Tagged Neighborhoods

Cat in Neighborhoods Inspired by Max-the-Cat

What a difference a day makes to a cat: October 28

Setting this cat in a bunch of neighborhoods is NOT like setting a cat among the pigeons. He is there to remind us all that we all look better, perform better, laugh more, and do our best work when we are surrounded by those from whom we can learn, which is a corollary of “every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it.”

I finished the pencil drawing on October 28, covered it with Liquitex Clear Gesso, and started to paint on October 29.

Cat in Neighborhoods Final Pencil Drawing
The pencil drawing is finished and the Cat in Neighborhoods is covered with Clear Gesso to prevent smudging.


Cat painting begins: October 29

The Cat emerges. Using a Princeton brush, Golden High Flow Acrylics, and Daler Rowney FW Artists Acrylic Ink, I began to paint. Bit by bit. Piece by piece. Space by space.

Cat in neighborhoods after one day of painting.
Cat in Neighborhoods gets its first paint.

Cat details

The Neighborhood Cat is on a 16×20 stretched canvas. His face, yet to be determined/designed, makes him part of the Clowder of Cats. “Clowder,” as you may know, is the collective noun for “cat.”

As you might imagine, Max-the-Cat — model, muse and snacks manager — is the Model for the entire Clowder. Some of the original clowder paintings are for sale. All are available as prints ($25) or cards-with-envelopes ($4 each). Contact susangainen@comcast.net. Billed through PayPal.

Spokescat Max: Model for the Clowder
Spokescat Max is the model for the Clowder of Cats.

Big Neighborhood Happy Accident

A Big Neighborhood Happy Accident

I was searching through images from the past few years and found this image, Big Neighborhood 2. I opened it in Photoshop, hit “invert,” and now celebrate the one-click Big Neighborhood Happy Accident.


Big Neighborhood 2 Invert: Big Neighborhood Happy Accident
Big Neighborhood 2 Invert: Big Neighborhood Happy Accident
Big Neighborhood 2. Big Neighborhood Happy Accident
Big Neighborhood 2.

Big Neighborhood 2: part of a series

This painting is part of a series of nanoscapes abstract paintings and paper mosaics whose tiny shapes and tiny pieces come together with two purposes: to create joy and to spark conversations about what it means to be in a neighborhood.

In these “Neighborhoods,” as in life, each piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it. Creating each tiny piece is unalloyed pleasure, and a meditative practice.

I have done this work in watercolor, acrylic, and paper mosaic. I was fortunate to be able to work on a collaborative, colorful and inspirational mosaic mural project with the Class of 2017 6th graders at Alice Smith Elementary School in Hopkins, MN. If you are in the neighborhood (Hopkins), drop by and see it.

Creativity and the Happy Accident

The creative happy accident can flow from:

A thought. A gesture. A sunrise. A sunset. A crazy cat. A beautiful bug. A sound (or lack of sound). A “mistake.”

Lucky artists’ preparation for the Happy Accident

Have an open mind. Have good tools and take good care of them.

Learn how to use and manipulate your tools. My one-click Happy Accident is the direct result of my constant exploration of  Photoshop’s features.

Have a camera or sketchbook handy. Don’t be embarrassed to stop and sketch.

Don’t be afraid to try. If your idea doesn’t work as you imagined or planned, begin again. Recycle your creative materials. Paint over the canvas (that’s what gesso is for); rework the clay; melt the glass shards; rip out the knitting. Cut things up. Make collages. Use glue. Find a hammer or electric staple to make new surfaces. You, too, may have a Happy Accident.


Availability:  The original Big Neighborhood 2 has been sold. Prints of Big Neighborhood 2 Invert are available at etsy.

Minnesota: Art Bonanza State

So many art events. So little time.

Minnesota, art bonanza state, is well-populated with artists, art activities, and art events. I met a woman last week who said “You can’t swing a cat in Minnesota without hitting an artist.” Not that I would recommend cat-swinging.

Minnesota Art Bonanza State: It must be a law.

I’m convinced that there is a section in Minnesota statutes or regulations that requires:

  • An artist on every block.
  • Ten art events on every week day.
  • 30-50 art events on every non-holiday weekend.

I’ve given up counting the number of art invites that I get. I’ve lost track (often to my detriment) of the art events to which I could apply. I’m overwhelmed by the opportunities to participate in arts organizations. What to do? Keep making art.

My work. Opening today. Just today.

Here is one example of the Crazy Minnesota Art Bonanza State calendar: I have work in two shows that open today. The NEEMA Fall Fine Arts Show and the Dow Gallery Celebration of Life on the Green Line. Time being what it is (limited for me), I might not get to the NEEMA show today. I will be at the Dow Gallery with Ginger Chili Krispee Treets.

Both shows celebrate their respective “neighborhoods.” NEEMA, an award-winning arts organization, is a lynchpin of Minneapolis’ Northeast Arts Community. The Dow Gallery anchors the west end of the Green Line in Saint Paul.

Tell your GPS to find art!



Friendship 7 Complicated Sometimes Messy Beautiful if you are lucky. Minnesota Art Bonanza State
Friendship 7 Complicated Sometimes Messy Beautiful if you are lucky


Neighborhood 42. Minnesota Art Bonanza State
Neighborhood 42: every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it

Coloring page digital downloads

Prepping the coloring pages for the first nanoscapes coloring book is taking more time than I thought. (Really? Isn’t this like home repair? Everything takes twice as long…)  I’m so excited about each coloring page and some of them are available as ETSY dollar digital downloads. Each is a 300 dpi image. Please print onto card stock or other heavy paper that you’d like to color or paint on.

Each coloring page is based on an original nanoscape, one of the the abstract paintings that have been part of my life since 2006. It has been wonderful fun to revisit each design, to create a coloring page, and to begin to paint each one. My original goal was to make a completed painted work for each page, but I realized that would create an unhelpful and annoying delay in the publication date.  Here are a few of the ETSY pages which are $1.00 digital downloads. You’ll find a growing number  here at ETSY.

Painted Knitted Metal Coloring Page

There are two original Painted Knitted Metal paintings. They honor my friends Carolyn Halliday and Karen Searle, who knit and crochet with metal. I have known a lot of metal in my time, and none of it has ever said “Knit me.” Their work is exquisite, exciting, and in the dictionary next to the word “unique.” Think about coloring inside each corner, inside each shape, or between each shape. You are the boss of your coloring page. Click here for the ETSY digital download.

Painted Knitted Metal Coloring Page
Painted Knitted Metal  Coloring Page

Stacked Boxes or Neighborhoods Coloring Page

This is based on a life-long doodle that became many paintings. They were a vehicle for exploring and celebrating color when I first began working in watercolor. My friend and mentor, Russ Dittmar, told me that the way to get bright colors from watercolor was “lots of pigment, not a lot of water,” and those paintings reflect that motto. People have speculated that these images are cities, neighborhoods, stacked boxes, and other things. I always start each painting or coloring page with the only complete square (here on the left), and go from there. Have fun! Click here for the ETSY download.

Stacked Boxes or Neighborhoods Coloring Page
Stacked Boxes or Neighborhoods Coloring Page


Really Tiny Dots Coloring Page

The earliest nanoscapes were explorations of tiny patterns inside tiny spaces, most often circles or vaguely circular shapes. I made an image of all dots — lots of them — and Russ Dittmar printed 12 blanks for me. I painted them all in different color combinations, and wish that I had a decent photo of the time that they were hung together in a library. It was early in my art life, and I knew less than nothing about photographing art. Download here from ETSY.  Enjoy!!

Tiny Dots Coloring Page
Tiny Dots Coloring Page