From Susan Gainen

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 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.


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


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).

6 Artist Hot Pop-up Chocolate Pound Cake

Six WARM members welcome you to a Hot Pop-Up today and tomorrow at #155 Northrup King Building (free parking!) We are Mary Alterman, Susan Gainen, Linda Seebauer Hansen, Vanessa Merry, Catherine A. Palmer, and Heather Tinkham.

In addition to seeing our art, one more reason to visit the WARM Hot Pop-up with 6 Artists is the Judith Olney Joy of Chocolate Pound Cake on the snacks table. This is the chocolate pound cake that every other pound cake wants to be. I have made two cakes, one for each day (Friday November 20, noon – 6 and Saturday November 21, 10-5).


Judith Olney Joy of Chocolate Pound Cake
An actual Judith Olney Joy of Chocolate Pound Cake


I have two copies (at least two copies) of this book. My first (for reading only, no baking) copy has the chocolate cabbage on the front. Yes, this book has the recipe and directions for making the chocolate cabbage. There was a when I might have tried this. Now, I’d rather be painting.


Joy of Chocolate
Joy of Chocolate



Hot Popup Invite

Join us for art, great conversation & chocolate cake!

At the Dow Art Gallery for the Art Crawl (and beyond)

 Some Artists at the Dow Art Gallery

I stand by my personal label as Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian.

I will deny forever that I am a good photographer. Clearly there is more to learn about photography and Photoshop. How, for example, should light reflections be eliminated without deeply hurting the underlying image. How does an amateur photographer contort herself to get a square or rectangular photo without acquiring permanent back injuries. Make a list for next week.

Come to the Dow Art Gallery to see these works (and many more).

I apologize in advance to the artists whose work I’ve Instagrammed and reproduced here.

Karen Searle Knitted Wire Flowers
Karen Searle Crochet Wire Flowers


Peggy Wright Watching
Peggy Wright Watching








Terry Palm Serving Breakfast
Terry Palm Serving Breakfast


Robert Delutri SubArtParticle Physics
Robert Delutri SubArtParticle Physics
Marjorie Moody Sunflowers
Marjorie Moody Sunflowers
Kelly Doyle Owlets Not Ewoks
Kelly Doyle Owlets Not Ewoks







Don Dickinson Sunny and Cold
Don Dickinson Sunny and Cold


Debra Ripp Orbits
Debra Ripp Orbits








Colette Sakschek Hen On Red
Colette Sakschek Hen On Red
Ann Meaning I'm Screaming
Ann Meaning I’m Screaming
Susan Gainen Sam the Snowy Owl Who Went to Mardi Gras
Susan Gainen Sam the Snowy Owl Who Went to Mardi Gras and Never Came Back



Today is the last day of the Art Crawl. The Gallery is open from 12 to 5 p.m.

30-paintings-in-30-days: first 16

Leslie Saeta challenged artists around the world to join her in a 30-paintings-in-30-days challenge. I am always up for a challenge. But for a glitch in my access to this blog, I would have posted these images daily.  This is catchup.

Each image starts with a drawing and a watercolor painting. After that the images go in many directions including being (1) scanned into Photoshop and manipulated, or  (2) slathered with acrylic mediums, cut out, and placed on real or digital backgrounds.

Click on the image to see it larger-than-a-thumbnail. They are all in a 30-paintings-in-30-days gallery at the small friends website. Click on the tag line under each image to take you to the small friends page that tells the story of each image, and welcomes you to purchase (or not, as not all are for sale), or to find that some of the images are on cool products at my zazzle store.

Now, back to the painting table.

Find the Owl 2015-16
Find the Owl 2015-16
Undercover Rooster 2015-15
Undercover Rooster 2015-15







Golden Boy Winston 2015-13
Golden Boy Winston 2015-13

French Steer Larry 2015-14

French Steer Larry 2015-14

Two Colorful Cats 2015-12
Two Colorful Cats 2015-12
Tin Roof Maroon Rooster 2015-11
Tin Roof Marsala Rooster 2015-11









Stained Glass Rooster 2015-9
Green and Blue Stained Glass Rooster 2015-9
Night Rooster 2015-10
Night Rooster 2015-10









Rooster by Committee 2015-8
Rooster by Committee 2015-8




Glowing Rooster 2015-6
Glowing Rooster 2015-6







Backyard Rooster Nine 2015-5
Backyard Rooster Nine 2015-5


No 2 stars are alike 2015-3
No 2 snowflakes are alike 2015-3








No 2 stars are alike 2015-4
No 2 snowflakes are alike 2015-4



30-paintings-in-30-days January 2015
Friendship 2015-1






Quiltish Windows 2015-2
Four  Windows 2015-2
Curious Rooster 2015-7
Curious Rooster 2015-7

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

Final cave cat panel image

The WARM Show

The WARM (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota) Mentor-Protegee Show is coming in October, but the catalog picture and info deadline is August 1. Hence, the race to produce something that either sensibly represents “work-in-progress,” or approximates “finished.”

Three of the Five Panels

Cats, Parrots, and Owls in Progress

The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul installation will have five panels: Owls, Parrots, Cats, Some Random Birds, and an Elephant. (It’s my cave, so I can populate it at will.)

The Owl and Parrot Panels are not quite finished, but the images are all recognizable owls, parrots, and the border hummingbirds (top), and frogs (bottom.)

Cave Cats In Progress

The Cat Conundrum

In life, I answer to two cats, so it would have been impossible to keep cats from the cave walls. But what cave cat panel image to use?

If you know my work, you’ll recall dozens of cats of all shapes and sizes.  I searched my image files and found one that I had used on two of my earliest paintings, Dot Cat and Striped Cat. I made three different sized templates, and “ghosted” them onto the panel with one of the most useful of watercolors, Winsor Newton Davy’s Gray.

An organizing principle? A theoretical construct? A plan!

Because the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul are whimsical historical documents, it seems reasonable that the Cat Panel would depict some of our current cats’ ancestors. Who is to say that the Great-great-great-great-great-great-great (etc.) Grandpa of an orange-striped tabby didn’t have a green stripe?

Other Markings’ Research

The Small Friends’ Research Institute, (sponsor of the bulk of my research into whimsical creatures and publisher of The Small Friends’ Chronicles and Meet the LLLamas) tasked its entire staff with emergency research into the markings on Ancient Cats of Minnesota. I expect a report this afternoon.

Related posts, retail outlets, and a web link

Lost Cave Paintings Progress: On to the next level
Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul: for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show

Cave paintings are available at The Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market (Minneapolis) and at Three Sisters’ Eclectic Arts (Saint Paul), and from my website.

14 Rules for Consigning Your Art

Two Pandas from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul
Two Pandas From the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul
Once you have decided to share your art beyond giving it as gifts to friends and family, you will look for venues to sell your work. Art sales options can be overwhelming: ETSY (your work), zazzle (your designs on their products), your own blog, any of the dozens of web-based group sales venues, art fairs, sales through the arts organizations that you have joined, and farmers’ markets. And then there are galleries with individual owners or co-op galleries.

Considering consignment

Eventually you may consider consignment, a nifty arrangement in which you put your work into either a brick-and-mortar or web-based store in which someone else handles the customer interactions (conversations and sales), and you keep ownership of the work until it sells. You always retain the copyright (unless you sell or give it away in a contract.) The benefits are wider exposure than you might create on your own and the expansion of your sales team to include the store owners and staff. For this, you pay a percentage of the sales price.
Consignment is a big step. Think through these points:

1. Find the right venue #1.

Talk to the owners or managers. They are in business to make money for themselves and for their artists. Make sure that you are comfortable with the people you will trust with your art.

     2. Find the right venue #2.

If a store has a mission (representing artists from under-served communities, artists with disabilities, artists from a specific geographic area), don’t press to be accepted if you are not a member of the group.

3. Find the right venue #3.

Pay attention to each store’s price points. Don’t embarrass yourself by approaching a high-end-big-dollar gallery if the work that you want to sell is exactly what you sell on ETSY for under $30.

4. Find the right venue #4.

Style matters. A gallery with a 20-year history of selling cutting-edge abstracts run by one of the Big Names in Abstract Art Criticism may not be interested in taking on even the most exquisite realistic botanical art.

Chost Gecko
Ghost Gecko
Backyard Rooster of Saint Paul: Cousin Charlie 2
Backyard Rooster of Saint Paul: Cousin Charlie 2

5. Find the right venue #5.

Some stores require artists’ participation beyond dropping off work. Is there an hours-per-month requirement? If you are uncomfortable with a few hours a month at retail, are there other ways to fulfill a work requirement? Ask about the managers’ needs. Consider social media, marketing and merchandizing as ways to fulfill your obligation.

6. Follow the store’s protocols with your Inventory Integrity.

You want to sell your art, and all stores have rules about pricing and presentation which — if you want to get paid correctly —  you must follow to the letter. Although you will not be in the store every day, you must monitor your own inventory. Once accepted, you will submit inventory sheets with coding, prices, and product descriptions. You may submit paper inventory or you may submit online. Smart artists use consistent inventory coding and pricing across all inventory and across all platforms. Present legible inventory lists. Unless it is the policy, don’t expect the store managers to code and price your work.

7. Understand when and how you will be paid.

Some stores have multiple levels for consignors. Make sure that you understand exactly how each store’s compensation system works. Most stores collect and pay sales tax. You are responsible for paying your own income tax. Talk to an accountant or tax lawyer to make sure that you are tracking your sales and paying your income taxes correctly.

8. Setting prices #1. Pricing is hard.

What is the magic number that will encourage someone to purchase your work without undercutting its value (and your profit)? How much is too much? How little is too little? Talk to the managers. Look at the stock and ask about price points and what sells best. Talk to your artist friends who sell on consignment, and ask for their advice.

9. Setting prices #2.

Price your items consistently. If not now, then soon, you will be selling art in many outlets and across many platforms. Nothing will irritate store managers and customers more than inconsistent pricing should you have one price for your website, another price for ETSY, one price for this store, another for the shop across town, and yet another for your direct sales. This is part of your Inventory Integrity, and only you can manage it.

10. Packaging: People buy with their eyes

Always present clean, well-packaged work. Make sure that price tags and other tags are legible.

11. Ask to do a demo or to teach a class.

Many consignment venues have space for teaching which generates traffic for the store and can generate income for you. Note that store owners and managers are your first, best audience. The more that they know you, how you make your art, and how you talk about it, the easier it is for them to talk about your work to customers when you are not in the store.

12.  Your artist statement.

Within the space limitations of the store, post an artist statement. Customers are curious about you and your art. How do you make it? What is/are your inspiration(s)? What materials do you use?

13.  Sales are not personal.

Some of your work may fly off the shelves; other work may not sell at all. Consider re-packaging, re-framing, or re-purposing the work by cutting it up and making a mosaic out of it, spreading gesso over the canvas and making a new painting, or re-making the jewelry by using the components in new work. Every piece of work won’t be loved, but all of it can be re-purposed.

14.  Know the law.

You will be asked to sign a contract. Read it. If you don’t understand some of its terms, ask the store owner, or, better yet, take it to your lawyer. You have a lawyer don’t you? Every artist should have a lawyer on retainer for no other reason than to have an expert eye to review anything to do with the sale of your art. Find a lawyer who represents creatives as small business owners.
More reading about consigning
Consignment selling regulations
How to understand consignment rules
Starting a consignment business