acrylic and collage

Self Portrait in the Wild

My bird feeders are busy stations these days. There’s the mixed birdseed one, the Nyer seeds for the smallest birds and the blocks of suet laced with seeds and fruit. They swing with activity throughout the day. Oh and then there’s the hummingbird nectar as well. So small wonder that when we did the crazy self portrait lesson in Muse Group this week, my own went over to the feathered side, yet again.


Photo of self at Photo Booth using Comic Strip filter, printed in black and white, cut and collaged onto w/c paper with other collage and paint, etc. etc.

I am captured, captivated, taken over by dreams of those feathered ones who have been whispering in my ears for years. I am captive to my earthbound ways, my rootedness and groping for stability. Though I fluff my hair and imagine wings stretching out, open, ready for flight, I never quite make it into the air, but stand and watch as my feathered relatives soar and dip and perhaps look down on me with compassion for my flightless state?

(Can you tell which eye is mine?) I’ve been teaching wacky self portraits in Muse Groups for years and it always gets us laughing! How different it is from what happens when you look in the mirror in the morning, trying to get your hair right while noticing some new puffiness or wrinkle.

In the next series of Monday Muse Groups which starts March 19 I’ll be teaching Smoke Painting, the esthetic of Wabi Sabi art featuring textures and patina, and painting with water shapes charged with pigment. There are still openings at this point, so I hope you’ll be able to join. For more information and to register visit my website.

Here’s an old video I made of student self portraits, which I’ve watched so many times with giggles.

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Muse Group Begins Again. . .

The Muse Group is a mixed media painting adventure class that I’ve been teaching ongoing for about ten years or more. On Monday this week we started a new session  with gessoed watercolor paper because it leaves a longer working time with the acrylic. And we employed lots of not-brush application methods like rollers, and toothbrush and fingers and scrapers to “lose control!” happily.

splashdemo: fluid acrylic on gessoed watercolor paper 10 X 11″

I tried demonstrating the alcohol technique but had squirted the acrylic on the paper too thick and only got a trace of the alcohol textural effect at the top here. In my choice of colors and splatter I was definitely still feeling the crashing of surf against the rocks from the beach walks of last week.

In my second piece I was trying to redeem myself and get the alcohol spray to work! And once again still at that beach I remembered my encounter with two ravens. One of them was haughtily pulling plastic (dog poo) bags from the container on the trail. I shooed him away and returned about ten strewn bags to the holder, as the other raven sat on a nearby post cackling in a way that struck me more as laughter, as if to say “You idiot! He’s just going to come back when you’re gone and do it again. Ha ha, caw caw!”

scene5take1 Fluid acrylic and collage on gessoed paper, 10 X 11″

Scene 5 Take 1 and the curtain lifts on a pair of ravens. They’re in cahoots and we’d like to think of an olive branch offering of peace.

But they’re not white doves and the blood red beaks are a tip off. Something more dramatic is a-wing and they’re going to take advantage of it. Survival of the fittest or the loudest perhaps? But only for so long. This scene will end soon enough and the curtain will come down before we know what’s next.

The vine will continue to creep and extend its influence, and no one knows what will transpire as the curtain lifts again in scenes 6 and 7.

If you’re reading something about the current political climate into this last, I’m not surprised. Me too.



If you let one thing lead to another, you might end up with these. . .


monoprint with fluid acrylics on BFK Rives paper and stone paper collage, 10 X 11″

Bombinate. I bomb. You bomb. We bomb. They bomb-inate [buzz and hum] and taste the sweetness of the seasons, a spicy mixture of humus and herbs.

Abom(b)ination, an assault, an intense combination of bombs and angry countries, nations in abom(b)inate mode with no nature to groove on or calm them down.

I’ll bombinate with the mushrooms and lichen, hum for world peace and try not to expect too much, too soon. Try not to be too disappointed when the bumblers don’t return and the other kind of bombing abominators get too bumbling.

Dictionary definitions:

bombinate: to make a humming or buzzing noise

abomination: a vile, shameful, or detestable action, condition, habit, etc.

You probably know what I’m getting at here without my spelling out the politics of it. The art technique of it is more fun to talk about. In Muse Group we used stone paper for the printing plate in our lesson on monoprinting.  Not the usual, but that’s what we had. The “plate” was in most cases more interesting than the print.

yellowfloweracrylic on stone paper with collage, 10 X 11″

Can you see how the print at the top is the mirror image of this one?  The stone paper is a bit like Yupo, if you’ve ever tried that. You get all kinds of interesting textures with juicy paint. Use a rubber tipped color shaper to scrape paint off before it dries. After pulling a couple prints I did some scraping and shaping and let this one dry, then added color and line and collage elements later.

The word bombinate came from interesting-word-file which I started years ago. I could just imagine the bumble bees going after the pollen in this delectable flower!

Moving on a bit

The fire contemplation persists, though not on purpose. This lady rises up on her own, appearing during a string of bad hair days, determined to use that which she has at hand to have her say.


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

Lady of flames has moved on to egg laying, using ashes to adorn her hair, and pieces of bark and branches in her hat. And from this unlikely combo sprouts a bloom and a brand new egg.  How amused she is by this hat-become-nest. A new fashion. Combined with a bit of feather and frill it suits her healing spirit. And all the while a heart shaped coal burns softly in her throat, reminding her of the flame from which she so recently arose.

The fire engine red of the trucks and the fire itself has become the firey red of autumn foliage, vineyards in richer warm hues than any palette could produce. I no longer have hens, but I know that they lay fewer eggs when the days grow short. Then each egg becomes a special gift.

Perhaps an egg would heal my hair problem?

Black and White and Mazes

Getting back to black and white occasionally is like clearing the palette from rich (color) food so that one can taste with clarity again. Ha! Well that sounds good anyway. We did a lesson this week in Muse Group of playing with black and white collaged patterns.

blkwhitecamouflageacrylic, collage, black gesso on 10 X 11″ w/c paper

There are ways to deal with mazes and blind alleys. Make it a game and jump in. Have some paint ball fun; play leap frog and roll down a grassy hill. Stir up some random cyclonic energy. Run round in a circle till you collapse, dizzy and spent and laughing. Do you want your life to play like a comedy or a tragedy?

This was a kind of puzzle I wanted to play with, combining an image of a maze or labyrinth (few of us knows the difference) with a dancing figure, engaging in a kind of hide and seek with aspects of camouflage. The discovery was how amazing these bright colors look on the black and white patterning. Something a bit Halloweeny about it, wouldn’t you say?

Mixed Media workshops this fall!

There’s always ideas percolating for mixed media lessons I’d like to teach in my Monday Muse Group and weekend workshops. For instance, inspired by Gustav Klimt, whose gilded paintings will be shown this fall in an exhibition at the Legion of Honor in S.F., we’ll be working with metallics. . .then a simple form of monotype printing and the very popular “stick painting” where we make expressive mark beginnings with carved sticks. . .then exploring color transparencies to get that eye saturating sense of depth.

If any of these interest you, you may want to reserve your spot in either the weekly Muse Group in my studio or the weekend workshop at Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Here’s the scoop!

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At this writing there are two spots left in the Monday Afternoon group. For more info and to register visit my website.

And if you like a whole weekend to develop your paintings, the following workshop may appeal.

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For more information and to register contact me. I hope to be painting with you this fall!

Inside-Outside Nature Art

We combined the elements of fire and water in Monday’s Muse lesson of powdered charcoal. For fire we had the charcoal residues of fire and the scorching solar heat. The water was washed streaming over the charcoal to make it move beautifully across the paper. In previous years when I taught this lesson 2014 and 2016 it was similarly in hot-hot weather, the better to quickly dry the sopping wet papers!

Here’s my finished demo:


acrylic and collage on powdered graphite texture, 10 X 11″

The world is divided by borders; mountains and rivers and oceans and lines to keep people separate. Would we know who we are without all the borders or would we stand in confusion looking up at the sky in hopes of getting directives there?

I vote for color that streams across borders and makes a rainbow sky, a rainbow country, and a rainbow world. 


Sprinkle some powdered charcoal on the dry paper. Here I added some iridescent pigment powder as well. Pour water over the surface and watch the spontaneous dispersion. When dry you can come back in with an eraser, which I did in this, erasing through a stencil.


I love the way the charcoal granules pattern the paper surface. When this stage is dry and before adding paint, spray workable fixative or mat medium diluted with water and let that dry to seal the charcoal.


We went outside in the shade to do the charcoal sprinkling and water pouring.


The charcoal is in the salt shaker in front.  The stencils and iridescent pigments were particularly popular and now my garden sparkles in the light a bit more than usual!

MuseGraphite-03_edited-1The splatter screen served as a kind of sifter for the charcoal.


I always love to see nature art in the context of the nature that inspires it. Here it is just leaves and mulch.


. . .and tree trunks and garden green and the beginning of fall leaves, and the golden glow of light spreads across the painting making it a part of it all.MuseGraphite-05

. . .and here, in anticipation of what this fall season will bring!

Thanks to the Muse students for once again taking a lesson beyond its previous borders. These beautiful beginnings made their way back into the studio to be developed with more color and some collage.