Sun Series #1

Sun Series #1

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Beauty of Working Small

mixed media collage on wood

As I move into the new year I have several art commitments coming up as well as a trip to New York City, so
I am once again working small and on a variety of ideas and imagery.
I have not forsaken the "Botanist's Journal Series".
I am still working on those pieces, just mixing it up a bit.
Actually the flower in this piece is from a copy of one of the Botany pieces (see Golden Poppy, Dec. 14 post).
Look for this new small piece on Etsy after the New Year.

There is something very satisfying about working small.
 Immediate results and a sense of accomplishment that often takes so long to achieve when working larger.
It also allows one to try new techniques or colors, imagery or abstraction and then analyze what works and what doesn't.
Just what I need right now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and inspiring 2016!
Thanks for your support and encouragement throughout the past year.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Golden Poppy

"Golden Poppy"
mixed media collage on paper and canvas

These works based on my Dad's botany journals have been both challenging and rewarding.
I am beginning to include more paint and am letting the artwork speak to me about the size of the piece.
Initially they were all fairly square, but the materials I am selecting for the base surface is now dictating the size.
In this one I have put together canvas (top half) from an old acrylic painting and an old dark mono print on paper (bottom half).  The mono print got totally obliterated and hidden as I worked.
That disappointed me as I really liked the marks and character of the mono print, but it is still there, just part of the history  or soul of the piece.
Framing or presentation of these pieces is the next challenge!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Yellow and Red Plums

"Wild Yellow and Red Plum"
mixed media collage on canvas

The support or surface of this piece is an old acrylic painting that I sanded in order to reveal some of the underneath layer. I am a fan of distressed and aged surfaces.  The sanding creates marks and areas that I can't achieve when I am painting. There is just something about these unexpected and worn surfaces that I like.
A revelation of the soul of the work.

I think I "chickened out" a bit on the direct drawing that I want to do by keeping it in that rather ambiguous lower right corner, deferring to some machine stitching lines that cut across the picture plane.  But I really liked the drawing of the red plums that was in Dad's original illustration...small yet important.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Scary Part...Going Too Far

"Three Calla lily Leaves"
from the Botanist's Journal series
mixed media collage on a paper and canvas support

The Calla Lily leaves are really layered into this work.  Part of one is clearly  seen on the right side, but the viewer has to really look for the other two.  I was able to add some direct drawing (the black active circles and Xs) over top of the work which was very scary to do as I had put a lot of work into the piece and was worried about ruining it.
Isn't that always our worry...that we will go too far or sometimes not far enough.
Lots of transparent layers has long been one of my goals and something I think I often achieve.
Now the act of adding direct drawing using paint or sewing lines is the next step or challenge for me.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Apple Blossoms from the Botanist's Journal

"Apple Blossoms" from the Botanist's Journal Series
14 x 20"
mixed media collage on canvas

The illustration of the apple blossoms and the writing about it are layered on a painted canvas with papers, fabrics, and threads.  Sewing paper seems to be imbedded in my art practice.  Also incorporated are mono prints on silk organza and some stamping.  There is some dimension to the work from the sections where a vintage quilt was incorporated.  I really want to incorporate more direct drawing into these pieces but am having a hard time making that leap.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

                                                          Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Botanist Makes a Dye Bath

"Black Walnut Dye"
mixed media collage on canvas

One of the things that John and I have an abundance of on our farm is black walnuts.
As a child my mother and I would go to her childhood farm in Shelby Ohio and collect black walnuts.  Mom loved the texture and flavor of them in her holiday baked goods.  And she was willing to go to all of the work and mess necessary to get those precious walnut meats.  Removing the husks can stain your hands black and getting the nut out of the inner shell is time-consuming.  Around our farm in Southington, the squirrels are the only ones who go to all of this trouble.

Until this fall!

 In October I decided to use the walnuts to make a dye thanks to a visit and some inspiration from Jessica at Praxis Fiber Workshop.  I dyed both paper and fabric in the walnut dye (see my post from Sunday, Oct. 25) as well as a few strands of linen, cotton and silk threads.
It felt good to use this free resource and I loved the results.  Here is the collage that documents the experience which I think fits in perfectly with my Botanist's Journal series.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Indian Corn

"Indian Corn and Seedling" from The Botanist's Journal Series
14 x15"
mixed media collage on fabric

Still working with my dad's illustrations and notations from his college botany class notebooks.
This incorporates an old acrylic painting on the left with papers, fabric, painting, a piece of a vintage quilt, some stitching and drawing....Hence the use of the term "mixed media"!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Second Piece from the Botanist's Journal

"Late Season Sweet Potatoes"
mixed media collage on paper

This is the second piece in the Botanist's Journal series.
The drawing of the sweet potatoes was done by my dad as part of some college course work he was taking.
The work is heavily layered yet with as much transparency of layers as I could get.
I am happy with the looser quality of the collaging and the lean toward more abstracted work.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Trying to Up My Game

"The Botanist's Journal"
mixed media collage on canvas

This is the beginning of a new series.
DISCLAIMER:  I do hesitate to say that this is the beginning of new work,  a new series, a new anything that implies more to come, as I have done that in the past only to abandon that direction.  But I am pretty excited about these pieces.  There are 4 of them thus far.  And I am off to my studio to work some more once I finish this post.

I am really trying to be more abstract and loose in my approach to collage.
The inspiration is from some botany journals that my dad kept while in college.  It looks like they were part of his course work at some point.  Although he was a business major and not in the sciences.
  The drawing of the lily in the center of the page is one of the illustrations he did that accompanied some descriptions about the plant.  I did not use the writing in this piece but did include the accompanying written descriptions in the next 2 pieces.
More to come.  At least I know for sure there are 3 more that will be posted!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Reworking the Unsuccessful

Reworked "Remnants no. 004"

Following a critique of this piece and a lot of thought I reworked it, adding some more fabric and details to the sculptural top left area. The consensus was that in its original form it felt incomplete, unfinished and missing the kind of information I usually include that helps create a narrative.  I think I was so caught up in the sculptural form of the work that I  stopped working on it too soon.
Below is what the original looked like.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about this piece. 
Or about reworking pieces in general.   
"When is a work finished?"
"Will I ruin it if I keep going?"
"Do I stick with my original idea/intent or should I let the work dictate the progress?"

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Eco Dyeing

Eco Dyeing with Plant Materials and Black Walnuts

So, not because I didn't have anything else to do....I have plenty to do!...I decided to try some dyeing with
all of those black walnuts that are laying in the yard.  Jessica Pinsky from Praxis ( was here to get some walnuts for dyeing her yarn and that is what got me going.  I googled around a bit and then just kind of dove in.
The large piece in the background on the left is a piece of cotton and the large one on the right is silk organza.
The foreground pieces are stonehenge paper which I soaked in a bath of water and alum before dyeing.
The paper and plant materials were layered in a sandwich between 2 pieces of plexiglass then tied with string.
These items were simmered in as enamel pan with black walnuts and water for about an hour.
The leaf and plant materials left their marks in green and yellow while the brown is from the back walnut dye.
I don't know what I will do with them, but they were really fun to do.
I had forgotten the surprise and delight of opening a tie dye package!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Growth with Authenticity

Remnants no.004
fabric, wire mesh, hydrocal and encaustic paint on board

The base of all of the Remnant pieces (so far) is a cradled board.
It is providing the hard and strong structure that I need to support the weight of the hydrocal and wax.
I found with this piece that I need to look for a sturdier wire component as the weight of the hydrocal and wax on this thin wire mesh really was a bit too heavy, because I extended it so far off the board.
But I was really after that curled edge on the upper right which the thin wire mesh allowed me to do.

These pieces have been fun and challenging.  That is what the art process is about for me...working with new materials and techniques yet trying to allow my collage and mixed media voice to stay true.
Growth with authenticity.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Remnants no. 003

Remnants no. 003
mixed media collage

I am really intrigued with the hydrocal (plaster).
It is enabling me to get some more dimension out of the 2D surface.
As I work I am making each piece a bit larger by extending the wire mesh and the area where the hydrocal will go.
Leaving some of the mesh show is intentional and adds to the aged, found, neglected  aspect of the work.
I hope that the viewer finds plenty of room for individual interpretation of the materials and the objects used.
I have given a lot of thought to titling these with more information, but like the anonymity of the word and title "Remnants".  Upon checking the dictionary I see that a remnant is defined as 'a surviving trace'  or 'a small remaining quantity of something'.  All good reasons to keep the work small and a bit mysterious.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Felting Workshop

Felted Vessels by Susan McClelland

                               Yesterday I took a felting workshop at Praxis Fiber Workshop
which is located in the Waterloo district of Cleveland.  Jessica Pinsky welcomed the 8 participants to her new studio and venture and Susan McClelland taught the class.

I have a little experience with felting and it was fun to renew my interest in it.  I had forgotten how much fun it was to do felting.  Especially in a group of other like minded people and artists.  There is a certain methodical, repetitive, and contemplative aspect to the process which is akin to knitting or quilting that I really like.

Praxis is a great new place for the textile artist.  One can learn weaving, dyeing, shibori techniques, felting and other processes associated with fiber.  Jessica is a talented artist and now a business woman and entrepreneur!  Check out her website (  Join in the fun!

Workshop Participants felting their first vessel.

Class vessels

Taa Daa!!  My vessels


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Some of My Favorite Things

"Remnants no. 002"
acrylic, hydrocal, fabric, wire mesh, and tea bag on board

Second piece in this series.
The hydrocal (plaster) is challenging but I like the way I can get more dimension with it in conjunction with the wire mesh.  The addition of the tea bag with the image on it adds a greater sense of identity to the piece.
Hard and Soft; Smooth and Textural; References to Sewing and Ancestry...some of my favorite things.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Experiments with New Materials

"Remnants no. 001"
fabric,wire mesh,  hydrocal, encaustic paint, and found objects on board
9x9x 1.5"

In an effort to add more dimension to my 2D work and collages I am experimenting with some new materials.
The use of wire mesh and the hydrocal are the materials that are giving this work a deeper surface as well as some texture.
I feel that I work best when I have some kind of concept in mind.  Here I was thinking about the remnants of materials like fabric, wallpaper, and linoleum that one finds when remodeling or even after a disaster such as a flood or hurricane.
Hydrocal is a very hard plaster substance.  It is harder than ordinary plaster of paris.
I wanted the rigidity of this material because I felt it would hold the wire mesh in place and create a greater sense of depth,
making the layering that I like to do even more pronounced.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Layered Ambiguity

11x14" mixed media on board

Impressionistic, Attic-y feel with a subtle use of mostly black and white.
Lots of history or soul to this piece in the many layers.
Materials include acrylic paint, found images, Japanese papers, parts of an old painting, fabric and plaster.
Can't get much more mixed media than that.
But maybe I will try!

Friday, September 25, 2015

End of the Growing Season But Not the End of Its Beauty

I had to drop off some artwork at Rachel's house and in her kitchen she had this amazing display of dried flowers hanging from the overhead beams.  Why didn't I think to do that?!
I have seen hanging dried flowers in books and magazines yet I had not really considered doing anything with them in my own house.
Or maybe I had, but didn't realize how stunning it would look.  And how much I would enjoy the beauty of plants that are past their prime.

We have acres of beautiful wildflowers and weeds growing in fields and woods.
We have beams and rafters in our house.
I always have several flower arrangements in the house starting with pussy willows in the spring and running the gamut of flowers growing throughout the summer and fall. 
But once the frost comes I feel like that part is over.  But now it doesn't have to be.

I immediately came home from Rachel's and started cutting the end of the growing season to bring indoors.
What a beautiful installation of shapes, colors, textures, sizes and smells.
Thanks Rachel!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sewing Paper

"When Night Comes Before Day"
11x14"  mixed media collage

I have a love for sewing.
I have sewn most of my life, moving from making my own clothes to making quilts to sewing anything that  I can stick a threaded needle into.
Sewing a collaged surface takes more time, but it is time that I truly enjoy.
It brings a certain intimacy to the work that isn't there for me with other materials.
When I am working with hard surfaces like wood, I find that I incorporate sewing-like line quality.
And at times I have drilled holes into the wood so I could actually stitch the surface.
As with any artwork, the use of materials or techniques needs to "match the meaning" or intent of the work.
The black lace, although plastic, and the white lace, although covered with plaster, definitely called out for stitching.
The laces had been previously used for printing their designs onto other artwork, so they are the unconventional materials here while the stitching is the traditional process used to tie everything together.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What's in a Title?

"Not Enough of Anything"
9x11" mixed media collage

Is it important to title your art work?
This is an ongoing question in art schools and among artists everywhere.
As an educator I feel that titling one's work gives the viewer some idea of where you are leading them.
Although titles can be rather elusive, as I think this one is.  But it might cause one to think.

When I go to galleries and museums I see titles that are often very obvious and ones that don't help me at all in terms of knowing what the artist intended.  Perhaps, in the latter case, s/he wanted to remain rather private.
I usually give a lot of consideration to the titles of my artworks.
Sometimes a more straightforward title is what the work calls for while other times titles that carry some emotional content fit the work and my thought process throughout.
That might be the case for this work.

Monday, September 14, 2015

For the Love of Fonts

"For the Love of Fonts"
5x7" mixed media on board

Who doesn't like fonts?  I can spend hours looking at them when I am doing an artwork that requires a font.
I have downloaded some special ones that I like onto my computer.
This piece started with a piece of black discharged (bleached) fabric and a purchased art paper with some writing on it.
The large letters came from a plastic bag;
the smaller fonts from a transparency I made a long time ago with a variety of wording in a variety of fonts.
The color is from some transfers to the plastic which were only moderately successful as the transfer did not want to stick to the plastic...not porous enough, I guess.  Live and learn.
But I do think the hint of transparent color was needed.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Many Techniques, Many Layers

Rust Belt Landscape
Mixed Media on Board

This started out as a demo for a workshop and actually made its way to finished product.
That doesn't always happen with my demos.  It did take a lot of work for me to get it to this stage.
Many revisions.  I was working with the rusting technique, burning, and painting.
The other 2 pieces in this series are more blue and cool colors, so it was a challenge to work with the pinks and browns here.

I really like incorporating found materials in my work.
With this piece I was able to use some found metal objects to create the rust stains on the piece, and then use those along with some actual rusted objects. The incorporation of the gold squares reference another form of alchemy where no tarnishing or patination has taken place.  I wanted the contrast of the bright, clean gold color along with the rusted areas. The idea of a landscape comes from the architectural nature of the artwork...buildings, doors, windows, fences.
Bright and clean.  Rusted and tarnished.
Like life.

Many techniques and signature.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

By the Skin of My Teeth!

Botanical Lies  (reverse side)
Accordion fold book

I promised myself last Sunday that I would finish this within the week.
When I wrote that, I was sure it would be done by Tuesday.
It is now Saturday and technically the end of the week long time period I set for myself.
I guess I finished this on time by the shin of my teeth!

I often find that it is difficult to get back to a work and get into the right mind set to finish something when a lot of time has passed, as it had for this work.  I was really into it in July, but other aspects of life took over and I kept making excuses for not working on this.  But I did have fun finishing it today.
Sometimes it is just a matter of getting myself out to my studio.

This work will be in an exhibit of artists books based on a garden theme to be on display in the Ingall's Library of the Cleveland Museum of Art.  The people in this art books group are very talented and make really exciting and interesting artist books.  The exhibit is on display in Ingall's Library located inside the Cleveland Museum of Art from September 29 through October 30th during the Museum's library hours.
A special showing of the books in the Atrium of the Cleveland Museum will take place on Wednesday, October 14th from 6:30-8:00 PM.  Many of the artists will be there to talk about their books.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Life Maintenance or When Real Life Takes Over

"Botanical Lies" (first side)
Originally posted on July 1
"Botanical Lies" (reverse side)

So, you may have noticed that my posts have been few and far between as well as all over the place...artwork, gardening, canning the produce, old shorts, art fairs, workshops.   That is kind of how the summer has been.  Add in lots of company and cooking and hopefully you can see how real life usurped the idyllic art life.
When this happens I call it "life maintenance", just carrying on with all of the duties that daily life requires.

But I am closing in on finishing this two-sided accordion fold book titled "Botanical Lies" which I wrote about back on July 1 (Yikes!).  The top photo here is the finished side that was previously posted in July.  The lower and larger photo is the reverse side of the book which is almost done.  So close, and with the prediction of rain for this week maybe I can get into the studio because I won't be able to work outside.  The left half of the reverse side needs more work and I want to do some negative painting as well.  My goal is to get this finished this week.  And I don't have much more time to work on it as it has to be delivered to the show it will be in around the middle of September.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rust, Bleach, Burn, and Stain, Oh My!!

This past weekend I taught a workshop at the Morgan Paper Conservatory in Cleveland.  As the title of the posts says, we rusted, bleached, burned and stained paper to use in collage, printmaking, and painting.  The class consisted of artists with a wide range of backgrounds and talents...collage artists, printmakers, painters, book artists and papermakers.
 It was 2 days full of experimenting and sharing.  Here are some of their results.

Thanks to the Morgan for inviting me to teach this fun class
and thanks to all of the participants!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

20 Year Old Shorts!

Rest in Peace, 20 Year Old Shorts!

Yep, I've had these shorts for 20 years.  And even though they are ripped and patched,  with holes in all of the wrong places, I can not bear to throw them out.  So I pinned them to my studio wall and put this black frame around them to give them their just reward and recognition for their years of service.

As I look at them I see them as a metaphor for the way in which my summers have changed during the 2 years I have been retired.  When I was teaching, summer was the main time I could work on my art.  I did do gardening and home improvement projects during the summer but I really concentrated on making art.  Especially in July.  That was "Art Month"...the month after May and June when I got the garden going and before the month of August when I would start to think about preparing for the school year. So I was always patching time together to get everything done during the summer months.

But with retirement I am able to spend more time in the garden.  I find that it is suddenly noon and all I have done is watered, weeded, and harvested. Then I need to do something with all of that produce, so I can and freeze fruits and veggies.  I find it incredibly hard to get into the studio and when I do it is for a brief time that feels patched together with the time when I was in there a week ago.

Now the shorts represent the entire year, not just the summer months.
Patched yet still whole they remind me of how I used to work to get a lot accomplished in a short time with the holes representing the things that didn't get done and the patches my attempts to keep it all together.
 I can spend twice as much time in the studio as I concentrate on artwork from September to May instead of mainly in July. The still solid part of the denim represents my art practice now instead of it being represented by just the patches and holes.
Corny, maybe, but true.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Seamstress' Lunch Break
6x7" on board

I seem to be unable to keep stitching or references about sewing and fiber from my artwork.
The use of the thread and pattern paper in the background with the silverware made me think of the days when women worked in factories making shirts and dresses.
 I could see the short breaks these women were allowed to take for lunch and their metal lunch pails.
I could see their white shirt waisted dresses worn with black stockings and black shoes.
Cutting the patterns.
Sewing at black Singer pedal sewing machines.
Hot rooms with little ventilation.
The fact that I was reading a book about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that took place in 1911 I am sure influenced the use of the materials and the title.  While this piece has none of the tragic aspects of the devastating circumstances of that event, the materials used, from the vintage silverware to the pattern paper and old zipper, easily references the period and the work that women did at that time.    
It is surprising and yet somehow expected the way various aspects and influences of daily life take form in one's artwork.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Knives, Spoons and Mom's Recipe Box

Missing the Forks
6x7" on board

More from the silverware series where I used those precious, favorite napkins as collage elements.
The writing behind the napkins are copies of some of my mother's recipes.
I have her little recipe file box, which is pictures above, as well as lots of loose recipes that she collected.
When I find myself writing notes, art ideas, book titles, etc. on little slips of paper instead of in my journal or my date book, I know that I am turning into my Mom!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

From Paper Napkin to Art

Dinner Music
6x7" on board

I've had a package of paper napkins with silverware imagery on them for a while now.
The silverware is nicely rendered and looks like a set that my mom might have had.
I use them sparingly because I like them so much and it seems sad to have to discard them after using them for such a brief time.  So I decided if I were to use them in a collage that would give them some longevity.

It was fun to incorporate the silverware napkins with the sheet music.
And I allowed the wood to remain unpainted so this lends a natural and table top like appearance to the work.
The shadows were added with watercolor pencils and shellac sealed the work and deepened the color of the wood.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Diagramming Sentences from A to Z!

"Diagramming Sentences
  from A to Z"
26 individual pages in a box
for display.
Pages measure about 7.5 x 11".

The artists book group I belong to, ABC, ( presents a book exhibit each year called Abecederia where the participants create a book that revolves around the letters in the alphabet.  The group is dedicated to promoting, encouraging and teaching contemporary and traditional artistic practices involved in making handmade books.

 This was a fun and challenging exhibit.   Part of the challenge for me, and I suspect for many of the members, is to find a way to use each letter of the alphabet in their project.  While one doesn't have to use every letter, the books need to clearly reflect the importance of the alphabet, whether it is one letter that is emphasized  or all of them.  Here is my entry for this year using the alphabet and remembering my love of diagramming sentences.

I really did love this activity.  It was a way to  visually represent the alphabet and seems to me now, and I think then, as an artistic endeavor.  I had a lot of fun creating crazy and implausible sentences using each letter of the alphabet.  I did have to consult a book about diagramming as it wasn't like riding a bike.  I forgot some of the rules.

I wanted the pages to reference the way we used to take turns diagramming the given sentences on the blackboard, hence the use of the black and white.  I smiled all though this project.

I did take some liberties with the "book" aspect as I did not bind the pages together.
I felt it would be easier to read as single pages and could also be displayed on a wall as opposed to on a pedestal.