Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rustling Up Some Focus

I do love me some line.

I do love me some layering.

I do love me some black & white.

Here's my focus this week—experiments with line and layering in black and white.

I also love me some opportunity to work en plain air, and this focus on line and layering allows for me to sit on my front steps basking in both art and fresh air.

Experiment #1:

PaperMate Sharpwriter #2 pencil
Lyra graphite crayon 2B
Pilot P-700 fine black pen
Faber-Castell PITT artist pen 1,5 (whatever 1,5 means)
Faber-Castell PITT artist pen SB (super bold?)
uni-ball Signo broad white pen
Neocolor II Aquarelle gray water-soluble wax pastel
Sargent Art gray chalk pastel

thin lines
thick lines
left-handed lines
right-handed lines
lines that make shapes
lines with loops
squiggly lines
continuous lines made with overlapping dashes

I fixed half with Utrecht matte medium applied with a brush and half with Weber Reworkable Blue Label Fixatif spray to see both what would happen in application (some smudging with the matte medium, no smudging with the spray) and to see later what will happen when I start layering with paint.

lines #1, 9x12"

Experiment #2:

Derwent pastel pencils, black and white
Gallery Mungo soft oil pastels, black and gray
PaperMate Sharpwriter #2 pencil
PITT artist pen, black soft chisel
Pigma Micron 05

thick segmented lines
thin segmented lines
looping lines
wavy lines
left-handed lines
right-handed lines
lines scribing circles
diagonal lines

fixed with reworkable fixatif spray

lines #2, 9x12"

Experiment #3:

PITT artist pen 1,5
PITT artist pen B (bold?) black
PITT artist pen B gray
Pigma Micron 01
Reeves wax pastel
Prismacolor black charcoal pencil, medium

rectilinear lines
left-handed lines
right-handed lines
hatch marks

fixed with reworkable fixatif spray

lines #3, 9x12"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Like Air

My mind exhorts, tidy up, create some order, tame the chaos.

But a quiet voice from a deeper place communicates without words, invites me to take it all in, like air; be porous, let it blow through.

work in progress

Monday, August 29, 2016

Halfway Between Here and There

I returned home from camp yesterday after eight days away.

My bags are halfway unpacked.

My studio is halfway reassembled.

My brain is at half-mast.

Here's one of my sketches from camp, now in the light of day rather than the half-darkness of the space where I painted it.

5x7" sketch

Today I am mentally halfway between home and camp, emotionally halfway between any kind of here or there.

I felt the need to make some big brush strokes so I picked up the 30x30" canvas I purchased in early July. I'd scribbled and brayed it about seven weeks ago. Now I've added some layers.

30x30" work in progress

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Stepping Out

When I step into family camp, I step completely out of my everyday life at home. Different world altogether.

I step out of my usual art life at home, too.

I've been feeling my way with new materials/supplies. Today I stepped out of being kinda stuck in thinking, and stepped into painting from feeling with one piece (the second one below)—yay!

Painted again with Jane. So awesome to paint together and ask each other questions and explore thoughts about painting problems.

Lighting for taking photos was terrible but whatcha gonna do?

playing with texture (matte medium and pastel paper) and wax and oil pastels
playing with black and white, graphite crayon, ink, charcoal, and chalk pastel on textured paper

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Plein Air, So to Speak

Knowing I'm at camp this week, my friend Bo thought to share these sweet words written by Walt Whitman:

Now I know the secret of making
the best persons;
It is to grow in the open air
and to eat and sleep with the earth.

I am growing in the open air. Nothing better.

I brought no paints to camp, just pens, pencils, pastels, and pastel paper. I don't know much about using pastels, and even less about using them on pastel paper—good thing there's plenty of open air in which to grow.

This morning—total fun!—I got to grow side by side with my camp friend Jane, each of us with a self-assembled travel art kit. LOVED painting with her.

Jane's sketch, looking down the hill
ink and watercolor pencil

Dotty's sketch, looking down the hill
ink, pastel pencil, and oil pastel

Dotty's sketch, looking up the hill
charcoal crayon and pastels

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Totally In

I am totally in. Living and breathing camp.

Started a painting this morning with the intention of returning later.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Good Morning!

Heavy prolonged showers in the night gave way to a misty sunrise that I took in from the porch of Mem Lodge. From there I walked up the hill to the dining hall.

En route: an eastern red-spotted newt.

Good morning!

Good Morning!
5x7", pastel pencils and wax pastels on pastel paper

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hobby Nook

I'm writing this post early Sunday morning, just moments before heading off to Takodah. Camp! Yay!

I remember working on a tile-and-grout trivet in Takodah's Hobby Nook as a camper when I was maybe 10 years old. I remember taking in sensory information—the chatter and crowded jostling of other campers, the heat of the building, the chirping of crickets outside the open windows, the smell of melted wax, the roughness of the woven chair seat against the backs of my thighs—and simultaneously being lost in my own small world of focus, arranging little ceramic tiles. I remember thinking about pattern and balance, discovering the appeal of asymmetry, experiencing the ping! of satisfaction when everything felt just right.


Thumbnail Gallery #4
4x5"graphite, acrylic, pencil, and pastels on canvas paper mounted on magazine paper and card stock

Thumbnail Gallery series:



Saturday, August 20, 2016


Two or three days into my playing with this line-and-pastel exploration, which I'd affectionately given the working title Mediocre, a friend posed the following question, a question offered up with a quizzical face and genuine curiosity: Why do you keep working on that piece—why don't you just start something new?

Well, because!

Because I never know when or how I will find myself in awe, but I almost always do. Either en route or in the end. Or both.

Each tile in each mosaic in this series feels like a place to me, a lush landscape. Each place beckons.

I enter.


Thumbnail Gallery #3
4x5"graphite, acrylic, pencil, and pastels on canvas paper mounted on card stock and wallpaper

Friday, August 19, 2016

Trail of Crumbs

So many mini-adventures, starting several days ago with an exploration of line and pastel that skidded into mediocre and incited a bunch of subsequent bold and irreverent moves.

Nine more tiles found a home today.

In addition to their own recent history of graphite crayon and rubbing alcohol, matte medium and silicone catalyst tool, chalk pastels and workable fixative, the tiles also joined forces with more distant history.

To wit, I mounted them on handmade paper from a collection generated roughly 15 years ago when I used to amass all my junk mail, sort it by color, chop it into small pieces with my paper trimmer, churn all the pieces into pulp with water in a kitchen blender, use a mold and deckle to strain the water and shape the pulp into a wet 'sheet,' press the sheet onto a discarded piece of laminate counter top from a kitchen reno done in 1992, and let the sheet dry in the sweet heat of a summer day on our back deck.

Today, I next mounted the assembled-tiles-and-handmade-paper on a square cut from a magazine acquired at a museum we visited in Bennington, VT, in March this year.

Finally, I mounted the tiles, handmade paper, and magazine square on a wallpaper sample from a 2013 kitchen reno.

Ta da!

Thumbnail Gallery #2
4x5"graphite, acrylic, pencil, and pastels on canvas paper mounted on handmade paper, card stock, and wallpaper

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pieces Fall into Place

Have you ever fiddled with a number slide puzzle?

Remember how satisfying it is, after trial and error and failed strategies and near misses, to finally have all the numbers line up in order?

Look at this little thumbnail gallery, with each piece carefully curated and placed just so!

You can start back here if you'd like to review the early growth and development of this current project.

Here's how today's part of the painting ended up growing into itself:

I had 35 one-inch square paper tiles cut from my 5x7" start.
I wanted to arrange nine of the squares into a mosaic.
I grabbed an old calendar poster to use its glossy white back as temporary 'grout' while testing possible tile arrangements.
However, a mauve section on the front of the poster waved its hand at me. Oh!
By positioning pieces carefully—over the word September!—I had just enough space for nine tiles.
The arrangement and colors jumped to life.
So magical!
I glued the pieces in place and pulled out my paper scraps collection.
I mounted the tiles-on-mauve on a sheet of creamy paper from a past Christmas project.
I mounted the tiles-on-mauve-on-creamy on a sheet of gold from a past greeting card project.
So satisfying.

Thumbnail Gallery #1
5x4", graphite, acrylic, pencil, and pastels on canvas paper mounted on card stock

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

We Interrupt This Program

There will be a one-day intermission in the production of Mediocre Becomes Magic in order to share the email I received from six-year-old granddaughter Emmy yesterday:

Hi Gma, this is a painting I made all by myself.  I'm going to tell you the instructions of how to make this painting.  First make a little red sky, but just a little bit.  Then, make a green ground but not too much of the green ground!  Then you make a rainbow, but keep some space on the top left!  And make a sun.  Then, put blue in the little area that you did not paint.  Then, just shake some water onto it.  And then just like put some different painting stuff everywhere and drop water onto it.  And then lift it up to let the paint drip and shake it a little bit.

Love, Emmy

Let the Paint Drip
9x12", watercolor on computer printer paper, by Emmy

I followed most of the instructions except I forgot Emmy used portrait orientation.

Then, I just had to get out some pens and pastels because clearly the idea was to Have Fun Painting!

Have Fun Painting!
9x12", acrylic, ink, and pastel on drawing paper, by Gma

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Now What?

Walked over to my paper trimmer today, moved this piece into I-don't-know-if-it-will-work.

Eager to find out.

deeper into I-don't-know

Monday, August 15, 2016



pulled out white fabric paint that comes in a squeeze bottle, squeezed, flung, stood back,

reached for that metalworking tool thingie I have (always forget what it's called), scribbled and moved the paint around before I could think or plan,

and walked away grinning at the carefree fun of it.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Showing Up

So I've taken what began as a hint of an abstracted saltwater marsh meander,

rotated its relatively mediocre self,

and forayed into bold and irreverent with line work, pops of vibrant color, and scratches from a Paper Mate mechanical pencil,


Next up, I'm thinking, will be some unplanned, some I-don't-know-if-it-will-work.

In the interim, this painting is making delightful wallpaper on my iPhone.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Heinz 57

Many of you may remember the phrase Heinz 57, a shortened form of the H. J. Heinz Company advertising slogan "57 Varieties."

I've discovered another 57: ART @ 57 MAINe, a new gallery in Bethel, Maine. I'm hanging out with my dad this weekend and we popped in for a look-see yesterday.

Loved the new art space! It is fresh, refreshingly spare, light-filled, inviting—and enlivening. My creative energy was instantly activated, joyfully animated.

We bumped into artist and church friend of my dad, Linda Isham, whose captivating art is on exhibit and who graciously let me pepper her with questions and enthusiasm. I also talked at length with ART @ 57 co-founder, designer, and jewelry maker Donna D'Aquino who engaged warmly in conversation with me, taking all questions and sharing stimulating creativity talk. Hats off to Donna and Lauren Head for taking on the huge creative venture of this art space that is part gallery and part studio for classes. Further fun: discovering the astonishing pen and ink work of Mattie Rose Templeton, a delightful young woman who often serves up an afternoon cappuccino to my dad at CafĂ© DiCocoa's.

Altogether: heaven!

If you're in Bethel, go to ART 57 @ MAINe.

No surprise, I left wanting to get up to my elbows in art. What was I thinking traveling up to Bethel without any art supplies! Computer paper and Bic pencil at least let me explore some line making.


Friday, August 12, 2016


Some words from artist Nicholas Wilton strike a chord with me today:

My new trick I do on paintings that are turning out to be just mediocre is to do something bold, something unplanned, something irreverent, something that I do not know will work …

When we … nervously mov[e] away from what we know, into uncharted areas, we expose ourselves. When we allow ourselves to be seen even when we don’t know the answer, then and only then do things get interesting, not just for us but for everyone else as well.   

OK, I've got mediocre in place. 

mediocre, inviting irreverent
Bold, unplanned, irreverent—here I come!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fiddle Faddle

Slow going with this painting but, bit by bit, baby steps and attentive pauses led me along.

Eventually, the painting let me know what it wanted.

It wanted lines to divide the space into various planes. It wanted me to discover the way the texture of the canvas board creates a subtle scumble when I use wax pastels. It wanted me to sit on a glorious summer morning—temperate dry air on my skin, sun bright in the deep blue sky—to fiddle faddle happily with my pen collection, retracing and sharpening lines.

We grew a friendship, this painting and I.

Winola Pears
11x14", acrylic, ink, and pastel on canvas board

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Unsettled Weather

I feel very unsettled in my painting at the moment. Unfocused.

Often I approach a new blank canvas, make a few marks, and I'm off and running, even if I go in with no plan at all.

With this piece, having no plan took me no where for way too long! But I couldn't rustle up the self-discipline to make a plan.

In the end, I followed curiosity. Listened to the faintest of whispers. Experimented. Explored.

7.25x7.25", acrylic and pastels on canvas paper

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


I'll call this piece Naples while it's in process.

Messy process, I must say. I follow my curiosity which takes me all over the place. Including to ugly.

Back to square one. I paint over everything with Naples yellow and then collage the whole thing with tissue.

Start playing with reds again.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Going to Camp

I listened to myself telling a new friend this morning that I'll be going to camp (camp!) soon (in only 14 days!!!).

I got talking about camp. About how camp is a place where my life simplifies. Slows down. A place where I pause and take stock in the most organic of ways. A place where I breathe. Where my world is green, blue, and white. Is fresh air, lake water, and stars.

I realized, I need to go to camp right now.

So that's what I'm going to do.

I'm going to simplify and slow down.



What does that mean? It means some days I'll paint and some days I won't. Some days I'll post on my blog. Other days not.

Off to camp!

work in progress

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Parallel Play

Dave and I often enjoy what I think of as parallel play when we're both at home. We have a strong sense of each other's presence and a happy sense of companionship as we pursue various tasks and pursuits independently of each other.

Suddenly this morning, I remembered I could work on more than one painting at the same time.

Parallel play!

Two paintings with a strong sense of each other's presence and a happy sense of companionship as they each develop independently of each other.

I set my black & white off to the side, parallel to my easel. Started in with some Naples yellow on a square of canvas paper and went from there.

work in progress >>>


Friday, August 5, 2016


Today, a see-saw. At one end: thought-full Ideas about focal point, contrast, variation, color theory. At the other end: thought-less Intuition.

First, Ideas lift up.

Then, Intuition rises skyward.

One up, the other up.

When one scooches forward, the other leans back, re-establishes balance. They partner up and get in a rhythm.

Then, the swings catch Ideas' attention.

Intuition lands with a jarring bump, rattling her tailbone!

Resilient, she dusts herself off and plays on her own for awhile.

work in progress—developing composition
work in progress—varying line width

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Walking Slowly

Today's schedule seems to command me to move quickly, be efficient, multitask.

Hubba, hubba!

Keep moving!


I find myself racing at a sprinter's pace with a scarcity mentality: you'll never get there, hurry up, hurry up!

Then the painting I'm working on, like a toddler not quite steady on her feet, reaches for my hand and relies on me to match her short stride, to match her curiosity about that little pebble right at her feet without one thought about any finish line.

At first I strain my head forward, look impatiently some distance ahead. I even tug her hand once or twice.

Then, breath by breath, I slow down.

I drop into the exact space where my feet stand just now.

I work for a few minutes. Take a few tiny steps. Pause. Take another. Stop altogether.

work in progress
closeup of where my feet stood while exploring

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Rainy Day Rivulets

Sweet steady rain a few days ago after weeks of no rain. Rivulets streaming down roofs, along streets, through gardens. Rivulets just going where gravity took them.

I approach my canvas, with its black and white start, holding lightly the notion of black and white. Then search for my tube of heavy body Parchment—Parchment is white, right? Squeeze directly onto the canvas. Pick up a brayer and move the paint around.

Next, rotate my canvas and give my nondominant hand a chance to scribble some organic shapes with black, white, and olive green oil pastels. Cover the whole shebang with glazing medium as a fixative.

Pick up a brush, but put it down. Grab a paint knife instead.

Rotate my canvas three or four times and get some bonafide black going.

Or maybe it's Payne's Gray.

Totally having fun with this.

Suddenly, triangles.


Like the rivulets, just going where gravity takes me.