Category Archives: studio blog

13 February 2018

I did a little “process” post a few days ago, and felt like I didn’t really say much of what I wanted to get across. (see  11 February 2018)

So I took photos again during this drawing, whenever I paused between spates of scribble and brush, and I’ll try writing about it again.

I started this blog, not as a showcase for my fabulous talent (lol) but because I had determined that if I really wanted to feel like I was taking time in my life to make art, then I had to take time to make art. Every day. The blog was a way of holding myself accountable. I hoped it might also provide encouragement for other people who were feeling creatively stuck. So it felt important to show all the work, even the stuff I personally thought was weak or lame.

My big block was that I love art-making and have some skills, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I was stymied by choosing subject matter, and was super judgmental about whatever I made. I dismissed drawings that were playful, whimsical or sweet as being trivial, but had no idea how I’d make ‘serious’ art. I’d get a bit bored  focusing on observational work, even though I think it’s really good to do occasionally for skill-building. And I do really love a good still life, landscape, portrait, or nature study. I long ago dismissed the idea of trying to make a living in the arts, because I was not able to stand up even to my internal critics. Some of the actual critiques I faced in my few years of formal study stopped me from exploring large format painting, which I still haven’t picked up again, 30 odd years later.

I determined to choose parameters for my daily drawings that would give me enough distance from my internal critics to get around them. I try to get into each drawing session with a clear mind, no preconceptions about what I will produce. I keep a range of materials handy, and try to settle down until I feel an intuitive push toward some material or idea. I try to stay as open as I can during the whole process, working with whatever happens rather than criticizing it when it’s not what I intended or expected.

So with that background, here’s what happened during my drawing time on 2/13/18:

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I love this color green. I have some caran d’ache water soluble crayon stubs dissolving in little pans, this is one I’ve used mostly for accents of blue-green but today I just wanted to wash it over the whole page. And then worked some swishy lines in. I like the opposing curves.
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I got a new crayon, the dark red makes nice veiny lines. I don’t think that’s going to be a tree any more . The swishes now seem more like feathers or twine. I like the mycelial network feel of the red.
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3. Now the network seems to be enclosing a stone. Maybe it’s a seed of some sort. The yellow will hopefully warm up the whole picture, and set off the feathery lines better. I still have no idea where this is going or what it’s about.
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4. Now the green wash seemed oppressively cool, I really wanted the blue stone to glow more. I tried warming and brightening some of the green just so make some contrast. Also darkened the original opposing curves, which from this distance now remind me of a tree trunk (right) and tornado (left) but I didn’t push either of those images. I was getting tired! The feathery things are turning into something like stiff brushes. I’m really trying to keep the stone-enclosing network central and important!
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5. OK I’m pretty much done. I’m a little frustrated; I don’t know where to push this to make it feel more satisfying to me, and I’m really pretty tired. This is an OK place to call it finished, I guess. And I still have no idea what it’s about. But I like the blue stone-seed thing. I like that green with purple accents – peacock colors! And I like how a few lines of india ink can make me feel better about something that felt lacking in definition and contrast.

So I’ll call this the drawing for today, put the date on it, and turn it loose on my blog. Sometimes the drawing snaps into focus sooner or later, and I can tell a more coherent story about it, but this is not one of those days. Still, I really believe that nothing is wasted, if you’re paying attention.

Thanks for looking and reading!



13 September 2017

Tea party with cats

Sometimes the drawings that start out the most frustratingly aimless end up going somewhere that I rather enjoy. It can be really hard to hold space open to trust that something worthwhile will emerge.  I ought to do plenty of intentional, observational work to expand and refine my drawing/painting “toolkit”, but the point of this daily practice is to not let any deficiencies get in the way of exploring this visual space of dreams and play.

Garden Art

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A dear friend of mine, who knows about my fondness for tying sticks together with twine, commissioned me to make a sculpture for her gardens.

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My friend gave me a piece of driftwood bark, which you can see on the far right side of the above photo. The other sticks in the picture were potential supports that I didn’t end up using; they were too stubby and I couldn’t configure them to display the bark and keep it up off the ground.

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This branch, trimmed and turned upside-down, ended up giving me the base I needed.



Below is my original mock-up of the sculpture. I liked that it resembles a heron standing alert and attentive.

For some time I had my eye on a beautiful root attached to a stump across the street from my house. Last winter, a snowplow knocked the root loose and I was able to collect it. That made the perfect stabilizing base for the bird-like legs, and the whole piece finally came together.2017-07-20 13.44.32I treated the wood with a consolidating finish, which made the bark tougher and put a weather-resistant coating on it. This is my first outdoor piece, so I’ll be keeping an eye on it to see how well it survives.

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I’m so grateful to have friends who are willing to support my work, and encourage me to try new ideas and directions!


Picture frames

My work table with two of the paired drawings ready to show.

I’ve started experimenting with ways to display my drawings. I participated in an Art Salon in February, for which I framed three pairs of drawings. I chose paper to edge and set off the drawings, and covered the frames themselves with a contrasting paper. This worked well enough for temporary display purposes, but is not a very durable presentation.

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The third pair of drawings. You can see the mat papers are distressingly floppy, and none of it is protected very well. Still, fun papers!
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This is meant to be a detail shot of the two paper mats and the paper-covered frame

Another idea I had was to make leather-covered frames. So I tried that out on an older drawing, and was pretty pleased with the result:

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Just recently, I sold one of my drawings and the buyer asked if I did any framing, so I showed them my earlier attempts. They asked if I could make a leather frame and protect the drawing with glass. Here are some process shots and the result:

It was fun to apply my bookbinding training and tools to this challenge, and I’m pretty pleased with the result. Though I don’t have any formal training in framing, I believe this is reasonably archivally sound. The drawing only touches acid-free paper on the back and edges, and is suspended away from the glass. It won’t be hard to take apart and remove the picture, should that become necessary. I’m looking forward to getting feedback, and maybe eventually making some more frames for more drawings!

Vacation watercolors

Looking at the work of other watercolor artists, most notably Margaret Parker Brown, I was encouraged to break out my old watercolors. The tubes that were still use-able gave me a limited palette but it included several greens, and enough other colors to make a go of it. (You can check out Margaret’s blog,

These are postcard-sized paintings, done quickly. I’m showing you all that I haven’t already given away, even the one I don’t like so much because it’s too fussy. Because the purpose of this blog has always been to show my art journey, not to prove anything about my putative talents!

I made one other larger watercolor puddle, but am not sure it’s done. If I feel like it, I’ll add it to this post later.

The lake was beautiful, the weather gave me clouds and sun so shadows played on the mountains. I hope you all get a chance to restore yourselves someplace beautiful and inspiring this summer!

Collage party aftermath

guardian angel

In February I hosted a collage party, as I have for several years now. It’s a great excuse to spend a day with friends doing arty stuff. To prepare, I have to really organize my studio and break out old my magazines, calendars, and scraps of decorative paper.

healing old wounds

Sometimes it’s hard for me to warm up to making collages in just one session. I don’t have any direction or focus, and spend the day just looking at paper and images, maybe collecting piles, maybe adding to some older pieces. When everyone is gone, over the next few days it’s time to sort through everything and tidy up. That’s when images start landing next to and upon each other. It took me almost 2 weeks to finish the cleanup this time, because I kept finding one more picture I wanted to make.

fashion shot

I think one of the great things about collage is playing with colors and images that appeal to me, working in a very intuitive way. I have very little guiding idea, especially when I start out. Ideas may emerge out of the process, but I hold them pretty loosely and try to stay in playful visual space, which keeps me from getting didactic and overly critical.

how we are together

They end up feeling like conversations, or jigsaw puzzles with no defined picture or point of completion. It’s a satisfying thing, and in the end my studio is in much better shape than when I started!

triton’s daughter

18 February 2017-Annual Collage Party


Every year since I think 2009, I’ve hosted a collage party sometime in the depths of February. The germ of the idea was an impromptu anti-valentine’s day session around a friend’s kitchen table. Soon after that, I took a workshop on using collaged images to make your own divination/inspiration card deck.  My friend and co-conspirator Emily Cavin instigated a followup session, which became an annual event.

I have an embarrassingly large collection of old magazines, calendars and decorative paper scraps. On the chosen day, some friends come over and spend a large chunk of time playing with images and materials. We also chat and share snacks, and admire each other’s work. It’s completely delightful.

Last year we started making a group collage during the party. A piece gets started, and moves around the room from person to person, as many times as it takes until everyone feels they have nothing more to add. Here’s the group collage from this year’s party:


Emily Cavin continued work on her deck of divination cards, and gave me permission to show them here:


I didn’t get much done except the water/snake image at the top. But I’m pretty content with that. It can take me a while to get revved up for collage, if I don’t have a project already going. I spent much of the day just going through images, and collecting piles of stuff. I’ll have to see if it leads to anything else when I go back out to the studio today to tidy up!

The studio stayed relatively tidy this time, due to very considerate friends with ample space to spread out. Here are a couple shots of my workspace and the supplies just for grins – a happy mess.

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It is a tremendous gift to share time with friends for creative play. I hope you are able to do something similar from time to time,  in whatever medium feeds your spirit.

Back to Bookbinding

At last I can report that I’ve been in my studio long enough to work on projects other than the daily drawings. It’s not much, but it’s a step in the direction of shifting the shape of my life.

I trained as a hand bookbinder for a number of years, but have not actively worked at it since my children were small, a couple decades ago (yikes!) One of the reasons I’ve been so happy about actually having dedicated studio space now, is that I hope to get back to doing at least a few book-related projects. It’s taken a while, but here’s some movement in the right direction.

I took in this book to mend an embarrassingly long time ago, and finally finished it. The Sacred Harp is a songbook of music in mostly 4-part harmonies, written in shape notes. It’s at the heart of an active community of people who use their books, often every week. People take notes in the margins, collect information from friends, note songs they love or have led on the end pages. The books basically get loved to death. It’s been a dream of mine to return some of them to active use, and I hoped this project would nudge me in that direction. Now I feel more wary, given how long this poor book sat on my workbench, but there’s still satisfaction in seeing it ready to go back to sings.

Maybe someday I’ll even fix my own copy, which is showing signs of giving up after many years of use. For now, I’m enjoying the sense and the space of clearing an old project off my workbench. It feels like settling an old debt.






The small hands of anxiety

This is about the part of my process in which I have no idea where I’m going with a drawing.

I’ve had enough time most days the past couple of weeks to spend 2-3 hours on a drawing. There are at least 4 in the past couple of weeks where I spent much of that time trying to push in and pull out an image that I felt was finished enough to post.

I have been playing with variations of layering on and scraping off wax and ink. To make a really strong and successful drawing of this type, it really helps to have a plan from the very first mark. This is at odds with my stated intention, of approaching the blank page in an open state. Sometimes I get a really clear vision right off the bat, but a lot of the time I just start making marks and hope that my intuitive visual mind knows what the heck it’s doing. Then, the whole process turns into a kind of conversation between my analytical mind which wants there to be recognizable forms, and the part of me that just wants to play in the mud and look for pretty rocks.

This back-and-forth makes an opening for a different kind of inner critic that the ones I’ve mentioned before. This one is a quiet but persistent anxiety. She doesn’t speak loudly, in fact hardly at all. But since she’s so quiet, I sometimes forget to send her off to that other room while I draw. I hardly notice that I’m not experiencing the joy of making, but rather a kind of muted dread that it’s not going well.


I started writing this post and wasn’t able to finish it the same day. That evening I made the above drawing (1/12/17). I tried to really get a look at this particular personal bugbear. I was feeling the wringing hands and hidden face. I found it amusing and revealing that I’d drawn the hands so small in proportion to the face. That somehow seems correct, though I would never have thought to do it on purpose.

This is part of what I like about the unplanned process I’m using. There have been many times when I learned something about the way I’m thinking or feeling as a result of something I drew. It might be something I never would have thought to say, or even knew that I was thinking. But once it shows up on the paper I may begin to tell myself a story about it, and learn something that a part of me already knew, and just hadn’t articulated yet.

But it’s not always that deep. Sometimes it’s no more than a visual song, with lines and colors that captivate my eye and tug at my feelings. Maybe that little Anxiety critic needs a hug more than banishment. Maybe then she would become a good playmate. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a critical edge focused as you work, as long as it doesn’t drain you of the pleasure.


Here are the drawings I posted since my last studio blog: