Let’s Try This Again, Part III

Bit by bit I’m moving along on this painting. I’m loving it, but my little one has decided naps are for chumps so I’m not getting to work on it much. That’s ok. Next week she starts pre-school so I’m trying to soak up every sweet, frustrating, fun, non-work productive, bonding, silly, frivolous, educational, and mundane moment with her. I have the rest of my life to work. Here and there, though, I have made some progress on it.

Last post I showed you my rub-out underpainting:

Now for the fun part- color! Here’s what I’ve done so far, plus a couple of detail shots.

Don’t you love skin tones? Look at all the colors in there- greens, pinks, violets- and I can promise you there’s not a bit of pre-mixed “Caucasian Flesh Tone” on my palette. Where would be the fun in that?


Ok. Let’s try this again

A while ago I showed you this in-progress picture:



with the promise that you would see it transform along the way into a finished painting. I lied. I didn’t mean to! Sometimes I just can’t finish a painting. There’s certainly something to be said for committing to a project; working until your idea comes to fruition; pressing on until the bitter end. But there’s also something to be said for stopping when you realize that what you’re working on just isn’t “you” anymore. That is not to say the same attitude should apply to every situation that bores you, or even to every painting, but of all the commitments you could flake on in life this is one case where the earth will not shatter, hearts will not break, and jobs will not be lost (unless, of course, it’s a commission- which this was not so I’m free to do what I want. So there!).

Now, let’s try this again with a painting I know I’ll finish- in part because I’m much more more in love with the subject matter. A portrait of my daily life.

To start I did a value study:


Value study on Ampersand Oil Paper, 6″x8″

A quick laying down of the lights and darks of my composition. This is done on a small scale (in proportion to the size and shape of the finished painting) quickly and loosely, with no gridding, no drawing, and no blending. The purpose of this step is just to help you check the balance of lights and darks in your painting. For example, this composition stands alone because it is primarily dark with a bright white center of interest. When paintings edge too much toward mid-range in value, they get dull no matter what your colors or subject. Value studies are helpful, though because you don’t get distracted by the pretty colors or elaborate patterns and you can really see the bones of the picture. So far, so good. And I’m not a bit bored.





Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter…


Molly's Tree- pen and ink doodle

Molly’s Tree- pen and ink doodle

There’s a certain pleasant tension, a pressure of life that’s seems palpable in Spring. Moist air weighs on tender new grass, which in turn stretches up toward the sun. Buds push their way through branches’ fingertips and unfurl into fleshy leaves. Tulips and daffodils press their way upward through soft, fresh dirt. It feels like all of nature is pulsing. Can you feel it? Whether you realize it or not I bet you can. Is your step just a little lighter? Do you long to shed un-needed layers, whether of clothing, flesh, or sadness? It’s Spring. Get outside and soak it in.

Daffodils- watercolor sketch

Daffodils- watercolor sketch

Violets- watercolor sketch

Violets- watercolor sketch

An Homage

Those of you who have been following me for a long time may remember a post that I wrote on my former, blogspot blog. The post was entitled “Pockets of Joy” (click to read it). It was a sad post, and a happy post – A post in mourning of my dear dog Shag (aka The Shagster) who had recently died.

Now, around a year after the anniversary of his death, I painted his portrait. It was therapeutic and a celebration of the best dog ever. I present to you, The Shagster:

"The Shagster" Oil on linen

“The Shagster” Oil on linen

April Fool’s Tradition

My cousin Chloee (really she’s more like an aunt to me) started a tradition years ago. She spends all year searching for a recipe with a crazy, unexpected ingredient. Then, she bakes up these unusual goodies and sends them out to family members, always timing it so that they arrive on April Fool’s Day, and challenges us to guess the secret ingredient. IMG_1222

These are not mean April Fool’s pranks… oh no! These are delightful. They’re always delicious, despite (or because of?) ingredients that may not otherwise seem very appetizing. Pinto beans in your muffins? Velveeta in your brownies? Rose petals in your cookies? Hey, don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.


So, this year when I received my April Fool’s treats, I couldn’t wait to open the box. Tiny muffins awaited me. I looked carefully. Hmm… green slivers. I sniffed. A hint of citrus. I took a tiny nibble and held it on my tongue. IMG_1223

Nutmeg, maybe…not too surprising. What else? Pecans? That’s not unusual either. Orange peel. Delicious, but not weird enough. What was that green? Zucchini? Not broccoli… chives maybe? Wheatgrass. Finally I settled on chives. There was a slightly herbal taste. I peeled back the label on the back of Chloee’s note, beneath which she had hidden the answer. Asparagus!? I don’t even like asparagus. But I like these muffins! Just goes to show, you never can tell.


What I love about this tradition isn’t just the fun of it, or the craziness of it, or the effort Chloee puts into finding recipes and making sure they get here on just the right day. It’s the attention it requires on my part. It’s permission to take my time and notice every subtle detail of my food from the smell to the texture to the nuances of flavor. It’s the reminder to savor and enjoy.

“Wasted” Day

The day did not look promising.

Mother’s Day Out (along with all other schools) had been needlessly cancelled due to the threat of “inclement weather,” which in the end, presented itself only in dreary rain. I had a to-do list a mile-and-a-half long, restless energy, and a two-year-old who wouldn’t even let me check my email without destroying things in a bid for my attention. Frustrated and focused on “not wasting the day,” I buzzed around her, attempting to check items off my list, snapping and sighing in annoyance. And then little arms wrapped themselves around my legs. And then a little voice said, “Mommy, can you hold me?” And then I got smart and stopped wasting my day.

Instead we snuggled up on the couch and watched a movie. We made a dozen marker drawings.We used up all her finger paints and created a mural on the wall of the bathtub. Then we rinsed it away and used up some fancy bath gels I was saving for a rainy day (What better opportunity?) and splashed around in the foam.

And the wasted day became a success.

It’s all about balance… well, mostly

ImageArt is a pretty sedentary activity. Luckily my other love is exercise of many different forms. One of my favorites- yoga. Often times during the relaxation period at the end of class when my thoughts are flowing gently ideas are formed, solutions uncovered, connections made. This morning, however, my revelation came during a balance pose. Having a revelation during a balance pose, by the way, can make you topple, so I gently tucked in the back of my brain to ponder over later. Now is later.

Imagine this: You’re trying a pose that seems unfamiliar, unnatural- say, for example, something on one foot (or in this case, on your head). You wobble, you teeter. Then what do you do? You laugh self-consciously or panic, you scrunch up, you shrink in, you become smaller. Do that, however, and you most assuredly will fall. However, if you keep your poise, lift up, expand with control, stretch out and grow you have a much better chance at success.

It seems to me that the same thing happens when we meet challenges or unfamiliar territory (or even just awkward situations) in life. If we become self-conscious, fearful of failure, insecure, and shrink into our small, seemingly safe little box, we most assuredly lose our balance. Instead, expand with control (“with control” being the optimum phrase here). Stretch. Be strong and test your limits. You still may fall, but I can almost guarantee it will be with more grace. And if you don’t fall? Congrats.

I’m not writing this from a position of authority. I’m really writing this TO myself. This is my challenge for myself in the upcoming year- to live expansively, generously, openly, un-self-consciously, without fear and shrinking… and if I fall, to fall with grace, then get back up and try again.