Thursday, June 30, 2016


Where did this come from?

I was going to play with flower doodles again.

And then that's not what happened.

I grabbed a piece of manila stock, set up a tonal palette of black, browns, white. Picked up a palette knife and scraped some paint across my canvas. Scratched across the wet paint with the end of the knife a few times. Let it dry. It was basically a small mess of scraped paint on paper.

I used a brayer to veil some of it.

Sat staring for a minute or two. Reached for stencils—nah. Reached for pens. Yah, maybe. Drew some lines.

Reached for oil pastels.


Short, sweet, satisfying.

I don't know why these tonals are calling to me. I just know they are. I don't know why abstraction is calling to me. I just know it is.

This piece has a magnetic quality for me.

Isn't this just the best little mystery?

4x5", acrylic, ink, and oil pastel on manila stock

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lesson Six, Day Four

When Meg was a toddler, part of her bedtime routine included listening to certain records—and they actually were records, played on a record player, with a needle! A nursery song we became very familiar with, after dozens of evenings, went as follows:

One misty moisty morning
When cloudy was the weather
I chanced to meet an old man
Clothed all in leather …

Fast forward many years to a sunny morning in Virginia, walking home from a farmer's market, my hand in the hand of granddaughter Caroline, just a few years old herself at the time. With great delight, I passed the nursery song along.

He began to compliment
And I began to grin
How do you and how do you do
And how do you do again? clap clap


I found myself in a bit of a mist while creating this composition. Just couldn't quite see my way through to a clear path. I created layers. I created atmosphere. I said, How do you do and how to you do and how do you do again? … and went on my way.  clap clap 

One Misty Moisty Morning
6x6", acrylic, collage, ink, and pastels on canvas paper

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lesson Six, Day Three

Ongoing exploration of atmosphere through scale, pattern, density, opacity, transparency, texture, line, and color.

work in progress

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lesson Six, Day Two

Lesson Six is about creating atmosphere in a painting.

I'll tell ya one thing, I've got plenty of atmosphere in my head today, and it's layered and messy. Not sure where that will take me.

I've got a square of canvas paper, an assignment, and little in the way of any notion of what I want to do.

I think I'll just take a few steps and document my trail.

• brushed on neutrals in free-form fashion, lifted paint with cheap drawing paper every so often

• brushed on transparent color, wiped some away with soft cloth, added texture, added semi-transparent veiling

• brushed on opaque white

• created a pattern of collaged circles

• stopped for the day

As I traveled through the up-close (too-close?) movement of process, my thoughts careened all over the place, mostly nowhere pleasant.

But now I've tidied my studio for the day and I have a moment to step back.

I'm struck yet again by the mysterious magic of messing about with painting.

When I woke up today, the materials in my studio were inert.

I made my bed, took a walk with a friend, shopped for groceries, prepared food, ran errands, painted for awhile.

Now, a square of canvas paper speaks of my presence in the world, of a few moments of transformative encounter with creativity. Like grass lying flat in a field, this little splash of paint on paper says, something alive has passed through here.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lesson Six, Day One

New lesson, the last one in my Jane Davies course. Creating atmosphere.

First step: on three different papers, neutral colors—paint and lift, paint and lift, paint and lift.


Then: apply transparent color on one paper, wipe with paper towel, veil with white paint diluted with medium.

Next: apply glaze to second paper, letting brush stroke texture show and creating some scribbles with the brush end; dry-brush a color over that and then obliterate some of the depth with opaque white.

After that: apply color to third paper, let dry till tacky, paint over, lift; paint a shape and veil partially with diluted white, lift; draw lines, veil partially, lift.

Finally: breathe in some of the atmosphere and stop for the day!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer Afternoon

On this glorious, dry, sunny, blue-sky, skin-warming summer afternoon, I side-step into a pen-ink-brush-paint-polkadot-squiggle-doodle-pattern-swirl-and-line space and make me a postcard.

Very refreshing.

Spindle Stems
study/appropriation of an experiment in blue by Lisa Congdon
4x5", acrylic and ink on manila stock

Friday, June 24, 2016

Metamorphic Muse

While in Nova Scotia, Dave and I hiked a trail along the coast at Ovens Natural Park where "stratified and intrusive rock that has been subjected to mild deformation and lower green schist-facies metamorphism" struts its stuff. The rock formations provided some of the best art of the week, both as rock formations in and of themselves and as the spur to a very satisfying painting adventure in my studio.

Every now and then Big Magic, as writer Elizabeth Gilbert calls it, comes knocking. The process of creating this painting felt like big magic. I started with a set-aside false start from a different day, a start that had all-too-quickly had me crashing up against the rock wall of too-fussy-no-fun. When I returned to that start, the rock wall had changed from a place of impediment to a place that provided the ocean a backboard against which to splash into dazzling spray.

As I painted I found myself in a zone where I was able to capture the feeling of magnificent rock cliffs without getting banged up by the frustration and futility of literal photographic representation. Prior experimentation with blind drawing, linework, color mixing, brush techniques, and oil pastels offered up just the tools I needed to play contentedly, completely lost in the physicality and pleasure of process.

Then I blinked, stepped back, and discovered the lived experience of those rock cliffs captured on a 6x6" square of gessobord.

A little metaphoric metamorphosis right in my studio!

Phyllitic Pyroclastic Playground
6x6", acrylic, ink, and oil pastel on gessobord

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Post Vacation

I finished up this painting the day after returning from our vacation in Nova Scotia.

When I look at it now, my focus shifts back and forth repeatedly, sometimes seeing the round white shapes as holes punched through purple-turquoise fabric, and sometimes seeing the round white shapes as planets floating in purple-turquoise outer space.

That figure-ground ambiguity pretty much sums up how I felt upon return from my travels!

4x5", acrylic, ink, and wax and oil pastels on manila stock

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Another Quick Dip

Another day with seriously limited time.

But don't you be telling me I can't paint! Even if all I get is a quick dip, in I go head first.

Had to exercise heavy-duty self-discipline to pull myself away—so engaging to explore, to experiment, to experience. All in a little 4x5" world!

work in progress

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Five Minutes. Really.

When I started working on developing the second half of my five-minute-aka-eight-minute painting, I realized that—much as I wanted to step into timelessness and paint until I chose to stop—I had seriously limited time.

So, I worked for five minutes.


Added some textural layers.

Nothing else.

More to come, but not today.

work in progress

Monday, June 20, 2016

Who's Who?

It fascinates me to observe what shows up on my canvas/paper when I paint.

Who paints?

Who observes?

Time Warp
4x5", acrylic, ink, and wax and oil pastels on manila stock

Sunday, June 19, 2016

What If I Did This?

Love when I get into what-if-I-did-this mode.

Here's what I had going in:

What if I did this—created a line of black fabric paint and scraped it with a matte knife?

What if I dripped some Golden transparent high flow acrylic phthalo green blue shade (new-to-me product) and spritzed it with water?

What if I defined some areas using oil pastels?

What if I painted white over the space outside the defined areas?

What if I developed the defined spaces with some linework?

What if I stopped for the day to give this piece some breathing room?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Five Minutes?

I returned to the five eight-minute painting I started before going on vacation to Nova Scotia, wondering how I might want to develop it. I'd left off thinking I'd cut it in two and give maybe five minutes to each half.

About those five minutes.

Missed that limit by a long shot!

I did cut the original into two pieces. That was the last straightforward step I took.

After that, I used wax pastels to develop depth in both. The pastels added a measure of visual interest but didn't send me in any clear direction and, further, presented some new puzzles to solve.

Next, I gave texture to one half using a piece of screen.

On the other, I use a brayer and then applied collage to create some atmospheric layers.

Now, I'll sit with these until they tell me where to go next because, for the moment, I'm stumped.

Each one needs cohesion, and I think the cohesion will come from a simple touch or two, but I don't yet know what that touch is going to be.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Geologic Time

I want to capture a bit of the essence of the magnificent rock formations here in my Nova Scotia neighborhood.

In the spirit of those formations, created in geologic time, I move slowly.

My start:

work in progress

The journey thus far:

nature's inspiration
yesterday's set-aside gessobord, original idea abandoned
first satisfying neutrals
first blind drawing
additional satisfying brushwork;
paused for now

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Loose and Lax

Last night, painted gessobord with color ground for what I had in mind to create today. Got up first thing this morning and used watercolor pencils to start sketching.

Noticed how fussy it felt to me.

How contracted I felt.

Put it aside.

Picked up one of my primed blank manila stock postcards.

Covered it with paint—felt loose, relaxed, inside my brushstrokes.

Did a quick experiment: Can I create layers/depth by pressing a few stencils on top while the paint is wet?

Did so. Dried it with my hair drier.

Did another experiment: Can I create a sense of foliage profusion by drawing some quick leaf shapes with ink?

Put my ink pens into action.

Then, grabbed my oil pastels.

Lupines! Sweet peas!


Loose, lax, loving it.

Lunenburg Lupines
4x5", acrylic, ink, and oil pastel on manila stock
abstract floral

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


We've had fun meeting a few folks here in Nova Scotia. Just a few. The perfect quota for introverts on a get-away-from-it-all vacation—our welcoming low-key host, three friendly women walking Sand Dollar Beach, a gallery owner, the engineer on the Bluenose II, a young woman on the Bluenose crew, and today the German-born woman who moved to Canada about ten years ago and now owns the Rose Bay General Store.

These folks must have awakened the folk artist in me for today's painting!

Looking Across to Lunenburg
6x6", acrylic, ink, and wax pastel on gessobord
coastal landscape

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Walking at Daybreak

Up early this morning taking exercise in the surrounding stillness of the little spit of land we're calling home this week in Nova Scotia.

My painting is much the same—exercise I take every day, looking for stillness from which to create. Never know before waking what will unfold.

Earlybird Stillness, Feltzen South
6x6", acrylic on gessobord
[not for sale]

Monday, June 13, 2016

Choppy Waters

I feel very unsettled in my vacation painting. Haven't got my sea legs yet, can't seem to find a place of balance and centeredness from which to create.

So, I pitch and toss and paint anyway.

Borrowed/explored a style that caught my attention in a gallery in Lunenburg this morning, and painted up a souvenir this afternoon.

On the Way to Corkum's
6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Sunday, June 12, 2016


I am so loving painting whatever comes from who-knows-where inside me.

Such a surprise each day to see what that might be.

Today, the same place I'd seen my first afternoon in Feltzen South was imprinted in my emotional memory. With that internalized image as a nudge, I pulled a few tubes of paint, a few brushes.

I watched what transpired.

Am I painting a series? Don't know.

Is this a sketch? Don't know. But do like its light feeling, its not covering the canvas from edge to edge to edge to edge.

Same Place, Different Day
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Lonnnnnnnng drive notwithstanding, traveling to a new location away from home for a week is so refreshing. Dave and I arrived in Nova Scotia yesterday afternoon and began exploring our new world near Lunenburg.

This morning, I painted my first souvenir. So much fun to set up a makeshift studio in front of two large windows overlooking the Atlantic, in a light-filled spacious room, on a sunny warm June morning, with a blank canvas in front of me and little to no idea of what I would paint.

I went with my impulse to capture from memory, and through the lens of impression, a scene from a sunset walk from last evening.

I used canvas board for the first time in ages. I like the water-color-like feel of this painting, and its feeling like a sketch.

I've signed it, named it. But, really, I don't know if it will stand as is or if I will return to it.

I do love painting as a way to take a vacation right into my body and then back out again.

establishing the bones, work in progress
Feltzen South, First Day
6x6", acrylic on canvas board

Friday, June 10, 2016

Pre-Vacation Playground

A Six-Maquette Challenge:

Make 6 squares or rectangles. Make 6 marks in each. Don't think. These are your marks. This is your lexicon, your personal signature.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Short on Studio Time

I was short on studio time over the weekend, traveling to Maine to be with extended family on Saturday and overnight, and then traveling back on Sunday. I tapped into two blogposts I'd received from other artists last week, one about line and one about five-minute paintings. Here's what emerged in about eight minutes early Saturday morning before I hit the road.

work in progress on 5x8" gessoed manila stock

I envision that I will return to this, to what feels like a start, but perhaps for only five more minutes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Fathoming the Depths

Yesterday I could not fathom what I would do with my current experiment in progress. Add color? Paint over the whole thing with Mars Black again and take it from the top?

I'd left free-and-easy on shore and was way out in the choppy waters of fussy-and-frantic. Never a good thing.

Well, actually, it can be a good thing. It can wake me up.

And it did.

I woke up and knew I needed to get away from fussy and back to bold, or even over to reckless.

I pulled out oil pastels and, before I could think, circled a bunch of spaces on my painting. No sooner done than I grabbed a brush and painted over all the space surrounding the circles. Added some dimensional fabric paint lines.


And utterly content.

I keep staring through the holes I've punched through the fabric of the universe and I'm mesmerized by the galaxies I see in the distance.*

6x6", acrylic, collage, ink, and oil pastel on gessobord


*From this:

to this:

Ya gotta wonder!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dropped Anchor Again

My boat is rocking a little. I don't quite have my bearings.

Anchored, waiting …

black and white in progress

Monday, June 6, 2016

Anchored, Waiting

I've quoted the following snippet from Cynthia Voigt's A Solitary Blue before, and I may well quote it again—

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.

This has been the pattern of other days in my studio, too: I move my brush about until I feel more    stymied than I have the inspiration to match; then I anchor and wait.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Windows Closed

I worked on a piece a few days ago on a delightful spring day, with windows open and an upbeat feeling of possibility.

But, in the end, the piece just didn't float my boat and I felt irritated every time I looked at it after the fact, both because something in it was "off" and because I couldn't figure out what to do.

I felt limited. I couldn't cut it into smaller pieces because I'd painted on gessbord. I couldn't fathom painting over it because it had a high degree of dimensionality in the collaging and the fabric-ink line.

I couldn't imagine what I could do with it other than toss it.

Then, today, I could imagine.

I grabbed a years-old, crusty, almost unusable tube of Mars Black and painted over the whole dang thing, dimensionality be damned!

I closed the metaphorical windows that were open when I created Tire Swing, Spring Day.

… I think a door just blew wide open!

NO idea where I'll go next with this piece but I'm very curious, very interested.