Tag Archives: art

Symbiosis: Lichen

Good morning Everyone!

Today we are going to take a walk into improbable reality:  the lichen.  While we tend to think of and treat lichen as one organism, it actually is composed of two (or more) organisms living together for each other’s benefit:  a fungus and an alga.  The fungus provides structure, support and water for the lichen, while the alga produces food through photosynthesis.  Because of this symbiosis, lichen are not considered to be plants.  (They aren’t animals either, nor minerals – so how do you answer the question “Is it animal, vegetable or mineral?” when it comes to lichen?)

Lichen, Wood

Lichen on Firewood by a House, Photo Credit: Nancy Eady

I became curious about lichen while we were living in our rental house.  The house owner had cut up a tree on the property, and placed the logs by the house.  Over time, rows and rows of fan-like shapes began to grow on the ends of the logs.  I took a picture of them, above.  As best I could determine, they were a kind of lichen.

Lichen Wood

Lichen in Wood, Photo Credit: Nancy Eady

Lichen are ancient survivors.  The oldest known fossil showing both symbiotic components of a lichen is 400 million years old, FN,  so it stands to reason that lichens are even older – it is highly unlikely that the first ever lichen was also the first lichen fossilized!  The variety and distribution of lichen is astounding.  There are over 20,000 known forms.  There are lichen that can colonize the most inhospitable of places, such as bare rock in the arctic, lichen that process and help break down inorganic matter such as wood, and lichen that seem to drift airily down in strands off of bushes and live off of the air.

Lichen, Letharia

Feathery Lichen. Photo Credit: Letharia vulpina JHollinger crop” by Jason Hollinger – Mushroom Observer. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Lichen can live for astoundingly long periods of time; in fact, one lichen from the arctic circle is estimated to be 9000 years old!  I keep looking for a picture of this ancient lichen, but I haven’t located one yet.  I do know that the ancient arctic lichen is a member of what are commonly called “map lichen.”  As you can see, they get their name from the shapes they form on rocks, which resemble maps.  Their growth rate is incredibly slow, yet predictable, so they can be useful tools in dating other objects.  The use of lichen to date objects is called “lichenometry.”

Lichen, Rock, Map Lichen, Arctic

Map Lichen Photo Credit: Rhizocarpon geographicum on quartz” by User:Tigerente – Self-photographed. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Lichen also provide scientists with helpful information about air pollution; most lichen are highly sensitive to air pollution, so if there is an area that normally would host lichen, yet has none, the air quality around the area is likely poor.

Aaliyah Gupta, Lichen, Acrylic on Duralar

Lichen, Acrylic on Duralar, By Aaliyah Gupta, Copied with Permission from the Artist

I have a friend in Seattle who is an artist, Aaliyah Gupta, and she worked on a series a few years ago exploring the symbiosis that creates lichen.  Her work is stunningly beautiful, delicate and unique, capturing the intricacies of a symbiotic dance that has persisted through the ages.

Aaliyah Gupta, Lichen

Lichen, by Aaliyah Gupta, Acrylic on Duralar, All Rights Reserved, Copied with Permission from the Artist

God’s handiwork is astounding.  Nature’s variety and inventiveness is unparalleled.  Taking the time to learn about other organisms on this planet always pays dividends – if only to make us realize how privileged we are to be part of the complex web of life traveling on Spaceship Earth!

Have a great day everyone!



FN.  400 million years ago was the “Early Devonian Period.”  During the Early Devonian, plants and animals began to colonize land, while aquatic life was farther along and more diverse.  In other words, lichen pre-date dinosaurs, flowers, trees and grass!

Concrete and Abstract

Good morning Everyone!

I thought I’d share a couple of “Kayla-isms” with you this morning, along with some views of my re-done abstract painting.

1) Beautiful Music


Symphony: From Print Shop Professional 3.0

Some of you may recall that our family is gifted in the art of gentle satire.  One day last week, Kayla was bemoaning some terrible fact of her existence, such as her parent’s inexplicable insistence that her room does need to be picked up every now and then, and I responded with that gentle satire we are known for.  I don’t think she appreciated it, because she looked at me as she was getting out of the car and said, “Thanks for the symphony, Mom!”

2) Upside Down

Upside Down

Upside Down: From Print Shop Professional 3.0

Kayla recently acquired an iPod Touch with her own money, and apparently watched a YouTube video on how to make your hair longer, because she entered the living room, sat down in our armchair, then flipped herself over where her feet were sticking up in the air and her head (and consequently her hair) were sticking upside down.  More than a little curious, Mark and I inquired as to her new sitting position, only to be told that the YouTube video had said that one way to grow your hair long was to blow-dry it upside down.  When I started to laugh, she wanted to know what was so funny!

Blow Drying Hair

Blow Drying Hair: From Print Shop Professional 3.0

3) The Abstract Finished

A couple of week’s ago, in the art retrospective post that I published, I showed you this picture of my first abstract painting, and told you that I had decided to go back and do some more work on it:

After a few more weeks of work, here is the final version of the painting, which is called Fibonacci Zero: The Beginning (from Genesis: “In the beginning…the earth was without form and void and the Spirit of God moved over the waters…”):

Fibonacci Zero

Close-up: Fibonacci Zero: The Beginning

Here is a different view:

View 2

And finally, a third view looking at the painting from the right towards the left:

View 2

I like it a lot better now; the colors are richer and darker.

Have a great day everyone!


Art Retrospective

Hi Everyone!

The long-time followers of this blog probably will recognize some of these pieces, but since I just finished my latest art project yesterday, I thought it might be fun to lay everything I’ve done since I started art lessons out in one post to kind of get a perspective on it.  If you’ve seen them before, just humor me.

When I walked into Bonnie’s business for the first time, the last art lesson I took occurred about 37 years before when I was 8.  Learning to do art was one of those things on my list of things to do sometime, and I had seen her sign on the side of the road for “The Cottage Gallery,” which stated that she did framing, works on commission and art lessons.  After we met and talked, we realized that we had met each other before – about 20 years before, Mark and I had rented our first house in Alabama from her father.  She graciously agreed to teach me art.

The first picture I ever tried was this drawing of a lighthouse.  (Bonnie lets you pick out the subjects that interest you, only pulling you in if you try something too hard for your current skill level.)  I remember how wonderful it was to learn that doing art did not mean that you had to draw a straight line without a ruler!

I used a model from a magazine for that picture; the next picture that I did I designed on my own. I did not plan on the clouds being quite so dark, but it was a pastel drawing and I was working on it during Kayla’s swimming lessons. A spot of water fell on the original cloud color, and the only way around it was to darken the clouds considerably. I ended up liking the effect though.

At close to the same time, I also was working on a pastel picture of Tyra when she was about three. Pastels are a chalk like substance and very forgiving to work with. This picture remains one of my favorites even after about two years of lessons now. Unfortunately, the photograph does not do the richness of the browns in this pastel portrait justice.

Sticking with the pastel theme for at least one more picture, I then completed this painting of a cardinal on a cherry blossom branch. (Works made out of pastels are still called “paintings” and not “drawings.”

For my next drawing, I decided to try watercolor, and my first set of human figure(s). The first picture came from a photograph I had of Kayla at her 2009 recital, and to me, watercolor seemed the only appropriate medium to capture the feeling of that moment.

The real portrait is not nearly this dark, but this snapshot still gives you the flavor of the painting.

I also tried a watercolor painting of Kayla when she was in a formation with two other dancers.  The green background behind the dancers was an accident.  I have to admit that even after 1 1/2 to 2 years, I still really don’t like that background.  (Kayla is the one in the middle.)

I went back to pastels to try to paint a pastel portrait of Mandy for Kayla. This painting was the best I could do, at least at the time. I may give another try sometime at getting a good portrait of Mandy. As you can imagine, Mandy’s unique husky-basset hound features present an interesting challenge in terms of perspective.

I reverted back to graphite pencil for my next challenge, a black and white rendering of a close-up of some Lantana we had growing against the white brick of the building I work in one summer.

Making a black and white drawing from a color photo is a challenge; you are focused to concentrate solely on the value (the amount of light and dark) in an object rather than on both its value and color.

I decided to try my hand at using acrylic paint next, and, using a magazine photograph as a model, painted this portrait of two blue birds in a mountain stream.

Blue Birds

I had a lot of fun with it. Acrylic is a fairly forgiving, albeit fast drying, medium.

I made this pastel painting of a bird called a sooty tern next. It also is one of my favorites.

After that one, I did my first oil painting. Oil painting is very different from acrylic painting; oil paint dries very slowly and so can be put on the canvas in different ways. This painting was my attempt to make a color painting from a photograph of Grandma and Grandpa when they were young.

I declared this picture finished at one point, but then decided it wasn’t and so went back and made some more changes. The version above is the final version.

Somewhere in all of this, I also took the time to do the following watercolor from some photographs I took of Cades Cove. I am going to try out a pet theory with this one. I am going to name it “What is Man?” based on the size of the mountains and the smallness of the human additions to the valley and enter it in a few art shows. The title makes it sound like I was really trying to be profound which may give me points with judges, but you and I will know that I really just wanted to paint a pretty landscape.

Close up of Finished Painting

I tried my first abstract painting, in acrylic. It is called “The Beginning” and is part of a piece called “The Fibonacci Series” that ultimately will involve six portraits. It is based upon the following semi-quote from Genesis: In the beginning,… the earth was without form and void and the Spirit of God hovered upon the water.”

This picture is interesting to me because after carefully considering it for about three months, I am convinced that I am not done with it and so am going to have to go back to it. The problem is that I only see the picture I meant to paint if I turn the lights in my office out in the afternoon, then walk over and look at the picture from the left at between a 35 and 45 degree angle. So, I am going to try to get that same look on it for front and day time viewing.

My final project has been the hardest to date, but it has been very, very worthwhile. I just finished it yesterday. Interestingly, it is just an intermediate step to a final project. This drawing is taken from a passport photograph my mother, sisters and I had taken back in 1972. Eventually, I am going to do an oil painting of it, but I decided before I did an oil painting of it, perhaps I better try it in pencil first to get a real feel for what is involved. I’m glad I did; I learned an awful lot by doing so!

Well there you have it; a retrospective of about 2 1/2 years in the life of a beginning art student! For those of you still awake by the end of this, I hope you have a good Thursday and a wonderful weekend!


The Evolution of a Painting

Good morning everyone!

I finished my latest painting, a landscape watercolor, which is the first landscape painting I have ever done.  I took pictures of the painting throughout the process, so I thought you might like to see how the painting was done.

First, you must start out with an idea or a model of what you wish to paint.  This was my model.

The picture I chose as my model

Next, you take the surface you are painting (for watercolors, there is specially developed paper) and draw the main lines of the painting on there. Once the main lines are drawn, you start filling them in. Here, you can see where I have started to fill in the main set of mountains. If you look closely, you can also see the drawn lines for the meadow/valley below.

The Beginning of the Mountains

The next step was to add depth and color to the mountains. Getting the mountains right was probably the longest part of the process.

The Mountains

The next step was to fill in the meadow and other land in the foreground.

Foreground Filled In

A closer view:

A Closer View

Then it was time to start the detail work in the foreground. Here is the detail after my first session on working on it:

Part but not all of the detail

A close up of the detail close to the left side of the mountain:

Close up of the left side of the mountain meadow

The next painting session let me finish the details, and the painting.

The Finished Product

Here’s a closer look at the finished painting:

Close up of Finished Painting

And here is a look at the painting, and the picture that started it, side by side:


The hardest part of painting watercolor is the need for patience – patience as you try to mix the colors in exactly the right, patience as you try to build up the right sets of color and patience to go back and try again if the colors don’t quite work the first time. I’m please with the final result though.

Have a great day!


The Sooty Tern

Hi Everyone!

Here is the latest picture I have completed in art class.  It is a pastel portrait of a bird called “the sooty tern”, which I learned about during our trip to Key West in March.

The sooty tern came to our attention because the only nesting colony in North America is on Bush Key, one of the islands that make up the Dry Tortugas National Park, where Fort Jefferson is located.  (It is not an endangered species; it has a lot of nesting places in tropical areas, even a few in the Pacific around Baja California in Mexico.)  However, in the course of our tour of Fort Jefferson, we learned quite a bit about the sooty tern, which really is an amazing bird.

Sooty terns can stay aloft for years at a time!  They can do this first because of their light, aerodynamic body, which means they can fly without spending much energy, but also because, for some reason, the sooty tern does not need deep sleep.  In fact, nesting may be the only time some of these birds ever land.

They are very noisy birds;  in Hawaii, the name for the sooty tern is  ‘ewa ‘ewa  which means “cacophony.”  Their normal life span is between 30 and 40 years.

I hope you enjoyed the combination nature lesson/art show!

Have a great weekend everyone!