From Artists I Love

Color storage: perennial problem

Color storage: what to do?

A mad obsession with paint colors creates a problem: storage. No surprise. I have a history of color storage issues.

Crayons out of the original box

When my color choices were among 24 Crayola crayons, the problems were about corralling the stubs. My Mother was not keen on crayon bits all over the house. Crayons ground into carpet are just not nice. Fortunately, during my Prime Crayon Years, the box held just 24 crayons.

Crayola 24 Pack
Crayola 24 Pack

Yarns by type and color

When my color choices were among a zillion colors of yarns, the solution was to bag and tag them by type (crochet cotton, other cotton, silk, acrylic, multi-color, wool), by color, and then by function (crochet, needlepoint). Many bags. Many many bags. I finally learned to put them into more-or-less clear bags for easy-ish sorting.

When I gave up needlepoint, I de-yarned myself, and gave the yarn and a ton of fabric to the amazingly creative beatrixjar.

Paintbox simply chunky from bloglove knitting
Paintbox simply chunky from bloglove knitting

Paints: tubes, tubs, bottles and more

When my color choices are among paints, I’m in trouble. Having begun as a watercolor purist (no acrylic touched my lips), only to pile onto acrylic and acrylic mediums, acquiring colors with abandon, I have created a massive paint-and-mediums pile-up in my living room studio. There are watercolors, acrylic paints and mediums, acrylic inks, airbrush paints, gesso in many colors, glass paint, glitter paint, and so many more.

My studio mates do not complain. Phil and Max run, walk, and jump over everything with dignity.

Tub of acrylic inks 2019
Whose idea was a 9×13 pan?

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.

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

30-in-30 Paintings Challenge Day 2

30-in-30 Day 2: Purple Feathered Yellow Belly

Susan Gainen Purple Bird MN Migrant 30-in-30 Day 2
Susan Gainen Purple Bird MN Migrant 30-in-30 Day 2

Purple-Feathered Yellow-Belly Clyde and his family are honored to appear in Leslie Saeta’s 30-in-30 Day 2 painting challenge. Clyde and his family are climate refugees from windy Southern Kansas. High winds and dense dust storms finally made life there intolerable for this heavily-feathered species. It had become way to hard to fly in one direction, and the high winds make nest-building close to impossible.

Clyde and his family were welcomed by the Pandas and Frogs of the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul. Their temporary shelter is in the Southern end of the Forest.

Climate refugees welcomed

Pandas and Frogs in the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul are aghast at the treatment that thousands of human refugees are receiving as they struggle to find their places in a cruel world, and some attention is being paid to animals whose habits are being destroyed.

But it’s never enough.  Unlike humans, who are throwing up barriers of all kinds, they opened the Forest to any birds and animals that can make the trek to Saint Paul. Some of these migrants are comfortable in the occasionally frozen Upper Midwest, and others will find the adjusting to the climate difficult.

Making a safe climate space

With energy and optimism, the Pandas and Frogs accepted the challenge of making safe and comfortable spaces for newcomers. Fortunately, the Forest sits atop a thermal vent, and with some crafty science and engineering, parts of the Forest will be made quite warm and welcoming for tropical and subtropical species.

30 paintings 30 days January 2017

30 paintings 30 days challenge

California-based artist, author, teacher, blogger, and podcaster Leslie Saeta challenged artists all over to world to a January 2017 30 paintings 30 days challenge. I accept.

The last time I did this challenge, I was lucky enough to be visited by 16 Roosters who promptly invited their friends to my studio and into the book, The Backyard Roosters of Saint Paul. It was a very busy month, and I learned a lot about chickens and roosters.

Exploring climate change in 30 days

Since I came to Minnesota in July 1992, the state has lost an entire climate zone. Asking “How do you lose a climate zone?” I looked for it, but it appears to have moved to an undisclosed climatic location. One result of that change, though, is an influx of whimsical birds who have moved to Minnesota to avoid cataclysmic weather events in their previous locations.

Whimsical bird refugees

Minnesotans have a history of generosity and of welcoming refugees. With some of the birds unused to life on the frozen tundra, the Pandas of the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul welcomed them into the Forest. As you may know, The Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul is located over a thermal vent, which keeps it at a constant bamboo-supporting temperature.

Max-the-Cat, who schedules portrait-painting appointments with whimsical creatures who visit my studio, tells me that the January schedule is full of birds who are new to Minnesota. I can’t wait to meet them.

First of 30 paintings in 30 days

Max cleverly scheduled the new birds for later this week, so it seems right to honor the new year with a nanoscape — a floating molecule in a stacked box pattern. Abstract molecule makes me think that I should have paid attention when I had opportunities to look at stuff through microscopes. Or not. This way, meaning no disrespect to actual science, I can just make it up.

30 paintings 30 days January 1
30 paintings 30 days January 1

Celebration! St. Paul Winter Carnival Show

2016 yields to 2017 with Celebration!

Happy to announce that Celebration!, an original acrylic painting, will be in the 2016 Saint Paul Carnival Fire & Ice Show. Thus, I’m able to end the otherwise troubling and weird 2016 with good news and to begin 2017 with “Celebration!”

 

Celebration!
Celebration!

How was it made? How did this happen?

Thanks go to the Fabulous Bonnie Cutts, who confirmed that a-bought-from-a-sale-table bottle of Golden High Flow Acrylics really was supposed to make little fern fronds. Although the effect was cool, I’d never seen it before, and, typical of me, thought it might be defective. Not so. The fern-fronds are a signature of High Flow Acrylic.

I covered four 5×7 and one 12×16 boards with white gesso, and dropped High Flow colors while the gesso was still wet. Watching it make patterns was like watching a series of tiny miracles. No microscopes needed.

I waited until the gesso was dry, dabbed some Golden Glass Bead Gel onto the boards, and waited for that to dry. I covered each board with Golden Self-Leveling Clear Gel and let that dry. With my handy tube of  that most superior of adhesives, E-6000, I glued the four small boards to the big one. The frame — shiny red, and who doesn’t love shiny red? — came from Goodwill as plain dark wood. It got serious sanding and lots of coats of Gloss Sunrise Red Rust-oleum. A pint of shiny red paint goes a long way. The large board, popped into the frame in reverse, is held by shiny red clips.

Golden High Flow Acrylic Fronds
Golden High Flow Acrylic Fronds

Fire & Ice: Opening Reception January 21, 6-10 pm

To cap a very busy day (this is the day of the Women’s March on Minnesota), the Winter Carnival Art Show Opening Reception will be at the AZ Gallery, Saturday January 21 from 6 to 10 pm.  Join us!

Fire & Ice: Winter Carnival Art Show
Fire & Ice: Winter Carnival Art Show

New work review: fish parts plus

The range of new work surrounding me calls for both an exploration (what is she up to?) and a celebration (perhaps she’ll finally finish some of these projects.) It’s no surprise that my two favorite hashtags are #work-in-progress and #artfun. I may deserve a magpie award: lots of projects in various stages of completion.

Fish Parts Mirror

New work comes and goes in stages. The Fish Parts Mirror is part of the paper mosaic family which bubbled up in 2016. It will be a fish-with-a-round-mirror. What’s the hold up? This looks like a simple glue job. But no. The wooden fish substrate has curves and bumps that need to be smoothed out with layers of gesso. Then, the fish parts need to be fitted together. Funnily enough, what fits fine when flat doesn’t fit as well over bumps and lumps. But you knew that.

Fish Parts Mirror paper mosaic. New work on a wooden substrate.
Fish Parts Mirror paper mosaic. New work on a wooden substrate.

 

 

Coloring book pages in many stages

Where is the coloring book? Coloring pages have been in the new work pile for more than a year. I have lots of pages, but putting them together into a book that makes sense is a lot harder than it would appear. Questions abound:

  1. How big should the book be? This is a two-part question because it refers to size-of-the-page and number of pages.
  2. Should I include full-color versions of each page? Because all of the designs are based on original abstracts, the book won’t look like others in the market. I am cautiously optimistic that some people may be up for the challenge. On the other hand, painting each of these pages would be enormously pleasurable and a potential black-hole-time-waste.
  3. Each design has a story. How much to I tell. Where would it go? On the back of each coloring page? How much — if any — might be interesting, useful, or fun?

In the meantime, more than 20  pages are dollar digital downloads in the Adult Coloring Pages section of my etsy shop.

Square DNA Coloring Page: new work
Square DNA Coloring Page: new work

 

 

Blocks and Arrows Coloring Page: new work
Blocks and Arrows Coloring Page: new work

 

 

 

Dots & Dominos 2 Coloring Page: New work
Dots & Dominos 2 Coloring Page: New work

 

 

Golden Brand High Flow Acrylic: new medium for #artfun

Black and White High Flow Acrylic: new work
Black and White High Flow Acrylic: New work

 

High Flow Ferns Blue Green Red: new work
High Flow Fern Feet Blue Green Red: new work

With the same magical impact on my painting as Golden Glass Bead Gel, Golden’s High Flow Acrylics rocked my world.

Bead Gel, as you may know, contains tiny glass beads suspended in a clear acrylic medium that allows artists to make things bumpy and shiny. High Flow Acrylics do a lot of things that I haven’t explored.

What fascinated me when I got my first sample from the “sale” table at Dick Blick, was that when a blob is dropped into liquid (gesso was my first),  the blobs expand and then grow tiny fern feet. I was concerned (was this paint supposed to do that?) and curious. I sent an email to Golden Artist-in-Residence and Acrylic Diva Bonnie Cutts, who kindly replied that yes, the little feet were part of High Flow’s characteristics. She also sent a cool video. I’ve been playing with this stuff ever since.

The images at right are experiments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New work for holidays

Having made dozens of Flying Pigs and Elephants this year, it’s clear that I love spending “tiny time” with shapes and creatures. The Holidays (all of ’em) are upon us, and it’s time to turn to ornaments. I’m making a few Holiday Stars that will be studded with shiny stuff (stainless steel beads, etc.) Multi-level Stars of David will be shiny with optimism. Unless there is a groundswell of demand, I will make just three three-dimensional Red-Eye’d Bat postcards which will come with envelopes. All are subject to availability. Contact me directly.

Stars of David New Work
Stars of David New Work
Shiny Bats Postcards New Work
Shiny Bats Postcards New Work
Holiday Stars New Work
Holiday Stars New Work

Mobius+Ruppert best tiny sharpener

Mobius+Ruppert tiny sharpener for my pencils

Mobius+Ruppert Wedge Sharpener: Best tiny sharpener
Mobius+Ruppert Wedge Sharpener: Best tiny sharpener

I spend a fair amount of art time clutching a pencil. When making small shapes and fine lines, a  hard pencil (General Pencil 6-H is my favorite) is crucial. Equally as important as the pencil is the point. The very sharp point. Until I found Mobius+Ruppert‘s tiny sharpener, pencil sharpeners were a necessary-but-not-joy-making tool. I used portable sharpeners, and they ranged from deeply inadequate to modestly annoying when points broke and stayed behind, stuck in the blades.

I love these little brass sharpeners. They are heavy for their size and fit nicely into the small bags that hold pencils, an eraser, and a 6-inch ruler. The tiny sharpeners are easy to clean, and, so far, I’ve not had any annoying pencil-point-breakage.

Professional Pencil Sharpener

Until I saw David Rees’ videos, I had no idea that “Professional Pencil Sharpener” was a gig. He has retired from it, so if you want sharp pencils, you’ll have to sharpen them yourself. With the right tools, sharpening is an unalloyed pleasure.

CW Pencil Enterprise

El Casco BlackChrome Sharpener
El Casco BlackChrome Sharpener

There are some amazing gizmos in the pencil sharpening market, and you would be wise to start your search with Caroline Weaver’s CW Pencil Enterprise. She stocks all kinds of sharpeners, from ridiculously inexpensive (two Mobius+Rupperts) to two versions of the El Casco Desktop Sharpener ($516.00). Yes, I aspire to having one.

In addition to an astonishing array of sharpeners and pencils (#2 and other hardnesses, vintages pencils, colored pencils, specialty pencils, jumbo pencils and pencil sets), you will find erasers, accessories, pencil cases, pencil displays/holders, notebooks, books, and ephemera.

Henry Petroski's The Pencil
Henry Petroski’s The Pencil

Not surprisingly, you will find David Rees’s book How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening.

How to Sharpen Pencils: David Rees
How to Sharpen Pencils: David Rees

She also stocks my long-time personal favorite pencil book,the classic The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski. (If you don’t know Petroski’s work, you are missing a unique opportunity to connect yourself to the engineering of our lives — in the nicest way, of course.)

Artist Jason Najarak: Happy 75th Birthday

Artist Jason Najarak 75 years of making art

Artist Jason Najarak has been making art in the US and around the world for a very long time. These are just three examples of his work.

Artist Jason Najarak 75 years of exploration

He has traveled the world. Painted indoors and out. Studied with Salvador Dali and the School of Fantastic Realism. He has a wealth of knowledge that he is willing to share. Learn about the Horses of Lake Street mural and his history.

Artist Jason Najarak 75 years of generosity to artists

Thank you for sharing art history, art technique, and ideas that nudge my creativity. Happy Birthday, Jason.

Artist Jason Najarak Schatzlein Saddle Shop The Horses of Lake Street Mural - on Lake Street
Artist Jason Najarak Schatzlein Saddle Shop The Horses of Lake Street Mural – on Lake Street, Minneapolis
Artist Jason Najarak Smokers Lounge
Artist Jason Najarak Smokers Lounge
Artist Jason Najarak Low Overhead
Artist Jason Najarak Low Overhead

Abstract 11 from a monoprint

Some months ago I went to a Wet Paint workshop with the amazing Bonnie Cutts,  a wonderful teacher and the Golden Acrylic Artist in Residence for our area.  Selfishly, I can’t recall what others were doing. I was making my very first monoprints.

What is a monoprint?

You can make monoprinting into a fabulously complex and expensive proposition requiring Huge Presses and exotic equipment. On the other hand, because monoprinting is the application of paint (or other mediums) pressed (or rolled or hammered) onto paper (or other welcoming surface) to make a unique design, it can be done on your kitchen table. Monoprinting is the ultimate free-wheeling art form.

Before you begin, you can do a lot of research (monoprints.com), ask Dr. Google for information about materials you need (craftsy.com), talk to a friendly art store employee or find a bunch of You-tube videos. (238,000 hits in under 6 seconds).

Call your friends. You can monoprint together and make beautiful images.

My first monoprint
My first monoprint

Abstract 11 makes monoprint magic in Photoshop

Abstract 11 combines my very first monoprint with the magic of Photoshop.

Abstract 11
Abstract 11