I'm currently exploring mixed media abstract work inspired by the Sonoran Desert. I have a particular interest in expressionist or intuitive painting where I can meld the impressions of my surroundings with the expressions of my inner world.

receive my studio notes:


Deconstructing the Landscape

 I'm on a journey in deconstructing the landscape.  Over the past year, exploring non-objective abstract vs abstract realism has had me in a quandary. I struggle with being more literal than I'd like. 

The cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland wisely pointed out that if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there. I have trouble with accurate descriptions of the level of abstraction I want to achieve, but I know it when I see it. So sketching of all kinds takes me down the path I want to explore, and concrete thought about my results help me understand what I'm most interested in including in my work. 

I've found blind contour drawings, pattern making, and value studies to be especially valuable. Blind contours loosen me up and create a skeleton to react to, value studies highlight interesting shapes and pattern making pushes me to simplify marks so they work well in a group. 

Foam craft sheets work so great for creating patterns! (these thin sheets of foam are usually found in the childrens craft section). I draw firmly on them with ballpoint pen to create the design, then use a brayer to apply paint for stamping onto surfaces. Some even have adhesive backs so you can apply them to cardboard to make a rigid surface for your homemade stamp.

Another way to simplify marks and shapes is with mono-printing and I've begun experimenting with that as well, using plexiglass.

These various techniques are used to help me discover the level of abstraction that's right for me. I want a sense of place, but no horizon lines. Loose expressive marks, but representational enough to be recognized.  The more ways I work, the more information I have to go on. My sketchbook holds all the possibilities! 

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Setting the Stage with Color

Ever notice how an area seems to have it's own color story? A wise artist once told me, "When you draw from life, your painting has life.", (Thanks Jane Burton) I feel that it's the same with color. When you discover the true colors of your subject, you're able to translate the atmosphere of your subject to your canvas.

For me, the first step is to actually mix the color I see.

I begin with 3 primary colors and begin by mixing the most obvious color, (in this case, green). For each step I take, I ask myself, is it:

warmer or cooler?

lighter or darker?

more or less saturated?

The desert is happy to give me a little color lesson each time each time I make the effort.

Using Quinacridone Magenta, Phthalo Blue and Indian Yellow

Since my paintings are abstract, I can certainly push the colors to whatever degree of saturation I like, but knowing how the color exists in the landscape gives me the intuition to do so more effectively. I'm not saying I have this figured out. There's so much to learn! But the ongoing mixing has made such a difference in my color decisions. It expands my color horizons and adds complexity to my paintings.

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Fleshing out the Theme


In "The Creative Habit", Twila Tharp describes developing a creative idea as "scratching" and I find that to be such an apt description, like scratching the surface off of a lottery ticket. She writes that "everything we need to make something out of nothing - tell a story, design a building, hum a melody - already resides within us in our experience, memories, taste, judgment, critical demeanor, humanity, purpose and humor." So developing the idea is simply research - into yourself! 

When I'm fleshing out a theme, I put it on auto-play in the back of my mind and I seek out descriptive material that leads me to think new ways about my subject. I collect:

* Books about my subject, fiction and non-fiction
* Items from nature
* Color Studies
* Sketches, marks, blind contour drawings
* Quotes
* Song Lyrics and Poetry
* Street Signs
* Memories
* Idioms and Metaphors
* Fact Based Publications such as Articles, Journals

and I free write everything I can think of on the subject. This is only one page from my sketchbook that contains some of the ideas rolling around in my mind. One source might trigger dozens of ideas/ memories/ free associations that I jot down at the time. Not everything will make its way into my art, but just collecting the ideas deepens my dive into the subject and gives me more to work from.

I especially love certain memories that give attitude to my subject. For instance, I used to go to a alternative bookstore in the desert near my Tucson home that had protected an active leafcutter ant trail that went right across the entrance to the store with a sign: "Caution: Ant Crossing" It always made me smile that the ants were acknowledged and the customers cautioned. It has a sense of whimsy, but also conservation and respect for the sonoran desert ecosystem that I want to convey.

I've thought it would be helpful to create a vision board for the concept in my studio. What do you do to keep yourself on track and immerse yourself in a body of work?

Next week I'll share some of my desert color studies.

Happy Painting!

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Introducing Studio Notes


Desert Dance, 48 x 60 x 1.5", acrylic, graphite and artist crayon
This painting won an honorable mention in Arizona Art Alliance's Heat is On Exhibition

One of my core creative purposes is to share, communicate and build connections with other creatives. Sharing requires that I think through what drives me and clarify the ideas for others before they're lost into my subconscious. I believe when creative ideas hit the air and other artists respond to them, a delicious soup of inspired energy comes about!

So to this purpose, I'm reviving my email studio notes. These are derived from the notes to self that I ponder in my sketchbook journal. I really recommend keeping a sketchbook/journal yourself. It's a place that contains your inner art vision. In fact, it's the place where you work out that vision. It exists as a work in progress, an ongoing conversation with yourself about art. I really believe it's your super-power to making better art.

Here are some of the things I collect in my sketchbook/journal and work through in the studio:

* color studies
* personal mark making
* self awareness insights
* themes/ concepts that interest me
* art assessment and analysis

I'll be sharing more about these in the coming weeks. I hope you'll find these studio notes thought provoking, and maybe even put your own two cents into the mix!

You can have my studio notes sent directly to your email from the home page of this website.

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Exploring Themes


One of the ways I use my sketchbook is to develop self awareness about what I'm seeking in my art. When I know what I want, I can map out a path to get there. When I'm not sure - I just fiddle around in the studio,  hoping to stumble across something that I'm happy with.

Sometimes, what I'm looking for changes - especially when I'm looking for themes to create from. Currently I'm seeking a sense of place in my work.

When I brainstorm about a theme, I want to explore all the aspects of why it's important to me. I try to nail down what interests me about it. The more I write, the more inspiration I have to pull from.

Here's the paint colors I used to match the seed pods you saw in my recent instagram post

I'm curious - do you keep a sketchbook/journal to flesh out themes or concepts you'd like to explore in your life or art?

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Art & Healing - West Valley Arts

The Backside of Sunrise, 36 x 36", acrylic/graphite/artist crayon

 Three of the paintings from my Lost and Found series are included in West Valley Arts exhibition: Art & Healing, showing at their gallery from July 8 - Aug 8, 2022. The featured artist for this show is David Brady, whose body of work pertaining to his own cancer recovery was rich and compelling.

Selection of work from David Brady at Art & Healing Show

Aaron White and his native flute

The musician Aaron White lit up the gallery with his spiritual native-american flute.

top: To Windward, 24 x 30, acrylic, graphite and artist crayon
bottom: Shadow Valley Pass, 24 x 30, acrylic, and artist crayon

The exhibition continues through August 8, 2022 at:
West Valley Arts HQ Gallery
16126 N Civic Center Plaza
Surprise, AZ

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