Friday, June 28, 2019


Parades with cars covered in red, white and blue bunting, salutes to the flag, barbeques, fireworks and picnics. We celebrate our freedoms and community on 4th of July. I look forward to them every year. But our country has unfinished business.

Gavin Newsom, governor of California, recently apologized to the indigenous people for our state's violence against native peoples. His declaration on behalf of the state is a good start to making amends and opening up discussions of our government's treatment of unwanted people on our behalf. We need to take the first step to do the same on a national level. We have precedent when President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided an apology and reparations to American citizens of Japanese descent who were incarcerated during WWII, The act is displayed next to Executive Order 9066 in Washington, D.C.

We need to continue recognizing our country's mistakes. Just as we did with the Civil Liberty Act. We need more than spoken words. We could follow the lead of the 1988 Congress and  President Reagan and write our apology to both indigenous peoples and to descendents of slaves. As a former camp internee, John Tateishi stated, "You can make this mistake, but you also have to correct it -- and by correcting it, hopefully not repeat it again."

Gemma Black, a well-known calligrapher from Australia, created an official document for the Australian government as the country's apology to its indigenous people. The apology was read by  then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in front of their House of Representatives. Australia now displays this beautiful, official apology in the Australian Parlament House.

Gemma Black, calligrapher

If you watch the video of Kevin Rudd speech at the time of the presentation of this document, you cannot helped be moved. We as a people and government have similar burdens towards indigenous groups and the descendents of slaves. We in the United States could commission a well-known calligrapher (the White House employs one and there are many in this country) to produce a formal document that could be read in Congress, then displayed at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., right next to our Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

One step to building a better America.

Watch the video of Kevin Rudd reading the apology here:
NPR article about the Civil Liberties Act:
What next after an apology:
If you believe we need immigration reform, check out:

Friday, June 21, 2019


Sometimes when I sit down to write my post for the week, I have three or four ideas already in bloom. Often a question comes up that demands a definitive answer. As I respond, my remarks may start out well on the page and then peter out, my words no longer moving in an insightful direction or I can't find the right way to express my deepest thoughts. Some of ideas are not suitable for this blog. Usually while I write these beginnings, something else starts to horn in and becomes the post for the week. To give you a clue about my thought process, here are some of the snippets that I could have turned into posts this year.

#1 If you have traveled in another country, what cultural differences stood out to you?
When we lived in Japan and rode the subways, we noticed, if the train was not too crowded, that most people closed their eyes and sat in silence, not touching the people next to them, aware of their surroundings, but not engaged with each other. The eye closing pulled them into a quiet space away from the very crowded city of 22 million people. Cell phones have changed that custom....

A. Japanese subway rider      B. Me with songs stuck in my head

#2  Do you have a song that sticks in your head?
We watched the original Mary Poppins recently and the song, "A Spoonful of Sugar," has been spinning in my brain for the last couple of weeks. Just fragments, not the entire song, not annoying yet. But then it intermingles with a song from the musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which is a strange story to turn into a musical. "Scrooge," the movie, became more heartwarming and hopeful with the addition of music. When Scrooge starts singing, "I love life," how can you not sing along with that?...

Two art workshop attendees.

#3  What do postal workers and local news outlets have in common?
Local news outlets, either paper versions or online, report local politics and local events that you don't receive any other way. They keep you informed of what is happening in your town or city. Isn't that where government really begins? Postal workers bring mail and news to everyone in every part of the country. They bring news and mail to people who may not have access to broadband or any cellphone coverage (hard to believe if you live in or near a majoy city) and who don't receive verifiable information in any other way. Both the post office and local journalism are essential parts of democracy....

At the end of each of these paragraphs, I'd ask myself, "Where do I go from there?" No answer, so I would tuck these paragraphs into a file and proceed to write on that one idea that cropped up while I was flexing my writing muscles, the one idea that became that week's post.

Attendees at John Muir Laws monthly drawing demo at the Lafayette Library

I am always sketching, either with words or by drawing. These sketches give me a chance to explore ideas. What means do you use to help you think through your concerns? Do you talk with others, sketch, write in a journal, or post a blog?

Next month is World Watercolor Month. Join me in painting one painting a day. Some of them may be flops, others will turn out just fine, and any can be the next cut-and-paste collage you put together.

Postcard size flowers that I am turning into a bouquet

Friday, June 14, 2019


Here's to all the fathers out there who support, encourage, joke,
play ball with us and love us.

a rough draft of a drawing by Ralph C. Heimdahl while working in his studio

My dad is long gone, but he is remembered for his sense of humor, sense of honor, and humility. He was a highly skilled traditional artist, though he made his living drawing comic strip characters.

 He left behind many of his drawings. He had most fun drawing animals, 
but he could even imbue a robot with a personality.

Sketches by Ralph C. Heimdahl made in the late 1940s for a robot used
 in the Bugs Bunny comic strip

With a few quick brush strokes with his Winsor Newton #7 round, he made each character come alive.  He would work 8-to-10 days creating daily comic strips and the Sunday for Bugs Bunny. He spent his spare time drawing his own characters from the countryside and woodlands that he loved. He always hoped he could publish his own comic strip while he worked on the Warner Brothers characters  each day. He also shared his knowledge with his family. When he built his studio in our backyard, he included a long low shelf and stools for us where we could draw and paint and learn to type.

Character development by Ralph C. Heimdahl

Ollie the Otter, the main character of a comic strip that he hoped to publish.

He made sure he drew as many expressions for each character as he could.

My dad had several anatomy books, which my sisters and I scoured to understand what was underneath our skin. He knew body structure so well that he could capture a horse mid-air. He showed us the magic that paper, pen or pencil can create.

Sketch from real life by Ralph C. Heimdahl

For all you dads out there, I hope your day is full of laughter, hugs, and the understanding that you have many gifts to pass on to your children.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 7, 2019


I painted 20 small watercolors of the same scene. They were sketches to practice various techniques, not meant to be shown to anyone. They cluttered up one box of sketches. Rather than throw them out,  I brushed white gesso over them, let that dry, then cut them up into either 1-inch strips or 1-inch squares.

I spread the strips out on a large piece of 140 pound cold press watercolor paper which I had washed with cerulean blue. By cutting the pieces so small, I couldn't see, therefore I couldn't remember, the spots in the originals that just didn't work well. I tinkered with the placement of the strips until I came up with a version I liked. Laid out this way, the pieces became almost musical. They have a rhythm and joy that can't be found in the originals.

I know so many people who have their stacks of work hidden under beds or in closets or in boxes (I have all three). Just hanging around. After a while, they become one more thing to deal with so they either get tossed out, stay hidden in the same places in hopes they will magically disappear, or better yet, they become a new source for a project.

One good thing about practicing a lot, I end up with a lot of lemons that make good lemonade.

Wind Blown by Martha Slavin

Jazz by Martha Slavin

 Sometimes it isn't the watercolor that I painted but another problem that caused me to experiment (or make lemonade).

Melted Colors by Martha Slavin

I bought a set of Nicholson's Peerless Transparent Watercolors, which comes in tablet form with the watercolors impregnated into each paper.

Add a little water with your brush to the colored papers and they can be used just like any watercolor. I thought they would be great for traveling. What I didn't do:  I didn't separate my water bottle in the same tote bag as the paint packet. I didn't close the top of the water bottle completely so I ended up with a messy, colorful tote bag with the pages of watercolors pretty much spent. The papers were still beautiful, so I cut some of them up to make a collage. Lemonade, for sure. I called the piece Melted Colors for a good reason.