be surrounded by marvellous iconography by a real artist working in the ancient way. The location is also quite lovely even though it was very cold. I want to go back again in the warmer weather. There is so much beauty in this old world -- what a shame there has to be so much ugliness and violence as well. Sometimes I think God must be very sad.

Peace be with you all.

Friday, 4 December 2009

A Long Day



I apologize for being totally wiped this evening, but I have just tried to cram too much into one day!

The drawing, by the way, is called "Horses Kissing". As usual with me and horses, it is not a very good drawing, but I couldn't resist giving it a try.

I really am not going to last much longer as I desperately need to get to bed. I am expecting a phone call, so I must stay up for that. However, the phone had better ring soon or else I just may sleep through it.

Here it is just the beginning of December and the Christmas activities are already about to do me in!

I promise to write more on Sunday evening.

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Milkweed, NOT


Well, I decided to take a break from milkweed plants and show you an entirely different type of floral drawing!

This is a plant I once knew as Aristolochia elegans. However, it name has been changed and it is now called Aristolochia littoralis. Why this change occurred, I do not know, but I am sure a botanist could tell us. Meanwhile, I will just accept whatever decisions they make.

The Family name of Aristolochiaceae remains the same and the Genus is, of course, Aristolochia. It is also called Elegant Dutchman's Pipe (notice the Sherlock Holmes' pipe shape of the unopened flower in the drawing) and Calico Flower.
I will be using the more common name of "Calico Flower".

The purplish-brown pattern on the surface of the flower is reminiscent of calico fabric, a popular fabric of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You may or may not be familiar with the song: "School Days". There is a line in that old song which goes: "You were my maid in calico; I was your bashful barefoot beau; I wrote on your slate 'I love you so'; when we were a couple of kids."

This plant is native to Brazil and is considered an invasive species in the southern United States. However, with its beautiful foliage, unusual flowers, freedom from pests and ease of growth, it has become quite popular. It is an evergreen vine with large, trumpet-shaped flowers with intricate brownish-coloured markings. It produces winged seeds in dry capsules that split and allow the seeds to escape -- floating like small parachutes.

These are very unusual flowers with heart-shaped, bright, green leaves. You will often see them growing in dense clusters hanging tightly to fence wire. I remember seeing the vine growing in profusion along one whole side of the chicken-wire fence that enclosed one end of our large chicken yard when I was growing up in Alabama. It was very popular with the chickens as there were always bugs or caterpillars hiding in the thick, cool foliage.

________________________
I have almost finished the revisions of the Stations of the Cross book. I have changed all the images of flowers that I had thought of using as divisions in the book -- to more suitable images. I have almost finished changing all the typos I had found. I have asked a friend to read it through one more time and she will be doing this over the coming weekend. So by sometime next week, I should be able to place an order for the first finished copy of the book! I am very pleased and this gives me more energy to continue working on the third book in the series.

May peace be with you all.

Monday, 30 November 2009

More Milkweed


As promised, here is another drawing in my milkweed series.

This particular variety is one of my favourites. A number of milkweed species have the intricate "flowers" you see in the drawing, but in this version, the colours are so beautiful. One of the common names for this variety is "Scarlet Milkweed". In the Caribbean, it is often known as "Red Head" and in Central and South America it is known as "Mexican Butterfly Weed" and "Bloodflower". The plant originated in southern American areas of the planet.

I need to correct a mistake I made in Saturday's posting regarding the milkweed plants. I said that the Family name for these plants is Asclepiadoideae when, in fact, that is the name of the Subfamily (a change was made a few years ago). The Family name is Apocynaceae. The Genus is Asclepias and the proper name of this particular plant is Asclepias curassavica.

Like all milkweed varieties, the Scarlet Milkweed is a source of food for butterflies -- especially Monarchs. As is true for all milkweed varieties, the sap can severely irritate the skin and can also make you very sick when ingested. That is why, as you may recall, you must prepare the edible parts of the plant in such a way as to remove the sap. Once that is done, what remains makes a very tasty vegetable.



Here is what the drawing looks like when I used the special effects I was showing you in the previous posting. I only got one comment about the technique and that was positive -- so I decided to try it again with this drawing. I am not sure I like it as well as the previous one. Of course, the problem with this technique is that it changes the drawing sufficiently so that you cannot really identify the plant -- but that is not necessarily a major concern for an artist, I guess.

I received my draft copy of my book on the Stations of the Cross icons today. It looks pretty good although I see a couple of things that need changing right away. Plus, I want to get someone else to proofread the text before I say that it is finished. I will let you know when it is ready to be sold.

Peace be with you.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Milkweed Fancy


Tonight I am beginning a new series of drawings of the various species of Milkweed.

I have always been fond of our Canadian milkweed plants that grow so profusely each summer throughout southern and central Ontario. I know they can sometimes be irritating to farmers because they quickly cover any unused land, but the butterflies love them and parts of them are also good to eat!

That's right -- even though the sticky sap is somewhat poisonous, the Native peoples taught the early settlers how to prepare the shoots and the young flowers. You start them off in boiling water and bring the water back to a rolling boil, pouring off the water. Do this a couple of times and you will soon have a sweet tasting vegetable. The important thing is not to do anything that will cause the bitter sap to remain. I know all this because I used to cook Milkweed during the summers I spent in Renfrew County learning how to eat wild plants -- among other things.

Now, back to the drawing above. It is Calotropis procera or Giant Milkweed. It has a number of common names. One of my favourites comes from Jamaica where it is called "Duppy Cho-Cho". Evidently, Jamaican children used to be warned not to stand under or too close to Duppy Cho-Cho plants at night as they ran the risk of being slapped in the face by the resident Duppy! If this happened, their faces could remain forever twisted by the blow.

These plants, which can grow to six feet tall, are members of the Family, Asclepiadaceae. They are native to Africa and Asia. In the middle east, they are known as Apples of Sodom as they are found growing in the region of the Dead Sea. In my drawing you will notice that there is a large globe-like fruit -- which is the so-called "apple" of the giant milkweed plant. This fruit was alluded to in John Milton's Paradise Lost as the fruit which Satan and his cohorts ate. It is not edible as it is filled only with seeds plus the flesh is poisonous. As the fruit ripens, it eventually splits and releases drifts of small, brown seeds each equipped with a silky parachute. Milkweed of every variety is skillfully adept at getting those seeds out there!

Now to another topic... I was given some new software. It was included as part of a package I purchased for cleaning files on my computer. This new software contains some features that you can use for creating special effects with your photographs. I decided to try using it on tonight's drawing. The result is below.



I find the special effects very interesting. It is almost like creating a new drawing. I would enjoy getting your feedback on it.

I will be showing you more varieties of Milkweed in the days ahead. I hope you enjoy them all.

Peace be with you.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Another Guardian




It has been a while since I have posted an icon of any sort. However, recently I was feeling very much in need of remembering my guardian angel. So when I came across the image of one that really appealed to me, I decided to spend some time drawing my own version of it.

I must admit that I far too seldom remember my guardian angel or pray the prayer that I learned so many years ago: "Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here; ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule, to guide." So drawing icons of guardian angels is a very good way for me to be reminded of how blessed I am, how blessed we all are, to have been given a guardian angel at conception.

This icon shows the angel holding an eastern/orthodox cross in the right hand while the left hand rests on the handle of a sword. Our angels seek to lead us to God and also to fight on our behalf against all that is evil when we allow them to do so. They come from God and so, like God, will never force us to accept their help.
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Today is Thanksgiving day in the U.S. I have received several "Happy Thanksgiving Day" greetings from my American friends and family members. It doesn't matter how often I tell them, they can't seem to remember that our Thanksgiving is in October! Not that it really matters all that much -- it is good to get reminders to be thankful no matter what is going on!

I am feeling really tired tonight as I had to get up very early this morning to meet a friend for coffee. I found myself falling asleep while trying to watch the evening news earlier. I hope I didn't miss anything too important. I did hear that we may have some snow flurries at the beginning of next week! Well, it will be the first days of December after all. Wow, this year has really just flown past!

May peace be with you all.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Daipensia and Chimayo


Well, here I am back on schedule again. I did not forget this time!

The drawing I have posted is of a rather unusual plant that is native to Canada. It is what is known as a "circumboreal arctic-alpine" species which grows on exposed rocky ridges that are kept free from snow by high winds.

The plant is known as "Daipensia lapponica". The subspecies "lapponica" is native to eastern North America, Greenland, Scotland, Scandinavia and western Arctic-Russia. There is another subspecies known as "obovata" which is native to eastern Arctic-Russia, Korea, Japan, Alaska and the Yukon.

The Family name for these two is Diapensiaceae and there are only these two members of the Family: D. lapponica and D. obovata.

As you can see from the drawing, the plant is a small, cushion-forming, evergreen, perennial shrub. It has oval, blunt, leathery, toothless leaves arranged in rosettes. Supposedly, it produces some kind of growth rings which indicate that in Canada, the plants can live to be over 100 years old. Now, that is an old plant!



The fuzzy looking image above (with a bit of my hand showing) is of a cross I received in yesterday's mail. It is a traditional "Chimayo" cross from New Mexico. And as is always true of a Chimayo cross, it has been cut from a rusted tin roof and has three pieces of turquoise at the centre (they stand for the Trinity).

The rusted tin is supposed to have come from the roof which covered the original church at the shrine of Chimayo, New Mexico -- the roof was replaced in 1922 -- so the back of the cross reads: "Chimayo NM 1922"

The story of Chimayo is that a beautiful crucifix was found while a poor man was digging a hole in the dusty village of Chimayo back in the 1800's. The villagers placed the crucifix in their tiny chapel but when the church officials saw how beautiful it was, they decided it should be in the cathedral in Santa Fe. After it was placed in the cathedral, it soon went missing and was eventually found back at the chapel in Chimayo. Several more attempts were made to remove the crucifix from the chapel, but even with guards on duty, the crucifix kept mysteriously returning to Chimayo.

Next the people discovered that the sandy earth where the crucifix had been buried had curative powers. As the cures increased, more and more pilgrims began to visit the shrine. By this point, they had discovered that eating some of the earth caused it to have the most effect so the chapel was expanded into a church which included the "dirt room".

The shrine is still very popular with cures continuing to occur inexplicably. It is now a proper shrine church and no longer has a tin roof. It has been called the Lourdes of North America and is very popular with Spanish-speaking Americans.

As to whether the cross I got actually being made from that original tin roof, it is highly questionable, but it is as authentic as one can get with these things. I also managed to get a bit of earth from the sacred hole but I have no intention of trying to eat it at this particular time. If my pain ever gets as bad again as it was 8 years ago, however, I wouldn't be adverse to trying anything to get it to stop -- even eating a bit of New Mexico dirt!!

May peace be with you all.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

More Heliconia


I apologize to anyone who was looking for a new posting from me yesterday, but my life got all confused on Saturday with a marriage preparation class in the morning and a visit in the afternoon -- well, the truth is, I ended up forgetting about it until I was climbing into bed! So, I will post this early today and then continue to post every other day from today as usual.

As you can see above, I have posted another drawing of a variety of Heliconia. I really like these plants as they are so colourful and so interesting in the unusual ways they have devised for protecting their flowers.

This variety is called Heliconia wagneriana torbo (I am not sure how the "torbo" got in there as this plant looks just like all the other "wagnerianas" to me). Anyway, as you may recall, the Family is Heliconiaceae and the Genus is Heliconia.

There are between 100 to 200 species of Heliconia which are native to the tropical Americas and the Pacific Ocean islands west to Indonesia. All of the plants have various kinds of waxy bracts with small, true flowers peeping out from the bracts. This is the part of the plant that intrigues me the most. I am sure you will be seeing a few more Heliconias in the future!

This posting is going to be a bit short as I am just getting ready to go out again to celebrate a friend's feast day (besides being Chirst the King, it is also the traditional feast day of St. Cecilia).

May peace be with you all.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Coreopsis on the Beach


Well, fortunately, the Blogger software is working properly tonight so I was able to upload my images with ease!

This first drawing is of a hybrid called "Autumn Blush". It is a hybrid species properly named Coreopsis 'Autumn Blush'. The Genus is Coreopsis of the Family Asteraceae. Its common name is tickseed Autumn Blush or tickseed Coreopsis or Threadleaf (you can see that it has narrow leaves).

The reason it is called 'Autumn Blush' stems (no pun intended) from the fact that in the cooler days of fall, the daisy-like petals take on a warm rosy hue.

So, that explains the first part of tonight's title; however what about "the beach" -- what is that all about?




Well, here is the beach.

I did the drawing because the tree intrigued me so much. It looks to me like some sort of pre-historic creature got trapped in the trunk. Then after I had drawn the tree, I decided to add a beach chair so I could more easily pretend that I was sitting there looking out at the ocean.

My name for this drawing is "Tree on Caribbean Beach". If I should suddenly fail to post my blogs regularly, then you might assume that I have found a way into my own drawing and am sitting on the beach with miz k.d.

Speaking of miz k.d., she has a problem -- she is limping badly. I have a call into the vet for a home visit so I can see if it is anything really serious. The problem with cats is that they won't let you know even if they are in serious pain -- so I want it checked out right away.

May peace be with us all.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

What is it?



I have been trying for the past hour to upload this drawing -- Google/Blogger had a problem so I just had to wait them out!
Anyway, I finally made it.

So, let me tell you about this sweet smelling flower. Its common name is "Rangoon Creeper" and it originated in southeast Asia. Now it is found in many parts of the world --I noticed that in Jamaica the common name is "Rice and Peas". That famous dish is made from rice and red beans -- the same colours as the flowers in the drawing. Supposedly these blooms emerge white but soon darken to pink and then to red.

The Family name is Combretaceae; the Genus is Quisqualis; the Species is Q. indica. The genus "Quisqualis" is Latin for "What is this?" which is the title of this posting. These Latin names look so impressive and unpronounceable and now we find out that someone named a plant "what is it?" I think that is pretty funny.

This is a very interesting plant which is largely used for traditional medicine. Decoctions of the root, seed or fruit can be used for alleviating diarrhea. People with sore throats can gargle with a decoction made from the fruit. The fruit is also used to combat nephritis. The leaves can be used to relieve pain caused by fever. The roots are used to treat rheumatism.

It is interesting how plants have always been used to treat ailments and then scientists eventually discover that the plants actually contain chemicals they have been trying to make in the laboratory!

I just discovered tonight how much information about me is now on the Internet. I mean, I know that nothing is hidden on the wild world of the Internet, but it is a bit of a shock the first time you are actually confronted by it. Thankfully, there are many other women named Sallie Thayer out there and one who is even an artist and has a web site called "salliesart.com". But still when you see your name, phone number, email and even some of the charitable contributions you have made right there for everyone to see, it is rather breathtaking.

Well, may peace be with us all.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Crown of Thorns


Tonight's first drawing is of a plant commonly known as the "Crown of Thorns" plant. Look closely at the right hand side of the drawing and you will see why!

This plant is a woody, spiny, climbing succulent shrub with shoots reaching a height of six feet. One very interesting things about this plant is that the flowers are those tiny things growing in the centre of the colourful pink "petals" which are actually modified leaves or bracts.

The Family name for this plant is Euphorbiaceae; the Genus is Euphorbia; the species is E. milii. The Euphoria part of the name comes from the name of a Greek physician, Euphorbus. He lived in Numidia (present day Algeria) during the time of Christ.

Speaking of Christ, this plant is also know as the "Christ Plant". Tradition has it that this plant was used to make the crown of thorns with which the Roman soldiers are said to have crowned Christ Jesus. Although the plant originated in Madagascar, there is substantial evidence that the species had been brought to the Middle East before the time of Christ. The plants send out thorny stems which are very pliable and could easily have been intertwined into a circle.

If you should come across this plant remember that the sap can cause severe dermatitis on the skin of those who are suspectible and it is poisonous when ingested.




You may recall that on Friday I said that there are actually between 100 to 200 species of Heliconia, and that I was presently working on another, quite different-looking, Heliconia drawing. Well, this is it.

This one is called Heliconia latispatha with the common name of "False bird of paradise." This plant has a very interesting feature which you can see if you look carefully at the drawing: some of the leaves appear to be growing out of the "flowers"! The more I learn about God's creation, the more in awe I am.

Well, Santa came to Toronto today. One of the oldest children's parades in North America made its way through the streets of Toronto once again, ending up almost at my front door! I asked miz k.d. if she would like to attend, but once again she declined. Just 40 more days before the priest places the Christ Child in the creche at midnight Mass. How did the year pass so quickly?

May peace be with you all.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Heliconia or Helliconia?


Heliconia or Helliconia? I am sure that most of you really don't care which I use so long as I explain what I am talking about!

Well, the drawing above is of a plant called Heliconia -- I will use the "one L" version since it seems to have the most "votes" in the literature. As for the name I have given the drawing, I am going to call it by one of the plant's nicknames which I really like: "lobster-claws".

The Family name is Heliconiaceae; the Genus is Heliconia; the Species is Heliconia pendula. The "pendula" part of the species name is where we get another common name for the plant of "Hanging Heliconia".

There are actually between 100 to 200 species of Heliconia. In fact, I am presently working on another, quite different-looking, Heliconia drawing. I really like Heliconia pendula though as it is so striking with it bright colours, big leaves and large bracts.

Heliconia is named after Mount Helicon, the seat of the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts and sciences in Greek mythology. The plants are native to the tropical Americas and the Pacific Ocean islands west to Indonesia. In fact, some of you may have even seen the plant during your holiday travels to the Caribbean.

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I had a very interesting day during which I was back in a classroom again after all these years -- but as a student, not a teacher! I was busy learning some new software which runs on Safari, an Apple platform which also can work in a PC.

I am participating in an Asthma Study through St. Michael's Hospital during which 8 asthma patients (including me) and 8 health care professionals who treat asthma patients are going to be designing a form for use by family doctors and specialists who treat asthma patients. I find the whole prospect very exciting.

Our group is the last of three groups to have worked on this project. After our submission, then the professionals will probably finish things off as they see best -- but we will have had our input and that is important to me. Hopefully, we can make a real difference in the way asthma patients are taught to take care of themselves.

I hope you had a happy Friday the 13th and that any black cats that may have crossed your path were friendly!

May peace be with you all.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Showy Lady's Slipper


I hope you all spent some moments today being aware of the great sacrifice made by so many who have tried and are trying to bring about peace. At 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month we stop and remember. "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me".

So, are you ready for tonight's botany lesson? Well, ready or not, here it comes.

The drawing above is of a flowering plant called "Showy Lady's Slipper". It's proper name is Cypripedium reginae. The Family name is Orchidaceae with a Subfamily name of Cypripedioideae. The Genus is Cypripedium and the Species is C. reginae.

This flower is also known as the Pink-and-white Lady's Slipper or the Queen's Lady Slipper. It is a rare terrestrial temperate orchid found in northern North America! You can tell that it is an orchid from the Family name of Orchidaceae.

The plant has probably always been rare due to its method of reproduction, but has become increasingly rare these days due to habitat loss and unscrupulous collectors. In most places where it grows it is a protected plant. Prince Edward Island, for example, made it their provincial flower in 1947, but it was so rare on the Island that they changed to another flower of the same family. The only province or U.S. state to rank this plant as secure is Ontario! That seems very strange since we have so much wetland draining and habitat destruction.

You will notice that in my drawing the "slipper" is more of a purple pink. The shade of the"slipper" varies from pinker pink to purple pink.




Next I want to show you a drawing I did of Betelhem, my newest foster child. Isn't she lovely? I just couldn't wait to try to draw her face once I saw her photograph. I haven't written to her yet, but plan to do so this weekend.

Her father is a subsistence farmer and her mother is self-employed, but that barely brings in enough for the family to live on. I do not yet know how many brothers or sisters she has. I will let you know more about her when I receive her first letter.

I am so happy -- I have five foster children now. They are all girls and they are all doing well in school. Isn't that fantastic? This is such a blessed way for single people to assist with the rearing of children. God is so good.

May peace be with you all.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Another Cactus Plant



I have another cactus drawing to show you. Drawing cacti is actually quite challenging as they require so much detail combined with the need to try to depict cactus needles with some measure of reality. I enjoy drawing them and so decided to try to draw Rebutia pygmaea. I am calling it "Pygmy" for short.

The Family name for this small cactus is Cactaceae; while Rebutia pygmaea is the scientific name. The Genus is Rebutia and comes from the name of a 19th century French cactus dealer and expert by the name of Monsieur P. Rebut.

This plant is native to the eastern side of the Andes in Bolivia and northern Argentina. I am not sure why just the eastern side, but that is what the botanists say!
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I have had a very busy day because my sister
and her husband, from Tennessee, came to visit me today! They got here in time for us to go out for lunch where we loitered until 3 p.m. and then after visiting for a few more hours, they left to go back home!

I know this sounds strange, but since they have a parents' pass (their daughter works for an airline), they can fly up here in the morning and then return home in the evening at very little cost. They have done this on a number of occasions in the past and while I would enjoy having them stay longer, this seems to work well for them.

Now I need to get a few chores done before making it an early night. It has been a wonderful but tiring day and I am very grateful to God.

Peace be with you all.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Bethlehem


On Our Lady's Saturday (as I have mentioned previously, Catholics have a long tradition of honouring Our Lady on Saturdays), I would like to show you a new drawing of Our Blessed Mother. It also includes the baby Jesus and St. Joseph.

This is not an icon. It is just a simple drawing of the Holy Family in a traditional Christmas pose. I am calling it: "Bethlehem, Christmas 2009".

It is difficult for me to believe that we are already so close to Christmas. I haven't even started thinking about gifts, cards, etc.

Fortunately, I already have a couple of new drawings to use for cards: the one above and the one icon which I showed you a few weeks ago.

A dear friend of mine has chosen six different flower drawings of mine which he has asked me to make into Christmas cards for him. Surprisingly, they not only look good, they also look quite Christmas-y.

Actually, I have to correct something I said earlier -- I may not have started thinking about gifts for the few people in my life to whom I give gifts; however, I have already thought about a gift for myself! Actually, I have already given myself a birthday and Christmas gift! The gift is a new foster child -- a 9-year-old girl from Ethiopia by the name of Betelhem (pronounced Bethlehem). This is truly one of the best gifts I could have given myself. Everyone should be this kind to themselves. I will show you her photo soon -- she's lovely.

Peace be with you all.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Congo Cockatoo


Anyone who knows a bit about garden flowers will hear someone mention Impatiens and immediately think of something like the flowers pictured just below this text. These are Impatiens Timor (I have shown you this drawing previously).


However, there is a variety of Impatiens that is one of the most unusual members of the Genus and that is the type pictured at the top of this posting. Its name is Impatiens niamniamensis a.k.a. Congo Cockatoo or Parrot Plant.

This shrub, originally from tropical East Africa, is of the Family: Balsaminaceae; Genus: Impatiens and Species: niamniamensis. The origin of this plant has given rise to a third common name: African Queen.

The truly fantastic flowers produced are said to look like parrots. One commentator has said that they actually remind her more of candy corn! I think I agree with her!

The stems of this shrub can get so thick that after a while, the whole plant looks like a dark tropical tree. As I was researching this plant, I decided that it could have an additional common name of "Vampire Tree" as they only grow in full shade -- the sun burns their leaves!

Going from plants to people, I managed to bang my head today while working in the kitchen. In the process, I ended up with a small cut to my scalp which refuses to stop bleeding a small amount. Consequently, I decided to tie a clean rag around my head to prevent getting blood on anything. This has caused miz k.d. great consternation. She continues to sit and stare at me in an almost dog-like fashion. Turning her head first one way and then another before occasionally emitting a small, questioning meow. Nothing I say can convince her that everything is all right. I hope she gets tired soon and goes to sleep. Being starred at all the time can be disconcerting! Thank goodness I am not famous.

May peace be with you all.