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I have been creating things since I was old enough to hold a pencil, a crayon or a needle. You may be surprised what you find here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hold everything, I found the Lights!

"Hold it everyone, I found the lights! Now we can put them on the tree." If your house is anything like mine, this is how you probably found them as well. Now to hope they all work.

I found the little wooden lights at a craft store and bought every package I could get my hands on at the time. They were NOT strung, so I used dark green button thread doubled to get the job done. What fun tangling them around his body!

His little white hat was hand felted from Cotswald wool by a friend, I cut two small slits on each side for the pointed ears to come out, added the band and the feather and fell in love with this little guy.

Check out the stripes on his legs, I am very proud of how well they match up, they are only about 1/8" wide. Let me tell you, it was a challenge. They match on both the front and back, as they do on the arms and the body. Lots and lots of little pins!
Tomorrow is Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone. I hope your day is filled with the love of your family and friends, and may all your Christmas dreams come true!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Elf with Bead Garland

This is a nice closeup of one of the elves faces. Although none of my shots captured the ears, they are sewn on separately and are pointed as elf ears should be. I tend to make all of my elves as young, so I add freckles to capture that youth.
This particular elf, in her beret and apron has been busy in the workshop all morning and is taking time out to help trim the tree. Her small Nantucket basket is filled with the beaded garland.
When she is set up in the Christmas elf display, the end of the garland is in the hands of the purple elf who is perched on the ladder to get it high up on the tree.
Working with the tiny stripes is a challenge when you are using them horizontally, but it's worth it for the overall look. I now have a collection of tiny stripes in all colors, just waiting for more elves to spring forth someday when I retire.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Elf with Bear

What fun making this elf was. I loved all the fabrics and putting them together. The bear was hand stitched using a pattern, and I really wish I could remember who created the pattern, it's not my original. The bear is made from ultrasuede and is only about 3" high with arms and legs that move.

I found some miniature holly leaves and berries at a craft store which were perfect to add to her hat. And of course, someone had to have some fur on her boots - it IS the North Pole after all.

Don't forget to enter the drawing for a free painting, submit a comment or follow this blog bt 12/31/10. Winner announced in 8 days on 1/1/11.

Bear detail (left) Face detail (right)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Purple Elf

This elf usually is perched on a long red ladder helping to string garland onto the Christmas tree. Her hat and scarf and hand knitted from the fine crochet thread used to make doilies and table clothes. Her boots were painted in the same manner as Jules' boots were, the cuffs are also leather.
As you may have noticed by now, even though I made them all from the same basic pattern, each one has their own personality. I love doing the needle sculpting, as I never know who is going to come out when I am done. The techniques are the same, but end result is always a surprise.
I hope you are enjoying the Christmas elves, some of my favorites are yet to come, so please do come back tomorrow.


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Monday, December 20, 2010


Jules is an elf that can sit on a chair, in the tree or on the edge of the mantle. Like all the elves, her fingers are pose-able so that they can hold objects. I frequently sit her on the back of a metal reindeer with a trumpet in her hand, heralding Christmas.

Her boots are fabric, which was painted with acrylic paint after her feet were stuffed, and then varnished. A leather cuff was added after the varnish dried. Jules is one of my favorite elves, she reminds me of a relative I care deeply for, and one day Jules just might be hers.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bearing Gifts

Tis the season, and today I got out the Christmas Elves to go on the mantel. Several years ago, although it seem like only yesterday, I made one of a kind art dolls. Among the most popular were the elves and fairies. I sold several that I made both on spec and as commissions. Each one is one of a kind.

When I no longer had the time to create them on a regular basis, I decided to keep the remaining elves for the enjoyment of my family and perhaps something to pass on in the far distant future. There are six elves in my collection, and I will post one every day between now and Christmas. Each one is mounted on a wooden base painted to look like snow and stands between 11' and 14" tall from the base to the tip of the hat.

The pattern is an original, they are made entirely from cloth with needle sculpted, hand painted faces. The eyelashes are created from silk organza, and the tiny hands are complete with fingernails.

This elf is the Elf Bearing Gifts, she was one of the first ones that I created. Her skirt and boots are made from hand painted fabric, her hat is leather. The gifts are fabric wrapped small wooden matchbooks. The hair is dyed Cottswald wook. A close of detail of both the hands and face are below.

Ways you can help this blog grow, If you enjoy this blog, please tell a friend, link your favorite post to your Facebook page, share via Twitter or post a comment. I do want to hear from you.

Don't forget about the contest. It's not too late yet to sign up to follow this blog or post a comment so that your name will be included in a drawing on New Year's Day for a painting giveaway.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A cousin and her horse and a contest

This is one of my earlier paintings, it is my cousin and her miniature horse. What you can't see, and couldn't in the reference photo either, is that she is on her knees.

We went to a family reunion on her island. Her husband is a lobsterman in Maine, and his family owns a small island in Penobscot Bay. They have built a small house there where they spend their summers with the dogs and two miniature horses that have the run of the island.

The family reunion was a great time, everyone brought food and soda, and they supplied all the lobster you could eat. Transportation was by lobster boat and everyone had a wonderful time. The horses added an interesting note to the day. You had to carefully guard your food from them as they were happy to come and eat off your plate if they could get away with it. It was the hardest for the little kids, as they couldn't hold the food out of the way. But even they enjoyed the challenge and the adults were there to help make sure the little ones did have the opportunity to eat.

The painting brings back memories of a great day spent with family. My family is very large and fairly spread out, so it's rare that we have the opportunity to get together, and it's been years and years since everyone has been together. Even at this event, lots of folks were not able to make it.

Since we just had Thanksgiving, and thanksgiving is a time for family and friends, I thought it was a wonderful time to share this painting of a happy family memory.

Now for the contest part of the blog.

I am going to give away one of my paintings to someone who reads this blog. All you need to do is to sign up as a follower (current followers will also be included). I will put all of the names in a bowl, we will draw the name on New Years Day.

Also, I am going to start taking commissions for pet portraits in the spring, so if this is something you are interested, please be sure to let me know.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The King of Cats

When I mentioned the King of Cats, you probably thought of a lion or a tiger. Spooky, named because we adopted him in October and he is a Halloween cat, is the most regal cat in our household. He knows his place in the universe, and that is ruler of all that he can see. He shows it in his every move. This pose is typical...look at me, aren't I just the cat's meow?

When the sun shines on his coat, you can see the expresso coffee color that is the underside of his fur.

This is a large painting, 18"x24", practically life size. Spooky is a good sized cat, with very large claws. He really is the King of Cats!

On a side note, the window on this painting is really straight, blame me for doing a lousy job of cropping the photo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A time for giving thanks

In the U.S., November is a time where we give thanks for our bounties, and so many of us have many. I am thankful that I have everything I need in life, even if I don't have everything I want. I am also thankful that I know the difference between the two.

Today's offering is a Thanksgiving still life which I must quickly point out is a study of a much better painting called "Copper Pitcher and Apples and Mums" by Jane Puerini. Hers is so much better, it glows with life. I have never seen the original, it was a Thanksgiving card sent by our insurance company and one of my favorites over the year. It was the first one I have ever been inspired to copy.

I really enjoyed working on this painting. It came together fairly quickly on an 8"x10" canvas board. Trying to capture the reflections was challenging as was getting a real copper color to come through. I don't often do studies, although they are a great way to learn. I hope, if Jane Puerini sees this, she won't be too insulted that I copied her work. And Jane, if you do drop by, rest assured on the back of the canvas you are credited and this work will never be for sale. I did it solely for me.

So fellow artists-how do you feel about others using your works to create studies? I'd really like to hear from you.

Monday, November 1, 2010


It seems that painting animals is my forte. When I paint a dog or a cat, it comes out far better than if I paint a scene, a still life or people.

This dog is named Jackie. She belongs to a friend of mine and last April, she almost lost her. We were in Atlanta working an event, and poor Jackie was at home in Colorado and got deathly ill. Her poor owner, nearly 2000 miles away was beside herself with worry. Who wouldn't be? Fortunately, in the end Jackie got better. But this is the life of people with pets. They get sick. They can't tell us what's wrong and the worst of all, no matter how much we love them, we generally outlive them.

Jackie's mom was kind enough to let me download a photo of her, and this painting is the result. I hope she likes it. I think she should have it while Jackie is still alive, don't you?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Apple Annie's

I created this small (5"x7") painting to commemorate the last days of autumn. Last year a friend of mine and I spent hours looking for an apple orchard. The one we used go to for years had closed and we were determined to find one in that area.

The story is that we decided to one morning to go to the orchard in our old neighborhood, about 30 miles from where we now live. When we found the orchard closed, we thought we would go find some of our other favorite places in the area. Much to our dismay everyone of them were no longer in existance. We spent several hours driving around looking for various businesses and getting very discouraged. And to top it off - we didn't have our apples or our cider yet.

Thank goodness for cell phones. We were in the neighborhood of another friend, and I knew she had a local orchard that she went to. So a phone call to Lynn saved the day as she directed us to Apple Annie's in Brentwood, NH.

Apple Annie's has apples, pies, cider donuts and apple cider that hasn't been pasteurized taking all the good flavor out of it. You can pick your own, or buy them already picked. There are other baked goods, fresh vegetables in season, recipes and lots of other things to make it interesting. The friendly farm dog can be seen eating apples in the yard and the place is very photogenic. It's owned by a couple in their retirement and they are delightful. It's a little off the beaten path but well worth the trip.

Remember the old adage about an apple a day....enjoy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mindy an American Spitz

This is my father's dog. Although he says she is a pain in the butt, he would be lost without her. She keeps him moving with her frequent demands to be either let in or out.

Two weeks ago, he heard her barking and barking, but she wasn't coming to the door. Since this is not a particularly unusual behavior he didn't pay much attention. Finally at some point, it got closer to the door and became annoying, so he went out to speak to her. He found her with a bloody chin and totally unable to use one of her hind legs. It was dragging on the ground and she hadn't yet figured out how to manage with just three.

She spent the weekend at the vet. They ran lots of tests but didn't find anything dislocated or broken. She had no feeling at all in the leg or any muscle control. Ultimately they sent her home with antibiotics and steroids and a wait and see attitude.

When I last spoke to my father, he said he did see her attempting to use the leg here and there, which seems to indicate that she is getting muscle control back, and maybe some feeling. We have high hopes and still a lot of questions which will probably never be answered.

I painted this particular painting nearly three years ago as a gift for my stepmom when she was going through chemo. When I started painting again, she provided tons of encouragement and support. I miss her dearly.

Life is short, and the people and animals we love sometimes pass through much too quickly. Embrace life, embrace love and don't forget to show them all how much they mean to you. You never know when your last opportunity to do so will be.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Treasured Companions

Nearly all of us who have pets, adore our animals. For many of us, they are our family and often loved as much as our children, perhaps even more, as children grow up and become independent, but our pets truly need us, rely on us and give us unconditional love. Who doesn't want unconditional love?

Over the years, my husband and I have had to say goodbye to many companion animals, but we have been very fortunate not to have to say goodbye to two of them within the same year. That is not the case for my boss. Over the past several months he has lost both of his labs due to advanced age and illness. That fact that they were older dogs did not make the parting any easier. In some ways I think it makes it that much harder.

He keeps a photo of the two dogs on his desk which prompted me to think about creating a painting. So a few weeks ago, when he was out of the office, I 'borrowed' the photo, had it scanned and made a copy for myself and began the painting.

My thought is to give this to him for Christmas. I don't usually give him gifts, and this wouldn't start a trend. But he's a nice guy, and a fair boss. By fair, I don't mean as opposed to excellent or poor, but truly fair in his dealings with everyone. I think he would like this.

A gift like this is tricky. What if he doesn't think it looks like his dogs? Then we are both in an awkward position. Me for giving him something that he doesn't care for or perceives as a burden, and him for having to pretend to like it. Of course, he can just take it home and tell me he hung it in a place of honor and I"d never be the wiser. But it could be even more complicated than that. The year my mother died, my dad had a photo of her enlarged and framed and gave both my brother and me the photo for Christmas. I was unprepared, it knocked me for a loop, and if anything my poor father got a less than delighted and totally unexpected reaction.

I may not have thought this through. Or perhaps I am just over thinking it all together. What do you think?

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Friday, October 1, 2010

George's cat

I am still playing with acrylic paints, and apparently, still painting cats! The colors in the photo are not as good as the actual colors of the painting, and I can't rephotograph it as it's already on it's way to the cat's owners.

Putting a pattern in the fabric was easier than I thought it was going to be, and painting all those little round beads turned out to be a lot of fun. If you look closely at the top of the painting you can see that the beads are part of the Christmas tree, with just one light and the tips of a couple of branches showing.

I am grateful to my friends who post their wonderful photos on their Facebook pages and then give me permission to paint them when I ask. For their generosity, they always get first dibs on whatever I do. Of course, there is always the fear that someone will decide that you didn't capture the essence their beloved pet, but I've been very fortunate in that so far, that's only happened once.

The next painting I have planned is of two dogs. The scale will be much larger, I'm thinking 16"x20", whereas the last three cat paintings have been 9"x12". I am also going back to oils on this one. It's going to be a holiday gift, so I need to get started soon.

On another note, my youngest cat has a new game - she loves playing with bubbles. We spend ten minutes once a day with me blowing bubbles and her standing on her hind legs batting at them. This has made me rethink the painting I just finished of her, I think I might add some bubbles. What do you think? Let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Snuggles, the Gentleman Cat

I finally completed a painting of Snuggles where he doesn't look like he's angry or mad. I think it's because his eyes tend to bug out just a bit. He has the best personality, he's sweet and gentle, and I can't remember the last time he used his claws on a human being, unlike our other two. Even if you are doing something he doesn't like, he never scratches.

He is a beautiful long haired tuxedo cat with a magnificent tail that a skunk would be proud to own.

This was the first painting I tried with my new acrylics (even though it's not the first one posted on the blog). I particularly liked the way the Paynes Grey somehow managed to do it's own shading. I did his entire black coat with the grey, and it streaked the lighter shades pretty much all on it's own, I only had to add a few highlights when I was done.

I added the butterfly a bit later when I decided he needed to be looking at something. I always say that I think he's near sighted as sometimes he seems to not be as confident as the other two when he has to jump from point to point. He thinks about it a lot before he makes the jump, he's really quite tentative. So it made sense for the butterfly to be really close and it shows his gentleness. Although in real life, it wouldn't stand a chance!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Playing with Acrylics

I have been experimenting with acrylic paint for the past week. My subject matter has been cats. The reason for the switch (and it's not permanent) is that I find myself 'making mud' when I overwork the oils and wanted to see if I would be happier with acrylics given their faster drying time.

I have now painted three paintings and the answer is a resounding NO. They set up way to fast and I have a real hard time blending the colors when I want to. So, overall, I'll probably stick with oils for the most part. The acrylics have their place, for instance, today when I wanted to paint on the three season porch. I wasn't worried about making a mess, I just sat in my chair and painted.

The painting above is of Dessie (short for Destiny) when she was just four weeks old. I found her in the middle of a busy intersection one morning last October where someone had thrown her away. She was so small that she didn't really walk very well, and she was so lucky that no one hit her. Adding her to our household was a no-brainer. This was my second painting using acrylics.

In the next couple of days, I'll share the other two cat paintings I have completed this week.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Birds of a feather

This week the goal has to been to paint every day. Usually I paint at least 8"x10", and the larger the better but I had a few 4"x7" canvases all prepped so I thought I would try to paint something on them. Not feeling inspired to go outside and paint, I looked through my stash of photos - nothing there that inspired me either. So I resorted to browsing through books and calendars, something I haven't done since the early 90's.

In a coffee table book called "Maine", I found two photos of birds that I thought might be interesting to try. I have never tried to paint a bird before. The Black-capped Chickadee is the state bird and the photo was taken by Randy Ury, although since I plan to hang these two painting together, I reversed the image The Cedar Waxwing photo is credited to Alan D. Briere.
Neither of these photos will be sold, they are for my personal use only.

Painting every day is both a challenge and a lot of fun. I spent part of one afternoon outdoors where I had been invited to paint with someone I know, but for the most part, I painted alone in my studio with a lot of help from my three cats. Fortunately, they didn't walk in my wet paint and track it everywhere. I am always afraid that I will have to be cleaning oil paints off their fur and paws. Any tips?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer Goodbye

This is one of the daily paintings I have done this week. It is an 8"x10 oil done on canvas from a photograph taken by my very talented friend Joe Hannaford with his permission. Joe is an artist, a photographer and a well respected local graphic designer. His photograph is called "Waiting for Summer" but given the time of year, I thought that Summer Goodbye might also be an appropriate name for the painting.
I think I was able to include a lot of detail in this fairly small painting in the time that I allotted to work in it. I did some under painting first to try to lay in the shadows. This was a bit problematic as oils stay wet for a long time and there was a tendency for the colors to blend more than I wanted them to.
Cloudy skies and water are real challenges for me. I struggle to get them even close to what I want them to be. Maybe that's why I like to paint fair weather skies, a whole lot easier, but I will continue to work on this and on lakes, rivers and oceans to improve my skill sets.
I hope you like today's offering. Now to go paint something since I have set myself a challenge of doing a painting a day. I also plan to head over to the Currier Gallery of Art, a local art museum later this week to be inspired by folks who really know what they are doing. I love to see all the art I follow on the Internet, but seeing great art in person is still the best.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Favorite Things Still Life

I have been working on this painting for a while. I really struggled with the shadow on the bottle and I'm not sure I am done yet, but wanted to post it anyway. I had to stop because I was in serious danger of over painting and making a real mess.

Being on vacation this week is a real God send. I am getting to paint every day, in fact, starting yesterday, I decided that while I was on vacation, I will paint a painting a day. I have completed two already and will show them here later once I have decent photos of them.

What a luxury to be able to paint for hours every day. Sometimes I think it's against the odds to be able to do so. We recently got a dehumidifier, which is great, but it's in the laundry room off my studio and it puts off a tremendous amount of heat. Hubby seems to have a built in radar about my planning to use the studio, as he has managed to turn on the dehumidifier every day about an hour before I go in. Mentioning that I would prefer he didn't doesn't seem to register. In my next house, the studio is going to be far away from the laundry room (I hate listening to the noise of the washer and dryer when I am working) and away from other household noises if at all possible. I love the sounds of silence, and even though we live on several acres, it apparently is very hard to come by.

Today I braved both the sounds of laundry and the heat from the dehumidifier and painted for four hours, finishing a fairly detailed painting. It was great fun and I can't wait to share it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vacation? It must be "Wine O'Clock"

I was scrolling through some photos of paintings that I have done over the past year and came across this one. It is a clock I made for a friend's birthday.
I had a lot of fun creating this, no reference photos, just pure imagination. And I had fun experimenting at all levels. This is done in oils but when I did glaze coats, I added some crushed pigments that were iridescent gold and mother of pearl. Gold on the background and mother of pearl on the grapes.
Since I am on vacation this week, this clock reflects my relaxed attitude. I am not wearing a watch and any time could be "wine-o-clock". Perhaps even right now, since I have finished painting for the day. My next post may well be the still life I have been working on for so long.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cawley Pond outing

My friend, Pat, owner of "ART CACOON", invited me out for an afternoon of painting last weekend. We painted at her parents place on Cawley Pond. It was a fun afternoon, and a real challenge for me. This is my third outing in nearly as many years attempting plein aire painting. I struggle with selecting an area to focus on, with trying not to capture too much and the urge to work with the tiniest brushes.
When she invited me out to paint, I made a decision not to take apart my studio to fill my French easel. I went out and purchased a basic set of beginner oils, and an inexpensive set of brushes to keep packed up and ready to go. I prepped three 8"x10" canvases all set in Art Cacoons, so when I got there I was all ready to paint, I just had to pick an area to focus on.
It was mid to late afternoon and we had a couple of hours, the sky was clear and the pond was fairly calm. The area in the front with the cat 0' nine tails was actually out of my site line and they have all gone to seed this time of year, but I wanted to include them in my painting so I took artistic license.
I'm pleased because while this was sitting in my studio drying last week, my husband looked at through the doorway and decided, and I quote, "From here it looks like a photograph". That's high praise coming from him.
I am on vacation this week and will be spending a lot of time working on the still life I started several months ago. It has evolved quite a bit since the original sketch, and I hope to finish it this week. That is unless I take off with the French easel and spend more time learning from life.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Maine Sunset

A couple of years ago, my husband and I spent a relaxing week at a family cottage on a pond in Maine. He spent the week fishing and I spent it painting, reading, visiting local wineries and taking photographs. Always trying to capture the elusive family of loons who who were swimming right off shore the day we arrived and didn't ever get that close again until after we were all packed to leave. I swear they saw me put the camera in the car!

It was a great vacation. No telephone, no TV, no internet. Just a radio and the place entirely to ourselves. We were fortunate to watch a pair of bald eagles and each night I sat out on the porch and listened to the sounds off the water wishing it would never end. For some reason, even the bugs seemed reluctant to invade our vacation.

The painting above is from the shore of the cottage looking out to the point. The stairs lead to the cottage next door which was vacant while we were there. The sun is setting and another peaceful night is about to begin. Pour the wine, get out the cheese and crackers and join me on the porch, won't you? We'll watch the loons and their young ones swim off shore on their way home for the night.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Drawing of Destiny

Many of you know the story of the kitten I rescued last October who was trying to cross a busy intersection. She was only four weeks old and we named her Destiny, Dessie for short. She has integrated herself well into our family and we couldn't imagine life without her.

I have taken lots of photos of Dessie with the intention of painting her one day. Still not there yet.

One of the things I am trying to do, if I don't paint every day is to try to draw as often as I can. Frequently it's done in a free moment, using a ball point pen drawing something that is near at hand and often on the corner of a piece of paper covered with notes from phone calls or meetings. Certainly nothing I can share.

This drawing is the result of two days effort (when I had a free moment) done with pencil and then redrawn and highlighted with a black ball point. The paper is still a piece of notepaper, and I didn't plan very well as I ran out of room for her tail. However, the point was to draw for no other reason than to do it. It forces me to take a break from work and really take a few moments for myself during the lunch period instead of eating my lunch hunched over the computer. Really a bad habit.

One of the women I work with keeps telling me that Dessie is the spitting image of her cat Olive, so I am going to give this drawing to her. Now- back to work!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mixed media attempt

Art lessons was something I always wanted to take as a kid. Not so much to learn to draw, although that wouldn't hurt, but to learn to use the various tools available. Colored pencils and pastels completely elude me. I keep thinking of them like crayons, but that can't be right as other people get completely different effects with them.

This drawing of Snuggles started out with colored pencils. I thought that after drawing and filling in with them I could brush on water to blend them. This is what I do with colored pencils on the cloth dolls, only I use a textile medium to blend the colors into the fabric. It turns out that it doesn't work that way on paper. So I used really diluted acrylic paints to put a wash finish over the various areas to make the colors blend more. A lot of work to create what in the end sort of looks like a water color.

I need to repaint Snuggles. He is our gentleman cat. He is sweet, loving and extremely gentle. Unlike the other two, when he wants to get down, he just tries to get down, no claws, no danger of anyone getting hurt. He is really easy going, so I hate that he looks mean or mad whenever I paint him. I have yet to capture his sweet gentle nature.

I hope to have a new painting to share with everyone soon. Yesterday, for the first time in weeks, I actually picked up a paint brush and have started on the still life mentioned here. I added a piece of green silk for additional color and have made a good start on the painting. For all the time I have taken off due to other things going on in my life, it's felt good to paint again, and it wasn't nearly the struggle I expected it to be.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pants Anyone?

This is Spooky, my number 1 cat. He especially likes to be in confined spaces and one of his favorites is any pant leg he can crawl down into. Jeans are better than anything, as they stay fairly stiff and don't collapse on him. Which means they don't get full of claw marks as he makes his way from the waist to the hem.

One prerequisite for him is that they must have been worn by either my husband or myself, clean clothes won't do. For this I am thankful.

Now this was much more fun to do when he was an only cat. He could crawl inside and take a nice long, restful, safe and snug nap. But with a younger brother and a much younger sister, I'm sure you can imagine what happens these days! One or both of them are all over the outside of the pants leg, chewing and kicking to beat the band until he has had enough and out he comes. So this game now gets played, only when the other two are otherwise distracted elsewhere in the house.

I have a lot of photos of Spooky inside things, you might remember Burka Kitty from earlier in the spring. The problem with a black cat who likes to hide inside things is that my poor photos come out blurry as the camera doesn't know what to focus on, and when I use a flash, you know what happens to the eyes - cat version of red eye - glowing green.

What I liked most about this painting was the hem on the jeans, I think I got that just right.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bitsy and Mattie

Bitsy (left) and Mattie (right) are my sister-in-laws dogs. Bitsy has a crooked smile with teeth that could use doggie braces. She rules the roost in the house. Mattie is a tissue thief. You can't have a box of tissues where she can reach them or they will be all over the house. She will also steal them out of your hand so softly you don't even realize that she is doing it until it's shredded on the rug.

They were fun to paint, in part because they weren't completely black or completely white which was a nice change. Mattie was the easiest to paint, I loved doing her ears and trying to capture her inquisitive look. Of the two dogs, Mattie is the one who is friendlier with people. She would sit on my lap whereas Bitsy would mostly just bark at me anytime I moved.

I need to do more pet portraits, they are fun. My son has two dogs and would love a painting. Both of his dogs are pure white - just my luck! But before I do that, I really should paint Dessie, short for Destiny, the kitten I rescued last fall. I have been collecting paintable photographs of her for several months. She is grey, beige, black and white tiger tabby. Lots of colors to play with.

Friday, July 9, 2010


One summer one of these single columbine plants appeared in my garden. It was a surprise from nature, nothing I planted. Over the years it has spread randomly throughout the garden. I let them grow wherever they seed themselves.

My garden is not very ordered. I plant things and hope they will survive. If something pops up that I didn't plant, I am extremely grateful. And I always let it grow, sometimes even the weeds.

I don't have the heart to pull out the wild strawberries that have taken over the hill on the far side of the house. They provide food for birds, squirrels and chipmunks. I don't even begrudge the deer my shrubs in the winter, but I do wish that they would leave the Hostas alone in the summer. After all there is plenty more for them to eat. This year I planted some double pink columbines. I hope they like the garden as well as the wild purple ones.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Harpette Swan

A harpie, in mythology is part human, part bird. When I created this swan, my neighbor came up with the term "Harpette' for the anthropomorphic creature.
It all began when I was practicing sculpting cloth faces for one of a kind dolls. This particular head just seemed to say to me that it was a swan, not a human and thus the adventure began.
The body is constructed out of a wire frame, padded and filled with plastic pellets for weight. The wings are also wired. My original intent was to have the wings stand out to either side, but my wire wasn't strong enough to hold the weight of the fused lame prairie points used to create them. As she grew using lots of jewel toned colors, it was obvious to me that this was not your ordinary swan. This was a 'Vegas' swan so we added the feathers around the head and the boa around the neck.
As a project went, it was a lot of fun. My husband came home to find me talking to myself and laughing hysterically in the midst of creating her. He wasn't sure what action, if any, he should take at the time - and he didn't stick around very long to find out, either.
If you are at all creative, you will probably understand when I say, often you don't own the process, it owns you. I knew I wanted to make a swan, but this wasn't the swan in my head - this was the swan she wanted to be. Later I was able to make a duck that was well thought out and came out exactly as I wanted it. I'm not sure why sometimes it works that way, but I will say that letting everything just flow and happen is very rewarding and fun. It doesn't always work out well, but often it comes out better than what you had planned. So I try not to plan and organize every detail when I play.
This creation won best in show at one of the competitions she was entered into, despite one of the judge critiques that swans should be black or white. To that I reply 'get out of the box!'.

Monday, June 28, 2010


My dad is getting older. Although that's true for all of us, he is getting to the point in his life where his quality of life is impacted. Since his stroke several years ago, and a recent diagnosis of a neurodegenerative disorder his health issues have multiplied. I'm 100% certain that this is not the old age and retirement that he envisioned as he worked so hard for all those years.

I decided that I needed to paint him while I could it with joy and not sadness. He looks younger in the painting than he actually is, but when I showed the painting to my uncle last weekend, he knew exactly who I had painted. So at least he is recognizable to more than just me.

Painting his hair was hard. He was a blonde as a youth, and like most natural blondes, his hair darkened into a dingy dishwater color as he got older. Although now it is streaked with grey, it's still retains a lot of that color. Add to that it's both receding and thinning and it was problematic. I did however, capture the shape of his face, nose and jaw and his beautiful blue eyes which I was fortunate enough to inherit.

This is how I'll remember my dad long after he is gone. Quietly chuckling over something he's heard or seen...not missing anything that is happening around him. My brother and I saw this expression and pose a lot while we were growing up.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Spooky Tuesday

Spooky Tuesday came from a shelter at just eight weeks old. He was part of a litter of five kittens named after the days of the work week. Because it was October he was renamed Spooky Tuesday in honor of Halloween.

I have always been partial to black cats. They are elegant and Spooky is no exception. He is the king in our household and it shows in nearly every move. His pose is nearly always regal.

This was my first painting of Spooky, and even though it was created in oils, it looks more like a watercolor. He is one of my favorite subjects to paint. I think to date I have created four Spooky paintings. Burka Kitty was the first, painted from a photo taken when he was a kitten.

Looking at this image today, for the first time I can see areas where I could improve this painting. Will I go back and do it? I don't know. If I try to fix all my old paintings, I will not get to work on any new ones, and I'll run out of things to post here in short order.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baby Gremi

A couple of years ago some friends of ours had to make a very hard choice with one of their cats. It was devastating for them. They had this cat since he was a cute little kitten.

I had only recently started painting again, but I did have a couple of paintings of cats under my belt so I offered to paint Gremi if they supplied a photo.

The photo they came up with was one of him buried in a basket of clean towels as a kitten. I knew I could manage the towels, was reasonably comfortable with the kitten image but the basket absolutely terrified me. Even though it's just a small part of the painting and not something you focus on, to me getting it right was as important as everything else.

Our friends were moving to England and I had the painting completed and framed before they left. It is a small 8"x10" panel, nothing too big to pack or that would take up too much room in their new home. I believe they were pleased with the result.

I also have a photo of Gremi all grown up, him mom is a great photographer. One of these days I may also tackle that. It's a bit more fun to paint an animal with more than one color on it's fur. Although when I am painting a one color cat or dog, I don't have to worry about getting the stripes or spots in the right places.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A still life from scratch

A few days ago, I made a public comment, that I was going to devote the month of June to finishing paintings before I started any new ones. There is something about making a public statement that practically guarantees you will have to eat your words.

Not even 24 hours had passed before I was itching to start a new painting. Going back a bit, I had recently received two of my art magazines and had read a couple of interesting articles and had been inspired by some of the paintings. I really wanted to do a still life, and I wanted to do it from the beginning and do it right.

This meant playing with the objects until I found a pleasing arrangement. The above reference photo does not have the lighting I plan to use in the painting but I wanted to show what I was doing.

I plan to paint this slightly larger than life. I have been told and have read, that if you work out all your problems in a drawing it will be easier to paint. I love to paint large, but I hate to draw large, so my solution was to make a small scale drawing, roughly 8"x10" to work on proportions and the like. Once the drawing was done to my satisfaction, I had it enlarged so that I could transfer it onto my 18"x24" canvas. The canvas was treated with an additional layer of gesso, and the under painted with a mixture of yellow ochre and titanium white acrylic so that it would dry quickly. Then I could transfer the image. Once the image was on the canvas, I roughed in all the shapes with burnt sienna and am ready to set up my lights and begin painting tomorrow.

I don't feel bad or guilty about doing it this way, after all, I have done all the work myself and will still need to paint it. Although my husband occasionally refers to this method as 'paint by number' he has no concept of what is involved in mixing the paint or the challenges of getting the paint on the canvas the way you want it to look.

This is a painting I plan to take my time with. I think I have the skill set to get what I want when I am done. At some point in the future, you will find the finished painting here. But for now, future posts will continue to feature work done in the past.

I'd love to hear from you so please don't be shy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My parent's dog

I created this painting for my step mom's birthday a few years back. It was one of my first painting of dogs. I had been visiting and had my camera with me. Mindy, which is the dog's name is very active, and it was hard to capture her as she rarely stood still. This shot, had her looking down the driveway with her mouth slightly open and her tail curled over her back. She was happy.

The challenges of painting this were numerous. A white dog is almost as much fun to paint as a black dog or black cat. And then there was all that grass and the stone path behind her. Up until that point, all my paintings had simple backgrounds. The painting was all foreground. When I was done, I was truly pleased with the result, although I think the pot of geraniums was not as good as I would have liked.

My stepmom was pleased to have the painting and hung it in the main hallway where everyone could see it when they arrived. A place of honor. I was glad that she liked it and wanted to have it.

There is a bit of a back story about the dog Mindy, however. For nearly 30 years there has always been a white American Eskimo dog at my dad's place and it has always been a female named Mindy. I don't know why they all get the same name, probably because it's easier to remember one name, but it get's confusing as well. When you remember back to a specific time, you don't know which Mindy it was that you are talking about. I don't even know at this point, how many Mindy's there have been.

In any case, this is the painting where I learned to paint a grassy lawn, and so far it has been my best looking effort in doing so. I have a few photographs of pets of friends and family, and one of these days, I may yet again paint a dog or a cat for someone. No requests, please. It's hard enough when I am trying to please only myself.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Doe a Deer. a female deer....

I started this painting nearly a year ago. It's from a photo I took at my friends farm. I was going up her long driveway when a doe crossed in front of me. Over to one side there was another doe. Both stopped to look at the car.

I stopped to look at the deer. Fortunately for me, I had the windows down in my car and the radio was off. Actually the radio doesn't work, but that's another story. I also had my camera in my backpack. Very slowly I reached over, unzipped the backpack and took the camera out. Equally slowly, I removed the lense cap, moved the viewfinder up to my face and focused. I was able to get off three or four shots before they spooked and took off across the field.

Although my husband and probably my artist friends will tell me there is a lot more I can do to improve this painting, it's done - at least for now. This is the skill level I am at, continuing to work on making the face of the doe more lifelike will result in frustration. Painting is my way of relaxing and having fun...frustration will ruin it.

I know that if I continue to paint on a regular basis, I will get better. I am out of practice. From painting nearly every day when I came home from work and every weekend, I am now painting once or twice a month, and that is up from going a few months without touching a brush. My plan for the summer is to spend more time painting.

Why the title of this post? Well, that little song kept running through my head, so I decided to give in and go with it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Painting from life

In the early days, when I first started painting again I was painting from photographs exclusively. I still do a lot of painting from photos, but have come to realize the value in trying to paint what you actually see.

One evening at a regular painting session with a friend, she decided that we needed to paint a still life. She had gone to the store and purchased fruit and carefully set up a still life for us to paint. The pitcher and plate were chosen for their ability to reflect light and she used additional lighting to create shadows on the scene.

Talk about scary! This was intimidating. She is an excellent artist and painting what I see before me eliminated all my little tricks. But what can you do when faced with a challenge? Your choices are to jump in and do it or run for the hills. The latter was not really an option, after all, what was the worst that was going to happen?
I might fail. Okay, what does failing look like? A painting that doesn't reflect what I see before me? Well it could be modern art-that isn't purely representational. I think it might be wasted time, paint and a canvas...but how can any of that be wasted if I learn something. Even if I paint something I wouldn't even show the dog, Ihave have gained some experience with using brushes and playing with how the paints go together.

I have yet to ever throw away a canvas, although I have a few I probably should, but each canvas, even the bad ones are part of the experience. Now I will admit to occasionally sanding one down and covering everything under it with Gesso so that I can use it again to paint something else (those are the ones I wouldn't show the dog, and I'll show almost anything I have painted to anyone who will look!).

The point is, don't agonize over the end result. It will work or it won't, but in the process you will get better and the next time you will come closer to your goal. Like they say on the sneaker commercial - just do it! And when your non artist friends and relatives tell you what's wrong with your painting just offer them a canvas and brush and encourage them to try for themselves. If nothing else, you might gain a painting companion.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Since today is Memorial Day, I thought I would show a piece that I made about 11 years ago at this time of year.

These dolls are Paulie and Molly, a patriotic pair. They are an original design. My idea was to make a doll with a shape similar to an old fashioned Coke bottle. My original intent was to make one doll, a male, representing a soda jerk, wearing the appropriate hat, one hand on his hip and the other holding a bottle of coke. I got the proportions wrong for the small Coke bottle I had so it evolved into Paulie and Molly.

I gave him a flag and a hat and decided they were watching a parade, and he was saluting the flag as it passed.

A couple of weeks after I completed them, we had our neighbors over to dinner. They fell in love with the dolls and the next day called to inquire about buying them. Paulie and Molly became part of their Fourth of July tradition for years after, until they moved away and possibly even after that.

It wasn't until after I sold them and was looking at the photos that I realized, Paulie is saluting with his left hand. I called to apologize and offer to fix the dolls so they were correct. Chuck laughed and said he hadn't noticed. But he didn't want me to fix them, they reminded him of his time in the Marines when he accidentally saluted an officer with his left hand. Either the officer didn't notice or chose to disregard it.

I created a pattern for these dolls which is still available to for sale. They were also featured with the pattern in the July 2002 issue of Soft Dolls and Animals.

In honor of Memorial Day, I salute (with my right hand) all those who serve our country with honor, in the past, in the present and in the future.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Painting on the porch

I got the third book in the Steg Larson series yesterday and am dying to read it. But I also resolved not to spend another weekend with my nose buried in a book and pick up my brushes and paint.
This relatively quick (for me) painting is the result. There is a copper fountain on my screen porch, and I love to have it running when I sit out there. It's restful.
This year I cannot run it until I make a repair to it as our newest cat who climbs everything, has torn the splash screen by sitting inside it earlier this spring.
Tomorrow, if it's a nice day, I might go outside to paint, or I might just move everything to the porch and work on one of the two or three unfinished paintings I have stashed away.
I could also do more with this painting, but I don't think I will. It has served it's purpose, getting a paint brush back in my hands again and letting me paint something relatively simple from real life, before I attempt landscape painting plein air again.
My art magazine arrived yesterday and has me itching to set up a still life in my studio. That is best saved for a rainy weekend, I think. I need sunshine in my life right now and the studio doesn't have any windows.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Gentleman Cat

He was a fostered kitten, bottle fed from the time he was three weeks old with his four other litter mates. His foster mom thought he was the best of the litter and set out to find him a special home. She decided we were it. Have you figured out yet that we are a soft touch?

He is the gentlest cat I have ever had. He lets me hold him even when he doesn't want to be held. He has never clawed or bitten me except by accident in play, and then it was my fault. Snugs is a long haired tuxedo cat with long fluffy tail that is the pride of the household, always up and waving. He is also a very hard cat to paint. Nearly everytime I try, if I try to paint his eyes, he ends up looking mean. I loved creating this painting, because you can see that he is gentle and playful.

This fountain has served as the water bowl for all of our cats for nearly five years.

Snugs at the Fountain was one of my first paintings, and it's fairly simple as you can see. It is oil on a 16" x 20" canvas board. Painting the water turned out to be easier than I thought it would be, but the ivy leaves were a challenge. I had a lot of helpful hints on how to improve the painting from my artist friend, some of which I actually paid attention to. Not that I didn't value all of it, but sometimes it's more info than I can process all at once.