Monday, November 30, 2015

Kid in a Candy Shop!

• scrap poster paper
• acrylic paints
• oil pastels
• water soluble pastels (new!)
• india ink pens (new!)
• charcoal pencils (new!)
• sunshine
• front porch

Olive Garden
8x6", acrylic, charcoal pencil, ink, and pastels on poster paper

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Every day I make space in my day to paint.

Every day I choose what to do in that space.

Today, I choose to do what I call gwendaart. I coined the term in celebration of having discovered Gwenda Waterink. Gwenda is my mentor—though not by any formal arrangement. In fact, not by any arrangement at all! She mentors me in the implicit encouragement and door-opening created by her paintings and blogposts.

Following her lead, I go to my studio today wanting to listen to whatever my inner self invites me to paint.

• I select an old calendar page to use as my support
• see my tube of medium magenta, mix it with white, start painting
• draw lines and shapes with a pen on my not-quite-covered canvas
• don't like the magenta so mix in some cadmium red light, use it to fill negative spaces
• use a black Sharpie pen in my left hand to draw circles and lines

Then I stop recording the steps—entirely too boring and disruptive, though I do photograph some of the process (see below).

Fully immerse myself in wordlessness—find it totally engrossing and satisfying.

Tickled Pink
6.25x8.5", acrylic, ink, and oil pastel on poster paper

In process:

Saturday, November 28, 2015

This Little Light of Mine

Instead of exchanging gifts with each other at Christmas this year, my sisters and I will donate money to Norway Center for Health and Rehabilitation where Muth lived for the last seven months of her life. I offered to coordinate the endeavor and to paint something to accompany our check.

Well, December is looming large and I'm thinking I'd better get painting.

Immediately I feel myself tighten.

I pause. Breathe.

What is the intent of this gift? To honor, celebrate, and shine light on the folks who honored, celebrated, and shone light on Muth, and to honor, celebrate, and shine light on Norway Center's current residents.

The only way I can do that? Honor and celebrate my own little light.

I go to my studio knowing only this much: When I have something to give to Norway Center, I will know. I plan to do a painting a day until I know.

SO freeing to paint with this mindset.

Today I start by covering canvas paper with greens and blues. Go in next with a brush to carve out evergreens from negative space, which yields a pleasing, unpolished feel. Let that much dry. Rainy day, so I have to sit indoors to add ink and oil pastels; hmph to indoors!

Norway Pines in Norway, Maine
7x5", acrylic, ink, and oil pastels on canvas paper
[not for sale]

in process

Friday, November 27, 2015

I Get It

I get it. This might never be easy.

Did another values study today after about a six-week hiatus.

I can see that I can see values. That's good.

But really seeing, and staying with seeing while I paint? Just not easy.

Much easier is to slip out of seeing into assuming and categorizing and naming.

Unthinkingly "seeing" a finger as a finger, for example, instead of as a value and a shape, and then falling asleep from seeing altogether, painting the whole finger with one value.

I wonder when and how I will start applying my rudimentary values awareness in actual paintings. Ironically, I have done very few paintings with a reference in the past six weeks, and when I have, I've done them on the fly and with a high level of distractibility. I've barely given a conscious nod to value, and haven't yet set myself the focused task of painting something with attention to it.

And then there's abstract painting. Value plays into that as well, but in different ways, and damned if I know how!

For now, today's exercise. Undertaken with engagement, a few laughs, and humbling challenge.

values 6

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Now playing, another matineé show.

I wake up in the morning: no painting.

In the afternoon: a painting!

Something new in the world that was never here before!

This freepaint today, who knows where it came from? I went to my studio knowing only that I wanted to pick up a brush and paint. I went in with no colors in mind, no scene, not even a loose idea.

Magentas and purples and turquoises raised their hands. I put them on my palette, dabbed my brush in, whirled around to my easel, let my brush land wherever and however it landed.

Did it again.

And again.

Once I covered my sheet of canvas paper, yet another warm-enough-to-sit-outdoors November afternoon teased me out to the front steps with pens and pastels in hand.

With sunshine on my shoulder and paper, I traced ink lines around glossy shapes on the painted surface.

Loved the precision, the sharpness of the lines.

I selected pastels and rubbed their matte finish wherever my eye directed my hand.

Loved the relaxation, the softness of the smudges.

Such a new experience to see my insides on the outside in this way—in color, line, and shape instead of in words.

8x6", acrylic, ink, and oil pastels on canvas paper

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lookie This!

Remember way back in September when, following a week at Takodah family camp in August, I played around for days trying to paint a likeness of Cabin C?

That cabin gave me one heck of a challenge but I eventually painted an image that captured the soul of my week at camp. Very satisfying!

I shared it with folks in the office at Takodah.

They in turn shared it with American Camp Association New England.

American Camp Association in turn featured it in their Thanksgiving greeting on Facebook:

Cabin C on Facebook

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Anne!

Had negative painting in mind again. Or some notion along those lines.

Folded watercolor paper into a card, taped it down, covered the whole surface with reds and yellow ochre and burnt sienna and a touch of green. Penciled in a roof line and a window. Painted over everything above the roofline with a cerulean blue tint.

Threw some trim on the building, weathered it. Used teeth on a comb to give the trim some grain.

As soon as the paint dried, grabbed an ink pen, put some clapboards in place.

A barn on a quiet day.

Isn't she lovely?

Isn't She Lovely
6x4", acrylic and ink on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Monday, November 23, 2015

Showing Up in the Sunshine

[paintings painted and post written in early October]


Part of painting—of creating paintings—is showing up. I show up in a complex process that becomes a tangible object. I become a painting.

So much mystery.

But, at a simple level, I showed up in the sunshine today. Went to my studio, with my granddaughters in mind and heart, and painted up two little bookmarks. Then took my canvas paper, taped to a tray, and sat on my front steps in deliciously warm October sunshine, and let an ink pen trace shapes in the painted colors. Added some touches with colored pencils.

Two sunny paper prayers to take to Virginia with me.

Little bits of G'ma to give to Caroline and Emmy.

Paper Prayers 21, 22
1.25x8", acrylic, ink, and colored pencil
on canvas paper
[not for sale]

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Carving a Tree

A few days ago I photographed a November 2014 painting of mine as the backdrop for a little project. That painting—Island Road—popped into mind again today while I stood at my easel experimenting like crazy.

A year ago? I labored over Island Road off and on for weeks, fussing and fussing and fussing with it.

Today? I was all derring-do.

Had an idea, dove in. 1-2-3.

I spread, scraped, and smoothed a bunch of fall colors till they covered a sheet of canvas paper.

Roughed in a sketch on top of the colors.

Mixed up some sky with titanium white, ultramarine blue, and dioxazine purple.

Carved a maple tree out of negative space.

Sat outdoors in the sun to add touches with oil pastels.


Two hours, maybe? And fun!

Bold as Brass
8x6", acrylic and oil pastel on canvas paper

In process:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

You've Got Mail

Emmy!, five years old, sent me a letter this week.

I wrote a letter back to her.

3.25x4", acrylic, mechanical pencil, and ink on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Laurie Mueller got me fired up about negative painting again.

Really fun. And I got to sit on the front porch in the sun again, this time while I did ink lettering.

Here's what Correspondence looked like when the painting was still "positive."

Really fun process.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Rockin' my Values

[Painted and drafted in early October]


Meant to take a photo of my reference photo before painting, but forgot. Oh, well.

Chose to do my black-white-gray values exercise with a photograph of a color painting this time. More color here than in the faces/figures I've done thus far. Less obvious subject matter.

Excellent challenge. Light vs bright, for one thing. That stopped me in my tracks.

The less obvious subject matter, for another. Forced my brain to pay attention to shape and value.

I'm loving the mental gymnastics. Liking what I see when I stand back.

Aiming to do more of these exercises.

values 5

Thursday, November 19, 2015


From Pamela Duncan's novel Moon Women:

When we walked out of that building 
oh, honey, 
the world ain’t dazzled me so 
before or since. 
They was a little breeze 
stirring the river, 
and the sun so bright 
it bounced off the water 
and the walls, 
shimmering and sparkling 
so we was nearly blinded. 
Oh, it was pretty! 

Jeff and Dani
4.5x6", mixed media on canvas paper
[not for sale]

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In the Dressing Room

[Painted and drafted in early October]


My knowledge of models, actors, and actresses doesn't run much beyond Twiggy, Dustin Hoffman, and Meryl Streep. But I did have fun doing Jennifer Aniston's make-up today for a photo shoot.

A little gray here, Jennifer, to cover up that rough skin. 

Then some highlights up here to show your cheekbones.

Maybe a little black over here for mystery.

These values exercises continue to fascinate me, painting on slick magazine paper not withstanding. I turn an image upside down and just focus on the lightest lights, the darkest darks, and give gray to everything in between.

The decision-making is constant.

The need for careful observing constant.

And none of it easy.

OK, Jennifer. Done here. You seeing a colorist sometime soon? Um … your roots?

values 4

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Firing up an Engine

Went to my studio yesterday with no image in mind, no reference of any sort.

My intentions: crumple some paper, flatten it out, glue it to a painting support (chose watercolor paper, 8x8"); paint left-handed; make decisions based on what shows up; keep going till I see something I like that feels finished.

Messy process with more time not liking what I saw than liking. Not to mention that I totally forgot to use my left hand. Disliked what was on the page when time ran out—enough to feel an internal heaviness off and on for an hour or two.

Went back today. Kept on messing around with paint. Brush in my right hand again—oops.

Many many layers on this baby, I tell ya!

Felt the urge to move outdoors with my painting, sit on the front steps, shift to ink pens and oil pastels.

Channeled November sunshine and blue skies and 47˚ air through my left hand. Delicious absorption and contentment and energy as I tried this and that.

Loved the little spark plugs of inspiration that moved me along.

Spark Plugs
8x8", mixed media on watercolor paper

Monday, November 16, 2015

Gray Saturday

[Painted and drafted in early October]


Gray Saturday.

Black, white, and gray paint.

This ongoing values study continues to fully engage me. I need to keep up the study, that's clear. The decision-making is at times palpably difficult, while simultaneously being tremendously inviting.

What's so cool is that these exercises perfectly fit my wishes right now—my wish to put paint to canvas at least once a day, my wish to stretch my painting skills, my wish to attend to all manner of non-painting tasks that have piled up, my wish to have my painting time be appropriately proportional to other pursuits in my current calendar.

These slick characters that are my subjects? They make me laugh out loud!

How'd they get into this blog?

values 3

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dead Reckoning

Maine is north of Massachusetts. 

In my subconscious and admittedly simplistic mind, when I drive to my folks’ house, I drive straight north for three hours and then turn right—i.e. east—onto their street. Straightforward. Sun should rise at the right end of the house. 

It does not. 

In the darkness of a still sleeping house, I sit on the left side of the house on the loveseat in the little bay-window alcove where Muth liked to do crossword puzzles. I see the sky lightening, the sun rising. 

In the west???

That about sums up my life-on-earth orientation right now—I am all turned round.

From my bare-bones weekend art kit I pull out canvas paper, ink pens, pastels. Find my way into a little sketch by dead reckoning.

Compass Rose
4.5x4.5", mixed media on canvas paper

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Picking up Muth's Knitting

A tender poignancy following Muth’s death is the passing on of knitting projects she started years ago but put down once she was no longer able to navigate the intricacies of handwork at which she previously excelled. My sister Joany has taken up a sweater Muth started for a baby who is now several years old. Other works-in-progress are in the hands of Muth’s church’s knitting group.

While up in Maine this weekend, I visited a friend of Muth’s whom I met recently and to whom I felt drawn. Over tea and lemon water, we talked about Muth, and dementia, and death, and community. 

And art! 

Lida is a doodler! A creator! She has a desk. Shelves of supplies. Pens, markers, paper, envelopes purchased at yard sales, scissors, off-cuts from a printer, little color-sample booklets from Pottery Barn, colored pencils, bendy doodads, yarn samples, Sherwin Williams color sample sheets—yes!

In short order we picked up stitches that dropped when Muth died and started knitting and purling new rows to that sweater of friendship, interlocking ourselves to Muth while also knitting up something a little new all of our own.

Uplifted, I pulled from my travel art kit a sheet of canvas paper, Faber Castell PITT artist pens, watercolor pencils, and pastels. Doodled freely and effortlessly. Joyously.

Sitting at Lida's Doodle Desk
4.5x6", mixed media on canvas paper

Friday, November 13, 2015

Unexpected Playroom

I remember—when my children were, say, 6, 3, and a few weeks old—the times when I would nurse Jay, snuggle him between me and the back of the couch, and then slip into twilight sleep, lulled by the delicious sounds of Meg and Scott's chatter and exclamations as they played with every toy in our home that had 100+ small parts and pieces. I knew where everybody was, we were all safe, I had my eyes closed. Heaven.

Seems like Muth helped herself to a few sweet days akin to that at the end of her life. Lying on her bed, stuffed toy moose tucked into her right hand, a prayer shawl draped over her covers, she slept for hours and days surrounded by her five daughters. It was a bit of a crazy-making time for the daughters—no familiar frame of reference, no prior experience, no apparent end in sight for way longer than seemed possible—but we rolled with it, and I look back on the sweetness, tears, astonishment, gallows humor, and nonsensical activities that all made sense at the time, and I wouldn't change it. I had my travel art kit, Joany knit, Barby worked newspaper word puzzles, Lauren dealt out hands of Idiot's Delight on top of Muth's covers, Marjorie played Minesweeper, and Muth hung out with us. She knew where we all were, we were all safe, she had her eyes closed. How could heaven be better?

In the Nursery
8x10", mixed media on watercolor paper

Thursday, November 12, 2015


I've often spoken easily with Dave or friends or my sisters about the parts of my relationship with Mom that weren't straightforward, and I've been wanting to put some of that complication into a painting, but I'm surprised at how contracted and vulnerable I feel each time I think about actually starting.

Commit the feelings to paint? I shrink back instantly.

That said, I acknowledge my recurring self-protective resistance and head to my studio anyway.

I pick up a brush. The brush is a gateway. I shift reflexively into painting mind, into an open, neutral space. I find myself all in—with color, texture, decision-making, and the physical and sensory activity. No hesitation, no uncomfortable feelings.


But, now.

Contracted and vulnerable again.

Here's what's at stake. I didn't always feel worthy of love and belonging when I was with Mom—I scrambled for her love and defended myself over and over again against the possibility that I wouldn't feel it.

Guess I'm still scrambling, aren't I, Mom!


I've painted this painting. Written these words. Now I'm posting. All is well.

10x8", mixed media on watercolor paper

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Inner Light

I love expressions such as an embarrassment of riches or a parliament of owls. In writing a note to a friend the other day, I found myself inventing an idiom of my own: a confusion of grief.

The word confusion comes from the Latin meaning mingle together. Never thought of it that way before. That's what grief feels like right now, a mingling together of all manner of things.

Curiosity, for example. So much curiosity. So many questions.

What do I know of a 21-year-old girl who gave birth to her first child on her husband's birthday in 1950?

Next to nothing, except that I am that first child.

The story I'm telling myself is this. That 21-year-old entered motherhood filled with inner light. She had a few ideas ahead of time about being a mom but mostly she learned as she went along.

That's how I approach my studio today. I fill a sheet of canvas paper with light, approach with a few ideas, and see what I discover.

Hi, Muth.

9x12", mixed media on canvas paper

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Paint by Number!

[Painted and drafted in early October]


Cranford, NJ, circa 1958. I remember sitting in our den—a room whose size wouldn't pass muster as a walk-in closet on HGTV today!, working on a paint-by-number kit of a scene in Paris.

I remember the total pleasure and satisfaction of dipping a little brush into little plastic pots, matching colors to numbers on the "canvas," filling prescribed spaces with their designated colors, and watching the scene come to life.

The current values studies I've undertaken bring up those memories. Scene is already in place, colors are pre-established.

Here's the rub: I have to make decisions!

Surprisingly difficult decisions, as it turns out!

But no less pleasurable and satisfying.

Great exercise. This won't be the last one.

values 2

Monday, November 9, 2015


A blank piece of unstretched canvas started a new life today when I tore it from a pad, cut it in half, and taped one half to a tray. I wet it lightly with a cloth, covered it quickly with gesso, left it to dry.

After lunch, after meditating in the warm gusty-winded November outdoors, with multi-colored clouds flying fast-forward across the bowl of the sky, I dampened my canvas again. Used a 1.5" brush to cover it with a thin coat of medium. Followed that with the fun of painting the surface yellow—all sorts of yellow. Then some white. A bit of cadmium red. More yellow. Worked fast and freely—mixing, blending, watching. Taking delight in subtleties of tone and shade and in the physicality of moving my brush. Loved making lightning-speed micro-decisions. Spark, spark, spark! All just to cover an 8x10" piece of canvas with yellow.

Some little something came together. Conception. New life!

Rockabye Dotty
8x10", mixed media on unstretched canvas

Sunday, November 8, 2015


[note: this painting was painted and post drafted at the very beginning of October, when I innocently thought I might have some control over the pace and content of my days … and month. Ha! Posting now with a chuckle!]


Streams merging:

1. Now that summer has ended, whoa! Have had to rethink how I'll arrange my pursuits and responsibilities into a workable and enjoyable fall schedule. September had me hopping like crazy. Thought I might like to frame my painting life for October as 31-31-31, i.e. 31 paintings in 31 days, no more than 31 minutes per day. Thought the 31-minutes limit would honor my intense desire to paint every day without letting everything else go to hell in a hand basket. Wondered what I might paint.

2. During September's 30-Paintings-in-30-Days Challenge I met (online) and corresponded with artist Laurie Mueller—whose paintings I LOVE! I asked her for ideas to move me along in my understanding and application of color values. She generously suggested the exercise of painting over magazine photos with only white, black, and gray.


For starters, what a hoot to pick up Cosmo and Self at Stop & Shop on October 1.

Then, what great fun to follow Laurie's recommendation. The exercise was engaging, it took me under 31 minutes, and—dare I say it?—it was illustrative.

Plenty to learn here. Can't wait to do my next study.

values exercise 1
reference 1

Saturday, November 7, 2015

What Are We Waiting For?

What are we waiting for?

Any of us.



Never know where I'll go when I enter my studio these days. Here's where I went today with unstretched canvas, acrylic paints, a #12 bright, a 2" hardware store brush, ink pens, oil pastels, and a little metal skewer do-hickey whose original purpose is, I think, somehow related to trussing a turkey.

Went in with questions.

Came out with questions.

Vigil in Room 2
10x8", mixed media on unstretched canvas

The journey:

vigil 1, in progress; acrylics
vigil 2, in progress; skewer
vigil 3, in progress; ink pens
vigil 4, in progress; acrylics
vigil 5, in progress; acrylics
Vigil in Room 2
acrylics, ink pens, oil pastels