An Artist's Quest


Rocking my World

A friend who is struggling with health issues sent me an email saying she had spent a sleepless night up rocking and asked for my reflections on rocking. Upon my first reading I set this question aside not sure how to answer. This was one email among 225 emails waiting for me after a week away taking my son all the way across the country to college at Penn. While I was away my beloved dad ended up in the emergency room and resulting in a pace maker procedure, this all converged on my fifty-second birthday – my feelings were so balled up – full of worry and concern and unknowing. That is all to say that when I first looked at the email about rocking I couldn’t see how to connect with the query, I had other things to think about. A couple of days later I returned to the email and the following spilled out and I think it has everything to do with enduring, and worry and being and comfort and all the things that make this human journey rich and hard. So for your reflection here is my answer to that email:

Rocking Inspired by my writing it is a collage that combines a drawing of my grandma’s rocking chair that I scanned and printed on Grafix injet film then layered on a wood panel

Inspired by my writing is a collage that combines a drawing of my grandma’s rocking chair that I scanned and printed on Grafix Injet film then layered on a wood panel

The rocking chair for me has always been a comfort zone, from my own childhood sitting on my grandma’s lap she rocking and reading the old oak chair creaking on the wooden floorboards it has been a comfort, a prayer. I have that same chair in my home now rockers resting on the wooden floor. When I had a crying baby my own mama taught me to sit in that chair with my babe and rock and count to one hundred because you can do anything for that long and if the babe is still crying then you start counting to a hundred again because you can do anything for that long. Now I have no babe to rock but my own self needs rocking sometimes and the rocking chair and my mothers simple wisdom come back to me sit and rock and count because you can do anything for that long and then the counting and the rocking clears the mind and opens the heart and you really can do anything you can face anything receive anything be open to anything both great and small, wondrous and worrisome and wearisome. A deep creak, creak, creak like a heart beat like a breath, solid and real something to hold on to something to count on…. one, two, three, four….

PS My father’s pacemaker procedure worked wonderfully and he headed home Tuesday reportedly pinker than he has been in some time and ready to rock and roll. My son is thrilled and thriving in his first week at Penn – it was hard to leave him on the east coast but not hard at all to feel the thrill and joy he exuded as he launched into the solo adventure.

Girl Get Away- 34 years of friendship

Girl Get Away at Pinecrest 5 of us fast friends for over 30 years that's me in the bottom right.

Girl Get Away at Pinecrest 5 of us fast friends for over 30 years – that’s me in the bottom right.

I just got back from a wonderful gathering of 4 of my longest bestest friends. The 5 of us met at UC Davis in 1980, and have been supporting, celebrating and enriching and enjoying each other ever since. This time when we got together I really wanted to create a map of our lives together and five-way time line of when where and what we were doing that made us stick. I dubbed those events the sticky spots. The adventures and everyday events that made us stick one to the other where drawn out on a long roll of paper that grew to eight feet long. Of course it was easy those first few years in college when we all hung out but what is more amazing is that we have stuck all these years. One of the five transferred to another school part way through another joined the Peace Corps and was in Africa for 3 years, then grad school, jobs and relationships pulled us even farther apart. But we kept creating sticky spots. Often these sticky spots happened in pairs and threes as all five of us together got harder and harder logistically. About ten years ago we had our first Girl-Get-Away gathering and have been pretty steady at every-other-yearish since then. I would like to up it to annually because life is too short to only see your longest and your bestest friends every-other year. Our lives are both similar and disparate. We are all the same age and we all have parents about the same age, we all grew up in Northern California and of course we all went for a while to UC Davis. But then we diverge – some of the 5 married in our twenties others thirties or forties. Two of us have grown semi-launched children, two of us have our first babies going off to college this fall and yet another of us just enrolled her child in preschool this week. We are teachers, artists, scientists and businesswomen, some divorced some married; so our lives are simultaneously similar and wildly different. What make us come back to each other again and again are those sticky spots, those shared experiences and shared values of friendship, honesty, support and respect. It is an amazing to know someone so long that you touch base only a few times a year but pick up right where you left off last time. I know my fall will sweep me up into the business of every day home life and work but this sticky weekend with my longest and bestest will keep me nourished until next time when we can unroll the record of our sticky spots and add to it’s length and color it with new stories of love and loss, adventure and affirmation, struggles and strength.


A lot of time hanging out, so opportunity to paint a little scene from our day at the lake on my iPad

A lot of time hanging out, so opportunity to paint a little scene from our day at the lake on my iPad

If you have been wanting to create art on your iPad then take my online workshop hosted by iCreateFlix

…and now for something completely different

Generations a camp for families at The Bishop's Ranch

Generations a camp for families at The Bishop’s Ranch

It’s been a busy few weeks with several weeks of summer camp done and several more to come. The camp I shepherd the most is Generations camp in which families in all kinds of configurations from standard 2 parents and kids, to grandparents, cousins, second cousins, aunts and every scramble or family coming together to make art and sing and worship together in this beautiful setting The Bishop’s Ranch. this year was a wonderful week, in which 75 participants of all age made humming bird feeders from recycled bottles, painted flowers from a bees eye view inspired by Georgia O’Keefe and had a big bubble exploration (that is just the morning program). It’s a lot of fun and a bit exhausting for me the fearless leader but I’m always gratified by the participants excitement and willingness to explore and stretch and try new things.

…and now for something completely different, my first online video teaching series just launched last week on iCreateFlix. iCreateFlix is a learning platform that hosts art classes of all sorts. I am offering a iPad drawing class that teaches the basic of the ArtRage app that I have been using so often in my posts lately. What great about the site is you can by the class and then you have access to the six short videos to watch anytime you want! You can watch them all at once or one at a time at your convenience, if you forgot something you can go back and watch the videos as many times as you want. I feel great about what I’m offering and for those of you who have wanted to take this class with me but just can’t make it to The Bishop’s Ranch, well, here is your chance! iPad as art tool: intro to ArtRage app I’m going to blog about this more later but I wanted you to know about this now.

A sample of the tools in the ArtRage app I teach about in my iCreateFlix online class

A sample of the tools in the ArtRage app I teach about in my iCreateFlix online class

Turning the page or rather opening the accordion….


Top shows accordion book followed by closeups of each page.

Top shows accordion book followed by closeups of each page.

Early in June I wrote about my play date making a collage art book (June 4th post). Since then I’ve been thinking about the book as art form and a vehicle for expressing ideas and themes. I loved the traditionally bound interactive book I made with Diane but I wanted something that was both a book to flip through and something to open up to display. I landed on the accordion book form and decided on a broad theme of flowers and weeds. I used pages from flower books and old calendars, envelopes, saved stamps and cards, added some wildflower weeds that I had dried and laminated and an Issa haiku. Each panel/page is small just 4.5×7.5” and easy to stitch and manipulate under the sewing machine needle. After creating the eight panels I used hearty and flexible book tape to connect them then I stitched along the top and bottom for good measure. The covers are foam core covered with the index of a wild flower guidebook and the whole thing is tied up with a ribbon. I love how this came out and I think it would be a wonderful workshop to do. I’m looking forward to another chance to experiment with this form trying a different theme and seeing how the inspiration shapes the book form and how the book form shapes the inspiration. There is a quote attributed to Deepak Chopra that goes “Instead of thinking outside the box, just get rid of the box”. So maybe there is some box you can breakdown this week, think differently about something you’ve seen or done a million times even if it’s just walking the dog the other way around the block, give yourself a different angle maybe you’ll find something exciting!

Changing Places

We  have been to Kauai before, and we know we like to stay north and out of the most densely tourist places. So after searching the internet a bit we found this small slightly funky, totally comfy house that stands alone in the midst of an organic farm just west of the tiny town of Kilauea. There is a secluded beach about a 10 minute scrabble down the hill that is accessed from a dirt road that runs between a couple of farms. The beach doesn’t seem to be on any of the maps and it’s not a great beach for surfing so no one is there. If you have been to Kauai then you know that the most common sound isn’t the crash of the waves but the roosters crow, because the island is teaming with feral chickens, along the road, in yards, parking lots and even on the beach the roosters strut and crow herding their hens who are herding their chicks from one side of the road to the other prompting that perennial question…why? We have stayed in this house for a week and I’m reminded why I like to stay in place on a vacation. You don’t see everything there is to see but you get a certain depth of a place that you don’t discover otherwise. Finding the yummy local bakery or the quiet beach, hearing the stories of the local owner of an ice cream shop we managed to visit three times in a week.  We sat out on the narrow lanai that wrapped around the house for breakfast each morning and watched the clouds pushing past from the beach, and the iron wood trees swaying in the distance. Closer in the broad banana leaves waved from the edge of the farm, Myna birds mingle with Red-crested Cardinals and of course chickens on the cut grass beyond our feet. The colors here are unimaginably full. The variations on green are vast punctuated by blooms of orange and deep red. Then there is the ocean, a blue so clear and bright and true it makes you gasp.  It’s wonderful to change places now and again, it renews my powers of observations, it refreshes my sense of wonder and it reminds me that I too live in a place of boundless beauty. So as my little tribe and I head home tomorrow we’ll take  wonderful memories of hikes and beaches and lazy afternoons but we will also take our fresh sea scrubbed vision, and brightly polished sense of wonder and awe with us, ready to see with fresh eyes what home is.

The house we rented at Sunrise Farms, Kauai

The house we rented at Sunrise Farms, Kauai

Mile High Drink & Draw

You frequent followers  know I have started an irregular regular gathering called Drink and Draw, which is pretty self explanatory , where interested friends gather at some lovely wateringhole to draw and drink artisanal Sonoma cocktails.  Well I took this concept literally to new heights this week. Depicted below is my in-flight cocktail composed lovingly of two mini bottles of tito’s vodka, a freshly opened can of spicy tomato juice served over ice with an amazingly tiny sliver of lemon in a plastic cup! Since my destination is Kauai with the family I love I’d have to say it was the best Bloody Mary ever!  I have to say the airplane is an excellent place to use the iPad as art tool, no messy materials and it take up very little  precious space. I promise my next entry will have a more tropical flare, until then aloha from Kauai .

My airplane iPad painting of my in flight cocktail

My airplane iPad painting of my in flight cocktail

Creative Play Date


Sewn collage book

Last Thursday was my last day of teaching for the school year and I have a busy summer of Ranch work and camp, and projects I have waitlisted until summer to do, but on Monday I gave myself a break from the checklist. I had a creative play date with my friend Diane. Earlier in the year Diane had shown me a sewn paper collage book she had made that I fell in love with. The book is papers and ephemera sewn all together on the sewing machine then hand sewn in a traditional book binding way. So on Monday Diane invited me to bring my sewing machine over and set up on her kitchen table. We sat facing each other each at our machines with papers, books, magazines, playing cards, gift cards etc splayed out in the gap between us. I had brought some old art textbooks to cut up and use as my base and a bag of avant-garde art exhibits catalogs with strange intriguing and arresting images that someone had dropped of in the Ranch art center. So I decided to mostly stick with these art books and chose items less for content than color. We sat sewing and talking, talking a sewing making pages with pockets and tabs and flaps. Then Diane showed me how to put my pages into signatures (a book making term for a set of pages stacked together) I have three signatures of three folded sheets making 36 total pages. Using booking binding tape and waxed thread I hand sewed the book to its heavy canson paper cover. Everything in the book is from found object except the book tape and thread. What a joy to reinvigorate these books and cards that have lost there meaning, to scramble them up and reinvent. When I was making the book I was conscious that I didn’t want to try to add meaning to the pages I just wanted to stitch and tape based on color and image in pleasing and intriguing ways, and that’s what I did. But as a finished book some meaning is desired. Books, in our experience inform or educate – so there is a deep urge to ascribe meaning to this collage book – and so they meaningless book takes on great mystery. One thing I know for sure I will be making more books. I want to experiment with other book forms and bindings and perhaps share this powerful play with others….so thanks Diane for an invigorating day, a reminder that creative play dates are a crucial part of keeping my life exciting and stimulating, I plan to find more ways to do that I hope you will too!

a sampling of the 36 pages


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