Camo Hippo Now in Business

With her Camouflage nearly complete (she lacks a monacle), Camo Hippo started a business. Moving swiftly, she saw no need to consult with an expensive team of MBA-trained consultants. With so many creatures in danger from poachers, sea level rising, habitat destruction, and forest clear cutting, she has no doubt that there is a rising demand for the services of a Professional Camouflageur.

Camouflage Hippo Seeks a Monacle
Camouflage Hippo Seeks a Monacle

 

Camo Hippo Catalog Samples

Inspired by Photoshop Filters and her clients’ preferences, Camo Hippo will use an innovative combination of tattoos, paint, glue, and unique textiles to create what will work best for her clients. She is assembling a team with technical and artistic skills who are excited about working to protect real and whimsical creatures. She expects to be in production by the end of August 2018.

Camo Hippo Spatter
Camo Hippo Spatter
Camo Hippo Speckles
Camo Hippo Speckles

 

Camo Hippo Invert
Camo Hippo Invert
Camo Hippo Ink Outlines
Camo Hippo Ink Outlines
Camo Hippo Jungle
Camo Hippo Jungle
Camo Hippo Big City
Camo Hippo Big City
Hippo Camo Desert
Hippo Camo Desert

 

 

New Hippo Camouflage Hiding Behind Art

New Hippo Camouflage: Hiding behind Creatures with Antlers

Spokescat Max
Spokescat Max: The hippos are coming.

For about six weeks, I was obsessed with anti-climate change convocations headed by Creatures with Antlers who were gathering inside the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul. I painted more than two dozen canvases and paint-on-paper pieces that were birds’ eye views of these meetings. It was time to stop.

With more of these images than I could possibly display (let alone sell), Max-the-Cat, my Model, Muse and Snacks Manager, said “The hippos are coming and they need a place to hide.” Never argue with your Spokescat.

Creatures with antlers birds' eye view repurpose: hippo camouflage
Creatures with antlers birds’ eye view repurpose: hippo camouflage

 

Create Hippo Camouflage: Cut Strips, Squares and Rectangles

With more than enough painted papers, it was almost easy to start. But not quite. I love all of these sheets of whimsical shapes and the intense colors from Golden High Flow Acrylic paint. Finally realizing that I could paint more sheets if I wanted, it still took a while to get up the nerve to begin to cut.

Toolkit: TerraSkin, a tree-free paper that doesn’t stretch that I buy from the always-helpful staff at Saint Paul’s Wet Paint, a paper cutter, good scissors (Fiskars), and a Uhu archival glue stick. Gotta have it: good light and a comfortable chair.

 

Hippo Camouflage 1
Hippo Camouflage 1
Hippo Camouflage 2
Hippo Camouflage 2

 

 

 

Hippo Camouflage 3: Got Legs
Hippo Camouflage 3: Got Legs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hippo Camouflage: what could it be?

Think of a Hawaiian shirt on colored steroids, melted crayons (before your Mom noticed that you had done this on the floor), adventures in microscope viewing, or for people of a certain age, a very pleasant acid trip,

Hippo Camouflage 4
Hippo Camouflage 4

Hippo Camouflage: it’s working!

Hippo Camouflage 5
Hippo Camouflage 5
Hippo Camouflage 6: All covered up
Hippo Camouflage 6: All covered up

What next for hippo camouflage?

This hippo, who has not yet shared his name with me, is taking the rest of the week off while being coated with Golden Glass Bead Gel and Golden Self-Leveling Clear Gel. He sent a message to two of his friends, noting that hippo camouflage is pretty cool. They will get to Saint Paul next week. They hope to arrive in time for Art in the Hollow, an amazing day of art and music and fun and food in the magical Swede Hollow. June 2. Be there. Rain or shine.

Grand Metaphor: Explains Everything

the grand metaphor: every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it.

Having made abstracts before I could define “abstract” (no art school), I think that I can be forgiven for creating backstories before I could conceive of the Grand Metaphor.

The Grand Metaphor connects the backstories

Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you’re lucky gave me an excuse to make tiny, interconnected bands using both very sharp pencils and tiny brushes. Each of these bands looks better because of how it twines with its neighbors.

Puzzle Pieces covers a space with interconnected shapes that invite bright colors. Although they don’t touch one another, they are closely related.

Friendship #5. Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you're lucky. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Friendship #5. Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you’re lucky.
Puzzle Pieces Parrot: Wild Parrots of the Grim Winter of 2013,. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Puzzle Pieces Parrot: Wild Parrots of the Grim Winter of 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original nanoscapes were a jump-off point for a new watercolor painter. I saw my artist pals who could get the spirit of trees, flowers, and mountains with a few whooshes of watercolor and realized that I could never achieve anything resembling their work. I also realized that plein air (outdoor) painters had to share space with insects and humidity — two things that I have dedicated my life to avoiding. Turning indoors and turning inside, I found shapes and spaces and their connections at the tip of my pencils and brushes, and never looked back.

The Genus Papyrus, a group of mosaic creatures who answer the question “What do watercolor artists do with leftover paintings?” They cut them up and make mosaics. The Small Friends’ Research Institute supports research in the Genus Papyrus, and continues to look for good habitat for these creatures: 3 parrots, a hippo, a horse, a cat, and a pig. They are wonderful examples of The Grand Metaphor because each piece fits neatly next to its neighbors.

 

Molecular Biology 115: an original nanoscapes
Molecular Biology 115: An original nanoscape
Herbert Hippopotamidae Papyrus (hippo) from the Genus Papyrus. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Herbert Hippopotamidae Papyrus (hippo) from the Genus Papyrus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sail or The Unmade Bed celebrated the brightest colors that I could create with watercolor and challenges perspective. Note: achieve Bright Water colors with lots of pigment and not a lot of water. Thank you, Russ Dittmar, Watercolorist Extraordinaire.

 

 

The Sail or The Unmade Bed: celebrates color and challenges perspective. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
The Sail or The Unmade Bed: celebrates color and challenges perspective

 

Find the Owl is simply #artfun. Tiny connected shapes and spaces intertwine to create a whimsical boulder hiding an owl.

Orange Flying Crystal is part of a series of six crystal paintings. Inspired by quantity time spent looking at the ceiling at Dulles Airport, these paintings began as doodles and grew into flying crystals that look as if they are ready to leap off the page.

Find the Owl Abstract Artfun. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Find the Owl Abstract Artfun
Orange Flying Crystal. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Orange Flying Crystal: One of six

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painted Stained Glass answers a question that may have troubled you for years: what happens when triangles go wild? The menagerie (family) of stained glass creatures who have stopped by my studio to sit for portraits and tell stories includes: a camel, cats, elephants, flamingos, frogs, hippos, horses, kangaroos, LLLamas (their spelling), parrots, pigs, roosters, a seal, and a warthog.

 

Painted Stained Glass Horse. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Painted Stained Glass Horse. All of the painted stained glass designs answer the troubling question: What happens when triangles go wild?

 

Conversations Connections began as a doodle on a postcard. Several professional pals spent time on conference calls trying to figure out the best way to network our friend into a different job. She didn’t get the job, but I was inspired. One of many pieces that began with a General Pencil 6H drawing. What a pleasure it was to fill in the tiny rectangles and squares with watercolor. A tiny Micron pen (several) made the tiny lines around each piece.

Conversations Connections. Doodling while on a conference call to connect a friend to a different job. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Conversations Connections. Doodling while on a conference call to connect a friend to a different job.

 

Paper Mosaic came to me at a perfect time. When I turned 65 I abandoned all activity requiring safety equipment or liability waivers, thus, no tile cutting, no glass cutting, and no bungee jumping. Paper mosaic — creating tile from paper and acrylic paint and mediums — can be done by anyone at home. I taught the 2017 6th Grade Graduates of Alice Smith Elementary School to make paper mosaic. They made this one as a gift to the school and it hangs in the building.

Mosaic Mural by Alice Smith 6th Grade 2017 part of the Grand Metaphor
Mosaic Mural by Alice Smith 6th Grade 2017

 

Yellow Paper Mosaic part of the Grand Metaphor.
Yellow Paper Mosaic uses tiny bits of acrylic paper and medium covered paper.
Minnesota map paper mosaic. After turning 65, I abandoned activities requiring either safety equipment or liability waivers. Make paper tiles with scissors! Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Minnesota map paper mosaic. After turning 65, I abandoned activities requiring either safety equipment or liability waivers. Make paper tiles with scissors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creatures with Antlers may have the longest backstory. The Pandas and Frogs from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul decided to expand the metaphorical footprint of The Forest to accommodate creatures from around the world who were being displaced by climate change. The “creatures with antlers” series was originally conceived as birds’ eye views of conclaves of creatures with antlers (including the Jackson’s Chameleon) who were strategizing about climate change. This story became much too complicated to tell all the time. I’ll get it into a book someday.

 

Climate Crusaders Creatures With Multi-colored Antlers 2. Originally conceived as a bird's eye view of a conclave of creatures with antlers meeting in the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul to strategize about climate change. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Climate Crusaders Creatures With Multi-colored Antlers 2. Originally conceived as a bird’s eye view of a conclave of creatures with antlers meeting in the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul to strategize about climate change.

 

Big Neighborhoods are three 22×33 paintings that are joyously self-indulgent, and, perhaps the clearest example of The Grand Metaphor. Watercolor and more watercolor.

Big Neighborhoods 2: every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Big Neighborhoods 2: every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it

 

Shameless Commercial Conversation

In a perfect world, everything would be available with one click. I apologize. Contact me directly to talk about images that you like or ideas that you’d like to explore. For example, paper mosaics can cover a wall and The Sail can be 5-feet long. I look forward to hearing from you.

Big Neighborhood Happy Accident

A Big Neighborhood Happy Accident

I was searching through images from the past few years and found this image, Big Neighborhood 2. I opened it in Photoshop, hit “invert,” and now celebrate the one-click Big Neighborhood Happy Accident.

 

Big Neighborhood 2 Invert: Big Neighborhood Happy Accident
Big Neighborhood 2 Invert: Big Neighborhood Happy Accident
Big Neighborhood 2. Big Neighborhood Happy Accident
Big Neighborhood 2.

Big Neighborhood 2: part of a series

This painting is part of a series of nanoscapes abstract paintings and paper mosaics whose tiny shapes and tiny pieces come together with two purposes: to create joy and to spark conversations about what it means to be in a neighborhood.

In these “Neighborhoods,” as in life, each piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it. Creating each tiny piece is unalloyed pleasure, and a meditative practice.

I have done this work in watercolor, acrylic, and paper mosaic. I was fortunate to be able to work on a collaborative, colorful and inspirational mosaic mural project with the Class of 2017 6th graders at Alice Smith Elementary School in Hopkins, MN. If you are in the neighborhood (Hopkins), drop by and see it.

Creativity and the Happy Accident

The creative happy accident can flow from:

A thought. A gesture. A sunrise. A sunset. A crazy cat. A beautiful bug. A sound (or lack of sound). A “mistake.”

Lucky artists’ preparation for the Happy Accident

Have an open mind. Have good tools and take good care of them.

Learn how to use and manipulate your tools. My one-click Happy Accident is the direct result of my constant exploration of  Photoshop’s features.

Have a camera or sketchbook handy. Don’t be embarrassed to stop and sketch.

Don’t be afraid to try. If your idea doesn’t work as you imagined or planned, begin again. Recycle your creative materials. Paint over the canvas (that’s what gesso is for); rework the clay; melt the glass shards; rip out the knitting. Cut things up. Make collages. Use glue. Find a hammer or electric staple to make new surfaces. You, too, may have a Happy Accident.

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Availability:  The original Big Neighborhood 2 has been sold. Prints of Big Neighborhood 2 Invert are available at etsy.

Climate Crusaders With Antlers At Work

Climate Crusaders With Antlers

While the world is distracted by exploding apartments, health care, and dastardly Russians, Climate Crusaders with Antlers have been busy identifying issues and creating strategies that they can employ to influence humans to stop climate change.

Crusader Creatures?

Rocky the Flying Squirrel is a well-known crusader creature, and were he still working, he would probably be leading the the Climate Crusaders. He has retired, so others have stepped up. Among the Climate Crusader Creatures with Antlers are deer, moose, reindeer, caribou, Springbok, elk, Big Horn Sheep, Markhor, Saiga, Nubian Ibex, Bharal, Addax, Mouflon, Blackbuck, Oryx, Giant Eland, and Jackson’s Chameleon, a lizard. Insects with antlers include scam beetle, stag beetle, scam beetle, and the incomparably ugly but extremely hardworking earwig.

Climate Conferences in the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul

What better place to gather outside of the watchful eyes of Climate Deniers than the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul? Long a place of respite and quiet for its native Pandas and Frogs, the Forest is now a hive of activity.

The Pandas’ Climate Crusader Agenda

Climate Crusader Surprised Panda
Climate Crusader Surprised Panda

When two Pandas first appeared in my studio in December 2013, they offered to sit for portraits and tell their stories if I promised to keep the Forest’s location a secret. As a proud citizen of Saint Paul, and a highly-morphinated post-shoulder-surgical patient, I agreed. Since then, I’ve painted lots of Pandas, and even more portraits of the Frogs who live in the Forest with them.

Climate Crusader Mardi Gras Frog from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul
Climate Crusader Mardi Gras Frog from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul

The two Pandas returned to my studio in December 2016, and they were disturbed. Very disturbed. Climate change, political strife, and deforestation was displacing creatures by the thousands every day. As currently configured, the Hidden Bamboo Forest couldn’t possibly accommodate these refugees. Undeterred, the  Pandas and Frogs decided to expand the footprint of the Forest by harnessing the Power of Imagination, and by recruiting some of their pals to help. Four of their best LLLama pals from the world of Meet the LLLamas are planetary scientists, who are hard at work developing the terra forming technology necessary to make Mars habitable for humans and LLLamas. The Planetary Scientist LLLamas have taken a leave of absence to expand the Forest.

[Updates will be forthcoming. All of these images are for sale. Email (susangainen@comcast.net)  for sizes and prices.]

Endangered Species Welcomed into the Hidden Bamboo Forest by Climate Crusaders
Endangered Species Welcomed into the Hidden Bamboo Forest by Climate Crusaders

Northstar Watermedia Artists’ Market Begins Today

Northstar Watermedia Artists’ Market at the MN State Fairgrounds

Celebrate the magic of watercolor with Northstar Watermedia Society’s members. Artists’ Market runs from May 19-21 at the Fine Arts Building at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Every artist begins with a tube or a block of paint. Every artist’s work is different. Come to be astonished. Enjoy free parking.

Explore Golden High Flow Acrylics‘ Fern Feet, aka Bloom

Learn how to add this feature to your work. On Sunday May 21 at noon, I will be present a demonstration focused on this feature of Golden High Flow Acrylics, and showing off the powerful colors of this line. I will also (again) thank Bonnie Cutts, our Golden Brand Artist in Residence, who reassured me that the fern feet were an actual feature of this paint that I’d picked up from a discount table at Dick Blick. I thought I’d gotten a bad bottle.

Golden High Flow Acrylic Fern Feet at Northstar
Golden High Flow Acrylic Fern Feet at Northstar

 

Paper Mosaic: Not Ceramic

The other part of my Sunday demonstration will be a step-by-step guide to creating mosaics from paper that look like ceramic tile. In my demo kit: gesso, watercolor and acrylic paints and mediums, TerraSkin, Golden Self-Leveling Clear Gel, offset spatula, scissors, and a heavy dose of imagination.

Orange 4-inch square magnet mosaic
Orange 4-inch square magnet mosaic

Multi-colored Antlers Community

Golden High Flow Acrylic Fern Feet: NOT multi-colored antlers
Golden High Flow Acrylic Fern Feet: NOT multi-colored antlers

Multi-colored antlers: a community

Multi-colored antlers did not appear in a fevered dream. Rather, in late April, I began a deep dive into Golden High Flow Acrylic which became Multi-colored Antlers.

High Flow is is magical paint that makes my favorite effect — fern feet (above) — and it has a double-plus-fabulous bonus of providing beautiful, clear colors that work as paint-from-a-brush, in markers, as a glaze, and anything you might imagine.

 

Community of Multi-colored Antlers: Antlers 1
Community of Multi-colored Antlers: Antlers 1

First Squiggles, then a community of Antlers

I start with a pencil (Kimberly General Pencil 6-H) drawing, cover it with Liquitex Clear Gesso, and wait 24 hours to paint. The clear gesso protects the drawing from smearing or blurring.

These shapes, first called “Squiggles,” are true nanoscapes, abstract designs that have been flowing from my brain since I first picked up a pencil. They cried out to be something more concrete and dignified. Now, to me, they are an overhead shot of a community of creatures with antlers (deer, moose, reindeer, caribou, Springbok, elk, Big Horn Sheep, Markhor, Saiga, Nubian Ibex, Bharal, Addax, Mouflon, Blackbuck, Oryx, Giant Eland, and Jackson’s Chameleon). As always, every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it.

Antlers’ Pencil Drawing

Antlers Pencil Drawing
Antlers Pencil Drawing

 Multi-colored Antlers 2

Multi-colored Antlers 2
Multi-colored Antlers 2

 

Vast Big Box Project: Art Meets Privacy

Vast Big Box Project

Inspired by a disturbing NPR piece about a very modern product called DRTBox that can scoop up data from up to 10,000 cell phones at once, I began the Vast Big Box Project. In the Inspiration Doodle, I imagined tiny boxes and circles representing individual cell phones, and even tinier interior dots showing the data available to DRTBox.

Vast Big Box Project Inspiration Doodle
Vast Big Box Project Inspiration Doodle

What is DRTBox?

The Hacker News reports that it is cell phone surveillance technology that can track, intercept thousands of cellphone calls, and eavesdrop on conversations, emails, and text. The Intercept.com/surveillance-catalog lists one version at $100,000. This is not a tool for a home-grown, backyard-basement hacker. This is a tool for law enforcement.

Disturbing?

Law enforcement can buy it. Evildoers can probably steal the technology or build something that can mimic its functions.

Questions for discussion

Scooping data from thousands of cell phone users is disturbing. Why? or Why not?

Just because you can, should you?

If the data that I put onto my cell phone boring and innocuous, what do I have to fear?

What if my boring cell phone is hacked by a Genuine Evildoer, not a basement hacker?

Do I want law enforcement to step in?

What is the Vast Big Box Project?

Beginning with blank canvas, a General Pencil 6-H, and a Mobius+Rupper Brass Wedge Sharpener, each part of the piece will be covered with tiny squares and spaces and even tinier shapes to indicate scoopable data. I will cover the pencil drawing with Liquitex Clear Gesso, which will seal the pencil and prevent smudges, and give me a paintable surface. I expect that this will project will fill a wall, presenting an overwhelming image of the length and breadth of this disturbing scoop-ability.

Big Box Project Tiny Prototype
Big Box Project Tiny Prototype

Thanks!

Thank you, Tracie Thompson, for introducing me to the idea of clear gesso.

Blue Cat from Clowder of Cats

Blue Cat Nags Human

The Blue Cat from the Clowder of Cats has been nagging. “Where is my portrait? Why can’t my legion of fans get copies? What do you do all day? Nap??!!??”

While others have accused me of allowing my affection for cats to get out of hand, the Blue Cat will have none of it. “You are ignoring my public!”

Very Blue Cat from the Clowder of Cats
Very Blue Cat from the Clowder of Cats

Find prints

The prints are easy to find at ETSY. They are digital prints made on Epson paper with archival Epson ink. Each is printed on 8-1/2 x 11 paper and is unmatted. If you are in Minneapolis, call ahead to see if prints are available at The Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market (612-965-8581).

Chatting with Very Blue Cat

“Clowder,” as you know, is the collective noun for cats. Similar to “convocation of eagles” and “battery of barracudas,” it means everything and evokes something that you are not quite certain exists. As a fan of mystery fiction, I am partial to “murder of crows,” but that is for another day.

The Very Blue Cat is part of a Clowder of Cats which I paint in Saint Paul Minnesota, and model on a photograph of Max-the-Cat, the model, muse, and snacks manager.

Very Blue Cat is purr-snickety, and complains a lot. He always wants more and better food. (“I like BIG shrimp.”) The sun, which travels around my home studio onto a staircase, onto windowsills, and, for a good part of the day, is in front of a sliding glass door, provides insufficient sunshine-vitamin-D. Or so he says, not realizing that my condo earned architectural awards for use of sunlight in the Frozen North.

He has strong opinions, urging farmers to grow more catnip, and ice-cream makers to create cat nip ice cream. Were he an interior designer, his clients would have only very soft pillows for naps, which would be rearranged (and fluffed), hour-by-hour as the sun moves through the houses. I would wonder who his clients might be? The humans? Or the Cats?

While sitting on my porch, he has long conversations with local squirrels, and one of his best friends is Barky-the-Squirrel. Between Barky’s barking and Very Blue’s cat-like chirp-and-growl, they keep local birds on their toes.

Max Models for the Clowder of Cats (including the Blue Cat)
Max Models for the Clowder of Cats (including the Blue Cat)

Valentine’s Day: deliver a nanoscapes’ heart

2017 nanoscapes’ heart

Making an annual valentine is a pure pleasure, and the 2017 nanoscapes’ heart was no exception. Share a an original art valentine with a friend or with your sweetie. Or share a print. Or give a coloring project. This nanoscapes’ heart is an original watercolor ($100, unmatted, unframed subject to availability), a digital print ($25 unmatted, unframed); and the nanoscapes’ heart coloring page is a dollar digital download. They are all at ETSY, and accessible and available quick as a wink.

 

nanoscapes' heart 2017
nanoscapes’ heart 2017

 

nanoscapes' heart valentine 2017
nanoscapes’ heart valentine 2017

 

Coloring page at The Art Shoppe

The coloring page 2017 nanoscapes’ heart is at The Art Shoppe (2.50 per sheet).