"When we all think alike, then no one is thinking."
— Walter Lippman

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Images of Vincent and his work were used in this month's journal page and ATC exchange. The theme was 'gifts' and instead of a holiday theme, the muse took me in another direction.
With photoshop I placed his tragic self portrait on the painting of poppies for color effect. The quote is from Emerson.

There is a new theory about how Vincent lost his ear in 1888. For more than a century, Vincent Van Gogh has been known as the tortured genius who sliced off his own ear in a fit of madness. But a new study claims that Paul Gauguin lopped it off with a sword as the two artist's argued. It is contended that Van Gogh let everyone think he had mutilated himself in order to protect Gauguin from prosecution. We may never know the true story but it's an interesting speculation.

Below, I used a rare photograph of Vincent and one of his own quotes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


With the old year drawing to a close and 2010 approaching, I chose the prompt for this visual journal entry: time.
Again, the composition expands from an existing image, in this case the photograph of a colorful bird's head.
Henry David Thoreau's words are at the top: "The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."
A quote from Omar Khayyam seemed to be the appropriate text: "The bird of time has but a little way to fly.... and the bird is on the wing!"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Journal Page / Friends

This page is from one of my 8 x 10 hand made journals. I make these with my students and work along with them each semester.
The prompt was to begin with an existing image, then go beyond its borders and 'tell the rest of the story.' In this case, the image was the small rectangle that includes the faces of these 4 friends. It was applied to a background and their bodies were drawn and painted with acrylics. Text was added with marker and the line of music seemed to complete the story. "A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you forget the words."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Journal Pages

These are a few pages from a visual journal I have been carrying around and playing with recently. Inspired by artist Teesha Moore, I have been exploring her ideas and color use to stretch my own boundaries a bit.
The text is inspired by a book I love, Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
On her website and on YouTube, Teesha Moore has generously shared a series of videos about how she creates her journal pages. They are definitely fun and inspiring and worth a look. After watching them, I made this little book so I could play too.
What I love most about visual journaling is the freedom it gives us to play and explore.
You don't have to create a masterpiece, just get out the paint, markers, glue sticks and pens and see where it takes you. Use whatever inspires you and have unstructured fun.

Monday, November 30, 2009

More Centipedes

Now we're having fun! A bit on the dark side this time, which is good if you're playing with centipedes.
A new shipment of waxed linen cord arrived today...... I think I'll be needing it.
There may still be more of these waiting to come out and play. That's what is so fun about art, you just never know what will happen next.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fun with Centipedes

Here's my latest book-play. I was in the mood for centipedes and lots of them.
So once I got started it was hard to stop. Just one more I kept saying to myself....
The book measures 5 x 7 and has 112 leaves of mixed paper types and weights. There are pages for writing and pages for drawing or mixed media journaling.
Although this particular book is finished, I don't think I'm done playing with this stitch. I may have caught the bug.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Choose Carefully.....

Don't we all have a 'Door Number Two' somewhere in our past?
Perhaps Howard wishes he had taken the free spin........

Friday, November 20, 2009

Free Spin

Sometimes you just get lucky.
This month's theme is "Games" and who can resist a free spin, especially with this character as your host...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fun With Zentangles

The recent edition of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine had an article on "Zentangles" an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns. I thought it looked like fun and it reminded me of an exercise I have included in my art classes for years. I just called it "Expressive Line." Upon further investigation I found that the creators of Zentangles have a web site, certified teachers, and quite a following. I decided that as an art instructor for 34 years, I did not need the $49 kit, but for someone who wants the instruction and does not have access to materials of their own, it might be very helpful. It comes with heavy paper 'tiles', Micron pens, and instructional materials.
I did read the archive of newsletters on the website and looked at the extensive gallery of examples. With that and the magazine article I mentioned, I learned some of the basic patterns and format used in making these intricate designs. I got out my Micron Pens (had 'em already) and some heavy illustration stock (had that too) and started to play. Within a short time I had created my first Zentangle. Then another, and another, and boy am I hooked! It's like doodling on steroids.
There is indeed a meditative (zen) effect in making these repeated patterns within the form (tangle). It is an exercise in focus and is very calming. So, if you haven't heard of this before, you might want to check it out. I think you'll enjoy it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Black Cats

I love black cats!
First there was Zorro, a little hitchhiker picked up one cold and rainy September morning long ago. Only about 9 weeks old, he was stranded on the median strip of a 4 lane highway. I stopped traffic to scoop him up and he lived with me for 20 years. I have never been so adored by an animal, whether I deserved it or not.
Now there's Roy, 'King of the Cowboys" Cat. What a pistol! Spirited and full of energy. His middle name is "Get Down." He showed up in the flower bed after the floods of 2008. Another gift from the Universe.
This month's ATC exchange is all about superstition and I just had to feature a black cat and the wonderful quote by Groucho Marx: "A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere."
It's almost Halloween...... do you know where your black cat is?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Our theme for the month of October is 'Superstition'. The number 13 which is avoided by many, has always been lucky for me. Go figure.
The original sepia toned photograph for this composition was purchased from The Vintage Workshop. I used Photoshop to alter color, apply the number and add other special effects.
I'm not really sure what these ladies have to do with the number 13, but encourage you to make up your own story. And considering the season, the creepier, the better.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Harvest Moon

October arrives bringing the inevitability of autumn. Seeds ripen, fall to the Earth, and begin the long sleep of hope. The wheel of the year turns as the harvest moon rises again.

This digital collage was created with photoshop using antique photo and post card images. It seemed appropriate for the season.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Elephant Book

Sometimes I get really attached to a book I have been working on. That's the case with this one.
The cover graphics make me laugh.... Jumbo galloping full speed into a candy store, head down, on a mission. I know how he feels.
The brown leather spine is made from a recycled leather coat. I really hate to buy new leather when there is so much out there to 'harvest'. One less item for the land fill, and I can get quite a few nice spines from one coat. Of course the deconstruction and cutting creates a great mess on the studio floor, but it's all part of the experience.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


A good creative exercise is to create backgrounds and papers for future use. Here I have used photoshop brushes and 'found images' to intuitively paint and stamp a background. These can be printed and used as art papers or saved as digital images.
The possibilities are endless!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


During a recent trip to our local antique mall, a pair of vintage ladie's gloves accompanied me to the check out. Although they were much too small for my large hands, I knew at once they would find a place on the cover of a book. The soft white leather was worn in distinctive creases as a woman's hands were protected decades ago. These gloves had been well used and I wondered about the person who had carried them in her pocket and slipped them on casually over and over again. The gloves now hold a book for an artist to use. Pages are made of thick papers for mixed media or watercolor and the book should be a delight to fill.
The gloves are stitched directly to the covers of an antique book with white waxed linen. The spine of the book has been replaced with reinforced vintage cloth and pages are attached with harlequin binding. There are 4 signatures of 10 pages hand torn from artist quality papers.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Best Way to Travel

The theme for this month's ATC exchange was 'travel'. This song from my youth kept playing in my head as I was contemplating what to do with the theme, so I took it for a gift and played along.

The Best Way to Travel

And you can fly
High as a kite if you want to
Faster than light if you want to
Speeding through the universe
Thinking is the best way to travel

It's all a dream
Light passing by on the screen
And there's you and I on the beam
Speeding through the universe
Thinking is the best way to travel

We ride the waves
Distance is gone, will we find out?
How life began, will be find out?
Speeding through the universe
Thinking is the best way to travel

The Moody Blues

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Samuel was Answered

For me it always starts with one item. In this case it was the photograph of a young man. I only imagine his name was Samuel... there was no inscription on the back.
The rest took on a life of it's own as I tried to work intuitively on the piece.
A recent class at Valley Ridge Art Studio in Wisconsin with artist Michael deMeng inspired me to try some new approaches in assemblage. He taught us many things about using non-traditional materials and painting techniques to create various effects. Apparently that creative energy followed me home. I do hope it sticks around awhile.
My brother-in-law and husband recently gifted me with an old typewriter, knowing that I would disassemble it for my artwork. The old Underwood was rusted and damaged beyond use and I was told that the auctioneer actually paid them $1 to take it away. What luck!
As I was cutting strips of old newspaper clippings to adhere to the surface, the name 'Samuel' and the words 'was answered' seemed to jump out at me. When you allow yourself to work from pure intuition, little 'gifts' are often presented. In this case, it was the title of the work.

The back ends of the old Underwood keys have such interesting hook shapes!
I must say that during the 2 days it took me to completely disassemble the old typewriter, I gained profound respect for the complex mechanics of the thing.
A work of art in itself.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Being extremely near sighted, I am constantly grateful for the ability of modern science to correct vision.
My inspiration for this was a series of recent eye exams and an antique anatomy chart.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Doggone Legends of the Midwest

What if you were sitting in a motel room with nothing to play with but a stack of old Pizza Ranch menus and a glue stick? Hmmmmm........
Meanwhile back at the ranch, the resulting collage was scanned into photoshop and further developed. You can click on the image to enlarge and explore.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Home Shelters the Dreamer

I readily admit to being somewhat of a hermit, especially during the summer months. I am content to work in my studio, putter around in the gardens, sit on the deck and watch Nature's big show and enjoy the unstructured time at home.
This illustration was made with that theme in mind.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Here in the midwest, we have been experiencing a weather pattern that features heat, humidity, and storms. An incredible lightning display earlier this month prompted my interpretation of the design principle 'Emphasis'. Nature's way of saying "Take That!"
This illustration was used on an artist trading card (ATC) for our monthly exchange.

Monday, June 22, 2009


The theme for this month's art exchange was "principles of design." One of my choices was 'harmony' but I was unsure what direction to take with it.
Last week I awoke very early to a thick fog outside, the kind where you can't see across the road. Compelled to get up and ride my bicycle in it, I waited until nearly daylight and took a loop on the bike trail through the woods and around a small lake with fog and mist rolling around me as I rode alone.
It was a bit creepy and I kept expecting Vincent Price to step out in front of me at any moment wearing a black cape and doing that insane laugh.
The bike trail goes past a small cemetery where I have explored many times before, and I recalled the plots of 3 children that lay side by side in the older part of the grounds. At some point on that bike ride, an idea took form as I visualized a photograph of 3 Victorian Era children from my collection. Taking liberty with the artistic principle, I focused more on the general meaning of the word: Harmony in the way they each seemed to have strong individual characteristics , yet all shared common features and contributed to a family legacy. Three notes of a chord. A trio of stories left unfinished.
You never know where inspiration will come from. My best advice is to be open to it, be free and playful with the possibilities, and if you get a chance to ride your bike through thick fog on an early morning in June, just do it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Saint Mildburga

This week my cats alerted me to a bird trapped in the fireplace chimney. It happens occasionally, and I have a method of rescue which does not include the cats. Off they went, banished temporarily to the basement. I set up a light on the glass fireplace doors, open the flue, and shortly the bird will come down to the light, thinking it is an escape to the outside. Then I can reach into the fireplace, grab the bird and release it outdoors. One would think I have done this before, right? This time it was a pair of chimney swifts. What strong little birds! I held each one long enough to admire their piercing black eyes and sleek profile, then opened my hand and they were gone.
I was reminded of a little collage made in 2007 when our theme for the month was "saints." This is my interpretation of Mildburga, Patron Saint and protector of Birds.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Garden Journal

Over the past few years I have kept a very informal little garden journal. In it are brief notes about when certain plants are blooming, when pests appear and what is done about it (this year we will be writing about gophers). There are notes about collecting seeds, which variety of tomatoes were best, and occasional drawings of the placement of plants in the flower beds. Last year's entries included weather notes; the devistating tornado we watched from our home and the floods that left us with "lake front property" and others without homes.
It's interesting to look back over past seasons and read the plans made for this one. The pages are often smudged with dirt, as entries are made while I rest after working. This is part of the overall 'patina' of the book.
My own little garden journal sits on a shelf in my garden shed; the one pictured here is from my Etsy shop.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Into the Garden

We have had a nice steady rain over night and throughout the day today. The garden is happy.
Several years ago I decided to transform the vegetable garden to a flower garden. This evolved after my "Earth Mother" phase in which I grew and canned everything. These days I am just as happy to support the Farmer's Market, but there are still a few tomato plants, green peppers and basil among the many flowers.
My Grandpa, who inspired my love of gardening, was always digging, planting and harvesting. In the spring there would be hundreds of tulips and in the fall, the entire yard was bordered by chrysanthemums of every imaginable variety. There were grafted fruit trees with 4 different kinds of pears on the same tree, roses and flowering shrubs galore. Grape vines grew on the fence around the garden and in the fall he made the best wine ever. He worked in the garden right up until the day he died and was always looking ahead to the next season.
I have kept his tree spade and most of his garden books, and all that he taught me over the years. And sometimes when I am out in my own garden I feel that he is still watching and guiding me with his gentle spirit.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blue Iris

The highlight of our spring flower garden is the stand of blue iris in late May and early June. I wish they would bloom all summer long.
They are an annual reminder that the school year is almost over and soon there will be an abundance of unstructured time for making art, riding bicycles, reading, and puttering in the garden. Bring it on!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Untold Story

When beginning an illustration, I usually have no preconceived idea where it will go or what the finished work will look like. The story unfolds as layers are created and often the end result is a total surprise. This is the way I like to work, implying an untold story that the viewer can participate in, leaving clues and evidence of what might have happened. There is no absolute answer and the story can change at any given moment.
I am reminded of an old Calvin and Hobbs cartoon in which Calvin is working on a paint-by-number painting. Hobbs, looking over his shoulder remarkes "Hey, that's not right.... you're supposed to follow the numbers!" Calvin's reply: "But then my picture would look just like the one on the box..... " Calvin gets it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spring Haiku

The theme for this month's exchange is nesting and haiku. As I was working, my husband came up to the studio and in our conversation I learned that he had never written a haiku. I explained the concept to him and within minutes he had composed this one.
Maybe you too would enjoy writing a spring haiku...... first line 5 syllables, second line 7 syllables, third line 5 syllables.
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