Monday, November 17, 2014

I went to camp!

All those summers when we sent our son off to Signature Music Camp in Ithaca NY, I always thought "I want to go to Mom Camp!"  Well, I went to camp, and this was even better!

Life is a Verb Camp, named for Patti Digh's book Life is a Verb was filled with about 100 creative souls that probably have changed my life forever.
Set in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina, these few days were loaded with so much sharing, joy, grief, laughter, art, music, poetry, nature, ..... well, it is so hard to describe.  I went alone, not knowing anyone at all.  And SO rapidly became a part of the "tribe."  I love these people.  And there are so many, I can't begin to show you all their beautiful faces.  But I have some photos of mine.

My new friend Susan, who shares my love of mandalas and labyrinths.

Amazing poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Ellen Bass were with us to share their poetry, and their own particular ways of looking and life, and made poetry so accessible to us all. 

The story of Donna's little crayon apron really touched the little girl in my heart.  Sharon photo bombed this photo of Suzanne and I. 

During the closing circle on Sunday morning, singing (and dancing) in a circle of about 100 wonderful people!

Patti Digh, our fearless leader.  What a vision this woman has. 

Sharing a hug with Sherry in this marvelous coat of all my favorite colors. 
Sherry taught us about celebrating all of life's little moments. 

Having fun in a book making class

Last night of camp, s'mores and sparklers by the lake.

I learned about Contra dance.  So much fun!

Yes.  These people are my tribe.  I cherish them all.

Working on a mixed media storyblock at the pre-camp session based on Patti Digh's book The Geography of Loss

Camp Kanuga, with Lake Kanuga, in November splendor.

So many beautiful memories of place and people and time. 
Thank you. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Layered Elements

Some of my most recent works.  There are 3 more in this series, similar, but with reversed color schemes.  I am experimenting with a lesson plan.  Mixed media is intriguing to me these days, and I seem to continue to think as if I were an art teacher.  Guess I am.  My classroom is just a bit different from the traditional.
Anyway..... These pieces (6 in all, so far) are 10"h x 8"w.  On Arches watercolor board.  I am setting up the lesson as a series of steps, so anyone can do this.  With emphasis on the Elements of Art (always the teacher...) and layering of various media and techniques. So - give it a try!

Layer 1 - lay down 2-3 colors in acrylic paint. With brush, or roller, or scrape it with an old credit card. The colors should be in the same family and put down in color blocks.  Think Mark Rothko.

Layer 2 - cut out a simple shape or two from white paper, and collage it down. Consider your placement.

Layer 3 - create a very simple stamp with self-adhesive foam, cut out and attached to a piece of cardboard.  (I used the heavy board saved from the backs of pads of watercolor paper.) Bold pattern. Creating a stamp/printing plate forces you to think of positive/negative space. Then print it in black, preferably over a bit of the white shape, to emphasize the contrast between black and white.

Layer 4 - use black paint with simple stencils to create more pattern.  Letters or numbers, reminiscent of Jasper Johns. Again, carefully consider placement.  Balance.  Focal area.

Layer 5 - draw in areas of calligraphic line, scribble, using black or white pen, to create more texture.

Layer 6 - paint in selected areas with the complementary color.This should be non-dominant.  Your background is dominant.  This could also be warm colors vs. cool colors.

Layer 7 - paint acrylic glaze in areas for shading, value contrast.  I use paper towels pretty extensively to dab at the thin glazes, allowing color below to show through, creating depth.

Layer 8 - splatter thinned acrylic paint, creating texture, and helping to unify the surface.  I love splatter!

Layer 9 - spray a bright spritz of color in areas to intensify the color and add even more interest.

Layer 10 - Sign it.  Make color copies to play with.  Maybe make another one.  Or do 3 at a time.

Have fun!  This project allows you to play with several media, all while thinking (or NOT thinking!) of the elements of design.  Line, shape, form, color, value, texture, space.  See what happens.  It's only paper and paint.  You can risk it. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Why do I do it?

A dear art friend, while sitting at my studio last week - she was painting and I was madly applying gesso to little boxes, and collaging index cards - asked me "what drives you to make art?"

Geez.  Just a little question. 

Why do I make art?

My first thought is ~ because I have to.  It is who I am.  It is what I love. What I do.  But why?

As a little girl, I remember always needing and wanting to make something. It might have been art, or craft, or sewing, or baking, or arranging leaves in the yard into imaginary home floorplans.  (Yes!)  I went to the arts & crafts section of our ChildCraft encyclopedia for ideas regularly. I probably drove my mom crazy.

This question has been rolling around in my head for days.  Why do I make art?

Could be that this is a way for me to handle my anxiety.  Some people exercise.  I eat.  Or make something.

Could be a great means of escape from the drudgery of life.  A great distraction from doing something else that is responsible. As an artist, I have a ready excuse to say that my play is my work.  Doesn't that sound great?  But that brings up the topic of value.  Feeling valued, and having the general public understand the value of art, and the artist's work.  I am constantly asked to donate my work to auctions, for good causes, for the community.  But REALLY.  Does anyone ask the insurance salesman to donate a policy?  Or the plumber to offer up a free service?  There is value is the work - and play - that I do.  I need to remind myself of that!

So, back to that question....why do I do it?

I don't know the answer.  Really.  It is who I am.  It is how I am made.  Making things makes me happy.  Sometimes I feel a need to communicate a concept, but mostly I create things to please myself.  I am doubly fortunate that most of what I create is appreciated by others.  I don't have to work on commissions to please other people.  (Well, not very often, anyway. )

Just recently I came to the realization that I AM DOING WHAT I WANTED TO BE WHEN I GROW UP!  I am an artist.  I have my own studio.  I get to go there whenever I want.  I get to share it as I choose.  I get to teach a little, and share my joy and passion, when I want to.  I AM LIVIN' THE DREAM!
Making things - for whatever purpose - is my work. 

Maybe that makes me a little bit weird.  You know us "artsy fartsy" folk!  After years of feeling uncomfortable about being different, I am now old enough to embrace my uniqueness.  Eccentricities. 

Life is Art.  I don't know why I do it.  I just do.  Art is Life

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Black Cows

Seriously?  I have not posted since last April.  Why?

My laptop, heavily used for the last 6 years, has been slowing down.  (Read - I have filled it up with MyPictures, and used up so much memory that we are not on good terms.)  I'm sorry.

I find that I use my iPhone more and more. Much more than my laptop.  But my dear little phone also has its limitations.

I love all this amazing technology, as long as it works for me.

In the meantime, I have been enjoying spending time at my studio.  Today I just opened a page on FaceBook for my Studio 3.  More technological challenges.  Seems like it should be easier.

My most recent paintings have been about black angus cattle. 
"Divine Bovine"  Acrylic.  52"x48"

We make a lot of trips back and forth to our cabin in Long Pine, Nebraska.  Through the Sand Hills.
Past many pastures, and feed lots, occupied by many cows. So I have many opportunities to observe.  I really like the repetition of the shapes of the black cattle in the golden corn stubble fields.
They say you should paint - and write about - what you know.  Well, I am a Nebraska girl.
I see cows.  Alot.  So I have been painting, collaging, photographing, and drawing cows.
We'll see where they lead me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

finished painting, i think

This is the large canvas that I described in my previous post.
I think it is done. 
The "glow" on the left side of the canvas is NOT a reflection.
I painted it to give the impression of the sun setting and shining through the tree.
I think I like it, but I am going to look at it hanging on the studio wall for awhile.
The frame also needs painting.  Considering metallic gold.  Maybe a thin white liner.
Anyway, I thought you might enjoy seeing how it is turning out, since you saw the beginning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

large canvas

My favorite second-hand store, Tiede's, in Overton, NE yielded yet another treasure on my last visit.
Before I even got in the front door, I had my eye on an oversized painting in a frame leaning against the store front.  I looked on the back, all canvas, reinforced construction, with a wooden frame.  A $25 price was marked with grease pencil on the back.  When I went in and told Karl and Beulah that I was interested, but pretty sure it wouldn't fit in my car, they offered to deliver it to me.  And cut the price down to $15.  SOLD!! And thank you!

Now in my studio, I have begun a new painting of a ponderosa pine tree that I know well. 

Some photos to follow of the necessary process of covering the lovely previous painting with gesso, and beginning the new painting.  I think the dimensions are 50"h x 60"w.  Pretty good size!  I have a long way to go, but here we go!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

the process

It began with this photograph that I TOOK myself.  If I can't take the time to actually paint my subject from life, I will work from my own photograph.  That's important.  It needs to be my vision, my selection, my composition, my choices, not someone else's.

Usually, if I am working in watercolor, my next step will be to make a small thumbnail sketch of the composition, working out the light and dark values.  Especially the darks.  However, with this canvas I just used my photo reference and jumped right on.

The canvas is 30"hx40"w.  I first used a thin acrylic glaze of red-orange.  I wanted a warm underpainting, so that the warmth might show through.  Little glimpses here and there.  Then I roughed in a pencil line drawing, to determine placement and movement of the branches.

Blue sky, violet tree, and a light brushing of foliage.  You have to start somewhere.  I usually just begin, knowing that anything can be changed, or painted out, or layered on.  You just have to get going, and trust that you know enough about what you are doing to let it happen.  I say this alot - "We'll see what happens."  I try not to have too many expectations, because if you are doing this right, the artistic process can take you anywhere.

This morning when I arrived at the studio, I felt the need to go with color.  Wild.  Bold.  There are now a lot of layers on this piece.  The last part I added before taking this photo was to lay in the area of lavender in the background.  I needed more feeling of depth.  The middle ground and foreground has also undergone many color changes.  Lots of layers.  Always little bits of the previous colors showing through.  This creates a depth and richness of color.  I like my brushstrokes to show.  And I prefer a level of abstraction, as opposed to trying to re-create a realistic scene.  Perhaps the abstraction allows me more freedom to "make mistakes" and not strive for perfection.  I like it better.

I have also noticed in paintings of late - especially using acrylics - that I don't tone down my colors.  Interesting to watch and learn of my own preferences over the years.  I like color.

This previous photo is not yet the finished work.  The painting is continuing to evolve.  I think it is nearly done.  Tomorrow I will see it again with fresh eyes, and decide what finishing touches are required.  Thanks for watching the progress thus far.

Friday, March 9, 2012

once in a lifetime

 A week ago we were in Naples, Florida.  My husband, Clint, was attending a large meeting with other health care professionals.  I went along as a "community participant."  It was nice of them to call us that, rather than just "spouse."  While he was in session, I and other community participants were also in session.  Morning session, at the beach.  Lunch session usually at the pool restaurant, with the first afternoon session being held poolside. I usually chose to forego the later afternoon shopping session, opting instead for the later afternoon nap session, prior to the requisite drinks and dinner sessions with spouses. What tough choices.  The hotel was fabulous with great staff.  The weather was fabulous, with above average temperatures - 85 or better everyday.  We felt very fortunate to be able to enjoy this.

I love the beach.  If I didn't live where I do, I would choose the beach.  I have always told Clint that if I ever ran away from home, and he needed to look for me, he could find me renting a house on the beach near Fernandina, Florida.  I love it there.  Sunshine, warm air, humidity that makes your skin feel great, a laid-back lifestyle, and the never-ending-immensity-eternity of the ocean.  Ahhhh.  Makes me sigh just thinking of it.

One afternoon we did join our group on an adventure.  We went on airboat rides in the Everglades.  Technically, we were on the edge of the Everglades, and it was a bit "touristy," but we enjoyed it none-the-less.  We had up-close encounters with alligators, saw beautiful birds and flora, and I even held a two-year-old two-foot-long baby gator!  How many times is that going to happen in MY life??!!

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I am turning 57.  A few weeks ago I played a silly game on FaceBook where I asked a friend to name an age for me to remember back to and then do a "then and now" comparison.  She chose my age 28.  Coincidentally, I am 56. Twice 28.  So I reflected on the first third of my life, and the second third of my life, and now I am embarking on the third "third" of my life.  Hopefully I will live another 28 years, and that will bring new adventures.  Maybe not holding baby alligators, but who knows?  I wonder what other "once in a lifetime" events are in store for me?  I'm looking forward to greeting this next chapter of my life with joy.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


This gorgeous tree lives across the alley from my friend Phyllis Thorne's art studio.  I know she has painted it many times.  Now I am attempting to paint it myself.  I have only just started, so I am not going to share the effort just yet.  I think it is an apricot, but I don't know for sure.  The name of the fruit is influencing my color choices.  We shall see how it progresses.  Who knows what will happen in the process?  That is the fun of creating.  The artistic process can just take you over, and totally take you by surprise.  I love it when that happens.  When I can just let go, quit worrying and caring,  and let the magic happen.

I have booked an exhibit at Tru Cafe in Kearney in July.  So far, the work I am producing involves trees.  And most of the trees are inhabitants of our property in Long Pine, Nebraska.  I have conflicting feelings about our home in Long Pine.  Our second home.  I find it a bit fragmenting to have two homes, separate friends, separate lives.  Wanting to be in two places at the same time.  Sometimes when Clint goes, I stay home.  Refuse to go.  I haven't been to Long Pine in awhile.

This apricot tree is in Long Pine.  And I am finding that I am wanting to go see it. Talk with it. Get to know it better as I am trying to create a painting of it.  I think Phyllis probably knows this tree much better than I, and probably it is time to go visit both new friends. Spend some time together, and lose myself in the process. 

This week I also had the great pleasure of re-connecting with a friend from about 30 years ago.  We lost touch many years ago, and it was such fun to find him again.  He was a mentor at one of my first jobs when I was very young and green.  One of his sayings that became a favorite of mine was "Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't."

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I really cannot complain.  We have had a very pleasant winter.  Unseasonably warm days. Sunshine.  Altogether a pretty easy winter.

Until a couple of weeks ago, when we got a foot of snow overnight.  Followed by very cold temperatures.
The snow is still here, although melting away, slowly.

I am not a "winter person."  I don't particularly care for snow.  And I definitely do not like cold.  But the day after the snow storm, I had to step out the back door and take a few photos.  When I see things that I like, I usually feel compelled to photograph them if I can.

The light was hitting this snow covered Adirondack chair and casting such interesting shadows, I couldn't resist.  Such contrast between light and dark.  It makes me think of our own shadow selves, and how we are not complete until we recognize and own our dark side, as well as our light.  We must integrate.  Dark and light.  Yin and yang.  Good and evil.  All together.

Thanks, Carl Jung.  You add such interesting dimension to my life.  I can almost appreciate the cold and the snow, while waiting for the warm and the sun! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

winter solstice

Last night at 11:30 p.m. CST, the sun began it's journey back north again.  (My husband reminded me that the sun is not moving, WE are moving.)  Whatever.  Today is officially the first full day of winter, and solstice is the celebration of the returning of the light.  Now the days begin to get longer again, and the nights shorter.  No coincidence that we celebrate Christmas and the birth of the Son near the same time that we welcome the return of the Light.  The sun. 

Wishing you all Light and Peace and Joy as we journey through these days.

Friday, December 2, 2011

more mermaid dolls

I have to update the photos of the mermaid art dolls that I sewed up last summer.  As predicted, I couldn't just make one.  I ended up with 6 before I was finally satisfied. 

One was gifted to my niece Piper in Jacksonville, Florida.  And the other, the originally requested one with "purple hair" was given to my dear little friend Lilly.  She is just 4.  When I gave it to her, she said, in her sweet little voice, "Oh, thank you, Pat.  I knew you could do it!"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

sunlight and shadow

One of the things I love about being an artist is that I have the good fortune of noticing things.  Everything.
And one of the things I love about living in this time is that we have wonderful digital electronic devices available for recording all the fun things I notice.

I take loads of photographs.  With my camera.  And with my iPhone.  This little phone in my pocket actually takes pretty good photos.  So now I have collections of photos on my phone, on my FaceBook page, on my iPad, on my laptop.  The challenge is keeping them organized when they are filed hither and yon.

And I can easily email these visual treasures, or blog, or send them as an attachment to a phone message. Or post them on FaceBook. This is simply amazing! And fun!

So here are a few of the bits of light and shadow that I have noticed during my daily adventures, and captured with one of my handy little devices.

Friday, November 18, 2011

like a tree

I have been contemplating my next painting project.  Tru Cafe' has scheduled me for another exhibit in July of 2012, and of course I want to do all new work. 

I love trees.  As you know from my posts about my ginkgo tree.  No, I have been passionate about trees for a very long time.  I remember my tree house in the backyard when I was a kid in Beaver City, Nebraska.  And the huge tree in Heartwell Park in Hastings that had these exposed roots which provided a perfect place to sit at the base of the tree and contemplate life as a college student.

I am also currently reading a book called Like a Tree: How Trees, Women, and Tree People Can Save the Planet by Jean Shinoda Bolen. 

And it is that gorgeous time of the year when the trees have been displaying all their glorious colors, before dropping their leaves and exposing their most expressive limbs.

So I think I will do a series of paintings about trees.  My favorite trees in my neighborhood.  And so many favorites from our Long Pine home.  I can work in watercolor on paper.  Or acrylic on canvas.  Or try some small etchings on paper.

I already have zillions of photos of trees from which to work.  And, I will surely take more.

Jean Shinoda Bolen talks about how planting trees can help save the planet.  My husband Clint continues to plant trees in our yard.  He wants a forest.  An arboretum.  He is doing his part.

Maybe this woman can help save the planet by PAINTING trees!