Friday, October 30, 2020


 As Bill and I filled out our ballots, sealed them in the return envelopes, and carefully signed our names, we reminded ourselves of the weighty responsibility of voting and the opportunity our country gives us to vote. We choose candidates for our and our family's future.

I brought to my ballot my values and principles that stand out from among many that I hold dear:




Respect for the Environment

These four principles top my list and make it easy for me to choose the Biden/Harris ticket. 

What are the principles that you take with you when you complete your ballot safely at home or walk into a polling place? This year I hope you will vote in favor of decency, democratic principles, and your moral beliefs. Our country depends on you.

We saw this play almost four years ago and realized how timely its message is.

Before election night, watch Pete Souza's documentary, The Way I See It. He was the official White Photographer for both the Reagan and Obama administrations. You can find it for free on Peacock or buy it at Amazon. You won't want to miss it.

Friday, October 23, 2020


I love combining words with artwork, which is why I continue to make my own books and art journals. The books become a good way to contain work done during a workshop and a way to practice new techniques and tools. They also can showcase a theme, poem, or story as in this book I made as my senior project ages ago, which I called What the Sun Said.

Before Covid hit us, I tried to go to at least one big art conference each year. Now I miss the challenge of being with other creative people. Zoom, Facebook classes, and online classes work well, but they're not quite the same, are they? If you have a chance to attend a conference, GO. You will come away full of brilliant ideas, enthusiasm, and new ways of looking at the world.

This book that I created while in a workshop incorporates images of birds along with feathers, ribbons, threads, and buttons, with muslin and canvas sewn to the pages to connect the individual pages together.

Circles and time are two of my most used themes. Circles hold ideas and are complete in themselves. Time represents change and memories.

Our cat is always curious

Exhibited at the online annual exhibit of Collage Artists of America this summer

Looking back at conferences, I remember Focus on Book Arts' fourteenth conference in 2019. The organizers asked attendees to arrive with a book based on the engaging idea to incorporate fourteen words that reference the number 14. The group presented a list of 14 ideas to work from and asked each person to select 5. I hope you will create your own 14-page book of creativity! 

Here are their instructions for the challenge:

"We are counteracting the Chinese notion that 14 is an unlucky number by celebrating our good fortune with a fourteen-theme book arts challenge. The list below contains fourteen themes, objects, color, and more that somehow relate to the number fourteen. Your mission is to take at least 5 (1 + 4, get it?) concepts from the list and incorporate them into a book arts piece. You may interpret your choices any way you see fit."

Citizenship -- 14th Amendment
Fingers -- sign language?
Forgetfulness -- # for forgetfulness
Fortnight -- 14 days
Gold -- 14 carat
Ivory -- traditional anniversary gift
Jewelry --modern anniversary gift
St. Valentine -- Feb. 14
Silicon -- atomic number
Sonnet -- 14-line poem
Stone -- British unit of weight equal to 14 pounds
Temperance -- Tarot cards: card of temperance
Vermont -- 14th state of US

I've added some more 14 ideas:
Makar Sankranti -- celebrates January 14 as the sun moves from one zodiac zone to another
Moon -- 14 days waxing/14 days waning
Cuboctahedron -- 14-sided
Bastille Day  -- July 14, 1789
Lunar Landing -- Apollo 14

To explore book arts, click here:

To see a video of a one-sheet book, check out

Another superb conference:
WriteOnTheEdge 2022 International Calligraphy Conference to be held at Mills College in Oakland, CA  The committee is busy working on the conference and will have a website soon. Take a look at what was offered at the 2019 conference in Quebec.

Friday, October 16, 2020


photos by Bill Slavin

With Autumn, we sometimes hear the screech of a hawk being chased by a murder of crows. This morning the hawk sounded angry, chasing the crows through the trees, near enough to startle us so we ducked our heads. A hummingbird swooped down to the feeder and took a drink, oblivious to the ruckus around us.

by Bill Slavin

We have a fountain with goldfish and lily pads floating on it. In our first enthusiasm, we put far too many fish into the water, which became murky. We only see the goldfish when we sprinkle food on the water surface. The fish seem to thrive in the cloudy water otherwise. This weekend bees swarmed the lily pads, not for the flower nectar, but to have a drink on top of the pads. They are affected as we are by the extreme heat and smoke in the air.

by Bill Slavin

The other day as we headed out for our walk, we were surprised by a forest of mushrooms at the corner of the driveway. Our neighbor had cut down a tree in that spot and the mushrooms bloomed on its remains underground.

by Bill Slavin

As we watch the animals in our backyard prepare for Winter, we continue to count the days until the election is over, hoping that the results will do away with the stress and divisions that have surfaced in so many of us through the last four years. We cheer at the many signs for candidates lining the corners of busy intersections in our town, with more people than usual competing for spots on the fire district board, school board, and city council. We marvel at the long lines of voters in states where early voting is allowed and feel hope in people's renewed interest in our form of government.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. In many cultures, the season represents maturity and adulthood, a time of ripeness and harvest. It is also a reminder of the constancy of change, the ability to let go, and a time to seek comfort and warmth. Leaves turn, animals prepare for Winter, and we vote, all important parts of Autumn.

by Bill Slavin



Friday, October 9, 2020


Some people see dirt, I see paintings.

Autumn seems much more of a change to me than other seasons. Maybe because in the U.S. back-to-school patterns used to be set in September and I still respond to that anticipation. I know that in other places outside of California the temperature has dropped far below what we are experiencing with the dry high-eighties degree weather here. We won't get leaves turning color until the end of October or even November, but we still see the golden light of Autumn. The shadows slant longer across the road, the mornings are chilly, but the leaves that now drop are dry and dusty, more so because of the intense heatwaves we've lived through this summer.

This is a good time of year to look for patterns and textures. Even cement becomes interesting as layers of gravel are exposed and leaves, sticks, and berries fill the cracks. Looking at each separate leaf on the ground, I can see the vein pathways like small city maps that highlight the process of life of the leaf. 

I take pictures as I walk. I look for inspiration among the greys, taupes, yellow ochre, burnt siena, and burnt umbre colors that have fallen to the ground and worked their way into the creases, leaving me with patterns, shapes, and changes in value that I can draw and use to create a collage or painting. The principles of design -- balance, repetition, contrast, proportion, rythym, and pattern -- stick in my head and guide me to focus the camera so I can create a harmonious, pleasing design.

Back home, I draw the bones of some of the photos:

I select the second photo because of the contrast of darks and lights, the amount of large and small shapes, and the texture.

Then I add some earth tones with watercolor and black markings with a black china marker, which is waterproof.

I tear paper and lay it down to check the composition.

I glue those pieces down, but decide to add some paper that I had eco-printed with leaves and a circle with sumi-i ink calligraphic marks.

I'm still not satisfied with this piece yet. There is always gesso or more paper pieces to the rescue. Sometimes, though, the piece just is a good learning experience.

Good article from NASA about rising temperatures: 

Friday, October 2, 2020



A kind friend gave me a balloon for my birthday at the beginning of September. The balloon, a helium-filled one, has lasted much longer than most. The balloon started out tied to a chair across from me at our breakfast table. I looked at it each morning and it made me smile. About a week ago, the balloon started dipping down, so I untied it to let it drift. 

It lingering in the dining room for a day, and then to our surprise, began to wander around the house. We would get up in the morning to find it waiting patiently for us in the kitchen or hallway or at the bottom of the stairs. Today, September 30, was its last day, I think, as the bottom of the balloon touched the floor with the string circling around it.

Wouldn't this quiet balloon's movements make a good children's story? One about resilence, steadfastness, or loneliness? Many themes such as these appear in children's tales giving readers a sense of what they need to carry them through the big problems that they encounter through life. 

The best children's stories often use simple objects such as the broom in The Sorcerer's Apprentice or Lily's plastic purse from the book by the same name by Kevin Henkes to create meaningful characters. Can you think of an object or an animal that could represent qualities you would want to pass down to the next generation? If so, you have the makings of a children's story.

Do You Know Cats? by Martha Slavin

I taught a class called Quest to junior high school students. The class helped students understand how their words and actions could affect others. I used one exercise called the Bucket Tale, which was similar to a children's story. Each time the main character did something that harmed, ridiculed, or demeaned someone else, one of the students dropped a small stone into the bucket. The clang rang throughout the classroom as the bucket filled up quickly. The students got the point just as quickly. Carol McCloud turned this story around and wrote a book about kindness called Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? Another book, David Gets in Trouble by David Shannon, gives us examples of the importance of honesty. How our actions affect others can be found in What If Everyone Did That? by Ellen Javernick. Maybe, this year, we all need to go back to reading children's books to remind outselves of what we value most.


I finished a 30-day painting challenge. I selected some of the drawings and made a mosaic of them:

You can find more children's books here:

Good Reads for Children 

PikMonkey is one of many websites that help to create photo mosaics. They offer a 7-day free trial.

Photo Mosaic site