muse group

Health Benefits of Coffee!

Have you been reading about the recent studies on the health benefits of drinking 2-3 cups of coffee a day?! Especially great for liver functioning – go figure! But also some of us have known for a while that coffee has some positive effects on our art making, which always leads to more general health benefits.

In Muse group we did a lesson this week using tea and coffee to stain papers, tea bags and to “paint”.

pileupcoffee splattered w/c paper with coffee soaked Masa paper and cheesecloth collage

It starts to pile up after a while, the shorn off pieces with holes in them. As we spin around in space our linings get worn and raggedy. Pieces of skin are rubbed off. New lines and cracks and brown blemishes appear. And still the moon shines brightly, more so perhaps as we realize we are better tuned, lighter, brighter, less encumbered than before.

One of the things I try to do in this group each session (of 6 or 8classes) is to inspire ourselves with the work of a particular artist. This lesson was inspired by Deborah Benioff Friedman, a SF Bay Area artist whose work many of us viewed in a recent exhibit at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. She uses tea bags and natural stains in her wall hung and sculptural work in inspired ways!


For years I’ve used tea and coffee stains to age papers and evoke historical contexts in mixed media works. This one also done on Monday is a bit more in the story-telling style I have often used. At times I’ve used pictures of my own ancestors in the mix. Here are a couple of them: My grandfather Lee Loffswold and his clan and my grandmother Selma Buskerud Loffswold’s family home.

To stain papers I soak them in extra strong tea and/of coffee and then dry them out in a 200 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Mmmm and they smell good too (if you like the tea/coffee flavor that is.)

Let me know if you want to join us in the next 8-week session of the Monday Muse Group starting March 19. There are still openings! Visit my website for more information.


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.

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 5.27.40 PM


Asleep in the Woods

Last week in Muse group we did that strangest of art techniques. To start you wet the (Masa) paper and crinkle it til it’s wadded up in a ball! Then spread it out and paint on it.


Oh to fall asleep in the woods

But on a soft bed with pillows and down comforter

After all, does the fox not have a preferred bedding

And what of my cat Phil (who prefers dry dirt)

Oh to fill the nostrils with pine and damp wood

and let the breeze cool your cheeks

and dream of streams running with fish

and skies pulsing with birdsong

and even worms tunneling through earth (just not in my sheets please)

Break down the barriers between inside and out

Let night in

Let nature in

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.


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?

Some Advise about Monsters

Happy Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos! With such thick post-fire angst in our communities here in Sonoma County, it’s been a good time to let off steam, indulge in gallows humor and make playful art.  I decided to launch the next Muse Group yesterday with monster ink-drips a la Stefan Bucher the Daily Monster creator. Check out his fun website to see the technique.


The sound effect that goes with this monster is a loud, wet raspberry thwit! This guy suffers no fools and we love him for it!

MuseHalloween-2The spider webs and tarantulas invaded the studio when they got wind of the lesson plans.


They spun their webs all over the tables and even got into the paintings! And then, for some of us they even got into the words!


Pay attention you may notice. It doesn’t have to be Halloween for one to wear a mask. It doesn’t have to be October 31st for one to become a monster. Our daily masks and monsters love to play to an audience. Most of the time no one notices or cares much, except when they get out of hand and start shouting or moaning or generally demanding too much. Therein lies the danger!

So, don your mask and take your monster out for a walk every so often (like Halloween!). Let it strut and boo and hiss, all in good fun. Then you can keep your friends.


Staying on the outskirts of the burned areas, not wanting to get in the way of recovery efforts, not wanting to see the devastation of our beautiful Santa Rosa neighborhoods, parks, vineyards. But the images are already burned into our minds and hearts.


Muse Group demo: acrylic, gesso, fabric collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Crow lands on a burnt out tree, ponders as he watches ash float down.

Nothing familiar here. In the ashes nothing looks the same, a world upended.

And yet, shapes of people’s lives, of things one time possessed, then not. Shards of things, zippers without the pants. Paper gone, words gone.

Yet in someone’s yard five miles away a restaurant menu piece floats to the ground and a bill as yet unpaid.