Monday, December 28, 2009

Enlightening Links

photo by Warwick Lister-Kaye

We're all spiders weaving this World Wide Web, connecting our thoughts, ideas, experiences. We're casting our threads of silk out into space, and they connect with other threads, becoming nets and pathways. We're all connected.

I learn a lot from other people. The World Wide Web has been a great source of inspiration and information. A couple of years ago, I made a choice to try to live a more healthy, conscious, creative, productive life. Luckily, there are a lot of great spirits shining their light, generously sharing their knowledge and ideas.

2009 has been important to me in terms of this connection. This year I established my web presence through this blog. I've also created another blog of my writing and art reviews, Rosa Phoenix Words On Art. Soon, these blogs will be linked up to my main website, I look forward to sharing the highlights of my creative journey with you in 2010 and beyond!

My year-end gift to you is this list of links. Note that these sites are in addition to all the great blogs I'm following, which you can see in my profile. I will continue to update this list as I find more great stuff. From now on I will keep a link to this post on the front page of my blog, under the archives.

Enlightening Links:

Ideas + News:


Tools for Creating New Ideas

Design + Architecture:

Eugene Tsui


Web Urbanist 



Joanne Mattera Art Blog

KQED Spark

Daily Art Muse

Make Zine

Artists Who Blog

Nate Williams' methodology for creating new ideas

Helping the Earth:

Trees for the Future

My Friends:

Ear Candle Productions Sounds of San Francisco

Chad Cameron Illustrator

Lotus Pie Jewelry + Art Marketplace

Rio Vista Graphics

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sketchbook: San Francisco

pencil and crayon drawing on paper


Here is a photo of the house:

The unusual roof of this house is reflected in the window of the house across the street.

A wonderful Christmas scene!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sketchbook: Mexico City

color pencil and crayon drawing

This drawing of a shop in Mexico City was done for the Virtual Paintout, using Google Maps Street View.

Great location to wander, close to Plaza de la Constitution, Templo Mayor, Palacio Nacional, and Catedral Metropolitana. 

These are all amazing buildings, but they didn't give me the feeling of Mexico City, the way this little shop does.

I love using Street View to virtually visit places. 

This was my first attempt to draw from Street View. If you'll notice, the perspective is really strange. Obviously, I got confused by the lens distortion from the Street View camera. This is a drawback of drawing from Street View.

Do you want to know my process for drawing? 

These are the pencils I use. Multicolor pencils! 

This is how I get that "rainbow" effect in my sketches. 

These are great for blending shadow colors also. Don't use them like this though, sharpen them first! That way you will get a nice fine line, and you will have more control over your line.

Step one is using the pencil to lightly sketch out the composition and basic shapes . . .

Check out the perspective lines I drew for help, they are going every which way! 

Step two is darkening the shadows with the pencil:

Adding some foliage to the tree with the side of the pencil:

Finally, I add color using Crayola crayons.

I don't limit myself to the colors I see.

I use my imagination, using the colors that I think will make a nice picture.

The rainbow colors of my pencil drawing show through the crayon.

The wonderful thing about Mexico City is that it is a very colorful place! 

I have never been there in real life, but my explorations on Street View have let me see the vibrant colors and street life of this city.

Check out the The Virtual Paintout to see the work by other artists. 

Each month focuses on a different location.

Sketchbook: San Francisco

crayon on paper

Autumn rooftops in San Francisco
  are islands in a sea of fiery autumn leaves

Friday, December 4, 2009

True Mirror

photo by Plus 

"Who sees the human face correctly:

the photographer,

the mirror,

or the painter?"

- Pablo Picasso

A friend showed me the True Mirror. 

It gives me a true (not reversed) image of myself.

I've never seen myself like this, except in photos or video, but never in real life. 

I quickly notice that I tilt my head to one side, and my smile is crooked.

photo from the True Mirror website

It's interesting to look into my own eyes. 

I am able to make a connection with my own reflected image. 

I get a friendly feedback from the mirror, 

as if I am actually connecting with another person, 

and not merely gazing into a mirror.

The makers of the True Mirror explain:
There are a few key reasons for why the True Mirror reflects the real you.
The first is the all-important eye-to-eye contact -- the strongest way we understand what people are saying.
When you communicate with every other individual in the world, your eyes always meet left-eye-to-right-eye and right-eye-to-left eye.
This normal biological pattern conveys information "just so".
With traditional mirrors, where the right eye picks up the right-eye reflection, and the left picks up the left's, you are experiencing a highly unnatural way of gathering information about yourself. You don't communicate with anyone else in the world in that pattern.
The result is that we always feel we are somehow different than everyone else, often in a negative way. 

I wonder if this is why I experience self-critical feelings when I see my own reflection in a regular mirror. 

Looking at myself in the True Mirror, I feel more curious about myself, and less critical.

Here is the link to True Mirror website:

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Red Book by Carl Jung

image from the Red Book, courtesy of

Here is a book that has a legendary past: psychologist Carl Jung's personal record of his visions, documented in calligraphic text and color illustrations, called the Red Book.  

Jung's family has kept this private volume locked up for decades, and finally it is being published.

The original is now on view at the Rubin Museum of Art (one of my favorite museums in New York, a mysterious treasure box of ancient Himalayan art). 

The museum is posting pictures of the pages on its website, as each page is turned.

This is a good thing because this is an expensive book with a list price of $195! Amazon has it at a discounted price of $114.07.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Portrait Sketch

pencil and crayon on paper 

Happy Thanksgiving!  

A turkey is the traditional symbol of Thanksgiving. 

Instead, here is a drawing I did a few years ago that I feel represents this All-American holiday.

This is my portrait of my sweetheart, who has mixed Native American and European ancestry. In his family tree is the story of this country. He is wearing colorful feathers in his hair.

I'm sending my best wishes across the world wide web. 

I'm very thankful to be alive and well and surrounded by beautiful friends and family.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sketchbook: San Francisco

crayon drawing on construction paper by Rosa Phoenix

Drawing is a way of seeing.   

When I'm drawing, I notice much more than I would with a casual glance.

This cheerful yellow house has a Yin+Yang symbol decorating it. 

On the eave of the roof stands a Kuan Yin statue. 

I love the bottlebrush trees and bright blue sky.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dia de los Muertos / Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos display

 Valencia Street is reflected in the window of this shop

in San Francisco's Mission District

This is where I go for Dia de los Muertos decorations.

This shop sells Mexican handicrafts.

Huge paper flowers, Frida Kahlo cards, sugar skulls, paper cutout party banners and more.

I bought these paper skeletons and hung them in the hallway.

These pictures were phantomized in PhotoShop.


Honor the ancestors. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


What shall I wear to the Masquerade Ball?

I embellished these masks with 

feathers, faux fur, crystals, sequins and glitter.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How I Became an Artist and Environmentalist: Blog Action Day 2009


Into the Deep  
collage by Rosa Phoenix 

(click on image to see a larger version)

Is it just me, or have the times been tumultuous since 2000?

My own life seems to follow the ups and downs of the USA.  

Moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2000 at the height of the dot com boom. Bumped from one short term housing situation to another. Lost my job like so many others when the dot com bubble burst, shortly after 9/11/2001. 

9/11 was personal for me because I'd just moved from NYC a few months earlier. My friends and I had worked near the Twin Towers, and my brother lived in that area. No one I knew was killed. But I was devastated that New York was attacked, and that 2,752 New Yorkers simply vanished that way.

memorial tile for 9/11
unknown artist

War, paranoia, fascism, fear overtook the nation. 

Illness took over my body, disabling me. 

I went through a time of depression as my family experienced difficulties, then my grandfather and father died. 

2004 - 2005 was a time of the Tsunami, of Hurricane Katrina, of landslides, mudslides, earthquakes, death on a huge scale. Personal and global tragedy. 

Hurricane Katrina was personal for me because of the time I'd spent in New Orleans. I was haunted by the faces of the people I met there, as I watched this beloved city sink like Atlantis beneath the water.

pages from What's Next? altered collage book by Rosa Phoenix

That's when it hit home for me, Climate Change.

I felt powerless to do anything. I mourned for my lost loved ones, for the villages buried by earthquakes and mudslides, for those who were swept into the sea and for those who drowned in their own homes. I mourned for those I did not know, whose homes were being bombed in our war, and for those who were fighting overseas, sacrificing their own lives for those of us living in comfort at home.

interior views of Social Dress New Orleans - 730 Days After 
by Takashi Horisaki
Socrates Sculpture Park, NYC, 2007
(installation based on a New Orleans house abandoned after Hurricane Katrina) 


I donated money to the Red Cross to help the victims of disaster and the refugees of war, but I felt hopeless about our collective future. 

In the news were reports of the rapid destruction of ecosystems and habitats, species dying, polar ice caps melting, rivers and oceans poisoned, mutations in animals, drugs in our water supply and wars raging all around the world.

pages from What's Next? altered collage book by Rosa Phoenix

What was horrifying was feeling complicit in this chain of destruction. 

Just by living the life of a modern person in America, I feel that I am contributing to this. 

It is like being a cog in a machine.  

What can I do to reverse this? I asked myself in despair.

pages from What's Next? altered collage book by Rosa Phoenix

I made changes to my lifestyle. 

I donated my car to Habitat for Humanity. (Luckily I live in San Francisco, where I don't need to drive.) 

I limit the waste I create by not buying many new things, and recycling and composting whenever possible. 

Our household buys organic food from farmers' markets, and we buy in bulk to reduce packaging whenever possible. We limit our energy usage with compact fluorescent bulbs, and by not turning on the heat.

I feel lucky to be able to make these choices. Does it help? I think every little bit helps. I'm sure there is always room to improve. The first step is awareness.

In 2007, I learned about Trees for the Future. This organization helps people plant trees in deforested areas all over the world.

I also returned to making art.  Art helped me to recover from illness. Now my art and my life have a clear purpose. I base my art in symbols of the Earth, like the Tree of Life, and Gaia, Mother Earth.

I use my art to show that Life is sacred, and that we are part of something bigger.

In 2008 I organized "Love Our Mother" Earth Day Art Show + Benefit for Trees for the Future. I showed my painting "World Mother" at the art show.

We raised money for Trees for the Future's project in Senegal, Africa, to plant 1,000 trees.  

While I was researching Senegal, I learned that this country has experienced grave problems related to climate change. 

Like the U.S. Gulf Coast, Senegal has had severe flooding on its coast, in addition to a drought that has lasted decades. 

Decades of monoculture (peanut crop) have depleted the soil of nutrients.

This would seem like a hopeless situation, but trees are helping to change that.

Trees have so many benefits.  

They exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. 

They filter pollutants and clean the air. 

They bring groundwater up to the surface level with their root systems. 

Their roots also hold the soil together, preventing soil erosion and landslides. 

Their wood, fruits, leaves and sap can be harvested for food, fuel and other uses. 

Their fallen leaves and twigs create compost, enriching the soil and making land fertile for farming and gardening. 

Trees provide habitat for animals and cooling shade in hot areas.  

Trees are a renewable resource. 

Too many forests have been destroyed. 

It's time to replenish the Earth with trees. 

A wonderful thing is happening in Africa. 

A green belt of trees is being planted across the continent.  

Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement, Trees for the Future, the United Nations, the Peace Corps, governments and other organizations are working with local people to plant trees across Africa.

I'm pleased that my art is connected to this great undertaking. 

My art is an affirmation of hope, expression of love, and act of peace.

The human family tree includes all people, all over the world. 

I use the symbol of the Tree of Life to show that all Life is interconnected.

Please take part in re-planting the Earth!

Learn more about how climate change has impacted Senegal:

I'm pleased to join thousands of bloggers around the world, 
by blogging about climate change for Blog Action Day 2009. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Secret Garden

peek into the secret garden 

Did you ever have a secret hideaway, where you went to escape the world?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Let's Take a Walk in the Woods

 trees guard our path

twisted trees

growing green grove 

What do you see? 

Are you, like me, in love with the trees?

Here among the trees, 

listening to the swaying and rustling of leaves and limbs in the wind,  

I feel at home, connected to the Earth.

Ever since I returned to making art, I've been drawing and painting trees. 

Tracing the shapes of their trunks and limbs helps me to remember that I, too, belong to this Earth.  

Like the trees, I am rooted in, and receive nourishment from the Earth. 

I grow deeper and reach ever higher, toward the light.

I took these photos in Buena Vista Park, my own urban forest.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Autumn Leaves in Felt

Who doesn't love the smell and sound of autumn leaves crunching underfoot?  

I love collecting colorful leaves.

I cut these autumn leaves out of felt. 

They aren't crunchy, and they don't smell, 

but they are fun to throw in the air and play with!

falling stars

I was inspired by Red Maple Leaves.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Buddha's Hand

A friend brought this fragrant citrus fruit called a Buddha's Hand.  

To me it looks like an octopus or jellyfish, or a flower, or flames. 

If you use your imagination, it could look like hands held together in a mudra (prayerful gesture).


And here is one we saw at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, still green on the tree:

Speaking of fruit, and the Buddha, here is a link to Buddha-shaped pears.  I'd love to have one on my altar.