August 26, 2008

Four Days Worth

I went away for the weekend to Kaikoura (say 'kye-coor-ah'), a beach community about a hour-and-a-half drive north of Christchurch. My friend Jude invited me to stay up in her bach (vacation home).

A view more or less straight out from Jude's bach.

Kaikoura is awesome. It is most famous for it's seafood and in particular, crayfish, which is like a lobster without the big claws. Tastes pretty much the same I would gather (I haven't actually had crayfish here yet, but look forward to it). In winter, Kaikoura is a pretty sleepy little place, but it explodes with tourists in summer who love fishing, whale watching and water sports.

Jude and I went on a great hike of the Kaikoura peninsula headlands. Once at the top, the view is great.

Here's another view. Notice all the little spots amongst the rocks there -- those are seals.

We scrambled down a rather steep trail that down the cliffs to take a closer look.

The next day, we drove down the highway to check out a short walk to a waterfall that a local had recommended. It was about a 5-minute walk from the highway, following a gentle stream through dense forest dripping with rain.

The waterfall was very pretty, but what we discovered in the pool under the waterfall was most unexpected and incredible.

The pool was filled with baby seals, swimming, rolling and playing with each other. Some were lounging about on the rocks around the pool.

This is the best photo I got of them. It was dark, I had no tripod and had to make do with slippery rocks to steady the camera and the little sealies were constantly moving (as baby seals do).

How the seal pups got up here I have no idea! My best guess is that the mothers climb upstream and give birth by the waterfall. It's a bit of a mystery but the most delightful surprise!

On to Some Art Stuff

I've needed to create a resume to possibly pick up some part time work this summer. Ideally I'd like to be working doing something creative. This is the first 'crafty' resume I've done so I wanted to do something special.

The resume text will be printed in black and while on vellum paper which is slightly transparent. I wanted a beautiful color background to put underneath the vellum that would show through slightly.

I looked around for inspiration and it's amazing what you can find in the room you're standing in. I had been admiring the twigs that came with my anniversary roses that I still have sitting in a vase. The roses are long gone (but they still look kind of cool -- all dried up and almost black in color), but the twigs that came with arrangement actually sprouted roots and have put forth some leaves.

So this is my inspiration...

I was thinking of some kind of pattern, that also looked really organic and natural, so I did some sketches and came up with an idea.

Then, studying how the branches curved and twisted, I sort of free-handed it out in pencil, full size on a piece of marker paper (special paper that does not bleed and allows you to blend the Copic marker colors).

Then I went over the pencil lines in fine black ink pens that don't bleed when colored in with the Copic markers. I really like these...they are called Pigma Micron. They come in different widths.

After the black ink was fully dry, I erased the pencil lines. Pencil will muddy the marker colors if you don't get rid of it.

Now the fun part. Coloring. I pulled out some markers that I thought would work and tested them on a scrap paper.

Then, I started coloring, starting with the lightest colors and layering on the darkers ones to give the branches and leaves a sense of form and shape. I used the colorless blender to blend the different colors together smoothly. With alcohol markers, even when the marker is dry on the paper, the ink can be 'reactivated' by using another marker or the colorless blender. It's amazing what a little color can do -- it's like magic -- making a flat, uninteresting drawing come to life.

I learned a little trick from Marianne at the "I Like Markers" blog. If you don't have a dark color that coordinates with your lighter colors, you can use a medium gray layered over the lighter color to give you a darker or 'shadow' color. I used this technique here on the leaves and it worked beautifully.

I would have taken a couple of photos of the coloring part, but honestly I got so immersed in it, I forgot. I think it turned out really nice and will make a lovely background for the resume.

You know sometimes when I do stuff like this...I can hardly believe I did it. It's a little bit like waking up from a trance. It almost seems like it comes from somewhere else. I reckon it does.

August 22, 2008

Tranzscenic Railway

Yesterday felt like a great day to get out of town. The skies were blue and there was snow in them thar hills. So my friend Jude and I booked two tickets on the Tranzscenic Railway, a train that travels from the east coast of the South Island (Christchurch) to the West Coast (Greymouth) straight through the Southern Alps via Arthurs Pass.

Here is a view across the Canterbury Plains farmland to the majestic Southern Alps.

A bit closer now...

Along the way, a deep river gorge with the Waimakariri (say 'Why-macka-rearie) River far below.On the way we passed small settlements such as Cass. This once used to be a thriving community of about 600, but now one lone soul lives here. He is called by his nickname "Rambo" by the locals and is reputed to be a pretty rugged individual. His job is to maintain the tracks in this area.

The Waimakariri river again. It is called a 'braided river' for it's shallow depth and the way the river seems to braid along the vast silt bed of the valley. Apparently this type of river is common in New Zealand and rare in the rest of the world.

A photo of Snowflake at Arthur's Pass. This morning, he looked at me with longingly, with hope in his little beady eyes as I was getting ready to leave the house. How could I not bring little Snowflake along? He loves the snow, having spent many winters in Antarctica. If not for that bright little vest of his, he might disappear entirely into the background.

I don't have any photos of Greymouth (bad photographer!) as we had only one hour to grab a coffee, lunch and partake of a whirlwind shopping blitz through a shop that had caught our eye. With moments to spare, we dashed down the street to the train station with our loot and got on board with about a minute to spare.

Then it was back the way we came with the sun sinking lower in the sky and our eyelids falling heavy from the hypnotic motion of the train.

August 19, 2008

A Fine Afternoon on the Rupaki Track

Today was a stunner with a capital S. The rain clouds cleared and the sun came out. The snow-covered hills beckoned.

This is the view from the estuary looking up a the Port Hills in Christchurch. I daresay there is more snow up there than last time.

I dug through the garage, finding all my cold weather gear and put a bunch of it on. It felt like the same sort of outfit I'd wear when, say, walking down to Hut Point in Antarctica. It was THAT chilly today.

Just to see what it looked like over the hills, I drove through the tunnel and got this photo of Lyttelton Harbour.

Here's the start of the Rupaki track. A bit muddy, but not as bad as I expected. As usual for NZ trails, someone has done a great job of digging a trench on the side of the trail for melt water to flow down.

Water runoff on the side of the trail.

White sheep, black sheep... huh?? Honestly, I have never seen a bi-colored lamb like this. What happened there? Was it a secret rendezvous with a bovine somewhere? A sort of Romeo and Juliet story from different sides of the pasture?

Just another pretty picture...

This photo so funny because it's so obvious I'm holding the camera at arm's length. But when no one is around to assist, you do what you have to do.

Here I'm wearing a treasured hat by one of my all time favorite knitters, Mette (say 'met-uh') Cephers. She worked as a dispatcher in the Firehouse at McMurdo Station my first winter in 1999 and knitted these gorgeous Scandinavian hats and matching mittens all day long. Eventually she stopped coming to the ice, but her hats have shown up in the tiny McMurdo Store from time to time.

A gorgeous view of the summit of the hike. At the top of this hill, you can see Lyttelton Harbour. The horizontal line (where the trees are) is a road, and the trail is the line going up on the right side.

And oh, I finished another hat. I love this yarn -- it is called Malabrigo and it an exceptionally soft merino wool yarn from Uraguay -- but even though it's green, I can't say this colorway is my favorite of all time. I think someone will love it though, so I'll bring it down to the Ice with me in a couple weeks and see if I can find it a home on someone's noggin'.

I like the cabled band on this hat, but if I were to do it again, I'd increase the width of the band a little...and maybe start the decreases a bit sooner and make the top a bit more pointy instead of round (all a matter of preference). One thing is for sure, my knitting has gotten so much better. I struggled at the beginning with my stitches looking 'lumpy' but these stitches are smooth and even and lovely. Also getting much faster. This hat took me only 3 evenings.

August 18, 2008

Paua and Silver Necklace

Just made this tonight. It is a beautiful paua shell and sterling silver necklace. The textured silver bars I made with 14 gauge wire, hammering it flat and using one of my texture hammers to give the hammered effect. It looks better in real life as I don't have a very professional camera set-up at the moment, but the silver bars really glimmer and the paua shell flashes all sorts of blues and greens.

I've spent this rainy cold day inside watching the Olympics and making jewelery. Fun!

Here is what it looked like all day today...cold, icy rain on the window.

August 17, 2008

WIFFA Design

This past week, I've worked on a design for the first annual "Winter International Film Festival, Antarctica" or "WIFFA."

The penguin illustration I did a while back with my new Copic markers came in handy as well as the 3-D Antarctic continent art.

Here is the final design...kind of like a mandala or a snowflake with filmstrips emanating from the Antarctic continent center. The colors in each frame of the filmstrip depict an Antarctic landscape with snow in the foreground and sky afire with colors typically found in most Antarctica skies in August.

Here is the sticker design. The six flags represent the six countries that submitted films for the festival: McMurdo (U.S.A), Scott Base (New Zealand), SANAE IV (South Africa), Casey and Mawson (Australia), Neumeyer (Germany), Rothera and Halley (Britain).

The t-shirt design is similar, but without the flags (too busy for the tee I reckon).

To order a t-shirt or a sticker, you can visit the gallery at Click here.

Weathering New Zealand

It is pouring down rain at the moment and icy cold outside due to a brisk 'southerly' weather system assaulting the country from the Antarctic regions.

The heaters are going and I've curled up on the couch knitting a new hat while watching the Olympics coverage on TV.

It is a mere two weeks before I head down for another stint 'on the ice.' I suppose I'm putting off packing until the very last minute.

August 12, 2008

Creative Genius or Madwoman?

I vote for the latter. Here is what the upstairs dining room looks like last night. And the mess is not limited to this table. The living room is overrun with yarn and the kitchen console with various bits and pieces of Creativery.

My friend Stacie instant-messaged me this morning and that means it is a good time to update my blog.

Last night I worked on a design for my husband, for his International Antarctic Film Festival. I had to draw in Illustrator a length of filmstrip that is twisting. I tried freehanding it, and although a good effort it just didn't look right.

So this is what I did...

I cut out a strip of paper and drew all the little frames on it so it looked just like a filmstrip (front and back). Then I taped one end to a mug, and twisted it like I wanted it, and took a photo. I then imported the photo into Illustrator and drew over it.

Better result I think...

I also took the Antarctic continent shape (instantly recognizable by those that go to the 'Ice' on a regular basis) and colored it with my Copic markers. Gives a very nice 3-D effect, I reckon. It would be challenging to get this look on the computer without using a paint program. And even then...

So, speaking of Copics... I am in love. It's a serious crush. I found this blog called "I Like Markers," kept by Marianne who is the product specialist for Copic (what a cool job! Can I have it?). Click here. It is the most amazing blog. She started it in June so it was easy for me to catch up on all the wonderful techniques she shares for working with Copic markers. Why she didn't call her blog, 'I *Love* Markers' instead of 'I *Like* Markers' I'll never know.

I have asked her if she could share some tips on coloring ice. I'm guessing she is inundated with questions, so will be interesting to see if she responds at some point.

Fine print: Just a request to please not copy, reproduce, forward, or in any other way use any of my original artwork on this blog without asking me about it first. Thanks.

August 07, 2008

Snowflake Gets a New Vest

Snowflake the cat has mentioned more than once how chilly the weather has been, and that his nice white fur, although fairly warm, could be supplemented 'somehow'. He said this in a very suggestive way one night while I was knitting.

So, I figured this must be a pretty big hint that he would like me to knit him something. After all, it's only a teeny little bit of yarn -- 'you could probably do it in one evening,' he added.

My teeny bit of yarn turned out to not be enough for a full sweater, so he got a vest - a very warm wool vest of some Noro in very toasty colors.

He's quite happy as you can see by the photo.

August 04, 2008

Finished the Socks!

Ta da! I finished my socks last night in a marathon knitting session. I think they are marvelous! And fruity!

August 03, 2008

Spring Is Coming

What happens when you don't update your blog often enough? You end up with a plenitude of things to say which well explains this rather long entry.

First, the good stuff. SPRING. It's on it's way as evidenced by the tiny signs of growth occurring in my garden at the moment.

The bulbs are coming out and I await their blooms eagerly.

The barren sticks of my rose bushes are pushing forth tiny new growth, that will become monstrous growth once Summer arrives.

Lavender is an all-year bloomer. Isn't that wonderful!

After last night's rain, this gorgeous little plant is covered with sparkling beads of water.

Notice the new leaf buds on my hydrangea bush -- and oh yeah, there's a sock there too. Ha! This is the finished Noro sock. I had finished this sock, only to realize I'd made it about an inch too short, so I had to undo the toe and add about 8 rows. Years ago, I probably would have abandoned the sock, not having the patience to rip it out and re-do. But when you invite the 40's to dinner, they usually come with nice patience.

That is the great thing about Noro yarn. You just never know exactly how the finished thing will look. I am pleased with them. They are bright and fun and will look great with my Dansko clogs or my green Keen sandals.

Yesterday's Adventure

Yesterday, after several days of rain (I hadn't seen the sun since I arrived back in New Zealand), the morning came with sunshine and fine weather. I actually got to turn off all the heaters in the house for the first time. Sun flooded the upstairs and I actually I dare say... HOT.

The sun's appearance infused me with a new energy and vigor and I simply had to get out of the house. I grabbed my bike and headed down to the end of our peninsula. Everything was still fresh from the rain, colors intense from being soaked, the air was impossibly clear and everything in sharp detail. I breathed it in. I remembered why I love New Zealand.

I was just going to go to the end of the street and back, but the trails at the end of the peninsula beckoned and I obeyed. I got right around the loop, stopped at a bench facing the beach for a moment of reflection, then continued on. Right near the end of the loop, I was faced with a flooded trail. I mean really flooded. At least a foot of water. Not just the trail, but a large area around it. I decided to try going off-road over the clumps of sea grass, but discovered pretty quickly that despite appearances, it too was flooded. My feet just sunk down through the grass into the water, soaking through my socks and Keen sandals.

I was a bit horrified at first, but then realized that it was quite refreshing to have my feet in the icy cold water. Back to the basics of sensation and fun. I struggled my way through the bush and grass, then finally resigned myself to getting back on the flooded trail and just slogging straight through it, laughing. This went on for about 200 feet. It was fun and invigorating!

I wish I had my camera. I have made a pact with myself that my camera will now come with me at all times. I never know when I'll have a little adventure which would be fun to share on the blog.

To officially welcome Spring, I got a a red hyacinth plant and will look forward to watching it bloom.

August 1st

On August 1st, Anthony and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. Even though we are apart at the moment, we found ways of celebrating our special day. First and foremost, I remembered it, which is a good thing considering last year I forgot! Anthony sent me these.

Today the skies are gray yet again. When you live here, you learn to get out when the sun is shining and grab those opportunities when you can.