December tidbits

Last night I attended my annual book group Christmas party.  Everyone brings a wrapped book, (and a bottle of wine) and we play that game in which each person in turn can open a book or steal a book.  It is great fun.  Here are all the books opened at last night's celebration, several of which are already on the queue for 2012.


And here's a particularly cute photo of my particularly cute cat, Jolene.  She is irresistible and often hides herself away to avoid my clutches. But she can't hide from me for long.

And here is my constant 'note to self' during this busy, hectic month.



Happy December first!  Advent began last Sunday, so I have decided to share proofs of the prints I created for this season of 'expectant waiting.'  These images were created for the four Sundays of Advent and are based on scripture readings for each of those Sundays.  I enjoy Advent with the darkening days and the anticipation and preparation that consumes them. 


Yay for pie!

It has been another week of working diligently on my series of prints for Advent.  Having not worked with linoleum in quite some time, I've had to do a bit of relearning.   The first block was begun again after proofing.  Same with the second.  Now on the third image, I feel like I'm finally getting the 'hang' of linoleum once again. I'll share images later.
Now, I'll take a bit of break to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends and hopefully, lots of pie.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!


A difficult balance

In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield discusses the difference between an amateur artist  and a professional artist.  To quote Mr. Pressfield, "The amateur plays part-time, the professional full-time.  The amateur is a weekend warrior,  The professional is there seven days a week."  Unfortunately,  I am not in a position to abandon my day job,and yet, I'd like to think of myself as a professional.  I've tried very hard over the years to put into practice the behaviors Mr. Pressfield's proposes...with varying success.   And, this week I achieved my constant goal of getting some studio time in every day! What a productive week!  My list of accomplishments includes: riding the learning curve of my new Epson printer, daily sketching and working on a suite of prints for Advent.  It feels good to be creative every day.  On the flip side, with all that studio time, my house is a mess, there is a mountain of laundry in my hamper, and my refrigerator is empty, (tonight I had a single boiled potato and a piece of peanut butter bread for dinner).  Mr. Pressfield also writes that a professional will not tolerate disorder, must eliminate chaos by keeping the carpet vacuumed and the threshold swept so that "the Muse may enter and not soil her gown."  Hmmm, Mr. Pressfield must have a wife.


Highly recommended

This morning I finished The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  I've read it before and I will certainly read it again.  It's a kick in the pants in less than 200 pages and on my 'highly recommended' list.


Hello again.

Here we are at the end of October, and what a month it has been.  Along with car wrecks and other misadventures I traveled a bit; locally and out of state to visit my folks and family.  I feel lucky in that I adore my family; six siblings and we all like each other, each other's spouses, kids, and kids of kids!  My folks are still alive and kickin' but as time goes on, getting back there to help them out has become more important.  There are a couple of activities that have become somewhat traditional when I visit home, one is going to the YMCA for a work out with my 86 year old father, and the other is a visit to The Flint Institute of Arts.  In spite of its dismal economy, crime and bad press, Flint has a lovely cultural center and art museum.  An impressive and growing collection, (their most recent acquisition is a large bronze by Deborah Butterfield) classes, educational programs and interesting exhibitions all help to make it lively, robust and worth visiting frequently.  One of the current exhibits, and the one we went specifically to see is: Quilting Traditions: The Art of Amish Quilts.  While I usually prefer the crazy, asymmetrical, Gee's Bend type of quilting, after our visit, I have a whole new appreciation for the precision, limited palette and artistry with which the women of this austere community created these functional pieces of art.  I've often viewed quilting as subversive, one of few ways in which women, over time, have been able to express themselves, their beliefs and (sometimes radical) ideas, so when I viewed this beautiful collection of quilts, I couldn't help but wonder if some of them, with their bright colors, intricate stitching and sophisticated design, (and especially the one where the artist actually stitched her name on the quilt!) were the creations of rebellious, expressive women, responding to the limitations of their existence.

The Ruth Mott Gallery is my  favorite gallery at The Flint Institute of Arts.  Each time I visit I return to this gallery of American primitive paintings to see the two pieces below specifically. (I snapped these photos with my phone so forgive the quality, please.)

 Humming Bird, Red Bird, Baltimore Bird, Robbin, Flicker, Blue Bird attributed to Thomas Coke Ruckle, 1842

The Fowler Children artist unknown, 1854

Regrettably, I spent very little time in my studio, or with my sketch book, during the month of October.  sigh.   But I have just been asked to create a series of prints for the upcoming season of Advent.  Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation.  As we head into these darkest days of the year, a bit of focus and  preparation sounds good to me.  Perhaps I can channel the concentration and industry of those Amish women and create something lovely.


Every path has its puddles

In recent days my life has taken on similarities to a Bible story, an Oprah-picked novel or a Road Runner cartoon.  Traffic mishaps, a catastrophic mechanical failure with my hybrid car, and a small health scare to be precise.  It seemed that just when I thought  the worst of times had ended, and life was maybe returning to normal, I was blindsided by another encounter with fate. I always thought these sort of events happened in threes.  Well apparently my friends, they happen in fours as well.  Let's hope they don't happen in fives, and be careful out there!


A day of rest

Confession:  As my fingers are plunking out this entry, it is late Sunday afternoon and I am still in my pajamas.  I've had a delightful day...Over two big, strong cups of coffee, I read the Sunday paper; I had a long overdue phone conversation with my cousin; a friend stopped by to gossip visit; got a little work done; spent sometime playing in my studio with carbon black, q-tips and water color.  When I'm done here I am going to pour myself a glass of wine and attempt a skype session with a dear friend.  If that doesn't work I'll look for some Law & Order reruns or curl up with a book.  My wish is that everyone reading this has enjoyed their Sunday as much as I've enjoyed mine.
Do you remember the time you painted freckles on my nose?



I'm in the exhibit, and on the postcard.  yay!


Free the sister wives!

Yesterday I finished reading, for the second time, Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer.  I very rarely read books twice, but 'Banner' was this month's selection for my new book club. I won't even attempt to write a review of this book or put to words the frustration and anger I felt reading it both times.  The violence, abuse, oppression, and corruption, apparently inherent in the fundamentalist faction of the Mormon church is appalling.  But, aren't those elements a part of every fundamentalist faction of every religion?  Honestly, I think a lot of people have stopped asking themselves, what would Jesus, or Muhammad, or Buddha, or Krishna, or Zeus, do?  Well, I think Zeus was kind of mean, throwing those lightning bolts and doing all that seducing, (maybe he was related to Joseph Smith?) so we can remove him from the list.
I will now permanently retire Mr. Krakauer's tome to my bookshelf and turn my attention toward some light fiction.



When I added the polka-dots to this little sketch I had a Ratatouille moment.  You remember the scene: Anton Ego, the food critic, tastes Remy's (the rat-chef extraordinaire) ratatouille and is instantly swept back into an endearing childhood memory.  I chuckled viewing that scene, but in a bittersweet kind of way, because, haven't we all seen or heard or smelled something and done a little time traveling?   Like today with my sketch...after adding the polka-dots I was transported to the davenport (which is what my mom called the couch) in the family room of the house where I grew up, my little legs not yet reaching the floor, with a book on my lap.  The book was full of big, friendly creatures and every creature, as I recall, was covered with bold, brightly colored polka-dots. I poured over this book as a kid, (along with Go Dog Go, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back) and attribute it for my love of polka-dots all these years later, but, for the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the book!  I will likely be thinking about this all day.  But, if anyone who happens to read this blog, happens to recall this book, please drop me a line.


Mr. Thoreau says:

"An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day."  I wholeheartedly agree. There is a 3+ mile route, close to home, that I walk frequently.  The route takes me through a suburban neighborhood, around a lake, along a busy thoroughfare, down a road, (which I'm sure was once considered, "the boondocks") and back home again.  Sometimes I take this walk with my friend and neighbor. We chat and gossip for the entire 3+ miles and it's better than therapy.  Sometimes I take this walk alone and use the time to sort through my mental inbox, to shake off pent up anxieties, and on a good day, to notice and enjoy the sights and sounds this walk provides, day after day, season after season, year after year.  Late summer is perhaps my favorite time to take this walk, especially at the blush of dawn, when the air is cool and the morning commute is not yet in full swing.  On occasion I snap a photo or two with my phone.  What follows are sights I've happened to notice lately.

One of many, very friendly cats.

 Two, always hungry, horses.

 A border of flowers that arches over my path.

 Preparations for winter.
An area of aviaries.

Studio update:
My once tidy studio is presently a jumble of sketches and books and pens and pencils.  I'm working on ideas for what may turn out to be a series of prints.  It's been a while since I've thrown an idea at the wall and had it stick, so I'm intrigued and excited.  And that's all I'm going to say for while I'm not superstitious, I don't want to jinx myself.


Art speak

While strolling through Seattle on Saturday afternoon, I snapped a few photos with my phone.  This one strikes me as the most interesting and it allows me to use an art word.   Doesn't Deborah Butterfield's impressive piece, Ke'oke'o, provide an interesting juxtaposition to the urban landscape?


Back in the saddle

August has ended and with it my month-long foray into the land of home improvement.  I am happy to report that I finished all the projects on my list, and then some. But, as it is with most home projects, when one is complete, another two or three appear.  Surely every homeowner has had the following experience: with a fresh coat of paint on the walls, the woodwork suddenly looks more scuffed and scraped then ever. An afternoon of touching up the woodwork and  the carpeting reveals itself as the shabby, threadbare wall-to-wall covering it really is....and so on, and so on, and so on.  Therefore, while my month dedicated to improving my property has ended, my to-do list is longer than ever.  Sigh.
In spite of the many hours I devoted to painting and caulking and purging and organizing, August was not a month devoid of art.  Mid-month I traveled to the Bay Area to visit some of the people I love most in the world and in my short time there visited several galleries and museums.  One highlight was visiting Crown Point Press.  I roamed through their summer exhibition which included some lovely prints, but not one by Jockum Nordstrom, who currently is one of my favorite artists.  Seeing me peruse a book of his work, the bookstore clerk invited me to look at the prints JN and his wife, Karin Mama Andersson made during their recent residency at Crown Point Press.  I'm sure I gushed and drooled upon seeing their lovely collaborative pieces. Other interesting exhibits viewed in SF were an exhibit of traditional and contemporary Korean wrapping cloths, called Bojagi, at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art and at the Cartoon Art Museum, items from the movie HOWL and a collection of Archie comics, (as a kid I loved Archie comics perhaps more than I loved The Fantastic Four).
Having spent a month away from any serious art making I am equal parts excited to get back to work and fearful.  I worry...what if I've completely lost my momentum? ...what if I've forgotten how to draw, carve, print?  To ease myself back into my studio practice I spent today roaming through the Seattle Art Museum and various local galleries.  I saw many inspiring and interesting exhibits, including the  exquisite paper cuts by Qiao Xiaoguang  at The Cullom Gallery.

from The City Series, by Qiao Xiaoguang

Having spent the day looking at art and roaming the streets of Seattle, (on what was a beautiful day) I returned home and bravely picked up my sketchbook.  Tomorrow I will enter my clean and tidy studio, (another of my August chores) and get back to work, in earnest.


Bedroom painted, check... bathroom painted, check...

I am slowing checking things off the Great-August-Spruce-Up to do list.  Last week I finally settled on a color for my powder room, painted two thick, juicy coats of paint on the walls and am quite pleased with the outcome.  Painting the laundry room was not on my list, but happily, one of the rejected colors from the powder room project looks quite nice in there, so that room received some fresh paint as well.  I will now take a short break from this flurry of domestic updating to pay a visit to dear family in the bay area.  When I return, it's on to my grout-and-caulk project.  Carry on!

Below are a few experiments from the workshop I am taking this summer.  Each week my classmates and I play with various ideas and materials, be it type, line, or color.  I'm not sure, but I think eventually we will bind these 'experiments' into a book.

Reversible Flower 1

 Reversible Flower 2

 Typeface Grl

Paint chip Grl


Home Improvements?

I thought I would spend the month of August doing a little sprucing-up around the house.   Last week I slapped a fresh coat of paint in my son's bedroom, felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and eagerly turned to the next project on my list, updating the paint in my little powder room.  After three trips to the paint store and the application of two very different colors of paint, I am still unhappy with the results.  Tomorrow I will try color number three.  Looking on the bright side, there are still three weeks left in August, (plenty of time to settle on a color, no?) and I have a pile of paint chips, in a rainbow of colors, I can use in my sketchbook!


Activites list...

Or, how I'm spending the summer of 2011
1.   Day job
2.   Cat sitting
3.   Watching the weather for cycling opportunities
4.   Remaining painfully pale
5.   Grumbling about the weather
6.   Taking a 'creativity' class which is reminding me just how rigid and uptight i can be
7.   Art stuff: finishing most recent print, (see below), tossing my hat into several upcoming juried exhibits
8.   Grumbling about the weather
9.   Trying to decide on a color to paint my bathroom
10. Wondering what will happen on August 2
11. Enjoying a weekly delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables from the other (and more sunny) side of the state
12. Grumbling about the weather

 Conjoined II
(based on the writings of Joseph Joubert )
Woodblock Relief Print
17.5" x 18"
2 blocks, 8 colors, 11 passes

No sketches to share at this time. For shame!!!


"This concerns me..."

That quote's from Project Runway's Tim Gunn.  I've been imagining a little Tim sitting on my shoulder for the past few days. Last week I ran into a major technical problem with my current print...dents in my beautiful piece of shina plywood created by a flaw in my press-board!  Unfortunately, I didn't discover the problem until the third run of color.  By then, quite a bit of damage had been done.  For several reasons, starting over isn't an option, so the little imaginary Tim sitting on my shoulder has been whispering another of his famous lines in my ear: "make it work!"   After a bit of kvetching and ruminating I adjusted my expectations along with a bit of the composition.  While it isn't perfect, I am beyond wanting to toss block and prints out the window.  The picture below isn't the finest quality but you can see the problem spot right there in the upper right quarter.  Hopefully the remaining tricks up my sleeve will be distracting enough to offset the current imperfection, and will earn me a delightful, "carry on!" from my little imaginary Tim.

 6 colors and 8 runs through the far

And here is this week's sketch...
Limited power


Tidbit from the Sunday paper

Perusing the Sunday paper, I came across a review of a new book: The Story of Charlotte's Web: E.B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic. (you can read said article here).  Apparently, Mr. White was a shy, solitary boy who felt a great kinship to animals.  I love animals too, but can say without hesitation that spiders are the creatures for which I hold the least affection.  This presents a conundrum of sorts in that Charlotte's Web is the book I've read the most times in my life.  And my favorite character in the book was not Wilbur, or Fern, or Templeton, but Charlotte. As a child I loved her intelligence, her kindness, her patience.  I cried when she died and was touched when her little babies floated away on what I imagined were parachutes and I still think of her when I come across a web full of teeny-tiny baby spiders.  But, in all honestly, if I came across Charlotte in my home, it wouldn't matter what message she may have woven into her elegant web.  Just the sight of her eight legs  would make my skin crawl and send me running in for my spider-catcher. What is my spider-catcher you ask?  It's an ingenious contraption I invented myself, comprised of a Glad Ware bowl and an oversize postcard.  I am able to remain an arm's length away from any spider that dares to enter my living space, drop the bowl on top of him or her, and then slide the postcard under the bowl effectively trapping the arachnid .  I then toss the entire unit into the great outdoors, which is where all spiders belong.  When I am sure the critter has scuttled away I retrieve my spider catcher and breathe a big sigh of relief.

ANYWAY, the article got me's fascinating and interesting to me how we humans are able to simultaneously feel such contradictory emotions. 

It's been a slow week in my studio and I've spent very little time with my sketchbook.  The weather has been relatively decent and after such a miserable spring I simply cannot pass up any opportunity to be outside, even if I do have to share space with spiders.  Here's a meager sketch and my current print, pass number two. I plan to forgo Independence Day celebrations and spend the day hunkered down in my studio, (although, if this year is anything like last year, my neighbors will put on a display of illegal fireworks that will rival any organized spectacle, which includes an element of danger in that I have a cedar roof.)

 "When you go in search of honey you must expect to be stung by bees."  
(I can't believe I dated this sketch September 30, 2011.)
...a wise saying by Joseph Joubert, whose wisdom has also inspired the print I am currently working on.  The image is slowly becoming clearer, no?


I caught a bug.

Last week, while perusing the internet looking at art, my home computer contracted a nasty, nasty virus.  Thank goodness I have a lovely neighbor who is also well versed in geek matters.  She worked with me for several evenings to decontaminate my poor PC, which is not quite, but mostly, back to normal.  Seriously, I am so grateful to my friend and neighbor for helping me through this ordeal!  If it weren't for her, my computer would have been tossed from a window.  But, after this most frustrating of calamities,  I find myself hesitant to venture out on to the web in search of information and inspiration. I fear I must return to the old fashioned methods I once employed to seek enlightenment and revelation...visiting the library, perusing the shelves of book stores, reading books, touring art museums...hey, that sounds like fun.
I began a new print over the weekend.  Would you like to take a guess as to what it will turn out to be? 

I love starting a new piece!  I've said this before, and it's still true:  to me, starting a new piece feels a lot like falling in love.  And here is sketch number 32 for 2011.  What, no sticky notes?  They're there, but they're white. 


This year, last year and the year before that.

The dust is beginning to settle around me.  For the past several days I've been consumed in a frenzy of reorganizing.  My house, my office, my studio, nothing has gone untouched.  Earlier today it occurred to me that last year, right about this time, I was also in a domestic groove.  At first I thought it might be a pattern of behavior, so I looked through the archives of this blog.  In doing so I discovered that two years ago at this time, I was in Florence, Italy.   Then I got depressed.   Assembling metal shelves and loading them up with dusty boxes full of stuff gleaned from my children's rooms is just not the same as roaming down medieval streets, considering the works of Giotto, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Bernini, etc., or consuming the most excellent pizza EVER.  So maybe the household hysteria in which I've engaged, this June and last, has been a convenient, if not productive way to avoid a maudlin stroll down memory lane. It's nice to have my yard in order and dozens of boxes aligned neatly on my newly assembled shelves, but I'd really rather be in Italy.

Some of my fellow travelers and me, enjoying the chapels of  the Basilica of Santa Croce
Florence, Italy, 2009

In between shuttling boxes and moving furniture I was able to finish my print for the SPA Print Exchange.  I am satisfied with the result.

Conjoined I
Wood block print
11" x 15"
2 blocks, 6 colors, 6 passes

Unfortunately, I didn't get much time with my sketchbook this week. So in honor of all dad's everywhere, I'm re-posting this sketch of my dad; an interpretation of his graduation photo.

Richard H. Best ~ Flint Central High School, Class of 1943
Best Dad EVER


I was trying to daydream but my mind kept wandering...

Another scattered week has passed.  Sometimes my cousin and I joke about contracting adult onset ADD, but I sometimes I'm not joking.  It often feels like I am too busy, and wearing too many hats for the small sphere that is my life.  I'm suddenly reminded of this book from my childhood!

It was one of Captain Kangaroo's read-aloud favorites.  (Having just spent a few minutes reading the Wikipedia entry on Captain Kangaroo I am further reminded of Mr. Green Jeans, Mr. Bunny Rabbit, Mr. Moose!)

See what I mean?  Scattered, distracted, prone to flights of fancy, that's me.  Perhaps this is due to a sort of mania that can accompany the long summer days in the northwest, (over 15 hours of daylight today! sunset at 9:07 p.m.!) or maybe it's the fuzzy thinking that comes to women of a certain age...walking into a room to get the car keys and 30 minutes later three bookshelves have been straightened and the sink has been scoured, but I'm going to be late to work.  Again.   At times I am able to hyper focus, (which I have learned is a paradoxical ADD ability).  This usually occurs for me, typically, when working in my studio.  At those times the cats go hungry, the mail piles up, I live on coffee and pita chips and wear my pajamas all day.  (I'm just kidding about not feeding my cats.  I love my cats.  This week was Henry's first birthday!).  Yesterday, my hyper-focusing ability allowed me to accomplish  a bit on the print I'm working on for the upcoming print exchange.  So far, so good.

print, carve, print, carve, print

And my sketchbook and sticky notes have always provided ample opportunities for me to while-away the time that could be spent dusting, paying bills, making a hot meal for myself, or trying to figure out why my sketch postings of late tend to look blurry, (see below).

That's my week in a nutshell. (Having just spent reading the Wikipedia entry on nutshells I have learned that walnut shells can be used for cleaning and polishing, as a filler in dynamite, and as a thickening agent in paint!)


In search of sunglasses...

The sun is pouring through my windows and the out of doors beckons!  Spring in the northwest has been quite dismal this year.  Lots of rain and skies grayer than usual.  Last night water was overflowing from my gutters and I felt sure they were clogged with last autumn's leaves.  Upon inspection early this morning I discovered they were clear which simply confirms how much water was pouring from the heavens.  But back to the present...the forecast is for sun and warm temps all weekend!  So I am putting all work aside and plan to spend the next two days soaking up copious amounts of Vitamin D.  I've made a small start on my current print; one very uneven run through the press.  I'll get back to work on Sunday and hope to have more to show for myself early next week.

 And here is this week's sketch, inspired by my longing for sun filtering through fresh spring leaves. sigh.

To all who are currently experiencing mother nature's gentler side, enjoy.  To those who are not so fortunate, my thoughts are with you.  Happy weekend.


Happy June

The kind of June first I wished for.


It still has that "new" smell

The walls are up, the plumbing is installed, it's just in need of some finished carpentry, but my new website is online!  (Try as I might I cannot figure out how to take a screenshot of the homepage to post here, but if you wish to have a look, the link to the right of this post should take you there.  Or you can click this link.)  Just like peeling, sunburned skin, I can't stop picking at it. But I must say, I enjoy the fact that I can pick at it, moving this picture there, adding a little more info there.  All that to say, it's a work in progress, an obsession almost, and if you ever visit again, the site may look drastically different.  Or maybe not.
Here's is this week's sketch.  In recent days I've  become quite obsessed with sticky notes, and really wish I'd purchased some 3m stock when I had the chance.


Change is (not always) all things sweet...

The guys who created my present website did a lovely job. Unfortunately, I can't update it myself and the costs associated with frequent updates are beyond my means.  As such, my website has fallen terribly, nay embarrassingly, out of date. At the onset of this year I resolved to get down to business and look into the options of rebuilding my website by myself.  For months, just the thought of this task send me off looking for another chore, cleaning the refrigerator, sweeping the garage floor, you get the picture. But two weeks ago I finally bit the bullet and started dabbling with website builders, looking for one that matched my meager skill level and would provide a reasonable facsimile of my vision.  It's nice that these sites offer a 14-day free trial, but for me it  might as well be a day, or an hour.  Still, after much butt-sitting and mouse clicking, and an extension on my 14-day free trial, I am getting somewhere and hope to have something to show for all my effort very soon.  I'll miss my old website with all of its personal touches and such, but if the past few years have taught me anything, it's that change is inevitable, and change is hard work.