Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Birdhouses Continued: The Barn Owl House

barn owl, owl art, birdhouse,

The first birdhouse, the Screech Owl House, was so much fun to create (it was work, and a lot of work, but work I truly enjoyed) that I chose to make a second one. This has a tiny bird's nest inside just like the first one does.

barn owl, owl art, bird art, birdhouse

My goal was to have it completed by April 22, when Saint Paul Art Crawl opened, and I made it!

Deadlines are perhaps the least fun but most useful tool in the Artist Productivity Kit. This is one of several brand new pieces I've completed ahead of Art Crawl, with most already posted to my Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Make a Little Birdhouse in Your Soul

owl art

The birdhouse project, which has had me quietly singing Birdhouse in Your Soul for the past few days, began with a decorative basswood birdhouse from Ye Olde Crafte Shoppe. Saint Paul Art Collective gave a lot of birdhouses to a lot of artists and asked us to make art out of them. The finished works will be auctioned during Saint Paul Art Crawl from April 22 to 24.

owl art

The first thing I did with my birdhouse was give it some legs. Then I needed to figure out what kind of bird it belonged to. I liked the shape of an owl's head with the feather tufts on top, but a Great Horned seemed too big and too serious.

owl art

owl art

So I chose a little Screech Owl instead. They are an interesting combination of adorable and eerie; the eerie part is when you hear them in the middle of the night and HOLY CRAP WHAT WAS THAT.

owl art

A tight deadline meant I had to use acrylics instead of my default oil paints. This needed to dry, and it needed to dry FAST.

owl art

All the twigs are attached like pegs. I drilled holes in the base and the roof, just large enough to wedge the branches in and then glue them.

owl art

owl art

And on the inside, a tiny nest I found fallen to the ground some time ago. It was a perfect fit.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Spring Art Crawl is Coming Soon!

As usual, I'll be at J.A. Geiger Studio, and will be creating On the Spot Animal Portrait Sketches during the event. Start snapping shots of your favorite critter now!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


These are details of a fairly large commission consisting of three wooden panels, each 24" square. I am having the worst time trying to photograph the entire thing; its subtle colors and the shifting sheen of the wood seem to confound my camera. I'll give it another shot this afternoon (if you'll pardon the pun), and meanwhile, here are the two birds I painted into the piece. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Big Lemons and Such

Sometimes, big lemons are awesome. I grew this one on my balcony, from a tiny Meyer Lemon tree I named Lemony Snicket. 

Other times, the big lemons come in the form of, say, the MN DOT shutting down both directions of the interstate AND the light rail system, for the entire weekend of your carefully planned open studio event, so that instead of healthy traffic and steady sales, you do little better than covering your expenses. 

That's what happened to a great many artists of Saint Paul Art Crawl last weekend, myself included. It isn't the first time interstate closures have crippled the event, and surely it won't be the last. Things happen. Outdoor fairs get rain or tornadoes, websites crash, the cat horks on the rug and you find it with your foot in the morning. And sometimes, the DOT makes your event practically DOA. 

It was still a good weekend, and there's still no telling what good things might come of it. I met a few delightful new people and one amazingly cool Border Terrier whose portrait I drew, and we got a visit from a gallery director who drove almost an hour to the event because she wants to schedule me for an exhibit. And while things were slow because so few people could get to us, I finished a chicken for my upcoming Chickens of Distinction calendar for 2016.

Bogey, the Amazingly Cool Border Terrier

So that's the news from here, and it's good, and also if anyone has a recipe that requires maybe 1/4 cup of lemon juice ... I might need that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Finding the Spark, Not Just the Bark

I spent much of Sunday creating very quick sketches of animals, using cell phone photos -- yes, still on the phone, on that tiny screen -- for reference. These are 8 x 10" and took an average of 25 minutes each. They all went home with their owners immediately, so I snapped shots of the art on my own cell phone when I had a moment.

If you're guessing that working from photos on a phone is challenging, you're right. It's especially so if you only have 20-ish minutes to capture what's important. 

For me, that means that more than anything else, I've got to get the expression in the eyes. I won't get the absolute accuracy I'd get if I had more time, but I've found that absolute accuracy is not what makes or breaks a piece of art. 

It's the life that has to be there, the sense of energy and character, and weirdly this is as true in a landscape as in a portrait of a Boston Terrier. 

I'll be doing these kinds of drawings again during Saint Paul Art Crawl. If you'd like one, come see me! But do bring prints of your favorite snapshots; prints on plain typing paper from your desktop printer are ideal. Working from a cell phone really is a lot harder. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Princess Crow in Her Parlor
The Princess at Home in Her Parlor, two 6"x6" panels with collage, oil paint, colored pencil, wax medium.
CLICK TO ENLARGE if you please. She loses a lot of detail at blog-friendly size.

On Monday when I took the trash out, I found a small bit of spangled ribbon on the ground, and thought that it looked like a collar or necklace for one of my creatures. And here's the creature, finished last night, still drying on the still life table in my studio.

I had already taken these two wooden panels -- small ones, 6" square and 1.5" deep -- and used wax to collage some interestingly patterned tissue paper onto them. The pattern is very wallpaper-like, and very red. And then I had the drawings I'd already done of the young crow I once rescued from entrapment in a deep basement window well.

I flipped the drawing and copied it onto one of the panels, then picked up a black wax-lead pencil and began drawing twigs, a nest, a moon. Layers of translucent wax/paint gave everything color, and I allowed the "wallpaper" to peek through, because after all the sky is a living room for our young Princess. Some of the pattern served as remnants of foliage on the tree.

The necklace had to go on carefully, because if I covered it in paint by accident I'd never get that off. A thick layer of translucent wax, a few slippery adjustments, a few strokes of black to soften the edge, and STOP NOW YOU FOOL, IT'S DONE.

Still, I needed a moon: Something silver, with a subtle texture, easily collaged into place, shiny enough to complement the crow's necklace but not so attention-grabbing that it stole the show.

Nothing I had in the studio would do.

So I put my shoes on and went down to the street, in the dark, looking for a discarded gum wrapper in the litter. That's what the moon in this piece is made of.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Little Lulu

Lulu belongs to Jeanne Klein, organizer of the Horse Crazy Market where I exhibit in December. Jeanne takes a class with me, and brought in photos our friend D'Arcy Allison Teasley (of Horse Tribe studios) took of her animals; I chose a shot of Lulu to use for a demonstration.

The idea was to show how to draw/paint black shapes while keeping their form -- to make them dark enough to read as black, but not let them turn into flat black blobs. So all I meant to draw was that black ear and the area around her eye, and then ... it got away from me and the next thing I knew, I had this.

If you make art for very long, you start to get these odd moments of magic, where you do something and then aren't quite sure how you did it (or how you did it that fast). There ought to be a word for that, but I don't know it if there is.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Upcoming Events!

I’m in the Faculty Show at Minnetonka Center for the Arts, Aug. 20th — Sept. 24th; Reception is on Thursday, Sept. 17th, 6 - 8 p.m.

Because my Photo-Inspired Mixed Media class (click link, scroll down a bit) at MTCA is on creating mixed media art based on your own amateur snapshots, I’m showing three pieces of animal themed art in mixed media. 

I’ve got three works in the Animal Attraction show at Gallery 427, Sept. 18th - Oct. 10th; Reception is Friday, Sept. 18th, 7 - 10 p.m.

I’m the September artist at Espresso Royale at the corner of Fairview and Randolph in Saint Paul. Highly recommend coming in for their astoundingly good vanilla lattes, made with genuine vanilla syrup they brew on site. 

October: of course I am in Saint Paul Art Crawl! October 9, 10, and 11; hours and full map are on their site. I show at J.A. Geiger Studio where it’s easy and free to park because we are in an East St. Paul neighborhood rather than in crowded Lowertown. Art Crawl is the ONLY time I create pet portrait sketches “on the spot” from your photos; cost is between $20 and $60 depending how many animals are in the shot and how long you’d like me to spend on the mixed media sketch. 

November: I’m at Peggy’s Holiday Boutique at the Oval in Roseville from November 7 - 15th, displaying original art, reproductions, and a lot of greeting cards, and I’m also one of the artists who does live art demonstrations during the weekends (schedule TBA). 

Then it’s Art of the Holidays at Minnetonka Center for the Arts (click the link and scroll down for info), Nov. 12th — December 23rd; Grand Opening is Nov. 11th, 6 - 9 p.m. This show/sale is a great tradition in Minnetonka and one of the best places to find truly unique gift items. 

December: HORSE CRAZY MARKET, here I come!  Friday, Dec. 4th, 2 - 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 5th, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.. This two-day event is in its third year and growing fast. It’s at the Ramada Bloomington (formerly the Thunderbird) and admission is free. There are a LOT of high-quality professional artists there, and this year’s roster includes a strong secondary focus on dogs and dog-related art and gift items. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Tiny Queen on the Balcony

Queen Amelia of the Garden, 7 x 10" mixed media on tan cotton paper.

So this is a BIG reason why I live where I do.

Because this apartment has sliding doors that open onto a balcony, and I had to have some kind of outdoor space where things can grow. 

The Happy Sparrows series started here, at my balcony feeder. The forget-me-nots and chamomile and nasturtiums, all in pots along the railing where they get as much sun as they can. While I don't have any chickens up here, I do grow the things I use for their settings. 

This spring, I went to look at an artist's loft in one of the big live/work buildings in Lowertown. Beautiful brick, aged wood, the community in the heart of everything -- and not so much as a window box to call my own. I pictured myself there and my heart sank, and I came back home grateful for the sunlight and space of my balcony, full of lively little sparrows even in the middle of winter. 

Always, I'm taking that step sideways from reality, but it turns out I need to have one foot on the ground, even if that ground is three floors up.