Friday, December 29, 2017

Bringing a Year to a Close

In the spirit of tying up loose ends, giving a nod to the old, and making space for the new, I plan to bring closure to 2017 in my next few posts—one of which appears here today in my last blog entry of 2017, the rest of which will show up on the other side of the weekend at the beginning of 2018.

Janus, god of transitions, invites me to take a close look at the metamorphasis from this start—

collage on paper,
taped to a cafeteria tray

to this completed painting—

All Are Born Radiating Light

The dramatic change knocks my socks off and seems impossibly magical … even though I was its agent and witnessed the transformation firsthand as it unfolded moment by moment!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Slapstick 12/28/17

In recent weeks I've done some of my most exciting work, and some of my least satisfying.

What d'ya think—the two might go hand in hand, might go with taking more risks?


Funny story: I got going with an idea here that seemed doomed to irretrievable ugliness, glued its parts onto a handpainted scrap from my collage box, sandwiched the whole mess between two sheets of plastic with the weight of a few books on top, and wrote the opening two lines above while I waited for the glue to dry so I could assess the damages—sure I was writing about a total fail.

But no.

Complete surprise. I love this piece!

I'm still in shock. I actually achieved the effect I was aiming for but not at all in the way I'd set out to do so.


Flight Behavior
4x5"; acrylic, India ink, and pastel on paper

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Slapstick 12/27/17

Ya know how some people look like a million bucks, even if they just got dragged out of deep sleep unexpectedly in the middle of the night, or if they just came in from a wind storm?

Not this gal. This gal came from who knows where, was overdue for a hair cut, hadn't run a comb through her hair, had bed-head somethin' fierce.

But she cleaned up pretty well. I took her to a hair stylist who pampered her with shampoo and conditioner, gave her a good trim, and blew her hair dry to a glossy shine. I bought her some eyeliner on the way home, gave her money to choose an on-trend outfit, and surprised her with some new jewelry.


I Have to Put On My Face, Be Right Back
3x4"; acrylic, latex, India ink, collage, and pastels on paper,
mounted on three layers of cardstock

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Slapstick 12/26/17

I've posted dozens of painting experiments over the past few years, and mostly I've liked them—in large part because it's hard for me to let go of a painting and consider it 'finished' until I like it!

This one doesn't call out to me but, what the heck, I'm posting it anyway.

Internal success: slap it down, let it stick >>> slapstick!

Truth to tell, there are two bits here that appeal to me visually: pale blue scribbles on top of black, textural white lines that could be waves washing onto shore.

Even so, I might throw this one in the trash bin which is surprisingly difficult for me. It'll be a true letting go, if I do.

Started here:

Stopped here:

4x5"; acrylic, India ink, collage, and pastel on paper

Monday, December 25, 2017

Stars of Wonder

A standout holiday memory comes from 1991 when I discovered author/illustrator Patricia Polacco's book Uncle Vova's Tree. It tells the story of grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, and children who gather at the family's Michigan farmhouse to celebrate Christmas in the Russian tradition that is their heritage. Part of the story involves the children's making colorful paper stars with their Uncle Vova.

I bought the book immediately. I wanted us to make Uncle Vova stars for our tree! I rounded up bright color markers, streamers, scissors, glue, and bamboo kabob sticks, set up an impromptu workshop space, and my kids and I totally immersed ourselves. It was one of those little press-pause pockets of stillness that can make all the rush and commercialism and curmudgeonly feelings that often overtake the holiday fall away, leaving only light and joy in their place.

The best!

I made new vova stars this year, in keeping with my longstanding tradition of creating an edition of handmade ornaments each year. The fun this time came from painting them. I started somewhat inauspiciously in the quiet of a day in February, covering a sheet of paper intuitively. Continued more enjoyably on a soon-to-follow snow day. The next day, really got a groove going. Kept my mojo in gear. Probably got a little too smug, because soon thereafter all hell broke loose!

But what fun I had tracing star shapes on the back of my two pages of painting, cutting out those stars, and then playing with the volunteer mini-compositions that emerged on the opposite side!

Vova stars, group photo
Vova star, individual portrait
Vova star, individual portrait
Vova star, individual portrait
Vova star, individual portrait
Vova star, individual portrait

Friday, December 22, 2017

Simple Gifts

This painting got its start two years ago (two years!) when I taped a sturdy piece of paper to a cafeteria tray and covered it with collage bits torn from a variety of magazine pages featuring a range of greens and a variety of patterns. It sat taped to that tray until today.

I found myself humming the plainspoken Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" by Elder Joseph Bracket as I painted late this afternoon.

'Tis the gift to be simple
'Tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight.

Simple gifts in my studio:

• mixing up titanium white, phthalo blue red shade, and glazing medium,
• veiling and collaging negative space,
• scribbling with India ink, 
• coming down where I ought to be, in the place just right.

All Are Born Radiating Light
4.25x5.75"; acrylic, latex, India ink, collage, and oil pastel on paper,
mounted on card stock and tissue paper

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Slapstick 12/21/17

I remember my first scavenger hunt.

I was living in the Netherlands with my family. I was eleven years old. I was at a birthday party. On a wooded path in a neighborhood park we were split into teams to find a key, a doll, a piece of stained glass, and other enumerated items. In the woods? I could see no key, no doll. Not on first glance. Not on second. Not even on third. But eventually, we found them all.

Fun to search.

Very satisfying to find.

Today, another scavenger hunt: Find a dancer. In pigtails.



The Rest of That Day Was a Confusion of Things
4x5"; acrylic, India ink, collage, and pastel on paper

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Slapstick 12/20/17

Of late my art practice has held too many wild sweeping swaths of uncertainty and precious few sweet slim passages of contentment.

Whenever I catch myself falling into constraining/draining self-talk of any kind—and I'm so grateful when I do, I stop to drop my shoulders, relax my forehead, invite my tight jaw to go slack.

Breathe deeply.

Inch my way back to trusting trusting trusting.


More treasure hunting today. Or, perhaps better stated, more searching for missing persons.

Found one!

Amused by the Absurdity
4x5"; acrylic, India ink, collage, and wax pastels on paper

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Slapstick 12/19/17

Part of the deep pleasure of creating the geometric series I recently completed was its having just enough structure to offer a sense of direction as I worked. Within that structure I could do whatever I wanted, working as intuitively and experimentally as I wished, all the while scaffolded by having parameters.

I was reminded of writing certain kinds of poetry. Express whatever it is that you want to express, go wild with word choice and metaphor, but here's where you have to have a rhyme and here's the number of syllables you're allotted.

By contrast, when I painted up a new start a few days ago, I felt as though I were in the wide open formless space of free verse. Whoa, where are the boundaries?

Then, hooray! An online art friend, Gabriela, whom I met recently in the ArtNow Community, posted some collage-and-ink stick figure paintings that fired me right up and suggested an inviting limit-to-freedom ratio. My 'controlling idea' became locating and bringing to life a figure somewhere within the confines of my start, and I gave myself full freedom to do so in whatever wild way I wished.

F - U - N!



Oh, wait! She wants to turn a cartwheel!

Shameless Delight and Exuberance
4x5"; acrylic, India ink, collage, and wax pastels on paper

Monday, December 18, 2017

Slapstick 12/18/17

Today: some random collage scraps handpainted with black latex—can't remember when I painted them. Plus, a cockeyed notion to make something out of nothing. Slap. Stick.

I fiddle a bit and then, the first time I feel any sort of visual satisfaction, I stop.

Without evaluating whether or not the piece is 'complete.'

Without worrying it like a dog with a bone.

It's an experiment. It has fulfilled its creative purpose.

Now it will go on to live a happy life as a postcard sent from me to my dad in Maine. Hi, Futh!

4x5"; acrylic, collage, and pastels on paper,
mounted on card stock

Friday, December 15, 2017

Slapstick 12/15/17

About five years ago I started my winter break from tutoring with a winter break of my wrist. Was out walking, moving right along, taking in the cold air, swinging my arms back and forth with pleasure. Then, bam! Stepped on a tiny patch of undetected black ice and was down before I knew I was going.

Felt like that yesterday. Was striding into my new series, moving right along, taking in the colors, sweeping my brush back and forth with pleasure. Then, bam! The painting went down. Was flat on its face before it knew it was going.

work in progress

When I slipped on the ice, the critical decision was whether to go to Starbucks before the hospital emergency room or after.

I opted to dust myself off and head to Starbucks for my usual Sunday morning coffee date with Dave. First things first. X-rays second.

Similarly, today, after catching my breath—and it needed catching!, I dusted myself off and kept playing. My slapstick inquiry might be broken, might not.

Slapped collage and pastels onto my painting and let 'em stick. Gave it a title and called it a postcard.


Now, on to other things—the emergency room happily not among them!

I Can Only Face So Much Drama at Once
4x5"; acrylic, pastels, and collage on paper,
mounted on card stock

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Slapstick 12/14/17

My friend Simone has written a post about found composition, something I seem to be strongly pulled to explore right now.

I love the happenso accidental capriciousness of it.

So—no surprise to those who follow my daily painting—after making one more quick pass on yesterday's freestyle start …

yesterday's start after a third pass today,
 photographed in early morning winter sunshine

… I extract three small 'canvases' from it (Sylvia, do not go fussin' at me!) to see what surprise volunteer compositions I'll discover in my arbitrary divisions.

The first outcome is an internal one—a little jolt of delight in recognizing and welcoming the groundwork for a new series. Hot diggity! Used to be I liked the idea of a series but had no staying power whatsoever to actually see one through to completion. Last week and this, however, my tummy has done more than one happy flip-flop while immersed in series work, saying, Bring it on!

The second outcome today is a new painting.

Which I complete in short order! No belaboring!

I say to myself Just stop!—and after a mere two or three repetitions of the command, I do just that.

Stop and walk away.


You Are Your Own Best Guru
4x5"; acrylic, ink, and pastels on paper

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Slapstick 12/13/17

Good grief, it's only 315p as I pop outdoors to catch a photo in natural daylight, and I have to ask, daylight? what daylight?

With my geometric series completed, I choose a fresh palette and start brand new today. I paint from a measure of raw uncomfortable inner dissonance that I carried into the studio with me. The dissonance doesn't sit well in my body, but it does open me to impulse and freeform painting—welcome gateways to both feeling the disequilibrium rather than running away and to expressing it.

Plus, I get a start on paper.

12x16" work in progress,
photographed indoors
work in progress after a second pass,
 photographed in waning winter daylight

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Slapstick 12/12/17

I have 'rules' for my Slapstick inquiry.

And gosh-darned if I don't break 'em almost every time I set foot in my studio.

Not by design or out of I'll-show-you contrariness but because, I think, as I reflect back on the most recent series of six pieces, I gave myself a starting place and then trusted the emerging process.

The trusting wasn't conscious.

But I think I yielded in some way, let myself take one step and then another and another whether rule-compliant or not.

I created a launch pad, I kept showing up, my art met me halfway, and our collaboration unfolded—unevenly and with jockeying for position, but nonetheless unfolding through some mysterious force of its own.

To happy effect in this case.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Slapstick 12/11/17

Just spent a happy heuristic hour in my studio, an hour of flow.

A timeless stretch where challenges were just slightly ahead of talent or skill, and interest and motivation were high.

An engagement with color, light, line, paper, scissors, and glue which allowed me to discover and learn for myself what worked, what didn't.

A practical, hands-on process not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but invitingly sufficient for my immediate goals.



Trial and error.

The best.

Looking for Sky in Manhattan
4x5"; acrylic, china marker, ink, oil pastel, and collage on paper,
mounted on card stock

Favorite orientation?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Slapstick 12/8/17

A "short" "burst" of a good couple of hours!

Sunlight Showing the Inkstains
4x5"; acrylic, china marker, ink, oil pastel, and collage on paper,
mounted on card stock

Favorite orientation?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Slapstick 12/7/17

I paused today to reflect on my current so-named Slapstick inquiry.

Here's how I set it up—controls: slap it on, let it stick; variables: everything else.

Here's how it has played out so far:

• the inner turmoil I'd been feeling for weeks has taken leave of me for a good week now;
• on most days I have not worked in short quick bursts; on a few days I have;
• I have stumbled into generating a series that totally engages me;
• in that series I notice the interplay of two phases—an initial intuitive unfettered slap onto paper of paint, texture, pattern, and line and the subsequent detail-oriented resolving of ongoing challenging visual puzzles that emerge;
• I do catch myself fussing and getting detrimentally precious but can often tap into my self-designed guiding principles to slap something into place rather than fuss and to let it stick rather than get precious;
• until I forget again.

Onwards and sideways.

A Twenty-Foot Wooden Crate of Fifty-Cent Sweaters
4x5"; acrylic, grease pencil, and collage on paper,
mounted on card stock

Favorite orientation?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Slapstick 12/6/17

A favorite story:

When my son Jay was maybe 14 or so, I dropped him off at a local fishing hole one evening. On my way home I was aware of the many twists and turns my train of thought took as I drove, and I wondered where Jay's thoughts might meander while he fished. When I picked him up I asked.

Mom: Jay, what kinds of things did you think about while you were fishing?

Jay: Fishing.

Mom: Well, yeah, but what else did you think about?

Jay:  I studied the surface of the water to see where fish might be.

Mom: But what else?

Jay: Fishing.

I was incredulous.


When I paint, every now and then I experience that same grace of focus and flow. I pick up my fishing pole and study the surface of the water to see where the fish might be.

I had a few such moments today.

Hearing My Inner Voice Over the Cacophony
4x5"; acrylic, grease pencil, and collage on paper,
mounted on card stock

Favorite orientation?