Enter Lady Spring

I was laying in bed last week just beginning to wake up, when I had an image come into my head. It was the image of a Marie-Antoinette-type woman whose big bouffant hair became clouds. The more I thought about her, the more she formed in my mind until I finally had to go into the studio and sketch her out (that doesn't happen very often for me). Since then, I've been working on her when I can. Despite missing the first day of spring, I finally completed her today.

The composition is a symbolic representation of the entrance of spring and reads from left to right with the beginning of spring (March) being on the left progressing through to the end of spring (May and June) on the right. I wanted to represent how spring comes in chilly and ends with beautiful blue skies. I did this in two ways. First, I made her dress a lighter grey on the left-hand side with the dress becoming a deeper blue as the eye moves right. Second, the movement in the background on the left represents the wind and bluster of spring's beginnings and then the calm tranquil background on the right represents what late spring is like.

I adorned Lady Spring with blossoms from the spring garden. The trim on her dress is made up of hundreds of almond blossoms (the first flower of spring). The almond blossom petals are carried on the winds of March which are represented by the fan she carries. Lady Spring also has crocus, periwinkle, jonquils, lilacs, daffodils, roses, and tulips adorning her gown.

Lady Spring is followed by her puffy grey tabby as a nod to the old adage "March comes in like a lamb, and goes out like a lion". Kitty has her own little adornments of spring blossoms around the base of her tail--jonquils and almond blossoms.

I did the entire composition digitally in Photoshop from beginning to end (even the first sketching that I usually do in pencil on paper). I used a lot of new techniques I haven't used before too. Usually when I do that, I'm not very happy with the result because the methods are so new, but this time the art came out just like I was seeing it in my head. That's a sign to me that I'm making creative progress.

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Reminiscing as I walk through the garden between rainstorms

A walk through the garden between rainstorms
Morro blood orange blossom

Our little Bay Area micro-climate just got soaked with 2.65 inches of rain yesterday. For those not living here that may not seem like a lot, but for us in the Bay Area it's a big deal since it always seems like we're on the verge of a drought. Hubby's rain gauge was quite full this morning and I was pleased.

A walk through the garden between rainstorms
Strawberries in bloom

The rain started early yesterday morning and continued into the evening as Hubby and I huddled under a large golf umbrella to get to the car on our way out to dinner. As he deposited me in the passenger seat and ran around to his side of the car, I remembered that on the same date 14 years ago it was pouring rain. I wore white and the same golf umbrella was used to shield me from the rain as I walked next to my groom to have our first photos taken as a married couple among the spring blooms in the gardens of the Oakland California Temple where we had just been married. The rain stopped for a brief 40 minutes or so, giving us enough time to take photos and then it started pouring rain again.

A walk through the garden between rainstorms

I guess depending on the culture, rain on one's wedding day can be a good thing or a bad thing. We've found our marriage to be a very rewarding and happy union so in our case the rain wasn't a bad thing. As it says in an Irish wedding blessing "Happy is the bride that rain falls upon." That was definitely true in our case.

A walk through the garden between rainstorms

As I walked in our gardens today, I found little vignettes that reminded me of the gardens we found when we honeymooned in Victoria, British Columbia. Our lilacs along the southern fence have blooms that are like little cups filled with rain water. Very few things can rival the smell of rainwater-filled lilacs except maybe hyacinths after a rain shower (which we discovered at Butchart Gardens on our honeymoon).

A walk through the garden between rainstorms
Bay laurel blossoms
(this is where bay leaves come from)

Interestingly, while it continued to rain here in the Bay Area for the 10 days we were gone on our honeymoon, it was beautifully sunny in Victoria. I think it's usually the opposite with Victoria getting the rain while we stay dry. Funny, isn't it?

A walk through the garden between rainstorms
Native Pacific coast iris

When the weather forecasters here in the Bay Area begin to marvel at why we're getting so much rain in March, I remember that it really isn't that odd after all. As the late March rainstorms wash over us I remember that it seems to happen every other year or so (like the year we were married). But somehow people forget.

A walk through the garden between rainstorms
Ornamental kale in bloom

I can see how people forget though. The older I get the more one year seems to meld into another. Was it really 14 years ago that we started our lives together? It often seems like it was just yesterday.

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At least I'm not allergic to daffodils


My small gardens surrounding my house have few allergens in them because I had to plant with my allergy-ridden Hubby in mind. Now it seems my garden planning is a blessing for me too. This spring my allergies have been worse than they ever have been. Unlike most people's allergies, mine don't cause runny eyes. Instead I get sneezy and my sinuses feel like they've doubled in size. I don't get a migraine. Instead I have a dull ache and loads of pressure throughout my head and face. I feel like I'm walking around in a fog all the time. I'm taking two allergy meds (generic allegra and claritin) and that's the only thing that's making a dent.

To top it off, Hubby tells me that I've been making goose sounds while I'm sleeping. I guess I've been honking away every night while peddling my feet under the covers as fast as a goose paddles in the water. My nocturnal goose impressions are not only waking Hubby up but leaving me completely fatigued when I wake up as if I haven't slept at all.

I feel like a walking zombie... or should I say a waddling zombie goose?

The Bay Area is notorious for causing bad spring allergies. When I was growing up, we knew someone with such severe spring allergies that this person would leave and go to their condo in Hawai'i for the weeks the allergen counts were the worst. Apparently, the plants that grow in Hawai'i don't have the same pollens as the plants on the mainland.

Today, I'm sitting here fantasizing how it would be to jet off to Hawai'i and feel awake again for the first time in weeks. What would it be like to be free from the responsibility of caring for aging cats, a garden that's trying to turn into a jungle, and a house that constantly needs vacuuming?

How would that be?


This silly goose will never know.

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Once there was only Constance...

Last week, I had the choice opportunity to do something I love to do... customize an existing illustration for a specific need.

It started with an email from Norien of the Trenton Chapter of The Girl Friends Inc. She had found my "Play it again" design (above) online and wondered if I would consider doing a version with a woman of color for invitations to an upcoming event that the design was perfect for other than the fact that the singer (Constance is her name) is a redhead with a very fair skin tone.

My answer was, "You bet!"

It was such a privilege to be creating something for one of the 45 chapters of The Girl Friends, Inc.--the oldest social/civil organization of African-American women in the United States founded during the Harlem Renaissance in 1927 by eleven young women based on friendship and community.

Norien told me what the event's theme colors would be, and based on that a new version of "Play it again" was born showcasing a new singer I named Lena (below) after one of my personal icons, Lena Horne.

I then modified Lena's layout to create a custom suite of party accoutrements including everything from a design to be printed on CD's that would be handed out to those in attendance to a version of Lena on cupcake box tags.

Unbeknownst to Norien, I had been looking for excuse to set aside some time to do various versions of Constance. After I completed Lena, I took advantage of the head of steam I had and created girlfriends for Constance and Lena.

Astrud (below) is inspired by one of my all-time favorite singers, Astrud Gilberto. Known for her amazing Brazilian samba and bossa nova her most famous recording is "The Girl From Ipanema" from 1964.

And Doris (below) is inspired by a young Doris Day when she was a big band singer for Les Brown before she ever appeared on the big screen. Did you know that Doris was destined to become a dancer until, while a young teen, a car she was riding in was hit by a train? The accident severely crushed her right leg. During recuperation she taught herself to sing while listening to Ella Fitzgerald on the radio.

I love the quartet of girlfriends. And Constance isn't lonely anymore.

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I suppose we all have our rebellious streaks... here are a few of mine

First tulip

In general, I have a very "straight arrow" personality. My whole life I've done things by the book, abided the law and I don't even try to sneak a peek at Christmas presents (didn't even try when I was a kid).

But in the garden, it seems I have a rebellious streak.

I know that tulips aren't supposed to do well here and if you do plant them in the garden they'll only bloom one year and then be gone the next. I planted them anyway about 5 years ago. And I left the bulbs in the ground after they were done blooming. Inevitably, every year since at least one or more come back. I'm always surprised when the first one blooms, and it thrills me that I beat the odds again another year. Maybe that's really the thrill of living on the edge that I'm feeling.

Pond side view

I know oxalis (commonly known as shamrocks) are essentially weeds. And I know that letting anything grow around the base of a citrus tree isn't good for the tree because it needs all the nitrogen it can get. But as March draws near I can't help but let the glorious green oxalis flourish in the various beds around the garden until it blooms in splashes of yellow buttercup blossoms. It puts me in a mood to go leprechaun hunting like we did when I was young, and until St. Patrick's Day comes and go I feel compelled to let the weeds stay. Aren't Scots-Irish known for being rebellious by nature?

Spring flowers at the base of the olive tree

I also know that photographing in direct sunlight is against the rules of photography because of the severe shadows that bright light casts. One should either photograph on an overcast day, photograph in the early morning (not going to happen with this night owl), or later in the day as the sun casts a golden glow before it sets. But I often throw that rule out the window when I see a beautifully backlit tulip just begging to be photographed. I can't help it.

I'm such a rebel.
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