Works in progress!

This digital collage is finally starting to come along, after several months of false starts and languishing neglected in my folder of unfinished pieces. I've included a bunch of Ernst Haeckel's radiolaria, but I'll probably end up obscuring them a bit more. I'm torn, because I love them, and they are in the public domain, but it's always weird just using someone else's work in your work. I guess that's one of the ongoing dilemmas of collage though...I think the key is in transforming the elements into something different/new/interesting, and I don't think these are there yet! 


I've been having fun with the Kick in the Creatives Mixed Media March challenge. Since mixed media is at least 50% of what I normally do, I've decided to make it more challenging by incorporating unusual materials. So far these have included gel food coloring, caulk, cotton swabs and balls, glitter, wax (melted candles and crayons), and a parrot feather (my parrot has an Instagram because I am a crazy bird lady! @pipaparrot). I'm also adding on a little piece each day to create one big work by the end of the month. There are also daily prompts that I've been following (Red, Wing, Creature, Dwelling, Edible, Soft, Mythical). 

Each segment is pretty small, like 3" x 4" at most. I did a piece like this (large piece composed of many small pieces) once before in art school, but my professor totally disliked it and said it looked like a study for something else. I never re-visited the idea, which is a shame because it's a lot of fun and interesting to see how it evolves over time! 

Book Design- Fall of Delta Green!

The big book design project that kept me busy all this past fall is finally available for pre-order! 

This project was a ton of fun to work on! It's a Lovecraftian horror role-playing game book set in the 1960s (think cosmic monsters + secret agents + the horrors of the Vietnam war and you'll get the gist of it), written by the prolific and impressive author and game designer Ken Hite. I created an entirely new layout for the project, as well as doing art direction/ working with other illustrators, creating lots of original art and sourcing historical images. It was a lot (A LOT) of work, but it was also the most fun and creative latitude I've ever had on a book project, and I couldn't be happier with how it's turned out! It was an interesting challenge to create material that was related to but not exactly derivative of the original Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game, that conveyed a sense of chaos and horror, and most importantly, conveyed a feeling of the 1960's without feeling dated or just a mimicry of design from that era. 

Here are some of my favorite page spreads: 



Today I spent several hours at the dentist getting two large, old fillings replaced with crowns. Not exactly the most superfuntime ever, but I've found that I tend to leave the dentist feeling quite relaxed. There's not much else to do aside from focus on breathing and monitoring my body for tenseness and making myself relax when I do feel tense. 

My previous crowns were traditional procedures where I received a temporary crown that then was replaced with a permanent one a week or so later. This time my dentist used CAD/CAM technology to create the permanent crowns right there, which I thought was so cool! Sometimes I feel like technology is behind where it should be (like how we should all really have electric cars already!), or has been used for things that are basically bullshit and not that useful (digital assistants like Alexa, which I have only seen people use to check the weather). But this CAD/CAM dentistry thing made me feel like I'm living in the future in a good way. It was a nice feeling since I spend a lot of time (as below) thinking in more negative ways about how rapidly changing technology might be affecting us and our society. 

Random photos from the train station, fulfilling my new self-imposed mission of finding beauty or at least visual interest everywhere! 

Random photos from the train station, fulfilling my new self-imposed mission of finding beauty or at least visual interest everywhere! 

I had a while to wait while the crowns were created. I initially pulled out my phone out of habit, and checked email, Instagram, and Facebook. I could have kept scrolling mindlessly, but instead decided to put my phone away and just sit. One of my favorite podcasts is WNYC's Note to Selfwhich is about considering the impact of technology (particularly smartphones and social media) on humanity. They had a podcast series a couple of years ago called Bored and Brilliant, which is also now a book. I haven't read the book (yet) but I think the podcast series was really interesting. The subtitle of the book is "How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Creative & Productive Self," and the point of the podcast series was to challenge listeners to think carefully about how we use technology everyday in ways that are ultimately just distracting and not useful. 


I consider myself a fairly light user of my phone and social media, but even so, I definitely find myself reaching for my phone in moments of boredom. I find myself mindlessly scrolling for twenty minutes when I meant to go on Instagram or Facebook to do a specific task like contact someone, sign up for a circus class, or make a post about an art project. I'm especially susceptible to the lure of the phone if I've posted something recently and want to see what kind of reaction it has gotten.  But this morning at the dentist the appeal was less for some reason so I put the phone back in my bag, and just sat. I looked out the window, looked at the colors of things (interesting combo of my current turquoise nail polish and orange vinyl chair that I wanted to photograph but didn't want to get my phone out again!), looked at the covers of magazines that I could have gotten up to grab and read if I wanted to. I played a game with the words on the covers of the magazines where you see how many words you can make out of other words, e.g., "INVISALIGN TEEN" = tea, in, is, sign, intense...and so on. 

I let thoughts float in and out of my mind, and thought about how the quality of thoughts is so completely different when mediated by whatever is on a screen. I've also been experimenting with this in relation to the idea of just sitting and listening to a piece of music. When is the last time you just sat and listened to something? I adore music, but very often I use it as background noise while doing work or making art. Which is, of course, just fine, but I also like the idea of really listening. I stole the idea from this review of Bell Witch's album Mirror Reaper. The reviewer points out that the album is one 83-minute long song, so "you're not listening to it on the way to work, you're not listening to this at the gym, you're going home, putting it on, you're sitting down, you're maybe taking one of those percocets from the last time you hurt your back, and you're listening." 

Nice scotch & fire & music!

Nice scotch & fire & music!

I thought that sounded like a really great idea. I substituted some nice scotch for the percocet, made a nice fire, and just listened. (Here's a link to the album- Mirror Reaper by Bell Witch). It's doom metal, so probably not the kind of thing a lot of people will like [hi mom], but I love it. It's a very emotionally intense album. It was an interesting experience to just sit and listen to something for 83 minutes and stare at the fire and drink my nice scotch (just enough for a little buzz). There were definitely times when my mind wandered and a couple of times when I thought "gee I wonder what's happening on Instagram/Facebook/etc." or "I wonder if I've gotten any emails?"  But the cardinal rule of this experiment is NO PHONE! I would actually banish the damn thing to another room, but my best option right now for listening is to use my phone and headphones. I used to scoff at the idea of spending a lot of money on good audio equipment, and particularly at the idea of collecting albums on vinyl, but I'm starting to want some really nice speakers and a turntable....

Fire with added pinecones coated in stuff that makes colors. 

Fire with added pinecones coated in stuff that makes colors. 

It's interesting to really focus on one sensory input at a time. I feel like my sense of hearing is one of my weaker senses. If I am really concentrating on something, I find it almost impossible to really listen. I like listening to podcasts and audiobooks, but I often find that if I have been really focusing on writing or making art or doing design work that I have actually not been listening at all and have to rewind to re-listen to entire sections. Of course I have the fire to look at, and of course my mind wanders and doesn't truly focus on listening 100% of the time. But it was still cool to radically limit what I was doing for a period of time. Similar to meditating but different.

In any case, I decided that this little experiment was worth repeating and did it again, this time choosing Mozart's Requiem as my music. (I picked a video at random from YouTube as I know I could go down an endless rabbit hole as to which is the "best" performance/recording of it). My choice of music was inspired by having recently watched the fourth season of Amazon's excellent show Mozart in the Jungle, in which the Requiem features prominently (in conjunction with an exploration of human vs technology that was very interesting). 

I've definitely never listened to the entire Requiem before, but parts were certainly familiar. I assume that some segments have been frequently used in movies, etc. And of course I've seen the movie Amadeus, which I remember liking but I should probably watch it again as it's been a long time. 


I'm all out of nice Scotch so I settled on making a "Chapel Hill" cocktail, chosen entirely based on the fact that I actually had all the ingredients. I actually really enjoyed this drink a lot and would make it again. I bought the bourbon for making Old Fashioneds and didn't love it, and I bought the Cointreau for something else that I can't remember and didn't love that either, but somehow together with some lemon juice they're pretty nice! 

The I know a lot of people think classical music is just old and fuddy-duddy and irrelevant, but I beg to differ. It's amazing that a piece of music crafted in 1791 (227 years ago!) can still resonate with listeners today. So much has changed, and it's amusing to consider Mozart's reaction to our world today. But have people really changed that much? Probably not...

If anyone happens to be reading this and has suggestions for what I should listen to for my next fire/booze/music session, I'm all ears (hehehe). 






Adventures and Inspiration (February roundup part 2)

That art museum post got a bit lengthy! I'll try to keep this one shorter. Some photos from a visit to one of my favorite places, Longwood Gardens for the Orchid Extravaganza; Some photos from a hike at Evansburg State Park on a freakishly warm day (74 degrees F!); Some photos from Material Culture, an interesting Philly shop specializing in goods from around the world; Some photos from a couple of  random walks around my neighborhood...all this in the service of seeking visual inspiration.


RANDOM NEIGHBORHOOD STUFF (always looking for inspiration in the everyday!) 



Adventures and inspiration (February roundup part 1)

I've been making an effort to get out and do and see interesting things this month, partly because of being temporarily solitary, partly in an effort to beat the winter blahs, and partly because I've been feeling a bit creatively depleted.  Here are some of my favorite sights/excursions/inspirations from February:

Philadelphia Museum of Art  

An erstwhile standby and always a good place to visit (that I visit far too infrequently despite having a membership!). There were several exhibits that I particularly wanted to see this time:

Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection  John G. Johnson was a famous Philadelphia lawyer and art collector (a bit similar to Barnes, but focusing less on Impressionists and more on Old Masters). This special exhibit included some of my favorite pieces from the regular PMA exhibits as well as some interesting items I hadn't seen before. Really I should look up the titles and artists, but I have a freaking migraine right now and it's a miracle I'm doing this post at all...anyway...I've always loved these two dramatic paintings: 

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A new favorite. There was signage describing how at some point in the past the skeleton had been painted out and replaced with a table. Which of course completely neuters the point of the painting and its macabre appeal! Thankfully conservators were able to remove the overpainting and restore the full creepy glory. 

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I liked something about the combination of this statue and the painting behind it. Hidden figures...

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And of course this whole wall of paintings that Johnson believed were authentic Bosch works when he purchased them. All but one have since been shown to be merely imitation Bosch. Bosch is one of my favorite artists, and this problem of attribution is an everlasting annoyance to me. There was a "Bosch" at the Barnes Foundation that I delighted in visiting, until I read the details on the info card in the room and learned that it has been downgraded to a not-Bosch. It's still a cool painting though. 

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Another exhibit I was interested in was Varujan Boghosian: Master Manipulator. Somehow I had never heard of this artist before, despite his work being in my favorite realms of collage and assemblage. I wasn't as enthralled by most of the pieces as I hoped I would be. I think there were a lot of interesting ideas but there wasn't any particular piece that I fell in love with. 

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The next room contained a series of Phillip Guston prints. Everyone in my undergrad painting program was very enamored by Guston's paintings, but I've always found them to be very unappealing. Gloopy and fleshy? I have the same visceral aversion reaction to many of Renoir's paintings even though they are very different. Maybe its that particular shade of fleshy pink. I found the prints slightly more appealing than his paintings, so maybe that's part of it. But there's still something that I just dislike here...weird wobbly lines? Intestinal? Those stupid shoe shapes? Blech. 

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 Lest anyone think I'm some sort of modern-art-hating philistine, be reassured that I have come to love and appreciate Cy Twombly's Fifty Days at Illium. This is the room in the PMA where I have heard the most visitors saying things like "oh it's just a bunch of scribbles!" But there is a kind of power and drama to those scribbles and it's an interesting illustration of a historical narrative. 

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Other favorites for this visit from the general collection included this Tibetan thangka (I always love these!) 

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And this engraving of St. Jerome pursued by demons. 

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Next it was over to the Perelman Building for special exhibit "Keith Smith At Home." Another case of being slightly underwhelmed. I was attracted by the description of the exhibition ("mixed-media photographs, books, and prints"), but again, nothing in particular drew me in or enchanted me. Some of the books seemed too tidy or something (but I do love a messy bursting book, so that's just me!). I did find this book-binding technique interesting (and I've used that same blue floral paper myself- I got it in Rome when I was a student there!).

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I did like the variety of techniques in all the work, particularly this series of self-portraits. 

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Last stop, "Design in Revolution: A 1960s Odyssey." I was surprised to find that this was my favorite of the three special exhibits that I saw. I wish it had happened while I was working on my Big Project, because it was relevant! Anyway, I especially loved the display of concert posters, which were just so crazy and innovative (in some cases to the point of being nearly unreadable!) but still quite beautiful:

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Also, this amazing space-travel inspired fabric! 

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I was on Idea Medic Podcast!

Eeek! This was super far out of my comfort zone, and I can't bring myself to listen to it. But I was interviewed by the lovely Tara Roskell for her awesome podcast Idea Medic, which features interviews with various creative people. Here's the link to my episode, in which you can hear all about my art education, my creative process, my daily art journal project, and whatever else I chose to ramble on about that I don't remember!  

Tara asked me for a photo of myself for the episode listing on the website. Whenever anyone asks me for a photo of myself I realize that I have absolutely no photos of myself that I don't hate, that aren't weirdly altered, or that aren't from a circus performance. So I took this selfie of me at my collage table, which I actually kind of like, since my hair was freshly cut by my wonderful stylist and circus friend Dina Alon, and I actually made an effort and put on some lipstick. 

Hey look, I'm wearing lipstick! 

Hey look, I'm wearing lipstick! 

Begin Again...

Clearly, this blog consists solely of sporadic entries lamenting how I really, truly intended to write more frequently, but this, that, and the other. Like everything, it would be really great if I could make writing here another one of those habit-type things that I do more or less every day for shorter periods of time. 

This month I've been doing a couple of different creative challenges, and the "do it every day" idea definitely applies there too. I'm usually pretty good at doing little art things every day, such as my art journal, but for a variety of reasons my motivation has been very sporadic lately (more on that shortly).

I've been doing "February Faces" with Kick in the Creatives, a fun site for various creative challenges (there is also a great podcast and a Facebook group!). This has been a good challenge for me, because I very rarely do any kind of faces or figures. I decided to focus on digital collage/painting, partly because I felt like I still needed more practice drawing on my Surface tablet. For the first two I tried working from photos, and just got very uptight about it not looking at all like the photo. (Which is why I hate doing faces in general!). So after that I started doing only imaginary faces and focusing more on interesting collage, painting, or layering effects. And lo and behold, I started having fun with it and I'm even considering adding more figurative elements to my work in general. Each day has a word prompt, like "mask" or "child" as a starting point, which definitely got me to try things I might not have otherwise. I did run into trouble a few times when I went several days without doing a face, and then I had four or five to catch up on all at once, which takes a lot of time...

The other creative challenge I've been doing is working my way through the awesome book "Creative Sprint: Six 30-day Challenges to Jumpstart Your Creativity" by Noah Scalin & Mica Scalin. Here's their website! I'll probably make a separate post about this book because I think it has a lot of really great content that aligns well with a lot of the things I keep thinking about writing about. I've completely failed at doing one of these book pages every day (it's now 2/27 and the last page I did in the book is 2/21!). I think that's something good about this sort of challenge though- it's ok to fail and pick yourself back up again and keep going. I'm just starting today with 2/22 instead of doing a bunch of pages all at once. This month wasn't going to work out perfectly anyway since there are only 28 days in the month and there are 30 challenges! Here's day 22: "Create something specifically for a baby or very young child." I made some sort of imaginary bubble squishy thing (?!), probably giving away the fact that I don't spend much time around babies or young children (my incurable potty mouth is another clue! My sister also has a potty mouth but since she has two little boys she's gotten much better at not having a potty mouth).

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Motivation...February has been weird. I recently finalized a Very Big Project that more or less totally consumed my life from October-December (more on that to come!). There's something both liberating and depressing about completing a big project that has been your main focus for months....I put so much effort into this thing and I'm extremely happy with how it turned out. But now I'm in a weird place where I'm inclined to be a bit lazy because I worked so hard for days and days, including several all-nighters (and wow am I ever too old to get away with all-nighters anymore!). I feel a bit depleted, which can be frustrating, but at least I know what it is and can deal with it. 

The other big thing is that my husband left at the beginning of the month for a lengthy stay in Japan for work. We haven't spent more than a week apart in the past 20 years! I'm a fairly solitary creature in general and am perfectly happy spending all day every day home by myself as a freelancer. But it's also nice to have someone to talk to in the evenings and to do stuff on weekends with. ("With whom to do stuff on weekends?" That doesn't sound right either. "Stuff" and "whom" don't go together...). A lot of evenings we don't even spend a ton of time together- we often end up with him in his office doing whatever on his computer, and me in my office doing whatever I'm doing, but it's nice having a person around even if we're not directly interacting. It's nice to have someone bring you a cup of tea or someone to bring a cup of tea to. We talk almost every day via Skype, so it hasn't been like profoundly, overwhelmingly depressing having him not here or something. But it's definitely noticeable and weird, especially in the evenings and weekends. I've been making an effort to keep busy and go out and do things, which is cool (and the subject of another post to come!). But I do think that this adjustment period has negatively impacted my creative motivation. 

It's a bit of a vicious circle- I feel unhappy if I don't create, and if I feel unhappy I don't feel like creating...

Anyway, I have started two new mixed-media collage pieces and one new digital collage, so that's something anyway...

Mixed media collage on watercolor paper, 18" x 24", in progress. 

Mixed media collage on watercolor paper, 18" x 24", in progress. 

Mixed media collage on watercolor paper, 18" x 24", in progress. 

Mixed media collage on watercolor paper, 18" x 24", in progress. 

Digital collage, 16" x 20", in progress. 

Digital collage, 16" x 20", in progress. 

On travel, creating/not creating, paying attention, and experiments with panels

Ugh, I had the best of intentions when I made this new site to write here more often. I have perpetual grandiose plans to write often and explore ideas about artmaking and life and all kinds of stuff, and it never seems to actually happen. I think it's the usual problem about feeling like I have to wait to be "inspired" or to feel like there is something I want to write about or to be in the mood for it. But I suspect that, like many things in life, writing is something that you just have to make a habit of and sit down and do it even if you don't really "feel like it." I often don't "feel like" doing art every day, but I've found it extremely useful to make a disciplined practice of just doing it. Often the act of just sitting down and making something gets me interested and I want to keep going.

I think the difficulty with writing in particular is that it feels very vulnerable, very public ("what if someone reads it and thinks X?!) and also, perversely, fraught with fear of lack of attention or effect ("what if nobody reads it at all?!). I do not consider myself a writer, but I enjoy writing and once in a while I guess something I write turns out ok. I feel the same about photography. People sometimes mistake me for a photographer because I have a fairly nice camera that looks impressive. But I would never actually call myself a photographer. I guess I'm an artist who sometimes uses photography? Or an artist who sometimes writes? It would certainly be better to write a smaller post once a week than to do this massive freaking brain dump every few months (which is, honestly, just asking for "nobody reading it at all").

Anyway, I guess I can blame some of the lack of updates here since August on the fact that I spent a lot of that month planing an epic 10-day driving/camping trip around Iceland's Ring Road. 


I always want to write about upcoming travel, but I never do because it seems pretty stupid to basically announce to the world that you won't be home for a couple of weeks. I know the likelihood of someone actually reading this ("what if nobody reads it at all?!") and figuring out where I live (it's probably not that difficult actually) and breaking into my house and 8-year old plasma TV? My "super fancy" jewelry (hint: I have no actual valuable jewelry) is pretty unlikely. But it still seems idiotic to broadcast one's absence. 

Anyway, we rented a big 4x4 truck with a camper on the back and drove around everywhere and hiked and looked at waterfalls and went in hot baths and it was amazing. I have almost 6,000 photos which I'm still in the process of sorting through. 


Iceland is...just lovely. Everywhere you look has a stark beauty to it that really, really resonated with me. The landscape changes so much- you can drive for an hour and see three or four completely different kinds of topography. I didn't bring any art supplies with me because we're pretty intense travelers and it wasn't unusual for us to be on the go from 8 am to 8 pm. I guess I could have done some drawing or painting on the days I wasn't driving, but I honestly just enjoyed staring out the window and taking photos. 

I've made such a habit out of at least trying to create something every day that it's weird for me to not be creating. Yes, I guess you could say photography is a kind of creation, but for me it's more of a passive thing, just a way of actually preserving whatever I'm soaking up. (A lot of the photos I took are actually pretty bad photos in themselves, but they will be amazing fodder for digital collages.) There were a few points during the trip when I was almost thinking "I can't wait to get home and start making art with these amazing photos!" But I do think that it's helpful and valuable for me to take kind of an enforced break from making stuff and to just sit and absorb and take things in. Fill the well. 

Of course when I got home I felt somewhat off-kilter and it's taken me a little while to get back into a good creative flow. I stopped doing my Art Journal for the whole month of September, because I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep it up on the road. We returned on the 20th but I still didn't start it again until October 1. I started one digital collage based on an Iceland photo, which I'm pretty happy with so far. I think my brain is still processing all the amazing sights.


I think something nice happens when traveling, where I'm just focused on wandering around and looking and stuff and enjoying it. I'm not worrying about the future and what's going on with my career and what's happening next month. It's an opportunity to live very much in the present. I try to not even worry about what the next day will bring. This time I realized that part of what contributes to that mindset is a deliberate choice to not pay attention to the news. We had a little Wi-Fi thing so we had internet access everywhere except in one of the more remote towns we stayed in. I popped into Facebook occasionally and checked email but didn't really read anything, and certainly did not look at any news sites. It was nice. 

And now that I'm back to reality, I've attempted to keep that going. It's not that I'm sticking my head in the sand. I want to be engaged with the world and to be informed. I'm just trying to figure out how to do it in a way that doesn't make me crazy. I used to spend a lot more time reading articles that people shared on Facebook or that I found on my own, and I also used to listen to NPR pretty much any time I was in the kitchen. I turned on NPR once since we got back and they were talking about how screwed up Venezuela is. I turned it off pretty quickly. It's not that I don't care about Venezuela. It's that there is nothing I can do about Venezuela while driving my car. There is not much value in making myself sad and anxious about stuff that is going on in the world that I have no control over. I know it sounds callous, but it isn't. It's perhaps an overabundance of empathy that is my problem, where I can't hear things without really, really caring about it. And really caring about things you can't control is kind of exhausting. I don't know where the balance is. I feel like it's basically being a bad person to just keep your head in the sand and tend your own garden, but also I really doubt the utility value of constantly "being informed" if all you can do is fret and bitch on Facebook. I literally do not need to fill my limited headspace with whatever brain-diarrhea Donald Trump is tweetingtoday.


So for now I've settled on checking the headlines once a day on a news app on my phone, and that's it. Instead of listening to NPR while cooking, I've been listening to podcasts. And honestly, even the silliest of them feels like a better use of my time. I feel so much calmer, and maybe even a little more positive about the world. As is my habit, I started hunting around online for articles that would help me not feel like a shitty person for disengaging from the constant onslaught of news, and I found this article ("Five Things You Notice When You Quit the News", which I really like. I can definitely say that those five things have been true for me! 

Back to the studio, I'm trying to get some things finished for the Delaware County Studio Tour. I've been feeling a bit frustrated with my mixed-media work lately, particularly when it came to actually finishing anything. Usually when I feel frustrated in my art process, it means it's time to try something new. So I'm experimenting with using wooden panels as a support for my mixed-media pieces. I spent this evening mounting some finished and some unfinished pieces to panels, and I'm pretty happy about it. 


In art school, I mostly worked on canvas, just because that's what you're supposed to do. But I never liked the texture of it, and soon moved to paper. Which I love, but it can be flimsy and bendy and there's the perpetual problem of what to do with it when a piece is finished. You can't just hang a piece of paper on a wall, so you have to frame it. And frames are ridiculously expensive and a pain in the ass to transport. Get one little scratch on it and you can't sell it. For a while I've settled on a compromise solution for selling at art shows- putting paper pieces in a mat and a clear plastic bag and calling it a day. Let the buyer figure out framing. But there are disadvantages to that too. So we'll see how these panels work in the real world. So far I'm thrilled with how these look and I'm wondering why it took me so long to figure out that this might be an option! 

Work in progress 8/11/17

More work on this digital collage on the Surface. This is about 30 minutes of work compressed to less than 2 minutes. I'm definitely feeling more comfortable working on the tablet, and I'm absolutely loving being able to draw directly onscreen.

I've also started work on my County Collectors piece for the Delaware County Open Studio Tour. All participating artists were given a 6" square panel frame to make a piece especially for the tour. These are all to be priced at $75, which gives buyers the opportunity to get a piece of original art for a reasonable price (especially if it's by an artist who usually charges a lot!) 

I think I was feeling inspired by my visit this week to the exhibit "Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends" at MOMA, because I decided to turn the panel frame around so it's more like a little shadowbox and I can play with making the piece more 3D. I keep dabbling in doing some pieces that are more 3D but haven't made much progress, so this is a good opportunity to have the pressure of an external deadline to make sure I finish something! Some of the elements are locked in, but I'm still playing with different elements for the interior of the box. I like the thread, but the one I used in the last photo is definitely too thick and not the right color. But overall I'm happy with how this is going so far!

Scenes from the beach (and thoughts on this year's show season)

This past weekend I participated in the Ocean City Boardwalk Art Show for the first time. I don't usually travel that far for shows but I had heard from another fine artist that it was a good one, and I also had a gallery show last year at the Ocean City Arts Center that was pretty successful. I like to try at least one new show a year, because you never know, it might end up being something amazing. And it's always good to expose your work to new people. Sometimes I do the same shows over and over and I see the same people repeatedly. It's great to hear from people that they bought something from me last year and they still love it, but they are unlikely to buy something new! Unfortunately art isn't something that needs to be bought repeatedly like shampoo or something. 

Ocean City is about 1.5 to 2 hours from where I live, depending on traffic. Too far to drive back and forth every day. I was surprised by how expensive hotels are there during the summer, so I ended up finding a really nice Airbnb cottage in nearby Somers Point

The location was great- right on the boardwalk, with plenty of space on either side, so I could hang work on the outer walls. I love when that happens! We got so lucky with the weather too- it wasn't too hot and it didn't rain at all. I'm not a huge beach person- the idea of just sitting there in a huge crowd for hours and hours is not at all appealing (not to mention that I don't tan, I burn, and there is a lot of skin cancer in my family). But I did enjoy walking along the beach and looking for seashells to make into jewelry. 

Right on the boardwalk!

Right on the boardwalk!

View from my tent! 

View from my tent! 

This is maybe a quarter of all the shells I picked up! It got a bit ridiculous and I had to make myself stop picking up shells. 

This is maybe a quarter of all the shells I picked up! It got a bit ridiculous and I had to make myself stop picking up shells. 

The really unfortunate thing is that my sales were bad. Like really, really bad. We were there on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday and Sunday were merely mediocre sales days, but on Saturday I sold nothing but two decoupaged porcelain boxes that I had marked down to $5 each because I just wanted to get rid of them. I did manage to at least cover the table fee and the cottage, but it was close. Ideally, the point is not to merely cover expenses, but to actually make money. At some point I decided to call it a mini-vacation with maybe selling a little art.  

In these situations I never blame the show or the organizers, unless there is something obviously amiss with how the show is set up, run, or promoted. That was definitely not the case here. Everything was organized and promoted perfectly, and it's a well-established show. I think it was just that people who are at the beach aren't really there to buy or even look at art. I figured this might be a factor, but was also hoping it wouldn't be that bad. I've found that shows where the main focus is anything other than art (food, beer, music) tend to be less successful. It's ok if shows include things like food, beer, and music, but I'm most successful if people are primarily there to actually look at/buy art. 

It can get a bit annoying to watch thousands of people walk by and not even bother to look in your tent, but it's also important not to take it too personally. I made a little Venn diagram that basically sums up the situation, which obviously has nothing to do with whether my art is good or whatever:

There's nothing a good Venn diagram can't explain.

There's nothing a good Venn diagram can't explain.

I think there's also something about the type of work and the location. My work is definitely not "beachy," which I was hoping would work in my favor as it would be something different to look at. But I assumed that a lot of people would even look at all- probably because I personally would be thrilled to have something novel to look at if I was at the beach for any length of time. That'll teach me to project my personal preferences onto others. I'd guess that artists who have a more traditional beach style may have done better- like if you make watercolors of the boardwalk, people are more likely to buy that as a souvenir that some random weird collage thing.  

As always, I really appreciated the people who did stop and look and talk to me and even buy something. Several people told me that they liked my art the best of everything there, which was cool to hear. Whenever I have an unsuccessful show, it's all to easy to get discouraged and stuck in a negative thought spiral of "why do I even bother? etc. etc." It's been a rough time this year. I haven't had any shows that were really great. Most have been merely ok. I've talked to other artists, and it's not just me. A lot of people haven't had a very good show season. There are always ups and downs, but this year seems to be fairly consistently a down year. I'm tempted to blame general political uncertainty- who wants to spend money on art when you're not sure what is going to happen to your health insurance? 

It can be hard to tell if a show is not worth doing again, or if it's just the general situation. I was really hoping the Ocean City one would be amazingly lucrative, because in the end I did enjoy being there for the weekend. But I guess it's just not my scene. 

Pretty clouds. 

Pretty clouds. 

Digital collage with Microsoft Surface

For my 40th birthday, I bought myself a BIG present- a new Microsoft Surface! I've wanted one for a long time, but they're not cheap so I kept putting it off. But I finally went ahead with it and I'm so happy I did. I've used a Wacom drawing tablet with my desktop computer for years, but its so much better to be able to draw directly onscreen! I considered getting a Wacom Cintiq, which is obviously an industry leader in graphics tablets, but I also wanted something with a keyboard that would work for general work/productivity purposes. 

It's amazing how far computers have come in terms of storage and speed! This is a very thin tablet, but has no trouble at all handling my large print-quality Photoshop files with multiple layers. Some of the pens seem slightly laggy, but it's usually the pens with a lot of complexity/texture. Simple ones seem to work just fine! Photoshop works great overall and aside from pen lag, I haven't noticed any processing difficulties even with very large files. I was also running InDesign while rendering the video in After Effects, and everything was running great!

This is the first digital collage I worked on using the Surface. I wasn't sure if I would even really like it since I'm so used to doing things on my desktop with a central large monitor and two smaller side monitors, but working on one small screen felt fine. I'm still getting used to some differences and relying less on keyboard shortcuts. I did keep the keyboard attached since I'm so used to using keyboard shortcuts, but next time I might try just skipping the keyboard and selecting items using the pen tool. 

Oh, the video was created using the XBox app that comes with Windows 10. I almost deleted it because I'm never going to play any XBox games, but it turns out that you can use it to do a live screen capture! Very exciting, because I never did find a free solution for doing that on my desktop computer that I liked, and I didn't really want to spend money on it.

Here's my first Surface video, which is kind of crappy because I filmed it with my phone (sorry about the fan noise in the background!). It was just a test of drawing something from scratch on the tablet while looking at a photo on my phone as a reference. I'm pretty happy with it! 

I had a big debate with myself about which level of storage space to get for my Surface. My digital collage process requires a huge amount of "fodder" image files that I select from to add to the image in process. I was considering going with a lesser storage option for the tablet (which would have been much cheaper) and storing my files on an external drive or a cloud solution like Dropbox. But then I decided to just pay the extra money for the higher onboard storage, because part of this whole thing is mobility and it would be a pain to have to also schlep an external drive or worry about downloading large files via WiFi while traveling. The Surface has a 1 TB hard drive which should be plenty even for a file hoarder like me! 

So far, highly recommend the new Microsoft Surface for making digital art! 

Because every good art project starts with a spreadsheet...

I've been searching for a big project—something to provide focus and structure and a goal to work towards. I've been feeling a bit aimless for the past year or so, a bit unchallenged and unmotivated. A lot of my joy in making art comes from the exploration of new ideas or materials. When I first started doing digital collages, I had taken one single Photoshop class. I knew enough to be able to do very basic things, but a lot of what I did was sheer experimentation, clicking on things and seeing what happened. It was fun, and it was scary when I committed to doing an art show consisting of 48 individual digital collages (3 sets of 16). I spent hours and hours every evening after working at my office job all day, figuring things out, experimenting. It was exhausting but also exhilarating.  It was my first real art show, after being basically traumatized by art school into being completely unsure of myself and my abilities. Completing that work was incredibly empowering and I count it as the true start of my working life as an artist.  

Lately I've been feeling less enthralled with my entire art-making process. Of course I enjoy it, but it just feels kind of easy. It feels like I know exactly what steps to take to produce a reasonably good image. Whenever I start to feel this way it is time to shake things up. There are little tricks I do within the process of creation to try to make things more challenging, like rotating the image or inverting all the colors, and this is one reason I bounce between using digital and traditional media- to keep things fresh and interesting. But I'm feeling like I need a bigger challenge.

One thing I've always felt weird about is how little actual drawing I do. I certainly can do representational drawing, and a couple of months ago set myself the challenge of doing one realistic drawing a day (very simple, taking no more than 10 minutes.) I had fun with it for a few days but then got bored. I felt like I ran out of things to draw. I bought a magazine of the top 100 recent science innovations, because I am very interested by science and thought it would be fun to do illustrations based on those items. But somehow it didn't actually motivate me. I think I was slightly flummoxed by the first item, which was about an artificial pancreas. I had the same feeling when I was working my way through a fancy cookbook and lost all motivation when I came across a recipe that called for some sort of obscure blue corn that is evidently readily available in farmer's markets in California but is of course completely unobtainable on the east coast. 

So, I want a project that involves representational drawing, but still has the potential for incorporating my usual working method of layers and alterations. I want a project with an encompassing theme, and something that is of personal interest to me (and hopefully to others). Some time ago the idea of doing a portrait series of forgotten women innovators occurred to me, but I wrote it in a notebook and forgot about it. I think it's time to resurrect that idea! 

My plan is to do something akin to this memorial collage that I made of my grandmother. A portrait that tells a story, that includes images that represent what each person accomplished and is best known for. Even though my instinct is always to rely on photos to collage, I want to limit my use of photos and instead work on my digital painting skills (soon to be assisted by the addition of a very cool piece of equipment to my studio!) 


I rarely create anything with a set theme in mind. I like to work intuitively and let things evolve, so that's another challenging aspect of this project. However, I think there is plenty of room for flexibility within the scope of "making a portrait of an interesting woman that tells the story of what she accomplished." I think I'm also motivated to just tell some of these stories about amazing women, because wow does it feel like we've taken two steps backwards lately. I can't believe we are still talking about if women should be paid the same as men, or if women should be allowed to do X, Y, or Z, or how shocking it is that a shape-shifting, time-travelling fictional character should be portrayed by a woman (hooray first female Dr. Who!).

I consulted the Facebook hive-mind on everyone's favorite female innovators or heroes were, and received an amazing selection of responses! I've also ordered the books "Rad Women Worldwide" and "Rad American Women A-Z" for inspiration ( I guess I'm a little bit of an artistic anomaly, because I love being organized and making spreadsheets and lists and doing research! That's something I look forward to with this project. 

So, who are your favorite female innovators, heroes, or inspirations? Let me know! 

Hello, world!

I'm very excited to launch my brand new website! I have been a devoted user of Wordpress since 2008, but I'm making a big leap and have changed to Squarespace. Wordpress is truly an amazing tool for developing websites, but at some point I realized that my site was becoming bloated and unwieldy and difficult to navigate. In particular, the e-commerce side of things has been an ongoing problem. I tried a number of solutions, none of which quite fit my needs. I ended up using an external solution linked from my site, which wasn't ideal but was good enough.

I admit to being a bit of a website snob in the past, scoffing at easy-to-use template tools. Which is a little bizarre since I am absolutely not a coder or even a web designer in any sense of the word. I used to enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make things work in Wordpress, but over the past couple of years I've come to feel that it's not the best use of my time.  I think I used to feel that it was important to keep at least a little toe in the web design game, but honestly, there are probably ten-year-old kids out there who are better programmers than I will ever be. Better to focus my energy on the things that I actually care about and am good at. 

I've debated about bringing over old blog posts and minor projects (collaborations and older work) to the new site, but have decided to use this as a fresh start. Nobody wants to read my posts from 2009 about how I had a piece featured in a treasury on the front page of Etsy. I have very little nostalgia for things I have written in the past, for who I used to be. I kept a written journal for years, but the last time I moved I decided I was sick of schlepping around fifty pounds of literal and metaphorical weight and shredded them all. I just celebrated my 40th birthday- seems like a good time for a fresh start!

I'm hoping that having a clean slate and an interface that is nicer to use will help me actually fulfill my long-standing goal of writing more often, documenting more of my working process, sharing work by others that I find interesting or inspiring, and pondering ideas. In short, sharing my artlife. On my last visit to the Barnes Museum, I picked up a book containing quotations from artists, which I intend to use as writing prompts on occasion. I loved the title, "Art is the Highest form of Hope."


"Art is the Highest Form of Hope"

"Art is the Highest Form of Hope"