Tuesday, September 11, 2018


This weekend is the opening of Sweet! a food-themed juried art exhibition at the Elliott Museum in Stuart, Florida. See original artwork in all media by Florida artists and enjoy a cake decorating demonstration with samples to eat. 

Moo! - Cow sculpture made from recycled dairy containers by Kim W. Nolan
Moo! - Cow sculpture made from recycled dairy containers by Kim W. Nolan
Come see me and my sculpture at the opening reception this Saturday September 15th from 2-5 pm. Admission is $5 per person. There will be a cash bar and an awards presentation. The exhibition runs from September 15th-November 4th 2018. All artwork is available for purchase.

 For hours and directions visit elliottmuseum.org. I hope to see you Saturday!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dry Tortugas National Park

Do you know about the Dry Tortugas? That's ok. I didn't either until my husband surprised me with a trip for my birthday-- it was a big one with a zero on the end! It was such a unique and wonderful experience and I'm so excited to tell you about this amazing place.

So what is Dry Tortugas?
Dry Tortugas comprises 7 islands located in the Gulf of Mexico 71.8 miles from Key West. It is the most remote of all the national parks of the contiguous 48 states. It was discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513. He named it "Las Tortugas" because of the large amount of sea turtles (tortugas means turtles in Spanish) that populated the waters around the island. The name was later changed to Dry Tortugas to indicate to mariners that the island lacked fresh water.

In 1846 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of Fort Jefferson on Bush Key. All 16 million bricks and every single supply for the island needed to be brought there by boat. The Fort was used as a prison camp during the Civil War. The heat, loneliness, mosquitos and lack of food and fresh water created a miserable existence for the prisoners and soldiers.

Today, there are only 10 staff members living there and every single thing still needs to be brought over by boat including food and drinking water. Visitors can camp on Bush Key with the proper permit and must bring all of their own supplies, food and water.

What is there to do at the Dry Tortugas?
One thing you can do is take a guided or self guided tour of Fort Jefferson. I believe the guided tour lasts about 45 minutes. The only place that is off limits is the moat. You are free to roam everywhere else.

You are allowed to climb up to the top of the Fort where you can check out the remaining canons and get a bird's eye view of the breathtaking scenery.

Dry Tortugas is a also a bird watcher's paradise. In 1832, America's most prominent bird artist, James Audubon, spent several days at the Dry Tortugas observing and painting some of the over 200 avian species that migrate there from Cuba and Central America to the United States.

Some of the species of birds you may see when visiting are terns, boobies, noodies, herons, and frigates. I am not a birder so I can't tell you exactly what birds I saw but there were thousands of birds flying all around the island. I've never seen so many birds all in one place before. It was truly incredible.

My favorite part of the trip was the snorkeling. All snorkeling gear was provided for us but you can also bring your own if you'd like. Dry Tortugas is home to one of the most vibrant coral reefs in the U.S. You are allowed to snorkel around the entire island (except for the moat) and you may even see some stingrays or sharks. Please be respectful and do not touch or stand on the coral. We saw some people doing this even after an announcement on the boat and a video about protecting the coral reef. You can kill the coral if you touch it and disrupt our entire ecosystem.

There was also one group of people on the trip who brought a radio and were blasting music. They obviously missed the entire purpose of spending the day on a remote island with no connection to the rest of the world. Luckily, they were easy to avoid by moving to a different location. Since only one boat full of people are allowed to visit each day, it wasn't crowded at all and wasn't hard to find our own little private stretch of beach. Overall it was a unique and peaceful experience from start to finish. There where thousands of birds flying above us and there was colorful coral everywhere we looked. There was also no cell phone service which provided us with uninterrupted serenity on our beautiful little oasis.

photo of Dry Tortugas National park and seaplane

How do I get to Dry Tortugas?
Unless you own a sea plane, the Yankee Freedom is the only ferry that goes to Dry Tortugas National park so booking well in advance is recommended. Tickets include the pass to get into the National Park. The boat ride was really fun and relaxing and being that we left bright and early in the morning we weren't traveling with a rowdy group of partiers. It was a very family friendly excursion. You can sit inside or outside and the ferry has an upper and lower deck. The trip was about 2 1/2 hours each way with breakfast, lunch, snacks and fresh water included. There was a cash bar available in the afternoon on the trip back to the Keys. The boat had several bathrooms (since Dry Tortugas does not!) as well as a shower if you wanted to rinse off after a swim. This is not a paid endorsement so I don't get any money for saying that the staff was fantastic as well. Visit yankeefreedom.com or call (800) 634-0939 for tickets.

Friday, May 18, 2018

da Vinci Workshop at the Discovery Museum

As I wrote in my previous post about my design work for the Water Gallery, The Discovery Museums in Acton, Massachusetts were recently renovated to combine both the original Science Discovery Museum and Children's Discovery Museum into one 16,000 sq ft. redesigned space now called the Discovery Museum. I was hired by Paul Orselli Workshop to create the environmental graphics and artwork for some of the new exhibit spaces, one of which was da Vinci Workshop. The da Vinci Workshop is a hands-on STEAM makerspace where kids can design and engineer their own creations using tools and a variety of recycled materials. Outside the workshop area are several simple machine and engineering interactives. 

The project called for an entry/title sign that incorporated a full body portrait of da Vinci in the style of da Vinci based on his only known self portrait. This was quite the tall order and, I'll admit, a bit intimidating. It required some research on my part since there are no full body paintings of da Vinci and the drawing is only of his head.
*Interesting side note: No one can say with absolute certainty that the portrait is actually of da Vinci. The drawing was done when he was 58-60 years old (he died at age 67) and his portrait is of a much older man. Some people have speculated that he purposely made himself look older for reasons unknown or that it's a portrait of his father. 

In order to render his body, I researched the clothing of his time period, confirmed that he was most likely left-handed and based on his skeletal remains, approximately 5'9" tall. I re-drew his self portrait in my own hand in order to make the full body portrait look like one cohesive drawing. The next challenge was to make it look like the drawing was created during the Italian Renaissance. Incidentally, I studied renaissance painting techniques in Italy 20 years ago and this was the perfect opportunity to put some of that knowledge to use. I wasn't able to use the exact tools and materials that da Vinci would have used so I improvised with a tuscan red Prismacolor pencil on parchment and then used several different computer programs to make the drawing look appropriately aged and colored. 

We also wanted the title sign to look like it was hand painted. I decided the best way to do that would be to actually paint the lettering by hand! Many people have speculated about why da Vinci wrote from right to left and I can tell you why without even having to ask da Vinci. It's because, like myself, he was left-handed. Even though I tried to channel my inner da Vinci, I didn't paint the lettering from right to left strictly for authenticity purposes. It was actually because my hand would've smeared black paint across the entire sign. Any lefty can relate to this dilemma. 

I laid the lettering over the background which I painted on a canvas texture using Photoshop and then added several filters in On1 Photo RAW to give it an aged and weathered look. If the sign ever gets damaged, a new one can be printed to replace it. This turned out to be a wise decision since this is already the 2nd printing of the sign!

These are shelves where the children can leave their inventions to dry. I was pretty much given free rein to design something that incorporated da Vinci's sketches for the back of the shelves.

I created a 12' wide image of what I imagined da Vinci's workbench might have looked like. I looked through more than a thousand of his sketches which have been archived by the British Library, National Library of Spain and Cornell Library. This part of the project was fascinating and also made me feel really lazy. He filled so many books with drawings, inventions and observations. I really need to start sketching more!

This wall is all about simple machines. Around the corner is a gear wall so I tied the two together with these wall mounted circles using a similar color scheme. Again, I searched through the archives of da Vinci's sketches until I found some that were great examples of the six simple machines. I then added a tint of color to each of them to make them more appealing to kids and to further distinguish them from my own illustrations of basic simple machines on the smaller circles. Each simple machine illustration corresponds with one of the drawings of da Vinci's inventions.

The exhibit included a working replica of da Vinci's ornithopter. I was tasked with creating a wall mural that integrated drawings of da Vinci's flying machines. The size of this mural is 12' wide by 6' high.
Pictured above is the flying machines mural with the replica ornithopter installed. Kids can design their own flying machines and use the nearby vertical wind table to test them out.

This project was both technically and creatively challenging and I hope da Vinci would've been pleased. I was personally thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to the creation of the exciting new Discovery Museum.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Discovery Museum Water Gallery

The Discovery Museums in Acton, Massachusetts were recently renovated to combine both of the original museums into one beautiful redesigned space now called the Discovery Museum. 
They have created new and reimagined immersive STEAM 
exhibit spaces for all ages. 
I had the opportunity to design some environmental graphics
 for a couple of the new galleries.
 These are pictures from the Water gallery where I designed
some fun little wall graphics.

The Water gallery is an immersive experience where children can explore the properties of water using all of their senses.

Since the water gallery is adjacent to the sound gallery, we played with onomatopoeia to create some watery sounding words.

I paired each word with a corresponding water picture such as
 Slosh, Splash and Ripple shown above.

I created five signs altogether: Splash, Drip, Ripple, Bubble and Slosh to go along with the exhibit components.

Also, be sure not to miss da Vinci Workshop when you're visiting the Discovery Museum. I contributed art and environmental graphics to this really cool space where you can get creative and tinker.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

10 Year Blogiversary!

Happy 10 Year Blogiversary to Museum Trekker! What an amazing trek it has been. It's hard to believe all of the incredible places my readers and I have journeyed to in such a short amount of time.
I don't think it's possible to count up the exact number of places I've traveled to but I would estimate that I've gone to more than one hundred museums, World Heritage sites and historical landmarks in roughly 32 U.S. states and territories and nearly two dozen countries. It's been such an inspiring, fun and exciting experience. Some times have been scary and some times have been sad but it has mostly been a joy and a privilege and it has definitely never been boring. Thank you to all my readers who have traveled along with me all of these years!

Here's some visual highlights (in no particular order) of just some of the amazing places I've visited:

Big Buddha, Phuket, Thailand

Surfers Paradise, Australia

Annapurna, Nepal
The Alamo, San Antonio, TX
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Swazi Cultural Village, Swaziland

Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House, Sydney, Australia

Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Montreal Botanical Gardens, Canada
My butterfly sculpture at the Bronx Zoo Butterfly Garden
Kathmandu, Nepal

COSI, Columbus, OH

Dinosaur Ridge, Morrison, CO
Chalong Temple, Phuket, Thailand

My Madagascar sign at the Bronx Zoo
Buffalo Bill Museum, Golden, CO

Nadi, Fiji

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Ganges River, Varanasi, India

Giants Causeway, Antrim, Ireland

Graceland, Memphis, TN

Greenbay Packers Hall of Fame, Greenbay, Wisconsin

Guinness Museum, Dublin, Ireland

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hai Lo Prison, Vietnam

Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

Hook Lighthouse, Wexford, Ireland

Tongariro River rafting, New Zealand

Iao Valley State Park, Maui, HI

The Henry Ford Museum, Michigan
John F. Kennedy Arboretum, Wexford, Ireland

Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, PA

Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, LA

Monkey Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

Pearl Harbor, Oahu, HI

Pirate Ship, St. Augustine, FL

Pyramid of Teotihuacan, Mexico

Seven Sacred Pools, Hana, Hawaii

Lower East Side Tenement Museum, NYC

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Hout Bay, Capetown, South Africa
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Poon Hill Summit (10,531') Himalayas