Last year my coworkers and I embarked on a year long process of making our own wine. MakeWineWithUs.com, just outside of NYC in New Jersey, offers a service where a group of people can learn how to make wine by going through the process from pressing a year’s harvest all the way through to the bottling.
It all starts with an August “kick off the season” party where my group of about 12 people met up for an Italian meal and wine tasting. During this even we sampled all the different red and white wines from a previous season so that we could choose the type of wine we wanted to make. This season we opted for a cabernet sauvignon/ cabernet franc blend and decided to make a full barrel, which equates to 21 cases with 12 bottles each.
The next event was the pressing, where we saw and tasted our grapes for the first time. By that time the grapes had begun to ferment, so there was a subtle taste of alcohol to them. We then cleaned our barrel, grabbed our bucket of grapes and loaded up the wine press.
Over the next few months there were a few events where we were invited to taste the wine over the course of its fermentation.
The season closes with the bottling of our barrel of wine. Like the pressing, this is a fairly involved experience where we clean the bottles, fill them with our wine, cork them, cap them and label them. One of the best parts is that we get to design up to four labels. I was able to design one of the labels and I decided to create a label with my Bickering Clowns painting. This is currently my most iconic painting and lends itself well to design.
The best part about doing the labels was how many of my coworkers wanted to get bottles with my label design. That always makes an artist happy.
The next season starts in August, so if you are in the area, I highly recommend that you try it out. You will not be disappointed as it is a fun informative time and you come out of it with some pretty amazing tasting wine.
The folks over at LTL Prints have put together a little video demo on how to set up a print for wall stickers. The demo explains how you can easily select the size of your print and select the image you want to print. The great thing about this process is that you can add as many or as few images to a sheet as you would like.
It costs $2-3 per image that I have created so if you choose 10 images it’s only $20-30, no matter what size image you choose. I have designed these image to scale to an infinite size so they will fit upon the largest sheet LTL has to offer (82″x52″).
I’ll be adding some more images soon, including full reefscapes for backgrounds so keep an eye out. And as always if you don’t see something that you want I’ll create it and upload it to LTL for free. Just Contact me.
View some of my decal artwork and see what combos you can create for your mural!
I realized that some of my posts on my art blog were getting to be a little too far removed from actual artwork. So I decided to start another blog that will focus more on reef aquariums and the cool and interesting animals that inhabit them.
My day time job is at a video product review website called Expo. I have enjoyed working with a video website and since video is still considered a cutting edge feature for blogging, I decided to focus this blog on filming various corals and fish, documenting some of my reef keeping practices and for running some features on beautiful aquariums by fellow reefkeepers. So sit back and enjoy a couple of beautiful videos from my aquarium: Torch Coral Video and Pulsing Sinularia Video.
While I have only been painting for a little while, I have been taking care of aquariums for about 20 years now. I’ve realized that I have quite a bit of knowledge and experience to share so I figured I would post some of my philosophies and techniques for taking care of an aquarium. Hopefully over time I can create a small resource that introduces people to the different aspects of reef tank care. I believe that if done properly, one can set up an aquarium for a affordable price (not cheap, affordable) and have it be the most beautiful piece of artwork in the home or office.
I believe that the best advice anyone can get about aquariums is by listening to the countless testimonies and experiences from other aquarist. The majority of the information in this blog is gleaned from my own experience and the experience of hobbyist aquarist all over the world. That’s not to say that this information doesn’t come from “experts” in the field, but in my experience when dozens of people have the same answer for the same problem, more than likely, that answer is correct.
You’ll notice with these posts that I look to nature for helpful answers. It is easy to get caught up in the technology and mechanics behind aquariums, but in many cases, especially on small systems, less equipment might be better. There are many people who have state of the art equipment on their tanks and they have beautiful systems and I beleive there are many ways to set up a tank. My philosophy and many others out there, is to try and limit the number of outside variables that influence the balance of aquariums.
So stay tuned for a few more posts on how to maintain an aquarium.
I have had my two clownfish, Dennis and Norman, for about 9 years now. They are my two favorite fish and they provide me with much entertainment. They have both been through alot, from when they met and had to learn how to deal with each other, to when Norman changed from a male to a female, to when they began their courtship, mating and eventual spawn. So sit back and enjoy a brief intro to clownfish.
I finished a new painting this weekend. It is of a Scolymia Coral. Scolymia Corals are large polyp stony corals (LPS) and come in a range of different colors. All corals have some sort of polyp structure with a mouth and stingers (with nematocysts) that catch food. LPS corals have very apparent polyps and this painting shows the structure of one of those polyps. Most Scolymia Corals are found in single polyp forms on the bottom of ocean floors. Aquarium keepers around the globe will spend hundreds of dollars on these types of corals since they are very attractive and colorful.
The painting I did show what a Scolymia Coral looks like during the day. They are nighttime feeders and when the sun goes down (or aquarium lights go off) they turn seemingly inside out and expose their tentacles to feed. I am in the middle of a few more LPS coral paintings so keep an eye on my Ocean Paintings Gallery for more.
If you keep up with my reef news page, which collects blog posts and stories from some of my blog buddies, you’ll recognize the sea spider shown here as a recent post from Morphologic Studios. Here’s a little bio of Morphologic Studios from the men behind the science/art, biologist Colin Foord and designer Jared McKay:
“With the aquarium as our primary medium, we explore the artistic possibilities of living coral reef organisms in an educational manner. Our laboratory/studio is a state certified aquaculture facility perpetuating marine life within the confines of downtown Miami.
Our installations create fluorescent new worlds with a juxtaposition of urban environments; the city and the reef. Through a variety of multimedia experiences, we provide public and private installations designed to stoke the imagination with a marriage of art and science.”
I’ve always thought that aquariums, if aquascaped properly would make beautiful pieces of art. These guys take it to the next level, creating unique techno-aquatic environments. One of my favorite pictures is of a mountain of zoanthus sp.
They are located in the Florida area so if you get a chance check out one of their installations.
There are not many saltwater fish that can be easily bred in an aquarium environment. Bangaii Cardinalfish are one of the few that can. Cardinalfish are mouth-breeders, meaning that the male holds the fertilized eggs in his mouth until the fish hatch. Once they are big enough he spits them out and they are off on their own. It is this behavior that makes it possible for hobbyists to breed them.
I used to have 2 Bangaii Cardinals and they were a bred pair. Unfortunately the female mysteriously died one night after she and the male mated. I think she might have been worn out from mating and got caught in a pump (where I found her). The male had the eggs in his mouth after she died, but he ended up eating them so I was not able to breed them. I was fortunate enough to get a video of them engaged in their pre-mating dance before she died (see below). I still have the male and hope that one day I can find him a mate, but it will be difficult since these types of fix are hard to sex.
My latest painting is called ghost dance. It is a small 8″x10″ portrait of my 2 Cardinalfish engaged in their pre-mating dance ritual. Bangaii Cardinals are black and white with beautiful striped and spotted patterns. I wanted to accentuate their colors by doing a simple painting of a black canvas with only the white stripes visible. This painting, albeit simple in design, has alot of meaning to me since it is of 2 fish who had mated but are no longer able to. Maybe her ghost comes to visit her mate at night and they engage in this ghost dance once again. For now all I have is the video and the painting to remember her by.
Last weekend I went to the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I went to the Orchid Show a few weeks ago and really enjoyed taking photographs of the flowers so I figured the Cherry Festival would provide the same opportunity. It was supposed to be a rainy day but mother nature decided to give us all a break, casting only a few brief showers during the morning. Aside from celebrating the full bloom of the cherry trees, the BBG had a ton of events, performances and activities. I saw a bonsai exhibit, an exhibit on Ikebana, and was entertained by all the kids who dressed up as their favorite Manga and Anime characters.
As for the rest of the BBG, I was amazed at how many trees and flowers were in bloom. It seems as though all the foliage was competing for eyes and noses. Check out the pics I took of the cherry trees and other plants that were in bloom.
I am a member of ManhattanReefs, a community of reefers from the tri-state area. I’ve been a member for quite a while and mainly use it to trade coral fragments (frags) with other people in the area. Corals can be propogated (much like plants) simply by cutting a piece of the coral. Corals and fish are expensive and delicate creatures so an inexpensive way to get corals you like is to buy/sell/trade with people you meet online. Many communities have coral groups with robust trading rings that not only trade corals but also exchange fish. This is how I like to get most of my fish. I do not like to directly take them from the ocean and since so few fish are aquacultured getting them from another hobbyist allows me to get non-aquaculture fish. Also, I know that the fish has lived in an aquarium for a while and that it is used to a eating prepared foods and dealing with a community of fish in a small space.
Most of my participation on ManhattanReefs is through the Marketplace where people post thier corals for sale. Then we contact each other, figure out a place to meet and then make the exchange. It totally sounds shady but I have never had a bad experience meeting a random person from Manhattan Reefs. Usually we meet at one of our houses make the trade and then proceed to geek out about our aquariums. It’s really alot of fun. Sometime we meet in random places throughout the city (Grand Central, Union Square, Penn Station) make a quick bag/cash exchange that looks like a drug deal and then move on. I am waiting for the day when we get stop and searched by the NYPD for such surreptitious dealings in public. One thing to keep in mind, these dealings are not always cheap. 1000s of dollars pass through the MR marketplace on a mothly basis. Certain rare corals or hot items will easily list for $100 for a tiny 1″ frag.
Twice a year ManhattanReefs hosts a frag swap where all the members of MR converge to trade, exchange information and simply have a good time. The events are also hosted by a multitude of vendors who see this as an opportunity to show off their best stuff, from coral frags to cutting edge equipment for keeping a reef tank. This is a ripe opportunity for them because it is a condensed market and we all come wanting to spend money. This last frag swap I limited myself to a $200 budget and ended up spending most of it on a rare orange hammer coral from Australia.
Besides purchasing things, the swap has a couple of guest speakers. This year Terry Seigel, editor of Advanced Aquarist, gave some insight into the history of the hobby while Chris Jury discussed ocean acidification and what we can learn from it. I saw Terry’s lecture and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately I missed Chris Jury’s lecture.
One special treat was the tour of Randy Donowitz’s 3 aquariums. Randy runs the Writing and Tutorial Center at Pratt University and livens up the study environment with 3 wonderful windows into the ocean. I’m sure students learn a little bit more than writing skills when they visit this space. One cannot get enter the room without instantly being drawn to the aquariums. Seeing these aquariums was a real treat, and I included many pictures from Randy’s tanks. Hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to do a more in depth expose on Randy’s aquariums.
I’d like to thank all the reef enthusiasts in the NYC area. It is your passion that helps these events flourish. Enjoy the pics and I’d love to hear some other experiences from others who attended the swap.