An Advent reminder...

from The Interfaith Amigos.

Wishing you joy in these last days of luscious preparation and anticipation. Merry Christmas.


Still working away...

I'm still playing with new materials in my studio.  The learning curve has turned out to be long and steep, but hopefully, some day soon I will have a new item to add to my bag of tricks.  In the meanwhile, here's another of my eavesdropping sketches...


A little of this, a little of that

As the title of this post implies, so far, it's been a December of diddling.  It can be difficult to get much done this time of year with all of the holiday busy-ness and expectations, (almost entirely self-imposed), still I have managed to maintain my 20 hour per week studio practice and have filled the time with tasks that need smallish amounts of time to complete. Sorting and editions prints, research and experimenting with materials are a few of the things that have occupied my studio time.  I also dusted off my ancient Dexter matte cutter and framed last year's Advent prints as a donation to my church; an exercise in frustration and a wonderful reminder of the blessedness of professional framers.   Here's the result of an afternoon's work.  As long as one doesn't inspect them too closely, they look fine. ( I took this photo with the panorama setting on my iphone, which has become one of my new favorite time wasters!)

My December diddling has also included a return to a more consistent sketch practice which has, unconsciously, developed a theme of sorts...each sketch includes a snippet of conversation heard while drawing it. Here's one:

I will let the reader wonder if those words were directed toward me.  Happy 12-12-12 to all!


Tomorrow is December first!

Once again I have taken a long hiatus from blogging and once again I wish I could deliver an enticing reason for my absence, but once again, I cannot.  I have pretty much been avoiding the entirety of the blog-o-sphere and I've missed my cyber friends.  Therefore, I shall now resume my weekly postings and meanderings, simply picking up where I left off and pretending I never went away in the first place.  Here's a sketch. 

And here's a tidbit...I've been sprucing up my website in recent days.  I hope you'll take a look and even provide feedback, in the kindest of language. xo


A little practice

If you'd coming looking for me last weekend, you'd have found me in my studio.  I gave myself a challenge: four days, four prints. Each print needed to be complete in 24 hours or less and each was done using the one block reduction technique I'll be teaching at a workshop later this month. It was great fun and forced me to work quickly, without too much time to ponder and ruminate, as I am wont to do.  Each image was printed with a 4" x 6" shina woodblock, using oil based ink on Okawara paper.


I'm still here

Earlier this month I spent two lovely weeks in lovely Michigan with my lovely family.  One of my sisters has the good fortune of living in the northwest quadrant of the lower peninsula, (also known as the LP, or the Mitten) where she can see scenes such as this every day.
 Lovely Lake Michigan
When I'm downstate, (not Up North) at my folks house I always, always, always pay a visit to The Flint Institute of Arts.  I've said it before: the FIA is a little gem of a museum and each time I visit I am treated to interesting exhibits and a delightful permanent collection.  This time my parents and I enjoyed the work of Abstract Expressionists, a collection from the Speed Art Museum of Louisville, Kentucky and some exquisite, ancient Chinese ceramics.  And when I say ancient, I mean ancient; some of these vessels were over 5,000 years old! 

They have sort of a southwest quality to them doncha think?  Which on one level totally makes sense if that whole land bridge between Asia and North America is for reals.  Perhaps there is something to the idea of collective, cultural memory.

Now, back in the lovely Pacific Northwest, we are experiencing our annual dog days, (we usually have about three).  They say yesterday was the hottest day of the year, (so far) but it was no where near as hot, (or as humid) as my two weeks in Michigan.  At least there every building has air conditioning, although I can't for the life of me understand why some people, (who shall remain nameless) set their thermostat at 80 degrees.  I mean really, why bother?

Presently I am trying to rev up my momentum for so many things: long, multi-day bike rides, (for which I am frighteningly unprepared); strenuous hikes, (for which I am frighteningly unprepared); and creative work, (for which I am frighteningly unprepared). Sketching always makes me think/feel I'm doing something, so today I finished filling another sketchbook.


They're selling fast!

Two Saturdays ago I participated in the Artists Garage Sale at the Schack Art Center in Everett, Washington.   This annual, one-day event is an opportunity for local artists and craftspeople to 'clean house' offering extra supplies, old artwork, and unneeded doodads cluttering the studio, at 'discount' prices.  I took the opportunity to offer proofs of some of my print editions as well as some studio 'experiments' and note cards made from my blog sketches.  My daughter and I spent the day hawking my wares and people watching.  I sold proofs and cards to new friends and old and generally had a jolly good time.  Here's a sampling of my note cards, (minus the watermark, of course).

And, two weeks ago, finally finished the piece I had been working on since April.  Alas, the edition has been hidden away in a drawer as I am very disappointed with how it turned out.  It just took too darn long to complete and in that lengthy time I lost my mojo.  I wonder if not looking at it for awhile will change how I feel about it, sometimes it does, but I rather doubt it. Oh well, on to the next.


On climbing hills

After climbing a great hill, one only finds  there are many more hills to climb.  -Nelson Mandela

My life has taken some twists and turns in the past few years.  Some paths have been exciting and mind expanding others have been heartbreaking and others still have been absolute drudgery.  In recent months things seemed to have settled a bit and I've been coasting.  One way I think about it is, I've been riding my bike up a challenging hill, huffing and puffing, sweat dripping into my eyes, my legs screaming with pain then suddenly I've reached the top of the hill and before me is a long downhill run.  I'm still breathing hard, sweat continues to drip from my face, and my muscles continue to sear with pain, but with the residual discomfort of such exertion comes a feeling of rest and impending restoration.  Uh, oh, reality check.  The most interesting journeys, in my humble opinion, are full of rolling hills and changes of scenery.   As  I approach the bottom of the downhill coast, I am faced with another in a series of life's hills. In other words, my period of coasting has come to an end and once again I am starting up another of life's rolling hills.  My dear friend Sue calls these rolling hills, f*#king opportunities for growth. This is interesting to me for two reasons; one, my friend Sue is in her 70's and it's funny to hear older folks drop the f-bomb; and two, in her saying this, I realize that one never really gets to coast through life, rather,  life will always offers up challenges and transitions.  What makes the difference is how we face those challenges and transitions. Climbing hills requires focus and strength and endurance.  Coasting, at first is exhilarating, but soon becomes a blur; the scenery zipping by too quickly to notice and the wheels spinning so fast it's hard to get into the most efficient gear.  And your butt gets sore.  I actually like the hill climbing better.  Five years ago, in the midst of the end of my marriage, I waved goodbye to my children as they all left home to attend university.  It took some time getting used to not doing my housewife/mom-job 24/7, but I climbed that hill with a lot of blood, sweat and (mostly) tears.  Over Memorial Day weekend, the last one graduated and on Thursday two of them moved back home; one for just a few weeks, the other for a time undetermined.  My house is suddenly full of more stuff, more clutter, more noise, and another cat.  To be sure, they are each facing their own transitions so we may be in for a bumpy ride, but am up for the challenge.  In fact I am hoping that in negotiating the changes in my home life I my become more focused in other areas of my life.  To be more specific, I hope this domestic upheaval will curb the tendency for sloth that has been the hallmark of my last few months of coasting. Yes, me thinks it's time to stop sitting on my butt letting life zip by, get out of my saddle and start pumping up the next hill.

Here's a blurry little sketch I did months ago, long before I could even anticipate what would come next in life, but somehow it seems apropos, for my recent college graduates anyway.  I imagine I'm off on the sidelines cheering them on.


How long did it take to carve that?

I am often asked the above question when showing a block to someone.  Given how I work, (print, carve, curse, print, carve, curse, etc.) it's difficult to come up with an accurate answer.  Until today!  Yesterday I sat down to do some carving and can with all accuracy state that it took seven hours to carve the dragon scales on the block shown below.  This morning my wrist is sore and ibuprofen is my friend.

Year of the Dragon, in progress.


uno, due, tre, quattro, cinque!

Yay, I did it; five days of the sketch challenge!  Never mind that  I skipped one day!  I ended up with five!  And that's what matters! 
So why five sketches of tears?  One for my kitty who needed some attention from the vet; one for my car which needed another expensive repair; one for my house alarm that malfunctioned; one for the rats who chewed through the wires of my house alarm causing it to malfunction; and the last for my bicycle tire that suddenly and dramatically went flat, mercifully AFTER my bike ride.



 Here's is my fourth submission on the fifth day of the challenge. Still running behind.  It's enough to make me cry.



A few hours late, but here is my third entry in the daily thematic sketch challenge. I completed the sketch yesterday afternoon but was called away before I could post, to attend my book group.  This month we read, and last night discussed, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen, (loved this book and wish Rhoda was one of my BFFs).  Our discussion took us from religion, to mental illness, to the nature of relationships, to the current state of feminism, to same sex marriage and back again. It's fun when a book can facilitate such a wide and varied discussion.  Of course wine helps as does the fact that as 'women of a certain age' we tend to become distracted easily.


Sketching challenge part deux

It appears my theme for this week-long sketch challenge is tears, or at least the use of my blue pen.  Here is today's installment...


A challenge for the week

One of things I like best about looking at blogs is being inspired by the work and ambition of other artists.  This week a fellow artist/blogger threw out a friendly challenge to her readers: pick a theme and post a daily sketch based on that theme.  This seemed like a perfect kick-in-the-bum for me, so I have accepted her challenge and here is my entry for Monday.   Of course I picked up my sketchbook and pens before I picked a theme, so I guess I'll just see what evolves.


She's back!

Can it be I've taken a two+ month hiatus from blogging?  (I've been away so long Google has changed the blogger dashboard and I am completely lost!) I wish I could say I've spent the last two months on safari, or  immersed in a creative project, or perhaps juggling coffee dates with Robert Downey, Jr. look-alikes.  But, alas, none of the above is true.  That's not to say I haven't been doing anything.  Here's what I've been up to...
1. For several weeks I was obsessed with a game called, Draw Something. I racked up hundreds of points and added dozens of colors to my palette until one of the game updates shut me down leaving me a blubbering mess.  Having now experienced it firsthand, I have a new appreciation for the concept of withdrawl.  At one point I considered dipping into my savings to purchase a new phone or an iPad, just so I could continue sending funny little drawings, done with my thumbs, to family and friends. I'm okay now, but every so often I reload the app to my phone, on the chance that whatever bug shut me down has been remedied.  So far, no luck.
2. Another game that  caught my fancy is Word with Friends and I am consumed with trying to raise the win/ loss ratio with my sister.   She is a fearsome opponent and has defeated me soundly more times than I can count.  I've never been an aggressive board game player. Playing Scrabble I've always been happy just to add a word to the board that is more than three letters long and I've never been one for keeping score. My sister, I have learned, is a ruthless player, with a large vocabulary, and is a strategic master when it comes to using the double and triple word tiles.  Presently, we have four active games and we're 50/50, (I know you're interested).  I'm also playing a rematch with my nephew who, like my sister, is a cutthroat player and toys with me like a cat toys with a wounded mouse.  Personally I think it should be against the rules to score over 100 points on a single word.  Not a competitive person by nature, I am quite surprised at my desire to beat the pants off of both of them.
3. The most interesting thing to enter my world in the past two months has been an up close experience with copyright infringement.  This venture has left me feeling disillusioned, hoodwinked, and very hesitant to share anything on this blog or the internet.  I am still processing this occurrence and deciding how to write about it in this forum. I want to give other artists the heads-up about what can happen, but at the same time, I'm a little embarrassed about my naivety.

In addition to the games and the copyright thing, I've also traveled to visit my hip, handsome and hysterically funny son who lives in San Francisco...
and have made a (return) visit to Oysterville, Washington to help an old friend and to relish in the quiet slow pace of life on the peninsula.  Oysterville's church is picturesque, both inside and out.

Making art is still a part of my life; I'm working on a print in spite of the 'fits and starts' way in which I have to approach my studio time, which is sort of a ridiculous statement coming from the gal who has spent HOURS over the past two months playing games on the internet.  Sheesh.


I had a great weekend!

This past weekend I led a two-day lino-cut workshop.  It was my return to 'teaching' after a hiatus of a few years and I was quite nervous in the two weeks leading up to the workshop, (which was held at the beautiful, new Schack Art Center in Everett, Washington).  I spent hours prepping and preparing and gathering supplies and writing lists and notes, and still when the day arrived I felt as if I was jumping off a cliff.  But I am so glad I took the leap as it was a truly enjoyable experience; for me and I think for the participants as well. Day one I may have (well, no, I did) overwhelmed them with information, but they were gracious and patient with me and not so discouraged that they didn't come back for the second day.  On day two they hit their stride and the studio was buzzing with creative fervor. By Sunday afternoon everyone had a beautiful multi-block lino-cut print to show for all of their effort. It was a way-fun weekend and I can't wait to do it again. Thank you Schack Art Center!  Thank you wonderful students!


Clearly, I am easily distracted these days

My sketching and blogging have taken a back seat to The Hunger Games this past week.  Every spare moment I've had, (including sitting at stop lights during my long and often slow commute) was spent reading this book. It's a real page-turner I tell ya!  I finished it just in time for the season finale of Downton Abbey.  Did either of these compelling stories inspire my sketches?  No,(not yet).  But I am inspired to seek out the remaining tomes of  Suzanne Collins' trilogy and I can re-watch episodes of Downton Abbey online.
Oh, and  I still have a couple of movies to see before the Academy Awards next Sunday.

 I love the broad shoulders and narrow hips of competitive swimmers.

I've been seeing lots of pregnant ladies lately.


A new obsession

I've been visiting this blog a lot, a lot lately and am equal parts amused, mesmerized and inspired.


Refresher Course

Last week I finally printed editions of the advent blocks I worked on in December.  It didn't take me long after beginning this task to remember just how challenging it can be (for me) to print a simple, one-color linoleum block edition...mixing a sufficient amount of ink using the right combination of colors and medium to make a smooth, rich black of an adequate consistency; properly and evenly rolling up the plate; getting the pressure on the printing press just right...the week-long exercise was good practice as I prepare to teach a lino-cut workshop in early March. (My hiatus from teaching has been longer than my hiatus from using linoleum, but I'm looking forward to having a go with a room full of eager students!)  On many levels it was a very good self-imposed refresher course!  Today I photographed the Advent prints and then posted them to my website. As always, I love checking things off my To-Do list. 


January doldrums

My piece for the (re)shift exhibit at Shift Gallery is finished, framed and delivered.  The show opens next week and I'm looking forward to seeing how the other artists interpreted the theme.  Here's my take:

Tending and Mending
Woodblock Print
2 blocks, 9 colors, 13 passes
When I considered the word ‘shift’ I couldn’t help but think of the shift dresses my mother made for my sisters and me when we were growing up.  A shift dress is a simple, above-the-knee dress, fitted with darts and a straight cut skirt.  Over the years, my mother made many of these dresses for my sisters and me, (along with sundresses, pinafores, prom dresses and bridal gowns).  Through this act she demonstrated her creativity as well as her love for us.  Due to her advancing age, my mother can no longer create beautiful dresses and gowns as she can no longer master the gears and gadgets of her sewing machine. Her legacy of beautifully sewn dresses now lives in faded photographs and memories.  And the lives of my siblings and me have shifted from being cared for, to taking care of our dear mother.

The reality of the above weighed on me as I worked on this piece.  And our little winter, with its scenic snow and ice (viewed comfortably from indoors) has ended and been replaced with the usual gray sky and blustery wind and rain. It's all left me feeling a little blue. Yesterday was another day of cold temperatures and intermittent sprinkles, but I took a walk anyway.  Happily, this little dog, in his jaunty jumper, cheered me up:  

And here's a sketch for the week...more tangles.


Horn tootin'

The new year has started with a flurry of creative activity and the oodles of time I've spent in my studio has kept me from doing posting of any sort on this blog.  More on that in a bit. First, a bit of horn tooting.
I have been included in this exhibit at the lovely Cullom Gallery in the International District of Seattle.  The exhibit is spotlighting artists who participated in the Nagasawa Art Park Program and hopes to demonstrate how participation in the program and exposure to moku hanga has influenced their work since returning.  I am flattered and thrilled to have been included.  Hey local readers, there is an opening reception on Friday evening, feel free stop by!
The other bit of news is that I have also been invited to create a piece for a February exhibit at Shift Gallery  also in Seattle.  Presently the gallery is exhibiting an interesting collection created by gallery members responding to the word "shift".  For February, each gallery member was asked to to invite an non-member to do the same. (BTW, the piece on the home page is by my friend Susan Gans who asked me to participate.)  From the press release:

"In February 2012 Shift Collaborative Studio extends its exploration of the theme "shift", inviting members of the arts community to contribute their explorations of the theme. Each member of Shift is responsible for inviting one artist -- someone not already part of the collective -- to respond in whatever way they choose to the creative challenge represented by the theme. The show will feature a range of original works in a variety of media, and by a number of local, regional and international artists, shifting the focus of the collective to the showcasing of work by others."

Thus the oodles of time I've been spending in my studio.  aack! Let me back up a little bit...a few weeks ago I glanced at my horoscope, which I am wont to do, and it warned me to not rush into anything; to be patient; to wait for *the muse*; ( I'm not kidding) .  I scoffed and ran off to my studio to begin my piece for the Shift show.   The first two attempts were disastrous, cost me many precious studio days, (along with a pile of wasted okawara paper) and left me in a panic about impending failure and the humiliation of having to tell my friend Susan I couldn't come up with the goods. Then, last Saturday night *the muse*, (mentioned in the smug little horoscope column) came to me in a dream! With that visit the path forward was suddenly clear.  On Sunday morning I began with fresh blocks, a new pile of paper, (not okawara, I'm all out) and (I'm knocking on wood as I type this) so far so good.  My biggest concern at this point is how to display in the gallery, what is likely to be a still-damp print. 

I wish I had a progress shot to share, but in all honesty, I don't want to jinx myself.  I hope this image will suffice:

This is a phone-photo of my backyard, taken during this morning's Seattle Snow Blast 2012.  I suspect *the muse* had something to do with this most advantageous snow day.  A little conspiring with Mother Nature if you will, providing me with even more studio time.  I further suspect I will never scoff at my horoscope again.



For the past few days I've been sketching tangles.  It suddenly occurs to me that these sketches are a very accurate rendition of my Christmas tree lights.