Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Holiday Card


It's that time of year again! I've been working hard getting my 2011 holiday card ready to send out. It's always a fun challenge to come up with something new each year; and I love thinking of different ways to showcase winter - one of my favorite seasons. I love horses and the romantic idea of a sleigh-ride, so I finally worked out a scene where I could put them in! The envelopes are a natural paper that I stamped with a snowflake in white ink. I'm also addressing them with a white pen. Time to get writing!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bill Cunningham


Bill Cunningham New York Trailer from Gavin McWait on Vimeo.

"Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life, I don't think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization, that's what I think."           —Bill Cunningham

I have never thought of myself as a particularly fashionable person, nor someone who cares very much for the fashion world; but every week I look forward to seeing Bill Cunningham's work for the New York Times in the form of "On the Street". These slideshows are particularly fascinating to me, as a New Yorker, because he manages to capture glimpses into the street fashion of New York, which ties into the weather, or particular events.
So I was very excited when I found out that someone had made a documentary about him. This inside look into his life surprised me. I was so inspired by his enthusiasm and dedication to his work. The clear passion he has for what he does, and his humility about what he has achieved is astounding. I related to his view on life when he says "He who seeks beauty will find it". Nothing could be more true. I think we should all hope to be so taken with our work. He is a truly remarkable person.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gumption

 
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is my favorite book to date. I am currently reading it for the fourth time, and it is no quick read. However, that is one of the things I enjoy most about the book - that the reader follows the characters through many years of trial and tribulation, so much so that by the end I feel as though I know Scarlett, Rhett and everyone else who has survived the war.
However, this post is not about the book, but about the quote above, which I worked into a typographic piece. I felt a need to give it some extra attention because I have found it to be such a pertinent statement. Although Gone With the Wind was published in 1936, I still feel what Mitchell writes to be contemporary in many ways. I am especially fond of the word gumption, which many would think of as an old-fashioned word, but I think of as the perfect word to use when describing a quality I find essential in the people I surround myself with, and something I pride myself in possessing and striving toward.
Gumption can be defined as shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness; common sense; courage; spunk; guts. It might be easier to get along in this world without gumption, but it surely would not be nearly as exciting, productive or joyous. I don't think the first pilgrims would have gotten very far without it, and I doubt America would be its own country without a bit of it as well. Let's hear it for GUMPTION!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Geography of Bliss


I was given this book on loan from a friend quite awhile ago, and I just got around to reading it. The Geography of Bliss; One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner was surprisingly funny and very entertaining. I think many of the observations he made about happiness were things that I sort of already knew, but, that being said, the fact that he observed happiness around the world made me think about how culture affects happiness. He notes that America has happiness written into it's founding documents, and yet, we do not rank all that high on the list of happy countries (I think we come in 23rd). Why is that? I would venture a guess that greed has a lot to do with it. Eric makes a point of saying that envy leads to unhappiness. I think Americans spend a lot of time being envious of people who have more than them, thus the resulting unhappiness. In the end, the author questions whether happiness is the ultimate state to achieve. I think happiness is achieved by devoting time to other emotions - love being one of them. And really, over-thinking your own happiness may just lead to unhappiness. Below are a few quotes that I thought were particularly outstanding:

"In 1984, a psychologist named Roger Ulrich studied patients recuperating from gallbladder surgery at a Pennsylvania hospital. Some patients were assigned to a room overlooking a small strand of deciduous trees. Others were assigned to rooms that overlooked a brick wall. Ulrich describes the results: 'Patients with the natural window view had shorter post-operative hospital stays, had fewer negative comments in nurses' notes . . . and tended to have lower scores for minor post-surgical complications . . .'
    The implications of this obscure study are enormous. Proximity to nature doesn't just give us a warm, fuzzy feeling. It affects our physiology in real, measurable ways. It's not a giant leap to conclude that proximity to nature makes us happier."

"But what exactly is Gross National Happiness? What does it look like? The best explanation I heard came from a potbellied Bhutanese hotel owner . . . 'means knowing your limitations; knowing how much is enough.' Free-market economics has brought much good to the world, but it goes mute when the concept of "enough" is raised. As the renegade economist E.F. Schumacher put it: 'There are poor societies which have too little. But where is the rich society that says 'Halt! We have enough!' There is none."

"Adventure, in the good sense of the word, is a modern concept. For most of history, adventure was something inflicted upon you, not something you sought out and certainly not something you paid for. That old Chinese saying 'May you live in interesting times' was actually meant as a curse."
(This last quote I just love because to me adventure can contribute to happiness! Too bad it wasn't always that way . . . )








Sunday, September 25, 2011

RARE


RARE from Joel Sartore on Vimeo.

I discovered this amazing video through National Geographic. The video is basically a promotion for the book Rare: Portraits of America's Endangered Species, that Joel Sartore, a National Geographic photographer, has created. I can't wait to find the book in a bookstore soon! I think the video speaks volumes about the natural world. Looking into the eyes of these creatures, I don't see a bird or a bug, I see just another species, like one of us, trying to make its way in the world. Who are we, almighty man, to decide the fate of all other species we think "beneath" us in intelligence and capability? I recently came across a quote which I think can explain why so many species are becoming extinct at such an alarming rate:

When the last tree is cut,
When the last river is emptied,
When the last fish is caught,
Only then will Man realize that he can not eat money.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Reading Device

I swear this is not going to become a blog about books. It's just that working in the publishing industry makes me hyper aware of the giant shift that is happening in how people consume the written word right now. Of course, I chose publishing because I love books. I love reading, but I especially love the book as an object. I am constantly reading articles about how books are changing and the effect of the ebook on the written word. However, when I read "From Scroll to Screen" by Lev Grossman this past weekend in the New York Times Book Review I was struck by his approach to understanding the ebook. It is truly astounding that a new format for reading is developing right before my eyes, however, I think Grossman's point that "Indeed, the codex isn’t just another format, it’s the one for which the novel is optimized. The contemporary novel’s dense, layered language took root and grew in the codex, and it demands the kind of navigation that only the codex provides." is poignant. The fact that I can't just pick up and ebook and flip through it is just one of many reasons I will not be buying and e-reader at any time in the near future.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Predictably Irrational

I just finished reading Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. All around I'd say it was a pretty good book, and yes, I do believe that humans are predictably irrational. We say one thing and do another and everything is relative. This book is basically about behavioral economics, which is a pretty interesting field. The studies that the author explains throughout the book I thought were for the most part intriguing, but not all together surprising. Ariely argues that by understanding our own behaviors we can then anticipate what will happen in an irrational moment, and then avoid it. In some cases I think this might be true, but in others I think it's more important just to recognize the fact that people can be irrational, and when those times are. My take-away from this book is not that I should really change my life to make room for irrationality, but rather to recognize that nobody is perfect even if they say they are, and it gave me more insight into the human physchi. I wanted to share a few quotes that I thought were particularly poignant:

" . . . the more we have, the more we want. And the only cure is to break the cycle of relativity."

"In 1941 the philosopher Erich Fromm wrote a book called Escape from Freedom. In a modern democracy, he said, people are beset not by a lack of opportunity, but by a dizzying abundance of it. In our modern society this is emphatically so. We are continually reminded that we can do anything and be anything we want to be. The problem is in living up to this dream."

"As it turns out, positive expectations allow us to enjoy things more and improve our perception of the world around us. The danger of expecting nothing is that, in the end, it might be all we'll get."

Friday, August 19, 2011

The City Out My Window

"I assume anyone who really loves Manhattan must find engineering erotic: grids, graphs, Euclidean geometry, right and acute angles; the way these lines, these inorganic arrangements of force, symmetry, and ambition slice and tussle with and trap the organic, the asymmetrical, the sloppy; the way the sloppy and the soft struggle, joyfully and miserable, caged behind these bars, girdled within these frames."
- Tony Kushner, The City Out My Window

This is a quote from the book The City Out My Window which I think has some great things to say about a great city. New York, New York! I love all these things about the city - which is strange considering how much I love nature. But the energy, the excitement, and, well, it's said better above. The crazy chemistry of everything working together and how I see it differently every day.

The picture above was taken by Edward Steichen in 1909

Monday, July 25, 2011

Washington

I just got back from yet another excellent trip spent exploring more of America. I had been to Seattle before, but I had never seen any other part of Washington State. The most remarkable thing for me was seeing the forests surrounding Mount Rainier. During the hike we took I saw the most incredible trees. The forests are so tall and dense - nothing like what I've ever seen on the east coast. The immensity of them is daunting, but comforting at the same time. The silence is like a serene cocoon, moving with you as you walk in the shadows of ancient giants.

I like this quote from John Muir:
"Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts; and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish."





Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Life is a Highway

I just completed my 8 day cross-country road trip from Riverton, Wyoming to Easton, CT - and it was awesome! I saw a lot of the country and felt a better sense of just how big it is. From the mountains in Wyoming to the grasslands of South Dakota, the corn fields of Iowa and the rolling, tree-covered hills of Pennsylvania. Below are a few pictures I took.



On the road! Heading east from Riverton toward the Big Horn Mountains



Side view of Mount Rushmore as a storm cloud passes by.


Watching a lightening storm roll in from the top of Needles Highway, SD.


Steam rises in Custer State Park, SD after the storm.


Rippling grassland of South Dakota.


EAST! Through Iowa.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Lost Continent

Oh Bill Bryson, how you amuse me. What a great writer! I just finished The Lost Continent: Travels In Small Town America, in preparation for my road trip! I am flying to Riverton, Wyoming and then driving with my friend back across the U.S to Easton, CT. Bill Bryson went to a number of places that I am going to to, but most of all I just liked reading how he described some things perfectly, to me. There are a few excerpts below, I had to restrain myself from re-typing the whole book. I can't wait to see how my own trip goes, I'll be posting some pictures along the way!

This is exactly like my experiences in Target at Atlantic Mall, Brooklyn. If you've ever been there you know exactly what I'm talking about:

"It's not that there's anything wrong with K Marts themselves, it's the customers. K Marts are always full of the sort of people who give their children names that rhyme: Lonnie, Donnie, Ronnie, Connie, Bonnie. The sort of people who would stay in to watch "The Munsters." Every woman there has at least four children and they all look as if they have been fathered by a different man. The woman weighs 250 pounds. She is always walloping a child and bawling, 'If you don't behave, Ronnie, I"m not gonna bring you back here no more!" As if Ronnie could care less about never going to a K Mart again. It's the place you would go if you wanted to buy a stereo system for under thirty-five dollars and didn't care if it sounded like the band was playing in a mailbox under water in a distant lake. If you go shopping at K Mart you know that you've touched bottom."

And this is exactly like all of my summer vacations visiting my grandparents in Phoenix, AZ:

"I had always thought that deserts were hot and dry the year around. I can tell you now that they are not. I suppose because we always took our vacations between June and August it implanted in me the idea that everywhere in America . . . was hot the year around. Where ever you went in the summer in America it was murder. It was always ninety degrees. If you closed the windows you baked, but if you left them open everything blew everywhere—comic books, maps, loose articles of clothing. If you wore shorts, as we always did, the bare skin on your legs became part of the seat, like cheese melted onto toast, and when it was time to get up, there was a ripping sound and a screaming sensation of agony as the two parted. If, in your sun-baked delirium, you carelessly leaned your arm against the metal part of the door onto which the sun had been shining, the skin where it made contact would shrivel and disappear, like a plastic bag in a flame. This would always leave you speechless. It was truly amazing, and curiously painless, spectacle to watch part of your body just vanish. You didn't know whether to shriek at your mother as if you had been gravely wounded or do it again, in a spirit of scientific inquiry. In the end, usually, you would do nothing, but just sit listlessly, too hot to do anything else."

Monday, May 16, 2011

From Sky to Sea

This is my new blog, From Sky to Sea, and everything in between! I just started it recently, primarily as an exercise for myself to actually make some art work that is just for me and not for a client. It's been a long time since I've actually just been working on an a personal project and it's great so far! I'm going to try and paint something new every week - but we'll see how that goes. It will be especially difficult this summer when I'm traveling so much. We shall see. For now, it's just fun.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

New York


I read an article called Look At Me, I'm Crying the other week in the New York Times. I thought the author perfectly described some of the more nuanced ways in which New Yorkers survive in this crazy city. I wanted to share some of her words because I believe they are completely true. Above is a picture I took recently from the N train while crossing the Manhattan Bridge.

"We each glanced around the subway car at the other passengers, their heads bobbing in unison, the eyes of the man across from us doing a creepy back-and-forth twitch as he watched a train whizzing by in the opposite direction behind us. Some people read, or pushed buttons on their smart phones, but most just stared without expression at the floor or the garish overhead posters for Dr. Zizmor’s cosmetic dermatology. My mother (who is, notably, a psychotherapist) leaned into my shoulder and whispered, 'Everyone on this train looks depressed.'

I snorted, whispering back: 'No, Mom, they just have their train-faces on.' In a place where we are so rarely alone, we find privacy in public. We all have our masks, behind which we are free to be, yes, depressed, or any other emotional state we may not want to share with 30 fellow passengers.

On that same visit, my mother commented on how fast people walk here. I had, at the moment she spoke, been furious at the tourists in front of us for strolling so lackadaisically, despite our not being in a hurry to get anywhere. I began with the usual explanation, about how busy everyone here is. But mid-sentence, I realized that that wasn’t the whole story; movement was part of the mask.

Although I see plenty of stony-faced striders on the sidewalks of New York, the faster people are moving, the more they tend to reveal. . . . Perhaps this law of motion is part of why it’s so startling to see people trip. It’s bound to happen millions of times a day here, but still, seeing someone stumble instantly provokes a deep cringe. Like crying, it’s a glimpse of pure, involuntary vulnerability, and yet there’s something different about it; it’s more disturbing than sweet. We feel a greater demand to lend a hand or show concern because we know, more clearly, that it could happen to us — we like to think we have less control over our bodies than we do over our emotions. We all can feel the stumbler’s flush of embarrassment. So we grimace, surge with silent sympathy, and reach out.

Even though as any stumbler knows, the worst part, after detaching a heel from the subway grating, is someone asking 'Are you O.K.?'"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Mountain

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.


This video, by Terje Sorgjerd, is an amazing time lapse video taken from the top of El Teide, Spain's highest Mountain. If this doesn't make you appreciate nature and the wonders of the natural world, I'm not sure what will. Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Library


HERE ARE ENSHRINED
THE LONGING OF GREAT HEARTS
AND NOBLE THINGS THAT TOWER ABOVE THE TIDE
THE MAGIC WORD THAT WINGED WONDER STARTS
THE GARNERED WISDOM THAT HAS NEVER DIED

I noticed these words that are etched into the side of the Brooklyn Public Library's main branch when I went there a few months ago. They are so true and so dramatic. I think library's are one of the greatest public resources and I wish that I made time to visit them more. There's nothing like wandering up and down the aisles of books, letting your curiosity lead you. I recently found a 360 degree panorama that photographer Jeffery Martin created of Prague's Strahov monastery library. The detail is amazing- you can zoom in close enough to read the titles of the books! Books used to be precious objects and were designed and treated as such. In the age of the internet and everything digital it's easy to forget what the library has to offer. I was reading an article recently in which the author summed it up nicely:

"The idea of the library, a place for sharing, for everyone contributing to and taking from a common stock of books, is a concept worth preserving."

Friday, April 8, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow



For some reason I'm always inspired by this song, I'm not really sure why, considering how cliche it is. Maybe I like it because it's so hopeful and the tone in which Judy Garland sings the original is just beautiful.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New York, New York!

6th Ave. & 52nd St. Spring is near! It's light out after I leave work!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Little Things



I just came across this blog, Little Things, and I love it! It made me smile, and anything that makes me smile is awesome. Some of my favorite little things:

81. The smell of freshly cut grass
248. Smiling in the middle of a kiss.
254. When the weather feels just right.
215. Ice cream in waffle cones.
119. Being home alone, blasting music, singing loudly & dancing crazily.
32. The first swim of the summer.
39. Holding hands

Friday, February 4, 2011

Just finished: In the Heart of the Sea

After I read The Whale by Philip Hoare I became much more interested in whales and the sea. In The Whale I learned a lot about sperm whales and what inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick (which I plan on reading soon!). The story of the whaleship Essex was mentioned in Hoare's book and my curiosity was peaked. So when I got In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick for Christmas I was really excited to read it! This is a true story of a shipwreck where a whaleship is "stove" by a whale, which means a large bull sperm whale rammed the ship and sunk it. The crew of 20 men were left in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with only 3 small whale boats and minimal supplies. In the end only 8 survived, but it's amazing that that many did, considering the odds they faced. Nathaniel Philbrick is a wonderful non-fiction writer. I have also read The Mayflower by him and In the Heart of the Sea is equally well written. He combines history with modern facts and makes the story page turning.

"Later, once the survivors had been give some food and water (and finally surrendered the bones), one of them found the strength to tell his story. It was a tale made of a whaleman's worst nightmares: of being in a boat far from land with nothing left to eat or drink and—perhaps worst of all—of a whale with the vindictiveness and guile of a man.
Even though it is little remembered today, the sinking of the whaleship Essex by an enraged sperm whale was one of the most well-known marine disasters of the nineteenth century."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Color Chart

I just made this color chart to see a more visual layout of the colors that I use the most when painting trees and nature. I think I've come to the conclusion that Lemon Yellow and Cadmium Yellow Light are almost the same color. I love the vibrancy of the pure colors, especially Ultramarine Blue. The colors shown here are: Sap Green, Hookers Green, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light and Lemon Yellow. So hopefully this will be a good reference in the future!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just finished: The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise

I just finished reading a great novel! It's called The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart. I really enjoyed the writing style. It was witty, suspenseful and informative, and some of the characters were particularly hilarious. I also learned a lot about the Tower of London, which I had previously only heard of, and knew nothing about. Now I'm determined to visit it one of these days. The story is about a beefeater (a tower guard) who works and lives there. He owns the oldest tortoise in the world, Mrs. Cook. As a result, he ends up being put in charge of the royal menagerie. The main plot involves him and his family, but there are many other funny twists and side stories that made this one of my more favorite books.

Here is a quote from when the beefeater's wife goes to work:

"Hebe Jones unbuttoned her coat next to the drawer containing one hundred and fifty-seven pairs of false teeth. It was a ritual she performed every morning upon arrival at London Underground's Lost Property Office, even during the summer, a season she vehemently distrusted in England. She hung it on the stand next to the life-size inflatable doll, a deep red hole for a mouth, which no one had yet dared to claim. Turning the corner, she stood at the original Victorian counter, its shutter still closed, and studied one of the ledgers to remind herself what had been brought in the previous day. As well as the usual several dozen umbrellas and bestselling novels, some with a bookmark tragically near the end, the yield included one lawnmower, a Russian typewriter, and sixteen jars of preserved ginger. The last item brought in was yet another abandoned wheelchair, increasing the office's hoard to the spectacular figure of thirty-nine. It was proof, if only to the staff, that London Underground could perform miracles."

SNOW

December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.


I LOVE snow! It is winter's frosting. It makes what would otherwise be a dreary day sparkle. Last night we had our second big snow storm of the season and I actually walked an extra block just to feel the first flakes falling on me –and I was grinning wildly the whole time. The above video is from the blizzard earlier this year, which is really about the amount of snow I wish we had all the time :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Missed Connections

Have you ever read the Missed Connections section of Craigslist? It makes for hours of entertainment . . although after reading through a bunch of them I can't help but feel sorry for all those people out there suffering from unrequited love. However, they are endlessly cute, strange and hilarious. Missed connections is one of those things that would only really happen in New York, and one of the things that makes New York so great. I just found out about an illustrator who has made a blog based on the missed connections that she turns into illustrations. She also sells her work on Etsy. I think they're great! Enjoy.