Background Check


untitled work-in-progress – 24″ x 36 ‘ x 1.5″ – acrylic on wood

When I saw that the topics this week over at Inspire Me Thursday (Action Painting) and Illustration Friday (Multiple), my immediate thought was to bring both topics together and share a little bit of the process behind my paintings.


journal page – 2/1/08

Most of my paintings are conceived in a small 5″ x 7″ journal, the place where I go to play without the big elephant of artistic performance anxiety sitting on my chest. Although I rarely have any idea what I want a page to look like, I always start off with brushed, smeared or sponged-on leftover paint, experimenting with color combinations and application processes. As the background takes on a personality, I start getting an idea of what I want to do – perhaps add paper elements, drip some ink, paint a figure, stamp in texture, draw with pens, scribble with crayons. Sometimes I finish a page rather quickly, and other times I keep layering on the elements until the original background is pretty much obliterated. It starts out as an active, intuitive process that becomes more and more focused as I see what’s appearing on the page. If it really speaks to me as the journal page above did, I decide to go forward and recreate the page as a larger painting.

Like my journal pages, I build my paintings from the background forward. The large painting at the top began as a wood panel my DH made for me a while back. After applying the gesso and sanding it smooth, I used my favorite Blick’s mega-brush to paint a base layer of cadmium red and quinacridone crimson. I let it dry completely, and then used a fabric paint roller to randomly apply diarylide yellow, cadmuim yellow medium, and titan buff paint over the red. Between “rolls,” I spritzed the surface with water and blotted with a paper towel. When I had added and subtracted paint until I had a nice balance of yellow and red, I spritzed again, sprinkled salt on the surface and dried it with a heat gun. Finally, I rubbed off the salt to see the little dots and star designs it left behind, and finished the background by using a texture stamp here and there.

Creating the background was a very active and loose process, in contrast to the very deliberate and focused work I did on the figure. The final stage of this painting will be to add the details – the floral designs, and patterns in her hair, and whatever little surprise elements I might think of before I feel it’s done. I find that I lose my concentration after several hours, so a painting this size ends up taking a long time to finish! In fact, I am going to put her aside for a while and start the background for another painting.


journal page – 12/20/07 & Spirit– 18″ x 24″ x 1″ – mixed media on wood

Above is another example of page-to-painting. In this case, the backgrounds began with collaged torn paper. Below are two other page-to-painting images that I have already posted individually.


journal page – 9/9/07 & Migration– 12″ x 16″ x 1″ – acrylic/mixed media on wood


journal page – 10/10/07 & Enchantment – 12″ x 16″ x 1″ – acrylic/mixed media on wood

More Action Painting here… and more Multiple(s) here… Enjoy!

A Theory of Illusion


journal page – 2/18/08
We see things not as they are, but as we are. – Anais Nin

How to See Deer

Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting. Or
stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

and fog before sun.
Expect nothing always;
find your luck slowly.

Wait out the windfall.
Take your good time
to learn to read ferns;

make like a turtle:
downhill toward slow water.
Instructed by heron,

drink the pure silence.
Be compassed by wind.
If you quiver like aspen

trust your quick nature:
let your ear teach you
which way to listen.

You’ve come to assume
protective color; now
colors reform to

new shapes in your eye.
You’ve learned by now
to wait without waiting;

as if it were dusk
look into light falling:
in deep relief

things even out. Be
careless of nothing. See
what you see.

Phillip Booth (1925 – 2007)

Space to Choose, Room to Grow


journal page – 2/11/08

Every year about this time, I begin to sense a lightening of spirit as I anticipate Spring. The days are noticeably longer, and although it’s bitterly cold in New England, the slant of light mitigates the discomfort of wind chill factors and icy roads. It becomes easy to imagine the return of green, and I feel the urge to clean my inner house, sweeping out stale ideas and behaviors to renew and redefine my goals, as if the Vernal Equinox were my New Year’s Day.

Just as it takes energy and the right combination of elements to coax the buds back from their winter’s sleep, it takes energy and nurturing to foster personal growth. Yet often we find ourselves up against a variety of obstacles that keep us from steadily moving forward, much like rush hour traffic on a highway with a closed lane. We’ve all experienced that feeling of trying to get quickly from one place to another, but having to constantly put on the brakes and slow down to a crawl every few yards. We get edgy, we feel irritable; we may even lose our temper. And how does it feel by the time we finally reach our destination? Does it ever seem as if it weren’t worth the trouble of the trip? The same idea applies to the tolerations in our lives that function as speed bumps on our own personal highways.

Although we often associate the development of tolerance as a behavior with positive attributes such as patience, acceptance of others’ differences, and selflessness, it can also become an insidious drain on our time, energy, and spirit. Think of all the things we “put up with” in the course of a day, things that annoy or anger us, things that divert our attention away from what we want to do, things that cause us to react in ways that are contrary to how we would like to see ourselves. Each of these tolerations in some way prevents us from moving forward, ultimately leaving us feeling depleted.

According to Thomas J.Leonard, a pioneer in the life coaching profession, there are logical reasons why we accept tolerations in our lives. Perhaps we’ve been raised to practice the virtue of selfless patience so we can get along with others. While that is often a necessary skill for peaceful social interactions, what does it mean when we are doing no more than allowing others to take advantage of our “good nature”? What we’ve been taught to view as a commendable quality actually puts us in the position of feeling anger and resentment, two emotions that tremendously sap our energy. Perhaps we’re afraid of the consequences we imagine will result if we eliminate negative behaviors and relationships, or take a stand to self-advocate and say “no.” We feel safer with what we know – even if it’s dragging us down – and ultimately we become mired in stagnation.

This year, my “spring cleaning” will be to identify and eliminate those things I tolerate that are really no more than speed bumps on my journey. I’ll start small with things I can easily tackle, clearing the decks for the bigger things that require more work. I want to give myself more space to choose, more room to grow. Anyone care to join me? You can start by making a list of ten or more things that consistently bother you, or you might want to start by looking at Thomas Leonard’s list of The Top 10 Tolerations that People Put Up With as Normal/Acceptable to see if any of them sound familiar. And feel free to share what you come up with, if you’d like!

Time like a Blanket


journal page – 2/1/08

Today, at home, Time was like a blanket around me. Nothing seemed pressing except keeping the fire in the stove going. Freezing rain fell, almost invisible, but by afternoon it had coated every branch and dry flower with a sheath of ice. I had a list so long of things I should have done, but somehow, the fact that I frittered most of the day away was more satisfying than checking off items on a to-do list. I did sand and gesso a 24″ x 36″ wood panel that my DH Jol made for me, and in antcipation of the painting it will become, I played in my journal.

Around Us

We need some pines to assuage the darkness
when it blankets the mind,
we need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly
as a plane’s wing, and a worn bed of
needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind,
and a blur or two of a wild thing
that sees and is not seen. We need these things
between appointments, after work,
and, if we keep them, then someone someday,
lying down after a walk
and supper, with the fire hole wet down,
the whole night sky set at a particular
time, without numbers or hours, will cause
a little sound of thanks–a zipper or a snap–
to close round the moment and the thought
of whatever good we did.

Marvin Bell ( 1937 – )

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