What happens in New Orleans…

I arrived in New Orleans this afternoon and was looking forward to seeing cool architecture and creepy cemeteries. I spent a few hours wondering the French Quarter and what follows are my first observations. The first is that the Harrah’s hotel and casino here makes the one in Las Vegas look like they weren’t even trying over there in the desert.

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Like San Francisco and Las Vegas, there are so many tourists. They lurk everywhere you turn. New Orleans doesn’t discriminate so the ages range from teenagers to the retirees looking for lost youth. I helped one of those elderly couples find Bourbon Street using mapquest on my phone. Sweet couple, but it probably took them thirty minutes to walk those three blocks to Bourbon Street.

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I was told by five different people to stop by Cafe du Monde and get beignets.  The next few days are pretty booked, so I made sure I went over there today. Now I’m addicted to beignets. So much for staying healthy on this trip.

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I left my TSA approved Ziploc bag full of toiletries in my bathroom back in Minnesota so I had to stop in CVS Pharmacy to resupply. They didn’t have my shampoo or conditioner, but there was an entire aisle of bourbon. At least I could drink the pain in my hip away after I walked 12,000 steps. You know, when in Rome.

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At one point I stopped to mapquest the route back to my hotel so I could nurse my aching leg (old injuries die hard), and a guy in his twenties stopped and asked how much for an hour of fun. So you get the right image in your head, I was wearing workout leggings, dirty sneakers, a sweat-soaked workout tank top, and zero make up. Apparently, this is what prostitutes look like in New Orleans because not two minutes later another guy asked me pretty much the same thing. I’ve spent three different weekends in Las Vegas over the years and not been asked if I would accept payment for sex. Not once in Vegas, but in New Orleans it happened twice in less than five minutes. Note to self, don’t stand on street corners and check mapquest on your phone in the French Quarter because it means you are open for business.

Thanks for the fun first day, Big Easy. Looking forward to more craziness over the next few days.

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Reptile of a Different Color

Earth Day is upon us. This year I wanted to draw something vibrant. Something that would bring a smile to my face as I was drawing it. The chameleon was the perfect subject. I layered colored pencils on top of Prismacolor markers to achieve the brightness I was looking for. Last year I changed things up and used wisteria and daffodils to accent the earth day drawing, but this year I was back to drawing calla lilies and tulips. Their colorful textures call to me all winter.

chameleon 3There are 160 different species of chameleon, with 59 of them exist only on the island of Madagascar. The other species range from Africa to the southern parts of Europe. Their eyes have a 360-degree range of sight around their body and can see in two different directions at once. A useful advantage while spying on enemies.

Chromatophores, the cells in the chameleon’s skin that allows them to change color, contain melanin fibers that spread through the layers of pigment causing the cells to change color. These changes can occur depending on the chameleon’s mood or temperature. More recently, scientists have found that, much like the Flamingo, chameleons also get their colorations from the food that they eat.

Much like myself, chameleons are loners and pretty territorial. The females dislike having males around. In the off chance that the female does want to be touched, the end result is usually mating. Chameleons have no interest in parenting. When their young are born they are on their own.

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The biggest threat to the chameleon is habitat loss from slash and burn agriculture techniques. Of the 160 species of chameleon, 9 are critically endangered, 37 are endangered, and 20 are vulnerable. If you would like to help the chameleon and other living creatures, check out the website for the World Wildlife Fund. The WWF works around the world to fight the effects of climate change and to help conserve animals and their habitats.

Prints of this drawing are available on my Etsy page. I donate $10 from the sale of each print to the WWF.  If you venture to my Etsy page, be sure to check it out.

Here, Kitty Kitty

Since humans domesticated the cat, we often forget that many wild cats still live around us. From the African Savannah to the mountains of China and Canada, they roam in search of food and a good mate when they are in a frisky mood. Habitats have become much smaller for many of them. Carry on, friendly reader, to find out more about the worlds big cats.

The Cheetah
Cheetahs

The fastest mammal on the planet roams openly on the grasslands and forests of the Sahara desert. Cheetahs can accelerate faster than a sports car so good luck out running one if it decides that you are dinner. To avoid competition for food from larger and stronger lions, leopards, and hyenas, the cheetah prefers to hunt during the day. Their eyesight is amazing and they kill their prey with a bite to the throat.  Female cheetahs are solitary and only allow the males near them to mate.  They are listed as vulnerable due to habitat loss.

The Canadian Lynx
Canadian Lynx

The Lynx wanders the boreal forests of Canada and can make its way down into Montana, Idaho, and Washington on occasion. Their long round feet allow them to walk effortlessly on deep snowpacks and have retractable claws to help them climb and hunt prey. Snowshoe hares are the favorite meal of the lynx. The biggest threat to the lynx is climate change and hunting for their fur. Additionally, overhunting by humans of the lynx’s primary food supply, the hare, makes it difficult to steadily increase the numbers of this furry cat.

The Tiger
Tigers

Tigers are the largest of the big cats. Unlike their feline cousins, tigers love swimming in water. It helps keep them cool on hot days.  Their roar can be heard from two miles away. If you hear one, best keep a safe distance.  Their habitats range throughout Asia. Tigers are a keystone species, meaning they keep prey species under control attributing to healthy ecosystems. By helping the tiger survive, we help the ecosystems they live in survive as well. Seems like a win-win situation, does it not?  Habitat loss is the biggest threat to this beast.

The Snow Leopard
Snow Leopards
Of the big cats, the snow leopard has always been my favorite. I feel a kindred spirit in them for their solitary, shy nature. They have long tails that help them keep their balance when traversing the mountains of Asia. The females give birth to their young in dens lined with their own fur. The cubs stay with her for up to two years while she teaches them to hunt for themselves. Their numbers have dwindled to fewer than 7000.

The Caracal
African Caracal

Back in Africa, the caracal has adapted to blend into its surroundings. Its fur is the color of dried grass. Like most cats, the caracal is solitary and males and females only come together to mate. They are stealthy cats. Unlike the lion who chases their prey, the caracal sneaks and then pounces. #sneakattack

It may seem daunting, but there are ways you can help. If you would like to help these big cats and other animals, you can visit the World Wildlife Funds website. The WWF works with communities to conserve animals and their habitats and also works to fight the effects of climate change. The organization is a non-profit that I gladly support.

If you are interested in the drawings you see here, I sell them on my Etsy page. I donate $5 (sometimes more, depending on the drawing) from the sale of each drawing and print in my animal drawing series to the WWF.

RAWR

Cecil the Lion

The noted King of the Jungle doesn’t usually live in the jungle. Most lions live on the grasslands of the African Savannah. There is a rumor of a forest-dwelling pride of lions in the Gir Forest National Park in India. Perhaps they prefer curry on their dinner.

Lioness Hunt

These carnivores work together to hunt and protect the pride. Females do a large part of the hunting while the males protect the pride from intruders. Their prime hunting times are at night, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous during the day. Best to keep a safe distance (I’m looking at you, tourists with iPhones).

White Lion

White lions are rare, especially in the wild. There are protected areas in South Africa for these majestic animals to survive. No albinoism to see here, kids. A recessive gene gives them their lighter coloring, and it is unique to the lions of the Timbavati region. The people of Africa once believed white lions were messengers of God, so best not to mess with them.

Lions are listed as vulnerable. Loss of habitat and prey from the trade of bush meat threaten their existence. Sport hunting has also become a threat. If you would like to help the lion and other living creatures, check out the website for the World Wildlife Fund. The WWF works around the world the fight the effects of climate change and to help conserve animals and their habitats.

Lion Napping

When it comes to lions and other animals, I never rest easy. I donate at least $5 from the sale of each of my animal drawings and prints to the WWF. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much but every little bit helps. If you venture to my Etsy page, be sure to check it out.

Sea Turtles and Friends, Mate

The Sea Turtle
sea turtle
Did you know that there are sea turtles living in almost every ocean basin on Earth? They live their entire lives at sea, except when the females come ashore to lay their eggs. Sea turtles have survived on Earth for 100 million years. Dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, just in case you needed some perspective.

Sea Turtles often mistake plastic bags and other plastic particles as jellyfish. Their stomachs cannot digest the plastic so many die from clogged digestive tracks. Constipated by plastic isn’t a fun way to go, so switching to reusable canvas shopping bags is an easy and inexpensive way to keep plastic bags from ending up in our oceans. Most grocery stores give discounts for each reusable bag you use.

The African Spurred Tortoise
African Spurred TortoiseThe African Spurred Tortoise lives in the deserts of northern Africa. These herbivores survive on small plants and grasses. This species of tortoise is extremely hostile toward each other, especially during the mating season. After the females lay their eggs, it takes eight months for them to hatch. Like most humans, the African Spurred Tortoise can become very obese is it is overfed. Guess they’re not so different from humans after all.

Though they aren’t cuddly and they are the largest tortoise on the African continent, they are endangered due to habitat loss and hunting.

The Galapagos Tortoise
Galapagos Tortoise
The slow-moving Galapagos Tortoise loves to spend its mornings sunbathing. Like all tortoises, the Galapagos Tortoise conserves energy to maintain its body temperature due to a slow-burning metabolism. In order to win the rights to breed with a female, the males can be very mean toward one another.

These tortoises have been known to live up to 100 years in the wild, while some have lived up to 150 in captivity. Many of the eggs that the females lay are eaten by predators while others are eaten after they emerge from their sandy nest. Habitat loss due to farming has also made their number lesson greatly. The Galapagos Tortoise is listed as vulnerable, with about 15000 remaining.

If you would like to help these ancient creatures check out the website for the World Wildlife Fund. The WWF works around the world the fight the effects of climate change as well as helps conserve animals and their habitats.

A couple of these drawings are available on my Etsy page. I donate $5 from the sale of each drawing from my animal drawing series to the WWF. If you venture to my Etsy page, be sure to check it out.

Savannah Wanderer

Roaming the plains and woodlands of the African savannahs, the Giraffe is best known for its long neck and signature spotted fur. They spend most of their day eating up to 45kg of leaves from the acacia tree and others plants. These leafy meals also provide most of the water they need to survive so they only appear at the neighborhood watering hole once every few days.

Reticulated Giraffe_PortraitGroups of giraffes are called towers. They are extremely social and like to travel together. The males, also known as bulls, like to show who is more manly by butting their heads and necks together. Humans aren’t the only species to enjoy the sport of necking.

Being the tallest mammals on Earth, the female giraffe gives birth standing up. The babies get a rude awakening when they are dropped up the 1.5 meters to the ground. They bounce back though and are on their feet within 30 minutes of giving birth.

The numbers of giraffes living in the wild had dropped 40% in the last 15 years. The main reason for this is habitat loss and, in some areas, poaching had become a larger issue. If you would like to help the giraffe and other living creatures, check out the website for the World Wildlife Fund. The WWF works around the world the fight the effects of climate change and to help conserve animals and their habitats.

Reticulated Giraffe_Landscape

Prints of these drawings are available on my Etsy page. I donate $5 from the sale of each drawing to the WWF. I also donate part of the proceeds from my animal drawing series. If you venture to my Etsy page, be sure to check it out.

Bamboo Forests

Hidden up in the mountains of central China, surrounded by thick forests of bamboo, Giant Pandas spend up to twelve hours of their day eating. Their diet consists almost entirely of bamboo. When winter comes around, they don’t hibernate. Pandas simply move lower down the mountain and continue their daily routine of eating, eating, and eating bamboo. Nearly eighty pounds of it a day.

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The giant panda’s scientific name is Ailuropoda melanoleuca which means “black and white cat-foot”. This unusual bear is born pink and blind. Its eyes don’t open until it is at least six weeks old. The cubs also eat the feces of their mothers who can poop up to forty times a day. Perhaps that is why a group of giant pandas is called an “embarrassment”.

Red pandas, on the other hand, were once thought to be in the raccoon family because of their ringed tails and shape of their head and teeth. They were reclassified as a bear after DNA testing showed more similarities with the larger carnivores.

Red Panda

Though they are smaller, red pandas also consume large amounts of bamboo in the temperate forests of central China. They occasionally eat eggs and small mammals but mostly, they stick to bamboo. Be sure to never sneak up on one because the unleash a stench like a skunk does if they are frightened.

Both the red panda and the giant panda are considered endangered. Their numbers have declined steadily, especially the red panda who hasn’t had the benefits of being at the forefront of the conservation movement as the giant panda has. Deforestation is a major threat to both of these cuddly bears. Bamboo is the primary source of food, after all.

Giant Panda

I’ve drawn both of these animals many times. The different colors of their fur make it enjoyable and challenging. I mix colored pencil and watercolor to get the colors to stand out.

Part of why I am drawn to them is because I want to help save these species from extinction. I donate a portion of the profits of my animal drawing series to the World Wildlife Fund. The WWF works to protect habitats and animal species as well as fights the effects of climate change. This non-profit organization is one I am proud to support.

If you would like more information or would like to donate to the WWF, please visit their website. There’s hardly a better way to celebrate Earth Day. It’s April 22nd in case you don’t have a calendar handy.

Feel free to visit my Etsy page if you would like to know more about my animal drawings.

The Winter Blues

As the snow storm passes overhead and a cool breeze comes in through my open window, I find myself researching this year’s Earth Day drawing. The tradition of doing the drawing started several years ago. It usually takes me a few weeks so I start it at the beginning of April. What better way to get inspired than to edit the flower photos I took over the weekend.

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Here in Minneapolis, Bachman’s would put up an immersive spring flower show on the seventh floor of Macy’s downtown. When Macy’s closed last winter the show needed a new home. Fortunately, The Galleria shopping center in Edina stepped in and accepted the challenge.

Calla Lily

It may not be the same as the floor to ceiling show that Macy’s would have, but the hallways in the Galleria smelled wonderful and the flora brought a lightness to my soul. I had battled a Saturday morning snowstorm to get there which made the Ranunculus smell even sweeter.

Ranunculus

To my surprise, there were light purple chrysanthemums (my favorite fall flower). They called my name even before I found them.

Chrysanthemum

Blue Hydrangea’s mimicked the shadows of the snow outside, but their scent provided much-needed warmth. Or maybe it was the caramel macchiato I was drinking. Either way, I was thrilled that for the moment it felt like spring.

Hydrangea

Now that I have my inspiration I think it’s time to start sketching. Earth Day drawing – and GO!

If you would like prints of my photos, a few of them are available on my Etsy page.

Luck o’ the Irish Horror

Staying in this St. Patrick’s Day? You’re not alone. I usually stay in on March 17th as well. The drunken crowds are too much for my introverted side to deal with. Today, however, I went to a local Minneapolis brewery with a friend. We had long discussions about many subjects, and horror movies were among them. Now that I am safely back home and tipsy on Utepils dry Irish stout, I find myself at the beginning of a night of Irish horror movies. Here are a few of my favorites.

Isolation (2005)
This gem starring Essie Davis (The Babadook) and John Lynch (The Fall) is easily in my top 10 all-time favorite horror movies. A struggling Irish farmer allows a local veterinarian to experiment on his cows for extra money. What could possibly go wrong, right? Well acted and great atmosphere. Worth seeing for any horror fan.

Grabbers
A small Irish island community is invaded by sea-dwelling aliens. The townspeople soon discover that the aliens can’t take high alcohol levels, so why not spend the night getting drunk? If you like horror comedies, this one is for you.

Dementia 13 (1963)
A greedy widow wants to get her hands on her dead husband’s inheritance. Little does she know that there is an ax murderer on their estate. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola who later won an Academy Award for The Godfather. It’s b-movie black and white horror at it’s finest. They don’t make them like this anymore.

The Hallow
In the Irish countryside, things are never as they seem. A family who recently moved there discovers this quickly when creatures from the woods start attacking them. Like you didn’t see that coming. This one is currently streaming on Netflix. wink wink.

Wake Wood
When a couple tragically loses their child, they relocate to a small Irish town. They soon find that this town has a Pagan ritual that can bring the dead back to life for three days. Convenient for the couple…. and for the plot of a horror movie. A must see for an Irish horror marathon.

If you are really looking for bad St. Paddy’s Day horror but don’t want to stick to the Irish horror movies, you could always watch “Leprechaun”. Jennifer Aniston’s early work is badly written and cheesy but is a good movie to have on in the background of your giddy drunkenness with your friends. Have fun!

Handmade Easter Ornaments

I had some extra Sculpey lying around that was slowly hardening into an unusable pile of clay. Not wanting to waste some perfectly good art supplies, I decided to make some Easter ornaments. Here’s how I made them:

Creative Process 2

I use a Pampered Chef silicone mat as a clean flat surface when working with Sculpey (a clay that when baked becomes hard ceramic). To get uniform shapes for the ornaments I use cookie cutters. I’m not much of a baker but the baking supplies come in handy. Sculpey also sells a plastic roller for flattening out the Sculpey.

Creative process 4

After flattening the clay to 1/4 of an inch thickness, I use the cookie cutters to cut out the shapes. I found some easter egg, chick, and bunny shaped cookie cutters on Amazon that are small and also have detail stamps to put details into the clay (or cookie if you are baking). For this, I didn’t want the stamp details because I wanted to hand paint the designs on so I just use the cookie cutter for the shape.

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Six sounded like a good round number. Once I had six egg shapes, I moved on to the chick and the bunny. I used a pointed clay tool to get the holes into the clay for the hanging ribbon to fit into once we are ready to hang them. Baking Sculpey is simple. Set your oven to 275 and back for 15 minutes per 1/4 inch thickness. A regular cookie sheet works well.

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Once the ornaments are baked and cooled I can begin painting them. Target sells cheap acrylic paint that works well with Sculpey in their school supplies. I chose pastel pink, purple, blue, salmon, yellow, and green for my paint colors.  When I painted the details, I used white paint and a detailing paint brush. Sculpey also makes a satin glaze that will make your ornaments nice and shiny. No baking needed for the glaze. It dries in about an hour.

easter bunny ornaments

When I made Halloween ornaments a while back, I had bought some green ribbon at JoAnn Fabrics. I used what was left for the Easter ornaments. If you have trouble getting the ribbon through the hanging holes, use a needle to feed it through. I cut 10-inch strips of ribbon, but I didn’t tie them in a bow. If you want a full bow, 12 – 14 inches is a better length. To keep the ribbon from fraying at the ends that you cut, use a lighter to burn the ends.

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When you are done you will have six eggs, six bunnies, and six chicks.  They look good hanging in a window (use suction cup hooks and paint the design on both sides so they can be enjoyed inside and out) or on an Easter tree if you have one.

Supplies:
Pamper Chef Silicone Baking Mat:  Amazon.com $34
Sculpey Polymer Clay:  JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels, or Dick Blick $8
Sculpey Roller Pin:  JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels, or Dick Blick $8
Sculpey Satin Glaze:  JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels, or Dick Blick $5
Assorted Paint Brushes:  JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels, or Dick Blick
Acrylic Paint, Assorted Colors:  Target $1.99 per bottle
AKOAK Cookie Cutters:  Amazon.com $6

If you are feeling lazy or you aren’t creatively inclined, you can buy the ornaments I made on my Etsy page.