Friday, August 28, 2015


Luscious peaches,
juicy, sweet peaches.
Fuzzy skin
slips off easily.
Juice-dripping peaches,
down fingers, then arms.
The smell of peaches,
like the smell of chocolate chip cookies
fresh from the oven,
like the smell of new mown lawn,
like the smell of talcum powder,
like the smell of memories.
Clean smells,
whirling love into your brain.

I ate the last of our peaches yesterday. We had an even dozen. We were lucky. We picked them right after we found the remains of one peach on top of the dead tree stump in our backyard. A squirrel had used the stump as a dining table to feast on one peach. That's all he got. We knew the peaches were ripe then and plucked the rest.

Peaches, luscious peaches. Peaches are everything about summer. Even the skin reminds me of peeling off sunburned skin, so thin and fragile. We had peaches, even in this drought year when growers are having a hard time bringing in a crop. Our tree is placed in the right spot, full sun all day, enough to wilt the dogwood that the peach tree replaced, enough to dry up the vinca that used to bloom violet in the springtime. We planted the peach tree two years ago to replace other plants that had withered away.

We had peaches for the first time this year. We savored them even more than usual because of the drought.  We don't buy peaches because they never ripen. They never develop that heavenly scent of a peach cupped in your hand right off your own tree. The taste, like the taste of a just-picked tomato or a ripe ear of corn from the backyard, is like nothing we can find at the grocery or even at the farmers' market.

We don't grow much produce in our yard anymore. Too much shade, too many deer, too many squirrels and raccoons squandering their way through. They dangle from the branches to grab ripe fruit. They arch up on hind legs to reach perfect fruit before we can pick them. They peel the skins off the grapes we grow.

We've given up being farmers for the most part. What we have left are peaches, luscious peaches.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Do you love the feel of paper?

I know I do.

My one-day class with Sharon Zeugin, Calligraphy on the Go, at the Passionate Pen, was a technique- and inspiration-filled day using pen and paper. I brought with me some of my favorite pens to use: Pentel's Tradio Stylus, Zig's Cocoiro Letter Pen, several of Pilot's Parallel Pens in different sizes, and a Rotring Art Pen. The choice of paper was important too. I packed a Strathmore drawing pad as well as some sheets of Arches Wove. The Strathmore is a good quality drawing paper, but the Arches has a deeper feel. It is often used for printing because of its softness, but it is good for drawing and calligraphy too.

I brought along a fine point Sharpie, which is one of the few pens that I have that is waterproof. The other pens, when wet, create interesting washes that sometimes change color from black to brown or blue.  

Our class practiced gesture and contour drawings, skills I'd learned in high school. Either type of drawing is a good way to understand the form of something while drawing.

We drew rock walls. 

We went outside and sketched flowers in the garden. 

We washed water over the inks to see what would happen.

When the day was over, we were charged to go out and sketch and write about what we saw. I have plenty of sketchbooks filled with drawings and doodles. I have plenty of notebooks full of writing. Now I want to combine the two. I want to create an artist journal where not only am I sketching in the moment, but writing down my thoughts as they occur. I want each page of my journal to show more of a designed intent, rather than random wanderings (though that can be fun too).

That evening as I sat at a restaurant in Petaluma (see below for the list of my food finds in Petaluma) and drew the view of the old mill buildings as well as the herbs on my table and the seagulls looking for food.

A bike was propped up against a wall.

I was using a small booklet that I keep in my purse. The hard-finished paper accepts ink well without any feathering along the lines.

Once I was home, I began sorting through my stacks of papers that I've kept because "I knew they will be useful someday." I came across a small pile of stationery with the letterhead of my father's employer on it. My dad had attached postcards of antique cars to the papers, which he used for reference in his work.The paper is old and brown around the edges. It smells slightly musty. The rubber cement had long given up its hold on the cards, leaving the paper with the residue of glue swirls on them. I folded the papers in half, made a cover, and sewed the papers together as a sketchbook. 

The glue swirls on my father's stationery

The cover for my new sketchbook with a coloring book design

What a treat it will be to use papers that my dad had used. His collection brings back memories of sitting in his studio making drawings while he was working.

Check out Sharon Zeugin at

Good Eats in Petaluma. Petaluma is another California food haven:

Brixx's Pizzeria:
Not your ordinary pizza place. Sit outside for great summer evenings.
Wild Goat Bistro:  Local produce, fresh ingredients, right next to the Petaluma River
Graffiti:  Another restaurant next to the river with yummy food!

Friday, August 14, 2015


My head is still buzzing from the week I spent at the Passionate Pen Conference.

"Seismic Shift" solar plate print   Photo by my husband Bill

I chose two classes to fill my week: Sharon Zeugin's one-day art journaling class and Louise Grunewald's 5-day offering, Letters from the Sun, which used solar plates for printmaking. Every afternoon I came away from the classes completely worn out -- your brain is a muscle too -- and boy, did I work that one!

By the end of the week, I realized I'd found the answer to a problem I had been wrestling with for a long time. I wanted to combine letterpress with my own artwork. Though I had learned how to make  photo polymer plates to duplicate images that I had created, the techniques and machines used in the process needed more time than I have been able to find to embrace the procedure easily. With a solar plate, all I needed was the sun and some water.

The project below, They Would Have Been Cowboys, was printed using a letterpress and photo polymer plates. In order for me to accomplish this printing I needed access to machines that I don't have at home.

The transparency of my sketch

The photo polymer plate ready to print

This is a project done the traditional way setting type one letter at a time, with my sketch printed at the top.  To print the sketch, I first made a negative transparency of the sketch, and exposed that on top of a polymer plate in a light box. The polymer plate is then put through a washing machine that eliminates all of the exposed polymer leaving behind the image. Washing the plate also can be done by hand with a soft brush.

The solar plate process is different. A light box can be used to expose the plate, but the best solution is the sun. I put my plate outside for just a few seconds to expose it. I then took the plate to the sink and washed off the exposed polymer, leaving the image I wanted. I then let the plate harden in the sun for a short time before I placed it on the press, ready for printing.

The transparency of the sketch and the solar plate ready for printing.

Printed image

A 'ghost' print from the plate after the first printing

During the solar plate making class, the group collected plates made by class members and laid them on the press ready to make a group printing.

The plates are arranged on the bed of the press. A piece of dampened paper is positioned on the plates. Felts are laid on top and then the press is rolled over the plates. Louise Grunewald holds the finished print.

Louise Grunewald is a kind and encouraging teacher and allowed us access to the breadth of her knowledge. I walked away every day, first, tired, but also full of joy, knowing that I had found another true process for myself -- one that I could accomplish at home (that is, once I find a press).

Check out Louise's website at

Next week I'll take you on a short walk as we observe the world around us in an artist's journal.

Friday, August 7, 2015


Have you ever been a groupie?

Have you ever been transfixed when meeting someone else whom you admire? Have you blundered and gawked at someone else just because you know who they are? I did when I was young and walked by movie stars in Beverly Hills. But as an adult I thought I was over that awkwardness.

I attended  the Passionate Pen International Conference at Sonoma State with about 500 others.  We sat in the classrooms of the stars of the calligraphic world: Ewan Clayton, Denis Brown, Julian Waters, Loredana Zega, Monica Dengo, Pat Blair, the White House calligrapher, Barbara Close, and 48 others. We studied versals, 3-D letter writing, using a ruling pen and a flat brush, gilding, solar plate printing and much more. At the end of the week, we were exhausted and exhilarated by the creative energy surrounding us. We were groupies at the feet of the masters.

At break one morning outside my classroom, I walked beside a vigorous, bald-headed man who expressed concern about gilding in the dry California heat. I did't know that gilding required humidity and answered with some banality. We got to the refreshment station, and someone called out, "Hey, Massimo..." and only then did I realize that I had been walking with Massimo Polello, not a household name to most, unless you are a calligrapher. He is one of the 'calligraphy stars' whose work exudes energy, depth, and beauty. My mouth dropped open as I realized I had had a brush with greatness.

Later that week, as I sat at lunch, I introduced myself to the woman across the table. She answered, "I'm Connie Furgason."  I stammered, "I love your work!" (and didn't ask for an autograph.)

Groupie to my core!  A calligraphic groupie no less!

What is wonderful about these well-known calligraphers is their accessibility and willingness to share their craft. They come from Italy, Canada, Argentina and other places to teach for one week those of us who aspire to be calligraphers.

The instructors displayed their work at an extraordinary exhibit that chronicled beauty, meticulousness, curiosity, and hard-won skills. We all marveled at these expressions of this art form, whose intent is to communicate with a flourish of a pen. One of my favorite pieces from the show is a work by Marina Sora called In My Dream My Name is FUDE, which includes the following poem by that name.

In my dream my name was Fude.
I rested in a delicate mahogany case.
My hair was bright, soft and combed with much care and dedication.
It had been brushed till exhaustion by expert hands trying to line up every single strand of hair.
My skin was smooth and polished with the smell of willow and my slim body had the right weight to be embraced by a skilful hand.
In my dream I danced over the water surface.
Sometimes I slightly submerged until I caught it's humidity.
In other moments I felt slow, precise and meticulous.
Some other times my motion was quick, impulsive, almost gestural.
I left a series of strokes behind me, first a wet and brilliant stamp mark that fixed on to the surface like a sign when it dried.
These strokes shaped a written text.
When I woke up I understood I had dreamt of myself as a brush.
Fude means brush in Japanese.

1,80 x 2,30 mts
Sumi on Magnani Bianca, Modigliani Neve and wrapping papers. Wooden hanger and stone. Bambu mutt
Year: 2012 by Marina Sora

Extraordinary, isn't it? (Thank you, Marina, for allowing me to display your piece.)

Next week I will share with you some of the work I did in the class of another star, Louise Grunewald, Her class, Letters from the Sun, was full of the joy of working with creative people. In the meantime, check out these websites for inspiration: