Friday, July 26, 2019


posterized photo of flowers that I also painted for Watercolor Month

Turn it upside down.
Narrow your focus. Get closer.
Walk around to find a different angle.
Don't be satisfied with your first impression. Make more sketches.
Paint in the morning or evening to take advantage of the Golden Hour.
Paint in shades of grey to capture the values.

These are all phrases I heard from art instructors who encouraged their students to move beyond their ordinary point of view. During a critique, other people often liked my work much better when it was upside down. (My left-handedness showing through?)

Version A

I was reminded of these exercises about point of view when my husband and I went to dinner one night at a local restaurant where we ran into a friend. He talked with us about cycling. I wondered if I had seen him on the Iron Horse Trail in town.

Version B  Which do you like better?

I walk the Trail frequently. The 8-foot trail is a busy one with walkers, runners, dog walkers, families on bikes, and cyclists. The cyclists avoid the busy main street of our town by using the trail. I cringe each time cyclists flash by me silently and without slowing down as they close in on walkers like me.

I have several times stopped to talk with a friend that I met on my walk. We move over to the side. A couple of times, as I started walking again, I stepped out to the center, not seeing or hearing the cyclist on my blind side, and just missing a collision with the rider. My first instinct is to blame the cyclist, but I also wasn't paying enough attention.

Our friend we encountered at the restaurant is a cyclist who rides the Trail too. He complained about the dog walkers who let out the leads for their dogs right in front of him, about kids (and me) who jump out in front of him without looking in his direction, about walkers who stop suddenly, without giving him time to brake. His first instinct is to blame the walkers.

I still lean towards my version of the people on the Trail, but I realize our friend comes from a different place. All a matter of point of view, isn't it?

Three more sketches for World Watercolor Month.

                   I like the posterized version of these flowers better, but I tried another sketch the next day.

Second version. I used reds for the shadows in the flowers instead of blue and purple.

Friday, July 19, 2019


 I've had a hard time this week trying to do what I normally can accomplish: house and garden chores, writing my blog, seeing friends, going to my watercolor class, getting my Craft Day together, and having lunch with our son along with a walk through a good exhibit at the MOMA in San Francisco.

My husband ended up in the hospital unexpectedly on Tuesday following a bad reaction to a medication he had been given recently. He became anemic from a slow bleed, which is one the possible side effects of Xarelto, a blood thinner. His reaction is a good reminder to me to ask all the questions when we visit a doctor. Bill is recovering well, but this event sure put a monkey wrench into our week.

When I had a moment to myself, I brought out my watercolor crayons and my sketchbook to the kitchen table, set up a yellow pepper, and started to draw. As I finished, I realized how much calmer I felt. I've tried other methods to find peace. Mindfulness with deep breathing helps me on a normal day, but its effectiveness disappears when I am under stress. What works for me is to focus on a small object and to make a slow contour drawing, which I color in with the watercolor crayons, and then blend the colors with a water brush.

Art as therapy.

What do you do to help yourself in stressful times?

The first four sketches displayed here are for 
this week's World Watercolor Month.  

The envelope below with its circle of joyful flowers came to me 
from Christine Brooks, another creative artist. 
(Sorry about the blue streaks to cover addresses.)

What a cheerful way to send someone some mail! 

Envelope watercolor by Christine Brooks

Friday, July 12, 2019


Etagami flower by Martha Slavin

As an artist, it can be easy to fall back comfortable subjects and ideas in art. If you paint flowers, paint more. If collages are your thing, continue making them. Sometimes, when I'm challenged by someone else's idea, I have to try harder to produce the result I want.

I signed up to participate in Brooklyn Art Library's Canvas Project last year. I received a box from them containing a four-inch sqaure canvas, some paints, a brush and a card with one word on it:


My instructions to participate in the project:
to create a piece that described that word.

To make the piece, I used dried swirls of acrylic medium, acrylic paint, fuzzy thread, tissue paper and words that explained the meaning of ruckus. What I came up with turned out to be one of the ugliest pieces I've ever done. At least I succeeded in creating a RUCKUS.


I sent back my canvas, and a few months later, I received a copy of the book, A Visual Encyclopedia, a Global Visual Interpretation of Words. Inside the cover I found words from A to Z described in paint, collage, colored pencils, and other found materials -- hundreds in all.

produced by the Brooklyn Art Library

I gloried over the book. I've always been addicted to words, something I learned from my sister Linda, who works crosswords and other word games. I've kept a small collection of words such as misanthrope, zigzag, and bumfuzzle that I've found intriguing, amusing or bizarre.

When I opened the encyclopedia, I gaped at the treasure of words described inside such as Argus-Eyed, Claptrap, Inspissate, Moonraker, Scrippage and Zaftig. Words such as Snollygoster, Furuncle, and Vermicious made me head to the dictionary to find out what they meant. Then I asked myself, "How could I have shown what Tellurian means?" Some words seemed easy such as Tiger, Playgrounds, Mountains, or, were they? What about Kowtow, Glaucous, or Dodevahedron? The words themselves are wonderfully playful, unusual, and made me think beyond my usual choice of words. I want to try to describe more of them visually.

A page from the Visual Encyclopedia

As a reward for each artist's efforts, Brooklyn Art Library sent another artist's painting in exchange. I received "Private," a work from Leslie Connito, whose last name sent me on a search for the meaning of Connito (possibly Latin for "to endure or struggle).

by Leslie Connito

With the encyclopedia for reference, I could start my own collection of visual descriptions of words. Which words would you choose?

To see some more of the delightful projects that the Brooklyn Art Library imagines:

To check the origins of surnames, try one source:

Week Two of World Watercolor Month.
My five watercolors for the week:

Friday, July 5, 2019


Are you traveling this summer? Send me a postcard when you do. Do you go by car, and once you are there, do you walk around? Do you use a map or GPS? Do you like getting lost or do you plan ahead so you know where you are going? As you walk or ride around, do you pay attention to the direction you are going? North? South?

In the open air, I usually know where I am headed even though I may be somewhat lost. The only time I get thoroughly confused is in a subway deep underground, where I lose my sense of direction. I spent an hour one morning trying to find my way out of the Shinjuku Station in Tokyo (one of the largest stations in the world) because I couldn't orient myself. I walked our of several exits that deposited me in a completely wrong place. If I hadn't been lost, though, I wouldn't have seen the block long wall of beautifully done calligraphy/graffiti that lined a street that I didn't know existed.

My first week of watercolors for July World Watercolor Month

In a car the GPS has become a valuable, though not always reliable, tool for us. We hailed our Lyft driver after an evening in downtown Chicago. We asked her to take us back to our VRBO rental that we shared with our extended Slavin family. The driver depended on GPS to get around Chicago. As we rode around the downtown area, we realized the driver was driving in circles. The signal for the GPS kept being interrupted by the skyscrapers lining the streets. We were going nowhere. The driver had no idea how to get around the metropolitan area of Chicago without her GPS. Luckily one of our nieces knew the way home.

After this ride I came across an article about a study done in 2011 of the brains of London cabdrivers. The researchers found that the cabbies' hippocampus, where memories are stored, grow larger during the 3-year training to become a driver. If you've ever looked at a map of London, you can understand why the training takes so long and why their brains are different than the rest of us. The trainees spend at least 3 years memorizing all the streets and businesses within the heart of London. That 640 mile area has 25,000 streets and who knows how many businesses. "I want to go to Chef Ramsey's restaurant," means the cabbie needs to know where the address is and how to get there.

Here at home, our son, the philosopher that he is, suggested that we only look at the app WAZE to see their recommendations for alternative routes in a traffic jam. He posits that everyone else gets the same information from WAZE and will crowd the alternative routes. He favors proceeding on a different route than the one WAZE suggests.

I can't argue that maps are better than GPS. They both are valuable, but having a sense of where I am going is even better than either of those devises. What tools do you use to make sure you get from A to Z?

Check out the study about the brains of London cab drivers:

This five small sketches are my part of July's World Watercolor Month. They are sketches and none are meant to hang on a wall. I'm just doing daily practice.

If you would like to try watercolor, check out Charles O'Shield's website: