Saturday, December 8, 2007

sea fans

A small yellow fan that I picked up off the beach. The sea has been rough lately, and this little guy broke off from his footing and washed ashore. I'm guessing this fan to be four to six years old. There are some that are taller than I am, in deeper water, thirty feet and more, sometimes to 100 feet deep. ten to thirty meters, roughly. I have no idea how old they must be! Maybe even over a hundred years.

I love the patterns of the branches.

This is another fan that's lost the chalky covering on it's skeleton. Fans are made up of polyps just like stony coral. The polyps live embedded in this chalky layer that they grow, their bones! When the polyps are out feeding, the fan looks brownish, from the tentacles. I'll have to try to get a detailed photo on my next dive, tho' my camera isn't very good at extreme close-ups. These polyps are teenie tiny! They start out as eggs floating around, hatch, and in several weeks settle to the bottom hopefully finding a good place to stick and grow from. Each fan started out as one teeny tiny little critter that multiplied and gradually got bigger. The polyps do not separate, but form one living growing creature. Nothing on land to compare.

Another yellow fan, and the only purple one I found that day, it's kind of beat up from tossing in the surf. Before I had a good book that taught me that there are only two colors of fans, yellow and purple, I thought they came in lots of different colors. The purple is called 'Common' but sometimes is yellow, and the yellow is called 'Venus' but is sometimes purple!

It's fascinating how the fans grow around the edges, and as they keep going, the inside parts fuse together. Beautiful patterns! I've never seen an accurate drawing of these patterns, a project for me!

They grow flat, sideways to the waves coming into the shore, so they wave back and forth beautifully. The growth habit makes the seawater flow through the fan, so the polyps can catch the most food particles passing through.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Spiney urchins

Spiney urchins are very strange animals. Well named, and if you bump into one, you get stuck! Their spines aren't poisonous, but break easily, so you have a bit of a wound for a while, until the bits dissolve. Best to not bump them! This photo also shows a purple sea fan, a type of coral animal (!!) The brownish, and the white are both Blade Fire Coral, that's a real 'don't touch' coral, it burns, but just for an hour or two. The white color is bleached, not good, the sea was too hot. Sometimes coral can recover from bleaching, but sometimes not.

These urchins have been feasting! See how the rock bottom is clean and white in their vicinity. They move around slowly using tiny rubbery feet that are somewhat sticky. They also use their feet to pick up food, algae, and stuff it in their mouth, which is in the middle of their bottoms.

Looking down at lots of urchins in the rubbly rocks. If you get very close, they can sort of see you, and they wiggle their spines at you. "Go away!!" they cry in their tiny voices that we cannot hear. Funny little cows of the sea, happy to just graze around.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Urchins, a sketchbook page...

Oh, dear, this doesn't read very well! Have to re-do. And I'll now have to go dig up photos, or maybe start a collection of photos to work from. Urchins are so elegant in their own way...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Try again, try again

Hum. I had every intention of painting a different image of that little angel fish, but I opened a file of photos of a lobster instead. The group had swimmed/swam/swum?? right on by. I took several photos of the bug, then had to go fast to catch up with the group. I saw a number of other things that everyone on that dive would have liked to see, but there they went! Zoom, too fast! The lobster is almost right in the middle here. I'm trying using a black and white for an "underpainting' I like this. Also learned several brushing techniques. I've never painted so thinly. Perhaps Maria Henley's spirit is hanging around, whispering in my ear. I miss her. She was just becoming very successful with her painting career. Thin thin washes of paint. Beach scenes, and Island scenery. Several years ago she stunned everyone with a large ominous painting of a storm off the north coast of St Croix. One huge lightning bolt from the underneath of the dark purple/black thundercloud, a bolt straight into the sea.

Maria succumbed to cancer last year, only fourty three years old. I do wonder if from breathing turpentine fumes for years. I have a fan blowing strongly over my painting, and on past the pallet, and on out the open window.

Oboy, take away the prompt, cheat? and there goes the picture, and the fledgling painting is left to flop and flounder on it's own. Pitiful little bit right now, but I have obligations taking me away from my brushes this morning, ugh. I don't in the least think I'm cheating with the projected photos. My photos, and I can't really set up my easle underwater! OK. Am looking foreward to spending more time on this one.

Here's a closeup of the lobster that you can't really see in the other images.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Blob gob gooo

This is horrible! I'd forgotten how unmanageable oils are. And the corals are just dead blobs, complain complain complain! At least I did do a painting, all of 80 minute's worth. Boy, is it bad, hahaha! Maybe I'll see what happens in Watercolor, I'm versed in that medium. Painting in your head is just not painting in hand.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Did you see the turtle?

This is a little 8X10 oil sketch I did long ago of one of my favorite places. I named the painting, "Did You See the Turtle?"

Here I'm pointing at a school of wrasses, just about to do a spawning run. They look just like this. During one show where I displayed this painting, a really grouchy fellow said, "You didn't paint their eyes and fins!" Oh, Please! I said, "Mister, that's paint, not a photograph. I was using a brush with three hairs, I couldn't do more detail!"

I started a painting this morning. Had to quit before I got very far. Maybe it's this cold I can't seem to shake, but the critical crowd yelling at me in my head about how bad my painting is even only this far got to be too much, I couldn't defend myself against all their sour thoughts. Maybe next time I'll try to just do a detailed drawing and fill in the blanks. Instead of using a painterly style.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Looks Is Everything"

I was on the island of Bonaire, at Bongo's, a great beach bar. I was talking to a tall, lean, 19 year old blonde Dutch girl. That's what she said, "Looks is EVERTHING!!"

Without makeup or enhancement of any kind, her posture poised and lovely, she really was absolutely gorgeous. I didn't bother to say much more to her. She mostly wanted to stand around wearing only the bottom of her bikini, apart from the crowd, with a drink in her hand talking to one man or another.

I would love to see her expression as she finds the first wrinkle, that trauma happens to all of us. I wonder if she'll age gracefully?

About a year ago, I was going to some function that required me to dress up. Sometimes I actually am able to dress up, but not much, don't worry! I got over all that when I was younger. Anyway, as I leaned over the bathroom sink, trying to make the mascara go on each spindly lash smoothely, I wished I had a vanity. I had one when I was a kid, funny little curved table with a gathered skirt. I didn't really know what a vanity was for back then, I was only nine or ten years old.

I forgot about that wish. And that's how, the books say, to recieve what you wish for. Form the thought and let it go. But, they warn, make the wish a visiualization as detailed as possible of exactly what you want, down to the last detail. I hadn't done that.

I just recently moved into this partly furnished house, and there, waiting for me was a vanity. Oh, my. What I'd had in mind was more like Guenevere's vanity, where she sat while Lancelot stood behind her brushing her hair. Rosewood, carved in grapevine and lillies and inlaid with precious pearl and abalone, polished to an intoxicating gleam. With an exquisite little chair, the silk seat finely embroidered. They began their trysts that way.

I may have learned a lesson from this. I sure hope so!!! "Looks is everything!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday's Snorkel

My feet! Properly dressed.

"Riprap" Big boulders along the side of the pier, some as big as a Volkswagen. Supposed to protect, but the last hurricane, Lenny, tossed them around like they were peanuts.

A blurry pic of the pier looking to shore from 3/4 of the way to the end. The buildings on shore are two stories tall with high peaked roofs. Long pier! Walking on the pier, I timed it- a seven minute walk.

A turtle! Haha, this is why I didn't post any underwater photos this time, they're all bad. The turtle is a small Hawksbill, the top blob of the two grey blobs. The other blob is a sponge. He was really feasting on the treats he could find. He was pecking away as I passed him on my way to the end of the pier, and still nibbling as I passed him on my way back to shore, a half hour later. The depth here is about twenty feet, seven meters.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

More studio 'construction'

The little storage cart is delightedly holding my watercolors. So, I decided to go back to the store and get that nice little wooden portable bar. Made in Thailand.
Yikes! More of a construction challenge! Screws, oh no.

A day's struggle, fifteen minutes at a time, and TaDah!

Only to have the computer take over! Guess the oils will require another nice little bar for them selves. Wowee, demanding objects.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Honey, can you help?

Haha, I can do it, I'd just much rather fix dinner, and do the washing up.

Since there is no "Honey", I did manage to put the little beastie together, and was surprised it wasn't so difficult. The REAL surprise is the difference he made! My studio is beginning to look like a studio!! Wheeee! That's the little beastie in the middle of the photo all dressed up with my watercolors. Oboy.

St. Croix scenery...

North Star beach, a scuba entry. The black rocks are gorgeous, and of a rock named Blue Biche, or Blue Bitch, I'm not sure! The swim out to the drop-off at 25 feet, 8m, is short and easy. The sea has been rough for two days, waves and swell coming in from Hurricane Noel, far out in the Atlantic. So the water is brownish, instead of it's usual clear turquoise.

This is scenery that I drive by all the time.

I call this 'my beach' It's a scuba entry I use a lot because it's tricky and often too rough, like today. You only need to play with the surf getting in and out, but most get knocked down because they don't pay mind. 'My beach', no one else wants it!

This is a bit of land I have, on the left side of the road. Kind of just trees. Can't live there unless in a 'real' house. No camper allowed by neighborhood rules.

I could don my dive gear and easily walk to 'my beach', if I had a house there.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


I've been visiting this coral for more than fifteen years. I named "it" Belle because the shape is bell like, and it is so beautiful. It is more than three feet (1 meter) across. I am GUESSING it is an Agaricia lamarki a "Whitestar Sheet Coral" (Humann, Reef Coral Identification, pg.138). About 110 feet (30 meters)deep off Cane Bay, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. I bet it's more than one hundred years old. I am going to ask The Scientists.

Belle became snowy white during the last bleaching event, in 2005, but recovered and lived. A very lucky and strong coral! Topped by some rope sponges.

Where are the fish?

A close-up of Belle's polyps

Delightful tiny polyps! Each little 'star' is an individual. They are all connected, their flesh is one. Like all the pores of skin are neighbors in the human skin. The white edge is the growing part. There are 'baby' polyps along the edge here and there. Months for them to mature, and and then their edge grows away from them, spawning new babies. The old polyps toward the center, the beginning, of this three foot(one meter) wide coral are hundreds of years old. All growing from one little original polyp that settled on this spot long ago. They divide, but cannot separate.

This is a "Plate" or "Sheet" coral, and is very thin. Attached to the rock underneath only at the very beginning of its' life, the coral is less than an inch(2.4cm) thick, tapering to a razor thin edge. In some places on a reef, these corals form offset layers just like shingles on a roof, or scales on a fish.

The 'hard' part of stony coral is made of brittle, rock-like stuff called calcium-carbonate. It is pure white in color. It is the skeleton of the polyps, the flesh is on top of the 'bones'. Polyps on top of the structure like a rug are totally unprotected from human touch- an alien thing in the coral world. Fish float, even a ten pound lobster has no weight in the sea. Their 'feet' are just tiny pinpoints used for guidance. Put a 'bug' on a dock, and they lie there helpless, their legs are much too weak to hold their weight for them to run away and jump back into the water.

On land, trees have tough bark, so a cat can climb and a horse can lean with no damage. Grass is amazing, a 1,000 pound cow can walk around on grass eating it down short, with little damage to the plants! Not so living things on the reef. Fish don't have feet, hooves, claws. It is difficult to percieve the difference in land life, and water life. Land life must deal with gravity. Water is controlled by buoyancy and then gravity.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Another Photo, blue-blue-blue

I dearly love blue. There's just too much for a camera. When one is there, looking at the scene, the sand is white, the corals are brown, gold, and sometimes green. Sponges are the colorful guys, reds, yellow, black, purple... And here is how the photo comes out! Blue-blue-blue.

So, yes, I can paint what I see underwater with liberal use of a camera. One artist I read about painted flowers. He was whining that they wilted after three days. I have an hour, at most, underwater! Three days would seem an eternity! Hold still, fish! Hey! Come back here! And good visibiliy is 100 feet, twenty five meters(?). We wouldn't know what the Eiffel Tower look like, nor the Great Pyramids.

OK, thanks for stopping by, and I promise a painting soon. A promise to myself as much as to you.



Sunday, September 30, 2007

A photograph...

A scenery photo that, as usual, is too blue, too dark, too blurry. And what happened to the fish?

This is "West Wall", Salt River Canyon, St Croix, US Virgin Islands. A gothic place, the terrain is that of rock breaking off the land into pinnacles and steep arroyos, tumbling into the depths of the sea in incomprehensibly slow geological time. Speeded up, it might look like the ice falling off a melting glacier. But to us humans, it is frozen in time.

The top of this feature has twenty five feet of depth, an underwater plain stretching toward shore, flat and solid looking. The edge drops off as sharply as the edge of a table. Whenever I'm there, I always wonder what happened to jolt the rock loose to form this drastic terrain.

Geologically, Saint Croix is an ocean upwelling, a chip off the bottom of the sea. Scientists say it may have wandered all around before becoming lodged against the Caribbean Plate where the island is now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


By the numbers, I see I'm not the only one looking at this page. Thank you for visiting! I am starting to snarl and gnash my teeth at myself that I am not painting and posting a daily fish, or a coral. Folks seem to prefer fish. By Thanksgiving, the end of November, I will have joined the "Daily Painters". They require me to have a new painting nearly every day posted here, for two months. This blog was begun with that in mind. I will persevere! Or something.

Daily Painters can be seen at:

I guess I will be forced to use an airconditioner in this house, it's just too hot. OK, enough whining and winjing. Off with me to fill my poor car with potted plants that are waiting at the old place to come with me to here. See you later!....Melissa

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

OK, getting down to the finish line...

My neighbor wanted to help me finish moving. She got to the old place and launched into 50,000 questions. No help, we seemed to stand around in different places while I explained everything to her about everything I do and have.

I'm just about done with the move. I cannot believe how much stuff I have. And next week my dearest brother will be here...

Maybe in a year or two, I'll leave it all behind, just carry a little bag with one change of clothes, and go off back packing with my buddy Chrissi. I will make the both of us write for one hour every morning about our wanderings and adventures, and that'll be a first book. I'm really looking foreward to it.

Catch you later! And I'm dismayed to be not painting. Soon come!


Monday, September 17, 2007


The new three bedroom house seems immense! I usually have tiny spaces for living. My legs are sore from carrying stuff up two flights of stairs, so no grunt work today. I think I might come back to this old place and finish the Botanical Gardens 'try #2" this evening, and bring my camera so I can post a new painting for you! I am not really enjoying painting trees and buildings. A purely commercial effort.

Talk to you later, and thanks for stopping by!....Melissa

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wheee, an annoying, half done painting! About two hours' struggle, starting with blank paper, no value sketch(black/white/gray for shadows), no drawing to fill in. Full sheet of watercolor paper, done on location, Plein Aire, at the Botannical Gardens. The main entry way. I'll go back tomorrow and try again! Finish this messy one tonight. It's kind of dribbling off the bottom of the page, can't fix that! Had to quit as noonday sun is just too blazing hot.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Here is not for photos. I had taken some scenes at my local beach, for comparison to the Weather Channel. ...There is a marvelous fish face I want to paint. I'll do a bit more Camwork, although I need to limit painting from copyrighted images that I must give away. But it sure is fun!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Anti-Weather Channel!

This is Calvin's Spratnet Beach Bar on St. Croix.

Patrick's Cam Ham

Patrick is another cyber friend from the BonaireTalk webcams. He's been SO excited about his trip to go diving on Bonaire. He just got there this morning, and I thought he'd like a little scribbly picture to remember his first morning's hamming it up on the street cam in Diver's Paradise. The fish were all taken from the underwater pier cam of the last week or so, so he's already seen them! Here's wishes for a GREAT week on our favorite Island, Bonaire!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Kathy's snorkel

Well, this one is almost finished. Some minor adjustments.

This is from the Bonaire webcams, and has a bit of a story behind it. I'll just say that Kathy is delighted. I'm packing the painting and mailing it to her Monday. Since I am copying copyrighted images, I cannot sell this picture. Another person on that discussion group is to make cards for sale, and this image might be amongst them. Procedes will benefit Bonaire schools. See, community chat.

This is the most fun painting I've ever done. Several people on BonaireTalk were cheering me along, and helped greatly with posting separate photos of the eyes behind the mask.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


I worked on Kathy's painting for four hours this morning--- until my feet hurt, my back was killing me, and my painting got really sloppy.

I must find a way to paint that's not painful! See you at lunchtime Friday, Sept 7!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Room for Improvement!

With a little help from my friends! I named this one "Room for Improvement" It's an image taken by the underwater pier cam in Bonaire. I'll be doing a long series of this view, as the fishes change, and there are snorkellers and even divers to see and paint.

I've been searching the Internet for a beach cam resembling the one I've painted, but woe, they all seem to be a view of a walk wwith hundreds of people, or just the front of a resort. If anyone can send me a link to a PRETTY beach cam, I'd be much obliged!

Monday, September 3, 2007

That was fun.

Four quick watercolor sketches from the Bonaire web cams, using the OK middles of some of that ruined paper.

I knew the beach and coconut tree would be the same, but with each 'Refresh" the figures were a surprise. But almost always, the cam is pointed at a much less (to me) interesting view straight off the beach, so the sailboarders are more in view. No coconut tree. I guess the next time I do this little game, I'll be scribbling only boardsailors zipping by, or standing around like they seem to do..

O Boy!

Wowee, I let that stop me! Aha, another fish in a bit. The daily painting that I'm aiming at shouldn't be so detailed and complicated. Just a fish is on it's way!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The paper ruins the painting Ho hum

Ho hum, old paper. I decided to put a pale wash over the coral, and lo! the bottom and side of the paper has lost its' sizing. I guess this happened when my studio flooded. I'll use the new paper I bought now.

This picture is still wet, I'll see how it looks dry, and then maybe continue. It's over painted already, tho'. I'm going to google sizzing, I seem to remember alum and unflavored Jello...

Once I'd spent three days on a pencil under-drawing for a watercolor, and was quite pleased. I put some mask on a few parts, then started to paint. The paper was old, two years, and sucked up the paint like a sponge! Every brush stroke soaked in instantly. Dismay! Then I tried to peel off the mask, and it'd soaked in also, and the picture was ruined. Boooo

"If at first you fricasee, fry fry a hen!" Ho hum!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Barred Hamlet Hovering by a Grooved Brain Coral

Here's a detail of a new watercolor just to have something new to look at! I am tediously putting in the beginnings of the Grooved Brain Coral with watercolor pencil. Next, I'll scribble with a paintbrush.

I've made this blog my home page, very annoying! I want to see something new every time I log on!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Something new!

A computer can do amazing things! I scribbled in the fish, as the glaring white hole in the middle of the painting was a bit distracting. And here, I can see where the lightest bits I have planned will be right, and that I need some darker darks in a few places...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Queen Angel...

Started a larger painting today, 24X30. Here it is with the projected photo on top of it, then the mess that's the painting so far! Just working on the background.

I became sad because so much of the coral is dead. I guess I'll just have to accept that I am a coral reef historian.

I will go on a dive specifically to take photos of living coral to fit into the places in this painting, and the previous two, where there should be living corals. And perhaps some little fishies to apply, also.

Still learning how to do this blog. whew!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Still Painting!

This is so wonderful for me, as a great weight has been lifted, the weight of block.

A second Queen angel in progress. It's not easy for me to work only wet, I cannot get the sharp detail the fish require, so I'll post progress.

I find myself getting pickier and pickier as a painting goes along, especially when working on the eyes and face. This fellow will take a day just for his scales. Or her scales, whichever. Some fish, you can tell the man from the woman, but many you cannot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I was always sure there was a special subject for me. Finally, on my second scubadive, I felt like I'd come out of the dark, and into a beautifully lit, amazing home, the Coral Reef.

The hurdles are great, to go to a white canvass and paint something that resembles the amazing creatures and fantastic scenery that the Sea hides within blue water.