unintended consequences

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Curator, Laura Hales asked, and we said yes!

Carolyn, Mary and I are collaborating. We are creating a site specific, temporary wall painting exploring human activity on Arizona’s people, wildlife, and plants in the past and the present. You’re invited to view the installation and consider how we can restore and balance a healthy future for Arizona life.

WHO: Scottsdale Arts Learning 7 Innovation invites you to the opening reception for
WHERE: Center Space
Located in Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
7380 E 2nd Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
WHEN: Artist reception: Feb. 17, 202, 6-8
Exhibition runs Feb 17 thru May 28, 2023
Free to attend → more info 

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giving and receiving (the art of cooperation and conflict)

Organizing notes and/or…
What I learn (try to figure out and detail) along the way in my study about obesity and the microbiome/gut bacteria …

Newborns, breast milk and HMO’s…

Galactose (molecule) is one of the sugars (a building block for HMO) found in breast milk.

Oligosaccharide from the Greek, oligos, a few, and sácchar, sugar.
Human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) are sugar molecules found only in human breast milk. HMO’s, while indigestible in a newborn, encourage the growth of health promoting bifidobacteria. Think: fertilizer designed for fitness enhancing microbes.

Stuff I find particularly interesting…
Breast feeding promotes a diversity in the microbiome that may set up an individual for protection against future obesity (amongst other things).
Breast milk varies over the period of lactation and the growth of bacteria varies in different populations.

And then there are the short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) …

Butyrate (a most essential SCFA necessary for homeostasis)

SCFA are another product of microbial (friendly gut bacteria) fermentation (of indigestible dietary fibers). This source energy for the cells lining the colon kill pathogens and protects against dysbiosis.

Included in my drawing are the 3 most common examples of SCFA’s which are butyrate↑, propionate↓ and acetate↓↓.

(Yes…fun to draw out  and paint all the ball and stick models.)

Propionate (Greek protos, first and pion, fat) produces glucose in the liver.


Acetate (taken up by astrocytes/glial metabolism)

The right food early in life trains the immune system via the microbiome.
Changes in diet (those SCFA) drive changes in gut microbes. Fiber rich foods (plant based) allow host and microbes to have mutualistic relationship (cooperation).
Microbes harm and/or help us (the host).
Junk food allows for conflict (harm).

…and then there’s hormones…

Insulin (Ribbon diagram) allows the body to use glucose for energy or store for future use.

Ghrelin (ribbon diagram) in the stomach – stimulates appetite and promotes fat storage.

Does some food fuel pathogens and promote their growth?
Does some food inhibit or kill pathogens?
Do pathogens play a role in obesity?

#PortraitOfVeronica #GottaHaveArt #ThisStuffIsFrickinComplicated

ps. The title of the post came after a Yoga class the day after the holiday.


give me lines

The permanence of ink encourages one to “go for it,” to try to put the line right where it should be… continued attempts to place lines accurately build the eye-hand coordination necessary for sketching. Paul Laseau


New semester. New series of line drawings. You’ll recognize my usual subject-matter, the pine cone. This shape has everything I need to challenge my students – complexity and elegance. You’ll also remember the students work in marker. They use Sharpie’s and Micro Pen’s.

Homework is  a complex natural fruit or vegetable of their choice. Note, the charcoal study is a drawing 2 student. Only those that have gone one round with me begin with charcoal. They pick up right where they left off. Here are some top picks from today’s critique.

Notice how lines flow…


Pinecone by Papay


Broken Pinecone by Cassidy


Morning Stretch by Mariah


Pinecone 1 by Kayla


Pinecone by JT


Pinecone 2 by Kayla


Flittering Pine by Robert


Artichoke Flower by Alexa, Charcoal and Pastel (Drawing 2)


Kiwi by Robert


Jalapeno and Tomato by Angelica


Mushroom and Cabbage by Kayla

We had a strong downpour of rain this morning, it’s a sure sign – something’s been seeded.

IMG_4914 IMG_4915


….a little humor I found on Facebook last week.

Jose, below, was late to start his homework assignment, a self-portrait.  I don’t usually include incomplete work in posts, but I like what he brings in and I photograph it before he takes it home to finish. He’d mentioned he was going to shave before starting the portrait. I’d told him to hold off because texture could be a great added element. You see here, it is.


By the time the class arrives to this point, they have all the skills needed to fulfill the assignment.  BTW, they don’t start with a circle, they work organically. They move from edge to edge, shape to shape, or from the center out as Jose does here.

Though the class always enjoys this particular critique, they don’t necessarily find the self-portrait work pleasant. Many express how awful things are turning out, how many times they’re having to start over, long drawing nights with little sleep…do they have to share it? and what’s the worst that can happen if they don’t do it?

If you don’t do it, the world will end, I say to them.

I do know the challenges of the assignment. I trust they get much out of it if they are willing to complete the experience. So it continues to stay in the game plan despite the difficulty.


Michelle "Flowers"

Andres, Turtle Gossip

Sabrina's Smoke n Mirrors


Drawing 2 students below, use a variety of materials.

Chuck’s oh so real drawing, in silvery graphite.

Chuck "37"

The ever-amusing Crystal uses mixed media including acrylic, ink, marker, and ball point pen.

Crystal's Shenanigans

Kim uses marker for the line work, and soft pastel for everything else.


The self-portrait study is homework on this round.  The in-class assignment is an outdoor study. There were a number of excellent works, here are 4 highlights.


Sharon's Pine Tree


Crystal's Tree Dandruff

We’re done with markers.  Some students who thought they hated them are sad to see them go. Next week…charcoal.

Master printmaker Mauricio Lasanksy left the earth this week, at the age of 98. Because both my undergrad and graduate drawing and printmaking instructors, Kurt Kemp and Spencer Fiddler, worked directly under him,  I’ve always felt a strong kinship with his work.
I’ll leave you with one of his Intaglio self-portraits today.

RIP Mauricio Lasansky 1914-2012.

Mauricio Lasansky, Self-Portrait

detail, discipline and some kind of drive

Beware of the person who can’t be bothered by details.
William Feather

Assignment: Complex Structure – Complex Texture – Looking closely.
Students lay out composition before start of drawing. They pay attention to balancing positive and negative space.
Because they pick their own shells to draw, they also pick their challenge.

Critique takes place our first day back from Spring Break.  I ask who worked over the break to complete their assignments, and more than half the class raise their hands.  This is the commitment this particular group has shown with every assignment. It’s  a quality student’s must have to continue in a fine arts program.

In general nothing is more satisfying to me than working on paper.  And when the class put up their assignments for critique this afternoon, I get the sense that right now this may be true for them.

Here is a drawing from each student present for critique. I share a detail shot in some cases because I want you to see how rich with attention areas are.

Element by Sabrina


Jose's "Shell-Shocked"

Sharon's "Tossed Salad"

Michelle's "Veins"

Pathways by Andres




Simplexity by Alexis




Death Star by Kyle


Drawing and Composition 2 students work with different media, including scratch board, inks, and fluorescent paint.  They choose their subject-matter.


Fox by Kim



I know how hard they’ve worked.  I appreciate the commitment and energy they’ve brought forth. It’s exciting.

“the pine-cone doesn’t lie”

Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.
Pablo Picasso

New semester, first critique. Students put up one wall of very good renderings of a natural object.

I quote Jose, a Drawing 1 student, in this post title.  He says during critique, The pine-cone doesn’t lie.  It always tells the truth. I came back to it over and over and it never changed, it was always the same. I’m the one that changed. I was the one that was lying.

I consider calling it a day, so the class can go home and meditate on that one single thought, it’s pretty wonderful. Jose also notes how he had drawn and redrawn, and because he was not at all familiar with a pine-cone, he was forced to look and then look again, and again. He titles one of the studies CSI because, he explains, if his pine-cone was killed or went missing he would recognize its DNA, because of all the intense observation.


His last (and 4th study) drawing is below.  He only had to complete one, but obviously, he wanted to get it right. Here is a simple (though not so easy) and well observed contour study of his one unique pine-cone.

Pine-Cone Sunrise by Jose

The drawings that follow are all Drawing 1 student’s work.  Some of them have never drawn before. And though the assignment is a focus on inner and outer contour, a few do include texture. Clearly, this group is already paying attention. For the record, they work 18″ x 24 and use a Sharpie Marker…no erasing, forcing them to work slowly and really consider what they put down. It’s not effortless, but they sure make it look that way.  I know better though.

Androa by Alexis

Pine-Cone Slam by Bri

Ultima by Eddie

by Michelle

Recognition by Alberto

Cono del Pino by Kyle

Pillars of a Pine-Cone by Andres

Below are a couple of the Drawing and Composition II students. Crystal (working in oil pastel) and Kim (working with charcoal and conté) have studied with me before. They pick up right where they left off in Drawing 1.

Seed-Pod by Crystal

Pine Cone by Kim

As the students are working they talk about the spiral form that they begin to note in their pine-cone.  During critique when they are commenting on the accuracy of other student’s work they bring up this spiral pattern again. It helps them identify if what the work we are discussing is real (based on what the student sees) or imaginary (based on the imagination). We really are off to a great start.

…and here is an explanation of the Fibonacci Spiral seen in pine-cones…as well as many other things in nature.

over and out

It’s easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
Leonardo da Vinci

If I say to you that by the time this last assignment rolls around, the class as a whole, is completely committed to the process, I could be telling you the truth.

In this final round of assignments I have some students working on still life and others doing a Master reproduction.

Still life
The assignment includes a variety of subject and various light sources. Value (lights and darks, including shadows) is only part of the challenge in the last charcoal drawing of the semester. They also have to pay close attention to form and surface. They have to distinguish between the various materials in the still life: wood, rope, ceramic, plastic, bone, metal, and glass (both translucent and opaque).











Master Reproduction
Other students reproduce a master work.  This assignment is always a great challenge. I continue to remind them it’s not about the result, it’s about the process.  And really it is, but when you have a copy of the master work in front of you, it’s hard to keep that in mind. Students come away with a whole new appreciation for whatever skill and technique they copy and learn.  It’s exciting to see the work progress.

Erica's completed 20th c O'keefe

Joey's reproduction of a 19thc Deville

Julieta's reproduction of 19c Courbet

I know everyone has learned much this semester. I’m happy to hear some important things come up this last week…

Erica comments after completing her master work, I want to go back and do the charcoal studies all over again. Why? I ask. Because I get it now, It all makes sense!  Full circle.

Yeda’s frustration… I see so much, there’s no way I can get it all down within this short amount of time!  They leave my class with different eyes. They have more seeing ability than they came in with.  If you ask me, with this one skill alone, life may never be boring.

And one student gave himself fully to this assignment’s process…something he’d resisted all the way through the semester. Why? What’s going on? I ask, not really expecting an answer. The response comes simple and honest… because, I made the decision to do it. Yes, you did.


focusing on the negative. it’s a good thing.

But to me nothing – the negative, the empty – is exceedingly powerful.                                                                 Alan Watts

The Japanese refer to it as Ma which roughly translates as “gap”, “space”, “pause” or “the space between two structural parts. Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject(s). The use of negative space is a key element of artistic composition.

Emphasis is on negative space in this assignment. Though compositions may appear simple, the concept isn’t always easily grasped.  Several students have a more than difficult time with it.  I remind them they are learning to look and see in a new way. The brain is rewiring, patience is key. We’ll use the concept throughout the rest of the semester they’ll all have it down, if not now, eventually.

Below are examples of some of the drawings we critique today. You decide…do the positive and the negative space balance?










Into the last week of school. Spring semester flew.

Students complete the first charcoal study, a lesson on value. Overall they do a fine job. They work off of color fabrics, and learn to distinguish lightness and darkness in a design. I let the assignment continue one day longer than scheduled, because the majority want another day. Consequently there’s no time for critique.

We’ll have a final class critique next week and it will include discussion on these works along with the final assignment. The last lesson of the semester is a still life using a light source…continued looking at value but also working more intently with creating illusion of depth.

Here are a few works, in process and in completion. Note the surface of the work. Charcoal allows emphasizing lights and darks and creation of rich surface. Students are experiencing new freedom and expression.





lines, lines, and more lines…

In this assignment students are looking at lines that make up the structure of an object and inform us about shape. And they are looking at texture, lines that help define surface quality. In class they are drawing shells. Outside of class, they have choice, subject matter varies.  They learn, in the case of the shells, to separate texture from value/color. I explain if anyone has a problem distinguishing value and texture,  feel the surface with your fingertip. Eyes become sensitive and so do fingertips. Everyone is still learning to be patient.
There is something there, I see it. But I can’t feel anything. What do I do?
Ignore it. You’re noticing color / value. It’s not texture, I say.
But I want to show it!
I know, but you can’t.  Not now.
How soon?

This is a complex assignment. They enjoy it. I enjoy it. It’s important that they pace themselves, and work with care. The classroom always gets so quiet, you can hear a pin drop.  I have music on during class, and during this particular time they don’t appreciate loud or noisy…

It’s the first time they are considering composition and deliberately balancing positive and negative space.
End result…always pretty exciting.










So…in the process of  completing this drawing, several students gift me some shells. One student, from last semester, dropped in just to give me a couple of great shells.  They pay attention….they don’t forget.

In memory of Donna, RIP

drawing a line, playing the edge

“Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.” GKC

Oh…I couldn’t help using that quote. The political climate is absurd these days. Are we losing our minds? Enough of that.

…back to drawing, and the classroom, where we’re developing our minds. We play with edges, but not such crazy ones. It’s a new semester, a new group of students, first assignment, and a new batch of contour studies. Today we hold our first class critique.

For the assignment, students were asked to look closely at the subject matter and draw only what they see, using inner and outer contour line. It’s a challenge. Critique goes the full 2.5 hours. Everyone has a chance to speak and share their work.  Some students are clearly more at ease with the critiquing process than others. Understandable. A few are consistently generous with their thoughtful commentary. Experience.

The classroom is really a microcosm of the macrocosm.  Learning to look closely is a skill worth developing. Learning to see clearly is a valuable asset.

Here are a few of the classes favorites.

Alexis, Corn on the Cob


Ben, Pine-cone, top view


Sergio, Pine-cone, profil


Diana, Cabbage and Bell-pepper


An eloquent beginning to a new semester.  Everyone has a bit more experience than they came in with, and hopefully everyone has a bit more confidence as well.

Now…to getting these spot lights fixed… so we can see the whole picture more clearly.

the first bit, more pieces to come

Today I offer the first glimpse of a creative collaboration that I am excited to be writing about. Involved are three other artists. Here begins the first formulations of what will be a future art exhibition.

The group of four has come together for specific reasons, most important is that we want to work together. Working together is a bit more involved than merely showing together in an art exhibit. It includes a systematic series of actions directed to some end. What is the end? Simply put, it’s the creative experience itself.

Certain criteria underlies the procedure of coming together. The artists are mature in their work, with a certain level of ambition still very palpable in their art. Not one  of us can call ourselves an “emerging” artist anymore. There’s experience present, singularly and collectively. And though there hasn’t been a “merging” within every arena wanted, everyone’s on it, in their own way, be sure of this.  Each has an MFA. With this footing, a level of tenacity and self-awareness is implied. Each person can draw, though each of us handles the ability in a very different manner. Everyone relates to the education process as a student, and as a teacher. And each person’s sensibility stands out as unique and precise. You see the individuals hand in the individuals works. There’s unmistakable presence of time, be it fast and quick or slow and steady. And evolution is a constant.

The evening’s conversation bounces around, as we share a meal. Discussion involves how we proceed in making art.  Process will be a part of the exhibition so this discussion is important.  How does one begin a work of  art? Is end result in mind? I listen to each response, there’s overlap in conversation, excitement, agreement, curiosity. I hear how different everyone is, in some external sort of way.  I do note a more internal form of connection as well.

Conversation continues. What do you listen to while in studio? This one element is important to everyone, so much so we discuss it at various points in the evening. Someone asks if the impetus to create is retinal or cerebral? Interesting choice of descriptive words. It’s retinal, they’re in agreement. I pause to consider. I can’t answer easily. Intuition, instinct, a strong understanding of the elements of design, confidence in the process, materials, adventures, age, personal interests…we’re talking about all of it. One spouse contributes a comment that gets our attention. It appears to me, you all solve problems. One person voices appreciation.  We all agree with the observation.

Here it is, in a nutshell. We’re working together, yes. There are four of us. We may have a venue and a general time line.  The whole picture isn’t clear…yet….but we do see it happening. It’s retinal. What do we call the exhibition? It’s important that we get this. It’ll determine various specifics.

This evening we’ve each brought along something. Some thing we work with; tool, material, a bit of process stuff. The symbol is a jumping point to help formulate a working title. I enjoy the discovery, the sharing. We throw words around. Out comes Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary , and I begin to read.

Process – operation.  PROCESS. PROCEDURE. PROCEEDING.   Apply to something that goes on or takes place.
A PROCESS is a series of progressive and interdependent steps by which an end is attained.
PROCEDURE usually implies a formal or set order of doing a thing, a method of conducting affairs.
PROCEEDING applies to what goes on or takes place…

“That’s it! I like that!”  One person calls out. Though I’ve not finished reading the whole thing, with similar excitement, everyone agrees. The working title of our project becomes What Goes On and What Takes Place.

Here, you have the Why. I’ll fill you in on the Who these other artists are and the Where, and When the exhibition will take place, and a few other important details.  Bit by bit, time will reveal.  After all, the creative experience, is what it’s all about. This collaboration is a building of trust in the process, as we each continue to make art.

Stay tuned, more to come!

P.S. this is way better than any reality show.
Hmmmm…..now what if….

this body of work is coming together (formation cont.)…

As I work on drawing (what I think of as) legs, I recall my college anatomy drawing classes. I particularly enjoyed learning the bone and muscle structures of the human body.  I easily remember the names of the leg bones: femur, patella, tibia, and fibula.
Years later I was to study anatomy, in Yoga, and I came to discover another layer of leg information. Legs connect energetically to stability, protection, balance, justice, and honor. My legs allow me so much of my daily activity like walking, standing, jumping, and running.  I know my legs best when I’m out on a long run.  They’re strong and full of endurance.

As it turns out, I’m wrong about the way I’ve identified leg(s). Only now, with this drawing complete and after some research, I learn, precisely, leg refers only to the area between the knee and the ankle.  Hips, thighs (quads, hamstrings), knees, calves and ankles are not all parts of the leg. These parts identify as lower extremities which includes numerous bones, muscles, arteries, nerves, and tendons.  This information starts to clarify the energetics part, for me.

So…as I sit here and write about my lower extremity paintings, they appear so very generalized. Contours of hips, thighs, quads, knees, and calves…seem too simple a way to express these complex, highly charged, beautifully synchronized, hard-working limbs. They’re incredible, really they are.

On a side note, I wonder if I should have made the hips, knees, and calves painting, and the feet painting one singular piece, instead of 2 separate but connecting works. After-all they’re energetically and physically connected.
Decidedly I like separating and admiring the parts of our marvelous lower extremities.

Clearer focus moves into this picture. Things can start to change.

To be Continued…..


What do drawings mean to me? I really don’t know. The activity absorbs me. I forget everything else in a way that I don’t think happens with any other activity… John Berger

Drawing class…critique day.  Assignment was challenging.  I knew it would be, they knew it would be.  We jumped in any way. And then they really realized the challenge. No turning back. All about the looking. To look at and draw a complex structure is not easy. To look at and decipher texture requires attention. Students learn to stay focused in a much more intense manner than previously.

I will say…this group has appeared to be very focused, in general.  So much so that I have decided to share photos of the process instead of the end result. You can see how much they’re looking and how much they’re drawing.












For the record…end results are impressive.  I know it and they know it.  Class ended on a high note.
Spring break…looking won’t stop though…they’ve learned to see at a different level at this point…