Sunday, June 30, 2019

falls and lift

"Falls 6", monotype, 6 x 6
There is a calmness to routine. Pull out the plates. Squeeze out the ink. Work in the modifier with the putty knife. Push. Pull. Turn. Push. Pull. Turn.

When the ink is just right, working it with the brayer. Roll and lift. Roll and lift. Load the brayer with lovely, creamy black ink. Velvet smooth. Onto the plate with the sticky "suss" sound.

Then pulling off the ink with finger and cloth. Pull to reveal the clean plate beneath. Pull to shape the sky above. Pull to trace the silvery lines of falling water, the cool pond below.

Inked plate and paper under layers of blankets through the pressure of the rollers. I turn the wheel and feel the gentle thud as the plate goes through, edge to edge. Back go the blankets. Carefully, I pull the paper from the plate. I can't help but hold my breath. 

In the calm of routine comes a lifting of grief. Little by little.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

loss and creativity

My mother in law, Hendrina van Schoonhoven Rodenburg, died in December of 2018. She was 88 years old, just two days short of her 89th birthday.

When she passed, I lost a person I have known  for 50 years. In that time, our relationship not only covered a half-century of days, it covered a lot of dynamics and transformations.

At the end of her life, she was truly one of my best friends.

Hendrina always loved nature. She discovered hiking later in life, but once she did, she pursued it with a passion. She loved plants and flowers and living creatures. She and I watched many nature programs together. I even took her to my favorite Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge so that she could enjoy nature in the first person. We saw turtles and egrets, herons and ducks, songbirds and deer. She loved it.

In the last years of her life, she lived just a couple of miles away from us. Even as her health declined, we were able to figure out fun things to do together. We played cards and Mexican Train, consulted on knitting patterns, planted flowers, talked a lot, and listened to music.  She and I shared a love of listening to, and playing music.

Hendrina at the organ

My time became her time. At first, I resented the loss of my own creative time, but I could see how much her spirits lifted when I was around. She relaxed when she knew I was in charge. I stopped measuring my personal time and stayed focused on her quality of life. I believed that I could get back to my artwork and music eventually. My creativity showed up in finding new recipes Hendrina might enjoy, or new card games we could play, or a new plant for her to care for and water. We found ways to joke about doctor appointments and hospital stays.

Five months after her death, I am only now digging out from overwhelming grief. It clings to me, trips me and holds me down with my air knocked out. I have moments of happiness, too, and fewer days of tears.

Still, getting back to my creative life is hard. Much harder than I expected. Progress is slow, but it is still moving in the direction I desire. Just yesterday, I went to my beloved Refuge and watched the birds and other wildlife. I sketched the tree trunk below, and while I did, I saw small blue birds pop out of their little home. I felt the healing power of nature in that moment.

When she knew her days were numbered, Hendrina hugged me told me to not be sad. Her death, she explained, was just a part of nature. She urged me to enjoy my life, to hug my kids and grandkids and love every minute of my life. And she told me how much she loved me.

Tree Swallow, Ridgefield NWR
I miss her more than words can say. I know that my life has been enriched by having her in it. What the head knows, the heart takes longer to accept. I guess that is the truth of life and death, for all of us.

Hendrina van Schoonhoven Rodenburg 1929 -- 2018

One of her favorites, Andrea Bocelli with Sarah Brightman, "Time to Say Goodbye."

Thursday, August 16, 2018

on the water

On the Water. Monotype on Rives BFK.

While we were in the waters of the Puget Sound, we followed the story of a mother orca whose calf was stillborn. For 17 days, her grief held us in sad awe.

I am sure that I am not the only one who resonated with the loss. Even 30 years later, I still grieve the child who was not born. And while my restless sorrow has softened with time, the intensity comes back to the surface when I witness another mother's loss.

Click here for the story of Talequah, the Orca mother.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

people watching

"At the Convention" monotype, 6 x 10

While at a three day convention where my interest in the subject was only one day long, I found a way to keep myself amused. I sketched people. Lots of people. This monotype was inspired by some of the sketches.

Summer heat in the studio creates a difficult environment for printmaking. Temperatures nearing 100 degrees dries out inks in a hurry. This print happened in the cool of the morning before the day heated up. Subsequent prints, no matter how much medium I added to the sticky ink, were failures. The ink dried on the plate before I could manipulate it. Tacky ink fused itself to the paper and had to be soaked off.

The figures in my convention sketches may inspire more prints, but I will wait for cooler weather to experiment more with monotypes.

Mungo Jerry "In the Summertime."

Sunday, June 10, 2018

cutting loose

20 x 16 acrylic on panel
Joy in the process,  forget about the outcome. 

My new motto in the studio.

When trapped by my own expectations, and weighed down by my self-imposed limitations, it is time to cut loose.

Cutting loose means more risks. Cutting loose means following curiosity. Cutting loose means following the muse into painting, sculpting, knitting, drawing, playing with grandchildren, writing music, playing with a pick up band, trying new things, meeting new people, reading new books.

I will never be too old to try something new.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


20 x 16. Cold wax and oil on wood panel.
I have been curious about cold wax painting for over a year. After seeing many examples of the medium, and really liking the finished pieces, I decided to try it out myself.

I used oil paint and Cold Wax Medium by Gamblin, a Portland company. over a textured board surface. You can read more about the process on the Gamblin site here.

The texture absorbed a lot of the paint/wax in the process and I got in touch with my miserly side. The wax medium is about the same consistency as Crisco shortening, if you are old enough to have memories of using that in your cooking years ago.

What started as an abstract painting in a cruciform composition design, became more of a tree shape as I worked. I live with lots of trees, and I am okay with abstracts that turn into trees, too.

I have continued with the bird project. These small watercolor sketches are a joy to create. Earlier this Spring, at the Salton Sea in Southern California, I caught up with the California Quail. Their feathery head plume bobs as they walk and creates a little humor to bird watching.

#20 California Quail
#19 Black Capped Chickadee SOLD
#18 Cardinal (female) SOLD

"The Giving Tree" read by Shel Silverstein, 1973. A 10 minute video for the love of a tree.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

bird project

While I am not a serious birder, I do enjoy bird watching. Whether at National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks, or any place I travel or hike, I look for birds.

I have attempted to paint birds over the years, but felt frustrated by the outcomes of my efforts. I even dedicated a sketchbook to bird sketches, only to give up after about 12 pages.

Finally, I tore some scraps of paper into squares and rectangles no larger than 7" on a side. And I started to paint small watercolor bird sketches.

This female cardinal sketch is #18 in the project.  The sketches are for sale, unframed. Contact me if you might be interested and I will send you images of what is available.

Cattle Egrets are smaller than their Great Egret cousins. I was lucky to witness hundreds of these birds at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge. #9 Cattle Egret is still available.

When I started this project, I focused on the basic shape of the bird head and body. As I got more comfortable with the subject, I took more care with color and form. Some sketches use ink line to help delineate shapes. Others rely on value and color.

An all white bird presents its own challenges. How to describe shape within such a high key value scale? In this case, I used a very light blue to help show the forms.

#13 Bunting. The more I looked at birds, the more I cared about looking at their eyes. How does the light hit the eye, what color is the eye, how does the eye relate to the rest of the head. I want to capture that feeling of looking at the bird and being seen by the bird. Both.

Birding, or more casual bird watching, makes me feel more connected to my environment. It enriches my time outdoors. How about you?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

expanse, original music

Expanse. Watercolor.

Painful life experiences can make a person ask questions. Cracks let the light in, you might say. Avoidance let me float. Not deciding or committing allowed me to see a bigger reality.

I have been working on creating some of my own music.  I hope you will enjoy listening to this piece, "The Expanse." Thanks to my friend, Dann, for his help and encouragement.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


Monotype. 12 x 12
Sometimes my art conversation are with fellow artists, but sometimes they are with myself.

Before we left on our last trip, I prepared my sketchbook by gluing random pieces of painted papers. Not every sketchbook page had a bit of collage on it, but many did. My personal conversation was all about what would happen if I threw a random variable into my sketchbook.

One of the results you saw in my previous post.

Now that I am back home, I posed the same question but related it to printmaking. What would happen if I started with some random fields of color and then added some figures by printing over the top of the color? I really enjoyed the exploration.

While I would not call if a rousing success, my goal was not at all to create masterpieces. My goal was to follow my curiosity and to not be too attached to the final results.

The best conversations go like that, don't they? No expectations, no pressure, but a free flowing exploration seasoned by curiosity and playfulness.

"Don't Know Why" Norah Jones.

Friday, May 19, 2017

birthday reflection

Self portrait, collage, ink
Another year older. AARP birthday greetings mix in with other cards from family and friends. Thanks. I know. I am older.

But, I am not upset by getting older. No, in fact I am stunned by how much more beautiful life gets as I age. Probably, because my father passed away last year, I have a different sense of how fragile and short life is. Plus, I get to spend time with my three grandsons (5, 3, and 3) and I am invigorated by how exciting and mysterious and joyous life is.

A little sorrow with the sweet. That is life.

Middle age, and with that some understanding. There are no second times around, so I must make the very most of every day I am alive.

Happy birthday to me!

Happy Birthday a capella fun. Enjoy.