An Artist's Quest



195.gingkoI was visiting my folks this week my dad has had some health issues lately and is in a tippy spot of limbo waiting to get an appointment at the UC Davis Cancer Center. The not knowing is hard and knowing is hard and limbo is hard. I went up to add a bit of cheer and to change the flow of their days a bit (I only fell into a baby of the family rant once when the back seat driving was getting overwhelming). My cousin was visiting too so there was some good distraction and lots of chitchat. I of course could offer my dear dad no wisdom. I did offer a stale “one day at a time” mantra which is all well and good in theory but when one is standing on a tightrope in the wind holding a big umbrella.. well it’s not so easy to do. So on my long drive home I had a while to ponder what could I do? Truth be told there’s not much to do but be present, to listen, to be real, to be true. And so I thought perhaps the “one day at a time” mantra isn’t so trite but I think it needs to be fleshed out a bit to be useful. About a month ago a friend of mine took a facebook challenge to list 3 good things each day for 5 days and to tag five people to do the same. She tagged me. I thought it was a fine idea but I didn’t have time.   What no time to notice 3 good things!? I put the idea in my notebook to use someday but didn’t actually list 3 things when I wrote the idea down… I know what you’re thinking, “what does this have to do with her dad?” and “what about the one day at a time thing?”.  Well on that car ride home I started thinking again about the 3 things and about today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow. I think when we are young we don’t think about mortality at all it doesn’t factor into our thoughts. As we grow older we push it aside and figure we’ll think about it later but the truth is there are not guarantees….we don’t get an expiration date stamped on our wrists when we’re born, I’ve had lot’s of friends die before their time. But that’s just it we don’t have a time – it just is, for all of us. So taking today- today, marking the wonders of today now does seem like a wise way to live, and not just when we are standing on a tight rope in the wind with an umbrella in our hands but also when our feet are planted firmly on the ground the sun on our faces the breeze at our backs. So here I go with my expanded version of 3 fine things about today:

  1. What I learned today: I learned that my Daddy’s hug as I left him today was as strong and comforting today as when I was a child and as strong and comforting as the day I left for college 30 years ago, the same as on my wedding day 20 years ago, and the same as at the funeral of a close friend 11 years ago, I learned today is today and today is good.
  2. What did I see that surprised me today: I saw a bright butterfly shaped kite with it’s string tangled in a tree but flying gaily just the same waving brightly at the traffic rushing by. That kite wasn’t worrying about tomorrow because today it was flying and today is good.
  3. What made me smile today: My little dog Lucky made me smile today as I returned home- her tail wagging fiercely to greet me as she leaned strategically off the edge of the couch to give me a kiss. Lucky is always in today –tomorrow has no meaning, today is today and today is goood.

So here it is – today is today, today is good – tomorrow is tomorrow – that’s all it’s ever been and that’s all it will ever be.

Teaching Time

I love to teach and have been teaching in all kinds of settings for years. Yesterday was a whirlwind of creative teaching that I thought you’d love to hear about. I teach art 3 days a week at my local elementary school to preK-2nd grade. Yesterday I did monoprints with 2nd graders. All you have to do is look at the picture to see the joy, excitement and pride they had in their creations. They were amazed that I was letting them paint on the table then they simply drew with q-tips to make a design, lay down the paper, rub and voila it was like magic, such exuberance and surprise and awe all packed into a 50 minute class.

2nd graders thrilled with their monoprints

2nd graders thrilled with their monoprints

When the school bell rang at 2:30 I dashed back The Bishop’s Ranch retreat and conference center where I’m the Resident Artist. As part of my duties groups can request an art workshop during their stay, so yesterday afternoon I donned my art teacher apron again this time with a group of women who have been friends for over 50 years and met in Jr. High if you can believe it! They were so full of fun and ready to try something new. I lead them in a Georgia O’keefee style flower painting class inspired by the flowers found at the Ranch.

Women's group thrilled with their flower paintings

Women’s group thrilled with their flower paintings

Both these groups were thrilled to be creating and making art, I get a lot from helping people open up their creative side, young and old benefit from the experience. In October I get to dive deeper into the creative process at the CREATE SEATTLE conference. The great thing about teaching at a Create conference is everyone there is so open and excited about learning new techniques. The 6-hour classes give lots of time to explore and get immersed in something new and exciting. I can’t wait to mix it up with my students during the Light up Your Life Little Luminaria class on Friday 10/24, the possibilities with these materials is spectacular and everyone with leave with at least 4 luminaria and the skills to take home a whole new way to brighten up their world – especially relevant with the holidays coming!

Light up your life Luminaria class I'm teaching at CREATE Seattle

Light up your life Luminaria class I’m teaching at CREATE Seattle

I’m also happy to share an artist tool that is under used so far….the iPad. On Saturday 10/25 I’ll be introducing participants to their iPad as art tool. The 6 hour class will dive deep into the Brushes 3 app that has so much potential. Everyone will leave with a knowledge of all the potential of this app and I’ll walk you through creating a digital collage like this one! Ps this is the app David Hockney used for much of his work in his recent SF and NYC shows.


iPad as art tool the Brushes 3 app class I'm teaching at CREATE Seattle

iPad as art tool the Brushes 3 app class I’m teaching at CREATE Seattle

Waterless watercolor the ipad as art tool using the ArtRage app class I'm teaching at CREATE Seattle

Waterless watercolor the ipad as art tool using the ArtRage app class I’m teaching at CREATE Seattle

Saturday evening 10/25 I get to share another favorite art app called Art Rage. This 3 hour class focuses on the watercolor tools. I’ll lead you in creating a water color still life using only your iPad. I took an online watercolor class from one of my favorite teachers Jane LaFazio and instead of actual watercolors I used my iPad and the Art Rage app. I loved the results and I can’t wait to share what I’ve discoved with you.


I’m really looking forward to meeting you and having the time and space to create with you at CREATE SEATTLE coming up soon! Sign up for the Seattle classes here see website for more classes

Collecting Clouds

This is my Grandpa's Cloud Catalog and the fabric I designed using his photos

This is my Grandpa’s Cloud Catalog and the fabric I designed using his photos

Recently my mom gave me a slim photo album that had been her fathers, my grandfather. In photo album are pictures of clouds. The camera is aimed up, the trees have no purpose, there are no people, the clouds were the objects of desire. My grandpa died when I was six so I don’t have detailed memories of him. What I have is more memories of photographs and stories. He was an educated man who had studied meteorology in college but had ended up a postman to support his family. So in retirement he had started this cloud catalog. The dates on the photos range from ’62 (the year of my birth) to ‘6???. The type of cloud isn’t labeled anywhere I guess he really didn’t need it labeled; he knew what kind of cloud each one was. I have no way of knowing but I guess it was more of a hunt for him like birders to witness and record a sighting. This album was for him a quest a challenge. When I received the album I wasn’t sure what I would do with it but I was definitely drawn to the idea and the images. I decided to scan them all so I could use them in multiple ways. The first way is in a fabric design; you can see the swatches I got from printer on the right. I haven’t made anything yet but when I do you’ll be the first to see it. More art will come from this collection of clouds, thank your to my far off grandpa for reaching to me from the past and inspiring the small child he held in his lap 45 years in the future.

This is me wearing a dress I made from my Circle Collection of photos

This is me wearing a dress I made from my Circle Collection of photos

I’ve done a bit of photo colleting of my own. There is something wonderful about setting your sites and intentions on something and searching it – out for my grandpa it was clouds – but for me the inspiration can come from lots of places. The fabric in this dress is from photos I took of old round things… this photo scavenger hunt took me to old barns and under bridges, and behind old tractors what a fun day of seeking.

You’ve seen some of my other photo collections; there are my NY and SF fabrics that focus on signs and graffiti the beauty in the everyday things. I have my barn wood fabric that is just what it sounds like. During my recent trip to Philly I took loads of photos of glass sided buildings, hands, feet and faces from old bronze statues that somehow will come together in a photo montage that summarizes my visit. Giving myself a mission when I’m traveling prompts me to look deeply, and search for surprises as well as find some commonality in a place some thread that speaks of the place. So I recommend creating a collection even just a temporal observational collection, have fun with the hunt.

Here is a link to Spoonflower where I have a whole collection of fabrics for sale including Cloud Catalog .

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!


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