Thursday, December 31, 2015

One Good Snark Deserves Another

Since I started painting in 2014 my dad, aka Futh, has shown ongoing interest in my work, often asking about it, and also displaying front and center in his home those paintings I've given him, even going so far as to move them from room to room so as to have more opportunities to view them.

When I painted a sky series during the summer—several posts starting with Attention-Getting, 7/26/15, and ending with A Series! Seriously!, 8/9/15—he took note and periodically pointed out interesting skies as possibilities for painting. Futh is one heck of a guy.

However, he's also got a sense of humor and isn't above making a snarky comment or two. When my son Jay and I drove up to Maine in early August to visit him and Muth at the Norway Center where Muth was living, Futh turned to me at one point, looked skyward, and said, "Dotty, there's a sky you could paint … "

And so I have.

Not-a-Cloud-in-The Sky
4x4", tissue and acrylic on stretched canvas
[not for sale]

Bona fide reference photo provided by Jay:

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Nudge, Nudge …

Whenever one of his daughters has been on stage, so to speak—playing in a recital, getting into a college of choice, winning an award—my dad's reflex response has been to literally or figuratively elbow whomever is beside him to say proudly, "That's my daughter!"

During the 1990s, Walt Hatch, member and then-president of the Bethel (Maine) Conservation Commission, was the key player in developing and then overseeing a foot trail on Mt. Will to increase public awareness of the natural resources and beauty of the Androscoggin River Valley. He secured permissions from town selectmen for the section of trail running to the North Ledges in the 115-acre Bethel Town Forest, secured permissions and licenses from other landowners for extensions of the trail to a South Cliffs section, made and maintained descriptive signs providing a guide to understanding the natural and logging history of the area, and personally placed flower signs next to specimens (105 different flowers!) as they bloomed annually.

Nudge, nudge … That's my father!

The second painting in my current series is of the sky over the Androscoggin River, perhaps as it might be seen from an outcropping partway up Mt. Will.

Androscoggin Sky
4x4", tissue, acrylic, ink, and pastels on stretched canvas
[not for sale]

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sky Series Redux, #1 of 3

Played with a 4x4" stretched canvas a week or so ago for the first time in almost a year. And let me tell you, it felt like at least a year—I was all thumbs!

I'd forgotten how to work at a table instead of at an easel.

I'd forgotten what it felt like to work on canvas after working on only paper for several weeks.

I'd forgotten about painting around wrapped edges.

For texture, I decided to glue wrinkled paper on my canvas. Gluing paper to canvas turned out to be different from what I was expecting. The tissue tore, and it didn't reach to the edges of the canvas, let alone wrap around the four sides.

But here's another thing that turned out to be different, especially from a year ago: when ugly started showing up on the canvas—and it did, ugly did not take residence inside me. I just kept taking one step and another with a sense of delight and adventure.

As Gomer Pyle used to say, Sha-zam! Gall-lee!

I embarked on a tiny sky series project I had in mind, starting with this take-off on one of the paintings I did for my Norway Center series:

Bethel Sky
4x4", tissue, acrylic, ink, and pastels on stretched canvas
[not for sale]

Monday, December 28, 2015

Tossed by the Waters

Contemplated one idea after another last night and this morning. Nope. Nope.


Followed one impulse far enough to gather up some paper scraps, tear them into smaller pieces, and fill a support with a glued mosaic.

Still nope. That one's hangin' out in my studio. Another day.

Poked around online to chase some possibilities.


Felt tossed by the waters, got tired.

Then—talk about impulse!—thought of something I wanted to try, grabbed Days on the Back Creek … and cut it into four quadrants.

Kinda took my breath away. No turning back on that decision!

Scissors in hand, kept on cutting. Glue already on the table, started affixing.

Happy birthday, Jack!

Stringin' 'Em Up
4.5x3.25", ink, acrylic, pastels, and cut paper on cardstock
[not for sale]

Days on the Back Creek, before surgery

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Train of Thought

One of my favorite conversations ever:

I drop Jay, then maybe 14?, off at a local pond to fish one evening. Drive home, follow a train of thought the whole way. One thought. Another. Another, another. Wonder what Jay's train of thought might be while he fishes.

An hour later I pick up Jay.

Jay, when you fish, what do you think about?


No, really, when you were just fishing, where did your train of thought take you?

I thought about fish. I looked at the surface of the water to figure out where the fish would be.

Alrighty then!

When I see MA FISHING LICENSE on a Christmas wishlist this year for Jay, now no longer 14, I claim the honor of getting it for him.

In the Moment
3.25x4.5", acrylic, ink, and oil pastels on watercolor paper
[not for sale] 

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Little Christmas Story

If you're looking for someone who lives all year for the holiday season, you've come knocking at the wrong blog.

But, I always hold space for light in the darkening days of December. And light always shines.

Mid-December, I woke to what felt like a day tight with appointments, responsibilities, tasks, preparations, and the routine stuff of being alive. But didn't a spark of light find its way to me! After an 810a medical appointment and before an 845a phone appointment back at home, didn't space just open up to let me pop from the Women's Health Center over to Art Supplies Wholesale to pick up a sketchbook for Scott for Christmas!

I could have ordered a sketchbook on Amazon, quick as 1-2-3-prime, but I wanted to be in the art store. I wanted to pick up sketchbooks with my own hands, assess them with my own eyes. I wanted to chat with the consultant. I wanted to honor, with my presence, the part of Scott's way of being in the world that has always nudged me to see the world in ways that I wouldn't without him.

I wanted to wrap that sketchbook myself, take it to the post office in person.

And, before wrapping and mailing, I wanted to pick a page and create a little surprise for Scott.

9x9", acrylic, ink, charcoal, and pastel on sketchbook paper
[not for sale]

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Another Vote! and Another Lookie This!

While we're busy picking a painting for Norway Center, someone else has also been making picks. What fun on Christmas Eve Day to receive the following email message from David Marine at Daily Paintworks:  "You're one of our DPW Facebook picks of the day!"

Lookie this:

Click on Daily Paintworks Facebook and have yourself a bona fide look-see!

Voting Rights

Norway Center (NC) has what is called a Resident Council. When activities director Georgia—love her energy and spirit!—came on board at NC she established a bank account directly for the residents; it's their money to choose how and when to spend, and the corporation can't touch it. It allows for special events or projects outside the corporation activities budget, and the residents themselves vote on how to use it. It's that account to which my sisters and I will donate.

In the past, residents have gone to North Conway to ride a train around the Notch, headed off to the cinema, sponsored a needy child at the Christmas season, and bought a Wii so they could bowl.

Is that awesome or what?

In the spirit of the Resident Council's right to vote, and to enrich the process of selecting which painting to give NC, I invite you—sisters included—to identify which of my five so-named Norway paintings you like best and why.

Norway 1

Norway 2

Norway 3

Norway 4

Norway 5

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday Secrets

Sure enough, new vision today. Hypnagogic ideas woke up with me this morning and nudged me into my studio.

I gessoed over yesterday's exploration. Whew!

Rummaged through paper scraps in search of greens, tore some pieces, glued them onto my support. Returned to the concept of negative painting. "Subtracted" some of the collage by covering it with paint, leaving an evergreen tree-like shape in place. Added ink, oil pastel, wax pastel.


I love knowing that yesterday's doodle-mess is a secret gift under the tree, so to speak.

Hidden Gifts
3.25x4.5", acrylic, collage, ink, wax and oil pastels
[not for sale]

in process

acrylic and ink
tissue, newsprint, oil pastel
completed painting

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Painting always brings along surprises.

And not always surprises I like.

Here I sit metaphorically scratching my head, muttering, Huh.

Right now, no ideas. Can't imagine where I'll go next, how I could move this painting somewhere that makes me say, Yup.

But here's what I love: Whatever's obscuring my vision in this moment will get tired and wander off. Some new idea or impulse will grab my hand.

Stay tuned.

untitled work in progress
acrylic, tissue, newsprint, ink, oil pastel

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gifts of Imperfection

A couple of years ago I took an online course offered by Brené Brown. For the class, I kept an art journal in which I worked my way through various exercises, the first of which was to write myself some permission slips.

Excerpt from September 2013:

I give myself permission to …

• get messy
• say no
• be me
• let go of pleasing others
• be awkward and clumsy
• feel joy
• try new things
• have fun
• come out of hiding
• forgive myself
• get my shoulders away from my ears
• breathe
• feel sad
• not know the answer
• show up
• be seen
• love myself
• pray
• trust myself
• feel uncomfortable
• open my heart
• fail
• laugh

Guess I opened that can o' worms!

Couldn't be happier.

Rising Strong
4.5x3.25", acrylic, ink, and pastels on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Paper Prayers and Paper Prayers

Sometime in the 80s, when Meg, Scott, and Jay were still ducklings following Dave and me around, we discovered Paper Prayers on display in Boston one holiday season. I came to learn that they were derived from the Japanese practice of offering colorfully decorated strips of paper as a prayer for good health and well being. A tradition began in Boston and has grown to involve many regional art galleries—participants are invited to created 4x12" strips featuring handcrafted media from collage, painting, and poetry to photography and computer-generated imagery. The strips are hung vertically on gallery walls, creating a vibrant presentation of artistic expression and a collective display of unity for a chosen cause, and individual prayers are purchased with a small donation.

We purchased Paper Prayers from Boston exhibits for several years before the paper prayers idea went "underground" in our lives, surfacing unconsciously in other creative acts of compassion from time to time (and probably serving as one impetus behind the years of my artwarmers business—a story for a different day) before coming back to life for me in recent months as I've painted bookmarks. These new paper prayers are prayers of listening, moments of tuning in and paying attention, a contemplative practice expressed through paint on paper.

Below, another paper prayer from our Very Scranton Christmas weekend, shown first as it traveled down to Pennsylvania taped to a library book cover, and then as it traveled home from Pennsylvania as a bookmark:

Paper Prayer 24
1.25x5", acrylic, ink, and wax pastel on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Not Only but Also

Do you think students are taught the not-only-but-also grammar construction these days? Not so much, I'm guessin'.

Regardless, here's what ran through my mind this afternoon:

Not only is there the wonder of ending-a-day-with-a-painting-that-didn't-exist-at-daybreak that I've exclaimed about previously, but also there is this wonder—if I'd started painting today at, say, 1000a instead of 1225p, the painting I created wouldn't be the one you see below.

A painting is just SO the moment(s) in which it is painted.

Today I played again with making a mark on my paper and then seeing what mark I made next. Each brush stroke or scribble or dab invited me to the next. This approach is still so new to me. So uncharted. So exhilarating. So freeing.

I started with paint, using both ends of my brush, and from there jumped from paint to ink to paint to ink to paint to ink to wax pastel to oil pastel. Eventually, the painting felt complete so I stopped.

Having Fun
7.5x5.5", acrylic, ink, and pastels on canvas paper

In process:

Friday, December 18, 2015

Sitting with I Don't Know

Yesterday I started playing with an abstraction.

I return to it today, kinda stumped, thinking, I don't have a clue.

Yesterday's exercise doesn't feel complete. That's as much as I know.

I am hesitant, at a loss.

I sit until eventually I feel more comfortable with I don't know. I reach for paint. Mess about. Get more venturesome. Wreck—without meaning to—parts of my painting that I'd liked. Fiddle with wax pastels. Create some softnesses that appeal to me. Go back to paint. Move over to ink. Shift to oil pastels.

I feel the energy of incubation.

And now, this piece—this exercise, really; this stretching and lifting and breathing—feels complete. I think I know more than when I began, even though I don't know what that might be.

Lines from Cynthia Voigt's novel A Solitary Blue pop into mind:

This had been the pattern
of his days on the back creek, too:
he would move the boat out
until he felt more frightened
than he had the courage to match;
then he would anchor
and wait.

Days on the Back Creek
8x10", acrylic, wax pastel, ink, oil pastel on poster paper
[not for sale]

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Asking Questions

Painting as personal inquiry. That's where I parked myself ten days ago.

My entry question: What will I investigate?

I grab poster paper, cut it to 8x10", tape it to a tray, apply gesso, run a comb-like gizmo through the wet gesso. Let it dry. Paint some shapes that I've had in mind for a few days, using a chromatic black concocted from Mars Black, Dioxazine Purple, and Titanium White; black because fellow artist Ann Marquis wrote a blog post about chromatic black.

Already I notice attachment: I like the gizmo lines! I like the black shapes! Time to frame it!

But, with outdoor an outdoor temp of 58˚ (on December 7th! in Massachusetts!), I sit on my front steps with ink and pastels.

Plus, I have a messy disgusting stay-wet palette again, and I still hate to throw away paint so I go back indoors and pick up a brush. Once I start messing around I don't feel so attached anymore!

The phone rings. A prospective client. We've never met before but we connect. I return to my studio with our wholehearted conversation infusing me.

My exit question: Have I completed this inquiry? Don't know. But my painting time was joy-filled; I am joy-filled.

Tomorrow, more inquiry.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dopp Kit

Traveled over the weekend to join Meg, Michael, Caroline, and Emmy for what we have referred to ever since we first did it three years ago as A Very Scranton Christmas, that is, a way to celebrate a bit of Christmas in the location that happens to be halfway between our distant homes.

Day before the weekend, I took two bookmark-sized strips of watercolor paper and used acrylic paints to cover one with red+, the other with yellow ochre+, all colors coming from remains on my (increasingly disgusting!) stay-wet palette.

Then I made a tiny travel art kit to take with me:

• bookmark-starters (taped one on each of the inside flaps of a plastic covered library book),
• a few pens, and
• wax pastels.

First day of our weekend, sat on a hotel bed to finish one bookmark in a room overlooking the hills of Scranton with two rapt granddaughters at my side. Nothing better!

Paper Prayer 23
1.25x5", acrylic, ink, and wax pastel on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

So Many Years Young

Over the weekend, granddaughter Caroline and I visited a student exhibit at Artworks in Scranton, PA.

Great place!

Captivating exhibit!

We were particularly drawn to the vibrant work of Ethan Gerber. Strong line, exciting color. As we studied one piece, I turned to Caroline and said, "This is someone who has art just pouring out of him. He will make art and make art and make art for years, I think."

His pieces were distinctive, and opened doors inside me, as much art has of late, inviting me to romp around and engage in more free play at my easel.

Gerber's paintings fueled my creativity this morning when I went to my studio to create a birthday card. Painting with the energy of Gerber's style in mind made me feel many years young, and I'm hoping the card will make my brother-in-law kick up his heels, too!

2.75x4", acrylic, ink, and oil pastel on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Two of Gerber's paintings:

I still have much to learn, more doors to open.

Monday, December 14, 2015

First Anniversary

A year ago, Marjorie and David walked up the aisle over the dunes to wed on Crane Beach.

Winter Wedding
24x18", acrylic
[not for sale]

Today, an anniversary.

Congratulations! Mazel tov!

Argilla Road
4.75x3.5", tissue, acrylic, and wax pastel on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Grand Appearance

Another grandnephew!

Oliver James
Sunday 13 December 2015
8:17 am
7 pounds 10 ounces
20.5 inches

Greetings and salutations!

2.5x3.75", acrylic, ink, and oil pastel on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Standing Roadside by a Saltwater Marsh

I do love to travel while I paint. Today I go by paintbrush back down Route 133 to stand beside the saltwater marsh across from Farnham's in Essex, MA. That's where I left off in medias res yesterday.

I continue to play with my rudimentary understanding of negative painting. Instead of painting a marsh in the background and then trees on top of that to create the foreground, I use a subtractive approach; I fill a page with color and then "take away" some of that color by covering spaces around and between simple, distinctive shapes that, in this case, become trees.

Part of the fun for me is just having a go at it. I don't follow instructions or do any research. I try one thing and see what happens. Then I try another thing. And another.

God willing and the creek don't rise, I'll bring whatever I learned experientially today to the next negative painting I do.

Across from Farnham's
7x5", acrylic, ink, and oil pastels on watercolor paper
available $35 as of 2/2016

Friday, December 11, 2015

An Hour on a December Morning

watercolor paper
burnt umber
yellow ochre
cadmium yellow medium
chromium oxide green
ultramarine blue
titanium white
painting knife
#4 bright

I carve time out of my schedule from negative space.

Then I jump into three different experiences in my studio:

First, I scrape autumn saltwater marsh colors across watercolor paper with a painting knife. Love the roughness and imprecision.

Then, I ink in some lines. Love their thinness, the hint of a landscape.

After that, with my brush, sky and water become the negative space that makes trees and land pop into possibility. Love the transformation.

I stop in medias res today.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Eyes of the Beholder

With a painting for Norway Center in mind, I find myself trying to figure out what would be best to paint. A scene evocative of the landscape in that patch of Maine? Something concrete? Something abstract? Bright? Soothing? Childlike? Sophisticated?

Oh. Wait.

The eyes of the beholder(s) will not be mine—how can I possibly know what I "should" paint?

As the phrase that has stuck with me from high school Latin points out, de gustibus non est disputandam, i.e. there's no accounting for taste.

I can't guess what others will like.

My part is no more and no less than to shine this little light of mine out into the world. Doesn't matter what I paint. A landscape, scribbles, a still life—doesn't matter.

Just paint.

Have fun, for Pete's sake!

With gentle rain tapping on my skylight, I pull out yesterday's work in progress, along with wax and oil pastels. And I play. I move past yesterday's edge, venture into the unknown, have great fun putting oil pastels on top of the crumpled tissue paper.

Hanging Out Together
7x5", acrylic, ink, wax and oil pastels on poster paper with glued tissue paper

tail end of process
where I stopped yesterday
completed painting