My interest in gemstones was sparked during a trip to see The Hope Diamond when it was introduced into the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in 1958. My Mother bravely packed her station wagon with Brownie Scouts, and we joined the mobs who lined up to see it. We snaked through the museum through the Hall of Gems, which was filled with what appears in bodice-ripper fiction as “dripping with pearls.” Inspiring and breathtaking.
But ever-so-slightly disappointing. It was billed to the public and to my tiny 8-year-old brain as the largest blue diamond in captivity. Not knowing that the key word was blue, I expected to find a diamond the size of a softball. To my immense disappointment, it appeared to be the size of a quarter.
I missed the career off-ramp to “gemstone cutter,” and now that I’m hewing to my 65th birthday vow of avoiding activities requiring safety equipment or liability waivers, there will be no glass cutting, tile cutting, bungee jumping, and now, no gemstone cutting.
Whimsical wildlife documentarian paints gemstones
It is well within the purview of the Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian to paint gemstones and to apply a 2019 version of Painstaking Exuberance. I have paintbrushes, and I am not afraid to use them.
Multiple advantages of painting whimsical gemstones:
No insurance penalty for using dangerous equipment: paint brushes, even the tiniest, are not lethal unless you are in obscure parts of mystery fiction.
No need to consider the Laws of Physics: I never took physics, so I can plead ignorance.
No need to consider colors that might not exist in nature: in my experience as an artist, nature’s color limitations are highly over-rated.
No need to be limited by cost or size: a real five-pound amethyst crystal would be outside my art supply budget, it would pain my arthritic hands, and diamonds and rubies are out of the question.
No fear of making a costly mistake: the ever-real possibility of dropping and breaking a valuable stone was always a deal breaker.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Drawing the first of the nanoscapes Valentine coloring pages was an unalloyed pleasure, as was painting the original ($100, limited availability at ETSY), and creating a digital print ($25, at ETSY). This 2017 Nanoscapes Valentine Heart is a dollar digital download at ETSY. You have choices: the original watercolor painting (get it before it disappears!), an archival digital print (Epson paper and ink), or a project (the coloring page.)
My pals have urged me to make coloring books for a decade
Adult coloring books stopped being a trend and coloring pages are now a tidal wave. I was a little slow getting to the coloring pages project, but I’m now at it all the time. I go everywhere with a pad of Bristol paper, 6H pencils, erasers, and a tiny brass pencil sharpener.
A collection of coloring pages
Common advice to writers is “go with what you know,” and I followed it. Making coloring pages based on nanoscapes’ designs lets me revisit the tiny shapes and spaces that I’ve explored since childhood with doodles, and with paint since I took James Boyd Brent’s Splitrock Short Watercolor Class in 2006.
Making a book to my satisfaction is much more complicated than I imagined, so I have made these pages into dollar (plus tax) digital downloads at my ETSY shop in the Adult Coloring Page section. Print them onto card stock. Get our your sharp pencils, tiny paint brushes, or pens and markers. Have fun!
Click to see the pages, then dollar download at ETSY
Click on each image to learn more about Orbs (an original nanoscape), Stacked Boxes, Boxes and Dots, Painted Knitted Metal 31, Demented Dominos, Stalagmites and Curves, Find the Owl!, Terrazzo Molecules, Friendship Bands, and Conversations Connections. There are now 24 coloring pages in The ADULT COLORING PAGES of my ETSY shop. I often add new pages.
I love dots.Tiny circles that swirl around one another and nestle together to make interesting little worlds. I’m always inspired by tiny spaces, and I’ve covered pages and pages of paper with doodle dots. I’ve been painting dots with enthusiasm since 2009. Many of my whimsical creature friends are from the Dot Family including Zavier Camo Zebra, seen at left in his Dot Suit for an Undercover Assignment chasing confectionery bandits at the Big Rock Candy Mountain. But enough distraction —
This is how a dot painting happens…
Dots in the beginning
I always begin with a pencil drawing. Each of my dots is made with a General Pencil 6H, painstakingly going round and round. Selecting the first color is a big decision. I usually begin with red, but I knew that I wanted mostly blue and green in this piece, so I picked a blue and began.
The dark circles that you see are a 2B pencil. I wanted to see whether making dark outlines of dots would make a difference in the end. Spoiler alert: no difference in the end.
Dots get color
I used both watercolor and acrylic in this painting. I love them both, for different reasons, and I wanted to see if it made the any difference in the end. Spoiler alert: no difference in the end.
Dots get outlines
No dot leaves the studio without an outline. In a painstaking repeat of the pencil creation, I outline each dot with Micron pen. I used to do outline with a paintbrush, and for some reason that I don’t remember, I switched to pen. (Note to artists who probably know this already: I just learned that Micron pens are meant to be used like technical pens, and are best used held at a 90-degree angle from the paper AND used lightly. No heavy hand needed.)
Enhanced dots #artfun
Once I began to explore Photoshop (and filters on my phone and in Instagram) I never looked back. If I had a personal hashtag, it would be #artfun, which is something that I have every day.
Big Neighborhoods 2 passed an important milestone for the New Year. Each piece has color. All the watercolor is from tubes, from watercolor cakes, and from colors mixed on my palette. Careful and organized watercolorists might scream in pain if they knew just how random and unreproducible many of these colors are.
Painstaking Exuberance 2.0
Big Neighborhoods 2 (22×33) extends a version of Painstaking Exuberance, my description of my most comfortable artistic process. I make a pencil drawing. In the past, perhaps because I was less sure of what I was doing, I would cover the pencil with Davy’s Gray, a very light watercolor, that would set the pencil and give me a launching pad for adding color. I’ve learned to skip that step and go right to color. Beginning with the brightest red, I add colors randomly, and finish each tile with an outline.
Using an easel
Yes. I have an easel. It is a storage and viewing tool that I rarely paint use for painting. Why? Three reasons: (1) watercolor drips; (2) arthritis in my shoulder makes standing painting uncomfortable and unproductive; and, (3) Max-the-Cat, who perches in Purrniture with the best view of my painting table, takes a dim view of the easel. The last time I tried to use it, he tried to climb up my leg and leap to the easel’s shelf. I surrendered.
Fave Brush: Raphael Kaerell #2 Flat
Unlike smaller pieces which I make with 00 brushes, each tiny tile here was made with a Raphael Kaerell #2 Flat brush. This line of brushes is synthetic sable. It is tough and strong, and grabs a lot of paint.
After I take a deep breath, each little will get a Micron Pen outline. Perhaps black? Perhaps green or purple. Not a bad decision to make on the New Year.
Coming soon: coloring page
A blank 22×33 version of this painting will be available soon (next week).
These paintings are all based on a doodle that I began making during lengthy conference calls with wonderful people who had gathered to help a dear friend and dedicated public servant network her way into a different job. We were ultimately unsuccessful (but in great support of the person who was selected). Our friend continues her public service (lucky people in her district), and I got an inspirational and winning design. Every tiny block is connected to one or more blocks. Just like people in the world — connected. These watercolor paintings are all made with tiny brushes (double and triple zero), and Micron Pens. I am becoming very fond of the pen size .005 which has a .20 mm tip.
Conversations Connections 2015-2 (12×12)
Conversations Connections 2015-1 (18×22)
Tiny spaces ready for closeups
A painting for you
Any of these designs can be made for your space (tiny to huge) and in the colors of your choice. Contact me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.