Archive for August, 2011

Hot Air Balloons

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Hot air balloon, Colorado Springs Balloon Club

The Colorado Springs Balloon Club launched some hot air balloons from a large field south of Main Street in Westcliffe, Colorado, on August 14, 2011.  We showed up at 7 am and parked in the field with a couple dozen other cars and walked across the field to watch the crews inflate the balloons.  Westcliffe’s elevation is about 8000 feet but it is climatically a high desert, so among the tall field grasses were very little, but very sharp, cacti–they looked like miniature prickly pear or beaver tail, and stuck in the soles of tennis shoes.  In other words, we had to stare at the ground to negotiate the short distance to the balloons.

The balloons are great expanses of color and imaginative designs and that,  along with the fact that someone is actually brave enough to sail off in the wicker basket gondola, made the early morning excursion worthwhile.

ultralight, powered glider

There were four balloons and a couple of paramotor gliders (I think they are in the class of ultralight aviation, but had it not been for the giant fan-like motor strapped somehow behind the pilot, I would have recognized them as hang gliders like the ones at Torrey Pines in San Diego).

The balloons are inflated by a large propane burner at the mouth of the balloon.  That propane fire roars constantly until the balloon is upright.  Then the pilot can adjust the hot air inside the balloon by turning the propane on and off as needed.  That’s how they go up or down. The ultralights just start the motor which makes wind and pushes them aloft and along.  Both the swoosh of the propane burners and the noise of the ultralight fans kept the dogs barking, if not entertained.

The Chinese used lanterns heated with candles to rise off the ground as military signals way back around the first century.  I think they also experimented with dogs as passengers in hot air contraptions.  Fortunately, the passengers on Sunday were consenting humans and those of us on the ground enjoyed the brilliant colors of the balloons and powered gliders as they sailed up and away towards the far fields.

Inflating a hot air balloon

Inflating a hot air balloon

Handmade Books

Monday, August 1st, 2011

I’ve been checking every now and then on Donna Meyer.  She’s making a book a day for a year and blogging about it–not writing a book a day, making covers and pages bound together in different ways.  I think she is on about book 187. So when I went to art class the other day, I had handmade books on my mind.

The subject of the class was summer fruits and vegetables, the colors of summer. Still-life painting is not my cup of tea but traditional Chinese Brush Painting has many examples of using a simple mushroom or radish to express the spirit of life with minimum brush strokes.  Western still-life painting often tries to catch the shimmer of light, direct or reflected, on various surfaces but Chinese Brush Painting does not depict light in that way. So a summer fruit or vegetable should give the artist a chance to be in enthusiastic touch with the spirit of an object.

The lesson was eggplant and peach, colors of summer.  When I got home, handmade books were still on my mind so I decided to display the picture as a book.  Peaches symbolize longevity in Chinese thought and I remember the 16th Century classic Journey to the West in which Monkey steals the peaches of immortality.  So I painted a monkey to go with the summer peach and eggplant using Jane Evan’s monkey as a model.

Summer colors, peach and eggplant

Summer colors, eggplant

Then I cut my 16 inch painting into fourths, folded long heavy paper into eighths like an accordion which I learned to do from Sibyl Rubottom in her UCSD class on Book Arts. (Donna Meyer calls this a snake fold).


Monkey, peaches, Longevity chop

I pasted it all together, made front and back covers with blue and gold thin paper, put a small rectangle of papyrus paper which looks like bamboo on the front cover and wrote “Summer” on it and stamped “Longevity” on the same papyrus paper on the inside back cover.

In Sibyl’s class we added a poem to the accordion book–a poem with  syllables and lines structured by the Fibonacci number sequence, which if you don’t remember from math class you should remember from the Da Vinci Code. I added a Fibonacci poem to link Monkey to the peach and eggplant.  Clever! The poem forms a pyramid when typed out so I had to use two pages to fit it in the book.


If nothing else, the book has the virtue of displaying the painting on a table top and then being folded away to store on a bookcase.

To take a look at really good Artists’ Books, check out Sibyl’s books on her Bay Park Press web page.