Tuesday, January 14, 2020


The little furry buggers are just deep, deep wells you throw all your emotions into.
Bruce Schimmel

I'm a big believer in "the way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives." It drives me absolutely batty when someone says they like to do something and in all the years I've known them I've only seen them do it once or twice. Oh , IN YOUR HEAD you like to do this or that.
"I love to garden"
"Reading books is a favorite activity"
"I'm a photographer"
There always seems to be an excuse why they aren't doing it AT THIS TIME. 
"My work is crazy"
"I'm too busy with kids"
"My life is just so busy right now"

 Years ago, people began to drop out of my Book Club when they started having kids -- "I don't have time to read anymore,"  REALLY? How can that be?

You don't have time to do photography? Is it because you're on Facebook 2 hours a day? hmmm.

Enough ranting. You get my point. Animals have always been MY priority. That's why I love to paint them. No I don't regularly volunteer at an animal shelter, because I want to spend every second I can with my kids. Do I have a hundred animals at home? I wish, but it isn't practical for me (at this time). But do I do benefit walks to raise money? Yes. Do I give a ton of money to help out? No, I don't have a ton of money (or even half a ton). But I do my part as best I can.

The best thing I can do is to share my gifts. So I donate artwork whenever I can. Every month to someone. Here are the animal places I've donated prints, paintings, and cards to over the last few years: Richmond Animal League, SPCA, National Mill Dog Rescue, Fetch, Colorado Beagle Rescue, Help Alf (giraffe rescue), Global Conservation Force, Fetch A Cure, Palm Oil Action Team Rhino, Rabbit Wrangle, etc etc. [Other causes: schools, child abuse, art education, church, my neighborhood, Hospice, Alzheimer's Association,etc etc] . I'm not trying to brag or anything here, don't get me wrong, I'm just saying it's important to walk the walk. (Maybe you tell I've been around too many bull shitters lately).

I would take care of every animal in the world if I could. In fact, I often prefer their company to humans. So I paint animals. I try to show what I see in them. I consider one of the best experiences of my life growing up with a Golden Retriever from the time I was 5 until I was 21. So lucky. I am so grateful for my dog now, who makes me laugh every day, has listened to all of my moaning and groaning, has lain in bed with me hour after hour when I'm sick, licks my tears when I'm sad. I am not exaggerating when I say that HIS unconditional love gave me enough courage to leave a bad situation a few years ago to improve my life.

SO....all that being said, I HAVE to do something for the poor animals in Australia. I cannot listen to the radio or watch anything on TV where I see them suffering. This week I painted, as quickly as I could, a Koala Mama and her baby, and another piece of a Silly Kangaroo. I've had them scanned to make prints as well. 40% of all of the proceeds from the originals and the prints will go to Australian animal rescue groups. I did a little bit of research, and here is who I intend to send money to. Please send money independent of me if you can. These animals have no reason to suffer in any way, and to find that some of these fires were set on purpose makes me sort of sick to my stomach.

Please help if you can:



WORLD WILDLIFE FUND: donate.wwf.org.au

WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc. ) wires.org.au/blog/emergency-donations-to-help-wildlife



Sunday, December 22, 2019

I paint in order not to cry.
--Paul Klee

I love to work in series, to choose a subject and see how far I can go with it. Change it, work with it, experiment. This year I have felt pulled to flowers, more than in the past. I love the gardens at the eldercare facility where I work and I walk through them every day I'm there-- smelling, taking pictures, looking at colors, watching transformations. I walk my dog twice a day and observe the changes in nature I see along our paths. A chance opportunity landed in my lap early in 2019 and I have begun a Botanical Illustration certification program. Spring arrived. I feel this strong pull from several directions and am following this instinct.

On April 1 I started a new series, "100 Flowers in 100 Days", similar to my painting-a-day habit of a few years ago. I've relished it and am definitely not done with these paintings. Ideally I would have hit the 100th painting on July 9, but life, work, summer, vacation got in the way and I didn't make my deadline. The beauty of being your own boss and sole employee is that it doesn't matter if I break the rules. So I've continued along past the deadline and working on commissions and other projects that have come about. 

I started out with a "chaos theory" technique with crazy underpainting and then working out flowers and arrangements with the negative space. Other paintings I added paper to. Some paintings were inspired by photos. I have used really bright colors and enjoyed florescent paint. I wondered if my sight was going as I couldn't seem to go bright enough, like when you keep adding more spice to foods when the flavor seems too bland. It's now the end of December and I'm up to about number 73. I've had fun naming them. It was too confusing to call one "Pink Flower" and then do ten more with pink flowers, so I named them according to what was going on while I was painting. One is called "Tastes Like A Combo" because that's what I was snacking on. One is called "Go Away Kelly So I Can Work" after a friend who wanted to chat all day (she is flattered not offended by the title), and so on. They are all posted on my website and listed on Etsy. Here are a few:

I've tried to line the wall of my studio with them but I have run out of room. I am hoping to find a venue to display a lot of them together.

In the spring and summer I couldn't paint them fast enough, was having so much fun, painted during the day and started new ones at night. The ideas kept coming and coming.

And then Fall approached, and naturally I got busy with holiday shows and commissions for clients. But I realize something else was going on, now that I am looking back. In early Fall, our family had Some Trouble that we have been dealing with since. I wanted to continue the flowers but haven't been able to follow through. I am still painting, but I find my colors darker as I work through this thing. The flower paintings seem too happy and upbeat for my mood. Usually color is the very thing that brings me out from under a grey cloud, and it will eventually, but for now I find the florescent paint too bright, the spontaneity of the flowers too tiring, the wonder of the flowers themselves dulled. I've realized that even my wardrobe has turned to mostly black these days, unless I am with people that I am totally comfortable and confident around, and then my usual bright colors appear. Ever since I presented a "spiritual journey" at my church years ago, and looked at the paintings as a whole, I saw everything I had been experiencing in life, right there on the canvas.  Now I am aware of revealing myself in this way. I may hold my cards close verbally but my emotions are still out there to be seen.

I know this time period will pass. I've been through enough downs and difficulties to know that change is constant and we are always in a sort of transformation. My motto is, "I fall down. I get up." I long ago learned to accept these downturns, learn from them, and wait for the upswing. The last 27 flowers paintings will happen, and then some. Maybe in a week, or it may take a few months. I have no doubt the direction will change, and grow, and transform, but never stay the same. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Walking In Sunshine

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
--John Muir

I'm so lucky to have a big dog that needs to be walked several times a day. He usually chooses our route and he is a creature of habit so we frequently end up walking the same path every day.   When we follow our normal route it's interesting to see little changes in the way things look day after day. As February comes to a close, you start to see tiny little buds show up on trees and think, was that there yesterday? Then something green starts to emerge from the ground. It's like the earth gradually starts to wake up after a deep sleep. And makes you realize that even though it looked like nothing was going on in this spot for several months, behind the curtain there was actually a lot of activity. A good life lesson there.

These walks are of course, good for me, and I get a lot of joy seeing how this little thing that we do several times a day makes my dog so very very happy.

One of the best things about these daily walks is the thinking time. I get so many of my ideas when I'm out free from the distractions of my home and electronics (I usually don't bother to take my phone). A few months ago I saw a friend out walking and said, "If you ever want to walk in the morning, let me know," and I respect her enormously because she said, "I really can't. This is when I collect my thoughts for the day." I also appreciate her honesty.

There's a famous quote by Grant Wood, who painted American Gothic, the painting with the farmer and his wife standing with a pitchfork, in front of their farmhouse. He said, "All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow." Without getting into left brain right brain stuff, when your hands and body are busy with routine tasks, your mind is free to think and imagine. Which is why the coloring book craze is so good for us.

Anyway, while walking with Rufus, I have watched spring approach, which is incredibly beautiful in Virginia. Winter seems to hang on a little too long, and the choking heat and humidity of summer still seem a long way off. One by one, pops of color have appeared -- the yellow of daffodils and forsythia, red of flowering quince, purple from grape hyacinths and crocus. This week the tulips are about to explode, and this morning I saw the first iris in full bloom. Artists never tire of flowers because the challenge of matching some of the real life colors is endless. Some colors can ONLY be found in nature, the most astonishing painting of all.

I've been painting flowers for years, sometimes obsessed with color, sometimes obsessed with shape, other times detail.

 Last summer I started some flower paintings exploring a new technique but found them lacking.

 Not really finished, to my eye. The fermenting and percolating in my brain all winter has helped me realize how I wanted them to look, and what I needed to do. During the past few weeks I have been furiously, obsessively experimenting and practicing. So today, April 1 the flowers in the outdoors as well as those created by me, are exploding. I'm starting a new discipline today, 100 Flowers in 100 Days (similar to my Daily Painting practice). It will run April 1 to July 9, I will post a new painting each day on FB and Instagram, and put up on my Etsy site for sale. We'll see where this goes.

These are a few that have been started but by no means finished. Watch what happens!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Lesson In Flower Arranging

Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.

Whenever I'm at shows or markets, people ask how I make my collages. I know all the rage now is Live Video, but I've not advanced to that as yet, so here is my step-by-step for a piece that I recently finished.

Usually I make collages of animals, which I paint and add paper to. I save a ton of photos and clippings that serve as inspiration, and I had run across a bunch of flower bouquet photos I have and thought I'd take a break from the animals. I reinterpreted one of the bouquets in paper and paint a few months ago. I had gotten good feedback on Instagram which I use as a sort of barometer, so I thought I'd do a few more.  Here is the first one.

So, here's my process:

First, I looked through my color clippings. Whenever I see color combinations I like, I cut out the magazine page, or get a sample of the fabric, or take of photo of the outfit.  I find that if I just make note of the colors I don't remember the precise shades that attracted me. This is a nice combination of pinks, whites, reds, and yellow from a catalog. I love using red and white -- those colors always look classic but also fresh, clean, and energetic. And red and pink is my all time favorite color combination (at least today it is). This is a comforter/duvet cover from the catalog.

Next I found a photo of a flower bouquet that I thought I could recreate using this simple color combination.

 I made a rough sketch in paint to create the composition and make sure the proportions were correct. When I paint in oil, I usually do an underpainting but since most of the canvas will be covered with paper I didn't see the need for this step.  Based on the photo,  I divided the flower parts into the 4 basic colors, deciding that the stems and leaves would be white.  

Next,  I put in a little bit more detail for the flowers to further clarify the shapes and where the colors would go. Whenever I'm teaching drawing and painting I suggest that students concentrate on making shapes instead of trying to capture the actual object they are drawing. With this bouquet of flowers there are lots of roses, peonies, tulips, and ranunculus, all with different leaves and stems -- which can be totally overwhelming to capture on canvas. However, if you look at each part as just a shape (instead of a particular flower), your brain forgets the roses, peonies, and ranunculus, and you make circles, ovals, and lines.

After I got the shapes right, I started to add the paper. I have a HUGE collection of papers, and keep them fairly organized according to color. So I grabbed a stack of pink papers and scraps and started pulling out pieces I wanted to use. Not as simple as it sounds --  I have particular shades of pink in my head; a soft medium bubble gum pink for the background -- in paint, and a fuschia hot pink for flower parts.

I finished off with the papers, including the whites and creams for the leaves and stems.

To finish and pull together each flower, I add another layer of paint, outlining the shapes.  I then added a really basic vase in a great neon pink, and added a yellow table (including a shadow using yellow paper), as well as yellow centers to the flowers. You can see how this paint step really differentiates the flowers and stems from one another and pulls the piece together. 

I usually come back a day or so later to look at the piece with fresh eyes and decide if I need to make any changes. If it's done, I cover the canvas with a water based varnish to make sure the paper doesn't start to come unglued later or tear, as well as give the painting a glossy finish.  Voila.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.
Anatole France

Any of you that know me, have seen my paintings, or any of my Facebook or Instagram posts know that I am crazy about dogs.  I always have been. You've probably heard the phrase, "The more I know people the more I love my dog", from Mark Twain. Enough said. I was never a girl crazy for horses like so many females. (Usually a preteen phase, horses are a symbol of power). It was always, always dogs for me.  I considered being a veterinarian when I grew up but I was afraid I'd have to see too many hurting animals so I changed my aspirations. One summer I returned from sleep away camp and my sweet mother had painted dogs all over my bedroom furniture. I was thrilled.

I was lucky enough to grow up with a Golden Retriever who was my constant companion. We got him when I was about 4 years old and from then on I refused to go to bed without him.  I would build half a nest on my bed with all of my dolls and stuffed animals, and he would curl around me to form the other half of the nest. He always stayed until I was asleep, then got up and checked on everyone else in the house. He kept a nightly patrol sleeping for a while here and there between checking on us. He lived until he was almost 16, two years after we began giving him daily shots for diabetes. I spent my entire childhood and teens with him and I was in college when we finally had to put him down. He had been with me for my whole life. He was as much a brother to me as my biological human brother.  He was an integral part of my childhood and influenced the person I am today. He taught me about love, play, sharing, loyalty, obedience. He let me dress him up, attended my tea parties, listened as I read books to him, was often a student in my made up classroom, wrestled with me, let me play hair salon with him, tried my cooking, listened to my boyfriend problems. I became a forever dog lover because of him. (Even now as I write this I am getting teary).

*(If you want to read a fantastic dog novel, read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.)

I am slowly making my way through several dog manuals, trying to paint each breed. No matter how many paintings or prints I have of different varieties of dogs, someone always asks for the breed that I don't have. So I'm trying to correct that. Here are a few:


Great Dane







  Bassett Hound


I've parented various animals since our Golden Boy but I didn't fall truly head over heels in love again until we adopted Rufus, not coincidentally another Golden Retriever. He's my third child, the one I have had more time to just sit and look at and fall in love with over and over. My boys are 15 months apart and their early years are a blur of diapers, constant motion, messes, and physical exhaustion. I simply did not have time to ooh and aah over them for hours on end like I do with Rufus.

Rufus has again reminded me of the wonder of these creatures. He's a beautiful specimen, and also silly, affectionate, and so very, very sweet. He has spent many hours lying next to me in bed when I am not feeling well. He is so happy when I get home in the afternoon, or greet him in the morning, or offer to take him for a walk. He smiles a huge smile, wags his tail like mad, and turns in circles, leaning on me the whole time, as if I've just offered him the greatest gift in the world, for the first time. He loves my cooking, never disses a movie I want to watch, is perfectly happy to hang out and read magazines, isn't constantly calling me to "come here!", tries to help me with many chores like gardening and making the bed. He respects my choices, doesn't hold grudges, doesn't talk back and never tries to make me feel bad about something I've said or done. He even loves doing yoga with me, although he sometimes hogs the mat.

And he makes me laugh every single day.

Besides their kind demeanor, I'm fascinated by the variety of dogs out there. What an imagination someone had when he made this world!! Tall dogs, short dogs, floppy eared dogs, dogs with ears that stand up, shorthaired dogs, lush long haired dogs, black, red ,white, grey dogs --or a combination of all of those colors in one dog. Spotted dogs, blue eyed dogs, smashed face dogs, racing dogs, hunting dogs, crime solving dogs, show dogs. Dogs that howl, those that yap. All of these parts are interesting and wonderful but to me the quirky partss are what I love the most. Here are a few.

Rufus loves to sit in the Frog Dog position. It never fails to make me laugh even though I've seen it a hundred times.

There are other quirks. A friend once came over with a Boxer puppy, who played in the yard with Rufus. Although she was tiny, she kept trying to pin him down -- to trap Rufus on the ground and stand over him with her legs on each side. "It's what Boxers do," my friend said nonchalantly.  It was really funny looking; they actually like to pin down their playmates. Which came first, the Boxer dog or boxer fighter person?

This is Bailey and apparently this is a Dachshund thing, to be able to balance that short compact body on his rear end (have also seen Basset Hounds do it):

And this is a friend's whippet.  Again, this is what whippets do, apparently. Is she double jointed?

This is how she sleeps. Can she make herself any smaller?

What does your breed do?