From WARM Mentor Program

Reclaim & recycle new techniques into new flamingo art

3 flamingos on a round
3 flamingos on a round
Painted Beaded Flamingo at Vine Arts Center
Painted Beaded Flamingo at Vine Arts Center

A wooden flamingo is born

In 1996, a now-shuttered lumber yard in Saint Paul cut the flamingo from a piece of plywood, made a dozen sets of bookends, a random kidney-ish shaped piece, and 24 8-inch rounds. I painted and beaded the flamingo, and the rounds have aged like fine wine in a stack under my stairs.

New life for the flamingo

After standing tall in my bathroom for 16 years, the 5-foot tall beaded-and-painted wooden flamingo had its last public outing at Vine Arts Center during the 2014 Northern Spark Green Way Glow.

It is now a pink gesso-covered Cave Flamingo which was part of my Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul installation at the WARM (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota) Mentor-Protegee final show, Beyond the Surface, in late 2014.

WARM Installation 2014
WARM Mentor Protegee Show 2014: Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul

New life for the wooden rounds

Two years ago I bought a dozen 12-inch round sheets of a fine artist paper whose brand is lost in the mists of time. They sat comfortably in the package until I decided to use gesso, the key ingredient in Cave Paintings, to attach the round papers to the wooden rounds.

Wooden rounds meet tiny Flamingos

How this piece was made:

  1. I used gesso to attach the paper to the wooden round, and trimmed the excess.
  2. With a spatula, I splodged gesso onto the paper, and then pressed it with the Ax-Man Gizmo #2, a tube with wire mesh that makes a scaly-sort of pattern. I let it dry overnight.
  3. I sponged color onto the now-patterned gesso. I recommend acrylic paint (as opposed to watercolor), which won’t move an inch when you cover it with acrylic medium. I learned this lesson the very very hard way (subject of another post when I’m over my disappointment.)
  4. Having made dozens of tiny flamingos as ornaments, bookmarks, and gift tags, I am surrounded by them. Three volunteered to be encased on gloss varnish for this project. I glued them onto the round, and waited patiently while the glue dried. (Really? Why are you telling me this? Because I have a life-long history of being too quick to move on to the next step, and I want to save you from the abject misery that will follow a string of bad words.)
  5. Inspired by Dar Bunde, an amazing artist-member of the Northstar Watermedia Society, I used Liquitex Gloss Medium because I want this piece to be SHINY!!!!! I poured it on and set to to dry overnight.
  6. I painted the sides with acrylic paint and covered the sides with gloss medium
  7. I attached a hanger on the back so that this can hang on the wall.

Two works in Colors of Humanity Red Show

Red. My favorite color.

Two of my pieces were selected by the Colors of Humanity Art Gallery for its February 2015 show honoring “RED, my favorite color.  What a beautiful group of paintings to be part of in this Red Show.

Three Red Cave Frogs
Three Red Cave Frogs
Ax-man Gizmo 10th Gear
Ax-man Gizmo 10th Gear


The Ax-Man Gizmo 10th Gear

The Ax-Man Gizmo 10th Gear is part of a series of paintings that I made after a Mentor-Protegee Art Adventure with Layl McDill, my WARM (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota) mentor in the 2013-2015 cycle. We found the flat black plastic gizmo that carpenters use to measure the diameter of wire, and immediately saw ART TOOL! I made ten of these paintings.

Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul: Three Red Cave Frogs

The Three Red Cave Frogs are, of course, part of the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul. Imagined and excavated from the comfort of my living room studio, which is remarkably free of rats and bat, each piece begins with a layer of tinted gesso.  The frogs are stencilled and the whole piece is sprayed with archival spray.

FROM THE COLORS OF HUMANITY WEBSITE: This show will run February 1-31 (sic), 2015. Artists from around the world were called to submit their work and we were very pleased with the response we received. There were 117 accepted works and they came from 26 different states in the USA and 8 other countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Malaysia, Russian Federation, and Switzerland. A variety of styles and mediums were entered including, acrylic, blood, ‘bodypaintography’, charcoal, digital, ink, latex, mixed media, monotype, oil, pastel, photography, resin, scratchboard, watercolor, and woodcut. The judging criterion was originality, interpretation, quality, demonstration of ability, and usage of medium. Other factors, such as the clarity of the images provided and their ability to be viewed online, as well as relating to the theme, also contributed to the decision. “Best of Show”, “First Place”, and “Second Place” winners received a monetary award in addition to special recognition.
We were very happy to donate 10% of all entry fees from this show to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). It is our hope that this small act of kindness will blossom and grow to help someone else.

Cats and Hippos: celebrate everything!

Cats and Hippos celebrate everything and they will help you do it everyday.


December 2014: Mad creative dash to make tiny creatures: ornaments? gift tags? just for fun!

Most often I’ll use 300# Arches paper, but lately I have started to recycle some of the dozens of original paintings from the nanoscapes’ Image-a-Day files. In 2012, I was busy making tiny abstract paintings and turning them into digital magic. While appreciating and purchasing the digital images, my customers almost unanimously rejected the tiny original abstract paintings which I had carefully framed. I have a lot of them, and they are all made on either 140# Canson or Arches postcard blanks or from 300# Arches paper.

One Cat from an Image-a-day
One Cat from a 2012 Original Image-a-Day

After cutting out the creatures, I’ll paint them with watercolor and then get out my tiny plastic offset spatula to add one or more of the following Golden Acrylic Medium Products: (1)  Glass Bead Gel (the miracle of the century: tiny glass beads in acrylic medium), (2)  Self-Leveling Clear Gel, Iridescent Stainless Steel, Black Gesso, and Black & White Mica Flake. I love “shiny and bumpy” and these acrylic mediums make that possible.

I remain grateful to Bonnie Cutts, the Golden Artist-in-Residence, for introducing me to these products at a WARM Mentor-Protege event in June of 2013. I learn something new everyday that I work with these products.

Artist alert: Should you have the chance to take one of Bonnie’s workshops, sign up and go!

Old watercolors never die

Paper Mosaic Hippo
Paper Mosaic Hippo

In the spirit of the Genus Papyrus (the paper mosaics, including a horse, a cat, a pig, a hippo, and several parrots), I am recycling these tiny paintings into new creatures. Think of it! The fun of creating new images and the delight of freeing up storage. A win! win!

Cats and Hippos are just a few of the Celebration Critters: pandas, pigs (lots of pigs), parrots, frogs, and hummingbirds!

9 Who? Me? Cats
9 Who? Me? Cats




8 Hippos
8 Hippos

Find them!

Find these and many more new small friends for $7 each at the Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market (all year), Vine Arts Center Holiday Sale (December 13 and 14), Banfill-Locke Holiday mART (until December 20). Want one made just for you? Contact me directly. ( or 651.917.0219).

Cave Painting Postcards


Buy the postcards at ETSY for $3.85 and free shipping.
Buy the set of 4 cave painting postcards (ETSY $3.85 free shipping)The Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market, or at any sale that I am in.

Rightsize postcard rhino wp Postcard toucan wp horse postcard wp Gray Parrot Postcard wp One of the commitments that I made in 2012 at the beginning of the WARM (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota) Mentor-Protegee Program was to make a really big piece. This was a brave idea to contemplate, because my true comfort zone is tiny spaces (postcard-sized paintings) and tiny, intricate patterns.

Two years later

I did it. The final show for our Mentor-Protegee cycle was up through October 2014, and I made something really really big. The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul installation was five feet high and ten feet long. At one end was the five-foot tall flamingo (The Very Old Flamingo), now covered with pink gesso, that had been in my bathroom for 16 years, and on the other side, standing on a pedestal, was a card rack for souvenir postcards.

The back of each of the five panels represents Old Saint Paul. Each is covered with a gleefully digitized and Photoshopped map from the Ramsey County Historical Society. Thank you, Apropos, for printing the maps on sturdy vinyl and saving me from an ineffective and awkward cutting-and-pasting of photocopied paper map pieces, a project that I would still be working on today. Thanks, too, to Jason Najarak, who cut the aluminum panels for the piece, generously opened his studio for gesso-application, and made space for the Afternoon of Spray Adhesive when we put Old Saint Paul on the back of the painted panels.

The front — all five panels of the front — is Very Old Saint Paul. This installation will travel to your site for a exhibition, and it is available for sale (as a whole or in separate panels and the flamingo). Please contact me directly. (




Very Old Saint Paul
Very Old Saint Paul


Old Saint Paul
Old Saint Paul. Each panel had a separate “map” made from digital files from the Ramsey County Historical Society.


Very Old Flamingo
The Very Old Flamingo

Cave Cat Panel

panel skewed
Cat panel in progress (August 2014.)

I am an unabashed cat lover, so it is fitting that I would honor them with a cave cat panel in the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul installation at the WARM Mentor-Protégée Show.

The Cave Cat Panel documents some of the ancestors of present-day Saint Paul Cats, including the Russian Blue and Striped Cats. Digging through my shapes-and-templates archive, I found a cat that I had used for a needlepoint piece, and for two of my very earliest cat paintings. What better cat to honor the Ancestors?

blue cat one
Ancestor of The Russian Blue – in progress

Friends of the cats  Like all of the panels, this one has both hummingbirds and frogs.





Piggish Experiment
Piggish Experiment

A piggish experiment: Having just begun to experiment with Golden Brand Light Molding Paste, I thought that using it to create 3D cats might be a good idea. Tried it with the pig, and it didn’t work the way I wanted it to. I’ll return to that product for another project.

Cave Painting Progress: Cat faces

The Lost Cave Cat Panel

Russian Blue Cave Cat in-progress
Russian Blue Cave Cat in-progress

I am an unabashed cat lover, having been managed by cats since 1972. Fitting, then, to honor cats in the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul Installation for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show.

The Cat Panel documents some of the ancestors of present-day Saint Paul Cats, including the Russian Blue and Striped Cats. Digging through my shapes-and-templates archive, I found a cat that I had used for a needlepoint piece, and for two of my very earliest cat paintings. What better cat to honor the Ancestors?

Cat Panel in-progress
Cat Panel in-progress

Cats represented here in body but without cat faces painted yet: striped, dot, Russian Blue, gray, black, brown.Friends of the Cats

Like all of the panels, this one has both hummingbirds (across the top) and frogs (across the bottom).

What about the faces?

Rendering the cat faces is the next challenge, and I can’t do too much navel-gazing about it. Unlike the  Great Cave Owl, who sat on my easel for six months while I practiced painting owl faces, this piece is for a show that opens in a few weeks.  (Join us for the Celebration on Saturday October 18 from 6 to 9 at the Grain Belt Bottling House.)

Piggish Experiment
A Piggish Experiment

A piggish experiment.

One thought is to make the faces even more 3D than the “cave gesso” provides. This pig is my first experiment. Using Golden Brand Light Molding Paste, is an interesting idea, but I am a 2-D artist who has always thought that sculpture was an inaccessible magical skill.

WARM Cave Painting Update: The Cave Elephant

Elephant in Progress

The WARM (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota) Mentor-Protege Show is coming in October, and, having had two years to conceive and to work on this piece, a progress report is in order.

Materials review

This project consists of five 5×2′ primed aluminum panels covered with tinted gesso to create cave texture.The Cave Elephant panel is the last of the five panels to get paint. Last night, I mixed a gray from acrylic colors (black, white, gray, and silver) and some Golden Self-Leveling Clear Gel. Miraculously, I have leftover paint.

Your eyes do not deceive you. The Elephant’s ear is, indeed, purple. To some leftover Elephant Gray, I added a purple acrylic and Golden Granular Gel Medium.

Making the drawing

My original plan was to scan my tiny elephant painting into Photoshop, scale it up, and print each segment to make a 5-foot template. Much tape would have been needed to create the template. I am grateful to my friend, the elegant artist Jason Najarak, for showing me how to use a projector to get the image onto the panel.

The other panels (owls, parrots, cats, and toucans) are in-progress.

Show notes: The show, Beyond the Surface, will run from October 3 to 31 at the Grain Belt  Bottling House, 79 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN  55413. The opening reception is October 18, and there will be artists’ talks on October 9, 11, and 30.  The schedule and more details TBA.

Elephant drawn on tinted gesso

Lost Cave Paintings’ Progress: July 2014


I have been making The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul for almost two years. This installation is the largest art project of my life. Work-in-progress continues, and the Cave Paintings have owls, parrots, frogs, and hummingbirds sketched on two of the boards.

I used traditional watercolors and two big synthetic brushes for this stage. I respect my Kolinsky Sable brushes too much to use them on top of gesso. As between a natural brush and acrylic gesso, the brushes die.


An August 1 deadline for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show catalog photo is looming, so I’ll be burning the midnight oil…
The show, Beyond the Surface, will be at the Grain Belt Bottling House, 79 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN  55413 from October 3 – 31. The opening reception is Saturday October 18 from 6 to 9 p.m.  Ya’ll come.
Parrots and Owls Sketched, July 21, 2014.

Related post: Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show (July 14).

Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show


Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota (WARM)’s Mentor-Protege Show is fast approaching. I have plotted and planned for months, and finally have taken gesso in hand to begin.

The Project

The project will be an installation of an excavation of some of the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul. I began making these paintings in 2012 after watching Paul Boecher demonstrate using gesso* on board at the Northstar Water Media Society‘s Art-on-a-Line. A piece of his gesso-on-paper looked like fresco, and my mind went immediately to “cave wall.”

Since mid-2012, I’ve made more than 150 large and small cave paintings, and dozens of “friends of the cave” Pandas who inhabit the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul.

* A Word About Gesso: In the modern era, gesso is an acrylic medium as thick as Greek yogurt that artists use to make surfaces either smooth or bumpy. I make textured cave walls with white gesso that I tint with watercolors for small works or acrylic paints for large ones. Historic gesso was made by boiling rabbits, and current purists still make gesso with rabbit skin glue and minerals. I am glad to be a 21st century artist who can skip boiling rabbits and simply buy gesso at Wet Paint or at Dick Blick.

The Flamingo’s Last Outing:
Northern Spark at the Vine Arts Center

Meet the Flamingo

This 5-foot flamingo has lived in my downstairs bathroom for more than 15 years. I took the paper design to a lumber yard where the staff kindly (without laughing) cut out the bird, made a dozen sets of book ends, and 20 8-inch rounds from the plywood that I purchased.

Flamingo with Magenta-
Tinted Gesso

In the original plan for the bird, I would have covered the body with beads, mosaic-tiled the legs, and created a stained-glass-shard-mosaic for the grass and weeds. Fortunately, it was a flexible plan, and I was very happy with some-beads-and-paint. All of the other flamingo pieces in the bathroom miss their Big Birdy Buddy.

The flamingo’s body is now covered with tinted pink gesso, and the weeds are covered with weed-colored-and-textured gesso.

The Cave Walls

The five aluminum boards (cut and primed with great skill by Jason Najarak), are now a taupe/gray that is a mixture of white gesso and an astonishing amount of acrylic paint. I used sepia, chrome yellow, chrome orange, phalo blue, violet, metallic bronze and gold, venetian red and probably a few more. Each panel is slightly different from the others. Each board is 5′ tall by 2′ wide.

Next Steps

1. Create the templates for the creatures. I have gone into my archive for my favorite images. The original elephant works well on a 5″x7″ tiny painting. Making him into a 20″x40″paper template will use all of my cut and paste skills.

2. Paint the creatures, including the dozens of frogs and hummingbirds which will be part of the continuity for the panels.

3. Print and install the maps for the back of the piece. Because this will be free-standing in the middle of the room, it can’t have an unsightly “naked” back. I will cover it with maps of Old Saint Paul made from electronic files from the the Ramsey County Historical Society Library in the basement of the Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul.

4.  Print the “Visit Very Old Saint Paul” postcards for the postcard rack.

Image-a-day 2014: Gratitude

Pencil Lines: Image-a-day #1

2013 Image-a-day ended abruptly.

After rotator cuff surgery in mid-November 2013, I was forbidden to use my right hand, which meant no typing, painting, or drawing. My approach to rehab was guided by Kathleen, a pal from Vine Arts Center and a massage therapist, who said: “Do your exercises or become my patient for life.”

Exercise for rehab.

So I did my exercises. After coming out of anesthesia and two solid weeks of pain-med-morphine, my right hand shook uncontrollably. I did my exercises, harboring the fear that I would never be able to draw or paint tiny details, which are the hallmarks of much of my art. I kept quiet and continued with my exercises.

On Christmas Day, I picked up a pencil and began to make this drawing. Tiny lines. Straight lines. Lots of them. The tiny drawing was two inches long. I wasn’t able to work on it every day until January 8. I’m now ready to commit to my fourth year of Image-a-day painting.


Panda #2 In Progress
On a Black Gesso Ground

I have a long list of people to thank, and I may miss some because the first three weeks after surgery are still a blur: My beloved book group, the Mystery “Mavens” (we have another name, but I don’t want to get caught in a spam filter) who made and delivered soup and snacks, drove me to grocery stores, and, once, to the ER (Becky, Martha, Kathryn, Julie, Connie, Pat); neighbor and fellow Whovian and Sherlockian, Mary, an all-around fabulous helper who was unafraid to note that Figs Poached in Diet Ginger Ale is disgusting. (It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I was taking morphine for pain, which makes you stupid.)

Also, my friend Susan who bought the innocent figs and the other yummy treats which I did not abuse; WARM Mentor Layl, who supported my left-handed artwork and made sure that I was able to buy Black Gesso during our outing; Pal Janet, who provided chocolate and cheer; Russ and Susan, who cheerfully schlepped me and my art to various places; Josie, the very best Occupational Therapist Ever; and, finally (last but certainly not least), my great friends Nancy and Jason, who drove me and fed me cheered me throughout this ordeal.

Next week.

Cataract surgery. I can’t wait.