Dictionary Duo

Illustration detail on "Circumvent Clamor"


Hello folks! For the past week, I’ve been working on two large nightscapes that are probably going to take me a month or so. I also put up over 20 mixed media abstracts at DEEDA Salon for display/sale out here in Sacramento. In the interim, I’m mixing it up with some more small-format work. Working on these pieces, I discovered definitively that a year’s worth of daily art made my tiny brushstrokes steadier. 🙂


Illustration detail for "Bellman Benediction"


Here are two paintings on 5″x7″ canvii {I’m working on getting the plural of canvases changed to canvii in the common vernacular. Make a note of it.} utilizing vintage dictionary pages, ink and acrylic paint. These sleepy hillsides are based on San Francisco, but I did conjure them from memory as opposed to sitting down with photographic references.

“Bellman Benediction” features rows of townhouses next to a step street and tree-covered hill. It’s finished with a gold “frame”.


"Bellman Benediction", a mini painting


“Circumvent Clamor” shows the top of a house-covered hillside across the gray bay from what is Angel Island in my mind. Of course, if that’s the case, there should probably be a Golden Gate bridge in there somewhere, but you know how it is with the fog- you can’t always see the damn  bridge even when you’re on it. 😉 This one is finished off with a silver “frame”.


"Circumvent Clamor", a mini painting

It occurred to me as I was working on these that they are reminiscent of manuscript illustrations in a way. It’s funny how I could make so many of these and just now see that connection. I’ll be listing these in my online shop soon. Hope you’re having a great weekend!



Context Contribution

"Context Contribution", mixed media on 5"x7" canvas

Day 363: “Context Contribution”, a mini cityscape

My cousin Jaclyn, who is very learn-ed and in the know and whatnot, tells me that an article touting San Francisco as one of the country’s most literary cities has been circulating recently, and that my beloved City Art Gallery in the mission is located smack-dab next to two of the bookstores it mentions. The latter I knew, as I have personally rifled through the free sidewalk book bin of Dog Eared Books and enjoyed a coffee and croissant at Borderlands Bookstore’s cafe. The former bit about the article is something I was unaware of, yet all the remaining dictionary drawing pieces I did previously have sold there this month. Coincidence? Providence? Either way, it warms the chocolate-coated cockles of my heart to know that book/art lovers have given these guys new homes.

So I decided to thumb through my old dictionary to see if I could find some more interesting pages suitable for mini cityscape drawings, and I came across this one with the heading “context contribution”. Both definitions on this page specifically mention literary use, which tickled my fancy considering the abovementioned book story. The sides of the 5×7″ canvas are painted the same taupe color as the old paper:


Day 247: Foolish

It seems that even when I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to make, I can always find guidance in my materials. The mini canvas is approachable. The watercolors are easygoing. The books and bits of thread lying around my studio in the scattered aftermath of my last creative effort begin to stand out and glow with potential. The words pop out and guide my scissors to other interesting words. My trusty steed, matte medium, keeps the pace on the journey and I always seem to get there in the end.

Today’s piece, “Foolish”, is a mixed media piece on 5×7” canvas with vintage sewing patterns, thread, yarn, a knitting illustration, a bit of blank negative (you know, from back when people used film cameras) and some paint. The tied up negative hangs freely on the thread, but settles near the part of the pattern that reads “Cut 2”. The pattern is from a children’s outfit and below that it says “for play”.

That inspired me to build this piece around the spirit of playing with my materials, but I put the “foolish” bit in there too to color the notion of play with the adult sense of propriety. We grown-ups often feel foolish when we engage in playful activities, which is foolish in and of itself. I hope you’re finding some time to play on this holiday weekend! Thanks to my considerate husband, I’m about to pop open a bottle of Lindeman’s Lambic Framboise! And thanks to the brainwashing powers of the Cooking Channel, I’ll also be trying some deep chocolate LaLoo’s Goat’s Milk Ice Cream! Saturday night partying, married-people-style. Oh yeah. 🙂

"Foolish", mixed media piece on 5x7" canvas

Mexican Polyester

"Immortelle", mixed media painting on 5x7" canvas

Day 239: Immortelle

I’ve got more sculpture pieces in the works, but they aren’t one-day-and-done kind of projects. So today’s piece is a mixed media mini painting. Using a clipping from an old hymnal, a bit from a vintage dictionary, sewing patterns, ribbon, candle wax, blue watercolor and some 100% polyester made-in-Mexico lace, I put the words “death and nature” together with the definition for “immortelle”. Modern definitions refer only to flowers that don’t lose their color, whereas this vintage dictionary also includes reference to a funeral wreath.

Growing up in the heavily populated SF bay area, I remember seeing lots of immortelles on roadsides, eerie silk flower tragedy markers, flooding me with a mixture of sadness, empathy and fear. It seemed to be a common practice among the Hispanic population. Even though I have Mexican heritage, I am usually unsettled by Dia de los Muertos art. I’ve always tried to avoid thinking about death, yet I sense there’s something wise in facing it the way they do. I envy artists who are able to make things that are both sad & sweet or creepy & pretty, and I feel like this piece does that. Have a great weekend, everyone!

The L Word

"Lachrymose Lake", mini painting with dictionary page on 5x7" canvas.

Day 236: Lachrymose Lake

This dictionary page’s header reads “lachrymose lake”. Lachrymose means “tearful, sad”. It makes me think of all the “lady of the lake” mythology. And it’s an interesting selection considering the start of my exploration into artmaking using negative feelings.

Along those lines, the sculpture pieces I’ve been working on this week are coming along well. The first one’s almost done! It’s an illuminated figurative plaster/quilt piece, and I have to say I’m starting to get really excited about sculpture. Which is weird, because I always thought of myself as a painter. But some crazy awesome things could be on the horizon. At this point it’s looking like it’s time to build a workbench in the garage. 🙂

Lowercase L. Not an uppercase i. (Just zoom in and take a peek at all the fun L words if you forget)

The agony and the ecstasy

"Hey, you got any e, man?"

Day 235: Eternal Euphony

After yesterday’s unintentionally inflammatory post and the comments kerfuffle that ensued, I decided to play it safe today by mixing religion and street drug references. 😉

Actually, in case you haven’t guessed, I’m creating a series with the letters “r, s, t, l, n, e” as a nod to Wheel of Fortune (c, d, m & a may follow 😉 ). I’ve always enjoyed word games. Apart from art, spelling and poetry were two of my favorite things as a kid. As an adult, I grew up to collect dictionaries. As a visual artist engaged in using symbols to create evocative pieces, I find the different interpretations of words as symbols highly amusing and endlessly interesting.  

This is a great page because it includes some of my favorite words, like ether, etymology, and etiquette. “Euphony” means “an agreeable sound or pronunciation”. So “eternal euphony” would mean an endless agreeable sound. Kinda cool, huh?

My opening comment references the fact that “e” has been used as a term for “ecstasy”, an illicit drug. Yet, if you look up the definition of the word ecstasy, you’ll probably find references to “religious ecstasy”, which is an entirely different thing than chemicals tricking your brain into super happiness…. Or is it? Mwa-ha-haaaaa!

<Disclaimer: Not trying to piss anyone off here, dear readers. I hope you can take a “well, isn’t that interesting?” approach to this piece. But if you’d rather go with a “well, isn’t that special?” reaction, that’s cool too. :)>

"Eternal Euphony", a mini painting with dictionary page on 5x7" canvas.

Torpor Touch

Day 234: Torpor Touch

Okay, so first let me say that A: this is not a cross, and B: I know it really looks like one, but it’s a lowercase t. Seriously. Why lowercase, you ask, when this whole issue could have been avoided by just doing an uppercase T? Because all the other ones in this series are lowercase, alright? Also, I think it’s kind of amusing that it looks like a cross and there happen to be other words on this page like torture and totalitarian. 🙂 Not that I have anything against religion. But it has historically been perverted and used as an excuse for unspeakable acts (i.e. Spanish inquisition). Just sayin’.

I like this piece because the header words together imply a touch that would numb or paralyze, which can be interpreted as either menacing or intriguing (or both). Also this page includes a definition for the “torrid zone”, which is apparently a real phrase applicable to a real place on the earth, as opposed to a reference to the awesomely hilarious Venture Brothers cartoon on Adult Swim. Which would be pretty amazing considering that this dictionary was printed several decades before that cartoon was created.

Time for a brain-teaser! So far I’ve made mini paintings with dictionary pages depicting the letters r, s, t and n. Can you guess which two letters will come next in this sequence? Hint: if you spend your sick days watching the game show network, you might have a leg up on this one.

"Torpor Touch", another 5x7 mini painting with vintage dictionary page.

Satin Savageness

"Satin Savageness" is simply sultry seen from the side

Day 233: Satin Savageness

Since I’m still slaving away at the sculpture series, I sat down and steered myself towards a sassy small-style painting session. This 5×7″ canvas features another vintage dictionary page that showed me how sometimes letters can be sexy, as illustrated by this selection with “satin savageness” in the header. This page includes several sultry symbols such as: saucy, sausage, satisfy, Saturday, saunter, and sauterne…it kind of writes itself, trashy romance-novel style. 😉 Here’s hoping your Saturday is filled with a little bit of saucy satin action! 

Use "Satin Savageness" as a date planning guide! Select some snippets and get started!

Read Rebel

I totally can't roll my R's. It's frustrating.

Day 232: Read Rebel

I’ve been bitten by the typography bug. Up next in this simple letter/page series of sans-serif sillies is the letter R on a dictionary page “titled” Read Rebel, which I find intriguing. It makes me think of a person who is both learn-ed and who bites his/her thumb at authority. Rock on!

It also includes other important r words such as realm, reality, reasonable, reagent, ream and reaper. I still don’t know what it is I like about these except that they look simple on the surface, but then there are curious word arrangements behind on closer inspection. *Shrug* Happy weekend, everyone!

"Read Rebel", a painting with paper on 5x7" mini canvas.

Hey Nonny Nonny

"Nominally North", painting on 5x7" canvas

Day 231: Nominally North

I’m still working away on the sculpture pieces, sewing some quilted fabric, picking up LEDs at RadioShack, moving my plaster stuff around gingerly with fear it will suddenly shatter. I find that when I’m working on long-term pieces, I prefer to stick with small scale daily art to minimize the frustration factor. Today I found that the overflowing inspiration well runneth dry, so I began again with a vintage dictionary page and mini canvas, and no images seemed to jump out at me. My sculpture pieces are all in white, so then I decided to just stick with a plain, lower-case N in the negative space and a white glaze surrounding it. Simple, yes. But I like it after all. 🙂

The text at the top of the dictionary page reads "nominally north".