sheep count

Drawing is the discipline by which I constantly rediscover the world. I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, a sheer miracle.”     Frederick Franck – The Zen of Seeing

I’d gotten back to human body studies when artist Aimee León invited me to participate in her project, Into The Fold. I found the subject of sheep, and her intent to remind and reintroduce them to us – moving. So I take one more break from the human body to consider sheep, in particular, a ewe and her lamb (in utero).

Sheep are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. A male sheep is called a ram and a female sheep is called a ewe, their small offspring is the lamb. I could tell you about their senses because I find the information fascinating. Aimee’s final project will include essays, poetry, 2D art, music, theory, philosophy, scientific writings and children’s work – so we can wait for that to learn more.

I know right away how I will approach the subject. Here are progression shots. If I didn’t have this record, I wouldn’t remember the layers that form the final composition. Time is key to my anatomy studies, so I never wait long to get going.

Locate Aimee’s project link at the bottom of this post.

IMG_5532 IMG_5533  I like this stage below best. But once it’s gone, I can’t bring it back. IMG_5534I wanted (bone) structure. Why didn’t I lay it in first?


Of course, I wanted marks based on the sheep’s hair. IMG_5538  I like this stage below, it glows. I want more depth.IMG_5542Too much. Everything flattens. Though It does take on a weaving quality I enjoy.IMG_5543

IMG_5555 IMG_5565


I take it back and forth a few times. I varnish and brighten when complete.


Ewe and Her Lamb
MM on canvas
18″ x 26″

Though I never planned to exhibit the work, an opportunity arrives. I’ll show the Study of a Ewe and Her Lamb, and a few other small animal studies, next month at the Frontal Lobe Gallery and Community Space.

Did I mention Aimee León is a trained Sheep Shearer? Do take a look at Aimee’s project site, Into the Fold, the photos are spectacular.

Davidoff and Thiewes ‘punctuate the landscape’ in a new collaborative project

The energy of collaborating with another artist is incredible.
– Suzi Davidoff

I did plan, at some point, to write about the value of collaborations and residencies. This post covers both and includes two artists whose work I have known for many years. They both live in my hometown of El Paso, Texas.

Metalsmith Rachelle Thiewes and painter Suzi Davidoff’s current collaborative project, titled Common Language, Punctuating the Landscape, began solidifying in Fiskars Village, an artist colony in Finland. Seeded years ago, it was nurtured in a number of 2-person exhibitions. Like their individual styles, their partnered work expresses in exciting variety. It includes site specific installations, photography (printed on aluminum), video, sound, and a hardcover book.

Let me set the stage …

The artists
Rachelle Thiewes is an artist who creates jewelry that is designed to engage and challenge the wearer, making them an active participant, an initiator of sounds and body rhythms.

Light, movement, sound, order and chaos are integral elements of her work.

Rachelle Thiewes
Heat, bracelet, steel, auto paints

Rachelle is also a professor in the art department of the University of Texas at El Paso. She was my teacher throughout my college years. Her influence still affects the manner in which I come into the studio, and the care I bring to most everything I make.

Suzi Davidoff creates drawings, paintings, and prints. A series of walks or hikes is often the genesis for much of her work. In addition to charcoal, oil, gold leaf and ink, she uses found organic materials.

Suzi and I were classmates in both our undergrad and graduate studies. She attended the University of Texas at El Paso and New Mexico State University. I witnessed a turning point in her sensibility before she left NMSU, that still carries in her work today. 

They both speak about the influence of the Chihuahuan desert, where they live and work.
Rachelle comments on the light that can be … shriek and sharp and sometimes soft and sensual. Suzi discusses … organic forms that serve as a basis for her work…and found materials that are rubbed into the surface of the paper.

They’ve evolved in their collaborative process. Suzi refers to Beauty. Chaos, their first exhibit in 1999 … Rachelle and I were having a 2 person show at Adair Margo Gallery.  We both felt that our works had a lot of commonalities — even though they were obviously different in medium and scale.  

Installation shots of Beaty.Chaos at Adair Margo, 1999

Our second collaborationAir Patterns, grew from the idea of a book into a site-specific installation.  It consisted of steel drawings on the wall and translucent fabric panels with color and charcoal drawings. We both worked on everything together. 

Air Patterns, collaborative, installation at El Paso Museum of Art, 2004

Suzi continues ... We really wanted to work on another collaborative project, and applied for and received a Fiskars Artist’s Residency in Finland.  This gave us the chance to work without distraction for 2 months. 

Rachelle clarifies what the residency allowed them … time, time, time, hours of unplanned time waiting for us to fill…

About their current collaboration
When we begin talking about this, I have questions.
…Is this your two bodies of work, coming together? Do you influence each other? Do you connect via an idea or theme? Did you literally work on each piece together?

Rachelle answers first…Common Language is the name of our current project, she explains … we worked 100% together – came up with the sites/ideas, built the pieces and photographed.  There are no individual ideas present in this project.

Suzi adds…We share much of the same interests in the natural  world, in structure, pattern, historical use of the land, lots of stuff, and also we both bring completely different disciplines in terms of drawing/metalsmithing to the collaboration.  I think we both feel that Common Language is our most realized collaboration to date, because it is a totally grounded in our ideas/concepts, but the resulting work is unique and different than either of our individual works.

I recognize both artists sensibilities present in the new work. Suzi is correct because result and maybe process for that matter, are completely different from what they do separately.

The images below are some of the large-scale photographs (printed on aluminum). Two are from the Fiskars residency where the collaboration begins.  And two are from the West Texas and New Mexico desert, where their collaboration continues and is eventually completed.

Above Location: White Sands Missile range in New Mexico.

The above installation is at Fiskars.
The image below, I am very surprised to learn, is back home, in the desert.

 Photo below is in  Fiskars.

About the book
The book is in dialogue format and is narrated by Dan Lambert.  It’s a thoughtful and creative read. It comments on process. It includes the arrival of the artists to the residency and notes their natural uncertainty. You read about their eventual return back to their busy, multi-tasking lives.  And then there is all the creative stuff in between and after.

Like I said, Rachelle and Suzy are from my home town, I know the area well. To me they’ve brought a whole new feel to that part of the Southwest desert.

The book will clarify that the title Common Language refers to the Finnish landscape and the Chihuahuan Desert. Though there are more than a few connections between the two artists that allow for this collaboration to work and present in such a sophisticated way.

The books pull is in its honesty and simplicity.

Common Language, Punctuating the Landscape

The video
Watercourse  is the title of the video. I’ve heard only a short demo. It’s layered and meditative…some moving water.  The wonderful collection of sounds are by Dan Lambert and The Double Drum Trio. Instruments include ruan, percussion instruments and water drum.

Left side shot in Finland, right is the Rio Grande.

The show
I can only give you a glimpse of the work here in this post.  You can experience its full depth should you be in Albuquerque this summer.

Visit gallery and artist website for more information.

WHAT: Time Pieces: Common Language
Suzi Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes

WHERE:  516 ARTS in Albuquerque, NM 
WHEN:  May 26 – Aug 11, 2012
It will include photos and video, and be accompanied by the hardcover book.

Rachelle Thiewes → website
Suzi Davidoff → website


FORCE – Facing Our Risk of Cancer is the voice of the hereditary cancer community. Hope Chest: It’s What’s Inside is a traveling art exhibition spreading awareness.

Artist : Lisa Marie Sipe   Models: Lisa Counts Edwards and daughter Megan

This summer a group of Phoenix artists painted plaster chests for hereditary cancer awareness. The chests are casts of women who have dealt with, or are dealing with hereditary cancer in one form or other. This is a collaboration between women with BRCA mutations and Phoenix artists. The exhibit is sponsored by Armstrong and Prior, Inc  (John Armstrong, Master Printmaker and Joan Prior, Fine-Art Consultant).

Follows is a lists of participants.


IdaKatherine Graver
Lisa Marie Sipe
Gene Sander
Rachel Householder
Denise Yaghmourian
Karolina Sussland
Carolyn Lavender
Kate Timmerman
Sandi Long
Monica Aissa Martinez


Lisa and Megan Edwards
Carrie Katai
Kiersten and Rosalie Kern
Rachel and Kira Householder
Monique Sisneros
Sandra Neville
Jennifer Johnson
Tania Katan

Original posting has been updated to include photos of all the completed Hope Chests, Click HERE to see the artwork.

Denise Yaghmourian

Rachel Householder, is creator and organizer of the event.  Opening Night is this Wednesday, September 28th, 6-8pm at The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center.  Located at Scottsdale Healthcare at 10460 North 92nd Street.  The show will be there until October 8th and then move on to a new location every two weeks. If you are unable to attend that night visit the groups Facebook Group Page “Hope Chests: It’s What’s Inside” to see the photos of the Grand Opening.
Rachel will be updating the Facebook page with pictures of the events and new locations regularly.

The Hope Chests are available for purchase or sponsorship, contact Rachel 
for more info.

Dates and Locations:
September 25-October 8
Virginia Piper Cancer Center
10460 N. 92nd Street (1st Floor)
Scottsdale, AZ

October 9-October 20
Banner Health Desert Medical Center
1400 Dobson Rd, Mesa AZ

October 21-November 4
Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center
1111 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix AZ

If you haven’t seen it yet: Here is a short Video about FORCE that Rachel, and her sister Bryna, participated in.

hope chest, it’s what’s inside

In celebration of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week, Hope Chest, a collaborative traveling sculpture exhibit about hope and the stories of genetic cancers will open at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center on September 28th with a special reception. The exhibit is created by FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) local Outreach Coordinator, Rachel Householder. 

I dropped into the studio this morning to see the work and took a few shots. It’s a beautifully strong grouping with lots of presence… the artists who painted the work and the women whose casts they were, both.

Here are some of the completed Hope Chest pieces, painted by local AZ artists.
Note: artist name appears above the work. Some shots include front, back or additional side shots. I’ll update with two more.

Rachel Householder/ Mother and Daughter Hope Chest’s
Karolina Sussland
Kate Timmerman
Gene Sander (above, only male painter in the artist grouping)
Denise Yaghmourian
Ida Katherine Graver
Carolyn Lavender
Monica Aissa Martinez
Lisa Marie Sipe

Sandi Long

Grand Opening:
Virginia Piper Cancer Center
10460 N. 92nd Street (1st Floor)
Scottsdale, AZ
Wednesday, September 28 at 6:00pm – October 7 at 9:00pm

For more info visit FORCE website or contact Rachel 

what’s going on and what’s taking place…cont.

Sue, Carolyn and I drive out to Mary’s house. Mary not only prepares a great meal for us, she also shares her work, her studio, and her art books.  I’m introduced to an artist I’d not heard of. Conversation is plentiful. We talk about all sorts of things, past and present. I learn something new about each of them, as well as discover something about myself. Too bad for you, I’m only sharing photos of our work here.

Everyone is asked to bring a small 2D drawing, photo, or reproduction of some sort. It’s to be representational of the larger work that will show at What Goes on and What Takes Place, during Art Detour. The 2D object serves two purposes. They’re a way to reconnect, share progress and continue planning. And they act as  jumping points to discuss another element of the exhibition. We’re each considering making a small print. They’ll be available individually or as a collective set of four, during the run of the exhibit. Right now, it appears the prints will be 6″ x 6″  images reproducing a portion of the large-scale artworks. It’s not written in stone, things can change.

Yesterday Mary and I enthusiastically discuss paper stock. If paper is not exciting to you, then my guess is it’s just another tedious choice…and well…too bad.  There are interesting facts about paper worthy of a discussion.

Here are  photos of what’s going on and some of what might take place….enjoy.

Below, I hold a small-scale, mixed media drawing showing the head portion of a life-size self-portrait I’m finalizing for the exhibit.

Mary Shindell holds in her hands, a small cut out maquette of one wing. Yes, one wing. Again, this is only a small piece of a large digital sculpture. Or is it an installation? What will she call it? We’ll wait and see.

Carolyn Lavender cradles in her hands, a reproduction of an owl’s head, one of the 200 animal heads that will grace her large graphite on canvas.

And Sue Chenoweth evenly holds a very small, but very exciting reproduction of the 40″ x 40″ mixed media work on paper, she’s completing.

We enjoy the similarities and the differences in the small pieces, as a grouping. They allow us insight into the whole exhibit, which we agree, is a great idea. The afternoon passes quickly. It works out for touching base, making a few decisions, and having fun. We leave with a parting gift from Mary. Better explained, she satisfies our lust…we want these little magnets she’s created. Mary generously gives them to us. She’ll have these available for purchase, at the exhibit.

Once again…here’s the scoop….





This exhibition is supported with a mini-grant for marketing through the Ted Decker Catalyst Fund.

Click Modified Arts to find links informing you about each of the artists, their studio and their work.

To visit artists web sites, click on their photo above.

what goes on and what takes place…my turn

The artist Monica Aissa Martinez (that would be me…)

Awkward. Doing it anyway.

←In my hand is a jar of cadmium red dry pigment.  I’ve had it since grad school.  Good quality pigments go a long way. I mix dry pigment with egg yolk, and make my own egg tempera. I give the how to, plus a bit of history, both mine and its, in an early post. I write about my framer who once gave me a duck egg, and an ostrich egg (gag) to try out.  And I tell you about my other favorite medium, Casein, yes…the protein. For more about my choice materials click → a little egg, a little milk.

And even though I use paint, brushes and canvas, I identify myself as someone who draws.  It may have something to do with the fact that I never took a painting class. And I teach drawing. Or it may have to do with the fact that I use line, and connect the ends to make shapes. Then I fill in with more line. I wrote about this too → Notes on Drawing and Painting.

My other materials are drawing supplies…pencil color, artist crayon, graphite and large rolls of Arches paper, along with smooth sheets of BFK rag (drawing and printing paper).

The Studio

Well come in…

My messy bookshelf…I bought it at least 20 years ago, from an estate sale in El Paso, for all of $12.00.  It’s crossed 3 state borders, it holds books and special stuff. Best investment I ever made. Books…reading…influence my daily work.  I get an idea from an event: personal or social…react, research, paint. Curiosity. Why do we/people/society/I do the things we/I do?  Who? What? and Why?…read, write, draw…reread, rewrite, redraw. Realize.

Current reading material Rollo May’s, The Courage to Create. So I’m interested in creativity.  I do wonder if there is any originality anymore?  Does something mean anything?  Is anything sacred? The media would have you think not.  I beg to differ.

The Work
I’ve written about my current work as it presents itself, take a quick view if you’re inclined. If you’re not…no fret, see the work in its completed stage next February.

The idea presents itself.

It continues.

Grounding down.

More grounding.

The trunk.

If you did look…fyi…it’s all completely different now.  No, the whole design is not resolved. It’s being finessed. And retitled. I’ll hold that info for a later date.
One of the things that I do most of the time, is make more than one of everything. I work things just a bit different in each instance, I want to know my options before I commit. This is probably how one new work evolves into a series, in my case.

Back to What Goes On and What Takes Place. ↓

In some larger way this is all about where we stand as creative creatures (and/or destructive).  In this case, we choose to create for the good of all of us. The creativity is in the form of a visual, an evolving idea, community, slow but steady progress, a process, a give and take that’s natural, mutually respectful, and consists of continual interaction. Given the political culture these days, I’m sure there’s a societal lesson in here somewhere.

4 different woman…

Mary, who works with our dessert landscape, organic matter, and new media.  →Myself, who draws and paints the human figure with egg and milk. →Carolyn, who connects to (and connects us to) animals thru her graphite.  And →Sue, who takes all these subjects and more, and freely and deliberately abstracts them

…step out of their comfort zone, to work and share, and create a new experience for themselves and for you, the audience.





We’ll continue to share process and progress here, as it feels right to do so.

I don’t want to forget the various other creative forcesinvolved: →Kim Larkin and →Adam Murray, who offer the exhibition venue, →Modified.
And The →Ted Decker Catalyst Fund. The Catalyst Fund will support documentation and marketing materials. (Take a moment to click on the link, and look at the faces of all variety of creative people the fund has supported.)

To see a quick listing of the all the posts connected to this exhibit, go to → Modified’ upcoming exhibition page.

You can catch more of my work…
Now, at the Mesa Art Center, The Store (prints).

August, An Invitational group exhibition titled, →Converging Trajectories: Crossing Borders to Build Bridges, curator: Ted G. Decker.
Fall 2010, a solo titled, Works. Central Arizona College, in the Visual Arts Gallery.

↓if you missed them, continue on to the previous 3 posts…to see each artists studio, materials and workings↓ or click on their names above↑

what goes on and what takes place, the fourth artist

The artist Sue Chenoweth

Sue introduced herself to me years ago, at an opening. She came in early, shook my hand, and delivered thoughtful commentary about my work. Generous. I knew who she was because people had pointed out her work to me.

I connect to her use of color, the way she fills (2D) space, her use of line, her media and recognizable abstractions. I especially appreciate a quality of freedom she represents. This freedom of composition is uniquely Sue’s.

Right Now
Sue’s work is currently filling up space at SMoCA. The exhibition runs through September. It’s an innovative concept which has her art hanging alongside some of the museums permanent works, in an installation titled, Spyhopping: Adventure with Sue Chenoweth. Intelligent and fun, stimulating to eyes and mind.

Skyhopping Exhibit

Skyhopping Exhibit

The Exhibition / What Goes On and What Takes Place
Sue brings lots of energy to our project. Natural, honest, active and reactive. If she doesn’t know what to do…she says so. When an idea comes forth, she shares it enthusiastically.  I wonder if she might paint this way too. I respect her nature…creative, and in the moment.  She has plenty of ideas for the upcoming Art Detour weekend, and how we might interact with Modified visitors.

When she’s not making art, she’s teaching at Metro Arts, or at Phoenix College. She’s in the middle of moving, when the four of us meet for dinner, to discuss working together.

Not unlike the rest of us, she has a home studio. I love it here, she says.  I must  have my studio at home because I work in little spurts… all day long.  5 minutes here…half hour there… I keep it going all the time, that way I get things finished and have an ongoing  relationship with the work.  It Becomes my days.

I feel the same way. I wonder about Carolyn and Mary.  There are pros and cons to having a home studio.

…some photos of her variety of materials and her new studio space.

I ask about the doll house. The doll houses were in an installation called ‘Hold your Cards’ I had at eye lounge a long time ago.  I ordered them off e-bay.  It is funny how I coveted a metal dollhouse like the one I had as a kid and then got a BUNCH of them.

Both Sue and Carolyn were present at the start of eye lounge. She says of the experience, I was not in the very first show, but became a member when they moved into the Roosevelt space.  I was a member with all the original members though.  It was a great group.  I feel honored to be a part of the beginning. I had the very first show in the new building.  I don’t think there was anyone in the east gallery.

At our meetings, Sue expresses she has no idea what she’ll be doing for the exhibit. I jot her words into the upper right hand corner of my paperwork. Unknown to me, Mary photographs the notes. The photo amuses me. Why did this strike me  as something to capture? Because truly, this is the artists dilemma, we don’t know, until we do…know. It’s also the human dilemma.

I imagine Sue will wait to begin working, because some pressure appeals to her. Consequently I don’t expect to get an image of a work in progress anytime soon. But I do!

I have NO IDEA what this painting will be. I just know it is the start of a new series, but also closely relating and advancing on the last Spyhopping series of paintings. I never ever show this early stage of a painting so this is a rare glimpse into the underpinnings of my work.

…one more thing about each of us…we’ve chosen to document our process and make it a part of the exhibition…though we wouldn’t normally do this…rare glimpse sounds about right.

New Work

She continues…I try to make each layer just as good as the last, so as one peers into a work, it works all the way through. This one is a bit rough yet. No under painting. Landscape that is real but not real. Fragments of life and process showing what it is like to live in our world.


close up detail

I ask about her materials. She answers quick… All gouache on paper SO FAR.
Working title? I have no title yet. Size? This is just a starting place. The overall painting (on paper) will be 48″ x 50″.

…I only get starting places to begin…. I have been affected by the oil spill but do not want to make paintings about drippy birds etc. I know the oil spill is the beginning. I am looking at artists Neo Rauch and Thomas Hart Benton. Regionalism and in a way Hieratic scale with Benton..Maybe that is the wrong word to use, but it fits for me. I am also looking at the mosaics of Ravena which I often refer back to them. I like the way color shifts in the mosaics. I am trying to paint like that in places in my painting. There is another fresco that I find interesting and that is at the Basilica S.M. Novella in Florence Italy. Called the ‘Allegory of the Church’ the details of ‘Vices and other sins.” Love the way the different scenes are partitioned off so it looks a bit like a doll house.

While I’m completing this post I receive an email from Sue….For the show I  think I am going to make vacuum formed mountains like model railroad mountains but about 19 inches tall.  Some way smaller.  They would sit on the ground as if they are peeking out of the sea.
Another email follows shortly...It is just an idea.  I have to see where I can have these made and IF I can have them made. I am so so glad that we have until Feb to finish the work.

It’s all just an idea;thought takes on form, and becomes experience. Interaction follows. It’s what art making is all about.

We hope through the documenting and sharing of our individual process, you get a sense of all that may be involved in art making. Creating the whole exhibit, is a collaborative project.  Exhibitions will overlap, work succeeds, work fails, visits to the art store, the frame shop (me), the printer (Mary), the mountain maker (Sue)… Life keeps getting lived, gardens get tended (Carolyn), studios get dirty and cleaned, photographs get taken, discussions keep being had, agreements, maybe disagreements, thinking, rethinking, writing, sketching, working and reworking, details come and go…

This is an idea in motion, generated by four women artists.





I’ll sum this up next time.  I hope to include my work in the mix. Come back.

Click here to visit Sue’s website.
Read the New Times review of  Spyhopping: Adventures with Sue Chenoweth” at SMoCA Proves Life Is Just a Game

*Sue Chenoweth will be giving a Hands-On  Workshop at SMoCA, on July 1st.  For more info check their website.

Modified Arts.Org