Polar Vortex!

Well the Polar Vortex has reached Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago is shut down for two days, so I don’t have to go to work. I’m spending my days holed up inside my home, cooking good food and catching up on lots of small things that I rarely have the time to do. This seems like a good time to take photos of my new work in the light of mid-morning.

I have gone in a slightly different direction for my Plankton (nickname Tinkamink) project. I decided to make a limited edition artist book before working on the wall installation. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I have had some work accepted by Vamp and Tramp, and they are interested in the Plankton book, so I quickly finished in order to ship to them. Secondly, I have applied to the Whitely Foundation for an artist residency at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island. It is there that I hope to focus, and complete the wall installation of Plankton. Wish me luck!

Plankton artist book

I have also taken photos of some of my recent pottery. I’m getting a bit better at predicting the outcome of some glazes at the Pot Shop Evanston and I feel I’m beginning to develop a personal style.

Ocean gleaming bright, salty tasting, glistening, never ending sea

Batter bowl, honey mustard glaze

Slab built tray at a Ware workshop (Ware glaze)

Sea urchin votive, honey mustard glaze with ash

Venkatesh’s Christmas mug, black underglaze with cinnamon glaze

Cephalopod

Below is the finished drawing, with watercolor, of the octopus at Friday Harbor Labs. His name is Enzyme.The next drawing is a work in progress, a Prismacolor drawing of the octopus named Silence. I was feeling a bit frustrated with it on my last day in Friday Harbor, but now that I am going back to it, I think it’s okay. So I’ll keep plugging away at it.

Inspiration for my next project is below. It’s going to be an installation piece and I’ll give a hint – Plankton. I’m quite excited about it, so much so, that I couldn’t fall asleep the other night, but had to get up and order supplies at 1 a.m. 

Octopus Obsession

I spent yesterday drawing more octopus and today I finally used a large sheet of D’Arches 140 lb cold press watercolor paper. It has been a while since I’ve used anything besides handmade paper, and I forgot how well a nice sized paper takes watercolor. After all the sketches, I was very happy with the final results. I’m hoping to make one more large drawing today – thanks to the Whiteley Center and Friday Harbor Labs!

Almost finished


I was given the opportunity to feed one of the octopuses tonight. Silence is a bit moodier than Enzyme and he usually hides and changes color a lot when I watch him. Tonight, after some coaxing, he grabbed the crab from my hand, latched onto me, and started pulling and exploring. It was so amazing and a bit unsettling. He is very strong and I had to tug a bit to get him to release my hand. I’m going to be very sad to leave these octopuses after tomorrow.

Arkham at FHL

Meet Arkham, he is a bit larger than the other three octopuses at Friday Harbor Labs and he is a bit bristly. He is the main man in the study being done in Gire Labs, where they are studying navigation and sensing. Because he is a bit darker and moodier, he is more reclusive, but when I manage to take a photo he is quite dramatic. He uses something called papillae in his skin to make the dramatic horn-like bumps.

While here, I have also been given a studio.  Ashwin and I spent hours in the studio yesterday, where I draw and he writes in his journal. I knew I would want to do some sketching here, but somehow ‘a place of ones own’ makes all the difference. Now I may want to buy some big paper and go larger! I can’t wait to get back to the studio again today, it’s bright and airy and smells of fresh wood.


In between sketching sessions we go down to the water to scavenge for treasures, the shore is full of driftwood that we take up to the studio. I know I want to draw octopus, but I think I could also get swept into drawing pieces of driftwood, or printing the grain. I’ll just have to come back again for round 2!

Former scientific study specimens – now dinner

Friday Harbor Labs, San Juan Island, WA

How do I love thee, let me count the ways. 
On my first night I held a small crab in my fingers and fed it to an octopus – Enzyme aka Slimey (Ashwin’s name for him). He lunged at my hand and wrapped his arms around, I could feel his suckers attached to my skin. It was love at first sight. I am at Friday Harbor Labs where my husband Venkatesh is collaborating with a colleague from University of Washington, studying the way octopuses move and track. In three days I have learned more about Octopuses than I have in my life. They are fascinating to watch and yesterday I went to the lab to draw and take photos. They move so much in the evening, it was hard to sketch, but I took 145 photos! I’m just a little obsessed.
Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that I have been drawing octopuses for a little while, mainly from National Geographic photos. But there is nothing quite like drawing an octopus you are familiar with, from your own photos. I feel that Friday Harbor Labs is full of interesting people doing cool things. It’s such an inspiring environment and I feel very lucky to be here.


Octopuses become very active in the evening

Suckers with ruffled edges

Always peeking

First drawing