Friday, March 31, 2017

100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

100 bottles of beer on the wall,
100 bottles of beer,
You take one down,
and pass it around …

Oh, wait! That's not the song I meant to sing.

Same tune, though.

100 layers of paint on the page,
100 layers of paint,
You slap one down,
and turn it around …

Took an applicator bottle of ink, made shapes and drips. Layer 4.

layer 4

Don't like the results at all.

Don't think it'll much matter if I like or don't like this layer of mark making—it's hard to imagine any trace of it will be visible 96 layers from now!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Chain Reaction

A little chain reaction that started right around the first of the year:

• Simone tuned me in to Instagram so I began posting;

• Sheila pointed me in the direction of some tips on how to use Instagram at my computer vs. on my phone which suddenly gave me much easier ways to connect with other artists and have conversations;

• Betty painted a painting that was very compelling;

• I admired another Instagram painting and wished for the umpteenth time that I could/would layer and veil more freely when I paint; and

• out of the blue, Marielle encouraged me to participate in a 100layersofpaint challenge.

Nah, I thought. I've got way too much going on.

And I did have too much going on. Still do.

But just hours before I headed on my midMarch vacation, I impulsively grabbed an old painting done on gessobord. I felt tenderness for that early investigation of whatever it was that abstract painting might be.

But, well, buh-bye. Secrets of a Bayside Barn served a purpose then, but now it had a new purpose. It officially became Layer 1. I knew it would be easy to add new layers without hesitation.

layer 1/100

I grabbed a Posca paint pen and wrote 100 layers of paint all over it. Layer 2.

layer 2/100

About half an hour before we left for the airport, I just had to add another layer. Total fun. Then I washed brushes, scrambled to stuff last-minute items in my suitcase and backpack, hoped I wasn't leaving anything behind, and headed out the door.

layer 3/100

Awesome. Totally love it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Today I just let bubble up whatever wanted to bubble up.

Little happy pops of color and PaperMate Sharpwriter pencil scribbles, as it turned out.

In Wonder at All That Followed
1.5x5.5"; acrylic and pencil on black cardboard

I have referred to and have been using some of my recent pieces as bookmarks, but they hold their heads magnificently high as beautiful pieces of small framable art as well. One of my favorite pieces of art, purchased probably 20 years ago, is 1x3" and looks exquisite matted in its elegant 9x12" frame on a wall in my home; my tall-and-thins could easily follow suit.

Here's a second montage of pieces from my now-complete tall-and-thin series.

willowy siblings

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I Don't Know Why You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

I'm noticing the bittersweet feeling of recent goodbyes—I'm feeling the tug and resistance of the parting, the richness and joy of the coming together, the laughter and depth of the space in between. I am inviting myself to be here and now no matter where, to say hello, and hello, and hello.

Right here and just now: playing with some hand-painted collage and Posca pens.

You Know How Goodbyes Feel
1.5x5.5"; acrylic and collage on black cardboard

Monday, March 27, 2017

Circulation Desk

I've gone to the circulation desk at my library more than once trying to find a book about which I have just the merest wisps of information. I'm trying to find a book on CD whose title I can't remember. My sister recommended it to me. It's about a house, or construction. Or an architect. But I think maybe it's told in first person by the house itself?

Happily, the librarians get into problem-solving mode with me and we have a grand time following the few crumbs I've offered up as clues.

And we almost always find what I'm looking for.

Wonder what'd transpire if I went to the circulation desk and made the following query: Do you know of a book whose cover might go well with this bookmark? … preferably fiction, preferably with a plot I'll like?

The Lake Wrinkles Under a New Breeze
1.5x5.5"; acrylic and ink on black cardboard

Friday, March 24, 2017

Because Of

Because of my wanting to make a bookmark to match the cover of a book I planned to read,

I scrounged around my studio for some sturdy paper,

found the black cardboard back I'd saved from a spiral binder, and

painted some background colors.

Because of the size of the black cardboard, I cut ten 1.5x5.5" pieces.

Because of cutting ten pieces, I now find myself creating a series.

Bookmark #7 joins the crew today:

Eddying Around in the Vacuum
1.5x5.5"; acrylic and ink on black cardboard

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Instead Of

I've been wanting to play with white ink on one of the starts from my cut up trickster-art for awhile now. Inspired by the work of Eva Magill Oliver, and instead of doing laundry and unpacking my suitcase …

A Small World Delivered into a Larger One
1.5x5.5"; acrylic, ink, and oil pastels on black cardboard

Thanks, Eva!

Here's a montage of several of my bookmarks to date:

bookmark siblings

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Don't Text—Touch

In the article I've been referencing recently, the final research finding presented by Kolb addresses the benefits of touch in elevating mood. Neuroscientists recommend hugs as follows:

A hug, especially a long one, releases the neurotransmitter/hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.

The message is very clear: Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don't text—touch.

Painting is a mostly solitary pursuit for me, given that I put my brush into gear at my home. But sharing my paintings does offer me a lovely way to touch others. 

In fact, I would like to send this featured bookmark as a hug through the mail … to someone I don't even know (yet). If you'd like to bring a little surprise and fun into the life of someone you love, speak up in the comments section below. If you're the first person to express interest, I will indicate what step to take so I can get the wheels in motion to mail the bookmark to whomever you choose.

The Sea Has Always Whispered to Me
1.5x5.5"; acrylic, oil pastel, and collage on black cardboard

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Here's What I Decided

The research I've been reading about the upward spiral of happiness fascinates me.

Here's another finding: Making decisions contributes in several ways to uplifted mood.

I know, I know, sometimes it can be so hard to make a decision.

Good news: brain studies back up the fact that making a "good enough" decision is good for us, better in fact than agonizing over making the absolute 100% best decision.

When I discovered today that I didn't have any bookmarks to go with the cover of a book I just borrowed from the library, I decided to make one.

It was a good enough decision and it's a good enough bookmark.

Here's hoping it's a good enough book!


Good Enough Decision
1.5x5.5"; acrylic and pencil on black cardboard
not for sale [until I finish the book]

Monday, March 20, 2017

Name That Feeling!

Further insight from UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Kolb: it is beneficial to label our negative feelings. Suppressing only sends us downward. Naming—in just a word or two—gets us spiraling back up.

A fundamental tool of mindfulness, labeling activates the prefrontal cortex and reduces arousal in the limbic system.

Got it.

When I landed here, I felt:


I'd let an outer voice get noisy enough to keep me from hearing my own inner voice, to no particularly good effect outwardly and certainly no good effect inwardly.

'Nuff said about that.

As soon as I named my feelings, though, I felt a shift and a lift.

I got my paints out again. Now this piece—a visual haiku—feels artistically and emotionally authentic.

And, in turn, I feel:


Empty Pockets Where Feelings Get Caught
1.5x5.5"; acrylic, ink, pencil, and oil pastels on black cardboard

Friday, March 17, 2017


Remember the other day I mentioned brain research's indicating that feeling gratitude leads to an upward spiral of happiness? Awesome, yes?

But guess what else?

Turns out, when you cannot find one single thing to be grateful for, it doesn't matter. You don't have to find anything. Remembering to search in the first place matters most.

From the research: Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.

I'm in!

Many's the time I search really hard to find something to be grateful for when I look at what I've put on a canvas.

In fact, I've got my searchlight on right now. I'm irritated by my "messing up" the first of the two bookmarks in progress below (naming what one's feeling is another upward spiral, by the way, but I'll save that for another day), so now I'm searching both for gratitude and solutions to the problems I've created.

I'll let these refrigerate for a couple of days.

All good, I tell ya!

bookmark in progress
bookmark in progress

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fireside Chats

Fireside chats is the term used to describe a series of 30 evening radio conversations given by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1944.

My knowledge of history extends just enough to know that such fireside chats existed and that they were associated with Roosevelt. The term was familiar enough that it's the name I give to an annual get-together I have with long-time friend Wendy, at her home, beside a fire in her fireplace.

Our friendship doesn't go back to the '30's or '40's but, much to our surprise, does span several decades now. Is several the right word? Is several more than a few? Our friendship definitely spans more than a few decades. But I digress. Wendy and I have been friends for a long time.

We connected instantly when we met, and we can talk about anything anytime. Our friendship reminds me of summer camp friendships—we don't see each other every day, or even very often, but when together we pick up right where we left off, and we're all in.

We had one of our fireside chats a short while ago. The best. Always the best.

One of the topics of conversation was art and the many ways it can be shared. This bookmark's for you, Wendy!

You Don't Have to Knock to Come in the Door
1.5x5.5"; acrylic, paint markers, and oil pastels on black cardboard

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Plan B

Plan A, as reported yesterday, was to paint a bookmark to match the cover of a book I plan to read. Actually, I was going to paint two bookmarks and send the second to friend Sheila, letting her know that if she wanted to read The Door by Magda Szab√≥, here was a coordinating hand-painted place marker.

Plan B: I'm sending a different bookmark to Sheila. If she hopes to coordinate it with the cover of a book she wants to read, she first has to find the book—talk about choosing a book by its cover!

The Go-Aheadness of It All
1.5x5.5"; acrylic, ink, and oil pastel on black cardboard

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Trickster Art

I have a collection of bookmarks I've painted, and I love finding just the right one to go with the cover of whatever book I read. I moseyed into my studio about a week ago with the idea of painting one to go with the neutrals on this book cover:

Tricksters were waiting for my arrival.

trickster start, work in progress
trickster start detail
trickster start detail
trickster start detail

Monday, March 13, 2017

Paint All Over Creation

OK, I started this piece—the second in a possible series—wanting to play with paint, mark-making, and pastels. Pretty quickly I felt the call to tap into some uninhibited, childlike free-play. Then after a bit, the painting wanted structure and refinement so I responded accordingly.

I reached a point where the painting felt complete.

I gave it a title.

I perched it on a shelf in my study (where I tutor) which gave me the chance to glance up and see it from a few feet of distance off and on for the rest of the day and into the next.


Not done.

Wasn't sure where to go. Felt familiar constriction—fear of 'wrecking' what I liked in the piece. Gave myself a quick talking-to: So, do you want an incomplete, unsatisfying painting that sits in a drawer because you don't want to display it? What'll happen if you go back in and start playing with it? Seems to me that you either won't like it or you will. If you don't, status quo. If you do, good to go!

This piece feels crazy-quilt busy but I like it.

It has asked respectfully that I title it and post it for sale but if it hasn't sold in four weeks to please cut it into quadrants, play with the resulting volunteer compositions, make them into postcards, and send them out into the world.


All Over Creation
9x12"; acrylic, ink, pencil, collage, and chalk and oil pastels on watercolor paper
$105 or best offer

Friday, March 10, 2017

Feel Gratitude

My friend Bo sent me some cool info recently. Turns out UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb has some insights that can create an upward spiral of happiness in your life. One finding: the most important question to ask yourself is, What am I grateful for?

Feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine, a chemical released during pleasurable situations. 

Feeling grateful can boost serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex. Serotonin is a chemical responsible for maintaining mood balance.


I am grateful for the fun of spreading some acrylic paint, making a bunch of marks, making another bunch of marks, affixing collage, making a few more marks, and playing with chalk and oil pastels. Oh, and paint pens, too.

pmmp-2 with ; work in progress

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Go Way Inside

I started this current series with the idea of playing with the interaction of paint, mark-making, and pastels to see if a more specific idea for exploration might arise.

What calls out to me again and again when I look at the art of others are the paintings that feel the most free, the most uninhibited, the most childlike.

I want to go way inside to that deep place of spontaneous creativity within me.

I carry that awareness into today's studio time, continuing with pmmp-2.

Work in progress:

pmmp-2 with India ink linework, work in progress

pmmp-2 with pencil and pen lines, circles, scribbles, and tracings,
work in progress


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Keep Going

I keep going with the paper I activated yesterday—no plan beyond paint, mark-making, and pastels.

Verbs: mark, brush, spritz, turn, imprint, scribble, drip, veil.

Nouns: acrylics, graphite crayon, water, texture sheet, fan brush, foam brush, rubber brayer, charcoal pencil, chalk pastels.

pmmp-2 detail, work in progress
pmmp-2 detail, work in progress
pmmp-2 detail, work in progress
pmmp-2 detail, work in progress

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


I activate a new canvas today to further my paint/mark-making/pastels (pmmp) exploration.

A childhood counting rhyme comes to mind. I used to say it when I needed a little self-push to take initiative with one task or another. It'd give me a few moments' pause while reciting, and then the oomph to go when I got to the final word. I recite it today:

One for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to make ready,
And four to go!

I cut a sheet of 9x12" watercolor paper, tape it to a support, wet it with water, and rotate it multiple times as I work. I apply neutral paints, spray water to start drips, make marks with graphite crayon, use a sponge roller and white paint, scribble with a charcoal pencil, scribble with a gum eraser, use a brush to veil areas with white, make patterns with a texture sheet (thank you, Sheila!).

pmmp-2, work in progress

pmmp-2, work in progress

pmmp-2, work in progress

pmmp-2, work in progress

pmmp-2, work in progress

Monday, March 6, 2017

Finding My Brave Spot

If my nephews got fearful when they were little guys, my sister encouraged them to find their brave spot.

When I stopped painting Friday, I thought, Done, and I was pleased to have stopped before getting past a point of no return.

But …

But …

But I knew this piece needed just a little more wind. A little more fresh air. A little more something to blow through it with a sweet pop!

Instant freeze. What if I wreck it? What if my ideas don't work?

Had to find my brave spot.

Fresh Air
9x12"; acrylic, graphite crayon, charcoal pencil, pastel pencil, and oil pastel on watercolor paper


Layer 9/100 explorer

Next time I meet someone new who asks what I do, I just might answer that I'm an explorer.

What do I look for?

Where do I explore?

The inquiry is inside.

I watched a brief video clip at Nicholas Wilton's blog recently, and those words jumped out at me: The inquiry is inside.


No matter how much I look at, and wonder about, and exclaim over, and want to emulate, and try to learn from the paintings done by other folks—and believe me, I spend countless hours doing so—when I paint, the inquiry is inside.

Today, some teeny black circles, a few dabs using a white paint pen, asemic writing, and connecting marks made with a black paint marker.

Layer 9.

layer 9/100