Thursday, December 30, 2010

First Footing

On New Years Eve my family always celebrated Hogmanay (First Footing).

The Wikipedia version: 

This is a Scottish ritual of going out on New Years Eve and partying with all your neighbors. For good luck bring whiskey (preferred, but beer will do), a lump of coal for their fireplace and maybe a black muffin (fruitcake). And of course, it should all be delivered by a tall, dark and handsome man. Scots have a thing about "tall, dark, handsome men," maybe because so many are average-height redheads.

Now here's my family's version of First Footing: 

Before midnight gather all the cash you can find. Check books and credit cards count. Add fresh fruit, candy, bread, cheese, real butter, a ham (if you have one handy). Then take the filled basket and go out a back door. Walk around the house to the front door. A few minutes after midnight ring the bell. Someone lets you in and good luck (translation: food and money) will be coming in the door all year.

My first experience with First Footing was at the flat in Detroit with my great aunts, great uncle and great grandmother. I remember being exhausted waiting until midnight. Someone went out the front door, and came back in the front door (it was too scary to walk around the outside of the flat at night). I stayed up late for this? I was expecting something fun.

My mother and grandmother lived together for many years. One year, when my grandmother's short term memory was failing, she heard the doorbell ringing frantically. When she finally went to answer the front door she was totally surprised to find my frozen cranky mother standing there with a basket.

If it's true that what comes in the front door after the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve, comes in for the rest of the year, then for the next year everyone who came in their front door was pissed off. 

I still First Foot when I'm awake enough to stay up past midnight. My daughter, Sue, always First Foots. My son, Jim, doesn't, in fact his wife Bonnie had no idea what I was talking about when I asked her.


I lived with my grandparents for the 10th and 11th grades of high school. In art class we were doing contour drawing. It's a great way to develop good eye hand coordination. Keep your pencil on your paper. Try not to lift it. Now don't look at your paper, just follow the object you're drawing with your eyes and let your hand take the same direction. 

My grandmother posed for me. She held very still. She had her legs crossed and one foot was up. What can I say. That foot was the closest thing to me, closest things are biggest things. It was a great drawing. But when she saw it, she was furious. She tore up the drawing and stomped out of the room on her big feet. I can say this without guilt because my feet are bigger than hers ever dreamed of being.

However, she was very sensitive about her feet. When she was a young woman she bought shoes that were too tight, several pairs, in fact, because they were on sale. Basically she smashed her feet into those little shoes, and then suffered the rest of her life with crossed over toes and nasty bunions.


My New Years wish for all of you: may the first foot that crosses your threshold bare the symbolic goodies that will sustain you throughout the year, and may your feet be pain free to carry you wherever you wish to go.

Friday, December 17, 2010


When I was seven or eight I rode a bus downtown with my great aunt Mary. Another child on the bus loudly said, "Hey, look at that lady," while staring at my aunt. His mother shushed him. 

Look at that lady? Look at my great aunt? I looked at her for the first time. She was small, maybe under five feet tall. She had sharp features. She wore suits, perfectly tailored custom-made suits and silk blouses. She walked tall with extreme dignity. And she had an enormous hump on her back. It stuck out a good four inches from her thin frame.

When we got off the bus I walked behind her. She looked weird. I saw other people turn their heads to stare at her as she passed. I couldn't walk with her.

She knew I had seen her, knew why I was keeping ten feet behind her. We walked that way for a while, and then she stopped and had a little talk with me. I can't tell you exactly what she said, but I know it was about how she felt when people stared at her. It was about judging books by their covers.

I don't think I've ever been so ashamed.

This was the person who shared my bed and bedroom. She was the one who took me downtown to Hudson's to have lunch on the mezzanine and shop month-end sales. She taught me good manners. 

She was a talented milliner. She taught me to sew. When I cut the center out of a wedding veil she was making for a client, she didn't kill me, but I think it crossed her mind. 

We had tea at bedtime in china cups. When the tea was finished she'd turn the cup upside-down on the saucer, turn it around three times, and read my fortune. The tea leaves always said the I'd marry a tall, handsome, dark-haired man. I married two of them, probably because the tea leaves said it so many times. 

She told me stories when I couldn't sleep. When I dreamt that the house was burning down, she was the one who comforted me. She held me together while my parents were slip-sliding apart.

My great-grandmother (her mother) and her two single siblings lived in a flat near 13th Street in Detroit. She moved back in with them after my parents divorced. Over the years the neighborhood, mostly rentals, had changed. All white (before my time), then Hispanic, and when the neighborhood was basically shot to hell the black people got to live there... except for the enclave of whiteness in my family's flat. 

My great uncle Bubs (Rob to the grownups) whom I dearly loved, didn't love anyone who didn't look like him. When Sammy Davis Junior came on the tv, blam, the tv was turned off. He used the "n" word and said that "they" shouldn't be allowed on tv.

One day he and I walked to the corner store. He held my hand. It was very cold out. A rat ran behind a garbage can in the alley. The apartment building across the street had cardboard in the windows. I saw a kid, younger than me, no shoes, standing on the porch. We stared at each other and I felt pain in my chest.

My mother told me that the prejudice was about job competition. Immigrant Scots competing with blacks for jobs. I think it was about the "hump", the judging of  the external without knowing the internal.

In 1967 I was married to the first of the two handsome, dark-haired men and living in Massachusetts, when all hell broke loose in Detroit. Riots. 12th Street, the epicenter, was a block away from the flat my senior relatives had fled from more than a decade before. I thought of cardboard windows and bare feet in the cold, of people judged, seen but not seen.

My President is Black. People in my country judged the man, not the cover. Thank you.

Happy Holidays.


Note: There are folks out there who didn't vote for President Obama for purely political reasons (race wasn't the issue). There are some who voted for him in reaction to G.W. Bush (race wasn't the issue). And I guess that's my point. Mostly,
race wasn't the issue. Oh, sure there are the birthers and "the people who want to take their country back". But again, in 2008 race wasn't the issue. And it's about time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sex, Violence and Crochet

Now that I have your attention, this is a post with two stories. 

Yesterday I was trying to teach my ten year old granddaughter, Julia, to crochet. You should really know how to do whatever it is you're trying to teach someone else. I basically muddle my way through a ball of yarn and end up with a scarf. These are diet scarves. If I keep my hands busy, then I won't be holding food. 

Julia has about four rows of her scarf begun. And being that I'm a crappy teacher, her rows are wonkie. I finished my scarf. It was too wide, to short and also wonkie. So I un-crocheted it into a nice ball. Julia was appalled that I was taking the whole thing apart.

I told her that part of the pleasure was in the doing of the thing, and redoing if it wasn't right.

In the wee hours of the morning I had a memory that connects to this. 

When I was 27 I took an evening sculpture class from Sergio DeGiusti, who is one of Detroit's best sculptors.  We were using terra-cotta clay and had nude models. By the end of the first class I had a lovely little female figure. That's when Sergio told us to put our creations back in the plastic bags. What? Just squish them up? Most of the class was appalled. But, but, THREE hours were spent on this sculpture. 

Sergio told us that these sculptures were not precious. That they were not art.  That they were learning exercises.

One man was very upset. He said that if he went home without any evidence, his wife wouldn't believe he was at a class. 

The final night of class, instead of the usual models, an older man was going to pose. I was relieved that we were going to do head studies and he wasn't going to be naked. (Hey, I was 27, what do you want.) 

The sculpture class was twelve weeks long and after several weeks Sergio must have thought we were making art. We got to take our sculptures home.

It was traditional that at the end of the final class everyone went out for beer. Somehow or other I ended up being volunteered to take our OLD model to the bar in my car.  So I had his clay head in the backseat and him in the front seat.

Afterward I had to drive the model back to the school. When I stopped the car to let him out, he didn't get out. Instead he grabbed me. What! This old man, that I was being nice to by giving him a ride, grabbed me. I let him know I was not happy in not so nice terms, and booted him out of my car. I drove home, shaking, furious.

The next day that lecherous man's head was sitting on my kitchen table. Now here's the violence part, so take the kids out of the room. I looked at the head of still wet clay. I poked him in the eye. I pulled off his ears and punched him hard in the face. Wham! Pow! Blam! Splat!

The bust was busted.

Here's the take away: everything we make is not precious, sometimes it's learning.  And also it's really fun to punch clay.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The End of the Relationship

I've left a long term relationship. It's over. Our goals didn't match anymore. A long term relationship should have mutual respect, a common purpose, and trust, especially trust. I've left the art gallery that has shown my work since 2001. 

Sunday John and I brought all my paintings home.

In September I wrote a blog post about the people from "Detroit 1-8-7" choosing one of my paintings to use on the show. There were a couple things I didn't mention on the post. Like when I signed the release form I asked the gallery owner if we were being paid. Her startled response was something like, "Oh, umm, oh, well, I guess I'll have to ask them".


Well, that bothered me, so I had a conversation about it with Google when I got home. 

Google's response was confirmed a week later when I went to see a show at a gallery in downtown Detroit. I happily told the gallery managers that a tv show was going to use one of my paintings. They told me that movie and tv people had been renting art from them too. RENTING. Renting for 20% of the value of the art for a week. 

It took me several weeks of stewing before going back to the gallery to have a little chat with the gallery owner. I'm a mild mannered Democrat, I don't yell at people, I'm not fond of confrontation. Also I had to decide if I really wanted to leave the gallery. Where would I go? Would I feel rudderless, homeless, lost. 

It turns out that, yes, the gallery owner is making 20% on the art rentals. She asked the tv people if she had to share the money with her artists. They said it was her choice. She's choosing not to. 

I acknowledge here that keeping a gallery open is expensive. 50/50 sharing of sales has always seemed fair to me. She has to make a living too.

And after all, it involved a lot of work for her, she told me she spent two hours on paperwork and packing the selection of art they took (I think it was seven pieces from different artists). I mentioned that my 48" x 48" painting took 30 hours to paint. The painting's value is $3000, 20% of that is $600. So for her 2 hours of packing and paperwork, that's $300 per hour. That's just from my piece. What about the other artists?

She said I get exposure if my work is on the tv show. Hmmm. There isn't a sign over the art saying Lynn did this. There isn't a credit line at the end of the show that says, "Painting in the dining room by Lynn Arbor". Also they may rent art work, place it on the set, but it doesn't necessarily ever show up on screen. The gallery owner still gets paid.

I also found out that no other artist has questioned being paid, or so she said. 

Maybe because I spent 25 years of my life making art for a living, I'm used to getting paid. When I was a graphic designer I did the work, wrote a bill, then someone wrote a check. 

Of course, there was the time that I designed a brochure for a woman who grew orchids. She didn't like the design. Said her son the printer could do a much better, more creative, more professional job. When I got up to leave (taking my design) she said, "You can leave the design." Yeah, right.

It seems that some people think that if you love doing the work you do (especially artists, singers, musicians) that your reward is in the pleasure you get in doing it. You don't really need to get paid. 

If my brain surgeon loves cutting into heads, no one questions that he should be paid. Wait a minute. I don't have a brain surgeon, but you get my point. If someone wants to use your art, you should get paid. It's not brain surgery, but it counts.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Big Smile Project

Dana Schutz paints people eating their arms or eating their own face. Perhaps last week I was thinking of posing for her when I ate part of my tooth for dinner. It wasn't delicious, sweet or savory. It was just a hard thing in my mouth.

But enough about my body falling apart. Let's talk about teeth.

My mother did portraits, mostly glamour shots of movies stars. Greta Garbo never sat in our kitchen posing, so I'm sure she painted from magazine photos. She also painted all the  family members. 

No one ever smiled. It's not that the family members or movie stars were sad, sullen, or sedate. My mother was afraid to paint teeth. Or anyway, she believed that teeth were really hard.

Well, they are hard when you're trying to eat them, but painting them? Why would teeth be any harder to paint than eyes or noses, or fingers.

So I put teeth to the test. I photographed John and our friends Joy and Keith at breakfast last Sunday. Then I printed out their faces and started painting. 

Joy Powell's great smile.
Here's what I learned. For me, a tooth is a hard form, solid with distinct lights and shadows. Pretty straight forward painting. Lips, however, are trickier, delicate, especially at the corners of the mouth where there are folds of inner skin. The top edge of the upper lip is soft, not a solid color distinction.

Painting smiles was the most fun I've had in ages. When I went to bed, I wanted to get back up and go look at them again.

Today I saw Dr. Gibney, my dentist. I have a new temporary tooth and a camera full of photos. In future posts I'll show my dentist's, dental hygienist's, and receptionist's smiles. Isn't this fun.

Now I want to paint close-ups of everyone I know smiling. Hmmm. This could become a series.

So here's my conclusion. When we think something is hard to do, we should at least try it. (You could apply this to other areas of life besides painting, however, I'm still not going to take up sky diving.) 

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I wake up with a head full of shoulds for my day. 
  • I should respond to 7 emails.
  • I should do 4 loads of laundry. I am out of socks.
  • I should plant the 90 tulip bulbs I bought. Why did I do that?
  • I should empty the dishwasher.  (John now makes emergency vehicle noises when the dishwasher door is open.)
  • I should water the house plants.
  • I should walk 2 miles. We actually do that most mornings before breakfast.
  • I should divide the hostas and move them to the front garden.
  • I should weed the vegetable garden.
  • I should write some journal pages. Oprah says you should journal.
  • I should learn chi gong. Dr Oz wants me to.
  • I should paint...
Actually I have been painting, several afternoons lately, after taking care of a bunch of shoulds that aren't even on this list. 

But, I've been doing should paintings, the "I should be painting" paintings. A should painting is numb, rote, using up paint, a "paint every day and you'll get better," exercise. A listless, mindless, dumping on, smearing, bored, diddling, indifferent kind of painting. It's different than a "want to" painting. 

But then two of the three should paintings look like thoughtful paintings. I wonder why?

In my twenty's all the books and articles about how to become a good writer said, "you should write every day". Make it a habit. I did that. I wrote everyday. I wrote a novel, two partial novels, lots of short stories, newspaper articles, and children's books. Some published. Some not. That should seemed to work.

I have told my artists friends, "if your serious about doing this, you should paint every day." I am so bossy.

Colette's first husband Willy locked her in a room so she would write, then he took credit for her work. Did you note the "first" husband part of that. That makes sense to me. But I think I heard somewhere that she was grateful to him, not for stealing her work, but for forcing her to get into a habit of writing. Are habits and shoulds cousins in the brain.

End of day

I've weeded the round garden, moved strawberries to it's outer circle, walked and done laundry. Not a bad day.

One "shouldn't" that I'm good with… you shouldn't prune an espalier any later than mid-September, as it will cause a growth spurt. So the espaliered apple trees with a few wild branches that look like they should be pruned shouldn't. It will just have to wait until January or Spring. Actually that applies to any pruning in this climate. Isn't it great to have a shouldn't.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Injury update

Yesterday the stitches came out of my forehead. 

But first, flash back a week ago Monday: the crash and gash. Basically I looked and felt fine. The gash was hiding nicely under my bangs. But by Thursday morning when I looked in the mirror my eyelids and the space next to the bridge of my nose was a vibrant shade of Alizarin Crimsom. There was an interesting fine red line circling the bag under my left eye. This was a little brighter, cadmium red deep. By Saturday my right eye also had a red line defining the bag on that side. Each day the colors work their way down to pool under my eyes. Will they keep going and land at my chin?

I'm getting some lovely colors going here. To give you an idea of some of the colors on my face see below.

Left to right from upper left:  
D102 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Alizarin Crimson,   
D110 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Cadmium Red Deep,   
D180 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Thioindigo Violet,   
D1522 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Magenta Quinacridone,   
D1351 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Dioxazine Purple,   
D137 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Dark Goethite,   
D1371 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Goethite Genuine,   
D154 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Mummy,   
D127 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Cinnabar Green Medium,   
H275 - Holbein Artists' Oil Color, Terre Verte,   
GA1100 - Gamblin Artists' Oil Color, Cadmium Green,   
D133 - Da Vinci Artists' Oil Color, Cobalt Teal,  

Okay, I don't really expect to turn Cobalt teal, but I really like the color.

I had a little tube of cover-up make-up. I had it in my hand. It has disappeared without it's contents ever touching my face. Yesterday after I had the stitches out I stopped at Meijers for groceries. I also selected a tiny bottle of concealer. It was the last thing on the check-out. It's not on my receipt and it's no where to be found. Hmmm, do the gods of color want me exposed?

Here's another mystery to me. That spot on my belly, that was just a little red dot last Monday, is now a dioxazine purple area 3 inches around. How come the wound on my forehead is falling down my face, but the wound on my stomach is staying put and just growing.

My doctor asked how the dishwasher was. His wife lost her balance and landed on their open dishwasher.  It got unhinged and they had to buy a new one. Ours is fine. It broke me. I didn't break it. 

The color swatches above are from Cheap Joes on line catalog (with their permission) It's a great place to buy art supplies. Click on any link to get their site or click here: I've included the color numbers for the artists among you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Things NOT to do to Avoid Painting

Or how I didn't feel like painting and broke my head instead.

Some days are like this, gloomy, too quiet. Funky. I spent a few minutes in the studio. Stared at everything and walked out. Went down the basement spent about 5 minutes watching my wonderful new Daniella Woolf DVD, "Encaustic with a Textile Sensibility". I had watched the whole thing a couple days ago, but somehow was too restless to watch more than a couple minutes again. Came back upstairs, looked in the refrigerator. Turned on the living room tv. Turned off the tv. Looked in the refrigerator again. Went back upstairs to the studio. Felt the paint brushes. Left the studio. Poured a cup of coffee. Opened the dish washer. Put a dirty bowl in. Wiped the counter. Grabbed a wood tray to put back in it's place. Fell over the opened dishwasher door.

Ahhh, that last item… That's what you really shouldn't do to avoid painting. The wood tray hit the floor and evidently my head hit the edge of the tray. There was blood, blood flying out of my head. I managed to extract myself from the dishwasher door and went into the bathroom. I looked like a cheesy horror movie…my face totally red with blood. I rinsed my face and went to the kitchen for a clean cloth and pressed it into my head hole. Found my phone. Called John.  

Twenty minutes later he arrived and took me to the hospital for stitches. Four hours, 3 inter-stitches, 8 outer stitches, a cat scan of my head (no internal bleeding), an X-ray  of my right hand (no broken bones), and insurance forms signed later, we headed back home.

I'm fine, a few bruises here and there, and an ugly forehead. By the way, if you're going to try this yourself, it's a good idea to wear bangs.

Reminiscent of Hitchcock films, I'm including a picture, blood looks better in black and white. 

I was renaming myself Jill (of Jack and Jill fame), however Jack was the one who broke his crown. So go ahead, call me Jack.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Work of Art

Did you see "Work of Art, the Next Great Artist" on Bravo last spring? I liked the show, it was fun and I did learn a thing or two. There are fourteen artists at the start. Each week has a different competition and one player is eliminated. The winner at the end gets a show at the Brooklyn Museum. 

So spur of the moment, this week John took me to Chicago for the casting call for the next seasons show. It was fun. At 9:00 on Wednesday morning I got in line. I was number 311, I think a hundred people were behind me in a line going around the building. I was surrounded by some very nice people. Moora from Pennsylvania, Johnny from Milwaukee, Jay from Chicago with his girl friend Megan. Everyone liked the show except for the "shock" episode…is sex and nudity really still shocking?

Johnny, me and Jay. Moora took the picture with my phone

I was up for being the token old person, however judging by the line there would be some competition for that spot. But mostly I think people were in their 20's to mid 30's. Ok, so half my age. 

Three hours of standing… and then, but wait, I can't tell you about the judging process or I could be fined $100,000 or was it $1,000,000.

But, anyway, back to what I can tell, after I was finished at 1:15 John and I had lunch. We checked out  the Contemporary addition at Art Institute of Chicago. We roamed all the gorgeous public gardens, and ate dinner in Millennium Park under an umbrella. It rained but we stayed dry.

We were back at the hotel when my cell phone rang about 6:00. It was someone from "Work of Art" telling me they wanted me for a call-back and I should come back the next day. I was really shocked. I danced around the room on my ever so tired and achey feet saying, "oh, my god, oh, my god."

So Thursday I was back in another line (a short one). The artists came from all over. I met three from Atlanta, one from Wichitaw, one from Omaha, one from Toledo, one from Detroit. There were a couple very interestingly attired young women, performance artists.

As I was sitting there, I was wondering how I would possibly compete, or keep up with these talented artists if I did make it on the show.  I was still tired from the day before. The last woman I met was Sarah. She's pretty, charming, with an education from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Michigan and Cranbrook Institute of Art. I hope she makes it all the way. Me. I'm back home, very pleased to have had this experience, AND really relieved the I didn't make it.

One other thing, I have the greatest husband. Not only was he happy to drive me to Chicago, he did an awful lot of running to the Fed-Ex store to zerox. First my entry form, then to zerox pages from my "Images" book, then back to the zerox store to get the book that we had left in the machine. I love you, John.

If you're interested there's a casting call at the Brooklyn Museum in New York Saturday the 25th. You don't have to sign up ahead of time, just hop a bus, train, plane or car (like we did), and show up.  Go to and print and fill out the 23 page form to take with you.

Now onward. I think I'll take up painting again.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hey, Guess What!

Okay, so here's the story. "Detroit 1-8-7" is a new show on ABC. It takes place in, AND is being filmed in, you guessed it, Detroit.

A couple days ago designers from the show went to Ariana Gallery and choose several pieces of art (paintings and sculptures) to use on the set. They're using a house in Grosse Pointe and felt it needed some brightening up. My painting "Overboard" (shown above) was one of the ones they picked. Yesterday I went to Ariana Gallery and signed a release form. I hate to sound star struck, but this is very exciting.

They're only using the painting for two days before returning it to the gallery. What impresses me about that is how organized they must tightly scheduled and timed everything is. There's a possibility the painting won't be used, or may be seen for just a fleeting moment. But still. It's cool.

There's a lot of filming going on around here these days. Ann Kuffler, owner of Ariana Gallery, told me that there are 11 films currently being made in the area, and there have been several occasions when production people have come into her gallery for art.

So, check out "Detroit 1-8-7". It's on ABC and premieres Tuesday, September 21st at 10:00 pm EST. I'm told "1-8-7" means homicide in police talk. Michael Imperioli (Christopher from the Sopranos) is one of the stars. If it's good, maybe it will have a long run and help our economy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


 "Black Lake" is an older painting that, I think, has the feel of a sunrise or sunset.

One morning before 7:00 I was driving east down the expressway. Forecasts predicted rain and thunderstorms that hadn't happened. Ahead of me a wedge of the dreary gray, cloudy sky broke open and unveiled a glowing pink. Then edges of the clouds around the pink became fiery gold. It literally took my breath away. 

My first thought was to wish for my camera. Capture it. Keep it forever. Savor it. Share it with others.

We've all gotten emails of breathtaking photography. The photographer was there at that precise moment of beauty. Snap. Captured. When we see those images on our computer monitors we whisper, "wow".

But as painters in 2010, I think we need to do more than capture the perfect sunrise or the beautiful flower. The goal should not be to repeat natures perfection. Could that be considered plagiarizing nature? But rather we should create something new. Something not seen or known before. Something we can "wow" ourselves with.

PS. keep in mind that tomorrow I may paint a hydrangea. In art the rules (especially mine) are meant to be broken.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Something has happened to my garden. I don't know whether it's some kind of blight, heat, neglect because of the heat, or just the Dog Days of August.

It's looking really bad.

We're having a lovely cooler morning, so I spent a couple hours cutting out sick leaves, and completely eliminated some cucumbers that want to rule the world.

As I was cleaning up the garden I was thinking about painting. Painting and gardening have this in common; it's important to know what to weed. Is there a cucumber in my art that wants to dominate? Should I let it? What if it's a round yellow cucumber. Interesting to look at. Sweet. How much room should it get?

Final thought: gardening, painting and writing are all enriched by thoughtful editing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Primary Colors

A few weeks ago Treena Flannery Ericson called, and with many apologies for asking, asked if I would donate a painting for a fund raising auction. It seemed like the perfect way to nudge myself back into painting. I adore Treena.  She's the gallery director at the Scarab Club in Detroit, and the Scarab Club has been good to me. The first juried show I was ever in was at the Scarab Club in the early 70's. 

The Scarab Club was founded in 1907 by a group of artists and art lovers. The main gallery is a bright, big space. Perfect for enhancing art.

The fund raiser is called Primary Colors and they wanted art that was confined to the basic primaries, plus black and white. After some messing around with acrylics, and I do mean messing, I decided to do a tryptic in encaustic. 

It's been 85 to 90 degrees here and humid as hell. I'm naturally assuming hell is humid. So I get out my blow torch, electric griddle, and electric frying pan. I figured I was already very hot, so a few more degrees wouldn't kill me. It didn't. In fact, encaustic is a great medium to do in the heat. If your sweaty brow drips on the art it just evaporates. Picture what can happen to a watercolor.

So I'm painting… fusing layers and layers of pigmented wax and damar varnish. Carving into the layers and fusing some more. 

Thank you, Treena.

If you are unfamiliar with encaustic, I'll tell more in a future blog.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Little Houses

When I was a little girl my mother sat with me at the kitchen table and taught me how to draw. It was nice, mostly being with my mother. But the thing that drew me the most was building houses. My first homes: a refrigerator box (nice and cozy); blankets hung from the clothesline (a little too roughing-it for my taste, even at 7); blankets over a table in my great-grandmothers flat. 

After mom divorced, she and I moved into my aunt Katie's house and shared the attic bedroom. My houses became much more sophisticated. Kim, my best friend, and I would walk up to the paint store and collect old wallpaper books. We got cardboard boxes from behind the grocery store and knives from the kitchen. Then we'd cut little windows and doors in the boxes, put in cardboard partitions and wallpaper the rooms. 

Then in the fifth grade my art teacher, Miss Schwitzer, taught us perspective. PERSPECTIVE! Wow. You can draw the inside of rooms with perspective! So on to the next phase, drawing my little houses and making floor plans. Bliss. I favored the cozy, efficient, no waste of space houses. This continued all though high school and beyond.

Ok, so that's some history.

My architect husband and I  now live in a four bedroom colonial house. As I get older this house gets bigger and bigger. More work. Too much stuff. 

A couple days ago I found a PBS video that I've played over and over. It's all about the small house movement.

This video brings me back to a very appealing place that I used to live in in my head. Small (not my head). Cozy. And I owned nothing more than what I really needed. 

The Doll House. The grandkids like it. John hates it. You can't please everyone.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Studio Cleaning 101

Maybe the first thing to do to get back into painting, or making any art, is to clean up the studio. My space had become a place that I didn't even want to be in, let alone make art in. I didn't even like looking in the open door. Why have I saved every yogurt container, every jar. Certainly some will be handy…but 50? 

I've been reading, "Scaling Down, Living Large in a smaller space"  by Judi Culbertson and Marj Decker for a few years now. It's my bathroom book. Does everyone have one of those? Anyway, my digestion must be pretty good, because the book has been there forever.  They suggest (we've all heard this before) making separate piles. Trash. Recycling. Keep. 

It hasn't been that hard, except for the bad paintings.  Usually you can paint over a painting that you no longer like. However, if I got run over by a truck tomorrow, would my family know which paintings I was planning on recycling into new and better art? I saw a Degas exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts a few years ago, and I'm sure some of the sketches were never intended for the public.

So here's the plan.
1. Put all of those art tragedies together in a pile or box that says "not for public consumption," or "trash," some indicator that you don't ever want these shown. Will your family toss them? Or think they're precious? Hmmm, what if they toss the really good ones?  
2. The next step is to gesso up the watermedia pieces, melt down the encaustics, paint over the oils. 
3.  Really icky paintings…remove the canvas from the stretchers and toss the bad work.

I spent some time squeezing closed tubes, shaking bottles of liquid acrylics on the hunt for hard, dried up old paint to toss.

So am I ready to paint. Maybe, but first I have a whole bunch of cucumbers to pick.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Website is Up and Running!

Well, my website is finally done. Nine months. I could have had a baby. It's been like learning a foreign language, good, I suppose, for my brain. The last couple months I've been compulsive about it. Dreaming in code, yet still not completely understanding it. Doing minimal cleaning, cooking. No painting. Some gardening (a great tension reliever). Comments to myself during this process have been,"huh?", "oh, wow," but most often the big "f" bomb. I swore a lot more when I was doing graphic design years ago, now I remember why. The site has a couple small gliches that I'll be fixing.

Now maybe I'll think about paint again. This morning I cleaned my studio. Could be a sign...

Here's the address of my website:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Steamy art?

Does drawing in the steam on the shower door count as art? Drawing with one finger? Four fingers? Backing into the door and adding a butt print? I don't think so. It's not like Andy Goldsworthy's ephemeral leaves floating down a river, then being absorbed back into nature slowly over time. Steam art is squeegeed. 

But wait, art shouldn't be judged on how it's destroyed, but rather on how and why it's created. So if you carefully pinned golden leaves together with pine needles and float them down a river, there is intention there, an intention of taking something natural and enhancing it. Are fingerprints in steam and enhancement? 

But all art doesn't enhance. Some art, like subway graffiti, isn't intended to enhance but rather to make a statement.

Okay, so now my brain is hurting. I think I'll go pull some weeds...intentionally. Enhance the yard.

Here's a link to Andy Goldsworthy's web site:

Here's the salad table John made me for my birthday last year. That's an espalier apple tree behind the table. 

Progress in the round vegetable garden. Why is that cabbage drooping?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Purple cabbages

Years ago I was given a beautiful book by Louisa Jones titled, "The Art of the French Vegetable Garden". A vegetable garden can be more than simple rows of vegetables. Why not create a feast for the eyes as well as the belly? So, today, my art making will be planting purple cabbages and yellow peppers in a pleasing arrangement in my round garden. The picture shown is the garden last spring.