Sunday, January 31, 2010

Don't sit on the...hedgehog?

Monday morning on the other side of the world from my usual location, and I'm about to start drawing some fish for a field guide. But first, here's a little gem from my weekend adventures. On Saturday, we took a field trip to a "botanical garden" that was more of a "botanical amusement park." Very beautiful, many orchids and rare palms, but also extensive exuberant topiary and a mini-zoo where you could hand-feed ostriches. This sign was in the section full of small woodland creatures made of boxwood, and I can understand the temptation for great photo ops with the topiary.

Laura and I spent most of Sunday walking around inside the moat in the old part of Chiang Mai, checking out lots of peaceful, ornate wats and playing at tourist at the Sunday Walking Street (a street market of several blocks, very fun shopping) where I gleefully supported the local economy and upgraded my "I'm an artist" wardrobe at the same time. There was some excellent art as well, and gorgeous handmade tribal textiles.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


One of the pleasures of travel for me is eating everything interesting that comes across my path. I thought you might be interested in seeing the things I brought home from the market a few days ago. Starting at the top and going clockwise, there's taro chips, dragonfruit, rice cookies, some kind of coconut milk and sweet fruit custard wrapped in pandanus leaves, sweet sticky rice and banana wrapped in some other kind of leaf, a dumpling-like savory of greens in a rice wrapper, and peanuts with roasted kaffir lime leaves. All were very tasty, although I have to say that dragonfruit looks a lot more exciting than it tastes (I mean, it's good but not so extravagant as you might imagine).

It's nice that this sort of exotic fare counts as eating locally right now. Speaking of, I'm finally getting around to reading Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma," and am currently completely appalled by the ridiculousness and non-sustainability of the food industry in the U.S. I've been coming to realize over the last few years that processed food is very sketchy, and now I see why. Anyone who is interested in anything to do with agricultural systems, the evils of high fructose corn syrup, or finding out if you are what you eat....definitely pick this book up. The part about the Chicken McNugget was particularly eye-opening.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I mean, like, ya know...

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Check this out! My inner font geek loves this.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Waterfall and morning walk

Views of the Mork Fah waterfall in the national park we went to this past weekend. Was actually a little chilly for swimming, but lovely for splashing around.

This is me and my friend Laura, the woman who instigated this whole trip to Thailand business. We've known each other for a number of years, and she's one of the most brillant and amusing people I know.

It's morning here. Slept like a baby last night again, and am starting to enjoy the walk in to the ISDSI office. There's a little vegetarian restaurant that has tasty interesting snacks (today I picked up some mung beans in coconut milk for my mid-morning snack), there's a beautiful view of the golden temple spires of the wat at the top of Doi Suthep (the mountain near Chiang Mai), there's an antiques store full of exotic-looking whatnots, and the traffic is becoming less shocking to my western sensibilities.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Buses, Bamboo, and Botox

Oh my stars, still so tired early in the evening (it's early in the morning for New York), so all I'll say is that today I learned you can get Botox on the third floor of the mall here. Drew some bamboo construction techniques for Echo too. Here's a shot taken from the back of a rot dang ("red vehicle"), one of the small buses in Chiang Mai.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gai = chicken

Sawatdee kaa!

So far that's one of my new Thai phrases, a basic hello. I can also say "chicken" and almost count to five. I arrived yesterday morning in Chiang Mai after a remarkably easy, if rather long, journey. Two highlights were a few hours in Tokyo, and a lovely foot massage in Bangkok. Arrival in Chiang Mai was right on time, and my luggage actually arrived. A super nice security guard let me use his phone to reach my friend Laura, who was wandering around looking for me at the airport, and then we were on our way. The time zone is 12 hours ahead of my normal east coast reality. Wheeeee! In a few more days I expect to stop wanting to pass out in the late afternoon.

Chiang Mai is an old city in the northwest of the country (although the name means "new city"), surrounded by mountains and including an inner city circled by a moat and fragments of old wall. It's too early for many impressions, except for lots of color and walking and extremely tasty food absolutely everywhere. I met the folks I'll be working with and am excited about my projects (field guide illustrations, etc). Here's a photo from a wat (temple) we walked through today, with monk robes drying in the background.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Here's the first art of the new year.

My awesome arty pal Ben was over last night with a stash of etching plates, and we spent a few hours making small sketchy drypoint etchings and running them through my neglected press. The results were interesting, I found that this wee plate printed best if it wasn't wiped very clean. Inspired by winter trees and flocks of birds, obviously.

My packing for Thailand is going well, which is a very good thing because I leave Ithaca tomorrow. Now back to work on one last client project...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tsunamis in my dreams

I dream about the ocean a lot. Usually I am on the shore, watching the horizon for big waves and feeling very pleased as they wash in on the beach, often right to my feet, or over the building I'm in but in an exciting and friendly way. I love those dreams, they're full of well-being and beauty and adventure. It's a little like the fishbone imagery I keep painting...someday I'll figure out what it means but meanwhile I just know that it's significant.

But last night I went to sleep after hearing about the earthquake in Haiti, which devastated Port-au-Prince. I lived in Haiti briefly several years ago, where the lessons in poverty and positivity would break even the hardest person. I made sure that my friends who live there were safe (they are, thank God)...but there are so many other people, and so many struggles the country faces already.

I dreamed about tsunamis. As usual, the waves were giant on the horizon and I was happy to see them, but then it became apparent that these waves were very large and unstoppable and without mercy. They were not going to play around my feet, they were going right over me and taking me with them. It was very scary.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A week of winter

Ran out for a late afternoon cross-country ski today up at Hammond Hill. We've had a lot of snow fall in the last week, and it's been cold enough that all the fluffiness is still on the trees. The sun was just hitting the horizon and I had to stop and stare for a few minutes at the beautiful solitude. Trail conditions were good once I got off the well-beaten paths, the last zippy tree-dodging downhill was very very sweet.

I know these trails winter and summer, having grown up here XC skiing from the tender age of 4 (yup, that's right....just try keeping up with me!) and riding them on my mountain bike when the snow is gone. It's important to me to know a forest (or at least a grove of trees if living in a more urban situation) where I feel welcome and at home. I've lived in a lot of places, and in each of those places I bonded with some patch of nature. In Oregon it's the trail by the ranger station next to the river; in Florida, the scrubby trails behind the farm. In Santa Cruz the amazing redwood forest behind the campus; in Michigan all the trails around Au Sable through the beautiful north woods. Back in college on the outskirts of Philadelphia, I retreated to the patch of woods on the campus when I needed to clear my head (there's a big road through that forest now).

(Hmmmm, this is all leading down a longer path than expected, perhaps I'll pick up on the theme of our need for solitude and nature again soon but not right now because I need to get some sleep and am verging on incoherence).

I head to Thailand in a week, so am trying to fit in as much winter as possible before arriving in the tropics. Will be maximizing my ski potential.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Get on your boots, yeah

I'm back from Oregon, and seem to still be in the west coast time zone because it's 2:07 AM and I'm still wide awake. Mornings gonna be sleepy and slow. I'd like to let you all know that Harold the rooster is crowing his little male heart out right now. Can someone pleeeeeaase adopt him?

So I freely admit that I've had a crush on Bono since 1987, from the days when I first saw U2 in concert in Rochester, NY on the Joshua Tree tour. Just got two U2 albums I had not heard before, and can't get enough of the tune "Get on your boots." (I tried to put a copy of the video here but can't get the official one to embed, so you'll have to watch it on YouTube). I've been hesitant to listen to these newer albums for fear they wouldn't live up the standards set by their sublime and intelligent early music, but I'm finding that they're pretty darned listenable. This song in particular is making me smile, and appreciate the power that beauty has against darkness.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rumors of Thailand

Some rumors might be trickling out that I'm planning some crazy adventure to Thailand, and I'm here to substantiate those tales. My dear friend Laura works there for a cool organization, the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute, and I'm heading there for about 5 weeks to do some illustration and design work for them! This is just what I need for a fine winter adventure, and I can't wait to see Laura, and eat lots and lots of Thai food.

I feel very fortunate to once again to use my art skills for the greater environmental good.

I fly in less than two weeks, so am starting to panic a little about all that needs to happen before then...

Monday, January 4, 2010


Ah yes, the vacation attitude, where my main computer interaction is to check email (but not write back). Certainly no blogging...but the holidays are over, and the new year has begun, and I'm starting to think about working again. A blog entry seems to be in order.

I'm still in Oregon for a few more days. It's been lovely here, with lots of down time and a friend visited for the holidays, and much hilarity with my brother and his family. We went to the coast for a few days, celebrated new years at the pub, and spent a weekend in Portland visiting with my sister and her family.

We stayed at a very cool place near Portland called Edgefield. It's a big brick building with a long and fascinating history as a poor farm and then an old folk's home, before the McMenamins bought it and converted it to a hotel. There's also a brewery, a pub, a winery, movie theatre, spa, etc etc there, sort of a self-contained northwest-style resort. But what I really like about Edgefield is the artwork. During the renovation, a team of artists converted the place into a crazy gallery of paintings. Every room has a theme (often about the elderly resident who used to live there), murals line the hallways, little faces peek out at you from pipe joints. Our room had a little unicorn owl hiding over the lightswitch. I love walking around absorbing the art. It makes me want to paint my house like this.

Here's a painting of one of the stairwells.