Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

Dave and I are in Maine as I write, hanging out with my dad. No new painting painted in Maine this weekend. But I want to post anyway, with a few parting 2016 thoughts.


First, Nana May—named in yesterday's post—was my great grandmother, my father's father's mother. She was born around the time of the Civil War. Here is one of her quilts, a quilt which helped keep me warm last night as I slept. No idea when she might have made it.

Don'tcha wonder who designed the polka dot fabrics? Don'tcha wonder who wore those polka dots?

one of Nana May's quilts
as photographed in 2016


Second, I keep thinking about abstract painting and what pulls me to it. I quote some of Natalie Goldberg from Living Color again. She writes about her shift from representational to abstract:

I wanted to know something I didn't know and I wasn't sure how to get to know it. I intuited it wasn't as simple as taking painting lessons. And the fear I felt told me it wasn't all about painting. (p. 124)



Third, I want to express my gratitude to all who purchase my paintings, treat me to supplies, follow my blog, and/or comment here. You provide encouragement, support, enthusiasm, thoughtful provocative questions, feedback, insights, critiques, challenges, and camaraderie—every bit of it nourishment to me. 

Thank you!


*¡happy new year!*

Friday, December 30, 2016

Nap Time

I remember being put down for naps as a four- or five-year-old, way more for my mom's sake than for any need on my part to sleep, and entertaining myself by investigating the many fabrics and textures in quilts made by Nana May. Or maybe it wasn't Nana May. But it was someone in my family who was decades older than I and probably happy to take a midday nap.

Those quilts came to mind today as I finished up another 'paint quilt,' i.e. a card on which I offloaded excess paint from my brush while working on other projects. This one had some stripes, since I started it while working on a stripes lesson in my Jane Davies workshop back in October. I added more stripes, played again with my new 'oops!' colors from Home Depot, affixed a bit of collage, and brought the 'fabric scraps' to life with Neocolor II wax pastels.

I still pull one of the actual hand-sewn Nana May quilts out of the linen closet sometimes when I visit my dad—a good six-plus decades after I first traced patterns, stitching, and seams with my fingers and imagined who might have worn the dresses that later metamorphosed into a quilt.

Nana May's Scrap Quilt
4x5"; acrylic, collage, and wax pastel on manila stock

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Community-Wide Read

Ever participated in a community-wide read? Typically, people in a town or institution come together through the reading and discussion of a common book. 

Sylvia and I participate in a community of two: ourselves! 

We've been friends for 40+ years and we've lived 1000 miles away from each other for about 35 of those years. Many times one of us will get two copies of a book, send one as a gift for the other's birthday or other occasion, and keep the second copy.

Sylvia got us Natalie Goldberg's Living Color this December.

Yesterday I wrote about my experience of abstract art. Today I opened Living Color, pulled out my bookmark, and started reading where I'd left off in Goldberg's narrative. Here's what I bumped into:

Fear rippled through my body. How, I thought, does a painter just paint? Where does it come from without an outside image—a horse, a plane—to draw first? How does one trust standing before a blank canvas? Each thought brought more fear. I am afraid, I told myself. I am afraid of the void … I want to paint without lines. Others have done it. Why should it be so frightening? (p. 123)


Like Goldberg, about a year ago I found myself wanting to just paint. Without an outside image. And I keep wanting to, inviting myself again and again to stand in front of the void. Recently, I did so on the largest scale I'd ever done. Not easy. Not for me.

Today, I worked on a small scale. Started with a 4x5" card that I'd half-covered with stripes in October. Wondered where it would lead me, where I would take it.

Hangin' With Natalie
4x5"; acrylic, collage, ink, and wax pastel on manila stock

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thinking About Painting

I've been trying for quite awhile to find words for the nature of my art appreciation and art making of the past year or so. I feel woefully inept at capturing le mot juste, but here's what I've come up with for now as a partial exploration of my experience.

The paintings that catch my attention these days, and the paintings I am most interested in painting lately, are mostly abstract. Abstract paintings don't represent or attempt to represent objects, and I experience them in a very different way from how I experience representational art.

Let me start by seeing if I can—maybe?—describe how I respond to representational art. Take a look at this painting by Liz Balkwill. I am genuinely awestruck by its beauty, color, composition, and masterful technical skill. Yet I respond to it essentially the way I would respond to a high quality photograph of the same still-life or to the actual still-life set-up itself, i.e. I respond to the represented or physical objects. I see—and enjoy seeing—an exquisite blue pitcher, a glass canister, and bright orange clementines together in a pleasing arrangement. I see captivating reflections and refractions, compelling shadows. What I'm noticing does not get evoked by such a painting, however, at least of late, is any particular curiosity about the painter. I don't find myself wondering about her, or wondering what her internal process was.

This says nothing about her and everything about me right now.

To wit: when I look at expressive abstracts—for example, Simone Nijboer, Krista Harris, Barbara McLean, and/or Debora Stewart—I see choices, decisions, impulses, and intuitions. I see marks, colors, lines, and shapes that are the painter's responses to earlier marks, colors, lines, and shapes, all of which point to who the artist is, to the inner feelings and experiences she manifests as she paints. I feel as though I am seeing the artist on the canvas. I see a captured history of her ability and willingness to tap into what is deep inside her—or perhaps on the surface!—and express it with paint. It's as though she's in the room with me, sharing herself in such a way that I am curious about the mystery of who she is. I think, Oh my gosh, I've got to talk to her! 

In my own studio recently, I have begun to tap more fully into wordless mystery through the act of painting. As you know if you've been following my blog, I'm deep in unknown territory! The whole process is mysterious to me! I start with blank canvas or paper, and see what happens (or doesn't) when I start marking and painting. Making my way in this uncharted place often calls for courage and commitment and plain old grit, at least for me. It can be grand fun and adventure-filled; it can be frustrating and perplexing.

It seems to be where I want to be. It seems to be what I want to see.

Jumping Double Dutch with the Winter Solstice
30x30x1"; acrylic, ink, collage, and pastel on canvas

Year-End Surprise

I received an unexpected email from Daily Paintworks this morning, announcing, "You're one of our DPW Facebook picks of the day!"

What fun to see Beside Walkers Falls Road there, and equally fun to see who it's hanging out with.

Go take a peek! You'll discover today's picks along with prior picks—paintings of all sorts from artists who keep up a daily or close-to-daily art practice.

detail from Beside Walkers Mills Road …

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

In a Quiet Space

I'm in a quiet space today.

In that quiet space I pick up a small start that came into being over time as I wiped excess paint off my brush while working on other paintings.

I am completely at ease and happily spontaneous as I grab a big fat paint marker, and then a different paint marker, followed by a hairdrier, next oil pastels, after that two "oops!" paint samples I received for Christmas using a metal tooling stylus, then an ink applicator, and finally my camera.

I have a terrific time running around in the quiet space of my painting playground.

Beside Walkers Mills Road
5x4"; acrylic, ink, and oil pastels on manila stock

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Is It Christmas Yet?

Confession: Unlike Sally Brown, with her constant fear, I have a secret wish that one year Christmas will come, and I won't know about it! I have been known to struggle just a wee bit, more than once, with our culture's hyperbolic holiday frenzy and consumerism.

Tradition: For more years than not, one way I have embraced Christmas is to craft an annual ornament to give to friends and family. The gifts to myself are, first, that I make these ornaments by hand and, second, that I do so in the calm of January or February, often on a day when life has come to a delicious halt because of snow.

Inspiration: Last year I received a simple wooden ornament from a student.

Ironically, plain and flat as it is, it evoked one of my earliest Christmas memories of a shiny colorful painted glass sphere with my name written in glitter.

I decided I'd paint paper ornaments for 2016, and I created a prototype in my sketchbook.

Action: In January I started blocking out 24 drawings on watercolor paper. A bit at a time, I painted fronts and backs. Soon, I cut them all out.

Precipitation: In January we had a snow day. No exercising at the gym! No students! No going anywhere! In complete contentment I drew the black ink lines on my ornaments and used my sparkle pens to mimic glitter.

Supplies: I took great pleasure in using cording that was donated to me about 15 years ago. I had just exactly the colors I wanted! Very satisfying.

2016 ornaments

Finale: In February, on another snow day, this time up in Maine, I 'wrapped' the ornaments in clear plastic. Ta da—project completed! 

Gratitude: Good thing Christmas didn't come without my knowing about it this year!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Unknown Territory, #10

I think I've completed my current painting, with its working title 30/30 vision.

Hot damn!

But the sun went down, and I couldn't get any decent indoor lighting for a photo.

Nor do I have time to write a post.

Oh, and I need to come up with a bone fide name for this painting.

So, for today, two close-up previews:

close-up of 30/30 vision
close-up of 30/30 vision

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Unknown Territory, #9

To take the risk of recklessness when nearly everything in my knee-jerk self says be careful, take your time, don't do it!—well, wheeee!

To look preciousness square in the eye and say, Hey, it's just paint and canvas—mm, mmm. I am dusting off my hands with satisfaction!

To be daring and venturesome at the beginning—easy peasy. To feel the same excitement and free flow now, weeks into working on this painting when there is so much to lose—wow!

And I'm only taking baby steps of boldness.

Hope bold holds, 'cuz I know I'm not quite finished here.

working title: 30/30 vision
work in progress …
close-up of 30/30 vision in progress,
playing loose with pastels and ink

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Unknown Territory, #8

Even though I didn't see today's particular developments coming at all and still don't know where this painting is heading, for the first time I can feel an internal something nudging me towards completion/resolution. 

It's a whole new world letting a painting and my inner self so fully be the guides.

I rotate my canvas often, mix colors as I go, use different supplies on different days. Today I moved with ease and intuition, using a palette knife and a foam brush.

working title: 30/30 vision
work in progress …
close-up of 30/30 vision in progress
close-up of 30/30 vision in progress
close-up of 30/30 vision in progress

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Unknown Territory, #7

I feel hints of moving toward something vs. just moving around …

working title: 30/30 vision
work in progress …

Monday, December 19, 2016

Unknown Territory, #6

This is just such a foreign experience, painting with nothing in mind other than seeing what bubbles up.

What bubbles up often is discomfort, if that's even the right word. It's certainly one apt word.

Others might be disorientation and disequilibrium.



Also surprise, curiosity, wonder.

Again today I post close-up details, since those microcosms are what have captured my interest.

I used a brayer today, and paper masks.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Unknown Territory, #5

I'm out of town today but moved forward with 30/30 Vision—for which I actually have next to no vision!—before traveling. I added more oranges and blues, mixing values and hues on my canvas as I painted. I offset those colors with neutrals in some sections. I let it all dry. Then I came in with oil pastels to fiddle around. I love scribbling with pastels.

The painting as a whole doesn't float my boat yet but here's work-in-progress as seen in close-up details:

Friday, December 16, 2016

Enjoying Joy

Every now and then, shining light into the darkness of this time of year, moments of happy engagement and simple joy infuse me. Such was the case as I took this nondescript piece of a black and white study I'd done back in September and transformed it into a coupon that will be a holiday gift.

I started here:

Chopped it to an even smaller size.

Scribbled with pens, paint markers, and an ink applicator, just following impulse.

Affixed it to a piece of black card stock.

Ended here:

Christmas Coupon
4x5", acrylic and ink on drawing paper, mounted on manila stock

Stepped back to see a snowy, bare-branched, leafless-vined abstract landscape of sorts.

The best part?—I traveled outside my head and into my heart while creating. Joy to the world!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pausing for Postcards

30/30 Vision is still in progress.

However, I've also worked on a couple of postcards recently, both of which began life as 'paint quilts' that I 'pieced' together with colors offloaded from brushes while working on other projects. The pieced quilts sat for a bit in rough form before I picked them up again.

I think of the finishing details as 'embroidery' or 'needlepoint.'

5x4", acrylic and pastels on manila stock
Flying South
5x4", acrylic, ink, and pastels on manila stock

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Unknown Territory, #4

This painting offers me such exquisite opportunity to be in each moment.

Here's a moment.

Here's another one.

Oh, and another.

Look! Something different now.

And now!

working title: 30/30 vision
work in progress …
working title: 30/30 vision
work in progress …

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Unknown Territory, #3

Out of thickets and brambles into the calm of a clearing.

working title: 30/30 vision
work in progress …

Monday, December 12, 2016

Unknown Territory, #2

I've got a big ol' canvas in front of me, no predetermined destination, and only intermittent signals from within or without.

And I don't know that I have words for what transpires or does not from day to day.

working title: 30/30 vision
work in progress …

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Unknown Territory


Evidently what was inside me today wanted to be expressed in yellow.

Since it looks like this work in progress could be a work in progress for a good long time, I'm going to give it a working title.

working title: 30/30 vision
work in progress …

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Real Time!

Ta da! I am back to painting and posting in real time after being off stride for several weeks.

Today I grabbed another piece of a start from a couple of weeks ago—

see bottom left 1/9th

and lost myself in the happy pleasures of finishing it into a postcard. Added ink, stamped some circles using the end of an earplug, glued on and embellished bits of collage, brightened some color with oil pastel, and applied acrylic with a brush.

Very relaxing.


Sunny Saturday
4x5", acrylic, ink, collage, and pastels on drawing paper, mounted on stock

Friday, December 9, 2016


I am just poking along with this painting, meandering wherever it takes me. No plan.

Wonder where it will end up.

30x30", work in progress, rainy day lighting

Thursday, December 8, 2016


My usual day-to-day modus operandi includes a high degree of intention and focused busy-ness.

But I sure do love a day that holds puttering. Going about in a casual, unhurried way. Occupying myself doing a number of small impromptu tasks, not concentrating on anything in particular.

Perhaps seeing some mending that has been waiting for weeks, threading my needle out on the front steps in warm sunshine.

Or seeing a book on my bed and stopping to read right then and there.

Or seeing a stack of paint quilts in my studio and selecting one to 'embroider' with wax pastels and stenciling to make a postcard for my dad. Not having any particular plan or guiding vision. Just puttering around trying this and that, creating some inviting softnesses. Finishing up with a satisfying coat of matte medium, letting brush strokes go any which way they want.

Soft Landing Place
4x5"; acrylic and wax pastels on manila stock


I'm so enjoying starting a new painting—activating a 30x30" canvas that's been an 'erasable whiteboard' for me ever since granddaughters Caroline and Emmy took me to Art Supplies Wholesale in July with an allowance to spend as I wished. I've painted this-that-and-the-other on its surface off and on for five months, just letting my paintbrush take me wherever it takes me. I think I've covered it completely with gesso 2 or 3 times now, starting again each time with a fresh white surface that has hints of past lives making themselves known.

Here, my most recent (re)activation.

work in progress
30x30"; ink, pencil, and acrylic on stretched canvas

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Black and White Postcard

Yesterday I wondered what I might do today.

Now I know.

I took a piece of an assignment from waaaaaaay back in early September and turned it into a postcard. Made a black border on manila stock using paint markers, added some detailing to the assignment snippet, glued it to the stock, and integrated the snippet with the black border.

Very satisfying.

The Ants Go Marching
4x5", acrylic, ink, and graphite on drawing paper, mounted on manila stock

Writer's note: I've got a bit of a backlog of posts, and I've decided to double up for a few days to get myself back to posting in "real time" (if such a thing as real time even exists!).

In My Happy Place

Played in my studio for maybe ten minutes today.

Just followed my own little nose.

Wanted to try obscuring most of 'tiny canvas #2.'

So I did.

Couldn't have been happier experimenting, putting my toes in the water for just a few moments and then drying them off.

Wonder what I'll do tomorrow.

tiny canvas #2, work in progress

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Wedding Celebration

Simone is an online art friend whose paintings have spoken to me since I first saw them a year ago. The 9x12" start I created a few days ago was influenced directly by her current work. The whole time I painted, I felt as childlike and free and immersed and contented as I always feel when I see her paintings.

Then I got a little stuck and discontented and tight, so I cut my 9x12" start into nine 3x4's.

Then I got stuck again and lost my sense of play, even with the teeny canvases.

After that, thoughts shared by Jane Davies in the recent 100 Drawings workshop I took opened me to adventure again. Whew!

With renewed spirit, I took steps forward to create a card for the wedding of the daughter of longtime friends of ours. The ceremony and reception were joyous and laughter-rich and love-filled, as Emily and Jeff took the steps forward to commit themselves to the chances and changes of painting a life together.

I figured if they could take the risk to get married, surely I could take the risk to paint them a little card!

Wedding Celebration!
3x4", acrylic, ink, collage, and pastels on drawing paper
(mounted on background papers and 4.5x5.5" card stock)
9x12" start from which above card was cut and created

Monday, December 5, 2016


Ironic that autumn leaves have dropped from the trees, darkness is leaving later every morning and coming earlier every afternoon … and yet I feel like I'm waking up from a long hibernation into a personal vernal regeneration. I sure haven't been asleep for the past 10+ weeks—anything but!, but I've been almost completely at a remove from my usual studio life. Now I seem to be blinking my eyes and stretching my limbs, looking around with a sense of newness.

I'm tender. Vulnerable. At the mercy of the elements.

A warm wind caresses me in the form of a comment Jane Davies made in response to a classmate's Lesson 10 post:

I rarely see overworked pieces in a class. If you aren't happy with a piece, then it is under-worked. You can only move forward (when working with physical materials as opposed to digital media, which is why I think we have more to gain from the challenge of physical materials). This is part of the process: it's like life—you don't get do-overs, so you have to keep going with what you have. 

Thank you, Jane! That was just the right message for me in this moment. I was getting precious—AGAIN!—even with colorful little 3x4" bits of paper meant to be adventures and experiments. Your words opened the door for me to move forward.

I wonder where this will go next.

tiny canvas #2, work in progress

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Still Not Still

In the aftermath of the intensity of my class, with its high volume of output and constant forward motion, I'm finding it a challenge to tap into a place of inner stillness.

But I am mindful, aware of the frenetic chaos pinging around in my brain.

Today I take a 9x12" start I've been playing with for the past few days and cut it into nine pieces. I feel a need for tiny.

I take a little walk with one little piece. I move us both down the road a little bit.

tiny canvas #1, work in progress