Dec 10, 2017

Assorted Updates

random studio shot
I'm in Portland at my favorite coffee shop after visiting some possible rentals. I love Corvallis for the peacefulness and the meadows but the calm can feel like a giant wet blanket. I miss the energy of a city, the feeling of opportunity and the abundance of adventures available.

I have a new treescape I am really happy with. I painted it along the Cardwell Hill Trail in Corvallis. It was cold and I was sitting in a poison oak meadow, the sticks still have the poison oil even after the leaves fall off so I had to engage in extreme laundry practices when I returned home. I like the painting, It is a good balance between the illustrative style I love and the painterliness that makes plein air fun to do.

The Trail is an old road and the deep sides make for an especially charming walk so I took a selfie. I try not to over-selfie but this feels like a good celebration of my plein air endeavors, off into the great unknown of the forest to paint. It is so easy to see how passionate and engaged other people are, sometimes a good selfie can remind us that our own life is a worthy adventure.

I also finished four more Lovejoy New 2.0 pieces. I feel like I haven't hit my stride with the text yet but I am happy with them and have started thumbnails for the next four.

I was trying to not start any new projects until I finished Lovejoy News 2.0 and the 100 treescpapes but then I found this lovely little sketch and decided to paint a vignette or two. I finished one and can see that I'm going to have trouble putting this on hold, especially when it is so cold outside, it takes a lot more effort to get my self out the door for plein air in the winter.

Nov 19, 2017

Project Sketchbook

defining adulthood sketchbook

I just finished teaching a class at The Art Center about how to keep a project sketchbook. It was a great education for me as a teacher, artist and human. The most important thing I learned is that when we don't know how to do something—like develop curriculum for an ongoing class—the only thing to do is to jump in and try, the world will forgive us if we miss the mark a few times. This is obvious to many of you but for me it's been a remedial lesson. It feels new and completely surprising each time I take a risk and survive.

The class turned out much different than I expected. Somehow I assumed I'd have students who had trouble keeping a sketchbook because they don't like to draw in the traditional sense. I thought using a sketchbook for specific purpose besides drawing would be motivating. Instead I had students who love to draw, have no problem filling sketchbooks but struggle to complete projects. The drawing exercises I had planned were old hat to them and I needed to switch gears and teach project management and goal setting for artists.
I enjoyed the switch-up but halfway through it felt a little like, How to Drive a Horse-Oriented Cart. Not backwards per say but a sketchbook at its best is a means to another end, and having it remain the focal point of the class was a little cumbersome.

color palette study
One of the best things about a sketchbook is that it is a safe place to do whatever one wants, to take risks, to not have to follow through on things that don't work out. To finish a project we have to leave that safety behind, to take the sacred pieces of our experiments and elaborate on them, polish them, develop them into a piece or a body of work that speaks to more than just ourselves. A sketchbook can be a fun refuge for working out details; planning a work schedule, researching tools, supplies and color palettes, logging our attempts, lamenting failures and making revisions. It is also a place to gather courage when we fear the next step. Even the best project sketchbook is not a magic bullet for bringing our projects to fruition but gathering courage is.
One week I asked my students what would be helpful for the next class and one said she would like to see my own project sketchbooks to see how I do it. This put me in a tiny panic because I dismantle my sketchbooks on account of living in small spaces that would feel like a rats nest if I saved all my drawings and experiments.

sketchbook I reserve for new ideas

I looked through the remnants to see if I could conjure up a semblance and had to grapple with the fact that I am teaching something I don't exactly do. There is no harm in that but somehow it made me feel a little fraudulent. Perhaps because the project sketchbooks I cherished in school had been replaced by a haphazard orbit of folders and piles and spirals and stashes that supported my general studio practice instead of specific projects. It would be sort of like taking all one's household tools, kitchen implements and toiletries then mixing them all together and randomly stashing handfuls in any available drawer.

remnants from a sketchbook studying text

Luckily I had a free weekend after this enlightening glimpse and I spent a couple days sorting out the mess and developing a system I believe will work for my process. I like to work on loose paper I bought a bunch of eco-friendly 3 ring chipboard binders to put everything in. I like the new system and I am really enjoying being in my studio since it no longer feels like a pending avalanche. 

It is really important for artists to consider what system might work best for them personally. Looking at sketches of the masters can be intimidating and give us cold feet about putting the pencil to work. Looking at contemporary sketchbooks can free us to find out own voice but can also make us pine for sketchbooks that are a work of art in themselves. That quest can hinder our development.

90% of my sketches are about this interesting

We have to be savvy in out relationship to photography because we are inundated with
it. I checked out a stack of books at the library to see how other artists keep sketchbooks,
it was inspiring but also problematic since we aren't seeing the whole sketchbook; book
publishers are generally only going to choose the aesthetically pleasing pages. There are
some artists who have developed their style so masterfully that every page of their
sketchbook is beautiful. Most of us have to have many boring and awkward pages in
between and that is something to celebrate; that is how we learn and acquire skills.
There is always the possibility to make an artist book if we want to make an intact and
sublime artifact of our work, that can free us up to let out sketchbook be very practical
workbooks that fuel the risks we need to take in our practice.

Here are my hand-outs from class.

Oct 24, 2017

Grief and the Story of Two Salesmen.

Teaching my dad to selfie
My dad passed away last month so I am more concerned with resting and grieving than making art. I am grateful I got to see him so often in the last few months of his life, he was a very loving person, it meant everything to see him light up and reach out for a hug when I walked in the room. I hope I gave him the same joy in return.

Grieving is hard. Nothing makes sense. Going to the day-job in the morning feels like being run over by a dump truck in slow motion. I feel fortunate I had a couple art classes to teach. They reminded me how work under normal circumstances is enjoyable and sustaining.

In one class we talked about the obstacles toward finishing projects. There are many of them but time is often the biggest. I overcome this with sheer perseverance, continuing to work a little bit week after week even though I only accomplish about 25% of what I mean to do.

plein air in Peavy Arboretum

My supervisor at one teaching job told me an interesting anecdote when she learned that I always put more on my to-do list every week than I can accomplish. She said there were two salesmen, one set a goal for himself everyday of making 3 calls. The other set a goal for himself of making 20 calls a day. The low-aiming salesman always met his goal and felt so good he continued to make calls everyday; he did really well financially. The high-aiming fellow almost never met his goal, he always felt discouraged and did not sell a lot.

This made sense to me but I am so personally attached to my goals the thought of only writing down three small things each week was not acceptable. Now that grief is having a say in my priority list I find myself adopting this approach. I'm curious to see how it goes.

waiting out the rain

I have been out for a couple of plein air sessions, one was in a rain storm which was great for my spirit, not so much so for my painting but I still like it.

rainy arboretum

Aug 26, 2017

En Plein Air

I'm on a week vacation from my day job. It is amazing. When I am at my day job I don't think, gee I wish I was in Hawaii right now. I think, gee I wish I was hiking or gee, I'd like to be painting. Hiking is sort of out right now--a foot injury limits me to short hikes on flat ground. I decided to paint 5 treescapes over my vacation. I figured I would get up early and head out to the arboretum where I could find lots of good spots to paint within a short walk of the parking lot. Morning is a really good time to paint because the lighting is interesting but mostly I knew if I didn't paint in the morning I would have trouble leaving whatever family activity was happening for the rest of the day. 

I'm really impressed with my paintings. I felt like I reached a new level of facility in my effort to simplify foliage which makes my paintings look more intentional. One thing I still struggle with is whether or not to use ink lines. I love ink lines, I love line. I always start with the line drawing but then a problem crops up where the rest of the painting gets a bit rigid and can feel like a paint-by-numbers. The paintings still look nice but they aren't as enjoyable to complete.

painting with no fine ink lines
painting started with lines

 The one painting I did this week without ink lines felt really good; I felt like I was painting, I felt like I was able to simplify complicated things with spontaneous brushwork instead of mapping out shapes. Next I'm going to try painting a value scale first and then add the ink lines in an effort to combine the two, we'll see how it works. 

This week was also the first time in a while I painted en plein air. Previously I decided to do my sketches outside and paint in the studio. Historically, when I paint outside I get bogged down with details and accuracy. I want every little branch and leaf to be in the painting and I want everything to be the exact size and shape and color that it is in real life. Realism is not my forte so this made it hard to make a good painting. The work I had been doing in the studio to simplify plant life gave me leverage to let that go. It was really great to be outside surrounded by nature and working from observation. I am eager to do more.

Aug 10, 2017

From Home by Memory: Sketches

I've been keeping a sketchbook in my purse so I can draw on my work breaks. I've been trying to draw things from my home by memory, it is really fun, these are my favorites.

Jul 14, 2017

The Allure of Shipping Tags

I am not sure why shipping tags are so visually appealling but I decided to make a book centered around them, here's a couple prototypes in-progress. My vision is that they will be little photo books but the photos will be on shipping tags one can pull out to look at in their entirety.

My latest effort to make more time for artistic endeavors has been a one-week-on, one-week-off approach. I'm not very good at following schedules so for a week I spend all my free-time making art and writing. The next week I make fun, exercise, errands and socializing the priority. It's been working pretty well. This week I have not been doing either because my dad is in the hospital but that certainly deserves the time devoted to it.

In other news I got to hang a couple of my Nature Saint paintings in the Neville Building on Samaritan's campus.

Studio Holiday

getting ready for a workshop

Today is the fourth of July. This is not my favorite holiday. I don't get excited about fireworks or potato salad. I don't drink beer or soda pop. I do love my country but I feel ingenuine celebrating our independence from Britain when we are not exactly granting all our citizens their own freedom within this democracy.

I'm not good at debates or providing sources but I see so much evidence that our free market economy has been legislated into siphon that is creating a lot of poverty and struggle while making just a few people rich. Why are banks allowed to make money loaning money they believe they will have one day? Can you do that? I sure can't but it sounds nice especially if the gov is going to bail you out when you make a mistake.

Why are corporations beholden to make a profit for their shareholders but it's OK for them to pay their workers so little they have to apply for public assistance? Why does our justice system fail so blatantly to protect the rights and lives of minorities as equal to whites? I have only scratched the surface but those are the kinds of questions that make it hard for me to be patriotic even while living in a country that I love and feel extremely grateful to be a part of.

I have a four day weekend because of the holiday and I decided to spend it in my studio. During my normal work weeks—being a dutiful element of the siphon, providing a means for insurance and pharmaceutical companies to make a ton of money off people's health issues—I think about how I want to be creating. I look at my accrued PTO and dream of taking a week off to just to work on art and then I think about how I also need an actual vacation to enjoy my human-self and I feel a little discouraged.

Clearly I am fortunate that this is the worst problem occupying my personal sphere besides a large pile student loan debt and indigestion so I decided that on this weekend I could spend 3 days in the studio and still have one day off for relaxing. It was glorious, these last three days. I finished and illustrated a poem, started a couple new paintings, sketched at Jackson-Frazier Wetlands, got ready for my next Artscare class, worked on a couple writing pieces, learned how to use a new tripod attachment so I can get better photos of the paintings I want to reproduce.

I don't want it to stop but I know I need to spend time relaxing and tending to life outside the studio or I will get burned out. I think its very misguided when people have this romantic idea that creative people only care about their work and don't let mundane life in the way. That is one of those ideas society pretends is true to maintain control. If you can keep artists from enjoying their humanity and other humans from enjoying their creativity there will be little visionary art that inspires change.

There is no one right path for creative work. Anyone who touts an adage of a true artist...blah blah blah is full of hot air. We don't need to maintain this siphon that gives a few creatives status and promotes this insidious idea that others shouldn't try, that what they make isn't worth while. We need people engaged in life to talk about that life creatively.

Most of the artists I know are over this stereotype and have fairly balanced lives. I still meet lots of people who feel they couldn't possibly be artists, or performers or writers though. If you are one of them I invite you to try a new way to express yourself and trust that you have things of great value to share.

Jul 2, 2017

Poem: Migrations.

This evening is larger than my thoughts,
possibility buzzes in each shadow
as if trees are swapping molecules with the street
in the moment between a summer day and a rain storm
when the wind feels like thunder.

I am riding my bike down the back streets toward home
 after a presentation about butterflies at the library.
About how humans, in all their folly, can restore things.
About inmates tending to rare flower plantings or caterpillars —
how they cherish it.

Imprisonment is its own tragedy,
each heart in its trajectory—trying to live,
to right poverty or subjugation—
can loose its place of rest
like the dwindling monarchs.

But to learn how the human heart longs
so much
to tend to something precious,
to be tender in the harshest circumstance —
this is everything.

On my bike in the shifty dusk
all my plans are gone,
none so precious as this choice
to tend to the quiet in the wind,
my feet pedaling, the gray street.

Butterfly lecture by the Institutefor Applied Ecology which is involved with many ecological restoration projects involving men and women inmates.

Did you know that 1 in 100 Americans are incarcerated and only about half of the people in prisons committed violent crimes? Bill Moyers has some excellent articles about this problem.

Jun 17, 2017

Lovejoy News 2.0

three drafts
Remember Lovejoy News?  It was a project I did a few years ago that was like a poet's phenology. I'd wander off into the neighborhood with the intention to observe and report on what was happening nature-wise. I tried to include myself and other humans in the ecology. I wanted to erase boundaries between human habitat and nature, between my inner world and outer world, between science and art. I see science as the mythology of the present. I love science, but I think humanity looses something vital when measurements and calculations become our only form of understanding. There is an increasing participation of non-scientists in scientific endeavors like naturalism these days, it is very exciting and I think it would be deeply enriching if people recorded their observations in their own inspired and creative voice.

I want to pickup Lovejoy News again—I barely scratched the surface of my intentions—but I thought it would be fun to first choose my 10 favorite sketches from the original project and make them into illustrations.  I just finished the first one from Jackson-Frazier Wetlands. I am really happy with it. The text is the most challenging part. Of course it is available in print too.


Jun 4, 2017

Four Excerpts from Spring

Today there were just the Cedars in their enigmatic tallness, their shrouded cores. Just the cedars and the grey sky.

It's evening. The day has been summer-like and we are all giddy with warmth. It will turn cold again soon, but for now the cool wood floor on my bare feet is a pleasure and the rhododendrons are heavy with their immense clusters of pink blossoms.

The sun has set. This would be the most gentle time to go for a walk but the rice cooks on the stove and I'm tired.

The rain is easier to take after a few sunny days. It feels like the lushness of a deep green forest instead of the misery of a cold cement city. It is the sort of rain that makes the green feel even greener so I step out into the world to hike.

Bald Hill is thick with trees—an invincible canopy until the very top. I walk slowly up realizing it is time to start acting like an old person who needs to conserve their health. Just as I step into the open a buzzard soars over barely clearing the trees. I feel blessed every time a vulture's imposing wing span lays its shadow across me, they are the softest birds.

There are trees with white flowers blooming everywhere and the air is thick with pollen.

I walk slowly all the way down the hill on the back side. This time I am not conserving my health. I want to take each inch of the shadowy vault the trail makes through the woods. I spy a kinglet on a bush next to a trail that is so small and still with his little hieroglyph of an eye. Later I hear a Swainson's thrush and try to spot it through the brush between it's little water drop calls.

As a Pacific Northwesterner a warm summer day feels like a silky sweater. My arms, so rarely bare, elicit the strongest contentment as I walk the trail from the parking lot of my work to the farmer's field, it is an unofficial trail used by deer and smokers mostly. The brush is so green and dense I feel as though I am burrowing instead of walking and it almost makes the 8 hours of answering phone calls seem like a reasonable way to spend one's day.

In the office I am sure I am a scourge cursed by karmic debt to stay until I can remember the exact order of the vowels in the word acetaminophen. In the wooded area, however, I am another mammal—rife with joy and searching for sustenance. I am welcome here as another creature and delight of earth, even in my funny clothes. Each step in my loafers on the dirt feels like an affirmation that I belong, an act of gratitude to be home and burrowing deeper into the green day.

May 17, 2017


In the summer there is a movement through the trees;
the wind in its normal melancholy
fills up with the touch of soft leaves and warmth.
It feels like same the strength
that holds the vowels of my name in place
so I feel dizzyingly that I have arrived—
to a place opulent and vital
and insistent on my being there.

Everywhere I look, my heart looks back:
uncountable leaves rushing into the red sky
and falling in on each other to buoy up again,
lovers sitting by the river's glinting ripples of water,
the lit taverns across the street, silhouettes of people
whiling away their Sunday night inside,
the concrete path stretching before me,
blurring under my bicycle's tires.
All of this in the dim shroud of dusk becomes one thing—
a long awaited summer—home.


May 14, 2017

Art Fair Confidential 2

After Saturday something special happens, I will have no more reasons to connive and can live gloriously and peacefully in each moment with no hidden agendas. Until, of course, I come up with a new scheme to save me from the inconvenience of needing a day job. Did I tell you how it happened? I had decided to do art fairs again. After my last fair two or three years ago I was done. I vowed never to schlep all my paintings and countless 25 lb grid-wall panels to another fair.

At the South Town Art Walk, however, I found myself with three successful artists who got to talking shop with each other about fair-life. Their conversation was casual and since they all live in nice homes without having to go to unrewarding day jobs I got jealous. I hate being jealous. When I am jealous I decide to become the thing I am seeing in others that spurred the feeling.

On the surface it was a rational decision. Despite my anti-fair vows I knew I couldn't judge whether or not they were a beneficial endeavor for me because I never showed at a reputable one. I was not willing to invest $300 plus in booth fees at the time so I went to small fairs. I heard over and over again from seasoned sellers that you have to go to a really busy fair that has a reputation for good art. People actually go to those with plans to buy art, with money in their wallets designated for art. You can't make money in a crowd of people who don't want to buy anything more than a greeting card or magnet.

And so I began. I made a calendar of application deadlines and researched displays, wanting to at least make good on the part of my vow where I never carry another grid-wall panel across a large field again. The light weight panels I wanted were $700 a set so I made my own which required more research and planning, not to mention pricing and shopping. Deadlines were fast encroaching so when my design was set I drove home on my lunch breaks to do the ironing and pinning, then I drove to my folk's house after work to do the sewing. I finished it, set it up in my canopy, hung all my paintings up, took the requisite application shot, took everything down, edited the photos and got my first application in on time. I kept applying to other shows, researched other people's prices, made my own price schemata, mounted and varnished a dozen paintings, and researched printers and paper so I could have items a range of price points.

Obviously this was an all-encompassing preoccupation for many weeks but one evening when I was thinking of something else entirely, a voice in my head said with great calm, "you don't need to do art fairs."

My whole adult life I longed with great distress to be tapped into a pure source of divine guidance that would insure all my decisions be right ones, as though I was a pawn and my life purpose was to be an infallibly will-less one. After a decade of languishing in my search for full-proof direction it seemed safe to assume that there was no divine plan detailed out for me. I set about learning how to make and live with my own imperfect decisions. This was an easy transition in my love life because kissing is rewarding even while crashing and burning at great speed. Career decisions were more intimidating. Committing to showing at art fairs was the first time I felt really good about taking this sort of risk. It was a choice I was able to take responsibility for even in the face of possible failure. I felt proud for working so diligently and had tangible hope that I might someday leave my full-time job wilting in front of a computer. It was unsettling to finally receive clear and calm guidance and have it invalidate my first big commitment. Could it be that guidance only comes in response to choices lived and has now power to interrupt a litany of mental plotting?

I didn't know what I would do with myself without these plans so I pretended that the voice was a very sophisticated sabotage mechanism and should be ignored. I kept applying to shows and ordered a printer. I also applied to an author fair I saw on-line. There wouldn't be much opportunity to make money at this event with just my books to show, but I was very excited about it. I was not at all excited about art fairs, just the possibility that I might be successful at them.

My excitement over the author fair unraveled my resistance. It reminded me of a latent choice from almost a year prior to focus on illustration and making books. My art practice has always felt like a broken-down circus cart, but I love it so I keep driving it around in lopsided circles. For a few weeks last summer I had a compelling urge to sit in my studio doing nothing. It felt oddly productive and more peaceful that my attempts to sit cross-legged and meditate. A sense percolated and rose up into my thoughts that it was time to get serious and that I couldn't be serious about every medium I was involved in. I noticed, despite all the voices to the contrary, that what I wanted, what I needed, was to be an illustrator and a poet first.

I cleaned out my studio then and began a more focused approach. It became challenging after only a week and I distracted myself with other things, as if it was uncomfortable to fix a tire on my cart and drive straight for a few blocks so I got out and kicked it crooked again.

In the midst of the art fair frenzy I reflected on that false start and thought about the calm voice gently suggesting art fairs may not be all that for me. I tried to remember the last time I actually made art instead of a display element or a game plan. I talked to friends about this mysterious suggestion that the most industrious path may not be the best path. I made the left turn. I declined the fairs I had been accepted to aside from the one I had already paid for, but deep down I knew that I should cancel that one too.

That fair is this Saturday and while I am looking forward to showing off my gorgeous paintings and handsome, homemade display panels, I am even more excited about packing up my things at the end of it knowing I never have to do it again, knowing I made the choice to follow my own wisdom instead of the sum total of all the how-to-get-what-you-want books composting in my intelligence. I don't plan to read Women who Work but having read reviews of it I am hopeful; with Ivanka's exacting—albeit unwitting—parody, The Great American How-To-Be-Successful-Like-Me-Book may finally see it's era fade and we can all get on with our lives doing things that are meaningful to us as individuals.

I am slowly getting back on track with my practice, drawing more, writing more, plotting the next book. It doesn't feel like conniving at all because I am not concerned about the outcome, it's just my life.


May 13, 2017


The osprey perched at the top of a snag and only the deep contrast of his wings made him stand out as anything other than the top foot of the snag. We got out the binoculars and admired the grey patches on his head, his silver talons. Every little turn of it's head was a thing so wild as to be breathtaking and I almost felt we were taking something from him with this sneaky up close look at his personal movement.

Later he flew over the lake while the heron held out its wings on the island fluffing his feathers in the sun.

The board walk led us into an ethereal grove of trees hung with the longest lichen. It was a place too magical for selfies and the woodpecker drummed heartily on a tree above us but never showed her red crest.


May 11, 2017

Two Questions

This article has moved to Medium:

What would you do if you won the lottery? And other important questions

Feb 13, 2017

New Booth Display

I made new display panels for the up coming art fair season. My sister helped me set them up for a test run, now I just need to make tables for prints and artist's books and frame a lot of paintings.