giving and receiving (the art of cooperation and conflict)

Organizing notes and/or…
What I learn (try to figure out and detail) along the way in my study about obesity and the microbiome/gut bacteria …

Newborns, breast milk and HMO’s…

Galactose (molecule) is one of the sugars (a building block for HMO) found in breast milk.

Oligosaccharide from the Greek, oligos, a few, and sácchar, sugar.
Human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) are sugar molecules found only in human breast milk. HMO’s, while indigestible in a newborn, encourage the growth of health promoting bifidobacteria. Think: fertilizer designed for fitness enhancing microbes.

Stuff I find particularly interesting…
Breast feeding promotes a diversity in the microbiome that may set up an individual for protection against future obesity (amongst other things).
Breast milk varies over the period of lactation and the growth of bacteria varies in different populations.

And then there are the short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) …

Butyrate (a most essential SCFA necessary for homeostasis)

SCFA are another product of microbial (friendly gut bacteria) fermentation (of indigestible dietary fibers). This source energy for the cells lining the colon kill pathogens and protects against dysbiosis.

Included in my drawing are the 3 most common examples of SCFA’s which are butyrate↑, propionate↓ and acetate↓↓.

(Yes…fun to draw out  and paint all the ball and stick models.)

Propionate (Greek protos, first and pion, fat) produces glucose in the liver.


Acetate (taken up by astrocytes/glial metabolism)

The right food early in life trains the immune system via the microbiome.
Changes in diet (those SCFA) drive changes in gut microbes. Fiber rich foods (plant based) allow host and microbes to have mutualistic relationship (cooperation).
Microbes harm and/or help us (the host).
Junk food allows for conflict (harm).

…and then there’s hormones…

Insulin (Ribbon diagram) allows the body to use glucose for energy or store for future use.

Ghrelin (ribbon diagram) in the stomach – stimulates appetite and promotes fat storage.

Does some food fuel pathogens and promote their growth?
Does some food inhibit or kill pathogens?
Do pathogens play a role in obesity?

#PortraitOfVeronica #GottaHaveArt #ThisStuffIsFrickinComplicated

ps. The title of the post came after a Yoga class the day after the holiday.


give me lines

The permanence of ink encourages one to “go for it,” to try to put the line right where it should be… continued attempts to place lines accurately build the eye-hand coordination necessary for sketching. Paul Laseau


New semester. New series of line drawings. You’ll recognize my usual subject-matter, the pine cone. This shape has everything I need to challenge my students – complexity and elegance. You’ll also remember the students work in marker. They use Sharpie’s and Micro Pen’s.

Homework is  a complex natural fruit or vegetable of their choice. Note, the charcoal study is a drawing 2 student. Only those that have gone one round with me begin with charcoal. They pick up right where they left off. Here are some top picks from today’s critique.

Notice how lines flow…


Pinecone by Papay


Broken Pinecone by Cassidy


Morning Stretch by Mariah


Pinecone 1 by Kayla


Pinecone by JT


Pinecone 2 by Kayla


Flittering Pine by Robert


Artichoke Flower by Alexa, Charcoal and Pastel (Drawing 2)


Kiwi by Robert


Jalapeno and Tomato by Angelica


Mushroom and Cabbage by Kayla

We had a strong downpour of rain this morning, it’s a sure sign – something’s been seeded.

IMG_4914 IMG_4915


….a little humor I found on Facebook last week.

Jose, below, was late to start his homework assignment, a self-portrait.  I don’t usually include incomplete work in posts, but I like what he brings in and I photograph it before he takes it home to finish. He’d mentioned he was going to shave before starting the portrait. I’d told him to hold off because texture could be a great added element. You see here, it is.


By the time the class arrives to this point, they have all the skills needed to fulfill the assignment.  BTW, they don’t start with a circle, they work organically. They move from edge to edge, shape to shape, or from the center out as Jose does here.

Though the class always enjoys this particular critique, they don’t necessarily find the self-portrait work pleasant. Many express how awful things are turning out, how many times they’re having to start over, long drawing nights with little sleep…do they have to share it? and what’s the worst that can happen if they don’t do it?

If you don’t do it, the world will end, I say to them.

I do know the challenges of the assignment. I trust they get much out of it if they are willing to complete the experience. So it continues to stay in the game plan despite the difficulty.


Michelle "Flowers"

Andres, Turtle Gossip

Sabrina's Smoke n Mirrors


Drawing 2 students below, use a variety of materials.

Chuck’s oh so real drawing, in silvery graphite.

Chuck "37"

The ever-amusing Crystal uses mixed media including acrylic, ink, marker, and ball point pen.

Crystal's Shenanigans

Kim uses marker for the line work, and soft pastel for everything else.


The self-portrait study is homework on this round.  The in-class assignment is an outdoor study. There were a number of excellent works, here are 4 highlights.


Sharon's Pine Tree


Crystal's Tree Dandruff

We’re done with markers.  Some students who thought they hated them are sad to see them go. Next week…charcoal.

Master printmaker Mauricio Lasanksy left the earth this week, at the age of 98. Because both my undergrad and graduate drawing and printmaking instructors, Kurt Kemp and Spencer Fiddler, worked directly under him,  I’ve always felt a strong kinship with his work.
I’ll leave you with one of his Intaglio self-portraits today.

RIP Mauricio Lasansky 1914-2012.

Mauricio Lasansky, Self-Portrait

detail, discipline and some kind of drive

Beware of the person who can’t be bothered by details.
William Feather

Assignment: Complex Structure – Complex Texture – Looking closely.
Students lay out composition before start of drawing. They pay attention to balancing positive and negative space.
Because they pick their own shells to draw, they also pick their challenge.

Critique takes place our first day back from Spring Break.  I ask who worked over the break to complete their assignments, and more than half the class raise their hands.  This is the commitment this particular group has shown with every assignment. It’s  a quality student’s must have to continue in a fine arts program.

In general nothing is more satisfying to me than working on paper.  And when the class put up their assignments for critique this afternoon, I get the sense that right now this may be true for them.

Here is a drawing from each student present for critique. I share a detail shot in some cases because I want you to see how rich with attention areas are.

Element by Sabrina


Jose's "Shell-Shocked"

Sharon's "Tossed Salad"

Michelle's "Veins"

Pathways by Andres




Simplexity by Alexis




Death Star by Kyle


Drawing and Composition 2 students work with different media, including scratch board, inks, and fluorescent paint.  They choose their subject-matter.


Fox by Kim



I know how hard they’ve worked.  I appreciate the commitment and energy they’ve brought forth. It’s exciting.

“the pine-cone doesn’t lie”

Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.
Pablo Picasso

New semester, first critique. Students put up one wall of very good renderings of a natural object.

I quote Jose, a Drawing 1 student, in this post title.  He says during critique, The pine-cone doesn’t lie.  It always tells the truth. I came back to it over and over and it never changed, it was always the same. I’m the one that changed. I was the one that was lying.

I consider calling it a day, so the class can go home and meditate on that one single thought, it’s pretty wonderful. Jose also notes how he had drawn and redrawn, and because he was not at all familiar with a pine-cone, he was forced to look and then look again, and again. He titles one of the studies CSI because, he explains, if his pine-cone was killed or went missing he would recognize its DNA, because of all the intense observation.


His last (and 4th study) drawing is below.  He only had to complete one, but obviously, he wanted to get it right. Here is a simple (though not so easy) and well observed contour study of his one unique pine-cone.

Pine-Cone Sunrise by Jose

The drawings that follow are all Drawing 1 student’s work.  Some of them have never drawn before. And though the assignment is a focus on inner and outer contour, a few do include texture. Clearly, this group is already paying attention. For the record, they work 18″ x 24 and use a Sharpie Marker…no erasing, forcing them to work slowly and really consider what they put down. It’s not effortless, but they sure make it look that way.  I know better though.

Androa by Alexis

Pine-Cone Slam by Bri

Ultima by Eddie

by Michelle

Recognition by Alberto

Cono del Pino by Kyle

Pillars of a Pine-Cone by Andres

Below are a couple of the Drawing and Composition II students. Crystal (working in oil pastel) and Kim (working with charcoal and conté) have studied with me before. They pick up right where they left off in Drawing 1.

Seed-Pod by Crystal

Pine Cone by Kim

As the students are working they talk about the spiral form that they begin to note in their pine-cone.  During critique when they are commenting on the accuracy of other student’s work they bring up this spiral pattern again. It helps them identify if what the work we are discussing is real (based on what the student sees) or imaginary (based on the imagination). We really are off to a great start.

…and here is an explanation of the Fibonacci Spiral seen in pine-cones…as well as many other things in nature.

over and out

It’s easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
Leonardo da Vinci

If I say to you that by the time this last assignment rolls around, the class as a whole, is completely committed to the process, I could be telling you the truth.

In this final round of assignments I have some students working on still life and others doing a Master reproduction.

Still life
The assignment includes a variety of subject and various light sources. Value (lights and darks, including shadows) is only part of the challenge in the last charcoal drawing of the semester. They also have to pay close attention to form and surface. They have to distinguish between the various materials in the still life: wood, rope, ceramic, plastic, bone, metal, and glass (both translucent and opaque).











Master Reproduction
Other students reproduce a master work.  This assignment is always a great challenge. I continue to remind them it’s not about the result, it’s about the process.  And really it is, but when you have a copy of the master work in front of you, it’s hard to keep that in mind. Students come away with a whole new appreciation for whatever skill and technique they copy and learn.  It’s exciting to see the work progress.

Erica's completed 20th c O'keefe

Joey's reproduction of a 19thc Deville

Julieta's reproduction of 19c Courbet

I know everyone has learned much this semester. I’m happy to hear some important things come up this last week…

Erica comments after completing her master work, I want to go back and do the charcoal studies all over again. Why? I ask. Because I get it now, It all makes sense!  Full circle.

Yeda’s frustration… I see so much, there’s no way I can get it all down within this short amount of time!  They leave my class with different eyes. They have more seeing ability than they came in with.  If you ask me, with this one skill alone, life may never be boring.

And one student gave himself fully to this assignment’s process…something he’d resisted all the way through the semester. Why? What’s going on? I ask, not really expecting an answer. The response comes simple and honest… because, I made the decision to do it. Yes, you did.


focusing on the negative. it’s a good thing.

But to me nothing – the negative, the empty – is exceedingly powerful.                                                                 Alan Watts

The Japanese refer to it as Ma which roughly translates as “gap”, “space”, “pause” or “the space between two structural parts. Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject(s). The use of negative space is a key element of artistic composition.

Emphasis is on negative space in this assignment. Though compositions may appear simple, the concept isn’t always easily grasped.  Several students have a more than difficult time with it.  I remind them they are learning to look and see in a new way. The brain is rewiring, patience is key. We’ll use the concept throughout the rest of the semester they’ll all have it down, if not now, eventually.

Below are examples of some of the drawings we critique today. You decide…do the positive and the negative space balance?