Saturday, December 5, 2020

Kern River Parkway Bandanas

Last summer I had the honor of creating limited edition bandanas for a fundraiser benefitting my favorite local conservation organization, the Kern River Parkway Foundation. Established in 1985, the Kern River Parkway Foundation is a volunteer-run nonprofit that works to protect, preserve, and restore the natural riparian and wildlife habitat of the Kern River. Everything that makes my hometown of Bakersfield beautiful and livable - the river, the bike path, the wildlife and nature preserves - I owe to a small handful of local heroes who fought hard to keep it that way. I'm so thankful that I was able to use my time and talent to help bring awareness to their amazing work.



I wanted the bandana designs to highlight some of the native plant and animal species that live among the riparian habitat that KRPF works so tirelessly to preserve and restore.


California Kit Fox and Jimson Weed


One design features two of our state's most iconic species: The California Quail and California Poppy. On the bandana, both the poppy flower and seed pod are depicted in various stages of development. The inspiration for this idea came after noticing how enjoying the parkway trails on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis has helped attune my senses to the subtle rhythm of the plants and animals all around me. I notice the first frilly, blue-green poppy plants emerge from the soil as the earth warms up after winter, and anxiously anticipate the very first "pop" of golden flowers in spring. As humans, this conscious connection to the land fosters a personal sense of belonging and appreciation for our home, and is vital to our wellbeing.

One of the best parts about the Kern River Parkway is the fact that it's a little slice of nature in an otherwise arid, (sub)urban environment. The Parkway is an oasis in the desert; a sanctuary within the city. But did you know that we almost never had a Parkway? Or a bike trail? Or any of our priceless open spaces and preserves that make life in Bakersfield livable? Every square inch of the Kern River Parkway has been hard fought and won (from private development and industry) by a very small handful of dedicated people for the good of our community and the good of the land.


California Poppies and Quail

Quail and Poppies Bandana Design


Kit Fox and Jimson Weed Design


If you have found refuge along the river, cleared your head with a bike ride along the trail, soothed your soul with a walk, a run, a family picnic at one of the many riverside parks - you understand the value of the Kern River Parkway.


The fact is that in order to thrive, the river needs our help. It needs our love and attention. It needs our voice. For over 35 years, the incredible volunteers at Kern River Parkway Foundation have been leading the way in this work. With your support, we will continue to protect and preserve the most beautiful part of this place we call home for many more years to come.



Friday, July 17, 2020

Nature Journaling

It's been five years since a very thoughtful friend presented me with the gift of a small, colorful book titled "Art Before Breakfast," by Danny Gregory. At the time, I was definitely feeling called to draw more and create new art, but still struggled to sit down most days and actually put pencil to paper. Thankfully, this bright little book was just the friendly nudge I needed and its message would ultimately help recalibrate my entire creative process.

Reading Art Before Breakfast helped me to recognize and release the unconscious pressure I had been placing on myself to create "good" art. Which then enabled me to create more art, and inevitably led to creating better art. The book also inspired me to incorporate the practice of art making into my daily routine (even if only for a few minutes "before breakfast"). Over the past several years, this casual approach to art making in my sketch journal has played a crucial role in my creative growth.

This past year has been especially rich with growth and inspiration, as I've delved in deeper into my interests in both printmaking and the natural world. From immersive natural history lessons in the Sierra Nevada mountains through the UC CALNAT program, to linocut printmaking in the letterpress studio at Penland School of Craft, I've had the honor of learning from some truly incredible artists, scientists, and teachers. One of my first and most influential experiences in 2019 was learning the art of nature journaling from the master of the medium himself, John Muir Laws.

In March of 2019, I had the good fortunate of attending a two day workshop led by renowned Bay Area-based naturalist, artist, author, and teacher, John Muir Laws. Designed for educators, the experiential workshop engaged participants in various journaling practices that inspired deeper scientific observation and inquiry. As students, we were invited to notice, wonder, and reflect - not just upon our natural surroundings, but upon our inner, personal experience as well.

Looking at nature for the first time through an interdisciplinary lens of science, art, and soul ignited a powerful spark for me. And I haven't looked at the world in the same way since. 

Nature Journaling in the field with John Muir Laws


Smitten with this newfound medium of nature journaling, I began looking into other classes to further develop my skills in scientific drawing and observation. A few weeks later, I was enrolled in an online course in Natural History Illustration offered through the University of New Castle, Australia.


Specimen studies in my sketchbook 


Pages are often filled slowly over time


The course helped me to sharpen my eye and gain a beginner's understanding of things like botanical structure and animal anatomy. It also provided me with a crash course in drawing fundamentals, and taught me the basics of value and composition (concepts that I'd never formally studied as a self-taught, "figure it out as I go along" artist).

Though much of my art has long been inspired by nature and plants and animals have always factored heavily into my work, up until my introduction to nature journaling, I had simply been content to interpret my subjects stylistically. But after leafing through the exquisite pages of Laws' nature journals, and later marveling at the beautifully detailed and scientifically accurate drawings of Portland-based artist Zoe Keller, I was inspired to take my skills and understanding in this department to the next level.


A squirrel skull - A lucky find





Back home at my desk


Now, I feel as though my fascinations with art and nature have fused into a single, powerful force of curiosity and creativity. And I'm excited to see where this journey leads. 


A female Western Tiger Swallowtail
that my husband pulled from a spider's web in our backyard


Lots of detail


After a light wash of watercolor