From Small Friends

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.

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)

Brayer: a new tool for paper mosaics

A new tool
Now that I have finished four paper mosaics (horse, pig, hippo, and cat) and have decided that I like making them, today I added a new tool to my toolbox: a brayer. It will transform the sometimes awkward act of tamping down each piece tiny piece of recycled watercolor paintings into an elegant rolling glide.
Helena Paper Mosaic Horse
(Helena Equus Papyrus)
appears on a number of cool products
Fredricka Paper Mosaic Cat
(Fredricka Filidae Papyrus)
Herbert Paper Mosaic Hippo
(Herbert Hippopotamidae Papyrus)
Pablo Purple Paper Mosaic Pig
(Pablo Sus Papyrus)
Each of these tiny small friends is part the Genus Papyrus, a heretofore unidentified subclass of Mammalia. The Small Friends Research Institute is working very hard to identify and classify more of these whimsical creatures and to create environments that will ensure their safety and security.
The Genus Papyrus will make its first public appearance at the Northstar Watercolor Society’s 10th Annual Art-On-A-Line Show and Sale at the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Building on May 18-20. They will be with dozens of other small friends hanging next to the nanoscapes
Helena, the Paper Mosaic Horse, appears on cool products at, and you can purchase a matted print from ETSY.

2012: beginning a new year of nanoscapes image-a-day


The First Image-a-Day Year
The First Image-a-Day Year

Image-a-Day Painting

I posted an image a day to Facebook from October 2010 to September 2011, and it’s time to start again.

During the first year, the images were thematic. They were keyed to months(pumpkins for October, leaves for November, lost-left-handed gloves of January, raindrops for April, ears of corn for July, pencils for September), or joyfully random (introducing the LLLama families in May and 30 new small friends in June).

etsy logo

January 1, 2012 from a camera photo
of “7 Hippos Marching”

Image-a-Day for 2012

Because both nanoscapes‘ geometric abstractions and whimsical small friends will be part of this project, the theme for 2012 will be “surprise!”  This first image is part of a “7 Hippos Marching,” a family portrait which is featured in The Small Friends Chronicles. Buy a matted print from ETSY here, and cool hippo products at zazzle. Want the original? Contact me directly (

Two elephants run into a studio

It’s not everyday that two large elephants come running into a painter’s studio.

 Two Elephants Running

As the painter, curator, and wrangler of the nanoscapes small friends, I am not quite surprised, faintly astonished, and completely grateful. During the next few days, while they tell me their stories, I will paint the Stained Glass and a Glass Bubbles Elephants. In a perfect world, they be finished December 31, making them my 109th and 110th paintings of 2011.
Each elephant is painted on 300# Arches paper, and is 15 inches wide by 8 inches high.

Stained Glass Running Elephant
Glass Bubbles Running Elephant

Celebrate 100 nanoscapes and paint your own

nanoscapes neighborhoods 2011
a downloadable nanoscape for you to paint

It’s official. During the first 11 months of 2011, I painted 100 nanoscapes and small friends. They aren’t all published and they aren’t all shared, but they are all finished.Click on the link to see the list.

Download this

To celebrate, I invite you download this image and make your own nanoscape using your favorite paint, ink, or colored pencil. Ambitious fiber artists — make a nano quilt. 3-D artists — build the village.

This image is called “nanoscapes neighborhoods 2011” and to my mind it is a series of rooftops.

The original image is 7.9 x 4.5 inches. At 300 dpi, you have an almost unlimited range of sizes that you might print. Get the best quality watercolor paper, print, and paint! Find your favorite fibers and quilt! Woodworkers, ceramicists, and metal workers — build the village!

Three pieces juried in to Still Point Gallery show

Purple Glaze: A triptich

The Still Point Gallery selected two nanoscapes and one small friend for The Abstraction Distraction, an online exhibition that runs from 11/16/2011 to 2/14/2012.

Trilobite Four by Five
Theresa & Tommy Trilobite

Each piece is part of the new digital family of nanoscapes and small friends. Balloon and Purple Glaze are nanoscapes, and Trilobite Four By Five, is the portrait of small friends Theresa and Tommy Trilobite


PHOTOSHOP IS MAGIC  Having found that the magic I see in watercolors can be multiplied when manipulated in Photoshop, I have the privilege of learning something new and surprising everyday.

  • New vocabulary with new meanings for words that I already know: brightness, contrast, levels, curves, exposures, vibrance, hue, saturation, color balance, posterize, invert, and on and on.
  • The joy of experimentation. What happens if I posterize! and then invert! and then work through the image choices, one after the other? Sometimes the result is beautiful; other times, I am glad to be able to revert to the original.


  • Trilobite Four By Five: Theresa and Tommy’s portrait is available in a signed limited edition of 20. Each 20×17.9 portrait will be printed on archival paper and signed.
  • Balloon: The Balloon is available in a signed limited edition of 5 (20×20) for $75 and 5 (10×10) for $50. (click on the link and then on “thumbnails)
  • Purple Glaze: A triptych is a part of “The Glazes,” a series of geometric abstractions that allows me to celebrate my life-long love of stained glass with paint and paper, thus avoiding the need for safety equipment. Each 20×13 inch print of Purple Glaze is part of a Limited Edition of 50, signed and printed on archival paper with museum matting.  $75 each. (click on the link and then on “thumbnails.”

ENJOY these works and all of the beautiful pieces in The Abstraction Distraction!!

The Last 5 Pencils and Crayons

Some favorite things

I posted the the last five Pencils and Crayons this morning. Creating an image-a-day began as a lark with last October’s pumpkins, and quickly became a commitment, a discipline, and a joy.

Some of the months’ images were obvious (leaves/November; Hanukah candles & snowflakes/December; basketballs/March; raindrops/April; corn/July; heirloom tomatoes/August), and other months were a creative leap (lost left-handed gloves/January; missing socks/February).

THE LLLAMAS  To introduce the LLLama Families in May, I needed to sit down and write their stories. This was fair. For more than two years the 30+ LLLamas had been nagging me to take them off the shelf and get them out into the world. After being posted to Facebook, they embarked on a world tour, leaving behind SpokesLLLama Rainbow. They will return to the small friends’ site in January 2012.

Glenda Diva Gecko
Undersea LLLama
Celebration Rhea

SMALL FRIENDS  When it was clear that the LLLamas would have their day in the sun, the other small friends who had been lurking on the nanoscapes website and in my studio finally put down their collective feet, and demanded both a month (June) and a website of their own. The nanoscapes and small friends had an amicable divorce in early June, and the small friends have their own website, blog, and The Small Friends Research Institute.

It’s been quite a year, or with a tip of the hat to one of my favorite songs, The Grateful Dead‘s “Truckin,”  — What a long, strange, and extraordinarily fun trip it’s been. 

Stained Glass Cat: a creative conundrum

Stained Glass Cat

Stained Glass Cat will be a new small friend, but her roots are with the nanoscapesFractured Glass family. She has brought me to the brink with a creative conundrum: is she finished?Because the Fractured Glass technique is in my comfort zone, I began work on her when I needed a break between identifying and painting new small friends and tackling new nanoscapes projects.

Now that all of her “glass bits” are finished and “grouted” with watercolor, she might be finished. But perhaps not. I might paint a “fractured glass” frame or add a horizontal line to anchor her. Or maybe not.This eerie feeling — hesitating before making a paint stroke — may be as close as I ever get to what I imagine sculptors and gem cutters feel before making a critical cut. Will it work? Will it do what I want it to do? Will it do something better? Will it cause the entire enterprise to fall flat on its face?

small friends, nanoscapes, 10th anniversary of 9/11

9/11 creatures in progress
9/11 creatures in progress

I made my very first batch of jam right after the Towers went down in 2001. I began with Laurie Colwin’s Plum Jam, filling jar after jar, making batch after batch. I kept this up for about three years with jams, pickles, Onion Relish, and Barbecue Sauce. During that time, I always had 6 cases of jars in my car — in case of any emergency that couldn’t be handled by the dozen cases that I stored in my house.

Time passes and people change. On this 10th anniversary of 9/11, I turned off the radio and tv, and got on with what what I do now, which is to paint with watercolors. I paint geometric abstractions called nanoscapes and whimsical creatures called small friends. Instead of fretting about an anniversary attack that had been strongly suggested in the media, I made two new paintings, and nearly completed the Stained Glass Cat.

Both Mama & Baby Elephant and the Two Squirrels are painted on 140# Arches Hot Press Paper.  They are experiments and not for sale. (2014 update: The elephants and the cat have been sold.)

It was a good day.