Tuesday, October 31

Monday, October 30

Why are they scary? As a child I always thought it was kind of creepy seeing their innards so clearly through their flesh and scales. Creepy because I knew I was not all that differently formed: I had a stomach, liver, intestines, spinal column etc. The tiny fish's transparency was such a reminder of the fragility of the flesh. Maybe scary is not the right word, but deeply unsettling, more than any cartoon ghost could possibly be!

Sunday, October 29

lighting up the night. P and H did these carvings with almost no help this year, a first. And, I think the jack-o-lanterns came out better than ever before. Some humble pie for us meddlesome parents! Make mine pumpkin and I'll eat it right up.

Saturday, October 28

Fully relished funeral. H and his friend C found a little garter snake dead in the road in front of our house. Flattened by some heavy vehicle. They were sad for about a half a minute, and then they realized that now that they were in possession of a dead body, they could hold a funeral: oh the joy! What pomp! What ceremony! I was invited to attend and even asked to say a prayer for the soul of the departed. My first time as an officiant, and I think I did pretty well. The boys were appropriately solemn and reverent. Bouquets of home-grown marigolds were laid on the sarcophagus after the ceremony. All in all, a great time was had by all. Except the snake.

This week's Studio Friday theme is Collections. Artists are notorious collectors of stuff. Or as Shakespeare put it, "snappers-up of unconsidered trifles." And I am no exception. Here are a few shelves in my studio closet, stacked with some of the bowls, jugs, cups and vases I use in my still-life paintings. Most of these things have some family history, but some were picked up at yard sales and flea markets when I was struck by a particular shape or color. I have to restrain myself at such events as I have a real passion for porcelain and glass, but a limited budget and a small house. Also, who has time to paint everything you want to? I have three young children and a husband, and pets, and a house to run (not to mention my serious blogging addiction), so I have to maintain a tight leash on my time expenditure.

I have a few other collections of things around the house. In terms of numbers of pieces my biggest collections are of art and books. They hardly count as collections, being more part of life than anything else. I have a few small collections: old fountain pens (I get them rehabbed at a Pen Hospital so that they work), rubber stamps, antique evening bags (this one is a mystery as I do not have a lifestyle that calls for frequent evening bag use but oh well!) and teapots. For some reason many people who meet me decide, unprompted, that I am a teapot-type person and give me teapots as gifts, so I have garnered quite a collection without lifting a finger. Crooking a finger?

Wednesday, October 25


A tree slowly burns
Orange, gold tongues of dry fire
Cold wind spreads the flames

Note: this is an example of haiku in the yugen format. Yugen means mystery. For more Yugen haiku click here

Monday, October 23

pricing. My son H decided to try and make a little money off his artwork. I have a small one-person exhibition on right now, and am prepping for several upcoming group shows, and so he has been listening recently to a lot of adult conversation centered on earning (or lack thereof), expenses (how to keep them down) etc. "How much would you pay me for this Mom?" he asked me showing me a small oil pastel he had just finished. I was busy with other tasks and said distractedly "I don't know honey. You want a dollar?" H was completely affronted. "A dollar!" he repeated, incredulous (boy, do I know the feeling.) I saw him head back to the drawing board and do something to the drawing. Later I noticed what it was. He had erased the previous price ($3.50) and firmly marked it up... to $5.00! The boy has guts.

Sunday, October 22

is the topic for this weeks Studio Friday. Motivated by the recent autumn equinox we are asked to show "what you love about the fall - the colors?... the leaves?...etc." I can never decide if autumn or spring is my favorite season: both are so beautiful. One of my favorite aspects of the Fall season is the sudden mad flowering and fruiting of everything able to flower and fruit. Straining towards the last rays of sun, screaming at the sky, this Mexican Sunflower does its very best to make as much attractive seed as possible before frost will take it out (it is an annual.) The nasturtiums and marigolds in my garden are in similar last ditch effort mode. Makes me want to paint everything I see. I am also full of the urge to get into the kitchen and bake: nature's way of fattening me up so I will survive the long hard winter! I love that I can feel the seasonal imperative working through me, as much as I wish to resist the actual fattening up.

Saturday, October 21

Nature is the finest craftsperson, but my violin-maker neighbor Hiroshi Iizuka is giving her a run for her money. I was visiting his workshop and paused to admire a nautilus shell on the workbench shelf. Then Hiroshi showed me what it was for: stunning!

Friday, October 20

Mother's lap grown small
child makes due, hearing distant
drumbeats of change

Thursday, October 19

My next-door neighbors, Ron and Fay, have a twenty-something son, George Stanford, who just signed a contract with a big record company. It is very exciting for everyone who knows the family as well as for George's legions of passionate local fans (he has been working at this for several years.) He is moving to Los Angeles, but two nights ago he gave a sort of "Bon Voyage" concert at The Tin Angel and Fay got me a ticket. I was glad I got there a little early because the place ended up packed to the gills. People were sharing seats and standing at the back!

A great night. The opening act, Devin Greenwood with Owen Biddle, was terrific. Then on came George, unnaccompanied. He has a compelling stage presence and really had everyone's full attention from the first note. A plangent, witty philosophy is one of the keynotes of his songwriting. He ended with a darkly beautiful song written by my all-time favorite artist, Tom Petty, called "Don't Fade on Me". The song is a sort of plea for friendship and loyalty despite changing circumstances: a perfect ending to the farewell evening. Godspeed George!

Tuesday, October 17

Bathers in the Atlantic Ocean, less than 24 hours before Hurricane Ernesto swept in. September 2006

Is the topic of this week's Studio Friday . An excellent topic but one which I have approached cautiously (and slowly, this being Tuesday!) Fear has many faces, but I think Studio Friday is focusing mainly on fear in the studio, performance anxiety for artists type of fear.

I have talked to many artist friends, and I've read read lots of biographies of artists, and it certainly seems that everyone in the creative world is well acquainted with fear and anxiety, from the rank beginner to the Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. There is one major difference, it seems to me, between those who go on and do their work and those who can't go beyond the first step: the "do-ers" may be full of fear and anxiety but they take a deep breath and get on with things anyway.

Fear isn't always a sign of weakness. It can be a useful tool, alerting you to things worth thinking about. Example: I might be feeling fearful that nobody will understand my recent work. OK, well why is that? Because I don't think I was able to fully capture my vision on the canvas. OK, putting aside the fact that very rarely does an artist feel completely satisfied in that department, what might I do to improve the clarity of my vision? Instead of being paralyzed by the fear, if I can face it, it is like a spotlight on hidden concerns and desires. Some nights the fear banshees will howl too loudly for you to hear yourself think. But when peace returns you can tell yourself, you did your very best, and if it didn't turn out the way you'd hoped, well, that was truly the best you could do at the time. You learned from it. Keep going and maybe you'll strike the right balance another time.

I had to give a talk once, at my old art school. (And yeah, I was terrified!) It was a panel discussion actually. At the end, they asked us "What words of advice would you give people starting out?" I was frantic for a moment and then thought "Well, I'll just speak the truth even though I am going to sound unbearably earnest." When it was my turn I said "Be honest with yourself, always, and be brave! You might be scared, but just keep going." The artist who had to go after me, a far more famous and successful person than I am, gave me a look and then said "Well, I am not sure how I can possibly follow THAT! So... what she said." I was astonished (and grateful) and everyone in the audience laughed, and (thanks to this other artist's excellent sense of humor) it was a good wrap-up to our discussion.

Other folks in Studio Friday have mentioned this book but I will too: Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. What a revelation it was! Essential reading for anyone who is serious about art-making.

Monday, October 16

The other stuffed animals gather round to admire the lovely Pikachu modeling my triple strand choker. Arranged, of course, for this week's Photo Hunt!

LATER NEWS:This post won Photo Hunt's Humor Prize. Yay for Pikachu!

Sunday, October 15

Like a modern day chatelaine's, my keys are many and varied. But unlike the medieval chatelaine who wore the big heavy ring of keys chained on a belt at her waist, I am forever losing my keychain. Now that people are wearing their phones in little hip holsters, maybe the key-belt (also called a chatelaine) will come back into fashion?

On Christmas day last year, Daisy was suddenly so sick we thought she might die. I abandoned Christmas dinner and guests and whisked her off to the vet emergency clinic. And she DID almost die, but with care and treatment she has been making a steady recovery since then. She had a check-up just the other day and our vet was ecstatic about her progress saying "She's a whole new cat!" She certainly has kept her kittenish ways intact. Son H, was taking her picture that night, and I could not resist capturing the feline-camera interaction. "What will these humans think of next?"

Saturday, October 14

but beautiful, still. I bought this paperweight to give to a friend but the friend, who was ill, died before I had a chance. I never had the heart to regift it to anyone else. (Not even sure if that counts as "regifting" but you know what I mean.) I had thought it was beautiful, so I just kept it, for its own beauty as well as a memento of the friend. I don't have a collection of paperweights, this is the only one, and it drifts around the house, from shelf to window to table as the mood takes the various family members. It became a beloved object of my son Henry, who is autistic and has mental retardation. I think he loved the smoothness and the light catching qualities but also, unfortunately, he enjoyed its "heft." It acquired several big chips and myriad scratches from being hurled by our resident shot putter. Henry throws things, both in his frequent and sudden rages and also in paroxysms of joy. Always thankful it didn't connect with anyone's skull. Anyway, it wears its war wounds with great dignity and beauty, still.

Friday, October 13

But whose? I braked suddenly and leaped off my bicycle to take this shot, causing a car behind me to swerve dramatically out into oncoming traffic. There was no need for this over-reaction, as I was riding on the shoulder of the road and got off on the grass at the side but I think the sudden unexpected movement startled the driver. It was an elderly person (I could see the wispy white crown of their head over the seat of the elderly sedan they were driving) and perhaps their vision was not that acute, They probably saw a sudden motion, that's all, and reacted. No accident ensued, but a little bit of heart-in-mouth action. Then I went ahead and took the shot, and realized that although I had thought the cat was stalking the group of ducks, actually it was trying to slink past them without being noticed. Strength in numbers!

Thursday, October 12

of my son as a colonial era boy. " 'Sup citizen? Oh dude, we are going to get medieval on those redcoats!"

Tuesday, October 10

Henry's Graduation Cake oil on canvas 9 x 12 inches

This cake, from my son Henry's elementary school graduation ceremony was delicious. Nobody could believe it was from a local supermarket. They must have run out of lard at the central kitchen that day, and substituted butter! Very odd.

Of course, to everyone's amusement I asked for another slice to bring home and paint. I think there were some comments like, "Oh yeah, right. You are going to paint it, uh-huh!" But the truth is, I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I don't spurn all sweets, and I love chocolate, but my constantly repressed shameful cravings are not for pints of ice-cream but for bags of potato chips and their ilk.

And so why do I want to paint cakes and doughnuts? Believe it or not, the answer is somewhat complex. My current show at Artists' House Gallery, is entitled in my mind "The Cake Frenzy". I became obsessed with painting such event cakes, as well as the usual run of doughnuts and other treats. But why, if it is not a celebration merely of their taste? Trying to explain my obsession to myself, I jotted down some notes, so take a look if you are interested:

Event cakes are to me like secular communion wafers. The event itself is usually a celebration of some momentous step in an individual’s life: a birthday, wedding, anniversary or graduation. The people present at the event gather around the cake, candles are often lit and ceremoniously blown out, the people may sing, applaud, make wishes and toasts and then the cake is ritually sliced up and everyone partakes communally. In this way, as holy wafers or blessed bread in a religious ceremony, the cake serves as a locus or focal point for the group nature of the life ceremony.

Baked goods and treats also represent the sweetness of life, in both their taste and their form and what they say about our culture. Aesthetically, they are purely beautiful, designed to delight with appealing colors and enticing textures. On another level the doughnut’s ring shape brings to mind that great metaphysical poem "I saw eternity the other night, like a great ring of pure and endless light..." And the very existence of such confections is proof that we live in a culture of abundance. People in starving communities do not have the luxury of dropping by the local Dunkin' Doughnuts for the occasional half dozen.

So, although this subject matter may seem light and fluffy, it can call forth thoughts on weightier topics. William Blake wrote about being able to see a world in a grain of sand, and this rings true to me. Although in my case I may be looking at a slice of cake, a doughnut or a starlight mint.

Well, the starlight mints. There is a whole other tale.

Monday, October 9


chicken on a hill
children chasing after it
little hearts pounding

Sunday, October 8

finger puppets, thrown down randomly. It looks like they are trading sweet nothings.

Saturday, October 7

on my bulletin board. This week's Studio Friday theme, and what a fascinating one it is! It has been a lot of fun to peek into other artist's studios from around the world, and see what's hanging. Some people are incredibly tidy, others are more like myself. Bursting out of the bulletin board's confines in every direction. A few of the items I have up are:

a color wheel
an architect's drafting triangle
a calendar from the Forum gallery
a wallet photo of my nephew Michael
a shopping list (art supplies)
several cartoons
a necklace bought in the gift shop at Fort McHenry, Maryland
several exhibition invitations
several museum postcards
a skate egg case
miscellaneous photographs
a page from the Bhagavad Gita

...and more.

Friday, October 6

but strong, a morning glory vine. For Photo Friday's challenge today of "Thin". A line from a Leonard Cohen song keeps floating through my head as I look at this:
they will bind you with love,
that is graceful and green as a stem.

Tuesday, October 3

for the next few hours, anyway. That was yesterday. Today, my baby is ten. Why the sign? As I was putting the boys to bed last night H confided to me that he didn't WANT to be ten, he really liked being nine! A family friend had stopped by earlier in the day and gently teased H about getting old, "Going into the double digits big guy!" and etc. H took it in good part at the time but I think the subtext of alerting him to his mortality actually seeped in. Hence H's first moment of existential angst. (They always seem to happen at night don't they? With me, it's about 2 a.m. as a rule.) To help him get through it I made him the sign and took his picture with it. This really seemed to do the trick. H felt better almost immediately, and after I promised to save the sign he went happily off to sleep. Photo therapy? Maybe I'll try it on myself one of those sleepless nights.

Sunday, October 1

anniversary flowers...

My work, that is. This week's Studio Friday theme is "Toot Your Own Horn: show off your work!" Well, anyway, I didn't have time to post about this on Friday, as I was too busy frantically framing my latest body of work for delivery. Yesterday, I gathered it all together to take downtown to the gallery and seeing all sixteen pieces ready to go out the door did give me a momentary feeling of accomplishment. Very transitory, however, as about one second after dropping it off at the gallery I got that "depleted" feeling that seems to be part of the creative process. Time to fill up again! I guess this is one of the reasons Freud thought of creativity as a personality disorder. Oh well! A sweet craziness.

More horn tooting: If you would like to see the show, which runs October 4 through 29th, you can click here for more information. If you'd like to attend one of the two opening receptions, please do! They are open to the public, very welcoming and a lot of fun. Delicious food and beautiful music. Most importantly, lots of art! I won't be at the Friday opening but I will be there the entire time at the Sunday reception. If you can stop in, please make sure to say Hi.