Saturday, December 21, 2013


On Thursday, December 19th, I went to Stella Niagara for watercolor painting class. The theme was poinsettias. So I painted these flowers and glazed the painting with golden glitter paint. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

confused birds?

Well, it's winter and I'm not sure about what's going on with these birds. Why aren't they flying to some warm climate??? Oh well. Here's a watercolor painting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

sunflowers in september

On September 19th, I went back to Stella Niagara for a watercolor painting lesson. The topic of this lesson was painting sunflowers. I decided that I would just paint one flower after the next, and I came up with this design. I like having some of the flowers not fit onto the page because the paper isn't big enough to contain the wonderful nature of the flowers. So... here they are!!!

summertime at Beaver Island State Park

At the end of July, Terry Klaaren came to visit Grand Island. He offered anyone who was interested the chance to take an art class, with him as an instructor. I was happy enough to jump at the chance. Last year, Terry designed a mural, and I was able to help with the painting. That was great fun, so I figured that the painting class would be fun, too.
There were three students. We went to Beaver Island State Park and set up our chairs. Terry provided us with the canvas boards and with the paint and the paintbrushes. I have to admit that acrylic paints never used to be my favorite medium but Terry showed me how to use them to create a representation of the world that I saw around me. He showed me how to blend the colors to get a background that looked distant, yet real.
I finished the underpainting when I was at Beaver Island State Park. Fortunately, I had taken a photograph of the scene so I was able to paint in the details later, at home. Above is the finished painting, which I had framed. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013


The word mandala is Sanskrit and it has something to do with circles. Mandalas are made by different cultures to convey messages. Some are designed to be impermanent. They are made with colored sand and, eventually, swept away. That is to give a visual reminder that all things on this earth are impermanent and that they will eventually be swept away.
Other mandalas are meant to last longer. It will take more time for them to be swept away into the mists of time.
Mandalas are ways for people to share visually what is in their hearts at the moment of their making. They can be realistic or whimsical or abstract. There is no right or wrong when it comes to creating a mandala.
Today, I painted a mandala. I was thinking about the earth because it is spring. On the 13th of this month, I planted trees and I was happy to dig into the earth and to place a tree into it so that, eventually, it could give shade to someone. I don't think a whole lot about the future normally but, when I'm planting trees, I think about people in the future enjoying all of that nice shade. I was thinking about bird songs and leaves and sunlight and soil and worms and all of that stuff.
I was thinking about circles and shapes... and painting the negative shapes instead of the images... so I did... and here it is...
My brown earth full of bubbles of life... my mandala

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cherry blossom time in Washington, D.C.

My trip to Washington, D.C., couldn't have come at a better time. I had planned the trip a few months ago and the purpose was to go to the School of the Americas Watch Days of Action (take a look at School of the Americas Watch website).

A few weeks ago, my sister Vivian pointed out that I would be able to see the cherry blossoms! And she was right. During my week in Washington, D.C., I went to the Tidal Basin four times! And not only did I see the cherry blossoms, I had the good fortune of having a painting partner, a professional artist named Deb Van Poolen. Take a look at her website!

Anyway, Deb and I listened to delightful music and we painted. The weather was warm and sunny. Um. It actually got to be a little bit too warm. Is there such a thing as "too warm"? Yeah, well, it was hot. It hit 90 degrees twice when I was in Washington, D.C. I was not prepared for the toasty weather. And the tree pollen was flying around. Oh boy, did I sneeze! And my eyes were itchy! But what the heck! I'd rather sneeze than freeze!!! Hahaha!

Back to the Tidal Basin. The music was great. I especially liked the trombone section from the symphony orchestra. Trombones are awesome. But what I loved the most was a flamenco band and dancers. That was music to inspire creativity. And then, my "feverish imagination" (my teacher in journalism school said that I have a feverish imagination; I didn't have the... um... imagination to come up with that) kicked in. I fell madly in love with the guitarist. Maybe with the music. Or maybe with the guitarist. Oh!!! Spanish classical guitar and art!!! What could be better than that.

We had two painting sessions at the Tidal Basin. I painted three pictures in my (handy dandy) visual journal. Here they are:

I made this painting on Saturday, April 6th. At this point, the trees had not yet reached their peak. Many of the flowers were still closed. I liked the combination of open and closed flowers. The open ones represented the beauty of the season, and the closed ones indicated the promise of beauty yet to come.

I included my hand and the sprig of flowers in this painting. It felt good to embrace the new life of spring like this.

I made this painting on Thursday, April 11th.It was my last full day in the city. The blossoms had peaked just a few days earlier, and they were still gorgeous. This one is a mixed media painting. I used watercolor paint, markers, and acrylic paint to create the scene.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Madness

I've learned a lot in Robert Joyner's workshop about painting expressively and freely. I'm learning how to interpret what I see to create a painting that feels alive. It has been a challenge, for which I am very grateful. It's good to learn new things. I am so eager to learn, and this workshop, run by Strathmore Online Workshops, has been a great opportunity for me. 

This is the benefit of technology. An artist can make videos and demonstrate techniques, and any number of students can learn those techniques... in their own homes.

So... this is the painting that I made after the fourth and last of Robert Joyner's videos. It is mixed media on illustration board. The media that I used were acrylic paint, artist crayon, and acrylic ink. The title of the painting is March Madness.

The goal of the painting was to show movement. I was inspired by a picture in the sports section of the newspaper.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Experimenting with paper and paint

The paper that you use for painting can be your nemesis or your friend. Nemesis paper curls up. It stays wet for what seems like forever. It rips when you try to scrub renegade color away. It is just evil, rotten paper. You probably bought it from the bargain table at a dollar store. OK. I don't know if dollar stores have bargain tables. The whole store is supposed to be a bargain.
But you get the idea. Nemesis paper is just ick.
Well... there are many different kinds of paper for drawing and painting. Some paper has a lot of texture and that is very desirable for water color but less desirable for pen and ink drawing. Some paper is very smooth. That is desirable for pen and ink drawing but irritating for water color. There's mixed media paper, which I like to use for acrylic paintings.
One of the chief distinctions between papers concerns texture. There are three types: hot press, cold press, and rough. Often, cold press paper is preferred for water color paints because it has texture. Hot press paper is very smooth. If you use too much water, the paper won't absorb it. It will just sit there on top of the paper, being annoying and causing your colors to run together and become muddy. And, not only that, the paper will curl up. Curly is nice if it's your hair but, if it's your paper, it is one big Yuck! The third type is rough. It is even more texture than cold press paper so it is fun to paint on, especially if you want to have a kind of impressionistic effect. If you like photo realism, you might not be as fond of this.
Another characteristic of paper is the weight of the paper. The usual weight for water color paper is 140 pounds. That will provide you with a nice sheet of paper for painting. But, if you're lucky, you can use a 300-pound type of paper. The heavier paper is thick like a board. Don't worry. A piece of paper won't actually weigh 140 or 300 pounds.
So here are three paintings, on different types of paper:
This painting was done on hot press paper. The paper is very smooth. Notice the streaky likes in the purple mountain. That is very typical of hot press paper. Also notice how the paper buckled and is somewhat curly. 

This painting was done on a 140 pound paper with a rough texture. The colors blend more readily with the the rough texture than the smooth texture.  I kept to a limited palette with this, focusing on warm colors.

For this painting, I used a 300 pound board. The was a great surface on which to paint. I needed to add lots of water because the paper was thirsty, as it was with the rough textured paper.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

By Jove, I think that I've got it... almost!!!

Last time that I posted my efforts at abstraction, I was completely frustrated. Fortunately, that feeling is past. Robert Joyner is a great instruction. He said one sentence that changed everything for me. It was:
"It doesn't have to be perfect."
Not perfect. That was so liberating!!! I felt free to paint and create, knowing that it was not necessary for me to make the next masterpiece. In fact, if I preferred, I could make the next Mess-terpiece. What could be better than that? 
Here they are. My happy messterpieces. Enjoy!!!
This was actually my second effort. The sea looks a little stormy in this one.

This was my first effort. Boats floating in the water... no people!!
  One more video to watch. One more lesson to do. I'm looking forward to it. This has been a good adventure!
More later!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bugs and white flowers

In my painting class at Stella Niagara, I learned a technique for painting white flowers in water color. It is to paint a darker background and then to add a little color to the white flower. The white flower would look flat if it were entirely white. When you add just a touch of color, the flower looks more realistic, all the while preserving the illusion of whiteness.

I first drew a scene that incorporated white flowers, leaves, branches, and insects. It's a spring scene that doesn't exist yet in March. In reality, this is what we have. We have flowers! But no leaves! That doesn't come until much later! I was out delivering Pennysavers and I took these pictures.

snow drops grow through the snow!!!

The first color of the season
It's great to see color again.

Here's my painting:

Here are the white flowers and some happy insect life.

Abstract is not me yet but food is...

The second assignment in Robert Joyner's workshop was to paint something very familiar in an abstract background. I watched the video two times. Robert Joyner painted the background in large strokes. Then he let it dry and, once dry, he drew loosely with a paintbrush! After drawing loosely, he demonstrated how to finish the painting with mixed media to give the illusion of the object, without adding lots of details in the hopes of reproducing the object on paper. His object was a ketchup bottle.

All right. So I will admit that I don't love condiments. The bottle was beautiful and it looked like a bottle without looking like a photograph, and the background was wonderfully abstract. It was a marvel. And he painted it so fast!

Could I actually do this? Draw with a big paintbrush? No pencils? No erasers? Arrrgh!

Well... I am certainly ready to try anything. I painted huge brush strokes... and then got to work on the bottle of my choice.

I don't like condiments, but I love salad! Really, really love salad.

Here's my bottle. So loose and free. I'm not sure if I'm bonding with this style yet but it's fun to play with paints and ink and charcoal.

Exploring new styles, making myself hungry...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Exploring abstraction

When I started this blog, I was doing an on-line art class through Strathmore Online Workshops. The workshops are free, although the purchase of Strathmore papers is greatly encouraged. They produce some good artist papers and visual journals, so that is not a bad thing. Strathmore offers three workshops per year. Each workshop lasts for a month and includes four instructional videos. The topic and medium for the workshops is determined by the instructor.

This month, the first of these workshops has started. It is called "Abstract Fine Art Painting with Mixed Media," and the instructor's name is Robert Joyner. He is a professional artist now, but he used to be a ballroom dance instructor. He likes painting roosters. I've never thought of painting roosters but, when I spent some time learning Spanish in Guatemala, I was regularly awakened by roosters. I didn't think of painting their portraits because I was so annoyed by the wake up call. I was wickedly thinking of turning them into soup. But I digress. And how. I went from abstract painting to ballroom dancing to soup...

Anyway, I watched the first video twice. I was clueless the first time. Abstract is not my specialty. But today was the day. Time to paint. I got out my collection of media and played with paint. My goal was just to have fun. So I drew a picture of my right hand (I usually draw the left but I wanted variety in my painting life). Yes, I drew it with my left hand and, no, I'm not left handed... nor am I right handed... just somewhere in the middle.

Here goes... the hand!!!

Can you tell that I am eager for the start of gardening season? I'm grabbing hold of all of those leaves!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fun little gifts

Today's painting adventure at Stella Niagara was combined with some fun for Valentine's Day. Painting and chocolate and yummy desserts!!! What could be better than that? It was a great day to celebrate art and friendship and sweetness and the color red.
Celebrating the color red and sweetness
The project for the day involved brooches and card sized paper. We could pick one or two brooches and then create a small scene in which the brooch could be pinned right onto the painting.

For my first painting, I chose a brooch that was in the shape of a cup cake. Since it occupied a fairly large portion of the paper, I decided to go a little less realistic with my picture. I turned it into a still life, with a stuffed bear and a Mardi Gras mask. Here is the card, with the brooch:

A Valentine in watercolor and marker

For my second card, I choose a brooch that was a little bottle of champagne. I decided to put the bottle on a shelf with other wine bottles. But then I thought a shelf with wine bottles might be kind of boring. So I added something that you might not expect to see on a shelf of wine bottles. Take a look!

Meow! Um. I mean. Shall I knock these bottles off the shelf, one by one?
These little painting are now on display for the next two weeks at Stella Niagara.
Happy Valentine's Day to you!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Bear's Tea Party

Now that it's winter, even bears prefer to have their tea parties indoors. So this bear, oddly enough a vivid shade of orange, was ready for a tea party. But first, she had to pose for her portrait. So here she is, with tea pot and tea cup and a nice rug on which she could sit (she doesn't really like chairs).
The Bear's Tea Party, painted at Stella Niagara. In the Stella Niagara cafeteria, there is a lovely collection of tea pots and little tea sets that kids like to use for their tea parties

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Modern Art Afghan 2 (reuse, recycle, reinvent)

After I finished my first "modern art afghan," using all scrap yarn, I decided that I had enough left over yarn from previous projects and from donations to make a second "modern art afghan." I discovered, too, that I had a large amount of green yarn, so I decided to use the green as the background color.
For this project, as for the last project, I chose to use a pattern for the squares that had been designed as a group activity in an email group dedicated to crochet. I've been part of this email group for about thirteen years. Even though I've never met any of the other group members in person, I feel that they have become friends. They live in a variety of states in the United States and there are a few Canadians, too. This is the "up-side" of technology... getting to "meet" people with whom you share common interests. Another "up-side" is that my crochet skills have improved dramatically since I got involved with this group. I learned how to read patterns and to crochet with thread and to create designs.
So here are a few views of the modern art afghan:
Here is a view of the corner of the afghan, which includes the border and some of the squares. No two squares are alike.

This is the entire afghan. I added each square as I made them, without regard for arranging them in any particular order, so as to get a sense of randomness in design.

Here is another view. Some of the squares are designed to be dramatic, while others are designed with more of an earth tone feeling.

Here is another view of the entire afghan. This one is a little closer than the first view that I shared.

Each square tells its own little story. Some of the colors pop out from the green background, while others just blend in.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Watching out the window

Back to watercolor painting class after a relaxing Christmas break. OK. I don't know if relaxing is the word. There is so much preparation to be done for Christmas... food, gift wrapping, Christmas card design, newsletter writing, mailings... that I'm not sure there is much relaxation going on. I am grateful that Christmas comes once a year!

So, back to painting! The goal was to paint an indoor scene with a view to the outdoors. I had to base the painting on photographs. I was allowed to take liberties with the scene, which I did. So there is actually no window behind the couch. The window is elsewhere and it is huge but the view out that window is a bit boring. What I did was to take a picture of a shed behind someone else's house. I made the shed look a little bigger and closer to my mom's house. Inside, I needed to add stuff to doctor up the scene. Normally that afghan (which I called my "modern art afghan") is not on the couch. I put the afghan there. OK. So we don't actually have an orange and white cat. Zoey is black and white. But now, there is an orange and white cat and a window where no existed previously.

The painting is a combination of reality and fantasy and completely the product of my "feverish imagination." I can say "feverish imagination" because, when I was in journalism school, my news writing teacher said that I had a "feverish imagination." As it turns out, he was right...