Figurative Abstracts

Hu-Man Angel


Acrylic and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

 He shimmers on the threshold, this Apollo, this David, this hunk of man flesh.  The winged guardian knows a human angel when she sees one, knows he needs her blessings, for there is no loving among humans without the duel pain of longing and loss. Meanwhile lovers stroll in moonlight, offering prayers to each other, with a reverence born of pairing.

Honestly, I do not seek to either scandalize or incite the passions with this bit of naughtiness.  There are simply times in art play when certain images seem to belong together.  The “assignment” was to take a picture and glue it onto the paper and continue the image out from it onto the larger paper using paint and collage and line.

When my husband saw this piece on my table, he said “When did you catch that picture of me?”  Always the joker!


Artist’s Reception at Talisman


Artist’s Reception Friday, January 24th, 4:30-7:00pm

Talisman Wines Tasting Room

13651 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen, CA

Please join us for the reception this Friday, the 24th! The tasting room art gallery is featuring 17 of my original nature scapes, figurative expressions and giclee prints.  You’ll love their Pinot Noir wines and warm hospitality!  My book Conversations with the Muse:  The Art Journal as Inner Guide will also be available.

Alis Grave Nil


“Alis Grave Nil”, acrylic, image transfer on textured canvas, 20″ X 20″

Alis Grave Nil (Latin)   Nothing is too heavy to those who have wings.

Perhaps that’s just for angels, or perhaps it speaks to our angelic nature, represented here by a cherub who is bearing something on his back but doesn’t look burdened.

Why not sometimes imagine those wings sprouting and lightening your load.  Isn’t that after all what sleep is about?

Exploring Gouache in a Workshop


The Chef, watercolor and gouache on hot pressed w/c paper, 7 X 7″

Last week I attended a 5-day workshop with Donna Zagotta, whose vibrant opaque watercolor paintings I’ve admired for years.  A departure for me from my more abstract mixed media work of late, but a good opportunity to try an opaque medium which lends itself well to the kind of figure work I still love.

I took this picture of the smiling chef in Cecil’s New Orleans Bistro in, of all places, Garberville, CA this summer.  We had just raved about the food, thanking him profusely, and the memory still lies sweetly on my tongue and in my gut.  A good circumstance for the creation of a painting.  It’s not done, might never be to my satisfaction.  The painting of it was more about mixing my watercolors with white gouache and trying to keep the water ratio down and get the pigment to settle onto the slick paper.


“Quartet”, w/c and white qouache on cold pressed paper, 6.5 X 9″

This is the kind of scene one often finds with two couples where the wives sit together in animated conversation and the men start to feel irrelevant.  Of course that may not have been what was happening at all, but then it’s my painting.  And besides, that makes for an interesting focal point and color story.  I was trying to go more and more abstract, bouncing the color around to entertain the eye.  The facial tone going from green to yellow to violet to red.

This painting started with an all over glaze of Opera watercolor.  In opaque watercolor the white is paint, not the white of the paper.  And it takes a lot of paint, sometimes several layers to get there.  I like that you can at any point change your mind and wash off an area, then repaint it again.  The woman’s red face had at least eight changeovers before I was satisfied.

I also like the soft edge quality of working with gouache.  Drawback is that you may never feel that you’ve finished because there is always something you could “fix”.  Also, you wouldn’t be able to add collage or other mixed media techniques because the paint lifts off when it is rewet.


“Pink Shoes”, gouache on acrylic/gessoed glazed cold press w/c paper, 9 X 8″

For this last painting of the week  I started out with gessoed cold press paper (for more tooth which I needed) and a glaze of opera acrylic pigment. Then I used almost all gouache pigment to paint the figure, squeezing out the creamy pigment onto a white tray so there was no digging into palette wells for it.  This was a lot more fun, and that way I didn’t run as much risk of mixing too much water into the pigment.  Gouache goes beautifully over an acrylic surface and is so easy to lift and change.  Perfect for quick sketches as well as “serious” paintings.  Another tool in an already bulging tool box!

Thank you Donna!

Figure Marathon Continued

Watercolor and w/c crayon

More quick sketches from the Bay Area Model’s Guild Marathon last weekend.  In these 5-10 minute sketches I painted some watercolor wetly onto the surface to get started, then drew into it with w/c crayons.

Here, a second little swipe of color to define the shorts, but taking care not to overdo. . .which is my tendency.

Watercolor wash, Derwent dark wash pencil

The model is taking her clothes off over her head.  I left the ambiguity there, but had to paint in the red bra, which she was wearing.  She also had black and white striped stockings!

And one last sketch (below), I started with the two slashes of watercolor, with some loose idea about joining the two figures, then sketched them in with my Uni-ball pen. The hot slash of color across the woman could refer to her reaction to him or possibly how he sees her!  Definitely some connection here!

Harbinger of Winter

acrylic and acrylic skins collage, brush pen on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

harbinger of winter he holds
tight the branch of a living
thing now leafless but sap running
marrow flowing

there won’t be a spring for a while
even longer for a summer
yet i will not ponder
grim reapers
blankets of frost

not while the patterns of our world
swirl in multitudinous colors,
leave me awestruck and reaping
the art of it

The election today, I know, and I have my hopes and prayers.  And the sap will keep running and the storms will keep coming, regardless of the results of this election.  And the art will keep speaking of all the undercurrents, the whispers on the wind.

The Monday Muse Group played with acrylic skins yesterday, pouring acrylics onto plastic sheets, flattening the paint by running a roller through it, then taking the paint covered roller and rolling the paint onto damp watercolor paper for a lovely underpainting.  It takes a day or two for the acrylic skins to dry so they can be peeled up and used for collaging, anything from tree bark to feathers to flower petals to flowing water!

The Heart Trails of ARTrails

Oct. 13, 10am and ready for visitors

The signs have been taken down, the studio transformed from gallery showroom to painting studio and classroom, and the stories of the past two weekends  keep floating up from a richly aromatic memory stew.

There was the young man who proudly sported a hawk feather in his cap, added to his bright green t-shirt, making him look like a modern day Robin Hood.  As he gazed at all my bird paintings and nest collection he shared his story of discovering a fully intact but dead, red tailed hawk at road side.  A native American man appeared and let him participate in the ceremony of honoring the bird and harvesting the feathers for a ceremonial headress.  The magic of those moments for this young man in his coming-of-manhood years rested like a blessing on my studio.

One visitor, a woman who had moved to Costa Rica in her retirement said that she treated herself to a trip back to Sonoma Co. each year during the ARTrails season in order to get her art fix for the year, since she had not found a similarly dynamic art culture in her new home.  She spent quite a while in my studio, took pictures in the garden, and bought my book, Conversations With the Muse, hoping to take it back home with her and find others who would do summon the creative Muse with her.

At one point there was a steady stream of people coming in my door until they were shoulder to shoulder and I was suddenly breathless.  I asked if they had come on a bus together.  One of them explained that they were an extended family, enjoying their annual reunion by driving a caravan of cars to ARTrails studios!

Then there was the couple who stood a long time gazing at my painting Because the World Needs Angels and finally decided to buy a print of it for their home.  But when they spoke to me of their wishes, a torrent of feeling was released that left both them and myself in tears.  The painting was part of the healing they needed following a year of intense family loss. There’s something about this painting. . .a kind of reassurance that even when our loved ones cross over, their spirit will still be accessible to us.  I’m thinking I’ll hang it across from the chair where my 93 year old mother sits each day pondering the gifts of the end of life.

Of course it’s always interesting to see who buys the art.  A little girl in pink is the proud owner of Jester Bird, a pink painting from the Party Chick series, which her mother bought for her.  And an older couple on a fixed income bought Entwined on layaway because it illustrated the creative source for them. A pregnant woman picked my Mother Hen painting from the bin, and her mother bought it for her. It’s a very gentle, serene image of a hen and chicks, not my typical cocky rooster or jazzy party chick painting.

And then there was the lady who had brought her friend and stayed for a while, looking through my books and visiting and planning to come paint with me.  The following day she showed up again bearing a gratitude gift bag of sweet cherry tomatoes and succulent raspberries from her garden, sprinkled with flower blossoms and chocolates-just what I needed to sustain me for the last few hours of the open studio.

On the last day, in the final two hours of open studios a cool wind blew up heralding our first real rain of the season, which left a glistening freshness to everything by the next morning.  I’m left with a feeling of sweet serendipity about this open studio and  gratitude for the way that viewers give my art new life again and again.  Thanks to those of you who are among them.

Some of the paintings I’ve mentioned here are in my online gallery if you want to see them.

A Sunny ARTrails Open Studio Weekend!

Every October my husband Bob and I join the wineries in hoping the sunny weather lasts. The vintners want the grapes picked before the wet season mold moves in and the artists want to hang their work outside and entice viewers to come out on the art trail to visit. This year we built panels to hang on the outside wall of my studio in order to show more work.

So we were all happy this weekend and hope for the same sunny weather next weekend when we will also be open.  Thank you to those of you who came for a visit, old friends and new.  We enjoyed a steady flow of people, some of whom purchased art and many who sought inspiration for their own art and ways to include more art in their lives.

For those of you who aren’t able to make it to our studios, my friends in the blogosphere from Norway and India and Australia and other not so distant homes, I created this slideshow to welcome you as well!

This coming weekend, Oct. 20 and 21 we will  be open again.  To find us on the map and pick out an art viewing route visit Hope to see you then!

The Painting Collaboration Continues

Acrylic on canvas, 24″x24″  by Susan Cornelis and Suzanne Edminster

If this painting has an ephemeral quality, then that’s because it is, or rather was, and is no more.  Or rather it still is, but is in the process of transformation, by not one, but two sets of artists’ hands, Suzanne’s and mine as we pass it back and forth.  And yes, we are painting simultaneously in the same studio listening to the same music and sharing our thoughts and images as they appear to us and exclamations of delight and our Oops!es

We each see ourselves manifest in the strokes we apply, as our personalities are revealed, but then suddenly it’s not so clear. Am I the subtle, soft edged, “spiritual” one or the passionate mark maker who creates visual excitement at every turn?  Ahh, but I am both and so is Suzanne as we pass paintings back and forth, giving permission to each other to go with whatever change feels right.

A wild horse appears in the painting above and later an ancestral type figure with white hair, and later yet again a horse.

This is round four of painting I believe. . .and there will be more. . .

Take a look at another one evolving, unfolding, spreading wings and raising questions on Suzanne’s blog.

More Collaboration Warm Ups

10 X 11″ acrylic/ink on w/c paper, a quick start by Suzanne Edminster

As promised, (though a bit behind schedule) here are some more collaborative warm up paintings from last weekend.  We picked a color scheme and materials approach and then used a timer to keep from getting too “serious”.   But of course then were faced with that moment of “Oh, how can I possibly mess with this wonderful fresh beginning!”  But we’d given each other full permission to take it off into whatever weeds we discovered in the 10 minutes we had to finish.  So ten minutes later, here’s what this one became. . .

“finish” by Susan Cornelis

So as you can see, we were having fun!

“start” by Suzanne Edminster

This one was so wonderfully tree like and I was adding branches and roots, until I saw the face, and then I had to go with that.

“finish” by Susan Cornelis

Remember Blue Beard of the folk tale/myth?  Here he is and seems a good match for the fella above.  Am I cracked or what? OK, now I’m ready to get serious, but not too much hopefully.