Tag: mixed media

Color My World

Artists are just children who refuse to put down their crayons.

Al Hirschfeld

I’m about to admit to a not-so-secret secret, a guilty pleasure I feel no guilt about, and just the thing that takes the sting out of summer slipping away, making the shortening autumn days more bearable. My secret? I have my very own Time Machine. It’s yellow and green and it can teleport me to the past, put me down in the present, or slip me forward in time. My time machine is a brand new box of crayons!


In elementary school, we usually got the 8 crayon set. If we were lucky it was Crayola brand, with the recognizable yellow box, the flap that lifted to reveal the crayons in a row, like soldiers, alert and waiting for our commands. They stood, sharp and unbroken, the enveloping paper not yet torn and discarded. They represented the magnificent drawings that were the future. They were the perfect partner to our coloring books, like Tom and Jerry, only better. Teacher told us to write our name on the box, cautioned us not to break the crayons in half, to make sure they got returned to their proper place, and never rip off the paper covering. There was something pure and holy in that experience.

What a lucky day, birthday or Christmas, when in place of the 8 crayon box there was the 24 crayon box or even better, the 64 crayon box that came with–oh, be still my beating heart– a sharpener! Round and round went the crayons in the little plastic sharpener, small slivers of crayon shavings everywhere.

And the smell that is so recognizable that it cries out: CRAYONS! To this day, when I open up a new box of crayons the first thing I do after admiring their perfection is to lift them up to my nose, close my eyes and inhale deeply. There is magic in that smell, the perfect art perfume.

Written on the side of the crayons were names like Maize, Blizzard Blue, Thistle, all colors now retired, and new names added that are as fun to say as to use: Purple Mountains Majesty, Jazzberry Jam and Timber Wolf. As society’s expression grew to reflect the country’s diversity, the names of some of the crayons changed; the funky peachy color that was called Flesh and a reddish-orange color known as Indian Red were justly renamed. Thank goodness, because how can the multiplicity of the beautiful colors that make up the human race ever be confined to only one or two crayon colors.


Eventually our brand new crayons became broken and worn, and they were tossed in boxes and bags, melted for other art projects, or just neglected until they were thrown out by parents and teachers. I have such a box in the studio and classroom, and regardless of their state of being, their immediacy and simplicity makes them the perfect drawing tool. The bonus is that they play equally nice alone or with other art media. Often I like to combine them with mono prints, such as in my piece, “Comin’ Thru the Rye.”

Comin' Through the Rye
“Comin’ Thru The Rye” etching ink, soluble wax crayons

Lest you think crayons are just for kids and students, think again. I’m not the only artist that finds crayons a handy medium for expression; even the great Pablo Picasso used crayons to draw. In fact, at a recent art auction in South Africa, a crayon drawing by the Maestro fetched 3 million Rand, or about $220,000 US dollars. Think about that the next time you tape a crayon drawing by a young budding artist to the refrigerator.

So let’s celebrate our creativity this season by treating ourselves to a new box of crayons and going on a little time travel. Go a bit crazy and get yourself the big box with the sharpener, spring for bling and get some glitter crayons, or try out some of the many different shapes, colors and types of crayons that are out there. I can’t wait to see how you color your world!

This Week in the Studio

Spending time working on paintings for the 2017 November Exhibit at the River’s Edge Gallery. Never too early to get behind!

Next week I’ll return with a post about building a painting, as Munninn, Hugin and Minnin are coming along nicely and my painting about Thought, Memory and Desire is just about done.



Stop, Drop, and Clean????

Space for the Spirit to breathe.

Rainer Maria Rilke

This past winter my sessions in the studio could best be described as a blitzkrieg affair, with me dashing in whenever possible, averaging only 3-4 hours per visit. Not ideal, I know, but I believe that you do as much as you can, when you can, and that by piano, piano, piano, things slowly get accomplished.

Work area before Spring cleaning.

With this approach it meant that my time had to be maximized: visiting with office neighbors kept to a quick hello, eating with a sandwich in one hand, paint brush in another, getting down to work ASAP and, except for cleaning the  brushes, not accomplishing much in the ways of house (er, studio) keeping. Oh, the occasional swoosh of the vacuum now and then, and emptying the trash every session, but not much to write home about unless you count a quick scrawl in the book shelf dust. With the conclusion of the winter/spring semester (and, yes, sigh, summer session is now underway) there’s the urge to do some late spring cleaning in the studio. Part of the that was the need to corral the clutter, and really clean the floor surrounding the easel (are those cracker crumbs at my feet? Oh, surely not confetti!?). Another part of urge to clean lies in the much-needed psychological lift I feel when I organize my surroundings. Like Rilke noted: “Space for the Spirit to breathe.”

I know artists who have said that the fact that they can constantly and instantly see what’s on hand, and thus they don’t need to look through drawers and files to find anything, aids them in being more creative; they find both comfort and efficiency being surrounded by their “stuff”. However for me, my mind thinks better and my spirit feels calmer and I am more focused when my environment is somewhat organized.

Ah, breathing space!

Now please don’t think I’m a regular Clean Martine. When deeply involved in a studio project, organizing is not a priority. Once I’ve determined what color palette I’m using, and what brushes and tools are needed, I leave everything out within reach. Only once the artwork is done do I truly tidy the work area. While I clean and regroup, putting caps back on the paint tubes, returning pencils to the drawer, scouring out my coffee mug and errant eating utensils, my mind wonders and wanders. I daydream, plot and plan my next creative undertaking. It’s a lot like the feelings I get when doing the annual yard clean up at home before the garden gets planted.

Now as I am going into the summer season, I feel ready to give expression to the artistic seeds that have laid fallow all winter. My supplies are replenished, my brushes clean, my studio feels in harmony. In regards to my spring cleaning at home, please don’t ask. I just now found my missing shoe buried in a pile of sweaters and I swear I can hear mocking sounds coming from the closets!

This Week in the Studio

Happy to announce that work delivered for jurying in the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors (DSWPS) latest show proved fruitful. I had two mixed media sculptures accepted into the exhibit, “Soliloquy”,  June 10-30, at the Anton Art Center, 125 Macomb Place, Mount Clemens, MI 48043. Opening reception Saturday, June 11, 1 – 3 p.m. Then the works travel to Crooked Tree Art Center September 17-November 19! Huzzah!

Nest 7 - Upward Bound

The Pathway

A Table of One’s Own

“A woman must have money and a room of her own. . .” 
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Cutting the Heart AsunderFirst published in October 1929, Virginia Woolf’s extended essay, A Room of One’s Own, has served as a feminist rallying cry and a raised banner for what artists need in order to accomplish their calling. For Virginia understood that in order to produce creative works, one must have the means and the space to do so. Her ideas still resonate with me; although at one time there was little money or room. What could I do?

When my longing to be an artist was crying out not to be a downy dream but manifested in reality, I was a mother with young children. I worked part-time, contributing much needed income for household expenses; there was not a lot left for extras. Our 1930 era home, though comfortable in size, did not have a finished basement, nor a spare bedroom, and had a living room, but not an extra family room. My interest at the time was in the book arts, and occasionally I would garner a commission, be in an exhibit, or sell small work. Any creative endeavors on my part were carried out on the dining room table, in the midst of family activities, in snatches of precious moments.

That table was the settings for meals, the kids’ homework, crayons and puzzles, toys and books, and that same table had to be cleared after every activity and be made ready for its next use, including my current art project. At least half my creative time was spent setting and cleaning up, and I often felt cheated and frustrated.

What to do? My first step was to get a folding table and I left my “stuff” out at all times, easily at hand. When I had a bit of time, when the kids were occupied or asleep, I could get right back at my work. The second thing I did was to break down every project into steps that could be accomplished in small segments of time, anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Third, the table was off-limits to small and big hands alike! In such a matter, on my little studio table, I was able, bit by bit, to produce artwork.

In time, I cleared everything out of the 5 x 5 foot breakfast nook, claiming it as my own. Eventually, as a Wayne State University grad student, I got my first “real” studio space. When the kids got older, and money less tight, and we converted some unused space into a home studio. Finally, I outgrew the “Happy Place” and with money earned from teaching, and by sharing the rent with another artist, I took on my first public studio.

IMG_2110Now in my current location, The Office, I look around and think how far I’ve come from the folding table in the corner of the dining room. These days, I’ve come to the conclusion that what I really need is a warehouse to call my own! Haven’t convinced my husband of that. At least not yet.

This Week in the Studio


I’ve been working on a concept that I’ve carried around in my head for some time, a mixed media piece, oil on board and canvas, it will measure 12″ by 48″. There will be 5 small rondos mounted on the longer board. The two pictured paintings here are in the underpainting stage. Can you guess my influence?

Watch the Birdy!

“Beep, beep.”

The Roadrunner

When I was pulling together the Mixed Media Gallery, I was surprised by the number of times, and the diverse ways, that I have used a particular subject matter. Among the many instances is this mono print, and a three-in-one colored pencil drawing:

The Prophet Cometh IBeing-NonBeing

Plus, there is this gallery installation, and then this guy shows up in a mixed media piece, and here’s a fellow incised in stone.

                      Memory, Thought and Desire Minnin, Munin, Hugin Edgar, of CourseSometimes He Dreams (Detail)

Oh, there’s more, lots more. All I can say is, great balls of feathers, I think I’m going to the birds! While I haven’t deliberately set out to be a bird illustrator, (that I will leave to those who follow in the wingspan of John James Audubon), it appears that I have come down with an avian attachment of sorts.

Artists commonly produce multiple works of the same subject matter. Think of  the magnificent Georgia O’Keeffe, repeatedly using flowers and bones as subject matter, playing with composition, color and scale, series nested within series. Still, why do artists perseverate on a theme when there’s an infinite number of subjects to tackle, notching each completed image as a tick on a bucket list?

Sometimes the subject is one that resonates on a symbolic level with the artist. So the moon becomes a stand-in for the Feminine Divine and the painter explores several versions of what that might mean. For another, form has a strong pull on the artist’s sensibilities, therefore she completes several drawings on the mutable of clouds to fulfill that urge. Or it can be something more indefinable, such as the quickening “oh my” when encountering the beauty seen in the structure of trees, and there is hunger to capture that time and again.

Keeping that one constant, the repeated image, allows freedom to explore, and the subject, like a music motif, dances, changes, circles back around, spins off into new directions. And so I’ll keep flying with birds, symbols of strength and delicacy, seeing where they take me as I venture into new places in 2016.

Meanwhile, this week in the studio:

Red!I felt very productive as I finished preparing cradled boards for upcoming projects, going so far as to actually apply a cadmium red ground on them. Oh, joy! Oh, red!

As for the self-portraits, they continue to vex as the painted grids remain wet, preventing cleaning up the interior of each rectangle. Perhaps it’s a combination of Mars black with too much oil medium and the cool studio air temps. I’ve decided to set them aside and let time take care of the curing process. But the hats are done! Huzzah for small victories!








Sometime You Win, and Sometimes You Live to Try Another Day

This week I entered two paintings for consideration for the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors spring exhibition. Unique to this group is that the jurying process is by viewing the actual work. After an hour or two wait, you learn the results: thumbs up or thumbs down. I brought these two lovelies, both of which have received a lot of positive feedback, and waited to see what the juror decided.

Virgo Rising
oil and metal leaf on board
Bone Breakers
oil on canvas, 36″ x 24″










Every time I respond to a call for entry, I think back to the early days when I first started getting into the game. At that time, oh so last century, we would send in 35mm slides, red dot in either the top right or left corner to indicate front, and an arrow showing “this-end-up”. On the slide frame was your name, title, media and size, lots of info on a small cardboard frame. Typically, you filled out a postcard that the exhibition coordinator would check that indicated acceptance or rejection. If you wanted slides returned, you had to include a self-addressed stamped envelope, and if they didn’t return the slides you had to still provide the stamp for the postcard.

There was one exhibit, the particulars I no longer remember, I decided to enter. Still in graduate school, I didn’t have much exhibition experience but I dutifully labeled my slides, filled out the forms and stuck a stamp on the self-addressed postcard and sent everything off and eagerly anticipated the good news.

Time passed and finally the postman delivered the results. All I can say is that I scored 100%–yep, every image I submitted had a check mark in the REJECT box. I was totally horrified that everyone must know of my failure, after all it was on a postcard for all to see. I went into a double helix of self-doubt and worry, questioning if I was ever going to make it as an artist.

It turned out that postcard was not a harbinger of my demise as an artist and in the intervening years I have been selected for many shows, even enjoying an award or two along the way. Every artist can tell a story about a particular piece of work that was REJECTED from one exhibit, only to have the same work ACCEPTED later. The key is not attaching too much importance to either being refused or accepted; one person’s opinion is not who you are, or where you are going or a commentary on your unique vision. The key is just to keep on making the work, and remember that sometimes you win and sometimes you live to try another day!

Now what did the juror decide in the selection process? Here is it:

 NO THANK YOU for “Virgo Rising”

Virgo Rising

  BRING IT ON! for “Bone Breakers”

Bone Breakers














Get Back to Play

It is a happy talent to know how to play.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Okay, okay I throw in the paint brush! Car problems, being under the weather, family obligations and other mundane issues, meant limited time spent at “The Office”, and it feels as though nothing noteworthy was accomplished. Still, life offered a lesson worth sharing. This week, the Muse sent me a teacher in the form of a three-year sprite named Jack. Did I happen to mention he is related to me? That Muse has a sense of humor, for sure.

Playing at The Happy PlaceI have a studio at home, “The Happy Place”, where I do much of my 3-dimensional work, have my library, and store my supplies for teaching. It is one of the places that Jack loves best, where the colors pink and blue reign supreme, and there are boxes of bones, stones and feathers to open and explore, and whatever creative world you wish to visit you may.

And so that’s my biggest accomplishment this week; I played.

It’s too early to say that any great insights occurred, or that a creative door was opened. Sometimes it’s play just for the sake of playing and sometimes something made while playing does end up in a finished piece. Take for instance the mixed media piece, Edgar, Of Course, now at the exhibit, Do You Know Poe?, at the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn.

Edgar, of Course
collage, paint sample card, leaf, text, etching ink, 8″ x 8″

Edgar began as a demonstration of using stencils and masks in mono printing. I laid the tag board silhouette on a sheet of Plexiglass, used a brayer and rolled ink over it. I lifted the bird, placed a sheet of paper on the image, and put it through the etching press. Voila, a print! I showed variations of using the silhouette as a mask, and the cut out area of tag board as a stencil. Basically, I was just playing around, not really trying to accomplish anything other than showing a technique or two.

But when I was done, I was struck not by the prints produced but the silhouette itself, now gloriously inked yellow, green and orange. A  lithograph someone abandoned years ago became another surface to print on. Alice, always eager to join the play,  gave me the oak leaves, now skeletal and lacy. Later, I found and assembled other elements needed to complete the image you see here.

But the bottom line is this: I didn’t set out make a crow that was yellow, green and orange; I was just playing, without fixed intentions towards outcome. Those who know me, know that I am serious about my art making. Sometimes I become too goal driven and I don’t step back from it, to just enjoy taking a day or two to explore, to learn again the lesson from a pre-schooler, that play is worthy work.

Now time to get back to work, I mean play.




Hitting the Hi-Whirl Button

“Because the most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day & trying.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

graphite on paper

Every 15 weeks my routine goes awry in a big way. That’s when a new semester begins and, with the craziness that is life, it sometimes feels as though everything is being dumped into a blender and we’ve hit the hi-whirl button. The part-time teaching gig, with regular hours and scheduled days, serves as an anchor for the full-time job of studio artist. Hours that form the “professional” work are fluid in duration and focus, requiring a self-motivation to attend to tasks that the teaching, with its static parameters, doesn’t need.

Trust me, there are days when going to “The Office”, feels like work. It’s pulling on boots, packing the lunchbox, greeting the wintry chill inside the studio, confronting a painting in the not-going-great stage, and knowing that the Mountain of Need-to’s is waiting at home to be conquered. Without a sense of routine (“Tuesday, teach until 12, work at The Office until 6”), it’s über easy to make excuses for not dealing with the real work.

One resource I’ve found for guidance in these situations is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. I read this slender volume every semester as a reminder of what it means to be a professional artist and to treat my time and commitment to my studio practice in such a manner. I recommend this book to every creative; and if you haven’t read it yet, I hope you do. I would love to know what you think of it.

Virgo Rising-detail
oil on board, metal leaf

Now back to this week in the studio. The winter routine is slowly getting established. I was able to clean up edges on the metal leaf on “Virgo Rising” (seen here and on Instagram.)  However, by midweek I found the sides of the self-portraits were still too wet to handle and I was at a holding point with “Virgo”.  That day I was determined to stay at the studio until I got something done. Grabbing pencil and drawing paper, I sketched a raven, part of an idea for my next best painting. After posting it on Facebook, my stats indicate that the “get something done today” drawing is a hit! I think I’m on to something that would never have happened if quit work early in the day. Stay tuned to see where this may lead!





Among the Stars

"Virgo Rising" in progressHaving spent a good deal of time on metal leafing Virgo Rising (efforts shared in last week’s All That Sometimes Glitters), I decided to take a bling break. Maybe it was all the Ziggy Stardust chatter with the passing of David Bowie, or just the realization that my depiction of the universe needed more heavenly bodies, but I got out the paint and got to it. Click image for a more complete reveal.

Me and Mondrian (self portrait)While the paint was on the palette, it seemed efficient to add another layer to my two self portraits, “Me and Mondrian”.  I was confident that the first layer had dried and I could continue to build the painting. Alas, wintery conditions in my north facing studio means a nightly drop in temperatures to a bracing 57 degree, and the underpainting was still wet in spots and tacky in other areas. Fortunately by Thursday the oil paint had reasonably set and I was happy to make some small progress on the background, which if you are a fan of Mondrian you might recognize as Composition in Red, Yellow and Blue. (Or is it Composition in Blue, Red and Yellow? Hmm, better research that!)

At this point, it looks like the promise of a few extra studio hours will be available next week, and with it, the expectation of further progress. Check back to see if that happens, and follow on Facebook and Instagram to see more studio news. And finally, you can add your comments below or send an email with your insights.






All That Sometimes Glitters

These past couple of weeks in the studio have found me attempting to finish a painting begun early November 2014. My misguided (as always!) belief was that I would have the work finished by the opening of a late November exhibit at the River’s Edge Gallery. The work is a combination of two paintings: a circle painting of a crow, wings lifted, surrounded by a larger galaxy painting. Separating these two works is a metal leafed circlet. It was the visual representation of the show’s title: “Virgo Rising.” (photo below left).

Virgo Rising, v. 1
Virgo Rising, v. 1

Well, Virgo is still rising and awaiting lift off. And if you have seen the posts on Facebook or Instagram you’ll realize that the current circlet looks nothing like version 1 because at some point, all that original metal leaf was scraped back and wood scrollwork added and new layers of metal leaf added for “Virgo Rising”, v. 2.1.

Virgo Rising, v. 2.1
Virgo Rising, v. 2.1

I know, I know. Why bother? Because that’s  what has to happen when it isn’t as envisioned. Revisit, revise and re-do, make it over, add to or subtract from, get it to the place where you finally say this is the best I can do at this time. It will get done, oh it will.

Until then enjoy the posts on social media as I make slow and steady progress. And finally, with all this metal leafing floating around the studio, I just glad I’m not using 14K gold. I even found some metal leaf glued into my hair. Talk about gold among the silver!IMG_2541

By the way, the image to the left shows much I’ve managed to get done to this point.