Thursday, October 16, 2014

The need to make art and the space it takes

   I've heard it said by artists in discussing their future dreams: "I just want a small house and a big studio!"

    And why is it important to us artists to have that place to make art? So important, in fact, that a big studio is preferred over a big house. When David got finished with art school in the '70's, he built a studio space in the pole shed at the farm. He enclosed a space, added a wood floor, put in insulation, a chimney and a Jotul wood stove. 

   Then he met me, married me, and embarked with me on an adventure that has taken 36  years to bring full circle. Now we are literally right back where we started. (Our first date was at the studio!)

      So we are older, wiser, and all that. And very much still needing a place to make art. Our art is varied;it requires supplies, time, and a lot of tools. And cats. Our art includes painting, jewelry making, mixed media collage, leather craft, decorative painting, and wood working. Our future art will include ceramics. There is no end in sight of the need we both have to make art. 

     The need to sell  our art goes hand in hand with the need to make it. Neither one of us is cut from the fabric of making art to just give it away. It's the selling it, the finding the right client for the work , that scratches the itch and completes the cycle.

   Of course all this comes at a price. When I think about the length I have gone to to get in the right shows so I can meet my ideal client, well, it makes me shudder. And if we were to count up the actual hours David has spent on his art that he would not, could not, get paid for, it's pretty insane. And yet there is this need to make art. So we keep figuring it out. How to make it, how to sell it , and how to have that big studio next to the small house.

   So we're doing a little bit of renovations. Like a new floor, insulation, rain gutters, varmint proofing, and lighting. Hopefully we will get it done before the weather turns freezing. 

I have to keep  my vision up of the big studio, because, as you can see, it's little more than a dirt hole right now. Our cats love it, they think it's a huge sand box/ litter box. My work area is the table in the upper right of the photo. Pretty primitive, huh? 

 But you should see the view from here.

Stay tuned for updates on our big country studio!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What to do with blue violet and purple

     Start with an oval of blue violet paint that has dried on the artists palette. Adhere it to artist canvas that has been painted some lovely color.

   Add two smaller ovals, one on each side. Similar shape and color tend to give a design visual harmony.

   Add two small squares to make a pattern. Same colors but different shapes; we are seeking the balance between monotony (boring!)  and discord (Yuk!)
   Switch the squares and ovals around. Either way works. It's up to you. Don't worry. Really. The design police are not out to get you. 

   Start adding beads. Oops, I forgot to tell you you would need some beads. And some silver wire and a couple other tools. Hey this is not a tutorial, its a demonstration of artistic harmony. 

  So what we're after is the right blend of same but different. Similar color and texture, different sizes and shapes. At every step it should have that harmonious balance. Really, you could frame that and hang it on the wall.

At this point I have turned my pristine little work area into a beautiful mess. Take a moment to tidy up. Have some coffee. Breathe. See you in a bit.

Now how should it be framed to make it really pop?

With wine red colored leather!

This cuff bracelet is available for purchase at


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Which came first, the cinnamon or the sugar?

Nothing more harmonious in the morning than cinnamon and sugar on toast......

     One morning at the breakfast table, when I was 7 or 8, my mom was fixing me some cinnamon toast. She was doing a great job of it, wonderful mom that she was, but for some reason it really irked me when she put the cinnamon on before the sugar. 

      I must have started in with some kind of tantrum (which I have effectively blocked from my adult memory), and my dad saw the need to get involved. He assessed the situation, as only dads can do while drinking coffee and reading the morning paper. Then he said "I know a guy at the office who always puts the cinnamon on before the sugar, and he likes it just fine."

     Wow. That simple (totally made up, I realize now) impromptu statement diffused my whole case. Took the wind out of my sails. I had nothing left of the anger that had started to build. I ate my cinnamon toast in peace and realized that it was indeed very good. 


  Why do I remember that moment, out of all the moments of my childhood, and why does it even now put a smile on my heart?

And what does it go to show ya?

  • That it doesn't really matter which came first, the cinamon or the sugar, as long as they are both there.
  • That my father's love was expressed to me in a way that allowed me to re-direct my thoughts.
  • That it does take both cinnamon and sugar, but don't get too caught up in the process.
So, in honor of my father, I give you cinnamon toast, and several variations on the theme. 

Cinnamon toast the Pioneer woman way

Cinnamon and sugar bites    

cinnamon sugar chocolate pretzels

cinnamon and sugar sleeping cats

This morning don't get too worried about whether you should put on the cinnamon first or the sugar. Just put them on and enjoy the day!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

So why does this go with that?

     So my last post was about harmony in design, a subject near and dear to my heart and one I had been wanting to write about. After I was done with it though, I started thinking and well, second guessing. It was boring. Way too simplistic. Who the heck would be interested in that stuff anyway. why do I bother and why am I so into it. My inner monologue pretty much talked me out of how inspired I was to write about it.

    The next day I was at my job, which is the accessories department of Macys. A customer came in with  a bag which contained her new dress she had bought to wear to a wedding. She said, " The problem is, I have no idea how to pick out jewelry that will go with it!"

     "Ah, my favorite thing to do!" I said, and had her show me the dress.  It was a sun dress with a bold geometric print in black, plum and white, and black around the yoke.
     Great dress, but did it match her? She was petite and fair, brunette with soft features. The challenge was not just to find a necklace that matched the dress, but one that would harmonize with the bold print of the dress and her soft features.

     We found a few pieces that went with the colors in the dress, me all the while pointing out what makes things harmonize. What we want is visual harmony, not just matchy matchy. And with the right jewelry pieces the attention is drawn up to the face, which is what you want.  Then we found a necklace that was perfect for her. Not just for the dress but for her. It had colors and shapes similar to the dress, but added a very feminine and soft touch she needed. It was the right balance between repetion and discord. Plus it was on sale and she was thrilled.

     She thanked me several times and kept saying, "I just never have a clue how to put the jewelry with the clothes. You have helped me so much! "

     It really is one aspect of my work that I love; I look forward to helping women harmonize their look. And it made me realize that my attempts at explaining visual harmony ARE worthwhile and need to be continued. So, you that find that boring, beware!

     Sometimes you just got to tell your inner voice to shut up and take a hike.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What does it take to harmonize?

         I have this great old book by Maitland Graves, called The Art of Color and Design, copyright 1951. I am pretty sure it was a textbook for the Pratt Institute of Art. It's so old school. No fluff, just sound keys and principles on good design. From this book I have learned a great deal about harmony in design.

"Harmony is a combination of units which are similar in one or more respects. 

Harmony is a medium interval or difference in one or more dimensions. Units are harmonious when one or more of their elements or qualities, such as shape, size, or color, are alike."


Take these two circles for example. They are identical in size and shape but different in color. 
They harmonize insofar as they have similar elements.  

"Complete repetition is one extreme. Here, all the units are identical in size, shape, color, value. The effect of complete repetition is monotony. 

 Discord is the opposite extreme. Discord is a combination of totally unrelated units. The effect of total dissimilarity is discord.


Good design runs the gamut from one extreme to the other.

Harmony is between the two extremes and combines the character of both. 

So somewhere between extreme monotony and extreme discord is visual harmony.
"Repetiton, harmony, or discord, therefore, is simply a matter of degree of interval or difference between units. If two units have no dimension or quality that they share in common, they are totally unrelated and represent maximum opposition or contrast. If one of their dimensions is similar or identical, the units are harmonious. If two, more harmonious. If all their dimensions are the same, the units are identical.

     These three fundamental forms, repetition, harmony, and discord, and their combinations are the basis of all art structure."

Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Spring and I am at a loss for words

How can I be at a loss for words when all around me is inexpressible beauty?

       Just when I thought the harsh winter would never ever end. Just when there was finally one day of 78 glorious degrees in April, followed by a snow flurry and icy conditions two days later. Out of firewood, studio too cold to work in, floor boards creaking and breaking. Cats burrowing in their hay boxes, wondering why the heck we ever moved out of Florida. 


      All of a sudden those hidden treasures from under the surface have begun their triumphant emergence through the soil. The birds are resuming their harmonious melodies. The front porch is again stretching out its arms for us to come, sit, drink our white wine, enjoy the star studded night sky without having to wear a parka and wool socks. 

"So then the year is repeating its old story again. We are come once more, thank God! to its most charming chapter. The violets and the May flowers are as its inscriptions or vignettes. It always makes a pleasant impression on us, when we open again at these pages of the         book of life." Goethe

So yes, I am at a loss for words.

 One of the great Pantone colors for spring is called Freesia. It's yellow, it's right out of the garden, and we are seeing a lot of it this season.

Freesia brooch upycled artist palette 

                                Freesia dangle earrings

Friday, February 21, 2014

What's new about placid blue?

What's new about placid blue?

It's not a new color at all. It has always been with us. It is what we want to see when we get up in the morning and look out the window at the sky.

It is one of the top ten Womens's Pantone Colors for Spring 2014, which makes it noteworthy. 

Placid Blue is a soft pastel that is a wonderful compliment to the strong and bold Dazzling Blue.  Pantone describes it as a picture perfect, tranquil and reassuring sky that induces a sense of peaceful calmness.

                 Placid blue bracelet upcycled from artist palette

What is great about placid blue: 
It is calming.
It works well as a background color.
It harmonizes with soft pastel greens and violets.
It is a great solution for "what to wear with jeans"   

Here's a recipe for placid blue, according to Bustanoby's Color Manual, copyright 1939:
 It was called Forget-Me-Not Blue

"Slightly neutral tint of blue, resembling the delicate blue flowers, with yellow centers, of this perennial herb, which grows in wet or damp places in the United States, Europe and Asia."

16 parts Zinc White
2 parts Cobalt Blue
Forget Me Not flowers
1 part yellow Ochre
Trace of Burnt Umber

From this list of ingredients I can tell you that placid blue is mostly white with a little blue, and the yellow ochre and burnt umber would act to tone it down. So it is a tint of blue with a bit of its complement added, making it a gorgeous gray blue. 

What will you wear with placid blue this season? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

You never know who will walk in your booth

   Several years ago I was participating in an art show in Delray Beach Florida. What I sell is jewelry which I make from the dried acrylic paint from the artist palette. 

During the show, a woman walked into my booth and was studying my jewelry pieces. I mean, really inspecting them more closely than the typical customer. I started to share with her my story, how I start with the palette and go from there. 

She listened, then said “Yes, I can tell they’re made from paint. I make paint.”

Well at first I wasn’t sure if I heard her correctly, not having ever met anyone who makes paint. Then she introduced herself. “I’m Barbara Golden.”

To me this was akin to meeting a Hollywood star! I had a celebrity in my art booth!

She went on to tell me about some of the more interesting and unusual applications artists have found for Golden Paints.

 She later came back to my booth and we had a delightful conversation about the hand painted tee shirts with the Golden colors on them. (My favorite shirt for years).
I was inspired and thankful to have met Barbara and appreciative of her interest in my jewelry pieces, which can be viewed at
One never knows who will walk into one's booth at an art show, but this was one of my favorite. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How do you make gray?

How do you make gray? Well the obvious answer is to mix black and white.

But then how do you get a reddish gray, a bluish gray or a warm gray?

I was once commissioned to make a detailed color chart for a color consultant. That was when I learned how to make gray.
     For those of you not in my age range, let me explain. Back in the 80's, everyone was getting "their colors done". You were analyzed as being one of the four seasons, as far as the colors that look best on you. The palette was based on your skin tones and the color wheel. 

The left side of the color wheel is the cool colors, or the winter palette, and the right side is the warm colors, also known as the spring palette. But what about the warm muted colors of autumn and the cool muted colors of summer? Where do they get those colors? 

The color wheel holds the key. Take any color. Let's take red, for example. 

Okay start with red and draw a straight line down to the opposite side of the wheel and what do you find?  Green. This is its complementary color, and here's the deal. Any two complementary colors will gray each other down. So start with red and add a little green and you get tomato red. See the difference? It is a grayed down version of red.  Now if you continue to add green you will gray it down even more. 

So now if you take white and add a bit of your grayed down red, you will get gray, but it will be a lovely shade of rich, vibrant, reddish gray, instead of the dull black and white mix. 

So next time you want to paint tree bark,  you will know how to make its beautiful muted warm color palette.

Complementary colors are harmonious when blended because they gray each other, giving a  more natural effect. 

What about yellow and purple, you ask? Yes, they are complementary colors and yes, mixed together they make gray. Here is a beautiful example of using complementary colors in a painting. It is called Dawn Beach by artist Fred Cuming. 

The yellow of the sky is muted down with violet. The deep cool violet on the horizon is muted with its complement, yellow. The effect is soft and harmonious, a lovely blend of total opposites. 

So how do you make gray? Black and white works. Or any two colors opposite each other on the wheel, plus white.