Friday, January 28, 2022


Sun Rising by Martha Slavin

 Do you have rituals that you follow each day? 

As I turned the page on my calendar, I saw a quote suggesting that little things add up to big ideas. In other words, small rituals can accumulate to provide a foundation for our lives.

A friend works the New York Times mini crossword puzzle each day. I do too. It helps me wake up and shows me if my mind is either sluggish or sharp that morning. If it's Thursday, I also do the two Cryptogram puzzles published in the San Francisco Chronicle. I have a cup of tea and then a latte before I start doing morning chores. Bill opens the back door and stands quietly on the deck for a brief moment before he returns to his day.  Another friend gets up early and walks up to five miles around town. A neighbor for many years walked at sunrise, stopped and prayed to the sun. All small rituals.

Fountain of Ideas by Martha Slavin

Our dishwasher has been broken since Halloween (too many spooky events last year?). Though the repairman has apologized profusely because the first replacement part was broken and the second was the wrong one, the dishwasher still sits waiting to be fixed. In the meantime, Bill and I wash and dry dishes, a small task that gives us a few minutes together. Bill developed "dishpan hands" in reaction to the soap we use, so now I do the washing with gloves on and he dries. Standing together, putting dishes away, walking back and forth around each other, we do what I call the kitchen dance. Small things.

We both retreat to our workspaces where I bring up a blank document on my computer and start writing snippets for my blog that have been circling around in my head during the weekend. Sometimes one snippet (like this one) will continue to grow. Other times I may end up with several starters that I file away in my Blog Ideas file, which now numbers 153 separate idea morsels. Some, such as Out of Time, Compost, and Myths to Live By, make me stop and reconsider their concepts. Others stay in the Ideas file because they ran out of gas in one paragraph, or I read what I've written and realized my writing doesn't have the point that I want to express. When people ask me if I ever get stuck for an idea, I can explain about my Blog Idea file that gets me going. Small rituals.

This week as I sit at my computer, I start writing about the sight of a young bunny outside our kitchen window. I want to draw or paint him, so I set the story aside. I watch the morning dogwalkers parade past my window. Often they stop and talk to each other as their dogs sniff and jump at each other. There's a story there somewhere. Then I move to the idea of how water and shadows change the shape of objects, but my thoughts end quickly on that one. Then I turn to a collection of tin wind-up toys that I am drawing. All of these ideas end up in my file for later. I go outside and walk around our yard taking photos of the colors of January and find new growth on shrubs and trees that are just starting to unfold in our out-of-season warm weather. I tuck that idea away too.

The Sun, Light as a Feather by Martha Slavin

All these small rituals that begin my week add up. I recollect the phrase that made our son groan sometimes when we reminded him of the Three P's: Practice, Perseverance, and Persistence Pay Off. He las learned that lesson well. Small rituals.

Friday, January 21, 2022


January first in California fools the eye. I  imagine people watching the Rose Parade see the spectacular blue skies and the craggy San Gabriel Mountains that fringe the Los Angeles Basin and are inspired to move to California. Blue skies or not, mornings in January can be cold, cold enough to do not much more than grab the paper and run back inside. I just have time to look over the ground to find January's small textures. Textures are the music in artwork. They create rhythm, patterns, and repetition that guide our eyes across the various parts of a piece of art or photography. 

Sights and Sounds of Winter Texture

 The scrunch of snow

Bare trees reflected in a puddle of water

The one-note whistle of a bird high in a bare tree

The crackle of dry leaves. 

The screech of a hawk staring down, feathers ruffled

The caw of a crow

Frozen sap from a dead tree

The rush of a swollen creek

The clatter of thin ice sheets splattered on the ground

The constant high-pitched whine of leaf or snow blowers

The flutter of chickadee wings

The sparkle of ice crystals hanging in the 20 degrees below zero air 

on a sunny day (in Utah)

The water foam around rocks as the rain-swollen creek cascades down

The snow tucked into cold corners

Lime green moss reaching around rock walls in California winter

Put these sights and sounds together and we have a concert of textures to enjoy.

Friday, January 14, 2022


 In the January doldrums, sometimes I go back to a skill as a good way to start practice for the new year. I've always drawn and painted faces. With acrylic paint, I can experiment more and correct mistakes by layering paint and using texture. 

BLUE EYES by Martha Slavin
gesso, acrylic paint, torn paper napkins, graphite pencil

To capture texture in these pieces, I use gesso as a ground underneath acrylic paint. I glue down pieces of paper using matt medium. For my first layer of paint, I often brush on random strokes of aqua and yellow ochre. I add more pieces of paper and stencil texture to the dry surface. In some paintings, I water down the gesso and paint a thin coat over the top and then wipe most of it off with a paper towel. On BLUE EYES I drew outlines and text with a graphite pencil. On FEMALE, I used black gesso to outline the faces and added white highlights.

FEMALE by Martha Slavin
gesso, strips of paper, acrylic paint, stencils
FEMALE is now on view at the online Las Laguna Gallery exhibit

For HIDDEN WITHIN, I sprayed watercolor ink on thin pieces of paper, I also used the ink stopper from the bottle to draw lines and add dots. I glued these all together with matt medium, added a face, and then stenciled through doilies for more texture. My last step was the doily frame around the face.

HIDDEN WITHIN by Martha Slavin
Torn paper, stencils, splattered watercolor ink, doilies

These two paintings show how much change can result because of layering. I was dissatisfied with the first attempt, so I used a different palette of colors on top of the dry surface. I used stencils to add pattern and texture, and drew with regular drawing pencils to highlight the features of the face. Maybe I will do another version on top!

Draft #1

Finished or not?


Here are some of the materials I used to paint these faces:

Check out the latest online exhibit, Human Faces & Figures, at the Las Laguna Gallery in Laguna, California. Since it is online they are able to showcase many more pieces than they could display in their gallery. The artwork is presented in alphabetical order so you have to scroll through a lot until you get to mine, FEMALE. Click on each image to see the entire work.

Friday, January 7, 2022


Winter birds in our neighborhood

My workroom waits for me. I am reminded that in Japan the week called o-souji between Christmas and New Year's is a big clean-up time for Japanese families. I'm late to get started because the holidays have filled my life with everything but art projects. Now I am eager to make a fresh start in the new year. My workroom needs a good clean-out. I prompt myself to pick one stack at a time.

First, I have a box of washi paper and old wrapping paper, tucked in the bookshelves beside my table that I can ignore most of the time. 

I pull out the box. I cut the paper into pieces and make designs for holiday cards for next year. I congratulate myself for getting so far ahead of schedule for the next December season. Now, all I need to do is remember where I put them twelve months from now.

I have a week before my watercolor class begins; but first, I am going to clean out my watercolor paint palette. I pry out each dried leftover paint color. I clean the wells and squeeze in a good amount of fresh paint. Next, I need to test my paintbrushes again. The last time I used them they seemed worn out. Since good brushes aren't cheap, I will test them again. 

Two different kinds of palettes: a holder of paint

To remind me how to mix colors and how to achieve the amount of paint to water that I want when I start a painting, I am going to paint a palette of January colors, the soft greys, browns, and greens that cover the ground and color the birds rooting around for seed. But first, I need to find space on my worktable to lay down my paper to paint my winter color palette. With these simple clean-ups and preparations, I have performed my own kind of o-souji in my workroom. I am ready for the new year.

and a piece of paper with swabs of colors mixed together

Two projects I finished at the end of 2021:  Two sketchbooks, which I will send to the Brooklyn Art Library to be added to their collection of sketchbooks. You can see my Covid Diary, 2020 to 2021 by clicking on the link to YouTube. The journal called Hope will be up next week.

COVID Diary 2020-2021

Link to YouTube:

HOPE Journal

Check out the Brooklyn Art Library's collection of sketchbooks: