buddha bamboo

I had never heard of Buddha bamboo until a month ago.  That's when I ran across a delightful art supply site called Blue Heron Arts.  I was looking for a mop brush - at least that's what I felt like it should be called.  Instead I found a Jumbo Sized Buddha Bamboo Rooster Feather Brush.  Finding a tool to make a large sweeping swoosh in watercolor was my aim.  Thanks to a confluence of roosters, bamboo, Blue Heron Arts and Google, I found what I was searching for.

studio chair, the beginning of a new watercolor, celadon teacup with paint and my new brush


preparation rituals

Below is a photo of my morning attack - performed after going through half an hour or so of rituals that take me from bed to studio (with coffee in hand.)

Twyla Tharp has her own morning rituals and describes them in The Creative Habit-learn it and use it for life.  In the second chapter, titled: Rituals of Preparation, she writes about the key to living the artistic life.  By establishing your morning rituals, "you have begun to prepare to begin," according to Tharp. I especially love how she describes in detail exactly when she gets up, the items of clothing she first puts on and how she spends her next 2 hours.  It sets the tone not only for her book, but for her days, weeks, life and art.

Other artistic self-help books you may like:  Stephen King's On Writing - Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland - and Hawthorne on Painting.  Along with The Creative Habit, they occupy a special place on my rather small bookshelf  - they're ones I turn to again and again for inspiration and motivation.


on high

I love Twitter.  One of my latest tweets was, "artist support system par excellence" - in reply to a thread extolling the virtues of artist colonies in the Twitter-verse.

I used to love blogging - and I still do.  But it's gotten lonelier here somehow.  It seems like we diehard bloggers are the only ones left - which is a lovely thing, actually.  The commenters and visitors here feel like wonderful old friends.  But I do miss the faster pace that blogging used to bring.  That's where tweeting has come to save the day.

Next month I'll be participating in #paintseptember.  I'll post more in the next few days about how non-Twitter users can access the paintings that will be tweeted (posted on Twitter) every day throughout September.  In the meantime, here's a little study that I hope to incorporate in my first #paintseptember tweet.

Umbrella on High; graphite and conte on toned paper; 8.5" x 5.5"



I've been away on an amazing trip out west to visit my newest grandson - pure delight!

Back home now, I've returned to my routine in the studio: medium to substrate within a half an hour of rising - with a mug of freshly brewed Americano to oil the wheels.  Wonderful to have visited with family in beautiful California - refreshed now upon coming home.

Gravity under an Umbrella; graphite and conte on toned paper; 8.5 x 5.5 inches


ovals and oranges

This new little oil painting is an example of mixed whites: Winsor & Newton Flake White Hue and W&N Underpainting White (fast drying.)  It's most likely an example of a lot of other things too but those seem harder to put into words.  Actually, it's fairly easy to lay out the words.  The act of arranging them into logical sentences seems to be evading me at the moment.  So, like the poetry kits sold in book stores for your refrigerator, here are some words for later assembly (please add verbs and filler words as you see fit):

Orange - Oval - Spontaneous - Turquoise - Retro - White - Lines - Contrasts - Strokes
 - Curves - Shapes - Umbrella - Composition - Style - Trapezoid - Gravity -
Skewed - Balance - Ribs - Complements - Swoosh - Measured - Light - Play
Oranges; oil on linen; 13" x 8"



It's been awhile since I've done a self-portrait.  I'll be 55 soon and it seemed like the right time to tackle this again. 

For this piece I used a palette knife and toothpick to apply the paint instead of brushes.  And this time I tried yet another white: Winsor & Newton Flake White Hue.  It's definitely easier to work with than their Foundation White but it is much oilier than I'd like.  Next time I may mix equal amounts of the two and hopefully reach a happy medium.

Self Portrait with a Paper Towel; oil on linen; 13.5" x 8"


blank canvas

While sitting in my studio chair facing a blank canvas on the easel, I made (today and yesterday) a couple of sketches.  Not of what might go on the canvas (I don't think) - but of the blank canvas and easel itself.

In today's sketch, you not only see what I drew, but also a bit of the scene that got caught in the photograph of the drawing.  Confusing?  Blank canvases usually are - until you get started.

today's sketch; graphite on newsprint; 24" x 18"

yesterday's sketch; graphite and conte on toned paper; 8" x 5.5"



I like how the word construct can be either a noun or a verb.  When a noun, it becomes something created by the mind.  When used as a verb, it describes the act of creating something -  either tangible or intangible.  You can even construct a construct.  Just be careful where you put the accent.

Constructs Under an Umbrella; watercolor on paper; 20" x 16"


surface tension

Paper Constructions; graphite on paper; 11" x 8.5" 

Here's another cocktail umbrella piece for you.  I think maybe this one came as a reaction to the rather uncontrolled nature of dripping paint - as posted yesterday.  It's still playful but much more solid and determined. 

I'm looking forward to adding some color to this idea.


art and time

As my paintings have moved from minimalist realism towards spare-abstract surrealism, I'm more aware of the extra time spent on preparatory drawings and sketches - and the time spent on experimenting with techniques (big swooshes, drips and fragments.)  It's definitely more playful around here now - but certainly not easier.  I guess, in a word, my new work is riskier.  Or, in more words, they sometimes fail.  It's all good.

Splash; watercolor on paper; 20" x 16"


drawn drips

Before this morning, I had never really studied a dried-paint drip.  They're quite amazing when you take the time to really look.  The force with which a drop of paint falls creates spokes that radiate from the point of impact.  From there, tiny spots sometimes occur - spreading outward like skipping stones.  Have you ever seen slow-motion videos of drops splashing in liquid?  It's not unlike watching a ballet.

Underneath; graphite on paper; 11" x 8.5"


russian dolls

Someone on Twitter commented that my Kleenex ghosts reminded her of simple-cloth dolls found in Russia.  She said there they had no faces.

Here's another painting of the mother and baby ghosts suspended as one.  The drips were accidental at first.  I was mixing up a puddle for the big swoosh and my palette knife slipped.  Taken as a sign, I added more drips - sponged some partially dried ones out - refilled them with yellow paint - left other ones alone.  I'm happy that the drips in the lower right seem fish-like while the other drips seem star-like. 

Face-less simple human-like forms that evoke childhood memories - what could be sweeter?

Stars and Fishes/Mother and Child; watercolor on paper; 20" x 16"


returning to lake superior

I'm very happy to let you all know about a broadside project I was fortunate to be involved in.  One of my paintings, Disbelief Suspended, was recently selected to accompany Kathryn Kysar's poem, Returning to Lake Superior.  If you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area - you may have already seen the broadside posted in your neighborhood.  If so, please let me know - I'd love to hear from you!

from Red Bird Chapbooks:
The Broadside Project is Red Bird Chapbooks' public art, public literature project. Broadsides provide artists and writers another venue for their work, and continued engagement in their respective craft.  Broadsides provide the reading public with access to new and interesting art and writing.

Here's how it works: we pair one visual artist and one writer together for a blind collaboration resulting in the creation of a work of fine art. New broadsides are released at the beginning of every month. As was done traditionally with broadsides, we distribute and display these works in public locations. Find Red Bird Broadsides posted throughout Minnesota's Twin Cities and surrounding area. We also reveal the broadsides here, on Facebook, and provide an introduction to each contributor.

Support this series and its contributors by purchasing your favorite broadsides below.
To view and purchase copies of the Broadsides click here.
Broadsides are printed on cover weight archival paper.
Broadsides make inspirational, memorable gifts. 

Here's a small image of the broadside:

 To see it larger, click here and scroll down.


multiples and multiples

It's nice to have been blogging and tweeting while working on this piece.  Doing so helps me track the seemingly convoluted path it takes to arrive at a finished painting.

While I was working on the background of this piece I kept looking up at the wall at Vessel #1.  Without borrowing from it too slavishly, I wanted to use the combination of broad brushstroke and little multi-colored fragments.  I really had no idea that it would lead to thoughts about crying (tears) and thoughts about separation (tears as in "tearing something apart.")  Titles come at odd times and from strange places.  In the end, they need to provide a useful handle while adding a sense of balance to the work - or be non-descript - as in Vessel #1.

Tears; watercolor on paper; 11" x 15"



There were three ghosts in my mind when I started drawing this morning: Father, son and mother ghost.  I imagined them hanging by their own individual strings in such a way that they created a suspended family. 

The drawing that came about from these thoughts was alright.  But it left me wanting to dig deeper and draw from life.  So I made, from a quarter of a Kleenex tissue, a tiny little baby ghost - and then a mother ghost - and then the mother ghost reached out and cradled the baby ghost in her Kleenex arms - and then I drew what you see below.

Mother and Child; graphite on paper; 6" x 5"


on further examination

Below is the painting that came from the previous post's musings.

On Examination; watercolor on paper; 20" x 16" 

Building on the drawing from the previous post, I added a thread to the manikin's hand and color to the composition.  Brush strokes further pushed this piece into one of introspection and self-examination. The manikin seems to be looking for some inner clarification while the outside world swirls around her.  Better this than hanging by a thread and going around in circles?