A Day to Remember

Last Saturday was a picture perfect day in every way. Not only did I get to spend time with my sisters and mom, but they treated me on Saturday to one of the nicest nurseries I've been to. That's saying a lot since I have a habit of breaking for any nursery I see!
If you are in the Sacramento area, I highly recommend stopping by the High Hand Nursery. With relaxing music in the background, it is a treasure for all of the senses; beautiful sights, the smell of spring flowers, birds and music in harmony, and the touch of nature. But wait, you ask what about the sense of taste?
They have a nice restaurant in a large greenhouse that serves a wonderful brunch. A real treat is their homemade potato chips served with a lemon-artichoke dip.
High Hand was a packing plant, called "High Hand Fruit Packing," which was built in 1926. You can see old fruit label signs in their coffee area and throughout the nursery.
Old machinery and delivery trucks are scattered throughout the plants. 
I have enough inspiration to keep me painting for a long time to come...at least until my next visit we're already planning!
Isn't this a cute little rock animal?

I feel very blessed to have such a close family. My mom and three sisters are my best friends. They are not only a lot of fun, but have been there for me throughout my husband's illness and problems these past couple of years. Although I love where I live, I wish that I could be nearer them to share more in their lives. The weekend went way too fast!

Bird Song in the Morning

I don't have much time before work today, but I still have to share a quick video that I took just outside my back door this morning. The picture is a little dark because the sun is still low in the trees. But, it isn't the pretty landscape that I was focused on; it was the birds! Their songs made my heart happy. The whooshing background noise is the waterfall in our koi pond behind me as I took this video. 

Click the play button below for a happy sound of my morning birds!

What wonderful companions as I paint!

Open Windows

I just got back from a wonderful trip to California to visit my family. I'm thankful to have my sisters and mom as best friends. I wish we lived closer, but once I moved from California to Oregon I knew I could never go back; I love to garden and enjoy the outdoors too much! It was 90 degrees in northern California yesterday and, unfortunately, the grass there is already starting to turn brown. Where I grew up, it can easily hit the triple digits in a few short weeks and stay that way until October!
Back home, I was happy to see Glen had put up the hammock while I was gone. This is his little corner of the world some summer afternoons if he gets a break.
One of the many grassy trails on our property
Our spring through autumn is "open window" weather. It's a joy to paint in my perennial garden in the summer while birds serenade me all day instead of hide from the heat. If work takes me indoors, I enjoy tending the garden or walking in our groves of evergreens afterward. For me, there is no other place I'd rather live than here in the northwest hills of Oregon. I never knew spring, summer and autumn could be such beautiful seasons while I was growing up!
Wisteria on our master bedroom patio fence. It has a flush of bloom now,
but continues to bloom sporadically all summer. Our bedroom smells
heavenly each evening with wisteria and jasmine blossoms all summer.
I moved to Oregon over 25 years ago to take a management engineering position on the coast. We took vacations here each year when I was young. When I took a walk this morning I thought how truly blessed I am to live where most people only dream about or take vacation to. People come from around the world to see this area of Oregon in the heart of some of the best wine country in the nation that is only an hour from the ocean on one side, the cascade mountain range on the other (the US ski team practices at Mt. Hood!) and the mighty Columbia River Gorge to the northeast. Our countryside is perennially green with many rivers, rolling hills dotted with wineries, nursery farms (nursery plants are the #1 cash crop of Oregon) and stands of  towering evergreens.

A corner nook in my sunroom with windows open 7 months of the year.
I paint what I love, which is the nature around me. Most every painting is of scenes right outside my house, or sometimes inside, such as this orchid.
Painting of my orchids
 I love that I can have windows open and enjoy nature just outside my door for seven months out of the year (April through October!) I will not live long enough to paint the beauty in the gardens that surround me. 
Our stone-paved private patio off the master bedroom with fountains and a little pond,
weeping lace-leaf Japanese Maples, topiaries and various perrenial flowers.
We went to a gorgeous nursery while visiting my family in Sacramento.(I plan to blog that next) There were a lot of Japanese Maples at the nursery. As my sisters contemplated how they could grow them in their hot and arid environment, I thought to myself how lucky I am to have so many that thrive on our little farmstead here in Oregon. Japanese Maples are grown in huge nursery fields within ten miles of where I live, then dug up and put in containers to be shipped to other nurseries around the country such as the one we visited. I won't take these pretties for granted anymore after I saw the price they wanted down in California. We have many large maples on our property that cost over $1,000 each at that nursery!
Japanese Maples around our large koi pond and waterfall. This is the view
from my art studio.
We have 22 Japanese Maples scattered throughout our land. There are 20 different varieties; some with coral bark, some with variegated leaves, lace leaves and weeping, shades of bright green, purple and some leaves tinged in pink. They are pretty year-round, with nice structure in winter (especially our coral bark maples,) dappled shade in summer and spectacular color in fall.

I find our little farmstead enchanting.
My home is decorated "French Farmstyle" in green and white with
touches of red. I find it relaxing and cheery and it coordinates with
the scenes outside our  many french doors.
 I am never without fresh flowers in the rooms!
I hope that, wherever you call home, it is your place of enchantment, too.

Coastal Art - A Work in Progress Day 7

Day 7 - Costa Maya, Mexico

Time to get my camera ready for day 7.
 After a pretty ride through this little seaside village, we stopped at a resort to take a class in making three types of authentic salsa. They were hotter than the weather, but "muy delicioso!"
 Costa Maya was a sleepy fishing village prior to a hurricane that destroyed a lot of it years ago. When rebuilding, the residents decided to amend their income with tourism, and now resorts are starting to pop up on this beautiful coast.

I can't believe that it's already time to board the ship to head back home. 
The crew sang and danced all of us back on board. It was quite festive, and yet sad, for tomorrow is the last cruise day and then I fly home. I know work will be hectic with long hours transferring sketches and painting coastal scenes from all of the wonderful sites I've seen. I look forward to showing you the progress of various products that will be manufactured with art from this wonderful trip to the Caribbean. I hope some of it finds its way to your heart and home.

Coastal Art - A Work in Progress Day 6

Day 6 - Belize

 This morning the weather was warm (for this Oregonian, anyway) so coconut drinks were a refreshing welcome.
 We boarded a jetboat and headed up the Old Belize River for some tropical scenery and an authentic Central American lunch of chicken, rice and beans. Dolphins, manatees, monkeys, tropical birds, iguanas and crocodiles...oh my!
 We walked where kings once stood at Altun Ha ruins.Some of the carvings inspire vignettes and borders.
Back at the ship, I wanted to doodle the "colors of the Caribbean" with some local designs.
Once again, a beautiful sunset as we left port.
I don't want this day to end, but am looking forward to tomorrow...day 7 in Costa Maya!

Coastal Art - A Work in Progress Day 5

Day 5 - Roatan, Honduras

It will take me weeks to sketch all that I saw today while snorkeling off the second largest reef in the world! 
Just look at the turquoise blue of the water!
 Our ship is behind these colorful dancers at the port of Roatan Bay.
 Tropical fish don't seem real. 
A few sketches to end this busy day...

Coastal Art - A Work in Progress Day 4

Day 4 - Cozumel, Mexico

I'm taking pictures of the water at each port; I can't get enough of the crystal hues. I can understand why the "spa" blues and greens are popular in coastal home decor!
Coconuts...and coconut drinks...everywhere. Here's some of the tropical inspiration I'm searching for! I love the fronds of the coconut tree.
A hot and sunny side trip to the Tulum ruins was well worth the time. This day went way too fast...back to the ship and onward to day 5!

Coastal Art - A Work in Progress Day 3

Day 3 - Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico

Today is a "sail day." Each day after this I'll be in different ports in Central America, so today is a good day to get my sketchbook and paints in order. Here's a view from my balcony. The water is turning that bright "Caribbean blue."

Breakfast in The Venetian Restaurant was delicious. Lunch will be by the pool and there's dinner reservations at the ship's Italian restaurant tonight.
 I heard there are lobster dishes in just about every restaurant. The lobsters are supposed to be gigantic in the Caribbean.
Thus, a sketch of the mighty lobster...

Coastal Art- A Work in Progress Day 2

Day 2 - Leaving the Port of New Orleans

After one last brisk walk and breakfast in the French Quarter, I took a taxi to the Port of New Orleans. We whisked through lines and boarded the ship without any problems and in what seemed record time. Oh, the opulence!
We found our stateroom and then decided to check out the rest of the ship. Here's a view from the glass elevator near our room. 
We were sailing out of the port at 5 pm promptly.  
An added bonus to this cruise was sailing down the Mississippi for a few hours. There were sugar refineries on one side and oil refineries on the other along with large areas of swampland with mangroves and time-worn boat docks. The path we were on was the same taken by explorers and ships of trade laden with treasure and spices...and pirates!
The sunset is beautiful as we head into the gulf from the river. Time to check out one of the many restaurants on board and maybe a show. I can't wait to see what inspiration tomorrow holds! 

Coastal Art - A Work in Progress

Day 1 - New Orleans

Every day that I get to paint is exciting, but today is one of those exceptionally fantastic days. Up by 2 a.m. to catch the plane to New Orleans, I just started my working vacation. I've had requests from various clients for flags, floor mats, puzzles and dishes for tropical coastal art, a very popular theme. It's hard to paint tropical in the heart of Oregon, especially this winter in which we've had record rain. So, I'm headed to the sunny Caribbean via the port of New Orleans for inspiration.
Staying at a hotel near Bourbon Street, I thought I'd check out the French Quarter. "French" vignettes have been popular for many years, so this is a bonus! To the street performers and shop owners disappointment, I passed them up for pictures of the gorgeous ironwork, doors and other architectural features. 
I sketched iron swirls and fleur-de-lis as I had brunch in the courtyard at this beautiful (and delicious) restaurant, The Court of Two Sisters.
I sketched a lot of new borders designs; something that comes in handy for dishes and fabric collections.
"Look UP!" My neck strained looking at balconies and hanging plants that will be a nice touch for a new art collection all in itself. I already can't wait to put my sketches to good use for some new home decor products, and it's only day 1!

This sketch could be turned into a color-book page. Fleur-de-lis are everywhere here! Back to the hotel to sketch ideas before they are lost and to get some much needed rest in preparation for day two...
the start of my Caribbean Cruise!