Oct 12

Open Studios 2012

It’s finally here! Boulder’s Open Studios Tour begins Friday evening with a reception at the Boulder Public Library from 6-8 pm. Artists’ studios will be open on October 6, 7, 13 and 14 from noon until 6 pm. I hope you will join me in my studio at 5236 Gallatin Place, Boulder, CO 80303. (Studio #114 on the Open Studios map.) I will have many original watercolors available for sale, including a good selection of smaller, more affordable paintings. Cook books, giclée prints, and cards will be available and I will also have a 2013 calendar available for purchase.. Please tell your friends to visit, too!

I will be doing painting demonstrations from 2-3 on Saturday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 13.

Perhaps this will be your first time to visit studios during the Open Studios tour. If so, here’s how it works. Visit the exhibit at the library (there’s one piece from each participating artist) or purchase the Open Studios map (visit the Open Studios website at http://www.openstudios.org/ to see where you can buy it), and choose some artists that you would like to visit. Then look for the yellow Open Studios signs to help you locate the studios, and walk right in! There’s no cost (unless you purchase the map), and no obligation to buy anything, although the artists hope that you will fall in love with something and want to buy it!

I hope to see you soon—

Aug 12

Katrina: Almost Seven Years Later

Over the almost seven years since Hurricane Katrina came ashore, I’ve read quite a few books about the experience. Some have been non-fiction; some have explored the event through fiction. (Non-fiction: The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley; Nine Lives by Dan Baum; Why New Orleans Matters by Tom Piazza. Fiction: City of Refuge by Tom Piazza; Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran; The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke.) All have added to my understanding of the event and of New Orleans, as did the experience of spending a week in New Orleans helping with rebuilding efforts. I’ve recently added two more titles to this list: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (non-fiction) and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (fiction).

Salvage the Bones, a National Book Award winner, is the only book I’ve read about Katrina set outside of New Orleans. It takes place in rural Mississippi, and begins twelve days before Katrina makes landfall. The protagonist, Esch, is fifteen, motherless, poor, pregnant, has an alcoholic father, and several brothers, including one who raises pit bulls for dog fights. (She’s also fascinated by Greek mythology.) Could things get any worse? Why, yes, yes it could. A major hurricane could take direct aim at her home. I can’t say that I enjoyed reading this book–in fact, I found it quite difficult to read, but I couldn’t put it down. It was difficult to read because of the dog fights and several other vividly described gory incidents; however, the writing and the plot were compelling.

In addition to the violence and gore in this book, I felt that there was a disconnect between the language used in direct dialog (non-standard grammar and dialect) by Esch and her internal narrative, which was grammatically correct, literary, and filled with metaphor. I think our spoken words and the words in our heads are much more similar than this.

Zeitoun, set in New Orleans, was also a disturbing book. It recounts the story of Zeitoun, a Syrian American, who was living in New Orleans with his wife and children and owned a painting and contracting business as well as some rental properties. He sent his family to Baton Rouge, but he stayed in New Orleans to keep an eye on their property and business. After the storm, he paddled around the area in his canoe, helping to rescue people and feeding dogs that had been left behind. And then…he’s arrested for something he didn’t do and is imprisoned for weeks and isn’t allowed to contact anyone. His family begins to believe that he is dead. Things continue to go wrong, with miscommunication and bureaucratic foul-ups compounded by racism, abuse of power, and frightened people who didn’t know what they were doing. This book was published in 2009, and things continue to go wrong for this family. Zeitoun was charged earlier this year in a domestic violence incident.

These are both hard books to read, but necessary. No one book can give a complete picture of the impact of Katrina–we need to hear many voices and many perspectives to record this devastating event.

Oct 10

Playing Catch-Up

A window at the Murten, Switzerland, police station, in an old castle.

Brushes: I seem to be getting worse, rather than better, at updating this blog.  I really don’t have a good excuse, just that life has been busy.  We had a wedding in the family this summer, then came Open Studios, and I’ve just returned from a trip to Switzerland to visit my daughter, who is there for a study abroad experience.  The sketch I’ve included is from my travel journal from the trip to Switzerland–I collected lots of new reference material and hope to start some landscape paintings soon.

Books: While traveling, I read Room, by Emma Donoghue. I’m struggling with how I should write about this book.  It has received a great deal of attention lately, as it was short-listed for the Booker Prize, but didn’t win. As a former librarian, my impulse is to give you just enough information about the plot, characters, and setting to whet your appetite and make you want to read this book.  However, this is a book that, ideally, should be wrapped in a plain cover and handed directly to a reader.  The reader should be told, “Read this, and then let’s talk about it.”  The less you know about this book when you begin to read, the  stronger the impact it will have on you.  Because I think it will probably appear on many  “Best of 2010” lists, the opportunity to read it without having heard too much about it is shrinking fast.   So I’ll just say this:  Room is about the bond between parent and child, reality, and isolation, and it will stay with you long after you read it.  There are sections so gripping that you will not want to put it down, and sections that are so intense that you MUST put it down.  Given the setting and the  situation, it could have been sensationalistic, but it isn’t.  Do try to read it before someone else tells you too much.

May 10

Ancient and New


I’m currently exhibiting my work at the East Boulder Rec Center.  My watercolors will be on display along the ramp behind the reception desk through the end of May.

I will also be taking part in a group show this weekend, May 22 and 23.  The event is both a luxury home open house and a fine art exhibit and sale.  The location is 6721 Niwot Hills Drive, Niwot, Colorado.  The home will be open 10-6 on Saturday and 10-4 on Sunday.  Artists taking part include Quang Ho, Scott Fraser, Daniel Sprick, and many others.  I hope you can stop by!

Brushes:  Last year about this time, my daughter and I visited Mesa Verde.  My previous visits to the park had been in the summer; it was wonderful to be able to enjoy the park with smaller crowds.  We had a few of the sites all to ourselves!  The park felt much more mysterious and ancient without huge crowds everywhere.  Unfortunately, some areas of the park aren’t open until after Memorial Day, so there are tradeoffs.

Lost City

Lost City

Lost City was painted about a month ago.  The colors and the rock textures were fun!

Books: In contrast to the ancient world of Mesa Verde, I have some new technology in my life.  I recently got a Kindle–and I love it!  I find the screen to be very readable and that it reduces strain on my middle-aged eyes.  As a result, I’ve been spending more time reading.

I recently finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and I highly recommend it.  This is the true story of a woman whose cells were taken without her knowledge; the cells became the first ‘immortal’ cell line (HeLa).  As interesting as the scientific information is, even more interesting is the story of how the author got to know the family and her quest to learn the facts about Henrietta’s life.

Feb 10

Too Much Travel?

Another Invitation:  I have a painting in the Colorado Watercolor Society’s 19th Annual Watermedia show that opens next week at the Colorado History Museum in Denver.  I hope you’ll join me at the opening reception, Friday Evening, March 5th, from 5:00 – 8:00pm.  If you can’t attend the reception, the show runs from March 5 through March 14.

Bass Head Light

Bass Head Light

Brushes: This week’s painting, Bass Head Light, is a studio piece inspired by our trip to Maine last September.  We watched the sunset here, and I knew that the moment would become a painting someday.  However, I’ve been traveling a lot, and not finding as much time to paint as I would like.  My travels inspire me, but I think they also hold me back.  Painting every day is, I think, the key to growth.

That said, I’m home for five days between trips.  Last week we were in Florida for the launch of the SDO satellite.  (Tom is the principal investigator of the EVE instrument.)  The launch was exciting, and seeing the last night shuttle launch was a bonus.  Despite some of the coldest weather Florida has had in years, I added to my vast collection of “must-paint” photo references!  Some highlights were a boat tour of Winter Park, a visit to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum (primarily works by Tiffany), several visits to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Blue Springs State Park, where we saw more than 200 manatees.  Stay tuned for some Florida paintings!

Books: I’m always eager to read engaging non-fiction and recently picked up a copy of Gabriel Thompson’s Working in the Shadows: A Year Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do.  I was initially drawn to it because it sounded similar to Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed.  While there are some similarities, Working in the Shadows isn’t a clone.  Thompson spent  a year working in jobs that are primarily done by immigrants–picking lettuce, working in a poultry packing plant, and delivering restaurant food in New York City.  Let’s just say that I’ll never look at my salad greens in the same way again, and I’m glad I gave up eating poultry several years ago!  And I have a new appreciation for my job and working conditions!

Jan 10

An Invitation

Brushes: Although I haven’t posted recently (so much for my resolution!), I have been painting. I’m currently exhibiting my watercolors at the Millennium Harvest House Hotel (1345 28th Street in Boulder) through the end of March.  Colleen Hoerner (pastels) and Ann Marie Murthy (photography) also have work on display.  Please join me for the opening reception on Friday, January 22, 2010, from 6-8 pm.

A Chair With A View

A Chair With A View

A Chair With A View invites you to sit and take a look around you.  I happened upon this isolated and inviting scene when I took a hike in the Indian Point Blagden Nature Preserve when we visited Maine last September.  I spent several quiet hours hiking and sketching, and I only saw one other hiker and a group of sea kayakers.  This lovely area is a part of Mt. Desert Island that most tourists miss.

Books: I recently finished the latest installment in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, An Echo in the Bone.  As always, it was a great escape from real life.  If you aren’t familiar with the series, Ms. Gabaldon has written a series of well researched books that are somewhat difficult to categorize.  Book stores usually end up shelving them in the Romance section, which I found so off-putting that I refused to read these books for years.  They are wonderful, well researched historical fiction, but they could also be categorized as science fiction–time travel is involved, and that is what first drew me in.  The premise for the  series is that a woman from the 20th century (just after WWII) travels through time back to 18th century Scotland, meets the love of her life, and takes part in the critical events taking place in Scotland and America.  These are long books (the audio book was almost 46 hours!), but I’m always sad when I finish one, knowing that it will be some time before another book in the series is published and I can again spend time with Claire and Jamie.

Dec 09

Colorful Cubism

Brushes:  Here’s a painting that was just fun to do–Colorful Cubism.  I found these great plastic boxes at The Container Store and immediately knew that painting them would brighten up a dark December day.  I hope these bright colors will brighten your day, too!

Colorful Cubism

Colorful Cubism

Books:  I re-read Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose for our couples’ book group group.  I first read Angle of Repose at least 15 years ago, and although I liked it then, I found that my understanding of this book has improved with age.  We had a great discussion with the other couples in our group, but we never  reached a consensus about what Stegner believed about the angle of repose in a marriage.  I would highly recommend this as a book for book groups–there are so many topics for discussion.  In addition to marriage, another one of the most intriguing is whether or not Stegner’s use of Mary Foote’s correspondence constitutes plagarism.

My favorite of Stegner’s books is still Crossing to Safety, but Angle of Repose is moving up the list!

Nov 09

Abundance During Thanksgiving Week

Sweet and Sour

Sweet and Sour

Brushes: Thanksgiving week is a great time to reflect on our blessings.  A few of the many things for which I’m thanking God this week are a loving and supportive family, great friends, health, a beautiful world, and time to create art.  This week’s paintings–a trilogy called Complements–pays tribute to the beauty in the small things around us as well as the abundant gifts we receive from God.

The Grannies

The Grannies

Oh, My Darling!

Oh, My Darling!

Books: I recently finished listening to The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, and I have mixed feelings about the book.  It was a selection for one of my book groups; the  discussion was a lively one and most of the group loved the story.  Very briefly, it’s the story of a man, Denny, currently working as a mechanic, who would like to be a race car driver.  He has a wife, a young daughter, and a dog–and the dog narrates the story.  The wife develops brain cancer and dies.  Her parents decide to try to gain custody of their granddaughter and find a way to get Denny accused of sexual contact with his wife’s teenaged cousin.  The story was compelling, but the use of the dog as the narrator created some problems.  The dog was, of course, unable to be an eyewitness to critical portions of the story, such as the courtroom scenes.  And not enough of the history of Denny, his wife, and her parents was included to make the actions of the her parents believable.  I also felt that the philosophical lessons/extended metaphor of how to live life according to the principles of good race car driving were a bit heavy-handed.  I get it already: the car goes where your eyes go and it isn’t all about going as fast as you can.

Overall, this was a decent novel with some major flaws…and it made me cry my eyes out.  Not recommended while driving.

Nov 09

How Long Does It Take to Make a Painting?

White on White

White on White

Brushes: More than once during Open Studios, someone asked me how long it took to paint a particular painting.  While I probably should have been prepared to answer that question, I wasn’t.  I usually fumbled around a bit and tried to change the subject because I felt uncomfortable giving an exact number.  I think the reason was that I was getting hung up on the word ‘paint.’  I could fairly easily log the hours I spend with paintbrush in hand, but that would vastly underestimate the time the goes into making a painting.  So much time goes into the preparatory steps.  For example, with a still life, I’ll consider possible elements for days or weeks before ever setting anything up.  Sometimes I know exactly what I want to include, but don’t own it, so I go out hunting.  When all the possible objects have been assembled, I wait for a bright, sunny day without much wind so that I can set up my still life outdoors.  Then the photography session begins.  I move objects around, change perspectives, add and subtract elements, change the focal length, and take countless digital pictures.  Those get loaded onto my computer and I spend even more time cropping and messing around with contrast and color.  I print out several references and make a detailed drawing, and THEN I finally get to pick up a paintbrush.  And even when I’m not painting, the painting is always occupying part of my mind, and I’m working through the issues that I anticipate will crop up in the next painting session.  Once the painting is done, it needs to be photographed, taken to the printer, matted, and framed.

I’ve decided there really isn’t a short answer to the question, “How long did it take you to paint that?” I’ll just post this week’s painting, White on White, and you can try to guess.

Books: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.  I probably would never have discovered this book on my own, but it was a book group pick, and I loved it! It is a quick, but rather deep read.  There’s nothing extraneous in this book, which adds to the overall Japanese tone.  Very briefly, it is about a professor of mathematics who has an accident that leaves him with a memory impairment–he can only hold new information in his short term memory for 80 minutes.  A housekeeper comes to work for him, and this book is about the relationship that forms between them and between the professor and the housekeeper’s son.  More than anything else, though, the book is about the beauty of mathematics and numbers and how the professor continues to relate to the world and other people through his love for numbers.  A beautiful story, beautifully crafted.

Oct 09

Changing Seasons

Apricot Triplets

Apricot Triplets

Brushes: Apricot Triplets.  Three gorgeous apricot roses.  These were fun to paint, with all their curled petals and all the variations in color.  In a week where we’ve had light snow twice and then 20″ of heavy, wet snow, and I’m feeling a sense of dread with the approach of winter, this painting reminds me that spring really isn’t that far away.

Books:  In one of those interesting twists of fate, the book that I was reading this past week while visiting my parents and my in-laws was Richard Russo’s That Old Cape Magic, a book that’s all about family and the competing desires to return to the best of our childhood while simultaneously distancing ourselves from our parents.  Russo is one of my favorite writers; I love his ability to tell a compelling story based on ordinary lives, his effortless command of the English language, and his inclusion of goofy slapstick scenes that make me laugh out loud.  As soon as I had read the last page, I turned back to the beginning to reread my favorite lines:

“That, he now realized, was how he’d been feeling two days ago when he’d packed that bag and headed to Boston alone—thirty flours up and half a bubble off.  Plumb the last time they checked, but no, suddenly, plumb some.” P.66

“The problem seemed to be that you could put a couple thousand miles between yourself and your parents, and make clear to them that in doing so you meant to reject their values, but how did you distance yourself from your own inheritance?” p. 70

“Attempting to corner her was like trying to put a cat in a bag; there was always an arm left over and, at the end of it, claws.” P. 77

“Late middle age, he was coming to understand, was a time of life when everything was predictable and yet somehow you failed to see any of it coming.” P. 248

“All your father’s pleasures are guilty,” his mother claimed, “and deserve to be.” P.11

And during the climactic comedic scene, which involves a wedding, an old man in a wheelchair, identical twins, and a thorny hedge, you’ll find my favorite line:

“Had the bush been burning, the whole thing would have been biblical.” P. 210.

Lucky me—I had another of Russo’s books in my ever-growing “to read next” pile, so I’m already halfway through Bridge of Sighs; that mitigates the feeling of loss that I had when I finished That Old Cape Magic!