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.
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 email@example.com. Billed through PayPal.
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.
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.
The range of new work surrounding me calls for both an exploration (what is she up to?) and a celebration (perhaps she’ll finally finish some of these projects.) It’s no surprise that my two favorite hashtags are #work-in-progress and #artfun. I may deserve a magpie award: lots of projects in various stages of completion.
Fish Parts Mirror
New work comes and goes in stages. The Fish Parts Mirror is part of the paper mosaic family which bubbled up in 2016. It will be a fish-with-a-round-mirror. What’s the hold up? This looks like a simple glue job. But no. The wooden fish substrate has curves and bumps that need to be smoothed out with layers of gesso. Then, the fish parts need to be fitted together. Funnily enough, what fits fine when flat doesn’t fit as well over bumps and lumps. But you knew that.
Coloring book pages in many stages
Where is the coloring book? Coloring pages have been in the new work pile for more than a year. I have lots of pages, but putting them together into a book that makes sense is a lot harder than it would appear. Questions abound:
How big should the book be? This is a two-part question because it refers to size-of-the-page and number of pages.
Should I include full-color versions of each page? Because all of the designs are based on original abstracts, the book won’t look like others in the market. I am cautiously optimistic that some people may be up for the challenge. On the other hand, painting each of these pages would be enormously pleasurable and a potential black-hole-time-waste.
Each design has a story. How much to I tell. Where would it go? On the back of each coloring page? How much — if any — might be interesting, useful, or fun?
Bead Gel, as you may know, contains tiny glass beads suspended in a clear acrylic medium that allows artists to make things bumpy and shiny. High Flow Acrylics do a lot of things that I haven’t explored.
What fascinated me when I got my first sample from the “sale” table at Dick Blick, was that when a blob is dropped into liquid (gesso was my first), the blobs expand and then grow tiny fern feet. I was concerned (was this paint supposed to do that?) and curious. I sent an email to Golden Artist-in-Residence and Acrylic Diva Bonnie Cutts, who kindly replied that yes, the little feet were part of High Flow’s characteristics. She also sent a cool video. I’ve been playing with this stuff ever since.
The images at right are experiments.
New work for holidays
Having made dozens of Flying Pigs and Elephants this year, it’s clear that I love spending “tiny time” with shapes and creatures. The Holidays (all of ’em) are upon us, and it’s time to turn to ornaments. I’m making a few Holiday Stars that will be studded with shiny stuff (stainless steel beads, etc.) Multi-level Stars of David will be shiny with optimism. Unless there is a groundswell of demand, I will make just three three-dimensional Red-Eye’d Bat postcards which will come with envelopes. All are subject to availability. Contact me directly.
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.
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.
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!!
Big Neighborhoods 2 to color: a really big project
Unless you have a spare work table or dining room, you will need to make a space to color on this piece. Confession: I taped my first big nanoscape to my dining room wall, and drew and painted on it there.
The original Big Neighborhoods 2 is taped to a drawing board, probably the Utrecht 28×38 heavy duty board which is remarkably cheap — less than $20. I have dozens of these boards in various sizes. They have clips, and not terribly comfortable handholds, but they are invaluable for their sturdiness. Unless you are obsessively tidy (which I am not), these boards become living histories of your projects. The one below has hosted and launched a number of tiny Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul. I can see the colors of gesso that went beyond the tape.
Because I worked Big Neighborhoods 2 in watercolor, I painted on a flat surface, so the taped piece on the board sat on my painting table and I stored it vertically on my easel. You can see it taped below. The little Panda peeking out from under the easel is one of the Pandas of the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul. It can be worked vertically with pencils, markers or acrylic paint.
The blank really big page: make it your own
The Neighborhoods 2 blank coloring page looks like this. It is printed on 17 mil DigiScape Smooth 350 by FiberMark. It is incredibly smooth, and the paper — a wallcovering product — is a friend to paint, pencil and marker. Order this by clicking here.
Big Neighborhoods: Two smaller sizes
Big Neighborhoods 2.2
My comfort zone is tiny spaces, so I love working these pages in any size. Big Neighborhoods 2.2, is 12×16 inches, and requires a steady hand and your choice of markers, sharp pencils or pens, or a double-zero brush. ($22 plus flat rate shipping). Order directly from me: $22 plus 5.95 flat rate shipping. Printed with archival inks on 90# double-sided mat card stock.
Big Neighborhoods 3.0
Big Neighborhoods 3.0 is the tiniest version, just 8×10″. It requires a very steady hand, very sharp pencils, fine-pointed markers or double-or-triple-zero watercolor brushes. ($10. Free shipping Shipped flat). My comfort zone is tiny spaces, so I love this image. Printed with archival inks on 90# double-sided mat card stock.
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).
The Big Neighborhood is 22×33. It’s like a city map or an aerial view of a city. When all of its colors are put together, I hope that it represents that the best of us are better for living among all kinds of people. If I work very very hard on it, it might be finished in time to hang with the show “Connections,” at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, which will hang on December 30. If it doesn’t make it into the show, it will be on hand for the artist talk (date TBA).
Big Neighborhood: start with red
After taking a very long, deep breath, I started to paint on it. First blocks are the brightest red watercolor on my palette, of course. Having determined that this will be a random collection of blocks, I will work color-by-color, spreading them out all over the piece.
Why isn’t this made out of tile?
It looks like tile. Why isn’t this tile? As some of you know, for my 60th birthday I gave up everything that required safety equipment. Conspicuous among the activities that I abandoned were cutting tile and bungee jumping.
The Big Neighborhood is a nanoscape, an abstract painting made with Painstaking Exuberance (PE). PE paintings begin with a pencil drawing which is sometimes followed by a Davy’s Gray outline (not this one). Next, I fill in each small space with color, and, sometimes outline each small space with a Micron pen or paint outline. The minute-by-minute focus is on each small space and its bright color. In the end, the riot of color speaks for itself.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Where does inspiration come from? It depends. Capturing inspiration is like chasing lightening. Catch it if you can. Use it because you must.
Sometimes I’m inspired by creatures — or the idea of new creatures.
Sometimes, as with these two small cats, I get excited about a family of creatures that has lined up in my studio waiting for paint. These are part of the Small Clowder of Cats. “Clowder” is the collective noun for cats and I have made 14 of them. The tiny original paintings are matted and ready to frame at 5×7 inches. $15 plus $5 postage. Subject to availability.
Products inspire and energize
Sometimes I’m inspired by products. The Golden brand of acrylic mediums provides me with daily inspiration.
How can I combine the gel mediums and the acrylic mediums with acrylic paint or watercolors to create new textures and colors? Are there tools that I can use to create new textures? Can I use these products as glue? Or for collage? This presents a daily delightful challenge. Note that this orderly tower presents an unrealistic notion of the tidiness of my studio.