Intro: Natural Arty-Facts


In addition to the facts above, I learned hoar frost is H2O freezing right from gas to solid; rime ice is water cooling from liquid (suspended in fog) to solid. There’s a nice summary with pictures by Cathy Bell here.

Over several years of practicing art and writing, I’ve learned a few things about what sings for me. I keep coming back to nature, and to distilling a lot of information into smaller but inspirational (in my opinion), chunks.

It’s my goal to produce art about the natural world on a regular basis for the coming months. It won’t always be photos and it won’t always be just one interesting piece of trivia. I hope to mix up all the elements over time.

Something else I hope to do is consider “big” questions. I often come up with these as I dig into something. For example, researching endangered species led to all kinds of questions about how we define a species, whether it’s “worth” the money and resources that sometimes go into saving a species, and tangential issues like how reliable internet search results truly are.


Photo Play 4

I’ve been meaning to publish some new trick photos for a few weeks, so even though I don’t have as many ready as I’d like, here’s an update.


I first learned of these shapes that look different in a mirror from the Neural Correlate Society’s “Illusion of the Year” contest (yes, this exists!). The inventor is Kokichi Sugihara. I 3-D printed this plastic version, and also experimented with paper forms, as shown below.

Trick Heart

The trick has to do with the angle of the paper’s edges and how they’re viewed in the reflection. Sugihara has made some amazing models that take the idea even further.

Trick Cactus

I saw this curly cactus in Tucson at Biosphere 2. It’s not really growing through itself, but I thought it looked like it could be, from the right angle. It reminded me of the pictures of snakes that eat their own tails, which I learned are called Ouroboros. There. I’ve added a word to your vocabulary!

Trick Headless

Lastly, because I doubt I’ll get another post up before Halloween, here’s my attempt at headlessness.

Stay curious!

Photo Play: Circles


Does this abstract circular image look familiar?

It’s the top of Mona Lisa’s head, reflected in a mirror. I think a series of these would be fun, using people with wildly different hair.


This image was taken right after the Mona Lisa picture. It was inspired by Walter Wick’s Optical Tricks. I found the two yellow pieces in a bag of wooden blocks. The half-circle is farther away, so it’s lit differently and you can see around it under the arch. I need to search around the house to find other objects that would look intriguing when reflected. And also clear up that noise in the reflection.


It’s been hazy from wildfire smoke lately, although not nearly as bad as last year. One positive (?) consequence of this is that it makes for stunning sunrises and sunsets, and you can photograph the sun much more easily. Above is a sunrise, below is a sunset.


From farther away, the sun looks like fire on a stick, which is the effect I was aiming for.


This picture is the result of a fun and easy trick: punch a hole in a card or stiff paper and take a picture through the hole. All my images are taken with a cell phone camera. For this one, I put the rabbit on its side on a dark ground cover (I think it was a yoga mat) and took the picture through the hole. I turned the image 90 degrees so it looks like the little guy is floating.

That’s all for this week. I have had a few weeks off due to work and other obligations. I hope to post more regularly for a few weeks.

Photo Play: Trees

PP: treehand

This and the picture below were taken at the same amazing campground. We were right below a fire watch tower, but otherwise alone. Spoiler alert: The tree above had a hole all the way through and my husband is small enough to be hidden behind the trunk.

PP: Howl

Not only did this tree stump look like a coyote, but there was a full moon that night. By the time the sun was setting, though, it was too high to be in the frame. It may be worth going back some day….

PP: Treepost

Here’s a tree that’s not a tree. If I go back I’ll take another image of it where the shadow looks like an optical illusion also. You can see a little of it in this one. In the shadow, the trunk appears to extend the wrong way (up and to the right) from the branches.

PP: tiltshift

This photo violates my self-imposed rules. I used an editing filter (tilt shift) to get the effect here. Because only a narrow band in the center of the frame is in focus, our brains think we must be looking at something very small, in order to make the edges fuzzy.

PP: speakerstack

I put the last two in this week’s post because they have trees in them, even though trees are not the focus. Here, a public address system speaker appears to be planted in a smoke (steam) stack. Hint: it’s not actually.

It’s been my goal to take one picture a day. That said, not every day’s attempt is worth publishing, so I’ll probably keep sharing about five per week. Cheers!

Photo Play: Shadows and Reflection

As I said last week, my new quest is photographic tricks. My hope is to use light, shadows, perspective and other optical play to create illusions and images that make you look twice. My rule is: no editing, except to crop and maybe change the light. PP: ShadesIII made this picture after I noticed the shadow my glasses were making on the table. It’s interesting that the shadow on the left looks like sunglasses, but both sets of glasses are un-tinted. The faces are from a National Geographic photography issue.

PP: ghostknees

Here, I was playing with the reflection in a small studio window. I tried to make it look like I was holding onto a stick that’s outside. I think the most confusing thing here is how long and rigid my thumb looks.


I experimented with water drops on images for a while, but I found text worked better for me. Especially when I found just the right word.

PP: PlussesII

Okay, this one violates my rules of integrity because I drew on it, and I flipped half of the image upside down. But that was to make a point: Can you believe the top of the picture is the same wall as the bottom, just rotated? It is! I think our brains assume that light comes from above. So when the convex bricks are turned around, they look concave. There’s also a bias, to my mind at least, that makes the shadows on the lower half appear darker than the upper half.

PP: mooselines

A couple of fun things are going on here. Water refracts the stripes in the background so they run in the opposite direction. Then, it was tricky to find just the right spot, but there’s a way to look at the glass so the toy animal’s head pokes out one side, while it’s hind end appears facing the other way on the opposite side of the glass! Yes, there is only one toy moose behind the glass.

I’ll end here so that all the images this week have to do with shadows and light.

Stay curious!

100 Day Project: Final Week

94 flower new

The last topic of my 100 day project was “joy.” Lately, I’ve been curious about trick photos and optical illusions, so these last seven days begin and end with playful pictures, and give a clue as to where my next quest is headed.

95/100 owl

On my last charcoal day I drew another owl. The first was on day 1!

96/100 3legs

There were silly, joyful scribbles for the final “one color” drawing.

97/100 mugs

Procreate introduced several new tools on 7/11. This one uses the new “liquify” tool. I distorted a picture of the shadows cast by my mugs of pencils and drew on them.

98/100 cubes

This entry uses the new drawing guide on an isometric grid. I can imagine making some pretty cool geometric patterns and playing with filling them in. It reminds me of a book I had as a kid: Altair Designs (I had to look it up–it was redone in 2009, here’s a link).

99/100 symmetry

Day 99, I played with a third new tool: symmetry. This was a 10-15 second doodle, and when you add color to one quadrant, it fills in the other three sections for you. Again, lots of fun and I can imagine many possibilities (radial symmetry can create spirograph patterns, for example).

100/100 Stares

Here’s the last day of the challenge. I had to make two or even three drawings a day in order to end nearly on time. The rushing meant I didn’t take as much care as I wanted to, and the end products weren’t as pleasing. Note to self: Sometimes finishing well is more important than finishing fast. This applies to art more than to road racing!

I don’t know when I’ll post my first batch of trick pictures but the Day 100 image above is not an example of what I will attempt to do. I’d like to make optical illusions, forced perspective, and other intriguing images that aren’t changed (“photoshopped”) in any way except cropping and perhaps lighting adjustment. So, flipping the stairs 180 degrees and only including the right-hand side of the photo (without the stick figure guy) would count, but flipping one part of an image and not the other would not.

Stay curious!

100 Day Project: Week 14-ish


Here’s day 83 of 100, a cartoony sports piece. I had seen these hilarious “new sports” on xkcd, and wanted to invent some of my own. I’m sure I could have found an easier way to import the emojis and work with them–I pasted this together bit by bit.

84/100 baseball

Day 84 was drawing on a sports photo. Baseballs make for a good face canvasses.

85/100 torch

Day 85 was charcoal. I don’t love the way this runner came out. To be honest, my creative urge has been pretty lackluster in the last couple weeks, but it’s important (I think) to push through.  I am starting to get excited about my next endeavor and that anticipation is a good thing.

86/100 swim

I started with the kayaker, thinking I’d draw Olympic logo-like icons. Then I ended up adding two other water sports that strayed from the style a little. This was for the “one color” day, or I would have added more hues.

87/100 dunk

Day 87 used a different paintbrush. It helped some of the lines, but not others.

88/100 Save

I finished the goalie in the upper left and realized he could be oriented in any direction and still look like he’s convincingly saving a goal, so I added the other panels.

89/100 yoga

As long as limbs aren’t crossing over each other, the human body is fun to draw in one line. I used references for these yoga poses, and I think they came out pretty well.

90/100 maze

This drawing is supposed to be “multimedia / sports.” It became very abstract, and I kinda liked it, so I’m going to pretend the purple circles are balls and there is a sports reference here.

91/100 Joy1

I’ve been cramming in two drawings a day as much as possible to try to finish nearly on time (7/11 is the 100th day, if you’ve been creating one item per day). I’m darn close, but I’ll run over by a few days. My last category is “joy,” and this was a colored pencil entry.

92/100 Shelly

Day 92 was watercolor and ink. I love silly animals and puns, so this drawing of four animals with shells brought me joy.

93/100 Cherry

I’ll end with day 93: a cartoony cheery cherry face. Next week will wind up the 100 day project, and one of the entries will preview what I want to focus on for my next quest.

Have a creative week!

100 Day Project: Week 13 or so

73/100 skateboard

I started to get in a groove in the past week, although I’ve had a number of clunky days as well. This skateboarder is day 73/100.

72/100 cruise

I think the ship was the last thing I drew while on vacation. I’ve been trying to bust out two drawings a day lately to make up for lost time. Since I’m posing 10 or 11 images today, I’ll keep the comments short.

74/100 toast

I had fun joining these two images. I took a picture of our toaster on the back deck. Then fused it with a semi.

75/100 VW

Day 75 was the day to use charcoal with a vehicle. I used a car-shaped pencil holder as a model and it ended up looking like a van. I’m not proud of this one, but I’m posting all the days, so here it is.

76/100 air

This was “one color” day and I decided to draw as many air-based vehicles as I could think of.

77/100 sail sub

Honestly, this is probably my least favorite drawing so far. Even so, I did learn about the digital brush I was using, and I was happy with the black submarine. It somehow came out looking three-dimensional.

78/100 Penny Farthing

It was a little tricky to keep the triangles going around her leg. I’m still enjoying the “triangles only” day of the sequence.

79/100 one line vw

Here’s yet another day I wasn’t feeling it. I drew a few scenes with vehicles in one line, and this was the least offensive.

80/100 space

Here’s Day 80 and the last of the vehicles. I learned about the “perspective shift” tool in this one. I was hoping for more of a “light speed” feel, but I like this.

81/100 basketball

Now it’ll be sports for the next 10 days! The background here is in colored pencil, although the orange is not.

82/100 Tennis

I’ll close out with this one, which turned out unexpectedly well. I started with the watercolor polka dots. They reminded me of tennis balls, so I inked the tennis rackets on top. Then I started putting different logos on the rackets. When I was thinking of a funny graphic for the fifth one, Prince’s symbol came to mind. It wasn’t until after I finished that it occurred to me “Prince” is a tennis racket company! Maybe it was subconscious?

100 Day Project: Week 12-ish

65/100 Dino

A two-week vacation stalled out my 100 day project for a while, as you’ll see by the dates on the pictures. This was my drawing for “one color” in the “hands” category.

63/100 thumb

I drew a comic a few years ago with a t-shirt that said “I survived the Thumb Wars.” I decided to make a version of that for the stylized / cartoon hands day. It’s not my favorite, which is why I put it second here even though I drew it before the dinosaur.

64/100 crossed

It’s hard to make fingers look like they’re crossed. I spend some time trying to get the shading and perspective right, but not enough to make it look completely believable.

66/100 grow

I used a Procreate brush tool here that I hadn’t used before (can’t remember which one). I don’t love the results, but it’s always good to experiment.

67/100 baton

It was challenging to think of a scene with hands in it that would translate into a triangle-only piece of art. I think this one turned out pretty well.

68/100 oneline

The most fun part of drawing these one-line hands was figuring out where to start and end and how to add more details, like fingernails, while maintaining a single line that doesn’t cross over itself. After that, it was a matter of drawing each one a dozen or more times until it actually looked like a hand!

70/100 lions

The lions here are day 70 of 100. The original lions are wood carved chair-backs. I know the “hands” aren’t the focus of the picture, but I wanted to use the photo.

71/100 toys

My next 10 drawings have a “vehicle” theme, and I’ve only drawn three so far (it’s now 6/27). I’ve been easy on myself this week, not wanting to force multiple drawings a day if I’m not in the mood. I’ll try to catch up at least a little, and will post more vehicles next week.


100 Day Project: Week 10

59/100 Leopard

I don’t have a lot of time to write this week, so I’ll post pictures with only a few words. The leopard above was drawing 58/100.

59/100 Stretch

Each of these stretched-out cats is drawn in one line.

60/100 Trio

This was the last of the cats.

61/100 Peace

I’m now drawing hands for 10 days. The first one is an outline of a peace sign, and the in-line of a peace man, in digital colored pencil.

62/100 Interlock

These interlocking hands are in digital watercolor and ink.

64/100 Peekaboo

My daughter took this amazing picture of Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone. I masked out the hands on top of it.

I’m still a day behind. More hands to come.