Tuesday, May 22, 2018

You Can't Think Up an Idea

Again, from Lyanda Lynn Haupt's Mozart's Starling:

People always ask where I get the ideas for my books; I think all authors hear this question. And, at least for me, there is only one answer: You can't think up an idea. Instead, an idea flies into your brain—unbidden, careening, and wild, like a bird out of the ether. And though there is a measure of chance, luck, and grace involved, for the most part ideas don't rise from actual ether; instead, they spring from the metaphoric opposite—from the rich soil that has been prepared, with and without our knowledge, by the whole of our lives: what we do, what we know, what we see, what we dream, what we fear, what we love. 

Even when I might not like what appears on my canvas as I paint, I am suffused with wonder.

What is it that shows up?

Are today's marks and colors informed by the day my dad taught me how to use a Brownie camera in our front yard in Cranford when I was 8 or 9? By the peanut butter sandwich I ate for dinner when banished to solitude on the day in fifth grade when I refused to take my piano lesson? By the conversation I had yesterday with the plumber installing a shower drain in our upstairs bathroom?

newest patch
new patch in the big picture
work in progress
working title: Core Values
This patch last seen looking like this:

Monday, May 21, 2018


In case you haven't been paying attention, I have to tell you again how enormously, satisfyingly much fun it is to create handpainted bookmarks and then pair them with books.

Really fun.

You remember I painted a bookmark as a birthday gift for a friend earlier in May, yes? Here it is, with the book she happened to be reading at the time of her birthday.

TOTALLY love the serendipity and synchronicity!

Pull at the Quill Pen, 
paired with The Overstory

Friday, May 18, 2018


Today's piece is the child of a parent piece painted last August as I prepared some starts in happy anticipation of attending Takodah family camp where I would spend a bit of time painting each morning.


Parent dressed in finery:

First child:

Second child:

Third child:

Fourth child:

Speaking of anticipation, as I did above, twenty-four years ago I had the great honor to be one of the people supporting my sister Lauren while she was in labor before delivering her second son. Those were hours of great anticipation followed by the great excitement of welcoming Stuart to the world.

And, speaking of welcoming new life, as I just did, let me announce the birth of the fifth child of the parent piece I created last August—a bookmark I painted for Stuart for his birthday this year!

Happy birthday, Stuart!

Squinting Into the Darkened Pine-Scented Interior
5x1.75"; acrylic, ink, collage, and pastels on card stock

Thursday, May 17, 2018


In her charming and informative book, Mozart's Starling, Lyanda Lynn Haupt comments, about her writing process:

I have come to terms with the sad truth that inspiration never visits at my convenience, nor in accordance with my sense of timing, nor at the behest of my will. Most of all, the inspiration-wind has no interest whatsoever in what I think I want to write about. 

Yeah, about that inspiration-wind.

Started fiddling today with a new patch as part of my still-ongoing project, Core Values. Every now and then, the tiniest tease of a breeze. Mostly, nothing.

journaling and mark-making
adding color, scratching wet paint
penciling irregular pentagons

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

This Whisper

Painting can yank me completely away from whatever thoughts are swirling in my mind and drop me into full presence.

That's the way it goes today—woo hoo!

I am awake to this whisper of bristles, this buttery blue mix, this wrinkly collage-textured surface, this blazing sunshine on my shoulder, these small muscles in my hand and wrist.

newest patch
new patch in the big picture
work in progress
working title: Core Values

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Don't Ask

About a year ago I bumped into these thoughts of Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist and other bestselling books:

Try this: Next time you come across someone’s work and you’re not sure exactly how they do it, don’t ask them how it’s done. Don’t go after the “right answer” like some eager honors student. Look closer. Listen harder. Then use your imagination and experiment with the tools you have. Your bad approximation will lead to something of your own.

A photograph on a book cover caught my attention recently. Each time I saw it, it pulled at me. How to capture its essence in paint? I took Kleon's words as a guide. Just kept looking closely at that photograph every so often, listening harder to what song it was singing.

Then, today, I took what my imagination had been turning this way and that, grabbed some of my tools, and started experimenting, happy to bumble along to an approximation.

Wish you could have seen me.

We had a contractor/carpenter here all day ripping up and rebuilding our 100+ year old upstairs bathroom floor. Many of his tools and materials were in—and obstructing the doorway to—my studio. Hammer was banging, power saw screaming, sawdust flying.

I navigated the obstacle course more than once, took supplies outdoors, and had just the sweetest time painting in the May sunshine.

First, I collaged wrinkly sandwich paper to a new patch on my Core Values project.

Then, I brushed black latex house paint over the whole patch.

Next, I mixed a few different blues, adjusting with black and white till I was satisfied.

After that, using a cheap castoff paintbrush that must have belonged to my kids back in the day, I painted stripes, letting the black peek through the space between the 'boards' I was creating.

Then, using a poultry lacer from the kitchen, I scratched 'wood grain' into the boards.

You know how your eyes/mind can flip back and forth between two perceptions of an optical illusion? I enjoyed that same alternating current as I painted—seeing stripes, seeing boards, seeing abstract, seeing representational. Way fun!

Tomorrow I'll continue experimenting and approximating and adventuring.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Birthday Gifts

I set the bar way too high way too soon: When my dad turned 24 in 1950 I gave him the birthday gift of my own birth!

What to give him for his birthday this year on May 13, 2018?

More years than not, we bookmark our shared day with a father-daughter photo.

Bookmark, 1951:

Bookmark, 2018:

This year I'm further bookmarking our joint birthday with a handpainted bookmark. I love picturing my dad's going off to the library, as he often does, to get a new book to read, and then keeping his place in the book with this little bit of love from me.

Captured by Gratitude
5x1.75"; acrylic, ink, collage, and pastels on card stock