Friday, October 31, 2014


A thank you to all my readers who have helped to make my posts a pleasure to write. Big thanks!

Artists are great collectors of "stuff that could be useful someday." We always ask ourselves the question, "Oh, boy, what could I do with that?" when we pick up a piece of cardboard, tree branch, used stamp, corks, egg cartons, greeting cards, cardboard toilet paper tubes, styrofoam, pretty napkins, and blank pieces of paper. I have a stack of my favorite collection: the paper towels that I use as paint rags while I am working on a painting. Here's what the top of my stack looks like:

Pretty ugly? But torn into small bits, combined with paint, stamps, stencils and decorative paper, they become paintings!

First layer
 I've used the paint rags as the basis for a book of 36 small mixed media paintings called Accidental Landscapes. First, I separated the layers of the paper towels so that the towel was as thin as possible (and I had another piece to use!)  I cut 140 lb. watercolor paper into 6" X 6" squares, coated both sides with white gesso, let that dry and began to adhere pieces of scrap paper and the torn bits of my paint rags. I painted over that with fluid acrylics, metallic paint, and then stamped and stenciled where needed.

Finished painting: an accidental landscape

Here is another beginning.

Finished painting

When I was finished with these 36 squares, I made a mosaic of the paintings.

I had to clean my brushes as I was painting, so guess what? I now have a whole new stack of paint rags to play with. 

How do you use all those interesting bits that you find and can't quite throw away?

I used Big Huge Labs to make this mosaic.   Check them out at

Friday, October 24, 2014


    I have saved some of our son's toys. Well, to be honest, I've saved a lot of them. In the attic, I stashed Lego blocks, Thomas the Tank engines, and small but menacing Warhammer models, part of a game that Theo played in junior high school. I displayed wooden trucks and a Mr. Potato Head in a glass-fronted cabinet in our hallway. I still keep board games that nobody except me likes to play anymore. The games -- Shutes and Ladders, Uncle Wiggly, Parcheesi, Clue, Monopoly, Mastermind and Othello -- are squirreled away in the guest room in my hope that a guest will spot them and bring a game out to play. The games chronicle the sequence of rules that Theo grew to understand: one set more difficult than the next.

     Today I had the idea of opening up the old steamer trunk in our bedroom and using it as a place to hold all my unread books, which right now are jammed into three baskets on the floor next to our bed. I love to read and can't help buying almost every book that interests me. But my time to read is more limited than it used to be. I am writing, volunteering, and doing artwork that I put off while Theo was growing up. If I stuffed the books in the top of the trunk, they would be out of the way of the vacuum and wandering feet in the dark of night. I could keep the lid open to remind myself to take one of the books with me as I go about my day.
   I opened the lid of the trunk and saw Theo's old Teddy bears cradled together -- ones that he had sucked, dragged, and almost squeezed the life out of when he was young. They lay so expectantly that I couldn't help think that they were waiting for the next child to come along.

    There was Baseball Buddy with his white and blue striped uniform and cap, Kiddy Bear, half of Baseball Buddy's size, with his blue knit shirt, Sleepy Bear with his striped blue shirt and cap, Adventure Bear with his striped red hand-knit sweater, and Okie, a bear wearing a pair of Oshkosh overalls just like Theo wore when he was two and three. Like the games that Theo no longer plays, these stuffed animals still remind me of the many days that Theo and I played with them. I grabbed my camera, took a picture, and softly closed the lid.
     Theo has graduated from college, and is employed in his field of photography. When I've asked him if he would like to keep his old toys and games, he says, "Put them in the attic for me. In thirty years, I'll look through them and decide what to do with them."
    The books will stay in the baskets for now. I know I will read them all eventually. But the trunk can stay the same way it is too. Who knows when a little kid will ask me to open the trunk to see what lies hidden under the lid?

Friday, October 17, 2014


 Do you remember clothing from your past? What you wore when?

In fourth grade, I discovered the Hollywood dress designer, Edith Head. Who was she?  She designed clothing for Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Tippi Hedren, among others. My mother thought I looked like her. I was inspired by her success as a working woman.


That year I made my first fashion statement. I curled my bangs in imitation of Edith Head and posed for my class picture. All I needed were the round glasses.

By eighth grade, I was an avid reader of Vogue magazine. I learned to sew and made a trapeze dress, the latest style from Paris. The trapeze later became the very short, baby doll tent dress. 'Tent' is the cogent word here. For someone who was 5'2" and 95 pounds, the trapeze looked more like another fashion trend of the time, le 'sack.'

My sister and I made most of our school clothes while we were high school, but my favorite item to wear at home was a muumuu. Easy to make and easy to wear.

In college, I wore a bright orange, polka-dot dress, called a balloon dress, that allowed me to move around easily.

I madly embroidered a pair of jeans in my 20s -- as close to being a hippie as I ever got.

And I can't forget the traditional Christmas sweater.  How many of these do you still have?

As a teacher, I found this yellow dress and knee high boots to be the perfect uniform for teaching art and English. Easy to move in and my boots made my stride purposeful.

While pregnant, I loved a sweater and pants outfit with horizontal stripes that must have made me visible a mile away!

After moving home from overseas, I adopted a Japanese hopi coat that I wore over cropped pants.

Edith Head designed elegant dresses for the actresses who wore them. I was inspired more by her success and quirkiness than by her designs.
My fashion sense tends towards the easy and comfortable, and quirky. If you know me, you know that I wear round glasses. Looking back at what I have worn over the years, all I can say, is: "Where was Edith Head when I needed her!"

What clothing did you wear that brings back good memories?

*  (Edith Head image)

Friday, October 10, 2014


 How often do you get stuck? In completing a project, learning something new, making any kind of change? The end of a wonderful and challenging watercolor class last Spring reminded me how being stuck can crop up unexpectedly.

I finished the class with the hope that I could get started painting watercolors on a more consistent basis. I did well in the class. When the course was over and I tried to paint, I was 'stuck', so stuck that I felt that I had lost all the skills and techniques I had learned over my lifetime. They just seemed to disappear as I made 'mud' paintings, the awful mix that watercolorists try to avoid which robs vibrant colors of their beauty.

Not a problem, I thought. I've been stuck before. I would just continue to practice and eventually the 'stuckness' would go away. After a few tries though, I realized that I needed to put away the watercolors for awhile and try something else. I practiced letterforms. 

I did 36 small, non-representational acrylic paintings one right after the other:

I stencilled designs on paper, and I molded Sculpey II clay into a shrine about The Heart of Time:

It wasn't until last week when I attended Gloria Miller Allen's watercolor class on Whidbey Island in Washington ( that my watercolor 'genes' came unstuck. As I sat in class doing simple color, value, perspective, and design exercises, I began to unlock the stuck door to all the things that I knew about watercolor. What I have learned about watercolor came flooding back into my hand.

It wasn't an easy process. I still felt the old 'high expectations' part of myself at work, that part which creates fear of success and failure. I spent a lot of time talking to myself, reassuring myself that I would again hit the stuck place, but I knew how to get through that. I knew that in every piece of art there is a place that becomes mud, that to push through the mud is to find more depth in myself. I knew that not every painting can be special, just like the 35 acrylic paintings that I did quickly and without judgment, but I can learn from the process of doing each one. 

Here is the painting that I am still working on.  One thing I remembered was to slow down and let the painting dry before I put on another layer.  That center leaf needs some clarity, doesn't it?

I started this as a horizontal painting.
But I think it looks better this way, don't you?

Isn't creating art a lot like life?

Take a look at Gloria Miller Allen's website:
She is a warm and encouraging instructor.

Friday, October 3, 2014


Morning: the air is cool, but the lack of fog tells me that later today will be hot as it often is in early autumn in California. Right now our backyard is quiet, interrupted only by the 'chuck-chuck' of two squirrels. Two deer on the hill flicker their ears to chase away the flies. A red spider, no bigger than a pen point, zigzags across my page in pursuit of something even smaller. A hummingbird whirls over my head and then darts to the feeder nearby. The sun, as it rises over our hill, makes some of the leaves glow while others remain in darkness. Spiderwebs wave in the slight breeze that filters down from the hill and touches my legs. Everything else is still. A plane overhead inches slowly across the sky; its speed reduced by the distance it travels. Its last rumble evaporates like a Buddhist chime that you continue to listen to even when it is gone.

It's morning and it is still quiet. The deer get up one by one to stretch. They settle back down at the top of the hill rather than move on to the day's hiding place. The sun rises higher and brushes my table with the beginnings of warmth. The finches and wrens snatch seeds from the bird feeders. The blue jays and crows haven't flown in yet to start their raucous debates. A car goes by and I hear the slap of the newspaper as it hits the front walkway. It is time for a cup of coffee and to begin again.