Top Twelve of 2014

For the last oh-don’t-even-ask-how-many years I’ve created a calendar to give George for Christmas. I design 12 pages of my photos from the year, each with a different category from our lives together, and a “Greatest Hits” cover. My walk down Memory Lane means hours poring through all of the year’s images (more than 3,000 in 2014) to pick out the treasures, which I collage into pages for each month. This is the May page: Bees!

George's 2015 calendar: Bees

During my journey through 2014, I pulled out 12 of my favorites to show off. First, this closeup photo of a honeybee landing on a fennel flower went onto the calendar’s cover.

Honeybee on fennel flower

I shot this beautiful Great Blue Heron strolling through a field next to the driveway at Ardenwood Farm, our favorite East Bay Park.

Great Blue Heron

I love the colors, and the delicate and intricate swoops of this bromeliad flower (Billbergia nutans) that bloomed in our garden in January.

Billbergia nutans

In February, George worked hard behind the scenes at the Pacific Orchid Exposition. I’m so proud of his accomplishments as current president of the San Francisco Orchid Society!

George at Pacific Orchid Expo

We found some glorious Calypso Orchids during our hike on Mount Tam in March.

Calypso orchid at Mount Tam

Of the zillion hummingbird photos I took this year, I love the attitude of this Anna’s, and his glorious magenta crown.

Anna's hummingbird

George’s Tiger Lilies bloomed in July, just in time for our birthdays!

Tiger lily

Speaking of birthdays – we celebrated George’s at the fabulous Oakland Zoo. He wants this lion tattooed over his heart, what do you think?

Lion at Oakland Zoo

Of my many 2014 photos of our children, this is my favorite of the furry ones. Daisy is our one-year old sweet and rambunctious young lady, and Lars our wonderful round-faced Russian Blue. It took a while, but they finally get along (well, mostly).

Lars and Daisy

And I can’t leave out my top photo of our feathered children – George cuddling Maureen and Louise while Gloria waits for a space on his lap.

George and hens

Sadly, we didn’t find many monarch butterflies on Albany Hill for the annual Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. Several flew around, but we saw no clusters. This one rested on a tree branch. To compare, click here to see my 2011 blog post — a photo near the end of the post shows a large cluster of monarchs in the eucalyptus grove on the Hill.

Monarch Butterfly at Albany Hill

2014 was a bumper year for Anise Swallowtail butterflies, though. This caterpillar happily munched on the fennel in our garden.

Anise swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on fennel

Do you keep a journal, or go through your photos at the end of the year? I’d love to hear about your favorites! Wishing you all sweet memories of 2014, and many more for 2015.


New greeting cards

As photographers and artists, isn’t the ultimate thrill actually getting down to work on our art? Of course, running an arts and crafts business involves so many less-fun tasks. Among other things, we need to figure out how we want to use our artwork and how best to sell it.

One way I sell my artwork is as greeting cards. The margin on cards isn’t large, but there’s an established market, and if you can tap into that the volume of sales adds up.

I sell some of my cards online directly on my Artfire Gallery and I also wholesale them to brick and mortar stores through my super greeting card sales-rep, Tamara Holland – who I must tell you just became the very first “Artist of the Month” at Calypso Cards, the company that distributes one of her lines of awesome cards.

As I take new photos and create designs from them, I select the ones I think are the best and most suited for cards. Then, when it’s time to re-order my best sellers from the printer, I add a few new ones. Without further ado, here are my five new greeting cards! First, my straight photo of a monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a zinnia flower.

Monarch on zinnia

Second is a photo of a Julia butterfly, also on a zinnia. I worked with drawing and other image tools for a vintage feeling.

Julia butterfly on zinnia

Next, two new hummingbird cards. I have several hummer cards in my line, but these are different, especially the one on the right, a hummingbird at an abutilon flower. I used several paint and other tools to emphasize the bright colors and the bird’s wings. I also worked to bring out the vivid, saturated colors of the image on the left, a hummingbird at Mexican salvia (sage).

Hummingbird at Sage and Hummingbird at abutilon cards

Finally, I included a painterly rendition of my photo of an egret soaring over a pond at the Oakland Museum.

Egret soaring

After the hard work of making the new designs, it’s such a thrill to open the box filled with the printed cards.  I’ve told you before about the local printer who I am so lucky to have printing my card line. Jayne and Bud at Cerrito Printing came through again, big time, for this latest order.

Do you sell your art as greeting cards? Many artists who sell at shows feel that offering cards cuts down on their sales of prints, although others think it’s worth it because a lot of people who would never buy a print will pay a few dollars for a card. What do you think?

The Four Elements of Habitat

George and I took our “pup and pony show” to the El Cerrito Garden Club today.  He spoke, and we showed my photos on the topic of maintaining a garden to attract and nurture butterflies.

George speaking about Gardening for ButterfliesWe prepared some handouts and I want to share some of the information with you, so here is George’s explanation of the elements that you need to provide habitat for wildlife.

The four critical elements are: food; water; shelter; and places to raise young. All four elements are intertwined and necessary for wild life. No one element stands alone, and without all four successes at providing for wildlife suffers.

1) Food: All wildlife enhancements absolutely require this. Animals of all species will avoid areas unless they can be guaranteed a reliable food source. A balanced ecosystem needs to sustain everything from plants for larval insects to seeds and prey species, etc.

Anise swallowtail butterfly caterpillar eating fennel

Anise swallowtail butterfly caterpillar eating fennel

2) Water : The second partner in the pas-de-deux of life. Many animals need water to even feed, or to provide the food they need.

3) Shelter : The greatest variety of wildlife occurs at the interface of distinct habitat types. Example: an open field adjacent to a wooded area. Birds can feed in the field while having the woods to escape if necessary. And there needs to be shelter for them for waiting out inclement weather, or for night-time. Brush, trees of all types and heights, brush piles, high grasses, rock walls, and deep leaf litter and undisturbed forest “duff” all provide shelter and for the last item below:

4) Places to raise young : Success at proving habitat comes in a reward: succeeding generations of young! Tadpoles, baby birds, spawning fish, a skunk and her kits, emerging butterflies ovipositing and the emergent adults from cocoons or chrysalides is the perfect indicator of habitat success.

Monarch butterfly chrysalis

Monarch butterfly chrysalis

As for shelter, again provide brush, trees of all types and heights, brush piles, high grasses, rock walls, and deep leaf litter and undisturbed forest “duff”’, and gravel beds for many anadromous species of fish.

Notes: it is essential that the above provisions are consistent, removal of one or many of the elements will cause unnecessary suffering and waste of valuable energy for animals. Make all changes to the environment gradual and incremental. Many animals will flee a changed ecosystem and not come back.

ABSOLUTELY REFRAIN FROM USING HERBICIDES AND PESTICIDES. They have no part in habitat preservation. Most long-term effects are unknown and the current load already in the environment is doing irreparable harm.

Thanks, George, for this concise explanation. Dear reader, are you gardening for wildlife – butterflies, bees, birds, and other critters? What are you doing in your garden to provide the four elements of habitat?

Photo of the week

With the weather turning and much of the garden going to sleep, I enjoy taking photos of the varied dried seed pods. Until now I had never noticed the seed pods of the Naked Lady lily, Amaryllis belladonna. The pods are dried brown crinkly peanut-looking things, but open to reveal the most beautiful pearly white, pink or red seeds.

Amaryllis belladonna seed pod

Photo of the week

Has it really been a week since I posted my first Photo of the Week? Yikes, well okay then, here’s the second – my favorite photo(s) from this week, with some background …

Admiral butterfly feather collage

Admiral butterfly feather collage

Okay, obviously not a straight photo. It’s a collage from three photos I took this week. I started with my photo of a red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta):

Red admiral butterfly

Red admiral butterfly

George and I trekked up Albany Hill to check on the monarch butterflies – starting around this time of the year they overwinter in the eucalyptus trees there. Last year we only saw a few, so this year we were very encouraged to see far more. Hopefully they’ll keep coming.  I didn’t get any photos of the monarchs because they were fluttering around high up in the sky, but there were a lot of red admiral butterflies flitting lower down and then landing to sun their wings on the duff. This one let me creep close enough to get a shot.

I blended that photo with a closeup I shot of a small bouquet in a vase on my windowsill. It’s a black and white striped hen’s feather next to a dried stalk of some soft pouffy grass.

Feather and grass

Feather and grass

I was struck by the conjunction of the lines and disparity of the textures and tones.

The third photo in the collage is another closeup of part of the same bouquet.

Silver dollar plant

Silver dollar plant

It’s the remains of a seed pod of a money plant (Lunaria Annua), also known as silver dollar plant. The plant has been slowly eroding, and I liked the juxtaposition of the frame of the disk with the empty spaces and few remaining tattered pieces.

I used the layer blending tool in Photoshop Elements to blend the photos. I liked a few of the different settings to blend the first two, but finally settled on the ‘overlay’ setting.  I then added the money plant and blended them all into the final collage.  When I make my blended abstract collages I usually take photos from different years – it was fun to use three that I shot on the same day.  Here are some of my other blended collages.  You can see that butterflies appear in many of them. What are your favorite subjects in your art or photos?

Celebration of Old Roses, Sunday May 15th 2011

Ahhh, it’s rose season again …  Are yours blooming yet?  What are you seeing in your neighborhood?   Ours just started busting out with the few not-too-cold days we’ve had.  The ever faithful Sally Holmes is climbing our fence, the Ispahan that George cut way back last season is starting to bud.  The Blue Girls aren’t blooming yet, but the Graham Thomas and Butterscotch (both yellow roses) are doing great. This is a butterscotch rose. No scent, but it’s a stunning rose with colors that range from rich caramel to full yellow, with blushes of pink on the edges.

Oh, what timing!  George just handed me an incredible Heritage rose that’s in full bloom and smells heavenly.

And coincidentally, the 31st Annual Celebration of Old Roses, one of the best events in El Cerrito, is just around the corner.  This year it will be held on Sunday May 15th, from 11:00 to 3:30 (the week after Mother’s Day). It’s sponsored by the Heritage Roses Group and will be held at the El Cerrito Community Center, a few blocks east of the main drag in El Cerrito, San Pablo Avenue.  The Center is at 7007 Moeser Lane, cross street is Ashbury.  The event and parking are free.

The heart of the Celebration is the hundred-foot display of roses — everyone from expert cultivators to garden-fanatics to hobbyists to people who just have one rose bush in their yard bring cut roses to show. They are grouped and arranged, and the result is an intoxicating display of scents and colors. So pull out your shears,clip off a couple of your best roses, and bring them by!  Have a rose that you can’t identify?  Bring a bloom in and get an expert’s opinion…

In addition to the roses, an array of arts and crafts and rose-related products will tempt you — just view, or  purchase if you can’t resist!

Garden Delights display

I’ve had a table with my artwork and crafts at the Celebration for the past six years.   I’ll bring the work that I make from my original photographs, rose and flower-related, including jewelry, scarves, tiles, boxes, vases, sachets, and much more!  Go to smell the roses, then stop by to say hello…   If you have any questions about the show, please email me.