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.