Happy New Year to My Studio

This past year, I often told people, (without a lot of conviction), “I’m pretty much retired”. . .
. . . yet I was not always clear on what that actually signified. It didn’t feel so final in the traditional sense. I had opted out of the annual studio tour, but there was still so much unfinished business (like the large painting that had been on the wall that I couldn’t quite resolve, and was losing interest in…)

It’s not like I had been doing something every day for years, and then I got a gold watch and had to figure out what I wanted to do in the next chapter of my life… but still…

something definitely had to shift….
when you are not actively seeking shows, trying to add lines to a resume, or supply a gallery with your most recent work, and your presence as an artist in the world has become diminished….how is it that you define what you do?

I have certainly seen a shift in how I prioritize my time, during the last ten to fifteen years.
Being less driven to make a mark, and find a market- I began looking for ways to connect differently with my local community, mix it up with non-artists, doing non-art things.

Looking for ways to supplement our income, I worked part time as an admin person in a land trust office, and served on a committee that planned and produced fundraising events.
I spent 5 years working as a hospice volunteer, interacting with patients in a myriad of ways.
I began to volunteer in the local public schools, helping in the art room, and then was a reading buddy with several great kiddos just getting their academic feet under them.
Also, while I was encouraging literacy in 2nd graders, I began to volunteer at the local hospital.

Both the school and the hospital are a mile or less from our house, so walking back and forth was another built-in exercise bonus! The hospital slot morphed from information desk to being up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, doing various chores, and adding in a shift each week when I now cuddle babies.

Occasionally, I pop into local art shows, and perhaps consign some work to a silent auction for the local botanic garden, or the local art museum gift shop. But I wasn’t really plugged into either the art scene or my studio that much last year.
The large painting that I started a few years ago languished on the wall downstairs. I just wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t even drawing anymore, although felt in the recesses of my mind that at least it would be easy to jump back into that, at a minimum.

Lots of projects got done in the yard, and the house, some travel happened. All good things, mind you. And fixing up the home we will probably stay in for the duration felt like a good way to spend time and some money.

But I started to miss making the work. I didn’t just feel conflicted and somewhat guilty, but I missed the actual daily activity and rewards – the mix of mental and emotional challenge, the state of losing track of time while noodling around with color and form, instinct and memory.

After the year turned over, I now find my self downstairs regularly, listening to podcasts, printing and painting and drawing. Not every day/all day, but enough so that I am happier.

Now, there feels like a better balance between social activities, volunteering, and personal studio time. The motivation for staying engaged with my work comes from an internal place. One that can be nourished in different ways than in years past.

farther down that lane

well, since I’ve started this process of going through digital files of all my work, and trying to gain some control over them- all I can say is “holy moly!”

There are lots of duplicates of course, and images that appear in various places on my hard drive, but also some scanned images from slides taken sooooooo many years ago. (“Hey, I forgot I did that drawing!”) And I still have boxes of unscanned slides to deal with. As I uncover more treasures, I’ll upload them into the appropriate groups.

For you youngsters, slides are those cute little square things with a positive film image inside a nice 2×2″ cardboard frame. They are what we used to label, mask with silver mylar tape, and put in plastic sleeves with little pockets, then assemble with a printed resume, a large self-addressed envelope, and a cover letter, in order to make packets, which we then sent out in the mail to schools and galleries. I even had two metal file cabinets that sat on my desk to put all my slides for teaching and my studio work, in chronological order by subject….but those were sold years ago on Craigslist!

It just amazes me, at the risk of sounding older than I really am, how much technology has changed in the world of being a visual artist. In some ways, how much easier, and more efficient it is to manage all this now.

Now, when you need to duplicate an image, just click. When the color or lighting isn’t quite right, you open Photoshop and tinker. When you want to assemble a portfolio, just drag and drop. And it all gets sent via e-mail. No more trips to the post office, or getting slide dupes made, xeroxing letters and resumes, or spending so much on postage, etc. And all these changes happened during the course of my professional life.

The first year after grad school, when we were housesitting, we lived about 12 miles from a town of any size. I used a portable typewriter that was sort of electronic. It had a teeny screen where you could see a few words of type to correct if needed…..I think. But each letter or document was one of a kind, and I used plenty of correction tape.

We didn’t get our first computer until I was teaching in Williamsburg, VA in 1990- A Mac Classic – not that we had a way to print anything. No wonder I didn’t look forward to the annual job search!

30 years = Mind blown

memory lane of drawings

Ah… the pleasures of going through older work and reorganizing all the digital files of my drawings.

One of the memories that surfaced, along with the sorting, carries me back to living on 10 acres in the summer house of a former professor. I was just out of grad school. My daughter was not yet two, and our family raced (unsuccessfully) against a too-fast moving van carrying lots of our belongings out to this country road with a hand built house up on a hill.

behind Ben’s house

There was a studio for me to use there, which came in handy for storing things, and making some monotypes on the small press. But most of the time I was working outside- crouching by roadsides, sitting at various places around the property, and exploring the surrounding countryside.

I was able to focus on my work, apply for my first teaching jobs, get a taste of rural isolation, and write lots of letters. We heated with wood and read a lot and survived all the minor mishaps of toddlerhood. Mostly very good memories, and lots of drawings and paintings- some of which I still have.

Stay tuned for my updated blog that will have purchase now buttons to let folks add something to their walls

taking matters into my own hands…

Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to show and sell my work through various venues, both traditional and not so much. This often meant being flexible when something went away, or my own situation changed.

bunny says, “go for it!”

So when my brick and mortar gallery avenue began to disappear due to retirements or closings, I started exploring the on-line gallery idea. One nice aspect of this was my ability to be more in charge of my own inventory, set my own prices and make original work very affordable for people who might not be experienced collectors or have a big bank account.

There were sites that worked fairly well for me, and lots of work found homes this way. . . but things shifted again.

So- to remedy this situation, I am going to organize and rework the collections on this blog and add a payment button through Paypal!

There might also be a different look to the site, and I am figuring out things on the back end. But just wanted to let those of you following me (or just discovering me) what to look for in the near future. Here’s to collecting artworks direct from the artist!

Studio Tour 2018 – Wall of Smalls and Everything’s on Paper

Come visit me during the tour at STUDIO #37 – it’s FREE

Studio Tour Logo White

Saturday and Sunday  Sept.  29th  10-5. &  Sept. 30 12-5

For a  map and more information Here’s where you can find my studio

Everybody out of the drawers!  Featuring 30 years of works on paper!

In addition to recent drawings and lots of smaller affordable original oils, I’m featuring 30 years of works on paper.   Most of these were done without any thought to exhibiting them.  So… now I have quite a collection of works on paper and they would love to find homes!  At prices that will entice you. ($95 or less).    So this is your chance to 


  Here’s just a sampling…….






30 years ago….

painting of woodshed in winter
Painting outside in Eastern Washington in all kinds of weather

30 years ago, I left Iowa with an MFA in my pocket. My destination was a rural location in Eastern Washington to house sit for Ben Frank Moss, a former professor.  Essentially, in exchange for care-taking and getting the house ready for their return in the summer months, my family lived almost rent free for 10 months and I could paint to my heart’s content. It was a great gift.

Leaving behind the tumult, angst and intensity of 3 years of grad school (plus having a child in the middle of it) was a wonderful opportunity … a chance to catch my breath before starting on the yearly academic job hunting routine. It was a good year- very productive and I felt I could authentically respond to the landscape around me.

Recently, after reading a book about Swedish Death Cleaning (yes, apparently it’s a thing) I thought I’d go through some old journals. I also found an old folder of letters from friends and professors and faculty at other institutions from this period. Some of them date back to those tumultuous years in grad school, some came after when I began meeting colleagues around the country.

During my first year in the program, I couldn’t quiet my mind and settle down – and was feeling unmoored – but I was encouraged by a teacher I respected, not to give up.  I needed to get tougher, more ambitious and work harder and in 10-12 years I would be able to find my painterly voice. At the time, that seemed like such a long road ahead, but now looking back , it really was about 10 years, before I found a subject matter that really moved me, and that provided the motivation to dive deeper into the content.

There was a constant flow of visiting artists that came through the building. Thanks in large part to how connected the faculty was to their own studio work and the larger art world. Sometimes they reinforced what I was hearing from others, sometimes they were totally on their own trip, and had a hard time relating to what I was trying to manifest.

Elizabeth Murray encouraged us to have ambition for the work, not for it’s own sake

Howard Rogovin – “don’t be afraid to let the work evolve into something else” …it could encompass “beauty and loss, poetry and strength”

John Dunn, who was a former theology student – spoke of the urge to “see the vision” the compelling reason that we need to keep painting – and the four things at work in making a painting (or a life) : Habit – Will – Memory – Chance

I wanted air and light in my work. I was captivated by an atmosphere that was almost palpable but not at the expense of things literally dissolving away. I was encouraged to get contrast, clarity, or definite edge in the work- ie: things were often too gauzy or soft.

Selina Trieff –it’s all a matter of “back and forth-ing”

Studio Building at U of Iowa

Sometimes I felt that people were gradually chipping away at what I came with, which is another way to say that we were constantly being challenged- learning to trust our instincts as they were informed by growing skill and questioning.

I was a good 10 years older than many of my cohorts, and perhaps felt the added pressure of making up for lost time. My personal life was more settled in some ways, but my studio life was far less sure. I could not make visible what I thought I wanted every time, but at least I was becoming more aware of my own language and voice.

I fixed on this quote from Nicholson Baker in the Atlantic, “ If your life is like my life, there are within it short sections…when your mind achieves a polished and complicated coherence. Your opinions become neat and unruffled-able…you are firm, you think fast, you offer delicately phrased advice. Such intermissions of calm are very rare in any case. Most of the time we are in some middle phase of changing our minds about many, if not all, things. We have no choice. Changes of mind should be distinguished from decisions, for decisions seem to reside in the present, while changes of mind imply habits of thought, a slow crystallization of truth, a partially felt, dense past.”

Slowly, things did begin to crystalize for me. Every once in a while, I began to make the intangible become visible and my mind could fall into intermissions of calm.

Still chasing after those moments…

early drawing, graphite