Abbreviate this

You might want a pair of sunglasses for this one.

Day 171: Crayon Hill 2

At night before bed, I like to do a crossword puzzle to unwind. Wow, that totally sounds like a statement a librarian would make in a dating service video. “I also enjoy a nice glass of wine, watching Jeopardy, and knitting costumes for my 7 cats.”

No offense, librarians of the world. Minus the cats, I’m right there with you. What frustrates me about crossword puzzles are when they use names- because if I don’t know who the premiere Vaudevillian ventriloquist of the 1910’s was, there’s no way for me to magically figure it out later when I fill in a couple of letters- and when they use random-ass abbreviations that I’ve never seen.

I will use every inch of that 10 cent paper palette, gosh darn it!

And then I thought about how abbreviations in general are usually pretty annoying. Any time you use one, you’re assuming that everyone who reads it in your email/text/memo is going to know what you mean. Granted, there are some abbreviations that most people know- btw, brb, diy… but is it really so difficult just to spell out the words? Language is a big deal. It took centuries of refinement and ingenuity and blatantly stealing cognates from other cultures. Must we reduce it to a few cryptic letters? It’s as if people who use abbreviations think they’re part of some secret cool kids club with their own code. Pshaw! Even the word abbreviation has an abbreviation. Sheesh.

So, some people get carried away with abbreviating. It’s not my bag. But sometimes I can get kind of carried away with other things. Like color. It’s not as if I sit down with the intent to make my very own amazing Technicolor dreamcoat,  nor do I just shut my eyes and reach in to my grab bag of paints and go with whatever I pull out. I will admit, however, that the end result does sometimes look like a box of crayons exploded in my studio. Hence, mini cityscape #2 on another 5×7 canvas for today’s art. Yes, it’s a little bright- but I like that. Hope you do too!

Today's painting, the Electric KoolAid Acid City! 😉

Lilliputians built this city

That's a lot of hillside for a 5x7 canvas

Day 170: Crayon Hill

I delivered some paintings to my friend Todd, a talented graphic designer on Friday. One of the paintings was Rooftops & Treetops from Day 96, which I truly cherish. Seeing it again and knowing it has a good home where it will also be enjoyed inspired me to get out the same set of photos Rob & I took in the hilltops above the mission district a couple years ago. I used a small part of one photo with a sea of buildings as a jumping off point. A quick sketch and some layers of acrylic, oil and charcoal later, this partially textured painting emerged.

What I told Todd that I like so much about adding charcoal into my paintings is that it retains that drawing element, and that the charcoal has this velvety, matte texture that is different from the shine of the paint. I just like it, what can I say?

What a sweet waterpark SF would make.

P.S. I just finished the Instructable I mentioned yesterday. If you’re looking for a fun craft project or want to make your own upcycled book art, check it out!

How to turn a book into a painting


Day 169: Glad at Heart

One of the things that makes me really happy is “teaching” people. I never tire of explaining to someone how to do something art-related. There’s a great how-to website out there called Instructables for this very thing. I have used it a few times to learn, but today I decided to take photos as I went and create my first Instructable to show others this simple technique for creating upcycled art with old books. Since it’s taking longer than I thought to wrap up, I’ll finish that and post the link tomorrow. For now, today’s piece is “Glad at Heart”, a 5×7 mixed media painting using pages from The Iliad and a heart embroidery illustration from a vintage Good Housekeeping. 🙂

UPDATE: Instructable complete! Want to make your own upcycled book art? Check out my how-to here.

Bus fare, anyone?

You must be a tourist to ride this ride.

Day 168: F Line

Do not attempt to adjust your monitors- it’s painted like that. 😉 When I first saw these classic buses on the Embarcadero, I immediately assumed they were classy-looking props for those Dockers ads. Then I noticed real people were actually on them, not just film crews in fabulous khakis.

I've decided the bus is named Bessie.

This is the latest beast (i.e. cityscape) I’ve been hammering away at for the last week or so. AND IT’S DONE! Woohoo! I didn’t select the title, The F Line, as an inside joke to allude to a cuss word or anything, so get your mind out of the gutter. It’s an actual transit service in San Francisco utilizing refurbished historic streetcars. (Check it out here) So you can actually jump on to one of these glossy, curvy ladies in SF for a nice little tour. How about that?

Who knew those big ass steel things that are a bitch to drive over could be so pretty?

While I did work on this for more than one day, I’m using it as today’s artwork. It’s 11 pm and I’m not going to force out some poem or drawing at this point just to satisfy my own “rule”. They’re MY rules, anyway. Executive decision. 😉 On 18″x24″ heavy duty canvas in acrylic, this is The F Line. It’ll be up with Valencia Blue & Peking Bazaar at the City Art Gallery in SF in July. Hope you like it!

Suck it, Kinkade.

Snippets & Flibbertigibbets

Liquid watercolor has this annoying requirement of drying flat...

Day 167: Willing in thy heart

I took French in high school, contrary to logic (which would have been choosing Spanish for future bilingual job opportunities like mom suggested), and one of the most difficult aspects of it for me was the bizarre punctuation like é, ô and ç. Wait- it’s not called punctuation… help me out here, Google. Okay- “diacritical marks”? Really? That’s what it says, folks. Anywho- “It is essential to put accents in their proper places – an incorrect or missing accent is a spelling mistake just as an incorrect or missing letter would be”, according to this article. And my old teacher Madame Stevens. And it’s not just an error, it can be an entirely different word!

I used to think it was just French that was baffling like this, then today I saw a sign that said “Free 4 0z. Frozen Yogurt*” and I imagined trying to explain the asterisk to my French flatmates from Marseille.

“Qu’est-ce que c’est cette etoille?”

“Oh, well when you see that little star, it basically means that whatever came before it is probably a lie.”

“Okay… et l’autre… what eez theese two lines before et after zee words?”

“Like in a sign that says Today’s “Special”?”


“That usually means that whoever wrote the sign doesn’t understand how to use quotation marks.”

It took longer to cover every bit of this 5x7 canvas than I thought it would.

Not an easy one for our English-as-a-second-language brethren. I’m a fan of words. I think with them a lot. 😉 So I decided to do another art piece with book pages today. This one includes strips of text from a Good Housekeeping guide (knitting mittens page, top), The Iliad (middle) and my vintage Nancy Drew book, “The Clue of the Tapping Heels” (bottom). I added a photocopy transfer with the antique key and orange/sepia watercolor drops at the end. There’s a bit of a focus on the center words- “wiling in thy heart” but tons of other bits are visible too.

P.S. If you’re wondering if Flibbertigibbet is a real word/spelled correctly, the almighty Wiki spake thus.

A fistful of ideas

Scraps from my painting table + 5x7 canvas = upcycled art

Day 166: Fragments

I use a lot of paper in my mixed media paintings, and I tend to avoid throwing anything away just in case I can use it later. This includes tiny scraps…. and I mean tiny. Let’s just say more than once I’ve looked down to find a word or two stuck to Chester’s snooping nose. After yesterday’s piece, I had a full-on kindling stack of Nancy Drew snippets next to the partially used sewing pattern pile. Coincidentally, both caches of flammable paper are located near my incense burner. Perhaps I should remedy that.

Detail from upper half of the painting

Anyway, it occurred to me that layers of these thin lines of text arranged on a small canvas in a kind of random/free association poem-type-of-thing might be interesting. The paper itself is a nice yellow tone having aged since its printing in 1939, and is a similar color to the sewing patterns. I put down some strips from my scraps with acrylic matte medium, laid the patterns over that, and then went back in with more text over the top. A little dark blue and orange watercolor, and we’ve got a fun little piece of art made from scraps! Yay!

Little vignettes started to evolve in the text like short stories sprouting as I worked.

Color therapy

Day 165: For my friend

From my twenty-odd years of life experience, I’d say it’s pretty rare to encounter someone who’s never gone through a bout of depression. I generally have a positive outlook myself, and even I went through a dark time a few years back. If you’ve never experienced it personally, then you probably know someone who has.

While this kind of thing is an individual journey in some ways, having a friend there to remind you why they care about you is always a blessing. Today’s piece is dedicated to a friend of mine going through that right now, and to anyone who has ever struggled with depression or helped someone else get through it.

I used nine small wood blocks and text snippets from a vintage Nancy Drew book to create an encouraging poem with bright colors. While I worked on it, I imagined my friend getting better and later putting this on her wall to commemorate her strength in having made it through a difficult time.

What seems to be wrong here?

"For some reason I feel uneasy," she said with a frown.

"I can't keep my mind on my joy" she insisted in bewilderment.

I know nothing else seems to matter

But you are my most valuable friend

I want to show you brightly colored flowers bloom just to please you

there could be no doubt you are marvelous

She remained motionless, listening. "I did promise to mend" To prove her words she arose

Her eyes sparkled with excitement. I'm so glad.

P.S. Sorry for the late post! I spent the whole day working on the old bus cityscape and didn’t even begin today’s piece until after 9 pm. For those of you who don’t like surprises, here’s a sneak peek!

When it's done, this will be an old-timey orange bus on Embarcadero at Fisherman's Wharf.

Frolicking at the River

A drawing of Rob watching the water

Day 164: At the Confluence

With clear skies for an amazing three days in a row, Rob & I decided to hoof it out to Auburn to visit the Confluence, a place where two rivers meet. It’s all rocks, red dirt, trees and river. I brought along my sketchbook and hung out in the shade for some quick drawing. While the scenery itself is really quite stunning, something about having Rob sitting there on the pebble bank gazing out at the wilderness in his sunhat was a striking composition for me. I drew this real quick with a watercolor pencil (he didn’t know I was drawing him and he moved after a few minutes), then used a brush and some river water to flesh it out a little.

Slightly pink and sweaty, Rob helped me back up the makeshift trail hewn into the hillside by other nature lovers and I thanked the inventor of air conditioning as we headed home. Auburn is a really charming town, all old buildings with sharp paint jobs, tons of murals and nice landscaping.. if you’re ever out in the area, give it a visit! Here are a couple of photos we took today at the Confluence:

Photo credit to Rob

I was a little freaked out about how close the camera was to the rushing water, but Rob got some lovely shots of the rocks underwater.

Vitamin D

Feverfew shadows

Day 163: Park Shadows

Discovering another beautiful blue sky today, Rob & I decided to go out to a public garden we found online. Normally I’d link to it, but this park shall remain nameless due to a no-puppy policy we found out about too late. An elderly couple gave us the evil eye and left us a note on our car to ensure their glare didn’t go unnoticed. Little do they know our dog has a mortal fear of public potty functions. Seriously- he would hold it straight through to illness rather than relieve himself in nature. So there are no worries there.

But even the cranky note didn’t spoil our mood. It was serene and lovely. Small, but well-tended with little paths, we found the park vibrant and energizing. Rob took some amazing shots of redwoods and other beautiful bits of flora, and I focused on the awesome shadows all over the place. Two of my favorites were the rod iron bench with succulents and the feverfew bush.

Succulents and bench

And of course, there’s nothing like the most adorable dog in the world out in the wild to make me smile. 🙂  P.S. Work continued on the new cityscape.


Time for a free lino card!

Such a big mess for such a tiny painting...

Day 162: Cry of Astonishment

Even though I make art and do my blog post every day, I’m still amazed at the way the days just fly by. I’m almost half way through this thing, people! I don’t think I’ve ever stuck with anything daily for six months besides basic life functions (breathing, eating sleeping, etc.). So on the topic of time, I’m composing today’s blog post with a set of lyrics from songs referencing time, mad-libs style! Whoever’s the first person to fill in the blanks correctly (OR all the artists I used) in the comments wins a free lino card! Yay! Good luck!

Time keeps on slipping… into the _______. Sometimes it feels like I just fritter and _______ the hours in an offhand way. With plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled _______. For the _____ now will be later to win for the times they are a-changin’. This is the time to remember ‘cause it will not last _________. Life is very short, and there’s no time for _______ and fighting, my friend. I have always thought that it’s a ______, so I will ask you once again. What’s the time? It’s time to get ___.

I’m working away at that cityscape, so today’s piece is another text-based mini-painting with a bit from Nancy Drew.

5x7 and ready to rock. As soon as the paint dries.