Friday, July 29, 2011

More Avian Fun

Two more for the road!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Raptor Rapture!

I've always loved raptors, especially owls. Whenever we go on vacation, we tend to visit raptor sanctuaries and bird shows if they're nearby. I am proud to say that I've walked around for about a half hour with a beautiful Indian eagle owl named Jessica perched on my arm.

What a beaut!

So I should have been painting owls and raptors all of this time! I suppose I was afraid of all of the detail in the plumage, but now that I've started, it's really a great deal of fun.

Trial and Error Owl

This first guy took quite some time, mainly because I focused so much on the individual feathers, which still don't look particularly realistic. Fine with me, but not my favorite.

Trying a looser style here, which, aside from speeding things up, contributes to a better texture. Still working out the bugs.

Now we're owling!

Theerrrre we go. This guy is far and away my favorite. Watercolor is a great medium for painting birds, as the gradiations in feathers and shades blur in a really nice way. I went a bit overboard on the "ears", but I don't care. That's why painting is fun.

And now, let's throw a hawk in the mix. One of the things I love about raptors is how expressive their faces are, how they seem to look as if they're disapproving. This little guy cracked me up.

So...while I'm working on the rest of the travel log, expect more birds to visit:)

Friday, July 22, 2011

On Oslo

Jumping ahead for, well, obvious reasons. I cannot get Oslo out of my head. I've been obsessively checking twitter and newsfeeds for information, something with which to cobble some sense out of this senseless situation. The best that can be construed is that it was a random act of insanity by a man of extreme right-wing beliefs. Not an immigrant or Muslim (the conclusion many immediately stampeded to), a strapping young fellow with the chiseled blond handsomeness so common in Norway, someone you would pass on the street without giving a second glance (or would, if so inclined). Someone who, if his facebook page is to be believed, enjoyed True Blood and World of Warcraft. Someone who, upon looking at him, you would not guess that inside he had the wherewithal to throw an entire city into chaos or murder scores of kids trapped on an island.

Truth be told, when I was in Oslo a month ago, it did not resonate with me. The museums are incredible, the people pleasant and polite, and yet I was left cold. I balked at the sky-high prices for even the most mundane of dishes and was disappointed by the huge but conventional shopping centers. It's not a fair assessment of the city, I know. Had we seen more of it, I'm sure I would have been won over. But at the time, if I saw Helsinki as a kooky, vibrant artist mama welcoming me to hang out, Oslo was a wealthy dowager who never dressed in anything other than formal gowns, every hair perfectly in place. However, the events taking place today have shown me that the grande dame is so much more than that, a reminder that she can handle any situation that comes her way with grace, dignity, generosity, and bravery.

Her people are truly special. I cannot help but remember the young woman who perched herself perilously between a dock and high platform to fish Catherine's Oslo pass out of the water when it had slipped through her fingers. The businessman who grinned impishly at me through the window upon seeing me take a comically large bite of an unwieldy sandwich. The raucous kids heading in a line toward the Folkesmuseum, proving that children all over the world are pretty much the same. I look back and see that Oslo is an amazing place, one I wish I had better appreciated when I was there.

My heart, thoughts, and prayers are with the people of Norway. May you find peace and comfort in this terrible time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Adventures in the North! Chapter 2: Hello, Helsinki!

I'd had two destinations in mind when I was to reach Helsinki: Suomenlinna and the Akseli Gallen-Kallela museum. I was more interested in the latter as the artist is one of my favorites, in my opinion up there with Wyeth in skill and visual storytelling. Both destinations required a fair bit of travel and walking, especially the museum, situated as it was in Espoo with at least a 2 mile walk just from and to the bus stop there. As it was my first and final day in Helsinki, I had a choice. Suomenlinna, the Gallen-Kallela museum, or taking it easy in the city. Perhaps I could have run myself through the first two destinations out of sheer force of will, but after the third dizzy spell during Hotel Linna's sumptuous breakfast, taking it easy seemed essential. As it turns out, three days of travel, a heaping serving of stress, and very little sleep can really take it out of you. Fortunately and unfortunately, one day in Helsinki was enough to make me fall in love.

Well fed, we strolled down the street, and I was immediately intrigued by this:


I don't know what it signified, but it struck me as whimsical, these lines of bright shirts tied together and slung between elegant 19th century buildings. Soon enough, we came upon a statue honoring the esteemed Elias Lonnrot, collector of the tales which make up the Kalevala.

Not fifteen minutes into our walk from the hotel, and I was already charmed by the city. From what I had read about Helsinki and her residents, I was expecting a cool, reserved place in which people rarely made eye contact and kept to themselves. Helsinki is cool, but not pretentious. There's an energy here like in all of the great cities of world- but Helsinki has a personality all her own: artistic, eccentric, and welcoming all at once. I'd dressed in one of my usual crazy-colored outfits complete with a flower in my hair (hey, if you're going to go all out, it may as well be in a foreign city), slightly worried that I would stick out. Not so. Everyone seemed to have their own individual style, thoughtfully chosen and, for the most part, flawlessly executed. Regardless of age or gender, an interesting hairstyle accompanied by a streak of wild color was the norm. It was wonderful. As for a reserved populace, smiles came easily here, and the people with whom I interacted were friendly and warm. Catherine mentioned that when she had been alone, whenever she checked her map a local would appear to offer help and directions.

After a visit to the excellent art museum (I did get to see some Gallen-Kallela paintings after all:) and a leisurely ramble, we retired to a cafe, where we enjoyed coffee, giant pastries, and the sight of an unfortunate fellow having his lunch swiped by a seagull (and this was in the middle of the city, mind!). Bellies full and brains caffinated, we moved on, stumbling across a small street festival in which there was a dancing contest, a little market of handmade goods, and a guy rapping Biggie Smalls in Finnish. Hipster guys off to the side were painting graffiti on large canvases for an appreciative audience. Smiling tattooed punk families pushed babies in strollers. I was officially smitten.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel where I decided to avail myself of its traditional sauna. There I encountered a charming Scottish mother and daughter duo, and chatted with them while steaming away the tension in my muscles. I'd mentioned my troubles in Iceland, and my regret that I hadn't been able to visit the hot springs there. The daughter laughed and mentioned that she had been, and that if I would go there that I should be sure to wear a bathing suit and bring my own soap ("Ah went with mah school one year. It's natural, so yeh know they can' clean it. I grabbed the soap- fulla pubes!" This line also proved that a Scottish accent makes anything sound awesome.). Normally I would be averse to being social in such a place, but gabbing with these funny ladies turned out to be just what I had needed.

I returned to my room refreshed and light of spirit, and found that my appetite, after two days of airport snacks, had returned with a vengeance. It was well into the evening at that point, and my companion very sensibly wished to turn in. However, since I only had a few more hours to spend in this city, I wanted to get as much out of the evening as I could. Led by my roaring stomach, I ventured forth and came across Bar Loose, where I enjoyed the BEST VEGGIE BURGER EVER. Seriously. As a stylishly mod DJ spun 60's tunes, I entrenched myself at a table, took out my sketchpad, and drew for hours. When I heeded the call of nature, I found that the bathroom stall was covered in silly sketches and Spongebob Squarepants quotes. I added a little scribble of my own to the graffiti, and the thought that a little bit of me still resides in a cool club in Helsinki brings me much joy. At around 1 am, I made my way back to the hotel on quiet streets feeling perfectly safe in a way that is rare to find in large cities. Heavy metal dudes nodded genially as I passed. Arriving back at our hotel room, I prepared for bed, already sorely missing Helsinki.

I need to go back someday.

In front of the amazing Hotel Linna, not ready to leave

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Muted and Vibrant

Well, I'd had half of my second travel journal entry written, but blogger ate it. So instead, I present two paintings I've done since I've been back. I'm not sure what was going on in my head while I was painting them, aside from wanting to finish the second one after having started it almost a year ago. Both are going to be submitted to the 40 Art exhibition in Doylestown, in which all of the paintings available are 5"x7" and $40, no matter the artist or the medium.

This painting is brought to you by watercolors, coffee, and Neil Gaiman's turntable room (seriously, is addictive).

I'm glad I finally finished this girl. Such a big difference in styles in just a year. I started this one not long after we moved into our house, and am happy enough with it, but much prefer the other painting.

Okay, off to attempt to write the next travel entry!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Adventures in the North! Chapter 1: Limbo

In the days building up to my Nordic journey, I was gripped by all sorts of emotions: excitement, terror...okay, excitement and terror were pretty much it. Yet when I stepped onto the bus which would carry me to JFK airport, a calm passed over me. I was alone. I had no other responsibility other than getting myself on the plane. I could read without interruption. I could listen to music without worrying that mischief may be occurring. I cataloged each shift and bounce of the bus, ready to reference them should any turbulence hit on the plane. By the time I reached the airport, I was in an excellent mindset for the flight. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed for two hours. Refusing to despair, I decide to avail myself of the terminal's nifty amenities, namely a pedicure at the massage parlor (hello, decadence!). Then it's delayed another two hours due to weather in the area. The attendants reassure me that despite the delay and the worker's strike going on, I will catch my transfer flight to Helsinki. Crappy coffee, overpriced muffins, and after a while we are finally loaded onto the plane. I found myself wedged between a sweet Canadian girl and a quiet Finn.

We arrive at Keflavik, all of us confused and searching for answers. The place is a ghost town. After abandoning one empty service desk, we find another, and I find from the friendly attendant that I'm out of luck, stuck in Iceland. He hands me a small pack of vouchers, supposedly guaranteed to take care of my transportation, accommodation for the night, and meals. I make my way out, finding a surly taxi driver to convey me to the hotel. Upon arrival, the driver swipes all of my vouchers, claiming I won't need them. I protest, but he insists upon keeping them. Panicking and too exhausted to put up a fight, I tell him I will pay the fare as long as he returns the vouchers. He finally accedes. Good thing too, as I did need the damn things. Welcome to Iceland!

Always look on the bright side of life, as they say. I was a bit dispirited that I was losing one of my precious Helsinki days (as I only had 3), but decided to check out the little town of Keflavik.

Not too much going on here. There was a 24-hour convenience store nearby, so I got a kick out of checking out the local candy. Had I been less wiped out and more adventurous, I would have tried to find a way to Reykjavik, but after all, I had an early flight to catch. Heh...yeah.

Sleep was not forthcoming. There was a sense of unreality there. The sun did not set, rather faded to a muted glow over the horizon, then brought a brilliant dawn at 3 a.m. I gave up trying to rest and instead admired the view from my hotel room.

At 5 a.m. I went to catch the shuttle, only to be informed by the exquisitely pretty concierge that my flight was pushed back 2 hours. Ergh. I enjoyed a fantastic breakfast, the first of many (if there's one thing the Nordic countries do well, it's breakfast), then returned to my room to watch some tacky British television (seriously- a Cops knock-off) and count down the minutes.

Go back down, catch the shuttle, arrive at the airport, check my luggage, and immediately after find that the flight has been pushed back another two hours. This, as Jayne Cobb would say, was beginning to damage my calm. I took a deep breath, got myself a coffee, and perused the swanky stores the airport had to offer. I buy a small, beautiful Moomin sketchbook and set to drawing. The two hours pass. Another two are tacked on. My second day in Helsinki is fast slipping away. I go to the service desk, where a pleasant and apologetic fellow informs me that the flight has been delayed due to technical issues, that no matter what is announced it was unlikely that I would be leaving before 4 p.m., and that any other transfers wouldn't get me there until the next day anyway. Jittery, exhausted, queasy, and clutching a meal voucher, I began to plod back to the dining area. I was feeling pretty hopeless then. The vacation I had planned for well over a year was falling apart before my eyes, everyone at home was asleep, and I was feeling utterly alone. Normally, I like being alone, but the absence of my loved ones, especially seeing the families bustling about around me, was hitting me pretty hard. The longing to be back with Pete and Maeve was almost physically painful. Despair was beginning to take hold, and then... my cell phone went off. Poor Ben was subjected to my pathetic blubbering, and quickly dragged me out of my gloom and brought me back to the realm of (relative) sanity. I will always be grateful for that- thanks, Ben. With renewed spirits, I returned to the food court, drew a bit more, waited until it was decent to call Pete and Maeve on Skype, and caught them up on my progress, or lack thereof. Maeve declared that she was "super angry" for me, and squinched up her little angry bird face. I missed her even more then, and fought the urge to hug the first little kid to come within reach. Then, I just passed the time. Ate some decent yogurt, then some terrible, limp fries. Tried to nap. Eventually, eternity ended, and we boarded the plane. The view leaving Iceland was breathtakingly beautiful, and you may be able to make out a dragon cloud in that second picture.

We landed at 1 a.m. in Helsinki. Via cell phone, I was immediately greeted by Pete, who had been remotely tracking my progress (Did I mention that I love my support network? Because I do. A lot.). Caught a taxi into town, which was still lively and bright and full of people. Upon arriving at the hotel, I immediately smashed my big toe into a metal peg in front of the door. I didn't care. I was finally in Finland, and my adventure had begun in earnest.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Three Views, or The Beauty of Photoshop

I like this picture...sort of. The face is a bit too cartoonish for my liking, but I find the disjointedness kind of appealing. It's probably because I worked on it maybe 15-20 minutes at a time over the past two months, using some spare moments when my brain wasn't too fried from stress or sleepiness. I did actually get a picture done! But I couldn't stop playing with it.

So far, this one has edged out the other two slightly. It seems the most finished. And yet...

Different feel. Different mood. Yay layers! And then...

Kind of spooky. I like this one too.

Mainly I'm just happy I got something done. Things are moving quickly now- in less than two weeks I'm off to Finland and Norway with Catherine Schaff-Stump on a mission of research, and I can't wait to see what inspiration this will bring.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Loading...Please Wait...

So, the past two months have been insane. The fella managed to put himself in the ER with a chest wall muscle tear, and Maeve has been given the all-clear to get the adenoids out. To top things off, my laptop dies, taking most of my stories with it (remember to back up your files, folks!), as does the dishwasher. Thus, if my life had loading screens, they would look something like this (with apologies to the brilliant Nick Thornborrow):

Loading...Doctor's Office...



So, brain fried and body exhausted, where do I turn at the end of the day?

Hello, dear.

Ah, Dragon Age 2. So addictive. While I did find myself missing Alistair and the gang from Origins, the sequel is holding up very well. Instead of traveling all over a country, the action is restricted to the city of Kirkwall and its environs. The storyline, while much smaller-seeming in scope than in Origins, feels much more intimate than the first time around. I could see the changes my decisions made in the city, and I felt more invested in the future of Kirkwall. I'm on my second playthrough (as a mage, of course), this time distancing myself from Anders and making time with dreamy tortured soul Fenris instead (take that, you manipulative jerk). The moral grey areas I liked so much in Origins are still here, though there are a few aspects I miss. You can only talk to your companions at their homes, which, honestly, is kind of rude. They'll chat with each other behind your back, but if you talk to them? "We should keep moving." Not cool, man. Seriously, though, I liked the camaraderie from the first one, when you could chat with your companions whenever you felt like it (or at least, when you were at camp). It made the relationships more believable, as opposed to this one- despite the implication that you've been hanging out for three years, when someone declares their undying love, it feels like it's coming out of nowhere. The quests themselves are interesting, but the dungeons...same template, over and over. Also, instead of changing the environments, it's wave after wave of enemies. Ah well. Still, the game is fun, the characters multi-dimensional and interesting, the story engrossing, and now I'm feverishly waiting for the next installment.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Can Never Get the Season Right

I think it may be impossible for me to paint a picture inspired by the current season. Spring is finally making an appearance around here. The robins are singing, the geese are squabbling, little crocuses are peeking out of the ground, and the two watercolor attempts to capture this lovely season so far recall a post-apocalyptic dystopia and a bloodbath. However, if there's one thing I've learned so far, when it comes to painting a picture, don't fight where it takes you- just go with it.

I had always had the impression that true artists plan out their pictures far in advance, with weeks of sketches, detailed layouts, and general meticulous preparation. And if it gets tedious, they would just power through it. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that this is not necessarily the case. At the panel at Mythic Faire, I'd asked the artists what they do when a painting isn't going their way, and if they stick with the original plan or just go with where the painting takes them. Each one of them more or less replied that if a picture becomes a grind, they abandon it and move on, and that they tend to just follow where the picture takes them rather than sticking to a hard and fast plan. This gives me a great deal of hope. For the life of me, I can't follow a set path in a picture no matter how hard I try, and it was very comforting to know that world-class artists like Daniel Merriam, Renae Taylor and Don Maitz (and by Mr. Maitz's description, his wife Janny Wurts as well) run into similar issues.

A few years ago, during a book signing I asked Brian Froud for the best advice he could give to an artist, and he said not to get in the way of the art, to let it take you where it pleased. I love this. For the longest time I berated myself for never being able to stick to a plan, starting off at point A and veering away from point B and ending up somewhere around Q. Now I've finally given in and realized that I just don't function that way.

So, as springtime is blooming all over the damn place, I've made another autumn picture. And it's one of my favorites so far.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

In Which Cat and Pete Go out to Play

A few weeks ago, the fella and I attended Mythic Faire, a sort of faerie/steampunk/renaissance sort of convention. After hitting Faeriecon for one night last year and having a great time (and wishing we'd been able to stick around for the entire weekend), we really wanted to experience the sort of camaraderie that only comes with good music, alcohol, and fantastical costumes. Also, any excuse to wear a corset:) We ordered tickets months in advance and kept our fingers and toes crossed that the girl wouldn't come down with anything that week (and she did manage to catch pink eye in the beginning of the week, but we growled it into submission. The eye drops helped a little.). Thus, the girl got a fun weekend with her grandparents, and the man and I got two whole evenings to ourselves! It was a glorious thing.

Hi, my name is Catrina. I am 34 years old and still enjoy playing dress-up.

The first night was more of a steampunk theme. We attended the Time Traveler's Ball, catching the tail end of the lovely SJ Tucker's set and the awesomeness that is Abney Park. How did we not get into them before now? Ever since I've been humming airship shanties. The band themselves were friendly and seemed to genuinely enjoy interacting with fans (also, Jody told me she liked my fascinator:). I'd see them again in a second. Pete was fired up by the proceedings- he's very much into the steampunk ideology, and we're mulling over ideas for a future costume (he was thinking of something the late-16th century admiral Yi Soon Shin would wear if he were a futuristic airship captain). Me? I like the aesthetic, but it's not my favorite genre. We ended the evening chatting with a pleasant fellow over a few drinks.

The next night was the Kelticworlds Masquerade. We missed the opening act, but caught Delhi 2 Dublin. Great energy. They had the crowd jumping. I loved the costumes for this night, and really wish I'd taken pictures. At the very least, I wish we'd gotten pictures of ourselves. Ah well.

Panels! Pete got a great deal out of the ones he attended (the Steampunk Panel and Designing a Renaissance Fair with Don Carson), and I'd thoroughly enjoyed the Drawing Down the Moon art panel with Daniel Merriam, Renae Taylor, Don Maitz, and moderated by Robert Gould. All of the artists were very down to earth and helpful, and the discussion went a long way toward reassuring me that my painting methods were not completely insane. I'd had the opportunity to speak with Daniel Merriam at length after the panel, whose work happens to be a personal favorite. He was very personable and accommodating, elaborating on a question I had asked during the discussion. He noticed my sketchbook and asked about my style and while I really wanted to ask for a critique...I wimped out. Pete was even sitting nearby with his laptop and could have shown him my website, which we'd redone in time for the convention. I was just overwhelmed by self-consciousness, which was silly, as he was genuinely nice. Yes, I am kicking myself now.

Now, there were two big draws to Mythic Faire for me, outside of the kidless weekend with the man and the opportunity to wear a corset: getting inspiration for sketches and connecting with other artists. The former was slightly more successful. I'd had the idea that I would carry around my tarot cards and a sketch book, exchanging a reading for a sitting. This worked once- I attracted the attention of a lovely lady named Hannah(?). Unfortunately the sketch does her no justice, as I'd enjoyed a drink or two by then;)

She was much prettier than this.

For the other readings, I received a guitar pick and a button bearing the legend "Kiss me, I'm Irish." I'd chucked the sketchbook at that point, as it was a pain to lug around the entire night. The rest are just drabbles.

The last one I'm using in a new picture, so you'll see her again.

The high point out of the whole thing was catching up with our brilliant friend Ben, whom we hadn't seen in a million years. We forced him to watch Korean historical drama, because that's how we roll. Also, we have his sketches:

The burly guy cracks me up, as does the grouchy wizard heading off the paper.

So we had a great time. If we can swing it, we'll try to make it to Faeriecon, and maybe I'll actually get up the courage to exchange business cards with people and draw a bit more.

Friday, April 1, 2011

In Which Cat Attempts to Paint Cheerful Scenes, and Fails Miserably

Well, this has been a month of exciting goings-on, most of which Maeve-related. The good: going to Mythic Faire, and having Pete's parents come to visit. The bad: the wee one's various ailments, starting off the month with pink eye and possibly strep, and ending it with a double ear infection and nasty cough. The beastie ended up missing preschool for the vast majority of the month. Fortunately, these illnesses have not been too severe, and Maeve has, for the most part, kept her energy levels and general goofiness. Which is good! However, after a month...

This is your brain.

This is your brain on Maeve.

Thus, not much artwork was done this month. The brain cells had been fried to the point that, by the end of the day, all I could really muster was playing Dragon Age 2. However, I did get a few sketches at Mythic Faire and found the time to paint two rather disturbing abstracts.

Yeah...was trying for a lighthearted spring vibe, failed spectacularly. Perhaps if spring were bursting out all over right before the Morlocks crawl out of their caves to hunt. Not complete loss though, as I'm sure I can use those colors and textures in a digital piece.

And that's not even the creepy one...

So, like most people out there, I watched the news reporting the tragedies in Japan and wanted to help. I know! I thought to myself, I'll do a cherry blossom-themed painting, put it up for auction and donate all of the proceeds to charity! Spring, renewal, and rebirth seemed like an excellent theme, and I decided to paint an abstract sakura tree. It would be light and cheerful and full of pink-swirly goodness! didn't quite turn out that way.

That's not a tree, it's a crime scene.

On one hand, I like the patterns, and the colors are wonderfully vibrant. On the other, it's kind of terrifying. Pete looked askance at it and remarked that it looked like afterbirth. I can't disagree. Thus, I decided to donate the older painting, which is pleasant and features a far less interpretive version of cherry blossoms (and she's still available!). Again, I'm sure I can find use for it in a digital painting somehow, so it's still worthwhile. Even if it is spooky as hell.

Next up: Mythic Faire!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sakura- Charity Art for Japan

This painting of a lovely lady with cherry blossoms is for sale, and all of the proceeds will go to relief for Japan. Click the link for more details.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


...Is sometimes like being underwater.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


The biggest watercolor abstract I've done so far! It's 16" x 22". I like how the colors turned out.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lady of the Sea for sale!

I have a 24" x 48" giclee on canvas print of Lady of the Sea for sale on eBay.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Been working on this one for a while little by little, and feel like I can finally declare it finished! This winter is driving me crazy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Painting of 2011!

This is Jade. I really like how this one turned out:)