Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tree People?

Well, I am traveling back to Tennessee today so, it is now time for something completely different. We can consider it something like a New Years Eve outfit for the blog. Here is a very old drawing in charcoal that I did in college for one of my drawing classes, maybe in 2005?

I can't tell you where I got the idea. I think I just started drawing it one day. It's one of those things that can mean whatever you want it to mean, but I was probably thinking about sitting outside under the trees, thinking about how they are alive, and well, honestly, about how they too could think and feel, but we could never know or prove it. Although there have been studies... anyway, there it is. Hope it's not too crazy for anyone reading. Tomorrow, back to normal.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Golden Seal Leaves

Here is an illustration of Golden Seal from either 2009 or 2010:
Although it's the roots that are used, the plant is so pretty with its big leaves and little red fruit.
I was just reading on wikipedia that golden seal seems to work as an antibiotic, but it doesn't actually kill germs. Instead, it increases the flow of healthy mucus which has its own antibiotic properties. It just helps our bodies do their jobs a little better rather than doing it for us. I thought that was neat.
Golden Seal is also endangered due to over-harvesting and loss of habitat through mountain-top removal mining. So, you happen to see some in the wild, please leave it there. Better to grow your own. :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cleome or Spider Flower

Here is an illustration from around 2009 of Cleome:

These are some unique and lively-looking flowers. The first place I noticed them was on top of the mound covering the root cellar at Twin Oaks where they volunteered themselves one summer. I think the most interesting part of them is the long stamens that shoot out of each individual flower.
This flower is native to southeast South America. As I learn more about where different flowers originated, it seems as though a lot of them are from central and South America.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Yellow Pear Tomato

Here is sort of a strange old one that I believe I did in 2010 of Yellow Pear Tomatoes:

I say it's strange because the different tomatoes, leaves and stems seem totally unconnected, like they are just all separate studies that happned to end up on the same peice of paper. It's not necessarily bad, just different than my normal way. I think it gives it a sort of scientific study feel.
Anyway, wikipedia tells me that the pear tomato originated in Europe in the 1700's and that the first recorded yellow pear tomatoes were grown in Europe in 1805. I think you can probably tell from the illustration why they are called "pear". It's not because of their taste, which is mild and tomato-y! The SESE catalog says they are great for popping in your mouth.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Scarlette Nantes Carrots

Here are some Scarlette Nantes carrots I illustrated in late 2009 or early 2010 I think:

I like the repeated carrot image in all sorts of direction. It sort of looks chaotic and orderly at the same time. These carrots are kind of interesting because they are more cylindrically shaped rather than the regular tapered shape of a carrot.
Wikipedia tells me that the carrot's wild ancestors probably came from Iran and Afganistan, which is still the center of diversity for the wild carrot. Apparently, carrots were not originally grown for their tap roots, but for their aromatic leaves and seeds just as some of their relatives still are like parsley, fennel, dill and cumin.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bright Lights Cosmos

Here is a drawing of Bright Lights Cosmos that I think I did in 2009:

Cosmos are native to the warmer areas of the Americas according to wikipedia.
A neat tidbit about Cosmos from "Spanish priests grew cosmos in their mission gardens in Mexico. The evenly placed petals led them to christen the flower "Cosmos," the Greek word for harmony or ordered universe."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tomato Montage

Here is one I did in probably 2009, maybe 2008, for the generic tomato seed pack illustration:

This one I still like. I guess I just like the colors and all the colorful varieties next to each other.
There is sort of a fun story in tomato history, although I am not too sure how true it is, but I am going to copy it here as told on
"Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson of Salem, New Jersey had brought the tomato home from abroad in 1808. He had been offering a prize yearly for the largest fruit grown, but the general public considered the tomato an ornamental plant rather than one for food.

As the story is told, it was Colonel Johnson who on September 26, 1820 once and for all proved tomatoes non-poisonous and safe for consumption. He stood on the steps of the Salem courthouse and bravely consumed an entire basket of tomatoes without keeling over or suffering any ill effects whatsoever. His grandstanding attracted a crowd over 2,000 people who were certain he was committing public suicide. The local firemen's band even played a mournful dirge to add to the perceived morbid display of courage.
Johnson's public stunt garnered a lot of attention, and North America's love affair with the tomato was off and running.
By 1842, farm journals of the time were touting the tomato as the latest craze and those who eschewed it as 'objects of pity.'"

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Spring Peeper

Here is a Spring Peeper I drew for my mom shortly before I drew the Fowler's Toad. I believe this one was for her birthday while I was in college:

Once again, it seems unfinished to me now, although I thought it was pretty good then. I still like his expression though. My mom's obsession with frogs is what originally gave me the idea for the 2011 Southern Exposure Seed Exchange cover. I had been trying to think of what could follow the gnomes of the year before and I was visiting my mom where I was surrounded by frog decorations of all kinds. The two just came together in my head as toads protecting the garden from bugs and insect pests. Of course.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fowler's Toad

Here is a real old drawing I did for my mom, I think for mother's day, in college of a toad of the species called Fowler's Toad:

I thought this was pretty good when I first did it and I am sure it is still good to others, but to me, compared to what I do now, it looks quite unfinished. I used to be really embarrassed when I showed other people old things that I didn't think were very good anymore, but one day I said this to my good friend Tina Olsen, who is also an artist, as she was looking at some old veggie illustrations. And she said, "Oh Jessie! It is so good to see everything from an artist, even the bad stuff. You need to see the bad stuff, so you know that you can do it too, so you can see that not everything they did was a masterpiece." And she is right. So, from that moment, I have much less of a problem showing others the stuff that I think is not as good as the rest. It's ok to be human! Other people need to see that you are.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Finished Dark Green Zucchini

Here is the finally finished illustration of Dark Green Zucchini:

And a fun fact about zucchini from wikipedia: In Mexico, the flower is often used as an ingredient for soup, sopa de flor de calabaza, and it is quite popular in a variation of the traditional quesadillas, becoming quesadillas de flor de calabaza. One day I will have to try this. But not today! It is too late in the year in Indiana and I have to go play games with my little sister. :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tashkent Marigold

Here is an old illustration from... maybe 2009? I am surprised I never put it up before because it is one of my favorites, Tashkent French Marigold:

I just love the way the yellow outlines every petal. I think they are one of the most beautiful flowers. These Tashkent Marigolds also have a sweeter smell than the normal astrigent odor of other marigolds the SESE catalog tells me.
I found this neat website today that's connected to the Royal Botanic Gardens all about plants and people, our cultures surrounding plants:
And of course there is a lot on there about the marigold. Marigolds apparently originated in Central Mexico and were introduced to South Asia in the 16th Century. Now they are used as decorations and offerings for weddings, funerals, and all sorts of ceremonies.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The next steps of the Dark Green Zucchini

Here is the next installment of progress on the dark green zucchini:

I worked on it in a coffee shop today while my dad, who I am visiting, was in a meeting across the street. It's getting close to done. I need to add some darker colors to the leaves, stems and flowers, and also add the detail.
Here are a couple of fun facts from "The word zucchini comes from the Italian zucchino, meaning a small squash. The term squash comes from the Indian skutasquash meaning 'green thing eaten green.'" I love that name :) And it's interesting because now we are used to so many kinds of squash of so many colors. I tend to think Orange when I think squash myself. I guess this veggie has just come a long way.

Monday, December 19, 2011

dark geen zuke

here is the beginning of a dark green zucchini illustration:

i was trying to keep it loose and start with a wash on each zucchini, but i have such a hard time staying loose. i think it'll work out alright though. A fun fact about zucchinis from ehow: "Italian immigrants brought the zucchini squash to the United States in the 1920s, according to the University of Illinois Extension. The squash caught on and became popular in the 1930s."
And just to let you all know, for the next couple weeks there might be a lot of half way finished stuff or quick sketches since I am visiting family for the holidays.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


And today I am driving up to Indiana to see the family for the holidays so I am posting another old one. I think this one is also from around 2008, a general illustration of peanuts:

SESE sells lots of varieties of peanuts. They even sell one, called Schronce's Deep Black, that has black skin! Neato! If you are not a gardener or have not grown peanuts you may not know the interesting way that they grow. They start off normal, shoots and leaves and flowers, but then they turn around and head back toward the ground, burrow in, and once there, then grow the peanut! How do they know what to do? I always thought it was amazing anyway. Apparently, as wikipedia tells me, this is called geocarpy,"production by plants of diaspores within the soil." more specifically hysterocarpy, " aerial flowers, which penetrate the soil after flowering.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Today I am hanging out with Juneau for the one day in four weeks that we have together so no art today. Instead, here is a pretty old drawing, perhaps from 2008 if I can remember, of shallots:
SESE sells two kinds of shallots Grey Griselle and French Red. They say the French red is more widely adapted and has superior flavor, though it does not keep as well as other shallots, and that it is valued in gourmet cooking and fine restaurants. The Griselle, on the other hand wikipedia tells me, is a shallot that grows wild from Central to Southwest Asia. I would love to walk outside and pick some wils shallots! At least we can go outside and pick some wild garlic, or ramps. Juneau and I found a bunch on the side of the road in Oklahoma, (his Okla-home-a, I had to say it), at the end of last summer. They were all dried out and perfect for harvesting and they were tasty too.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Plymouth Rock Hen, Gloria

Here is what I have been working on today. I don't think it's finished yet, but I won't be working on it again for a couple weeks so you'll just have to wait to see the finished product :) Here is Gloria, a Plymouth Rock Hen:

AnimalsComeFirst, the farm where she lives, had a good long story about her and I am just going to post it here, word for word. From an email from Katie: 

 We don't really have a name for our farm, for we only have 2 chickens, 1 dog and 2 hamsters.  We did have three hens... Hazel died a month ago due to a tumor in her throat.  :(
They are both rescued hens; found in a 4 x 4 pen with 15 other chickens.  Their owner abandoned them; our friend rescued her and soon realized that Penny was partially blind in one eye and after she rescued Gloria her foot got stepped on by a horse, so she limped around the yard.   So, with a chicken with a broken foot, a partially blind chicken and a totally blind chicken (Hazel, R.I.P.) she knew that it would be a hard life on her farm of 4 dogs, 5 horses and over 20 chickens (2 roosters.)
She wanted to find them a home that could provide extra love and care and attention.  My friend also does riding lessons, and I ride at her place, so she asked my mom if she would be interested in opening a kind of disabled chicken farm, because we love animals so much.  We have a Rat terrier mix, Luna, who loves to *chase* squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and crows.  We thought "Oh no, she'll attack the chickens!"
Nope!  She was a little weary at first, but now she enjoys to go out each morning and "let the girls out"!
Now here's the thing, at first, our friend only offered us Penny and Hazel, the 2 buff orpingtons.  When we went on vacation, we brought both of them back to our friends for a few days.  Gloria, the lonely outcast, became friends with them and protected and guarded them from the roosters and mean hens!  Michelle then offered Gloria, and how could we resist a adorable Barred Plymouth Rock?
Each morning i'll go out with my dog and let Gloria and Penny out of their (small, only fit for 3 - 4 chickens) coop.  The run (only 2 1/2 feet high, but covered with a net.) is across the yard, so I leave them out in the fenced in yard to walk over to their run eventually.  Their run does have shelter, a dog house filled with shavings.  In the summer, Gloria lays 1 egg a day... penny doesn't lay.  (If she does, its whenever she feels like it, i guess!)
Gloria comes up on our patio and likes to look in the glass door at the activity inside, and now she has taught Penny to do the same.  I don't like them up there because they go to the bathroom and its hard to clean up.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finished Delaware Rooster

Here is the finished Delaware:

He's very proud.
This guy lived happily with a bunch of other chickens and a few roosters at Catalpa Farm in Columbia City, Indiana, as I was saying yesterday. I was very impressed with his owner, Soni, when Juneau, my partner, my mom, and I all went to visit. She was well spoken, very informative, welcoming, and friendly. She told us all about the importance of heritage breeds and stories of her chickens. One of the sadder stories was that this year they had a lot more birds than they did when we visited. They had put about $1000 into taking care of a bunch of meat birds, Jersey Giants, (more about them another time when I do a Jersey portrait), but one night an animal came along and killed all but a few of them. They still have their chickens for eggs, but they are out a good amount of money and a good number of birds... I hate to end on that note. Well, maybe if you find yourself in Columbia City, IN and you want to make an appointment to go see Soni and get some healthy, happy eggs maybe you could buy a dozen and throw in a little extra if you can afford it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Delaware Rooster

I'm switching gears for a day or two to keep painting more lively for myself. So, it is not yet finished, but here is the first of a series of heritage breed chickens. This one is a Delaware Rooster from Catalpa Farm in Columbia City, Indiana:

Because we rely so heavily on just a few breeds of chickens, bred and modified to survive in industrial settings, there are some old breeds of chickens on the verge of extinction. This is one that a year or two ago was on that verge, but because of people like Soni on Catalpa farm this breed is doing better. Catalpa is really just a sweet farm house on a little land with a nice little building for the chickens out back. They have a movable fence there in which they corral the chickens with its two ends butted up to the chicken house so that the chickens can move inside and out as they want. They get to forage on the bugs outside and the green things under their feet. Soni sells the eggs and meat, (when their is meat to sell, more on that another time), to a local CSA.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

eva purple ball finished

I decided to take it easy on the art today and just finish this one up. Sometimes, if you don't take a break from painting veggies it begins to feel too much like a job and I'd rather stop for a day and feel inspired again. Anyway, here it is:

Fun tomato facts: Wikipedia tells me there are around 7500 tomato varieties! And I thought the few hundred that SESE sells seeds for was a lot. It also tells me that the heaviest tomato ever weighed 3.51 kg (7 lb 12 oz), was of the cultivar 'Delicious', and was grown by Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986.

Monday, December 12, 2011

almost done eva purple ball

Here is an unfinished illustration of a tomato called Eva Purple Ball:

I only have to put in the small details to sharpen it up, but I just feel like letting it go 'til tomorrow.
The SESE catalog tells me this tomato variety was developed in the late 1800s in the the Black Forest region of Germany and that it's one of the most blemish free tomatoes they've grown.
And a fun tomato fact: The largest tomato plant (a “Sungold” variety), recorded in 2000, reached 19.8 meters (65 feet) in length and was grown by Nutriculture Ltd. of Mawdesley, Lancashire, UK. -taken from
Wow, I wonder what kind of trellis they grew that on.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

little leaf cucumber

Today's painting is of Little Leaf Cucumber:

They are little cucumbers with little leaves, extremely cute. :) We grew these at Twin Oaks for pickling. They fit right in the jars and were yummy too. They were also very convenient because we could easily explain which cucumbers were for slicing and which were for pickling when we were having new people harvest. The picklers were the ones with the little leaves that you harvested when they were longer than around the size of your pinky finger, and the slicers were the ones with big leaves that you harvested when they were full and round if you looked straight at the end, instead of sort of triangular, like the under ripe ones were. This variety of cucumber, the SESE catalog tells me, was developed and released by the University of Arkansas in 1990.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lemon Cucumber

Today's illustration is of Lemon Cucumber:

From the picture I guess it's pretty obvious why these cucumbers are called Lemon, but although they look more like lemons than the cucumbers we are used to, the Southern Exposure catalog tells me they taste like an old fashioned cucumber with a hint of nuttiness. "Old fashioned with a hint of nuttiness", I can think of a few people who fit that description too :) And the New World Encyclopedia tells me that they have a thinner, more delicate skin than the cucumbers you normally find here in the grocery store.

Friday, December 9, 2011

autumn beauty sunflower finally finished

Here is the finally finished illustration of Autumn Beauty Sunflower... unless I change my mind in the morning:

It's hard to believe all of those flowers come from one variety, but there they are.
So for fun sunflower facts before I go to bed: Apparently there is a mathematical equation for the pattern of florets in the head of a sunflower. I would copy it down here, but it really means nothing to me. It is just kind of neat and crazy that someone, who is named H.Vogel, actually figured that out. I have noticed while drawing sunflowers the interesting pattern in the middle. I always get it down on the page by drawing curves out from the center of the flower like C's all the way around, and then flipping the C and doing curves like that all the way around too, if that makes any sense.
And one last fun fact, International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening day is on May 1st. "It is a day when guerrilla gardeners around the world plant sunflowers in their neighborhoods, typically in neglected public places such as tree pits, shabby flower beds and bare roadside verges. It has taken place since 2007, and was conceived by guerrilla gardeners in Brussels." I like it :) Perhaps this May 1st, wherever I am I will find myself planting a sunflower.
-info on the math equation and Guerrilla Gardening taken from Wikipedia

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More Autumn Beauty Sunflower

Well, this painting is taking a ridiculous amount of time. I guess I am getting too wrapped up in each petal. Maybe tomorrow I will let it go and hurry up. I will get it done one way or another anyway. So here is the next installment of the Autumn Beauty Sunflower:

Actually, I think it is just taking so long because there is so much variety within the variety of sunflower that it takes a lot of sunflowers to show it all on the seed packet. There are just so many possible colors.
Sunflowers are not only pretty to look at with tasty seeds,but they also have other uses in the garden . At Twin Oaks we would plant one every few feet or so in rows of beans to attract beneficial birds and insects and through them, keep the bad bugs at bay. They were also useful when we grew pole beans for the beans to grow up as a trellis.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Autumn Beauty

I will probably still do some more work on this later, but I thought it would maybe be interesting to some to see how I start an illustration. After collecting a bunch of pictures for reference, looking at everything I've collected I try to visualize putting the images together and how they would fit nicely on the paper. Once I have a good idea of where I would like things to go, I do a very light pencil sketch of the contours, so light so that when I cover it with watercolor you can't see any pencil through the paint. If I don't do this and just jump in, I will end up making one part too big and not being able to fit the rest in, or I will tend to make things not in the right proportions to each other and watercolor is so unforgiving that things just have to be planned out. So, here is the beginning of Autumn Beauty Sunflower. It looks weird and dark because I messed with it so that you can actually see the pencil drawing. Just know that the pencil lines are much lighter in actuality and that the paper is one solid white color.

I didn't used to plan things out so much or even stick to any drawing that I started with. I was very bad at composing an image. I was more interested in making what I did get down look the most real, not caring about where it sat on the page, or how it interacted with the rest of the picture. But it's been a good challenge to try to change that. Things looks a bit less awkward in the end :)
And for some fun facts, here is a bit about heliotropism and sunflowers from wikipedia:
A common misconception is that sunflowers track the sun. In fact, mature flowerheads typically face east and do not move. The leaves and buds of young sunflowers do exhibit heliotropism (sun turning). Their orientation changes from east to west during the course of a day. The movements become a circadian response and when plants are rotated 180 degrees, the old response pattern is still followed for a few days, with leaf orientation changing from west to east instead. [I find this part particularly interesting. It is as if the leaves and buds have to learn where they are supposed go in this new situation.] The leaf and flowerhead bud phototropism occurs while the leaf petioles and stems are still actively growing, but once mature, the movements stop. These movements involve the petioles bending or twisting during the day then unbending or untwisting at night.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Catalogna Chicory

Here is today's painting, an illustration of Catalogna Chicory:

When I think of chicory I think of the little purple, or some people would say blue, flowers that grow in fields and along roadsides. I think of when a couple of friends and I at twin oaks went out and gathered a bunch of roots, roasted them, ground them, and then made a coffee substitute, which was pretty yummy, but of course, missed the caffeine. I don't necessarily think of salad, or I didn't until I went searching for pictures of this vegetable. Apparently, there are two types of chicory, one grown for its roots, and one grown for its greens. And this second type has five sub-groups of its own: "radicchio (popular Italian variety), sugarloaf (a popular heading variety), large-leafed chicory, cutting or leaf chicory (Catalogna or asparagus chicory), and Belgian endive or witloof chicory (white or blanched varieties that originated in France and Belgium)," which I just learned from Who knew chicory was such a versatile plant?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Black Mammoth Sunflower - finished

Here is the finished illustration of the Black Mammoth Sunflower:

I think it did end up coming out alright in the end. Today I found more motivation... in coffee.
So, apparently there is actually a national sunflower organization. It seems that its purpose is mostly centered around industry involving the sunflower, but there is some interesting info about the sunflower on their website. It tells me that the sunflower was originally cultivated by Native Americans in present-day New Mexico and Arizona. It was taken to Europe by Spanish explorers around 1500, use spread and then it was eventually brought back to the Americas for commercial use in the 1900's. It also tells me that Native Americans had many uses for it, not just food. "Non-food uses include purple dye for textiles, body painting and other decorations. Parts of the plant were used medicinally ranging from snakebite to other body ointments. The oil of the seed was used on the skin and hair. The dried stalk was used as a building material. The plant and the seeds were widely used in ceremonies."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

the middle of a black mammoth

Some days it is harder to push yourself into painting than others, and sometimes a painting moves more slowly than you expect. I guess it might have been the weather, rainy and dreary, good for laying around and cuddling with kitties. On those days I push myself a little and know that if I give it enough time and patience the painting will come together eventually. Of course there's always the option of giving up too or saying, good enough, which I do choose too sometimes. Anyway, I did get half way done with this one and tomorrow I am sure it will come together, the Black Mammoth Sunflower:

The SESE website tells me that these are the sunflowers to grow if you are growing them to eat their seeds, "big seeds" "great for munching".
And I just learned the neatest thing about sunflowers from wikipedia. Their heads, the part we think of as the flower, are actually 1000-2000 individual flowers joined together by a receptacle base. Here is some more on that, "What is usually called the "flower" on a mature sunflower is actually a "flower head" (also known as a "composite flower") of numerous florets, (small flowers) crowded together. The outer petal-bearing florets are the sterile ray florets and can be yellow, red, orange, or other colors. The florets inside the circular head are called disc florets, which mature into seeds."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

SESE's new catalog

and I almost forgot. the new SESE catalogs for 2012 are ready. If you want to have a free one sent to you you can go to their website here:

Clemson Spineless Okra

Today I did an illustration of Clemson Spineless Okra:

Apparently the spines on okra can make some people itchy when they pick them, but not these okra. I don't remember ever getting itchy from picking okra, but I can imagine how some people would. The worst for me was always squash. My hands would get red dots from the pokey leaves.
I just learned from wikipedia that okra is also called "lady fingers" and "gumbo" in some parts of the world. The word "okra" is actually of West African origin from "okwuru" in the Igbo language spoken in Nigeria. Some people believe okra originated in West Africa while others think it might be from South Asia or Ethiopia.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Table Queen Vine Squash Finished

Here is the finished illustration for Table Queen Vine:

I just picked up a few things from about acorn squash, one being that although they are considered a winter squash, acorn squash are actually in the same family as summer squash.
Other interesting things: Squash seeds have been found in ancient Mexican archeological digs dating back to somewhere between 9,000 and 4,000 BC; and the first European settlers originally thought squash to be a type of melon since they had never seen them before.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Tender Gray End leads to the beginning of the Table Queen

First I will post the very beginnings of the Table Queen Vine Winter Squash, which I am not going to finish today as it is my last day with Juneau before he visits his family for two weeks and then I leave and visit mine for two weeks. So, here is the very beginning of that painting:

I decided to start with all the yellowy, peachy, orange colors before moving into the dark blue greens that will dominate the painting. These are a type of acorn shaped squash whose seeds are sold by SESE. The catalog tells me that it was, "Introduced [in] 1913. The precursor of this variety was cultivated previously by the Arikara Indian tribe in the early 1800's."

And here is the finished illustration of Tender Gray Zucchini, (this time I will spell it right).

I finished up by brightening the yellow and orange in the flowers with watercolor and then adding detail with colored pencil to everything, mostly just around the edges to tighten it up. As my two year old niece Emma would say, I like it. It's ok to be proud of a painting sometimes, right?

And some fun zucchini facts:
The world’s largest zucchini on record was 69 1/2 inches long, and weighed 65 lbs. Bernard Lavery of Plymouth Devon, UK, grew the humongous veggie.
And,  a zucchini has more potassium than a banana.
-taken from

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grey Zuchinni

Although this one is not completely finished I myself am done for the day :) But here is the almost done Grey Zuchinni:

The pictures I've been working from for these zukes show beautiful mottled fruit, but also beautiful mottled leaves, as you can hopefully see in the painting. The SESE catalog says they have excellent flavor and texture.
An interesting thing that I didn't know until I read it just now on wikipedia is that the zuchinni has male flowers and female flowers. The female ones grow at the end of the zuchinni and the male ones grow directly on the stem. All squash flowers, male or female, are yummy to eat.
And here is a little life reflecting ramble just because I feel like it: Yesterday I was telling Kimi, the cat lady, how I arrived at Twin Oaks when I did, and I decided to start the story from when I graduated from high school and I wanted to travel around and make art. Normally when I tell this to people it's with an awareness that I was naive and it was sort of a silly idea to think that I could somehow get by that way, but this time as I was saying it I realized that that is exactly what I am doing right now. And without even trying I'd somehow gotten somewhere I'd wanted to be a long time ago. Just a kind of fun and neat realization.
Yay for art! And travel. And for Acorn and SESE for making it possible.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Anaheim Chile

We're back to fresh posts with fresh art as Juneau and I are settling into cat world. In most ways I feel as though we've hit the jackpot. The woman whose cats we're watching is really nice and very like-minded, we are surrounded by tons of art books which will inspire me when I don't feel like painting, she's leaving behind lots of tea and yummy food, no bills, free netflix, and even art supplies in her her studio room! and we get to cuddle with lots of kitties. I don't mind cleaning up after cats for that. I don't mind cleaning up after cats anyway. The only problem so far is that I need to learn to not leave a painting out even for five minutes. I was working on this anaheim chile, finished it completely, ready to scan, and had to go to the bathroom. When I came back, Yoshi, a little orange fluff ball, was sniffing around the table and when I went to scan the painting there were red and green paw prints on it and some smeared peppers. Mostly, it was salvageable and once the top leaf is dry, (which I had to add over a kitty print,) I will probably be able to make it look a little better. Still, I feel very lucky and grateful for this current situation. Here is the pepper:

And a funny thing about the Anaheim that I learned from wikipedia is that it originated in New Mexico, but gets its name from Anaheim, California where Emillio Ortega brought the seeds in the early 1900's

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherry

Here is an illustration of an interesting veggie, the Ground Cherry, in particular the variety sold by SESE called Cossack Pineapple:

I have never had the opportunity to taste on myself, but I would like to. They are aparently similar to tomatoes in firmness and strawberries in flavor and you can treat them like any other fruit: eat them raw, make jelly or jam, etc. SESE's cultural notes tell me that ground cherries have been cultivated in Central and South America for centuries, even before tomatoes, and that they have their name because the cherry-sized berries are borne near the ground.


Looks like when I was looking up info online about that White Icicle Radish I got confused. The White Icicle is not a Daikon, but a similar looking spring radish. Thank you Ira Wallace at SESE for the heads up. SESE sells seeds for both kinds of radishes, and in an earlier post from Sept. 27th you can see an illustration of Daikon, also called Myashige. Here is a bit from one website about the two:
There are two different types of Radishes; the spring Radish, which is commonly used in salads, and the Oriental [daikon] or winter Radish, which isn't as well known, but is becoming more popular.
Spring Radish (R. sativus) - This hardy annual loves cooler weather. It forms small rosettes of rough, dark green leaves and enlarged, edible roots. The foliage may be mixed and cooked with Turnip or Mustard Greens when it is young and tender. Young spring Radishes are ordinarily eaten raw, before they become pithy or pungent with age. There are several different kinds, which vary in color and shape. Some are oval, cylindrical, round, or tapered like an icicle. Each type has a wide range of colors; white, red, white and red, pink and white or a combination of white, rose and purple.
Winter Radish (R. sativus variety longipinnatus) - The winter Radish is also known as the Oriental Radish and Daikon. Winter Radishes aren't regularly grown in the U.S., although many of the old standby winter varieties have been grown for decades by experienced gardeners. The name comes from the practice of gathering the roots in the winter.
- taken from

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Here is an illustration of White Icicle Rashes:

***Please see correction in next post***
These are a variety of Daikon Radish, which are also called Chinese Radish, Oriental Radish, Japanese Radish, or White Radish. "Daikon is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean. It reached Japan, by way of China, about 2,000 years ago. Today, more land in Japan is devoted to the cultivation of daikon than any other vegetable. In one form or another, daikon appears at almost every Japanese meal. Its name is derived from the Japanese words dai (large) and kon (root)." -from
Sakurajima daikon is the world's largest variety of daikon, confirmed by the Guiness Book of World Records. The biggest can be as heavy as 99 pounds!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Spaghetti Squash

Here is an illustration I did a few weeks ago in the midst of moving my mom into a new apartment, Spaghetti Squash:

An interesting fact about spaghetti squash: it is not a new world vegetable. It actually originated in China, which I learned from ehow here: This was a bit confusing to me since squash as a whole originated in the Americas, (in an area between Guatemala and Mexico), but after I thought about it, it makes sense that certain varieties originate elsewhere. Another variety of squash that was developed on another continent is zucchini, developed in Italy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Greek Oregano

For the next few days I am going to have to post some older art ahead of time since I will be doing Thanksgiving with family on Friday and then heading down to Tennessee to live with 14 cats for four months, (that's right 1 more than 13 felines), and I am not sure that I will have computer access at first.
So here is the first pre-written post:
This illustration I did for SESE while I was in Crown Point, NY staying at a friend of a friend's cabin, (although I get to call him friend now), in exchange for a little work around the place. SESE's Greek Oregano seeds thank Odin Brudie for giving their future selves a place to be illustrated.

Here is a fun little paragraph about oregano's history from
Oregano was first used by the Greeks. In their mythology the goddess Aphrodite invented the spice. Giving it to man to make his life happier. The word "oregano" is actually derived from the Greek phrase, "joy of the mountains". Just married couples were crowned with wreaths of it. It was also put on graves to give peace to departed spirits. Ancient Greek physicians discovered that the herb had beneficial effects and prescribed it for a variety of ailments. Hippocrates used it as well as its close cousin, marjoram as an antiseptic.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! Gourds!

Here is an ilustration for the SESE general Gourds seed packet, a perfect one for Thanksgiving day:

I am sure most people reading this know that gourds are native to the Americas, just like the turkey many people are eating right now! yay! It's a celebratory painting! and while I would like to learn something about gourds and post it here, I think some play time with my mom and Juneau is in order instead. It is a holiday after all.
Here is something really neat and fun to look at though, The Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra; beautiful music, beautiful instruments:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Seven Top Turnip Greens

Today's painting is of turnips greens, in particular a variety called Seven Top sold by Southern Exposure, of course:

As the SESE catalog tells me, these turnips are grown only for their greens as their roots are woody, but the greens are totally worth it because they are so good for you. An article from the New York Times tells me that in order to get the same amount of calcium from cooked turnip greens as you would an 8oz glass of milk you only need to eat 7.5 oz, (see the calcium equivalent chart here: They also have a whole bunch of other good vitamins and nutrients in them. You can see a nutrient chart and read up more about them here:
And it turns out turnip greens can make you sing. Here is a site with a list of ten songs, mostly country, mentioning these famous veggies:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Green Grape Tomatoes

Since I was hanging out with my good friend, B Mann, in Oberlin, OH and then driving back to Indiana today, here is a painting a few weeks old of Green Grape Tomatoes

This is another illustration for SESE.
The other day my partner, Juneau, asked me where tomatoes originated. And I thought I remembered reading in some Michael Pollan book that they came from North America. To which he said, "I wonder what Italian food was like before the tomato." I wonder too. No pizza, no spaghetti, or at least they were very different than they are today.
Anyway, I was wrong about where they came from to begin with. Wikipedia tells me it was South America, and that they were brought to the rest of the globe by the Spanish after the colonization of the Americas. And for a long time European people thought tomatoes were poisonous, but my mid-18th centrury they were widely eaten in Europe... And now there is pizza :)
And now I get sleep.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Finished Rhubarb

Here is the finished illustration for SESE of Rhubarb:

I added a lot of veins to the leaves first with a razor, scraping away some of the paper. Then I added a lot of shading in the stems and leaves with colored pencil, blending a bit with the white colored pencil. And lastly, I added some bluish shadow with watercolor again.
I looked for some more interesting things to write about rhubarb on wikipedia and I am just going to copy and paste a couple paragraphs here that I thought were fun. Who knew that rhubarb was once as expensive as opium and saffron?

From wikipedia:
For centuries the plant, [rhubarb], has grown wild along the banks of the River Volga, for which the ancient Scythian hydronym was Rhā. The expense of transportation across Asia caused rhubarb to be highly expensive in medieval Europe where it was several times the price of other valuable herbs and spices such as cinnamon, opium and saffron. The merchant explorer Marco Polo was therefore much interested to find the plant being grown and harvested in the mountains of Tangut province. A measure of the value set upon rhubarb can be gotten from Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo's report of his embassy in 1403-05 to Timur in Samarkand: "The best of all merchandise coming to Samarkand was from China: especially silks, satins, musk, rubies, diamonds, pearls, and rhubarb...".
The term rhubarb is a combination of the Ancient Greek rha and barbarum; rha is a term that refers both to the plant and to the River Volga. Rhubarb first came to the United States in the 1820s, entering the country in Maine and Massachusetts and moving westwards with the European American settlers.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Emerging Rhubarb

Today I began an illustration of rhubarb, in particular Victoria Rhubarb:

I decided to try to work a little more loosely again on this one after reading an article in Watercolor magazine in which one artist said they start by working all the large shapes out and then go into the smaller and smaller details. Sometimes I can get caught up in one little area until it seems perfect and have a hard time moving on; and sometimes that turns out looking really neat, but other times it means I can't fit the rest of the picture in while making it in proportion to what's already there. I also thought that this might once again help me work faster. (If I had endless amounts of time I would probably spend twelve hours on every little painting at least, but I  guess that's silly.) Tomorrow I will put in the details, probably with colored pencil.
So, an interesting fact about rhubarb, (that gardeners know, but if you don't garden you probably don't), is that the leaves are poisonous. They contain oxalic acid, which is corrosive and bad for your kidneys. Although wikipedia tells me that it has been used in Chinese medicine as a laxative.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Here is the finished illustration of Cowpeas, aka Southern Peas:

As you can see, they come in all sorts of colors. The variety I'm used to is Mississippi Silver, not too fancy to look at, but tasty. That's what we grew at Twin Oaks while I was there, (and they probably still do). Cowpeas did especially well in the greenhouse in the summer. It took us a while to figure out when they were ready to harvest. For some time we were harvesting them when the pods started to feel thinner, but were still green, but that led to really long pea shelling hours. They just didn't want to pop open. Eventually we realized they were much easier to deal with when the pods were brown and papery and the beans were dry.
I guess it might be because I am from the north, but I had never had a cowpea until I lived at Twin Oaks. In fact if you'd asked me i wouldn't have been able to tell you what a black eyed pea even looked like, regardless of the descriptive name. I wonder how many other northerners are missing out on this yummy food. Well, if you are a gardener and don't want to be missing out, the SESE catalog tells me that the Queen Anne variety can grow well in most northern states.
And fun fact about the cowpea... it originated on the African continent and was cultivated there around 5 to 6 thousand years ago.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Keystone Resistant Giant Peppers

Today I am posting some bell peppers I did a week or two ago, (Since spending time with my sister, nieces, and brother-in-law for the last time in over a month takes precedence over art, the cowpeas are not done.) Keystone Resistant Giants:

This is, of course, another illustration for SESE done in watercolor and colored pencil. The peppers are "resistant" because they are resistant to the tobacco mosaic virus, which is a virus that infects members of the solanaceae family giving them spotty discoloration on the leaves, like a mosaic.
I was trying to think of a story about peppers and I can only think of a slightly embarrassing one that I am sure many other people have had a similar experience to. I was working as an intern on the Dartmouth Organic Farm. Now, this is a farm at an ivy league league college where you would expect the workers to really know a lot about what they are doing. You would expect them to know at least the basics of the vegetables they are growing. But, do not be fooled. Just attending a college with a good reputation does not make a person smart or well informed. I was there to learn after all, and when Scott Stokoe, the farm manager, told me to go harvest the peppers, I went and picked a bunch of really nice looking big, green peppers... to Scott's surprise. He of course was very kind about it, as always, and informed me that they turn red when they are ripe. That is when they are sweeter and more flavorful. That is also why the green ones are always so much cheaper in the grocery store. Ah, well, now I know.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

half a rutabaga + half a southern pea = one whole painting

I woke up this morning thinking that the rutabagas I posted yesterday were not finished. They were missing shadows and needed the light colored lines at the top of the rutagaba below the stems to be more defined. So I went back into them. A fun way to add light-colored detail to a watercolor painting is to scratch off the watercolor, and even a bit of the paper, with the point of a razor:

Much better I think. And for another couple of rutabaga facts: you can eat the leaves too. I guess that might be obvious to some since you can eat turnip greens and cabbage leaves and it is a mix of the two. Anyway, I was also wondering why they put the wax on the outside of the ones you buy in the grocery store. Cabbage and turnips both store well in a cool, humid environment, so why the extra processing step? Well, turns out it is done just before marketing so they look more attractive and don't shrivel in the store, but if you are storing your own rutabagas you probably shouldn't wax them because it could actually make them not store for very long.

And the other half of a painting I worked on is of southern peas, also known as cow peas, field peas, crowder peas, and black-eyed peas:

These are a rather confusing vegetable. They look like a bean, but they are called a pea. Which one are they? Well, SESE solves the problem by putting them in their very own catagory in the seed catalog. And I suppose they deserve to be recognised as a distinct vegetable, although they are really more of a bean. The catalog tells us they "can be boiled, frozen, canned, or dried. Green seeds can be roasted like peanuts. Scorched seeds can be used as a coffee substitute. Leaves may be used as a potherb." I have had them after they have been boiled, frozen and dried, but none of the other ways. Most importantly, each time I have had them, they were yummy. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On the third day she ate... Rutabagas!

Yesterday I was collecting pictures of rutabagas to use as reference for this painting and I had to go out and get one for dinner because they are so yummy!

Maybe I am not very observant with my taste buds, but I never realized that they taste kind of like turnips until I saw in the SESE catalog that they are also called Swedish Turnips. Then, of course, it clicked. So I did a little rutabaga research online and discovered that it was originally a cross between a cabbage and turnip. They're called Swedish turnips because, as it says on Wikipedia, "The first known printed reference to the rutabaga comes from the Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin in 1620, where he notes that it was growing wild in Sweden." It also says that "rutabaga is the common American and Canadian term for the plant. It comes from the old Swedish word Rotabagge, meaning simply "root bag". "Swede" is the preferred term used in England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand and many other parts of the world that use British English as a standard." I love these tasty swedes... Anyway, rutabaga always makes me think of Thanksgiving and Christmas because we would always have it mashed as one of the sides. And it also makes me think of my mom preparing it by chopping it up with this huge, heavy clever made by my grandpa. Those are some tough root bags!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

day 2 - Mortgage Lifter VFN Tomato

The last twenty-four hours were kind of crazy and tiring so I am posting some four day old art, but don't worry. Tomatoes will stay good for more than four days, especially if you put them in a drawing pad and put that in a backpack. So these ones are still quite fresh: Mortgage Lifter VFN Tomatoes

These were done in spurts while watching my nieces with my mom and Juneau, my partner, on the same day I went to visit Catalpa Farm in Columbia City, Indiana where a woman named Soni raises a few heritage variety chickens for both eggs and meat. She was a well spoken, friendly, informative and kind woman, and her chickens were healthy and free to forage, but more on that all another day when I am ready with a chicken portrait... As for the mortgage lifters, they were done on bristol board with watercolor and colored pencil as always. The days before I was looking at other people's art on etsy and saw someone else who has done a number of tomatos, which I liked. They were looser and lighter than mine normally are and I think his tomatoes were in my head when I was working on these. I consider it a good influence. You can see his tomatos here if you want:

And now some fun facts from the SESE catalog:
This tomato is an improved version of the original Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter. It has added disease resistance and more uniform fruit, ripening to red rather than pink-red. But the Radiator Charlie's story is good so it must be told. Fromt he catalog: "Developed by M.C. Byles in the 1930s and released to SESE in 1985. A legendary tomato always in demand in the Mid-Atlantic states. The following history is based on portions of our 1985 taped interview with M.C. Byles who developed this tomato in the early 1930's while in Logan, WV. Mr. Byles is affectionately known as "Radiator Charlie". He earned that nickname from the radiator repair business he opened at the foot of a steep hill on which trucks would often overheat. Radiator Charlie had no formal education or plant breeding experience, yet he created this legendary tomato by cross-breeding four of the largest-fruited tomatoes he could find: 'German Johnson', 'Beefsteak', an Italian variety, and an English variety. One of the four varieties was planted in the middle of a circle. Then, using a baby's ear syringe, he cross-pollinated the center plant with pollen from the circle of tomatoes. Next year he selected the best seedlings: he planted the best seedlings in the center and the rest in a circle around it. The pollination and selection process was repeated six more years until he had a stable variety. After Charlie developed and named this large tasty tomato, he sold plants for $1.00 each (in the 1940's) and paid off the $6000 mortgage on his house in 6 years. Each spring, gardeners drove as far as 200 miles to buy Charlie's seedling tomatoes."

Monday, November 14, 2011

The first day/catnip

I felt like I wasn't getting around to art enough. So, I have decided I am going to post some piece of art on here everyday. Most of the time it will be whatever I did the day before, whether its more veggie illustrations for SESE, or just half of a painting that I am in the middle of, or a new chicken painting, or just a simple sketch because that was what I had time or energy to do. And I plan on writing a little something about the things I post also, rather than just putting the picture up. Hopefully it will be a story about the subject matter, a fun fact or two from the SESE catalog, or just why or how I felt like drawing or painting what I did. So here we go, day number one: Catnip

This picture is a bit flattened/stretched sideways due to this computer. I am not sure how to fix it.
I did this one over yesterday and this morning. It is another illustration for an SESE seed packet.
(If you are reading this and don't know what SESE is, it stands for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and they are a company that sells vegetable and flower seeds, a lot of which are heirloom and/or organic. They are owned by an income-sharing, egalitarian, intentional community called Acorn located in central, rural Virginia, and they are really great. :) I began doing illustrations for them a number of years ago when I moved to another intentional community down the road called Twin Oaks.)
The painting is done in watercolor and a little bit of colored pencil on bristol board. The cat in the painting is my mom's cat, Elijiah. He is fun and playful and cuddly and also a bit weird. I knew I wanted to use him in the catnip picture, but I needed him to actually look like he was playing with catnip and I didn't have any around. So, I took advantage of one of his weirdnesses, (some people might find this a bit gross as a warning), which is that he really likes to roll around on my shirt after I go for a jog, very similiar to how he would be if he were rolling around on catnip. As weird and gross as it may be, I think it worked out well for the picture.

And, fun facts from the SESE catalog about catnip:
Only about two out of three cats are amused by catnip. The remainder who do not have the dominant gene for this response are bored by this plant. Medicinal: Traditionally catnip used for colds and flu primarily as a diaphoretic for feverish conditions. Nepetalactone, the primary ingredient of the essential oil is chemically similar to the sedative constituents of valerian.