Tagged inspiration

Found Art Sparks Imagination

Found Art Found Treasures

This found art turned up when I put things away after the Mystery of Cats Art Festival. I hadn’t seen it in two years, and its simplicity was striking. After having spent seven months creating intense and dense patterns for new cats, the plain shapes in this piece have an appeal. I painted in some blanks and now call it “possibly finished.”

The plan

With luck, I may create a really big (22×33) painting with solid shapes, one with a combination of patterned and solid shapes, and a few small pieces. I’d also like to make something like this in three dimensions. Creating a new dimension expands the meaning of “found art” and circles back to one of the goals that I set years ago as a protege in the WARM (Women’s Art Resource of Minnesota) mentor program: Work in 3D. (Note: WARM is going strong; the mentor program is on hiatus.)

Found Art Inspiration
Found Art Inspiration

Finding Possibilities

Having been making paintings since 2009 and having limited ability to dispose of anything — I suspect that a serious sort-and-organize project will unearth plenty of found art possibilities.

Multi-colored Antlers Community

Golden High Flow Acrylic Fern Feet: NOT multi-colored antlers
Golden High Flow Acrylic Fern Feet: NOT multi-colored antlers

Multi-colored antlers: a community

Multi-colored antlers did not appear in a fevered dream. Rather, in late April, I began a deep dive into Golden High Flow Acrylic which became Multi-colored Antlers.

High Flow is is magical paint that makes my favorite effect — fern feet (above) — and it has a double-plus-fabulous bonus of providing beautiful, clear colors that work as paint-from-a-brush, in markers, as a glaze, and anything you might imagine.


Community of Multi-colored Antlers: Antlers 1
Community of Multi-colored Antlers: Antlers 1

First Squiggles, then a community of Antlers

I start with a pencil (Kimberly General Pencil 6-H) drawing, cover it with Liquitex Clear Gesso, and wait 24 hours to paint. The clear gesso protects the drawing from smearing or blurring.

These shapes, first called “Squiggles,” are true nanoscapes, abstract designs that have been flowing from my brain since I first picked up a pencil. They cried out to be something more concrete and dignified. Now, to me, they are an overhead shot of a community of creatures with antlers (deer, moose, reindeer, caribou, Springbok, elk, Big Horn Sheep, Markhor, Saiga, Nubian Ibex, Bharal, Addax, Mouflon, Blackbuck, Oryx, Giant Eland, and Jackson’s Chameleon). As always, every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it.

Antlers’ Pencil Drawing

Antlers Pencil Drawing
Antlers Pencil Drawing

 Multi-colored Antlers 2

Multi-colored Antlers 2
Multi-colored Antlers 2


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 Intercept.com/surveillance-catalog 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.

Dots Progress Process #artfun


Zavier Camo Zebra In his Dot Suit Undercover at the Big Rock Candy Mountain
Zavier Camo Zebra In His Dots Suit Undercover at the Big Rock Candy Mountain

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.)


Dots Get Outlines
Dots Get Outlines


All the dots and outlines
All the dots and outlines


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.

Tiny Dots Enhanced
Tiny Dots Enhanced

Connections coloring book: tiny spaces

Since 2006, I have celebrated connections within the tiny spaces in paintings called nanoscapes. My friends and fans have been after me for years to make coloring books, and as with so many things, I’ve realized that resistance is futile. Now all I need is a printer who can create a book at a price that my pals can afford. Suggestions? Use the contact form at the end of this post.

Celebrating connections with painstaking exuberance

Almost by accident, I created a consistent body of abstract work that reflects my interest in connections among and between people, their neighborhoods, and their cities: true nanoscapes. I use painstaking exuberance, a four or five-step process, to make each one. I begin with a pencil drawing, continue with a Davy’s Gray watercolor outline, then paint between the lines, and outline each shape with paint or Micron pen. Sometimes the fifth step includes a paint or ink outline of the complete piece. I love and celebrate every single step.

2007 Kaleidoscope 1: early connections
2007 Kaleidoscope 1: early connections

My earliest watercolor paintings were all about tiny spaces, complex designs, and bright colors, and were reflected in the business name: nanoscapes & other visions llc.  The first paintings (8×10 inches or smaller) were shown at the now-closed Rosalie Wahl Library in Stillwater. It was a very tiny library, and the very tiny nanoscapes looked great on the walls.

Some of you know the story. No sooner than I had acquired the business name, and other pieces of a corporate entity, than one of my pals said “Honey, I love your work, but I can’t put a postcard behind my sofa.” Although they maintained their tiny designs in small spaces, the nanoscapes got bigger (16×20, 22×33). In 2009, whimsical creatures arrived and took over the studio, and integrated some nanoscapes’ designs into their bodies. I am returning happily to true nanoscapes, and most of the coloring (or painting) pages are inspired by paintings I’ve done or plan to do soon.

Pages coming in tandem with the First Unitarian Society “Connections” show

On December 30, 2015, I will hang a show that is focused on “Connections” at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis‘ elegant space on Mt. Curve. It is an honor to be there, and I am inspired to collect and showcase paintings from the underlying and unifying theme of so much of my work: connections. The show will be a combination of old and new connections-themed pieces with a handful of creature paintings that incorporate abstract images and link my old, new, and forthcoming work.

Some samples as work-in-progress:

Boxes Coloring Page WIP: a city? neighborhoods? connections all!
Boxes Coloring Page WIP: a city? neighborhoods? connections all!




Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you're lucky CP#2. All about connections.
Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you’re lucky. CP#2 All about connections.
Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you're lucky. CP #1. All about connections.
Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you’re lucky. CP #1 All about connections.


Mr. Klimt the First: Inspired by Conversations Connections
Mr. Klimt the First: Inspired by Conversations Connections.
Painted Knitted Metal 1: Honors my artist friends Carolyn Halliday & Karen Searle who knit with wire. An astonishing act of connection.
Painted Knitted Metal 1 Honors my artist friends Carolyn Halliday & Karen Searle who knit with wire. An astonishing act of connection.


Island Fortress: mash-up and connections
Island Fortress: mash-up and connections


I hope to see you at the show. Watch this space, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms for information about the show’s reception.  Also, I promise to create a genuine artist newsletter in 2016.





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.



Neighborhood blocks or city maps?

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.


Neighborhood Map 2
Neighborhood Map 2 (18×22: watercolor and acrylic work-in-progress)


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.


Neighborhood 3 work in progress 1
Neighborhood Map 3 work in progress 1




More Tiny Minnesota Maps

The Minnesota Maps project has sent me right back to my comfort zone: tiny designs in tiny spaces.

This is exciting because I am:

  1. Exercising tiny brush skills. The Duchess of Windsor said that you could never be “too rich or too thin.” I say that you can never get too technically competent with a really tiny brush.
  2. Revisiting favorite tiny patterns.  You can go home again — to your favorite designs. They will reflect what you’ve learned since you last worked them.
  3. Exploring new materials. What’s not to love: new paint colors, new products to make textures.
  4. Creating new designs. Without a strong desire to keep doves or rabbits, I never wanted to be a stage magician. Give me a pencil and a pencil sharpener, and I can aspire to make graphic magic.

The inspiration

I’ve lived in Minnesota for nearly a quarter of a century, and it’s time to celebrate the state.


Just pencil
Just pencil
Four Minnesota Maps
Four Textured 3-d Minnesota Maps

Conversations Connections: links


8 artawhirl

Inspiration or obsession?

“Obsession” is such a dark word. How, then, should I describe my habit of finding a new design and then working on it until I’m either exhausted, or another idea comes to replace it? Working on Conversations Connections pieces has absorbed a lot of time lately. I’m not close to being finished experimenting and exploring this design which reflects connections — human and technological.

Examples at Artists’ Market

Come and see several examples of Conversations Connections at Artists’ Market, the Northstar Watermedia Society’s All-Original Watercolor Show, at the Fine Arts Building at the MN State Fairgrounds, May 29 and 30.

In the beginning

Test of pencil, pen and paint
Test of pencil, pen and paint

I began to make the underlying pencil drawing during the first day of 2015 Art-a-Whirl, and finished it last night. My original plan was to use just green paint to fill in the tiny squares and rectangles, but somehow yellow and blue crept in.

After working with a Micron .05 black pen on the last piece, I decided to look for a pen with a finer line. I’d hoped for a 005 Davy’s Gray Micron Pen, but it isn’t available. Experimenting with Golden High Flow Transparent Gray with a new triple-zero brush was interesting, but the effect wasn’t quite right. At Dick Blick, I found the Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen (extra-small) in black and it worked. I’m still on the hunt for a very fine tipped gray pen.






I can create a Conversations Connection for you in any size and color scheme. I can work on paper (in my studio) or create a mural on your wall. Use the contact form below and we can start our own Conversation.

Reclaim & recycle new techniques into new flamingo art

3 flamingos on a round
3 flamingos on a round
Painted Beaded Flamingo at Vine Arts Center
Painted Beaded Flamingo at Vine Arts Center

A wooden flamingo is born

In 1996, a now-shuttered lumber yard in Saint Paul cut the flamingo from a piece of plywood, made a dozen sets of bookends, a random kidney-ish shaped piece, and 24 8-inch rounds. I painted and beaded the flamingo, and the rounds have aged like fine wine in a stack under my stairs.

New life for the flamingo

After standing tall in my bathroom for 16 years, the 5-foot tall beaded-and-painted wooden flamingo had its last public outing at Vine Arts Center during the 2014 Northern Spark Green Way Glow.

It is now a pink gesso-covered Cave Flamingo which was part of my Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul installation at the WARM (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota) Mentor-Protegee final show, Beyond the Surface, in late 2014.

WARM Installation 2014
WARM Mentor Protegee Show 2014: Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul

New life for the wooden rounds

Two years ago I bought a dozen 12-inch round sheets of a fine artist paper whose brand is lost in the mists of time. They sat comfortably in the package until I decided to use gesso, the key ingredient in Cave Paintings, to attach the round papers to the wooden rounds.

Wooden rounds meet tiny Flamingos

How this piece was made:

  1. I used gesso to attach the paper to the wooden round, and trimmed the excess.
  2. With a spatula, I splodged gesso onto the paper, and then pressed it with the Ax-Man Gizmo #2, a tube with wire mesh that makes a scaly-sort of pattern. I let it dry overnight.
  3. I sponged color onto the now-patterned gesso. I recommend acrylic paint (as opposed to watercolor), which won’t move an inch when you cover it with acrylic medium. I learned this lesson the very very hard way (subject of another post when I’m over my disappointment.)
  4. Having made dozens of tiny flamingos as ornaments, bookmarks, and gift tags, I am surrounded by them. Three volunteered to be encased on gloss varnish for this project. I glued them onto the round, and waited patiently while the glue dried. (Really? Why are you telling me this? Because I have a life-long history of being too quick to move on to the next step, and I want to save you from the abject misery that will follow a string of bad words.)
  5. Inspired by Dar Bunde, an amazing artist-member of the Northstar Watermedia Society, I used Liquitex Gloss Medium because I want this piece to be SHINY!!!!! I poured it on and set to to dry overnight.
  6. I painted the sides with acrylic paint and covered the sides with gloss medium
  7. I attached a hanger on the back so that this can hang on the wall.