Wednesday, November 30, 2011


In these shortening days of fall, it's pretty easy to catch the sunrise and the sunset. Today's sunrise was at 7:30, and I watched the landscape slowly awaken from black and white and gray to full color. At 4:30 this afternoon, I watched the colors leak out of the day back to blue/black and white and gray.

Aperfect day for observation.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

No matter that it was just 40 degrees out. No matter that the wind was blowing about 10 kt and the wind chill blew through my coat and wool scarf as I walked the boardwalk trail at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Just about 6 miles north of Olympia, WA, this refuge is under construction in the site of an old farm community. Two barns, built in the 1930s, mark the history of this land. In this rich delta soil, the farmers grew apples and raised cattle and pigs. In the 1970s, the National Wildlife Refuge got the land and began reclaiming it as protected wetlands.

I was at the refuge and I was happy. What a perfect place to walk off some of the Thanksgiving indulgence calories!

Osprey. Canada Geese. Chickadees. Pintail Ducks. Glaucous Gulls. I was in great company.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

post Thanksgiving talk of Christmas

Abstract Tannenbaum, 30 x 22, acrylic on prepared BFK
It was still October when a few of our Portland radio stations started to play Christmas music. I couldn't believe it! Where is the person whose job it is to hold back every mention of Christmas until after Thanksgiving? Slacking off, I tell you.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Christmas music. I even like a lot of it (just look at my drawer full of Christmas books ranging from Handel's "Messiah" to Mannheim Steamroller to David Lanz to Fake books to Vince Guaraldi). But not in October.

Even though I quickly scanned past the Christmas music stations, I was impacted by those fragments of songs I heard. Christmas songs in October. Sheesh. And before I knew it, I was humming those tunes and painting a Christmas tree. Well, sort of a Christmas tree. A weird, Dr Seuss kind of swirly Christmas tree.

And that's okay.

It was inspired by Christmas music in October, so I held off posting it. The way I figure it, even if the person whose job it is to hold back every mention of Christmas until after Thanksgiving was asleep at the wheel, I just couldn't put anything vaguely Christmas like up here on my blog until after Thanksgiving. And here it is. After Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite versions of the timeless song "O Christmas Tree" or, if you prefer the German, "O Tannenbaum"is this one by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

7 x 11, pastel on BFK
I just took it out of the oven and my house is filled with the rich smells of the pumpkin cheesecake. Tomorrow I'll bake the blackberry cobblers. Yum! I like bringing desserts!! So much better than the salad.

What are you contributing to your Thanksgiving feast and celebration?

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Sixteen Tons" and how music connects

Yellow Sky, 22 x 30, watercolor
Because I love music and playing with other musicians, I invite guests to bring their instruments when they come over. Many people don't. Not because they don't play instruments, but because they feel self conscious, unprepared to play, or just plain don't want to.

But one time, I planned a dinner party for just a few friends. One couple called to cancel because the husband's childhood friend surprised them by dropping in for a visit. Of course, I was happy to invite him to come to dinner, too. Even happier when he came with a trumpet case! Yippee!!

After dinner, John and I went into the music room and rifled through my books. We bluffed our way through some old show tunes with him playing horn over my shoulder. The other guests gathered nearby to enjoy the laughter and fun (surely not to enjoy the music because that was filled with blunders and false starts and stops). We worked through some Frank Sinatra hits and, after a while, John said he needed to quit because his lip "gave out."

But, we continued to talk about music and he confided that he and his long time buddy from second grade (the very stern guy sitting in the room, listening to the music) used to sing, too. In fact, he said, in their younger years the two of them sang to keep a cadence when they hiked.

Really? Like what? I asked.

And John began to sing "Sixteen Tons." And, our stern friend in the room nearby joined in. They stood and sang the entire song from start to finish. The rest of us just sat there and smiled. Or teared up. I did both.

Two guys. Friends since the second grade. Now in their 60s. Singing, with harmony, all of the words from this song. We were all connected in that moment.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

the answer is lime green

acrylic on gessoed paper
I have forgotten the question, but I'm pretty sure of the answer. Lime green. It's the color of voices in tight harmonies. It's the color of water that trickles between the rocks to awaken the seeds.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo seems to know the answer. "Swing Low Sweet Chariot."

Friday, November 18, 2011

fall clean up and Vivaldi!

It was a mess! My studio was filled with boxes and stacks of boards and canvases and frames and I had less and less space for walking around and thinking. I guess thinking (for me) takes a lot of space! I had to do SOMETHING and fast before thinking stopped altogether! I bought a rolling canvas cart from Jerry's Artarama and moved a lot of the chaos of the studio into my garage. What a difference! (Only time will tell if the thinking will start up again!)

While I was cleaning out the stacks of stuff, I came across this unfinished painting. There's something going on with it that I really like, so I may work on it more and see if I can bring it up to a more finished place.

Fall is a good excuse to listen to Vivaldi's "Autumn," but I confess that there were snowflakes on my window as I drove home late last night. Sheesh. This is fall? Seems more like winter to me!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

stencils in monotype

Arranged for a story, here I used the stencils to keep ink off the paper
Different stencil, same idea, except I worked to get lots of texture in the inked part
Here I flipped the stencil from above and inked the stencil
It was a full evening in the print shop. I really enjoyed the added interest of the stencils and the possibility of creating stories with the shapes.

The two "cartoon characters" are sketches I did from a live college production of "Cinderella." The bustles made me laugh!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

prep for monotype

Last week in my printmaking class, Joseph Mann showed us several prints he made using stencils. I was intrigued with how a simple stencil allowed for more freedom with the ink on the rest of the monotype. Using stencils is not a new idea, but since it is a new idea for me, I feel like someone has gunned the engine of my creativity.

Above you see some of my stencil ideas. They are cut from copy paper, and I will use them tomorrow when I do my prints. Oh, the possibilities!

Speaking of prints, today I went with a friend to see the Portland Art Museum exhibit of Japanese prints. Some of these treasures date back to the 1600s! The exhibit will be on until January 2012. If you can, come and see it! Some of these prints were in the show, enjoy this video on Japanese prints by master printers, Hokusai and Hiroshige.

Monday, November 14, 2011

art and MY music this time .. YouTube debut!

In the last few weeks, I have been having a blast collaborating with my friend, Dann Parks, on some music. He wanted to experiment with  "Prima," a vocaloid digitalized voice. I wanted to do something musical.

And, after he picked out the song and programed her vocals, he had me write/arrange and play the musical accompaniment. I played a synthesizer keyboard hooked into his computer program and then we manipulated the sounds. Thought you might enjoy hearing the result. 

The next piece is already in the works, without Prima,  but, I'm sure she'll be back to sing more tunes. I hear that she is especially good at Italian and Spanish pronunciations!! What a kick!

Listen here for "Deep Peace" or play the video below.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I won't shed a tear

It was a wonderful experience in fearlessness. BFK with splashes of gouache. A shape that emerged in the yellow ochres and danced into the composition. Layers of gouache, Acrylic Pastel Ground, charcoal, pastel, water, and this song in my head. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

monotype 11

The print studio is a creative space. Music is on, people mill around, someone cranks the press, blankets pulled back, the prints revealed, everyone gathers to look, comment, more pressure, run it through again.

Texture, color, line, shapes, and rhythm. Feels new and old at the same time. Like a jazz man playing Celtic tunes. My ideas thin and spread just when it's time to clean up. Now I look forward to next week.

Monday, November 7, 2011

blah, blah, blah

In the film, "Joan Mitchell: Portrait of An Abstract Painter," the interviewer presses Mitchell to describe the meaning behind her paintings. Mitchell, in her pithy way, says this:

"When you add the blah, blah, blah to it, you've ruined the whole thing."
 Need I say more?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

monotype 8

monotype 8 on buff Arches 88

inked plate

my work station, did not use the yellow ochre that night
I was playing with the Gamsol and I discovered that when I "painted" Gamsol on my inked plate, I could use a brayer to pick up the ink in the area with the Gamsol. Not a clean wipe like a paper towel or rag would have given (or a Q-tip with alcohol), but a lift nonetheless. 

In the end I was very happy with the textures and lines and inexactness of this print. Oh, it's a figure all right, but loose and expressive. Precious learning in this monotype class!

monotype 7

Done from life.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Gesture drawings are all about feeling. A gesture drawing doesn't have to look like anything real. 

Sometimes it's like a word spoken in an unknown language. The emphasis and delivery give meaning. 

Know what I mean?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

30 minute drawing

The rhythm of a figure drawing group sets the tone for the entire session. At Hipbone Studio, Jeff Burke (owner, teacher, facilitator, and sometimes model) selects the music and keeps the time. He also makes sure that the pose offers something for everyone in the 180 degree drawing space.

First the gestures. 90 seconds a piece. Fast paced. Quick and loose. Then a few 5 minute poses. Wow. Five minutes feels like an hour after the 90 second poses. Then a couple of 15 minute poses. And last, the 30 minute poses. Three of them. 

In 30 minutes, it's possible to really develop a drawing. I had a nice spot for this pose and I took my time with it. Just vine charcoal on newsprint, but I can feel the person in the drawing. And I like that!