powdered graphite

To the Birds and Butterflies

It must be a springtime thing, but this year it feels different. There are just so many creatures making themselves known, flying close or settling themselves nearby or even on me with skin contact. Caterpillars, yes, but butterflies and hummingbirds, and bees, and lizards, and dragonflies. A crane fly flew inside my shirt yesterday and could not be coaxed out. And two nights ago I took a walk up the road at dusk and saw a fox wending his way slowly down the road ahead of me, stopping periodically, and was he looking back? And finally just as I got to my property I saw that he’d gone up the neighbor’s driveway across the street and was sitting there looking my way.  

And did I mention the wild turkeys and quail that have startled me by landing practically at my feet, suddenly out of nowhere? Were they always so present in the springtime, or is it just that I have been shining the tractor beam of my awareness on my surroundings here at my home before I leave it, storing up endless mental pictures to take with me?

graphite textures, handmade (by me!) papers and collage on w/c paper

To the birds and the butterflies, the ants and the tree frogs who have tolerated me in their jungle antechambers for all these one and twenty years, I offer up my books of Muse art and word. May you share the bounty of your natural gifts with others as you have with me. And may all bear witness to your unique gifts and strive in every way to protect them. Amen!



It’s limbo-land for us a while longer, six more weeks to be exact until the moving truck comes. How does one live in the NOW when there is so much planning to do? How will our furniture fit in the new house? What should we leave behind? What about insurance and medical care and internet provider and so much more that we take for granted when we stay put?

I also do a lot of wondering about things like what birds and insects and other creatures will inhabit my surroundings so that I can feed them or possibly discourage them or just merely come into relationship with them. I’m told there’s lots of rabbits. I’m down for that! but what birds and where will they be building nests? and what kind of butterflies?

Questions like these always lead to the art, as in this one. . .

powdered graphite, powdered pigment, collage on w/c paper

Today I asked

pleaded really

for my winged friends to come with me to the new house

to perch on branches, build their nests in bushes, lay their eggs

to fill the air with buzzing chirping fluttering soaring singing squawking cooing pecking humming munching flapping splashing

I asked them to please find their way to my windows

to reassure me that I still inhabit a nature wonderland.

So that I will look up from my table

to meet the eyes of some new bird

who finds me as exotic and revelatory

as I find her/him/them.

This is how I’ll know

I have found my way home again.



As I closed up my studio last night I thought that I had let another day end without completing the various art projects I have going. Common enough. Then I remembered that there are no longer appointments, gatherings, events, classes to compete with my free art making time, and I added this to a growing list of much needed silver linings in these anxious times.

Yesterday I got out a pile of unfinished Muse Group demos, hand made papers and more and started putting things together. There was something about the “leftover” shape of the blue piece below that suggested house so I made it more so, but not overly literal, and here’s what came.


Powdered graphite patterned textures, acrylic and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11

What would you find if you pried the roof off any house now?  No, no, best not do that!

Come up to the door and knock softly. Carry a rose to show you care.

Be ready to say “Your lawn is so beautiful and green, your landscaping so artful, your windows so cozy.” Be ready to say “hope all is well with your family.”

Be ready to step back as the door gets closed in your face because you stepped too close.

Go back to your own Place and don’t cry. The people who loved you before still will, but only if you keep your 6 feet, or is it 10 now?

A friend brought her laundry over yesterday to use our machines. We managed a clever hygenicly safe protocol dance to protect both sides from the virus which, most likely, neither of us has, but we suppose could have. Then we stood a good 15 feet apart to chat for a while before moving on with our days. I’m sure others are as curious as I about how other people are coping, hence the desire to “pry off the roof”.


A peek here at the unfinished pile of mixed media work from which I drew to create the piece above. I just measured the pile at 4 inches tall. It’s really a gold mine from which I shall continue to extract gems. The serendipity of the raw occurences ends up being the most satisfying to me.

If you’re a mixed media artist you doubtless have hoarded treasures galore. Now is truly our chance to play with them, and to realize that we may actually be afforded lots of time now to do so. And it costs nothing.

Stay tuned for another video lesson.

Last Night’s Party

Last night’s Portrait Party at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts was as thoroughly engrossing as the others.  At times I felt like I was in the company of professional models! though it was just us chickens of the sketching sort – a fun group.

If you have been wanting to come join us you may want to put our next date on your calendar – Thursday May 23, we’ll be at it again, 5-8pm. Everyone invited, no matter your figure drawing skills or lack thereof.


These were my 2 minute sketches, done with a wet brush and a graphite cake, which I’d hoped would be a quicker way to do the modeling. It’s a somewhat clunky medium but gets one drawing with a brush.


At 3 minute poses I switched to pencil and watercolor, which I liked better.


I guess we all have our visual “issues” to overcome. When I’m sitting too close to someone I’m drawing, I can’t seem to avoid sketching them larger, often so they barely fit on the page – like Catherine here!


I got out an Inktense pencil to sketch the one on the right.


In this 10 minute pose I got a bit more ambitious, with more of the figure.


Last pose of the night. A very wise woman gave us a lovely peaceful pose.

I’m so tempted to go back into these and “finish” them, but I would surely lose whatever “freshness” I have achieved. It’s wonderful practice, and frankly as good as meditation for quieting the mind. We have music playing in the background, but each person is intensely in their own creative space. The resulting portraits are as different in style as the individuals we are.

See you next month, May 23rd?

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.


Announcing: New Workshops and Newsletter!

The Imagine With Art Newsletter is now in its 65th issue and I’m happy to offer it to you here. This issue features new workshops for the fall, some Urban Sketcher Symposium news and an Art Play lesson: Powdered Graphite. Hope you’ll take a look!

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And join me for the latest in a series of on location sketching workshops!

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For more information and to register, please email me.

Zoom In


Powdered charcoal, inks, gesso, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

An aerial view of the geology of life, Google cams trained on all of us, taking pictures of moments in the lives. . .we live.. .always caught in a particular focal point we call “reality”.

ZOOM out and get the LARGE perspective. You may never be the same again (hopefully).

Last Monday was the warmest day so far this year. A perfect time to play with this technique of powdered charcoal and graphite textures, best done outside.

Start by wetting shapes on the paper (sponging water through stencils is fun!)  The wet areas form a kind of resist so that the paper stays white (as in the white grid on the right side above).

Then sprinkle some powdered charcoal on the paper and pour water over it.  This causes the charcoal (or graphite, which is more of a silver than black) to move in spontaneous ways. Let it dry. (In the 90+ degree heat this was very fast!) At this point you can erase areas or spray with fixative. Then add acrylic to develop the idea and show off the texture. I like to mix my acrylic inks with gesso to get a more opaque coverage in certain areas.

Workshop Schedule for this Fall


“Ready to Go”, powdered graphite and acrylic

I hope you’ll join me for a workshop this Fall.  Here’s what’s coming up for the next semester of Artful Muse classes!

Monday Afternoon Muses:  9 week session

Oct 19, 26, Nov 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, Dec 7, 14, 2015

Time:  1:30-4:30pm

Cost:  $315 for 9 weeks, $45/drop-in class (as space allows)

Saturday Mini-Workshops:  6 month session

Oct. 17, Nov 14, Dec 12, 2015,  Jan 9, Feb 13, Mar 12, 2016

Time:  10am-2:30pm

Cost:  $330 for 6 months, $65/drop-in class (as space allows)

For more information and to register, please visit my website.



Acrylic inks, powdered graphite, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Last week my mother-in-law passed peacefully from this world after giving us her big hearted benediction (def: an utterance of good wishes) I often like to translate favorite English words into Latin, and was delighted to find that the Latin translation is also “benediction”.

In Monday Muses the lesson was to pick a word and use it to inform the image.  I demonstrated some ways to get interesting calligraphic effects with sticks, droppers, etc. In the above image I wrote the word over a painting with my favorite – a 1/4″metal brush pen nib. The Bible pages in the right corner are a tribute to Marie, who read the Bible for hours every day, deriving great comfort, which she seemed to bear with her to the end.

Art Loves Transitions


powdered graphite, black india ink, fluid acrylic, gesso on w/c paper, 11 x 10″

Wound up and ready to go. A massive journey or short walk. It’s all the same. One must simply go. It feels like it’s time.  A plane ride, a new place to set a hat or a computer. Does it really matter where in this wired world? Only that it is a new adventure/venture, a place for talents to unfurl and lessons to be learned. . .about this life. . .until the next arrives. . .

As it has for a dear one.  We watch as slowly she crosses over life’s threshold. And for a while we share her steps.

Art loves times of transition. It leaps forward to express that which cannot be spoken or yet understood. You may have your own story to weave about this image and the words that came with it. My own involves the immanent launching of a son into his world, and bearing witness to the passing of his grandmother, whose every word is a blessing to those who will carry on after her.

It’s the stuff that fills up the heart. So yesterday in that great-hearted Monday Afternoon Muse group, I got to play my way into the art. The lesson was to use powdered graphite (powdered pencil “stuff”), sprinkling it on wet and dry paper and then spritzing it with water, mixing with acrylic mediums, etc. to get an interesting textured surface to develop. I hadn’t meant to see a figure, but after I’d finger-painted for a while, there it was, unmistakably.