Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The past couple of months have been really good for me. Jason is not working (officially, anyway) and we've been tag-teaming with the kids so we both get some time to work on our myriad projects.

My myriad projects, of course, being the paintings I started before Isla was born. I do this thing where I start like three or four or seven pieces all at once, and they all poke along for a while, then I lose steam or have a baby or pack up and move entirely, and I balk at finishing them.


We're moving again in four weeks, and NOW IS MY TIME. Here's a piece I finished several weeks ago, but haven't posted because the working title -- "B500" -- was just not going to cut it. Naming paintings is harder than it looks. Try it.

But before the name, the evolution:

I started with a collaged background, and went over it with some wash-y gesso and ooh, drips. That's painting with abandon.

Like usual, I wanted to create lots of layers, but have them be transparent enough to show depth and texture.

Then I got a projector! I did some contour drawings on transparency paper and played around with the position of the bones before painting them on. It felt kind of like cheating, but that's what projectors are for. Besides, Andy Warhol did it.

It stayed like that for a while, mainly because I liked the bones too much & didn't want to go over them. Liked them, knew they had to change: my familiar dilemma.

Also familiar, the stage we'll just refer to as "miasma":

I have to mess things up when I can see that I'm protecting something. Most of my pieces get to this point, either "miasma" or "circus." (The commission piece I did in 2008 even had a "massacre at the beach" phase. Oh yeah.) The good thing with this piece was that I was just painting with acrylics, so I didn't feel bad about that step at all. It was a relief, actually.

It was even more of a relief to bring it back:

Most of the time I feel like I'm still exploring what paint can do, and there's something unexpected every time. There's what I can see in my mind, and then there's the inevitable stumbling blocks when I try to manipulate the media.

For this piece I wanted it to look like someone spilled some tea on the canvas.

I was finally getting what I wanted with the layers, so I just wanted to make the bones a little brighter without changing everything else. (There's kind of a lighting discrepancy between the photo above and the one below... I really didn't do anything to the background)

I used a soft pencil to reassert the outline of the bones, then smudged it with water to soften the line. The graphite, together with a little more light paint to solidify the bones, made just the right amount of contrast to focus the piece and finish it up. I'm pleased.

18 x 24 inches, acrylic and mixed media on canvas

The bone swooping out and to the left is a rib, and it's articulating with two vertebrae. Stacked like a puzzle, like sculpture.

And the name: Tisane is a lovely word for what is basically herbal tea... but I didn't choose it because I took the tea-spilling idea so seriously. Here's the definition I liked: "an infusion (as of dried herbs) used as a beverage or for medicinal effects.

For years I've been offering up different configurations of bones and flowers as gifts to friends who have suffered injuries, as a sort of charm, or a way to remind them that their bodies are amazing and capable of healing. I know when I'm in pain I get ornery and resentful and impatient; I focus on the discomfort instead of how to take care of myself.

This piece is a reminder, then. A recognition of the body's natural ability to keep itself in right balance.

A visual infusion for medicinal effects.


Monday, June 13, 2011

cotton simple skirt

My niece just turned five, and I made her this sweet skirt, from Dana at Made's tutorial.

LOVED the cotton plant fabric, should have bought more. Now her mom wants one, too. Guess I'll have to try this pattern next! (Did I mention how much I love Dana? In a totally not-a-weird-stalker-from-the-internet way.)


Friday, June 10, 2011


Weeks and weeks ago I borrowed a model spine in order to do some drawings for this commission piece I'm working on. It took me forever to get around to doing the sketches, but I'm glad I did because these renderings came out so much better than the ones I'd done from blurry internet photos:

I appreciate these bones even more now that I know how they fit together. Your spine is an amazing piece of sculpture. Go give it a massage.

Here's the first layer of painting I did:
And here's the next layer, looking rather opaque and circus-y next to that nice loose wash above:

I traced the bone sketches in order to position them and transfer them onto the canvases (so the paper you see here won't actually be IN the paintings):

I did some more work on them today, and I'm excited to get pictures up of the next steps, not only because this layer was kind of uhg, but because they're really evolving quickly and starting to get interesting.

I think I'm getting better at trusting the process of painting -- of constantly tipping things into and out of balance, and back again -- but it still usually feels like jumping into the deep end. You trust you'll come bobbing back up to the surface eventually, right?


Monday, June 6, 2011

wrap-tie summer shirt

I designed a little wrap-front summer top for Isla. I started at the drawing board with a sketch and everything. Here's the finished piece:

The only catch was making it reversible. I ended up top-stitching the arm-hole seams, because I couldn't figure out another way to do it. This is where it would be helpful to have a pattern. Or, you know, be trained or something.

Navy and white polka-dot fabric: thrifted, a repurposed placemat. That's what I like about making clothes for little ones... you don't need a lot of fabric. You can repurpose almost anything.

Sweetie sweet sweet.

Excuse me, I need to go nibble on tender babylegs now.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

smarter than a 3-year-old

"What street are we on, mama?"
"What does Division mean?"
"It means, uh... okay... divide? Let's see... if you break something? Ummm... You have a whole thing, and you break it... No. Okay, like, to cut. When you cut a big thing into smaller things. Does that make sense?"
"Like if you have a peanut-butter sandwich and you cut it in half. You divide it in half. You... uh, you did division."
"That's silly."