Wednesday, December 30, 2009


As the year is quickly drawing to a close,  I wanted to thank all of you who have followed my Creative Journey.  I hope I have made as much a difference in your creative life as you have in mine.  Many of you have shared that sentiment.  What a gift to know that one can make a difference.  Whether you quietly checked in,  passed the word about my blog,  took the time to send me a note or leave a comment.......each of you have enriched my life.  I appreciate all the positive feedback, compliments and encouragement, expressions of friendship and efforts on my behalf to have me conduct a workshop in your area.  I have had the opportunity to meet many of my new cyber friends in person this year.  These moments are particularly exciting to me because of this amazing thing called "the internet" that makes the impossible, possible.   What amazing, impossible possibilities await us in the coming year?  I can't wait to find out!

Monday, December 28, 2009


The New Year is fast approaching. I have been giving much consideration to my art goals for 2010. First, a quick overview of what constitutes a true goal:
1. Must be written down!
2. Must be specific (words like more, some, better etc. are not specific enough)
3. Must be attainable (example...I will paint on the moon is not an attainable goal)
Once I have established my goals, a plan must be created to make things happen. I came across my written goals for 2009 today while cleaning up my desk. It was satisfying to see that most of them were accomplished. The two disappointments were beyond my direct control but I did do everything in my power to make them happen. Most years I write out the goals, contemplate what actions I need to take, and then set the sheet aside. There is something in this process that sets it internally for me. When I check the list at the end of the year, much has come to pass.

One goal I wanted to carry over from last year was to draw every day. I did a lot of drawing this past year but I missed the "every day" part. It started me thinking. What might I do to encourage this practice. It occurred to me that drawing on a calendar would keep me on track. Especially one of those 365 day calendars with a separate page for each day. I headed out for the bookstore today to find one. Calendars are 50% off now with many wonderful themes to choose from. Maybe I should improve my pathetic French with a word a day, or attempt Italian or Spanish. In the end, I settled on a perfect match for me. I am focusing on grids (especially quilt patterns at the moment), self portraits, collage, quick sketching. It will all come together with this neat daily calendar of quilt blocks. I am going to use them as a collage element after drawing on them. To reinforce the "daily" element, I have started a blog just for this activity. There is nothing like public declarations to embarrass ourselves into following through. Starting January 1 you can follow my progress on

This is my planned setup. I want to draw from life and there is a program in my MacBook called Photobooth which turns on the internal camera. I could just prop up a mirror but I like the Photobooth program for now. I can use all manner of pen and ink materials, icluding white ink. The calendar fits in front of the computer and has a built in easel so it is propped up at a nice angle to draw. Here is my trial sample using a bamboo pen and India ink.

If you want to improve your drawing, why not give this idea a try. You can draw any subject you like. At the very least, you need to get busy with your art goals for 2010. It's going to be a wonderful year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


A few weeks ago, Jane Ferguson, (yes, the infamous Jane) brought this idea to Critique group. Jane and I seem to be tuning into the same channel of creativity. Lately, our work has been eerily synchronistic! Stamping and making my own collage paper is exciting to me. We had just taken a workshop with Betsy Dillard Stroud who showed us how to carve simple stamps from this soft material commercially available through art supply stores and catalogues. It runs about $3 for a 4 x 6 piece, on up. Well, Jane showed up with some vinyl floor moulding( you know the stuff they put around the bottom of the walls so the vacuum cleaner doesn't mark up the wall)....$2.50 for a very long strip from the hardware store...and it turns out one can easily carve into it with the Speedball cutters....the upturned edge even acts as a handy handle! You can cut the strip with a scissors, easily, into what ever length you want. Naturally, I rushed to the hardware store on my way home from Critique that day but Friday was the first chance I had to actually make some stamps. The first image shows the two stamps I have carved, so far, the Speedball cutter and the stamped sheet I made. I used a wet watercolor stick from Daniel Smith to "ink" the back of the stamp. I like how it stamped in an irregular manner. I had to spray the sheet with Acrylic Spray so the color wouldn't smear when I collaged it down. The second image is a collaged sheet of watercolor paper using the new stamped paper. I haven't decided if I will cut up this sheet into smaller images or use the entire piece for a background.

A word of caution....always push the cutter AWAY from you as you carve and keep your fingers behind the cutting blade. Most of the Speedball cutter handles have a removable cap where you can store the extra cutters in the hollow handle!

Friday, December 18, 2009


Here is what the ATC book looks like put together. The Red Boot Bag is made from 2 lunch size bags fitted together and held in place with staples and decorative brads from the craft store. Our very own Martha Stewarts (one with a delightful English Accent), Jane Ferguson and Nancy Calhoun, made 18 bags....and each one was different! That's dedicated creativity. The whole idea reminded me of Valentine's Day in grade school where we decorated card board shoe boxes with doilies, red hearts, glitter, and what ever else we could think of, cut a slit in the lid and then every child put a valentine into everyone's box. I have forgotten what the boxes looked like but I still remember how I felt making them. Treasured memories of childhood. There was that same sense of excitement in the air yesterday as everyone admired each other's art and then went home with a small treasure from each of our friends. Here is a slide show of each "collection" for you to admire.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Today was the annual Holiday Party for our Critique Group. It is the highlight of the season for me. This is a group of very, very talented artists who have become wonderful friends. The annual party is very festive with great food, an extremely generous hostess who offers her magnificent home each year and lots of great art. This past year we had occasion to make a book of Artist Trading Cards from each of us put into a small book as a "Get Well" gift and a "Happy 80th Birthday" gift. The rest of us were jealous and trying to figure out how we could snag one of these "books" when we came up with the idea to create one for each of us as the painting holiday gift exchange. We each needed to make 18 little 2.5 x 3.5 A.T.C. paintings for the exchange. WHAT FUN! We had a great time looking at each artist's efforts. Then, we dropped one in each of the 18 bags (made to look like a Christmas Boot) After lunch, we each put our little books together and then everyone signed their card in each other's books. It reminded me of several fun times in school (Valentine's day, yearbook signing day, art projects).

Today I am posting my set of cards I made for this gift exchange. I collaged over an old painting and cut it up into the right size cards. A half sheet of watercolor paper will yield 18 cards. I drew this figures with a permanent fine point pen then colored them in with oil based colored pencils. The finishing touches were put on with a gold pen. (The gold photographs white!)

Tomorrow I will post the sets of paintings by the others. Jane Ferguson made a little video showing how to make the book. I am sharing that video with all of you so you, too, can have the fun of making one of these little treasures.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I think this is finished, now. You may not be able to see any changes, but it is the little touches here and there that can make the difference. I fixed a few highlights, corrected the shape of the lips, changed the color of the shadow under the nose, softened a dark shadow by the nose and integrated the garment with the rest of the painting. This image is the closest to accurate color of the actual painting, but it seems to be impossible to get it perfectly matched. For my purposes, this is good enough.

Someone suggested a slide show of the steps to this painting and I liked that idea. I hope this inspires you to rework a piece of watercolor paper into something totally different.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Here is the progress I am making on this painting. The original painting is getting buried deeper with each step and is barely visible now. It is also getting more realistic. I do love coloring over the rough collage surface. I noticed some adjustments I need to make in a few areas. I also need to integrate the clothing with the face and hands, stylistically. I think I can leave the background alone. The painting is taking on a life of its own and becoming quite different than my original intention. That's fine with me. Sometimes original intention is just the impetus that gets us started and the fun journey is to see where it leads.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


My "Beginning Watercolor Portrait workshop" scheduled for Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society has an extended waiting list. If a few more people sign up, they will schedule a second workshop to accommodate everyone. So, contact Karen Druker if you are interested. She will give you all the details.

Next, the remarkable blog called "Marking a Mark" by Katherine Tyrell is having her annual year end blog awards. Everyone gets a vote and there are quite a few categories. If you want to cast your vote for all your favorite blogs, click on the "This and That" blog title and it will take you to Marking a Mark.

And last but not least, about the above painting. Today was one of those dark, gloomy, rainy days that are perfect for staying inside and wrapping yourself up with an art project. I had recently take this painting out of it's mat and decided I needed to recycle it. It was the last one in my bone series and was based on a grid idea a la Chuck Close. The title was the most fun thing about it : "Close to the Bone". I decided to collage over it and move it into my collage Self Portrait Series. I think I shall title this new one "These Old Bones"! or something to that effect. There is still work to be done. I am going to try and save more of the original image in the lighter areas. Most of the original painting is buried.

I will be sitting at Gallery Concord tomorrow. I can finish the painting there. If you are out and about, stop in and say "hi".

Friday, December 11, 2009


We have lived in the San Francisco Bay area for 33 years, so I was surprised and excited to discover someplace I had never heard about that has fabulous murals from the WPA projects of the depression days. The building, The Beach Chalet, sits on the farthest western side of San Francisco on the Great Hiway (Hiway 1). Across the street is the Pacific Ocean. It was build in 1925 and the murals were painted in 1936. They are made up of tiny brush strokes. Maybe that made the project last longer! It was fun to study the scenes and pick out famous landmarks. The clothing, automobiles and other details of the 30's add to the charm. The one above is my favorite....Fisherman's wharf. There are also lots of mosaic and gorgeous carved bannisters of octopi and mermaids, mermen and merkids. I think originally the building had dressing rooms for the famous Sutro Baths that are now just a distant memory. The building has two restaurants, the one on top with a stunning view of the ocean. If you every get out this way, put it on your list of special places to visit. I have created a slide show out of the photos I took. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


The above images are the result of todays efforts. They are in the order of my happiness with the results, not in the order they were created. I usually spare you the disasters but I thought I would show some today.

A comment from my last post by Ginny asked me to go into more detail about the paper I am using. That request made we want to share a little more about how I work and what I hope to inspire in those of you who want to explore a little more beyond what you are already doing.

I, too, want to know all the details about techniques and processes, but the truth is I do my most inventive work when I know next to nothing! I feel that too much detailed information often stifles exploration. Many times exciting discoveries happen because we don't know we can't do something. Most of the time all we need is a seed of an idea. Then each of us will take that seed and water it with questions that pop into our minds and fertilize it with our own special mix.

Years ago, I read just one line in an article that stated they used the microwave to dye fabric. At the time I was working with dyes and fabric but had never thought about using a microwave. I had no instructions, only the seed of an idea and basic knowledge about a microwave. I eventually developed some wonderful techniques and some unique results through trial and error. Any disasters? Well, I did set some one's microwave on fire! Turns out wet embroidery thread will get hot enough to have spontaneous combustion. No serious damage. Anyway, if I had had detailed instructions, I probably would not have come up with unique ideas of my own.

So, now I am exploring photo paper. I am trying different kinds and applying combinations of techniques and art products I have used on other papers. I started with the photo paper I had on hand. Cheap Costco glossy 8.5 x 11 sheets. Some of the ideas I think I can apply to YUPO if I want to work larger. It looks like cheaper is better for my purposes. Large format sizes only come in high end quality glossy photo paper. Turns out the coating on these papers aren't suitable for watercolor.

I have tried watercolor sticks, Dr. Martin's Hydrus Watercolor, drawing with wc pencils, dip pen, sharpened match stick, stamping, collage, splattering, blotting, washing off, and spraying. I have over stamped, over worked and over splattered. I have made some exciting discoveries and I'm just getting started. Some of these experiments I like and some I don't but I'm having a ball in the process. Oh, yes, and I didn't even start a fire in the microwave!

Friday, December 4, 2009


At Critique on Thursday, my friend, Karen Wong, told me she had painted on photo paper and it turned out very interesting. Well, that certainly got my attention. Today I had a few moments to try it myself. WOW! I love it!! I used my Daniel Smith Watercolor Sticks by taking a wet brush and picking up color, then applying it to the paper. One could use any watercolor paint. I messed around with several techniques I learned for YUPO and then let it dry. I added the lines at the end with a dip pen dipped into full strength Dr Martin's Hydrus liquid watercolor.

If you give it a try, send me your images and I will make a slide show. Haven't done that for awhile and I miss seeing what everyone is coming up with.

Now I'm off to find larger pieces of photo paper!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Thanksgiving holiday is over and it's back to work. I did a little art while I was gone. I sketch at the table when we go out but my kids give me looks that say "I hope you aren't drawing me!" so I feel a little guilty! I also was working on 18 Artist Trading cards (2.5 x 3.5) for our critique group holiday exchange. It will be fun to receive 18 ATC's, one from each of the members. We will make a little folded book to put them in. I want them to be a surprise, so no posting here in advance.

I started another self portrait collage yesterday. Here are is the progression of the painting so far. I decided to create a color grid on the paper and then collage on top and then paint. I totally lost the grid by the time I finished burying everything. I felt I overworked the thing but decided to keep working and see how it all turns out. I drew the image on with a Pitt Pen in brown and then did a sort of Grisaille under painting in Payne's Gray. I should be able to finish it up tomorrow. So far, not a favorite.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2 DOWN, 18 TO GO!

Continuing with my series, here is the final result of today's work. I created a slide show of the steps. I included some details as well. I am really enjoying working in a vertical position. I can see accurately and can step back periodically and take a better look. I also like letting gravity do it's job. I made some changes in this collage. I started with the printed instruction and then drew the image with a fine brush and Venetian Brown Hydrus liquid paint. I was surprised it didn't run and stuck to the surface well. Since I had used undiluted mat medium to stick the paper down, I wasn't sure the watercolor would take. The next step was adding some of the tissue pattern. While I was doing this, the idea of paper dolls popped into my head, so I cut a doll chain from tissue paper and stuck some of those down. I liked how this looked. In the end, you really don't see them. I did do some negative painting around them with the Venetian brown but it all pretty much disappeared in the end. I decided to do an overall wash of diluted gesso to push back the importance of the printed paper. While the paper was still damp, I redrew the lines with a Daniel Smith watercolor stick and then started painting. I think I have found the perfect way of working with these paint sticks. I can draw and paint at the same time. I really loved being able to work this way! The line quality was interesting because it dragged in places that were dry. I could also wet it and blot to lift back if I got too much color on because of the mat medium coated paper. I decided not to use a black line this time. I am happier with the more colorful version. Not much evidence of a grid. I will emphasis that more in future pieces. Overall, I think this was a successful days work.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I created some new self portrait photos the other day using the camera built into my MacBook. The program is called "Photobooth" I used one for the demo yesterday and had fun with the hands, so I decided to start a new series of paintings using some of these photos and focusing on collage and exploring manipulating an underlying grid. I plan to do 20 paintings in 10 weeks but most of them will be half sheet size rather than full sheet. If something really special shows up, I will do one in full sheet. I did this painting in a few hours today, so I think I can meet this 2 a week goal.

I started with a charcoal drawing on hot press 140lb watercolor paper. I wanted a loose spontaneous drawing so I drew directly on the paper keeping my composition in mind and praying that it would land in the right place! I did pretty well with that. I can make some minor adjustments in placement when I put it under a mat. I did this entire painting vertically on an easel. So much better visually than laying flat on the table.

A friend gifted me with some very old sewing patterns. They make fascinating collage material. This is a Vogue pattern from 1950. I was surprised to see only punch holes and punched words on the pattern printed lines! I love all the holes! The tissue had a slight green cast to it. The shapes of the pattern pieces were great to work with. I overlapped some of the pieces to create a grid pattern. I finished up the painting with liquid watercolor, Stabilo watercolor crayons and diluted white gesso.

You can see the influence of the layered pattern pieces through the painting. It is subtle. The hands came out fairly clumsy looking. I will pay more attention to them in the next painting and improve their shapes. This first painting led me to think of 3 more variations to try. I am keeping a list so as not to forget. Thoughts are so fleeting these days!

Friday, November 20, 2009


David Lobenberg honored me by asking if I would come up to his Sacramento City College watercolor class and do a demo for the students. What fun to meet someone in person you became friends with through the internet! Naturally, the weather was fairly threatening with a big storm coming in and I had a two hour drive to get there. Add in rush hour traffic in the Bay Area. I was anticipating a harrowing journey. Just goes to show how we waste so much time worrying about what might usually doesn't. The drive was easy all the way, counter commute, and I was ahead of the rain. By the time I left, everything was sunny.

David is a very joyful person and his wonderful sense of humor and fun pervades the classroom so I knew I was in for a great time. I did demonstration using Tyvek with two different inks....the Carter brand I found ad Staples which has a cool bias and a Winser Newton non-waterproof ink that had a warm bias...Permanent India Ink plus bleach. I added some carbon black at the end. While the painting was drying, the class put on a feast, pot luck style.

So, thank you David and your wonderful class for such a warm welcome. I am looking forward to receiving lots of e-mails with photos of the paintings inspired from my demo.

I am getting lots of people loving this Tyvek paper. Maybe everyone who is interested should start requesting it from Cheap Joe's. If there seems to be enough interest, maybe they will carry it again.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I finally updated my website with the additional workshops I have scheduled for 2010. I even had a little lesson in html code writing! Nice to have an in-house expert. The January workshop with Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society is filled and now has a growing waiting list. We are discussing having a second session if there are enough people who want to take it. So, if you are interested, be sure and let them know.

Now I need to update the website again because I just agreed to be the teaching artist for a trip to Belgium in August of 2011! This is going to be such a fabulous trip! It will be a small group of 7 plus the teacher and the tour guide. The company is called French Escapades and you can learn more about the company and the trip by clicking on today's blog title. The photo is of Bruges, Belgium. Heaven!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I was reading Peggy Stermer-Cox's blog the other day and she featured a fabulous blogsite called "Making a Mark" by Katherine Tyrrell, an English artist. Intrigued, I wandered over there and fell in a Rabbit Hole! Hours later, I was still wandering around her site going from link to link to link! She is full of valuable information and does tons of research. This was a real treasure trove from a very generous artist.

I came across a recommendation from her for a book on composition (shown above) If you click on the blog title it will take you directly to the Amazon page where you can order the book. I, of course, couldn't wait that long so I headed out to my local book store, bought the book and read it in an evening. I wanted to present the information the next day to the Critique group I am leading, since we will be focusing on composition for the coming month.

The brilliance of this book is its' simplicity. The author has distilled lots of information into easily understood, clearly illustrated concise, digestible chunks! I never realized how difficult it was to distill art information into a few paragraphs until I started working on my book. I think I must have passed this book up before because it looked too simple, but that is the true beauty of it.

Composition is critical to any successful painting and that means there has to be some planning and thought put into the design before the paint goes on. Especially in watercolor. It is always so tempting to jump right into putting paint on the paper or canvas. But, without a well structured composition as the foundation, there isn't enough paint in the world to disguise a poorly conceived painting. That old saw "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" holds true.

I had a chance to visit the 2008 National Watercolor Society traveling exhibition at the Adobe Art Center in Castro Valley after the critique class. Now there is a fabulous collection of well composed and executed paintings. It's almost criminal what catalogues do to beautiful art work, so when ever possible, make the time to see excellent work in person. It motivates us to strive for higher excellence in our own work.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


We have a secret weapon here in the SF Bay Area and his name is Mike Bailey. (to check out his blog, look to the right of my post and scroll down) Mike developed this fantastic 10 week class sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society (SCVWS) called Watercolor Beyond The Obvious. I have taken the class 3 times. This is hardly a record. Many have taken it time and time again. It is offered once a year and sometimes twice a year. My schedule has become too busy to have 10 weeks free, otherwise I would take it every time it is offered. The strategy is to take an image and create a series of 20 paintings (2 full sheets a week) changing it each time by manipulating the elements of design. You can view my series on my website The 10th week meeting is when everyone brings their 20 paintings to class and, one person at a time, spreads their paintings out in sequential order on tables that have been set up in a huge "U". Everyone walks around the tables and looks at the development of the series. Mike talks about the artist and the artist has an opportunity to talk about their perspective on the whole experience. This 10th class is what I fondly refer to as "THE BIG REVEAL". Guests are welcome and there is a wonderful pot luck luncheon for all. It is one of the most special days of the year.

This is Stephanie. You can see part of her series which was based on the marvelous shoes she is wearing. Stephanie is new to the group and she just did the most fantastic job. The reason I have this photo of Stephanie is because while everyone is busy walking around and taking photographs of the art work, I am busy looking at the art work and taking photos of everyone who is walking around. You can see why I fixated on Stephanie. The striped hose, boot like canvas shoes, model lythe body and she is a painting waiting to happen! Not only is everyone on to me, now, many are busy photographing the crowd, as well. Stephanie was definitely the star...look for lots of long striped legs in lace up canvas shoes appearing soon!

All the students did phenomenal work but there is one woman who has stayed with her same theme through 5 separate sessions of Watercolor Beyond The Obvious and completed her 100th painting of "Liberty". This is a series with serious content and Laurie Barna has put her heart and soul into it. Check out her website at and view this exciting and moving expression of love for America.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Here are the last two stages to complete this painting. I added white acrylic to the bleached painting, then started glazing and painting on top. It is a good idea to photograph the steps of your paintings for future reference. If you find you don't need them, it is easy to erase them. If you decide after the fact, that you wanted to document the steps, you can't go back!

Very little of the original bleached effect is left. Most likely it impacted the look of the finished painting, but it is pretty subtle. I'm going to keep on with this idea until I hit on the balance I am looking for. Can't quite say what it is, but I will know it when it shows up. The thrill of the hunt!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This was a piece of watercolor paper that I had put a band of textured gesso on as a demo. I decided to cover it with the ink. The ink is very blue in appearance on the gesso section. The ink will lift off of the gesso with water but the bleach changes the color to orange which gives both a warm/cool contrast and a blue/orange compliment contrast at the same time. I put two full strength coats of ink on the paper. Today I started playing around with the bleach. I was able to get the layering of values I wanted on the paper but it is too orange. It wouldn't lighten enough. I think I will go back to just one layer. I like how it looks on the gesso area. That area is totally liftable, so I sprayed it with acrylic fixative. Tomorrow I will go back in with some acrylic and see what happens. I put up some detail photos so you can see things more clearly. I was using a stick, a dip pen and all kinds of brushes. I went to Michaels and bought a bag of cheap brushes to use with the bleach. I was also experimenting with all of these ideas on YUPO. It moved around too much on the slippery surface, so I think I will move on. I guess Tyvek is next!

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