Musings from Moyo: The Disappearing Art of Letter Writing

Cards from silk painting originals by Miranda Roberts Cards from silk painting originals by Miranda Roberts
“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”

Phyllis Theroux

If you’ve been following by latest adventures since publishing my first book “Moyo’s Journey”, you will know that I am currently living aboard a 48 foot catamaran sailboat in Chesapeake Bay, with my humans. Maintenance is an ongoing requirement of boat life and so “Sarabi” is currently out of the water being painted. As a result, my humans decided to take a land expedition to New York City. Someone had to oversee things at the boat yard so I stayed alone “at the helm”. I think possibly I should be promoted to Rear Admiral after this responsibility (little steps Moyo, little steps).

With them away, things were a little quiet on board and while I followed their Instagram and Facebook posts to stay in touch, it got me thinking about the lost art of letter writing – and that includes sending postcards, greetings cards of all sorts and thank you cards. Not those (irritating) electronic versions with the cheesy music but rather, ones involving real paper stock, envelopes, stamps – the works. Words on paper that last until the ink fades, tucked tenderly inside keep sake boxes to be revisited often. Tangible evidence of connection and affection. Letters on cards do not have to be lengthy – the joy comes in the unexpected arrival of mail aside from bills, business and advertising; the knowledge that someone cares enough to choose a card just for you, then write a message, address and mail it. A postcard from New York or simply just an “I Love You” to a friend.

A pet peeve on our boat is the unacknowledged: the unrecognized gift; the unappreciated dinner party; the unvalued time. Healthy relationships work two ways so silence following table laden feasts; birthdays that warrant no more than a Facebook one liner; and the roaring hush of distant friendships are a puzzle. We are a technology centered boat in a technology driven world but that disappearing tradition of the real written communication is something the three of us still try to embrace.

The advent of online stores like Redbubble, Zazzle and Etsy make miniature artworks available to everyone. Make sure you have a good supply of unique cards for the Holidays and lets hold on to this fast disappearing tradition!

“The act of writing itself is like an act of love. There is contact. There is exchange too. We no longer know whether the words come out of the ink onto the page, or whether they emerge from the page itself where they were sleeping, the ink merely giving them color.”
Georges Rodenbach: The Bells of Bruges

Cards from my silk paintings are available at www.redbubble.com/people/MirandaRoberts

An Inspirational Story Time with Moyo


Thank you to Chrissy Brackett from Woodinville, WA for this inspirational story time with Moyo.. Copies available here, from MirandaRobertsArt, Etsy and Amazon.com. Where will YOU take Moyo?

“Once a month I run a Children’s StoryTime at the bookstore where I work. At the last event, I chose to share “Moyo’s Journey”. It was amazing to see children as young as 3 entranced by the vibrant artwork, the 8 & up kids enjoying the different places that Moyo travels to and the adults listening closely to the message being delivered through the words. The kids then did a hands-on project of painting with watercolors a place that they thought Moyo should visit – most were imaginary places of wonder – and they placed their own “Moyo” polar bear in their special place. It was a wonderful story time that everyone enjoyed for a variety of reasons.
Afterwards, my two helpers (a 9 and 11 year old), who have attended StoryTime for several years, were looking through the back pages and reading through the facts (with their mom). I surprised them by gifting this very special book to them. They were so excited to take the book home and share it with their dad, who is from New Zealand! A family treasure is what I’ve been told by their mom.
Thank you, Miranda Roberts, for writing and illustrating a children’s book that entertains all ages! I highly recommend “Moyo’s Journey” for families, librarians and teachers!!!”

 

Moyo’s Memoir: Summer


A polar bear traveling the world.
“I haven’t been everywhere, but its on my list.” (Susan Sontag)

If you’ve read my first book – “Moyo’s Journey” – written and illustrated on silk by Miranda Roberts, you’ll know that I believe in the importance of travel. We learn so much through exploration – about earth and her creatures; about global cultures and creativity, and about the ancient guides that we can’t see but who can teach and influence us.

My humans and I recently embarked on another life adventure and the three of us are currently headed to the Chesapeake in a 48’ catamaran, for a summer of exploration there. Dotting our daily routine of horizon gazing, sail trimming and other various boat duties, we eagerly anticipate sightings of dolphins, seabirds, jellyfish. Miranda has captured some of these ocean dwellers in her silk paintings, on the My Stores page on this website.

As a precursor to this sailing trip, in “Moyo’s Journey”, I explored the indigo waters of the ocean towards the end of my travels in the rainbow’s path. Amongst the tiny neon fish and other brightly hued inhabitants of the reefs, I encountered a turtle. In observing him, I realized that we shared the ability to adapt to our surroundings, and that both of us were equally at home on land and sea.

This got me thinking of how important versatility is in our lives, for our mental, spiritual and emotional growth. I look at my little boat family and realize that they are doing a similar thing. They have cast off the lines from a land-bound life in the High Sierra, and are planning on years and years of coastal and ocean adventure. With no set agenda apart from visiting new (to them) places – and discovering all that these destinations have to offer, they have shed their old lives and are bravely adventuring on their own rainbow journey. I am so glad they took me along with them – although traveling squashed inside a sports bag is one life experience I hope never to repeat! (Versatility Moyo, versatility!).

Follow my polar bear adventures of all kinds, on right here!

Anthony Bourdain summed it up: “It seems the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it. How many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn.”

Celebrating earth’s gentle giants on WORLD GIRAFFE DAY

Giraffe painted on silk by MirandaRobertsArt
“Josephine” painted on silk by MirandaRobertsArt

Well in case you missed it on my social media all week, today is WORLD GIRAFFE DAY, which pleases “Josephine” no end!

Tragically, giraffe populations have declined by 40 percent in the last 30 years and are now thought to number fewer than 98,000 in the wild. Thus they have recently been listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation in Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Alarmingly, some subspecies may be even more at risk of extinction than is currently recognised.*
So really, EVERY day should be WORLD GIRAFFE DAY! Today’s date was chosen by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation however, to celebrate the longest-necked animal on earth on either the longest day or night of the year, depending on which hemisphere you live!

In my picture-book-for-all-ages, “Moyo’s Journey”, we join Moyo on a short trip into the African Savanna. There she learns the importance of individuality from the zebra. She could also have learned this from the giraffe as each and every hide is unique, like a thumbprint. Moyo is the Swahili word for Heart. The Swahili word for giraffe is “Twiga”.

Moyo learns from the giraffe on her African Safari
Moyo in Africa on her rainbow Journey

Giraffe Facts you may not know:
While it seems hard to believe, giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in their necks  (7) as humans.

Giraffes have excellent eyesight enabling them to see danger from a distance. It is thought that this is the reason that other animals congregate nearby, for an early warning of approaching predators. It also helps them find their herd easily, despite the excellent camouflage provided by their hides.

While their eyesight may be excellent, they do have the highest blood pressure of any land mammal and need a very big heart to pump the blood all the way up to their head. The average giraffe heart weighs about 22lbs and can be up to 2 foot long. Because they have to bend so low to drink, giraffes have a complex pressure regulation system in their upper necks to prevent excess blood flow to the brain.

Giraffes and NASA? Blood flows differently in space and so the circulatory system of the legs doesn’t have to work as hard as it does on earth, in order to pump the blood back up. As a result, the leg veins of astronauts get thin, and weak, which can create medical complications when returning to Earth. Observing the rapidly inflating leg veins of giraffes, scientists created an airtight tube that seals below the waist and applies periodic vacuum pressure. This makes blood rush into the legs and pelvic area helping keep the astronaut’s leg veins in shape. An example of this in giraffes is seen clearly in babies who are able to stand almost immediately after they are born and are able to run alongside their herd within 10 hours of being born!

And talking of running – giraffes can reach speeds of over 30 mph. Although their ambling gait – they pick up both legs on the same side at the same time – makes it appear as if they are strolling leisurely, they can cover over 15ft with each step!

Giraffes are browsers and feed mainly from the top of acacia and commiphora (myrrh) trees. They are capable of eating up to 140lbs of leaves and twigs a day – with the aid of their very long, prehensile tongues. These can extend as far as 18” and are dark in color to prevent sun damage. They also have unique 2 or 3 lobed canine teeth which they use to strip leaves from branches. Males and females, eat from different parts of the tree to avoid competition for food.

Collective Nouns: I’m rather obsessed with collective nouns and they are sometimes a source of inspiration for paintings for me. Here are a few pertaining to giraffes:
a corps of giraffes
a herd of giraffes
a tower of giraffes
a stretch of giraffes
a totter of giraffes.

The original painting of “Josephine” has been SOLD, but prints, canvasses, clothing and home decor are availb on my Redbubble or Zazzle stores.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) is the only NGO in the world that concentrates solely on the conservation and management of giraffe in the wild throughout Africa. If you are interested in supporting them and the invaluable work they do – please click here to donate – OR here to adopt a giraffe (no, you can’t take it home with you!).

Here is one last fact – and IMO the WEIRDEST: The closest relative to the Giraffe is the okapi. And that in itself is both a painting and a blog post for another day!

SOURCES:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180103194743.htm
www.thefactsite.com
http://listverse.com/2013/10/12/12-fascinating-facts-about-giraffes/
http://www.theanimalfiles.com/mammals/hoofed_mammals/giraffe.html

Silk Painting 101: #3 From Start to Finish

How to do silk painting How to do silk painting
While you are practicing the very basic techniques I outlined in the last blog post (Silk Painting 101: #2 Practice Piece), start considering what it is you are going to paint and how it will be displayed.

Drawing
Draw your design in pencil and keep it as simple as possible. Because I will be showing the gutta technique, you need to consider the simplicity of the design while you work on your drawing. I decided to paint a pangolin because the symmetry of their scales seems to lend itself well to my drawing style.
Silk Painting with MirandaRobertsArt
Transferring the design onto the silk
Once you are happy with handling the gutta applicator, and with your pencil design, you will need to transfer it to the silk. Now – its perfectly fine to draw the outlines in gutta directly onto the silk, as you did with the practice piece, but (did I mention I was a control freak?) I want to keep my final product pretty similar to my original drawing.

To trace your illustration onto the silk, it will need to be flush up against the silk. For this part, I use a very (non) hi-tech pile of books to attain the right height, with the illustration on the top, directly on the silk. Trace the picture in pencil onto the silk. You can also use one of those disappearing embroidery pencils if you want to be all fancy. You don’t need to trace ALL of the details of the design – as long as you have the bold outlines, you can add the finer points directly onto the silk, if you feel confident. It’s actually a lot harder to apply gutta over the pencil than it appears!

You might want to apply the gutta in stages allowing it time to dry. If your picture is complex, its hard to do the outline without leaning on the silk and smudging wet gutta, so take it slowly and be patient. Once the entire outline is complete and dry, you’ll be ready to start the painting.

Adding the color
Remembering the spread and flow of the silk paint from your practice piece, start applying the color to your design. Because you can’t really erase the paint once you have applied it, I suggest that you begin with your lightest color, that way, if you DO make an “error” then you can paint over it with a darker color once it is dry. I don’t really think anything is ever “wrong” or erroneous in art, it’s just an opportunity to see how creatively you can rescue a situation!
For small areas remember to only put a little paint on your brush. You’ll see that it spreads to the gutta and stops – hence the term “resist technique”.

That’s really all there is to it. I made a cheeky little video for you to enjoy. Next week I’ll try and troubleshoot any questions you have sent me. I’m pretty responsive to email so feel free to contact me or Facebook message me through my MirandaRobertsArt page and I’ll get back to you asap. Kind of unofficial “online help”!

Oh and be sure head on over and pre-order your copy of “Moyo’s Journey” today!

 

Silk Painting 101: #2 Practice Piece

Silk Painting 101 with MirandaRobertsArt Practice Piece Silk Painting 101 with MirandaRobertsArt finished piece
Applying the gutta is technically the most challenging part of silk painting. You need to make sure that you have strong solid outlines, with no gaps or breaks in them. To this end, I thought we would start with a practice piece first with a free form design. We are going to apply the paint FIRST for this project and then add the gutta on top of it as a decoration. This will give you a good idea of how the paint flows on the fabric, and how to control the gutta applicator.

The finished piece could be used for a card or a multimedia piece at a later stage.
HINT: When I crop painted silk fabric from a painting, I always hang on to it for future embellishments

Stretching the Silk
To begin the process, you will need to stretch the silk so that it is taut over the frame, attaching it at close intervals with the three prong silk thumb tacks. Begin with one tack in each corner of the frame. Then pin it down one side of the frame, and then pin the opposite side. Do the same with the other two sides until the silk is snug on the frame with no wrinkles. Cut the silk on the outside of the frame so that you have no pieces left flapping in the wind! Here is a short video on how to do this.

Freeflow painting for the practice piece – click here for video.
As your paint will not be restricted by gutta for this process, remember that the colors will flow into one another. Get a feel for how quickly the paint does dry – and you will see that it leaves a water mark when this happens. Also consider which colors you juxtapose with others to avoid an all over muddy brown! I am assuming that you are familiar with primary and secondary colors of the color wheel. If you aren’t then take a refresher look online to remind yourself of which colors together create other colors. I use nylon brushes in various sizes to apply the silk paint. Experiment with blending colors without washing your brush and with adding a little bit of water. Don’t try and paint anything specific, instead just work on getting the feel of the paint and how it flows on the silk.

When the silk is dry, try doodling with the gutta to get a feel for the pressure you need to apply to both the applicator bottle and the silk, the kind of bold lines you need to use, and how to avoid blobs!

Once your abstract test piece is finished and completely dry, remove it from the frame and on a low setting, with no steam, gently iron the entire piece. You can then cut out the pieces you wish to use. If you are making cards, then a light application of spray mount on the back of the piece you plan to use will work well. I will cover other gluing options in a later post. The most important thing to remember is that in order for the colors to “pop” you will need to attach the finished piece to a white background. Try it out against other colors and you will see what I mean.

This is a fun and easy way to start silk painting. Please send me any related questions – I’ll be happy to answer them!

If you are interested in receiving occasional informational newsletters from MirandaRobertsArt and Moyo’s Journey, please click here. I will never share your information with a third party and will not fill your inbox with spam mail! 

Hujambo and thank you

Meet Moyo
Thank you for scrolling through my website to get this far! I am so excited about the imminent launch of “Moyo’s Journey” and I look forward to sharing her travels with you all.

My own journey to Moyo is because of the love, inspiration and opportunity that so many of you provide. To my hiking and walking friends for patiently listening to page by page accounts of my progress; to everyone who gave valuable and insightful editorial feedback as the journey progressed – particularly the ever diplomatic and extremely talented Lu; to my family for living it day by day; and particularly to Owen for giving me the world – I thank and value you all.

I came to Moyo because of my passionate belief in the importance of travel, of seizing opportunities and of being true to yourself. I also know that nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than kindness. Future blogs will circle “Moyo’s Journey” and encompass all that we discover and experience with her and the creatures she encounters.

I welcome your own voices on all of these – send me your guest posts, your photos of travel and learning from others, your tales of kindness, of adventure, of opportunity. And your photos of the wild and majestic creatures with whom we share this planet.