Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yosemite water

Falls, 20 x 16, acrylic and pastel on paper
Whenever I am in our of our National Parks, I feel grateful for the people who had vision and wisdom to preserve these places of natural beauty.

December is maybe not the best time to see all of Yosemite National Park, but no matter the time of year it is soul-filling. Even with snow on the valley floor and temperatures in the 20s.

"Everyone needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and cheer and give strength
to the body and soul alike."  John Muir

Half Dome, photo by Katherine van Schoonhoven, 2013

More about Yosemite National Park here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

from Notan to painting: acrylic

Here is an acrylic painting inspired by a Notan sketch, this time from my summer trip to the Columbia River Gorge.  Waterfalls are beautiful and powerful and are hard to resist as painting subjects.

20 x 16. Acrylic on paper.

Friday, December 13, 2013


From the same Notan sketch, I painted these two paintings. Notan gives me a mental boost to figure out an interesting value pattern in black and white. Once I have a design I like, I interpret it with color.

The original sketch came from a visit I made to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge near Olympia, Washington.

After sorting out a sketch I liked, I laid in watercolor underpaintings on Wallis sanded paper, both 12 x 12. Then I forgot about them.Now, about a year later, I finished painting them with pastels. Two interpretations of the same design.

Straight No Chaser "12 Days" is a fun interpretation of familiar Christmas songs!

Monday, December 9, 2013

O Christmas tree

11.5 x 7, watercolor, pastel
Christmas time is here. Tune in and you will hear that some radio stations play nothing but Christmas music. Cars on the roads have trees strapped to their tops. The Salvation Army Santas ring their bells at every store, hoping to fill the kettles with donations.

Our  three acres in Southwest Washington used to be a Christmas tree farm. More than 30 years ago, people could cut their own tree here, after a sleigh ride back into the woods.

We've cut down many of the trees over the years we have lived here, but the feeling remains of an evergreen wonderland. I could sing "O Christmas Tree" all year round.

Crooner Tony Bennett sings "O Christmas Tree." I love the piano accompaniment in this version and I hope you will enjoy it as well.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

cold art

With Arctic temperatures pushing the red needle of our thermometer down to the teens and twenties, it's little wonder that my thoughts turn to snowmen. Here are a few designs from my sketchbook. 

I think of my sketchbook as a container for ideas. Some of my ideas have a future outside the sketchbook.

This woodcut design image will be 4" x 4" and will easily fit into a ready made square frame.

I am using a new set of carving knives and having trouble getting them sharp enough to not tear through the fine plywood layers of this Shina block.

Progress is slow, but the heater is on in the studio and I am comfortable.

More snow in the forecast. But, in the meantime, it's blue sky and very cold.

I enjoy The Piano Guys very much, but I don't think I will let them come over and do this to MY piano. "Angels We Have Heard on High."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

happy Thanksgiving

Sketch of my grandson, Aiden, with the Pentel Pocket Brush pen. There are not many lines on the face of a two year old child. No creases from years of laughter. No lines from worry. No dark circles from illness and sleeplessness.

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to reflect on the many good things in my life. And to think of others whose lives are lacking those good things. Thoughts lead to actions and that's good, too.

Years ago, I served as a worship director of a church. We often had a special Thanksgiving service with lots of music and times for people to talk about the things in their lives for which they were thankful. It surprised me (though it shouldn't have) to hear how often the older people gave thanks for the hardships in their lives. Their years sometimes gave them the perspective of how good things can come from bad situations. Even today, I think about how I might have to live a little longer before I can see good come out of bad things in my life.

Wishing you the most Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving makes me think of this hymn, one of my favorites for this season:
Allred. "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

peace dreamer

When I think about the hope my children express about the future, I long for their optimism.

When I think about my children having children (as they will in the next couple of months), I want more than anything for the world to be at peace.

As I played with this round Gelli plate today, I did not consciously contemplate anything, but I can see from this result that I was thinking about the world. The world as a container for the people who inhabit it.

If I am a dreamer about peace, I know for certain that I am not the only one.

Eva Cassidy. "Imagine."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

change it up

Sometimes changing a drawing tool is all it takes to make things interesting. I used a Pentel Pocket Brush for this drawing and loved the variety of  marks and thicknesses of line that were possible. Once one thing changes, it seems that the whole experience is fluid.

Are you feeling bored with some aspect of your art making? Maybe it's time to change it up!

Etta James "A Change Is Gonna Do Me Good."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

you are invited!

Opening Artist's Reception
November 15, 2013        5:00 -- 8:00 p.m.
In Bocca al Lupo Fine Art
2025 SE Jefferson Street
Milwaukie, Oregon 97222

Come and see the art. Meet the artists. I will be there. I hope you will, too.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gelli plate prints

demo, Katherine van Schoonhoven
I am a member of Portland Women in Abstract Media (PDX-WAM) and yesterday I hosted our monthly meeting. It always feels good to be in the company of fine artists. 

In addition to our regular sharing of information, critique, talk about upcoming shows, art and life conversation, I set up a play time in the studio. We all (mostly) wore painting clothes and experimented with creating prints on my Gelli Arts plate.

I demonstrated by making two prints. We used liquid acrylics by Golden and many tools to create texture and interest. One of the artists saw Pisa's leaning tower in my demo print.

Although some in our group have done monotype and other printmaking, none had used the Gelli plate. The beauty of the Gelli plate is that it uses materials already in our studios. And the resulting prints are exciting and as different as the artists who created them.

Ann Fullerton

Bonnie Garrett

Collin Murphy

Marilyn Woods
Best of all, my studio was filled with creative energy and an explosion of new ideas about art. I'm sure I captured it before everyone left.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

my choice

Happy is a choice. So is despair. Even if it doesn't seem so at the time. It's still a choice. My choice.

This has been a hard year for me. My father in law died in April. My father's dementia has taken him into unreachable places. Other things have not gone well. Health. Investments. Friends. Stress has taken a physical toll on my body. The bottom has fallen out of my world, not once, but twice this year.

I choose joy.

Willie and Lobo "Dance With You."

Friday, November 1, 2013


 Nothing satisfies my sense of color like a clear, crisp fall day. Everything seems to shimmer and vibrate with blue and orange and gold.

The blueberry bushes outside my deck are turning glorious colors.

Little wonder that the color worked its way into my painting today.
Eva Cassidy sings "Autumn Leaves."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

sketchbook: siren

She sings her siren
and the current
riffles though her tail
like a gentle breeze
through a leafy tree.

K. van Schoonhoven

I have long been enamored of mermaids. I remember swimming as a little girl with my legs together as if I had a single tail with a fin on it. I read Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" before I was 10.

In college, I read Homer's The Odyssey and was thrilled by the description of the sirens. Their song, so captivating, they lured many entranced sailors to their deaths on the rocky shore. Odysseus, determined to hear their song and survive, instructed his sailors to lash him to the mast and to stop their own ears with wax. They sailed past the sirens and Odysseus heard the song, but because he was immobilized, and his crew deaf to his cries, he could not order them to follow the song to their destruction.

Also in college, I "discovered" the Pre-Raphaelites and saw the beautiful painting, "The Siren,"  by John William Waterhouse.

"The Siren" by J.W. Waterhouse, 1900
Now, with a regular habit of swimming and many hours spent on the water in a boat, I continue to entertain an attraction for these mythical creatures. 

Heraclitus: "Knowing many things
does not teach insight."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

finding my way

 When life becomes hectic, frantic, upsetting, confusing, demanding, it's hard for me to figure out a way to find my way back into my creative space.

Oh, I can go into the studio and squeeze out some paint and move color around, but I don't feel a zip of energy. I feel empty. Blah. Beige. Believe me. Beige is not a good feeling.

When I was actively playing piano, I had a similar experience. But, I found a remedy. If I played through the Bach Preludes and Fugues (the Well-Tempered Clavier), I found my way back. You can listen to these familiar, gorgeous pieces played by Glenn Gould here.

Even today, listening to the Preludes and Fugues brings order to the chaos and calms me while at the same time directing me back to my own creative journey.

With art making, Bach works a little bit, but when I add to it a simple practice of Suminagashi, I feel myself resting and awakening. I fill a tray with water and slowly touch the surface with Sumi ink. The oil in the ink allows it to float on the water surface. I manipulate the ink and disturb the surface and watch how the water creates eddies and space. Finally, I create a print of the ink on rice paper.

Like any good meditation, Suminagashi leaves me open and ready for the next thing.

Ink, Water, Breath.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

theater of life

Sometimes it seems the stage is crowded and the dialogue overlaps in ways incomprehensible. Then one character leaves and the rest adjust themselves to the hole left by the one. And then, another joins us. So it seems. With death and birth and marriage. So it has been in my life this year.

"All the World's a Stage" by William Shakespeare in "As You Like It"  (Act II:vii) read by Morgan Freeman.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

First Friday, October

"It's All about Me ... It's All About We!"
First Friday
October 4, 2013

In Bocca al Lupo Fine Art
2025 SE Jefferson Street
Milwaukie, OR

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Here's the palette.

Here are the preliminary sketches.

Let's see what happens!

Tommy Emmanuel. Shows me that sometimes when I think I know what will happen, there are still surprises out there. And sometimes the surprises are good!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

abstracting a scene

The gap between representational art and abstract art fills me with some interesting ideas.

In the pen and ink sketch above, I started with a representational scene. Where were the roads/ramps leading down to the water? Where were the trees? Buildings? Cars? Then, I looked at the scene again and asked myself "What are the most essential lines or shapes in this scene?" Each of the following five sketches is a different answer to that same question.

 "What are the most essential lines or shapes in this scene?"

Our time on the boat this summer offered many opportunities for quiet meditations and observations like the one you see above. 

I look forward to my time in the studio now when I can explore those designs with paint or maybe with woodcut. It will be interesting!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

plein air in the Columbia River Gorge

Here's my pastel plein air set up at the Vista House in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. 

Early in the day it was not too busy at this popular view point and overlook. To stand in the landscape, open to all it has to reveal, is a heady experience. More observation leads to more understanding and that leads to more personal response to the landscape.

To the East, Vista House View, 10 x 10, pastel on paper

As the morning heated up, more people came. In cars and on bikes. In motorhomes and in trucks. Many people took photographs of me painting. Many people wanted to talk to me. As you would suspect, it spoiled my concentration.

Distracted Abstraction, to the East, 8 x 8, pastel on paper

Instead of getting frustrated by that, I decided to just paint an abstraction of the place, plus my feelings about being so distracted by all of the people. 

Vista House, built 1918

If you are interested in seeing more of the Columbia River Gorge area, I recommend the book Wild Beauty: Photography of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867 - 1957.

More about the Vista House here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Courtney, charcoal, 28 x 26
I've known and loved her since she was a little girl. As soon as she started to play the flute, I started to accompany her. She sat as one of my first models when she was just 14.

 Now she is a beautiful young woman, taking on the world in her own way.

Her kindness exceeds her beauty.

And right now she is very ill.

I think about her every day.

And I wish her every good thing. Health. Peace. Restoration.

Soon, when she is well again, we will do the happy dance together. 
In the meantime, blessings to her.

Joan Baez. "Forever Young."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

summer reading

monotype, 8 x 8

I collected many new art books after taking Joseph Mann's painting the figure workshop earlier this month. Now my reading is all about Matisse, Cezanne, Post-Impressionists, Picasso, Leland Bell, and others. 

Here's a portion of my summer reading list. Maybe you will see something that piques your interest!

The Killers "Read My Mind."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

workshop with Joseph Mann

I spent two weeks in an intensive workshop with Joseph Mann, Portland artist and popular teacher at Portland Community College. I never go into a workshop expecting that I will paint a masterpiece, and I did not paint one this time, but I did paint differently and boldly and I learned many things that will work their way into my work in the days and years ahead.

The first week, we painted the figure in the interior. The space, a warehouse in Northwest Portland, was perfect! We all had enough room to spread out and the models had a protected space for their poses.

In the photo at the top of this post, you see how I am trying to fit the elements together like a puzzle where the figure is one piece among many. My head got the concept right away, my hands and eyes had trouble getting it on to the canvas. Line. Value. Color. Shape. Pattern. Shake well ...

Figure drawing is different from figure painting. We had a chance to do both. Since I have drawn figures longer than I have painted figures, I feel much more ease with drawing. The ease I feel translates to fluidity. With time, I hope to create that same energy in my paintings. Practice. Practice. Practice. I get it.

The second week of the workshop was all about painting the figure in the landscape. Take all of the distraction and overwhelming information of plein air painting and add figures into the mix. Easy to find chaos. In the painting above, I used a device from Japanese woodblock prints and put giant leaves in the foreground to give a sense of peering through the screen of foliage to the figures.

Under the shade of leafy trees at Laurelhurst Park in Portland, we were cool in the nearly 90 degree weather. Line. Value. Color. Shape. Pattern. Bugs. Passersby. Lawnmowers. Shake well ...

Speaking of "shake", here's KC and the Sunshine Band singing "Shake, Shake, Shake."