Macro Portrait :: Monarch Caterpillar

posted in: Fine Art | 0

My kids love nature (woohoo! Excited parenting moment, right?)… and they are always asking if we can keep bugs or insects to “watch them” for a while.  Usually, we send the little critters back out into the wild after a brief observation period, of course.  But when it comes to Monarch caterpillars, I’m willing to make an exception.

You see, we have a friend who’s been raising Monarch caterpillars for years, so I was excited when we finally found some!  Where?  In my front garden bed, surprisingly.  The first round of caterpillars took a field trip to my son’s classroom for the entire class to enjoy watching.  Those five (no, maybe six?) caterpillars were pretty big, almost ready to make their chrysalises.

I made a mental note to check the milkweed plants a couple times later in the week, just in case we missed any.  Why?  Because my preschooler was sad about not getting to see the caterpillars.  Anyways, I happened to find six teeny tiny Monarch caterpillars. These guys would’ve been hidden really well if I didn’t know exactly which plants to search.

So, enjoy these photos.  I’ll try to take some more once they’ve grown bigger so you can get an idea of how much they grow in the caterpillar stage!

monarch caterpillar curled up on milkweed leaf
This was the biggest of the six caterpillars I found …he liked to play dead when I picked up his leaf…
monarch caterpillar next to hole in milkweed leaf
Another monarch caterpillar, next to the hole he had cruched in the milkweed leaf
Monarch caterpillars on milkweed
You can see one caterpillar on the underside of this leaf, and the shadow of another one hiding on the opposite side close by. Cool!
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf
They are so tiny, but so intricate. I loved photographing these Monarch caterpillars!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
They crawled around a little bit during their portrait session, but such is life when photographing critters.
three monarch caterpillars on milkweed leaves.
You can see three Monarch caterpillars in this shot. The curled up one, another on top of the leaf, and a third caterpillar on the underside of the top leaf (near the top of the photo).
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf with water drops.
I liked how the water drops looked on the milkweed leaves. That’s from my spray bottle, so they had water, by the way.
Monarch caterpillars on opposite sides of a milkweed leaf
Two of the caterpillars, one on each side of the leaf again. Thanks for bearing with all these photos…. the kids were really interested and wanted me to share these!
Monarch caterpillars hiding on milkweed leaf
Yup, another Monarch caterpillar is hiding on the backside of this leaf. That makes two…
Two Monarch caterpillars on milkweed. One larger.
This photo shows how one of the Monarch caterpillars is bigger than most of the ones I found.
monarch caterpillar near edge of milkweed leaf.
I love this photo of the Monarch caterpillar.!!!!
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
The big guy decided to uncurl and hang out on a milkweed leaf, so I took a few more photos of him.
macro close up of monarch caterpillar
This is the closest macro photo I could get with my fancy camera gear… at least the stuff I had easily accessible. Not bad, not bad at all. Amazing detail on these guys!
monarch caterpillar near chewed up milkweed leaf.
One more of the biggest-small Monarch caterpillar…just because.
monarch caterpillars next to a dime (american currency) for scale
Here are two of the caterpillars next to a dime for size comparison. Seriously, they’re tiny!!
monarch caterpillar with USA dime for sense of scale
Another one of the caterpillars next to the dime…I’m not sure he would even cover the letters “LIBERTY” …it might be close!
monarch caterpillar near big hole in milkweed leaf
And right when I was starting to put the caterpillars away, one of the caterpillars crawled on the edge of the milkweed leaf, right near this huge hole. I thought it was really neat!
monarch caterpillar from the side
And finally, a profile shot of the Monarch caterpillar. In this one, you can really see how the head and back end of these caterpillars look very similar. The head is to the left of the photo. Did you get mixed up?

Make a Jack-O-Lantern Stamp from an Apple {Plus Two Halloween Crafts}

posted in: Parenting | 0

Make a Jack-O-Lantern Stamp from an Apple ...plus Two Halloween Crafts!

It’s always fun to get ready for Halloween. Whether you’re pumpkin-carving, or maybe making a costume to wear when trick-or-treating, Halloween gives us the chance to be creative (like we did with this Jack-O-Lantern stamp craft!).

Did you know that carving pumpkins didn’t become popular until the celebration of Halloween was brought to North America? Originally in Ireland, people carved lanterns out of turnips. Well, in America, of course, pumpkins were very easy to come by (not to mention easier to carve!), so the tradition evolved to include pumpkin carving.

You might want to check out my post, 6 Tips for Helping Kids Carve Pumpkins; or learn how to Create Your Own Pumpkin Stencil from Better Homes and Gardens.

6 Tips for Helping Kids Carve Pumpkins - Betsy's Photography - BPhotoArt.com

Anyways, my boys were pretty excited for fall this year.  Our neighbors had a pumpkin patch, and gave us pumpkins… so we have a very well decorated front porch.  The leaves are coming down in droves, and there have been multiple requests for a leaf pile.  And, of course, reminders that we need to carve pumpkins.  Well, I wasn’t quite ready to carve pumpkins (we went overboard last year), but wanted to give the boys a chance to do something fun for Halloween.

So, we made Halloween cards! Well, they did.  And I made a garland.

You probably have most of the supplies on hand for this craft, but here are some links in case (#afflinks)

Supplies:

How to Make a Jack-o-Lantern Stamp From an Apple

While most of this craft is kid-friendly, the first step is going to depend on how old your child is, and how much you trust them to use a knife safely.  So, most likely, you, the adult, will be doing this first step… after that, let the kids loose!

The kids were excited to make jack-o-lantern stamps...
The kids were excited to make jack-o-lantern stamps…

 

Cut the apple in half.  Then carve out a chunk for the smile, and cut out two triangles for the eyes.  If you want to get fancy and cut out teeth too, go for it.  In my book, simpler is easier!

I cut the apple in half, and carved out a face in each side -- one for each of my boys.
I cut the apple in half, and carved out a face in each side — one for each of my boys.
Toby wanted to show off his jack-o-lantern apple stamp.
Toby wanted to show off his jack-o-lantern apple stamp.

Use the Jack-O-Lantern Stamp to Make a Halloween Card

Next, put some paint out for the kids. I took a kitchen plate, covered it in a plastic grocery bag, and then put the pumpkin orange paint on top.  This made for easy clean up, and allowed the kids to smear their apple stamps around to get full coverage.

Then, let them stamp to their heart’s content on the black construction paper with their thoroughly inked stamps.  My kindergardener was able to do this all by himself, while my toddler needed help placing the stamp down so the paint didn’t smear.  I didn’t think of this until after we were done with the project, but you could take a corn holder (for corn on the cob) and stick it in the skin side of the apple, creating a handle.

Oh well… hindsight is 20/20.

After the boys gleefully covered their paper cards with pumpkin stamps, I got out the white crayons.  My toddler was uninterested in crayons, and moved onto another activity, but my kindergardener sounded out and wrote an entire greeting on his Halloween card.  It’s so cute when kids start to learn to write… I love the phonetic spelling stage 🙂 🙂 …it’s so adorable!  But, I admit, it’s sometimes hard to read.  So, I did write a transcription of the message and tape it onto the card before we delivered it.

This craft took about 5 minutes for me to think up and prepare for the boys… and it occupied them for maybe a half hour.  Your mileage may vary, depending on your child’s interest and age.

Once you coat it with paint, the jack-o-lantern stamp looks a lot less like an apple, and more like a pumpkin.
Once you coat it with paint, the jack-o-lantern stamp looks a lot less like an apple, and more like a pumpkin.
Both boys diligently stamped away on their black construction paper to create lovely Halloween cards.
Both boys diligently stamped away on their black construction paper to create lovely Halloween cards.
Toby was definitely old enough to handle this craft on his own.
Toby was definitely old enough to handle this craft on his own.
The paint transferred better when we pushed really hard and went slower rather than faster.
The paint transferred better when we pushed really hard and went slower rather than faster.

 

Toby decided to personalize his Halloween card further by writing "Happy Halloween" ...among other things.
Toby decided to personalize his Halloween card further by writing “Happy Halloween” …among other things.
The apple stamps worked pretty well, I'd say. This crafting session was a success!
The apple stamps worked pretty well, I’d say. This crafting session was a success!

Use the Jack-O-Lantern Stamp Make a Halloween Garland

After the boys were done, I cut up some black construction paper into triangles and stamped them with the jack-o-lantern stamp.

Once the paint was dry, I punched holes in the corners and then had my older boy thread yarn through the holes so we could hang it up.

Voila!  Fun and easy decorations for my front door!

Mom's project while the boys made cards? cutting triangles from the construction paper so I could make a fun jack-o-lantern garland.
Mom’s project while the boys made cards? cutting triangles from the construction paper so I could make a fun jack-o-lantern garland.
I punched holes in the triangles and threaded floss through to string them together.
I punched holes in the triangles and threaded floss through to string them together.
We hung it over the sliding glass door, upon my boys' request.
We hung it over the sliding glass door, upon my boys’ request.
The boys decided it looked very spooky!
The boys decided it looked very spooky!

Use Your Imagination!

I am sure there are a million other ways you could use this cute jack-o-lantern stamp…

Do you have any other ideas for an extension activity based on this project?  Think of something else you could stamp with an apple Jack-o-lantern stamp?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Motorcycle Racing Painting

posted in: Fine Art | 0

It’s interesting to see how motion is captured — whether in a photograph, or through other media.  I had fun creating this painting of a racing motorcycle (based on a photograph by Steve Sewell).  Brush strokes, whether “in real life” or digital, convey motion, impart a sense of speed.  This “quick draw” painting was completed in about an hour, give or take.  I had fun playing around with different brush strokes, but really wanted an abstract feel for the background on this one.  The brush strokes lend a sense of motion, though they are a bit rough.

motorcycle racing painting, based on a photograph by Steve Sewell
Motorcycle racing painting, based on a photograph by Steve Sewell

The thing about art is — you can spend hours on it.  Tweaking brush strokes, overworking details, deciding you both love and hate the painting at the same time.  Art is personal, involved. It’s not just an image, it’s about the emotion.

I could come back to this same motorcycle photograph tomorrow and end up with a completely different painting.  It’s all about the feel you’re going for in an image, how rough you want it to be, how refined.

Art is fluid, everchanging.

Art is personal.

As an aside, if you want to commission a painting from one of your own snapshots, please contact me.  I’d love to find out what styles of art interest you, the look you’re going for, and what excites you about your image.

Horse + Rider Painting (from Photograph)

posted in: Fine Art | 1

As I mentioned in an earlier post (Finding Time For Yourself), this year I’ve been trying to incorporate art into my daily routine.  For the most part, this has been in my sketchbook, with pen and paper.  But today, I took some time to experiment with digital painting.  This painting is based on a photograph taken by Bhakti Iyata (source: Pixabay.com).  I had a lot of fun painting digitally.  It always takes time to find a groove when working with new media, and digital is no exception.  But my goal was to capture the essence of the image, the feeling, and keep things kind of spontaneous.  Oh, and experiment with the painting process and “media” available digitally (i.e. all the fancy schmancy brushes).

digital painting of a woman riding her horse, cowgirl at a rodeo.
Painting of a woman riding her horse, based on a photograph by Bhakti Iyata (Source: Pixabay.com)

I’m liking the results, especially considering the amount of time I spent on it (maybe an hour or so of experimentation).  I’m not completely in love with the airbrush streaks on the woman’s hair and the horse’s mane, but that’s okay.  Art is a process.  The more time you spend practicing, the more you can refine your skills.

As an aside, if you have a photograph that you’d like turned into a painted art piece, please get in touch (contact Betsy).  I’d love to help talk with you about how I could create a custom art piece from one of your treasured snapshots.

Now, back to the daily art thing.  I have been pretty consistent!  Yes, I’ve taken a few days off, but other days I’ve had time to finish more than one sketch.  It’s interesting how creative inspiration strikes.

My takeaway so far from this endeavor?

  • it’s good to let your goals have fluidity.  I don’t want to be stuck doing something daily “just because” or out of obligation.  The whole purpose of this was to spend some time every day doing something for myself.
  • Don’t feel pressured.  Yes, I wanted to say “I’ve completed a drawing every day” — but realistically, I know this isn’t feasible.  Some days I’ve just done quick sketches.  Other days I’ve had time to spend an hour or two drawing.  Just do what you can, when you can.
  • It’s good to take a break.  Time off gives balance, refreshes, energizes you.  Our work week has a weekend (even though many of us don’t stop working), the creation story has a day of rest, exercise schedules incorporate “off days.”  It’s no good to be in a state of constant activity.  Rest, reflection… they’re good for the soul.
  • Include others.  Some of the days I’ve had most fun drawing were when I did collaborative sketches with my son, Toby.  It was fun to work on something together, to chat as we drew, and to have more than one creative opinion expressed in the final piece.  A note to Type A individuals — if you let a child collaboratively draw with you, set aside any expectations or need for things to go a certain way. It just won’t happen.

Am I going to continue?

Yes, probably.  Though I am not officially committing to a drawing (or painting) every day, I’d like to continue engaging the creative portion of my brain daily.  It’s really interesting how much that overflows to the rest of my daily routine.

In a nutshell… find time to do what you love on a regular basis, even if you have to make major changes to your definition of that activity.  Five minutes drawing.  Reading one chapter of a book.  Taking a five minute walk.  Playing games as a family once a month.

Whatever it is that energizes and inspires you, make it something you can realistically do.

Finding Time For Yourself

posted in: Fine Art | 1

With all the directions we’re being pulled in, it can be tough to carve out time for yourself!  Like me, I’m sure you wear many hats — perhaps including things like business owner, household manager, kid wrangler, laundry sergeant, extracurricular activity planner, ….the list goes on.

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Drawings and sketches in 2016, created by Betsy Finn. (Disclaimer: These are photographed with my phone… so I can share them daily!!!)

Posted by Betsy Finn on Sunday, January 3, 2016

Let’s face it. Our schedules are busy.  Life is busy.  And nothing we can do will make it seem any less busy.

Well, that’s not quite true.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve done one thing daily that has helped me feel like I’m treating myself.  I’ve opened my sketchbook and spent time drawing.  

For me, there is nothing more relaxing than the act of creating something.  

Whether it is a photograph, a drawing, a sculpture, …heck, even artisan bread… the process of creation is what leaves me feeling inspired, relaxed, and joyful.

Some days I haven’t been inspired, but once I forced myself to get started, that feeling was replaced by contentment.  It’s fun for me.

I have to admit I have a few ulterior motives behind the lofty goal I have unofficially set for myself. 

My not-official-goal?   Drawing every day — ideally finishing a new drawing each day.  

You see, I am a perfectionist by nature, and there’s a tipping point for me when I’m creating.  At some point, I usually reach a spot where I’m “afraid” to go on — a gnawing concern that if I do any more, I might “wreck” it.  Of course I know better than that little voice inside my head, but still, it is tempting to just stop and call it quits.  

And that’s the point where I have been forcing myself to continue on.  For better or worse, I’ve been forging ahead and finishing drawings that, several years ago, I would have left in sketch form.  

I have to say, it’s really exciting. Liberating. Not perfect, but hey, life isn’t perfect.  I don’t need my drawings to be either.

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By drawing daily, I’m doing something for myself — I’m helping myself to get past that mental roadblock.

And it’s amazing how once one roadblock comes down, others start to fall too.

You see, that whole thing about not having enough time for yourself?

It’s a myth.

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You can have time — you just have to make time.

Whether it’s an hour or five minutes, you owe it to yourself to do something for yourself regularly. Do you love to read?  Try to read a chapter every day — or even just a paragraph!  Or maybe you like to do something that can’t realistically be done on a daily basis.  Make time weekly.  By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to take better care of others, to better fulfill your obligations.

Maybe you owe it to yourself to set a consistent bedtime, or to go for a walk every morning.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, or anything creative.  But find something you can do consistently and regularly.  Something that you enjoy.

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Here are some ideas to get you brainstorming ways you can take care of yourself:

  1. Start a thankfulness journal and write 5 things you are thankful
  2. Draw in a sketchbook
  3. Work your way through a book by reading a paragraph or chapter
  4. Go for a walk every morning, or after dinner
  5. Spend 10 minutes playing wholeheartedly with your kids
  6. Turn off your phone and just relax/meditate/think for five minutes
  7. Listen to your favorite music for 10 minutes
  8. Take a break from sitting at your desk — stand up and stretch!
  9. Subscribe to a daily podcast and listen to it
  10. Complete a scrapbook page
  11. Do a daily crossword puzzle
  12. Try to finish a brainteaser or sudoku puzzle
  13. Play cards (solitaire, etc) by yourself
  14. Take a shower or bubble bath
  15. Take a break after putting the kids to bed — the dishes can wait a few minutes
  16. Work on a jigsaw puzzle
  17. Take a power nap
  18. Just take a breather… a single deep breath in, followed by a deep exhalation
  19. Make a cup of coffee or tea for yourself (and sit while you enjoy it)
  20. Think about all the things in your life you appreciate

See, the things you can do to take care of yourself are so variable.  It doesn’t have to be the same thing every day, either.

Just make time for yourself.

Seriously.

You deserve it.

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If you have any tips about making time for yourself, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!  What are some ways you make sure to take care of yourself emotionally, mentally, physically, or otherwise?  What helps you keep a positive outlook on life?