Rainbow from last week's storm
Rainbow from last week's storm

A great old French word that I picked up many years ago when I was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism. It means “a jumble or hodgepodge”. Which is kind of what today’s post is.

SOFTWARE THAT I USE to keep things moving and, with luck organized. FWIW.
I switched to Apple at the end of 2008 and have never looked back. I tease my husband, who still uses a PC, about when he’s going to come over from The Dark Side. He might, at some point, if his business requirements allow. In the meantime, other than house network stuff, which is still his balliwick, I can now handle my system with a minimum of whining at him for technical support.

1. MobileMe– keeps a bunch of data like my address book, email, notes, etc. in an online Apple “cloud”, which lets me effortlessly keep my iMac, MacBook and iPhone synced.

2. Quicken– checkbook balancing trauma is a thing of the past. At last. I also record my credit card transactions.

3. Flick!– just started to enter the records of my paintings. I used to have Working Artist, which I absolutely hated, but everything else available for the PC was worse. Flick! has a clean, attractive interface and responsive tech support. It’s built on Filemaker, the Mac-based database standard.

4. Aperture– Apple’s image management software; handles my closing in on 30,000 images effortlessly. Lets you open images in Photoshop with one click. Set up whatever categories (which it calls Projects and Albums) work best. The RAW files are resident on the iMac for speed, but are backed up to an external Time Machine hard drive,  so every image exists in duplicate. We hope to eventually keep an additional set on a Buffalo Terrastation that will be kept in the garage, which is a separate building. Am I paranoid? After experiencing a real, physical back up hard drive crash a couple of years ago with a machine that was supposedly designed to recover from something like that and having the vendor essentially shrug and say “Too bad”, and in which I lost forever a bunch of images of older work, you betcha. CDs are not archival. None of them. A high quality external hard drive is the only way to store images for the long haul.

5. Photoshop CS4– can’t imagine how I’d function without it. The relevant difference between it and Elements is that Elements doesn’t let you do CMYK conversions and other tasks necessary to prepare images for commercial reproduction. I use Photoshop for just about everything image-related.

6. iTunes– last year we converted over 700 CDs to digital. No more getting up to change discs and no more discs taking up valuable shelf space. All my music is right on my desk. Hey, it’s a big deal when you grew up with a record player and a stack of 45s and LPs.


Unless I’m writing, talking on the phone or doing concept work (thinking up ideas for paintings), the music’s on. I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for most of the 1980s and there were still quite a few musicians from the 1960s around and working in various bands. Guitarist John Cippolina was one of them. He was best known as the lead guitarist for Quicksilver Messenger Service. I saw him in the mid-1980s in a band called Terry and the Pirates. It turns out there’s a two album set of recordings by the Pirates and, if you want to spend 99 cents on one of the hottest, driving SF-style rock songs out there, buy “Something to Lose”. Cippolina on the guitar and Nicky Hopkins, who was also in Quicksilver for while, on the piano. Crank. It. Up.

Species tulips, hellebores, flamingos
Species tulips, hellebore, flamingos


Frogs are at it around the clock now, crocus and early daffodils are blooming, tulips are up. Primroses going strong. In the neighborhood, the willows and Indian plum are starting to leaf out already. We’ve covered the front “lawn” (34’x19′) with black plastic and are going to turn it into a vegetable garden.

Pansies, Pickwick crocus, tulips
Pansies, Pickwick crocus, tulips


I’ve become increasingly concerned about what’s happening/happened to the food supply in this country. The pet food recall in 2007 definitely got my attention. Oh, and then there’s the Peanut Thing. Now I’m (finally) reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and it is really crystalizing my thinking. One of the basic points is that industrial scale food production, in and of itself, is a major problem, both in the animal suffering it causes and the loss of nutrition and taste in fruits and vegetables. Plus the environmental cost of moving all that stuff an average of 1500 miles. And who would have thought that corn and the excessive amount of it grown is literally the root of the problem.

It’s time to, as Pollan says, “opt out” of the industrial food chain. His book is an exploration of how that food chain works, what the consequences are and how new alternative food chains are being formed. Anyone who wants to make conscious, sound and informed decisions about what they eat needs to read this book.

For us, we’re becoming much better label readers (citric acid is from corn!?). We’re going to concentrate even more on sourcing our food locally. We already do not eat factory-farmed animals or animal products. Period. I’ve mentioned the vegetable garden. We also plan to get chickens later this year to provide eggs.

The great thing is that the information and alternatives are out there, especially for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in California. Obama mentioned in his State of the Union address that subsidies would be cut for “agribusiness”, which is long, long overdue. In the meantime, what we can do is vote with our pocketbooks.

Friday Features- I’m Invited!

This will be the last one until probably October since we are approaching the final countdown to departure for Mongolia on the 24th.

However, I’ve just gotten a letter informing me that I am invited to participate in the 2009 Marin Art Festival and bypass the jurying process! The answer is “Yes!”, so my first festival of 2009 is on the calendar.

PLANET SAVER TIP OF THE DAY (all photos copyright Susan Fox)

Quotes that I find inspiring, thought-provoking and worthwhile to consider-

What is the good of having a nice house without a decent planet to put it on?
Henry David Thoreau

Many Glacier Lodge, Glacier National Park, USA
Many Glacier Lodge, Glacier National Park, USA

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“It’s hard for the modern generation to understand Thoreau, who lived beside a pond but didn’t own water-skis or a snorkel.”
– Bill Vaughan

“We do need a ‘new economy,’ but one that is founded on thrift and care, on saving and conserving, not on excess and waste.  An economy based on waste is inherently and hopelessly violent, and war is its inevitable by-product.  We need a peaceable economy.”
– Wendell Berry, Thoughts in the Presence of Fear.

Sunrise at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve, Mongolia
Sunrise at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve, Mongolia

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
– Rachel Carson

Watering place, Kenya
Watering place, Kenya

“The purpose of conservation: The greatest good to the greatest number of people for the longest time.”
– Gifford Pinchot, first Director of the U.S. Forest Service

” When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
– John Muir

Sundown, Masai Mara, Kenya
Sundown, Masai Mara, Kenya

Friday Features


Six or so red crossbills are still showing up most days. There was a group of fox sparrows last weekend. Our hummingbird-friendly plants are really starting to bloom. I was sitting here at my desk and look who showed up outside my french doors? I was able to grab the camera and get some shots through the glass. Sometimes lucky is better than good. Looks like a male Allen’s hummingbird to me.

Speaking of hummer plants, here’s my 50 cent, 4″ pot white verbascum that I rescued off an end-of-season sale table the year before last. Is that a happy plant or what? I’m going to have to move the poor little heather underneath it before it’s completely smothered. Or I may move the verbascum to a more spacious location. I didn’t think it would get quite this big.


I finished the bighorn painting and took it to the framer only a little wet in a few areas. When it was laying on the counter, I saw a spot in the sky I missed, which I’ll fix when I get it back. But it reminded me of one of my favorite artist stories:

Every year the Royal Academy in London has its Summer Exhibition. We were lucky to be in England and able to attend some years ago. The galleries looked like in old photos you see: work stacked from the floor to the very high ceilings. Those whose paintings ended up in “nosebleed” country called it “being skied”.

William Mallord Turner (b. 1755 d. 1851) was a regular participant, although his work mystified many of his comtemporaries and the general public. “Varnishing Days” were the three to five days before the exhibition opened when the artists could come in and put on a final varnish or touch up their paintings. Turner became somewhat famous for this and is said to have deliberately brought in unfinished paintings so that he could show off his technique. Imagine any of us doing that today? It would be like Robert Bateman showing up at the opening of his current retrospective, palette, brushes and paint in hand to add a few more snowflakes to his famous snow leopard painting. Turner showed up dressed for town and S.W. Parrott was inspired to create this permanent record, which is reproduced here in black and white. How do you dress when you’re in the studio?


Speaking of Robert Bateman, besides creating a lot of the best wildlife art of this or any other century, he is a tenacious advocate for the environment. You can read what he has to say at


If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.


Drawings from live animals and new painting

From the stats it looks like the post of my pet sketches was one of my most popular so far, so here’s more. These are done the way I usually work, with a fine tip gel pen. They’re done fast. Under five minutes, sometimes under two.

Niki, our tri-color rough collie

From the San Francisco Zoo. He really did hold still long enough for this head study.

These were ultra-quick, a minute or less, but I caught the gesture. Also San Francisco Zoo.

And, looking through my old sketchbooks, I came across the studies I did at Julie Chapman’s workshop in 2005. These are of Daisy, the badger, who alas, is no longer with us. Notice that I didn’t worry about eyes. I was trying to capture “badgerness”.

If you decide to try this, and I hope you do, keep in mind that every animal is an individual and look for what makes them them. If you like what I do, I think that’s a big part of it.

I’ll end with the bobcat painting, now called “Stepping Lightly”. I’m thinking of punching up the highlights on grass and maybe futzing (that’s the technical term, of course) with the logs some more, but that’s about it.


This one’s easy. Start to become aware of how you use energy. You can save money and help slow down climate change by using less and using it more wisely. Just little stuff to start- turn lights off when you leave a room, don’t leave the tv on if no one is watching, turn your thermostat down a couple of degrees or up, depending on the temperature where you are.

Now, you must know that this kind of thing, while necessary and desirable, is the “low hanging fruit”. It requires simple changes of habit, not real sacrifice. If you’re already doing the above and are ready and able to take the next steps, consider updating your older appliances to new, energy-efficient models. Change your incandescent light bulbs to compact flourescents or LEDs.

For more information and actions you can take, check out and

What ideas would you like to pass on to me and my readers? We’re all in this together, after all.

Friday Features

Think I’ll start a couple of quick Friday Features:


Current regulars: American Goldfinches, Least Goldfinches, Steller’s jays, ravens, crows, house sparrows

Semi-regular visitors: one pair Black-headed grosbeaks, an osprey (!), a great blue heron (we have a large pond), a red-shouldered hawk, barn swallows, violet-green swallows

The Very First for our yard: this morning, one male western bluebird


Honey bees are in crisis. Without them, kiss fruits, nuts and berries good-bye. Visit this link, which was in today’s San Francisco Chronicle for more information.

What you can do: Set aside, say, a six to ten foot square or so in your yard and plant it with bee-friendly plants like lavender, coriopsis, sunflower, thyme and coneflower. Your local nursery should be able to point you to bee-friendly plants for your area. If enough people do this, it could make a real difference. Even better, replace some or all of your lawn. Just think, no more mowing, dethatching, fertilizing, weeding and you’ll save water, plus have flowers for your home.


Find the live cat in this picture: