Friday, August 30, 2019


Do you have a mantra that you say to yourself when something challenges you?

"I Can Do This" is my long time favorite saying. I used it to learn to ski and play golf. It comes in handy for creative activities too. I also remind myself of the 3 Ps, a mantra that we would recite to our son, "Remember the 3 Ps." There are a lot of good P-words: Patience, Participate, Persistence, Preparation, Practice, Pause, Powerful, and Peaceful to name a few. I could use all of them.

The last week of World Watercolor Month I thought I'd try painting rocks, something that has flummoxed me before. Rocks are hard, no pun intended, to paint so that they don't look like a bunch of potatoes. I tried once more and came up with a similar result. I found a good answer at a Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop put on by the California Watercolor Association. I finally succeeded painting rocks. I also realized that rocks are hard to paint, but water is even harder.

I did glean a few tips about rocks and water.

Even though rocks may be smooth in real life, I need to give them some angularity.

Splatter creates texture and the splash of water against rocks. Learning to splatter effectively is hard.

You can see how connecting the splatters around the center circle can create the allusion of water splashes.

The edge of a rock against water needs to be darker because it is wet.

And just like anything I paint, I need to think in shapes, not about what the object is in real life. I need to look at the object in relation to its neighbors. One of the exercises directed us to paint the values in the painting, not the objects themselves.

Squinting at this will help you see the different values.

Another showed me how to use DuraLar Wet Media film to test colors in parts of the painting

Reminding myself that I can do this and thinking of the 3 Ps, helped me to step back, take a deep breath, do preliminary work, practice before my final version, persist and go slowly.

Do you have a mantra that works for you?

 Check out workshops with Julie Gilbert Pollard at:

Read about Dura-lar Film here:
available through Dick Blicks

Friday, August 23, 2019



Downtown Danville, like many small towns, tries to make summer lively. The streets fill with people for car shows with carefully preserved cars lining the curbs, their rumbling motors revving. Marchers at the July 4th parade wave flags, sing, and push lawn mowers. People chat while they listen to music in the park, walk around the artwork at art fairs or attend the annual Eugene O'Neill Festival at Taos House. Diners stroll the streets past the many restaurants that now occupy much of downtown. Art and good food has created a lively town.  

This year the town has added some more public art to delight passersby. Displayed throughout the town are The Dogs of Danville Unleashed. As we strolled around the town one evening, we came acorss several of the hand painted dogs who look like they want to wag their tails and bark a greeting. They have been painted by local artists and will be auctioned at the end of summer to fund additional public art programs. To add to the merriment, pianos have been placed at two street corners. As we turned the corner, we heard someone playing Scott Joplin's ragtime music, a fitting song for summer.
Molly Keen, Artist

As I walked the Iron Horse Trail, I compared Danville to some of the towns in the book, Our Towns by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows, who spent five years flying to communities all over the U.S. to discover what brings a town in distress back to life. Many of the towns had universities or colleges within their boundaries which created a natural draw from outside the community. Others were too small for colleges but found ways to reuse old factory buildings for art events. Even without a college, local people willing to work for change brought together creative people and tastemakers who used arts to stimulate    redevelopment.  Our Towns is full of hope and worth a read.

What does your community do to encourage community spirit and the arts?

Read about James and Deborah Fallows' story in Our Towns. Check out their website at

Friday, August 16, 2019


Watercolor sketch by Martha Slavin

I like to paint faces. I also look for accidental faces in objects that I see on a walk. These kinds of faces, made up of dials, scratches, machinery, and stones, make me smile. Last weekend I found the ultimate accidental face.

I went to Manitou Springs, Colorado, for our niece's wedding. While wandering around the historic downtown, I stopped at Raye's Art Gallery located on a side street. Raye Fickes Miller is a photographer, but her gallery at the moment is filled with the black and white photos of Larry Hulst, a 6 foot 4 inch photographer who towers over the crowds at music concerts. His photos capture the joy on the faces of rock, punk, blues, and country western music performers. (Take a look at Hulst's website to see many familiar faces.)

Walking out of the gallery, I stopped at a wall lined with gas meters and pipes. I saw a large face within the placement of the metal boxes. Then I looked closer. You can see what I found. 

A face within a face.

The old part of Manitou Springs, which is just below Pikes Peak, is part tourist attraction and part art and crafts galleries. Some of the side streets have murals decorating the bare walls.

Murals on one side street

In Manitou,you can leaf through the botanical paintings by Helen Smithwick at Commonweal Artist Coop or buy a cowboy hat around the corner.

Or you can savor an ice cream at one of the many ice cream shops.

Or treat yourself to a corn dog near the penny arcade.

Ha. Another face.

Good things to do in Manitou Springs, Colorado:

Hike through the Garden of the Gods

and see if you can find more faces -- real ones this time.

Visit art galleries in Manitou Springs  See her paintings at Commonweal Art Coop next to Raye's Gallery on Ruxton  no cowboy hats, but batik clothing

Two good places to stay in Manitou Springs:

Friday, August 9, 2019


We wonder and look at each other and ask, "What can we do? How do we get our country back?"

Eldridge Cleaver once said. "There is no neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're part of the problem."

Ask yourself, "Am I part of the problem?"

Am I registered to vote?
Did I vote in the last election?
Do I use nasty, snarky, crude language on social media?
Do I think anyone who doesn't agree with me is an idiot?
Do I listen?
Have I examined my own prejudices and biases?
Am I a gun owner who still believes I have a right to own military-grade weaponry?
Am I a gun owner who favors sensible gun registration and restrictions on people who are high risk?
Am I still complacent (or scared) and don't know what to do?
Have I written or phoned my representatives or to others who favor or disagree with my viewpoint?
Have I donated to causes I believe in?
Am I part of the solution or part of the problem?

One small thing we do can make a difference:

See something, say something.

One small thing that grew to a big thing:  Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, started the group after Sandy Hook (remember those children?). The group has grown to chapters in all 50 states. One person.

Read former President Barack Obama's August 5 Twitter response to the El Paso and Dayton shootings reminding us again of our nation's values of tolerance and diversity.

Read the August issue of O magazine. It is full of stories of kind acts of strangers. Take a moment and think of one act of kindness that someone did to you. What have you done to pay it forward?

One small thing.

This week I watched the kindness of people in El Paso and Dayton, which reminded me of the people who spontaneously volunteered during and after Katrina, the Houston hurricane, the forest fires in the West, and other major disasters. I marvel again at the courage of our first responders who put themselves in harm's way by going towards instead of away.

This week I've noticed small and large acts of kindness, agreement, and interaction by people around me. They all feel driven by events and want to do something.

One small thing.

One small thing: if we do it together, small things will grow. Kindness matters.

Friday, August 2, 2019


 what postcards from the early 19th century might look like

I started writing to strangers when I was a kid and sought pen pals whose names and addresses I found in comic books and children's magazines. What a treat to receive a handwritten card from a new friend in a different locale. Now when the mail comes and I find a hand-addressed envelope, I set it aside to savour the words and images that the card contains. The card usually comes from one of the participants in two postcard exchange groups I belong to whose names I found online. I try to make my own cards as engaging as I can.

Some examples of the mail art postcards I've received this year

Postcards have been around since the 19th century when people took a photo of themselves, marked the photo with the word "Me," and sent it on to friends. When we visited Voss in Norway last summer, we walked above a beautiful valley through farm buildings from the 1600s. We came across a stone set with a wooden plaque overelookng the valley. Carved in the wood were the words, "SelfieSpot," obviously not left over from the 1600s. We, of course, jumped at the chance and took pictures of each other instead.

In Voss, Norway

Bill taking a picture of me while I took a picture of him on the SelfieSpot

This summer the Snap+Share exhibit at San Francisco's MOMA chronicles our obsessions with mail art, postcards and selfies from various decades. One wall displays a series of postcards sent from one person to another with only the words, "I got up at ....," written on them. Another wall of glass shows both sides of mail art postcards with images glued to the substrate that suggest dreams, exotic places, and wishes.

On Kawara, "I Get Up...1975 postcard installation by On Kawara, courtesy of David Zwirner & One Million Years Foundation

In another room two large mounds of photos fill the space. The description explains that the two mounds represent the number of photos uploaded to Flickr on any given day.

This shows only one side of the room filled with Flickr photos

We have all become artists and photographers, displaying our work in various media. A friend uses the app TouchNotes that allows her to upload her photos while she is on vacation. Before she leaves, she needs to add her address list to the site. While she is traveling, the site does the rest by creating a postcard from her uploaded photos, printing her greeting, addressing the cards and mailing them for her.

postcard made with TouchNotes app

I still use postcards to express my opinions to my representatives in Congress and on the state level. For them I have chosen National Park postcards to remind them what we can achieve when we create for the future.

Though postcards are small, they can be a powerful way to connect with friends and to remember the places we have been.  When was the last time you sent a postcard?

Check out the app TouchNotes here:

Join a postcard exchange group: