For my mother

For my mother’s birthday, and sometimes for Mother’s Day, I like to make something with her favorite flower, the sweet pea.

This year I also included her favorite thing to find on the beach: sand dollars.

Sand Dollars and Sweet Peas, Crayola crayons.

Drawn with crayons, I found it much easier to get that intense vibrancy of the sweet pea flowers than with other media. Those petals can almost burn your eyes, they are so bright! I also enjoyed making sand and water ripples with the play of light and shadow.

Did you know sand dollars are often purple while they’re living? Once they die, their skeletons get bleached by the sun and that’s why we see them as white most of the time. They also have millions of tiny wiggly feet! Watch this video on YouTube Live Sand Dollar Walking.


I love my mother. I believe I inherited my artistic spark from her. Even though she does not paint or needle felt, she is an avid knitter and seamstress. Growing up there were always fabric particles all over our house, bright bits of yarn, and the occasional stray pin. Beyond the example she modeled for me as a creative person pursuing her own artistic endeavors, she was and remains one of my greatest supporters. She always encouraged me in my art and still gives me kind words and genuine reactions to my work. Thank you, Mom, if you read this, for everything you have done to help me grow as an artist.


Here are some past pieces I have made for my mother.


Lumpsucker Fish

Inspired by a comment made by one of my friends, I decided to draw these adorable and bizarre fish — lumpsuckers. The first time I saw these little guys, I could not believe my eyes. They look exactly like vacantly staring pompoms. Just little fish lumps that stick to things with their sucker fins. I kept looking and looking for some clue that they were real and my husband (boyfriend at the time, on our second date) had to pull me away from the display tank so we could get out of the California Academy of Sciences before it closed.

I never did find convincing evidence that lumpsuckers are real and not just pompoms.

I drew this continuing my experiments with Crayola crayon fish drawings.


Lumpsuckers, Crayola crayons.

Happy Ayyám-i-Há!

Ayyám-i-Há is a Bahá’í holiday celebrating the intercalary days of the Bahá’í year (days that fall “outside” the calendar year of nineteen months of nineteen days). These four or five days are a special time for savoring God’s generosity by gift giving, helping the poor and sick, and really appreciating life.


I like to celebrate it by making art that brings smiles to people’s faces. And eating good food!

“Joy gives us wings!
In times of joy our strength is more vital,
our intellect keener, and our understanding
less clouded.
We seem better able to cope
with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness.”


This year I made a crayon drawing that I hope tickles you a little.

Looking at Snails, Crayola crayons

Puffer fish are always funny to me, especially when they focus in hard with their big eyes. Here this little guy is thinking about those snails … or maybe you!


Wishing everyone out there, whoever you may be, Bahá’í or not, religious or not, a fan of my work or not, a truly wonderful couple of days! Happy Ayyám-i-Há, world!

Puffers in the Flowers

I adore dwarf pufferfish, Carinotetraodon travancoricus. They are the only true fresh water puffers and the smallest, at only one and a half inches long at the most.

The look one of these little firecrackers can deliver is stunning like nothing else! They are intensely curious, totally aware of everything around them. Their eyes can move independently from each other, like a chameleon’s, and they hover in the water ever so precisely, like little sci-fi spacecraft.

Or like hummingbirds sipping nectar from flowers.

In this piece, I wanted to convey the dwarf pufferfish as fairy creatures. They are tiny bright sparks of awareness patrolling their environment – and they see you!


I’m using the crayons to make soft shadows and sharp light, keeping the colors very vivid.

Sadly, dwarf puffers are becoming rare in their wild habitat in Kerala, Southwestern India. Breeding these little guys in captivity is a great alternative to wild caught so we can enjoy them in our homes as well as keep their wild population safe.

Crayon Betta

One year for my birthday, which I share with my twin sister, our dear friend gave us a little black and red fish in a bowl. We named him Dragon. He was full of spunk and curiosity, always coming over to peer at us through the glass. I was quickly smitten and began to research all I could about this little life form given into our care.

Dragon was a betta splendens, one of the species of the gourami family of tropical fresh water fish. He deserved a bigger tank, a filter, and a heater, which we gave him. He thrived with us for nearly three years.

That was the start of my obsession with aquarium keeping. Even though my research has taken me from pea puffer fish to African cichlids to panther groupers and beyond, bettas hold a very special place in my heart.

I am very excited to have another one in my life — my twin is gifting me one very soon!

To celebrate these fish, I am trying to capture a little of their beauty and striking personalities in my artwork. I’ve been working with Crayola crayons, which is tremendously fun. It’s challenging to get the crayons to blend smoothly and ever so gratifying when I can manage to get a transparency effect. The colors are so bright and bold!

Red Betta, Crayola crayons.

This is a continuation of my crayon portraits of betta fish. Click Fish to see the other pieces.