Thursday, May 15, 2014


I've written a feature on horsehair bracelets that I planned to post yesterday, but due to multiple technical problems; i.e., a computer Charlie Foxtrot, I didn't get that sorted out with pictures and all--the details are tedious so I'll spare you. You can look forward to horsehair bracelets (if such a thing floats your boat) in the near future. Perhaps.

Today I'll post a few owl-themed works I've created over the past few years. Owls seem to have enjoyed quite a bit of popularity in the craft scene--I think owls may be on the way out, as elephants were a few years ago. What is the next hot animal trend? I've seen quite a few sloth and hedgehog memes--a little more outre´, perhaps. Cats are always popular, have been and will be--but I don't need to dedicate a particular post to them.

Today's color link:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

More on Color

Today I found some images from a 271 year-old 
Encyclopedia of Color and Watercolor Paint. (Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau)

This past weekend I attended the Maryland Sheep and Wool  Festival. There were so many beautiful hand-painted/hand-dyed skeins of yarn of all types--merino, cashmere, alpaca, blends--you name it. It's probably a good thing that I don't knit. I wouldn't have been able to control myself.  I do some crochet but I have a lot of yarn I am planning to use for the throw that I started a year and a half ago. I haven't worked on it since the end of 2012.

If there had been some felt for sale I probably would have indulged. There was, but I already have quite a stash and there was nothing that stood out. But I love to look. Here's a felt brooch I made some time ago and gave to a friend. I embellished it with a tail feather from my African Grey parrot The felt is a very thick type made in Nepal. It's a dream to work with.

I did buy a table top loom I had looked at last year. I still wanted it so I decided to buy it. Since my studio is still all clean and orderly I figured I was allowed. I haven't started to mess with it yet. I need to string the warp threads. I didn't even know which was the warp and which was the woof. But I have no problem diving into something I know nothing about. It doesn't always work out but I'm always up for novelty.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Reworked Paintings

I reworked some of my paintings and collaged a couple of pieces I did on gessoed muslin. It's quite satisfying when I'm inspired to go back to something or figure out how to incorporate into a larger separate work I've already done. I love birds so I have three here--a parrot, a pileated woodpecker, and I forget what the other bird was supposed to be. I really like how the pileated woodpecker turned out. I had left this one for a few years. I had done it in Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils. They are water-soluble but they just don't give you the saturated color of regular water colors. I didn't like the faded look. The outlines I made to create the figures showed in a way I didn't like. So I used tube watercolors and Luminarte iridescent watercolors and acrylics. I have a boxful of different brands of tube paint. I love the Luminarte paints. I didn't like some of the elements in this piece so I covered them with a few coats of Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground. This stuff is one of my favorite art supplies. It has added a lot of flexibility in the way I can work. Then I just painted over the ground. It has some texture but that is fine by me--probably wouldn't work if it did. If you use it on metal you should sand the surface and rough it up a bit.

I painted this bird on gessoed muslin (before I discovered the Watercolor Ground). It's a fantasy representation of an actual species but now I can't find what it was--pretty sure it was a tropical species. The pinkish paper is beautiful--the surface and color are lovely and the paper has some weight and heft to it. The dye job is superb. I got this from Pulparazzi on etsy in 2012. Wow, somehow I thought I got it a few months ago. My idea of time is rather warped. It looks like she is focusing more on paper goods at present, rather than handmade. She used to have a lot more colors of paper available.

The parrot piece is done is the same sort of media and process.

This is my bird with her colors reversed. It turns out a red version of the African Grey has been selected for and bred. I am not surprised--breeders are always selecting for bizarre and exaggerated traits to create a new version of an animal, whether a dog, cat, horse, or in this case, parrot.

OK I am tired of writing and I am sure most people are bored to death reading about the minutiae of my process!

Cat and birds on wood with paper collage

Friday, April 25, 2014

Selling Locally

Yesterday I took some of my handmade artisan crafts to a local café called The Village Eating House. I only discovered it a few weeks ago and it's actually the closest café hangout for me. The owners, Melanie and Clay Phillips, have created a wonderful little restaurant/coffee house/local food and art shop in a great location. After seeing the fabulous range of handmade items and art for sale, I approached Melanie about featuring my work. She was receptive and professional in her explanation of what is involved and has great suggestions for ways to showcase the whole local artisan scene. Plus she's just very outgoing and cool. The kind of person you instantly feel comfortable with. In the right kind of business, obviously. I haven't eaten much there yet but the coffee is good (and I'm quite a coffee snob!) and the baked goods look fabulous--hearing Melanie describe the French pie they'd made almost destroyed my willpower.
What I took to Village Eatinghouse

Today I went over to the Green Drake in Millheim to peddle my wares. Millheim is another small town that is experiencing a renaissance. Years ago, these towns were actually where people lived, worked, and shopped, so every sort of business existed to fill those needs. Now, sadly, people drive to chain stores and malls and restaurant franchises and supermarkets to buy almost everything. But there's a trend towards appreciating the "live-local" lifestyle and you can see it in the businesses that have sprung up in places that looked like they were either moribund or just another exit off the highway. Karl and I had a great conversation and I'm going to offer some things over there as well. Promoting myself is my least favorite part of being an artist/crafter. I'm sure that's true for a lot of us. But unless you can afford to hire an agent and/or an advertising firm (which sort of nullifies the pleasant idea of making it from the ground up), you've got to get over it and get out there. So I'm trying to do that on all fronts.

And here is a painting I just finished. I'd left it for quite a while and then went back to it.

I found this the other day. People come up with such wonderfully creative ideas. One of the things I like about the internet is that I see and read about a lot of stuff that I'd never discover otherwise.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


I think one of the reasons I felt so swept away by India is the color. I remember landing in New Delhi when I was 19 years old. As I walked into the terminal I looked up to see a crowd of the most colorful people I'd ever seen--many wearing turbans of purple and saffron yellow, women in saris the color of rubies or sapphires or emeralds, the parts of their hair adorned with bright red powder. I could go on and on about how India overloads all the senses, but I'll just stop here and say that my love of color is closely connected to my love of folk art. And that's how I feel I can describe my own art. Sort of naive and colorful, with lots of animals and plants and such.

I just discovered this woman's art, and I am spellbound. Her name is Anna Silvionchik and she is from Belarus.

I love this painting. She works in oils, so she can get great depth in her work. I have used water-soluble oils but I'm sure they're just not the same. My mother worked in oils. I am a very impatient person so I don't know how I would do with something that takes weeks to dry. I would also need to have my studio cat-free. Oil and water don't mix; neither do oil and cats.

Here is another one of my paintings on gessoed muslin; I incorporated this into fiber art, recycling some fabrics from India.

I might fix where it tugs a bit, if I can. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

More Collage

I guess you're supposed to call it "mixed media" now. But I like how the French "collage" rolls off the tongue. Well, maybe collage is something more specific than mixed media. Whatever word you want to use, I have some more work to show. In Tuesday's post I mentioned how I like working this way because I can always fiddle around with the piece if I am less than satisfied with it. I also said I wait for my stuff to grow on me if I'm a little ambivalent about it, but it never does. A case in point--I knew the cat collage needed something--so I added the outline of a Gingko leaf and now I'm happy.

It's been a couple years(?) since I painted this little bird. I went through a phase of painting gesso over muslin and organza and then painting on it with watercolor. I incorporated a couple of these into fiber pieces (hand-sewing through gesso-ed muslin can be an ordeal) but I decided to use this one in a collage with hand-made paper and keep it pretty simple. Again the substrate is a painting I wasn't thrilled about.

Sorry about the slightly kitty-wumpus angle and perspective on the photos depicting the entire piece. I have been using this itty-bitty Canon camera and you have to shoot through this screen so you hold the camera away from your face. I miss my big clunky Canon a lot--it suddenly went dark ("coded," I guess) while I was taking photos in the Smokies. Made me so mad! It was the beginning of the trip and I had to use my phone the rest of the trip. I was at the John C. Campbell Folk School so I needed to be able to take good pictures. I want to get this camera fixed but there's nowhere local except Best Buy. A couple of people told me they won't know what to do, but I'll go over there anyway and see. The point of all this is that I can't take good pictures with this shabby little thing. Shreed loves it--I think because it's so small. So for traveling and such it's good.

I want to share with you a couple of sites I found in my morning trawl through the web. I love the illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger's version of The Wizard of Oz. Sadly it's out of print, but you can't pick it up on Amazon for only $500!

These birds rendered in food are just so fun and original. I never fail to be impressed with what artists come up with.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Brooches from Books

What a cool and original idea! Wish I'd thought of it. Not sure I could disassemble and cut up the books though.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Paint over Paint

I like to recycle or up-cycle materials for my art, including my own stuff! That's one reason I like working with canvases and boards that have a cradled edge (at least an inch, preferably more). I'll paint something or make a collage, and I'll know whether I like it right away, usually. Most of the time if I don't like it I'll just leave it and figure maybe it will grow on me. But it never does. So I'll either add something (harder to subtract) or paint gesso or watercolor ground over it. Or if it's really dark, paste paper down on top of the painting. I love Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground. It can be pretty thick and has some texture (which is good for watercolor) and you can always sand it if it looks rougher than you like. You can use it on any material but if you use it on smooth metal I recommend sanding the metal first to scratch it up a bit. I made some small pieces from Altoid-type tins and through trial and error I figured out that sanding is the way to go.

Anyway, back to paint-overs (or collage-overs).  Here are two pieces I recently finished. The bug idea emerged when I was wondering what to do with the sketch + paint version of the bug I painted on the floor. I liked it so I wanted to use it in some other way. So I grabbed one of my less-than-successful paintings and collaged and painted over it. I like doing this because then you don't have as much art hanging around that you aren't very enthusiastic about.

I did the same thing with the cat piece, which had been a collage I'd done quite a while ago. I liked some things about it but not others. I had used a photo of a bird in the original composition and I decided I didn't like including that kind of image in my work. So I started messing with it. The other thing I like about this process is that it frees me up. Since I'm working over something that I didn't particularly like, I'm not inhibited by the worry that I'm going to "ruin" something. It's just fun. So here they are.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

From Burn Mark to Bug


There are some snazzy looking blogs out there. Mine looks kinda like a 10 year-old created it. Well, maybe not that good... I have blogged before, for several years, actually, but it's been a couple of years since I stopped. I'm still struggling with wrapping text around images! It's somewhat fun to play around--until I get to a bang-head-on-wall stage. The templates are different now and I'm working with some images on PicMonkey. Anyway, this is sort of an "Stay tuned, I'm still on it" post. So I'll post a picture or two! Hope I don't have to spend 45 minutes trying to get the text to wrap...

OK, it doesn't look right. I'll mess with it later. 

The problem illustrated here and its solution resulted from one of my cats knocking an iron (you probably guessed!) off the board. It has an auto shut-off (Praise to whatever you believe in) but it didn't switch off until a nice burn mark appeared on the floor. I was going to have it sanded and repaired, but after thinking for about 20 seconds about the cost, trouble, and likely poor outcome, I decided on a different approach. Hope you like it! I feel better now! My mom used to let us kids draw on the wall and do similar stuff most moms would never allow, then or now, so I thank her for allowing my imagination to flourish :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring Cleaning

I finally gave my studio the clean-up and makeover that were long, long overdue. I'd been getting to the point where I was buying tools I already had because I couldn't find the one I originally bought. Nothing was organized--one table was supposed to be the painting or "wet" table and the other was supposed to be dedicated to sewing. But stuff was strewn everywhere--bits of paper and beads on the sewing table, heaps of thread and scraps on fabric on the paint table. It was utter chaos. 

I'm not one to spend a lot of time cleaning and organizing my space (obviously). I just figure that I have a limited number of hours to live and I'm not going to regret that I didn't spend more of them tidying up my space. But you get to the point where the blasé attitude towards housekeeping becomes a thorny, weedy patch you have to machete through each time you want to work and it's not making you happy nor are you getting anything done. Plus you just feel defeated by the mess and that's hardly inspiring. All that stuff I just said is obvious. I mean, I know it. But it never seemed to be enough to inspire me to do anything about the mess.

Then.... I bought a new sewing machine! It was an impulse purchase (yes, an impulse purchase in the 100s of $). I'd gone to the Lancaster Quilt Show and at one point just needed to sit down and sort through my black hole of a bag for my camera. I asked if I could sit in a chair that I then realized was for people who were trying out sewing machines--it was actually a vendor's area. 

Oh my, was that saleswoman ever smooth, without being slick. She was an expert. And it didn't hurt that she had a Wisconsin accent! So one thing led to another and I bought a Small portable Lotus machine by Elna. My old machine was a college graduation present--a Sears Kenmore I'd had for more than 30 years. It has served me well, but it was time to upgrade. Setting up the lotus in my studio would be like parking a Lamborghini in an outhouse. So I got busy.