Saturday, February 21, 2009

Art with Snakeskin and Elephant Dung

Deborah Ramos art intrigued me, so I asked a few more questions about her technique and the paper she uses. Here's what this talented lady had to say about her art.

1. What medium do you use in your artwork?

I use many.... I love to play with acrylics for their vibrant colors. I use gouache, watercolors, colored pencils, and my alltime favorites, the caran d'ache wax pastels. I do mostly collage, incorporating natural elements along with my various paints, pencils and caran d' ache. I make handcast paper using barks, plant matter, even shedded snakeskin. All of my pieces include somewhere, shedded snakeskin, representing the sacred feminine (from my ball python), and a handprint, representing the power of the self.

2. Do you have plans for illustrating your own work?

I wouldn't illustrate my childrens stories, simply because I don't believe my type of art and style would be suitable. I find that the most beautiful artwork can be found in children's books. I think there are artists that could do a much better job than I could! My art is a little too "out there" for childrens books!

3. What are you using your giraffe picture for?

I have written a childrens book, about traveling across Africa and observing the animals in their environment. After many rejections, I decided to turn it into an art project, a handmade book, using handmade papers and vellum, hand stitched together. I am also a calligrapher, so the lettering is being done with a dip pen, using gouache. The graphics will be applied to the African handmade papers. Its a work in progress that I started years divorce kinda squelched the creative juices for a while! But I'm getting ready to jump back into that project. I have hopes of exhibiting the finished piece in a handmade book exhibit. I attached a photo of the cheetah, which is done with gouache, watercolor and colored pencil on African paper called gazelle grass. I love the names!! And there will be an elephant on elephant dung paper! No smell!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Prairie Dog Cowboy -- Where the Story Came From

My mother's family has a ranch in western Kansas. Reading "Prairie Dog Cowboy" reminded me of stories my mother told about growing up on a ranch. After finishing the book, I was delighted to find that the location for the book is real and an important part of Vivian and her husband's family history.

The location for Prairie Dog Cowboy really exists:
Not as the Hyman Ranch or the Roberts homestead,
but I took an area south of Hooker and north of
Hardesty, Oklahoma as the setting for the book.
The Mayer Ranch, used fictitiously as the home
of the Hyman family, has continuously been in the
same family for nearly 120 years and was declared an
Oklahoma Centennial Ranch in 1990. According to the
documentation provided, the first crops and/or livestock
on the ranch included wild mustangs, cattle, and prairie

From the history of the Mayer Ranch headquarters
as compiled by Dallas, about 1883 Jim Beasley, at
the age of seventeen years, looked down from the back
of his horse at the confluence (the flowing together) of
the Beaver and Coldwater Rivers. He saw wild mustangs
grazing on the hay meadows where the Beaver River
ran narrow and deep. The grass grew to the water’s
edge. Jim and his friend Walter Danilson became “mustangers.”
They caught and broke the wild horses before
sending them to Missouri, where Jim’s father sold the horses
to homesteaders. As the numbers of mustangs
shrunk, Jim became a cattleman.

The “Roberts” homestead, in the story, is set
on some of the land homesteaded by the ancestors of
Robert Zabel, although the Gotlib Robert and August
Zabel families, along with August’s brother Jonathan,
didn’t homestead until well after the time
Prairie Dog Cowboy began. In fact, Gotlieb Robert filed his claim
of a quarter of land November 18, 1909. Mr. Robert’s
daughter Willhemina and her husband August Zabel
filed the same year, as did Jonathan Zabel.
born and raised many years after Buddy worked his father’s
farm.I also used the name Roberts, not Robert as was
the name of my husband’s great-grandfather and greatgrandmother,
Caroline Job Robert. Caroline became
upset when others called their last name Roberts. She
would say, “Our name is Robert, not Roberts.”

Cowboy and boy by fire

Buddy wants to be a cowboy. From the time he's five years old, Buddy dreams of being a real cowboy. His viciously hostile mother makes him the outcast in the family telling him he's too stupid to be anything but a laborer. Unrealistically, she blames him because she believes her pregnancy caused her to lose the job as a housekeeper to her husband's father and as a result have an easier life. Her husband, Jacob, tries to intercede but with no success. Buddy's older brother, Jake, pampered by his mother, takes his cue from her taunting Buddy with how stupid he is. Buddy is alone with his dog Patch. He's forced to do the work of a grown man until he's befriended by a neighboring rancher, Caleb, who realizes the boy's potential and makes him part of his family. In spite of the abuse from his biological family, Buddy tries to help them keep the ranch functioning and as a teenager does most of the work himself.

Prairie Dog Cowboy is the story of triumph over a toxic environment. Anyone who has lived with the problems of a dysfunctional family will find resonance with Buddy's story. Zabel has not only given us a heart-warming picture of a young man growing to maturity following his dreams, but also of the Oklahoma territory on the verge of state hood. The book is an accurate historical picture of an important era in our country's past when territories were becoming states.

The book is based on records from the Zabel family and has the ring of authenticity. Prairie Dog Cowboy is a must read for historical buffs or for any child or adult who has wanted to be a real cowboy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Animals in Deborah Ramos Life

I was intrigued by Deborah Ramos book because I too love animals. Since she lives in California, I had a hunch she'd spent a lot of time at the San Diego Zoo. I too lived in San Diego and found the zoo a very special place. The picture of a giraffe is a sketch Deborah made at the San Diego Zoo. Here's what she had to say. I sketched a giraffe at the SD Zoo. It's actually on a piece of handmade paper, from Africa, made from giraffe dung! yep! I did this piece based on a visit to the zoo. It is a part of an art project, a handmade book.

I asked her some questions about her book and how she came to write it.

1. I grew up going to the San Diego Zoo. My whole family loves the zoo. My two sons grew up going to the SD Zoo AND the Wild Animal Park. We have always had a year-round pass. Its a great way to spend an afternoon, summer or winter. During the summer there is the Zoo at Night, which is sooo fun. And now my 4 yo granddaughter has her own pass and goes to the zoo! The Wild Animal Park is a better place to see the animals in natural habitats. I've done research on the animal behaviors at the zoo and the Wild Animal Park. One of my favorite zoos is the Santa Barbara Zoo in California. It's the smallest zoo I've ever seen! The Anteater has his very own sign!

2. I do love animals, and I think any animal can enrich your life. Once, when I went with my boyfriend fishing (he does the fishing, while I do the sitting and writing), I guilted him into releasing the fish because I made the mistake of making eye contact with the thing! I've always wanted a horse, but I never had the room for an animal that big! I have two cats, two parakeets, and a ball python, which is about all I can handle at the moment. My two cats once jumped on the lid of the snake tank letting Mercury escape. He was missing for two weeks, and we found him underneath the couch in the lining. That was the inspiration for a great story!

3. What would I like people to take away from my book? Good question.... I suppose, a good learning experience, visually and educationally. There is an interesting history to the group naming of animals. I would like readers to enjoy the fun of collective nouns. They suggest such visual treats for the eye. Can you imagine a "flutter of butterflies", or a "prickling of porcupines".

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Aardvards and Zebras - Animal Names from A to Z

They’re compelling. They’re clever. They’re collective nouns! An Aarmory of Aardvarks, A Zeal of Zebras takes the reader on a lively tour of animal group names from A to Z, a fresh approach to collective nouns, presenting only the most unique and colorful groups. The group naming of beasts dates back to 15th century Medieval England when hunters needed to know the names of their quarry. Sidebars explain why wolves hunt in packs, how zebras protect themselves, and how far butterflies travel in the winter. The adventure begins with the letter A. An Aarmory of Aardvarks, shy and nocturnal, leads us to the letter B. A Brood of Jellyfish, fluid and transparent, floats across the page to the letter C. A Crash of Rhinos, with keen hearing and poor eyesight, charges their way to the letter D. A Drift of Swine, stout and thick skinned, wallows their way to the letter E. Letter by letter animals crash, flutter and quiver across the pages. Wait until you see what’s heating up with the letter X!

Deborah Ramos takes us on a tour of the animal kingdom from A to Z with lots of interesting information. I can't wait for her book to be published. Children will love it -- as will the children at heart!