Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Bunny

I just got the official word this morning that M will be home on Sunday!!! WOW!!!  There are paintings propped up all over the house, as I have taken over the entire house in his absence.  So I guess I should clear a spot for him today. 

Here is a new cottontail painting, called "Listening." 
"Listening."  Oil on canvas, 10 x 8 inches.  ©k.swenson2010
Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Rinca Island

Our next stop after Bali was the island of Flores.  Flores is not only a jumping off point for some really amazing scuba diving, it is also close enough for a visit to Rinca, one of the islands where Komodo Dragons live.  The Komodo Dragon is the world's largest lizard.  A full grown lizard can be between 6.6 to 10 feet long, weighing over 150 pounds.  They are carnivores, eating mostly carrion.  They will hunt and kill, if necessary and are capable of taking down a water buffalo, or >ulp< a human being.  Seeing these big lizards was something I was really excited to do, so one day, after a day of diving, we stopped at Rinca Island to see the Komodo Dragons ourselves.
A large female dragon we saw while walking with our guide.
You have to pay a fee to visit the Komodo Dragons on Rinca, and you will not be allowed to go without a guide.  This is probably due to the fact that the dragons are not fenced in, but wandering around free.  Interestingly enough, most of the dragons we saw were resting from the heat of the day underneath the building housing the kitchen.  Apparently, they are drawn not only to the shade, but also by the smell of food.  We were told that the park rangers do not feed these lazy-looking lizards.  Our guide had a tall walking stick with two prongs at one end, but no other weapon or club.  He jokingly assured us that because he spoke English, we were safe from an attack by a hungry lizard.  Nevertheless, there was something disconcerting about walking so close to such large carnivores.
Komodo Dragons don't have a very good sense of hearing.  Mostly, they rely on their tongues to detect stimuli.  Their mating season begins in May, and usually eggs are laid in September.  During the rainy season, from September through April, the eggs are incubated by the female.  The young lizards hatch in April.  Because the adult lizards are cannibalistic, the young Komodo dragons live in trees for the first few years of their lives.  They can live for fifty years.  The lizards actually seemed almost bored by our presence, even though our group was followed by a larger group of school children, laughing and chattering nervously.  Maybe it was just the heat that made them seem so lethargic.  
Komodo Dragon Poo.
Yes, that really is a photo of Dragon poo.  I took it to show you how much it looks like bone.  The Komodo Dragon swallows its food whole, bones included.   
What are you looking at?
We did see one large female Komodo out in the jungle by herself.  I managed to get a number of good photos of her, including these two photos, when she decided to become our guide for a while.

Our two guides.
I took maybe a few too many photos of these amazing creatures.  If you want to see more photos, you can leave a comment and ask.
And so ends another day in our exploration of Indonesia.

Forgive my lack of Christmas cheer.  M was not home for Christmas, and I found that as the holiday grew closer, my mood became bleak.  I am happy to say that I have recovered, and I hear rumors that he may even make it home in time for the New Year.  I spent most of the holiday holed up in the studio, so new paintings are well on their way to completion.  I hope to share some of them with you by the end of the week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Drive to the airport, Bali

After we had been in Bali for a few days, it was time to travel to our next destination - the island of Flores.  We had to repeat the winding 3 hour van ride to the airport, but this time I was prepared, and managed to take some photos as we zipped along the narrow roads. 

Apparently, the rice fields in Bali are rather famous, and you can read more about the irrigation of the rice fields by visiting a really nice article on a travel website here and Wikipedia here. I found the terraced rice fields incredibly beautiful, and we didn't even see the ones that are supposed to be "most photogenic."  We spent most of our time under water (which was also amazing, but in a different way.)  I could see how one could spend so much more time in Bali, exploring more of what this island has to offer. 
Despite the frequency with which I saw women carrying heavy loads on their heads, this was the only photo I took, as we whipped past in the airport van.  That's what happens when I have too much water in my ear.

Despite the lack of photographs from our scuba dives, I have to tell you how much fun we had, especially when we went to the wreck of the Liberty and another dive where we saw garden eels - creepy!  I have an eternal love of fish that was greatly reinforced with every dive we did.  We only had a few problems - a pair of broken sunglasses, a broken bikini, a watch that went diving and wasn't supposed too.... nothing that couldn't be forgotten with a lounge chair next to the infinity pool.  It was a little hard to say goodbye to our resort on Bali, but we knew more adventures awaited.
Puri Wirata

Monday, December 13, 2010

Common sights in Bali

Most of the chickens I saw in Bali were just running around loose, but every now and then you would come across fighting cocks.  Easily identified as such, since they were in baskets like these.  Despite their confinement, they had no trouble being heard.
It must be somewhat gory and dramatic, but I have a curiosity about cock fighting.  One day, I may just have to find a way to see it for myself.
All the cows look the same: caramel colored, dark-eyed, and healthy.  Many of them had shelters with thatched roofs, presumably to keep the sun off. 

Every bridge we crossed had one of these menacing guardians on either side.

Finally, a day with enough wind to sail.  The fishermen set out each evening.
I have always thought waterlilies were one of the most beautiful flowers.  This one was on the grounds of our hotel near Amed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dining on the beach

Our favorite place to eat was just down the road from our hotel (via the mostly trusty motorbike.)  Interestingly enough, many of the local eateries were advertising barracuda as the daily special.  After much discussion and thought, we chose NOT to sample the barracuda.  The ambiance was what brought us there, anyway.  How often do you get to eat at a table that sits right on the beach, anyway?
The view from the table included front row seats to the evening boat launch.
If we looked in the other direction, we got to watch baby goats.  Now that's what I call scenery.
Add a cold Bintang and salty popcorn.....heaven!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A motorbike ride

We decided to rent a motorbike while staying near Amed.  I looped my camera bag over my shoulder, and hopped onto the back of the bike.  Keep in mind that it's probably 85 degrees F and humid, so I am wearing shorts, flip flops and a tank top.  Your standard motorcycle gear.  Let's go for a ride!
the green blur, motorcycle in motion.

To see a larger version of these photos, just click on the image.
What you want to avoid when riding a motorbike on hot, narrow, empty streets is a flat tire.  We ended up stranded (after the motorbike repair shops had closed) with a flat tire and ended up walking for about an hour back to our hotel.  Funny how a quick motorcycle ride is so different and much more time-consuming on foot.  Don't worry, upon reaching the hotel, we recovered with cold Bintang, and the motorcycle was rescued not long after we returned.
As you can see, the streets near Amed were much quieter than Denpasar's streets.
 Bali is predominantly Hindu, which sets it apart from the rest of Indonesia, which is mostly Muslim.  Religion plays a major role in the lives of the Balinese.  As we rode along, we noticed these bamboo poles along the streets.  I believe they are called penjor, and they decorate the entrance to each family compound.  They are put up for the religious holiday called Galungan, which occurs every 210 days, according to the Balinese calendar.  The Balinese form of Hinduism is really a mixture of Hindu, Buddhism, Javanese and ancient indigenous beliefs.  
A closer look at the ornament hanging from the penjor.
I read in The Lonely Planet Bali and Lombok travel survival kit that every village in Bali has several temples, and each home has one as well.  That means there are more temples than homes. 

In addition to exploring the area on motorbike, we also signed up to do some scuba diving while visiting Indonesia.  I haven't gone scuba diving in a decade, so I did a refresher dive in the pool with the dive master and a darling young woman from Holland.  M and I also spent some time reading our dive manuals and getting ready for wreck diving, drift diving and navigation diving.  Fun.  I don't have an underwater camera, so you will not get a chance to see what I saw underwater.  I am sorry about that, since it was amazing.  I did do some quick little drawings, while sitting by the pool one day.  Maybe I will share those with you...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Home at last

Hello beloved blog readers!  I have at last returned from Indonesia, where I was reunited with my husband for two weeks.  It was sooooo good to see him, and to spend time with him while exploring a place that was new to us both.  I wish I could have brought him home with me, but alas - his contract isn't finished yet overseas.  I was able to bring home about 250 photos to share with you of our travels.  (don't worry, I will edit them!)  I will be writing about Indonesia this week, so stay tuned if you are wanting a glimpse into that part of the world.
One of the first Bali photos I took, in the van near Denpasar.

The journey:
LAX to Taipei.  (15 hours behind a tired baby.)  I had about three hours in Taipei, where I also drank the most amazing $3 cup of coffee I think I have ever had.  Then on to Denpasar, Bali (5 hours).  I was reunited with my husband at the airport, and we proceeded to our accommodations for the next five days.  We stayed in a really nice dive resort near Amed, which is a tiny town on the eastern coast of the island of Bali.  We wanted to be off the beaten path, which meant a 3 hour, winding van ride from the airport to the resort.  Even though there were amazing sights to see, I had to focus on the road in front of me to avoid feeling carsick.  We even passed monkeys in a tree that I was too queasy to photograph.  (sorry to miss that photo opp!)  When at last we arrived, we were greeted with this welcome, welcome sight.
The pool, sparkling in the sun's last rays.  You can see ocean beyond it.

This is a typical fishing boat.
Young boys often stayed near the hotel, trying to sell tiny handmade versions of the fishing boats to tourists.

Sights and observations:
After being in the desert for the past four years, I was first struck by the color green.  Everything was SO GREEN.  The color almost didn't seem real.  There are a lot of chickens in Indonesia, both of the "running across the street" variety, and of the "fighting cock in a basket" variety.  (more on that later.)   The women carry heavy loads on their heads, unless they are getting a ride on one of the many motorbikes zipping down the narrow streets.  When riding on the back of a motorbike, the women will often ride sidesaddle.  (having ridden on the back of one of these tiny motorbikes on said narrow, bumpy roads, I find that both astonishing and incredibly brave.)

The towns are tiny, and the smells of Indonesia for me will always be a mixture of rotting garbage, dust, smoke from burning trash, incense, and clove cigarettes.  The food involves a lot of rice and just about every meal involves an egg or two.  (Not to mention chicken.  Of course, chicken.)
I took a photo of my first breakfast, in honor of my friend Lily, who takes beautiful photos of food.
Breakfast day one: eggs, fruit, tea, and a banana pancake that was more like a crepe.  It was delicious.

If you are a coffee snob at all, I would recommend avoiding the coffee, which tends to have about a half inch of "sludge" at the bottom. 

Twice a day, a Balinese carrying a tray would place these offerings (they called them "blessings") in doorways, entrances, and in the shrines.  They consisted of a palm leaf "plate", flowers, incense, and sometimes even food, like rice or a cookie.  
Some of the more savvy birds would eat the rice.
The first day we didn't do much of anything, besides become really familiar with the pool.  I think we may have gone snorkeling.  Once the sun went down, these tiny frogs would appear in the grass.  I finally had to see if I could get a good photo with my camera.  Most might think I'm nuts, taking a photo of a frog in the dark, but I just needed to do it.
Cute, huh?  I have been unable to identify this frog so far.
I found it a challenge to stay up past 8 or 8:30 pm., especially when I first got there.  M has been living in Indonesia, part of the time, so I think he was lonely at night, when I passed out on the mosquito net- ensconced bed.  I would also wake up at around 4 am, and lay in the bed for as long as I could before finally getting up around 5.  The mornings were divine.

More coming, stay tuned!  It's nice to be back.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Winner

I know I told you I would post the items to choose from last week.  I don't know how I managed to not do that, but I will post them today.  I have chosen a winner!!!  The winner of this giveaway is Cynthia Schelzig!  Congratulations, Cynthia!  Thank you to everyone who left a comment on the blog (or sent an email.)  I appreciate you all.  Thank you for following my blog, and for your encouraging comments.  It means so much to me.  If you didn't win this time, keep watching.  I do have giveaways every so often, because it is fun.  (Also as a way to thank you for stopping over to read my blog.)

Here are the things you have to choose from, Cynthia:
A t-shirt with one of my transfers on it.  (I have different colors and sizes.)
A small giclee reproduction of my painting "Surprise."  It comes with a mat, and fits in an 8 x 10 frame.

This original monotype, which measures 5 x 7 inches.
I will be out of town for a couple of weeks, but I hope to post a few things on my travels.  Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Giveaway

"Grooming."  Oil on canvas, 10 x 8 inches.  ©k.swenson10

No, the above painting is not the giveaway.  It is one of the paintings I sold during the Hwy. 62 Art Tours the weekend before last.

However, I have surpassed 30,000 visitors to this blog, and I am having a giveaway, as promised.  I haven't decided exactly what I am going to give away just YET, but I promise you will be able to choose between more than one thing, and it will be a piece of my art.  I am sure you are wondering how you go about being part of this giveaway.  It's pretty easy.  Just leave me a comment, between now and November 7th.  If you want to share how long you have been following this blog, that would be kinda cool, but it is optional.  I will choose my winner on Monday, the 8th of November.  I will post photos later this week of the items you will be able to choose from, if you happen to be the lucky one.  There will most likely be three things to choose from.  I have already picked one of the things, I just haven't decided on the other two things yet.  (I know - so much suspense!)  

For those of you who are wondering about my recent shows, both the Open Studio Art Tour and the Art in the Park in Ventura were successful shows!!!  I have worked really hard this year, and it is clear to me now that hard work does pay off.  My goal this year was to paint 100 paintings, and as I write this, I have completed 90 paintings.  I have already told some of you about this goal, so I apologize if I sound like a broken record.  I just wanted to tell others about it, because I am so excited that I am going to meet my goal.

I am off to visit my long absent husband next week, and I hope to be blogging about my overseas adventures.  It will depend on internet access, of course, but it will be fun to do a little traveling.  I love sharing adventures with you, my dear blog readers.  I am going to make a concerted effort to catch up on my fellow bloggers this week.  I hope all of you U.S. readers remembered to vote today.  I did.