Philadelphia Eagles prints

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I am so proud of my Philadelphia Eagles for winning the Super Bowl! I made this painting to commemorate the big parade and rally in Philadelphia on February 8, 2018, and am selling prints. I will donate a portion of sales to the Eagles Charitable Foundation.

PRINTS

8×10″ print – $29.50
($25.00 for the print + $1.50 MD sales tax + $3.00 shipping) 

11×14″ print – $50.70
($45.00 for the print + $2.70 MD sales tax + $3.00 shipping)

16×20″ print – $83.50
($75.00 for the print + $4.50 MD sales tax + $4.00 shipping)

To order: Send payment via Paypal (direct link to my page) or Venmo (to @elissapoma). Please include the mailing address where you’d like the print sent. If you do not use online payment apps, please email me for my address, to send a check or money order.

When to expect your print: Prints will be mailed starting Tuesday, February 14. Please expect to receive your print within a few days of your order. Prints are sent via Priority Mail; if you wish to pay an upcharge for Fedex, please email me.

About the print: Giclée prints come as shown above, minus the watermark (the large signature, which is just on the online version). Giclée is a special technology that makes individual reproductions of fine art using a high-quality inkjet printer on watercolor paper. The print is fade proof and lightfast.

OTHER ITEMS

By popular demand, the print can also be ordered on canvas, wood or acrylic. Also available are gift items like pillows, iPhone cases, greeting cards, notebooks, towels, blankets and totebags at my Pixels.com shop. Thank you for the suggestion–a great one, and I especially think the shower curtain is pretty awesome.

 

Questions:
Email me at elissapoma@gmail.com or call/text 202-309-5000 (mobile).

Thank you for supporting my artwork, for supporting the Eagles’ charity and for supporting our Philadelphia Eagles!

 

My First Art Show: A Comedy of Errors

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“Sunflowers in a Chinese Vase” – watercolor on paper, 8.5×8.5″

Having painted for dozens of years, I finally felt ready to enter my first art show. (What took you so long, right?) As a new member of the Montgomery Art Association in Maryland, I selected the local annual Kensington Labor Day Art Show my first. I had been to the show in the past and was impressed with the caliber of the artists in my community. And the show itself was impeccably organized, and held in a really cool historic building–an armory dating back to 1927 that also once housed a shooting range, a bowling alley and a fire department (though not at the same time).

I entered five pieces in the show, with the simple intention of getting over the hurdle of being in my first juried competition. That was it — my sole purpose.

Straighten Up

Along with the shoe gene, purse gene and the jewelry gene, I’m also missing the genetic sequence that allows normal human people to cut things in a straight line. That night I had stress dreams about accidentally slicing my paintings in half.

And I waited too long to frame my artwork. I rushed to a local shop to purchase ready-made frames. I hadn’t painted to size, so I had to crop some of the paintings, which wasn’t ideal.

Having finally gotten everything nicely framed, Windexed and labeled late the night before the pieces were due, I just happened to look over the show prospectus again. “Each work must be securely framed and wired for hanging.”

Wired? Shit.

“Hon, come on! We gotta go to Home Depot!” Grab the husband, grab my ugly purse, get the car keys and hightail it to the Frustrating Place to Find Stuff to buy a picture hanging kit. Then back home to whip out the power tools, drill holes in frames that I’ve never drilled holes in before and hope to jayzus these things still looked ok.

Speechless

So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up from a much-needed snooze on Friday afternoon to find an email with the subject line “You Won!” No, it wasn’t from a Nigerian prince offering me a half-mil for the simple task of depositing eight million bucks in my checking account. It was for my still life entry “Sunflowers in a Chinese Vase.”

Honorable mention! I was floored! Someone liked my work? Mine? Really? And not just someone: The judge was an artist I admire very much, the acclaimed painter Walter Bartman.

And then I got stunned all over again when the piece sold. My first art show sale.

He Did What to the Coffee Cake?

I also participated in the show’s “Paint the Town” plein air competition. Artists had from sunrise until 3 pm to complete a piece of art made in the little town of Kensington. Normally there are countless pretty spots to paint, but that Saturday morning, it was pouring rain. Options were slim.

Having seen the forecast, I spent the previous evening scouting indoor locations. The president of the Montgomery Art Association assured me that “plein air” meant painting a real life scene anywhere outside the studio. It didn’t literally mean you needed to paint in fresh air.

Not wanting to make art in my car (because I’m also missing the “paint neatly” gene), I chose Java Nation, a local coffee shop, as my scene. Simona, the kind proprietor, was so warmly welcoming, allowing me to stay as long as I’d like and offering me free coffee.

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I spent four hours in the shop working on my piece, which also earned an honorable mention in the show. I was surprised by that, too, but for different reasons. Being my own worst critic, of course, I didn’t think the piece was very good. I felt the pressure of trying to get the painting done in time, and I was distracted by the three wedding-obsessed women next to me, who spoke nonstop about one’s upcoming nuptials. (Favorite line, as they planned every single last detail of the weekend? “Let’s make that part spontaneous.” Nothing like planned spontaneity to keep things fresh.)

I put Simona in the scene, as thanks for being so nice. I had also included a customer, who sadly looked like he was urinating on a coffee cake. So I cropped him out before I gave Simona the painting.

 

Chaotic, Beautiful New York

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16939029_10154465539469211_4886614485371421858_nI had time to kill before my Amtrak ride from New York to Washington. Rather than wait in the hot, dungeon-like Penn Station, I prefer to hang out at The Pennsy, the hip food court next door on Pennsylvania Plaza. There’s a nice bar, the food is great, and the bathrooms are actually usable (unlike Penn Station’s, and Amtrak’s, for that matter).

My routine is either to make a beeline for the bar and drink red wine before my train ride, or to gorge on a meatball sub and tater tots at Pat LaFrieda’s stand. During my last trip, I did the latter, eating my food at the table in the very front of the room, facing the chaos of 7th Avenue and West 31st Street.

Scarfing down my food in record time, I decided to put my new Stillman & Birn sketchbook to use. I started sketching the scene on the corner, a frenetic scene of flashing billboards, speeding taxis, harried travelers and neon lights. I finished the pencil sketch before heading to my train (stopping, of course, to pick up rugelach and a challah at Zaro’s Bakery). I inked the piece on the train with my trusty ultra-fine Sharpie and painted with my travel watercolor kit.I didn’t mind the shakiness of the train — it adds to my allergy of straight lines!

I’m happy with the result, but more so happy with the paper. It was my first time watercoloring on the Stillman & Birn paper, and it was a dream! Rare to find paper that thin that doesn’t buckle. (This is the Beta series, hardback book).

But really, what made me happiest? It had to be those tater tots.

TripScout: This App Should Be Your City Guide

travel writing

A recent business trip to South America left me with two unexpectedly open days in Buenos Aires. I welcomed the free time but was overwhelmed by the abundance of places to see and things to do in only 48 hours. Should I visit art museums? Waste away an afternoon in a cafe or wander the streets? Where could I eat steak among locals instead of tourists?

To help me narrow down my choices, I turned to the new travel app TripScout.

Think of TripScout as a worldly, trustworthy friend who has spent a lot of time in the city you’re visiting. The night before your trip, your friend cuts apart your guidebook and hands you only the pages about sights worth seeing.

TripScout provides highly curated lists of activities, sights, restaurants and hotels in 50 major cities around the world (with more cities being added regularly). The app is ideal for travelers who are overwhelmed by an infinite number of options and for those who don’t have time to fully research a destination.

I stayed at a TripScout-recommended hotel and was pleased with its accurate description and location. While walking through Buenos Aires’ main plaza, I turned to the city guide to learn a bit of history about the pink-hued executive mansion called Casa Rosada.

Thinking it was a government building, I definitely would have walked right past the neoclassical Catedral Metropolitana had TripScout not informed me it was actually the church where Pope Francis was archbishop. I went in and saw some of the most gorgeous stained-glass windows I’ve ever seen.

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I never would have known this was a cathedral if not for TripScout. (c) Elissa Leibowitz Poma

At the app’s recommendation, I visited the famous Recoleta Cemetery, the first public cemetery in Buenos Aires and the final resting place of Eva Peron and other famous locals. I arrived at the cemetery 30 minutes before closing and was grateful to listen to the app’s two-minute audio overview. That let me maximize my time, photographing the oversized, ornate mausoleums instead of staring at my phone or flipping through a book to figure out what I was seeing.

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Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires. (c) Elissa Leibowitz Poma

Another great aspect of this app is its offline maps. I didn’t want to waste my limited international phone data searching for maps online, nor did I want to brand myself a tourist and make myself a target of petty crime by using a paper map in public.

Although TripScout is free to download, it includes only very basic information. The real value is in the individual city guides, which cost $0.99 to $2.99 to download.

Originally published on Independent Traveler

A Great Nighttime NYC Activity for Kids: Visiting the Empire State Building

travel writing

Without a doubt, the most eye-popping view of New York City is from the Empire State Building’s dizzying yet thrilling 86th and 102nd floor observatories. But ascending to the observatories can be a test of patience for school groups when the lines to buy tickets, go through security and ride one of the gilded elevators to the top are an hour or more long.

Except at night.

An evening outing is an ideal excursion on a New York City field trip if you want to avoid Empire State Building crowds. The majority of the building’s 3.5 million annual visitors go during the daytime, so wait times generally are shorter after the sun goes down.

A post-sunset visit also provides an appropriate evening activity—something to keep your students together and otherwise occupied in the City that Never Sleeps.

And the 360-degree views? Beyond breathtaking. Seeing the glittering buildings at night from that high vantage point provides a memorable perspective on the city that your students may not otherwise experience. Suddenly you understand how New York City can be seen from outer space.

Times Square is easy to spot—it’s the most illuminated and flashy place you’ll see. The Chrysler Building to the northeast stands alone like an Art Deco beacon. On a clear evening, you can see planes on their approach to the area airports and boats on the rivers.

There are a number of advantages to going to the observation level of the Empire State Building at night:

  • Just about all other student-friendly attractions are closed in the evening. This will give you something to do after dinner.
  • Depending on when you go, the wait time to get to the 86th floor observatory could be as short as 20 minutes. Daytime visitors should expect to wait more than an hour.
  • The crowds taking in the view along the outdoor observatories could be thinner, making it easier to nab a good spot to snap photos.
  • On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, a saxophonist often plays live music on the 86th floor, adding some additional ambiance.

Not that you’d necessarily want to take students there very late, but the Empire State Building is open until 2 a.m. The 86th floor observatory is included in the cost of general admission, and a visit to the 102nd floor observatory—which is small and doesn’t necessary provide much more of a better view—costs extra.

If a nighttime visit isn’t possible, try to go between 8 and 11 a.m. to beat the crowds.

Some additional tips:

  • If you can delay dinner, visit the Empire State Building at sunset. Your students would be able to see both the street layout and the glittering nighttime lights.
  • Dress warmly for a nighttime outing if you visit during a season other than summer. Even in the spring or fall, it can be chilly and windy 86 floors up.
  • If you’re visiting during a holiday, expect long lines, regardless of what time of day you go.
  • Schedule a restroom stop on the second floor, before you get in line for the elevators to the observatories.
  • There’s no food and drink for purchase at the top; bring water if you think you’ll get thirsty.
  • If you allow it, suggest that students chew gum during the elevator ride, to keep their ears from popping.
  • Don’t forget to look up! So many visitors spend their time looking out across the city that they forget about one of the most interesting views—upwards, at the very tip of the skyscraper.
 Originally published on the blog of Julian Tours, a specialist in tours for school groups.

The World is Their Home, Literally

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Elia Locardi met his wife Naomi when they were teens in the Florida Keys. Today the Locardis have no home. They’re perpetual nomads, traipsing around the globe taking photos and videos, writing about their experiences and leading tours.

This March will mark the fifth consecutive year the 30-something couple has been on the road. They’re the subject of a new travel documentary by SmugMug Films, the video wing of the photo storage and sharing site SmugMug. The videos tell the behind-the-lens stories of some of its most interesting photographer users, and the Locardis certainly fit that bill.

See the documentary and read my Q&A with the Locardis on Independent Traveler.

The Mythology of the Amazon

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The extreme silence, the brightness of the midday sun, humidity, and lack of breeze along this great river can hypnotize you, and beguile you, with its magical powers. In this feature for AAA’s EnCompass magazine, I take you into the mythical world of the Peruvian Amazon.

Pink river dolphins undulated through the still waters of the Amazon River like half-submerged rose petals in a glass of chocolate milk—and they looked just as out of place.

I was sitting in the open-air lounge on a riverboat in the Peruvian Amazon, watching the dolphins cut through the flat surface with barely a splash. My fellow travelers were on an excursion in the nearby Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, and I decided to stay back to enjoy the quiet of an afternoon alone.

It was mid-day and quite warm. The riverboat crew had retreated to their cabins to rest; the howler monkeys and birds that filled the air with chatter all morning were equally quiet. The extreme silence, brightness of the midday sun, humidity, and lack of breeze had a hypnotic effect on me. I felt like I was in a hazy dream. So when a trio of pink river dolphins appeared right next to the anchored riverboat, I thought I was hallucinating, as if I were suffering from a 105-degree fever, or seeing flower petals floating in my beverage.

That’s precisely the effect that botos, as they’re known locally, have on the indigenous people who live along the river. A crew member named Jorge told me later about the stories he heard as a child growing up in a village upriver from the city of Iquitos. Pink river dolphins hypnotize you, beguiling you with their magical powers, he said. And as a woman of child-bearing age, I needed to be especially careful.

During the daytime, pink dolphins go about their usual dolphin business. But once the sun dips, Jorge explained, they morph into handsome men and go ashore strictly for the purpose of seducing the women of local villages and impregnating them. Before the sun comes up, these shape-shifting encantados turn back into dolphins. That’s just one of a number of special powers the dolphins possess.

Embracing tradition

Whether you believe in the magic, you have to respect the role that such mythology plays in the lives of the local people, called ribereños. Cautionary tales involving animals and nature have been around for millennia and are as woven into the lives of the Amazon people as the vines wrapped around the rainforest’s skyscraper-like trees. For the purpose of immersing completely into this far-away place, I decided to embrace the mythology of the rainforest.

I was thankful I didn’t go ashore with the other passengers that day: One of the activities was a swim in the river. And while that sounded so refreshing and thrilling, I could have fallen victim to another of the sneaky dolphins’ tricks: If one found me swimming alone, he would whisk me away to a secret underwater city, and I’d have to live the rest of my life there.

My guess is that this myth started as a way to get people, particularly children, to use the buddy system when bathing in the river. Dolphins bite. So do the piranhas that congregate in pools shaded by overhanging branches along the river banks.

I remembered this the morning we rose early to go piranha fishing. With egg sandwiches, muffins, and coffee packed in wicker picnic baskets, we motored in skiffs to an offshoot of the Ucayali River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River.

We arrived in a tranquil spot where lime-green plants covered the water’s surface, and the crew handed out simple fishing poles made from a bamboo-like reeds. Bait consisted of bloody chunks of rotting beef—not a very appetizing smell first thing in the morning! I made sure I didn’t lean too far out of the skiff as I slapped the water surface with the reed to attract the steely eyed little monsters. Almost as soon as the pole went into the water, I felt greedy, omnivorous nibbles on the end of my line.

The fish proved easy to catch: I hooked seven red-bellied piranhas. The guides collected them in a plastic bin and took them back to the riverboat, where I asked the chef if I could help him prepare them for dinner. In the small galley, with towels wrapped around our hands to protect us from their razor-sharp scales, we cleaned the fish, dredged them in flour and spices, and fried them.

Like the river dolphins, piranhas are at the center of their own set of myths. Some Amazonians consider it taboo to dine on predatory fish like piranha; others say it’s an aphrodisiac. Either way, it’s not very tasty, even drenched in freshly squeezed lime juice.

Piranhas are also the most hyped creature in the Amazon. They rarely, if ever, go into ferocious feeding frenzies, and rarely attack humans. Still, it’s hard to convince yourself they’re angels when you take an up-close look at their serrated teeth, which indigenous people use to make tools and weapons. I showed the piranha my utmost respect.

The foundation of life

Respecting nature is the foundation of life for the people of the Amazon. For ribereños, nature provides shelter, drinking water, food, religion, and medicine. One myth says that protective spirits reside in the lapuna tree, and even illegal loggers know that if you cut down the wrong lapuna, really bad things will happen to you.

The No. 1 person in the Amazon to respect the power of nature, myths and all, is the local shaman. My Amazon riverboat expedition afforded me an opportunity to meet a local shaman for a ceremony and educational lesson in medicinal plants of the Amazon.

A shaman is a spiritual medicine man who has spent his lifetime committed to understanding the healing power of the rainforest, both spiritually and medicinally. The rainforest is his university, and his professors are other shamans who have orally passed their knowledge down to him.

Sadly, Amazonian shamanism is a dying practice—not many young people want to commit themselves to the intensive self-study, which new generations may see as antiquated. Yet so many inhabitants of the rainforest rely on the shaman, often visiting him for healing before venturing by boat—sometimes for days on end—to see a doctor schooled in Western medicine.

Once again, I decided to believe what I didn’t completely understand. One afternoon, we gathered on the hand-hewn benches in a small village and sat rapt for an hour before the shaman known as Maestro Juan. While I’d like to say he was wearing some sort of inspiring, of-the-rainforest getup involving scarlet macaw feathers and the vine of ancient plants, Maestro Juan was dressed like a regular guy in a polo shirt and ripped jeans.

He lit a hand-rolled cigarette of sacred mapacho tobacco and blew the smoke from his mouth onto the crowns of our heads. Following the instructions provided through an interpreter, I used my hands to “wash” my body with the smoke. I listened as the shaman described the purpose of a half-dozen murky liquids in old plastic soda bottles. They all healed different ailments.

I took a whiff of ayahuasca, the legendary hallucinogenic potion that induces spiritual journeys. This particular expedition doesn’t include an ayahuasca ceremony, but we were grateful for the opportunity to learn about the plant-based potion that’s said to relieve people of emotional burdens.

And, really, you don’t need to go through a painful, drug-induced journey to be changed by the rainforest. You still can experience its magic on a comfortable riverboat with a fully stocked bar and air conditioned cabins. As long as you immerse in the experience—and its myths, whether believable or not—you will go home changed, as I did.

Just do me a favor and don’t look a pink river dolphin in the eye while you’re there—unless, of course, you want to have the most dreadful nightmares for the rest of your life.

Elissa Leibowitz Poma is a travel writer based in Washington, D.C.

Reprinted from the January/February 2017 edition of AAA EnCompass.

Lead image (c) JJ Huckin/WWF-US