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. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Designing a Clucking Calendar

I began last night, gathering up images of the chickens I have already painted so that I can make the much-asked-for chicken calendar for 2016.

I have eight or nine (depending whether I end up combining the two Noble Hens, #4 and 5 in the squares above, into a diptych, which I may), so I need three or four more. Actually I have many more chickens than that, but for the calendar I'm only using the ones I've done in mixed media on paper.

For those of you who might be asking, "But what about the horses?", fear not. The 2016 horse calendar is also in its early design stages, but because I already did one of those last year, I actually have fewer horses than I have chickens.

If you feel this is unacceptable, send me horse photos. :-D

Monday, May 11, 2015

Springy Stuff! And I'm Sick.

A day or two after Saint Paul Art Crawl, I got sick. The cough still hasn't gone away, and I've been working steadily at my frame shop job all the while, because some other folks have been out of town.

The result of all this has been that I still need to ship two items that I finished a while ago, and I haven't created any new art to show you this week. What I did do was take the long way home a couple times last week, and let rush hour rush by while I wandered with camera, Kleenex and cough drops in hand, snapping shots and inhaling the scents that I could, amazingly, still smell.

I hope you'll all have the chance to do something similar, now that all the lilacs are blooming.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Poetry is for the Birds

What you see here is my design process as I prepare to frame this raven of mine. While I don't consider myself a poet, some of my art sprouts verses as I work on it, rather by accident. I have chosen to add the verse to this one when I frame it. 

In this draft, you can't read the writing well (and I've got some layout issues which I will correct in the final version). Here's what it says.

The Patron Saint of Storytellers
often flies away
just before he tells you how it ends.
If you keep on calling, he comes back another day
He brings you half the ending 
and you bring the rest to him.

Monday, April 6, 2015

This Painting is Galloping Away

This is Black Mare in Summer, one of my personal favorite canvases. Based on a snapshot I took of my horse, it's made of layers of oil paint and wax, and measures 40" h x 30" w.

And I'm putting it in the Live Art Auction at Schmidt Artists Lofts on April 25th.

This may surprise those of you who read my recent post critical of charity benefit art auctions. I'm so burned out on those that I almost deleted the email about this auction without even reading it. 

Glad I didn't. This auction is put on by a group of people who want to support and promote the artists while providing a fun time for everyone.

How rare is such an event?

I have never seen one like it before. I have been asked to give countless times. This is the first time I have ever been given an opportunity to sell my work in an auction.

So here I am, sending one of my own very favorite paintings to this auction. Retail, this is a twelve-hundred-dollar canvas. My reserve on it at auction is just four hundred fifty. It could go for that; that's the gamble I'm taking. If you love it, and you want it, here's your chance.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Flying on Half-Finished Wings

Night Hawk, salvaged objects and materials with polymer clay, oil paint and wax.
Tracie Thompson, 12.5" h x 8" w x 5.25" d
I hope you'll click this photo to enlarge it; the pared-down-for-fast-loading blog version loses so much. 

This was finished last night, and in a sense it was 5 years in the making: that's how long I've had the main piece, which was once part of a wooden planter but which, when I found it, was debris along the tracks in Robbinsdale. I took home several of these slats, and have now used all but one.

The "2437" piece, I picked up in a parking lot on Ford Parkway about 3 years ago. It was night, and I had a fever, but I was out walking anyway. I recall that I had a reason for that, but not what it was.

Originally the plan was to truly finish the bird's wings. There were going to be more feathers and I thought I'd paint them black. Yet the longer I worked, the less I wanted to do that, and the more I liked the feeling of the wings half-constructed yet still somehow working: It felt like life as I know it, and so it stayed.

This piece is available, $350. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Charm for Hope and Comfort

About seven years ago, when my Grandma Thompson was still alive and I was still in Florida, I found several of these little bluebirds half buried in her back yard. I'd been making art with rescued materials for a long time by then, so I plucked the little birds from the dirt and took them home. They came with me to Minnesota, and since the move I had used all but this last one, whose tail was broken when I found her and had to be glued. Over the past couple days I worked out this design and assembled it; it's one of the smallest of this series of works at about 6" high. 

All my salvaged-object pieces are about hope and comfort, even when they're also about a lot of other things. There's a meaning for me in choosing to use materials and items which have been deemed 100% worthless, either by being abandoned, forgotten, or outright discarded. It feels like a way to honor all the parts of our own selves which have taken a beating or been neglected or deemed unimportant. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Still in Art School

If you make art, and you want to do it really well, you're a student. You're always and forever a student, even when you're the instructor sometimes, even when you're getting into galleries and making sales and impressing your family and friends. This is because the moment you decide you know enough, is the moment you stop making really good art.

Red Coffeepot, 9 x 12" oil on canvas board, study from class. $60.

So here's me, being a student. This still life experiment is from my class with Derek Davis last week, where I'm continuing to learn about color and about how to loosen up my work and let go of some of my tendency to nitpick and to make edges too well defined. Is it a masterpiece? Nope. But it's a fun study that makes me happy and will probably end up brightening someone's kitchen. 

And I learn from each of these. For this one, I learned a little more about how much I could get away with blurring the edges, and how much form I could create with a big, shabby brush. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Remember the Owl?

I finished it last night, quite late, like the owl I've always been.

Any time there are owls in my art, it's got something to do with my dad, who could call to them and get them not only to respond but to come close. This is a barred owl, the kind he could talk to. I haven't titled it yet because there are so many associations I have with these birds that I'm having a hard time narrowing it down. Its working title has been Owl House, and it may just stay that way.

This is 17" high and -- I say this because I've had a couple folks ask if that was an actual, stuffed owl -- no owls were harmed in the making of this art. The owl is oil paint and black pencil on a thin piece of tin I found discarded around an old barn.

I salvaged the wire, both the heavy copper and the fine stuff, from a friend who had scrap she was throwing out. The central spire is a surveyor's stake I found while walking around Saint Paul. The heavenly bodies are bits of found-on-the-street jewelry, gears, washers, and punched-out pieces of metal from the mill district along Minnehaha Ave near 38th. 

I want to thank Bob at Front Yard Video in Florida, for giving me permission to use still images from his owl videos as reference photos. 

This piece is available, $500. I will have it on display in April at Saint Paul Art Crawl, at J.A. Geiger Studio, provided it hasn't yet sold. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Upcoming (small) Show!

I've been honored with an exhibit at Saint Paul's East Side Arts Council! If you come out on the 10th for the opening, you'll find me there creating art on site. The Arts Council Gallery is a compact space, so I'll be exhibiting a couple large paintings along with many smaller original works -- as well as some reproductions and greeting cards. These will be on display through the end of April.

Opening and Art Demo: Tuesday, March 10, 6 to 8 p.m.

East Side Arts Council is at 977 Payne Avenue, Saint Paul, 55130

Monday, February 23, 2015

Can it be Spring Yet?

I miss drawing flowers. 

Can't wait to curry out my horse's winter coat and come home covered in horse hair. 

Lilacs. I want lilacs. And tulips, and daffodils. 

Meanwhile, I've got a huge canvas of ranunculus flowers that's been lingering unfinished on my studio wall for almost a year. Perhaps this week I can get that started again, and feel a little warmer. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Storybook Portrait Project: Characters Wanted

Robin of Dogwood Forest, 10 x 8" mixed media on paper, based on a snapshot. Sold.

I began painting animal portraits at the end of 2008, after Robbinsdale --without so much as issuing a snow emergency-- towed my truck from its parking spot on the street, and charged me $200 that I really didn't have at the time. I had just moved from Florida, I didn't have a good job, but I did have the Internet. I told my online friends I would create custom art for them, small works at a small price, and at least half of the requests I got were for dogs and cats. One was a guinea pig. One was an actual pig. Then the inquiries about larger and more complex portraits began coming in. I've been doing this ever since.

Queen Ruby, approx. 13" x 11", mixed media on paper. In the reference photo, she was lounging on a beige carpeted kitty condo.  Sold.
Thing is, lots of artists do traditional animal portraits. And lots of them are very good. And meanwhile, my one-step-sideways brain has kept pulling me toward portraying these creatures as heroes of their own stories. The response to the handful I've done so far has been remarkable, and I want to greatly expand my portfolio of these storybook portraits. So I'm going back to where I started, to the Internet.

His Coat Reflects the Sky, 11 x 11" mixed media on paper. Available unframed, $350; framed, $500

I am seeking photos of dogs, cats, horses, birds, any creature you'd like to see as part of this alternate world of mine. All species will be considered, so if you have rabbits or lizards, I'm still interested. I will choose ten characters, and they'll become part of a calendar for 2016. They will also be available as prints and greeting cards.  

Purchase of the originals is optional. If you'd like to commission yours, the cost is $250 (I happily accept payments) for 8 x10" to 9 x 12" works on paper. Larger paintings can be done upon request. This is an introductory offer, and ends May 1st, 2015, when the price for commissions goes up to $400. 

Interested? Use my contact link here, or send me a message on Facebook. 

Patron Saint of Storytellers, 10 x 8" mixed media on paper.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Owls in Kindergarten

That's when I first remember drawing owls. I was five. My owl lived in a hollow in a big, dead tree, in the middle of a flat, open, kindergarten landscape. That drawing was the first time I stopped coloring the sky as a band of bright blue across the very top of the page. I was very proud of it, and I wish I still had it. 


37 years later, and I'm working on this piece. It's about 12" high, made of wood and metal and other salvaged items I picked up off the ground. What you see here is the point at which I've got the design figured out, and am about to start applying oil paint. The "house" part, which was a discarded surveyor's stake, will be shades of blue and green. The owl is a barred owl, and I'll paint it fairly realistically. 

When it's finished, I'll post more photos, and tell you why I've loved owls all my life.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Beyond "Yes" or "No" to Charity Auction Requests?

Today, I got yet another well-intentioned request to donate my art.

Once the initial flash of irritation passed, I had to acknowledge that this charity auction trend, and the damage it does to artists, is in large part our own fault.

Wait, what?
This pretty little landscape in oil on a wood panel, 9 x 12" sold in a silent auction for $35. Heartbreaking for me as the artist. It was the Last Straw for me and silent auctions; I never have or will put art in another one.
No, I mean it. We artists have helped create this monster. We've been complicit in this scenario in which, if you want original art, you stand a good chance of snagging it at 50% off retail just by waiting for the annual charity auction -- so why get it from the gallery, or directly from the artist? We've allowed the perceived worth of all our work to be driven downward by every piece that goes for 20% of its value on a "silent auction" table.

Most artists understand all this. Most of us (myself included) still donate to a cause or two each year, simply because we believe in and support it. Most of us complain to each other about the endless stream of donation requests. Then we say yes or no to the next one, and the next, and the next, and complain some more. We talk to each other about this problem all the time.

What if we started talking to the people who ask us?

Today, I did. My reply is below. It's a drop in a vast ocean, it will likely go unheeded, but it sure did make me feel better. Anyone else who thinks it will make them feel better is welcome to adapt it for their own use.


Hello, [Donation Requester].

Thank you for contacting me. Like most artists, I do work with a few charitable causes each year, and have done so for a very long time. And, like a great many artists who have donated for years, I am having more and more trouble continuing to do this under the current operating model.

To be clear, I am not necessarily saying no. I am inviting the leadership at [Charitable Organization] to consider having an honest discussion with the arts community about the trend of charity art auctions, why they are almost always a bad business move for the artists involved, and what can be done so that artists can continue supporting causes we care about without undercutting our own livelihood. These auctions, especially because there are now so many of them, are actively harming artists. Very, very few of the organizations who ask us to donate understand this. I believe that if they did, the fundraising model would change in many ways.

If you'd care to learn more, I can put your organization in touch with resources such as [Local Arts Group], to help come up with better ideas for fundraising that, if it doesn't help the artists, at least doesn't hurt us.

Thank you so much for your consideration,

Tracie Thompson

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It Must be SO NICE to Make Art All the Time!

That's what I often hear from people when I tell them what I do for a living. Surely we artists spend most of our time in creative bliss in our studios.

In the words of the internet, LOL NO.

Want to know what it's really like? Here's my current white board, which I stopped writing on when I ran out of room.

I wrote this half an hour ago and have already added five more items.
This is a mere fraction of what's on my plate as an independent small business owner. Just for starters, the stuff about show proposals, doing my taxes, getting more greeting cards printed, buying frames for things to sell at Crawl, creating a new mailing list, and a couple dozen other items, aren't on here.
A professional artist who manages to spend even 50% of her working time in her studio is an exception and the rest of us want to know how she does it. Generally it involves hiring out a whole lot of items, which I intend to do just as soon as possible.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Second World Under the Surface

I'm often asked where my ideas come from, particularly when I do things like this latest piece, where I used a photo of a very real subject and took it one step sideways. How do I think of these things? What does the collar and key mean?

The truth is, I usually don't know. I know the feeling behind the art, but very little beyond that. There's always a story going on in my work, yet it's rare that I can say what it is. 

This is what it's like to live with the brain that I have: it seems that the part that invents my dreams at night - the part that had me driving my car across a lake, the part that sent me riding on a horse that shrunk with every step, the part that let me tape a small diamond to the back of my shirt and then fly like a bird until the tape loosened and the diamond was lost - doesn't ever quite shut up when I'm awake. I don't know if other people are like this. I haven't asked. But I will look at something here in The Real World, and my brain will instantly show me the Other World, an altered version where strange and beautiful things are happening. One step sideways.

I don't ask for that to happen, it just does. I "see things" when I'm driving, when I'm looking at photos on Facebook, when I'm walking around town, basically all the time. It has been like this all my life. I almost never know what's happening in those ongoing stories in my head, but there is a sense that it's all part of the same alternate universe, one that lurks just under the surface of our own. Scrape at the ground a while and maybe magic wells up from underneath.

The moments when I'm able to capture fragments of that world are when I'm happiest as an artist. But what it all means? That answer is, and should be, different for everyone. I know, on an emotional level, what most of them mean to me. I'm more interested in learning what they mean to someone else. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Class! Making Art out of Snapshots

Pretty much everyone who learns to draw, here in our modern world, starts out by drawing from photos. And pretty much everyone gives up because, let's face it, copying photos gets really darn boring after a while.

But what if you could transform your snapshots, instead of just copying them?

This was a boring, blurry snapshot. Now it's a whimsical little painting in watercolor, pen, and Crayolas.

That's what you'll do in this fun mixed media class for beginners and up. Get out your overstuffed image libraries and start a new adventure.

I'll show you how to:

Choose a picture to work from
Pick out the Good Parts of the shot and ignore the rest
Use a grid to get accurate proportions no matter what size your art is
Have fun with colorful media like watercolors, pencils, acrylics, and even Crayola crayons!

Class is five Tuesday evenings, Feb. 10 to March 10, 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Dancing Goat Coffeehouse, 699 7th Street E, St. Paul -- right by Metro State University.

Tuition $75; limited to six students. Email me here for a materials list, or bring your own existing art materials if you prefer.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Eternal Art Student

That's me. Yesterday I was in Derek Davis' class, not teaching but learning.

Sketch of Maisie, pastel pencil and watercolor, 6 x 10"

This was what I did to warm up before class began. It's the only finished thing I have to show for my 3 hours; the rest of the time I was observing, sketching, and working out how to begin the little landscape I now have in progress.

After a year of mostly working on paper, it's both good and scary to pick up my oils again in earnest. I will always be a student; everyone who's committed to anything, in any field, is by default a student for life. Doesn't matter if it's art, medicine, golf, or dog training. 

The dog, by the way, is named Maisie. She belongs to Derek Davis, and before class she was curled up in this cute little pink chair they have at the Old Town Artists studio. I just had to sketch her, and I'm pleased with the results. I didn't get a lot of detail, but I think Maisie's youth and sweetness is there, and that's what I wanted most.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Adventures in Teaching Art

I'm looking for a new place to teach on a regular basis. 

Meanwhile, I've started working with individual students again. These are things I did as demonstrations last night for one of them, a vibrant and creative woman whose confidence got eroded away by the same currents that get to us all sometimes. I broke out the watercolors and crayons, because it's been my experience that the road out of I'm Too Scared goes right through the playground.

The student in question has been caught in a quandary: She's an abstractionist at heart. She makes these bold, joyful, colorful compositions that look accomplished enough that if I saw them on a gallery wall, I wouldn't question it. 

But she wants to learn to draw what she sees. So, how to learn the intimidating drawing part without losing the joy of the thing she truly loves? I decided the answer was: Start playing with the abstract forms and patterns in the world around us. I have a collection of photos of this kind of thing, so I printed up a few and that's what we did. The bird above was a demo about applying watercolor in an imprecise, fun way (relating to the way she already uses color, but watercolor is a new medium for her). Below, I got the crayons out and did a much more abstract demo from the shapes and colors of a branch of fall leaves. This is that crayon-and-watercolor thing you did in grade school, and yes, that's regular old Crayolas I was using.

For an artist who'd felt as if there was a great wall between "abstract" and "real", this was a revelation and freed her up to find subject matter in the real world, without having to make it realistic.

For me, it was a chance to play again and do things I'd never otherwise have done. I like my abstracted leaves well enough to want to make more, and there's no way it would have ever happened if I hadn't needed to help someone else learn to play again.