From Wet Paint

New Hippo Camouflage Hiding Behind Art

New Hippo Camouflage: Hiding behind Creatures with Antlers

Spokescat Max
Spokescat Max: The hippos are coming.

For about six weeks, I was obsessed with anti-climate change convocations headed by Creatures with Antlers who were gathering inside the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul. I painted more than two dozen canvases and paint-on-paper pieces that were birds’ eye views of these meetings. It was time to stop.

With more of these images than I could possibly display (let alone sell), Max-the-Cat, my Model, Muse and Snacks Manager, said “The hippos are coming and they need a place to hide.” Never argue with your Spokescat.

Creatures with antlers birds' eye view repurpose: hippo camouflage
Creatures with antlers birds’ eye view repurpose: hippo camouflage


Create Hippo Camouflage: Cut Strips, Squares and Rectangles

With more than enough painted papers, it was almost easy to start. But not quite. I love all of these sheets of whimsical shapes and the intense colors from Golden High Flow Acrylic paint. Finally realizing that I could paint more sheets if I wanted, it still took a while to get up the nerve to begin to cut.

Toolkit: TerraSkin, a tree-free paper that doesn’t stretch that I buy from the always-helpful staff at Saint Paul’s Wet Paint, a paper cutter, good scissors (Fiskars), and a Uhu archival glue stick. Gotta have it: good light and a comfortable chair.


Hippo Camouflage 1
Hippo Camouflage 1
Hippo Camouflage 2
Hippo Camouflage 2




Hippo Camouflage 3: Got Legs
Hippo Camouflage 3: Got Legs











Hippo Camouflage: what could it be?

Think of a Hawaiian shirt on colored steroids, melted crayons (before your Mom noticed that you had done this on the floor), adventures in microscope viewing, or for people of a certain age, a very pleasant acid trip,

Hippo Camouflage 4
Hippo Camouflage 4

Hippo Camouflage: it’s working!

Hippo Camouflage 5
Hippo Camouflage 5
Hippo Camouflage 6: All covered up
Hippo Camouflage 6: All covered up

What next for hippo camouflage?

This hippo, who has not yet shared his name with me, is taking the rest of the week off while being coated with Golden Glass Bead Gel and Golden Self-Leveling Clear Gel. He sent a message to two of his friends, noting that hippo camouflage is pretty cool. They will get to Saint Paul next week. They hope to arrive in time for Art in the Hollow, an amazing day of art and music and fun and food in the magical Swede Hollow. June 2. Be there. Rain or shine.

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 (, ask Dr. Google for information about materials you need (, 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

Holly Tree Memory

There once was a holly tree

Holly Tree Memory
Holly Tree Memory

There was a holly tree outside the kitchen window in my first “running away from home” apartment. It was tall and wide — kind of dumpy, actually. Bright and green all winter long, it was a high point in an otherwise dreary Washington DC metro winter. Its berries were beautiful. Red and redder than red.

This Holly Tree

I hadn’t thought about that tree for years until This Holly Tree emerged from a stack of “gotta finish this” paintings on my easel. What was left to do? Add the red berries. Done.

Life in the Holly Tree apartment was more or less carefree (except for the general angst of 20-year-olds, my parents’ consternation at this unconventional (gasp!) living situation, my then-boyfriend’s draft status, and my stolen VW Bug.)  This Holly Tree channels the memory, employs one of my favorite nanoscapes designs (tiny random shapes), and makes a shameless pitch for a skinny space on the wall. The original is for sale (5×15″ matted to 8.5×20″, $100) at the Vine Arts Holiday Sale (December 6, 12-5), and from me directly, thereafter. I will have prints, matted to 11×14 for $30 each.

Tiny random shapes on TerraSkin™

Each tiny random shapes piece begins with a very sharp General Pencil (6H) and a deep breath. Sometimes I make them in an order (spirals, straight lines) and sometimes their order is random. I drew This Holly Tree on the most wonderful paper called TerraSkin™ which I buy in sheets from Wet Paint in Saint Paul. TerraSkin™ is a tree-free paper made of 75% calcium carbonate and 24% binder. The combination makes a paper that is very smooth and buttery. Watercolor puddles and dries, making almost translucent color. Because the paint isn’t absorbed (it sits on top of the paper), watercolor paintings need archival spray for protection.



Conversations Connections BW – a winner!


Conversations Connections BW
Conversations Connections BW

From my email

Thank you for submitting your work into Colors of Humanity Art Gallery. Your participation is greatly appreciated. By contributing your talents and skills, this helps to ensure a diverse body of work for an attractive show.  

I am pleased to inform you that “Conversations Connections BW” has been accepted for inclusion in the July 2015 show, “Black and White”. Congratulations! Multiple accepted entries came from 18 different states in the USA and 9 other countries, Belgium, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, and Venezuela.  A variety of styles and mediums were entered including, acrylic, , chalk, charcoal, collage, egg tempra, gouche, graphite, ink, latex, linocut, mixed media, oil, pencil, pen, photography, scratchboard, stain, and watercolor. The judging criterion was originality, interpretation, quality, demonstration of ability, and usage of medium. Other factors, such as the clarity of the images provided and their ability to be viewed online, also contributed to our decision.

We were very happy to donate 10% of all entry fees from this show to Heart to Heart International.  It is our hope that this small act of kindness will blossom and grow to help someone else.

 Please visit on July 1, 2015, to find out which works were chosen and to see which works were selected as winners. All accepted entries will have a link back to the artist’s website or his or her email address if no website.

Thank you again for participating in this show and for allowing us to consider your work for the exhibition. We wish you continued success in your artistic endeavors and a bright future.


Janelle Cogan

Colors of Humanity Art Gallery, LLC

Thanks to the staff at Saint Paul’s treasure: Wet Paint!

You all helped me find just the right pen to make this work: the graphite Derwent Graphik Line Maker 0.1.

And thanks to Gustav Klimt for inspiration.

Exploring tiny shapes and spaces

Tiny Bit of Tieton
Tiny Bit of Tieton

It’s clear that I love tiny shapes and spaces, and think that fooling around with a triple-zero brush is fun.

But I’d never counted just how many tiny shapes and spaces that I routinely fill in one of these explorations. Not until today. In this bit of “Conversations Connections for Tieton,” I found 108 painted shapes in this 1.9×1.6″ of an 8×8 painting. That’s all the math that I can do today.

Conversations Connections for Tieton 2015
Conversations Connections for Tieton 2015

The Klimt Bird is a Super Fan of Gustav Klimt (click that Artsy link to see why). I made him at the “artists at work” table at Northstar Watermedia’s Artists’ Market (2015). Hanging around with artist pals was a blast. Watching this little guy come to life from a doodle was enchanting. He is made with the ever-faithful double zero brush and a Micron pen.

Klimt Bird #1: A Super Fan
Klimt Bird #1: A super fan
Conversations Connections for Black-and-White
Conversations Connections for Black-and-White

While prepping for and participating in three art shows in three weeks, I was also working on a black-and-white version of Conversations Connections for a contest focused on black and white work. Making tiny shapes and spaces with shades of black and gray was engrossing. No word on the results yet, but it did give me a chance to find a new pen (Grafik very very fine line in graphite gray) to use on the connecting lines. Thank you, as always, to the amazing staff at Wet Paint. They always find the solutions to my art problems.



An Ode to TerraSkin

Hummingbird in Hyperspace. 4×6″ Original NFS. The image is on cool products at
An early version of “Friendship: Complicated. Messy. Beautiful if you’re lucky.” Green watercolor floated on TerraSkin. Watercolor design painted with a 00 brush. Original Sold. Similar designs available at The Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market.










It has been a while since I started to paint on TerraSkin®, a tree-free paper that uses no water in its production.  Thanks to the great folks at Wet Paint, I have an inexhaustible supply. My favorite is the thickest (16 point . 25×35″ for $7.25/sheet) sheet. It comes in other thicknesses (4, 10, and 12 point).

When I first put paint into water (wet-in-wet) on this product, I said, out loud, “Hyperspace! I’ve seen those movies!” Thus were born the Creatures from Hyperspace.

TerraSkin® is an absolute pleasure to work with. The paint puddles and dries, so beginning a design as a wet-in-wet riot of color is a delightful first step on a creative journey. I approach this in two ways. I paint out a whole sheets or 4×6″ sheets that become Tiny Small Paintings. I mount each Tiny Small Painting archivally on mat board that is sized to fit a 5×7 frame. Each one has an envelope (for ease of gifting), and the painting and the envelope are packed in a Clearbag™.

plaid four fb
Plaid Pig from Hyperspace.

Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show


Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota (WARM)’s Mentor-Protege Show is fast approaching. I have plotted and planned for months, and finally have taken gesso in hand to begin.

The Project

The project will be an installation of an excavation of some of the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul. I began making these paintings in 2012 after watching Paul Boecher demonstrate using gesso* on board at the Northstar Water Media Society‘s Art-on-a-Line. A piece of his gesso-on-paper looked like fresco, and my mind went immediately to “cave wall.”

Since mid-2012, I’ve made more than 150 large and small cave paintings, and dozens of “friends of the cave” Pandas who inhabit the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul.

* A Word About Gesso: In the modern era, gesso is an acrylic medium as thick as Greek yogurt that artists use to make surfaces either smooth or bumpy. I make textured cave walls with white gesso that I tint with watercolors for small works or acrylic paints for large ones. Historic gesso was made by boiling rabbits, and current purists still make gesso with rabbit skin glue and minerals. I am glad to be a 21st century artist who can skip boiling rabbits and simply buy gesso at Wet Paint or at Dick Blick.

The Flamingo’s Last Outing:
Northern Spark at the Vine Arts Center

Meet the Flamingo

This 5-foot flamingo has lived in my downstairs bathroom for more than 15 years. I took the paper design to a lumber yard where the staff kindly (without laughing) cut out the bird, made a dozen sets of book ends, and 20 8-inch rounds from the plywood that I purchased.

Flamingo with Magenta-
Tinted Gesso

In the original plan for the bird, I would have covered the body with beads, mosaic-tiled the legs, and created a stained-glass-shard-mosaic for the grass and weeds. Fortunately, it was a flexible plan, and I was very happy with some-beads-and-paint. All of the other flamingo pieces in the bathroom miss their Big Birdy Buddy.

The flamingo’s body is now covered with tinted pink gesso, and the weeds are covered with weed-colored-and-textured gesso.

The Cave Walls

The five aluminum boards (cut and primed with great skill by Jason Najarak), are now a taupe/gray that is a mixture of white gesso and an astonishing amount of acrylic paint. I used sepia, chrome yellow, chrome orange, phalo blue, violet, metallic bronze and gold, venetian red and probably a few more. Each panel is slightly different from the others. Each board is 5′ tall by 2′ wide.

Next Steps

1. Create the templates for the creatures. I have gone into my archive for my favorite images. The original elephant works well on a 5″x7″ tiny painting. Making him into a 20″x40″paper template will use all of my cut and paste skills.

2. Paint the creatures, including the dozens of frogs and hummingbirds which will be part of the continuity for the panels.

3. Print and install the maps for the back of the piece. Because this will be free-standing in the middle of the room, it can’t have an unsightly “naked” back. I will cover it with maps of Old Saint Paul made from electronic files from the the Ramsey County Historical Society Library in the basement of the Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul.

4.  Print the “Visit Very Old Saint Paul” postcards for the postcard rack.

Puzzle Maker’s Choice: jigsaw, tile saw or paint brush?

Puzzle Pieces Work in Progress

I understand the addictive quality of working out a jigsaw puzzle, and have myself uttered the plaintive cry “Just one more!” when my parents were trying to call me to dinner or send me to bed.

There are no jigsaw puzzles in my house today: Too much space is devoted to painting. Max the Kitten, who has already walked into wet gesso and spilled water onto a nearly-finished painting, would be drawn to puzzle pieces like a moth to a flame.

Having a “no puzzle policy” hasn’t kept me from making puzzles, though. Typical puzzle maker’s tools are either jig saws or (for the really ambitious) tile saws, however, my puzzle-making tool is a paint brush.

This work-in-progress puzzle is made with a 6H pencil and a Raphael Martora Sable #0 brush that I bought at Wet Paint in Saint Paul, MN.

Further reading: 11 Reasons To Do Jigsaw Puzzles


New Stone Paper: Terraskin™

During my last visit to Wet Paint, I bought a new-to-me bright-white paper called Terraskin which is made from 76% calcium carbonate and 24% high density polyethylene (a binding agent.) Neither trees nor water are used to make it. The manufacturer politely warns that it will begin to degrade if exposed to direct sunlight and moisture for six to nine months, but if kept indoors (my plan) it will be fine. It comes in three thicknesses, and I bought the thickest. A 16-point 25×35 sheet was $6.85.

Pencil and Watercolor on Terraskin
Pencil and Watercolor on Terraskin
Stone #1
Pencil & Watercolor
5×7″  $20.00

Love Terraskin

Unlike Yupo, which is also tree-free, but is 100% synthetic, Terraskin  is very smooth and buttery. I have never warmed up to Yupo, and find Terraskin, very soft and friendly to touch and to work with.
It is very pencil-friendly, and takes watercolor beautifully. After finishing my painting, I hesitated to touch it because the little watercolor puddles looked shiny and wet. Nope.They were dry.
I am looking forward to drawing and painting on this surface.