Graphics For A Better World


09meanwhile-image7-superJumbo.jpgClick the image above or to the left to go to the graphic narrative published in the New York Times by Wendy McNaughton, whose website is a treasure chest of visual wit and explanatory power.

I have heard of Pantone before, and probably even their Color of the Year tradition. But until seeing this I never cared enough to understand the meaning behind it.

Now I care. I will not explain why, instead suggesting you take three minutes to see how you respond.

Or maybe I will just hint that for me it has something to do with this panel, not just the words but how they appear on the page, and the communication of how corporate communications can sometimes be tone deaf if not color blind:


Nature, Color, Science

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If you happen to be in London, starting July 15 this exhibition at the Natural History Museum looks worth a worth a visit:

Investigate how different animals see the world, and explore your own relationship with colour, through interactive experiences and immersive films.More than 350 specimens feature, from beautiful birds to fossils of the first organisms with eyes. And British artist Liz West has produced a stunning light installation, inspired by Newton’s colour spectrum and blue morpho butterflies in the Museum’s collection.

The BBC gives it a strong review here:


A new exhibition exploring the relationship between colour and vision in the natural world is opening at the Natural History Museum.

Intense and vibrant natural colours will be displayed in specimens and photographs of insects, animals and plants. At the heart of the exhibition – Colour and Vision, which opens on 15 July – is the question of how we perceive colour. Continue reading



Welcome! Walk barefoot in the sand…you know you want to!

Stroll through the meandering pathways and wander past curated views of trees rustling in the wind.

Fundamentally, Xandari Pearl is an invitation to relax and rest, pearl-like, in the arms of curved walls, to the lullaby of the sea.

Come see for yourself…


An Unusual Library With A Conservation Mission


A short note here to link out to a story of interest because of its intersection of conservation, commerce and education. Thanks to this new (to us) source of interesting (to us) news:

The Harvard Library That Protects The World’s Rarest Colors

The most unusual colors from Harvard’s storied pigment library include beetle extracts, poisonous metals, and human mummies.

Today, every color imaginable is at your fingertips. You can peruse paint swatches at hardware stores, flip through Pantone books, and fuss with the color finder that comes with most computer programs, until achieving the hue of your heart’s desire. But rewind to a few centuries ago and finding that one specific color might have meant trekking to a single mineral deposit in remote Afghanistan—as was the case with lapis lazuli, a rock prized for its brilliant blue hue, which made it more valuable than gold in medieval times. Continue reading

Visualize Pi (and Happy Birthday Albert!)

Both a transcendental and an irrational number, Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. And both in definition and actuality it epitomizes coolness, inspiring musical homages, from rap to fugue. Albert Einstein, master of the time-space continuum, was born on this day. Makes sense, right?

But what about visual inspiration?

Artist Ellie Balk collaborates with students from The Green School in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn to combine mathematics and art to VISUALIZE Pi as murals in their community. 

Starting in 2011 the artist/student/educator teams graphed Pi in colorful, creative and innovative ways: a histogram of emotions; a weather mural, a reflective line graph that resembles a sound wave and the relationship between the golden ratio and Pi.

For example:

In 2012, students constructed an image of the golden spiral based on the Fibonacci Sequence and began to explore the relationship between the golden ratio and Pi. The number Pi was represented in a color-coded graph within the golden spiral. In this, the numbers are seen as color blocks that vary in size proportionately within the shrinking space of the spiral, allowing us to visualize the shape of Pi and its negative space to look for “patterns”.  The students soon realized that the irrational number of Pi created no patterns at all, resulting in a space that resembles “noise”. 

In response to that, in 2013 students worked to visualize the number Pi as a reflective line graph that resembles a sound wave. The colors of the mural change at each prime number in Pi so that the viewer can visualize a pattern of prime numbers within Pi. Located on a busy corner in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the sounds of the bustling traffic and rhythmic commuter passing creates the perfect backdrop for our visualization.   Continue reading

Xandari’s Latest Dozen+ Pysanky

As my on-site time with Xandari wound down for the year early this week, I worked to make as many pysanky for the gift shop as possible, since an ornithological expedition in Jamaica will be taking up the first couple months of the new year. In the photo on the right, you can see that I finally got to one of the patterns I’d brainstormed when first starting this project, as well as a repetition of the Alajuelan soccer team insignia egg. Since the little tree for hanging the eggs in the gift shop is pretty full at sixteen eggs already, most of these eggs will stay in the office until an egg is sold or eggs are rotated.

Two adaptations of earlier patterns I developed and another soccer-themed egg, this time for Heredia’s team.

I’m hoping all these eggs, some of which directly reference Xandari and others Continue reading

Xandari’s Holiday Tree is Up and Running


A homemade “loomi” lamp


Like any other tree acquired this time of year, Xandari’s holiday tree had to be put on the roof of a car — in this case, the resort’s golfcart — to transport it up to the lobby area from its site of construction. We snaked an LED “hose” through most of the paper lanterns in the bamboo structure, and now we have balsa-wood bird ornaments made by Costa Rican artists (these birds normally hang in our gift shop). Finally, I made a modular paper lamp recycled from old manila folders (template and how-to pending, but the lamp is basically a DIY Loomi light).

Tomorrow, when I finish the second loomi tree “star,” I’ll put up photos of the smaller tree that Edwin and I made for the Xandari Spa.

Continue reading

First Sale of Xandari Pysanky

Last week, we had the good fortune of having some guests at Xandari who were interested in buying a few of the eggs on display in the gift shop. One guest purchased a Xandari coffee-stained egg like the ones featured in my previous post on the subject, as well as an egg that bore the insignia of San José’s soccer team, Saprissa, which is generally unpopular among fans of the Alajuelan team, La Liga Deportiva Alajuelense (La Liga for short).

As Xandari is located in the hills above Alajuela, most of the employees here are Liga fans, and it’s fun to joke with them about which team’s eggs will sell more in the future (so far the Liga egg is still hanging on the display tree, but that’s most likely because it doesn’t feature a fire-breathing dragon like Saprissa). The third egg that we sold this weekend was one featuring a new design of the Xandari ‘X’ with some extra lines to turn it into a flying bird. Continue reading

Celebrate Urban Rock Birds

With over a week of working with other grades at the elementary school in Tacacorí, I’ve seen lots of really great paintings of birds on locally-found stones, and even one or two chunks of cement. After finding around seventy-odd rocks around Xandari that were mostly usable for this art project and scrubbing them all of mud and moss, I Continue reading

Tacacorí Rocks Birds

A sixth-grade creation

Starting last week, I began the next art project at the elementary school in Tacacorí. After learning that over time the papier-mâché creations succumbed to the Central Valley’s relative humidity and became difficult to preserve, I decided to find a more solid medium. I liked the idea of recycled plastic bottles from the hotel but I worried about the extensive use of scissors they’d require and all the sharp plastic edges that would be created in the process. Instead, I went with the option that, although not exactly recycled, at least doesn’t require industrially-created materials and is fairly abundant: rocks. And the best part is that stone is impervious to humidity (on the scale of time that we’re thinking about).

Fifth-grade creations — some kids pasted paper versions of their bird on the rock.

In the slideshow below, you can see some of the fifth- and sixth-graders’ works of art Continue reading

Xandari Pysanky

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Sample eggs in the Xandari gift shop

Over the last four days, I made six sample eggs with parts of the designs I had drafted and shared in my last post on the subject. With a slightly limited palette of dye colors (black and purple so far) and an attempt at a home-made coffee-based dye (i.e. coffee), I followed three very simple color schemes and tried a couple different design themes.

I also tried my hand at some vinegar etching, which I had read about recently and seemed like a cool way to  Continue reading

Pysanky (Part Three)

Egg blueprints

Egg blueprints for a previous project

Access Part One and Part Two if you haven’t checked them out yet!

As we reach the end of September, it may seem strange to be posting about a traditional art form that generally revolves around the festivities of Easter. Even though none of my egg creations have had religious foundations behind them, I’ve still always worked on them in the springtime around holy week because that’s the accepted time to be fashioning and gifting “Easter eggs.” Being at Xandari for the past several months, however, where the gift shop could always use another little shelf of locally-crafted artwork souvenirs, I’ve been thinking about making a round of trial eggs to put up for sale and see how it goes. After all, we could dedicate any profits to more artwork supplies for the Tacacorí school or another good local cause.  Continue reading

Pysanky (Part Two)

To continue learning about the process of creating pysankyContinue reading

Pysanky (Part One)

Several years ago, my aunt gave my mom and me a starter kit to make Ukrainian Easter eggs, knowing that the two of us enjoyed art and working on detail-oriented things. Included in the package was this book, which contains a great history of the tradition as it evolved in communities around the US through the work of Ukrainian immigrants. The book also, of course, explains how to make the eggs and includes many fantastic photos of eggs that the authors or their friends have created over the years, in countless patterns and color schemes. These exemplary eggs have served as perfect inspirational diving-boards for my mom and me as we create our own pysanky every year (when we have the time).

Croatian Easter eggs made for neighbors, friends, and family

The process always starts with creating the dyes. In Croatia, on the island of Koločep where my family lived for a year, we learned that villagers use a boiling water bath of red onion skins, walnuts, roots, and herbs. This creates a reddish dye that stains the egg a reddish color. The problem is that the boiling water also removes the wax that covered the egg before it was placed in the dye, so you only get two shades on the egg, but that’s Continue reading

Southern Birdwing Butterfly

Photo credits : Josekallukaran

Photo credits: Jose Kallukaran

The Southern Birdwing butterfly  is the largest butterfly in India, and is endemic to the Western Ghats. Males are more frequently seen than females, mainly feeding on flowers of the Pagoda plant, west Indian jasmine, mimosa, and other ornamental bushes. Unlike many butterfly species that prefer full sun, the southern birdwing tends to be more active during the evening. Continue reading

Tamil Lacewing Butterfly

Photo credits : Aparna P

Photo credits: Aparna P

The Tamil Lacewing Butterfly (Scientific name: Cethosia nietneri) is endemic to the  Western Ghats of India and Sri Lanka, where it commonly cuts through the breezes from the months of June to September. Frequent at the onset of monsoon season, the beautiful insect usually disappears by September or October. Catch it while you can! Continue reading