Friday, December 29, 2023


The Five Signs of Life: Square, Triangle, Circle, Cross, Spiral

                                       What events in the last year stand out to you?

We can all think of wars, extreme heat, and the recession of democracies as important events that occurred in 1973, but three anniversaries speak of some pretty strong cultural influences. Disney and Warner Bros. celebrated their 100th anniversaries. The Hip Hop music phenomenon celebrated its 50th. All three of these have had a tremendous impact on American culture. The reminders of these anniversaries brought me back to 1973 to see what else happened that year. Going back to 1923 will have to wait.

I scoured online for 1973 and discovered two lists, one from the Saturday Evening Post (I didn't even know that the SEP still existed) and another from the Houston Defender, a now-online news source focused on Black information (I didn't know this news source existed until I looked online). These two publications are other echoes of our culture along with the anniversaries of Disney, Warner Bros, and Hip Hop.

The Saturday Evening Post began publication in 1897 and came to our house every week, often with its covers designed by Norman Rockwell, and full of mainstream American stories. It is still available in print six times a year and digitally. The Houston Defender started in 1930 as a physical paper that has transitioned to online with stories centered mostly on Black American life.

I combined some of the events on their lists for 1973:

Roe v Wade ruling
Motorola introduces the first cell phone
Gerald Ford became Vice President after Spiro Agnew resigned
Watergate scandal continues
Vietnam War ends
OPEC oil embargo
Occupation of Wounded Knee
Passing of the Endangered Species Act
Billie Jean King v Bobby Riggs tennis match
DJ Kool Herc invents Hip Hop
Films of the Year: Exorcist, Enter the Dragon, American Graffiti, and Blaxploitation movies such as Detroit 9000 and Cleopatra Jones
Books: Carrie by Stephen Kin, Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam, Sula by Toni Morrison, There is a Tree More Ancient Than Eden by Leon Forrest

Which of these items on this list do you think has had the biggest impact on us today?


Something to think about:  Thanks to the writer
Rebecca Solnit who posted this photo this week from the Science Photo Library
of the earth taken from the point of view of the Pacific Ocean.

Check out the Houston Defender:

Link to Saturday Evening Post:

Friday, December 22, 2023


After too much coffee? by Bill Slavin

2023, full of tragedy and tumult, has been in a personal way something to treasure.  Just like everyone else's, my smile disappeared behind a mask during the pandemic. I would smile as I talked with people, but my facial expression remained hidden partly because of the mask but because I also shielded my eyes by wearing large sunglasses. The glasses covered my eyes and most of my face quite well. With a mask and adding a hat, all my facial expressions vanished. With a mask on, I struggled to let people know that I had empathy for them. I removed my glasses so they could see my eyes, but that was not enough. My muffled voice behind the mask didn't carry the emotion I wanted to express. Body language became more important.


Merry Christmas Shout-Out

I rarely see someone with a mask on now. I am one of the cautious ones who still places one on my face when I know I will be in a crowded place for a long period. Most of the time. Until cold weather arrived, we continued to eat at restaurants on their patios instead of inside. We appreciate the wonderful dimension created by outdoor seating in a restaurant space. We are going to sporting events and other crowded activities that would not have been on our list during the pandemic. By pure luck, I haven't had Covid yet.

"Peeking at you"

People have often made comments about my wide smile, a family trait. My favorite came from a student at the end of the day. He said, "When I walk into your room and see your smile, I know I am okay." A smile has been my way to assure people of my good intentions, that I'm friendly, and that I appreciate the work they do.

Smiles, though, can be full of contradictions. In other cultures, a smile could be an indication of someone's poor mental health or a sign of danger. In our culture, women often are told they smile too much or they are told to smile because they look too stern.  Smile and a woman is too girlish. No smile and she is too severe. In 2023, I found that someone's smile was extra special to see.

Though I valued the mask for protecting me from Covid, I discovered one more unexpected consequence. Wearing a mask not only guarded against Covid, but affected how I communicated with others. 2023 has been a year of getting reacquainted with the smiles on other people's faces and seeing the other facial clues we express that signal how we are all feeling. I am glad.

Thursday, December 14, 2023


Rusting water pipes

Stepping out of our apartment building, I hurry across the street to my quick respite from concrete: a walkway lined with trees and bushes. Several alleys of trees in our neighborhood give me the chance to walk underneath their welcoming limbs away from the streets lined with buildings. Bill and I also live a short distance from the canal behind Oracle Park where kayakers paddle during baseball season in hopes of catching a home-run ball. The canal is alive with seagulls, herons, and cormorants who roost along the edges. The canal is also the entrance to Mission Bay, a former industrial area, where we live. Walking around the neighborhood, I have been hard-pressed to find new drawing inspiration. Instead of my usual trees, acorns, people, and birds, I find lots of buildings and massive steel beams. Some artists love to portray this industrial look, but I'm not one of them.

Steelworkers of America

While we lived in Danville and Aptos, I could walk out the door and find natural objects to pick up and take home to draw and paint. Not so here in the city. As I walked around the streets what first interested me were the rust-colored street plates that dot the pavement. They aren't plain; instead, the surface is covered with wave-like patterns, perhaps an interpretation of the water that surrounds the area. The covers are the color of rust or Burnt Sienna, one of my favorite colors. I began looking for more rust.

Along the waterfront, we walked part of the San Francisco Bay Trail, which circles the Bay. The trail comes off the Golden Gate Bridge, runs on the Embarcadero, and continues south beyond Mission Bay, Dogpatch, India Basin, Bay View, and Hunter's Point where slaughterhouses, the Naval shipyard, warehouses, lumberyards, and steel mills once were located. For a long time, this area was the backwater of San Francisco where early immigrants pitched their tents and irradiated ships after atom bomb testing in the 1950s docked. Now the area is rapidly transitioning to condos, tech and medical offices, parks, and athletic facilities though Hunter's Point still has a superfund site where toxic waste keeps being found even after the initial clean up.

Abandoned buildings at Crane Cove Park

When Bill and I walked the trail, we came to the surprise of Crane Cove Park, a small beach and playing field named for the two monster metal cranes at the side of the park. I saw a feast of rust across  from the small beach behind chain link fences that surround the Union Iron Works National Register Historic District. The park is part of a tribute to its previous history as an industrial area and to the workers who built ships and loaded freight on to barges, especially during WW II. Beyond the fences sit abandoned brick and sheetmetal buildings ready for redevelopment. As we walked past the fences to 20th Street on Pier 70, we saw the beginnings of reclamation of the area. Restoration Hardware has moved to the former Bethlehem Steel Building at the entrance to the pier. Inside the brick buildings that line the street, we saw room after room of computers. The area is trading heavy industry of the past for the modern tech equivalent.

In just a few spots along the trail, we watched the remains of the natural world with shore birds circling the water to come in for a landing and to dry their feathers in the sun.


Read more about the Mission Bay area here:

John King's 2019 article about the Pier 70 project:

What Mission Creek looked like in the 1920s:

San Francisco Parks Alliance:

Tour of the Blue Greenway (taken 7 years ago) which gives a full view of what the rehabilitation includes. 

Friday, December 8, 2023



During the holiday season since high school, I found fun in decorating our house and making cards and holiday ornaments. 

When I was in high school, I learned to make a paper sculpture ball out of two pieces of full-size (about 20 X 30 inches) metallic paper. On each sheet, I would measure out one-inch marks across the page, and meticulously score those marks along with the diagonal lines that crossed the pages. I carefully folded each scored line until the paper turned into half of a ball-shaped ornament. I would repeat that process with another piece of paper. When I did the ornament right, it was a beauty to behold.

When Bill and I were first married, we made our own holiday cards. He would cut out the shapes I had designed from a linoleum block, I would spread printer's ink across the finished block,  and then press it on a piece of colored paper.

A few years ago, I made some cards to add to the ones we now make using Bill's photographs. I wrote up the instructions for them on this blog. Several people have requested the instructions for making my holiday tree cards. What makes this card special is how easy it is to make with whatever supplies you might have to create a simple homemade card.

Supplies you can use:

Painter's tape and hole punches

Sturdy paper such as Strathmore postcard paper or smooth Bristol board

Watercolors, watercolor inks, watercolor crayons, or watered-down food coloring

A clean sponge or brush and the end of an unsharpened pencil

Water, scissors, glue, and a ruler

For tree variations: collect holiday-colored paper scraps and round stickers

Sequins, crystal stars, go with what you want on the tree!


Tape off an equilateral triangle on the postcard-sized paper you choose. Make sure the inner edges of the tape are secure. Using the color agent of your choice, fill the triangle with green. Let it dry. Using the end of a pencil dipped in red paint or ink or red dots made with a hole punch, scatter red dots over the tree.

Add another small triangle at the bottom for the tree trunk.

If you like to do hand lettering, use either pen and ink or markers to add holiday greetings to your card. If you aren't confident about your writing skills, you can make a copy of the phrase from the original cards or find other phrases from other cards or magazines, cut them out, and paste them in place.

Variations on the holiday tree:

Card made with round stationery stickers and a crystal star

Decorative paper cut to fit the triangle shape

Friday, December 1, 2023


I grew up in an LA suburb. We never had snow for the holidays, maybe a little rain. We still gathered for holiday meals around a long maple table and at the children's tables nearby. My mom prepared the usual Thanksgiving meal: pickles, olives, turkey, mashed potatoes, overcooked vegetables, Waldorf salad, rolls with lots of butter, and pumpkin and mincemeat pies. At least that is what I remember.

Along with my sisters' children and our granddad, I sat at the children's table. Our granddad was never embarrassed to join us and made us laugh. My grandmother showed me how to set a table and told stories about her siblings back East. My parents didn't drink alcohol except at holiday meals. Sometimes they would have a glass of wine and let us have a spoonful and then laugh at our scrunched-up faces in response to the taste. Boyfriends and my sisters' husbands joined the table over the years, and then their children took over the children's table.

I continued the holiday traditions when I married and moved away. We had a smaller gathering, just my in-laws and sometimes a stray friend, and then our son Theo. I love to cook and used the Sunset Magazine's version of roasting a turkey -- upside down until it reached almost done. The white meat was juicy and tender because the juices followed gravity. I pulled it out of the oven, poured a mix of alcohol over the bird, and lit it aflame. I put it back in the oven for a short time until the top skin was brown and crispy.

Our holidays changed when we moved to Japan. Turkey was not a meat that was eaten there and to order one was extremely expensive. We joined with other ex-pat families either around their table or at Roy's Restaurant in Omotesando (the same restaurant found in Hawaii).

Our move to Paris changed our holidays again. The local butcher shops prepared turkey along with rich pate. Somehow, no matter which French person cooks the food, it tastes better than anything I can conjure up. I had to walk several blocks home lugging the turkey and pate on a platter. I was always grateful to make it home in one piece. We would invite an African friend to dinner to celebrate friendship in a different place than our American home.

Once we came back to the U.S., I returned to our holiday traditions until about 10 years ago. Theo graduated from college and he and his long-time girlfriend split their holiday times between two families. We meet a couple of times during the holiday season and recognize that the holiday day doesn't have to occur on the nationally designated day. What is important is getting together.

This year, once again, our holiday is different. We have moved and had lunch at Farley's, the pub at Cavallo Point, a hotel that is situated at the old Ft. Baker site on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from the City. The hotel has a beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay. We have never been there when it is foggy. The lawn in front of the hotel allows us to walk before dinner. We can sit in the rocking chairs that line the porch. We had a quiet early dinner, a green salad with chicken added and Parker House rolls served hot in a small cast iron skillet. We had a wonderful day by ourselves and texted messages to family and friends.

What I've learned from our many changes is to enjoy the tradition as well as the change. There is happiness to be found in both.


A friend recently lost one of her sons to suicide. Her blog posting here includes her husband's response to the tragedy. It's a beautiful thoughtful response to a tragedy: 

Friday, November 24, 2023


New postcard design

A friend who is approaching ninety years old told me she just purchased a book called Change Your Mind: 57 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Self by Rod Judkins. My friend is a wonderful artist, especially of animal portraits, and continues to learn every day. She is hope.

According to a very small study of art students in 2014 skills developed by drawing increase the areas of the brain that control spatial recognition and fine motor performance. A good reason to take up the practice of doodling. I knew before I read about the study that there was a good reason to make art and it is not just the old mantra of left/right brain thinking. This study showed improvement on both sides of the brain.

Doodles I turned into a book

This past year I have been able to take several Zoom art classes, which have been good time savers for someone with a long to-do list. They offered me the chance to relax, learn some new techniques, and see people I haven't seen since the pandemic. I recently took a class from Roxane Glaser, who is not only a lettering artist but a yoga instructor as well. She began her class with some yoga exercises before we picked up a pencil.

Roxane used her abstract watercolors as the foundation for holiday cards. The designs she used were similar to ones I had produced several years ago.

by Martha Slavin

In listening to her design process, I discovered something new to me: neuropathic art, which is a technique used by art therapists to help overcome anxiety and other mood disorders. Artists have adopted the technique and enhanced the process with color and shapes. Similar to Zentangles, which is another form of doodling, neurographic arts starts with a line. Rather than using patterns inside shapes as Zentangles does, you start with a thin marking pen at one edge of the paper. Once you notice the direction you are going, you change the direction and repeat that process until the line goes off the page. Artists have taken this line pattern further by rounding off each corner, adding color, and overlaying shapes on top of the line. The design can then become the background underneath a cutout shape.

Neurographic art in six steps

I have been doodling since I could hold a pencil. I tried Zentangles and then adapted the idea to include my own patterns. Whether I am sorting lead type for letterpress printing, doing calligraphy, doodling, or creating a piece of neuropathic art, I can confirm that doing this type of artwork has a meditative quality that improves well-being by getting into the zone of creativity where I become oblivious of the world around me and time doesn't matter.

Zentangle design using their prescribed patterns

Check out Roxane Glaser's work here:

Articles about the effects of art on the brain: 

Friday, November 17, 2023



Layered letters, a technique I learned in a Cora Pearl class recently

Watercolor escaped me this past month. So did calligraphy and even drawing in my sketchbook. Our move to San Francisco disturbed my creative routines. I knew the impulse to create would come back, I just needed a solution.

I found it with a table. A small lesson about myself and my need for a dedicated place to make art. Our furnished apartment in the City has a Minimalist vibe, just right for the many young people who populate the neighborhood. The apartment came with everything including two desks in each bedroom. Bill moved one desk into the living room and I placed my desktop, files, notes, and other items that help me manage our household and write my blog and other stories on the other. Not enough room there for artwork in progress. I tried leaning a drawing tablet against the edge of the table, but that was clumsy and not sturdy enough, and I didn't have room to spread out supplies. I needed another table to have my tools around me. The stress of the topsy-turvy moves we've made left me no time to reach the engagement in my work once described by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as creative flow, to sit in the zone of creativity, and to get lost in thought which makes creativity a joy.

Posterized flower photo done on my desktop

I ordered a table online. Three weeks later, I received a note from the apartment manager that my table had arrived at the front desk. Package deliveries are nothing like deliveries at our former home where a package would arrive and lean against our door. The apartment complex has implemented many security measures: key fobs for entry and elevator use, a room for locked USPS mail and parcel boxes, and a locked room for packages from UPS and other delivery services. In a complex that contains two buildings, one with five stories, the other with 14, one can imagine the number of packages that arrive daily at the front desk.

Brushstroke practice to loosen up

Same painting upside down. Which is more pleasing?

We live in the shorter of the two buildings, a half block away from the front entry. We have to plan for package pickups. We can either take the elevator down to the street level and walk to the front entry or walk down one flight of stairs to the third floor which is connected to the first building by an expansive patio area and then down their elevator. We are still figuring out delivery services. Every day we find a new adventure in just making our way in an apartment building.

Of course, the small metal table needed to be assembled. I became proficient at assembly when we moved to Japan and transported boxes of bookcases, beds, and tables that needed to be constructed on our arrival. But this metal table flummoxed me. The screws connecting the legs only went in halfway. I needed an electric screwdriver to finish the task. Ours is packed securely away in our storage containers along with our paper shredder, pencil sharpener, rain boots, measuring cups, tax files, lightbox, and other items I didn't think we would need while existing in limbo between houses with most of our possessions stored away.

We purchased a new electric screwdriver and with Bill's help, I now have a table. And already I am happy to sit and draw and paint some postcards. I made a set of overlapping words to send to some art students from St. Cloud State University, my dad's alma mater. I began to feel the sense of immersion that comes when something I'm working on is going well. For the cards, I used the words Grow and Change. When Bill saw them, he laughed, "Enough already. I don't need to grow or change for a while." Me too.

Second version of Change/Grow postcard

Third version  Which would you pick of the three?

Read more about Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's research into happiness and creative flow:

Thursday, November 9, 2023


The last roses of autumn

Just as the TV showed the French police officers erupting out of their car to end a frantic chase of a right-wing terrorist trying to blow up housing for immigrants, we heard the wail of a siren in the background adding to the tense moment in the movie. We first thought the sound was bringing more officers coming to help on the screen. It took us a few seconds to realize that the alarm wasn't part of the film's plot but instead was coming from outside in our neighborhood. 

We paused the movie, walked out onto our tiny balcony, and stood searching the air for the source of the siren. A man on the street was getting into his car. The lights inside his car turned dark as he closed the door. The alarm kept going. It wasn't his car alarm shrieking.

We couldn't figure out where the shrill sound was coming from until we saw a group of people moving around in the glassed-in lobby of the apartment complex across the way. Then several people exited the building, not running, but ambling down the stairs. They gathered in groups in the small park nearby. In one third-floor apartment, a man came out onto his balcony with his little dog in his arms and sat down in one of his balcony chairs. The alarm kept wailing. He didn't move.

We didn't see any visible smoke. Finally, we walked back inside, picked up the TV clicker, resumed the movie, and watched the police officers frantically shooing people out of their apartments and out of the building before the bomb went off. The panicked dwellers ran downstairs, streamed out of the building just before the noise of the explosion hit them.

The alarm outside across from us stopped. No fire trucks arrived. False alarm.

Reel/real life in a city.

Beauty when we need it

I have stepped out of my usual stories with this week's post. The coincidence of the movie/real-life incident was so extraordinary to me that I had to share it. I thought of the movie and the police officers responding to an emergency and I thought of real people and how often we discount something that is possibly life-threatening and don't move until we are pushed.

New York Times' Monday edition had a spectacular display of photos from the Webb telescope with interesting commentary about each photo: 

Thursday, November 2, 2023


Some of my well-used pencils

A pencil. 

My favorite tool to use for drawing or doing crosswords. I have them scattered around the house.

If you learned to write with a pencil, you probably used a yellow Dixon Ticonderoga 2 HB, a soft pencil right in the middle of the pencil hardness scale. This pencil was designed by Joseph Dixon in 1812, though earlier pencils can be found as far back as 1650. In the U.S. the pencil came into its own during the Civil War. Soldiers needed something easier to write with than a quill and ink. They carried knives and could sharpen pencils to a point.*

I am taking a series of classes called the Liberated Line, my favorite design element. Each Saturday focuses on a different element of design. We use shape, form, texture, value, space, and color combined with line. Last Saturday's instructor, Amity Parks, took me back to my beginning drawing practice. We used various hard to soft pencils that we each had on hand. I picked up my favorite Eagle Draughting pencil, which is about 6B, very soft, and no longer made though they can be found through online dealers starting at about $20 a pencil. 

We worked to create a palette to show what we could achieve by varying the pressure we put on a pencil. We worked through the Bs, reaching the Ticonderoga 2HB, and then began to experiment with 2H. The pencil weights go from 9B to 9H. Some brands, such as Blackwing, use their own scaling system. I discovered in my first drawing class what a difference each grade and brand of pencil made in my ability to manipulate the line I drew. I loved the soft quality of the Eagle Draughting pencil. I still do. The series of Hs gave me little room to create dark and light strokes. 

Checking the hardness of a line with each type of pencil
 & creating a value scale for each pencil

We used other pencils, chalk markers, and Conte pastel pencils

During the day, we experimented with various ways of creating a letter, including adding color. 



My favorite exercise was a letter hidden within a value drawing, filling the entire area with a variety of pencil marks. 


Halfway through a pencil drawing using both 2HB and 6B pencils

Finished capital H (can you see it?)

As Paul Klee once said, "A line is a dot that went for a walk."


Learn more about the history of the pencil:

Story of the Dixon Ticonderoga yellow pencil: 

Check out Pencil Talk:

Tour the Sanford Pencil Factory:

Friday, October 27, 2023


It doesn't feel like fall yet in San Francisco.

Davenport. When was the last time you heard someone refer to a couch or sofa as a Davenport? The name originally came from Cheshire, England, and was used by a furniture manufacturing family in New England for their expensive, fancy settees, divans, chaise longues, or chesterfields. Maybe if you came from that area back East, you are more familiar with the word Davenport. Recently I have only heard Davenport as a name for a place or person, not something to lounge on.

I received an email inviting me to the International Calligraphy Conference next summer which will take place in Davenport, Iowa. I was curious why that town in the middle of the country in the middle of summer had been selected. I was curious about the name Davenport too. I remembered hearing it used in my childhood, but rarely since. I discovered the conference was dedicated to the work of Father Edward Catich, a monk from St. Ambrose University, who wrote a book entitled The Origin of the Serif (only a calligrapher would write a book on a small mark which has major significance in letter design. Amazon offers the paperback version of this book for $130 -- a collector's item, for sure.) But I digress from the word Davenport. Last night as we sat down to watch the first episode of the original Miss Marple series on PBS, I smiled when I saw the name of one of the leads, Jack Davenport, an English actor. I also discovered that there are twelve towns in the United States called Davenport. There is a lake in Minnesota and also a mountain peak in New Mexico with the name. The first Davenport to arrive in the U.S. was Lancelot Davenport. Now that's a name to remember. Davenport seems to be everywhere I look.

Practicing more layered letters with Neuland font, which is sans-serif

Recently as we drove along Highway 1 which hugs the Pacific Coast, we passed the town of Davenport, which calls itself Whale City. Davenport is only a couple of short blocks long and easy to drive by, but it is a good place to watch whales as they migrate through Monterey Bay. Nearby Shark Fin Beach offers plenty of places to explore, though because of the cliffs towering over the beach, checking tides before walking down the beach paths would be a good idea.

This morning I opened an email from the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and found that Matthew Davenport, author of The Longest Minute, would be speaking about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  Another Davenport!

Letter formed with serifs

I mention these examples of a word that pops up repeatedly for a short time because I also find that true of themes in books that I read. For example, earlier in the year I finished Amor Towles' book, The Lincoln Highway, which takes place during the Great Depression. I also read The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, about the Black woman who was the original librarian for the J.P. Morgan Library, and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson,  both books are based during that time period. The era between the two world wars fascinates me because so many of our ideals and beliefs about America are reflected in the cultural, economic, and political events that occurred from the Great Influenza of 1918 to the beginning of World War II and they continue to echo in the present day. 

I don't intentionally seek out books set in the time period between the two world wars, yet I just finished West With Giraffes by Lynda Reynolds, based on a true story of transporting two giraffes across the country. I picked West With Giraffes because a friend writes essays about rhinos in Africa, which has nothing to do with the subject of West With Giraffes except they are both about African animals and their interactions with human beings.

This theme of personal development during a long trip resonates with me. America the Beautiful? by Blythe Roberson tells about her venture alone into our National Parks and the unsettling history she discovers behind one of the best things about America. The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts, describes how Annie Wilkins rides a horse across the U.S. to reach the Pacific Coast and what she discovers about mid-century America.

My question here at the end: Why is it that when something is noticed, its appearance multiplies? I just got an email that Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carry, is out with a new book called, America Fantastica, and whether it is a good book or not (read the NYTimes review), it follows alongside a fictional character in search of himself by traveling across America.

Check out Davenport, California:

Check out the course offerings at the International Calligraphy Conference:

Tim O'Brien's latest book:

Interesting online magazine to read:  

Thursday, October 19, 2023


A mural in Capitola with some lettering fonts used by graffiti artists

Some weeks I find it hard to sit down and write. World events get in the way. Yet, I also know what value and calmness I receive when I write my thoughts or draw what I see around me. I think about the calligraphy classes I have taken and the meditative quality they create from concentrating on one task. Maybe today is a good day to work with my hands. A moment of solitude.

A part of a piece of graffiti in downtown San Francisco

Last Saturday I took part in a class led by Cora Pearl, who is part of a group of five amazing calligraphers each offering a one-day class this month. Their subject, the line, is my favorite design element. Line is the fundamental element before shape, value, color, texture, or contrast. Without lines we have nothing.

Lines across the front of a building

Humans make marks on everything they touch including caves, buildings, canvas, and the sand beneath our feet. We also now make marks in the sky. Last weekend over our heads the Blue Angels performed aerial stunts that mark the sky and follow a long tradition of aerial acrobatics that began with the early barnstorming pilots during the Roaring Twenties of the last century.

Mosaic of jet trails by Bill Slavin

Since moving to San Francisco, I've noticed how many empty storefronts trail along the streets. They have become a venue for graffiti in quantities that I haven't seen since the beginning of this century. Many people then were outraged by the seeming desecration of public spaces and rightly so, yet some of the graffiti artists, such as Banksy, Dondi White, and Lady Pink, became well-known because of their fantastic flourishes on grey concrete walls. Their work exists in museum exhibits now. Many cities adopted the practice of public murals in response. The murals fill the ugly grey walls, with ideas, lines, colors, and honors to citizens of their communities. In the Bay Area, murals proliferate in Oakland, Santa Cruz, San Jose, and Walnut Creek.

on a San Francisco side street

You may or not like the graffiti put up by taggers or you may or may not like the designs made by architects and designers that appear on the outsides of buildings. For me, one of the values of art is to present new ideas in interesting ways that test your comfort zone. Once I take the time to look and try to understand the other person's feelings, ideas, and process, I can decide whether I like what they produced or not.

Layered lettering produced in Coral Pearl's class by Martha Slavin

Check out the TimeOut article about street artists: 

Check out the links to these calligraphers: