Monday, 30 August 2010

The Iconographer

Icon "Rublev the Iconographer", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010

Andrei Rublev (born in the 1360s, died 1427 or January 29, 1430) is considered to be the greatest medieval Russian painter of Orthodox icons and frescoes.

So reads the beginning of the entry on Andrei Rublev in the encyclopeadia.  Of course, to the Orthodox, he is St. Andrei Rublev and I have chosen to use that title in the icon above.  I often refer to him as simply "The Iconographer" since he is the "iconic" icongrapher of all times.  His icon of The Trinity (a copy is shown in his hands in my drawing) is magnificent.

The little information we have of St. Andrei tells us that he was probably trained by a famous Byzantine master by the name of Theophanes who moved to Russia from Constantinople.  Rublev combined the asceticism of the Russian school of painting with the classic harmony of Byzantine mannerism.  This approach meant that the characters in his icons are always peaceful and calm.  Over time, his art has come to be perceived as the ideal of Church painting and of Orthodox iconography.

His feast day in the Orthodox Churches is July 4th!

Below is a print of St. Andrei's icon "The Trinity".  Try to imagine what it must have looked like when it was first completed.

 The Trinity by St. Andrei Rublev

Next I want to show you a series of delightful photos taken of a bear who is being called "Big Al".

It seems that a family in B.C. was wondering what was happening to the water in one of their rain "barrels".  They often discovered the barrel, after a heavy rainfall, was almost empty of water and what remained was rather dirty.  After checking for leaks and finding none, the family decided that they would solve the mystery by setting up a video camera at the spot.  When they retrieved the video camera, they were introduced to Big Al.  Now the photos are circling the Internet and Big Al has become famous! 

The photos are descriptive enough not to need captions.  I will say, however, that the 4th photo is, in my opinion, truly funny.

These photos were made available by my friend, Hylott.


The accountant was back to see me today.  There turned out to be one last thing Revenue Canada wanted me to fill out.  Now, having completed that, I am hopeful that I won't have to see my accountant friend again until tax time next year!

May the peace of God be with you all.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ -- Black Rose

This is one of the most beautiful "non-flower flowers" I know of.  Let me explain.  Aeonium "Zwartkop", of the Family, Crassulaceae, looks like a flower because of the arrangement of its leaves!  The leaves are deep red/black in colour and hence the common name of Black Rose.  In winter, they produce bright yellow flowers.  I may try to do a drawing of the flowers sometime in the future.

This variety of Aeonium is actually a "cultivar" -- a plant achieved by cross breeding.  There are, in fact, other forms of the name for this cultivar including "Schwarzkopf "and "Schwartzkopf".

This branching shrub produces magnificent, succulent-looking, leaft rosettes at the ends of its branches.  Aeoniums are natives of Madeira, the Canary Islands and North Africa -- all climates that do not experience cold temperatures.

Here is a painting that I came across of Aeonium "Zwartkop".  It was not properly identified, but to me it looks like the art of Georgia O'Keeffe.  I find it quite lovely.  If anyone knows for certain whose work this is, I would really appreciate your letting me know. 

As usual, I decided to play with my drawing of Aeonium "Zwartkop".  This is the result of trying something called "solarization".  I don't think it actually makes that much of a difference in the overall look of my art work.  This one has a greenish centre while the real flower has a yellowish centre.  Otherwise... I don't think it was worth the effort!

Now for some duck photos...

This first one is a very sad set of three photos showing the day in the life of a poor mother duck.  She appears to have at least six ducklings when she starts across the grate, but when she turns to look behind her, she appears to have only one left!  I don't know if it was possible for the photographer to rescue the ducklings or not.  Otherwise they may have gotten eaten by those alligators and crocodiles which, urban legend says, are supposed to be living in the sewer networks of all big cities!  But that is just too sad to contemplate.  Being a "glass half full" kind of person, I will just assume that they were rescued by kindly city works employees who just happened to arrive at the right moment!

This photograph could be entitled:  "Taking the big plunge".  I am sure the proposed jump seems huge to our duckling friend; while we, having a very different perspective, already know that he is going to be just fine.  That is how it so often is in life.  When God asks us to step out in faith, it looks so frightening; however, if we could just see things from His perspective, we would know that everything was going to be fine.  I guess that is why trust is so important... in our relationship with God, with our parents and other authority figures when we are children, with the wise ones when we are older and in our own God-given abilities.

I really like this last one.  I am convinced that she is going to catch that bug and will then feel even more confident in her ability to feed herself ... all part of growing from a duckling into a full-grown duck.  You go, girl!!

So we come to the end of another posting.  We are in the process of moving my blog to my simple, little web site.  There will be very little there other than the blog, my bio and information for contacting me or ordering things.  I hope, in time, to have all my drawings posted there, but first I have to learn how to do things myself and I am not very good at that sort of thing.  The wonderfully creative man who set up the web site could do all of this for me, but I would need to retain his services and that sort of expense is well beyond me. 

As some of you may have guessed, I have never made any profit off all my cards and icons and books because I always spend more money on producing things than I charge.  Even with the books, I don't really make anything as I do not want the price for the consumer to be too high.  My business, Colouration (Canada) has never been out of the red in its five years of existence, but I don't mind.  It gives me so much pleasure when people want to buy things from me that I would hate to have them turn away because the price was too high.  Somehow I don't think I was ever intended to be a business woman!

May peace be with each and everyone of you.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

St. Valentina

No, I did not make a mistake.  It is supposed to be "Valentina" and not "Valentine"! 

St. Valentina is honoured in many of the Orthodox churches.  She, along with Sts. Ennatha and Paula, is commenorated on February 10th each year.  These three young women are known as "virgins and martyrs".

The story goes that in the year 308 during the reign of Emperor Maximian Galerius, these young women refused to deny their Christian faith and paid the ultimate price.  St. Ennatha came from the City of Gaza, St. Valentina was a native of Palestinian Caesarea and St. Paula was from the region of Caesarea. 

St. Ennatha was the first to be brought to trial before Governor Firmilian.  Bravely declaring herself a Christian, she was beaten and suspended from a pillar and scourged.  Next they brought in St. Valentina who had been accused of not worshipping the pagan gods.  She was then led to a temple where she was ordered to make sacrifices to the idol.  Instead, she threw a stone at the idol and then turned her back on it.  She was beaten mercilessly and sentenced to be beheaded along with St. Ennatha and St. Paula.

You may be wondering why I have this sudden interest in an obscure saint of the early church.  Well, I have a new foster child whose name just happens to be Valentina.  She is a wee babe still and lives with her parents in Boliva.  She is a very special baby as she was born with Down Syndrome and I will be helping her parents provide Valentina with the special care and training she will require.  So, I decided it was time to make friends with Valentina's patron saint.

Next, I want to show you a series of photos taken by a scientist in Africa recently.  When I first saw them, I was sure they must somehow be faked images; however, I have checked the various "urban legends" web sites and find nothing that would suggest these pictures are anything other than they appear to be.  These photos are supposed to show that if the big cats are not hungry then they don't kill.  If these scenes are real, they are astounding -- almost like the lion lying down with the lamb!

Here we see a young Impala cut off from the herd by a group of three young Cheetahs.  The people observing this activity (and taking the pictures) assumed the worst was about to happen.  Instead they saw something miraculous.

Here is the poor, frightened Impala being patted by one of the Cheetahs.

Next we see the three Cheetahs just hanging out with their new "friend"!  Is that Cheetah really just licking the Impala's throat? 

Finally, the young Impala actually appears to nuzzle one of the Cheetahs.

I have no idea what happened next as there were no more photos with the article.  I suppose the Cheetahs could have started feeling hungry and took advantage of the situation.  Maybe they decided they had been friendly for long enough and went back to their own games and activities.  I do wonder what happened to the Impala.  If the mother wasn't lurking somewhere nearby, waiting to rescue her baby if possible, then the Impala was certainly "fair game" for any other predator that came along.  While the photos are beautiful, the actual ending to the story might not have been. 

So is life in this fallen world.

May peace be with you all.

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Pueraria lobata of the family, Fabaceae (the pea family), is a climbing, coiling, trailing vine native to southern Japan and southeast China.  Its common name of "Kudzu" is derived from the Japanese name for the plant, Kuzu.

Kudzu was introduced into the United States in 1876 from Japan and is now common throughout most of the southeastern U.S.  So far, its only known occurrence in Canada was discovered on a south-facing slope on the shore of Lake Erie near Leamington, Ontario in 2009.  Thankfully, our climate is not conducive to its establishment here.  In the southeastern U.S., Kudzu grows so rapidly that it has come to have such nicknames as foot-a-night vine, mile-a-minute vine and the vine-that-ate-the-south!

The story is not all bad, however.  The plant is an effective means of erosion control and also a good means of soil enrichment.  As well, it has been discovered to have a number of medical uses from helping to control addictive cravings to the treatment for certain cancers.  Kudzu has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries.  Since it is so plentiful in the southern U.S., Kudzu is used to make lotions, jellies and compost.  As well, it also makes a nutrient-rich hay although it takes more work than ordinary hay. 
The drawing of the flowers shown at the beginning of this posting might lead you to think that Kudzu is a beautiful flowering vine; however, the leaves are so dense that the flowers are often hidden from view.

Speaking of the flowers, I want to show you the results I achieved by playing around with the colour balance.  As you all know, I love to play with colours and I was delighted with these unusual looking results.

This effect was achieved by reversing the colours and changing everything from the reds and pinks into the cooler shades of purple, mauve and blue.

This second variation was achieved by a process known as solarization -- one of the options found in my funny software that I have explained to you in the past.  I did not find this effect as satisfying as I did the previous effort.


In this photo you can see how the flowers actually appear when the leaves are not too dense.  Even though the flowers are visible, they just barely stand out in the midst of all that green.

Here is a perfect example of what southern U.S. roadsides look like in the summer.  The Kudzu vine grows over anything in it path and, in the process, can create some very weird shapes.  To me, this one looks like a giant lady holding a wand in her hand.  Maybe she is the "queen of the Kudzu"!

Here is another example of how Kudzu grows over everything in its path.  It is quite possible that this building will be completely covered before the summer is over.  It is a joke in the southern U.S. that if you leave you truck parked next to Kudzu for too many hours, you may not be able to find it when you return.

Finally, I want to show you the goats.  This is one way of trying to control Kudzu growth.  The goats can eat it just a bit faster than it can grow!  Several places now have programs for grazing goats where Kudzu growth is heaviest.  For example, the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee undertook such a trial program in 2007.  Other southern cities are considering doing the same. 

This has truly been a posting all about Kudzu.  I hope you found it interesting.  I grew up surrounded by it, seeing it as a nuisance weed -- mainly because it often prevented me from exploring certain areas while riding my horse, Skipper.  The growth would just be too dense and dangerous.  Doing some research on Kudzu for this posting has actually helped me to see that this troublesome vine may one day end up helping us to cure some major illnesses.  That would be a very good thing.

Some of you were asking how the income tax thing was going.  Well, I have collected all the receipts that I could although I have been unable to duplicate everything.  So tomorrow, with the help of my tax guy, I will submit what I have and basically throw myself upon the mercy of Revenue Canada.  At least all this hectic searching for duplicate copies of charitable donation and medical receipts will be over.  Thank goodness for that.

May the peace of God be with you all.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Violet Queen -- Spider Flower

Cleome hassleriana (spider flower)

Cleome hassleriana (Family Capparaceae) is commonly known as "spider flower" or "spider plant".  It is a species of Cleome and native to southern South America (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southeast Brazil).

The one pictured above is a cultivar, a cultivated, ornamental plant, and a member of the "Queen" series.

Cleome is called "spider flower" because its wiry, protruding stamens are reminiscent of spider's legs.  The Family name of Capparaceae means it is a member of the caper family and a cousin of the pickled caper some people like to eat.  It is a strongly scented plant, I am told, but I am uncertain whether that is a strongly pleasant scent or a strongly unpleasant scent! 

I have also heard that these plants have spines or sharp edges which means you should use extreme caution when handling them.  Yikes.  The plant looks so benign.  I understand now why people arranging these flowers are always shown wearing gloves! 

Nothing like sharing an ice cream cone on a hot day!

This is obviously a very polite and well-trained puppy.  Look how daintly he is licking his side of the ice cream cone instead of grabbing the whole thing and taking off!

Thank goodness for human assistance!

Can you imagine having seven babies to look after all at once!!!  I am sure Mama Dog is delighted to have someone supplying her pups with bowls and food to put in them. 

A picture is worth a thousand words!

You really have to wonder how this poor pup managed to get himself stuck between these two trees.  I do hope some unkind person did not put him there because they thought it would make a funny photo.  That would be cruel.  I can, however, imagine a puppy dawg getting himself into such a predicament without any assistance at all  -- just too much curiousity.

I am still in the midst of trying to reconstruct my last year's tax return's medical expenses and charitable donations.  Revenue Canada has all the information sitting in front of them and yet they ask me to try to get copies of everything to prove that what they have in hand is true.  Oh, well, it has to be done, but it ain't easy -- let me tell you.

Anyway, this leaves me a bit befuddled and confused as I am no longer used to carrying around a lot of information in my short-term memory.  I hope what I have written tonight makes sense.  If it doesn't, please be understanding!

May peace be with you all.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Love in a Mist/Devil in a Bush

          Nigella damascena "Love in a Mist" aka "Devil in a Bush"

Nigella damascena is an annual flowering plant, belonging to the buttercup family, (Ranunculaceae).  It is native to southern Europe, north Africa and southwest Asia.  It is now found growing in gardens in North America.  

Because of all the lacy bracts and thread-like leaves, it has gained two descriptive names:  "Love in a Mist" and "Devil in a Bush".  Quite a contrast.  These flowers have been grown in English cottage gardens since Elizabethan times under such names as "Miss Jekyll" and "Oxford Blue".

The fruit (shown next to the flower above) is a large and inflated capsule.  These contain numerous seeds so the plants can spread rapidly.  

I find them uniquely beautiful.

                         Nigella damascena (solarized)

I decided to play around a bit with this interesting plant and choose to apply a process known as "solarization" to the image.  You can see for yourself what happened.  It looks to me like something you might find on the sea floor -- maybe a plant or maybe a strange sea creature.  

 The animals fight back -- 
"We've had enough 
and we just aren't taking it any more!"

I think this young man took a wrong turn, the Shell station is in the other direction!  Ah, well, I don't really think a service station would be of much help anyway!  Actually, it looks as though the young man's feet are not even touching the ground.  Amazing what being chased by an angry hippo can do to us.

I could have told this young man that alligators and crocodiles consider it very rude of someone to point their finger towards them.  I wish we had a third photo so we could see how badly the boat was trashed.

What do you think the odds are of this fellow being able to open the door, jump in the car and close the door before the polar bear catches up with him?  I think I will place my bet on the bear.

I have received a draft copy of my new book and am now making a number of small corrections. Once I finish this and have uploaded it, the book will be ready for purchase.  It is actually available from Blurb now, but you would receive only the unedited copy.  I will announce to everyone when the final copy is ready.

May the peace of God be with you all.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Crocosmia Family

                          Crocosmia X crocosmiiflora (Montbretia)

Recently, I decided to try my hand at drawing some members of the Crocosmia Family.  I think there are about seven full-fledged members of the Crocosmia Family and then there are a whole bunch of hybrids, Crocosmia X.  These hybrids are usually called Montbretia by botanists and such, while the ordinary gardener populations seems to just call all of the varieties, Crocosmia.  The Latin family name for these plants is Iridaceae.

The name, Crocosmia is derived from the French botanist and plant collector, de Montbret (1781-1801).  He apparently used to hang out with Napoleon in Egypt.  The genus and common name Crocosmia is derived from two Greek words:  krokos (saffron) and osme (smell) pointing to the fact that when dried and rubbed, Crocosmia leaves have a fragrance similar to saffron.

Crocosmia is a native to the grasslands of South Africa

                        Crocosmia jackanapes                  

This is the second drawing I did of this genus and is called Crocosmia jackanapes.  As far as I can tell, this is one of the seven known species of Crocosmia (not a hybrid), but I could very well be wrong.  If anyone out there knows for certain, please let me know.

I have one more drawing of this species that I am just finishing.  I will post it soon.  I am attracted to these plants because of their orange-red flowers -- I love orange/red/yellow combinations.

Next, I have some cute mother and child photos.

                       Mama Cat

I love the way mother cats carry their young.  The kitten show here is obviously not a new born and yet, in its mother's mouth, it rides totally relaxed, fully trusting that she knows what she is doing.  I would love to know just what she is doing and where she is taking him.  Maybe it is time for getting his ears thoroughly washed!

                         Mama Bison

Here is a mother Bison with her new-born calf..  It looks as though there is still snow on the ground.  Thank goodness the babies are born with a good fur coat to keep them warm!

                         Mama Monkey

Speaking of fur coats, I can just imagine this little, naked-looking monkey, asking her mother, "when am I going to get my own fur coat?"  The coat of the adult is truly beautiful.  What an amazing variety of creatures God has created!

I was thinking today, as I prepared to write this blog, that probably very few, if any, people will read it.  I guess I really shouldn't complain, however, since I really write it for myself more than for anyone else.  I like to post my drawings along with cute photos I come across.  Plus I like doing a bit of research on some of the topics I mention.  I would guess that I do come up in some of the searches people make on Google and I just might provide a bit of help occasionally.  So, as they say these days, "it is all good."  However, if anyone is out there, I would love to have a tiny bit of feedback occasionally -- especially regarding the questions I ask.

May peace be with you all!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

August Icons

In 1186, a monk ascended Mount Pochaev in order to pray.  After beginning his prayers, a pillar of fire appeared to him and to some shepherds that happened to be nearby.  The flames withdrew to reveal the Blessed Virgin.  The apparition of the Virgin Mary left behind a footprint, from which a spring of water flowed.  This first event would lead to many other supernatural events through the special dedication of the Blessed Virgin to this region.

In 1559, an icon (see the small one above) arrived, mysteriously in this region of Russia.  Over the years since, it has been moved between various Orthodox churches, but, today, has returned to the region where the apparition took place.  Many miracles are attributed to Our Lady's intercession under this title.

As you can see from the icon at the top, I decided to do my own version of the icon.  I had seen another version of the painting which portrayed Our Lady in a robe covered with large golden flowers.  I tried to do something similar as to me the pattern looked very Russian somehow.  I don't know if I succeeded.  I also decided not to try to draw the clouds, the rock and the mysterious footprint.  I will probably do this icon again and then I will include everything.

Speaking of doing repeat drawings of icons I had previously done, here is one of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  I did a very different one about two years ago.  This one is done in a much more traditional style using the proper colours for His clothing.  This is also the one I ended up using in my latest book.

Speaking of my latest book, I decided to try to do something different for the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

You may recall my previous presentation of this drawing under the title of "Our Lady of Extreme Humility".  I am so fond of the simplicity of this icon that I decided to reuse it by adding to it the signs and symbols of the Immaculate Heart icon.  I would definitely be interested in having your opinion about this.

Once again I felt a bit uncomfortable doing this revision of one icon into another.  Truly I do not "write" icons in the traditional sense, but I still have a deep respect for them and honour them once the icon picture is placed on wood, ready for displaying.  Somehow, though, I don't feel as though they are quite as "real" so long as they are just on my hard drive!  Any comments?

Next, I want to show you some really relaxed animals who are doing exactly what they should be doing in this hot weather!

This first one you have seen previously, but I couldn't help showing it to you again.  I smile every time I look at this photo.  I know bears can be very dangerous as we have certainly heard on the news recently; however, this one truly looks like a big, lazy oaf!

Then there is this wonderful photo of a kitten watching TV with the family.  I think this is such a funny picture. If I owned it, I think I would probably use it for my picture on Facebook!

There he is just sitting up there watching the tube just like a real person.  I wonder what he makes of it all?

Finally, I want to show you this adorable photo of a kitten and a babysitting Collie.  It is such a beautiful photograph.  The kitten obviously feels super safe and the dog appears to be trying to stay still so that the kitty can have his rest.  In fact, the more I look at it, the more I feel the Collie is not really comfortable at all, but is very aware of her little charge and is simply doing a magnificent job of babysitting.

As for me, I am very pleased to have finished this third, and last, book in my series, "Praying with the Saints". I already have another book on the go -- the one I started last year on the Eucharist and just reached a point where I had nothing to say.  Now, however, I seem to be feeling much more creative so I am working while the working is good!

It is so difficult for me to believe that we are now winding down the summer.  Before you know it, Labour Day will be here and the children will be back in school.  Where has the summer gone?  Time is experienced so differently at different stages of our lives.

May God's peace be with you all.