Friday, March 25, 2022


Photo by Bill Slavin

 Who inspires you? 

A prompt from my writers' group made me think of Dorothea Dix, Jane Addams, both early social workers, and Mary Poppins. Real and imaginary people. Today, Barbara Lane, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, reminded me about Brenda Starr, Ace Reporter, the main character in a comic strip, who had her own career and traversed the world for a story. Barbara Lane wrote that reading the Brenda Starr stories inspired her to become a journalist. Brenda Starr was one of a few main female characters in a time when someone like Barry Goldwater could say, "I have nothing against a woman doing anything a man can do as long as she gets home in time to cook dinner."

Prompts take me down different paths as I search for an idea for a post. As I listen to another tender story from one of the writers in the writers' group, I think how the message of her connection to the restful and soothing effects of water resonates with so many of us. Other people feel the same kinship with mountains or they find solace in their gardens. In each case, the connection is to the natural world. There are always exceptions to what provides well-being. A friend who grew up in Tokyo feels uncomfortable in parks or out in the woods. She found her place in the hustle and bustle of the concrete city instead. Where do you find inspiration and solace?

Photo by Bill Slavin

In the weeks that our group meets, many themes tumble out onto the page. One woman chronicles her life at 19 in a big city, another writes of her birthplace and how the land raised her. Another records stories of the struggles of being an outsider/refugee with a close family for support. Each of these themes prompts me to think of events in my own life that could be a post. You don't have to be a writer to think about any of the following prompts:

What book from your childhood had an impact on you?

What is a favorite magical spot?

What do you carry with you?

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you end up doing it? If not, what happened? If so, was it what you expected?

I hope these prompts will open up memories that give you insight into yourself.  If writing works for you, write down your thoughts. Make a list. Record your thoughts on tape. If you draw or paint, use these prompts or find inspiration in Bill's photos to begin a page about your life.

Photo by Bill Slavin

Friday, March 18, 2022


Color mixing challenges me no matter what medium I try. While working on my self-imposed 30-day challenge of the Colors of Spring, I spent time looking at the colors in the flowers and tried to duplicate them. I realized that Nature is a master colorist. I was flummoxed when I discovered several plants that have red and green blended together. Mixing these two colors on the opposite end of the color wheel with paint or colored pencils usually gives me shades of brown. The real plants I looked at, such as the succulent Crassula, managed to be vibrant instead of dull.

I set up some obstacles for myself when I started. I planned to paint with watercolors for this daily practice. I chose cold press paper, which is my usual watercolor choice. When I discovered I didn't have the bright spring paint colors in my palette, I switched to colored pencils without starting with smoother paper. I also drew the outlines of the flowers in graphite pencil. This lack of planning and wrong choices reminds me of cooking preparation. If you watch cooking shows, the cooks always have each ingredient measured out, lined up in order of use. Preparation makes a difference, doesn't it? Luckily for me, this challenge is a practice, not a finished product, and a way to learn from my mistakes.

I finished my 30-day challenge by day 15. These challenges motivate me to do some artwork every day. Once I start though, I find it hard to stop each day with just one square. I find that I also wander off in other directions: looking up names of flowers, making a color wheel, and refreshing/learning information about using colored pencils. I'm not a master of these tools. I've used them all my life, but, like watercolor, I haven't concentrated on them enough to be an expert colored pencil artist. One of the rabbit holes that I went down this week presented me with colored pencil artists' websites. As always when I find a new artist I like, my mouth drops open at their abilities and creativity.

Take a look at some spectacular examples of colored pencil art:

Ann Kullberg:

Arlene Steinberg:

Cindy Valek Mottl:


Brooklyn Art Library, the home of the largest collection of art sketchbooks, had a disastrous fire. They were in the process of moving the collection to a new home when the truck carrying the collection was in an accident. They are now attempting to save as many sketchbooks as possible. They have a GoFundMe page:

You can see the digitized collection (including 2 of mine) and more news of the fire rescue at their website:

One of two sketchbooks that I sent to the Brooklyn Art Library in January.
It has not been digitized yet and may be lost.


St. Cloud State University, my dad's alma mater, is hosting us for a reception at the university archives which now contains much of his work for 30 years drawing the Bugs Bunny comic strip. After the reception, the drawings will be available for viewing by appointment.

Friday, March 11, 2022


Winter and Spring dance around each other

Bleak, grey clouds wrap up the sun

Burst of flowers flood the world with colors

Swirling rain and snow squabble over fingers and toes

Spring sun catches your spirit and flowers open with joy

There is no Spring without Winter

Does Winter need Spring?

Here in the Bay Area in Northern California, we are in the middle of Spring already. The daffodils are gone, camellias edged with brown hang their droopy heads, and Spring green leaves have unfurled. Other flowers, primroses, pansies, rosemary, fuchsias, and deer's ears, push their way into view. I want to capture what I see. All this activity is a good reason for me to do another 30-day challenge.

I pick a piece of cold press watercolor paper, which has a roughness that catches the paint and I draw a 2" square grid across the paper. In each square, I pencil in one of the flowers I see in our yard. I set out to paint them and discover I could not capture the intense Spring colors of the flowers. I needed Opera, a bright pink and a blue that wasn't Cerulean, Cobalt or Aquamarine. My palette didn't contain anything close. I turned instead to colored pencils.

Usually, when I use colored pencils, I draw on hot press paper, which is as smooth as copy paper and allows me to color in a flat wash with no paper showing through. I also normally use a blue pencil to draw the outline of the image. A regular pencil's outlines will show through the colored pencil giving me hard edges all around the object. I could have started over, but this was supposed to be fun, a way for me to make a daily quiet practice. I forged ahead with what I had. A couple of good tips about using colored pencils: shade the area by drawing overlapping circles to avoid seeing pencil lines and layer colors one on top of the other to give a more luminous view.

Love sunflowers? They mean more today than ever. Check out the sunflowers posted by artists all over the world here:

Friday, March 4, 2022


In my carry bag today:
iPad to read papers and watch videos
iPhone to take pictures
Walking shoes
I try not to bring everything with me when I stay away from home. 
It never works.

This week I hauled my usual overload when we visited San Francisco for a couple of days. I ended up spending time at Golden Gate Park, an old haunt that still keeps me uplifted. Bill and I went there to the Sunday band concerts, walked through the halls of science and the planetarium, and enjoyed tea in the Japanese Tea Garden. I remember playing hide and seek with our son along the pathways around Stowe Lake. I think of the many visits with two good friends to the deYoung Museum to see artwork and to sample food at the museum cafe. This week I will mostly be on my own, so I have plenty of time to read, walk and draw.

I brought two art books by Charles Reid, a master watercolor artist whose books and streaming videos, offer anyone the chance to learn from his detailed explanations of working with watercolor. 

I plan to read George Orwell's book Why I Write. The book was first published in 1946 and as with much of his writings still rings true today.

I picked two memoirs:
A Wilder Time by William Glassley, a geologist who explores the untouched wilderness of Greenland and makes his experience full of beauty and awe for the reader.

South Path by Raynor Winn, an Englishwoman who writes about losing the farm where she and her husband raised their family. They invested in a friend's business which failed, and they became responsible for his debts (a reminder to read the fine print on any contract), and ended up homeless. They also learned that the husband had a fatal disease. (and this isn't even fiction!) Without any moorings to lean on, they decided to walk from one end of the South Path Trail in England to the other (630 miles). The memoir explores the world they dropped into as walkers and as homeless, the reaction of others to their wanderings, and their realization of what is most important in their lives.

I also needed some good fiction:

Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks is a favorite for this year.
The novel follows a young female archaeologist who is hired to document any signs of ancient civilization in an area in Montana which would soon be flooded by new dam construction. The dam would bring water to a parched area and employment to many locals. The land is near the Little Bighorn and is part of indigenous people's sacred ground. Lots of entanglements in the story.

And some good, easy reads:
I like mysteries so I included one of Martin Walker's Bruno, Chief of Police series, The Templar's Last Secret, set in a small village in France.
I've also picked up several books in the last year about bookshops. I found Jackie Fraser's The Bookshop of Second Chances delightful.

Happy Reading!