Monday, 27 September 2010


Tonight I want to show you two drawings I did recently from the genus Crassula.

Crassula is a large genus of succulent plants containing many species, including the popular Jade Plant.  They are native to many parts of the globe, but culitvated varieties are almost exclusively from the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  The name Crassula is the diminutive of the Latin crassus which means thick or fat, referring to the fleshy nature of the genus as a whole.

The proper name of this first exotic looking plant (above) is Crassula capitella of the family, Crassulaceae.  A couple of the common names for this plant are "Red Flames" or "Campfire Plant".  As you can see, it has bright, lime green leaves with flaming reddish tips.  As the leaves mature, the reddish colour increases -- depending on the amount of sunlight they get.  If they are grown in the shade, the plant can remain almost entirely lime green.

I really enjoyed drawing this plant even though the design is quite repetitious.  It just gave me such pleasure to watch my drawing go from lime green to the bright reddish colour. 

Here is the same plant, Crassula capitella, but changed in appearance. I decided to play around with it by using my funny software.  For some reason I really like this design.  What do you think of it?

Next, I did a drawing of Crassula ovata.  This species was first described in England in 1768 and given the species name of "ovata" meaning egg-shaped and referring to the shape of the leaves.  This is probably the most commonly grown Crassula in South Africa.

Evidently, the Khoi and other African tribes ate the roots of this plant.  They were grated and cooked after which they were eaten with thick milk.  The leaves were also used medicinally -- usually boiled in milk and taken as a rememdy for diarrhoea or used to treat epilepsy, or as a purgative. 

Interestingly, in the Far East, Germany and the U.S., this plant is traditionally grown in square, porcelain tubs with "lion feet" to bring good financial luck.  This has given rise to common names such as:  the Money Tree, Penny Plant, Dollar Plant and Tree of Happiness.

As you can see, I could not resist playing with colour again.  I wondered what C. ovata would look like in blue!  Using the solarization process, I found out.

Finally, before I leave the discussion about Crassula, I want to quote some information about these plants which I find fascinating.  A lot of you may not be interested in all this botanical stuff, so just feel free to skip to the next section.

"Crassulas have a special way of reducing water loss from their leaves without limiting their ability to photosynthesise, known as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM. All plants need CO 2 (carbon dioxide) for photosynthesis. Most plants take in CO 2 during daylight hours through their stomata (pores in the leaves) and can't avoid losing water at the same time throught these open pores. In Crassula the stomata are closed during the day but open at night when the CO 2 taken in is stored in the form of organic crassulacean acids. During the day, these acids are broken down and the CO 2 released is re-used in the photosynthetic process. In this way they lose much less water yet can photosyntesise normally during the daylight hours. Furthermore, during extremely dry periods they won't even open their stomata at night, and will re-cycle the CO 2 within the cells. They won't be able to grow at all but the cells will be kept healthy - this is known as CAM-idling.  In addition to being a CAM plant, and having succulent water-storing stems, leaves and swollen roots that give it the ability to survive droughts, this crassula can also survive being grazed, trodden on or knocked over, as it is able to root from any piece of stem, even a single leaf."

Now for some new cat photos!

"I swear, I've been framed!"

"Please God, let her fix me the yummy food and not that other stuff... please, please, please"

No, this is not a photo of Suki although it could be if I had two identical chairs pushed together.  As we all know, cats can sleep anywhere, any time and in any position!

I ordered a number of copies of the book this weekend so those of you who have been asking me to get a copy of it for you should be hearing from me soon.  I have also noticed online that a few people have ordered copies as they said they were going to.

I am part of a group of people who are currently prayer fervently for a wee babe by the name of James.  He was born Thursday night/Friday morning and was immediately put on a respirator.  He has some malformed organs.  We are especially asking Blessed Mother Teresa to intercede on his behalf and her sisters have joined us in praying.  Please feel free to pray with us if you are so inclined.

May peace be with you all.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Aeonium Additions

Remember when I said this back on September 12th: 
"I am working on another Aeonium at the moment which is quite different -- it has yellow flowers. I will be showing it to you before too long."

Well, this is the drawing with yellow flowers I was talking about.  This is Aeonium dodrantale.  As you may recall, I mentioned that genus name, Aeonium, comes from the ancient Greek word aionos which means "immortal".  Most of the various species are native to the Canary Islands. Some species are found in Madeira, Morocco and in eastern Africa.

Here is another interesting species with the name Aeonium goochiae.  Once again we have a plant of the same genus which looks totally different from all the other ones I have shown you -- except for the leaves.

I must say that I had a lot of fun with Aeonium goochiae.  First I tried a "solarization" process on it and came up with the following picture.

Then, not satisfied with that, I decided to try something called "colour reversal" and ended up with the following.  I really like the colours in this one -- such soothing shades of blue and green.

Finally tonight I want to show you some absolutely fascinating photos a friend sent to me.  This first picture is of a dam in Wyoming USA.  Looks pretty typical, doesn't it?

But then as you scroll down to the next two photos, you see what is really going on!

Here you have Big Horn Sheep out for a morning stroll across what looks like an almost perpindicular surface.  How do they do that?  Amazing.

Here is another angle of the same structure which gives an even more amazing view of their mountain climbing abilities.  Wow!

For those of you who live in the Toronto area, I understand that tomorrow may be our last hot day of the year -- hot and muggy -- before it all ends tomorrow night and we have a rather chilly weekend.  My advice is enjoy!

By the way, my Facebook account was compromised by some of those spam jerks.  All my friends on Facebook received a message, appearing to be from me, saying something stupid like "I have just lost 5 lbs. in the past 5 minutes" with a link that they hoped people would click on.  A few people did click on the link and now their name and picture is being used to send out the same stupid messages.  Ah, the joys of the cyber world...

Well, I have to forgive even spammers and I am working on that at the moment!

May peace and forgiveness be with us all. 

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Butterfly Flowers (Schizanthus)

Tonight's floral offerings are members of the genus Schizanthus.  These flowers are commonly known as "Butterfly Flowers" and "Poor Man's Orchid".  They are members of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family and are native to Chile.

You may be aware that there are other plants that are referred to as "butterfly" flowers.  For example, the butterfly weed (Asclepias) and the butterfly bush (Buddleja).  However, Schizanthus are called Butterfly Flowers because the blossoms look similar to showy, South American butterflies.  The other two have "butterfly" as part of their name simply because they attract butterflies.

These flowers (above and below this text) are very showy and, therefore, were very difficult for me to draw on the computer.  When there are several bold colours together, fading into one another, the artist really needs to be using a medium that allows for shading.  I hope you find them interesting anyway.

Next, I want to show you -- as I usually do these days -- a few funny photos.

Unfortunately, the size of this photograph, as you see it here, is too small to do justice to the look on the penguin's face.  It is so funny and immediately makes me think of the expression "what am I, chopped liver?"  You should be able to click on the photo and enlarge it.  If you do so, you will see what I mean about the face.  It makes me laugh each time I look at it.

I find this photo quite delightful.  "Kids" are all the same whatever species they may be.  This one is bothering a parent who obviously is much more interested in sleeping than in paying attention to the young one.  Any ideas for a cute caption?

And, I really like this one.  Is that a belly laugh, or what?  He must have been watching human beings doing something silly, don't you think?  What else could possibly make him laugh so hard?!!

Nothing new is happening with me.  I spent a lot of time this past weekend watching Pope Benedict XVI in Great Britain and Scotland culminating in the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman.  It was all quite beautiful and so different from what the media reported.

Suki is doing well and is now training me to sleep less so that I can spend more time playing with her, holding her in my arms and providing her with tasty tidbits!  You think I am just joking here?  I had to stop at least twice while preparing this posting just because she wanted me to hold her in my arms for a while so that she could nuzzle and wash my ears!

May peace be with you all.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Our Lady of the Lilies

     Our Lady of the Lilies

I came across the original image that I worked from in the "drawing" of this icon on a website selling icons.  The title given there was "Blessed Mary -- the Eternal Blossom". 

I could not find any further information about the icon.  It is possible that it is simply of recent creation and has no history -- yet.  I decided, therefore, to rename it "Our Lady of the Lilies".  I find the most moving part of this icon to be the hands of Blessed Mary and Christ Jesus holding the flower stem which contains three blossoms in various stages of openness. 

     Our Lady of the Bread?

This next icon is Russian and what I am showing you here is a scan of the actual icon.  A friend of mine, who recently returned from Russia, kindly brought me this icon as a gift.  He is a very kind and generous person, but he is still struggling a bit with the English language.  I mention this because, while he brought me a brochure describing this icon, it is in Russian -- I know no Russian and my friend could not come up with the right English words in translation of the Russian.  He was able to tell me a bit of the story about the icon and why it is commonly known in Russia as the "Virgin of the Bread".

As best I could understand the story, there was a holy monk who worked in the monastery kitchen baking bread.  One day, while baking bread, he suddenly saw a vision of Our Lady with the Holy Child above the ovens.  There were other monks there at the time, I believe.  I am uncertain whether they saw the same vision or not and I am also uncertain when this all occurred.  At any rate, it was a miracle which resulted in a new icon being created.

I have tried to find information about this icon online by using the words "Russian" "icons" and "bread".  So far, I have gotten lots of recipes for Russian bread, but little else!  I have also searched through websites which feature Russian icons, but thus far I have not found this exact one.  If anyone out there has any suggestions or is able to read the Russian writing under the image of Our Lady or would like to see a copy of the brochure, please contact me at

     Autumn in Ontario

Can you believe it already looks like this up north?  I don't know if it actually does or not, but I suspect it does look a lot like this photograph.  I have no idea where this photo was taken, but it looks to me like northern Ontario in mid to late September.  Autumn is such a beautiful time of year -- so full of what are called "earth" tones and colours.

     Do you see what I see?  Do you hear what I hear?

I really like this cute cat photo.  As most people know, all it takes is the slightest movement, the least little noise for cats to "raise" their ears and focus their eyes.  They move those ears back and forth like moveable antennas while the pupils in their eyes narrow as they search the horizon.  Then they lock onto the source of the movement or sound while their tails twitch ever so slightly.  If it seems to be something worth pouncing upon, they crouch and wait for just the right moment.  As you can tell, I love watching cats. 

"Rise young Skywalker, you are now a Jedi knight!"

This is such an interesting dog photo.  The dog's position and posture is so unusual and does look almost human.  The child is just happy to have the dog's attention, it appears.

The original caption with this picture was "You are now one of us".  I thought about using that, but really wanted to make a reference to Jedi knights as that was the first thing that came to mind when I originally came across this photo online.
What would your caption be?

This is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows so I guess it is rather fitting that I am posting an icon of Our Lady although my icon doesn't look that sorrowful.  Anyway, this is my offering to Our Lord on His Mother's feast day.

May peace be with you all.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Aeonium Again

Remember the Black "Rose" I showed you back on August 28th?  Well, here are two relatives.  This first one (above) is Aeonium lancerottense of the family, Crassulaceae. 

Here is the same image which has been "solarized".  It is an interesting result but of no great matter.  As you know, I just enjoy playing with colour.

This is another Aeonium.  This one goes by the name of Aeonium nobile.  I am working on another Aeonium at the moment which is quite different -- it has yellow flowers.  I will be showing it to you before too long.

Now for a few more words on the genus Aeonium.  The name for these succulent plants comes from the ancient Greek word aionos which means "immortal".

Most of the various species are native to the Canary Islands.  Some species are found in Madeira, Morocco and in eastern Africa.

The two I have posted tonight are not nearly as attractive as the Black "Rose" I posted a few weeks ago, but I still find them interesting.  I have always been attracted to the succulents, but have rarely been able to keep them healthy.  At least with drawings the plants always look their best and don't need watering!

Here are a couple of recent photos of Suki.  She has insisted on perching on the bar between the kitchen and the living/dining area.  I fought her on this at first; however, I finally gave up as you can see.  She really likes to sit there and watch me working in the kitchen.  Of course, she never offers to help!

Here Suki is sitting on my desk.  She is busy watching the screen saver on my computer which features a little black and white kitten who runs around getting into mischief.  It moves so quickly that she fascinated by it.  I hope she never decides to try and catch it!

Finally, here is a photo that I really like.  Polar bears (and bears generally) are fascinating to me since they can be so human-like.  This photograph is so sweet.  The mother and child look so warm and comfy even though they are resting on top of the snow!

May the peace of God be with you all.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A Forgotten Saint

St. Veronica is rarely spoken of these days outside of the Stations of the Cross.  There are still Catholic churches named after her and famous paintings or statutes at various holy shrines; however, she remains largely unknown. 

Part of the problem is that there is no scriptural authority for the story that all Catholics learn when they learn the Stations of the Cross.  Remember, the sixth station shows Veronica wiping the face of Jesus as He passes by on His way to Golgotha, carrying His cross.  The story goes that after Jesus had continued on His way, she looked at her veil, which she had used as a towel, and saw there a clear image of His holy face.

Where did this story come from?  It seems to have been known from at least the 4th Century and is elaborated on in several medieval texts.  The story, it seems, combines several elements from scripture, legend and tradition. 

First, we have the woman in the Gospels who touches the hem of Christ's garment and is healed from a flow of blood from which she had suffered for 12 years.  In the Catholic Church, tradition has identified this woman as Martha of Bethany, but in the Eastern Church, this woman was identified as St. Veronica. 

Then there is the famous legend told in the Orthodox churches of King Abgar of Edessa who sent word to Jesus, beging to be healed.  The story goes that Our Lord wiped his face with a cloth and gave the cloth to the King's servants to take to him.  When the King opened the cloth, he found there the image of the face of Our Lord.  Not surprisingly, King Abgar was immediately healed.  You may recall the icon I did called "Made without Hands" -- this is the icon showing the cloth sent to King Abgar. 

Finally, there is the name itself.  In the Eastern Church, this woman was known by the name of Berenice since veronica actually means "true image" -- vera, Latin for "true" and eikon, Greek for "image" or "icon".  Over time, the words for the image on the cloth came to the be name of the saint.

One of the most detailed sources of information we have regarding St. Veronica and her loving and compassionate actions on that first Good Friday come from the visions of Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich.  As you may recall, these visions were the main source used for the depiction of events in the movie "The Passion of Christ".

I was drawn to the icon of St. Veronica because it is actually an icon within an icon.  Plus, one of my dear friends, a religious sister, was called Sr. Mary Veronica and I know she would have been thrilled to have had a drawing of "her" saint.

This next drawing is one I have been intending to post for a long time now and just kept forgetting to do so.  When I told you about the flowers of the genus Crocosmia (see August 7th, 2010 posting), I said that I would be showing you a drawing of the cultivar, Crocosmia bicolour very soon.  That "very soon" has turned into a much longer time than I intended.  So here is it in all its glory.

Then, I want to show you a photo of an adorable looking little Westie puppy.  This little fella is the newest member of Hylott's family.  You have seen many references to Hylott, my friend in Birmingham, Alabama, over the past few years.  He, and his wife, Patsy, have the pleasure of living with this little guy.  What a sweetie.

Finally I want to show you two photos from my collection.  These photographs show a very effective way of settling an argument!  Of course, maybe the two polar bears are not arguing at all -- perhaps this is the way polar bears show fondness for one another!  What do you think?

In the case of these two wolves, I am certain that the one on the right is an older pack member who has had quite enough of whatever the younger wolf was doing.  Maybe the one of the left is tone deaf and wants to join in the howls anyway.  This is a very effective way of keeping another wolf from uttering a single sound!

The most disappointing event which has occurred since I last posted has to do with my newest book.  There are continuing problems with the printing of the book cover.  Everything else is fine; however, the cover is a real nuisance and the new printing facility in Canada that Blurb has employed, just can't seem to get it right.  Oh, well, sooner or later it will all work out.  I am presently trying to get Blurb to reimburse me for the money I have already spent ordering new copies of the book.  Up until today, I kept thinking it must be something I was doing, but with this shipment I realized it has to be them!

May the peace of God be with you all. 

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Snails and Saints

Sorry to have been away for so long, but the days just zoomed past and suddenly here it was already September the 5th!  Anyway, I am back again with some new drawings for you.

This first drawing is of Vigna caracalla, a leguminous (bean like) vine from the family Fabaceae.  Actually there is some disagreement about the family this plant should be placed in.  Most botanists settle for Fabaceae; however some insist it should be in the Leguminosae family or even the Papilionaceae.  I have no expertise in these matters, but I do think it is interesting that even the scientists can't decide many times!  The common names for this flower are "the snail plant", "Snail Vine (or Snail Bean)" and "Corkscrew Flowers".

The "caracalla" part of the plants name, by the way, indicates that it was first identified in Caracas, Venezuela.  It is a fast-growing vine originating in tropical South Amercia and Central America.  The vine attracts butterflies with its fragrant flowers from mid-summer into fall.  "The 2" blooms have upper petals that contort and bend backwards, with the elongated keel coiled in 4 or 5 spirals like a corkscrew."

I did a second drawing of this plant which shows the small flower buds.  I am not sure why I did this drawing, but for some reason the idea of drawing just one part of the flower appealed.  Anyway, I included it for your viewing pleasure!

Next I want to show you what I have done about two of my favourite saints:  St. Sarah (the saint who gives me my real name) and her husband, St. Abraham.

I wanted them to be a matched set of icons and thus I gave St. Abraham the same background as St. Sarah and, as well, I used the same colours for both.

I wanted St. Abraham to look like the ancient patriarch he was and I think I accomplished that.  How do you like the wild hair and long beard?

St. Sarah I have shown you previously.  I did make a few changes in the icon as I had not ever been fully satisfied with my drawing.  I still am not fully satisfied, but have decided to let her be for the moment.  Later on, I plan to go back and do the drawing all over again to see if I can capture more of what I feel about this woman and the part she played in "salvation history".

Finally, I want to show you a delightful photo of the "King of the Jungle".  Somehow, I don't think that butterfly is too concerned about that big mouth and all those teeth just below its tiny feet. 

The combination of strength and fragility posing so peacefully together pleases me and makes me smile.  By the way, note the scratch marks on the rock.  I am grateful that Suki doesn't have claws that big or else my rugs would be nothing but a mass of tangled threads!

I pray that all of you will have a joyful Labour Day.  May peace be with you.