Thursday, August 30, 2007


I am finally painting again. It's hard to believe, but I broke down my studio last DECEMBER to pack, and this is the first chance I have had to set it up, and paint in oils once again. Time flies when you are moving to a completely new place. Anyway, I decided to try to share a little of my process with you, so you can see the evolution of an oil painting. Here we go.

First, I sat down with my pastels, and some tiny pieces of paper I had torn up into these miniature squares. I stack them up next to me, take out the black charcoal pencil (number 4, if you really want to know), and do quick little drawings. It is important that the drawings are quick, because that's how I stay loose. I usually do between 6 and 9 of these little drawings. I line the drawings up where I can pick and choose, and then I begin to add color. This is where a lot of my experimenting comes in. It seems like the drawings usually get better as I go along, but of course nothing is set in stone. I try to get them all to a "complete" stage (these are only studies, after all, so I am not trying to finish them). Then, I choose a favorite. This will be the guide for the painting.

The canvas I used for this painting was already stretched and gessoed, ready to go. This saves a couple of days, for those of you who don't paint. I have this really black, messy charcoal that I use to do the preliminary drawing with. I am not worried about perfection here. The extra lines I draw to "find" the right proportions are lines that can be used, or not, later. This all depends on how I feel the composition is going as I get further along. Here you can see the charcoal drawing on my big canvas.

I have to admit, it was hard to remember to stop and take photos along the way! Harder than I thought it would be, that's for sure. I guess I was a little excited. I take my time, squeezing out the oil paints, and mixing colors. I have discovered that if I hurry here, the painting will suffer. I use this time to think about the relationship I want the colors to have, and to contemplate the feeling I am shooting for with the painting. I often have a word, or emotion in my mind when I start a painting. This one is really about the move, or more acurately, learning to bend with the wind. I am finding greater peace in bending whichever way I am being pushed (or led) by life.

I am always conscious of focusing on the dark and light areas. One of the things that I find exciting, visually, is having a big contrast between the dark and light areas of a painting. I like to start with the dark if I am working on a light ground, and start with the light, if the ground is dark. So the dark blue and black were painted first. I want the brushwork to have a lot of energy, so I am using big brushes, and rough brushstrokes initially.

At some point, I decided the colors were just not dynamic enough, so I began to add more color than I had initially planned on. I tend to turn the painting as I work, so that it forces me to work the whole painting at once. I want the painting to advance as a whole, rather than having one little area that I love, and the rest of the painting in shambles. I find turning the painting will help me with this. (Although it can be messy, since I usually paint the edges, too. That's just the price I pay, I guess.)

I have the little study for the painting taped up on the wall, right next to where I am working, so all I have to do is turn my head a little bit, and I can see it. With this in mind, remember that at some point, the large painting has to become its own work. There is always a departure from the original sketch, and sometimes letting go of that original idea is difficult.

I have now reached a point where if I were to continue working, the colors would get muddy looking. That is a sign that it is time to stop. (that, and my rumbling stomach!) So here is the painting in its last stage. There is a chance I may look at it tomorrow and find a section to rework. However, I need to let it dry before really working it again, if I want to keep the freshness. Since this is oil, it could take a week or two (or more!) for this to happen. So for now, I am done!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Yucca Valley Swap Meet

Matthias somehow found out there is a swap meet in Yucca Valley (about 5 minutes from here), so we decided to check it out on Sunday. It is held every weekend, year round, on the grounds of the old Sky Drive-In. Upon arrival, the first thing we noticed is that it looks like an abandoned mining camp. Old rusty stuff and junk and cactus everywhere. I have never been to a swap meet quite like this one. Not that the goods were so un-swap-meet like, but the setting was so original. This is such an interesting place! I took quite a few photos, so you could feel like you were right there with us.

It didn't seem very busy. I don't know if it was simply the time of year, time of day, or what. It was actually overcast, so it was nice and cool. I was happy for that. On a sunny day, that place must feel quite hot. I did feel a little bit like I was on a movie set for some surrealistic miner movie. Personally, I found it confusing. Which items were part of the setting, and which were for sale? I think the things with price tags were the for sale items. There really weren't that many vendors, either. Again, was it the time of year? I don't know. Check out this cool old cash register (not for sale?)We were hoping this might be a good venue to try to sell some of the items we no longer want in our lives, but after the visit, we decided against it. I don't think our art, imports, and clothing would fit in with the old rusty wheels, antiques, and other assorted bits at this particular place. It looks like we will be having a good old garage sale, instead. Hopefully, we can entice enough people to bump down our dusty road. It will feel good to get rid of some of the extra things that have cluttered up our lives.

With the help of my husband, I finally managed to get my studio unpacked and set up yesterday. I have been picking away at it, but I needed his skill at organizing, since I went from a large space to a small space. (All of those paintings!) It looks good now, and I am ready to jump in and paint! Yay!

I will be listing some more of the bug monotypes on etsy later today, so check it out if you are interested. Here is an example of one that will soon appear.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The thorny desert and a dog

This is a prickly place. Pono has had some encounters with the cholla (pronounced "choya") here that have left us on the floor with tweezers, trying to get the cactus spines out. The cholla is probably the most prolific of the spiny things here, but when you start to walk around, everything seems prickly. I hope he learns to avoid them soon. Cholla has earned the nickname "jumping cholla" because the spines seem to almost jump on you as you brush past. However, they don't actually jump on you, as I can attest to, since I got very close taking photos of them. They actually have segments that come off very easily, and those segments are what stick into clothing, skin and dog fur (and dog feet and anything else that gets too close!) The other thing that makes it that much more sinister is the fact that most of these cholla have a circle of dropped spiny segments on the ground around them. So if you are planning on walking near a cholla cactus, wear big boots! Another name for this cactus is "velas de coyote" or "coyote candles". That seems appropriate, since we have had numerous coyote sightings since we moved here.

Upon close inspection, I did find two different cholla with bird's nests in them. How clever of those birds to build a home surrounded by such a nasty looking barbed wire fence! Who would want to venture closer? It seems as though the bird most likely responsible for the nests is the cactus wren. I didn't actually see a bird, so I can't confirm this. This first nest looks like it was abandoned unfinished. According to a website I found on google, it is possible that the bird may also be a curved bill thrasher, but I really won't commit to that information, either.
In other news, I just listed a new (framed) monotype on etsy today! Click here to visit that and other goodies in my etsy shop.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sketchbooks and journals

Slowly, slowly, we are settling into the new home. It feels good to think that this should be the end of moving. Both Matthias and I are hoping this will remain "home" for a LONG WHILE. We've moved too much in the past decade, and have grown weary of it. Of course, one never knows what life will throw at you next, but here's to hoping we can remain in this one place for a while.

I am thoroughly enjoying the desert landscape. This may surprise some of you. I am not, and will probably never be, much of a landscape painter. I love the outdoors, and there is nothing that makes me happier than being out in nature, but when it comes to art, my passion is with humans. I love the study of human beings, both the inner and outer aspects. One might think, looking at my art, that only one aspect of my work indicates this love. However, the abstract work really is an exploration of the inner workings of what it is to be a human being. Priya recently asked me about my sketchbooks and journals, and where I work out problems in my art. In response, I will tell you that my abstract paintings are like a sketchbook, in and of themselves. I don't have a preconception of what a painting will look like when I begin. I simply begin to make marks. It is a risky way to paint, without this clear direction. Many paintings have such rawness, such ugliness of emotion and state of being that they cannot be signed as the kind of painting I want to show anyone or sell. That used to bother me, but now I recognize that this is just how I paint. I want to see the jarring edges, I like to leave a trace of where the painting started, just so that the journey is revealed. The times when a painting can be taken from the most naked initial feeling to a place of serenity and grace are the times that are the most deeply satisfying.

My sketchbook is more of a place to rest with drawing. I love to draw, any old thing, really, but I do tend to focus on creatures, hands, flowers, leaves, and small things that are right in front of me. Once again, the landscape is rarely ever the thing that I will sketch. I really don't know why this is. I am sure I could force myself to draw the landscape. But really, if I have to force myself to do it, what's the point? I have plenty of other areas of my life where I do things I don't want to do (laundry, scrubbing toilets, paying bills, working to make money, etc.) I guess I have always wanted my art to be the one area that is sacred, and just for ME. For whatever it is I want to draw, paint, or sculpt. I must have that, in order for my art to be mine, and to be the truth.

My journal is a place where I write, write and write. As I have mentioned before, I read Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way, about a year ago, and went through nearly all of the excercises she outlines. I found the journalling (daily pages) to be one of the best things for me, in my recovery and discovery. It helps me turn off that mean little critic, who sits in the back of my mind and tells me my work is awful. She is no good for me, and caused me to judge every little mark I made. It really gave me a place to put her, where she can stay happily (or unhappily, more likely) while I continue to be an artist. If any of you haven't read The Artist's Way, I will once again recommend it highly. It changed so many things for me with my art and how art fits into my life. Even though I have kept a journal since college, I had gotten away from it somewhat, and I am happy that Cameron's book brought it back to me.

On that note, I must get back to the unpacking of my studio, so that I can once again put paint on things.
P.S. I am happy to have my high speed internet back once again!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

In our new home at last

The move has been accomplished! At long last, we are in our new house in Joshua Tree. I won't go into great length about the gritty details, other than to say I am SO HAPPY it is over. It was fairly rocky, and now, to top it all off, we have been without internet for four days! I am going into withdrawal! There has been a grave error on the part of our internet service provider, and they have offered us DIAL UP for free until they can hook up our DSL. Have you been on dial up after having high speed?? WHOA, is it SLOOOOOOWWW... So I am afraid there will be no photos joining this blog for a while. Sorry, but I just don't have the patience for that.

Things you should never move without:
a hand truck
the biggest moving truck you can afford.

I hope we won't be moving again in a long, long, long, long time.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Flora and Fauna

As my long-time faithful readers probably know by now, one of my favorite things to do is to take pictures of tracks and footprints. It has been a while since I have shared any with you, but that is not because I have stopped doing it! Since my collection has grown, I thought it was about time I posted some more here. I love walking in the desert sand here in the Coachella Valley. The textures and stories revealed to me are so intriguing. I found a really interesting group of tracks that looked to me like a scuffle between a snake and a mouse, but Pono laid down on it before I got a chance to snap a photo. (darn dog!) I am mesmerized by the side winder tracks, especially.

Yesterday, Pono and I had a wonderful walk. It has been a little cooler these past two mornings, and what a welcome respite! The huge cactus in front of the house produced some more of those white blooms I am in love with. I have enjoyed watching the blooms fade, followed by the eventual emergence of the red fruit. The birds love the cactus fruit, and there were two birds feasting on them yesterday, one being a hummingbird. There are tons of hummingbirds here! LOVE THEM!

Pono has befriended a man who sits at a guard shack nearby. The gates he opens and closes for people seal off a development with the most incredible homes. He told me the least expensive home within the gates cost $2.6 million! He let Pono and I do a bit of exploring inside the gates, since most of the homes are not occupied. (This being the off season here.) The first thing I noticed was that almost every single home in there had at least one large sculpture out front. Cool. I found this gorgeous cactus, which obviously impressed me more than the art. I took at least 3 photographs of it. The best part was that when I zoomed in for a closeup of those beautiful cactus fruit, a hummingbird willingly popped into my view, for this fun shot of her feeding! Yay! The color of this cactus fruit blows my mind.

On a different note, there is a pomegranate tree in the backyard of our rental house. I have been waiting impatiently for the pomegranates to ripen, because I really want to try one! Since we leave in two days, it doesn't seem very promising. The birds have even less patience than I do, because a number of the partially ripened fruit have been pecked upon, leaving gaping holes in the middle. And you thought I was impatient! Ha.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Impending move

I am just counting the days (6!) until we move into our new house. I wish we could skip over the moving part, and just be there, already settled. I don't know why, but moving traumatizes me. I guess I am just a homebody, and when my home gets uprooted, it throws me off. Something like that.

I don't have anything exciting to report, but I will share with you some little butterfly drawings I did yesterday. I was doing research, helping a friend with a design for a tattoo. I think my favorite one is the greeny gold one. I forgot the name of that one. The one at the top is called "Apollo". By the way, it is unprecedented for me to share drawings from my sketchbook. You guys must have earned my trust, or something... Have a nice Monday!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Date Palms

Sometime this weekend, (probably today) I will be listing this original oil painting for sale on my etsy site. I have always loved this painting, and it is about time I found it a good home. It is from a series of these abstracted roses I did while living in Colorado a number of years ago. I did repaint it last fall, adding more of the red and gold colors. The colors used to be much cooler, and I think the added reds have made it so much more inticing. If you are interested in this painting, or one of my other paintings, please feel free to email me at, or visit my etsy site to purchase one!

Onto more information about the Coachella Valley, where we are currently living. I am learning a lot about palm trees, specifically date palms, which are the predominate palms here. On daily walks with Pono the dog, I have recently been noticing some of the date palms wearing these strange brown wrappings. I met another dog owner, an elderly woman, who told me the people who own these trees used to own one of the biggest date palm farms in the Valley. She said the dates are "so sweet, dear, you wouldn't believe it." Then, on our adventure to the Salton Sea on Tuesday, I saw the date palm farms! They are really beautiful, and I hope to get a chance to tour one soon. The date palm trees that we passed had their dates wrapped up in what looks like cheesecloth. (I don't think that's what it is, but that's what it looks like.) The woman in our neighborhood explained that the wrapping of the dates is to protect them from the birds, but even still the birds sometimes get more than their fair share of dates. If you click on this link HERE, you can read all you ever wanted to about dates. It's interesting, and I recommend it as fine educational reading.

I find it funny, as a girl growing up in South Dakota, I never thought there was more than one kind of palm tree. I knew there were different kinds of pine trees, and deciduous trees, so it seems strange that I never considered the possibility! Silly girl. Palm trees had to do with beaches, warm places, and something exotic. After having lived in Hawaii, and now here, I am amazed to discover just how many different kinds of palm trees there really are in the world. Coconut palms, royal palms, date palms, queen palms, and windmill palms are just a few of the palm trees I am discovering. I still like them, very much. I suppose another painting of palm trees is probably percolating. (I did many small watercolors of palm trees in Hawaii, and I think they are mostly sold.) Perhaps the next painting will be in oil. Maybe it will even be a date palm!

Only eight days left, and Matthias, Pono and I will be moving into the new house in Joshua Tree! But who's counting?