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

* (Click the sidebar  at the top left to receive updates in your inbox, or scroll to the bottom of this page.)

Snapshot Pictorials – Quito, Cayambe, Otavalo Ecuador

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Otavalo Ecuador

Pictorial: “… feelings presented in a pictorial form.” The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English

Sometimes words fail me; the following images illustrate how Life offers precious rewards throughout the day and night. These images represent volumes of memories from the past few days. Enjoy, Z Continue reading

Quito Newsflash! Bob’s Back!

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Who’s that guy looking down from the Basilica? It’s Bob Ramsak of Piran Cafe!!!!

Silvana of Monoaullador and I were delighted to say “WELCOME BACK!”  to our WordPress pal, Bob Ramsak (Piran Cafe)  today in Quito.      Bob’s trail brought him through the Jama area two years ago as he traveled (overland) from Argentina to Chile, Bolivia, Peru and on to Ecuador on his way through the Americas.   The following post summarized WEEK 18 as he finished the Ecuador leg of his journey: BOOTLEg BARBIES, AN INAUGURATION, A MARCH AGAINST MONSANTO, AND THE COOLEST FLOOR IN THE WORLD.

So who is Bob?  His “About Page”  offers a great summary:  “I’ve visited 54 countries and roam often as a writer, editor and translator, but Piran Café is not a travel blog. It’s evolved into a notebook, a collection of experiences and moments, long and short, connected and propelled by my primary passions: travel, art, culture and justice. When they and I cross paths, you’ll find some of the results here.”

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The true gift is to visit with Bob in person, where he taps into his thought-provoking reservoir of knowledge and shares stories that range from world-class sporting events to the dangers of street photography.   SURVIVING A STREET ASSAULT IN POTOSI or THE DANGERS OF STREET PHOTOGRAPHY  The posts are great, but the stories in person are even better! Continue reading

When I Grow Up…

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Nandayure/Guanacaste/ COSTA RICA

Nandayure/Guanacaste/ COSTA RICA

“Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him. We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children.   Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate.” Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist

Years ago while I was visiting with expat friends and their on-vacation friends in Costa Rica, someone asked, “Did you ever dream when you were growing up that you’d live somewhere like this?”

Turning back time: Costa Rica - After the Competition

Turning back time: Costa Rica – After the Competition

My mind peddled backwards, and within seconds I recalled a wanderlust dream from grammar school. I smiled wistfully and answered, “When I was in 5th grade, I wanted to live in Argentina and raise quarter horses.” Continue reading

13636 – Whoops, Timeout for Art – Simply Drawing

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If many of you are suffering from cabin fever in below-freezing weather, why not pass some of your time with pencil and paper? Drawing can be very relaxing, if you can endure the first five or ten minutes of frustrations and keep working, you might be very pleased with your results.

Go ahead; pick one up and have fun!

Go ahead; pick one up and have fun!

While staying at my friends’ home, I gave a drawing lesson, and after a few warm-up exercises, we drew sea shells. I worked earlier in the day on a study to lllustrate the stages of the drawing. Sometimes a simple line drawing needs few details after the dark background is added. Continue reading

Sunshine and Shadows from the Middle of the World

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Hurriedly I share these images of sunshine and shadows from El Matal (Manabi) Ecuador.  The tides are reaching their highest for the month, and we’ll be watching closely for the next two days.

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So far so good, but today we feared one boater might grind into the rocks. Continue reading

Pacific-Coast Ecuador: Booby Count

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Peruvian Boobies – References list the Peruvian Booby ‘as far as SW Ecuador,” but they now populate many areas up the coastline.

Last week I helped my Ecuador Expat Journeys friends on their Coastal Tour.  Near Salinas, we spotted flamingos and black-necked stilts wading the shallows of the salt ponds.  Upriver from Bahia de Caraquez, we toured Isla Corazon and marveled at thousands of magnificent frigates that shared the unique island with great egrets, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, tricolored herons, cormorants and cocoi herons.  Cute little saffron finches decorated Canoa Beach Hotel’s tropical gardens.

Isla Corazon - Rio Chone

Isla Corazon – Rio Chone

On my way home on Thursday, I said, “Hello” to the Peruvian boobies in San Vicente and reached Casa Loca in time for the late-afternoon finale on the river.

Gasp!  How does one count so many birds?!

Gasp! How does one count so many birds?!

This morning while reporting a thirty-minute bird-watching session on the Backyard Bird Count stats page, I scanned the online queue of species for Ecuador.   The Peruvian Boobies! Their presence along the Ecuadorian coast should be reported, but they are not in my backyard!

"What are you waiting for?"  Please let the world know we're alive and ready for Carnival!

“What are you waiting for?” Please let the world know we’re alive and ready for Carnival!”

If any of you have boobies in your neighborhood, please take time to add them to the online form! BACKYARD BIRD COUNT/Get Started.

Let’s decorate that BirdCount map!   Thanks for speaking up for the birds!

Z

“J.L.” – Jose Luis Yllesca Arizaga – Guayaquil Artist

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Jorge Luis Yllescas Arixaga - Guayaquil Ecuador

Jorge Luis Yllescas Arixaga – Guayaquil Ecuador

“Creativity is essentially a lonely art. An even lonelier struggle. To some a blessing. To others a curse. It is in reality the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.” ~Lou Dorfsman

I traveled to Guayaquil this past Sunday, a day before an Ecuador Expat Journey tour began.  My afternoon was a free one, and I dropped by the Museo Nahim Isaias in hopes there might be an interesting art exhibit.  I was not disappointed.

Museo Nahim Isaias

Museo Nahim Isaias

Located in the Plaza de Administración near Guayaquil’s Malecon 2000, The Museo Nahim Isaias showcases the work of many artists.  This week, after touring a collection of Ila Coronal’s sensitive photographs of rural life,  I spotted two brightly-colored paintings in another area of the museum.  Stepping toward the strong colors, I noted someone sitting to the side with polite attention.

Jorge Luis Yllescas Arrixaga  (Guayaquil, Ecuador)

Jorge Luis Yllescas Arrixaga (Guayaquil, Ecuador)

“I wonder if that’s the artist,” I pondered, and he stood up and approached with sensitive respect. Continue reading

Backyard Bird Count! Ready… Set…

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OK; Not everyone can peer outside and see hundreds of Magnificent Frigates, one of 70 or more species that decorate the landscape around Casa Loca.  Whether you know our feathered neighbors by name or just refer to them as little brown birds, they are our neighbors, and we should acknowledge their presence in our lives.

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Take half an hour or half a day or an entire day or the entire period (February 13 – 16) of this bird count, and share your  inventory with the world!  Learn more HERE: THE GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT 2015.

Magnificent Frigate -  "Don't you think I'm sexy?"

Magnificent Frigate – “Don’t you think I’m sexy?”

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I’m not quite sure how to count all of the birds in my back yard, so excuse me please, while I go back to counting the birds!

Z

How many birds?

How many birds?

How many birds?

How many birds?

Street Photography on a Rainy Day

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Jama (Manabi Province) Ecuador — Yippee! Almost two months overdue, the rains are finally quenching Manabi’s thirst! Dodging lagoons of water at every corner this morning, I assumed that the gray skies would offer few opportunities for good photos.  I was wrong.

Jaime, the fisherman, ignored the sprinkles.

Jaime, the fisherman, ignored the sprinkles.

The rains fell during the night then resumed again mid morning; there are countless music options for these images, but I’ll nudge Eddie Rabbit a bit closer to the equator to kick off these images:

No one seemed discouraged by the mud and water, though without boots, I skirted around mud and leaped across swollen pools of water throughout town.  While enjoying a cup of coffee and an extra sour lemonade “sin azucar” (without sugar – to chase away an allergy)  I was well entertained by Silvana’s nephew who sported a new pair of boots.  He pranced past my table, climbed aboard his cousin’s new motorcycle and stole the show! Continue reading

World Wetlands Day – February 2

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"Catch of the Day!" (They call this a chamy fish.)

“Catch of the Day!”
(They call this a chamy fish.)

Headlines of winter storms make me grateful to live along Ecuador’s Pacific coast.  Those of you who are enduring brutal weather, stay warm and safe and well.   I wish I could send some of this climate in your direction.    Yesterday I pondered how we fell trees for timber or we leave deep scars on Mother Earth so that we can produce concrete – how does one build homes without impacting our planet’s struggling health?

..S.ometimes Mother Nature bites back!!!!

..S.ometimes Mother Nature bites back!!!!

As we peer over the groundhog’s shoulder to see his shadow – or not – take time to peer into Mother Nature’s wetlands and ponder their importance on our planet.

The ponds are off limits before the harvest. After the harvest, the feathered feast begins with no stress!

Today I’ll be driving along Ecuador’s Pacific coast with a great tour group, but wanted to wave a token banner in honor of our precious wetlands.   Hop over to SerenitySpell for a refresher course! Preserving Our Future – World Wetlands Day.

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Have a good week, everyone! Z

Because I’m HAPPY!

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(Ecuador – Jan. 31, 2015)  Today’s Daily Prompt arrived as I traveled the 7-plus hours between Jama and Guayaquil.  Michelle suggested,  “Tell us how your week went by putting together a playlist of five songs that represent it.”

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Ha!  The week delivered disappointments as well as grand moments, but I managed to keep my sense of humor.   On Monday/Lunas, I painted  until noon, put away my paints and brushes, changed and waited for a driver to take me an hour up the coast to Pedernales.  Rolando and I had talked on Saturday, and I told him about the floor project and the most important item needed was a non-yellowing varnish for floors.   I said that I would be painting all day on Sunday and again on Monday morning and would be ready to go by “…1 or 2 o’clock…”    He didn’t show up!   Welcome to Ecuador!  (Perhaps I absently said, “Martes/Tuesday” instead of “Lunas?”)

I shrugged; it wasn’t important, and I switched back to painting while watching the birds come home to roost.  On Martes, I waited again, and at 2, decided to walk to town (5K) and glare at Rolando with the ‘truck taxi’ and watch his mouth drop when he remembered that he’d forgotten!

Maybe he feared he'd have to help carry heavy items from Playamart!

Maybe he feared he’d have to help carry heavy items from Playamart!

P8180072 little birds algarrobo tree small fileI enjoy the walks to town, and I inspect the birds along the road, in the al-garrobo (mesquite family) trees and in the shrimp ponds.  This week I spotted the Peruvian Meadowlark, a species that’s been absent for months.  About twenty minutes into my trek, a friend drove along at high speed, braked, backed up and gave me a ride to to town!   As he resumed top speed on the gravel road, I didn’t tell him of my two-day wait for the driver!  Instead I smiled after we all but broke the sound barrier and said, “Muchicimas Gracias!”

Some people think that third-word countries are dangerous;  thankfully there are sweet angels who enhance the quality of my days!

(Image from 2013) Some people think that third-word countries are dangerous; thankfully there are sweet angels who enhance the quality of my days! Thanks, Doc Castro!)

Instead of seeing Rolando, I spotted one of his brothers (they have a fleet of pickup truck-taxis.)  He chuckled when I told him the story;  we discussed the fare to Pedernales, my list of things to do there, judged the time, and he said if we left immediately we could be back before dark.  I hopped in the co-pilot seat and said, “VAMOS!”

Squinting at the laptop, I worked on photos for National Geographic’s “Your Shot,” while peering out the window and occasionally snapping photos.

Harvest in progress of a balsa tree farm near Camarones Ecuador.

Harvest in progress of a balsa tree farm near Camarones Ecuador.

We returned just before dark, and he helped carry the items from the road to Casa Loca.  I slept well and started Wednesday in painting mode.

My friends harvested a shrimp pond near the house, but I was very focused on adding details to the floor.  I emerged from my painting fog around dark, looked out and noted that the pond was drained, and the trucks and workers were gone!  Only the birds remained as they foraged the muddy bottom for shrimp.

I painted on Thursday morning as well; my high-energy painting sessions often correlate with strong rain, so I was not surprised when the sound of rain pelted the roof.  The rains strengthened, and I noted one slow drip-drip-drip from the tin roof;  I moved the potted ceibo tree beneath the drip and continued painting for another hour.  That lovely one-plus inch of rain saturated the ground, but it also extinguished the electricity in this 7-house circuit!

The skies cleared slightly, and I painted until almost dark and photographed the details for Timeout for Art.   With an opportunity to try out my new green mud boots, I retrieved my rain coat (just in case of more rain!) and walked to town in the late afternoon.     Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Painting for the Joy of Painting!

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“Yes, I’ve made a great deal of dough from my fiction, but I never set a single word down on paper with the thought of being paid for it … I have written because it fulfilled me … I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”

Stephen King

I’ve spent months painting the floors where I live, and I often chuckle and say, “I spent X-amount of time on a painting I can never sell!” That’s OK, because working out the design, the correct proportions and building layers of colors are all important challenges, and I learn what works and what does not work. Continue reading

“WordPress for Old Folks”

The wee hours of the  full-moon morning provide the anticipation of  dawn.

The wee hours of the full-moon morning provide the anticipation of dawn.

During the late-night hours when the internet works slightly faster, I read posts via email notifications and can sometimes follow those links to the proper webpage.   Lynda (Pixilatedtoo) called our attention to several bloggers who join the verbal protests regarding changes in WordPress.  I commented via email, which now drags lots of clutter from the email post.  Six months ago those comments were clean and without baggage when they reached their destination.

Lynda nudged us to GrahamInHat’s well-researched post About WordPress Changes-What We Can Do  and also “An Open Letter to WordPress” over at Fishofgold.  These recent posts reflect that we are not alone in our grumblings, especially if you read the comments! Graham in Hats stated, “If we get up on our hind legs and howl for the pack to pay attention then we stand a good chance of putting more sensible people in charge.”    Take time to scan the comments as well;  I also enjoyed Jessee’s comment on Fish of Gold, “It’s Not WordPress. It’s been renamed WORSTPress”

Airing Laundry?

Airing Laundry?

His comment fits well with today’s Daily Prompt: Play Lexicographer…   How about it, Jessee?  You should submit your suggestion via post and pingbck!   The Weekly Challenge arrives soon, so I’m hoping that many people will design their post to address these WordPress changes.   Will any of you join me?!  Say, “Bah, Humbug,” if you’re not pleased with the new obstacle course.

People who don’t cook shouldn’t design kitchens.  People who cannot draw shouldn’t be working on an expensive art-design project.  Do any of the people that make these WordPress changes write blogs on computers or have a queue of comments to read and answer when they log onto their account?  If so, let’s play, “Swamp them with comments!” and see if they can teach us the art of finding them!

Of course I can do that job for you!

Of course I can do that job for you!

Years ago I worked in a design studio with a dozen other artists, and the younger ones worked circles around me via computer.  If they had to hand-draw a design, they turned almost white with fear.    These designs were to be drawn on huge stretched pieces of fabric to be made into hand-woven rugs, and I often checked on my younger peers’ progress.  Once I told the director, “You’d better tell Marriott that their hand-made rug will be late…” 

Continue reading

Timeout FROM Art! End-of-Day Tranquility

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P1230013 solomons knot plywood rio jama

One of nine panels, this 2′ x 4′ section will be part of the border. (Acrylic on plywood)

Hola Sports Fans; I’m writing via off-line mode while taking a break from a floor project. Black paint is drying, so it’s best to take ten or more giant steps away from the work and enjoy a break!  Nine pieces of plywood make up this large jigsaw floor puzzle that will upgrade an 8-foot area that overlooks the river. Clear thick plastic protects each finished panel until all are fine-tuned and adjusted to merge with the others.  The design should be ready for varnish on Tuesday.  It’s been a challenging and rewarding project, and you’ll see the entire floor on the next Timeout for Art.

Center 4' x 4' Section - detail

Center 4′ x 4′ Section – detail

Border Detail

Border Detail

Yesterday my dear friend Silvana, back from her internship in Minnesota, dropped by the house and happily accepted the task of filling in areas with color. We set up a work area on the balcony and watched the birds and fishermen as we painted. Time flew, and at sunset we stopped to take photos from a slightly-different vantage point before she returned to Jama.

P1230038 late jan birds in breeding foliage

Although the rainy season is quite late, many birds are displaying breeding plumage.

Silvana gazes toward the boca as the fisherman snags another fish!

Silvana gazes toward the boca as the fisherman snags another fish!

Continue reading

WordPress Notifications – Can You Find Them?

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"I've looked up, down, and all around and still cannot find ----"

“I’ve looked up, down, and all around and still cannot find —-“

Many of us are creatures of comfort, and we like “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Sometimes our brains need little hurdles that test our abilities to ace unexpected road blocks.

However; why is it that many times things are fixed that are not broken?!

I am trying to adapt to the Windows 8 changes, but I’m not very impressed with the unnecessary steps I sometimes have to take to find something’s that’s out of sight. I join many people in a collective disgust with the continued changes over at Yahoo. This post is about WordPress glitches, so bail out now if you’re not experiencing any! Continue reading

One Man’s Peaceful Sunrise is Another’s Very-Bad Day

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The tropical king bird's morning song is as lovely as the royal poinciana's blossoms.

The tropical king bird’s morning serenade is as lovely as the royal poinciana’s blossoms.

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Tropical Kingbird – Jama (Manabi Province) Ecuador

 

Casa Loca’s windows are made of solid wood, and I enjoy opening those weathered panels at first light to embrace the awakening day.   I usually open the kitchen window first to confirm that the daylight serenade was indeed given by the lovely kingbird.  The wrens and seedeaters dart and forage in the dense foliage along the fence, while Amazilia hummingbirds search for the life-sustaining nectar of the opening flowers.  Kingfishers awaken the riverside with nonstop chattering about the first catch of the morning.

Female Variable Seedeater

Female Seedeater

Variable Seedeater forages throughout the day

Variable Seedeater forages throughout the day

Look!  There's a huge hummingbird checking out the Playamart treasures!

(from 2013) – Look! There’s a huge hummingbird checking out the Playamart treasures!

P1010059 KINGFISHER Cropped P6030071 GREEN KINGFISHER DOS

"I think that middle guy in the boat has been hooked before... what do you think_?"

The petite green kingfisher asks the heron, “I think it’s going to be a calm day… what do you think_?”

Most mornings provide a feast of calming views as I open the windows and gaze outside.  Every so often the view jolts me into a higher state of attention.

First Light - Quite Lovely ... or not?

First Light – Quite Lovely … or not?

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The presence of thousands of birds announces, “Urgent! Urgent! Something’s wrong with this picture!”  On this sixth dawn of the new year, I scanned to see if my friend’s truck was home (yes) so I knew he had spotted the same view and had sounded the alarm.  I grabbed my camera and bolted out the door. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Balancing Seriousness with Whimsy

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There are few blooming flowers in the garden, so a little paint washes those areas with color.

There are few blooming flowers in the garden, so a little paint washes those areas with color.

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”
Mark Twain

With so much sadness in the world events, hopefully the above quote made you smile!  While playing tag with the electricity and internet (two days with power, yay!) I’ve enjoyed switching between precision work on a floor project to fun garden art.    Painting straight lines fatigues my arms and shoulders, so my muscles appreciated the time out in the garden.

It's a little hostal for duendes and fairies!  It's free if they watch over the house and gardens!

It’s a little hostal for duendes and fairies! It’s free if they watch over the house and gardens!

I’ll be on the road today and with a tour group until Sunday.   Enjoy the images of the floor in progress! Continue reading

Candle Power Update

Candle Power

Candle Power

How do I lasso the swirling and overlapping stories of this new year as I type in the dark and race the laptop’s remaining battery life?

Casa Loca and seven other houses share a petite circuit of electricity near the mouth of Rio Jama and the Pacific Ocean. During the 8 months of ‘Dry Season,’ we have few problems, but almost every drizzle short circuits our power.   La Division to the north east is rarely affected, and Jama to the southwest is  rarely affected.  Sometimes the problem is repaired in a few hours; sometimes it’s fixed in 24 hours, but it’s not unusual to be without power for three days. In December, the house was without power for ten days, and the New Year’s present was a 6-day outage!

New Year's Day - La Division Ecuador - When there's no power at the house - go to the beach!

New Year’s Day – La Division Ecuador – When there’s no power at the house – go to the closest beach!

Jan 2 -- 2015- La Division Ecuador

Jan 2 — 2015- La Division Ecuador

This past Saturday, Carlos the ‘technician’ told me that we needed certain parts to fix the problem, and the electric company was not responsible for those costs. He said that it was an expensive repair and wrote down the parts needed (voltage regulator…) and gave me the name and phone number of the person in Pedernales that sells those parts. He recommended that the 8 houses share the costs.

Without consulting the neighbors, I prepared to travel 4 or more hours (one way) on Monday to get the money from my account… My attitude was, “They will either reimburse me for their shares, or they will not! The problem needs to be repaired sooner and not later!”

The houses in this image share the same power 'grid.'  Can you spot Casa Loca?

The houses in this image share the same power ‘grid.’ Can you spot Casa Loca?

On Monday, plans changed when I looked out the kitchen window and saw an all-you-can-eat buffet in progress in a shrimp farm. (See images HERE National Geographic Your Shot.)   (Those images are on my big computer, which is null and void until power is restored!)    For the next few hours, I walked along the edges of the pond to help spook the birds.      By mid morning, I headed the 5K to town to discuss the electricity dilemma with the owners of the shrimp farm. Xavier phoned for a quote on the costs ($350.00) and l headed to Manta after paying a $50.00 deposit for the parts, which would be delivered the next day.

Returning late that night, I checked into the hostal, slept until daylight, went home to Casa Loca and – surprise surprise – we had power!   Xavier dropped by to say that the parts would be delivered to his house in town in 45 minutes, but he was about to leave for the day. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Be Yourself

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“Don’t be afraid to be yourself; because people are waiting for you to be yourself… its your responsibility to be all you can be…”  Keb Mo (from video clip below)

While waiting for power to be restored at Casa Loca, I painted this sea horse with the intention of pairing the little mirrors against the dark blue swirls of color. Am writing this while a drama worthy of ‘sitcom’ viewing swirls around me concerning the electricity problems at Casa Loca…  Will schedule this to post on Thursday morning! Tune in later for updates on the drama!

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Ah.. I need a bit of soothing music to offset the drama;  enjoy this Keb Mo song as a finale!

Z

Timeout for Art: Always Looking Ahead

Madam Valdivia - Acrylic - Lisa Brunetti

Madam Valdivia – Acrylic – Lisa Brunetti

“The secret to so many artists living so long is that every painting is a new adventure. So, you see, they’re always looking ahead to something new and exciting. The secret is not to look back.”
― Norman Rockwell

Madam Valdivia helped me move from 2014 and into 2015 with a positive creative leap. I first painted her portrait in watercolor in 2012 and used a one inch by four inch reproduction to paint a larger image with acrylic paints.

With a very low laptop battery, I am selecting an assortment of Valdivia women, often referred to as “Venus” women, associated with fertility from the ancient Pacific culture located near Valdivia Ecuador.  (The Valdivia culture dates from 3800 B.C. – 1500 B.C.)

Continue reading

Between Holiday Events & Between High Tides

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After high tide - Entrance to Coco Beach Village - no longer serviceable...

After high tide – Entrance to Coco Beach Village – no longer serviceable…

El Matal Ecuador – Dec 26, 2014

When living on the front line of a beach threatened by spring tides, most people stay home during that critical high-tide hour to be sure there is no threat of flooding.  The high tides usually arrive with the new or full moon and hang around for a few days.   The first high tide of each month usually arrives in the pre-dawn hours and then at sunset; it arrives a bit later each day.  When staying at my friends’ home, I usually start peering outside around 4:30 in the morning.  By 5:30 I am able photograph what’s happening at sea level.

Dec 25, 2014 "Buenos Dias" -  5:58 in the morning!

Dec 26, 2014 “Buenos Dias” – 5:58 in the morning!

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6:11 a.m. Dec. 26 2014

While working on a holiday art project,  my friends and I kept a close eye on the waves.  On the second day of painting, I took a low-tide break and walked to the center area of El Matal.  Life goes on, and the spirit of the fishermen remains strong.  I was told, however, that “the people of El Matal are scared.”

Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Color the World with Imagination

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King Kong Sighted in Jama Ecuador!

King Kong Sighted in Jama Ecuador! December 2014 Bamboo and Palm Sculpture by Rycardo Alcivar.

Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air – explode softly – and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth – boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn’t go cheap, either – not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination. ~Robert Fulghum

We all rejoice in watching children opening presents with wild abandon, and today while basking in whatever way you’re spending Christmas, glimpse your surroundings as if first seeing them as a child. I’ll be watching the ocean’s waves as they rip along the shoreline at dawn. Wouldn’t it be fun if all beaches and lakesides were littered with crayolas today instead of remnants of man’s discarded plastics?

All children (and young-at-heart adults) should be reminded to watch the shadows as they change throughout the year. High noon is an easy time to experiment with shadows; I enjoyed photographing these shadows with props that were close at hand!

High noon on the December Solstice - Ecuador

High noon on the December Solstice – Ecuador

Aligning the compass (poster) with the east/west direction, I was surprised to see the shadow point directly to the north.  It's time I stopped for a refresher course in basic directions!

Aligning the compass (poster) with a guesstimate of the east/west direction, I was surprised to see the shadow point directly to the north. It’s time I stopped for a refresher course in basic directions!  James (and Terri) at Gallivance keep track of the earth’s pulse, and their recent post mentions not only sun dials and solstices, but also Poseidon.  Let the Celebrations Begin (More on Poseidon at the end of this post.)

The candle holder doubles as a little nosegay vase;  it came from nearby playamart and quickly transformed with a few coats of acrylic paint.

The candle holder doubles as a little nosegay vase; it came from nearby Playamart and quickly transformed with a few coats of acrylic paint.

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The abandoned chairs are a bit happier, but they are patiently awaiting more attention. Here’s the progress: Continue reading

A Celebration of Birds – El Matal (Ecuador)

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PC170454 EL MATAL HIGH NOON MID DECEl Matal, Ecuador (and Jama)
In contrast to the previous post that illustrates the vanishing beach and the work to protect the front line, these images showcase the amazing beauty of the frigates, pelicans, gulls and boobies of the area. (Yes, boobies!)

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Pelican, Seagull and Frigate

Pelican, Seagull and Frigate

(These photos were uploaded on Friday and scheduled to fly to you on the day of the December Solstice.   Enjoy!)  Z

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Let’s crank the boats and fly with the birds!

Continue reading

End-of-Year Spring Tides Approach – El Matal Ecuador

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El Matal/Jama Canton/Manabi Province/Ecuador

December Solstice – 2014 from the Middle of the World/Ecuador!

As you dash between social engagements during this holiday season, take a quiet respite and think about where you are on the planet as the sun reaches the northernmost point in its yearly cycle.  Tomorrow it begins its journey to its June reunion in the southern hemisphere, while reminding us that we also make progress – a little each day.

Yoga alignment!

Yoga alignment!

Ponder where you are in Life and if you awaken with a smile in your heart.  If you don’t have that smile, try to figure out why and what can make your spiritual life happier.  Surround yourself with happy people, and reach out to others who are less fortunate than you.  If you’re facing challenges, send a quiet “Thanks’ that you have intelligence and the ability to find creative alternatives to the ones that have proven to be ineffective.  As my nephew Don stated, “We make choices every day…”   (See: When the World Outside my Window Goes Insane.)

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Although some challenges all but break us, we realize later that they formed us into stronger and wiser people.   I’ve witnessed many positive results from the ongoing crisis at nearby El Matal, and the biggest one for me is getting to know many of the locals who live at their own Ground Zero.  If one steps into the arena with empathy and an open heart, the social barriers are dissolved.  Those who are actively addressing the problems are ‘one’ in spirit, and they embrace all who show their support.

As most people prepare for the festive holiday gatherings, traditions and feasts, the people of El Matal are anticipating the approaching spring tide of December 24th.   I visted El Matal this past Wednesday and took photos as the municipality resorted to emergency measures to protect the thin necktie of land that remains.

The next four images illustrate the changes from June 2012 until December 2014:

Across the road from Hibiscus Post - June 2012

Across the road from Hibiscus Post – June 2012

From 2012 - Post Painting Competition

From 2012 – Post Painting Competition

(March 2014 - my favorite hibiscus post!)

(March 2014 – my favorite hibiscus post!)

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December 2014 – Same hibiscus post

Although they are not pretty – and I have witnessed how unstable these boulders can be when they shift and fall near my house on the river – they will help protect the front-line properties.

PC170758 NOON TIDES  EL MATAL DEC 2014

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PC170733 NOON TIDES  EL MATAL DEC 2014 rest victor

Victor’s restaurant looks abandoned, but they were open for lunch a few hours before this image was taken. I worry about the loss of revenue during this ongoing crisis.

PC170731 NOON TIDES  EL MATAL DEC 2014 3 girls rest punto victor

I also worry about the safety of unsuspecting people who assume that the rocks are stable. The waves erode the underlying sand, and the boulders shift and sometimes tumble.

Hurried for time, I will leave these images in the ‘Pending’ folder and hope that they reach you tomorrow/Saturday.     (I gave those exhausted gerbils and hamsters a day off while I went to town for faster internet!)   I will be home at Casa Loca until early next week.

Warning:  The rest of this post is very image heavy!   Z Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Mosaics and Beyond

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Hmmm; what do we have staring back at us?

Hmmm; what do we have staring back at us?

As I look back upon my life, I see that every part of it was a preparation for the next. The most trivial of incidents fits into the larger pattern like a mosaic in a preconceived design.
Margaret Sanger

Last week during the 10-day power outage, I worked on several different projects.    The mosaic border demanded many more hours’ attention than I had planned, but the end result might fool most people who view it from six or eight feet.     Here is how it looked last week:

In progress - Mosaic Mirror

In progress – Mosaic Mirror

After about four layers of paint on each piece of the mosaic, much of the grout area was painted a second time.   Thick and a bit-sloppy paint gave the illusion of true grout.  When that dried, the edges were strengthened with straight, confident strokes and highlights were added along the top edges.
Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Little Ideas that Explode!

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“When I have an idea, I turn down the flame, as if it were a little alcohol stove, as low as it will go. Then it explodes and that is my idea.”   Ernest Hemingway

(Why didn’t I do this years ago?)  Th colorized version replaces the generic silver design of the mini-laptop!  With a little leftover paint, I also brightened the facade of my silver-colored camera!

Now if I can figure out a way to improve the internet signal strength!  John and Mary McDonald recommended that I upgrade from gerbil power to hamster. The hamsters, I’ve found, are a bit lazy and would rather eat than run that wheel round and round. With gerbil power, only this image uploaded.   Its been a busy week!  Part two should arrive tomorrow!

(Now it’s time to prompt those little gerbils into another power-up marathon!)

Z

Turn Up The Volume?

Chris Cardman - Lead Guitarist - County Line Road - 2013

Chris Cardman – Lead Guitarist – County Line Road – 2013

Over a year ago I wrote about my friend Chris Cardman, a former neighbor in Costa Rica.  Chris and I faced many challenges while living in a remote area of the Nicoya Penisula.  (Playa San Miguel)   He sometimes came to my house to brainstorm a particular problem, or I often stormed into the restaurant/bar that he managed, and I would wait until all got quiet to discuss a particularly challenging day.   Some days the sound of the guitar coaxed me from my project, and I followed the pied piper’s acoustic sound and shattered Chris’s quiet respite.

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Classic Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

Classic Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

Many days and nights were busy at the Blue Pelican, and I usually dodged the crowds and waited to visit when the beach was quiet.  When the customers left for the evening, Chris often retrieved the guitar from the wall and played music, shared some original tunes, or we listened to our favorite tunes and ‘talked music.’   He sometimes said if all else failed in his life, he knew he’d be happy strumming the guitar. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Painting by Candlelight!

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Small acrylic exercise in color (detail)

 

“…If the stories are true, van Gogh would seek out cafes at night to paint, wearing his candlelit straw hat beside other customers. (The Huffington Post- By Todd Van Luling)

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After ten days of using flashlights and candles to read – and sometimes to finish a painting session, I am pleased to announce that power has been restored at Casa Loca! I inquired (complained?) last Friday, and again this past Tuesday, and again today. Today the owner of the shrimp farm was with me, and for some reason Xavier’s presence made a difference! Two men drove to the house within half an hour, and  ten minutes later, the power problem had been found and repaired! Continue reading

Why Not?

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Near Rivas Nicaragua

Near Rivas Nicaragua

Debbie of Retired & Rewired in Nicaragua recently posted The Decay of Dignity and triggered a memory from four or more years ago when I was passing through Rivas Nicaragua.    Rivas was my timeout spot, where I threw on the brakes and rested while making the required 72-hour ‘border exits’ out of Costa Rica to keep my passport in good standing.

Rivas Nicaragua - the Bustling Morning Market

Rivas Nicaragua – the Bustling Morning Market

I often chose Rivas over the highly-popular San Juan Del Sur because I wanted to immerse myself in a typical Nicaraguan town untainted by tourists. I usually rested the first day, ventured around the town on the second day, took the ferry to Debbie’s beloved Isla Ometepe on the third day (for lunch and to see the museum!) then prepared to return to Costa Rica on the fourth or fifth day.    Most every morning I arose with the chickens and explored the streets in search of photo moments in the early-morning light.

rivas he says

(Note the shoe-shine guy that’s sitting on the wooden stool.)

On several previous trips to Rivas, I crossed paths with a weathered man with a perpetual ‘fool-on-the-hill’ manner that made me wonder what drug had fried his brain, or if a lifetime of drinking home-brewed sugar cane liquor destroyed his mind a little at a time. I don’t enjoy photographing misery or the dark side of a man’s character, but this man photographed well;  he had presence!  Perhaps there was more to this man with the foolish smile?

One morning I spotted him walking up the sunny side of the street, and I stopped (on the shadow side) and prepared to photograph him as he passed.   Continue reading

Approaching Strangers & Making Friends

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Quite talented and perpetually happy, Miguel upgraded my choice of a petite five-dollar rain stick to a much larger one! He also had some amazing pre-Columbian artifacts.

Ecuador - Lately I’ve been home just long enough to say, “Ahhh,” before leaving on another journey.  This week I’ve been incubating at the Riverhouse/Casa Loca but have been totally off the grid, great for my creative focus.  An ill-tempered scorpion also set me back for a few days, but I’ve recovered and am proud to send a smoke signal that all’s great in Z’s world.

These beautiful faces have been in limbo since before Thanksgiving, so with a hiccup of on-line time, I’d like to introduce you to some of the beautiful people of Otavalo Ecuador. Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Bringing Nature Inside

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
— Rachel Carson

My friends’ Mindo garden inspired this Timeout for Art, although the true inspiration came from two forlorn vinyl “For Sale” signs that cluttered their storage room.

After scrubbing the panels with soapy water, we prepped them with a white acrylic sealer for a clean painting surface then went to the gardens for inspiration.   Contemplating the beauty of the garden plants, we set the panels near the orchids and zebra plants.  Julie watched as I drew the basic shapes.   Tiny biting insects and not-so-tiny mosquitoes prompted us to clip some of foliage for reference material and move the panels inside. Continue reading

Timeout for Art – A Measure of Thanksgiving

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~W.T. Purkiser

Rosa sets up her booth in the early-morning sunshine.

Rosa sets up her booth in the early-morning sunshine.

This dear woman, Rosa, patiently set her hand-made items in front of the restaurant where I enjoyed breakfast each morning.  With a smile, she tolerated the many photos I took while she flashed in and out of the early-morning sun.   I bought a small handbag and  a smaller zipper bag to hold my pens and pencils.

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On the third morning I invited her for a hot chocolate, which she drank while setting up the morning’s display.  I handed her a little scrambled egg sandwich from some petite rounds of toast and took more photos as she worked.  Continue reading

Ecuador’s Colourful Andes

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Stained glass artwork scrapes the skies over Otavalo.

Stained glass artwork scrapes the skies over Otavalo Ecuador.

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The Aya Uma mask is an important icon for the June Solstice Festival.

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There are subtle colors and explosions of colors in the Otavalo Ecuador area;  one can sample the quiet hues of the landscape or take a giant immersion in the Saturday market in town.  There are colors to suit all moods and personalities!

Let’s start with a leisurely walk in the mountains that overlook Otavalo. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: “Just Being & Growing”

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Oswaldo Guayasamin Sculpture - Overlooking Quito Ecuador

Oswaldo Guayasamin Sculpture – Overlooking Quito Ecuador

Guayasamin Bird-Sculpture

Guayasamin Bird-Sculpture

“Genius is not a possession of the limited few, but exists in some degree in everyone…

…To be an artist is to construct, and to whatever degree one shows the genius for construction in work of any sort, he is that much an artist.” –  Robert Henri – The Art Spirit

With slow and deliberate patience, this lady displayed each bag with loving attention to its best presentation.

With slow and deliberate patience, this lady displayed each bag with loving attention to its best presentation.

“…I think the real artists are too busy with just being and growing and acting (on canvas or however) like themselves to worry about the end.  The end will be what it will be.  The object is intense living, fulfillment; the great happiness in creation.  People sometimes phrase about the joy of work.  It is only  in creative work that joy may be found.  

… the object is not to make art, but to be in the wonderful state which makes art inevitable.  

 The artist life is therefore the desirable life, and it is possible to all.”

  Robert Henri  – The Art Spirit

Waiting on the 11 p.m. bus (left) and a hurried sketch in the Guayasamin Museum private collection of pre-Columbian art.

Waiting on the 11 p.m. bus (left) and a hurried sketch in the Guayasamin Museum private collection of pre-Columbian art.

The past few weeks have found me on the road with tour groups and with friends.  While embracing each moment, I have also dedicated time for sketching.

Friends have nudged me into a skull/bone series, and now cow skulls seem to wave to me most anywhere I travel!

Friends have nudged me into a skull/bone series, and now cow skulls seem to wave to me most anywhere I travel!

Robert Henri’s words resonate when I reflect on the interactions between strangers – how chance interactions open the doors to rich experiences.  I treasure my time alone when I can focus 100 percent on creating art, yet opportunities for cultural exchange inject amazing energy into my life.

Many times I stop and quietly ask, “What is your name?” and the person reflexively slaps his/her chest and replies, “Me?”

“Yes.  You,” I smile, and they immediately stand a bit prouder and hurriedly rattle their entire name.

Jose , with cataract-clouded eyes, appreciates  the chance to boast his age;  92.  He smiles, yet yearns for interaction with others.   "Hola," makes him proud to alive.

Jose, with cataract-clouded eyes, appreciates the chance to boast his age; 92. He smiles as tourists walk past his house at the Bahia de Caraquez lookout, yet he yearns for interaction with others. “Hola,” makes him proud to be alive.

Many times a tourist forgets that the experience is not all about being a tourist, but about slowing down and telling a local what’s great about his/her community.

This gentleman has taken photos at the same park location in Quito for over 70 years.  At age 90, he says that he has never been sick or in the hospital.

This gentleman has taken photos at the same park location in Quito for over 70 years. At age 90, he says that he has never been sick or in the hospital.

Traveling opens that wonderful state of being that Henri mentions.  From the flower markets throughout the country to the pastoral landscapes of the Andes, one’s day is enriched by slowing down and appreciating the local color. Continue reading

Magic Carpet Airlines – Special for Subscribers Only

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Good morning, buenos dias & welcome aboard all galactic travelers!

P1700495 flying carpet detail

As a token of appreciation, we’re offering you a free mini escape on the magic carpet!  You will be transported to a magical land, one that will help you connect to the person you might have lost somewhere along the labyrinth of life.

Did you ever pick wild berries when you were growing up?

Did you ever pick wild berries when you were growing up?

We at MAGIC CARPET AIRLINES think it’s best for our clients to remove their shoes and reconnect with Pachamama – or Mother Earth in the English tongue.  because many of you are not native to planet earth, she can – at times – feel foreign and at other times feel extremely foreign.

What if fish COULD fly?!!!

What if fish COULD fly?!!!

For that reason, we will transport you first to the middle of the world – to walk along an isolated beach, soak in the healing properties of equatorial sunlight and pure unpolluted air while connecting via bare feet with the energizing properties of slightly-wet beach sand.

Zen symbols whispered  in the sand.

Zen symbols whispered in the sand.

Prepare to glow in the darkness as you uptake natural energies from Pachamama. You’ll soon be communicating with the frigates and pelicans who will teach you the art of soaring.

Pelican Harmony

Pelican Harmony

Yoga alignment - Yep; ready to fly!

Yoga alignment – Yep; ready to fly!

Ready?

Click your heels together...

Click your heels together…

P8050145 SUNSET FINERY great egret wings P7190099 sunset pelican

Set?

mangrove frigates P1480820

Let's soar!

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Let’s go there!

PB060261  boobie el matal

Continue reading

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