This Mantis Is Awesome Sauce

A lot of people have pets. I am no exception. I have always had pets except for when I married my husband… marrying into a family with very bad dander issues my husband and I chose not to have any for a while.  Then last year I decided to get a pet, a particular pet.  Most of the people who have pets have the cute and fluffy kind, not me (though I do like the cute and fluffy and traditionally would opt for those types of pets).  They are beautiful, albeit in an exotic way and perhaps in some eyes cute.  Though to many they are not their cup of tea.  I also think they have their own cuteness.  But again there are a few who don’t share my view.  But there are many out there who surprisingly do share my point of view.  In fact my current choice of pet is actually more popular than you might think.  I currently take part in online world wide communities relating to my pets and their care that are in the 1000’s strong.  From all parts of the world, sharing advice and knowledge on the care and upkeep of these beautiful pets ranging from the absolutely exotic species to the more common and hardy.

I currently have ten of them, and It all started with two oothecas, or as they are often referred to as ooths. One in each tank.  A spike of warm weather and bam we had 200 or so tiny babies. If it’s not completely obvious by now an ootheca is an insect egg case.  The eggs were laid in a type of foam that hardens around them to protect the eggs.  As the eggs hatch the babies work their way out of the ooth.

Ootheca raised on a makeshift tripod/cradle with newly hatched Baby Praying Mantises. At this point they were a matter of hours old if that.

Ootheca raised on a makeshift tripod/cradle with newly hatched Baby Praying Mantises. At this point they were a matter of hours old if that.

Close up of some of the babies, a little darker in colour. These has had the chance to harden up their exoskeleton.

Close up of some of the babies, a little darker in colour. These has had the chance to harden up their exoskeleton.

Yes there was a lot of babies.

Yes there was a lot of babies.

By this point you have probably Identified the insect… yes those are praying mantises. teeny tiny baby praying mantises. Hundreds of them in fact.

Baby praying mantis scribble because.... procrastination that's why.

Baby praying mantis scribble because…. procrastination that’s why.

Each ootheca had the potential to produce as many as 200 per ooth and I had two.  I estimate (no I didn’t count them) that I may have had at least 100 or more from each hatch/ooth.

However they have a high mortality rate so the numbers quickly dropped though at first there was very easily good healthy number for quite a while. I now have ten adults left out of the most likely 200 plus that hatched.

1st Instar Tenodera Sinensis (Chinese Praying Mantis)

1st Instar Tenodera Sinensis (Chinese Praying Mantis)

This mantis species is Tenodera Sinensis or more commonly known as the Chinese mantis. There are over 2,400 species in the mantodea order, with a huge variety of looks and sizes. One exceptionally large and unique looking species is the Giant African Stick Mantis, also known as Cat Eye Mantis (Heterochaeta) of which I would love to own one day. Another which some what smaller yet, exceptionally pretty to look at is the Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus).

Praying mantises are predatory insects, earning the pray part of their name from the resting stance of their raptors which when tucked under their front look like they are praying.  They hunt live prey which mostly consists of other insects that are smaller than themselves but have been known to take on prey either much bigger than themselves or even more surprisingly lizards and birds.  There has been more than one account of one of the larger species of mantis taking on hummingbirds and lizards.  I have even seen accounts of pet mantises striking the glass enclosures of much larger pets from other keepers in the hobby.  Though it’s important to note that what types of feeder insects are safe to give will vary in different species. Some species in their natural habitat mostly hunt flying prey.  And in captivity some of those species have been known to get sick when fed crickets.

The way mantises grow and develop from hatching to adult is like many insects.  They grow in multiple stages/ sizes as nymphs until adulthood.  Each stage till adult is known as a particular instar or sometimes in the mantis keeping hobby is abbreviated as L1, l2, and so on. Between each stage they molt their old exoskeleton.  It can take a few minutes to an hour or so but preferably not too long so as not to harden and dry in the old exoskeleton and get stuck.  Once freshly molted they are now bigger, more developed and at their new instar. Initially their new exoskeleton is soft and must harden, sometimes their colour becomes darker or more muted once hardened. The molting process and hardening up afterwards is a delicate and dangerous time for a mantis.  Miss-molts are a real possibility and can be deadly.  They are also very vulnerable to predators (other predatory insects and even others of their own kind),

Female Chinese Mantis called Awesome Sauce, molting to pre sub adult. Sixth Instar.

Female Chinese Mantis called Awesome Sauce, molting to pre sub adult. Sixth Instar.

In the above photo you can see my favorite mantis molting to pre-sub adult.  At that point when the photo was taken she was mostly finished and had already started to dry and go back to her dark colour. She was just hanging from her butt from her old molt.  They require hanging upside down so as to make use of gravity to get out of their old exoskeleton. failure to hang results in a miss molt. when has been deadly for some of my mantises. there are many other causes for miss molts though.  They tend to from my observations break the skin on the back of the head/neck first and continue from there.  The following photo shows two different exoskeletons after the molts.  Both were female Chinese mantises molting to the same instar. though a week apart.  The size difference fascinates me.

Two Sheds side by side. Same instar and species but two different females

Two Sheds side by side. Same instar and species but two different females

One of my males miss-molted to sub adult getting his raptors stuck. Luckily for him it hasn’t proved fatal but has cost him both raptors and one eye in adulthood.  Bellow you can see how his raptors were hooking over his eyes instead of resting perfectly.  They rubbed and damaged what was otherwise perfect eyes and he lost one in the next molt.  Sometimes if they have enough molts left they can fix many things with subsequent molts such as a missing limb or damaged raptors. Unfortunately he has to be hand fed as the next molt was his last and he was unable to heal the damage.

Sub adult male Chinese mantis with deformed raptors after a miss molt.

Sub adult male Chinese mantis with deformed raptors after a miss molt.

Generally mantises go through anywhere from 6 – 10 molts. How many will vary depending on species and even sex.  For some amantis species the males molt fewer times than females to get to adulthood.  Some species are an exception with males and females molting the same number of times. Some larger species taken more molts than others to get to fully grown.

Other notable growth differences is that praying mantises do not hatch with wings.  They start growing wing buds at pre-sub and then come adulthood they get their beautiful wings.  The difference is staggering.

My favortie female Chinese Mantis Awesome Sauce Molting to adult.

My favorite female Chinese Mantis Awesome Sauce Molting to adult.

Closer inspection of Awesome Sauce molting to adult. Check out those tucked in wings where once were teeny tiny wing buds. They look like napkins folded into triangles.

Closer inspection of Awesome Sauce molting to adult. Check out those tucked in wings where once were teeny tiny wing buds. They look like napkins folded into triangles.

Those little triangles for wings that have replaced the tiny wing buds… Remember those when you see the next stage.

Now she is free of her old molt it's time for her to hang from her raptors and unfurl and pump those wings out.

Now she is free of her old molt it’s time for her to hang from her raptors and unfurl and pump those wings out.

Still pumping out those wings. I find it impressive and fascinating to see the difference.

Still pumping out those wings. I find it impressive and fascinating to see the difference.

I am still trying to get my head around how they were so nicely tucked away.  At this point they look like pale green lace. But as she hardens and her colour gets darker and darker the colour of the wings change just like her body. The top wings will gain a darker green, brown with an almost metallic/pearlescent look with a racing stripe along their edge of lime green.

You may have noted in the above paragraphs that I have a favorite.  She is the female Chinese mantis molting to adult in the above pictures.  Being the largest and first of this year hatches to make it to adult, as well as my first ever successful attempt to raise a mantis to adult. She is entertaining to watch and quite beautiful to look at.  She earned her moniker by her impressive growth and hardiness.  Although it did come at a few small costs which I wasn’t two thrilled about, such as two siblings, despite being very well fed with prey in the tank just before I was able to separate them to separate enclosures.

Female Chinese (Tenodera Sinensis) Praying Mantis, named Awesome Sauce

Female Chinese (Tenodera Sinensis) Praying Mantis, named Awesome Sauce

She has inspired me so much so that she has managed to creep into my art.   I like to design fabric prints and patterns, I find the continuity of the designs quite therapeutic.  A couple of months ago I wanted to do a continuous fabric print that was feminine and beautiful.  Part of me was leaning towards the old liberty’s staple of pretty fabric prints, which was often floral and organic subjects.  But I didn’t want to create something so obvious. I wanted a subject that caught the eye and surprised you to see on a dress or drapes.  Something unique.

Then I remembered who was sitting in her tank to my left.  Little old Awesome Sauce, with her lime green racing stripe wings and pinky brown big eyes.  And I thought why not?  She is pretty, unique, and likes to hang out on flora which you usually find on fabric.

So I began drawing on my tablet using a ornament app that automatically repeats my pen strokes in a repeat pattern.

The raw unedited black and white grass leaves pattern before I worked Awesome Sauce in.

The raw unedited black and white grass leaves pattern before I worked Awesome Sauce in.

Then I worked Awesome Sauce into the pattern.

After Awesome Sauce made her way into the pattern, but prior to clean up and editing.

After Awesome Sauce made her way into the pattern, but prior to clean up and editing.

After I was happy with Awesome Sauces presence in the pattern I exported the pattern tile to another app for clean up. The above pattern is actually multiple tiles in a seamless repeat. Can you figure out where each individual tile begins and ends? You will find the answer in the following images.

Once I had cleaned up the Line drawing tile I then opened it up in Art Rage to give it some colour.  Being a fabric pattern I knew I wanted a varied colour palette.  Some artwork I just do one design option as I am often more art orientated when I create those artworks.   But for this art I weas designing for a fabric from the start and with those you usually have a set colour palette and variants of one or more designs with in that that all complement each other. So I knew I wanted to do more than one version of Awesome Sauces pattern.  I decided to be inspired by awesome sauces colours. She has a great camouflage that complements and blends into the greens and browns of her intended habitat. To vary the look of the print i decided to also variate how much colour was added to where on the print.  I make three different tile layers each time adding more colour than the last and I used the watercolour paint effect to bring colour and life to the print.

My first variation I utilized the boldness of the black and white line drawing and helped it pop by setting it over a deep green background. (If you buy this pattern variant on Zazzle the green background is customisable just like all the other versions with white backgrounds.

This mantis pattern is Awesome Sauce. Black and White line drawing pattern of a female Chinese praying mantis (Tenodera Sinensis) resting upside down on a contiguous grass leaves print. Set over a green background.

This mantis pattern is Awesome Sauce. Black and White line drawing pattern of a female Chinese praying mantis (Tenodera Sinensis) resting upside down on a contiguous grass leaves print. Set over a green background.

I really like how the green helps the black and white drawing pop in a modern and bold manor.

For my next variant I chose to make Awesome Sauce stand out from the rest of the pattern.  I chose to paint her in a digitial watercolour effect to give her not just colour but some dimension.

Awesome Sauce the mantis fabric pattern, semi colour filled variant.

Awesome Sauce the mantis fabric pattern, semi colour filled variant.

My third variation I decided to bring the leaves forward too, so as to compliment Awesome Sauce.  So filled them with colour again using the digital watercolour painting effect in Art Rage.

This is the full colour variant of my praying mantis pattern. Green and brown praying mantis resting on green grass leaves.

This is the full colour variant of my praying mantis pattern. Green and brown praying mantis resting on green grass leaves.

I think I successfully managed to create three complimentary variations of the same print.  No doubt I shall add to the collection with more complimentary prints and their variations. The aim will be to have a collection of fifteen prints in total, including the variations.

Of course once I had finished the patterns I just had to order some Spoonflower samples to see it in person.  Especially as it had been a while since I had ordered any new proofs for sale.

The three fabric samples of the praying mantis prints

The three fabric samples of the praying mantis prints

 

And then they arrived.  And they were even more Awesome than I expected them to be….

 

Close up of some of the Black and white line drawn praying mantis print on green background. Printed on basic cotton ultra.

Close up of some of the Black and white line drawn praying mantis print on green background. Printed on basic cotton ultra.

Close up inspection of the semi colour print.

Close up inspection of the semi colour print.

Awesome Sauce's likeness was looking pretty good.

Awesome Sauce’s likeness was looking pretty good.

Close up of the full colour variant.

Close up of the full colour variant.

Seeing them in person got me all excited for the possible uses of this print.  Imagining all the dresses, bed linen, shower curtains and more.

And of course I had to show Awesome Sauce her awesome fabric prints!  It would have been rude not to!

At first she took a defense stance and tried to hide like grass on it.

At first she took a defense stance and tried to hide like grass on it.

Eventually she relaxed And chilled.... perhaps the leaves made her feel at home.

Eventually she relaxed And chilled…. perhaps the leaves made her feel at home.

I think she seems to match the colours pretty well.

I think she seems to match the colours pretty well.

I think she approves.

I think she approves.

And now I have finished this post I think I shall go hide my credit cards, this project may end up with me spending more than I make if I am not careful.  Or perhaps I shall go make a dress pattern that deserves the Awesome Sauce print.

If you would like to see how good it looks as wallpaper and fabric check out my Spoonflower shop. Alternatively It’s available at Both Red Bubble and Society 6, as a variety of customisable fabric and products at Zazzle.

 

 

Koi Carp

There’s an aquarium store near us that have a large indoor pond just inside their door. In which they keep large beautiful koi fish.  It’s the sort of set up that most fish lovers would love but I am sure would cost a bomb or two to achieve your own, not considering the upkeep, maintenance and space.  I don’t think I have seen too many of these since I moved over here if any apart from the one at this store.  My 3 yr old daughter likes the fish but what she really loves is that if you go to the till the other side of the door you can buy a pre-measured out little pot of fish food for a dollar and feed the koi.  The excitement and thrashing that ensues from the feeding frenzy, as their big mouths open to gulp down the tiny pellets gets giggles and raucous laughter from S.  So every once in a while we visit the aquarium store so she can feed the fish.

We have actually been doing this a while, yet it hadn’t made it to this blog yet.

But I have recently been trying to reorganize my digital devices which I use for my art.  Even when I hand draw or paint with traditional medium I still use technology to scan it, finish it or tidy it up and enlarge, before I share on this blog. Other times I use it to actually make art from scratch with my different apps and programs I have.  But I am pretty bad at transferring and deleting things and so it’s gotten to the point of clean up and tidy up or not be able to do anything more.  Digital memory is limited it seems more than my memory on a Monday morning, during a caffeine ban.  One of my favorite and go-to creative apps is the Art Rage for IPad app, which was struggling to process the simplest of tasks thanks to the multiple large as possible multi-layer works it had saved all waiting to be transferred or finished.  I can no longer ignore spring cleaning my digital files and work. So I have been trying to do it here and there, especially when it comes to inside the apps, which I found have quite a few pieces not finished.

And then I saw a fish, an unfinished fish, a whole lot of effort put in already fish, but no where near finished.

 

A fish in need, Koi in progress long forgotten.

A fish in need, Koi in progress long forgotten.

And then I remembered our walks to feed the fish and S’s squeals of laughter and happiness.  And that this fish has been waiting for more detail since 2013, poor poor lonely forgotten fish.

How could I leave it for so long languishing, with all the memories it represents? Clearly I had lost momentum during the creative process, probably from loosing my nerve.  I tend to get scared about ruining a piece and back off for a breather.  This breather apparently took a year.  Well I clearly couldn’t leave it any longer.  So I pushed through the uncertainty about what direction to take it and started making progress.

Close up of the nose details in progress.

Close up of the nose details in progress.

 

In Progress Koi Carp close to being finished. Screen shot of the work in the Art Rage app which I am creating it in.

In Progress Koi Carp close to being finished. Screen shot of the work in the Art Rage app which I am creating it in.

I was surprised how little time it took to finish considering how long it took me to get to the point in which i found it. I came to the conclusion that it’s my dithering and lack in confidence in my directional choices that make it such a long creational process.  The minute I chose to ignore those little voices and just go with the flow it seemed to speed up.

But as always I had a last minute wobble with the eye colour.

Screen shot of Koi Carp in progress within the app. With lighter blue eyes.

Screen shot of Koi Carp in progress within the app. With lighter blue eyes.

I realized whilst on screen the darker blue version was striking, but in print the lighter blue would stand out more.  So I decided to make both versions. Why not? This is the benefit of digital art. you can create different versions of things with simple tweaks quite easily without having to start over on a canvas or board.

So here they are my two versions of the same fish.

Dark blue eyed koi carp.

Dark blue eyed koi carp.

And with a lighter touch.

Koi Carp version two with lighter blue eyes.

Koi Carp version two with lighter blue eyes.

I think it works. I am glad I didn’t go whole hog on the water swirls, as I think that the plain black areas of the water add a nice touch and stop the water from overwhelming the koi.  I have to admit it makes a nice mirrored fabric print design.

And more so I have something finished to represent all those memories of S and her screams of laughter and giggles whilst feeding the fish.

I think it’s probably time we take another walk back to feed the fishes.

 

 

I owe you a valentine.

I’ve owed you this post for over a month. In fact I have been working on the artwork for this post since way before Valentines day. For one reason or another I got distracted by so many things I never got to finish the different drawings and idea I had going. Such is life I guess of the artist/mummy.

I was inspired to create an tongue in cheek annotated study of a Valentine’s card. When I started I was really enjoying it. I decided to create the artwork digitally and use watercolour paints and black ink pen effects.

I figured the art piece would need a title.

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Ribbon banner…Annotated study of the best Valentine ever!

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Love me, love you…..I figured there would be writing theres always soppy messages on a Valentine’s card.

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Watercolour Heart.

Because love hearts are the quintessential icon of love.
At this point I decided it was best and easier to create individual elements that I thought would be obligatory parts of an awesome valentine. Then later on I could splice the, together to make one.

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Cupids Arrow

I figured Cupid needed to feature somewhere.

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Yarn Ball Heart

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Yarn Ball Heart with shading.

The Yarn Ball Heart image is an illustration of a ball of yarn, in the shape of a heart. I was going somewhere with this, as you will see next.

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Yarn Ball Heart gains a kitty. Screenshot of work in progress.

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The initial makings of a teddy bear. Screenshot of work in progress.

Almost all Valentine’s have a featured cartoon person or character. Something or someone soppy, cute or funny. Which is where I was going with both the teddy bear and the cat. But this is where things started unraveling. I am my worst critic of my work. And I don’t really feel I can do cartoon work. I struggled to get a good flow from the start on both. And was never happy with what I made. Perpetually erasing and restarting. Till I got as far as you can see in these screenshots. The problem with not feeling like I getting it right over and over and over is I start loosing interest. The desire to continue wanes and I lose the energy to propel myself forward to the end. That coupled with the fact that I lost the inspiration behind my cat illustration just very recently (my awesome, front door knocking, mint and roast potato thieving, bigger character than any human, cat of almost 15 years. And whom we had from the very start of his life. Lost a fight with a car. The next artwork I finish inspired by him feel needs to be something as awesome as him……or at least something I’m proud of and feel connected to. I will probably finish this annotated valentine at some point. But for now I need to stop looking at it. And get rid of that “need to finish now” feeling.

So with all that said…….

I still owe you a Valentine.

Yarn Ball Heart Tee Shirt
Yarn Ball Heart Tee Shirt by InspiredMeStudio
Check out Black and white sketch T-Shirts online at zazzle

Break Out The Christmas Cheer!

Tis the season to break out the twinkly and gaudy decorations. And for kids to write letters that start with,

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Dear Santa, in metallic red paint effect.

All in the hopes that they get beautiful, neatly wrapped presents, in paper like this,

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Merry Christmas in Check.

marked,

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From Santa, in red metallic paint effect.

On Christmas Day.

Now that Halloween and Thanksgiving is behind us for another year, we can emerge ourselves in the Christmas spirit. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to start with Christmas until the 1st of December. I don’t count the days or sleeps starting from August. I don’t break out the decorations ready for Thanksgiving. I just wait till December starts….well with the exception of some present buying. As having family across the pond negates a little premature preparation, in order to send it to them in time (I’m always too late for the post office deadline, one day i’ll make it).

But once December hits and the space has been cleared for one of these,

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Squiggly Christmas Tree.

then its time to get,

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Ready For Santa, in red paint effect.

We break out the numerous boxes hidden last January in the hunt for lots of these,

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A Christmas Bauble In Blue.

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A Christmas Bauble In Green.

And we may even get around to hanging one of these on the door this year,

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Squiggly Christmas Wreath

And watch countless movies on tv. Featuring the big man in read with his eight,

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Christmas Stag.

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Stag.

Or perhaps look out the window to beautiful wintery scenes and wildlife,

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The Robin.

But most of all this month I shall be wishing eveyone. My family, friends, and all of you,
A VERY….

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Merry Christmas, in red metallic paint effect.

Trick or Treat!

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Full Moon.

It’s that time of year again.  Halloween madness is right around the corner!  Or already in full swing if you’re inclined to “celebrate” the whole month.  Not that I mind that, as it’s one of my favorite holidays since S was born.  Most probably because it was the first holiday that came up after her birth.

After my last painting and the lengthy blog post, I needed to try something quicker, easier, and requiring less of an essay to explain.  So I decided to try out another app, called iOrnament on my IPad.  And get into the Halloween spirit by making some simple Halloween patterns and scribbles to share, along with some apropos photos. I’ve quite enjoyed learning about patterns or as Jürgen Richter-Gebert, (mathematics professor at the Technical University of Munich, and creator of the program used for the app) refers to them, wallpapers.  Although the mathematics aspect does go over my head some what (I’ve never been that gifted in that subject).  Either way it’s interesting to read and fun and easy to use my daughter has even made some patterns).  It also also reminded me that at some point I would love to design fabric prints.  I think that would be fun, if not just because its bringing me back to fashion design which I loved.

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Daddy Pumpkin, Mummy pumpkin, and Baby Pumpkin.  Our first Jack O’Lanterns after S was born.

So here are some Halloween themed patterns or wallpapers, which ever you would like to call them.

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Beetles, Beetles everywhere.  Beetle inspired pattern in black and white.

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Dancing Spiders.  Probably my biggest foe on planet earth.  I am not embarrassed to say I suffer from pretty bad arachnophobia.

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Cobwebs.  Because when you think of Halloween, there has to be spiders and cobwebs.

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Zoomed out image of the above cobweb pattern.

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Bat print.

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A less symmetrical cobweb print, complete with spiders.

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Jack O’Lantern faces.

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A close-up of one of the Jack O’Lantern faces.

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Bats, second attempt.  More details in the silhouette of these bats and the spacing is different.

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A zoomed out capture of the second bat print above.

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Swirls in darkness.  I was trying to create an abstract interpretation in print, of a night sky.  My intention was to use it in another image.

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Cats eyes circle print.  Inspired by cats eyes.  Overlapped in a circular fashion.

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Zoom out of the same, cat eyes circle print.

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Spider meeting.  Eight spiders of red and green.

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Spiders meeting as a print.

It was really enjoyable and relaxing just doing whimsical and nonsensical prints and doodles, after all the energy the Newfoundland beach painting took.  I also really enjoyed playing at patterns.
I think in the near future I would have fun playing with fabric print patterns.

But for now I’ll just wish you all a happy Halloween.