Tag Archives: natural art

Art Update

I’ve been working on finishing this portfolio for what feels like an eternity. At last I am nearing the end; the final five paintings I’m working on are almost complete.

Once they’re finished, we’ll take them to a local professional to have them scanned. After that,  print copies of them available here on the website.

Once these paintings are all finished, I’m looking forward to taking some time off. Time to relax and enjoy the coming Spring.

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But also to begin some extraordinary projects I’ve been dreaming about for some time….

In addition to my paintings, I’ve been working with a lot of locally sourced materials to develop some unique 3-dimensional pieces. I’ve also been experimenting with developing paints out of natural pigments found here in the Brazos valley.

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Spending more time in these pursuits, I think, will be more tactile and kinesthetic, and perhaps therapeutic, after the focused precision of painting.

Lacie and I are also looking to work more in our Wild Garden this Spring and Summer, as well as develop (and eat!) more Wild Food recipes, and maybe one or two other outdoor projects….

 

 

Like a portable Cob oven. But I’ll keep y’all updated on that.

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Recipe: Prickly Pear Cheesecake

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This is one of the more involved recipes we’ve created. The upside, though, is that it yields several products which can be used for all kinds of other experiments. So bear with us, dear reader, the result is well worth it!

In Texas, there is no shortage of cacti. We use it in landscaping, but it also turns up wherever it pleases, as it rightly should. A wonderful plant, the maligned cactus has a myriad of uses, not the least of which involve its succulent pads. An important water source in the dry times, this seemingly hostile plant can actually be a lifesaver.

Still, in more docile times, the fruits of this plant especially are a wonderful Summer treat. Over the past year, we’ve experimented with prickly pears quite a bit, but the idea of a prickly pear cheesecake seemed perhaps our greatest idea yet.

To start, you’ll need to make a basic prickly pear syrup. This means foraging for a decent bag of prickly pears! Easy to find in sunny areas along roadsides or other dry, open areas, prickly pear cacti love to grow in bunches so gathering a large amount quickly is no problem. The purple fruit are in season between August all the way into October sometimes. Avoid ones that have a gray, waxy residue on them, but if they’re still a little green it’s perfectly fine.

Once you’ve brought them home, either scrub the fine prickles off using a knife under running water or burn them off over a flame. Peel them and then add about 2 cups to a large pot and cover about 1/2 an inch with water. Bring them to a boil then mash and let them simmer about an hour.  Strain the liquid through a mesh sieve, then through a cheesecloth. It should taste slightly sweet, like muted watermelon.

Measure the liquid, then replace into the pot with the following ratio: 4 pt. prickly pear juice, 2 pt. sugar, 1 pt. lime juice. Alternatively: 2 cups juice, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup lime juice. Bring it to a boil for 1 minute and continue stirring then reducing it into a syrup. Cool and taste it, adding lime or sugar and reheating as necessary.

For the topping, you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups diced, seeded and peeled prickly pears

3/4 cup diced lime

1/2 cup prickly pear syrup

Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer until it reduces down, about half an hour to 45 minutes.

To make the cheesecake itself, you’ll first have to make the crust. You’ll need 2 cups of mesquite flour and 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter.

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Next combine the butter and flour to make a crumbly mix, similar to a graham cracker crust. Press the mix into a spring form pan and bake for 5 minutes.

For the cheesecake, you’ll need:

3 8oz cream cheese packages

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup prickly pear syrup

1/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

Beat the cream cheese, prickly pear syrup and sugar until well blended. Next add the sour cream and eggs, one at a time. Mix well between each addition, but be careful to not over-mix your eggs!

Gently pour the mixture over your crust and bake for 1 hour, until is almost set. Next let it cool and remove it from the pan. Chill for 3 – 4 hours, top with the compote and serve!

The recipe for teh topping can be used for any fruit compote, and is a delicious dessert in its own right. The syrup is an amazing condiment and can be used in a wide range of recipes, from barbecue sauces to homemade sodas.

-Enjoy!

News and Update; an end to inertia….

So it has been entirely too long since I have posted on here, and I can’t exactly say it’s been because I’ve been working so hard on any particular project. I’m still trudging along with the two paintings I’ve currently got in the works, and I’ve also got two carvings that I’m now committed to doing for people. But I can’t shake the feeling that, in the main, I have been woefully lax in my efforts to be creatively productive these past months. I’ve been in a funk, been distracted, been too busy wasting time thinking and worrying and not enough time forcing myself into action. I’ve been suffering a lack of impetus. But not a lack of motivation, I think.

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Work in Progress

For anyone who lives in Texas, the past week has, timidly, been the first time in a while we’ve seen sunlight. There have still been wild days of crashing storms and floods, but this day, at least, seems to be a beautiful break in the rains. Perhaps that’s all I needed. I love the rain storms, but you really can’t get anything done during them. Even indoors, you’re compelled to just sit and watch and wait it out.

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boating season….

Back before the floods started, Lacie, Luna and I had made an effort of gathering as much of the young cattail flowers and then the wonderful, magical cattail pollen as we possibly could. This stuff has got be some kind of sacred manna; if you’ve never tried cattail pollen, you are missing out. I’ve been making a habit of taking different things Lacie and I make at home to share with our friends at my work, and it’s been really inspiring to see and hear their responses. Last night we made acorn flatbread sandwiches, with black forest ham and cattail flowers, slathered in mesquite-jalapeno jelly. I could not tell you how amazing they were; they only thing that would make them better, would be using thick cut bacon instead of the deli ham.

Omg.

The past month has seen a lot of plants and seeds ripening and now that the sun is starting to break through the clouds, all the wild grapes will start ripening quickly in the lead up to Midsummer. Amazingly, I even saw a couple passion flowers blooming around the woods the other day! I could have also sworn I saw fireflies out in the garden the other night, and as we’re in this transitional period of tons of water lying around and warmer, sunlit days, we’ll probably see more of them during this happy time of year.

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I am actually looking forward to getting down to the waters myself now that the floods are giving us a break. I’ve got a new, smaller cast net and long pole, and my favorite fishing spots are calling to me in my dreams. We’ll actually be going down to the coast before too long, and I’m hoping to catch the blue crabs down there when the moon is full and they are wont to dance in the moonlight. Last year we timed it perfectly and ended up with more than we expected! I also still have buckets of wave polished shells of almost every color that I haven’t gotten around to playing with yet. That’s another thing I’m hoping to get around to soon; so many sculpture projects that I’ve kept on hiatus while I finished this past slew of paintings.

Speaking of which, I do have a giant debt of gratitude to repay to someone I’ve met in these past months. A strange form of luck allowed me to meet Cyd Cassone at work one day several months ago, and it was clear we had a lot of the same passions. Cyd is a musician and currently works at the Creekside Wellness Center in Bryan. They focus on holistic approaches to medicine and naturopathy. After spending some time talking about some of our shared ideas, they offered to host some of my paintings in their office! I couldn’t think of a better place to show these pieces since so many of the messages in them are reflected in the work Cyd and her partners are doing.

I’m really so glad to have met them and many others this past Spring, and Nature willing, I’m hoping the clearer days are a sign leading to more great things happening in the near future and an end to inertia.

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Flying Swan necklace

Just a quick add I wanted to post of a necklace I recently finished for someone special during the holidays.

Flying Swan; mother of pearl and bone
Flying Swan; mother of pearl and bone

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The body is carved out of bone and the wings are carved from mother of pearl.

The bone I used was from a deer we were thankful to eat last winter and the shells used to carve the wings were the discards of some generous raccoon at a local watering hole….

Truly, there is treasure everywhere.

 

Update….

Jeez, I am starting to feel it now. A deep-seated fatigue, most likely due to the notion of what I still have to finish.

I’ve taken a lot on in recent months. To be clear, I’ve no intention of giving myself any slack; I’m just finally coming to terms with what I have committed to.

I’m very close to finishing the portfolio that I started at the beginning of last year, and by close I mean I still have four more paintings to finish. I am currently working on three of them though, so we’ll see how that goes….

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In addition to this, I’m still working with an area non-profit, providing environmental education to area schools. I love this and can’t express how thankful I am to be a part of it. Educating kids about the wonderful environment all around them, I really feel like I’m helping to connect them to the world they’re a part of. And that makes me feel great.

That’s why I’m really excited about the new programs we’re (hopefully) going to offer this year. Starting this Spring, I’ll be teaching classes on wild edible plants of the Brazos valley. The amazing plants we’ll see can be found right here in Bryan/College Station, so you can interact with them everyday.

The hope I have for this workshop is to show people that wild foods aren’t just something for “survival scenarios”; that they’re capable of enriching our lives on a daily basis. It’ll be about Thriving, not just Surviving. Because there is a positively reinforcing relationship that we can have with our environment, because we’re meant to be right there.

Wish me luck.

 

One Year

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It’s been one year since I’ve started this site. That’s one year since I’ve become serious about what I want to try to do with myself.

It was just after Halloween last year that I posted the first entry on this website, detailing my perspective on wild foods and the impact this resource can have in our lives.

Additionally, one year ago I began developing a new artistic portfolio to try and illustrate the positive relationship humans, and indeed all life, have with their environment. Amazingly, I have almost finished this.

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I can honestly say that I have not worked so hard nor turned out so many pieces since art school, and even then, nothing this authentic. I’m not tooting my horn here, knocking out these paintings has been a slug-fest at times. Trying to keep true to the vision while also just completing the work is a ceaseless balancing act between the clarity of mind and the strain of your back.

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Despite all this, over the last several months, I have had the real pleasure of working with an organization that shares this passion for reconnecting people with Nature. The Urban Interface is a local non-profit here is the Brazos valley that focuses on educating and introducing kids to the amazing wildlife species which share our home with us.

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We do interactive, educational programs free of charge at schools in both Bryan and College Station (and occasionally elsewhere!) that bring kids face-to-face with local wildlife. Many of the people we talk to are always amazed to learn just how many different species of wildlife live here. Our goal is to both teach and inspire kids to connect with their environment in a way they may have never thought possible before.

It’s been through working with this organization that I’ve started to see real hope for change. There is a better way to live, an easier, more healthful way to live together. I’m a romantic, but this isn’t really about aesthetics, it’s about efficiency and what works best. Nature works. It just also happens to be breath-taking.

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Over the next year, hopefully, I’ll see these pieces I’ve been working so hard on allowed in some galleries here and, hopefully, they’ll inspire people. I do also intend to get them photographed and to sell prints, either directly from this website or from the Facebook page. Believe it or not, I am looking forward to getting these done with because there is a bunch more that I have in mind to work on….

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Nature Walks and “Stop the Con”

A very exciting update, starting this Winter I will be leading educational Nature Walks for kids here in the Brazos valley! The organization sponsoring the program is Keep Brazos Beautiful and I am very excited to be working with them!

The dates for the first two walks have been set for November 21 and December 5, so we will definitely be dressing warm. The walks will be held at Lick Creek park here in College Station, Texas.

The program is going to be geared towards younger kids, so we’ll cover what plants and animals make up our natural habitat and the relationships they have as well as some of the natural processes that shape our environment.

But what I really want to give these kids is the sense that they too are a part of the ecosystem; that humans have an impact on the environment and the environment can also have an impact on us. Hopefully helping them to understand that will inspire them to develop the kind of beneficial relationships with their natural environment that so many people are lacking.

We’ll be doing all kinds of fun activities while we’re out there so if anyone is interested, contact Keep Brazos Beautiful for more information!

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On another note, I recently made some artwork for Survival International’s “Stop the Con” campaign.

 

 

Survival International is a human rights organization that advocates for the rights of tribal peoples around the world. Many times these people are abused by National governments because their way of life is viewed as inferior or backward and their peoples as inconsequential.

Perhaps one of the most contentious issues facing tribal peoples are conservation efforts. Indigenous peoples are perhaps the best “caretakers” of their natural habitat as they’ve been living a dynamic relationship with it, for millenia in some cases.

However, many of them have had their ancestral homes taken away or been banished from them in the name of conservation. Oftentimes there are ulterior motives on the part of the National governments that have played into this as well.

The “Stop the Con” campaign is an attempt to bring this injustice to light and to highlight the crucial role that indigenous and tribal peoples play in their environment. Ultimately, there is a lesson here that we can all learn from and that is why it’s so important to stop this problem; so that we can learn it. Tribal peoples are able to exist in a dynamic harmony with their natural habitat just as all other species around them do. That is a powerful reality, one that we should take to heart.

There has to be a lesson there that other peoples can learn, not just for the benefit of the environment, but for the benefit of ourselves as well.