Friday, October 8, 2021

I Never Thought I'd Be An Abstract Artist

Over the years I’ve traveled down many artistic paths.  Watercolors, oils, textiles, graphite, printmaking, jewelry and clay were steps along the way.  I've even done some china painting. Here are some versions of past works:

Recently I've settled on abstract painting and collage.


Looking back at pieces that got the most attention through the years, Abstraction and Collage seems to have always worked their way in to some of my work.

I like old. Papers worn and cherished by someone before they found their way to me.  Objects that show signs of wear, peeling paint and other well worn surfaces get my attention.  Those elements show up in most of my work.  Here is a sketch done after a day taking photos at a pile of old dock parts.

Parts of this may find the way into an abstract piece. I have boxes of sketchbooks full of scenes and subjects that caught my attention over the years.  My newer sketchbooks tend to have more examples of marks, shapes and textures that get my attention.


Friday, October 1, 2021

Rearranging Always Reveals Something

Clutter clearing again.  And this is one of my finds.

I found it on a floppy disc so you know it was awhile back. I don't remember doing abstracts back then but I must have been thinking about it.  

For several years the office just off my studio hasn't been used as an office.  Our house is old and a wireless connection just doesn't go everywhere.  Before wireless my computer was on the desk on one wall and the printer was on a small table on a different wall.  Enter wireless -- it reached the printer but not the computer.

So I got a laptop and moved it to the desk in our den and the office became a place to put stuff that I didn't want to deal with at the time.  Well time finally came this week.  I got tired of walking back and forth between the den and my studio office.  My printer was on its last legs and I had recently been researching wireless boosters. I bought a booster and a new printer.

The booster is wonderful, I can get a signal anywhere in the house, even on our patio.  Hooray! But now it's time to make room for the laptop on the desk where my computer was still sitting.  That never went away though I only used it for one thing -- my painting inventory.  That is the inventory up until the time I went wireless.  The program I had didn't get upgraded to work on the newer versions of Windows so I disconnected the computer from the internet and left it working.  Someday I may take the time to move all of that information to the laptop -- maybe.  

I'm not done sorting but I've found all sorts of old photos and other things I've saved.  So far I've spent 3 days sorting and pitching.  Hopefully I will be able to finish this weekend and get back to making art on Monday.  And be able to do my scanning and computer work in this office just off my studio.  Life is good!

Friday, September 17, 2021

My Usual Morning Ritual In The Studio

It didn't happen today but I'll get to that in a bit.  Usually I start my studio day with a little collage like these two.

I have boxes and baskets of little papers, I'm trying to use them up.  These are small, the largest is 4x5 inches.  I have no idea what I'm going to do with them yet but that hasn't stopped me from making them.  It's the doing that's important.

But something else is important -- feeding my soul.  And that's why this morning instead of going into my studio I went in to our garage and blew up my new inflatable kayak.  This is a replacement.  The first one leaked but that didn't keep me from liking it.  Instead of just sending it back I asked and got a replacement.

When my paintings were realism they were usually boats. I especially love old boats; rowboats and oars had been an ongoing theme.

I love being on or in the water, it feeds my soul.  We sailed for many years but that was a long time ago.  My husband doesn't have the same need for being on the water that I do so for the past several years I've gone on an art retreat at Spider Lake where I get my water fix and do a lot of painting.  

This year that wasn't enough, I needed more time on the water.  I took skulling lessons which had been on my bucket list for more years than I care to admit.  Loved it but -- I don't have a place to keep a skull on the water and haven't seen an inflatable sooooo I bought the kayak.  

While my husband doesn't need the water, he does enjoy being out on it so this afternoon we are headed out to try this new one.  He'll rent, I'll use my own.  He enjoyed it the last time we did it, who knows, he may decide he likes it enough to get one too.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

The Art Of Not Knowing What The %&# Will Be Under There

It's the surprise at the end of the process that makes poured watercolors and gelli printing interesting and fun.

I love my gelli plates, I never know what I'm going to get when I pull the paper off the plate.  Sometimes it's wonderful, sometimes okay and sometimes not so much. That's part of the fun for me. (If you're interested in knowing more about gelli printing here's a link to

It's very much like my poured watercolors one of which is the first picture above.  For poured watercolors instead of an easel my paper is in a jellyroll pan.  I literally pour very wet watercolor paint onto the paper and I don't want it all over my table.  Along with the very wet paint I use a masking fluid that is much like rubber cement in that it protects an area but can be removed. The process is masking, letting the mask dry, then pour the first layer of watercolor. Let it dry. Then add another layer of masking and repeat until only the darkest value is exposed. The rest of the painting is buried under the masking which has to be removed before the painting is revealed.  Like the gelli print, it could be wonderful, sometimes just okay and sometimes not so much.

But with both processes I can keep working on a piece until I'm satisfied, or in the case of the watercolor, use it for collage.  All that excess water in the jellyroll pan makes backs that are wonderful colors blended.

I enjoy the process of pouring but I'm not the most patient person. The pourings require waiting time.  Layers have to dry and sometimes that takes all day.  I use a very heavy watercolor paper. And finally, all that dried masking has to be removed.

Gelli printing dries quickly so the next layer, if needed, can be done almost immediately.  My gelli prints are often collage material but doing them made me realize acrylics and abstract paintings could also be interesting and flexible.  Like watercolor pours and gelli prints that turned out not so well, another layer on an abstract piece that isn't working could make a huge difference.  The layers add texture and another layer of interest.  

So I'm doing lots of experimenting with gelli printing, collage and abstracts and really enjoying the journey.


Friday, August 20, 2021

Why Am I Posting A Photo Of A Shirt Sleeve you may wonder --

Because it no longer has paint on it. Since I don’t always remember to put on an apron or paint shirt when I work in the studio I often have paint on my cloths. Usually that gets covered up with a stencil design or a small painting – or sometimes several stencils. Recently a cool day at my art retreat in Traverse City got me into the only long sleeve shirt I had with me. It was a good one, I didn’t want to get paint on it so I was very careful – I thought. It wasn’t until later in the evening I saw the back of my right arm in a mirror. A long streak of turquois paint on my good navy-blue shirt. Earlier in the week I was on a hunt for Murphy’s Oil Soap which I use to clean brushes and brayers. I will even work on dried paint. When I showed my shirt to my retreat buddy Terry, she suggested soaking it in Murphy’s. “If it works for dried brushes it may work on your shirt.” Hmmm -- why didn't I think of that. When I got home I tried it. It worked! The shirt is as good as new. I wish I had taken a photo of before and after. All I have is after and what you see is it. Not a speck of turquois paint and it went from the cuff up to the first dark shadow. If you don't clean your brushes with Murphy's you should. It's so easy and keeps brushes usable for a very long time. Here's how I do it – after you’ve wiped as much paint off as you can with a paper towel or any paper (collage material,) put a drop of the soap in your palm and rub the brush into it. I rinse and repeat until no more color comes out. For dried brushes and brayers which I always seem to end up with, soak them in Murphy’s for a day. Then I use paper towel to start getting the paint off. Most of it will come off the brayer easily. For the brushes I lay them down on a paper towel and use a stiff brush to pull the paint out. The only way you can tell my brayers aren't new or at least cleaned after every use is by looking at the handle.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

I Still Remember that Sinking Feeling

I’m remembering my first poured painting. I’d seen a demonstration and wanted to try it so I started with a very complex drawing of buoys hanging from a ceiling. Once that was done I started the process of masking and pouring. First masking the lightest color, pouring my watercolor paint, letting it dry, repeat until only the darkest or brightest was left and the final pour was done. Then let it dry again before finally taking all the masking off to reveal the finished piece. Disaster! I had a real mess and was ready to give up on the process. I’m sorry I didn’t photograph it but at the time I didn’t want any memory of my failure. But I didn’t throw the piece away. It was a few days later when I looked at the disaster again and thought – what the heck, it’s already ruined, I can’t make it any worse. I got out watercolor crayons, pastel pencils, colored pencils and oil pastels and went to work on my first mixed media piece. The result – satisfaction
And it sold the first time I showed it. That was several years ago and my introduction to mixed media. I've been playing with it off and on since.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

My Annual Art Retreat


I make little cairns when I swim during the retreat.  

It started when our sons were in junior high.  They’re both in their early 40’s now. The last several years have been at Spider Lake but it began at Oxbow in Saugatuck. 

Terry and her family were visiting; they live on the other side of the state.  We were talking about our sons going to camp and I said I never got to go to do that.  Home growing up was on the shore of an inland lake and I had a rowboat and my own speedboat.  My dad was not willing to send me to camp.  “Do you know what they do at camp?  They do what you do every day here at home.”  So Terry suggested “art camp.”

So we took a painting course at Oxbow. While there we took all the meals with our classmate before driving back to Grand Haven to unwind, review the day – and go through several of my art books before a good sleep. My spouse and my son stayed at his parents so our mood wasn’t broken.    By the end of the week we decided that it had been worthwhile but we could probably get just as much out of it if we just took a week without our families and worked on our art.  I had several art books that we could use to guide us as well as the instructor at Oxbow had.

The next summer a friend of Terry’s let us use her cottage on Case’s Island in the middle of Lake Fenton.  An added benefit of that location – we could swim every day in addition to making art uninterrupted.  We could eat when we got hungry.  When we broke for a meal, we either discussed what we had been working on or looked at the art books I brought along.  After a meal and a swim it was back to work.

After two years on Case’s Island her friend sold the cottage.  While at a family gathering I was moaning about losing our spot for a retreat. My brother said he and my sister-in-law just bought a place on Spider Lake near Traverse City that we could use.  With the exception of one year when they were remodeling, we’ve been going there ever since.  Still the same routine – make art, talk, eat, swim.  This year I spent most of my time coffee dying and gelli printing papers for collage.

 I did a couple warm up exercises but will probably trash them or use them as a base for collage.  The start of two small pieces, part of my “In The Zone” series look promising.  Time to get to work on finishing those.

Friday, July 23, 2021

It's Almost Time For My Annual Retreat

 I am so ready for Spider Lake!  But, before I go -- The Art Tribe is hosting a reception this Sunday at the Gallery Uptown.  I wrote about that exhibit earlier.  Next week is the last chance to see it so the Tribe is gathering to be available to answer questions.  We'll have some cookies and punch and some excellent art so if you are in the area do stop and see us.

I leave for Spider Lake on Wednesday, after my friend Karen's Picnic, I think it's 17th Annual Remission Picnic though we missed 2020.  You all know why.  

Now it's time to start thinking about what I'm going to work on while I'm there.  I've currently reawakened an interest in archeology so I may do a bit of reading and playing with some prehistoric marks.  But I also want to play a bit more with collage and abstract.  Guess I should start a list. Or wait until Tuesday night and just start putting stuff in my bag.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Art Tribe Inspired, a New Exhibit and New Work

Art Tribe – an inspiring and supportive group of artists. The new exhibit in the Gallery Uptown's Walburg Gallery features work by one such tribe. One of its members is a world traveler. When she recently shared a boatload of travel photos with the tribe, the concept of this show came to be. Each of us selected photos that inspired at least one of their works in the show.

These are two that I picked.

The two images inspired paintings that don't look anything like what I was seeing. But that happens often.  There often is a circuitous route to the end result.  The piece below, The Lord Potted Clay & Put Words on it. Sumerian epic poem c1800 BCE  was inspired by the bottom photo above.

and this one, Sarciphagi  was inspired by the top photo.

So how did the two top photos lead me to the two totally different paintings?  It certainly wasn't what I had in mind when I picked them.  I love old walls and old cemeteries.  I also love water and arches which the curve of the brick reminded me of. 

As I began to scribble on the supports I was using I remembered a trip to San Antonio when we visited some of the missions.  Who knows why, it just did. I went digging for some of my photos.  Those I found brought me back to the photo on the top, the arch of the wall and the colors.  Recently I’ve also been studying some ancient marks and symbols that seem to be universal.  Going through my San Antonio photos I found several that included some of those universal marks so I included them in both of the pieces; however, more of them are visible in The Lord Potted... than in Sarciphagi.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

10 Feet Tall and Bullet Proof

And a clutter free studio so I can get back to work on this piece.

10 Feet tall is the feeling to strive for – when you finally don’t care a wit what others think about your art you feel 10 feet tall and bullet proof, at least I do.  Travis Tritt’s sings about a fellow who achieves that feeling with drink but that isn’t necessary for most artists.

It isn’t easy to achieve the feeling, but it is what I strive for when I’m painting.  My current work is abstract, both paintings and collages. Every now and then I think I shouldn’t be veering off in that direction, I should stick to the realistic watercolor paintings that I know I’ve had success with. That is especially true when someone tells me they don’t like something about a current painting.  Even if that same person really likes some of my new work – just not that one.  But my studio has become so cluttered it was difficult to work.

It was time to do a serious sort and purge.  I began to pull boxes off the shelf and empty them onto my already cluttered worktable.  As I pull boxes out to go through them I realized that much of the stuff that is just taking up space says perhaps my work is actually going in the right direction. 

I have boxes full of papers and paintings that didn’t work. The blue one shown below is part of a watercolor painting, the only part I liked.  The house is a painting that didn’t work but I love the soft colors that just happened on the back.

The paintings were in there upside down because it was usually the back I was saving.  Many had colors blending in unusual patterns, not necessarily good patterns but something I thought I could do something more with.  But I never did.  The papers got put in a box on a shelf and there they stayed – out of sight, out of mind.

Which also made me realize that I need to see things I’ve been keeping or it just isn’t there. Now any boxes that were randomly covered with colorful bits of paper, probably when my 42-year-old son was still in college, have been replaced by plastic bins that I can see into.

Having started this project I decided I had to set myself a deadline and stick to it.  An exhibit opening at the Gallery Uptown in July is one that I’m hosting and participating in.  I need to get some work done!  June 1st was my deadline and as of the morning of May 31 I did it. 

When I started emptying drawers, shelves and boxes every surface in my studio looked like this


And you couldn’t open this door; good thing there was another way in.

And now the surfaces are clear, our large recycle bin has been filled twice and three large garbage bags have gone to the curb. I posted a video of the clear space over on Instagram if you're interested, here's a linkIt feels so good to go in there, I took a day to just enjoy it.  Now it’s time to make some new art!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The 100 Day Challenge Finished. What Next?

Here is a random selection of my challenge to do an art journal page every day

And the final day's entry

I have no idea where April went but here we are into May and I am just posting.  Certainly haven't kept my pledge to post once a week.  However, I did manage to do an art journal page every day so I'm taking that as a positive sign -- I'm going to do better about posting.

So what's next?  Well the rest of this week I'm concentrating on the ongoing reorganization of my studio.  There are so many things in there that I don't need so I am getting rid of.  I have more shelf space since I packed away used up sketchbooks and gave away or sold several art books.  I plan to have some very clear surfaces to work on by the weekend so Monday morning I can start a new challenge.  Not totally sure what it will be yet but I am leaning toward a small painting or collage every day.  I have time to think about it as I move things around or out.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Still Working On The 100 Day Challenge

 And another on-line challenge popped up that fit right in. Karen Abend's Sketchbook Revival.  The posts short tutorials -- sketchbook ideas with instruction.  I don't watch all of them but if it's an artist I know and like I check it out.  This little accordian sketchbook from Karen Stemper is made from a piece of copy paper.  Kind of fun and could be used for just about any thing.  The dark on the left edge of the pink polka dot pot is a shadow.  I cut out the pot using the fold so it was even and inserted a piece of paper behind it to add the color.  

If I need a break I grab a cup of coffee and my ipad and search for abstract art first looking for art I like then looking for who did it.  That's how I found Karen so when I saw she was one of the instructors in the Sketchbook Revival I decided to sign up. Karen does a lot of her work in the accordian style sketchbook.  She's British and calls them concertina sketchbooks.  Here in the U.S. I found they are called accordian or zig zag sketchbooks.

Another artist I found that I like is Robyn McClendon.  I found her because she was doing one of the tutorials and I liked her work in the introduction so I checked out what she offered.  I loved it!  I do enjoy making books and have made several.  Some I use, some I don't like using but had fun making.  Robyn's little tutorial was about making a journal from an altered book so I was hooked.

It was such a simple concept and provided me with an idea that I think I can use.  She uses collage papers she has made to cover a page, tearing the page so the bottom half of the image can become a pocket. She backs the bottom half with a bit of heavier paper so it's sturdier.  Then she makes tags or cards to put in the pockets, again using collage papers or her art.  

I had an old hardcover book that had been on my shelf for as long as we lived here and I knew I was never going to read it so it is in the process of becoming my new art journal.  I used images of some of my paintings and then decided the tags needed an additional pocket that was separate from the book to be stuck in my purse or pocket.  I usually carry a small sketchbook but this can do the same job.  And when the tags are full they go back in a pocket.  It would take up less space than a sketchbook.  I've spent this week doing pages and spreads.  This is one of the spreads and some tags.  The tags are backed with part of a file folder and I've either gessoed on it or added a piece of vintage journal paper.

And this is the extra pocket I made to carry tags in my purse.

And adding one more sketchbook prompted me to finally clear some bookshelf space.  I've started going through all of the sketchbooks that are piled every which way on those shelves and if they are full they're going in a file box to go to the basement or garage attic for storage.  I have several boxes already stored from my many years of sketching.  The current box is half full and I'm not done yet.  I can see light at the end of the tunnel!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Is all this going to be over soon?

 I truly have not minded the isolation but have to admit -- it's getting old.  I've been busy in the studio working on some paintings and the 100 Day Challenge.  Here is one of the paintings in process --

This has several layers of stuff -- just doing a lot of wondering what would happen if.  I'm now at about 10 layers of stuff.  Here it is when it was about 8 layers --
You can see I changed the direction and lightened it up a bit.  I still don't feel that it's done.  Who knows how many more layers before it is.  The other one that I've been working on is done -- I think.

And the challenge -- I mentioned that I was doing art journaling.  Actually I think what I've ended up doing is a lot of collage in a sketchbook.  I suppose that counts as art journaling.  At least it's what I'm still doing every day and getting rid of a lot of scraps of paper.  Here are a couple of the new ones.

Friday, February 12, 2021

This Year's 100 Day Project


If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.  

Joseph Campbell

Once again I've started the 100 Day Project, this will be my third year doing it.  This year I'm trying to do more exploring in my sketchbooks, more art journaling.  Trying different things.  Since abstract or non-representational is new to me I need to explore more.  

In January I did a series of collages in a collage sketchbook I found when I was clearing a shelf.  This was the last one in that series and the first one in the 100 Day Project. I realized I was having fun with the collages so I kept going. The collage journal is getting pretty full so I may move on to something else.  I didn't specify which journal I would work in daily, just that it would be an art journal.  To me that means it's not a sketchbook.  I do sketch daily anyway so this has to be something different.

 Here the next 12 days.

this one is in one of my grunge journals

Another one in the grunge journal

One more in the grunge journal