Friday, March 30, 2018


While my watercolor class is on a break, I am practicing all the techniques I learned by making almost-daily, small paintings. I've picked objects from my art supplies such as this paint tube and brush. It wasn't until I chose a rock that I was reminded that Small Things are Sometimes the Hardest.

When I work on a mixed media piece such as Heritage, I expect to place layer over layer. Each layer gives me a chance to find mistakes in the organization of objects, the colors, or the design layout.

layering with photos, napkins, stencils, stamps, and paints

colors are not right, too much contrast

I layered acrylic paints, paper napkins, stenciling, stamping and copies of old photos to create this piece, which I then burnished with beeswax to give it an antiqued look.

Heritage by Martha Slavin

In my daily series of watercolors, I am trying to apply the techniques I learned in class. I am aware of soft and hard edges, I think of values more than color, and try to see the object as shapes instead of a perfect representation of the object. I spend a lot of time before painting making a contour drawing and include all the edges, even the shadow edges.

I found the paint tube, the bottle of acrylic ink and the pencil sharpener to be relatively easy, but then I tried painting a small, white ceramic rock. Not only is it white, but the shape is hard to appear 3-dimensional. You would think something so smooth, round and simple would be easy, but sometimes the simple things are the hardest.

 Can you see what I could have done to improve this watercolor sketch?
Two that come to mind:  add the highlights and bend the letters on a curve.


Come join me!
I'm participating in two Internet projects:

which is part of the Sketchbook Project at the Brooklyn Art Museum

and a postcard art swap at

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Friday, March 23, 2018


Enjoy the beginnings of Spring with these photos by Bill Slavin

 As a writer, I am always writing articles in my head. I see something that sparks an idea. If I'm lucky, I'm close to my computer or a piece of paper to write the thoughts down. If not, they blow away, wander off while I am sleeping, or disappear in a conversation.

Often while I am head-composing, I will read an article by another writer about the same subject I've been thinking about. I'd been collecting ideas about  all the sounds that accost us each day: dishwasher buttons, our alarm in the morning, laundry machine warning bells, phones with messages, and how they affect almost every aspect of our lives. I hadn't gotten my ideas on paper. Instead, I opened the newspaper to find a well-written essay about all those persistent noises in our lives. We think alike, don't we?

by Bill Slavin

I wrote a blog post about the meaning of friends. The day after I posted, I received my monthly guide from Holstee.* The guide chose to emphasize kinships and the value of relationships. We think alike, don't we?

How often have you thought about an idea only to find that others are thinking in the same direction?

by Bill Slavin

I think our similar thoughts result from a common human value: our need to belong. Like ants, we create networks: some visible, such as roads, wires, and ropes, while other paths develop in our imagination. We create connections between friends or family members. Sometimes the connections are so close we finish each other's sentences, or we 'know' what someone else is thinking at the moment. Sometimes the connections allow us to meet other people from different areas of the world.

You could say that Great Minds Think Alike, but I also think that ordinary minds do too, which allows ideas to float around the world. The Internet helps to make those ideas travel. But even before the Internet, similar concepts developed in the minds of different cultures. Variations of the Golden Rule emerged all over the world. They didn't have the Internet back then, but maybe the coincidence  is the result of how our brains work. We need connections. Those older cultures knew we needed to learn to live with one another. We formed similar rules in different places to express the importance of compassion for each other.

This year is a good time to remember our kinship with people all over the world. April 5 is International Golden Rule Day, a day created in 2011 by the UN to acknowledge our relationships and as a reminder to treat each other well. Though the variations of the GR originated from religious teachings, we all can take part in a celebration of what the Golden Rule means in our world.

To join in celebrating Golden Rule Day on April 5, go to

by Bill Slavin

Here is a listing of some of the versions of the GR. Can you identify where each came from?

In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.

One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.

One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct...loving kindness. 
Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.

Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.

You can find the answers and more variations on Paul McKenna's poster of the Golden Rule by clicking the following link:

by Bill Slavin
Join with Karen Armstrong, comparative religions and Golden Rule researcher and founder of The Charter of Compassion, in her quest to promote compassionate action in our daily lives. I've signed the Charter. I hope you will too.

The following essay by Lee Beaumont gives you considerably more details about the origins of the Golden Rule in various cultures:

* Receive Holstee's monthly guides at

by Bill Slavin

Friday, March 16, 2018


I get a perverse pleasure in confusing the GPS in my car. I will enter HOME as my destination and then drive somewhere else. My GPS panics, spins, tries to find a new route in the right direction. I can imagine all the little techies inside waving frantically at me.

In an unfamiliar place, I find the GPS of great benefit. When I plug in the destination, ramp up the sound, the voice guidance gets me where I want to go. Except there are exceptions. I went to a calligraphy conference near Seattle. I put in the name of the college and listened attentively to the voice as it directed me to the wrong place: a dead-end street next to Puget Sound. If the GPS hadn't led me astray, I would never have realized how close and beautiful the Sound was to my destination.

There is a value in being lost.

I have been lost in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Paris, where I found new places not did not appear on a map or in a guide. There is also a value in getting lost even in the place where you have lived for a long time.

I forgot to look at my GPS halfway to the freeway in the Oakland hills. I'm glad I did. I knew basically where I was going, but I didn't expect to find the hidden village of Montclair, which appeared, just like magic, in front of me. Montclair consists of a few close streets, with several crowded cafes, independent stores, posters advertising local events, and people walking or stopping to talk with each other. The kind of place that makes a community lively and engaging for its residents.

In my old car without GPS, I went to visit a friend. I tried to reach her house by going in reverse from the way I had gone the week before. I missed the last left-hand turn that would have taken me to her house. Once past the street, there was nowhere to turn around, so I found myself driving down a winding hillside road. I felt lost in the woods as I drove down. No other cars drove by and the vegetation was as wild as could be near an East Bay suburb. At the bottom, I came to the San Pablo Dam Reservoir, a large body of blue water. I was on an adventure.

I kept following the road, now called Wildcat Canyon Road, up to the top of the Berkeley hills. I took a right on to Grizzly Peak Road, another narrow, winding street near Tilden Park and the Berkeley Rose Garden, past charming houses till I came to Marin Avenue. Another left, and I found myself driving straight down one of the steepest streets I've ever been on. Each time I crested an intersection, I felt the same stomach-churning feeling of a roller coaster ride. Luckily for me, each intersection had a stop sign or I could see myself sailing high off the road to land on the next section of hill.

Thanks to AAA who still offer paper maps.

With GPS or without, I find a value in getting lost. Being lost and finding my way, means I have to trust myself, follow my instincts, ask for help, and always look back where I came from.


I just finished a book by Robert Moor called On Trails, where he thinks deeply about the value of trails, how they originate and what we would be without them. Good read.

Friday, March 9, 2018


A hallelujah to myself for finding time to complete a project that I started in an art workshop. First, I am a workshop junkie. I love to go to learn new things, meet new artists, and to create. I usually come away full of ideas to continue with whatever technique I had just learned. Then life gets in the way. And quickly, months pass, and I look through my stack and realize that those ideas languished undone for a long time. I've come to accept that process. I've found that even though I may not drop everything that I'm doing to concentrate on the new technique, I incorporate many of the ideas that I've learned into my artistic quest.

But I'm also happy when something clicks enough to continue my interest, as the chalkboard lettering did for me. Last week, I showed you the thought processes I go through to develop a design. This week  I want to show the final results. After last week's work, I enlarged my 6-inch high drawing twice so that I now had a 13 1/2 X 8-inch design to work from.

With a piece of white Saral paper* attached to the back of the design, I transferred the image to my final, I hoped, black paper. With a charcoal pencil, I retraced and shaped the lines. Charcoal doesn't rub off as easily as chalk does so I didn't use a fixative to keep the design from smearing (hairspray works well for chalk).

Voila! here is my finished chalkboard lettering poster.

*Saral paper is a wax-free transfer paper that comes in a variety of colors and makes it easy to tranfer designs to paper or fabric. It's available at JoAnn's, Michael's or Dick Blick's.

Friday, March 2, 2018


When I walk through a museum, I look for drawings. I would rather look at them then the completed works of a painter. In the drawings, I can see the thinking processes of the artist before a work is completed. I can also see the changes the artist makes as the images progresses from sketch to final draft.

From CLOWNS, a mixed media series about the circus

At Letters: California Style, I took a chalkboard lettering class from Cora Pearl * this year. I spent three and a half days with other people who love letters as much as I do. We worked for a couple of days just practicing drawing alphabets. We were doing hand lettering, not calligraphy. What is the difference?  Calligraphers write the letters. Hand letterers draw letters. There is a lot of crossover between the two techniques and the computer has brought another dimension to lettering arts as well.

After practicing for a couple of days, we proceeded to design words and phrases to put on black paper.

Finally, we worked on more elaborate designs, which would be our finished work from the class. As an artist and graphic designer, I am very familiar with the steps to create a design. I make a number of thumbnails, which are quick sketches of different ideas, similar to the brainstorming you might do in a business meeting.

Playing with words and phrases and how to represent them.

What's the best shape? How to show flight?

From those, I decided on a couple of ideas I thought would work and then drew more in-depth sketches. Then I played with what I had until I was satisfied with what I think would be a good design.

I decided to combine these two images into one poster.

My next step:  I will redraw the design to make it more symmetrical, and then work on the smaller decorative elements. Then I will enlarge the design to my desired size. I will transfer that design to black paper and pick up my white charcoal pencil to complete my poster. I will show you next time the finished result. 

* Check out Coral Pearl's website to see the variety of calligraphy and hand lettering that she offers: