Monday, October 31, 2016


Busy and Quiet #2 provided a less tempestuous ride than #1 but it went to some ugly places before eventually revealing itself. I started with subtle monochrome stripes, added some drips, and went from there. 

My brain kept trying to think.

My gut kept saying, Shut up. The answers are in the painting, not your brain. 

I'm not gonna tell you how many times that tug-o'-war played out.

monochrome stripes and paint drips as a start

Busy and Quiet #2
Again, my busy area is dispersed, this time with one main focal area
and two smaller satellites; together they amass less than 25%.
The quiet—but textured—area is the lighter, more opaque part
of the painting, and probably runs >50%.
The transitional areas are those that reveal some under layers
through transparent veiling.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Lesson 8, Busy & Quiet, turned out to be so about inner process for me. 

I don't remember how aware I might have been at the time but, when I took up painting in 2014, I think it was because something in me wanted to bump into parts of myself that I consciously or unknowingly hide away, and that same something in me recognized that painting might be a totally awesome gateway.

Lesson 8 held my feet to the fire of confronting those inner nether regions pretty much nonstop.

I felt wildly experimental and improvisational starting my first piece. Dove headfirst into Not Knowing, and swam there for a long time. Went from impulsive to intuitive to reckless to open-ended to lost to dizzy to unstructured to flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants.

At some point I woke up, beached. 

Found myself in a corner I'd painted myself into. 


exhibit a: in a corner

Painted my way out of that one into a space that also started to feel cornery (good word! I felt [c]ornery!).

exhibit b: getting cornery

Did some playful mucking about with ink, line, and teeny patterns.

exhibit c: more playful

From there, went to a big mess that brought me to a paralyzing standstill—didn't even photograph it.

At which point I thought, What would instructor Jane do?

Just cover over something and see where it takes you.


Here's where it took me, first time out of the gate with this lesson.

Does it not seem like magic that exhibit a lies somewhere deep inside Busy and Quiet #1?

Busy and Quiet #1
When I came to this piece to evaluate its visual content
in terms of the lesson goals, it had much to teach me.
Tunnel-visioned as I was while painting,
I felt pretty clear about what was busy, what transitional, what quiet.
Afterward, with more clear-headed objectivity (ha!),
I saw where this piece felt short of satisfying the lesson.
Most conspicuously, the busy sections were dispersed,
which tends to activate the 'quiet' spaces in between.
For now, I've left it as is.


This post marks the end of Lesson 7, a lesson that I actually completed about a week ago in real time.

I'm exploring that barn again, with its dim lighting, its cool air, its deep shadows, its old splintery timbers, its traces of animal smells. I am content, relaxed, just poking around, not thinking about much of anything.

Monostripes #10 (paint quilt)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


On some leisurely afternoon, I will 'embroider' this little paint 'quilt' postcard with stenciling, stamping, and/or ink mark-making. I have no idea today what it will look like then. I have no idea when I'll have a leisurely afternoon!

Monostripes #9 (paint quilt)

Monday, October 24, 2016


The last vestiges of summer weather may barely be making themselves known in my neck of the woods, but I just walked out of a hot thirsty wilting summer afternoon into the cool refreshing darkness of an old wooden barn, with dust motes catching bits of ambient light.

Aaaahhh …

Monostripes #8

Sunday, October 23, 2016


I could not get a good photograph of this piece. The colors you see below? Not the colors I see with my naked eye.

For sure, the piece has greater visual impact live than photographed, but I have to tell ya it ain't terrific regardless. Its tight range of monochromatic color reinforces for me the favorable impact that variety and contrast—even when subtle—offer in captivating the eye. In fact, without its very subtle mark-making this piece would be a total wash.

Despite the above grumbling, I actually had fun making this piece, experimenting with just how close I could get two tones and still have them be distinguishable, just how subtle I could make marks and still have them be discernible.

Monostripes #7

Saturday, October 22, 2016


What happens if I
• apply a ground color with a credit card instead of a brush?
• include some diagonal stripes?
• set a timer for 21 minutes of enhancing and then STOP?

My investigation with this piece included playing with the above to see what effect my choices would have on whether or not it would read first and foremost as monochrome stripes. I used varied length, width, and spatial orientation in the stripes; predominantly crisp edges, with a few soft blended ones as contrast; and a range of value, hue, and saturation. The angularity of my stripes gives a structural feel, and their arrangement creates depth—a feeling of foreground and several layers of background.

Monostripes #6 feels less monochromatic and less unified to me than other studies I did for this lesson, I think because of the high number of broken stripes, the combination of verticals, horizontals, and (dominating) diagonals, and the range of hues—I used more Burnt Sienna here than in other pieces. I garnered some instructive experience—as instructor Jane Davies put it, Often, less is more, but you have to go to the "more" to see What Happens If.

My favorite parts are the dry-painted area in the lower left corner and the two textured patches, one left center and one right center—they read as quiet resting places to me. I also like the many places with subtle tone-on-tone mark-making.

Monostripes #6

Friday, October 21, 2016


These little painted quilts appeal to me at several levels—love putting leftover bits of paint to good use; love painting the quilts on 4x5" sturdy manila stock that was passed along to me by a friend about fifteen years ago; love coming away with postcards to send to my father as a byproduct of fulfilling a lesson requirement.

Monostripes #5 (Paint Quilt)
differences in stripe width, length, and spatial orientation create variety;
dry-brush technique on upper top left block of vertical stripes
especially catches my eye
and lends a soft overall feel to the piece
As with Monostripes #4, I didn't finish this piece in any way,
but it has a more finished look; even so,
I'll play with it further, too, before sending it as a postcard.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


In traditional pieced quilts, fabric is used from cast-off clothing that is still good enough to be repurposed. The quilts are a means of making something useful and often beautiful from leftovers. They are improvisational in the sense that the quilt maker does not buy new fabrics for the quilt.

A 'Paint Quilt' is a piece—striped, in this case—that we were instructed to make from the leftover paint on our Lesson 7 palettes. No planning ahead, no squeezing out new paint. We were to use only paint left over from the monochrome-stripes pieces we were working on. 

Monostripes #4 (Paint Quilt)
some soft edges, some straight and delineated edges;
visible brush strokes—vertical in the three top-to-bottom stripes,
horizontal in the lower left vertical stripe, and
multidirectional elsewhere;
variety comes from brushstrokes, value variations, and stripe sizes
I didn't 'finish' this piece in any way,
and it reads as unfinished when I look at it;
I intend to play with it further, possibly cheating
by squeezing out new paint, and for sure using ink or pastels
before later sending it as a postcard.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


In Lesson 7, one of the instructions was to stay with one color palette for no fewer than three pieces, to just keep going deep within narrow boundaries. I liked the push to keep investigating. The decisions related to the monochromatic-palette-and-stripes limitation for unity, along with the tone-on-tone-and-low-contrast limitation for variety, captivated and challenged me.

My mental set for the lesson was what happens if I do this?

What happens if I

  • paint a dark stripe next to a light stripe? 
  • paint stripes with minimal value variation side by side?
  • use collage with a tiny bit of stenciling on it? 
  • collage some long skinny triangles along a stripe? 
  • paint soft blended edges between stripes? 
  • paint crisp edges?

Monostripes #3
mark-making ranges from barely visible tone-on-tone circles
in the 4th stripe from the top,
to a higher-contrast scribble
running across the 4th stripe from the bottom,
to textural collage triangles creating a sense of movement
across the center stripe

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I painted the first five studies for this lesson using Bright Aqua Green, Black, and White, with touches of Vivid Lime Green and Turquoise Deep. 

I think of these five pieces as a Little Cabin in the Woods series because I painted them while away with Dave, celebrating our 41st(!) wedding anniversary, living for the week in a West Virginia state park log cabin in the middle of nowhere. I used an improvised and limited travel kit of art supplies, watched the lesson video once when I had access to wifi, and then dove into investigating. 

The lesson called for very specific limitations, and my wilderness setting provided additional limitations! 

Monostripes #2
varied width and length in stripes;
soft wavy stripes across one wider horizontal stripe in lower third;
vertical stripes all contained in left quarter of page;
collaged squares offering slight value contrast and creating a "dotted stripe"
I like the way one or two 'louder' elements catch my eye
and pull me in to discover what might be hidden at first glance.

I really had to work hard to be restrained with my mark-making, but I liked embracing the restraint, and I like the results.

Monday, October 17, 2016


What a difference a day can make: from extreme variety in Lesson 6 of my Jane Davies workshop to monochrome stripes in Lesson 7.

This lesson invites a deep investigation within the strict limitations of monochromatic palette and stripes only—which will create unity, and tone-on-tone and low-contrast enhancements only—which will bring variety, but subtly.

Monostripes #1

Thursday, October 13, 2016

IMPROV, Day 2b

A central focus in this lesson on Improvisation-and-As-Much-Variety-As-You-Can-Stand was to create a piece with distinct variety quadrant to quadrant—make sure each quadrant looks sufficiently different, that they all look like separate entities and not as though they were all cut from the same 'cloth'—but without marking off a quadrant grid to do so.

I set myself a conscious challenge with my final piece, starting with color areas as follows, color areas that had half the painting undifferentiated colorwise—

Here's what the piece became—

Improv #6

Here are its quadrants—


Here's what I wrote when I submitted it—

Visual Content: What stands out to me in this piece, especially relative to my other pieces, is its ability to contain a high degree of variety while staying peaceful—there is ample quiet space surrounding the prominent shapes, and even within a couple of the shapes. The prevalent use of simple familiar shapes on a fairly neutral background creates a graphic impression. Because of the way I did my underpainting, the lower half had all green elements. I enjoyed having the quadrant test in mind when I started doing finishing touches—that guiding principle led me to find ways to differentiate the green spaces enough to have those two quadrants become distinct, thereby increasing the overall captivation factor for this piece.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Had great fun creating my fifth improvisational painting.

I used as a start a painting I did in June that irritated me every time I looked at it.

activated canvas at the ready!

Rotated the canvas and started applying collage pieces.

Scribbled on some ink. Started working on another piece at the same time. Approached both pieces from a strong place of what-if, and felt improvisational, experimental, and light of heart.

Best of all, in the end I replaced that annoying landscape with art that is much more compelling to me in its detail, quirkiness, surprises, and depth.

Improv #5

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

IMPROV, Day 1d

One of the requirements for the written-discussion part of this lesson: address both Inner Process and Visual Content.

Inner process with this one: in a word, harried. Turned out that working under tighter-than-usual time constraints bound me up instead of freeing me.

Got going but in short order totally lost my way. Kept putting one foot in front of the other anyway, but not with any palpable sense of joy or curiosity or spunk.

Eventually, painted myself into enough of a mess that I got out my white paint and brayer, covered a good 75% of the dang tangle, and took a break. The success in that was that I'd been aiming to create more layers in this piece, and now I had!

Met with my afternoon students. Ate dinner. Did some packing for going away.

Started putting one foot in front of the other again.

Veiling most of the piece when I got lost, and then walking away for a bit, offered up the chance to come at the piece with a fresh open mindset.

Found my way!

Improv #4

Monday, October 10, 2016

IMPROV, Day 1c

I met the basic lesson requirements for this piece and, looking at the clock, decided it was done-enough.

When I stepped back to write up commentary before posting to my class, the 'forest' wasn't calling out to me. If I were to tell the story of the individual 'trees'—the multiple materials and techniques I used—I'd expect to see more depth and complexity, but I don't. I see plenty of color, value, hue, and saturation; plenty of line of varying qualities; a range of opacities and transparencies; some shapes; hard and soft edges; a tiny bit of pattern. But, this piece, for me, lacks a "je ne sais quoi" factor that would make it more compelling. 

At the time, with the clock ticking, I thought (in the words of friend Bo): onwards and sideways! Figured I'd see what evolved with the next piece.

Looking back now, I see this exercise as an activated canvas, a great start. I'll return to play with it further at some future point.

Improv #3

Sunday, October 9, 2016

IMPROV, Day 1b

OK, here's the deal. This particular workshop, as Jane Davies states right up front, is a fast-paced one. 100 paintings in 10 weeks. In order to get feedback from Jane, a minimum of six paintings and accompanying written observations, submitted together in a single post before the subsequent weekly lesson is released, is required.

This week, the fast-paced element of the class was ratcheted up for me because I knew Dave and I would be leaving for Virginia less than 48 hours after I first laid eyes on the lesson.

Lessons are released on Wednesdays. Lesson 6 showed up first thing Wednesday October 5. I set an intention to complete and post it by noon on Thursday October 6.


Both energizing and enervating.

Here's the second piece I did on Day 1 of Lesson 6:

Improv #2

Saturday, October 8, 2016


Lesson 6, improvisational painting. Maximal variety, this time in color. Let your visual imagination wander around, looking at the trees, not the forest. Variety can come from color value, saturation, hue; geometric shapes, organic shapes; hard, ragged, soft, and broken edges; small, large, dense, and sparse pattern; differing qualities of line; transparent and opaque layering; painting; drawing with pen, graphite, and crayon; using sgraffito technique; using a brayer; stamping; lifting paint; stenciling; removing paint with alcohol; and/or whatever else your little improvisational mind comes up with.

OK. Gotcha. Ready, set, go!

Improv #1

Friday, October 7, 2016

Sneaking in After Hours

Saw all the leftover paint on my palette from Lesson 5. Had to sneak in one more color exploration before saying a final goodbye to this lesson. Inspired by others in my class, I stepped away from free-form to some straight-edged areas of color this time.

Color #9

FYI, I'll be away for 10 days starting today. I'm hoping to paint at least a few times while on vacation but I will most likely not be posting at my blog until I return home, at which point I'll pick up where I've left off.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

COLOR, Day 8

OK, wrapping up Lesson 5.

Here's my final study; I like this little piece:

Color #8, exploration started

Color #8, exploration enhanced
two warm roughly analogous colors predominate;
one cool neutral sits on the edge in small doses in three places;
 transitions in hue and value are soft in the red-orange area;
more dramatic changes in value and some saturation appear in the magenta area;
the celadon bits have some 
value change and saturation, and remind me how effective
neutrals can be in getting other colors to pop—much more contrast exists between
celadon and magenta and between celadon and red-orange
than between magenta and red-orange;
the contrast between magenta and red-orange is stronger 

where one is a light value and the other more saturated

On to a new lesson. Wondering what it'll be. I know I'll be away for five days of week 6—compounding the challenges, I'm guessing!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

COLOR, Day 7

I originally painted this study in a vertical orientation but later noticed it had a bit of a landscape feel so rotated it 90 degrees. Not sure if that detracts from COLOR's being seen immediately as the subject matter. I'll let you know when instructor Jane Davies weighs in!

Color #7, exploration started

The textural enhancements are relatively subtle but you can see them more clearly if you click on and thereby enlarge the image below.

Color #7, exploration enhanced
three cool colors;
the yellow-green band is almost uniform in value, with just a hint of a lighter value at its top—
it's a band of saturation, without any markings, dividing the other two colors;
the blue area has both some changes in hue and a range of value 

moving from darker to lighter left to right;
the purple area has changes in hue and value but they're dispersed differently from the blue area

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

COLOR, Day 6

Part of the fun of this lesson was the instruction not to choose colors for any particular reason or to choose colors that would go together well or contrast well. The idea was to choose any 3-4 colors, play with hue, saturation, and value, and see what we discovered/observed after the fact.

Another study gets a chance to stand in the limelight:

Color #6, exploration started

Color #6, exploration enhanced
three cool colors tied by blue and green: yellow-green, green-blue, blue-violet;
the range of hues in each area comes in part from the non-painted enhancements;
the blue-violet has areas of the deepest saturation;
contrast is greater between yellow-green and blue-violet 

than between yellow-green and green-blue,
and the contrast between y-g and g-b is greater when the darker value of one 

meets the lighter value of the other

Monday, October 3, 2016

COLOR, Day 5

Well, painting these little suckers was nothing compared to writing about them. Written observations? Holy cow. The amount of direct instruction I've had about color theory would fit in the palm of my hand.

But I'm learning!

Photography insufficiencies notwithstanding, here are two more of my studies, now evolved from starts to enhanced versions:

Color #1, exploration started

Color #1, exploration enhanced
different amounts of three analogous warm colors,
and each color gets a chance to meet an edge
and each other;
range of values and saturation in the dark brown and burnt sienna 
(two colors I rarely use now that I do mostly abstract painting);
range of hue in the yellow-orange band, more brightness in that band,
and more contrast between that band and the other two colors 
than between the dark brown and the burnt sienna;
I like the colors together because they feel earthy, 
with a touch of volcanic lava for tension

Color #2, exploration started

Color #2, exploration enhanced
analogous colors separated into separate bands;
the top band has a range of value, and slight variation in hue,
moving with soft transitions from darker and slightly more saturated at the top to lighter below;
right side of burnt sienna band is basically all one value and hue,
whereas left side is more varied—markings both even out the color
and give it a rougher texture than the top band;
the bottom band has saturation in the lower left corner, 

and its rough brushstrokes are accentuated by markings;
contrast is higher between top two colors than bottom two;
bottom color predominates—it claims over half the space and, 

as darkest color, advances forward

Sunday, October 2, 2016

COLOR, Day 4

I found the explicit limitations of Lesson 5 to be engaging—particularly the directive to create pieces in which COLOR will be seen immediately as the subject matter. The further invitation to enhance our pieces with pattern/line/texture—but just hints, not high contrast—without stealing thunder from color added to the challenge and fun. 

The limits of my collection of wax crayons and oil pastels frustrated me at times but of course those boundaries pushed me to make discoveries. I also had a devil of a time getting photographs that showcase the color I see with my eye, and you'll see that the color varies widely in many of the before and after pix; that just plain irritated me!

Color #1, exploration started
Color #1, exploration enhanced

Color #2, exploration started
Color #2, exploration enhanced

Color #3, exploration started
Color #3, exploration enhanced

Saturday, October 1, 2016

COLOR, Day 3

More starts.

Some challenges with getting paint to do what I wish.

Nonetheless, these starts have been a pleasure to work on.