From Creatures of Whimsy

Eggroll Queen Cafe Show – Susan’s Friends & Neighborhoods

Friends and Neighborhoods

If you remember the Underground Music Cafe and the other names under which this Falcon Heights treasure has been over the years — rejoice. It is now the Eggroll Queen Cafe. It’s here. It’s now. And it has Life Affirming Blueberry Waffles and Eggrolls the Size of Burritos.  AND LIVE MUSIC.

The Flamingo from the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul will welcome you in the doorway.

Flamingo from the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul
Flamingo from the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul

My Friends and Neighborhoods show is almost ready to come down. That it took nearly a month to figure out how to get these images onto a small enough PowerPoint is a miracle. You may miss the show at the Cafe (it comes down on October 20), but here are the images:

Eggroll Queen Cafe Show


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)

Art in the Hollow – June 6

Is Swede Hollow Park is an enchanted forest?

Join me tomorrow at Art in the Hollow and decide. It’s in Swede Hollow, a park you may never have heard of which will be filled with artists and musicians and Persons of Fun. 10-5.

Follow the directions to Swede Hollow Park.  Yes. It’s in Saint Paul very near Lowertown, 120 feet below the streets.

I will be there in a tent next to Diane May, Super Hero Face Painter and Exquisite Painter of Other Things.

Roosters. LLLamas. Cats. Creatures of Whimsy.

Two books will be tucked into my card rack: Meet the LLLamas and The Backyard Roosters of Saint Paul. I’ll have cards and prints with flamingos, LLLamas, parrots, cats, Robert the Tap Dancing Rooster, Peter Pangolin, new roosters, Pinky the Beaded Pig, Glenda Diva Gecko, The Giant Stained Glass Penguin, and more!



Next up! Artists’ Market

Lucky for me! I spent 2015 Art-a-Whirl at the Keg House Arts Building with members of the Polymer Clay Guild of Minnesota. Their work inspires me.

Artists’ Market!

Next up! Northstar Watermedia’s Artists’ Market (formerly Art-on-a-Line), an all-original watercolor show at the Fine Arts Building at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, May 29 and 30. (Free parking, of course)Northstar-postcard-2015-FRONT

All original watercolor

This is a miraculous show. 80 artists start with the same tubes of watercolor or acrylic, and each artist’s work is different from all of the others. You will see this on the Artists’ Wall which has a sample (for sale, of course) of each participants’ work. Be prepared to be astounded at the originality and creativity. Then, remember the tube.

Some of my new work

Yes! Original Rooster portraits from The Backyard Roosters of Saint Paul (but not the book) will be at Artists’ Market. Not all of them, of course, but some.

Max the Cat: Muse and Snacks Manager

Max the Cat will be out in force with lots of new images. He is proud of his current job as Manager of Snacks. Each of the Whimsical Creatures who visits my studio is always hungry for snacks. Max makes sure that everyone is satisfied. Fortunately for me, both the creatures and the snacks are Whimsical, otherwise the snacks budget would dwarf that of some small countries.

3 Cats & 11 Flamingos at the Art Crawl


The 3 Cats & 11 Flamingos Acapella Group are starring on my wall at the Dow Art Gallery during the Saint Paul Art Crawl. Click here to download a pass for FREE Green Line transportation for Saturday and Sunday. (Note: you have to take a two-question survey first.)

The group lives and practices in Saint Paul, in a home with a very-well sound insulated practice room. The group has stopped out from their first World Tour to appear at the Dow Art Gallery.

The Dow Art Gallery and the Art Crawl

40 artists share the beautiful light-filled space at the Dow Art Gallery, 2242 University Avenue West, Saint Paul. Start your Art Crawl journey in the Dow, then hop onto the Green Line for a complete Saint Paul Art Journey.


3 Cats and 11 Flamingos Acapella
3 Cats and 11 Flamingos Acapella

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.

Visiting the studio: 3 cats and 11 flamingos


Robert The Tap Dancing Rooster
Robert the Tap Dancing Rooster

What luck for a Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian to live on a well-traveled path and flyway through my living room studio in Saint Paul, MN.

Robert The Tap Dancing Rooster  famously stopped by for a portrait and some career counseling before heading off to Broadway to become the World’s First Tap Dancing Rooster. (I am still waiting for backstage passes.) Robert’s original portrait and prints are available at ETSY. His tribute to his idols, The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, is a Mug-with-three-Roberts, available at

Now visiting the studio: 3 Cats and 11 Flamingos: an acapella group in search of a name (and snazzy outfits)

The 3 Cats and 11 Flamingo’s first gig is on New Year’s Eve, and they are finally getting close to having costumes for the show.

 Practice. Practice. Practice.

Knowing that show-quality singing isn’t created in 15 minutes after someone says “Hey Kids, let’s do a show,” but from consistent and dedicated hard work, they have been rehearsing for months. They have spent most of that time in a conference room in a large nearby animal shelter. Although you might imagine that the sound of 3 Cats and 11 Flamingos working out complex harmonies might have been unpleasant enough for someone to call the Sound Police, no one minded the noise.

Name this group, please.

What they need — desperately need — is a name. They have persuaded me to give a signed print of their portrait to the winning submitter of the group’s new name. On their behalf, I thank you. Please leave your suggestions in the COMMENTS box below.

December 15
December 15


December 18
December 18


December 19
December 19
December 21
December 21








December 23


December 24
December 24   

Green Silk Fish Inspired by Project Runway

Green Silk Fish
Green Silk Fish Inspired by Project Runway

Green Silk Fish & Project Runway

I stand second to none in my admiration for the skills and talents of Project Runway contestants. These people can make clothes without patterns — or, rather, they make their own patterns.  If you have ever sewed women’s clothing, you know what a complicated activity that pattern-drafting must be.

The Green Silk Fish inspired by Project Runway is a tribute to all of the silk and all of the flowy garments that have appeared on the show. Thanks for the inspiration.

The original of this 8×8 framed painting is available on ETSY for $60 plus the actual cost of shipping.

Creatures of Whimsy at the SE Hennepin Library January – March

Opening reception: January 25, 2014.
1:30 to 4:30. 1222-4th St SE.

When the first of the whimsical creatures called small friends arrived in my studio in 2006, I had no idea that they were creating a path for their friends and families. More than 400 creatures have marched, swarmed, flown, hopped, or strolled through the doors and windows to have their portraits painted.

The SE Hennepin Library offered its walls to host 29 paintings, and Creatures of Whimsy will hang there until March 29. The opening reception is Saturday, January 25 from 1:30 to 4:30. All are welcome to see the paintings and to try out Judith Olney’s Joy of Chocolate Pound Cake and one of my new favorites, Shoo Fly Cake.

This building was designed to house a credit union by the late Ralph Rapson. Its layout, with many short walls between offices, is a gift to artists with small works that benefit from close scrutiny.

Mycological Musings
Stained Glass Rooster
SAVE THE DATE (for kids!)
March 1 from 3-4 p.m.

Susan Gainen will read from The Small Friends’ Chronicles and introduce Robert the Tap Dancing Rooster, the Frogs’ Square Dance Team, Mary Anna Musk Ox, Darren Dragon, the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul, the Wild Parrots of Saint Paul, and Zavier Camo Zebra.

Bonus: Everyone will get to make a zebra postcard – with or without stripes!

Library Information
1222 4th Street Southeast
Minneapolis, MN
Hours: Tuesday (9-5), Thursday (noon-8), Saturday (9-5)

Bessie Bird Bead-Bellied Block Feather

Bessie the Bead-Bellied Block Feather
Bessie The Bead-Bellied Block Feather

Bessie Bird Bead-Bellied Block Feather was once an undistinguished gray bird from a family whose name has been lost in the mists of time. When her flock-mates departed without her, she became an orphan. Making matters worse, her singing voice never developed beyond an anemic peep.

She made her way to a small cabin in the North Woods, owned by a Committed Crafter, whose toolkit and workbench were the envy of her pals, many of whom she knew from ETSY. The always-busy Crafter kept to herself, quietly creating work that is beloved by small children and adults who wish that they were still small children.

Landing in a pot of orange dye

Bessie landed in a pot of orange dye when she flew into the cabin window.  Shaking herself dry, as birds do, the dye showered onto a silk scarf, creating a beautiful, unpredictable pattern, and the beginning of  a great partnership. Bessie and the Crafter now collaborate on a line of silk scarves, which incorporate Bessie’s Dye Shakes, and a group of ceramic tiles which capture her Dance Tracks.

The more that she explored color, the more color she wanted for herself. She learned to carefully dance toward a low-temp glue gun, and the to roll into her favorite beads. She often changes the color and shape of her Block Feathers with gel and shaping products.

Along with her friend “Bird Brain,” Bessie will represent the letter “B” in the Small Friends Alphabet.

Bessie is 5″ wide x 6″ tall. The original is not for sale. Matted prints for $30 are available from ETSY. Find her image on cool products at zazzle.