Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quiet goodbye

No bling. No quinacridone fanfare signalling the end of the day. 

A quiet goodbye, a door shut but not latched. A whisper and an ending with edges fuzzed and a light fading like the slowest dimmer switch.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Triangle force

Out in triangle force, the club of sailboats makes good use of a sunny and breezy Memorial Day.

Before the day was out, I was seeing triangles everywhere! From the sails to the trees to the clouds, everything presented itself as a triangle today.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Zen of Seeing

"Zen is: this moment speaking as time and as eternity."

from The Zen of Seeing by Frederick Franck

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gentle departure

12 x 12

All is quiet, just the sibilant "slup, slup, slup" of the water against the boat as we hang on the anchor. Nearby, the wet exhale of a seal and I turn to see his head slip below the surface. The air thickens with the incoming fog and I feel the cool moisture softening the edges around me.

We will have no grand sunset tonight. Just the gentle departure of the sun behind the cloud blanket.

Nina Simone "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bison birth control on Catalina Island

I know, hard to believe, but the bison (also known as American Buffalo) on Catalina Island, CA are protected ... in more ways than one! They were first introduced on the island in 1924 for the silent film "The Vanishing American." Fourteen of them. They did not make the final cut for the film, and due to cost over runs, they were abandoned on the island when the filming was done.

Since they had no natural predators, they flourished! Their herd grew up to 600 head! They were never hunted, but for a number of years, the Sioux and Lakota paid for many to be shipped to North and South Dakota where the bison lived out their natural lives in the cold climes of those reservation lands.
Conservationists have calculated that the island, just 22 miles long by 8 miles wide, can support a herd of 150 bison. Recently, a new birth control vaccine has been given to the females which limits their fertility without interfering with the natural reproductive cycles. 

I saw the herd last weekend while on a trip to the island. Up near the airport where my husband and I waited for the marine layer to lift so that we could take off to come back home, they grazed on the browning grasses. Sadly, they were too far away for this sketch, which I did using a taxidermy stuffed head above the fireplace in the lobby at the Airport in the Sky.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Watercolor is the perfect medium for experimenting with color palettes. 

I use a juicy brush with plenty of pigment and water and stroke it on to a piece of Arches 140# cold press paper. Next to it, I stroke a second color, then a third. Finally, I lift the paper and tilt it to allow the puddles of paint to meet and mix. The resulting neutrals and mixtures give me new ideas for experimentation. 

Left corner puddle: Raw Sienna, Cobalt Violet, Cobalt Turquoise
Top puddle: Quinacridone Fuchsia, Cerumlean, and Aureolin
Right puddle: New Gamboge, Cerulean, and Vermilion

I like all three of these and will use them in an underpainting tomorrow.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mood and meaning change with color

Color changes cause the mood to change and the shapes to take on different meanings.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Same shapes, different colors

24 x 24, pastel on sanded paper
These colors feel normal to me. Vibrant blues and violets and yellows. It's as if these colors are my best friends, or maybe they are my comfort colors (like comfort food with fewer calories!).

Reminds me of Van Gogh's "Portrait of a Peasant" painting I saw at the Norton Simon Museum recently.

How do you select your palette for a painting? By mood? By habit? By trial and error?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

High key discovery

24 x 24, watercolor and pastel on Wallis Museum

Before I painted today, I gave myself an assignment: choose one or two paintings with similar palettes that are unlike what you normally paint. Discover the colors first with watercolor mixes, then by utilizing a limited pastel selection.

In Sarah Cash's book Sargent and the Sea, I looked at a James McNeil Whistler painting called "Crepuscule in Opal."

Both paintings are high key and have a beautifully soft range of color. Pale pinks and yellows, neutral grayed violets and cerulean blue. 

Using these colors as a guide, I painted this familiar beach path scene which I have painted several times before. Click here and here to see some recent efforts.

Results: I felt stretched by the high key palette and enjoyed discovering how these light values worked together to still describe a subject that is packed with personal meaning.

Monday, May 16, 2011


These owlets were a special treat for me today at the Refuge! With their shaggy fur-for-feathers look, they seemed more like prehistoric creatures than birds.

Peering at me with their outlined eyes, they seemed to ask "Whoo do you love?"

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Carl Sandburg was wrong!

Fog, 48 x 48 pastel on prepared panel

Even at this size, my panel did not bow or bend. My framer, Elizabeth Steinbaugh at Aurora Gallery, says that my success comes from allowing each wet layer (whether gesso, acrylic, or pumice gel) to dry completely with the board perfectly flat and horizontal. I was tempted to prop the board on its end for drying since it took up most of my available counter space, but if I had, I would have had an unusable curved board instead.

This fog did not come in on little cat feet, but rose like a wall to block the sun. Block failed. Sun scored.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Developing a big idea

48 x 48, pastel on prepared panel

As the afternoon wound down and the sun dropped into the western sky, I watched the fog bank form. At first, small wisps of lavender and cerulean. Then more blocks of gray. French gray. Cool gray. Blue gray. Flat gray. All blending together into what looked like a massive wall. 
I watched as the sun, moving ever westward in its arc, touched the edge of the fog bank and revealed its lack of substance. Vapors were unable to block the purity of the light.

Monday, May 9, 2011


48 x 48 panel prepared for pastel with gesso, acrylic, pumice

Yes! The panel is done and ready for something wonderful to happen. Hooray! What you see in the photo is the panel with no pastel on it, but since I took the photo it now has an initial drawing on it and a light layer of pastel. More to come!

And, exciting news to report! Last Saturday I was invited to a meeting of the Portland Women in Abstract Media group (PDX-WAM for short). They are a wonderful group of interesting women who are passionate about art and life and creating and I loved seeing their work (for critique) and hearing their comments about my work. Today I was invited to join their group! Hooray!

It is thrilling to me to continue to discover art and its many facets. The more I learn about art, the more I want to learn. And, the more I realize I have yet to learn. When I think about it, I think that art has a long future.

I'm sure that this cellist took a while before he discovered these many facets of playing his instrument. And, so it is for me with art. I love landscape. And representational work. And figures. And abstractions. Pastel. Watercolor. Oil. Much more to discover ahead. Life is good!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

One of my favorite photos of Mom. At the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena last month, I caught Mom enjoying modern art.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Polishing, preparing panel for pumice

 Cleaning the studio floor takes time and elbow grease and getting down on hands and knees to do it. But when it shines like this, it's worth the effort! Man, I sure found a lot of yellow paint on the floor! It must be a much-used color!

I'm making progress with the panel. It's still stable and flat (as you can see in the bottom photo) and covered with two layers of gesso on the back, three layers of gesso and one layer of liquid acrylic on the front. The next step will be a layer of Golden Pumice Gel. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Delfts Blauw and drawing

I have a small collection of Dutch ceramics. Some pieces I purchased myself during visits to my husband's place of birth. Most of the pieces are gifts from generous family and friends who have come to America for a special vacation. 

In the 1600s, when the Dutch were doing their merchant thing on the oceans of the world, the ceramicists of Delft were wowed by the Chinese pottery that came back on these ships. Not surprising, the beautiful Chinese blue and white designs were copied, since only the very rich could own originals. "Delfts Blauw" means "Delft Blue" and is the trademark stamped on all of my pieces. You can find an interesting article about it here.

While waiting for gesso to dry, I set up this little still life and thought of that famous Delft painter, Johannes Vermeer. Click here for a video of his amazing work ... painted during the same period the Dutch explorers were checking out pottery in China (and the spices of Indonesia, too!).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hoping, hearing, hanging

I have an idea for a big painting, but first I will prepare a panel. This foamcore panel measures 48" square and I hope that it will be stable enough without a stabilizing brace on the back. So far, it has two coats of gesso on it (and I have some very nice gesso lines across my sweatshirt where I leaned in to reach the middle!). Tomorrow I'll add two more coats and then begin with an acrylic under painting. I am hoping that with this painting I will climb over the artistic hump I am stuck in.

It is mating season at the Refuge! The birds are pulling out the stops to sing the most beautiful songs they can in order to get the best partner this Spring. This Yellow-headed Blackbird had a lovely song, at least the first part of it was beautiful. The second part was not working so well and I tried to tell him to just repeat the first part and leave that last part out. He was still alone when I left, so I guess he kept the second part in.

You can see my painting "Over-Under-Over" this month while it hangs with the new eight+ show at O'Connor's Restaurant in Multnomah Village. The shows are always a feast for the eyes and varied in style and subject as each artist chooses something new for the new show. Come and see work by Carrie Holst, Carolyn Rondthaler, Kitty Wallis, Celeste Bergin, David McBride, Mary Luzinski, Eileen Nelson, and Katherine van Schoonhoven.

What are you hoping, hearing, and hanging? I'm all ears!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Alliteration: Shakespeare, sensuality

24 x 30, pastel on recycled Wallis
Where the bee sucks, there suck I;
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

William Shakespeare, The Tempest, 1610

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Alliteration: Rothko, recycling

"... art, like philosophy, is of its own age. for the partial truths of each age differ from those of other ages, and the artist, like the philosopher, must constantly adjust eternity, as it were, to all the specifications of the moment."  Mark Rothko in "The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art"

Every January, I sort through my paintings and decide which I will save and frame and which I will recycle. Many go into the recycle pile. It's always interesting to use a recycled panel or piece of paper. The old image remains, sometimes as a ghost, sometimes like a vibrant abstract underpainting. The new painting is influenced by the old painting. It is one way that I "adjust eternity."

Above you see my charcoal drawing for the new painting over the top of a recycled painting. The old painting, a group of roses in front of a brick wall. The new painting, a portrait of my 87 year old father in law.