gesso texture

Home for Your Dreams: This Bear

acrylic, collage on gesso textured w/c paper, 10X11″

This bear, this mossy bower, 

this light filled understory and celestial guardian

This rush of stream and floating scaffold

This river sweeping us up, carrying us on 

But for now at least

Spectatorship is recommended

And in a soft nesting spot

And preferably with Teddy

Later, in the sun exposed and excited

Earnest to catch memories on light beams

Riding those wave horses in

You don’t have to be an architect to build a home for your dreams, a temple or sanctuary, a place that just feels right. We did this week in Muse Group using paint and textures and collage building materials. That day one student’s home was a wheat field, another involved interplanetary travel and a third placed a lighthouse on the plains. All elicited powerful feelings and memories.

My building materials included the gesso texture from the demo of the week before, pictures from National Geographic that spoke to me, and a scaffolding of textured papers and more clippings, all held together with paint.

I’ve done this lesson many times over the years. If you’d like to give it a try, you might start out by remembering a special place where you felt safe, contented, joyful – a place for your dreams to take hold and grow,- a room, a garden, a temple a forest or beach. Then let it all go and see where your art materials bring you as you explore them playfully!

If you want to see other examples, visit these blog posts, here and here 


There’s No Place Like Home

When evacuation was lifted and we were able to come back to our home, we unloaded the car and collapsed. A week later I was able to sit myself down at the art table to put the feelings down on paper. Here’s what came, along with the Ashes, Ashes pieces I posted yesterday.

acrylic inks on gesso textured w/c paper

There’s no place like home

Click your heels together and repeat 3X

Theres no place like home

It’s the gift a fire bestows

When home becomes so daily and

You take too much for granted

And you have to wait some days

Knowing you could lose it all

And then you don’t

And now you know how Dorothy felt

There’s no place like home

This Garden’s Wild!

Every day I pull a few weeds in the garden. Sometimes for as long as an hour, but rarely beyond that. The spring garden is for dreaming and not just laboring. Painting is sometimes for dreaming too, especially now when we need a break from the monotony of sheltering at home.

When I want to do a seasonal painting that isn’t a sketch or landscape “painting”  of some scene before me, I start with textures, like acrylic mediums that have dried on the paper. Then I start squirting inks and spritzing them and watch what happens. If I use greens and pinks, I know I’ll get something suggesting the spring garden, and if I use iridescent inks. . .well, here’s what can happen.


gesso and mica flake textured w/c paper with inks and chicken feathers (fluff)

This garden’s a bit wild

the way I like it.

One might run into Oberon

King of the fairies

or his wife Tatiana

I imagine she’ll be wearing a gauzy gown

with a dandelion fluff border

and her hair spun with spider thread

I’ll ride a lizard’s back into the undergrowth

where insects and birds lay their eggs.

or hop on a swallowtail butterfly

for the ride of my life!

When the wind sneezes

on that big pink puff,

I’ll hitch a ride on a seedpod

and ride it to the fairy kingdom.


Take the Lid Off

For over a month I stopped doing my mixed media paintings. Workshops finished up in July – the trip to Ireland and England with lots of watercolor sketching – the post trip exhaustion and need to archive. How to start up again?

Well, if I don’t know the answer to that question then I must be a pretty big fake, because I’ve been focusing on the movement of creative energy in myself and with other artists in groups for years now.

You can write in your journal about creative stasis. You can read books about it. You can complain to your husband or friends about it or get tired thinking about it and have to take a nap or eat a piece of cake. I have done all of these and more in the past.

So to get re-started I engaged in the most basic-of-all practice of. . .JUST DO IT. (after I’d done some lovely studio clean up first!)


And while I was painting I started getting those little bursts of energy, like little electric shocks, associated with thoughts about what I could try next.

My wonderful Muse students were not here, but I did the 5 minute free write we always do and here’s what this piece said:

Time has come to take the lid off and watch what comes out. The lid? The false notion that my responsibilities to family and home, personal health and well being, financial necessity and more are keeping me from the Muse.

She has been waiting patiently for me to give her the time and space and the attention. Maybe she has been in some other artist’s studio where there is paint and paper and brushes for her to take up. But the stone has come off the opening and she is flying out. Will I be able to catch her or allow myself to be caught?

My Artful Muse workshops are starting up again this month in Sebastopol, CA. Hope you can join us. The group energy is irresistible! For more information and to register visit my website.

Through the Screen of May


gesso texture, ink, acrylic, screen and brads on w/c paper, 10 X 10″

Through the screen of May fly the striped moths and metallic blue butterflies as crickets make their way into the house unseen.  Phil the cat lies along the pathway, ready to flop, belly up in a sudden frenzy of love seeking.  The poppies and grasses tower over me. I watch my step to avoid smashing a pipevine swallowtail caterpillar in its orange polka dotted frock en route to a resting spot . There, inside its chrysalid, it will liquify and begin to create wings and antennae. All of us creatures are a bit dizzy in this onslaught of May.



finger painting with acrylic, gesso, collage on gesso texture (decalcomanie) on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

I am a puzzle with scattered pieces. On days when I cast my pieces up, I hope they won’t descend too quickly and pray for the weightlessness to last, that liberation of owning no shape, no name, no story.


My fear is that one day my pieces might find their way into some interlocking finished puzzle picture and trap me there where I no longer fit. . .



“Landslide”, acrylic on gesso textured canvas with Masa paper collage, 48″X36″

Paint larger.  That’s been my mantra for the last few months as I wished that I could be an Alice and take one of those “eat me” pills to grow larger so I could keep to the same scale.  People told me, “just use bigger brushes” and so I tried that.  I’m still trying that.  But there’s other issues to solve.  Like the table, (when you work flat).  It’s too small.  And you can’t just reach across to paint the other side from one position, so you end up having to paint up side down or sideways and use bigger muscles to reach. And then it takes up so much more room in the studio that you can ill afford.  But ah!  the impact is so powerful.

I had planned an entirely different painting when I started this latest Fantascape.  When it wasn’t working I kept just making changes, hoping something would materialize.  I never intended so much realism, but these rocks kept looming and I finally gave into it. I don’t know anywhere such a landscape exists.  Perhaps in Lord of the Rings country?

Moonbeam Concerto

moonrisewalnut ink antiquing spray, inks, gesso texture, collage on w/c paper

It is a certain that the moon will rise, bringing with it the dark recesses and somber doings of night.  Each window curtain will absorb the moon glow and breathe out a new movement; a duet, a regal march, a spritely polka.  But most of us will never hear the music of moon time.

You ask “Are you asleep? Or are you willing to keep watch with me some night, to gaze up at the moon and listen, to wear your feather hat band and billowy skirt,  but keep your feet bare.  Run out to the dew laden grasses, cast down your sparkling shawl and lie gazing up at heaven.  You will hear the moonbeam concert and never be the same.”

The Muse Groups’ lesson this weekend was “decalcomanie”, the texturing technique using thick gesso pressed between two paper surfaces, then pulled apart to create ridges which resemble patterns of coral or sometimes bird wings!  Here you see it used in collage pieces cut from a larger piece, along with some rubber stamp patterns, lace, feathers, ink drawing and walnut ink spray in two shades.

We also conjured up the Dangerous Old Woman archetype, borrowed from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ wonderful audio book of the same name. The D. O.W. is the one who protects that spark of goodness in us.  Danger is meant here in its old form meaning “you stand in my danger” or under my protection.  She is the champion of our eccentricity because it points to the gifts of originality we have to offer.  It’s not particularly comfortable to be with her though, because she is wild, unpredictable, and full of paradox.  Her teaching is that “normalcy is the enemy of giftedness” and we must be willing to horrify the few in order to inspire the many.  A tall order, but what else can we do on this path of art?

Transitioning from this life


Inks and gesso on gesso textured w/c paper, 10 X 11″

below the belt he slips it in
and my energy leaks out
into some soup where all thoughts go
to the business of comprehending
what does it mean
this, here today and gone tomorrow?

the one person left on earth
who has been there from
(my) beginning is waiting
to catch the boat across
and take the secret with her

i watch as she gets smaller and smaller
becomes a child again
now a baby curled up
with toes planted firmly

in those dreams floating
in the world underneath the mind
in the same dark and shiny cave as this elf
a Dobby with red eyes

he packs magic in his bag
but even he cannot predict
the exact moment when dear Ellen
will catch her boat

Have you guessed?  My mother is transitioning from this life, taken to her bed, not likely to rise again.  It feels BIG.  Not sad.  She’s a wise and wonderful 93.  Just BIG as in mysterious and requiring full attention.  Art helps.  It always does.  It meets the numinous on its own ground through metaphor and meaning, which is just out of reach of the logical mind, where it should be.