Tag Archives: nature

Take a Hike Day

The Appalachian Trail is known as one of the best hiking spots in the U.S.

The Appalachian Trail is known as one of the best hiking spots in the U.S.

November 17 is Take a Hike Day! We’re not sure how Take a Hike Day came to be, but you can celebrate by meandering through your favorite nature spot, or by telling someone to “get lost” – whichever you prefer.

Hiking refers to walking in nature for recreational purposes, typically in a place that is scenic. This outdoor recreational activity has been known to have many health benefits including improving cardio-respiratory fitness, improving muscular fitness, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, weight loss, and improving mental health. Day hiking refers to hiking which can be completed within a single day, while backpacking is the term used for multi-day hikes which include camping in between. In more densely forested areas where vegetation must be cleared while taking your hike is called bushwhacking.

If you’re planning on going on a hike today make sure you bring these hiking essentials: water (to prevent possible dehydration), food, a map, a compass, and a backpack to carry any other items you may need. Comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots are a must as well! A hiking club known as The Mountaineers recommends bringing the Ten Essentials with you which also includes other survival items like a flashlight, a knife, and a first aid kit.

To see the 10 Best Hiking Spots in the United States, go here!

If you’d rather avoid nature and tell someone who’s annoying you to, “Take a hike!” then all we have to say is try not to be TOO mean about it…

Happy Take a Hike Day!

Sources: Holiday Insights, National Whatever Day, Wikipedia, Good Hiker.com

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Greenery Day

Greenery Day was established in 1989 to celebrate the birthday of Japanese Emperor Hirohito. April 29 was set aside to connect with nature and show thanks for all of it’s beauty and gifts, as Hirohito (the Shōwa Emperor) loved plants.

A law was passed in 2005 pertaining to public holidays, and Greenery Day was officially moved to May 4 in 2007. April 29 is now celebrated as Shōwa Day, and commemorates the 63 year reign of the controversial wartime emperor, Hirohito (1926-1989). On this day, the Japanese people are encouraged to reflect on the tumultuous rule of the Shōwa Emperor and think about the future of their country.

Sources: Wikipedia, Office Holidays

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Go Green This Earth Day!

This Earth Day, make a pledge to be green and save some green! By following the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra, you can help the environment while helping your wallet. Take a look at the list below, and try to find at least one thing you can change or improve.

Reduce:

1. Gas – The cost of gas is no joke. Carpooling with a spouse or coworker even one day a week can make a significant difference on emissions and how often you need to fill your tank. If your job allows it, you could also try working from home a few days a month, or working four 10 hour days to save a trip a week. If you are one of those lucky enough to live close to work, try walking or biking on nice days.
2. Electricity – Even when turned off, anything connected to a plug sucks energy. Try to unplug items that you aren’t using, or at least those that you don’t use very often. If your outlets are hard to get to, plug several electronics into a power strip that you can just flip off when you need to. Another easy way to save on electricity is to switch to Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs.
3. Water – Simply turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth can save enough water to make a difference, but there are several other ways to conserve water around your house. Get a low-flow toilet, or for a cheaper option, displace the water in the tank with a plastic water bottle or rocks. This will leave enough water to flush, but reduce the excess water that isn’t needed to do the job. Also, modern dishwashers tend to use less water than hand washing, and professional car washes use less than you would at home.
4. Paper/Plastic/Styrofoam – Do you find yourself constantly leaving notes around your house for yourself or others? Pick a central place in the home and put up a dry erase board instead! Another easy way to reduce the amount of paper/plastic you use is to move away from paper plates and plastic utensils. It is actually better for the environment to use the little bit of water to wash a plate and fork than to throw away disposable dishes. You should also take your own coffee mug and/or water bottle to work. By keeping these items at work and rinsing them daily, you are lowering the amount of trash you produce.

Reuse:

1. Containers – Those boxes or plastic containers are perfect for home or office organization! Simply cover them with wrapping paper or pretty duct tape to make them match your current décor.
2. Compost – Potato skins, egg shells, vegetable stems, coffee grounds, leaves, and even dryer lint can all be reused to fertilize your lawn or garden. Learn the basics of composting.
3. Water – Get a rain barrel and use the water for your lawn, garden, or outdoor water feature. You can also use this water to bathe your pets or wash your car.
4. Tools – Most homes will purchase a tool for one job then let it sit in the garage or shed for years. Buy cheaper tools at a garage sale, borrow from a friend or family member, or rent from a home improvement store.

Recycle:

1. The staples – Most neighborhoods and offices now allow you to recycle paper, plastics, and aluminum. The lucky ones can even recycle glass containers.
2. Electronics – Donate or recycle old phones, computers, or pretty much any other electronic device. A quick Google search can give you local recycling options, and many of them will actually pay you!
3. Styrofoam – This one is a bit more tricky, but can be done. For those that shop online, you may have an excess of Styrofoam packing or packing peanuts. Many shipping stores such as FedEx or UPS will take those packing peanuts off your hands, but larger chunks have to be recycled at a certain facility. Visit Earth911.com and enter your zip code to find a drop-off location near you!
4. Batteries – Batteries should never be thrown away with your normal trash. If there is a Best Buy near you, they normally accept batteries and recycle or dispose of them properly. You can also visit batteryrecycling.com for other options.

Sources: goodhousekeeping.com, worldwatch.org, USnews.com

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National Walk in the Park Day

March 30 is Take a Walk in the Park Day!

Forget about all your stress and troubles and immerse yourself in nature today by taking a walk around your local park. Walking is great exercise, and being out in nature can have a calming effect on the everyday hustle and bustle of life. Bring a loved one or canine companion with you, and take in all the beauty the park has to offer.

Check your town’s activities calendar to find out about fun events happening at your local park. If you don’t know of any parks in your area, the National Wildlife Federation’s website will help you find a park to take a walk in nearby.

Check out some of our picturesque calendars that feature National Parks!

Sources: Holiday Insights, Squidoo

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Plant a Flower Day

On March 12 we celebrate Plant a Flower Day!

Springtime is rapidly approaching, which means soon enough we’ll be surrounded by flowers and lush vegetation. Do your part in helping make the world more beautiful by celebrating Plant a Flower Day.

If you live in a warmer climate, pick out some beautiful bulbs or seeds and plant some flowers right in your own backyard. If it isn’t quite warm enough for gardening where you live, you can grow your plants indoors until spring has really sprung.

You should also check out our line of Green Pieces Puzzles. The puzzle pieces contain wildflower seeds that can be planted once you have successfully put it together.

Happy planting!

Sources: Examiner, NWF

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Interview with Sherri Buck Baldwin

Sherri Buck Baldwin’s studio, Heart in Hand Ltd., is located in Madison, Wisconsin. Here she finds inspiration in the beauty of the changing seasons.

Buck’s favorite subjects are her gardens and the birds that visit the feeders and houses. For the past twenty years, Buck’s artwork has appeared on many Christmas and greeting cards, calendars, and a wide variety of kitchen, decor, and giftware items. She is also a published illustrator of children’s books such as Special Friends and What’s Inside Miss Molly’s Locket?.

See all of Sherri Buck Baldwin’s 2013 calendars.

Please describe your art style and technique.
I have been an artist for most of my life and I enjoy creating artwork in a variety of mediums, which include primarily ink, watercolor, colored pencil, soft pastels, and most recently, relief printing. I have also just begun to experiment with combining digital art with my hand drawn imagery. I enjoy drawing more than painting because I like the control it allows so I usually prefer to combine watercolors with ink or pencil rather than painting with them alone. I majored in printmaking in college, specializing in etching and stone lithography due to my love of linework. Drawing with soft pastels gives me the opportunity to loosen up my highly rendered style.

The birds you include in your art are incredibly detailed and lifelike.  What’s your inspiration for achieving such realistic depictions?
For several years now I have produced a calendar with birds and flowers as the theme. It started out as “Birds in the Garden”, but is currently titled “Birds and Blossoms”. I am an avid gardener, but no garden is complete until it is populated with all variety of birds. I put out feeders which entice several bird species to visit, and place birdhouses in several areas of my large yard to entice them to stay. I look forward to each spring when the wrens return and their song fills the summer days. I am fascinated with photographing birds and my camera is always on the tripod pointing out my studio window directly at my feeders. With a remote control shutter I can be quite successful at getting shots of birds coming and going from the feeders. My biggest challenge is capturing them in flight since I like to draw them with their wings outspread. It is often surprising to see how much they look like they are swimming through air. I have created extensive photo files of birds which I study when I work on my bird art. Two years ago I was rewarded with a visit for several days from a Varied Thrush which is native to the Northwest, but somehow found itself in Wisconsin one winter. It became a subject for my 2012 Birds and Blossoms calendar.

Your paintings have amazing depth and a rich pattern-upon-pattern effect.  How do you accomplish that?
My bird calendar images are actually two layers of artwork. The top layer is drawn in colored pencil on frosted Mylar, while the layer underneath is a collage created from vintage paper ephemera I collect. I like the resulting transparent, layered artwork. The combination of printed materials, especially antique maps, underneath the bird’s bodies and wings is quite evocative. It’s hard to believe that a creature as small and fragile as a hummingbird can fly all the way from Wisconsin to Mexico, so I like to place a piece of map from both their summer and winter destinations underneath the body of the birds. Bits of lace, vintage writing, and words like ‘fragile’ have also been tucked underneath my bird drawings. It’s subtle, but an interesting added dimension to the artwork.

How do you come up with ideas for your art?  Please describe your creative process.
My ideas come to me most often when I am outdoors, especially when walking my dogs or working in my gardens. Whenever I feel stuck, I grab their leashes or my garden gloves and head outside. I’m lucky to live in Wisconsin, with its beautiful lakes and rolling hillsides.

Please describe the environment where you work.
My studio is located in my home and the room was added onto our house by my husband. I have been able to work at home for the past 24 years while my children were growing up and that is something I have been extremely grateful for.

You’re also an avid gardener.  Please tell us about your favorite plants and experiences in the garden and the role they play when you create your artwork.
Gardening is a passion of mine, one that I discovered after I married and moved to Wisconsin. I grew up with a gardening mother and realized I had absorbed much more about the subject than I thought I had when it came time to contend with a yard of my own. Now, most of my entire front yard is a garden, with only a small amount of lawn. Not confining my gardening efforts to the backyard is something I learned from going on several garden tours throughout England, one of my favorite destinations. I enjoy practicing the art of fruit tree espalier and have trained two pear trees into flat candelabra shapes against a wall of my house, with six additional dwarf apple tree espaliers trained in a cordon around two curved rock walls in front of my house. Espalier is a technique for training fruit trees against a wall in order to conserve space. I created a deep perennial border along the entire length of the lawn in my backyard. In addition to my home garden I tend a local park’s garden on the lake where I have created ‘drive-by’ garden borders in 3 medians in the road for a total of 150’. Each year I try to plant surprises for the village residents, like tall sunflowers mixed in with the perennials. My favorite flowers are the simpler shapes like tulips, sunflowers, poppies, and hollyhocks. The patio outside my studio is filled with containers of all sizes in the summer, which are planted with annuals that hummingbirds are attracted to, like lantana, abutilon, and salvias of all kinds. I also grow herbs in pots as well as a few vegetables.

Tell us what a typical day for you is like.
I’m an early-riser so my day begins soon after dawn. Once my pair of Border Terriers is walked I head into my studio for most of the day to put pen, brush, or pencil to paper. I also spend time emailing with my designer in Texas on projects we are working on for my own line of paper products. I am excited about finally realizing this dream after spending nearly 25 years in the world of art licensing.

How long does it generally take you to complete a painting for your calendars?
I try to complete a calendar drawing or painting in a week, but sometimes it takes a bit longer due to the detailed nature of my work.

Are you as good at cooking and preparing food as you are painting it?
I enjoy cooking with the herbs and vegetables I grow myself, as well as the produce I get each week at Farmer’s Markets in my area. My efforts are usually well-received by my family. My teenage son is the resident tomato-growing expert and a pretty good cook, too.

How did the ideas and paintings for your new Field to Market calendars come about?
Madison, Wisconsin, has a weekly Farmer’s Market with a national reputation for the quality of the produce for sale and I am fortunate to live only a few minutes away from this weekly event around the Capitol Square. I head there early on Saturday mornings with both my bag and camera in hand. The tables laden with vegetables, fruits, breads, jams, and flowers are stunning to behold and wonderful subjects to photograph. With the growing trend for buying local organic produce it seemed a good time to combine these colorful wholesome images into a calendar called Field to Market. I enjoy painting the rich colors of blue-black eggplants, red strawberries, orange carrots, all the various shades of green lettuces, and the sunlight shining through jars of jams, honey, and vinegars. It doesn’t get much better than that!

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Interview with John Sloane

John Sloane always wanted to be an artist, and his talents were noticed as he went through school. His teachers encourage him to develop his talents, and he decided on a career as an illustrator while he was still a teenager.

Sloane opted to pursue a liberal arts degree, but spent his spare time in college developing his skills in painting and composition. Shortly after his graduation, he began to obtain free-lance commissions and has since developed a loyal clientele of publishers and collectors.

Sloane’s paintings highlight the beauty and variety of nature in all four seasons and the simple pleasures of country life. Check out John Sloane’s 2013 Country Seasons calendar line at Calendars.com.

You’re able to capture perfectly the sense of each season. Do you have a favorite season or particular time of year?
I love experiencing every season, so I would have to say that my favorite season is whichever one I’m in at the moment. Whenever possible, I like to paint pictures in the months in which they are set, as this allows me to feel and observe the many nuances of the season from life. I enjoy trying to capture the feeling of the sky in different seasons, the foliage of trees in summer and the texture of snow in winter.
 Of course, an observer soon notices that there are many seasons within each season, as nature is in a constant process of unfolding. I think the most challenging months to paint are November and March, as those months are bare and rather colorless, and it can be hard to come up with new ways to portray them. But I have found that some of my favorite paintings turn out to be for those months!

Many of the scenes you paint have the feel of a bygone era.  How do you accomplish that without having lived during that time?
I have always felt an affinity for anything old-fashioned, so I just naturally tend to think in that way. I find old houses, barns, horses and buggies, antique autos and period clothes to be much more interesting to paint than their contemporary counterparts. Also, I admire the ideals of traditional country values and the importance of our nation’s agricultural heritage.

Your Victorian farmhouse, Hearts Haven, that you and your wife renovated sounds like a labor of love. Tell us about it.
It is indeed a labor of love.  Growing up in the city and suburbs, my wife and I shared a life-long dream of someday living in the country. We were fortunate to find a small nineteenth century farmhouse for sale, in need of renovation and situated in a lovely country setting. I was just young and idealistic enough at the time to be willing to undertake what would become a huge challenge of renovation. I think that over the years we have replaced or re-built just about everything on our old house, from the foundation to the roof. For one summer the entire house remained jacked up on a hydraulic lift as a new basement was dug and concrete was poured under it!And I designed and built a wrap-around veranda for the house. My dream was to be able to sit with my wife on an old wooden swing on an open front porch. Working together, we made the dream come true.

The places you depict in your paintings are so lifelike. Are they real places, or do they spring from your imagination?
The subjects of my paintings are imaginary, though they are often based on places I have been. Each painting usually begins with a kernel of reality that inspires me, and I then let my imagination take over. It has been said that writers often write the kind of books they would like to read. I guess I paint the kind of scenes I would like to inhabit.

People and animals populate your idealized landscapes. Are the people based on people you know?Do you have pets, and do you include them in your paintings?
Like my landscapes, the people in my paintings are a blend of the real and the imaginary. I like to include figures in my paintings whenever I can, in order to give life to the scenes. Often I will pose myself or my wife, attired in appropriate costumes, in order to get just the right look for what I’m trying to achieve. Sometimes family or friends are called on to pose.
 Over the years, all of my dogs have been featured in my paintings, as well as local farm dogs, animals and wildlife.  

What inspires your paintings?
Living in the country and enjoying the cycle of the seasons as I do, I would say that just about everything is a potential source of inspiration. I have so many ideas that it can sometimes be difficult for me to choose what to paint next. Sometimes a scene will inspire me to paint, while at other times an old-fashioned activity will be the starting point, and a scene will develop around that. In each series of paintings, I always try to present an interesting assortment of images and moods.

Tell us about the space where you paint.
I paint at home, in my finished basement studio that I had specially built when the house was renovated. In it I have plenty of room to paint, work tables, a cutting board, a storage area and a darkroom. I also have plenty of shelves where I keep a large collection of audio books and music CD’s. I have always loved listening to audio books while I paint. As I listen, the hours of work seem to fly by.

How long does it generally take you to complete a painting for your calendars?
I am very methodical in my creative process. Each painting takes me about a month to complete, from the conception to the final brush stroke. I begin by making thumb-nail sketches of my ideas and developing my subjects patiently until I am satisfied with the composition. I make a small but very detailed preliminary sketch, trying to work out all potential difficulties before I get to the final drawing stage. Once I’m satisfied with the design, I transfer it to my large drawing board by means of drawing grids and eye-balling the image, drawing lightly, square by square, until the entire outline is transferred. From there, I refine my final composition freehand in pencil. After that, I’m ready to begin painting. The more figures or architectural details and perspective that are depicted in the picture, the longer it takes me to paint. But I can usually finish everything within about thirty days.

You’re incredibly prolific. How do you maintain the discipline required to continue to create for so many years?
I don’t think of myself as being particularly prolific, but I am steady in my work habits. As a self-employed person, I learned long ago the value of maintaining discipline in my work days. I am now working on the new series for what will be the twenty-ninth collection of my calendar paintings. That will make 348 paintings painted in as many months!Yes, it’s prolific in the long run, but it is the result of long and steady work, over decades. I am especially fortunate to have the opportunity to share my vision and my art for so many years.

What’s a typical workday for you like?
As I hinted earlier, I am a creature of habit, so my workdays are pretty much unvarying. I begin every morning with a long walk with my dog down the old cow path through the meadow behind my house. I find these walks to be creatively stimulating, as I often get some of my best ideas while on these outings. It also keeps me from spending too much time sitting at my drawing board.
 After breakfast, I usually spend some time on business and e-mails. As soon as possible, I head into the studio. I customarily paint through the afternoon and evening, while taking periodic breaks and walking my dog. I sometimes think that I spend as much time walking my dog as I do painting!
 It may seem like a long working day, but my enthusiasm for each painting carries my along.

If you could choose to live during the times that you depict in your paintings, would you?
I think we are blessed in the present day with the highest standard of living in history, so I wouldn’t choose to live in the past. Nevertheless, I believe that many vital traditional values and folkways have become lost or obscured over time. Each year I am saddened by the ongoing loss of the natural countryside to the relentless sprawl of urban development. In the years since I began painting, I have witnessed the gradual loss of many irreplaceable old barns, farmhouses and farmlands.  Part of my mission in painting is to celebrate traditional ideals and to capture and preserve the symbols of our vanishing heritage.  

Your fans have purchased your calendars for years. To what do you attribute their popularity and longevity?
The imaginary world that I depict in my paintings is my dream of an ideal realm of peace and rustic beauty. It is a contemplative world where life follows the unhurried cycle of the seasons. By contrast, the real world continues to rush on at an almost impossible pace, and day to day living can become quite hectic at times. I like to think that my paintings offer viewers a peaceful place to rest from time to time, a spacious country of the mind, far removed from the stress and distractions of daily living.

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Rainforest Day

Rainforest Day is a day to celebrate rainforests and their impact on the earth and its inhabitants. For example, rainforests help regulate temperatures and weather patterns and are also responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen turnover. Discover more facts about rainforests at Nature.org.

Rainforest Day was also created to increase awareness about rainforest threats and, as a result, losses. Check out the organizations below to see how you can help!

Rainforest Alliance
Rainforest Partnership
Rainforest Foundation 

 

Sources: The Ultimate Holiday Site, Stacy Reid, Wikipedia, The Nature Conservancy

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