Friday, August 26, 2022



As many shades of green that I could make

Most watercolor artists that I know like to mix their own versions of green. The greens, like Cobalt Teal, Sap Green, or Hooker's Green, tend to look unnatural right out of the tube when painted on the page. Mixing a little Cobalt, Cerulean, or Aquamarine Blue with either Raw Sienna, Aurelin, or other yellows, gives the painter a more natural green than usually can be found straight from a tube of green. That practice has been hammered into my head for millennia, which made me feel a quiet sense of betrayal when an instructor decided to add green right out the tube to her paintbox. I had to step back a minute and think about my response to the action. "Yikes, a rule was broken. Never say never. Wow! Green all by itself." 

I know I tend to be a rule follower, not a rule breaker, but I've always considered my art to be the place I could break the rules. I came up short with green. I decided to make a palette of various mixtures of blues and yellows as well as straight greens from my forlorn tubes of Phthalo Green, Diopside Genuine, and Green Apatite Genuine that I had purchased and never used. After that experiment, I now have added green straight out of the tube to my paintbox too. I do continue to mix the green with the blues and yellows to make a better version of green.

You learn something new about yourself every day.

Trees sketch with greens mixed from various blues and yellows

This week I am spending time in Minnesota, a state that is filled with a variety of greens.

Friday, August 19, 2022



Pan American Unity, a mural by Diego Rivera, has been moved across town from San Francisco City College to the Museum of Modern Art.  The MOMA became the depository of the mural while construction was going on at the college. This mural is not some small painting in a frame. It is painted on concrete panels and covers a wall in the museum that is 22 feet high by 74 feet wide and weighs over 60,000 pounds. Moving such a work of art from one place to another in the City must have been an incredible feat. Once the mural was installed, the museum created an exhibit that celebrates Rivera's artwork. We took a day to visit and strolled through the huge collection of his work contained in 16 galleries.

One section of Pan American Unity by Diego Rivera

Rivera painted three different murals in San Francisco during the 1930s and 1940s. Rivera was a political artist who filled his paintings and murals with workers, fellow artists, and political figures.  Pan American Unity represents his belief that Mexico, the United States, and Canada were equal in importance culturally and we all shared artistic and philosophical influences. His murals on public buildings inspired FDR's WPA program, which began in 1935 during the hardest years of the Great Depression and employed many artists including Thomas Hart Benton, Ida Adelman, and Rex Brandt, who all painted murals in schools and other government buildings across the country. San Francisco has its share of these WPA murals from the '30s including a series at Coit Tower, some at the Beach Chalet near Golden Gate Park, and in the Mother's House at the Zoo.

While we walked back through the back-alley streets from the MOMA, we discovered a new crop of murals that artists created during the pandemic. We saw examples of work on old brick buildings, concrete and wooden walls, and utility boxes. We delighted in the juxtaposition of large artwork in contrast to the concrete and glass of the skyscrapers around them.

To find out more about Diego Rivera and his murals:

Check out Forbes' article about how the mural was moved from one location to another.:

The Living New Deal site offers information about WPA projects with 51 pages of projects for California:

FDR also signed the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935, during the Great Depression. Read Heather Cox Richardson's post about its significance:

Friday, August 12, 2022


Unfinished "High Jumper" by Martha Slavin

Every painting that I do is a new experience with watercolor. Sometimes techniques I've learned help me to progress; sometimes painting is like I've never touched a brush before. I keep taking more watercolor classes. I find that different instructors who have different ways of working help me see that there is not just one solution to a problem. Watercolor, like any other art form, teaches you how to fail. By taking classes from people with various styles, I'm learning to find my own way of painting while I incorporate some of their valuable lessons.

From Leslie Wilson, I've learned to paint the connections between shapes, moving from one shape to the next one right next to it so that I don't leave big spaces in-between that become hard to fill later on. I've learned to paint while holding my brush upside down, to create hard and soft edges around shapes, and not dab at the paper too much.

In contrast, Carolyn Lord and Charles Bukowski contain each shape in a hard edge while mingling colors within the shapes. They both soften edges by using similar values next to each other.

Abutilon by Martha Slavin

Michael Reardon starts by wetting his paper and then washing a layer of watered-down Cobalt blue across the top which mingles with the Permanent Yellow Deep that he paints towards the bottom. He keeps some of the white paper pristine. I've adopted this method to help me take the first step when confronting the "Blank White Paper."

"Buvver" by Martha Slavin

Ted Nuttall layers paint, letting each layer dry, and uses dabs of paint to add multiple colors to his portraits. His class helped me to add colors such as turquoise to the shadows on a face.

"Girlfriend - 1928" by Martha Slavin

Cindy Briggs and Brenda Swenson offer classes about creating art journals and I use their designing-the-page techniques when I travel and sketch.

Carmel Art Journal by Martha Slavin

Each of these artists uses a different palette of colors, different paint boxes, different kinds of brushes, and different brands of paint and paper. I found two common connections between them all: they use quality materials and they create a foundation for their painting by doing careful underdrawings.

Patience is the other constant that I have tried to learn from classes. These artists don't rush their work, they make corrections to their drawings ahead of painting, they step back and look at their progress, and they let the paint dry. Patience has been the hardest technique for me to master.

Illustration for a Fantasy Novel by Martha Slavin

Without taking classes, I would continue to color inside the lines, a technique that is often used in illustrations (think of children's books). I find this way of painting reassuring. I can complete a section and move on. But then, if I don't try other techniques, I will remain where I am without growing from the practice.

Check out these websites for workshops and artwork:

Friday, August 5, 2022


Evolution by Martha Slavin

While we lived in Tokyo, I walked our son to school every day. On the shady street leading to the school, a tall, elegant woman swept her steps each morning. I nodded at her and said. "O ha oo go zi a ma su." She would say the same back to me. We never spoke beyond that phrase, but our "Good mornings" became a ritual. I didn't know much Japanese, and she never offered any English. It didn't matter. For a very brief moment in time, we connected.

When my grandmother Mimi died, my mother took home her jade plant that Mimi had been tending in her backyard. Every time I saw the plant, I was reminded of Mimi and her white, white hair and blue eyes. And her aprons and solid, sensible shoes. And the paper dolls from McCall's magazine she saved for us each week when we visited her and Grampy every Friday. Mimi also showed me how to set a table properly. She showed me which fork and knife went where and how to fold a napkin.

Freedom Found in Flying by Martha Slavin

Little rituals like these become such an important part of our memories. Sometimes repeated experiences etch themselves into our minds such as remembering a dad's cigar smoke or cleaning cars growing up. Sometimes it's an unexpected event that stays with us, such as the time coming home from Tokyo for the summer, I leaned against the plane's window and saw miles and miles of whales swimming in the same northern direction. I was transfixed by the thousands of enormous beings swimming with such purpose. That awe-inspiring memory has stayed with me.

Sometimes a phrase or action stays with us long after the person we interact with is no longer in our life. I remember a college professor asked me if I planned to be a writer. I wish I had paid more attention to her and pursued a writing career, but her words remained with me and encouraged me to keep writing for myself. Over the years, I wrote in a daily journal, joined a writers group, led a writers group for a while, and finally started writing this blog, with many positive results from the unexpected responses from people who read my Friday posts. Thank you all.


Take a look at these three blogs that I follow:

Chandra Lyn's Pics and Posts for her photography. Scroll down to see her photos from a 30-day challenge:

Letty Watt's Literally Letty blog, this week features some good advice about staying healthy and active. She also occasionally lets her dog take over and he writes some funny posts.

Pamela Paulson's TreeWhispers blog: Look quickly because she has reposted one of my posts about trees this week. Thank you, Pamela!