Monday, August 11, 2014

Art and the rational mind

You may not know this about me, but my husband and I lived in Hawaii for a few years. We lived on the island of Maui. It was an incredible experience. We loved being near the ocean, where we could snorkel, surf and swim, but I also enjoyed having a chance to learn more about Hawaiian culture. I took a beginning hula class and really loved it. We miss it, but life had other plans for us, and now we are in the desert. Lately, I have been pining for Hawaii, for some of the things there that touched me so deeply. Since the hula was such a big part of living in Hawaii for me, I have been watching videos of hula to reminisce.

Some of you may be more familiar with Tahitian hula, rather than Hawaiian hula. Tahitian hula is much faster than Hawaiian hula. The dancers tend to wear elaborate headdresses, and the movement is focused more on the hips and less on the hands. There are two different kinds of Hawaiian Hula. One is the Auana hula. This is the Modern hula - the one with guitars, ukulele, dresses, flower leis - the one most of us are familiar with. My favorite kind of Hawaiian hula, however, is the ancient hula, called Kahiko. There is a lot of chanting, the dancers are usually adorned with greenery rather than flowers, and the instruments used are mostly the rhythm instruments like the Ipu (which is a drum made from a hollowed out gourd.) I have attached a video of women (wahine) performing kahiko hula, so if you haven't ever seen it before you can experience it for yourself.

It's often interesting for me to think about why I love the Hawaiian hula and chants so much. I don't speak Hawaiian, so I don't know what they are chanting most of the time. Yet it touches me deeply, and sometimes when I watch a hula performance, I am moved to tears. Have you ever loved music that is sung in a language you don't understand? What I have decided is that when we hear or see something that really touches us, it doesn't necessarily touch us intellectually. It touches our hearts. It touches our souls. Visual art can be like that too. There is always this initial desire for people to "understand" art. We think maybe if we understand it intellectually, then we will really be able to enjoy it. I don't think that's true. I think if it's something that touches us, it can touch us without our rational minds. It goes beyond that - it goes deeper.

Maybe the rational mind is a barrier between us and an ability to be touched by art. (Music, dance, painting, sculpture - I am putting all art into this word right now.)

I am curious to know what you think about this. Do you think you have to understand the words of a song to enjoy it? Do you think you really have to know what a painter is thinking in order to be touched by their painting?

"Untitled - arrangement on blue." Oil on canvas, 20 x 20 inches

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Saturday's Coyote

If you find that you are sick of trying to find something good to watch on TV or Netflix lately and really want to be inspired, I highly recommend this interview:

I think you will LOVE it. I did. (With a shout out to Elena Ray for recommending it to me - thank you!!!)

Here's a new one from the steamy encaustic studio:
"Trotting Coyote." Encaustic, thread and ink transfer, 8 x 8 inches.
If you don't have time to watch the whole interview, I have cherry picked one of my favorite quotes from it:
"There is no creativity without vulnerability." ~Brene Brown

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I have been doing a lot of drawing this year. It feels good. I have always loved to draw, even when I wasn't really that good at it. I think I am getting better, but I can see there is always room for improvement. I realized that I have shared a lot of these drawings on Facebook and Instagram, but I don't think I have posted them here yet. So here are a few of the drawings. (Beware of a possible jackrabbit overdose.)

this is a personal favorite

They were all done in this cool sketchbook I bought with a beautiful tan paper that was made from coffee bean bags or something. (unfortunately, the paper doesn't smell like coffee - wouldn't that be cool?) They are pretty small - only 5 x 5 inches or smaller. I am continuing my ongoing exploration of light, form and shadow.

Larger drawings in the works, stay tuned...

In other news, my show of desert animal paintings is still on display at Grateful Desert Herb Shoppe in downtown Joshua Tree. (right next to the Health Food Store.) They are open every day from 9 to 2 pm. (from 8 to 2 on the weekend.)

It is not too late to sign up for the Summer Art Camp that I am part of. There is an early sign up discount - if you sign up for the class before July 28th you save $20. More information is available here:
The class I am teaching for Art Camp is also about light and shadow. I will be sharing some of the things I have learned about getting the values right when painting in color. There's a lot more to it than just my one class, though, There are 8 different artists teaching! The best part is that the lessons and videos will stay online for one year - so there's plenty of time to do each class. Won't you join us?

I hope everyone is managing to stay cool!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Forever a Student

"The secret to mastery in any field is to forever be a student." -Martin Palmer

One of the goals I set for myself this year was to learn new things. In order to achieve this goal, I have recently taken a class in Encaustics from Stephanie Hargrave. I loved the class, and I loved having a chance to learn how to work with encaustic paint. I am still just getting the feel for the medium, and Stephanie gave us many new techniques to try.

You may be asking yourself, "what the heck is encaustic paint?" Encaustic paint is beeswax mixed with pigments and damar crystals. The damar gives the wax strength, and of course the pigment gives it color. The wax is applied in a melted, liquid state. The word "encaustic" means "to burn," so each layer has to be burned or fused into the previous layers. I have been working with the encaustic on birch panels and really loving it. I love the way it smells. I also love that you have to work quickly, before the wax cools and hardens.

The wax is melted in cans on top of a flat griddle. I started out using a heat gun to fuse each layer, but now I am using a torch. (I love the torch!)

The first few experiments mainly involved just practicing applying the wax, and learning how to fuse each layer. Then, we progressed to adding color, incorporating paper and tissue paper into the painting, and then we learned how to work with different types of line. These first two photos were paintings I did where I used some handmade paper.

7 x 5 inches

8 x 8 inches
The handmade paper was something I have had for a while. I made it with the expert help of my friend in Colorado, Sally Mather. (thanks, Sally!) She showed me how to make paper when I visited once. I am so grateful to have talented friends who share their knowledge with me. SO THANKFUL! I love the textures that were created when I applied wax over the paper. 

"Desert Tortoise." Encaustic, thread, twine, ink transfer, 8 x 8 inches

"Sitting upright." (jackrabbit) Encaustic, thread, twine and ink transfer, 8 x 8 inches

The second two images are the most recent encaustic paintings I've done. With these two, I was practicing using thread and twine to make lines. I also tried a technique where I did drawings in pencil, scanned them, printed them with a laser printer, and then transferred them to the warm wax. I love how they turned out, and I am probably going to try doing a few more like these. Stephanie, if you read this, THANK YOU!!! I loved your class!

Speaking of learning, if you think you might want to learn some art this summer, I am teaching a class as part of Carla Sonheim's new Summer Art Camp! The class I am teaching is called "Paint a Monster," and it is a class about learning how to paint light and shadow. (Using a Monster Finger puppet!) There are eight different artist/instructors in this art camp, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. If you sign up early, you will save $20! (Click the link above for more details, won't you please?) I hope you will join us for this fun online class. The material stays online for a year, so even if you are busy this summer, you can still take this class!!!

Finally, we had a wonderful opening last night at Jenny Q's Grateful Desert in Joshua Tree. I have eighteen paintings of desert animals hanging in the shop, and the show will stay up until August. So if you missed the opening, don't worry! You can still see the show the next time you are downtown. (Local folks) For those of you who live far away, maybe I will have a chance to make a short video of the show for you to see. Thanks to all who came out!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Seattle to Bainbridge - a ferry ride

I escaped to Seattle and Sequim, Washington for a few days last week. I was filming for another online class with Carla and Steve Sonheim. It will be part of a Summer Camp class - I think there will be eight different instructors, including yours truly. I will be teaching a class about painting light and shadow (with a monster finger puppet.) Stay tuned - more info coming soon!

I really thought that I would get a brief reprieve from the desert heat while in Washington. However, Seattle set a record for heat one of the days I was there - 95 degrees! It was a little bit cooler in Sequim, though. I even wore a sweater! And socks!

There was also a magical ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island on a clear, sunny day. It looked like this:

The last photograph was taken while on the Hood Canal bridge. My dad and I and a bunch of other cars had to wait for the sailboat you see on the right hand side in this photo.

I also had the opportunity to check out the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. It's been open only one year. Featuring the work of artists in the Pacific Northwest, it is worth a visit. Fred Lisaius has some of his work on display there right now. He is another of the talented artists teaching classes online through Carla Sonheim.  I got a chance to meet him at Carla and Steve's studio in Seattle. I also got a chance to meet Niya Sisk, another artist who will be part of the online Summer Camp coming up soon!

"Midlife Crisis." Collage, acrylic and oil on canvas, 8 x 8 inches.

In other studio news, I will be the featured artist at Jenny Q's Grateful Desert this Saturday, July 11th during the Second Saturday Artwalk in downtown Joshua Tree. The Artwalk is from 5 to 8 pm. I will be there, along with some of my desert animal paintings and reproductions! Stop in and say "hello" if you are out and about. Grateful Desert is located next to Natural Sisters in downtown Joshua Tree. The other galleries and shops will also have special artist events, including the Joshua Tree Highlands Artist in Residency program at JTAG.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Growing up

"Moo." Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches.
I have to say something. I have been holding it in for too long, and if I don't get it out, I might pop. Why do we think things that are cute or fun are only for children? Why is it that only children get to have fun? People see my paintings and drawings of animals and they say, "Oh! That would be so perfect for a child's room!" Or "You should illustrate a children's book!" Well, I hate to quibble with you people, but I did NOT paint those animals for kids. I painted them for adults. I painted them for me!!! I painted them for YOU!!!! And you know what? I think adults need stuff like this a lot more than kids do. Life gets too darn serious, old, boring and ugly when you grow up. If you aren't careful, you will end up surrounded by plain white walls, grey clothes, and one old, dusty book about something boring and serious that you've already read on your bookshelf. That's why you need me and my art. Because I know how to have fun. I know the value of cute. I understand what cute can do for your outlook on life. Oh yes. I do.

"i love everybody." Oil on canvas, 40 x 40 inches.
And we all could use a little more of it.

There. I said it. Have fun. Giggle. And jump rope for a while. Or swing on swings. And find something Cute! (preferably something with sophisticated shadows, just for an element of truth.)

Monday, June 23, 2014


Wanna see something amazing? Yeah, I knew you did. Watch this:

I've been seeing a lot of roadrunners lately. Yesterday, I was making lunch and I kept hearing this noise. At first, I thought it was just the wind. Then, I realized it wasn't a normal wind sound, so I opened the front door and startled a roadrunner from under the front eaves. I think he/she was after the baby birds that are cheeping away there.

"Sauntering." oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches.
In other news, I will be the featured artist at the Grateful Desert Herb Shoppe and EcoMarket in downtown Joshua Tree next month. The downtown galleries and shops have events for the Second Saturday each month. So if you find yourself in Joshua Tree on July 12th, from 6 to 8 pm, come on down to the Grateful Desert and say "hello." I will be showing desert animal works only.

I am heading to Seattle soon for one week to film for another online class with Carla and Steve Sonheim. It will be part of the "Art of Silliness" Summer Art Camp, which will begin at the end of July. I will keep you posted here, or you can sign up for my newsletter:

What are you up to so far this summer? Has anyone read any good books lately?