Sunday, January 31, 2016

Couch Artist

I drive to Maine on a quietly gray wintry Friday, the kind of quietly gray wintry Friday that whispers, snow comin'.

Futh sits in the den playing chess via internet with someone somewhere else in this wonderful webbed world.

I sit where Muth used to sit on the loveseat in the nook in the dining area, open up my traveling art kit, and become pure contentment.

This postcard holds it all: the quietly gray wintry Friday, the anticipation of snow, the father-daughter companionship, the mother-daughter memories, the day off from routines and responsibilities at home, the complete presence of creating art.

Postcard 5
5x4", acrylic, ink, and wax pastels on manila stock
[not for sale]

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Packing My Bags

Today is the final day of Leslie Saeta's January 2016 30-in-30 Challenge. What a grand thirty days—creative energy every which way you turn! New friends! New mentors! New art!

Every day!

Thank you for creating space for us all, Leslie.

I followed my nose in so many wonderful and varied directions. Below you'll see where I was mid-month; here I am just now posting what has been sitting in queue for two weeks.


Planning to visit Futh in Maine. Packing my bags for hittin' the road.

Used to be, my packing list didn't include a travel-sized studio.

In this trip's kit:

4 postcard set-ups, painting done at home
1 brush
wax pastels
watercolor pencils
masking tape.

traveling companions:
postcard set-ups

Friday, January 29, 2016

First of Who Knows How Many

You know how the horizon isn't a fixed thing? How it's kind of a moving target?

And how horizon can mean the limit or range of a person's knowledge, understanding, or experience?


Here's my first horizon-as-composition collage assignment and its evolution.

6x8", acrylic, collage, ink, and oil pastels on watercolor paper

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Can you hear the adhesions ripping apart, the micro-fibers in my muscles tearing as I stretch out of my zone of comfort and experience?

Still under construction, this assignment.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Looking to the Horizon

So much fun, taking this class, taking this leap into all new places.

collage in process,
creating a horizon
collage in process,
muting the horizon,
adding some neutrals above and below

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Layers for Cold Weather

Another collage assignment/exercise in process.

First step, gather a bunch of print matter with varied fonts, styles, sizes, papers, and lines. I cull magazines and my GOOS (Good On One Side) scrap pile. The GOOS pile always makes for an engaging archaeological dig: old reports, practice maps for student geography tests, a personal narrative, estimated tax forms, intake sheets. Great fun.

Next step, tear pieces and affix them to a substrate (watercolor paper, in my case) with matte medium.

Then, veil the collaged substrate with white acrylics thinned with glazing medium. Also great fun, and surprisingly freeing.  

Next, introduce a thin layer of neutral color. I mix cadmium yellow light hue and titanium white, and Payne's gray and white, and move back and forth between the two, letting them blend. After that, provide a touch of color. I add a thin layer of liquid yellow ochre and glazing medium to warm it up a bit. Before the paint dries, I blot away paint in some spots to allow more hints of print to show through.

Gotta have layers to stay warm in cold weather.

Monday, January 25, 2016

January Birthdays

Who has more fun than I do?

No one!

Caroline and Emmy's birthdays are four days apart in January, and usually Papawi and I travel 600 miles to Virginia to celebrate with the girls in person a few days early over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Not this year; we'll celebrate with them a few weeks late in February.

So, I set an intention awhile back to paint and send cards to tide the girls over until we get to Virginia in person to give hugs and kisses and gifts.

In the interim I got into fooling around with my cut-ups explorations.

You can see where this is going.

My cut-ups have turned into over-sized flat birthday cards just right for framing and hanging in girls' bedrooms.

So. Much. F-U-N!

For six years, Caroline and Emmy shared a bedroom, starting when Emmy was born. However, as of two weeks ago, they now have side by side rooms in their new home. In making my cards for the girls, I took a quadrant from each cut-up and transposed it to its "sister" cut-up. Caroline will have a bit of Emmy's red, and Emmy will have a bit of Caroline's blue so they can each have a little toehold in the other's bedroom.

Happy birthday, granddaughters of mine!

8.5x11", acrylic, collage, ink, and pastels on watercolor paper
[not for sale]
8.5x11", acrylic, collage, ink, and pastels on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another One Cut Loose

I do love me my paper trimmer. The weight of the arm. The precise grid lines on the base. The sound when arm meets base in an irrevocable slice.

Today I did another cut-up exercise, this time with my second set of colors:

Loose background of blues—phthalo, cobalt, and cerulean.
Neutral collage papers.
Raw umber and white to tone it all down.

All so I could take my creativity and concentration and intuition and decision making and flow and risk and daring and invention … and run 'em through a guillotine!

work in progress

Again, waiting to see where this will go.

Steps along the way:

chopped, rearranged, idling


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Second Verse

I got humming a little tune yesterday as a cut-up.

Went back for more today.

Figured out, I think, how I might want that first quartet of pieces to become a unified piece of art eventually.

Then, I started all over again.

Second verse,
same as the first,
but a little bit new,
and a little bit diverse.

I love knowing that I don't know where this will go next.

cut-up 2 in progress

Friday, January 22, 2016

Class Cut-Up

My friend Martha will remember with me the time Miss McGlynn asked to see me outside of English class one day during our senior year in high school at the American School in London. As class cut-ups go I was about as tame as they come, but I think Maggie McGlynn might have been annoyed that I stole a wee bit of her thunder. She informed me that my comments were not funny.

My respectfully kept-under-wraps internal response: Well, why did everybody laugh, then?

Today I played the role of cut-up again. To wit:

Grabbed a piece of 6x8" watercolor paper.
Painted a loose background with alizarin crimson, cadmium red, and cadmium red light.
Added collage paper in neutrals.
Mixed up some raw umber and white to knock back some of the brightness on my canvas.
Ran some scribbles through the paint with the wrong end of my brush.
Blotted up portions of paint with paper and a damp washcloth.
Wiped away portions of paint.
Reapplied the some of the blotted paint elsewhere on the canvas.
Let it all dry.
Doodled and scribbled with a Sharpie and other pens.
Traced the ink lines with wax and oil pastels.

Then cut up my piece into four quadrants.

Rearranged the quadrants.

Not sure yet what I'll do next.

work in progress

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Paper Hugs

Set out with the intention to make a paper prayer to give away.

Changed my mind about the giving away part.

Same thing happened when I created Paper Prayer 28 in the same color palette and as part of the same loose grid collage assignment.

Changed my mind about the giving away part.

They both remind me of the dress Muth wore to Meg's wedding and the photo from that event that we used for Muth's obituary.

I'm keeping both paper prayers as hugs from Muth.

Paper Prayer 29
1.5x6", acrylic, ink, and wax pastels on paper
[not for sale]

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rain on My Skylight

Early in January: icy rain tat tat tats on the skylight over my head. Pinpricky tapping patter. Rapid little clackety heartbeats.

Indoors, I let ink and wax pastel trace watery paths down my otherwise rectilinear collage.

My own little clackety heart taps out a tattoo, happy as can be.

Paper Prayer 28
1.5x6", acrylic, collage, ink, and wax pastel on paper
[not for sale]

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Play It Again, Sam

All my tutorial students know I'm nothing if not a reduce-reuse-recycle kinda gal, as evidenced by my towering GOOS paper pile. GOOS? Good On One Side. Great scrap paper for brainstorming, writing rough drafts, drawing diagrams, working math problems, jotting down a phone message, making a wishlist.

Years ago someone passed along to me a stack of sturdy 5x8" manila index card file box dividers. I recently rediscovered them—woo hoo!—and now I often cut them down to postcard size. Excellent little canvases for all sorts of experiments.

This particular little experiment was nearly-but-not-quite done when I placed a stamp on it. Then, with the stamp's having caught my eye, a blog post's having caught my attention, and a blog comment's having trickled into my mind (do I see some black?), I suddenly knew exactly where I wanted to go with finishing flourishes.

Postcard 4
5x4", acrylic and ink on manila stock
[not for sale]

Monday, January 18, 2016

By Post

My family moved to London at the beginning of my senior year in high school in 1967. Suddenly I lived an ocean away from my friends in New Jersey. 

No email. No texting. Expensive transAtlantic phone rates. 

My lifelines? Her Majesty's Royal Mail and the US Postal System.

Even with email and texting now my primary tools of written communication, I've never lost my affection for snail mail. I love telling a story and sending it by post, or receiving a letter with my name written in the hand of a friend. I love the thrill of breaking and entering an envelope.

For the last year or two of my mom's life, I sent her a handmade postcard every few days. Now, I send postcards to my dad. Hi, Futh!

Postcard 3
4x5", acrylic and ink on manila stock
[not for sale]

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Desaturating a Gray January Sunday

Sunday? What Sunday?

January? What January?

Totally dropped into my painting and flowed.

Underscored Undertow
6x6", acrylic and collage on paper

Bringing Action to Intention

Stopped at Norway Center Friday morning on my way to visit Futh.

Felt a little jumbled and tumbled:

Snow on the ground.
Gone the astonishing temperate mosquito-less days of summer.
Gone Futh's sitting out front in his lawn chair, pork pie hat in place.
Gone Muth—though cells deep in my body still leaned forward anticipating she'd be perched in the lobby and brighten when I leaned over to kiss her.

Instead, Georgia in the lobby ready to give and receive a hug. Happy to receive our donation to the Norway Center Resident Council fund. Delighted to take into custody my painting, now with its project-in-process moniker, Norway 1, having yielded to its permanent title, Norway Pines in Norway, Maine.

As I left, I punched in the necessary code to unlock the front door. A changed code reflecting a changed month, a changed year, my changed life.

I swung the door open.

No code needed for my heart to open with love and gratitude for the residents and staff of Muth's home for the final months of her life.

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

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Homing In

The focus of the lesson I'm working on is composition. In order to focus on composition, I'm to use a limited palette, i.e. tints, tones, and shades of a single color. Use a loose grid format. Stay with squares and rectangles.


Straight-Edged Learning Curve
6x6", acrylic and collage on paper

Friday, January 15, 2016

January 7, Poems

Ted Kooser wrote this poem a number of years ago:

January 7

Five degrees and light snow

An elaborate braiding of deer tracks
close to the house this morning early,
within a few yards of our two dogs
asleep on the porch. A dozen or more
walking soundlessly east in the night,
a half moon rising before them.
I like the long deft brush stroke
as each hoof swung into and out of the snow,
and the little splash kicked out ahead
as they stripped sweet bark from the darkness,
afraid of everything but not afraid.


I wrote this appropriation a week ago Thursday:

January 7

       Thirty-nine degrees and cloudy

       A simple weaving of brush strokes
       on paper this afternoon early,
       in a loose grid suggested in a lesson
       downloaded from the web. Dozens
       whispering horizontally and vertically,
       my intuition rising imperceptibly before my hand.
       I like the warp and weft
       of tint and tone and shade
       and the little softnesses as they nudge each other,
       locking into a grid but completely open.


loose backgrounds for later collage

loose grids
loose grid
loose grid

Thursday, January 14, 2016

In the Lab

I'm goin' for some more grid collage.

Squeezed out dollops of phthalo blue, quinacridone red, titanium red, and glazing medium.

Fired up a Bunsen burner.

Just kidding.

But doesn't it sound like I'm about to do some kind of chem lab?

In fact, no eye goggles—just my own happy clear eyes. No calibrated beakers—just my inner instincts. No glass rod for mixing—just my inexpensive nylon bristle brush.

And the experiment is off and running. The simple pleasure of swirling chemicals together and spreading them on paper is mine.

Alchemy, I tell ya!

phthalo blue color swatches

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

More Than the Eye Can See

Yesterday, on my early morning drive home from the Y, big ol' low-lying clouds hugged the horizon out on the water beyond Cape Ann and created for my inland eyes the mirage of a mountain range. 

Always fun to live near mountains for a few minutes.

Meadowbrook Farm Mountains
6x6", acrylic and paper collage

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


First grade.

Mimeographed worksheet.

Words—red, green, blue, yellow—beside 2-inch circles.


Directions: read the words and color the circles accordingly.

No problem. Know my colors. Know how to use a crayon.

Oh, but maybe not. No back-and-forth permitted. I am redirected: Color in a circular motion only.


This afternoon: the unmitigated contentment of scribbling with colored pencils and wax pastels any which way I want.

Postcard 1
5x4", ink, watercolor pencils, and wax pastels on manila card stock
[not for sale]
Postcard 2
5x4", ink, watercolor pencils, and wax pastels on manila card stock
[not for sale]

Monday, January 11, 2016



I want to be famous 
in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, 
not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot 

what it could do

—Naomie Shihab Nye


For Chloe: this little painting,
famous in the way a zipper is famous,
or a bookmark,
not because it will do anything spectacular,
but because it will never forget what it can do.

Hi, Chloe!

Chloe's Zipper
1.5x6", acrylic and collage on paper
[not for sale]

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Unexpected Smile

I meditate daily for about 20 minutes midday. For me, meditation involves an adapted legs-up-the-wall kinda yoga pose. First, I read for about two minutes. Then, I take off my glasses, close my eyes, bring awareness to my breath and to my senses. Next, I bring to mind 10-12 immediate specific things for which I am grateful. The sound of workers on a roof down the street. An email from Martha. A book waiting to be picked up at the library. After that, I am still, in body and mind. Or still in body but not in mind, and then my mind quiets again. Or not.

Today, before meditation: no idea of what I would paint.

After meditation: picked up a sketchbook and brought myself a little unexpected smile. Part of the smile came from the irony of having painted something related to Christmas, a holiday about which I have a few(!) conflicted feelings. The bigger part of the smile came from remembering the earliest Christmases of my life, in Cranford, NJ, about which I have no conflicted feelings.

Waverly Christmas
4.5x6.5", acrylic and ink on paper

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Une Petite Aire de Jeux

Such a little playground. So much playing.

Got out my color wheel today. Revisited complementary and analogous colors; tint, hue, and tone; warm and cool colors; color scheme and color harmony.

Thought about composition. Focal point. Movement.

Made decisions that would allow me to use the dusky purple section of a 2015 calendar without letting any dates show.

Watched two artists' video demonstrations that energized my own self-expression.

Such a tiny playground. Such big fun.

Paper Prayer 27
2x5.5", acrylic and wax pastels on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Friday, January 8, 2016

Proper Hook

Sometimes you could 
snag a memory 
and reel it in 
out of nowhere, 
if you used 
the proper hook. 

from Breathing Lessons, by Anne Tyler


Opened a jar of Utrecht Artists' Acrylic Matte Medium last week—the smell of that matte medium snagged a memory and reeled it in from the wayback machine of my mind.

1970, Conn College, KB dormitory. Long hair. Crocheted vest. Bell bottoms. Bare feet.

Lisa taught me how to make a transfer sheet using a photographic image from a page of National Geographic and then d├ęcoupage the image onto a block of wood. 


Choose image. Tape securely to washable surface. Apply seven coats of matte medium, letting each coat dry thoroughly. Remove masking tape. Soak 'varnished' image in lukewarm water until paper is soft enough to be peeled from sheet of matte medium. Image is now embedded in transfer sheet of dried medium and is transparent enough to let wood grain show through when it's applied to stained wood with a few final coats of medium.

Proper hook, that matte medium.

Paper Prayer 26
1.5x5.75", acrylic and collage on paper
[not for sale]

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Just plain fun.

Squaring Off in the Jungle
6x6", acrylic and collage on paper

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wrong Sida Bed

Don't mess with me today.

Grouchy, grouchy, grouchy.

And droopy.


Clawed my way to my studio through metaphorical brambles and muck and icy wind and pelting sleet in wet heavy boots. No hat. No gloves.


And created a little woodland scene (instead of shaking my fists and making a scene!).

Dipped my brush into paint.

Moved pastels against the textured fibers of sketchbook paper.

Chose colors.

Changed colors.

Peeled tape gently from the edges of the page.

Witnessed outer and inner transmutation.

3x5", ink, acrylic, and pastel on sketchbook paper
[not for sale]

Softened, now a handmade notecard

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Placing the Fulcrum

Sometimes I catch myself, when very-to-overly busy, turning all my energy towards going faster, working more efficiently. And I'm "good" at that—going faster, working more efficiently.

But it's rarely to the good in the long run. So when I catch myself, I stop, slide my shoulders away from my ears, breathe, take stock, pare back.

Recently, lots of very busy. Lots of dialing down to small manageable micro-tasks.

Here's the thing, though. Sometimes paring back creates a new stress. I lose the stimulus and pleasure of engagement without the gain of the release of letting go altogether. I don't find balance.

Went to my studio today in a just-do-a-little mindset. Paint up two color swatches; stop.

Wasn't doing it for me.

So I dialed back up. Pulled out some new paper and painted up a few loose backgrounds in my chosen monochromatic color palette for some upcoming grid collage.


Used glazing medium for the first time.


loose background, yellow-green