Just Do, Don’t Think.

I cleaned up my drawing table and have a stack of cut-up Panera boxes from a work lunch a while back. (I hate the amount of garbage and waste one lunch can produce.) I’ve decided to assign some parameter or limit to what I’ll create on them. The parameter is there has to be a man and a woman. That’s all. Not having some parameter before is why this stack of blank cardboard has been sitting here so long.

So, make and move on. And don’t think.

This is called “Women Point the Way to the Future.” (Funny how sometimes it’s very clear what the title is. This title was just there in my head when I finished. Most of my pieces have no titles unless I force one onto them.)

Getting Political

I would say that I’m about the most non-political person around. I really don’t like spending time on the news and I hate politics and greedy, power-hungry people. But it’s hard to ignore politics these days. My fear and outrage are strong enough that I thought I should do something through art. I didn’t really know what to do, so I just started with an image of a certain public figure that’s been in the news a lot.

Rules that limit – in a bad way

I picked up a book off the “new” shelf at the library: Color Lab for Mixed-Media Artists by Deborah Forman. I am only a few pages into it, but I’ve already been inspired to get out my pastels and play a bit.

Paging through the beginning of the book, I came to the inevitable section on “materials.” This section always bothers me —a list of “must haves” that determines whether you will succeed or not in this how-to venture. And it has always felt to me like the art materials industry has a hand in every list, because the number of materials would require a small bank loan to afford them all. But in fact, this materials section had in it something that did the opposite for me: Forman assures the reader that it’s okay to use any medium because ultramarine blue will be ultramarine blue whether it’s in gouache, oil or pastels.


I have had this box of pastels for years, and there is barely any sign that they’ve been removed from their soft foam packaging. Until I read Forman’s notes on materials to use, I didn’t even recognize that I’ve had a block about this medium for all this time. In my head I have had cautions and fears about using pastels. “With pastels, you have to have the right paper.” “Don’t use pastels unless you have fixative on hand.” “You need special instruction on using pastels.” Some of this I know came from books I’ve read, and the rest I’m not really sure.

At last, I have realized I can use pastels if I want to. I don’t have to follow any preset rules. Why did I think I did in the first place?

We are all picking up rules as we move through life. You have a bad experience, you make it into a rule for how not to have that experience again. But do you know what your rules are? Until now, I was unaware that my pastel rules were limiting me.


What rules do you have? What medium have you avoided because you were afraid of using it wrong? What other rules are you living by that are preventing you from exploring and playing?



What to ask


I’m sure I’ve mentioned lynda.com before. It is my favorite site for learning software, but it has even more. I just finished a course called Foundations of Color taught by Mary Jane Begin. I took a course in Color & Design in college, and I remember we had a lot of assignments and I enjoyed them, but beyond learning that some colors “vibrate” when put next to each other, and that context can change a color dramatically, I have just discovered through this course that I really didn’t learn what I needed to learn.

I wonder if this is because I was not a good student, or if the class wasn’t effective in conveying the point of all the assignments we did. Either way, I have been using color in my artwork for all these years, choosing them by what seemed like a good idea to me, but with no better understanding of why.

This came to light when I was doing the color week of the Coursera class on Graphic Design. I found that I was choosing color pretty much at random —only knowing that certain colors did not look good together— and I was unclear as to what the point was. I didn’t even know what to ask.

After taking the Foundations of Color course, I realize how much there is to learn about color. In fact, I’m going to have to re-watch several of the lessons because I know I am still not grasping it completely. But at least I now know what questions to ask. And that is a very good feeling!

Vacation time

It was a short vacation, but pleasant. I went to San Diego for the first time, and I stumbled upon the Mengei Museum. I chose that over the Museum of Modern Art, which I’d have gone to as well, if I’d had time.

I was thrilled to find something by James Castle. (For those of you in Bloomington, IN, check out James Castle: Portrait of an Artist (video) which is available at the Monroe County Public Library (Adult Audiovisual 709.2 Castle Jam).


And I got what I’d hoped for when I chose the Mengei: that is, to see something I would not otherwise seek out on my own. There was an exhibit on black dolls, which was an interesting view on both history and creativity.


One thing leads to another

I enjoyed playing with the various color and shape combinations, so I made two more pieces to go along with the first. I now have a triptych. I think they might look nice framed and hung together. I’m also thinking maybe one even bigger –say, 4 times the size– would be cool.

What has been fun about these is that my t-shirt printing has had an influence on them. That is, I’m discovering the value in letting the colors mix and to work a little more loosely than I used to.


Shirt designs, cont’d

My shirt stamping process is more streamlined now that I’m doing more. The problem is that I’m working with only one palette and two rollers at the moment. That’s a lot of cleaning to do between colors.

I’m learning that the best way to approach it is to start with one color and mix and modify as I go –that is, if I’m starting with pink, I can pretty easily had a little yellow and get a nice orange. Today I had a purple which needed white in order for it to show on the black fabric. From there I added even more white, then green. Not bad!

It also helps if I do more than one shirt at a time. Today I did three shirts. The last one I did only because I didn’t want to waste the ink.

Stamping shirts has an advantage in that the design can extend beyond the traditional rectangle of the silkscreen. I really enjoy playing with that.

Here are three of the shirts, front and back. (You can’t say you’ve seen one unless you’ve seen the back, too!)

Shirt2_back Shirt3_front Shirt3_back Shirt1_front shirt1_back

T Shirts for Sale

Years ago, I made a couple of designs for shirts, had them professionally silkscreened and then I hand-colored each one of them. They were pretty nice, I think. However, I didn’t end up selling them like I’d hoped to, that is, in some local shops. Perhaps I was asking too much for a t-shirt at the time. I think I was charging $20 each — yes, for a hand-colored shirt.

Since then I have seen shirts going for $30 and $40. Short-sleeved shirts. Not hand-printed. Not colored individually.

I thought I’d try this again. I mean, I love doing it. Let’s see if I can sell a few. After all, this is the day of social media, blogs, whatnot. These were not available to me that first time around.

So, my first shirt is going to my daughter who is graduating tonight from her school of nine years. I thought she might like to have her friends sign it as a keepsake. I grabbed a plain white shirt I’d had stored away for just such an occasion:


And here is my second shirt, which I had the idea for while making the first shirt:


I also had this gray shirt in storage, waiting for the optimal occasion. What I actually want to do is to sell !00% organic cotton shirts, and these two are not that. I have already ordered a few organic cotton shirts to work on, but of course they are more expensive than these $2 and $3 shirts. Still, I like to do what I can to support only the best and most sustainable land practices.

How did I make these? I hand-carved stamps and used a brayer with Speedball fabric and paper ink. So no hand coloring for me this time. However, each of the stamps you see were hand-carved. Mostly by me. (The heart/key stamp on the first shirt was carved by my daughter who gave me the stamp for Christmas.)

Oh, and I carved this logo stamp this morning, so it’s on the gray shirt, but not on the white.


What do you think? Know anyone who would buy something like this? Should I pursue?

Are We Alone in the Universe?

I was just catching up on Studio 360’s Science and Creativity podcasts on Friday. In one, they talked about a new book called The Where, The Why, and the How, where scientists and artists were paired up to answer (with an explanation and an illustration) scientific questions. They asked for illustrations from their listeners answering “Are We Alone in the Universe?” and it is due today. I had an idea right away of what I wanted to illustrate and got to work. I just submitted it. Here it is:


I’d planned to use magazines and other found photos and make a collage, but it turned out that doing it all myself looked better. It was fun to do!

Next up: creating pattern submissions for the Lotus project.