no woman is an island – continues

Monica we are visiting Phoenix and just had a yoga class at Desert Song … and fell in love with your work. Especially the ‘Subtle Female Back Body’. Anita said she loved another work, ‘Handstand’? Could we make an appointment to view your work or give you a call this morning?

Marti and her husband John are in my studio by noon, and when they leave they take 4 artworks (technically 3) with them. In between we talk about their children, dogs, cats, quilt-making, wool, yarn, travel, fishing and of course – Yoga.

They spend time looking at the various large figure studies I am painting. They respond to them and I appreciate the dialogue. As we move through the studio they see and like my recent animal anatomy compositions. In particular they like the 2-sided hanging works on paper (this is why I consider this one work two). They choose the cat and bird – titled Earth and Air.

I talk about the hanging system and how I am playing with ideas for larger work. John explains another type of hook/hardware to me. He wonders if I have any fish images. I do not. They are heading to a fishing store after our studio visit.

Did I mention Marti and John live in Portland, Oregon.


12″ x 12″
Casein, Graphite, on Paper
Print on plexi

This work is collage (with architectural renderings), painted, sanded and varnished. The cat is egg tempera, the bird is casein. I mention the durability of casein. I tell them about it’s earliest known use in Egyptian work. Casein is a binder. Consequently with all that layering they are stiff works of paper and designed to hang in space, as opposed to being framed and on the wall.


12″ x 12″
Egg Tempera, Graphite, on Paper

They also choose 2 reproductions – images I had printed on plexiglass. The originals are  casein (bee) and egg tempera (cat).  Marti likes The Cat and John likes The Bee. I explain the reproductions are also experimental ways of finishing and hanging an image. While all of it can hang traditionally, it can also hang uniquely without framing.


Cat Study
12″ x 12″
Print on plexiglass


Bee Study 
12″ x 12″
Print on plexiglass

My animals will be residing in Portland. Thank you Marti and John. It was good to meet you. John enjoy your fishing and Marti, quilt-making is great work – get into that studio.

The blog posts titled No Woman is an Island acknowledge the people and/or organizations who support me and the work I do.


… and then there were 2

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.

one more way to study human anatomy

In vain we shall penetrate more and more deeply the secrets of the structure of the human body, we shall not dupe nature; we shall die as usual. ~Bernard Le Bovier de Fontanelle

It was probably only a matter of time before I painted a mannikin.


I was at the TCA last month and gallery director Michelle Dock had a number of the wooden mannikins laying on a work table. What to do with all these mannikins, she says. Hand them to artists to paint, I say, meaning – give one to me, I want to paint it.


The mannikin is now a 3-dimensional anatomy study. I take space into consideration and place her on a structure that represents the city. Initially I think I’ll focus on the immune system. I liked the idea of accentuating the points and moving lines of the lymphatic system and connecting them to the map. My fine 00 brushes are too wide, so I buy paint markers for more control. I can’t say I like using them, they’re opaque. But after some time I layer them with gesso and casein. And finally depth takes hold. It’s more than the lymphatic system at this point.

If this works out – she’ll show in December at TCA along with other experiments of the summer (animal anatomy studies).


too dark

After days of not liking what was happening and leaving my drawing table frustrated, today I like with where things stand.


sand paper and casein varnish appeal

This series I painted this summer was experimental. I’ve shown you all the stages in earlier posts, and mostly I thought I was complete with it. The small works have taken quit a bit of my time and attention. Yesterday I took sandpaper to the work and I varnished it. I loved the look. Though it’s not, the work somehow appears more fragile.





The cat is casein, gesso and graphite. I took a sandpaper block to the entire surface, and then went back in to add highlight to parts of the work. I covered the composition with casein varnish. I also sanded the egg tempera rat below and took the casein varnish to it.

I don’t know if you see the surface marks the varnish accentuates.
The work has a soft sheen and almost appears like a painting on metal. But these are 2 sided prepare paper. They hang in space.

I hung one work this summer and saw a number of people touching it. It drove me a little crazy. But now they’re protected. I never met for them to show, I was just playing with materials and ideas.

ratLike I said, this was experimental, I didn’t plan to show the anatomy studies. But as it is the series will show at the Tempe Center for the Arts, in December. They’re varnished, which means they’re now protected. The edges of the paper are also protected. And TCA set me up with cool hangers that I like.


raw @ the tempe library

Christy Brown organizes the Tempe Community Galleries exhibitions. She explains that in conjunction with the Tempe Center for the Arts Gallery’s Smithsonian “Green Revolution” exhibition (which opened last January), all the community gallery shows will have “going green” themes this year.

Raw opens today. The exhibition focuses on the work of three artists  who are choosing to move away from the use of harsh chemicals and synthetic materials in their work, and are instead working with raw, recycled or organic materials. I am one of those artists, as are Joe Willie Smith and Aimee León.

Aimee León
An artist and certified sheep shearer, uses natural raw wool along with recycled industrial materials. The show includes a number of her small and soft – object forms . Most are beautiful tactile vessels. I want to touch them all.


Joe Willie Smith
A multi-media artist and musician includes works in metal.  He works with found objects and repurposed material. He talks in general about finding just the right piece and then in particular about the white form below – how he scratched/drew on it one early morning to catch both the light and shadow of the sunrise.


I have several posts about Joe Willie’s work and our collaborative effort at sound making – which I’ve used as background for all the Nothing In Stasis videos.

Raw includes a number of my paintings and one small drawing. I work with organic material, primarily egg tempera and casein.  I like to refer to my mediums as egg and milk. This work below uses casein as underpainting, and egg tempera as the surface color.


Vital Commotion #4

Delivery and Install
I plan to drop off work and head back to the studio to paint, but when I learn Joe Willie is in the exhibit and he’ll be dropping work off, I wait for him. And as it all plays out we spend the morning working with installer, James Sulac.  Before Christy leaves for the morning she mentions how the work might hang. She asks which side of the wall I want my work on and I tell her. But after Joe Willie arrives and we begin seeing how interestingly things connect, we suggest the work hang in the space mixing together. Below are a few install shots.



I understand we connect in terms of the raw materials theme, but as I look at everything I appreciate Christy’s eye more and more. The organic forms of León’s soft sculpture connects to the light forms and color in my paintings and to [the appearance] of softness in 2 of Willie’s larger pieces.

And you probably can’t tell from these photos (below) but the colors and lines in Joe’s work connect to my use of the same design elements. The acid green of his sculpture (below) runs right through the mid-section of my painting to the left, and is high-lighted by reddish pink points in both works. Joe Willie decides grouping his smaller pieces salon style will enhance the grouping of shapes in my compositions, and vice versa.



I regret not getting shots of another wall where León’s wall pieces hang along side Joe’s and my work, a similar soft glow of lavender and blue shows up. Somehow all the work organizes between fragility and strength.

It’s Raw and you’ll just have to go see for yourself.

vital commotion #6

WHERE: Tempe Public Library
(Lower Level Youth Library)
WHEN: Now to Dec 4th

The Tempe Public Library is located at
3500 S Rural Rd
Tempe, AZ 85282.

As you arrive watch for the Museum marker below, on the corner of Southern and Rural.

For more info on show and for artists’ statements click on  → Raw




The brain takes all the body’s information, internal and external, and produces a response. I love drawing the parts, they are mysterious and complex. Lots of folds, lots of nerves,  lots of hidden elements – for me that means things to represent.

My yoga teacher Meg says energetically we are in the cerebellum now. Each week in class we discuss the organ we are in, and its symbolic aspects. The connection comes from Meg’s interest in Tibetan Pulsation. I know little about the study. I appreciate the information. I understand there’s a physical organ connected to various points in time in the calendar year. Last Wednesday was the last day of being in the legs. Legs, Meg noted, associate with movement: steady forward, hesitant backward, or standstill.

Thursday we moved into the Cerebellum: much thinking, talking. worrying – balance is signified by clarity. Coincidentally this week in the studio I focus and complete the head of my male figure. I rework the cerebellum several times, simplifying the purple (my color choice) form just a little each time.

The cerebellum (Latin for little brain) sits at the base of the skull, above the brainstem. It controls fine movement coördination, balance, equilibrium and muscle tone. My painting of it went through stages. I like the shape, it’s a favorite. It has floral shaped elements which I clean up and eventually leave out for the sake of balancing overall  composition.

Below I start with a general sketch and move to final stage of the area. The painting itself is far from finished.


initial sketch




I always layout more detail thanI keep.


Detail of brain includes ear and the cerebellum in purple

IMG_4391 I notice our yoga practice consists of grounding asanas. We began by standing in tadasana,  firm on the feet.  I wonder now if that’s how the energy of the energy of cerebellum balances. I bet it is.

3 sheets of prepared paper, 2 sides to each sheet – 1 bird, 4 cats and 1 rodent

“For thirty years people have been asking me how I reconcile X with Y! The truthful answer is that I don’t. Everything about me is a contradiction and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There is a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don’t reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.”    – Orson Welles (1915 – 1985)

I never liked this first set of 2 cats that I painted. I thought them too sweet. Yesterday I was talking to a friend about polarities, after that conversation I knew exactly what I wanted to do to these small compositions that I was struggling with. It’s the same cat on the front and on the back, taking up the same area on the paper. Maybe I call it Two Sides to Every Story.

As of now, this first one is my favorite. It’s organic. It came to be, out of uncertainty. The cat itself is somewhat modeled after ROA’s work. I set up the skeleton in egg tempera and the cat in graphite, underneath is casein muscle structure. The background came about while I was trying to obliterate it.


mixed media – casein, graphite, gesso, egg tempera


early stage, casein under-paint


early stage, egg tempera


egg tempera

I guess I let go of the self-imposed set up, the idea of one side in pure casein and one side in pure egg tempera wasn’t working. I got another set of designs (below) and reworked them too. The graphite took so well to the prepared paper, how could I not use it. I brought in hard and soft pencils, an eraser, sand paper, a scratching tool, and gesso. And I mixed the casein and egg yolk. The cat above and the rat below, are pure and painterly egg temperas. But their other sides – mixed-media.


egg tempera


mixed media – casein, egg tempera, gesso and graphite

I began all this the first week of May after Carolyn brought me a sheet of prepared paper. The first 2 images in this post are that sheet, it’s the lightest in weight and the most flexible and was the most precious. I was going to paint cats – for the fun of it. Obviously I enjoyed the surface of the paper, and all the mediums. I pulled out all my longer and softer paintbrushes. I painted.

3 sheets of prepared paper – 1 bird, 4 cats and 1 rodent later, my studio is a mess. It’s too hot to have egg yolk lying around, it smells. I’m done for now with the experimenting, drawing a day or a week, thing. Time to pause, look – and reorganize.


mixed media cat study


This is the last paper I prepped and the final cat I planned to work on. I feel like I am just getting the hang of this and putting the paper to its best use.

This work is in casein, graphite, gesso and prisma pencil. The color went on so subtle in some places and so rich in other areas. I love the feel of the pencil on this surface. It’s unfinished, I’ll get to the background next. And the rodent on the other side  –  is going to get reworked and mixed with other mediums.


cielo / tierra

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.  – Shakespeare


early stage of bird image

I finally complete one set of two paintings on one prepared sheet of paper. This came about because Carolyn gave me a sheet of drawing paper prepared in the way she prefers to work with it. I prepped two more sheets and have been working on several 2-sided design. They all relate to a cat in one way or another. I should note again: Carolyn uses graphite and acrylic wash and does not work on both sides of the paper.



Because I am experimenting I decide I will paint one side in casein, and the other in egg tempera. Normally I mix the two mediums, but I want to know how they each respond to the surface. Both mediums work well, laying bright and smooth. My brushes and my rags like the feel too.

These images are stages of the casein bird. I collage architectural renderings (I found in a trashcan the day I started all of this) onto this one paper and prepare it the same way. I have to adjust things so the design continue to show through. It’s how the background comes to be in this set. Look closely – you see the line work I follow, paint and scratch over.

Casein takes to the surface well – egg tempera even better. I’ve already showed you the cat at its completed stage, (I show it again here below), and here is the finishedl bird which I worked some more, until I liked it.


Bird, Casein collage on prepared paper, 12″ x 12″

I did experiment with a hanging system. I have to finesse it. It’s very possible this work will hang in downtown’s 515’s art space,  in June for there 515 to the 5th exhibit where each member invites 5 artists to show a small 12″ x 12″. Mary Shindell invited me.
pajaro gato

Below is the (egg tempera) cat at an early stage so you can see the collage line work, and then the final image.



car, casein colage on prepared paper, 12″ x 12″

I am thinking about the title. If you have an idea let me know.

Cat / Bird
Una Gata / Un Pájaro  … simple.

Earth / Sky
La Tierra / El Cielo … I like this one.

Earth and Air
Tierra y Aire … I like this one.

Aversion and Attraction … This amuses me.

or … The One That Got Away.

¿rata o ratón?

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Often go awry.     – John Steinbeck

I was not comfortable with the research phase of this composition. And now that I am almost done, I wish I’d painted an alive looking rodent (as opposed to a dead looking one). I loved discovering the small clavicles, the little shoulder blades. and the delicate rib cage.


Every summer I make time, usually 5 consecutive days, to complete one small composition a day. I work from morning to evening.  I like the intense practice that gives way to  creative solutions. I never know how things will turn out, but I determine to complete a composition that balances and appeals to my eye – and to do so rather quickly. By the end of the week, I have a series of little artworks.

In summer’s past I’ve printed, drawn, and done collage. This time I paint. It’s not a week of work though, it’s going on over a month at this point. I will have 6 small paintings on paper instead of 5. I am working steady and quick but this particular time the process requires a different pace.

It’s varies because I am working a bit larger than usual. I work the front and back of a prepared sheet of paper.  The images on each side connect, and I’ve decided material and color have to compliment. I make the egg tempera palette a little different for each panel. Drying time is part of every step. The running themes are the cat (or connection to a cat) and anatomy study, the latter requires research. Consequently I need more than a day to complete an image.

Today I’ve completed a rodent. Never confident the composition would work, I decide today I like the direction it’s taking.  The image at the top of the post is the casein under-painting. I finish below – with egg tempera. I planned to only make 6, I need the other side of this paper to complete that intention. But it’s possible I may continue and finish a few more, the challenge appeals to me.


Common House Mouse (Mus Musculus)
Black Rat (Rattus Rattus)
Brown Rat (Rattus Norvegicus)

FYI – Rodents get their name from the Latin – rodere – to gnaw …


a casein bird and an egg tempera cat

“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’
Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.”

        ― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle


As I play with these small paintings on paper, I am reminded that in the Spanish language the word used for a new-born baby is criatura, which translates to creäture. I’ve studied anatomy for a good amount of time now, and working these small compositions I am most aware of how much structure we share with the animals.  I believe I have a better sense of why a cat is flexible and can jump high, and why a bird is able to fly.

I decide early on when first looking at cat anatomy, that I will make 4 cats. Very naturally, a bird enters this one set up. And because I have one more sheet of prepped paper, I plan to bring in a rodent because I am curious about their bodies and I admire Banksy’s rats.


I mention in the previous post I am experimenting with a new surface. Usually I work with both casein and egg tempera on one image, sometimes using casein as under-paint. In this case the bird is pure casein and the cat is pure egg tempera.  I wish I could give you a better sense of the surface especially in the image below. Texture shows nicely by the  lines I set in and the lines I carve out.  I think of aboriginal weaving while completing the pieces and play that up some.


I want to mention that I deal very differently with these animal studies as opposed to my large figure work. Though I am looking at basic structure, the figure work is a much more subtle study. One more play with animal structure and design and I then I plan get back to the large paintings.

it’s about material – period

The smallest feline is a masterpiece.― Leonardo da Vinci

Last month Carolyn ( who worked out the Creature in Creature Man Nature ) gave me a prepared paper.  She preps a quality sheet of drawing paper on both sides and doesn’t necessarily frame the artwork though she does fix it. I  like how she attaches it right to the wall, with no glass. I experience the direct surface of a work on paper, including edges. Her materials are graphite and acrylic white, black and gray washes and gesso. I use egg tempera, casein, and work with color.

She gives me a small sheet and says – Here, this is for you to play with … it’s small and maybe you won’t think it so precious. You can experiment.  She’s coated both sides with 4 layers of moulding paste. The paper is thick, substantial and has an object-like quality to it. Each side feels slightly different.

Oh, it’s precious all right – I’m not wasting an inch of this. I paint both sides.

The first two works are cat anatomy studies. The same cat takes up the same space on either side of the sheet.


Above, the cat is painted in egg tempera. The yolk and pigment mixture I’ve made glides smoothly across the surface. I enjoy the feel and so play with / rework the design many (many) times.  I don’t feel it’s complete yet.

The cat below, the flip side of the same paper, is in casein.  It takes well to the bit of tooth on the surface. The paint doesn’t glide, it sits different. I do like the quality though. I’ll continue to work materials and composition.


I decide to prepare a few sheets myself.  I use a heavy Arches watercolor paper. I lay 4-5 coats of moulding paste on each side and at the last-minute I decide to collage in architectural drawings that I’ve collected.

I work on a bird (below), all the while considering what the other side might become. Mary ( the Nature in Creature Man Nature ) has invited me to take part in a group show at 515. These are sized for that exhibit, so maybe one will hang sooner rather than later.  I’ll have to come up with an interesting hanging system, that too appeals to me.


Creature Man Nature closed this weekend. It was a good run. We hope to find an exhibition venue outside of Arizona next.

is it about the body?

Every square inch of the human form is a world unto itself, much of which cannot be seen with the naked eye. All of it can be felt though, especially when you simply pay some attention to it. By touring a body in detail, it is possible to build up your own, and embrace all of those nooks and crannies, some abandoned, some unnoticed for so many years. Home sweet home ~ Gil Hedley

I drew out the complete contour of the body, and then I set structure into that – the bones and muscles.  Now I organize major organs. I feel like I am filling up a container, especially because the figure is hand-standing and coming together from the ground up. I have to pay close attention because I continue to get disoriented. I have access to a full skeleton which helps when I lose grounding.
I occasionally hand stand, to feel out whatever confuses me. Thinking is not working now. It’s too much.




This morning while practicing asana, I wondered about the various structures of the body and how separately they don’t hold up. Bones have weight but they don’t move without muscle. muscle by itself won’t hold form. And the organs without containment, I imagine … could spill everywhere. Together they interact, support, and strengthen – but how does it all actually work? What moves them / me? Where does vitality emanate ? What animates … me?

I’ll be moving into the legs on the first figure. Then I’ll begin the other figure. The cat is almost complete, though I’m sure to play with her a bit more.


subtle – this body is a construct



The body is a construct.

I produced a video that shows my working process – how stage above became stage below. I produced 4 versions of the video. The real-time video runs about 30 minutes, it’s long. The first edited version is 22 minutes and it captures what I really like about my working process. It will run next to the original work on paper, at the exhibit.

The final version is about 13 minutes and you can see it on YouTube at the link below. The first part is activity, and the last part shows stages of the composition to completion.

I had to adjust the whole thing numerous times, to be able to finally upload it and share. I  enjoyed most of the process. I learned a few things…

Putting together a quality video is complicated.

There’s text,
there’s random sound caught on the radio as I worked, I learned to lift it and place it where I wanted it (it was weirdly applicable and it starts the video and ends the video),
then there’s the deliberately created sound,
there are transition points …

all layered and as consuming as making a small painting

Most important I learned sharing artist process cannot be captured in its true-scope. Once you start manipulating something…well…it ceases to be what it is and becomes something else, yes it transforms. It’s like it goes from the natural, to the man-made.

Patricia, the friend that commissioned the work – it’s her back body – is going to let me borrow it for the exhibition. That’s what she said anyway. Thanks Pat, timing is everything.

the subtle body – nothing in stasis

in ref. to things – of thin consistency
in ref. to craftsmen – skilled, clever
From O.Fr. soutil, from L. subtilis  – fine, thin, delicate, finely woven
from sub under + -tilis from tela web
texere to weave

I like the desaturated photograph below. It comes alive in a different way, for me. I have documented most everything in both color and black and white for this new series.

The work represents the posterior view of a female torso. I’ve completed a male posterior already. I use a model (the person who commissioned the work) for the initial layout. It’s a 36″ x 25″, casein and graphite painting, on a fine sheet of cream Arches paper. I’ve been working on it for about 3 weeks.

The moment of change is the only poem.   – Adrienne Rich