An Artist’s Eyes Never Rest!



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“All artists are a little bit crazy!”   “Artists are different.”

Over the years, I’ve chuckled when someone looked at  my whimsical works and noted the difference in our personalities.

Yes, artists are programmed differently, and most of us rejoice that every waking moment is a gift!  Whether soaking in a sun-drenched street scene or admiring an alignment of  overhead pelicans or noting subtle color differences in a landscape, an artist’s eyes never rest!

When living in Costa Rica, I lived immersed in nature and marveled at the beauty that surrounded me.  I was also intrigued that most of the handmade products I bought were made in Ecuador.  Hammocks, pottery, linens, masks – Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador.   From my first exploratory visit,  Ecuador stole my heart!  I now divide my time between Ecuador and Central America, and I look forward to exploring more of South America.

Although you cannot step inside my studio from your vantage point, this site will give you a glimpse into the life of the zeebra.  Hopefully you’ll emerge with a lighter heart!

Thanks for stopping by!  Z

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles…




Hi from Mississippi!

Coming up for a fast gulp of cyber air, I am thrilled to upload photos in less than a minute instead of several hours!

The flights from Guayaquil Ecuador to Quito, and from Quito to Houston went well; after hearing that grand, “Welcome back,’ greeting at immigration, I boarded a flight to New Orleans.  Landing there 12 hours after leaving Guayaquil, I received a second ‘Welcome Back’ greeting from a friend, Danny Bond, who drove from Gulfport for a fast visit before I made the last leg of my journey.

After checking in at the Amtrak station and confirming a seat on the 1:30 ‘City of New Orleans,’ we visited several salvage shops crammed with antiques and relics from old houses. Hundreds of old wooden doors and wavy-glassed windows, claw footed tubs and wooden mantles triggered creative ideas, and I asked Danny if my family had paid him to take me to those places to tempt me to move back!

The $50.00 six-hour Amtrak journey from New Olreans to Greenwood Mississippi was surely the best travel value for the year!    There is so much to share, but for now, enjoy the views from the City of New Orleans! Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Deliberate Practice


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P9030027 timeout for art la division watercoolor circles y spirals

“Success has to do with deliberate practice. Practice must be focused, determined, and in an environment where there’s feedback.” (Malcolm Gladwell)

Last week’s drawing/painting class went well. The ladies no longer chatter as much as they did in the first few lessons! As we were painting in silence, every so often someone would ask, “How did you mix that color?”  

Most of the time I switched to a blank section of my paper and demonstrated the process; they watched as I mixed the colors, applied water to the paper and floated the pigment into a defined area.

The exercise began as a fun drawing, but the students learned that even simple designs demand an attentive eye and a steady hand!

Ready? Continue reading

“Welcome Back”

“Welcome back,” a straight-faced immigration officer often says when he returns my just-stamped passport.

Those two unexpected words always touch my heart, and I reply with a heartfelt, ‘Thank you’ and legally enter the United States of America.

Are the agents required to say that to all returning citizens, or am I just lucky to be greeted with those words?

Quito International Airport (Arrivals) - Hey, I think I know those people!

Quito International Airport (Arrivals) – Hey, I think I know those people! Hank and Marie Groff (pictured above) illustrate their mastery of positive airport experiences.

After placing my passport back in its proper place and double checking the boarding pass gate details for my connecting flight, I proceed to baggage claim – if needed – and then follow the maze of signs.

While preoccupied with flight arrivals and departures, one rarely has time to notice the other travelers and workers in the airport setting. Many times when I step on that ‘this will get you there a bit faster’ moving-floor option, I always look at my fellow travelers. Few people are smiling. When eye contact is made, I quickly smile or grin before they have a chance to look away, as if one might be arrested if caught interacting with a stranger!

There are other reasons to stay serious while navigating airports; those little bullet trams demand intense focus – to confirm you’re getting on the right one as a computerized voice reminds you to stand away from the door. Most of the people seem catatonic, as if any personal interaction might cause them to fall from the tram or miss their flight.

Long long ago, a 4-H judge awarded me top prize in showmanship with my 'steer' after it pulled me around the arena.   He quietly said, "Honey, don't you EVER lose that smile."

Long long ago, a 4-H judge awarded me top prize in showmanship after my ‘runaway steer’ pulled me around the arena. The judge quietly said, “Honey, don’t you EVER lose that smile.”

Realizing that I am also caught up in the hamster cage, I release that clenched-jaw tension and smile. I smile to remind myself that the world will not stop if I miss my flight. I then try to pass that smile to others and remind them to savor the moment. To watch someone’s tightened expression suddenly transform into a light-hearted smile touches my heart. There are times when a tired irritable toddler refuses to stop crying. When possible, I look into his/her eyes and ask, ‘Hey! What’s wrong? I’ll bet you are tired. Or hungry.’   That almost always halts the crying, and the child adjusts to the unexpected encounter (distraction!) with the stranger.

Surely these children were obediently sitting with orders not to move!  They did not want to smile either!

Surely these children were obediently sitting with orders not to move! They did not want to smile either!

If English is not their primary language, I then start chattering in English, and the child looks at me as if I am the star attraction of the circus! I talk for about a minute, then tell the child, ‘Goodbye!’ and go on my way. Almost always, the tears and heavy heart are forgotten, and the airwaves remain blissfully peaceful as the child and baffled parents wonder, ‘Who was that grinning woman?”

Some days my inner smile expands so much that I wonder if my heart might burst, and during those times of self-inspection, I worry that I might cry. Why is it so easy for me to find joy in the everyday experience of Life, and why is it so difficult for others? I do not know why, but I am grateful that through the random luck of the genes that make me ‘Z’ – I have evolved into a very happy person.

2011-  Brookhaven Airport (Mississippi)   Surely the man didn't just say, "You can use it as the courtesy car"!!!

2011- Brookhaven Airport (Mississippi) Surely the man didn’t just say, “You can use it as the courtesy car”!!!

This next month I will be traveling back to the alluvial flatlands of my childhood – the Mississippi Delta and surrounding area.

Atypical of my usual WordPress writing style, I will be observing and recording my thoughts with pen and paper and will pause every so often to transcribe and share with you. A month is not a long time when the circle of my loved ones stretches from the Gulf Coast to Memphis, across the Mississippi River to Little Rock Arkansas and back down to Natchez. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Sometimes…Little by Little


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timeout P8060338 casa loca mosaics NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

“Little by little does the trick.” Aesop’s Fables – The Crow and the Pitcher

When traveling, I always yearn to stop when I see roadside stands.  Watching a skilled machete artist whack open a chilled coconut is a bonus for the one-dollar orb that holds nutrient-rich water.

P8210120 coconut afternoon

Sometimes I give a wistful look toward the pottery stands if I am traveling via bus.

rocafuerte pots P1550336

No matter what mode of travel, I ponder how much an item will weigh before I add it to my growing load of loot!  Pottery’s weight makes it hard to justify when using public transportation.  If I take that fateful first step into the pottery scene, a few new pieces will have a new home!

So many choices!

So many choices!

After getting those items home, I never regret the extra burden, although I have moments of self doubt when I’m in transit!

Ten dollars will buy a lot of pottery, but oh,  extra pottery will add a lot to my load!

Ten dollars will buy a lot of pottery, but oh, extra pottery will add a lot to my load!

Sometimes I wonder why road trips exhaust me, and then I ponder the items purchased (ahem – gallons of paint and varnish; quarts of special-colors of paint, plywood, items for the kitchen…) A day after the human burro unloads the parcels, hibernates and incubates a plan for the materials, she’s ready to proceed!  As stated with last week’s post, the difficult part is wading through that invasion of ideas and focusing on one.

Sometimes a dollop of unused acrylic paint prompts me into a ‘seek and find’ mission, and I walk through the house with paintbrush loaded with pigment! Too much black paint prompted the painting of the mask on the door! (Below)  It seemed a waste to wash that black paint down the drain – one learns to be frugal when good acrylic paints are not available in the area. Continue reading

The Mystery of Eyes


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The third eye icon, often associated with the pineal gland and the sixth chakra, dates back to early Egyptian times.  Long ago, the amulets represented protection, power and good health, and the designs were sometimes painted on ships for protection at sea.

Prompted by a desire to find creative ways to deter the neighborhood thief, I mischievously painted an all-seeing eye on the gate to Casa Loca.   (An amulet from the treasures of King Tut served as the model.)

From New Zealand, Gallivanta shared an article that supports the theory that the All-Watching Eye helps to prevent theft. ( Bike thefts slashed by 50% at University after scientists install a picture of a pair of EYES above the cycle racks) ` I am hopeful that the giant eye on the gate will have the same effect on the shrimp farm.

While the monochromatic art transformed the gate, a second, more-serious design evolved in the studio.


When one focuses on a particular subject, more images seem to pop up in unexpected places.  While showing students my museum/archaeology sketchbook, I viewed this old sketch (below) with wonder. I never realized how this tiny detail resembles the Egyptian-Eye Icon:

From Quito's Casa de la Cultura - Detail from Golden Mask -

From Quito’s Casa de la Cultura – Detail from Golden Mask -

From Quito's Casa de la Cultura

From Quito’s Casa de la Cultura

Compare the pencil sketch to the eye of the coconut head (below) which was painted about ten years ago. Continue reading

Morning…the Most Memorable Season of the Day…


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Sunrise over the shrimp ponds...

Sunrise over the shrimp ponds…

“Morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour…”   and for a minute some part of us “… awakens which slumbers the rest of the day and night…” – Thoreau

I left my house around 4 in the morning to walk to this spot to capture the awakening day... and an ample amount of photo moments awaited...

I left my house around 4 in the morning to walk to this spot to capture the awakening day… and an ample amount of photo moments awaited…

Matt at WordPress tossed a morsel of a prompt, and since I had just reviewed the images marked, ‘Dawn,” I quickly opened a “New Post” page.

Sometimes I work on artistic projects all night and am brought to a stopping point by the sounds of the awakening birds.  Viewing dawn on the river reminds me of how timeless this last bend of the river can be.

The anticipation of dawn beneath full-moon skies

The anticipation of dawn beneath full-moon skies

The moon sets over the river.

The moon sets over the river.

My most memorable dawn moments happen when I awaken around 4 and venture outside to witness the visual beauty to the start of the day.  My senses are usually heightened, and with a strong attachment to the surrounding landscape, I try to capture that beauty.

Join me on a cyber walk on one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, Playa San Miguel. We’ll start with photos from the awakening day photo from above: Continue reading

Timeout for Art: An Invasion of Ideas


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Hmmm, which task comes next?!

The problem isn’t coming up with ideas, it is how to contain the invasion. My ideas are like uninvited guests. They don’t knock on the door; they climb in through the windows like burglars who show up in the middle of the night and make a racket in the kitchen as they raid the fridge. I don’t sit and ponder which one I should deal with first. The one to be wrestled to the floor before all others is the one coming at me with the most vehemence. Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed — from Brain Pickings

Sundays at Casa Loca are deliciously serene.  The workers on the shrimp farms go to town or to the beach or family gatherings on their day of rest, and the pumping stations (supplying fresh water to the shrimp ponds) stay mute.   Aside from a random car or motorcycle passing on the road, the riverside’s background music comes from the whisperings of birds.

“Yikes! I’m growing feathers!”

The internet signal often works well enough to open emails in the early-morning hours, and most web pages show the text but drop the images.   Comments and emails that I write are often missing in action when I check later to see if they reached their destinations.   Brain Pickings, a once-a-week tonic written by Maria Popova,  arrives on the Day of Rest and delivers an insightful and comforting assortment of reading material that rivals the Sunday edition of one’s favorite newspaper.  Not seeing a Sunday newspaper for a fortnight of years, I look forward to the visual and intellectual tonic that Brain Pickings delivers to my remote location.

(Do I get a prize for breaking two hammers?)  Some of the hardwoods are as hard as concrete!

(Do I get a prize for breaking two hammers?) Some of the hardwoods are like concrete!

The above quote struck a strong chord as I peered into Herzog’s psyche.  He summarized and eloquently nailed how many artists approach their work.  It’s often difficult to explain the creative process to others.   There are times when one of my paintings is going really well, and after a break, I detour in a totally different direction with a new project!  I often create several small paintings while working on a more-challenging one.



Those small exercises in spontaneity are like little appetizers that sustain me and provide a little kick of energy to resume the larger work.   “The one to be wrestled to the floor before all others is the one coming at me with the most vehemence.”

Continue reading

I’ll Be Watching You


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This Watching Eye never sleeps...

This Watching Eye never sleeps…

Earlier in the year someone broke into the house and stole a few small items. Small, but they were items of comfort – like a pair of binoculars that I used on a daily basis.  Because he had stolen a hand saw I had carelessly left in the yard, I suspected  that the burglar was the fisherman who lives downriver…

Busted!  I chose to pretend not to notice until I pondered how to approach him...

Busted! I chose to pretend not to notice; I pondered the best way to approach him…  “He needs it more than I,”  I said to myself.

I also thought that I might find the saw later beneath some leaves or misplaced in the house or gardens.  At the time there was no fence around the house, and I should have been more careful about leaving the saw outside where I had been working.

P1890802 ooo jaimes home

When I pondered his basic life and lack of proper shelter, I reacted (after adjusting to the loss) with compassion instead of anger. I realized how lucky I am to have been born into a loving family, to have been raised with a loose rein, with the freedom to grow up with a proper education balanced with an immersion in nature. How might I have evolved if I had no proper roof over my head or a formal education and the best shoes I owned were a mismatched set of rubber boots?

P1480950 cangrejo canoa o

The canoe leaks but has character.

Instead of being angry, I decided to approach him through mischievous and creative ways. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Heroes in the Seaweed!


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"It came from Playamart..."

“It came from Playamart…”Would any of you like to guess the purpose of this piece of driftwood from the nearby beach?

“Suzanne takes you down to her place by the river…” (Leonard Cohen)

Jama Ecuador (Manabi Province)

When one of the Ecuador Expat tours visited Casa Loca, someone asked me, “Do you know Leonard Cohen’s song, Suzanne?”

P1700601 sarah dettman tour

“I do!” I smiled, though I didn’t say that it was often on my painting playlist…

She added, “I just met Suzanne.”

I smiled, reflected on some of the lines and peered at myself through her eyes.  She was probably correct!

Although I have many images of the newest ‘driftwood’ projects, I left the USB stick with those images at the house.  While using faster internet in town, I am pairing a few new ones with older ones from the archives.

Quite handy for a kitchen towel!

Quite handy for a kitchen towel!

Here are some older photos and a few lines from the song to illustrate her point:

…Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river…


Low tide – before the mangroves were removed…

You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her…

Continue reading


President Rafael Correa visited Jama - August 09, 2014

President Rafael Correa visited Jama – August 09, 2014

Jama Ecuador (Manabi Province)

Last Saturday when I was running a new water line to the kitchen sink, a friend stopped by with a message, “Lisa, President Correa will be speaking in Jama at ten o’clock this morning.”   Abandoning my task, I focused on getting to town in time to witness the event!

A neighbor was harvesting a shrimp pond, and I pondered the opportunity to photograph the birds.   Continuing my trek to town, the wood storks and President Correa's helicopter rewarded me!

A neighbor was harvesting a shrimp pond, and I pondered the opportunity to photograph the birds.As I continued my trek to town, the wood storks and President Correa’s helicopter rewarded me with a unique photo!

Five minutes later, the owner of the pond gave me a ride to town, and I took one grand total-immersion step into the crowd.

Click your heels together…

 Those red shoes might out steal the show from the President!

Those red shoes might steal the show from the President!

Step into the scene and join me in a people-watching session:

P8090124 correa jama boys on fence

P8090527 correa jama hat

P8090268 correa jama Continue reading

Gotta Wear Shades


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The past few weeks have offered so many impromptu photo ops, and most of the photos are self explanatory!

(Jama-El Matal-Manabi Ecuador) August 2014
Are you ready for a feeling-alright-unique scene here at latitude zero?  Climb aboard!  (Sun shades optional.)

While photographing the frigates against the setting sun, I turned to see the rising moon sneaking into the scene...

While photographing the frigates against the setting sun, I turned to see the rising moon sneaking into the scene…

Using an irrigation pipe for a rest for the camera, I waited for the frigates to circle overhead...

Using an irrigation pipe for a rest for the camera, I waited for the frigates to circle overhead…

Walking toward home, I scanned the skies for returning birds.  I found an ultra quiet one sneaking across the sky...

Walking toward home, I scanned the skies for returning birds. I found an ultra quiet one sneaking across the sky…

The next day my feathered friends  (wood storks) escorted President Rafael Correa to Jama! (Post in progress.)

The next day my feathered friends (wood storks) escorted President Rafael Correa to Jama! (Post in progress.)

P8090438 correa jama

Speaking of sun shades!  Wow, those shoes were bright! Now back to the story...

Speaking of sun shades!  Those shoes were bright!  Now back to the story…

In between numerous distractions, I have been painting mosaics on pottery.  (Timeout post will be a little bit tardy!)

In between numerous distractions, I have been painting mosaics on pottery. (Timeout post will be a little bit tardy!)

A few days later I wondered what the pelicans were doing at El Matal...

A few days later I wondered what the pelicans were doing at El Matal…

"Are you SURE you are ready for what we have planned for you?" asked Mr. Pelican...

“Are you SURE you are ready for what we have planned for you?” asked Mr. Pelican…

"Buckle your seatbelt and VAMOS a El Matal!"

“Buckle your seatbelt and VAMOS a El Matal!”

Ahem, well the past week has been in-cre-EE-ble, so I thought, “Maybe I should wear shades for this visit…”

In my haste to leave the house, I forgot to wear shades… Continue reading





Wow, amigos!

The previous post, Timeout for Art Start Small, gleaned a WordPress notice ´Congratulations on writing 500 total posts on Zeebra Designs & Destinations.´

Inward concentation and focus....

Inward concentation and focus….

Before logging off at the cybercafe, I checked the stats. In the history of those posts, there have been 107,225 views, 1,494 followers and 17,792 comments. With apologies, I am far behind on replying to your amazing comments. I will blame the burrito computer, may he rest in peace!

2013 Burrito repair ' external keyboard required...

2013 Burrito repair ‘ external keyboard required…

I would rather pick coffee cherries!

Put me out to pasture!  I would rather pick coffee cherries!

Without your approval, encouragement and support, I would never have reached those numbers. Thank you, thank you and thank you even more. Because of your support, my life is blessed!

Through the wonders of ´Schedule to Publish’ options, this will hopefully reach you on Friday!


TIMEOUT FOR ART: Starting Small


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In the distance, beyond that middle power line pole, is the little beach community of La Division...

In the distance, beyond that middle power line pole, is the little beach community of La Division…

“I’ll start with small things.”—Vincent van Gogh

Jama, Manabi, Ecuador 

Looking out the window and over the river and across the shrimp ponds, I often gaze toward the little pueblito of La Division. About a half hour’s walk from the riverhouse, La Division retains a refreshing authenticity that many coastal communities have lost.

View from the dining and art class area

View from the dining and art class area

With that authenticity comes the ‘manana’ attitude, and the 2 o’clock classes usually don’t begin until 3. Paying customers trump art class, and sometimes Nely prepares lunches, insists on serving me the family special, then scrubs her kitchen squeaky clean before switching to student mode. On sunny days I usually order a cold cervesa and sit back and absorb the tranquil vibe and practice the Ecuadorian lifestyle! Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Barter Is A Noble Thing

Two students, Nelly and Margarita, study leaves on their second day of drawing lessons.

Nelly and Margarita(right) and Rossi (left) study leaves on their second day of drawing lessons.

“If I had my life to live over again, I would elect to be a trader of goods rather than a student of science. I think barter is a noble thing.” – Albert Einstein

Last Wednesday and Thursday I walked to nearby La Division to give drawing lessons.   When asked what I would charge, I said, “One dollar per class, but you don’t have to pay with a dollar.  You can pay with eggs or plantains or lemons or yucca, etc.” Many people do not appreciate something that’s free – they don’t show up or they talk during the class, and there had to be some sort of exchange.   I supplied the pencils and drawing pads, and they could pay me however they’d like and whenever they’d like.


P7240277 la division class On the first day, I pointed out that a pencil and paper cost very little money, and the pencil could be a good friend to them. They could pull out the pencil and practice while waiting on the bus or an appointment.  They only needed the discipline to practice and they would improve each day.  If they wanted to paint well, they should first master drawing and shading. Continue reading

Who’s The Boss on this Shrimp Farm?


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Life on a Cameronera (Shrimp Farm)

Life on a Cameronera (Shrimp Farm)

Jama-Manabi-Ecuador  – July 2014

The shrimp ponds along Rio Jama are owned by a handful of families, and each one has a modest headquarters where pumps, feed and supplies are stored. Life is usually quiet on these cameroneras;  the pumps run when fresh ocean water ebbs upriver each day, and they are quiet when the river is low.

P7150817 quadrado shrimp harvest july 2014 Many times a modest living area is located on the second floor above the bodega. (My house is this type of design.)  Having someone watching over the ponds day and night helps protect against theft (yes- thieves sneak in at night and steal shrimp!).   The employee also turns the pumps on and keeps an ear tuned for signs of mechanical problems.  When the river water levels get low, the pumps are turned off.

P7100345 storks  CROPPED

Storks clean up the leftovers after a harvest!

The health of the ponds is closely monitored from the time the tiny larvae are delivered to a small nursery pond until the day of harvest.    Oxygen levels are important, and sunny conditions produce healthier ponds than cloudy ones.   The ponds are deep enough that herons and egrets are not tempted by the shrimp that stay near the bottom.  If the birds line the edges, it’s a sign that something’s wrong – perhaps the shrimp need more oxygen, and they’re coming to the surface.   Continue reading

Not-Quite Summer?


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Peeling Shrimp - La Division, Manabi, Ecuador

Peeling Shrimp -“I LOVE my job!’ –  La Division, Manabi, Ecuador

Summer – “The warmest season of the year, following spring and preceding autumn.” (Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary” 1984)

Krista at WordPress prompted us to share images of ‘Summer Lovin”, and she mentioned southern vs northern hemispheres.  I snickered and thought, ‘- Summer? What about those lucky ones who straddle the equator?!  We don’t really have a summer on this part of Ecuador’s coast!”

P7190099 sunset pelican

After enduring Central America’s oppressive Pacific heat for eight years, I remain enchanted by Ecuador’s more-forgiving climate.   Just south of the equator on the Pacific coast, the days and nights politely share 12-hour shifts; January escorts us into the rainy season (invierno), and the June solstice weans us into a dry-but-slightly-cooler verano, their version of summer.   The low temperatures might bottom out at 70, and the highs rarely hit 90, although the sun can bite very fast!  (This past week has been cool, and many people wore long sleeves in the daytime and jackets at night!) When the ocean breezes stop for a rest, and the temperatures rise,  the nearby ocean offers instant relief!

P7130424 little boys in w

My perch on the river is nestled between two rapidly-vanishing beaches;  La Division is northeast from the river’s mouth, and Playa El Matal is southwest. The ocean stayed on its best behavior during mid July’s full moon spring/king tides, although another critical high tide will soon arrive in August.

La Division Ecuador - Nelly took a rare break from her restaurant for Mother's Day 2013.

La Division Ecuador – Nelly took a rare break from her restaurant for Mother’s Day 2013.

La Boca - Rio Jama

La Boca – Rio Jama


playamart la boca

Once upon a time when the beach was much wider: “The Boca” with El Matal and Punta Ballena in the background. (Image from 2011)

"Where's the beach?" - A concerned visitor assesses the vanishing beach.

Playa El Matal – “Where’s the beach?” – A concerned visitor assesses the vanishing beach.

Great illustrations of ‘summer’ can be found at Playa El Matal. As the ocean crowds the fishermen’s boats onto the road, the locals remain unruffled and adapt without any displays of frustration.  Let’s go on a beach-inspection walk and search for a sour face! Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Runaway!


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To enter, please pull cord!

To enter, please pull cord!

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”  Thyla Harp

Taped on the ugliest wall of the riverhouse is a growing assortment of clippings, scribblings and quotes, and the above quote always makes me smile. Today’s post gives you a little peek into the gates at the riverhouse, where the internet crawls slower than today’s low tide! Continue reading

TIMEOUT FOR ART: Be Still, Seek and Find


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Pencil (Continued from earlier post)

Pencil (Continued from earlier post)

All that you need is deep within you waiting to unfold and reveal itself. All you have to do is be still and take time to seek for what is within and you will surely find it. ~Eileen Caddy

I am writing from La Division, where I hoped to get away from smoke that’s been wafting ‘downwind’ from some sort of burn pile. The smoke seems to have followed me here! I was also hoping for a stronger internet signal. I was not planning to have many distractions, but they are here as the old battery runs down while the upload functions and pages fail to load!
P7170001 ceibo pencil

Perdon for this hurried post!  The quote is quite ironic for a day when I was unable to be still in order to publish this post!    Two of four images loaded, and I am going to call that ‘a good day.’  The battery is now at critical —- some days it’s best to stay home and draw!


One Wave at a Time


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(retweeet)@Petchary @PanosCaribbean (ZeebraDesigns said: Beneath full moon will be at front line, feet in sand, staring mother ocean’s eyes (mouth?) one wave at a time. – 11 Jul)

Emma Lewis
@Petchary @ZeebraDesigns @PanosCaribbean “That sounds poetic, but sad… Will be thinking of you.”


With little room between the high-tide mark and the buildings, Playa El Matal’s front street is choked with boats, fishermen, tourists and locals.

El Matal, Manabi, Jama, Ecuador

Mother Ocean was quite calm last night, and the night weaned into daytime without threatening and dangerous waves.  I peered out at the waves about once an hour and was glad to see dawn arrive with a gentle awakening.

With palm trees flanking each side of my friends home, I remained all but incredulous when they told me that in 2010, they could step 54 paces from the end of their lot to the edge of the dry beach that angled to the ocean!   I looked at their old photos, and I now sit with jaw agape at how much has been devoured by the ocean. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: So Many Colors!


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Oops, the sun turned into a flower, and the flower turned into — what?— fireworks? Who cares? It was fun to paint!

“If you could paint your current mood onto a canvas, what would that painting look like? What would it depict?” Ben Huberman –  WordPress – The Daily Prompt Continue reading

Fighting the Good Fight


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P1140840 ocean waves

“What if it lines up like it did in the Trojan War … Athena versus Poseidon?”  

“I don’t know. But I just know that I’ll be fighting next to you.”


“Because you’re my friend, Seaweed Brain. Any more stupid questions?”  ― Rick Riordan- The Lightning Thief

Late afternoon - Feb 02, 2014 - El Matal Ecuador - Homeowner photo

Late afternoon – Feb 02, 2014 – El Matal Ecuador – Homeowner photo

screen shot from video

screen shot from video

Coco Beach Village/El Matal Ecuador

Coco Beach Village/El Matal Ecuador

The good fight is the one that we fight in the name of our dreams.  – Paulo Coelho (The Pilgrimage)

P1140725 rolling waves z

Imagine having a nightmare where a wall of water threatens to wash you, your friends, your home and your village away.  You see it approaching on the horizon.  You’re watching as if a voyeur and unable to awaken others who might be able to help.  You’re screaming, yet no one hears, as if they are deaf or your voice is muted.  There’s only a short amount of time, and a cluster of neighbors and several strangers leap into your nightmare and project a united front as the clock ticks backward.

Will this woman's home survive the high tides?

Will this woman’s home survive the high tides?

The monster’s first attack arrived in January, and a diet of sand and driftwood kept it quiet for another month.  Developing a taste for a more refined diet, it returned in February and nibbled at the foundations of homes while upending open-air boat shelters and pondering ways to devour the street on its next attack.

Continue reading

Full-Moon Vigil


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Will this street remain after Mother Nature's high tides recede after the full-moon weekend?

El Matal – Ecuador — What will remain after this weekend’s full-moon high tides?

Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.   –  Paulo Coelho

Tapping into her sensitive powers of observation about her surroundings, Linda of The Task at Hand often trusts her own predictions instead of the local weather forecasts.  When not penning poetic salt-of-the earth stories about her life, Linda’s specialty is varnishing boats.  An unexpected change in weather can ruin her meticulous work.     Enjoy her post about the subtle weather-forecasting hints here: SCHOOLED BY SUMMER 

High tides affect many areas - Bahia de Caraquez - February 2014

High tides affect many areas – Bahia de Caraquez- ECUADOR – February 2014

This past week Linda inquired about my friends at nearby Playa el Matal, where Mother Ocean chomped away the shoreline during the January and February (2014) spring tides.   Everyone at El Matal is preparing for the third battle against  tides that will barrel ashore beneath this weekend’s full moon.   We are hoping there will be no need for new posts titled like the one written in February:   It’s Devastating

Coco Beach Village/El Matal Ecuador

Coco Beach Village/El Matal Ecuador

Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon – Pre-dawn at Playa San Miguel Costa Rica

Each evening when I gaze up at the waxing moon, a heavy sense of foreboding washes over my spirit.  I think about the combination of high tides, storms at sea, the direction of winds, and how they affect the fierceness of the waves, especially when they reach the shore at high tide.  Like those who live near the ocean, I am aware of the seriousness of the tides that will arrive this  weekend.

This full moon brings an extra-high sea, and those who live at or near sea level will surely be participating in sea-watch vigils around the globe, including Panama’s Kuna Indians on the San Blas Islands. Continue reading

Staying Well


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P1690121 wine

A Toast to Good Health! (Can you see the sun through the stem of this glass?!)

Anyone who has hopped from doctor to doctor in search of a diagnosis and cure will agree that one needs to find out what triggered the symptoms.  The best treatment whacks at the root of the illness instead of throwing darts at possible reasons, masking the symptoms with temporary solutions and hoping to reclaim your wellness. If your body is retaining fluid, would you rather take a pill to flush your system or try to figure out what’s making you retain that fluid?

Paying attention to diet and the chemicals we put into our bodies might help pinpoint possible triggers.  Sometimes those triggers are obvious.

Check That Hot Sauce Label for MSG

Check That Hot Sauce Label for MSG

For over thirty years, I’ve dodged MSG (monosodium glutamate) which almost immediately makes my fingers and feet swell.  Sometimes if I unknowingly ingest a double dose, my heart starts beating faster, I break out in a sweat and feel weak.   If I consume an overload of MSG, my symptoms are similar to being drugged, and I cannot think well.  Once several days passed before I emerged from the fog of an accidental MSG “overdose.”

Figuring out my sensitivity to aspartame took longer, although losing one’s vision and then getting it back will get anyone’s attention!  Several of these MSG and Aspartame stories are here: G for GALLO, GARZA, GARROBO, GAFAS AND – GASP – GLUTAMOTO MONOSODICO.

MSG and Aspartame

Beware!  MSG and Aspartame

This past week during the Ecuador Expat Journey tour, I told this red-wine story to a new friend:

  “…About four years ago after experiencing MSG sensitivity two different times after drinking red wine, I conducted a random online search: “RED WINE, MSG.”  
…I was not expecting to find links to stories that linked red wine and MSG with a product called AuxiGro, but they were there staring me in the face!  Yes, AuxiGro contains “Glutamic acid” and was used on many food crops in the USA and throughout the world!  The product not only helped crops mature at the same time, but it also enhanced the sweetness of grapes!  
I was stunned…”

Continue reading

A Salute to the Red, White & Blue!


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Red Hibiscus and Quinoa "Quinouli"

Red Hibiscus and Quinoa “Quinouli”

"Red Capes" in progress;  Watercolor by Lisa Brunetti

“Red Capes” in progress; Watercolor by Lisa Brunetti

Red Coffee Cherries!

Red Coffee Cherries!


White scorpion's tail - Ecuador

White scorpion’s tail – Ecuador

White for Peace - Jama Ecuador

White for Peace – Jama Ecuador


WHITE EGRET – “Have a great day, wherever you are!”




Blue Swirl!

Blue Swirl!

P1940183 blue footed booby 2




Red, White and blue!

Red, White and Blue!

Check out Steve Schwartzman’s Portraits of Wildflowers post for another dose of patriotic colors! (For anone interested in technical details and trivia about the Spanish language, see his Spanish-English Word Connections.)

Sandia anyone?

Sandia anyone?

P1690891 sandia for sale jama watermelon red

Happy Fourth of July!


Timeout for Art: Pencil Practice!


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Go ahead; pick one up and have fun!

Go ahead; pick up a pencil and have fun!

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” Kurt Vonnegut

The ritual of sharpening pencils preps me with anticipation for drawing. Those of you who feel as if the talent fairy passed over you – stop long enough to sharpen a pencil and practice for half an hour per week, and most likely you will spend much more time in communication with your pencil and paper!  An extra benefit is blocking out distractions and getting in touch with your true self!

Lapiz - Pencil Punta- Point

Shading the background made the bamboo come forward (Lapiz – Pencil Punta- Point

Choose a forgiving subject and sketch the main areas, make very light notations for dark and medium shading, and be very careful around those light areas! Let the bare paper represent the lightest lights. For those of you who are celebrating holidays, try sketching an ear of corn or a wad of firecrackers, then shade the negative space that surrounds them! (Are firecrackers still allowed in the USA?)

P7030582 ceibo pencil

The absence of erasers (while drawing) disciplines me to be careful and to think ahead, and the drawing stays fresh. I also use a second sheet of paper to cover my work. If there’s no available sheet around, I’ll use a paper napkin or a thin board – anything to avoid smudges!   Students often spend as much time erasing as they do drawing; learning to sketch without the crutch of an eraser will reward you with drawings that are not overworked.

Someone requested a pencil drawing of a ceibo tree, so i'm having fun with a series of small drawings!

Someone requested a pencil drawing of a ceibo tree, so i’m having fun with a series of small drawings!

Pencil drawing allows you to stop at any time and resume later. Little by little, the sketch evolves into a stronger work of art. Trees are my favorite subject to sketch, and after working from life, I can complete the drawing days or weeks or months or even years later! Many times my preliminary sketch is filled with notations so that I remember where the lights, darks and middle values are located.

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Slaying Dragons – The Copyright Demon Strikes Again


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Images copyright - Lisa Brunetti

Mirror Border (left) and WHO’S SLAYING THE DRAGONS (right) Images copyright – Lisa Brunetti

Join me in being baffled at a story about YOUTUBE and copyrights.   How can Google strip away the intellectual property rights/ownership of instructional videos that were obviously and rightfully owned by Paul Taggart?

Visit Oil Pastels by Mary for the story:

In the above copyright/piracy post Mary notes that Paul, “…  has generously shared over 260 art tutorials via YouTube, where he earned YouTube Partner status…” 

Yet go to his Youtube site, and this is what one finds:

screen shot paul taggart

PaulTaggart YouTubeChannel

Take a cyber trip to Scotland and visit a delightful, kind and highly-talented artist who shares his story about this YOUTUBE nightmare HERE:

PAUL TAGGART (Paul shares his story via video.)

Continue reading

There’s No Place Like Home!


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Traveling last night and early this morning, I often noted the contrast between the pastoral beauty of Costa Rica’s rural areas I had left behind and the stark neutral mood inside the San Jose, Bogota and Guayaquil airports.  I noted many options during my travels that qualify for this week’s Photo Challenge for CONTRAST.

Taking advantage of fast internet in Guayaquil, -another contrast from the slow connections in the country!- here are a few images from early this morning!

While waiting on luggage, I took a few photos around one thirty this morning in the GYE baggage claim area! Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Sharing Talents and Helping Friends


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Hank and Marie, a dear couple that I nicknamed 'The Swans."

Hank and Marie, a dear couple that I nicknamed ‘The Swans.”

A talent is not a talent until it has been shared. If we are so blessed as to be an artist, shouldn’t we help someone just as someone helped us? (Wayne A. Wright)

Who wouldn't want to step into this sunset dining scene?

Who wouldn’t want to step into this sunset dining scene?

Years ago when Hank and Marie Groff were distant neighbors in Costa Rica, Marie often invited me to join them for dinner.   If I was working on a creative project, I knew that I would have difficulty pulling out of my focus to switch gears, put away my supplies and drive to their home for dinner.    Hours later while deep in a painting trance, I often heard Marie return.  She quietly came inside, whispered from the doorway, “Don’t stop;  your dinner’s here in the kitchen.”    With a loving heart, she retreated without another word.

We embraced a new challenge - the art of mosaic tile!

We embraced a new challenge – the art of mosaic tile!

When my vehicle was no longer road worthy, she always asked if I wanted to ride with her to a larger city to buy supplies.  When the other option was by bus on bumpy four-wheel-drive roads, I was always grateful to ride in her Isuzu Trooper limousine!  

Hank and Marie help with a tear-down project - Team Zeebra!

Hank and Marie help with a tear-down project – Team Zeebra!

(Above photo:  see Construction in Reverse.)

Always-patient Hank

Always-patient Hank

With a background in construction, Hank as been a patient teacher;  he’s tutored me about soil samples, engineering reports, concrete finishing and repair.  He’s helped solve water-line riddles, and every so often I am able to share my work experience with him.  He has explained why the peeling paint on a wall most likely came from a roof leak and has helped with repair on gates and shovels and doors!

June Solstice Sunset - One Day Early!

From the outdoor pavilion – June Solstice Sunset – One Day Early!

They are tireless in their support, and I am blessed to have such loving and helpful friends.  It’s quite natural to reciprocate with the same loving spirit!

Their ‘soaking pool’ perches on the corner of their outdoor pavilion, and Hank recently tiled the inner area.     The three of us agreed that a mosaic border would enhance the effect, and we approached the challenge at full throttle and worked from mid morning until sunset almost every day until we finished! Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Having Fun While Working!


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Come see the evolving mosaic border!

Come see the evolving mosaic border!

As you grow in self-esteem, your face, manner, way of talking and moving will tend naturally to project the pleasure you take in being alive. ~Nathaniel Branden

Do you see these two pieces of tiles?  They need to be a little smaller!

Do you see these two pieces of tiles? They need to be a little smaller!

Two sets of eye wear work better than one!

Two sets of eye wear work better than one!

The strong and mighty Z pulverizes the ceramic tile!

The strong and mighty Z pulverizes the ceramic tile, and work halts until we regain control of our giggle boxes!

Because Marie took so many photos, today’s Timeout for Art will be split into two posts.

Yes, this is a fun project!  Marie shares the tile-splitting tasks!

Yes, this is a fun project! Marie shares the tile-splitting tasks!

It’s ok to have fun while working!

Honestly, it’s back-breaking work, but the many laughs have trumped the fatigue!

Before Grout...

Before Grout…

After grout (Ahem; that's agua quinada -tonic water in the can!)

After grout (Ahem; that’s agua quinada -tonic water in the can!)


(A much-larger post will follow after the final section of grout is finished!)


Do you like the progress?


In Between Showers – A Mosaic Challenge


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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This week’s WordPress Challenge is ‘Between.”

My mind immediately dashed on many thought tangents as I pondered ideas that represent ‘Between.”     The above art project (in progress) keeps getting stalled due to rain showers, so climb aboard and step into a mosaic-filled world! Continue reading

TIMEOUT FOR ART – Vivid Imagination


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(See the model for this character in the next photo!)

Many savage nations worship trees, and I really think my first feeling would be one of delight and interest rather than of surprise, if some day when I am alone in the woods one of the trees were to speak to me. (John Lubbock)
When traveling through Ecuador’s Manabi Province by bus, I sometimes make lightning-fast sketches of the unique ceibo trees. With only a few seconds to observe and capture the essence of individual trees, I scribble details and thoughts until the next sketch-worthy tree captures my attention.

P1110875 ceibo w tongue2 P1110875 ceibo w tongue5EYES

Some of those trees seem to be waltzing across the landscape, and others wear scowls or humorous expressions. I’ve noted trees with amputated limbs or with bellies hacked open (for honey?) while others are burned or felled for farmland. Peer over my shoulder to see a few typical pages of hurried sketches of these areas. Continue reading

An Unexpected Visitor?


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P6090230 sarita crystal palace

Sarah admires the view while coordinating a medical appointment for a friend.

Hi Amigos! Thanks for your fun comments on the Surprise Visitors from the Wild; internet has been too slow to answer emails or reply to comments, although it’s starting to awaken as we approach the bewitching hour!

I’m back with another post for the WordPress Photo Challenge which states: “This week, share a photo that has a little something extra: an unexpected visitor, or a tranquil landscape with a splash of color…or find a photo with an added element that makes it an image only you could capture.”

 P6090211 quito crystal palace P6090232 wheelbarrow shadows

(Quito Ecuador)  – Returning home after fast trip to Ecuador’s Sierra, I spent many hours wading through an eclectic range of photos which covered visits to pueblitos, museums and even a lending library of books written in English!

Come see the soccer images!

Come see the soccer images!

P6090240 crystal palace futbol

The photos from the Crystal Palace included the flaming nasturtiums and geraniums as well as delicate pink hues of taxo – a new species for my eyes.  Inside the glass enclosure was an impressive collection of soccer images from Brazil.

Stepping back outside, I took photos of the sweeping view of the city, but the camera caught something extra that I overlooked. Continue reading

Surprise Visitors from the Wild


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What's poking out of the pre-Columbian pottery?

What’s poking out of the pre-Columbian pottery?

(Ecuador) – Living totally immersed in nature, I am often treated to unexpected visitors from the wild!   This week’s photo challenge is ‘Extra Extra,‘ and Michelle states, “This week, share a photo that has a little something extra: an unexpected visitor, or a tranquil landscape with a splash of color. A lone carrot in a sea of peas. Draw us in with a humorous detail, or find a photo with an added element that makes it an image only you could capture.” 

I remembered this surprise moment from earlier this year.

Come a little closer?

Come a little closer?

Peering from its hiding place, Mr. Frog startled me one sunny morning!

P1500375 paintbrushes riverhouse frog

Although frogs and geckos ‘creep out’ many of my female friends,  they make me smile and are often used as models for some of my studies!  Here are a few more unexpected guests that arrived with no warning: Continue reading

Timeout for Art: A Magical Room


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“I step into my studio and nothing will be the same ever again.” (Franco Paisio)

This week’s WordPress Challenge is ‘Room,’ and these photos show how a farm bodega transformed into a unique studio space.  Enjoy the pictorial!  Z

riverhouse bamboo ladder

August 2008; the fixer-upper challenge begins!

Let’s peer inside the bodega!


Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Field Work


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Is there a pecking order in the egret family tree?

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”John Muir”

Manabi Province, Ecuador -

Many birds feast in the shrimp ponds; when the water is drained for harvest, the avian telegraph announces the all-you-can-eat buffet!

Yay!  Lunch is ready!/

Yay! Lunch is ready!/

Elusive white ibis flock to the ponds for their ration of shellfish; petite kingfishers perch near the outlet pipes and spear random hors d’oeuvres.  Great egrets tower over snowy egrets and little blue herons as they scramble, squawk and poke for shrimp and fish.

P5250209 snowy egret

Conceited snowy egrets, pairing black leggings with bright-yellow slippers,  fluff their wispy feathers to claim entitlement to the choicest morsels!

One Happy Family...

One Happy Family…

In formal attire, the black-necked stilts add a modest touch of elegance and keep a low profile along the edges of the pond!  Although the stilts have always captured my attention, I realized that I knew little when I began a study based on an old photo. They are black and white and have very long reddish-pink legs. Do they all have pink legs, or do the male and female have different colorations?


“Oh Grandmother; what big eyes you have!”

Consulting a bird book, I was surprised to learn that stilts have red eyes! (Red eyes?) I looked at photos on the computer. The less-than precise images showed dark eyes. Details were lacking on the bill as well, and I was unsure – was it curved slightly like an ibis, or did it have a slight upturn – or was it straight as a sewing needle? Rather than guess, I waited for an opportunity for field research. Continue reading


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