Friday, April 1, 2016

"Shauna Lily - Mona Lisa's Smile", A Portrait Finished - And the snapshots taken along the way.

Shauna Lily - Mona Lisa's Smile, 16" X 12"
Colored Pencil on  Ampersand Pastelboard

Well she's finally done, and submitted as this years 24th Annual CPSA International  (Colored Pencil Society of America) entry.  A portrait of my youngest granddaughter Shauna Lily.  The story of this portrait is tied to my CP art classes in a way and to the portrait of Cora, her older sister.

A few years back I taught a class to my students for recreating a master in colored pencil.  You can see that image below of "My Girl With A Pearl", my personal tribute to Vermeer's "Girl With A Pearl Earring" and my post of that painting here.

And of course when you do one grandchild's portrait you know your going to want to do all of them eventually.  As young Shauna watched me do Cora's piece she asked about which Old Master her portrait would be?  And with her coloring and the influence from my own mother's favorite painting we came up with a plan.  It had to be the Mona Lisa. And she liked that Mona Lisa and Shauna Lily kind of sounded the same.  While I didn't want to do her as I did Cora in the same clothing and setting, I did want the feeling of Mona's gaze and eyes that seem to follow you.  And of course the notorious smile had to be there.  Thus the title!

Next we had to take a photo as reference for her portrait and that meant a photo shoot!  Now what little girl doesn't want to model?  So we set up on a very rainy winter's morning to snap some pictures.  Below was the one I chose to work from.

Reference Photo

I always start a portrait with completing the background first so that the fine hairs which surround a person can be brought out and over the background.
Initial layers of pale skin tones defining the features.
I first lay in the pupil and iris, as adding them first help me decide the values of the skin tones better*.  The initial layers of pale skin tone colors are added to lightly define the features.  I continue adding layers of skin tone colors, varying degrees and going darker as I am contouring the features.

*Since my reference shot did not capture the warm colors that make Shauna's eyes so lovely I could not go dark enough until I had my son send me close up photos of her eyes in better lighting.  I find the eye color to be crucial in capturing a likeness as well as expression.   So I continued with the skin  a little before finishing the pupil and iris areas.

The photos below shows how I develop the skin tones further going into more detail as I go.  The shadowy right side of her face needed soft edges and working in that area one has to be cautious to not "dirty or make mud".

Excuse the iPad shadow here, oops.

Feeling like the skin tones are working well I need to get her dark hair in so I can see how the darker values in this portrait will influence the skin tones. 


 Completing the hair takes a while and I'm working in clumps and groups of strands as I go.   I ultimately wanted to keep the light blue highlights from the window light on her hair.  They look a bit white here but in the finished piece they are a bluish.

Now I'm happy with her skin and hair at this point but small tweaks and more softening of the right side of her face are going along as I begin her clothing.

At this point "knitting" her sweater has to happen and although I knit in real life I'm not sure I really want to do it in pencil.  But at the time this was a favorite dress for her so here goes.  I started to lay out the shadows and rumples in the sweater.

Purl stitches on the shoulder cap, stockinet stitches below.Knit 1 purl 2.  etc.  on and ooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! 

I wanted to get the garment finished because I knew that the pencil crumbles that always appear as you work (and especially on sanded board) would get onto her arm colors.  And speckles of teal/turquoise do not look good in skin!

As it was a few managed to get there anyway after I finished her arm.  !!$%&!!

Well there you have it she's finished! I hope you enjoyed a small example of the over 6 weeks this piece took.  I had shared the progress photos with Shauna and she was pleased.

Finished Piece "Shauna Lily - Mona Lisa's Smile"

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Playing Catch Up With Small Details - To finish up a couple older Plein Air pieces.

"Andre's Garden" a Plein Air Study, 5" X 7" Colored Pencil on Ampersand Pastelboard

The delays that life brings to an artist's schedule have kept me from posting new work and updates on my Blog.  I hate to just post a picture and not let you know about the process, inspiration and possible difficulties in the completing of artwork.  Rest assured that my absence has not been due to inactivity but on the contrary.  I have been working on a colored pencil piece which I will reveal soon, along with photos in progress, as my entry into the 2016 International CPSA (Colored Pencil Society of America) show.   Stay tuned.  

The small plein air works in this post were started on a previous plein air outing season and set aside since they needed a few last minute tweaks and touches before I could call them complete.  They can be seen or purchased, currently at Crossroads Art Center in my exhibit space.   The first, "Andre's Garden" above, is the home of popular nurseryman and national call in talk radio personality Andre Viette, a local icon known for his gardening expertise, in Fishersville, VA.  My intrepid Plein Air partner in crime Kathy, and I ventured there while out on a painting weekend and we found the gardens to be a pleasure.  Finding it hard to position ourselves in one spot as there were so many to choose from.  We eventually were rained out that day, thus the delay in finishing. Andre Viette's Garden.  

"Lazare Pond" a Plein Air Study, 8 X 6" Colored Pencil on Ampersand Pastelboard

The above small plein air works were started on a previous plein air outing season and set aside since they needed a few last minute tweaks and touches before I could call them complete.   The first, "Andre's Garden" was at a popular home of nurseryman and national call in radio persise in Fishersville, VA.  My intrepid Plein Air partner in crime Kathy, and I ventured there while on a painting weekend and we found the gardens to be a pleasure.  Finding it hard to position ourselves in one spot as there were so many to choose from.  We eventually were rained out that day, thus the delay in finishing.  Andre Viette's Garden 

The second piece, "Lazare Pond" was from a great Plein Air paint out with several Moscow School of Painting masters who schooled us in Russian oil painting techniques when working in the fresh air.  Located and hosted by Lazare Gallery in Charles City, VA.  If you haven't enjoyed the works of Russian contemporary painter's you really must look them up.  You can find their website here:

Kathy and John Wurdeman's gallery and home are on the scenic banks of the James River and do not disappoint.  Lazare Gallery is beautifully decorated and the wonderful collection of Russian painter's they represent here are a must see if your in VA.  Their son Jonathan is one of the Russian painter's who demonstrated his style and technique that day, and he acted as translator for us for the others Russian artists.  Experiencing the gorgeous lighting in the paintings of these Russian master's at the gallery brought warmth to the cold November Day we were painting in.  

Now at the time I had not started painting in water miscible oils, so I was working in "crayons de couleur" (the French term for CP), which is what they used when referring to my media.  All of the Russian masters looked and commented with a nodding head as they reviewed my in-progress work, not speaking very much English.  And I had to wonder what their impression was of my working in colored pencil..  

You see at the Moscow school of painting, children to teens work for 4 or more years copying and drawing only, not painting when they enter the school.  First mastering their rendering skills.  So I think they thought I was a newbie and student.  Not realizing I use this as my final media when working Plein Air.  They also seemed interested in the fact I was using my trimmed off bristle brushes to blend and fill the sanded surface of my Ampersand Pastelboard.  Well they we partly right as aren't we all life long students LOL ;))

It was a cold windy day so blending the wax of my Prismacolors was not easy.  Usually in warmer weather the wax blends easily and with little effort.  Which is one of the perks of doing Plein air work in colored pencils in my southern state of Virginia.  Use this link above to see Lazare's website and read about the fabulous work of the Moscow School of Painting as well as to see beautiful examples of their work.   

I hoping to post a little more frequently as life permit's, check back in for views of my current piece on the drawing board.  

Waiting for Spring's colors,

Friday, September 25, 2015

Colored Pencil Demo and a recent workshop.

Last weekend I did a great workshop with members of the Old Dominion Decorative Painters in Richmond.  This is a great bunch of ladies who are accomplished in many differing media and who know how to enjoy a workshop.  What a lunch they put out!  YUM!  We started the Two Day workshop in Colored Pencil on Friday with the basics of CP on paper and finished Saturday with colored pencil on Travertine Stone Tile.  
The Trio of Cherries #3 (5" X 7") is a small little still life I used to teach transferring the image, stroke, blending and burnishing of CP onto Stonehenge paper.  It's a great little piece that combines bright colors, lighting effects with shadow, and enjoying the process with like minded artists.  I worked up a YouTube video for the artists who participated and have attached it below:

If you can't access the video directly click on the link below.  
If you stop by YouTube give me a thumbs up so I know to continue making videos.

Here are their cherries, didn't they do great!

One of the best things about doing what you love is being able to share it with others.  Although several of these lovely ladies are current on going students of mine, I met many more new artists and friends.  They were open to learning a new media and two new surfaces.  We colored pencil artists know this is not a fast media but working on stone is faster than on paper.

My Celtic Green Man example on Travertine 8" X 8"tile, and my demoing the piece for the group.  A "green man" is a Celtic symbol of the "Man of the Woods".  I like to think of them as the male version of mother nature.  I like them so much I collect them, so if you visited my home gardens you would see my collection.

My demo piece on Travertine Tile (no it's not a flipped photo I did it this time in reverse)
Travertine only takes about 4-5 light layers.  When you have completed your first pass of all colors on the entire piece and a spray of workable fixative allows for minor tweaks for deepening the color saturation of the CP.  (Adding an additional light layer.)  Prismacolor pencils and their wax based color work well on the travertine.  Blending is accomplished with the pencil layers and stroke, but a paper stump will move things around a bit to blend also. 

Here are a few tips for working on travertine tile: 
1.  It needs to be unglazed, unpolished stone tile.  Look for the terms "Honed and Filled" when looking at tile stores.  Often they have sample tiles for sale, buying a small one will give you a good idea if there is enough tooth.  I used tumbled for the workshop, doing so will lesson the tooth but give you rounded edges on the tile which makes for easier handling.  Keep your hands free of lotion and use a slip sheet to keep hand oils off the tile. (I use tracing paper.)

2.  One always learns from teaching and although I purchased samples and tested them, the heavy cases of 24, I purchased were not the exact same as the samples I bought.  Shock!  So in order for the CP to grip the tile, meant I had to fill some of natures wholes and sand the tile with a wet fine toothed sanding block.  I used sand-less off white grout to fill the wholes.  Nature gives each stone a unique surface and the minerals in the locality give various colors to the stone.  Working on the lightest colored stone will be easiest for working with transparent Cps. 

3.  When your finished 2-3 light sprays of the workable fixative and then 2-3 coats of UV acrylic varnish will seal and protect your tile.  Display it on a table easel for all to enjoy.  It can also be framed in a floater frame.  I'll do an example of this in a future post.  

 NOTE:  This tile can not be used as a trivet for hot pots or dishes as they are not glazed but varnished.  Varnish will melt if a hot pot is placed on it, ruining your artwork.      

 I have plans for other travertine stone pieces, (I'm currently working on a large 18 X 18" tile) so stay tuned for future posts.  And as always is your interested in my doing a workshop for your group contact me here or on my website:  

And as always do something colorful today!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Workshops and Motivation To Do What We Love - Paint!

Workshops and Motivation To Do What We Love - Paint! 
 In other words:  Conquering doubt and the pains of stretching in your skill set.

"Late Summer -  Plein Air Study" - Oil on Gessoed Hardboard 9" X 12"

The above oil painting is from my most recent plein air outing at Powhatan State Park along the James River this week.  All but the clouds were done on site since they seemed to be everywhere except over the field I was painting.  And my goal was for this to be a sky painting!   I haven't done many with the Cobra water miscible paints but I'm happy with this one.  

But I digress from the reason for this post. Note this is a long blog post sorry;((

It’s funny how ending one large time consuming project in your life - leads to self examination and sometimes an inability to get back to the art you love.  If your like me, you channel yourself in household chores that we may have left for “the project”.  Or you keep yourself busy with the "office to do’s" in an artists life.  Computer work, website updates and getting caught up on the accounting of your business, can provide necessary distraction..... Errr Umm procrastinations.....  All the while dabbling in but not really completing any of the works you have on your easel.  

Knowing this about myself I had signed up for a wonderful workshop from an artist who’s use of color is inspiring, clean and just plain makes you happy.  And HAPPY is what I needed to get much more of lately.  Her name is Dreama Tolle Perry and you can find her joyful paintings and workshop info  HERE.  

Dreama'a 3 Day Workshop in Paris KY, is in oil and for me this was the first workshop I’ve actually done in oil.  Even though I have studied with other wonderful accomplished oil painters -  Charlotte Wharton, (who’s plein air insightful workshop I did in pastel) and Barbara Nuss (who’s plein air workshop I did in my usual colored pencil). (Click on their names for links)

Out of my comfort zone and into the fire was how I felt.  After all I had only completed one oil plein air sketch to date before I went on this adventure.  Dreama’s lovely loose brushwork is much different than the tight style I’m known for.  Her easy going start to her casual paintings is completely opposite from my controlled composition and exacting line drawing whether “en Plein Air” or in the studio.  Oh and did I say her expressive brushwork is just short of gobsmacking!

All of this coupled by her enthusiastic “joyful” demeanor was contagious.  So on Day One - I laid out her translucent color palette in my water miscible oils, picked up a brush too big for my comfort zone and started on this lovely image provided by Dreama. I was thinking, learning to use her format of working thru a painting "alla prima” (fresh - wet on wet) shouldn’t be hard, since I had only tried 2 other paintings in the oils before. After all I had no bad habits to unlearn, and Dreama made it look so easy.  However day one provided a big challenge for this detail oriented mind.  But I love her joyful use of color and I was determined to “Get” this new media. 

Day Two - Da Dun Dahhhhhh (Cue: doom and gloom sound effects)  Let’s just say day two enabled me to have a refresher course on what it was like to start a new media, no matter how experienced you are in other media.  

Humbled and grappling with how to control my brush and this new oil media left me frustrated and feeling defeated.  I was trying to channel Dreama’s style and failing big time!  I looked around and saw 17 other artists enjoying the day and their paintings and wondered what was wrong with me?  Even my supportive friend Kathy Scott, oil painter and roommate for this trip, was having a great time.  Day Two's painting was a complete “wiper”.  Or at least one that will never see the light of day!  I went back to the hotel whipped and feeling defeated.  It took more than one glass of wine Kathy so wonderfully provided before I felt better.

That night I had to dig deep and think about the “why” and the “how” I was going to recover from Day 2, and get thru Day 3.  We had some really good artists in the group from all over the US and one from Israel!  And they could do it.  Then it dawned on me……Cue: Light bulb symbol…... What I realized was that all of the other artists were working with Dreama’s palette but in a style they were comfortable with, their own I was not.  This was no failing with Dreama’s teaching, it was I believe, a result of the inner conflict I’ve been having with where my art is going.  After all I was new to oil, I didn’t have “a style” in this media yet.  

So Day Three - Paint from our own reference.  I needed a new outlook.  And Dreama’s words of wisdom on that very Day, helped me realize "I needed to fill myself with the joy to create and work in my own style and however that developed would be just right for me”.  (Paraphrasing here but she said something like that).

Sometimes what we need to hear, comes at just the right time to be heeded in all areas of your life. And for me this was truly one of those times.  (Cue: angelic singing) 

"Fleurs"  Oil on gessoed hardboard 5" X 7"

My piece for Day 3 came out much better than I had thought it could have on Day 2.  More importantly I learned how using transparent colors keep your colors clean and bright.  Dreama's approach is truly a great start to my oil painting future, from her palate to her infectious optimism.  I may bring forth more detail because that’s what I love, and it’s OK, but I will heed her words as I find my future in my art.   

If you can't see it below, Here’s a link to Dreama’s video of our workshop. HERE

Thank you Dreama Tolle Perry for being an inspiring teacher, artist and the voice of "what I needed to hear when I was ready to hear it" at your very special workshop.  Oh and for exposing me to Paris, KY! ;)))  


Thursday, August 13, 2015

All Stacked Up - Colored Pencil On Ampersand Pastelboard 16 X 12


"All Stacked Up" 16 X 12 - Colored Pencil On Ampersand Pastelbord is finally complete.  The Teapot shown here is one we inherited from my sweet husband's Grandma Treida and the various teacups came from my mother, and mother in law.  The blue glass creamer is from my Nana.  And no proper tea party would be complete without sugar cubes (or so my Granddaughters think).   

This CP Painting will be waiting for delivery to my Nov. /Dec. One Woman Show at Uptown Gallery, Richmond, VA in late Oct.   I'm still tossing around titles for my show so if anyone has ideas let me know.  I'm hoping to convey all the possible surfaces and subjects that Colored Pencil Paintings can be presented in.   

This summer has been a time of change, new beginnings and creations both here at home, in the studio and in my life.  And after a bout with Lyme's disease I'm finally feeling like I can make some real decisions in my life and art.  The best thing is we are expecting a new grandchild via my youngest son David and his lovely wife Angela in Jan.  2016.  I love babies and miss that sweet baby smell.  

I have been working on the details of my Colored Pencil Workshop for the Old Dominion Decorative Painters Assoc. here in Richmond for Sept.,  as well as taking a workshop in Oils which I will post about next.   Don't get me wrong I'm not abandoning colored pencil, just adding a little something new to shake things up.  As much as I love the pencil point and detail I'm missing the ability to spread paint about with a brush.  So not to worry I will still be working like crazy in CP since I have my show coming up in Nov.  

My studio mate, Bacio wants to say Hi ;)) and he's given his approval on the completion of the above piece.  Which usually means he looks at me and then the piece I'm showing him and then proceeds to jump into my lap.  Saying, "OK your done now, pet me!"  I admit it's a little self serving on his part, but sometimes I need someone else to say "Back away and quit fiddling, it's done."  
                                                                                                        Oh, he wants you to know he's just celebrated his First Birthday!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Plein Air Painting - Watch Out For Ticks!

Sorry no photos with this post but please take the time to read, as it may save you some grief this summer.

This is my version of a public service announcement.  As the title of this post reveals I'm sending out a message to all my fellow plein air painters, travel journalers/sketchers, and just plain anyone who's out enjoying nature.

Ticks!  Eeeekkkk, their creepy crawly, annoying, and more than just plain Yucky with a capitol Y.  They can be dangerous, and I wanted to remind all of my readers to take precaution when you plan to go out to paint or sketch!

Why the concern you ask?  Well you see before I left on my cruise I was Plein air painting my first Oil (see "Norwood's Buttercup Fields" A Plein Air Study, 5" X 7" Oil on Canvas Panel.) And quite a few ticks hitched a ride and had lunch at the Gloria Callahan Diner AKA my legs!  And I was not very aware of them until I showered late in the day.  They were tiny, seed like specs!  SIX of them Eeeeewww.  But I removed them within 8 hours of their catching a ride.

........................OR SO I THOUGHT!...............................

Two days later, the morning we left on our trip, I found that two more tiny seed like in size had hitched a ride, undetected.  They had been on me for 3 days!.  It's recommend by the CDC to remove ticks before they have been attached for 36 hours.  Well this was not good!  But hey we booked a cruise and paid for it so I disinfected myself and took some antihistamine for the itching and planned to enjoy my trip.

The fourth day of our trip (8 days after being bitten) I developed the bullseye rash typically associated with Lyme's disease and was feeling tired.  But no this couldn't be, we were almost to Jamaica, in the western Caribbean, I told myself, "It would wait till I got home.  I had deserved this trip and I was just run down from my hectic schedule".  I won't bore you with the details of how I progressed over the next week and a half.  But suffice it to say I had all the symptoms of Lyme's, my Dr. said.  So she began the two week treatment by antibiotics right away.

If you want to know the all the symptoms click here.  But here is the important facts I learned:

1.  The rash only develops in 70-80% of people who have it.

2.  And the blood test only comes back positive regularly after 6-8+ weeks of it in your system.

False negative results can keep you from getting the treatment, so my Dr. thought it best to treat me and not wait.  AND I was feeling badly,  exhausted, very confused and disoriented .  So please be careful.  I finished my treatment this past weekend and I'm still tired a little achy but hoping it clears up soon.  But overall way better than before the treatment.

YES, I will continue to go out to plein air paint, sketch and enjoy the outdoors.  But I have a new bug spray WITH DEET in it.(see below).  And I will use a scrubby when showering IMMEDIATELY after I get home!

DISCLAIMER:  I'm not a specialist/professional in the health field so please investigate on your own, see your Dr.   I have posted a few links here to help inform you and info I have learned from the reading I have done.   
Obvious Tick tips: 
Avoid Contact with Ticks

Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

Walk in the center of trails.

The following is from: CDC at
Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin
Use repellents that contain 20 to 30 percent  DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes and mouth.

Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may provide longer-lasting protection.

Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body 

Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you. 
Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. 
Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats and day packs.
Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)

Removing ticks
Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible. 
Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers. 
You may want to save the tick in a small jar of alcohol. If you get sick, having the tick can help with diagnosis.

Helpful Hint

icon of a tickAvoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible--do not wait for it to detach.


If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A well deserved vacation! Travel Journaling For Memories.

My intent was to get back from a lovely vacation for my husband's birthday and our upcoming 40th wedding anniversary and get these pages in my Travel Journal posted onto the blog before now.  But do to unseen delays I'm a bit late in accomplishing that.  (More to come in my next post on why.)   

On The flight to FL

A much needed trip after a grueling spring of Art show fundraiser organizing and teaching.  My artistic juices were in desperate need of refueling, and it was time to celebrate as well as chill and relax.  What better way than to spend a day and a half in Fort Lauderdale before setting sail on the Carnival Cruise ship "The Breeze", one of their newest and largest.

While in Ft. L, we noshed on some great crepes and then toured the historic Bonnet House, circa 1920, home of artist Frederick Clay Bartlett, a muralist from Chicago.  This home's property became Ft. Lauderdale beach, and the home now sits in the midst of the urban growth of hotels and beaches.  For more info see Bonnet House: here   I had a ball touring this home and getting to see his working studio while in FL for the winters.  His second wife Evelyn started painting in her 50's and became, in my opinion a better painter than her husband.  It is a must see spot if your in the Ft. Lauderdale area.
                                                               Orchids attach to all the trees in the beautiful gardens.

Departing from Miami, Day One and Two of the cruise aboard ship, towel animals and open seas.  Sleeping at night was good with the gentle sway of the Atlantic.

Day Three - "Jamaica Mon!  No problem!" Excursion Day to Dunn's River Falls from Falmouth our first Port of call.   A thoroughly wet and wild climb to the top of the falls, rapids body surfing and light rain in the rain forest that surrounds this beautiful spot.  Then off to the Bamboo Beach Club for lunch and Jamaican rum drinks, champagne cocktails and surf!  I sketched the cove and the turquoise water.  Steps ascended up the cliff to a cave, I'm told by our tour guides, Heather and Damar.   They loved my sketch and signed on the page!  It's fun to get others involved in your journaling.

Day  Four - Grand Cayman and a walking tour of town, shopping then a quick taxi to HELL and back.  Met the devil, Tom bought a T-shirt to prove it.  

 He was actually a nice guy, ex-merchant marine from Norfolk, VA,  a small world.  Chickens and roosters ran loose here, after escaping during a long ago hurricane. We stored up energy for Thursday and went back to the ship early enough to sketch the shore from our balcony.


(Also known as climb a Mayan pyramid day.)

COBA - the tallest Myan pyramid/temple, and only one still open to tourists to climb.  

Thurs. was Cozumel - A three hour trip - Two ferry rides, a 1.5 hour bus ride and we were at Coba, the Mayan city's ruins.  A Rickshaw ride through only a fraction of the restored ruins brought us to the tallest Mayan pyramid, and the only one you can still walk up - My goal.  Walk is a relative term, 138 ft. with 112 steps, most a good two steps tall, it was 90% humidity and 89 deg., and we were given 30 minutes to go up and back down.  The steps crumbled in areas, so I stayed in the center, looking up twice, it seemed like it could take forever, but I made it!!!!  My son Chris was waiting to take my picture.  Did I mention Chris is a fantastic travel planner :))

At the top was a great view of the rain forest, so I closed my eyes, centered my breathe and emptied my thoughts, as the Mayan guide suggested, to invite the power of the gods.  Not sure if it worked but I didn't have a heart attack!     Now for the more difficult trip down, with quivering leg muscles.  All my on the ship training/stair climbing,  proved no preparation for this climb.  So I used my best ass-et in this case, which everyone else was doing.  Young and old, we came down on our butts.  Slow but efficient, and with the slippery steps, a sound decision.  

                            In the picture below - that's me bent over climbing up!  
Our Mayan rickshaw driver/peddler (Manuel) was a god send, he spoke little English but laughed when I told him I was 20 lbs. lighter after the climb from all the sweat, so the ride back should be easier.  Our time was limited so this sketch was done after I recovered on the way back home.  Tom and the boys were proud of me from my trek up Dunn's River but they were very proud that their newly celebrated 60 year old Dad and 57.5 yr old Mom went up when many younger people on our bus did not.  

Shopping for some "Mayan bling" was accomplished right on the bus ride home, an obsidian necklace with my name spelled in Mayan characters to commemorate the Day.  Apparently Mayan couples exchange these necklaces with each other's name on them instead of wedding rings.  

Carnival held the ship for us as our three hour trip back was delayed by a late ferry.  Even though this was my bucket list item the guys all were glad to tuck this climb into their "Life Experience memory list "  And I was glad to add it to my journal.

Day Six back on the Breeze, and at sea heading home, I was quite sore, muscles joints and the hot tub felt great.  

And Day Seven - 6:40 AM back into the port of Miami, and the trip back to the airport, and to Richmond.  Ending with Chinese food back home.  

I hope this summer you too will go out and sketch your travels, whether they are at the beach, in far away lands or right in your back yard.  It's worth writing those memories into your subconscious.  Looking back at my journal pages I can smell, taste and envision my experiences and you can train your memory muscles to do just that too.  

The best part was coming home to my faithful Studio Assistant "Bacio" who enjoyed himself at the Countryside Bed and Biscuit here in VA.  He's just not sure why he couldn't go, and promised to do better in puppy class if we promised to take him next time.

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