No Electricity, No Problem?… And Plein Air Painting in 1930s Scotland

I may have found the perfect solution to safely heating water in a ger without a fire or electricity. Whoever designed this really backed up and asked themselves what problem they were trying to solve. And what they came up with was this:

Esbit Pocket Stove
Esbit Pocket Stove

This is obviously perfect for backpackers or anyone who might find themselves in a survival situation. The two upright ends fold down flat, so the dimensions are 3″x4″x 3/4″. It weighs 3.25 oz and is made in Germany, can you believe it. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it uses a solid fuel that is non-explosive. It burns about 13 minutes and is supposed to boil a pint of water in about 8 with no smoke. No kerosene bottles or other stuff that the airlines don’t like or allow.

I’ve thought of another use for it, too. Last winter around eight children died in Mongolia when they got caught out in an unexpected storm while herding animals and couldn’t get back home. What if they had had something like this to stay warm long enough for rescuers to find them? And the adults who also died in the cold too, of course. I’m going to see what I can find out about the issue when I’m there and see what might be done.

Plein Air Information Discovery!

I’ve been down with a cold since a week ago Saturday and it’s been a tenacious one. I’m almost over it, but still needing to take it easy. I’ve been doing a lot of resting and reading and decided to dive into the Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. I’m not a mystery fan, but I love these because they are so delightfully and excruciatingly English. I just started “Five Red Herrings”, which takes place in the western borderlands of Scotland. The area is heavily populated with artists, one of whom doesn’t play well with others and is deceased by page 17. Wimsey visits the site where the body was found. It appears that the artist was painting on location, took one step too far back from the work in progress and fell off a cliff, the kind of thing that can be an occupational hazard for those working in the great outdoors. In any case, Wimsy thoroughly paws through all the artist’s things, possibly providing clues but absolutely recording what a plein air painter in Scotland circa 1930 would be hauling around.

He gave his first attention to the picture. It was blocked in with a free and swift hand, and lacked the finishing touches, but it was even so a striking piece of work, bold in its masses and chiaroscuro, and strongly laid on with the knife.”

“Idly, Wimsey picked up the palette and painting-knife which lay on the stool. He noticed that —– used a simple palette of few colors, and this pleased him, for he liked to see economy of means allied with richness of result. (My emphasis. Wouldn’t we all?) On the ground was an aged satchel, which had evidently seen long service. Rather from habit than with any eye to deduction, he made an inventory of the contents.

In the main compartment he found a small flask of whiskey, half-full, a thick tumbler and a packet of bread and cheese, eight brushes, tied together with a dejected piece of linen which had once been a handkerchief but was now dragging out a dishonored existence as a paint-rag, a dozen loose brushes, two more painting-knives and a scraper. Cheek by jowl with these were a number of tubes of paint. Wimsey laid them out side by side on the granite, like a row of little corpses.

There was a half-pound of vermilion spectrum, new clean and almost unused, a studio-size tube of ultramarine No. 2, half-full, another of chrome yellow, nearly full and  another of the same, practically empty. Then came a half-pound tube of viridian, half-full, a studio-size cobalt three-quarters empty, and then an extremely dirty tube, with its label gone, which seemed to have survived much wear and tear without losing much of its contents. Wimsey removed the cap and diagnosed it as crimson lake. Finally, there was an almost empty studio-size tube of rose madder and a half-pound of lemon yellow, partly used and very dirty. The large compartment, however, yielded nothing further except some dried heather, a few shreds of tobacco and a quantity of crumbs, and he turned his attention to the two smaller compartments

In the first of these was, first, a small screw of grease-proof paper on which the brushes had been wiped; next, a repellent little tin, very sticky about the screw-cap, containing copal medium; and thirdly, a battered dipper, matching the one attached to the palette.

The third and last compartment of the satchel offered a more varied bag. There was a Swan vesta box, filled with charcoal, a cigarette-tin, also containing charcoal and a number of sticks of red chalk, a small sketchbook, heavily stained with oil, three or four canvas separators, on which Wimsey promptly pricked his fingers, some wine corks and a packet of Gold Flakes.”

“A wide cloak of a disagreeable check pattern lay beside the easel. He picked it up and went deliberately through the pockets. He found a pen-knife, with one blade broken, half a biscuit, another pack of cigarettes, a box of matches, a handkerchief, two trout-casts in a transparent envelope, and a piece of string.”

I find it interesting that the paint is measured in pounds. With variations for personal taste, however, I suspect that any regular plein air painter’s kit today would have a similar accumulation of odds and ends. But….Peter noticed that something was missing. And since I’m only on page 50, I haven’t the faintest idea what it is and wouldn’t say anyway.

Visit the AFC site here

Ok, I Lied About the Week Off, ‘Cause I’ve Been Tagged

Thank you to Julie Chapman, for including me on your list of animal artists/bloggers. I’m in some very nice company. The least I can do is reciprocate and it’s been a fun thing to do on a rainy, REALLY rainy, evening.

Julie offers almost the only workshops with an emphasis on DRAWING animals. Highly recommended.

Here’s the rules:

1. Put a link in your posting about the artist that tagged you. Done.
2. Write 5-7 unusual things about yourself.
3. Tag 5-7 other bloggers and let them know.


Unusual things about me:

1. Sir Winston Churchill is one of my heroes. A few favorite quotes:
“This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”
“Nothing is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.”
Lady Astor: “Winston, if I were your wife I’d put poison in your coffee,”
Churchill: “Nancy, if I were your husband I’d drink it.”

2. I first read the Lord of the Rings in 1968 (8th grade, age 14) and currently have (or am had by, your choice) a cat named Eowyn, which suits her. Pity any Nazgul that come around.

3. I’m planting a collection of striped roses in my garden next year. There’s more of them than you’d think.

4. My favorite client from when I was a freelance graphic designer was the owner of an oriental rug store in Berkeley, California. I created all his advertising for over two years and did many pen and ink drawings of carpets and other asian textiles.

5. I was the one who volunteered to have the boa constrictor wrapped around my neck at an animal park when I was about eight years old.


I’ve been digging around and there don’t seem to be that many animal/wildlife artists blogging and I don’t want to duplicate Julie’s links. So…..

Here are three animal artists not currently on my blogroll whose work I enjoy:
1. Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen – inspiration for those of us who are attracted to “off-beat” subjects. Always fun to see what he’s done now. If you love reptiles……check out his blog.
2. Victoria Wilson-Schultz – a real treat for horse lovers; she blogs on a variety of subjects
3. Val Warner– she lives over in California Gold Country, does interesting compositions of nicely-drawn animals and has painted BIG murals, too.
An enthusiastic plein air painter’s blog:
4. Ed Terpening – whose work reminds me that wildlife artists have to have a handle on landscape, too, and painting plein air is an excellent, maybe the best, way to do that.

And finally, arguably, one of the top three or four wildlife artists of the 20th century (One of the things Julie and I have in common that we have found in him and his work our major inspiration. The difference is that she got to meet him a couple of times. Previous sentence in green):
5. Bob Kuhn – Although he passed away last year, the website is still active and it looks like one can buy prints of his work, along with the most recent book and even some original drawings. He’s the master and forever an inspiration to us all.

Dog Day Friday

Niki, our collie
Niki, our collie


1. I just finished balancing my checkbooks. Ugh. But life has gotten better since I’ve started using Quicken. I highly recommend it to anyone who battles the balancing of the checkbook every month and sometimes loses. Since I have three accounts (plus the credit card)- business, personal and  “not-my-money” (for stashing sales tax, etc.), I have found an infinite number of ways to procrastinate. I was one of those math-challenged girls who was passed along in school. Even today, the mention of those “word problems” will start my stomach churning.

My husband has been a trooper through the years bailing me out and getting things balanced when they’re so tangled up I’m ready to scream. But supposedly, at least most of the time, I am an Adult, who really ought to be able to deal with this, right? Well, once I finally forced myself to sit down with him and Just Do It, and now that I’ve gotten the hang of it, it really is nifty and easy.

(Why is math such a problem for me? It took years, but I finally figured it out. It turns out that I always did great in subjects where I could literally “see it”, as in create a visual image. So, English, history, biology, no problemo. Math? Couldn’t process the information visually, so I was sunk. Same problem with inorganic chemistry. Knowing that now, it’s how I memorize numbers. I really do see the actual numbers in my mind’s eye. The anxiety with regard to the word problems came from my attempts to “make pictures” and run them like a little movie and when I couldn’t, the stress took over. )

So, yo, artists who want to make a living- you’ve got to get a handle on the money part somehow. Quicken is how. The reconciliation part is like MAGIC.

2. Sometimes I take photos that just holler “PAINT ME!” Usually it’s wild animals, but not always. We were at a state park when I spotted this chocolate lab laying by the lake. I loved his expression and the light on his coat, so I thought I’d see what I could do.

Where's the Ball?
Where's the Ball? oil on canvas board 12"x9"

And, I just finished this one yesterday. I love working the structure of animals that don’t have long fur. I shot this Jack Russell terrier at a riding stable in southern California.

What's Next?
What's Next? oil on canvas board 12"x9"

As you can see, I had fun with the background color. There will probably be more of that in the future. Prices available on request.


Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma- which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Steve Jobs


Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read”.

Groucho Marx

Friday Features- FLASH!

JUST RECEIVED WORD“Morning Break”, below, has been accepted into the Mendocino Art Center Animal Art exhibit!  It will be on view there in Mendocino, California from Sept. 3-27.

AND…if you live in central Humboldt County, tonight is the opening reception for Wild Visions 2, a group show of nationally recognized nature and wildlife artists, including yours truly, at the Umqua Gallery, Arcata from 6-9pm. Lots of new work by all of us and some oldies, but goodies too. We snagged a great feature in the local paper this morning!

The other artists are Linda Parkinson, watercolor, who has done many commissions of birds and had her work published in American Falconry magazine; Shawn Gould, acrylic, who has done freelance art for National Geographic; Paula Golightly, oil and acrylic, whose day job is working as a biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service; John Wesa, well-known local serigrapher; and Derek Bond, egg tempera, who has recently had work accepted into the first Artists for Conservation juried show.

This is the first time all of us have shown together and we hope it won’t be the last.


The two Allen’s hummers are showing up right around 1:30 every afternoon. How do they know? Can you imagine how tiny their wristwatches must be? Right now, if I only had room for one hummingbird friendly plant it would be Crocosmia “Lucifer”. If you have a little room for a truly red, red, red flower, you might buy a few bulbs.

WHAT ARE THESE? Answer on Monday


Ivory Triumph


Lili Marlene


Leaping Salmon

Oiellet Panachee

Hamburger Phoenix


“Am writing an essay on the life-history of insects and have abandoned the idea of writing on ‘How Cats Spend their Time’.”

W. N. P. Barbellion (Bruce Frederick Cummings) 1889-1919

Well, here’s some evidence:

Eowyn and Michiko



Leopard at Berlin Zoo

Lion in the Masai Mara, Kenya

I think you get the idea.

(All photos copyright Susan Fox)

Friday Features


Last night my husband and I were sitting in our spa at dusk and what should we see ambling along the edge of one of the flower borders but a mom skunk with one baby. Niki the collie, who got thoroughly skunked a month or so ago, immediately went to the other side of the spa and gazed with great interest toward the pond. Good dog.

The skunks went right onto the patio and then under the engawa (Japanese style veranda), at which point we called it a night.


Same as last week, except one of the first hummingbirds, an Allen’s I think, found the verbascum and lavender, which are starting to bloom. There was an article in the news today here about the songbird die-off. Pretty depressing. The only local bird named that we have seen here is the Rufous Hummingbird. Time to plant more hummingbird friendly plants.


You think you know your pets, but sometimes………..

Niki and Eowyn, en flagrante something or other. Got another one that I’m going to upload to If you haven’t been there and you have a sense of the ridiculous, highly recommended.


Two Views on Art:

Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue. Those of us who aren’t artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we’re stupid.

Jules Pfeiffer, famous artist

Anyone who sees and paints the sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized.

Adolf Hitler, failed artist

Back from the Marin Art Festival

Although sales weren’t what I’d hoped for, things were about as I’d expected given gas prices, the real estate implosion and the upcoming election. Made back gas and food money. I sold a lot of cards and a small original. But I got a lot more out of this event than sales. My fellow neighbor artists were equally talented and welcoming. And I feel like I laid a good groundwork for next year.

The people who came by my booth in a steady stream both days were interested and interesting, as one might expect in Marin County. There was the petite older woman who, it turns out, is an doctor of internal medicine who got her medical degree from Stanford in the 1940’s. Her father supported her, but her mother didn’t, saying that she would never go to a female doctor. Oh, well, with luck we’ve largely moved on from that sort of thing.

As always, got some great stories about other people’s world travels to places like Botswana and inner travels by a woman who does shaman work. Did I say I was in Marin County?

Many people were interested in my paintings of the takhi and most of them have seen the movie “The Story of the Weeping Camel”.

Out of around 300 artists at the festival, I was just around the corner from Jeff Morales (, a fantastic ceramic artist who lives less than 15 minutes from me on the south end of McKinleyville. Small world #253.

One of the great things about the festival were the stilt walkers in absolutely amazing costumes. They really took the event to another level and drew a crowd wherever they went. Here’s two of them:

And, of course, being a wildlife artist, the universe conspired to allow me to do a little fieldwork in the comfort of my booth. Here’s the booth:

And here’s the little pocket gopher who came up for breakfast around 9am right next to the base of my easel in the middle of my space. Wildlife watching doesn’t get any easier.

I had fun doing painting demos during the weekend. Here’s the one I did on Saturday in about two hours, counting interruptions. It’s a kangaroo I saw in a zoo. Don’t know the species:

And this is the one I did on Sunday, on and off for most of the day. Considering the working conditions, I’m pretty darned please. It’s the best cape buffalo I’ve done yet. And I’m keeping him.