Balloon Time


acrylic, collaged acrylic skins on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

balloon tree in the desert

fruit of the drought

new freedom to float, to soar,

to drop down in new places and find footing there

in balloon time the winds set the course

enjoy the ride or enjoy the crash

it’s all the same in the dictionary of adventure

The new Monday Muse series started this week.  The focus for every class will be COLOR.  We started with yellow.  I thought that would be a cheery start, then realized that yellow, because of its light value, may be the most difficult color to work with.  I painted all my different yellows and yellow oranges and golds all over and then got out a sheet of palette skins I’ve been saving and started cutting and tearing.

The balloon shape appeared, inviting a theme of adventure.  All my summer trips are over now.  No more plans for travel this year.  Life is back in a comfortable routine.  But the spirit still soars, still searches for new territories.

If you’d like to join a Muse Group this fall, there are still a couple spaces in the monthly Sat. Group which starts Oct 4 and goes six months.  It meets in my studio in Sebastopol, CA For more information go to my website.


Take Refuge


smoke painting, gouache, collage, graphite on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Take refuge in others, in the community, in the family, in ancient wisdoms and modern ways.

The voyage commenses when the plane takes off.

The heart beats loudest just before.

The mind wonders “Is this right? 

Have I got the timing right?

Have I prepared properly?”

The answer is always yes. 

Yes, go.

Yes, live.

Yes, take refuge in your world which is ready and waiting for you to step into it.

The Saturday group met today for a lesson in Smoke Painting, even as my oldest son was doing the last of his preparations for an extended solo trip to Europe.  As I write he is boarding his flight to Stockholm. The butterflies in his stomach seem to have migrated to mine even though I’m not getting on any plane tonight.  So it only seemed right to capture these feelings, caused by a blurring of mother-son boundaries, in the smoke images.  Our advise to our children always ends up being for ourselves as well.  Phone home if you’re in need, or phone your best friend.  Take refuge.




“Fecundus”, acrylic textures, fluid acrylics, phone book “hair”, 14″ X 18″ on canvas

This painting was one of my demos in the Experimental Painting workshop I taught last month at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts (CA).  I finally had a chance to finish it yesterday.  It’s not so hard to demonstrate these mixed media techniques, like creating textures with acrylic mediums and glazing over them.  The difficult part is finishing the painting, since my style is to take it step by step and wait for the painting to tell me what it wants.  (That’s right, I listen for the faint whisper to come from the paper and spend a great deal of time staring and waiting for the slightest rustling!)

 I started out with the idea of nests and eggs, a common theme for me.  My studio is decorated with real birds’ nests in every corner, and they are all collages of great intricacy and beauty which I try to emulate. Acrylics and collage are such perfect media for this.  My “eggs” here are round because they may also be the fruits or vegetables of harvest. I want them to elicit the sensation of “fecundus” (Latin for fruitfulness) which is my feeling about the act of painting itself.

The Experimental Acrylic and Mixed Media Painting Workshop was so popular that I’ve scheduled another one at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts for January 23-25, 2015.  It will be posted soon and you can sign up by calling the Center.


Bob and Susan’s Vacation: San Francisco


More samplings of my vacation sketching.  Sometimes I can grab a business card, but this time a napkin sufficed.  We didn’t get the usual cold-windy-foggy weather in San Francisco.  It was three days of blue, blue skies.  Dreamy!  Labor  Day weekend and the line was too long for a cable car ride.


Union Square. . .what a scene!  And Old Man Time sleeping through it all – that beard! Who could resist?!


Next stationary figure I found was a mannikin in Uniqlo, a trendy clothing store that had a comfortable bench for me. (I poop out very quickly when “shopping”) I had gotten the rough sketch done before I realized I was looking at my son Andrew – the style I mean. He goes to UC Berkeley across the Bay, so it makes sense.  When I start to write down everything we did in one afternoon I realize why I get worn out in the city.  Fun though!


Skipping over the dinner with friends, next day shopping at Flax art store for specialty papers, the rejuvenating body scrub and oil massage at Imperial Day Spa and lunch at Japantown, and ending the day at Ghiradelli Square, where there were precious moments to draw.


By 2pm the next day our vacation was over, but not before coffee with our hostess with her 14th floor views of the bay and two bridges!  Then a pedicab ride provided by a UC grad who majored in math and physics.  Lunch with friends at the bustling Ferry Building, and a pre-arranged viewing of the new photography show at Pier 24.  This was the last page of the sketchbook, just notes and cut outs to help me remember.

There’s never enough to time to do decent sketches of it all, unless you move very slowly through your day.  I’ve learned over the years to be satisfied with what I can throw my net around as it comes my way.


Bob and Susan’s Vacation

We are often characterized as the city lover (Bob, my husband) and the nature/country lover (me).  So when we go on vacation together we try to cover both interests.  This year was our 25th wedding anniversary and we celebrated with a week split between the Monterey Bay area and San Francisco.

I had treated myself to a new set of gouache paints which I put in the travel palette with my usual watercolors and brought my Handbook brand watercolor sketchbook, which I love for it’s cloth-bound cover and built in elastic to keep it closed.  It’s full now and I love that it has that “real” book look (even if it’s pretty grimy now)!  However  I found it awkward to have two pages to deal with and the wind would “rattle” one side while I tried to paint on the other.   I think I’ll switch back to the spiral bound style sketchbook now.

It’s funny how memory works.  I tend to fix an experience in my memory when I sketch it and forget it quickly if I just take a picture.  While we were driving up Hwy 1 we got caught in a traffic back up at dinner time while approaching Moss Landing.  When I saw the twin towers of the power plant which is the outstanding landmark there, I remembered a sketch I’d done 6 years ago on vacation with my family.  On the page were the two towers and the name of a fish restaurant we enjoyed.  (I’m the only one in the family who remembers this!)  So I turned down the road to the fishing marina, and there it was!! as remembered in my sketch.

Here’s a sampling of a few of my pages from the week.


We stayed at a rented cabin in the redwoods up the bumpy road from The Mystery Spot (which we never visited)


Bob is not a sketcher, but he is willing to put up with my sketching in restaurants while we wait for food.


I spent a glorious morning on the pier with this handsome gull who kept moving closer to me as others walked by, and such a good model he was.


Can you get more chill than these dudes?!!  There were over 100 sea lions lounging under the pier, and I got more and more relaxed just watching them.



Next leg of the trip.  .  . stay tuned for San Francisco


Night Flyer


acrylic inks, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

night flyer, the one you rarely see

but know in your wild bones

the one you hear in your crackling knees

feel in the subtle touch of breeze on skin

the sharpness of claws too

this night hunter, clad in radiant garments

is a gorgeous killing machine

. . . and oh those eyes!

You know the Great Horned Owl?  She is so magnificent that she makes you shiver if you see her close up.

We were experimenting with paper textures in Monday Muses and I had such a desire to draw and painting something wild. So I put her in there and tried to stay a bit abstract. The film strip edges helped to bring it all into focus.


Wear It or Ride It

I’m woefully behind on posting!  So I’ll be playing a bit of catch up, because the art keeps happening regardless. My Experimental Acrylic and Mixed Media Painting Workshop at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts was over a week ago. Students came from as close as Sebastopol and as far as Little Rock, Arkansas and the creative sparks were flying!


We started out with warm ups and getting the paint on in expressive ways involving squirting, splattering, scraping, finger smooshing, oh and a bit of brush painting as well.


Demo: acrylic inks and gesso on w/c paper, 10 x 10″

The title of this little piece is Wear It or Ride it, though I didn’t see the figure until I looked at the picture I’d taken.

We went on to create ground textures with acrylic mediums and papers. Then, paying attention to design and color factors,we developed the textured beginning by glazing with acrylics.

In conversations with the Muse I mix paint with vision, collage with story, word with meditation and prayer. And out of the mixture comes a release of energy and healing and a lightening of the load of everyday living. You'll find most of it here, where I've been showing up for the past few years, along with collectible paintings, travel sketchbooks, figure studies and an invitation to join me in art play and discovery!

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By Susan Cornelis


All images and text are the original copyrighted work of Susan Cornelis unless otherwise attributed.


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