Trading cards as a quick fix

I can't always find time (or make time) to paint something big.  Often, a "painting snack" will have to do. 

I bought a bundle of Artist Trading Cards (ATCs -- tiny 2.5" x 3.5" canvases) months ago to trade with friends -- and looking at the unopened packages filled me with guilt.

ATC1 copy 

So I ripped one open and decided to make a mini-painting for myself, as a light snack. For a summery theme, I based it on a photo of my son jumping off a swim platform.  For simplicity, I only used 3 paint colors: white, paynes gray and burnt umber.

I'm not trading this card, but keeping it, to remind myself that making art doesn't have to wait for a groundbreaking idea, or a huge chunk of time to execute it.

The "Drive-Thru" Painting

Not as fattening as it sounds.   I prefer taking back roads on my morning commute and get seduced by the scenery.  Of course, there's rarely time to pull over and take careful, composed source photographs.  So I've resorted to blindly holding up my camera (or phone) and taking blurry shots out the window and sorting them out later. 

Drivethru landscape 

I like the way that they capture the transience of the landscape.  

I feel like I'm transferring their energy to the canvas when I paint them!


Fresh from the Farmers Market


For an understanding of where food comes from, for great conversations, for the freshest produce, you can't beat a farmer's market.  For painters, there's yet another reason -- beautiful, irregularly shaped produce that you can't find in a store. This bunch of multicolor radishes caught my eye. Watercolor was the only handy option - I had to sketch and paint them fast before they went into a salad.  

My only hesitation in "buying the whole farm" at a market are the dollar bills in my pocket (they don't take plastic), my small family, and the fact that I can't paint everything before I eat it.  Just as well.  I'll be back next week.

Curing Writer's Block with Paint Chip Poetry

PaintchippoetryI'm not scared of putting colors on canvas.  But I am nervous about painting my walls a new color (subtlety is not my strong point).  So I've hoarded paint chips over the years, along with all the crazy/wonderful color names. In the hope of creating a cool collage, I cut a bunch of them up with deckle-edged scissors.  The collage was a bust.  But the remaining names looked really fun.  so I keep them in a little box on my desk -- for "Paint Chip Poetry".

Here's how it works:  I pull out a few chips at random and force myself to make a cheezy story about them, e.g. The sailor with a Grey Beard and a voice like Cracked Slate secretly collecting Water Irises as a hobby. Not even close to poetry, but a great way to get my mind un-blocked so I can move to the next task. 

Whatever it takes to keep the thoughts flowing....!!!!

License to Doodle -- and about time too...

My friend Kim recently taught a Zentangle workshop with a group of enthusiastic teens.  I'm as skeptical as a teenager when looking at new artistic concepts, so I had to give it a try, especially after hearing it described as "yoga for the mind"...  


Now I'm smitten with Zentangles (I'm also a new fan of

Zentangles haven't improved my drafting skills, and I've yet to feel the full-on benefits of the mind-yoga connection, but I find the hands-on repetition soothing and meditative.  Sometimes, after a long day,  my brain is too tapped out to paint.  Or I don't have my watercolor/pastel/sewing supplies handy.  Zentangles are a good solution.  Plus, I found that I can watch a few kids on the beach while I'm doing them -- I'm a lousy lifeguard when I'm painting...

Uncovering patterns through sketching

There's nothing like drawing with numb fingers at the edge of the ski lift to focus the mind.  First, there's no time to overthink the subject matter.  Second, if you don't simplify the drawing, and uncover the patterns, you'll freeze before you finish.  Good thing all skiers look similar bundled up with gear -- makes it ok to combine the skier from one chair with one on the next one...

Using the materials you've got

India Feb 12 - Feb 15 031
I recently visited the UNESCO world heritage site of Hampi, in south India. Absolutely breathtaking.  The entire city was built of granite during the 14th-16th centuries.  Why granite? the area was (and still is) a bouldering paradise, with a river nearby -- the perfect spot to build an empire, because the materials were at hand.  

I could spend hours looking through art supply catalogs thinking of new ideas.  But some of the best ones come from making the most of whatever is close by. 

Question: How do you build a coliseum (in five minutes or less...)?

Answer:  ask a 6th grader...Coliseum 
My son's Destination Imagination team was challenged to create a coliseum from start to finish in less than five minutes, in front of a live audience.  Restrictions:  life-size, no oil-based paint, no wet paint or glue, no loose glitter, no staining materials, budget of under $10.

The team raided my art supplies and came up with the following "trials" using solid paintsticks and damp rags.  Each piece was executed in under three minutes.  Great example of boxed-in restrictions driving out of the box thinking!

An elementary perspective

Today I helped hang an art show for the local elementary school.  I contributed a step ladder, pliers and an artistic eye -- and got back a great deal more in return.  

An interpretation of Van Gogh from a 2nd grader?  A Kandinsky clone from a Kindergartener?  A mess of colors that would go with both nothing and everything?  Absolutely fearless stuff -- and a reminder that I should take a look at kids art more often.

Elem art show