Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chalk Under My Nails (or Is It Bringing Work Home If You're Covered in Dirt?)

Builder in Pastel 
A good Builder should understand structure. (I'm still very much a student for human portraits.) The further I get into this project the more I appreciate the masters who studied biology.

So if I'm staring at you from across the room... don't freak out. I may be studying your face, your nose, your ear, to understand how to construct something like you in my next art piece.

The Builder - One foot in front of the other. On line into the next. One more layer upon the base. Building is all about the steps that move you forward, and the determination to keep moving. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Every Color Sets a Mood (or Should a Designer Really Match Their Palette to a Client's Wardrobe?)

Designer in Pastel 
Be it a room, a dress, a canvas, or a car all Designers know that satisfying click when things start to fall into place. There's an immense satisfaction from taking a mere idea and pulling together all of the elements to give it life.

Ultimately, the Designer's job is to be a great communicator. Through visual language they tell the world secrets with color, line, composition, and intensity that go beyond words.

The Designer - Collecting color swatches allows you to hold a color, to feel it, and to own it before you commit to it. You can play with compliment and contrast. You can breath in the mood each color invokes.  

I'm Coo Coo for Color (or Can Anyone Ever O.D. on a Color High?)

Mad Man in Pastel 
The clock is the ultimate frenemie for the Mad Man. Too much time and ideas just trickle through his hands, lost with no urgency driving them. Too little time and ideas flood every corner of his brain creating a log jam that can bring everything to a stop.

Personally, I've found that the morning only invites a to-do list with no time for inspiration. While the night owl flies about me with ideas by the thousands.

The Madman - There will be moments when the idea you want seems to be on the other side of a busy freeway. You can see it, but you can't put your finger on it yet. You can close your eyes and hope that being zen or praying brings the idea to you. You can go for a meandering walk and stumble across the idea in an unexpected place. You can get really good at playing Frogger and just own that freeway, run against the traffic, and claim your prize. Good ideas are just too valuable to let escape. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Color Me Clever (or Can You Get Straight A's in the School of Life?)

Student in Pastel 
Always be learning. And relearning.

So it's been a while since I've worked with pastels, and I have to keep reminding myself that these are just studies. There are parts of this study I really like and parts I could keep working on and erasing and working on again for weeks.

Sometimes that's the hardest part about being a student. You know that you are probably going to fail because you don't know enough yet, but the only way to get experience is to run, screaming into the failure. You dust yourself off (I forgot how pastel/chalk dust gets everywhere) and you look for the lessons that will improve your experience for next time.

The Student - Every book (or art medium) you revisit is an opportunity to discover a completely new understanding. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Always Be Closing (or Maybe I Need a House With More Wall Space?)

Salesman in Pencil 
I'm not a commercial artist. I am a FINE ARTIST. But does that mean you have to be a Starving Artist?

NO! Having patrons (the artsy word for customers) has a long time honored tradition. Da Vinci and Michelangelo "took requests" and tailored their art to the benefactors commissioning their talents.

This Salesman's hat often gets overlooked or explained away as "selling out," but in some ways it's the most vital hat an artist should wear. If part of why we create is to share our talents with the world, then the salesman provides us a way to connect with the world.

The Salesman - But what if I never paint anything that good again? Let it go. You'll never put your full effort into it if you truly believe your best work is behind you. Let someone else buy your great painting and tell them it's a promise of more eye candy to come. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Call to Order (or Don't Some Laws Just Demand to Be Broken?)

Judge in Pencil 
You've ignored him for too long. It's time to unleash the Judge. Step back and make an honest assessment of your work. Is it really done? Could you add something more to make it special? Did you overwork it again?

All these painful questions that eventually lead you to ask... Why do I put myself through this?!?

You do it because you love making something, and you love that only you can bring your art to life in your own way.

The Judge is a necessary evil. We invite the critic within so we can prepare ourselves for the critics lying in wait out in the world.

The Judge - Bend the rules or break them, just be sure the result is something worth witnessing. Otherwise, embrace the rules as a solid foundation for some fancy artistic architecture.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

You Can Never Have Enough Tools (or Does This Pearl Go With My Hard Hat?)

Builder in Pencil 
Finally things are starting to take shape. After the Student, the Mad Man, and the Designer now we can actually roll up our sleeves, grab a hardhat, and get down to the real nitty-gritty of being an artist -- the making.

Putting pen to paper, paint to canvas, clay to the wheel, this is how we all love to spend our time as an artist. How many people do you know who can actually say that they MAKE something everyday?

The work of the Builder can be precise and messy, intense or inspired, methodical or maddening. Every Builder approaches their art with their own unique skills and goals, but each one must back them up with a powerful sense of purpose.

The Builder - Measure twice, paint once. In other words, get the proportions right in your sketch or else you spend way to much time and paint fixing it later. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Birth of Design (or Does It Really Take a Goddess to Pull This All Together?)

Designer in Pencil 
Confession time - I enjoy puzzles.

Not like jigsaw puzzles. Visual puzzles. Spacial puzzles. Even on occasion life puzzles. I like making connections between things and finding ways to fit things together, combining elements in new ways to tell a story. If I can use those connections to draw your eye around the space, then I've unlocked something special.

To wear the Designer hat is all about problem solving the puzzle of how to translate the Mad Man's vision into reality. Does the piece work in 2D or do you need to walk around it? Can you make a bolder statement in sharp contrasting black and white or rich saturated colors? Will an intimate little 5 inch by 7 inch painting draw in the viewer or should it be an over the top 5 foot by 20 foot extravaganza? Each answer drastically changes what we see and how that artistic vision will be constructed.

The Designer - Good design is part science and part art. There's a logic, a studied experiment, and a serious history to understand how elements fit together. The art is what elevates it from work to almost effortless design. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Look to the Light (or How Many Mad Men Wear Tailored Suits?)

Mad Man in Pencil 

Oh the possibilities!

The frenetic phase of ideas and inspiration that causes a natural endorphin rush can be a bit addictive. Ideas, color, creative combinations, new transformations, bold opinions, and quiet moments surround us and taunt us with endless streams of possibilities.

You can't remain a student forever. At some point you must go a little mad and take some artistic risks to strike out on your own path. And if you're wearing a tin foil hat while on your journey people will definitely keep on eye on what you'll do next.

The Mad Man - If only you could collect ideas and dreams in butterfly nets before they float away, laughing as they escape.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Graduating to the Next Dimension (or Where's My #2 Pencil?)

Student in Pencil 
Confession time - I am a perma-learner.

I actually enjoyed high school. I did get stressed out a lot, but not because of petty dramas or a need to be perfect (I got good grades, but never aimed to be valedictorian). I knew college and huge student loans were right around the corner, and in high school you can learn for FREE!

Needless to say I love the library, and the internet can be like a good art book cranked up to eleven!

As an artist it is vital to be a life long learner. Every time you open your eyes the world shows you something you've never seen in quite that light (think of Monet with his haystacks).

The Student - Seeking answers to what you don't know can lead you down paths you never knew were there. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Better Buy Better Built Baubles (or There's Life Outside My Studio?)

Salesman in Ink 
You've done it. Your've made something amazing. So, now you stick it in a drawer?

No way!

Enter the salesman.

Or maybe a nicer term would be an advocate. After all, what a salesman truly does is advocate for their product or service, and isn't your artwork worthy of having a strong advocate.

Somebody has to believe in your art. And chances are that somebody's probably gonna have to be you.

The Salesman - There's a buyer for everyone. Hopefully they value your art as much as you do. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Judge Not (or Why is Editing Always So Painful?)

Judge in Ink 

We all have that inner critic. The one who tells us that it won't work out, that those colors don't go together, that nobody's going to think your work is good.

In truth we all need to have a judge in our lives and in our artwork. Otherwise how would you know when a piece of art is done. The judge knows.

The trick is to keep him at times, at arms length. Otherwise we'd never have the strength to go out and try making anything if all we did was listen to the judge.

The Judge - If your stomach hurts when you look at your artwork, it's not ready yet, and your dinner probably wasn't fully cook either. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Brick by Brick (or That's Not What It Looked Like in My Head.)

Builder in Ink 
Until you can see it, touch it, or experience it, the thing is merely an idea. A perfect idea. An idea that could change the world, save the universe, cure the common cold!

To be an artist means more than just believing you're an artist or saying you're an artist. You've got to get dirt under your fingernails. You've got to actually build something.

It may look like playtime to others, but we know there is serious work happening here. Choosing between ultramarine blue and royal blue could change the entire foundation of your painting.

Manifesting the vision in your head into a tangible reality - that's magic, and it takes a truly skilled builder.

The Builder - Making the thing can be the most difficult task. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's Perfect! I Hate It. (or a Designer's Work is Never Done.)

Designer in Ink
With an eye for detail, a sense of balance, and the passion for beauty, the Designer fuses reality with fantasy as she juggles form, function, and the unexplainable "awe."

Like the goddess of love, the designer brings elements together with a deft hand and trained eye to create a new whole that is more than the sum of its minor pieces.

The Designer - Knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to put in.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Journey into Madness (or Was I Already There?)

Mad Man in Ink
Sometimes you just need a tinfoil hat!

Every artist dons the Madman's hat when they have a thousand ideas bouncing through their minds like rabbits hopped up on Red Bull and Pop Rocks and Espresso and Pixy Stixs.

It's that exciting spark of creation, that burst of inspiration, that whirling dervish of possibilities that capture our imaginations, and like so many eccentric geniuses we tilt at windmills, we search for snuffleupagus, and we build castles in the air.

The first painting I remember of Rene Magritte was the Castle in the Pyrenees, a castle built on a boulder floating several feet in the air above a roaring sea. Brilliant madness!

Want to see what other artists are painting for 30 days? Visit

The Madman - I could go in a thousand different directions, only a few of them would be wrong, but all of them would be interesting as long as I keep moving!

30 Paintings in 30 Days (or What Am I Getting Myself Into Now!)

Student in Ink
So over 700 crazy artists from around the world will not sleep for the entire month of September all because of this lady with a radio show, Leslie Saeta. I've enjoyed listening to her podcast "Artists Helping Artists" while painting animals for Petburbia and doing various commissions.

Now, here I am taking on another wild project, but I'm doing it my way...

6 Hats, 5 Ways, 30 Days

Every artist needs at least 6 different hats to do what they do.

It's no accident that I'm starting off with the student. (Da Vinci's sketches are well known, and Mona Lisa is often the only painting new students can name!)

Instead of 30 paintings, I'll be doing 30 studies. This is a chance for me to stretch some artistic muscle, show that I have many flaws, and hopefully also connect with artists (and art lovers) who know how to mix encouragement and brutal critique.

The Student - What I'm learning is that I need to paint and draw many, many, many more people. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Painting Tip - The Blow by Blow

Is it wrong that my hairdryer spends more time on my paintings, then on my hair?

Layering color brings out the three dimensional quality of watercolors, and my hairdryer is an invaluable tool to work quickly.

My hairdryer provides control when working wet on wet, pouring wet paint onto wet paper. Water works its magic and a blast from my hairdryer can stop it when the color and flow is just right.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chicken Poop

Goldie - the Stealth Pooper
Ode to the Glamorous Life of an Artist

One year
52 pets
Endless pet hair and feathers
After all, the best fun is usually messy

What I didn't count on...

32 dog sneezes 
(with far ranging snot)

Theron the Great Pyrenees 
drooling buckets full down my thigh 
(He only got one very heavy jean's leg. I'm lucky I didn't start walking in circles)

Rascals the Harlequin Rabbit's 
er... ah... amorous attention to my ankle

Peanuts the Cow Cat's 
punch in the face 
(claws in, thankfully!)

And yesterday...

Goldie the Gold Star Chicken 
silently pooped on my shorts while I was holding her.
(and I thought we were getting along so well)

I really do love animals. Not always sure why, but I really do love them.

When I discovered that I had been painted with drops of chicken poo, I silently thanked Goldie for not getting my bare legs or sandals. Then, I remembered that it's good luck if a bird poops on your left side, so I should go buy a lottery ticket. 

Finally, I thought maybe Goldie was overcome with excitement from being picked above the other chickens, the adorable puppy, and the two lazy cats in the family to be part of the Petburbia Project. Despite her messy objections she'll have her story and her painting posted on the Petburbia blog this fall.

By the way, I don't always believe the commercials, but Tide and Whirlpool kept their promises. There is no more evidence that I got "fowled" by a chicken.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Words to Paint by...

If Mark Twain were as agile with a paintbrush has he had been with a pen, imagine the world of art guaranteed to draw a smile. Whether you paint with words or colors, this master offers true insight into the creative process.

Mark Twain quotes...

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty, Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do keep your mind young." Take an art class or workshop. There's so much to learn from other artists.

"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." Figure drawing, architectural studies and sketching from real life give you a solid foundation in artistic facts before you can add your own creative flourish.

"Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place." A touch of whimsy and surprise will brighten your art and peoples day.

"It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech." Spontaneous inspiration comes after long hours of practice, visual discovery, and mental preparation.

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." Every artist understands the difference cerulean blue and indigo blue is the difference between day and night.

"The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause." Visual space and negative space can be just as important as the main subject of a painting.

"You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." - Connecticut Yankee A rendering is created with your eyes, but it takes a strong imagination to make art.

"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." Taking the time to do a good sketch allows room for visual editing so your art won't get lost in visual noise.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chesapeake Bay Retriever - Bailey

Bailey - the Gentle Gentleman Chessie 
Loved by 3 generations, Bailey was a great family dog. He took extra care to be gentle with the littlest members of the family and always found a way to connect with everyone he met. Known for his magnetic smile, Bailey looked great rockin' a pair of sunglasses and chillin' with the family after and fast paced game of fetch.

I never got to personally meet Bailey, but through the ten photos I referenced to create this Legacy Portrait I discovered Bailey's playful spirit and deep hearted devotion to his family.

I'm certain that anyone who has ever known a Chesapeake Bay Retriever would agree that his personality is as yummy as his chocolatey coat.

Gentle Gentleman Chessie Bailey
Watercolor & Ink
10" by 8" on Hot Pressed Paper
Original *SOLD

Sunday, July 20, 2014

14 Artists & 1 Beautiful Nursery Rhyme Book

The Children's Book Illustrators Guild of Minnesota presents Classic Nursery Rhymes Volume 1

My friends and fellow artists at CBIG have combined their talents into a beautiful new book. I'm so impressed with the creativity and variety of styles they bring to each nursery rhyme.

Available from Amazon and soon through my website.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Original Odie

The Original Odie
You just never know what you've been missing until you meet a Guinea Pig that snuggles into your heart. Odie did just that for so many people.

Who knew pigs were like Pringles - you can't have just one. Odie was the original and she opened the door to unending (?) adoptions with her loving family.

The Original Odie
Watercolor & Ink
5" x 7" on Cold Press Paper

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bombs, Ballets, & Breakouts

University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis 
I miss the Olympics. I love the anticipation before the race, the heart-pounding battle on the ice, and the swell of joy (or agony) as the winners receive their medals.

Last Saturday, I met some medal winners. The kid lit kind! I braved our inch thick, icy Minnesota highways to attend the 22nd Annual Hubbs Children's Literature Conference at the University of St. Thomas. (If I had taken a picture of the campus that day all you would see was white. The snow piles were over 6 feet tall.)

My favorite words of wisdom from the day...

"History is a series of moral contradictions." - Steve Sheinkin, Newbery Honor author.

"Illustrating has brought me to places I've never thought I'd go." - Lauren Stringer, IRA Children's Choice Award author and illustrator.

"Who knows more about what's fair or righteous then children." - Sarah Warren, Jane Addams Children's Book Award author.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Promenade at the Pond

Promenade at the Pond
Thinking spring after 10 more inches of snow and negative wind chills.

Immerse yourself for a minute in the sweet scent of fresh cut grass, the mellow call of the morning doves, and the feel of the dew on your naked toes as you grab the morning newspaper to enjoy with a lemonade out on the deck.

Winter can be fun, but ahhh spring! SPRING -- a season with more greens and blues and golds then I could ever hope to fill my watercolor palette!

Promenade at the Pond
Watercolor & Ink
5" x 7" on Cold Pressed Paper

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On My Street Corner

Bunny About to Bounce
Bunny's natural instinct warns her to "hop & hide." But who can resist the allure of a camera and someone telling you how beautiful you are!

Bunny and I met on a crisp fall afternoon. She seemed happy to pose for a few photos, but wasn't really interested in any close ups.

Bunny About to Bounce
Watercolor & Ink
5" x 7" on Cold Pressed Paper

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Monday, February 3, 2014

Cute as Buttons

Buttons the Toy Poodle
Buttons sitting inside a teacup. That's the first picture I saw of this delightful cutie.

With her ears perked forward, Buttons is ready to listen and happy to go anywhere with her people.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Petburbia - One Month In

TP Trailing Toddler 

Rowdy Remodeler 

Affectionate Aristocrat 
Great stories, great pets, and (if I do say so myself) some mighty fine paintings can be found at Petburbia.

I can't believe it's already been a month! Thanks to everyone who has taken part so far, and if you know anyone who is interested in having their pet painted and sharing a good story, send them a link to Petburbia.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Final Days for the Holiday Shop

Distinctive Gifts for Distinctive People!
Last chance to buy my watercolors on some wonderful products. I'm closing the Holiday Shop on February 1st, 2014.

Follow the blog to find out when the pop-up store will appear again with new watercolors.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

My favorite way to keep up with great blogs. Art blogs look professional with a thumbnail of your art right in the bloglovin feed.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Petburbia Project is Cat Approved (mostly)

Booker Matisse Black, Hungry Hockey Cat 
Starting close to home, I've chosen my own extraordinary cat as the subject of my first painting for the 2014 Petburbia Project. I'll paint a new pet every week for a year, and it seems Booker is mostly OK with the idea.

"Why are you looking at another cat?"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


New year. New goals.

If I put it out in the universe (or at least the internets) some friendly soul will gently kick my butt about following through with my lofty artistic goals. You will won't you?
  • Complete the Petburbia Project
    • Paint and post a new pet picture for every week of 2014. Ambitious or crazy? Ask me in April.
  • Submit my middle grade novel to at least 20 great editors/agents.
    • A Loft Literary Center advanced writing class started me on this journey and I've had some wonderful people helping me edit the story. 2014 is the year to push the novel from the nest and see if it soars into the hearts of any publishing professionals.
  • Show in at least 5 gallery or art spaces
  • Complete and submit a picture book proposal (or 2 or more).
    • All the best authors and illustrators have a pile (if not hundreds) of rejection letters. I need to start collecting mine.
  • Get a solid handle on Photoshop and sharpen my photography skills
    • I love the natural feel of watercolors, but after building and my blogs I can see how these tools can really make a page pop.
  • Build an email list
    • I want to connect with other artists, art lovers, book lovers, pet lovers, and genuinely awesome people. Let me know if you want to be the first on my list!
Happy New Year!