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!”
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.
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.
Thanks to Rob Wishart, some of my owls are on The Owl Pages, a very cool site with loads of owl photos and everything you could ever want to know about these beautiful and smart birds. Two of my favorite brown owls on that site are below.
Brown Owl from The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul
When I started painting owls I wasn’t confident about getting their faces right. This brown owl waited patiently on my easel for about half a year while I worked on dozens of small owl faces. I’m glad that I practiced.
This Brown Owl is from The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul, which I imagine and excavate from the comfort of my rat-and-bat-free living room studio.The “cave wall” is white gesso that I tint with watercolor. Applying (slathering) the gesso with an offset spatula gives the painting its texture.
Wise Brown Owl
The original owl for this image is very small and very blue. I scanned the image into Photoshop, and used both Posterize and Invert to make this velvety brown owl.
As bad news flows from one neighborhood to another across the country and around the world, I can’t help but want to brighten up the landscape. Two paintings that might be city maps share my living room studio space this week. Technically, each will explore squares and rectangles with watercolor and acrylic in both color and texture. Are they images of neighborhoods? Are they maps? Are they aerial views of bright cities? I can’t decide.
These might also be an homage to tile. I love tiles. All kinds of tile. My favorite bathrooms had intricate black-and-white floor tiles, and beautiful art-tiles in the showers and in kitchens. If I lived in an architecturally appropriate space, I would have a Turkish Tile Extravaganza, and a lot of work by Josh Blanc of Clay Squared to Infinity. I can’t imagine a less tile-friendly space than the one in which I live, so real tile will remain an extravagant daydream.
Back to reality.
For me, creating images like these in actual tile is a non-starter. When I turned 60, I decided to give up activities requiring safety equipment, which specifically included cutting tile and bungee jumping. I’ve left the door open for ballooning and sky-diving adventures, but that’s because every rule has to have an exception.
I suppose that I could use pre-cut tile to make some art, but the tiny shapes that I can draw and then paint make sense to me.
A neighborhood map & coloring-book-map-making project
This larger map has a slightly more dramatic form — with movement within the shapes. (Neighborhood Map #3, 22×33; work in progress.) I will get a digital shot of it before I start to paint so that I can create a coloring-book-map-making project.
Photoshop has been my friend for a while. At first, I used it to create an archive. Because I started “image-a-day” painting in 2010, I have a HUGE archive of images. Sometime in 2011, I discovered the magic of Photoshop and began to manipulate images.
It was easy to identify the original image as “Trilobite” from a dim memory of studying geology. It is 5×7″ and beautifully framed. Thank you, Frameworks.
Entering Photoshop’s Magic World
Once the Photoshop light came on, I spent hours tweaking this image, learning about Filters and Adjustments. (Working with Layers came much much later.) Surprise! The same person who categorically refuses to make round color wheels, declined to learn to play scales (C sharp? C Major?), also steadfastly refused to take careful notes about filters and adjustments, making it impossible to recreate any of this.
The image with the eye on the right is Teresa Trilobite. The fellow with the eye on the left is Tommy Trilobite. They are featured in The Small Friends’ Chronicles. Here is their story:
Although trilobites who roamed the oceans between 526 and 250 million years ago have long been extinct, The Small Friends’ Research Institute (which funds some of my work) found Theresa (eye on the top) and Tommy (eye on the bottom) living quietly in a small pond in Northern Minnesota.
Theresa and Tommy were thrilled that Trilobite: Four by Five (below) was selected for the Still Point Gallery’s Abstraction Distraction online exhibition (November-December 2011). They are still delighted that they were able to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital by appearing in the Square Inches of Love traveling exhibition.
In 2011, this image was accepted in Square Inches of Love, a giant quilt that was a fundraiser for St. Jude. Want one for your very own? It’s at ETSY.
Two of my pieces were selected by the Colors of Humanity Art Gallery for its February 2015 show honoring “RED, my favorite color. What a beautiful group of paintings to be part of in this Red Show.
The Ax-Man Gizmo 10th Gear
The Ax-Man Gizmo 10th Gear is part of a series of paintings that I made after a Mentor-Protegee Art Adventure with Layl McDill, my WARM (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota) mentor in the 2013-2015 cycle. We found the flat black plastic gizmo that carpenters use to measure the diameter of wire, and immediately saw ART TOOL! I made ten of these paintings.
Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul: Three Red Cave Frogs
The Three Red Cave Frogs are, of course, part of the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul. Imagined and excavated from the comfort of my living room studio, which is remarkably free of rats and bat, each piece begins with a layer of tinted gesso. The frogs are stencilled and the whole piece is sprayed with archival spray.
FROM THE COLORS OF HUMANITY WEBSITE: This show will run February 1-31 (sic), 2015. Artists from around the world were called to submit their work and we were very pleased with the response we received. There were 117 accepted works and they came from 26 different states in the USA and 8 other countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Malaysia, Russian Federation, and Switzerland. A variety of styles and mediums were entered including, acrylic, blood, ‘bodypaintography’, charcoal, digital, ink, latex, mixed media, monotype, oil, pastel, photography, resin, scratchboard, watercolor, and woodcut. 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, as well as relating to the theme, also contributed to the decision. “Best of Show”, “First Place”, and “Second Place” winners received a monetary award in addition to special recognition.
We were very happy to donate 10% of all entry fees from this show to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). It is our hope that this small act of kindness will blossom and grow to help someone else.
On Day 18, I indulged myself, and returned to one of my many comfort zones: the abstract grid. “Indulged” is the correct word because this basic gridding technique combines sharp focus and incredible relaxation. I can make these paintings for hours at a time.
The original watercolor painting ofSometimes a square is just a square is 3×4″ and made on 300# paper. I needed to relax, and what could be more relaxing than to create an abstract grid and then to fill in alternating boxes? Unwilling to leave well enough alone, I scanned it into Photoshop, posterized it, and then imported it to a bright yellow background.
Sometime a square is just a square is a greeting card at zazzle.com
Two related paintings.
Part of a group of two, “The Sail #2″ (33×8”) made in 2012 on 300# Arches paper (sold). Made with Painstaking Exuberance in 2011, “Unmade Bed” captures the whimsical spirit of these paintings. Contact me directly (email@example.com) to commission a “Sail” or an “Unmade Bed” in a size that works for you.