Reverting to a comfort zone

I often find myself going backwards more than forwards, particularly in my art journey.  I find that the more I learn new things the more I need to retreat back to older abilities and actions, maybe in an effort to create a resting place?  Maybe it’s a bit like fish traveling upstream who, as they swim often take a break in an eddy here and there, gathering strength for the next big surge up the river.

Apr 6 pear 4

This week was my second week of collage class and I found myself a bit more unsure of collaging than I expected to be, particularly given that I’ve been collaging as “art” for the past five years.  Some of it was just being sure that I had the better item back at home that could have worked in the pieces I was attempting.  Some of it was trying to stretch out a bit more from my norm so that I could really hear and really internalize the lessons Larry was imparting to us.  But I grew frustrated with what I actually did which means I froze a bit in class – and back here at home.

Apr 6 pear2

As you all know, I have LOTS of hobbies that I dabble in.  This week I used water coloring pears as a way to be fruitful (ha, ha) as well as a way to keep making some art in a happy, not frustrated, space.

Apr 6 pear3

The good news for me?  6 months ago, I did not know how to paint these pears so when I needed to have something quick and colorful to work on I had this new skill to revert to.  A year ago, I had not done ANY watercoloring so even though, in a way, I’m backing into a comfortable place, that place was not so comfortable just a short time ago.  Maybe that’s the thing about having so many places that I dabble in – I’ll always have safe places to go when I need a rest!

Apr 6 pear1

Which also helps me be a bit more “zen” about my current frustration with my collage work.  For now, I’m muddling through, trying to make some new skill sets mine, hoping for that next big surge through to a place where working with the collage and seeing the results I envision on the project surface.  Knowing that, a year from now, I’ll look back and wonder what all my fuss was about!

Now am I totally happy with my watercoloring skills?  No – I still have a ways to go in getting the light shine and shadow in the right places and of the right proportions.  I’m a bit nervous about finishing the first panel which will also include a yellow pear next to the green pear.  But I’m willing to jump in and work the problem and try to enjoy myself a bit as I hone the glazing skills that I’ve been learning.  And find the courage to move on to other fruits and vegetables!

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Collage – what does it mean to you?

Merriam Webster tells us, “collage is a work of art that is made by attaching pieces of different materials (such as paper , cloth, or wood) to a flat surface. : the art or method of making collages.

The above is just one of the many, many definitions one can find on the internet.  I had not thought of it before I joined a class  over at the Kirkland Arts Center last week – I’ve had some personal assumptions about what collage means to me.  But wow – there is SO much more!


The class, taught by local artist Larry Calkins, whose collage is above, is the first true art course I’ve taken.  It has a catalog number and everything!  So I was very surprised by how broad and how open Larry is to the definition of collage.  I just assumed that there are some strict “art terms” and “art standards” about line and dimension and relationships of pieces of work on a page.  But I learned that simply by deciding to put a piece down on a page, one is making an artistic decision which is enough in its own sense!

To me, this has been collage:

whisper for EtsyA number of materials from various sources, connected to each other but also interconnected with materials, stamps or paint.  The pieces must interact in some way with each other and if they seem disparate, it is up to the artist to make the connections on the page (this piece is now over on my Etsy site).

According to Larry, this is also collage:

collage 1

Our first lesson was simply to spend time cutting things out of magazines and other sources and then creating works that include first one item, then two, then three on up to eight to fill up our accordion books.  We were to be open to ideas, use all the space and that simply by deciding which items to put down on a page, we were creating relationships between all the items.  Wow.

collage 3

It was really very freeing and interesting that as pieces wanted to work together, different narratives came to mind to match the illustrations.  Easier than I thought it might be, but also hard to let go a bit – as you can see, in my “3″ above, all my collage bits are still touching.  I did not gain the bravery to let them stand alone.

41b8e202086ba2349c5d56de0d3fed41Larry also provided websites to some of his favorite collage artists and man, there is such a variety of work out there!  The above is by Hannah Hoch, a German Dada artist but looks like it could have been made today, doesn’t it?  It also looks like something that I could have learned in my Teesha Moore class which is also intriguing to me – how timeless and contemporary some older work seems to be – and how much some of the contemporary work owes to the past.

The class goes for 6 weeks and this week we will work with a substrate of our choosing while continuing to build our accordion books.  I’m really looking forward to learning more and being a bit more whimsical about how I approach my collage making and my art in general and just overall adding to my skill set, gaining confidence in my ability to tell more stories artistically.  And maybe let my collage bits stand alone…

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What’s inspiring me – March

It’s been a while since I’ve posted but the good news is that I’m almost finished with the project I showed you last time.  I need to work on my speed!  But it’s hard this time of year to focus – there is so much around to see.  The few pretty weather days we’ve had have enticed me outside.

I’m a total sucker for tree blossoms, particularly pretty pink cherry blossoms.  Here in the Pac NW they often come out just as the hard March showers hit so we get a day of blossoms on the tree and days of blossom parts on the ground.  So you can see why I have to stop when I see a pretty tree.

2014 cherry blossoms

I just love the pale pink-into-white blossoms against the old, dark branches – softness and toughness at the same time.  As I go through my photos from years past I see this recurring theme about this time every year – I just can’t stay away from the cherries!  The photo below came from a couple of years ago.

Harbor steps cherry border

We’ve also become home to a flock of what we believe are migrating goldfinches and they’ve been around enough that I had a chance to snap some good photos.  It’s been hard to focus on getting work done when I hear their song – I jump up and go to the window to watch them.  The first day was novel – we believed they were just passing through.  Today is day three and the chickadees are getting a bit tired of the interlopers – but the bright yellow and black against our red crab apple growth is pretty intense.


All of these great shows from nature have my head spinning with ideas of what I’d like to recreate in my art.  I have ideas for watercolor, but not sure I have the tools to execute what my mind sees.  But even if it doesn’t happen this year, I know that as this year goes on I’ll be taking a few more classes here and there, and spending time on practicing my skills, so that maybe next year I can render the kind of homage to Spring that is worthy!

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Loss of Confidence

I could write a number of column inches on loss of confidence – and sometimes have here! But confidence seems to be one of the recurring themes that I use here in my blog simply because I move so easily in and out of it!  Sometimes, like when I’ve been working more, I feel like I’m really getting it.  But stop doing my art work for a while or in the most recent case stop drawing portraits for a while and I lose my ability to effectively put pencil to paper!

Why is it always like this?  Will I never reach a place where I will always feel confident in my abilities?  I think I may get there, but I think as every expert seems to say, you need to keep doing something in order to be good and every time I stop practicing, even for just a few days, I feel like I take giant steps backwards in my abilities!


So I’m trying to do an art piece with a face on it.  Feel like I’ve forgotten everything I’d even done before.  Thought maybe I should try it out in my journal first.  Went back to Pam’s “About Face” videos.  Made some headway, was kind of liking the looks.  Stopped again.

The weekend is coming – I hope to finish her up and move on to other work.  Confidently!



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Life moves pretty fast….

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big fan of the movie, but the quote resonates.  According to Ferris Bueller,  life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t look around once in a while, you could miss it.  It seems to happen to me more and more even now that I’m retired.  I thought things might slow down a bit once I wasn’t getting up everyday and going to work, but seems really like things have sped up instead!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to not be participating in an everyday commute.  But I do sit down many evenings and wonder where has my day gone and what do I have to show for it.

eggs for Etsy

Recently I at least have a few things to show for time passing.  As I think I mentioned here, I wanted to reenergize my Etsy site, and finish a few more pieces and get them posted for sale.  And I’ve done that.  Go ahead, click the button over on the side and you’ll actually go to a site that has a few new pieces!  One has even sold already!  How crazy is that?  And I was approached by the Seattle RAW folks who would like me to become a participating artist on their web site and in their show here in June.

bird for Etsy

So now I have a decision to make – how serious do I want to be?  Do I want to focus on making more art and selling it, which means a commitment, or do I want to continue to dabble as a hobby artist who maybe sells something now and then to clear the floor?  I’m not sure I know the answer to the question and I’m not even sure I know how to evaluate and make a good pro and con list.

Poms for EtsyI have a lot of ideas running through my head for art pieces – problem is, will I be focused enough to sit down and execute enough pieces so that it makes sense to call myself an active artist?  Will I create a body of work so that I have inventory ready for special sales or to show to someone that might be interested in buying a piece of my work?  Summer is coming and I know I want to be out recreating and active – will that leave enough time for me to also be diligent about my artwork?

I’m looking for input – have you faced these same questions before and made a decision?  Have you found a good method to evaluate where you are and where you want to be as an artist?  What did you take into consideration as you made that decision to open an Etsy or other site?  Please feel free to share your decision making process – I’m open to suggestions!


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This week is all about Pears

So one of my goals this year is to have more focus in my work.  I’ve been all over the board with kinds of art I practice and kinds of journals I make as you well know.  I got back in to one of my on-line pear classes – yes, I took two – that I’d not been able to focus on earlier so have spent some time this past week just painting pears.


I’m truly enjoying the work – though I do find that it is a bit of work still as I’m not very good yet with watercolors.  There is a whole art to getting the paint wet enough that it doesn’t just evaporate once it hits the paper!  But from the Jacqueline Newbold class I took last year over on Artful Gathering I also learned a LOT about the color wheel and color mixing so I’m seeing this practice not just about watercolor but also about knowing how to mix all colors better.

yellow pear

The class I’m focusing on now is Pear-ology by Martha Lever over at Creative Workshops, another on line art source for classes.  This one is JUST about pears but has been great at helping me get the light and shadows down a bit more, plus paint some juicy looking pears!

green pear

Am I branching out into fruit scapes?  I don’t think so, but instead am hoping that I’m learning new ways to glaze colors together that might be replicable in my mixed media work.  I often use paints very watered down a la Pam Carriker so I’m thinking that this practice may help that mixed media subtle look I’ve been trying for but not quite making.

background pear

I don’t know about you, but I often look for recipes from my favorite artists about the experiments they’ve done with products and follow their leads from lessons learned.  In this instance, I’m hoping that I do a little experimenting of my own, take some watercolor lessons and experiment with how they translate into working with acrylics.  It’s not something that I usually do – it takes time and since it’s research, it also takes some discipline to note what works and what doesn’t and move forward with baby steps.  But right now, it’s seeming like a fun idea to take some artistic  leaps – I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Take Away Tuesday – a list

As I look around me in my art space, I see things that need to be done and things that are actually coming along nicely, which is great!  I’ve been dabbling in so many new art interests that I’ve had a hard time focusing down on what is working for me, so I thought I would try to evaluate a bit about where I am and share that with you here.


1.  Sometimes, it’s good to just start over.

I ‘ve wanted to reenergize my Etsy shop – get some of my old work out of my space so I could make room for some new – so many ideas running around and not enough room to put them.  But some of my work was just – well – old.  So remembering Lorraine Torrence’s admonition from my fabric design class, that I am in charge of my fabric, I took that further and determined that I am in charge of my art, and if I didn’t like a piece anymore, I could gesso over it.  And that’s what I’ve done.  There are actually two new pieces over in my Etsy shop that used to look very different.  It helped me reenergize to take control of my space and my work.

bird for sale

2.  Sometimes, old is new again

I’ve tried so many new things over the past couple of years, but what I seem to return to again and again is collage.  Mixing things up here and there,  journaling in the background and then painting over it, the layers upon layers of paint, paper and texture remain pleasing.  So I’m honoring that by going back to the beginning and making some more collages.  I continue to have ideas for words floating around my head so maybe back to the real beginning on making my ladies who ponder. Which leads me to:

nose collage

3.  Sometimes, you just need to focus on what’s not working

Like my noses.  As I try to move into drawing more ladies in my work, I realize that I REALLY need to work on my noses!  I thought I had them down, but as I looked through a number of my journals, I realize that the 3/4 nose is JUST not right!  So I need to go back to the tapes on faces again, and practice those noses!


4.  Sometimes, it’s okay to get sidetracked

While I enjoyed working on the twirly swirly journal, I was not sure that it was moving me in the direction I want to go right now.  But since I’ve put that away I’ve had so many ideas for mixed media pieces and journal entries that I’m thinking that maybe that side trip helped get some of the other ideas unloaded from where ever they had been stuck.  I’m also pulling out all the watercolors again, and returning to a class I’ve not yet finished.  While I can’t use watercolor in my collages, the transparency of it can be achieved with light washes of acrylic so I’m trying to remind myself of how to get those lighter washes in order to finish up some of my new pieces.  And the color wheel lessons from both my watercolor classes is really helping me with combining colors.

book collage

5.  Sometimes, a new book will help

Okay, I put that one in just to rationalize a new quilt book and magazine purchases!  But I’m a true believer in looking outward to find new things to motivate.  Color seems to be all around right now and I think we are all craving it so after this crazy winter we’ve had.  While I might not work too much in hot pinks and oranges, I find that the vibrancy of those colors kicks off some creative juice and sends me back to the art table.

And now, it’s probably time for me to get back to working it and not writing about it, so here’s to all of us having happy and productive creative time this week!

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What’s inspiring me this month – February

I’ve not been a real active blogger the past few weeks – creative blocks coupled with a bad chest cold have kept me uninterested and imaginative.  But I’m starting to breathe again, both figuratively and literally, and decided to take a bit of time to share with you some of the things that I keep on my virtual inspiration board, because who among us doesn’t need a boost now and then?

paintEvidently our new colors for the year are to be violet based.  While I’m not a big fan, I just LOVE this Sherwin Williams photo that shows the colors and their floral inspirations.  Holly Becker showed this over on her Decor8 web site and I just keep returning to this photo….something about the juxtaposition of the paint cans over each other – the circles intersecting circles seems really pleasing to my eye.  I’m envisioning more of this circle action coming soon in my art.

factory NY timesA few weeks ago in the New York Times they ran an article about US-based textile factories  called Fruits of the Loom.  This photo really took my eye – for those you you following me this year, you may note that it has the same old aqua look that is in the door that inspired my Kaffe Fassett quilt last fall.  I’m a sucker for old industrial but the old industrial and the bright colors together just really push this photo into the “art” category for me.

typewriter for blogSpeaking of old industrial, how about this hot pink Olivetti typewriter?  I found some great machines over on Etsy at this store in particular, El Granero.  They refurbish old manual typewriters and paint them insanely beautiful colors.  This hot pink Olivetti and another pink Olympia stole my heart, but alas, though reasonably priced, they were a bit out of my range.  I do love to look at them, though, and their design that came from early 60s.  I’ve always enjoyed industrial design – don’t know why – and continue to be drawn to old utilitarian pieces that have a sense of self as well as usefulness.  I love all my new Apple products and their ease of use, but there is something magical about some of their forbears as well.

leslieshewringheart for blog

Since its February, I certainly can’t pass up this heart designed of thread spools – isn’t it cool?  The very inventive Leslie Shewring of A Creative Mint, and soon to be released new flower arranging book with Holly Becker,  designed and photographed this last year, but I still just love it - don’t you?  Again, the individual utilitarian spools might be seen as ordinary tools, yet when combined with others, they turn into art.  Something about the various shapes and shades drawn into this universal shape of love is very pleasing, don’t you think?
colors from NepalAnd finally – just color!  Color is inspiring me!  I think this photo also came from the New York Times, but it could have come from my camera from our trip to Nepal.  Everywhere on the street one could find vendors selling pans full of bright colors, for people to use in making their own personal mandalas in their homes and on the street.  There is just something so special about pure color, I return to this photo again and again.  The color seems so magical and special piled into little mountains in humble aluminum plates.

I hope that you enjoyed this little look into what is inspiring me.  I find that somedays I can walk and see nothing new or interesting and other days I see fascinating new ways of using color in totally new ways all around me – do you do that too?  I am trying to remember these ideas as I address the work on my art table and as I look around my home for ways to create new and interesting vignettes that can delight us through a season while offering memories of places we’ve been and things we’ve seen.

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Its official – I’m a flake!

I’ve been really trying to make it work – focusing on one project from a class I took over a year ago with the intent of completing it.  Using a little notebook to keep track of ideas I had for other projects while working on this project, so I wouldn’t lose them.  It seemed to be going pretty well but I just got so tired of the “noise” that was being created in my head from the mess I was creating as I tried to make pretty twirly swirly pieces and patterns on my pages!

finished twirl

Truth is, focusing on my twirly swirly journal has been fun – for a while.  The mess however just got to be too overwhelming!  I think maybe I was meant to do a lot of cutting and pasting for the covers and the pages were supposed to be less involved?  I’m not sure, but when it finally came down to it, I’ve been liking the pages but not coming up with anything to write down.  That, and the mess, brought this experiment to a halt.

finished woman

I really like the look of Ingrid’s journals – I really like the pages I’ve created so far.  But I can’t think of anything to write on them, and the not writing is stopping me from moving forward from one page spread to the next.  And there is JUST so much of a mess I can’t think straight.  And since the process seems to be sending me around in circles instead of firing up the creative ideas, it has to come to a stop.

Not that I haven’t learned something – I’ve learned that I’m really bad at finishing things.  Okay, bad example – I know I’m not that good at finishing, but I’m trying to get better!!!  I have learned a bit about what I like to do and how I like to work, though, and that is good information as I move through and onto other projects.

This project proved to be extremely time consuming!  As I worked through making the paper from pieces and then cutting out the swirls and then gluing them down and then trying to make the designs, hours would go by!  And I was only on one page spread!  While this has been fun, and I look forward to working it through eventually, I just felt like I’d spent way too much time for not a lot of result.  A better woman than I might have continued on but I had to just clean it all up and move onto something else.

1st journal page

What this project seems to have done is release some other art and journaling ideas that I hope to share with you here in the next few weeks.  A few of the things I’ve been up to since I’ve packaged up the Twirly Swirly for another time:

1.  Finished two journal pages that have been undone for about 6 months (you saw one in my last post);

2.  Started and finished a piece of art for my step-son Will using a board he gave me in September;


3.  Watched Art Journaling Live from Interweave and made two journal pages from Pam’s video;

journal page for blog

4.  Re-painted my art space furniture to that nice aqua color that matches my street found chair (the other color was just not helping my artiness….); AND

5.  Started on what might be my first piece of art for my Etsy shop.

In the meantime I came down with that cold that seems to be going around so I slowed down a bit, but I’m feeling more connected to my space, returning to the work and processes that I like to do and thinking of ways to push my learning while enjoying dabbling in art.  With a bit of refocusing, I seem to have found the pleasure in making things again – and in finishing them!


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Its good to clean up now and then

Particularly when it comes to my craft areas.  I’m making a terrible mess right now as I work my way through my twirly swirly journal.  I’m also making a mess of my computer. I’m taking photos of my progress to share with you all here but in order to share them, I need to reduce them down, so then I end up with two of everything and many are not even worth keeping once, let alone twice!  But it means that now and then I have to take some time to clean up my photo files since I can’t seem to find anything.


The good news is that walking through my files reminds me of some of the art I’ve done, some of the pieces that I liked better and some of the processes that I used and maybe should revisit.  The other good news – looking at the photos reminds me of the materials I have to use in making my art.  The bad news?   I have no idea where I’ve stashed the pink postage stamps that I bought!  I think they went with me to Cleveland, but I don’t know where they are now.  So you can bet that I’ll be taking some time to look through everything to try to locate them.  I like using postage stamps in collage and now I remember that I have a whole slew of them – somewhere.

The cleaning up also means that I am looking through old journals and realizing that many pages remain in an “unfinished” state so today I took some time to finish one up.  I’ve been watching videos on-line and being reminded of all the colors that I made late last year and put in dauber bottles, so just got up the gumption to finish this one.  I’m getting more comfortable with letting journal pages be journal pages, writing instructions or notes on the page to remind me of what I’m doing.  I’ve so often used the pages to be the “finished” pieces of art that they didn’t serve their purpose,  so in this new year I’m trying to let them be the teaching pieces that they can be, and then taking the lessons I learn forward to the canvas.  We’ll see how I do.  For now, a finished journal page.

painted journal

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