A Physicist and Artist try to make it in Silicon Valley

A Physicist and Artist try to make it in Silicon Valley
In which a couple tries to thrive creatively and intellectually on and offline

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Portfolio!

I created an online portfolio!

After doing quite a bit of research, I found that carbonmade was the best free portfolio service for my work. I'm hoping that once business starts picking up I can upgrade to the $12 a month portfolio, but for now, my budget says to stick with the free one.

There are lots of sites to choose from. Here's an article I found very helpful about creating your own portfolio.

Getting Ready for Market SF

On July 10th I am going to be at Market SF, an Artist Market in the Mission District of San Francisco. This is the first event like this that I have done in quite some time, so I've had to do some scrambling to get supplies and promotional materials together. I thought it would be nice to share my preparations for anyone who hasn't done this before.

Here is what I have purchased and prepared so far:
  • 500 business cards, created in Photoshop and printed by an online retailer
  • Tweeted the event and posted in my Facebook fan page
  • Posted the event on my Etsy Shop Announcement
  • Created a sign up sheets for newsletter
  • 5-10 copies of each print
  • 1 printing calculator
  • 1 book of carbonless sales orders
  • 1 package of round price tag stickers
  • 1 pack of 100 clear envelope sleeves
  • 2 magazine racks (for browsing prints)
  • 2 holders for business cards (I'm using some ceramic vessels my mom made)
  • 1 money holder
  • 1 apron
  • pack of pens
  • Change in small bill denominations
  • I still need to buy shopping bags (don't want to, it's seems like a waste of resources, but I also know that I need to)
I was able to prepare for this show, and restock some much needed supplies for under $200 by shopping around and purchasing the majority of items online.

The tax rate here in Sunny California is 9.25%, but I don't want to be messing with change, so my prices will be rounded figures. Because I have to deal with similar overhead costs selling online (Etsy, PayPal, Shipping, etc.) I will probably sell the prints at the same price they are in my Etsy shop, minus shipping. That should cover tax and table costs.

If you are interested in starting your own show, Etsy had a recent article that was quite helpful.

Phew! I am starting to get nervous already! The last time I had a gallery show, I threw up twice before the opening. This should be easier since it is less formal.....hopefully.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book of the week #9

This week's book is American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

In honor of our recent road trip, I have chosen one of my favorite novels to take traveling or camping as this week's book. Neil Gaiman is a fantastic storyteller, and if you enjoy mythology this book is a treat.

Also, large swaths of it are set in the area I grew up in Wisconsin, so it always helps me with my homesickness :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Glorious Road, Day 8 & 9: Dinosaurs and Heading Home

Petroglyphs in Dinosaur National Monument

After a beautiful wedding the night before and a great breakfast in Estes Park, my husband and I packed up for our final days on the road. We made our way back through the Rockies to Dinosaur National Monument, which covers both parts of Colorado and Utah. We past the Colorado entrance and made our way to the Fossil Quarry entrance in Utah.

We camped at Green River Campground, which was only 12 dollars a night and probably the nicest place we have camped so far. There was running water and even electrical outlets in the bathrooms (we thought about charging our phones, but thought that it might be weird), and our site was well shaded by ground cover and cottonwood trees. They don't take reservations, but on a Saturday night it wasn't full, and there are a few other spots to camp in the park.

There was a sandy path straight to the river, where we looked at river rocks while watching the swallows swoop and dive for insects. There were a lot of mosquitoes, however, so we had to put bug spray on for the first time in our trip. Although we had slept well in our cottage in Estes Park, I fell asleep as the sun was setting, tired from the excitement of the wedding and thankful to finally be at a reasonable altitude.

The next morning we rose early and packed up the car, eager to check out some petroglyphs and fossils. It is a good idea to bring a map with you as you explore the park (you can get one at the visitors center, which is open from 8:30 to 4:30) because it is fairly spread out. The petroglyphs we saw were some of the most creative and intact ones I've ever seen, but you do have to drive down a dirt road to get to the nice ones.

The fossil discovery trail has been created to make up for the closed visitor center in the park. You take a shuttle from the temporary visitor center to the trailhead, where you hike to one of the sites and a ranger takes you through all the bones that are being excavated. The ranger was incredibly helpful, and it was really fun looking for bones in the rock face. There is also another trail leading to the Stump site, where tons of fossil impressions of stump clams cover chunks of sandstone. If you look at the rocks that mark out the trail, you will see tons of petrified wood.

The shuttle to fossil discovery trail only runs from 8:30-12:30, so make sure and plan your trip accordingly.

After looking at dino bones, we got in the car and made our way across Utah, past the Great Salt Lake and into Nevada. The salt flats and lake are really desolate, and both my husband and I got a little nutty while traveling over them.

We camped that night at Rye Patch State Recreation Area, which was kind of a strange spot. We camped at the tent sites, which were in one big fenced off area. There was some nice tree cover, however, and we set up our tent against a hillside as an extra shelter against the wind. Camping was 14 dollars a night, but there was no running water and only a single pit toilet (very clean, however) in the tent area. The RV/pop-up area looked much nicer, but it was very crowded. We had the tent area to ourselves, which was nice. We woke up the next morning with our tent covered in honeysuckle flowers, blown in from the top of the hill.

We made it home safe and sound, driving through the Sierras in construction and heavy traffic. We were so glad to be home, and our kitties were very happy to see us. Our younger cat, Inka, gained a ton of weight while we were gone, and is now positively fat (she has been put on a diet, and is slowly losing the tubbage). Overall, an excellent and beautiful trip!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sketchbook Friday #10

This week's Sketchbook Friday is actually two sketches that I did for a deer study that I did for the painting, "A Study in Distress".

Obviously, I chose the bottom sketch for the painting. The top one looks an awful lot like the elk we saw in Rocky Mountain National Park. First time attempting horned beasties, and I end up with the wrong species at first. Ah well. The painting turned out all right.

Speaking of which, "A Study in Distress" has been featured on another blog, Illustration Lovers. Woohoo!

The Glorious Road, Day 6 & 7: A lovely cottage and a Mountain Wedding

After the disastrous evening at Rocky Mountain, we packed up our tent in the continuously blowing wind and packed up our car. Dirty, exhausted, and sore we went in search of breakfast and some decent coffee. The coffee shop we found was a great little local joint, with fantastic coffee and inexpensive sandwiches and breakfast burritos. It was right on a lovely little lake, and right next to the best rock shop in Estes Park (in my opinion). I used to work at a rock shop in Madison, so I was so excited to be in another funky, non-touristy rock shop.

We were able to check into our cottage on the Big Thompson River a little early, which was really nice. We stayed at Loveland Height Cottages, which was quirky but inexpensive and incredibly awesome. Our cabin had a full kitchen and a huge porch right on the river, which was fantastic.

Happy to finally take a real shower after 5 days, we felt refreshed and relaxed. After showering, we had some lunch on the porch, and watched the river while sitting in the hot sun. About two hours later, my husband looked at me and said, "Wait, is it our anniversary today?"
Pause pause pause. We both took a few seconds with confused puppy dog looks on our faces.... "Yeah, I think it is!" "Happy 4 years, honey!" So we picked up a bottle of wine at the grocery store to celebrate.

Estes Park is a pretty nice mountain town. Kind of touristy, but that kind of thing is to be expected. It was a beautiful place to get married. My Mother-in-law had an amazing dress, and it was a gorgeous, intimate ceremony and reception.

Tomorrow: The Final Days: Dinosaurs and getting home.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Glorious Road, Day 4 & 5: Rocky Mountain National Park

Lake Hawa-something or other (hour 4 of mountain hiking)
The next morning, after our full day of hiking Zion, we actually slept in until around 8 o'clock. After a quick breakfast, we packed up our gear and got on the road. Day 3 would be our longest day of driving yet, but we had no idea what we were getting into when we left that morning.

Saying goodbye to Zion, we made our way through Utah, admiring the hoodoo formations and deep canyons. At around hour 5, we took a stop at Devil's
Canyon, and if you can't tell by the picture, I was already road-ified and grungy by then.

After 5 more hours we entered Grand Lake, which is a gorgeous town with a crystal clear lake near the entrance of the park. Relieved to be so close, we pulled into the park entrance. We were about 3 miles or so in, and I made my husband pull over, "Honey, look, Elk!!! We have to take a picture". We pulled over to the side and snapped a few photos of these elk just grazing, not even remotely bothered by us annoying human tourists. We got back in the car, rounded a bend in the road, and lo and behold, the fields were covered with grazing elk. I have never seen so many wild animals in one place in my life. It was really neat.

Now, if you have ever been to Rocky Mountain, you'll probably appreciate what happened next. As the sun began to set we followed my directions taken straight from Google Maps, following US 34, otherwise known as Trail Ridge Road. What Google had failed to mention when it chose this route for us was that Trail Ridge Road is the highest two-way road in the United States (the summit is at over 12,200 feet), and that it was under construction. I started to get very nervous when the road became no more that dirt, and we had to switch off at the top. It was freaking cold.

That said, it was a beautiful drive at sunset. The ecosystem is a fragile Alpine Tundra at the top, and the landscape was just glowing. It was amazing to be able to see the sun set over the Rocky Mountains from the top peaks, and while a harrowing drive, we both agreed that it was worth it.
We finally made to Glacier Basin campground around dusk, after 12 total hours of driving. There has been a huge beetle infestation in the forests of Rocky Mountain, so unfortunately they have had to cut down a ton of trees. Our campground was one of the more private ones, but it was still pretty open due to lack of trees. Our view was great, though, and brand new bathrooms have been put in (although they put hand dryers in them for some reason, which were pretty noisy and kind of superfluous, in my opinion).

We set up our tent, tired and stiff from the drive, and went to sleep. At 8500 feet, the altitude made it hard to sleep, but my husband can sleep through anything. I, however, was delighted to hear the clip-clop of elk hooves. I fell asleep listening to them sniffing our tent and grazing, and showed my husband the tracks the next morning.

On Day 4 we were expecting one of my best friends to join us. She lives in Fort Collins, and I hadn't seen her since we had moved out to San Jose. Before she arrived, we went on a nice, short 2 mile hike from our site out to Lake Sprague. It was a really nice spot and we laughed at the baby ducks in the water.

My friend showed up around noon, and we spent some time catching up and having lunch. She is also an avid hiker, so we decided to catch the shuttle bus to the Glacier Basin trailhead and take a nice relaxed 5 mile hike.

That nice, relaxed, 5 mile hike ended up being a long, unmarked, snowy, 5 hour, 1600 ft grade hike. It was beautiful however, and the vistas we saw were fantastic. Because of the snow melt, Alberta Falls was raging and there were lots of crystal clear streams crossing our path. Hiking with two photographers (my husband is also an amateur photographer as well as a physicist, he has a fantastic eye) is always hilarious. The two of them were stopping at every interesting rock, beaver dam, and dead log. As an artist, I can appreciate this, but I couldn't help giggling at them bending over and snapping away, both as excited as school children.

After our hike we were very hungry, and as we roasted our sausages over the excellent fire my husband had made the Ranger stopped by to warn us of a weather front that would be bringing 80 mile an hour winds down the mountain.

We should have packed up and headed into town right then and there.

Instead, we took turns holding the tent up from the inside while the others slept. At one point, there was a lull, and I heard those same elk from the night before come sniffing around our site. Then, a sound like a freight train came down the mountain, "Mweeerrrh!!" (that's the best onomatopoeia I could come up with for a distressed elk) clop, clop, clop!! Off they ran as I braced myself for the next gale. We gave up at around 8 the next morning, when the wind started kicking up dust and sand blasting us through the screens of our tent. We packed up, tired and defeated, and got out of the park as fast as we could. It was like something out of Tolkein; Cranky ass mountain tries to kick annoying tourists off with horizontal tornado. I think J.R.R. would have probably added more flowery language, though, and we certainly weren't singing any stupid hippie songs about bubbling streams and ancient swords.

Grumble grumble grumble.
Tomorrow: Day 6 & 7, A Cottage by the River and a beautiful wedding.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Glorious Road Day 2 & 3: Zion National Park

The Trail to Whitney Portal
The morning of Day 2 we hiked the trail that leads to Mt. Whitney Portal, where hikers enter to climb Mt Whitney. We didn't go very far, because we had to get on the road again. The hike is beautiful, though; you get a great view of the Sierras, and we found bobcat tracks on the trail. A raven stopped by our site while we were packing up and croaked at us while a lizard scurried by. After packing up our site, we said goodbye to Mt Whitney and made our way to Zion National Park.

We decided to take a route that went through Death Valley, which I would recommend doing if you have a car that can handle it. Even this early in the year, the temperatures were in the 90s, and it's not a good idea to run the AC while you are driving up and down the mountains. Death Valley is incredibly desolate, but also has a highly varied landscape. There were dormant cinder cones surrounded by volcanic rock, tall peaks, and low valleys with beautiful sand dunes.
The View from our tent
Arriving in Zion National Park around 4 in the afternoon, we pulled into Watchman Campground. I had reserved site 34 in one of the tent loops, and it is hard to imagine a better spot. Our tent was shaded by a tree, and we had a fabulous view from our site. The Watchman campground is so named because it is in the shadow of Watchman Peak. It is a fantastic campground, and anything from 17 on up on the outer rim of the loop, as well as our site, would be perfect for anyone coming to Zion. We set up camp, made some dinner, and watched the sunset on the cliffs on the nearby Archaeology trail, where a family of deer came to graze.The next morning we woke up early, excited to start hiking. Another nice thing about the Watchman campground is that it is very close to the visitor center, where the shuttle bus stops. Zion National Park no longer allows visitors to drive their cars through the park, because during the high season they were getting as many as 5000 cars per day on the only road that goes through the canyon (yuck!). The shuttles run every 6-10 minutes, and stop at all the major sites and trailheads. It was a great way to get around the park, and the Rangers talk about the park while you are riding.

We started that morning on the Emerald Pools trail, which hooks up with several others and eventually takes you to the Grotto. It's a beautiful trail that was relatively uncrowded (although it was pretty early in the morning) and allows for some great vistas of the the canyon and the Virgin River that cuts through it. The Pools were fairly dry, but still lovely. I think Spring and Autumn would probably be ideal for pool viewing.

After reaching the grotto and refilling our water bottles we decided to tackle the Angel's Landing Trail. This trail is crowded, even in the morning, and is a constant uphill climb of over 1500 feet, but it is worth the effort. We saw a bird's nest filled with babies on the way up, and in the canyon after the first switchbacks there were two families of spotted owls.

After you head out through the canyon, there are a series of switchbacks known as "The Wiggles". They are actually pretty tame, but because they are at the end of the climb, it feels brutal.We did not take the full hike out to Angel's Landing, which is a cliff that you inch along while holding onto a chain. I'm sure it's worth it, but neither of us like heights, so we opted out.

After climbing back down, we took the shuttle up to Weeping Rock, took a short hike, and then made our way back to camp. 5 hours of hiking was our limit, and we spent the rest of the day relaxing. Just outside the visitor's center there is a nice little town with a grocery store. The store's prices were very reasonable considering the location, so we picked up supplies for dinner. I called my father that evening (amazingly, you can get cell phone reception in the park), and told him about our day. He asked us what we were doing for dinner, and I told him we had picked up some brats that I was boiling in beer and onions. "You can get brats in Utah?!" he exclaimed, "That's amazing!". We're in this beautiful National Park, and I'm talking to my father in Wisconsin, and he's impressed by the ubiquity of bratwurst. I love Wisconsin.

Tomorrow: Day 4 & 5: Rocky Mountain National Park

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Glorious Road Day 1: A triathlon and the Sierras

A view of the Sierras on Tioga Road in Yosemite
My husband and I just came back from our cross-country road trip yesterday! We saw and did so much that there is no way that I can put it in one post, so I'm going to be writing about it all week.

On Saturday, June 12th, we left for a road trip to Colorado, where my Mother-in-law was getting married. That morning, I did my first triathlon. The Silicon Valley Sprint Triathlon is 500 yards swimming, 10 miles biking, and a 5k run on Lake Almaden in Southern San Jose. It's considered a fairly mild sprint triathlon. I had been training for the past 4 months, and as someone who couldn't even run a mile before we moved here, it was a lot of work.

The open swim was pretty scary. It was me and about 30 other women in my age group treading water until the horn sounded. The water was pretty cold, and impossible to see in because of algae and churned up sand. My vision is pretty bad, and without my glasses, I couldn't see the buoys. Once the horn went off, I did my best to keep up with the other swimmers, getting kicked in the stomach a few times. At one point, the water was shallow, so we had to get up and run along the sand bar. After I reached the finish, I had done 500 yards in 10 minutes, 5 minutes less than my best time in practice. The adrenaline, fear, and cold water really kept me moving!
The 10 mile bike route was pretty basic, although we had a monster trek up the mountain where most of us got off our bikes and walked them up. The trip downhill was just as intense, and the brakes on my vintage Peugeot squealed the whole way down.The run was absolutely the most frustrating part. I have allergies big time, and the pollen, dust and winds caused my lungs to spasm. So unfortunately, I had to walk a lot of the 5k. I ran whenever I could, but in order to avoid an asthma attack, I had to go pretty slow. I almost cried at first, I was so disappointed. But after the initial shock, I became very stubborn, and told myself, "I don't care if I have to walk this whole thing, I'm finishing dammit!" Overall, it was a great experience and I would totally recommend it to others.
We got back in the car after I was finished and went home to pack up. For a ten day rode trip in various climates, we had to pack carefully, and be able to pack wedding clothes and toiletries. I spent all week packing everything we needed. We also had to worry about bears, which meant putting anything remotely smelly in airtight containers.

Our route on Day 1 was through Yosemite on Tioga Road, which had just been opened the previous week. It is a beautiful route to take in the summer, as it avoids the touristy areas. We stopped in Tuolumne Grove for a short hike to look at the sequoias, and came up to find a doe grazing right in the parking lot. Driving through upper Yosemite is beautiful, and the area past Tuolumne Meadows is virtually deserted this time of year, so we had a wonderful time.
The Tuolumne GroveA Waterfall on Tioga Road
We continued down the Eastern side of the Sierras to Inyo National Forest, where we camped at Lone Pine Campground. It was amazing! We reserved a walk-in site that was right at the base of the Whitney Portal, where hikers enter to climb Mt Whitney.The View from our tentThe creek by our campsite
They had running water and vault toilets, and on a Saturday night we had the entire walk-in area to ourselves (the RV/pop up area was packed). There was a creek running right next to us, and they had two bear boxes conveniently placed in our site. We set up in the waning light, and woke up the next morning to the gorgeous vista of the Sierras with Mt Whitney at the center.
A view of Mount Whitney
Tomorrow: Day 2 and 3: Zion National Park!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Halfway Through & Triathlon Success

Well, my husband and I are now officially halfway on our cross-country road trip, and so far we have seen:
-Tioga Road at Yosemite
-Mt Whitney
-Death Valley
-Zion National Park
-Rocky Mountain National Park
I will be posting pictures and a detailed synopsis of our adventures when we get back.

My triathlon was a success! On Saturday, I swam 500 yards, biked 10 miles, and ran/walked 3.2 miles in an hour and 41 minutes. 4 months of training was worth it! Will post pics of that too when I get back!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Featured in the Etsy Blog!!!

My print of "A Study in Distress" has been featured in Storque, Etsy's Blog. WOOHOO!!

Sketchbook Friday #9

Today's sketchbook Friday is a sketch from early college that is a twist on the joke:
A pan of muffins is baking in the oven. One muffin turns to the other and says, "Boy is it hot". The other muffin screams "Holy Shit a talking muffin!"

Hee hee.

I quit my day job at the library yesterday! Going to be doing the art thing full time from here on in. Slightly terrified, but also excited. It will be very nice to focus on all the projects I am working on.

The Etsy shop is going to be up still, but I will not be able to ship anything ordered after today until the 22nd. I will be putting a courtesy message up and such.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ah, the joys of cat ownership

Yesterday was a downright terrible day. Our cat, Cosmic Creepers (named after the cat from Bednobs and Broomsticks, I was 10 when we got her), had been puking exorcist levels of vomit for the past two days. So I did an internet search.
When you have a cat that is 18 years old, you always assume the worst, and when you get results ranging from diabetes to renal failure, you panic. I made a vet appointment and was crying all morning, even at the vet's office, which was more than a little embarrassing.

Fortunately she is fine, although after 500 dollars in tests they still can't tell me what is wrong with her. They gave her an IV, which filled her body with fluid, giving her the long sought after MC Hammer look. My husband and I called her party pants for the rest of the evening, trying to laugh away the stress of the day.

Today I get to wrangle with the complexities of human health care. Our insurance company seems to think that a) we are not married; b) office visits are no longer paid for; and c) sending us bills from several venues will break our will. OH JOY.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Book of the week #8

This week's book is...The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine

Part myth, part fictitious memoir, this stunning novel is humorous and beautiful. The writing style is like Kipling, Neil Gaiman, and Khaled Hosseini combined. Entertaining, escapist, and epic!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sketchbook Friday #8

This week's sketch is a concept drawing I did for my
Birth of the Universe painting, which is kind of a creation myth of my own design.

The painting took me 2 and a half years to complete, partially because I had never done anything like it before, and partially because it was huge (3 feet by 5 feet).

I've been working on concepts for a whole creation myth series, including the painting I've been posting progress on!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Total Meltdown

Got the alumni magazine from UW-Madison in the mail today (it was where my husband got his Masters and I used to work) and had a total homesick meltdown.

We are now heading into month #6 of living in Silicon Valley and the honeymoon is over. After spending a weekend back in Wisconsin for a wedding, hanging out with our friends and family, driving on roads with little to no traffic, and regaining our midwestern accents surprisingly quickly, California seems even more crowded, materialistic, and lonely than it did when we first moved here.

Granted, the loneliness isn't entirely our fault. My husband and I are fairly shy, bookish types that take awhile to get to know people. Even in Madison, it took us a year and a half before we had a regular social life, and we already knew people who were living there. And there are some great things about living in California....it's just not home.

The regrets outweigh the greater good, however, because my husband has a great opportunity at The Start Up. He's gaining so much experience, and this could be something that would set us up well for the rest of our lives. We are both incredibly stubborn and focused people, and I think those qualities will get us through this.

Painting in Progress Status Update #3

Because we've been so busy traveling, volunteering, and such, I haven't had a whole lot of time to work on this painting, so I apologize for the long hiatus in between status updates.

As you can see the mountains are finally completed, which you may recall that I had some trouble with before. There is a pretty interesting pattern going on underneath them that I may or may not keep. The vines on the right are finished as well, as are the thorns on the upper torso.

I just need a good 8 hour stretch of doing nothing but painting, and I think it may be finished.

Still needs to be completed: birds, bird skeletons, vines, legs, hands, and feet. I've never painted bird skeletons before, so will probably be doing a lot of sketching for those.

So maybe more than one 8 hour marathon session...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book of the week #7

This week's book is: The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene

One of the more approachable and interesting comprehensive physics books for the layman, The Elegant Universe covers a lot of ground. It is right up there with Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time or Universe in a Nutshell as far as readability is concerned, although Brian Greene does have a tendency to make String Theory sound a lot more plausible than it is.

If any of you read our recent blog post about Soco, the Rhodesian Ridgeback mix that we fell in love with at the Humane Society, we are happy to announce that she has been adopted!!!!