Monday, January 31, 2011


For several days I have been watching the news.  I fear for the people in Egypt, Lebanon, Yeman, & Tunisia.  I fear for my brothers and sisters all over the Middle East.  I pray for them and for their safety.

For years I have been praying for the good people in Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, and Iraq.  I have been praying for our troops and for the people who live there.

I pray for peace for all of us, all over the world.  And as you all well know, peace must first begin within us.

May we each find Peace and share it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


The Zendala above is one of my favorites.  I named it "Shinning", because that's what it looks like to me.

And right now, I could use a little light, because there are some folks who depend on me, and I need to decide how to handle it so that their needs and my needs are both met.  How to make it a win/win situation.

In some situations, that is not possible, but in this situation, it can easily be a no-lose proposition.  We can both come out ahead.

That is something I do strive for, to craft win/win scenarios.  My needs do not have to be met at the expense of someone else's.  In fact, my needs are better met if yours are too.

I think it all goes back to the Golden Rule -- which, BTW, is found in almost every religion & culture, with very minor differences.  It seems to be a Universal Ethic, to care about others, to treat them with respect, to include them in my ethical boundaries.

Although, I have to admit, I do hope that I am treated better than I sometimes treat others.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Unexpected Good Fortune

Lately, I have been having a run of very bad luck.  All sorts of unhappy things have been happening. 

Being the unabashed optimist that I am, I figure I have used up a good deal of my Bad Luck for the year.  So things are looking up.  Sure enough, last night I got an e-mail telling me of some very unexpected Good Fortune.

So now certain burdens are off my shoulders and I can relax enough to do some artwork.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Intro to Byrd's Nest

I am lucky.  I have so much love in my life.

I thought I would take a little time to introduce all of us here at the Byrd's Nest.  Chez Nous.  We live in a rather small mobile home with a teeny, tiny yard but two rather large porches and three doggie doors.  "We" consists of  one very nice roommate whom I seldom see, four orange cats, two gray and white cats, one calico cat, two small dogs, one medium dog, and myself. (That's 12 of us, including the 2 humans, in case you were counting)  It also holds an embarrassing amount of art supplies and books.  Lots of books.  

Just now, we are also playing host to a friend's dog (Joey) while my friend is out of town.  Joey does not always respect the cats boundaries.  He loves to chase them.  They do not love being chased.  But in reality, he means them no harm.  They seem to know this, because they are annoyed, not scared.    All the dogs love being together, they race around the place, play-growling and sound quite fierce.

Once in a while, though, peace does break out.  I snapped this picture the other day:

From left to right: Fred, Joey, Lil'Bit and Murray.  The cat on the pillow is Jefferson, the cat in the basket is Addams, I think, but it could be Franklin. At least one of the lumps of bedding is another cat, but I can't tell which one (possibly Tabigayle).   As you can see, there is not a lot of room left over in the bed for me.  Sometimes we have arguments about that.  I do not always win.

It's nice here, lots of windows and a large sliding glass door that opens on to a beautiful porch where most of my plants live.  It's cozy and inviting.  I have a huge couch for guests, but when they are not here, the dogs use the couch as a launching pad for some of their races.  The entire dinning room has been made over into an art space, which, sadly, I seldom use.  But at least all my art supplies have a home.

Since I am pretty much bed-ridden most of the time, my activities are mostly mental.  I write and I do artwork.  One of my challenges has been to figure out just how to do artwork while lying in bed.  Zentangles are  relatively easy to do (when the cats are not helping), but I also love Polymer Clay.  Sadly, Polymer Clay does not lend itself to being worked in while in a slouching position.  I will try to get a couple of photos of the little claywork I have accomplished.  I'm rather proud of it.

Like I said, I am lucky.  I have so much love in my life.  My four-footed friends, my family,  each one of them has a personality and I love watching them interact.   All of them pretty much get along with each other (occasionally rude words are exchanged, but not too often).  And I get to watch them, I get to be with them. They climb all over me and like to help when I am typing on the computer or trying to draw a zentangle.  They donate fur for clay inclusions.  Even the very shy ones have no fear of me.   I have earned their trust.  I adore all of them. 

I am lucky indeed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Logic and Composition

I just finished reading yet another mystery and once again, I had no idea 'who done it'.   I never figure it out when the perp is more than one person, so it's pretty easy to fool me.   But then, it's always nice to be challenged.  The nice thing about mysteries is that they are (when they are any good) exorcises in logic.  I always enjoy those even if I do not figure them out.

Zentangles aren't like that for me.  I can figure out most tangles with no problem, but making them look good --AH, that's another challenge.  I was simply not born with a very good 'composition' gene.  The logic of it escapes me.   I know I should have a center of interest.  I know I should have a way to take the eye around to different parts of the drawing,  but I'll be darned if I can do that instinctively!  I can do the tangles, but all too often, they don't have that Zip, that sparkle that I see in the work of  Maria, or Shelley, or Sue or  . . well I could go on forever with that.  So many of my contemporaries are highly gifted.  Their compositions look effortless and natural.  Not so much mine.

I know that Zentangles are not supposed to be thought out ahead of time, we are supposed to just let them 'happen'.  When i do that, I get the Zen of it, but the finished product is often unremarkable.  I would like to like the end result as well.

Perhaps that is one reason why I like the Zendala forms so much.  They are already centered and have a focus, they already know how to take your eye from place to place around the tile.  I can relax and focus on the tangle, or the proportions of light and dark, complexity vs simplicity, etc.

Well, the whole Zentangle thing offers many different gifts, so perhaps someday, I too, will have focus, balance, and decent composition.

Let us pray.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Down to Earth

This will be my entry for the Zentangle challenge this week.  Wheew!  Got this one done in time!

As I worked on this one, I wondered what to name it.  I have a bunch of high-falutin' names for many of my Zendalas, but this didn't feel all the high toned, so I named it Down to Earth.


Monday, January 24, 2011


I didn't make it to finish the  Zentangle Challenge.  But I did finish the Zendala above.  It is created from a single tangle, Cadet.   I named this Zendala 'Centering'.

This week has been a week of contemplation for me.  I'm not sure I've had a lot of insights, but there has been one.  Ihis insight was strong, powerful and life-changing. 

Unfortunately I can't remember what it was.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Twisty Tangle

Before I begin, I want to draw your attention to the first blog (Dragon's Fire) on the right side of the page.  It belongs to a friend of mine and the current post is a great Zendala you might enjoy. 

I have always liked small things.  One of the reasons I love gray days is that on a gray day your eye is brought down to see what is right in from of you.  You notice the moss on the trees, the shiny trail of a snail, the delicacy of the veins on a leaf.  Sunny days draw you up and out.  Gray days are good for reflection and appreciation of small things.
Because Zentangles are traditionally only 3 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches, they fit right into my comfort zone.  Plus, they have Patterns: modest swirling patterns, formal lined patterns and joyous free form patterns --- even organic, suggesting sorta-real-life-stuff patterns.  I do love patterns, or tangles, as they are called.  (Perhaps that is why I so love traditional Arabic art)
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term  ‘Zentangle’,  I whole-heartily recommend checking out   Maria & Rick are the originators of tangling as an Art Form.  But it is not really just an art form, it is also a form of meditation, of slowing down long enough to get in touch with yourself.  I am deeply grateful to them and what they have given us.  I would love to someday visit Rick and Maria and take one of their classes.  There is always so much more to learn.

To be a truly zen tangle, a pattern most be repeatable in just a few steps.  They are drawn one line at a time.  For instance,
Begin with drawing the letter “S”.    Then, echo that line on both sides.

Now, draw the letter “S” backwards and echo it.

Voila!  You have a tangle.  And you can fill it in with any number of variations.   I call this one "Twisty".

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Fred, looking out the window, waiting for a return

I know I promised to talk about Zentangling, but today, Jan 20th, is my Mother's birthday and I feel the need to talk about her.

It was always 'Mother', not 'Mommy',' Mom' or the dreaded 'Ma'.  As I think about it, that suited her.  She was slightly formal, a lady in the positive sense of the word.  (Papa used to say that he never heard her say anything bad about another person)  She played piano like a dream.  She could sight read a piece perfectly the first time.  I think Papa was a little envious of that talent, because for a very long time, he attempted to learn  how to play the organ.  Sadly, he had no musical talent whatsoever and he would torture us for hours as he practiced the same piece, over and over.

Mother was raised on a farm near a very small town where most everyone was related to her.  She  spent a lot of her time with the animals on the farm.  She had a pony named Jack and a pig named Billy Bumps.  She told wonderful, funny stories about them.  It is from her that I got my love of animals.

Mother was terribly shy with folks she did not know, plus she had such bad eyesight that she could not see across a road.  Other folks thought she was stuck up, but in truth she simply could not see them.  She was very self-conscious about that, all her life.

Mother was educated in a one-room schoolhouse, but went on to collage to get a degree in library science.  For a woman of her time, this was most unusual. (Our house was always filled with books.  When Mother died, she left Papa to sort through well over 15,000 volumes) All her life,  Mother believed in education and that one should never stop learning.  She firmly believed in the value of education, so much so that she helped put 17 people (that I know of) through collage.

During her lifetime, Mother saw the beginning of the use of the automobile to mankind walking on the moon.  She remembered the celebrations at the end of WW1, what was then called simply, 'The Great War'.   Roosevelt was her political hero, and she deeply admired Eleanor Roosevelt, and in her own way, emulated her.  At the holidays, our house was always filled with folks from other countries.  She loved hearing about far-away places and encouraged folks to talk about their homes and cultures.  She was avidly curious about people and when the family started to have a little money, she and Papa traveled quite a bit.

As a teenager, Mother was very adventuresome.  At age 18, she and a friend took the model-T car for a road trip, from Illinois, all the way to Washington DC.  In those days, women did not travel with a male companion, so she was very daring.  She remembered the first time that her grandmother (a staunch Suffragist) cast a vote.  She treasured the rights that women had won.  When she married my father, she made him promise that any children they might have, would get a good education and the girls would get the same treatment as the boys.  Papa kept his word. 

Mother was deeply religious.  She would get up every day long before the rest of us so she could study her Bible lesson.  And she believed in living her religion, no matter how difficult.  But she was very open to other religions and loved to talk with folks about their beliefs.  She never belittled anyone's religion.

It must have been when I was around 12 that Mother started having her first strokes.  She never talked about it to anyone, not even Papa, but she started to lose herself.  She became slower and slower.  Most of the family thought that the loss of hearing and sight was the problem.  Papa denied anything was really wrong for as long as he could.  Mother ended up in a permanent vegetative state for the last few years of her life.

Mother would have been 101 today.  I miss her.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Favorite Media (1) Polymer Clay

Some of you may know that my preferred medium is clay.  I love the feel of polymer clay in my hands.  I love to watch it go from a lump of color to 'something'.

But lately I have had to work with other media, since I cannot sit up for any length of time.  Zentangles are a favorite of mine.  I do love the tangles and creating new space.(More on that in the next post)

But back to the clay.  The picture you see above is an Art Trading Card, which means it is 3 1/2 in. by 2 1/2 in.  It is make entirely of polymer clay.  No paint, no paper or wood, just the clay.    I love to 'paint' with clay, using the clay instead of a brush.  It is so responsive, so immediate.  In future blogs I may so a show and tell on some of the many ways you can "paint" with clay.  Meantime, the picture above with give you a hint of what can be done.

I hope your day is Peaceful.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I just read a news article that said "Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl killed in Saturday's shootings in Tucson, donated her organs."
(Read more:

 It seems the donation has already saved the life of one child.   In the midst of all the tragedy, pure light.  In the midst of death and sorrow, there is rejoicing and life.

Once in a while, the human spirit astounds me.  I am in awe of her parents.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dancing Stars

Dancing Stars

This week, the challenge was much more difficult than usual -- but not because of the drawing.  My computer was stolen in the beginning of the week so for the past few days, I have had no way to get on-line, much less scan and up-load my Zentangle. 

Even after I got a new computer and the store set it up for me, I still had to add all the things I want and need and use.  It took me quite a while, for instance, to locate my physical copy of Photoshop.  Pretty much all I use it for is resizing, but still, that's important when you are sending something to someone else's website.

As of 11 pm my time, I did finally get Photoshop to work and cropped my picture and quickly uploaded it.  I think I made it, just in the nick of time.

I think I deserve some quality time with my desktop Solitaire.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hands Down

When I first found Zentangles (, I had already been highly involved in finding and creating designs.  I wasn't too sure where it would lead, but I was obsessed.   I did start to put together a coloring book for grown-ups (I've talked about that previously) and folks who saw it really liked it.

Then I started teaching in an after school program that my church had put together.  And I taught art.  These days, most public schools don't have the money or time for Art Classes.  It's too bad, because Art is learning to problem-solve, which is a skill we all need.  So most of the kids had very little exposure to art of any kind.  I shared my two great passions with them: polymer clay and designs.  I will always regret that I did not discover Zentangling until after the program was closed.  The kids would have Loved it.  We did do tracings of our hands and then fill them in with designs like the ones above.  And then I got them interested and in love with polymer clay.  They created great things.  Several of them were highly talented.  I wish we could have continued the program.  I wish we could start up the program in other schools.

I work from a stance that human beings are, by definition, individualistic and creative.  No two of us are alike.  No two of us see the world in the same way.  Art helps us to express and share our personal visions.  There is no such thing as a person who has no talent, no vision.  I have taught retarded folks and have seen beautiful things evolve.  I have worked with folks (adults and children) with ADD and HDAD (or is it ADHD?  I forget.)  and all sorts of other 'learning disabilities'.  Inevitably, good things happened

I remember the story of a child who was listening to her older Uncle, who was talking about his new career at a University.  The Uncle bragged that he would be teaching adults how to draw.  The child was horrified.  She leaned over and whispered to her Mother "You mean Adults forget how to draw?"

Yes, many of us Adults forget how to draw.  Happily, we can learn again.  Happily, we can learn for the first time.  Happily we can each of us  Do Art.

Back on Line

Rainbow Mandala  Made w/Polymer Clay  12"by12"

Sorry to have been silent for so long, but I was computerless.

I will be spending part of today working on the latest challenge by Diva.  Zentangling always helps be to focus and relax.

Monday, January 10, 2011

More on the Challenge

The work above is one of my very favorite pieces (I may have posted it here before, but what the heck? If I did, it was way in the beginning and I really do like it.).  I embossed the drawing and then colored it in with gel pens (shading with gel pens is very tricky!). 
Somehow, I don't really like to use the words 'gel pens' when describing the work.  'Gel pens' sound so trite, not at all artistic.  I prefer to use the term 'colored inks' or 'art inks'.   Ah well.  My ego is showing.

In the last post, I mentioned the Weekly Challenge that IamtheDiva is posting (see below).  I am really enjoying the challenge and intend to continue.  But I want to comment further about it. 
There are so many positive and (to me) unexpected perks to this challenge.  For one thing, it brings many more folks to my site, which is always flattering.  But even better, this challenge lets me see  the work of so many other talented artists!  I have visited all sorts of blogs that I never knew about before, which then lets me see all the different gifts that folks have.  I wonder about, ooohing and ahhhing, and then I click on some of their links and get to see even more!  What a treat!  It has opened up my world so much.  I really appreciate it.

But there is one other unexpected treat:  Often, I want to leave a short message, so I write my comment and then, before it can be posted, the site will ask for a 'word verification'.  These word verifications are (I assume) randomly chosen letters and numbers, set in confusing backgrounds and often warped.  I understand that they keep us safer by screening out miscreants.
But I have to tell you, I get the biggest kick out of some of the words that come up!  I try to pronounce them --which is not always easy.  Some of them might make good names for a pet.  Some of them cry out for a definition (which would no doubt be very strange).  Some of them look like they are place-names from a fantasy novel.  They are often good for a giggle.

So thank you, Diva, for your gifts to us.  I can hardly wait for the next challenge!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Weekly Challenge #3

Over at "I am the Diva" (, Laura is giving out a challenge to Zentanglers.  Every week it's a new challenge.  This week the Challenge was to draw the string with your eyes shut.

The drawing above is my attempt.  It was fun.  And some of the other offerings are simply marvelous.  Anyone who is interested is welcome to join.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Autumn Leaves"   a Mandala done in Polymer Clay
12" by 12"

Take what you like and leave the rest

It's 3:00 in the morning.   All the other humans in the neighborhood have long gone to bed and I am sitting in my living room at the desk, doing artwork with polymer clay.  I am taking advantage of the private time. 
I feel good about myself.

I love working with clay.   It feeds my spirit as nothing else can.  It is so tactile, so immediate.  Funny, sometimes working with clay, feeling it getting warmer, watching it take shape, is exciting.   I can't get enough of it.

Other times, like now, it calms me down, makes me feel as if I am getting in touch with a part of myself that is primal, hidden, secret, wonderful. 

It's very quiet.

Suddenly, something calls my attention. I raise my head and look around.

What was it?

Over on the couch, a big black dog is sleeping where she shouldn't be, legs twitching in pursuit of a dream rabbit, no doubt. The large orange cat is curled up gracefully on the footstool.  I think I hear him snoring softly. The small black cat in my lap stretches and gives a burst of purr before she falls completely back to sleep. 

The room is bathed in a golden light. The bookshelves are filled with mostly old friends, although there are some new friends on a shelf that are waiting to be discovered.  Outside, a very sleepy bird is complaining, probably about a street light in it's face. The cat is still snoring.

What is it that called to me?  Oh, yes. Now I recognize it. 

It is called PEACE.                       

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Coloring Books for Grown-ups

Some time ago, long before I discovered Zentangles,  I used to draw full-page designs just for my own amusement.  The process was very soothing.  Like Zenangles, it had a calming effect on me to draw them.  I loved watching the designs grow on the page, watching what a particular line will do. It is easy to get lost in a private world when you are working on art. 

I had a few friends that were interested in art but had great fears about trying to do art, so I started drawing designs they could just color in.   I also drew some posters for coloring.  It ended up as a coloring book for Grown-ups.  I did over 20 drawings, each design printed on a separate page.  A couple of my friends took the over-all designs and cut them up into 3 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches for Art Cards.  (It was not so intimidating to color in the smaller size).  Others used parts to make their own note cards.  And some just put them on the fridge or framed them for hanging.

I really have enjoyed seeing the different ways people have used the pages.  No two folks colored them in the same way, so each time someone shares with me what they have done, I am delighted and surprised.  It is so much fun to see the different forms of creativity come to life.

The Coloring Book for Grown-ups is printed on fine quality card stock and on a separate page for ease of use (framing, cutting up for other applications, etc.) Some of the pages are like the picture above and some pages are like posters.  They can be colored with pencils, crayons, watercolors, magic markers and prolly a whole lot of other media I have not thought of.  

I still have some Coloring Books available if you are interested.  If not, just enjoy the design.  Explore.  See what you would do with it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011