Monday, December 26, 2011


This is the latest "Writing on the Wall" entry in my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project.  This гараж is located across the way from Rila Monastery, one of Bulgaria's finest historical attractions and a UNESCO world heritage site.  The Monastery is sublime (really, have a look and this little sketch is pretty silly by comparison, but was great fun to do.  The garage itself is quite important as it houses the local fire engine.  Next to the garage is a cafe that serves fresh-caught trout from the Rila River.  Yum.  Fond memory.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Darkness and the Light

I'm feeling a little melancholy this morning.  As we edge towards the longest night of the year, I'm reflecting on the darkness and the we need the darkness to appreciate the light. It can be an overstimulating time of year with all the shopping, cooking, parties, crowds, and made for TV specials.  It can be a lonely time of year with painful reminders of losses.  At the same time, it can be a joyous time of year with time spent with loved ones and I'm looking forward to Christmas with my family, and feeling very blessed.  We are having glorious weather so we may be able to get some good walks in while we are together.

We have a new grand baby in our family and are so thrilled to have met her and to have spent time with her parents and older brother this past week.  As she comes into the world, we are sharing the wonder with a friend whose grandson was born just a few days earlier.  However, another friend across the country gave birth to a still born daughter last week and  another friend's father died on Saturday.  I am so sad for them at the same time as being so happy for us.  So I'm reflecting on cycles.

For me painting is a time of solace, of time out of time.  I can get lost in the process and be completely unaware of time passing. And, I've been very productive in spite of the business of the season and family stuff.

Here's another sketchbook journal entry from "The Writing on the Wall".  Everything is such a learning experience...I used rice paper to cover the gaps after refilling the sketchbook with watercolor paper.  This particular rice paper is very absorbent and the water and color flow everywhere, causing it to look a little dirty, causing a big contrast with the rest of the paper.  Oh, well live and learn.  I'll try to do something deliberate on the next page that has the rice paper strip.

And here are two recently completed paintings from our Creative Every Day theme: Winter.
There's a funny pinkish shadow on this first one, but I'll leave it for now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Back Again

The sketchbook project has me back again, working on watercolor with a more regular rhythm.  I'm not thrilled with the results, but AM thrilled with the surge of creative energy.

Here are two finished sketchbook pages using the "Writing on the Wall" theme:
Prayer Wall at Mary's House, Ephesus, Turkey
Escuela de Acordeon, Madrid
And a watercolor showing a wintry, foggy valley.  This is in progress, as a couple of edges need softening and some other contrast put in place.  But I like how it's coming along, and you should know that the colors here aren't very true.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sketchbook Project

Well, I posted absolutely nothing during Art Every Day Month.  I did art some days, but not all.  Now, I'm embarked on the Sketchbook Project (information available at, first putting down my money and selecting the strand "The Writing on the Wall". While I was waiting for the book, I thought a lot about the topic, and looked up the reference.  Usually when we think of the writing on the wall, we think of a warning, a foreshadowing that something dire is going to happen, which we would all understand would be inevitable if we were only paying attention.  I decided to be much more literal and use it to mean actual writing on actual walls.

When the sketchbook arrived, I studied it and tried to figure out a way to replace the paper with watercolor paper.  I figured out something, though I'm not sure how durable it will end up being.   Here's the first sketch, of an actual sign found on the walls all over Suchitoto, El Salvador.  It's translated:  In this house, we want a life free of violence against women."

 I'm now working on the second sketch and have a roadmap in mind of where this is going.  The rules I've created for myself are...
  •  All have to have some writing or symbols
  • All writing or symbols have to be on or attached to a wall (well, maybe one won't)
  • I have been to the place depicted and have personally seen the writing or symbols, so the writing or symbols and general locations actually exist, though liberties may be taken with the composition and sketches may be composites
  • Sketches will use only watercolor and ink
  • I won't worry about an overall message, I'll just try to get it done
  • I'll have fun!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Getting Ready

November is Art Every Day Month and I've just signed up, so starting Tuesday I'll be creating a little something each day.  I've also sent in my money to participate in the 2012 sketchbook project.  Either I've lost my mind given that I've got so little time for art right now, or it's going to be a fabulous tool for opening up and getting going.  I'll start in a notebook until the sketchbook comes, and I'm thinking of undertaking a kind of  meditation, journaling, listen-to-the-universe type of practice. I'll do a sort of morning pages in a journal and then a sketching/painting/collaging from the source in the sketchbook.  If I can work from an open heart and get in a little something each day I can use the month to develop some skill and see what the universe is telling me. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ready, Set, Go!

Whee, it's been busy.  I've been way out of touch with my posting and reading others' posts from EDM or Creative Every Day.

Art has gone on the back burner while I've been preparing for the Alternatives to Violence Project's National Conference which took place over Memorial Day Weekend and the service-learning trip to El Salvador which starts tonight!  Ready, Set, Go!

Last weekend we did get to go to the Art at the Source event and visited several studios here in Sonoma County.  And yesterday, I finished up a painting and matted it and two others to enter in the county fair.  I thought the deadline was going to be while I'm in El Salvador, and now find it will be after I get back. I'm now over prepared : )  I'll post those photos when we return.

Thanks to Susan's advice, I've taken out the pans in my little watercolor kit and loaded them up with fresh, bright color.  I'm hoping to have time for a travel journal, so I'm excited about the nice fresh paint.

Here's a sample of the pastel effects I was getting before...This is from a mid-May we took a trip to Mendocino woodlands and I sketched in the meadow on a lovely, sunny afternoon.  If you click on the picture, you can expand it to see a little better.

Hoping for an artistically productive summer!

Monday, April 25, 2011

More Work in Progress

First, the watercolor of the camelia and the vase is coming along slowly, but surely.  There's some work on the highlights and shadows to be done and then the stamens in the center of the camelia need finishing.  I'm learning about patience and, after putting some heavy paint on the petals, was reminded that transparent glazes can be much more effective.  I guess it's also a style thing...sometimes softer is better and sometimes you might as well be outspoken and blunt.

We are doing some work at a cabin that we inherited from my husband's parents.  We are making slow but sure progress on that, as well.  After a few hours of doing battle with scotch broom which is threatening to take over our creek bank, I took a walk up to a derelict footbridge and did a little sketch.

Footbridge at Bear Pen Creek

The Creative Every Day prompt for April is small, and I'm feeling really small.  I'm struggling with the balance between spending time on art, trying to get some basic skills down, and really wanting to draw or paint almost all the time, AND feeling an increasing awareness of wanting to do more to make the world a more peaceful place.  I am so lucky to have the life that I have and so aware that so many others don't have anywhere near the same resources.

So, the taxes got in on time.  Fortunately for me, my role in the tax preparation is a supporting one...all I have to do is supply my husband with my statements and some additional facts about charitable contributions and mileage and so on.  This year we took an additional step and sent our legislators a letter saying that we, as citizens, are paying our taxes, but are doing it under protest.  Writing most of the letter wasn't so hard because we got a template from a Quaker friend who is coordinating the effort to get 200 Quakers and others to pay under protest.  What was hard was offering a specific alternative to the more than 50% of our federal taxes that support the United States military.  In an era when social services and education are being cut, why is it that the pentagon got an increase? This is wrong and totally backwards in terms of priorities.  I can't say what the right thing is to do about Libya, but I do know that the United States has a history of picking and choosing which dictators to support and which ones to tumble.  I say, let's invest in education, health care, and services that allow people to live with dignity and efficacy.  Let's fund a Department of Peace.  There are so many grass roots organizations building peace in many corners of the world and we can learn from them and add to them. I'm in progress on this...I want to say more, but I don't know yet how to say it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Journal Pages and Something in Progress

We've had some much cooler weather this past week, and some days have been pretty windy but the sun is still shining!  We've made some progress on getting our double-paned windows ready to install, and nearly all the frames are now stained and ready.  At the cabin, the wildflowers are rioting, the creek is rushing by, and we've gotten the first bank of upper cabinets installed and the convection/microwave wrestled into place.  In the midst of all that, I've done a few small projects to post here.

The travertine tiles are destined to become coasters, and I'll need to give them a finish and a backing.  This particular travertine was full of little holes, which was something of a challenge, yet offered something to work the designs around.  I think I'll redefine a couple of these before finishing them, to brighten them up.

 The turnips were one thing that survived the winter in the garden.  They were pretty mild, but VERY crunchy after being sliced, put in a little water, and cooked in the oven for an hour.  Maybe the cooking method wasn't the best?

I also want to post this watercolor that I'm in the middle of, to motivate myself to work on it some more.  I'm fearful that I'll mess up the next part, plus I have to get everything out and create a new mess in the kitchen where I paint, so I've been reluctant to get started.  By putting it up on the blog, I'm hoping to hold myself accountable : ) 

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Ridiculous and the Sublime

The Junk Drawer
The Every Day Matters prompt for last week was to draw your junk drawer. My thought was, I don't have an easy way to position myself in front of the junk drawer in order to be comfortable for the excessively long amount of time it would take me to draw it. Of course, I was kind of setting myself up for a life-long task, both because of the amount of junk in the drawer and because I had recently been looking at
Andrea Joseph's Sketchblog , and she does such beautifully detailed renderings. My gosh, I was intimidated before I even began!

However, when I was getting my hair cut last week, I realized I could draw Suzanna's junk drawer, or at least her drawer of used brushes. So here we are.
Junk Drawer:  Watercolor, ink, moleskine watercolor journal

Living from the Center
In our Muse Group on Saturday, we were using gesso as a medium to provide relief for our journals. I began with gesso and also fiber paste, and went on to adding hot colors and collage.

One of my wishes and goals for 2011 is to live life passionately, to grow into my own wisdom, and to be able to articulate my beliefs. I want to create passionately and to dance with my full and complete being. In order to do that, I have to prioritize opportunities for meditation and reflection. Coming from the center creates the space for an explosion of life.

Live from the Center: acrylic, collage, fiber paste, gesso on Arches watercolor paper

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Faces

It's been a busy, productive time.  Not all are finished, but they just need finishing touches.  I'm so grateful for the time to get these done and also for yesterday's sunshine.  We were lucky enough to spend most of the day outside taking a long walk with cousins in Calistoga. I didn't sketch, but have some photos that may make some promising subjects for future watercolors. It's warm outside right now and the clothes that I hung out on the line this morning are dry. Life is good!

Mixed media on Wood

 As I was working on this one and looked for a poem that would work with the image, I came across this by Teresa of Avila:

bloomed in Spring.

Our bodies
are the leaves of God.

The apparent seasons of life and death
our eyes can suffer.

but our souls, dear, I will just say this forthright:
they are God

we will never perish
unless He 

I have a friend for whom I think the above painting will be a nice gift.

Journal Cover: Colored Pencil and Acrylic on Mat Board
The journal is a "Muse Journal" created in the "Conversations with the Muse" workshops and I've been wondering what I would do with the cover.  It's inspired by last week's Everyday Matters prompt to do whatever you want, but think about how the earthquake and tsunami in Japan might enter the work.  I want to re-work the water section of this when I get time.  Maybe use the seran-wrap technique and see what happens.
Journal Page: Dreaming and Wishing in the Full Moon 
On the "reading list" for the Muse Workshops is "Women Who Run With the Wolves."  I haven't read it yet, but thought of combining the wolf image with one of my desires for 2011, to be able to use my voice to be articulate about the things I am passionate about.

Well, here we have it folks...time to rush off and get the clothes down off the line : )

Thursday, March 24, 2011

We Weren't Expecting This

I FINALLY completed the first mixed-media portrait from an on-line class that I signed up for.  This one may go in my 3-ring journal or I may actually frame it.  Which do you like better, the red just behind the portrait with the white outer mat, or the white behind the portrait with the red outer mat?  As usual, the color is more vibrant in real life than in the photo and the red is actually the same red in both pictures, but you'll get the idea.

I wasn't expecting the "blood" effect when I did the drippy step towards the end.  It completely changed what I originally had in mind and reminded me of the part in "Queen of the South" where they talk about the drug lords prostituting Russian immigrant farm workers in Spain.  Anyway, the whole idea of dressing up pretty and then having violence done to you made my husband think of the title "We Weren't Expecting This."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Time Running Through My Fingers Like Sand

Time is what we want most, but... what we use worst.  ~Willaim Penn

I wish there had been more time for art in the past couple of weeks, but household projects and volunteer responsibilities have taken over.  Even so, I've managed to get a few art things in, so I'm feeling pleased about using small amounts of time to good advantage.  I haven't had too much time to waste, and certainly can do my share of that, but the wastage that has come in the last week has been because the darned window finishing project hasn't been going smoothly.

The first photos below are from a special evening that included friends and art.  On Wednesday night a group of us gathered for our monthly "Wishing and Dreaming in the Full Moon", and Judy led us in some zen doodle activities.  It was very sweet to work side by side in deep meditation and some conversation while a variety of music played in the background.  We had dinner together and then got back to our doodles.  By the end of the evening, between us we had 6 different styles and visions on our papers.  The Creative Every Day prompt for March is Nest, so I guess this fits because we did it at my house and stayed cozy and warm inside while it rained outside. 

Zendoodle 1

Zendoodle 2

Then we have a series of sketches from my journal.  These cover about a month's worth of activity.

From Motorcycle Diaries

Every Day Matters (EDM) 308 "Something Slippery"  California Newt

EDM 309  "Something with More than Two Legs" Jim's Grandmother's Teacup

EDM 203 "Something Shiny"

EDM 137 "Something You Can Turn On And Off"
Saturday evening Denise and I went to a coffee shop to prepare the certificates for the Alternatives to Violence workshop that we were facilitating at the prison.  While she finished signing the certificates I did a quick sketch of a woman at a nearby table. Since it turned out nicely, I went up and gave it to her.  It was the first time I've ever done that, and she received it enthusiastically, so that was very affirming!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Peace Wanted

Here are two new mixed-media journal pages inspired by recent world events.  Accompanying them are the quick-writes that I did at the time of creating the pages...this is my disclaimer in case anyone was hoping for elegant, thoughtful writing : ) These were done in the two art groups that I participate in, one is a group of friends that has begun to gather monthly for some sort of art-related wishing and dreaming exercises around the time of the full moon.  The second group is a Muse Group, organized by artist Susan Cornelis at, which offers a really rich and spiritually grounding experience through art journaling.


The world is changing quickly and there may be a real metamorphosis as the power shifts in the Middle East. For the most part the transitions have been peaceful, with the notable exceptions of Libya and Iraq. As Mubarek gave over power and Libya became restless, folks were asking whether the US had an obligation to go into Libya in support of democracy. My reaction is heck no, at least not in the military sense. But could we in some way be standing by to help Libyans (or people anywhere) build an economic infrastructure which supports peace?

My friend AW, who is working with the Mennonites in Iraq, writes to the Alternatives to Violence Project's listserve about needing resources so that she can help Iraqis hold non-violent demonstrations. People everywhere are thirsting for how to bring about change non-violently. Yet, in order to keep the federal government afloat, Congress proposes to cut the department of peace. Where else could the budget be cut, when over 50% of the federal budget goes to military and the pentagon? It's time to turn the swords into plowshares at home and to aid in efforts to do that abroad. If people can live decently, with dignity, and receive education that leads to a just livelihood and receive health care, would that not increase world peace?

What can I do to make more peace in the world? Where am I being led?

Barbara B 3/1/11

Perfect Vision

Clear-eyed girl, clear-sighted through the passing of years, seeing truth through all the layers of spin and denial. Powerful vision arises like the crystalline waters of a deep mountain lake fed by snow melt. With such sight, insight, perfect vision, how can she do anything but engage in random acts of beauty and kindness? Truth and love will conquer all, can heal and bring reconciliation even where there has been wanton destruction. Peace is within us and around us. How do we keep our vision clear and perfect? Prayers of gratitude transform stubborn hearts, music calms the savage breast, art gives the soul expression. Staying connected to the source, inspiration is abundant.

Barbara B 3/6/11

Monday, February 21, 2011

What I Learned From the Crawfish

Normally I blog about making visual art or music rather than other creative enterprises, but today...well, you'll see.

On Friday I couldn't resist buying a bag of frozen crawfish at the local supermarket.  Whole cooked crawfish, in Cajun spices, 5 pounds for $7.99. From Texas.  Such a deal!  I was really excited because I really like crawfish and was really enthusiastic about cooking some. (Don't start laughing yet.)

So, we are in the middle of replacing the windows in our house and my job is sanding and preparing the window sills while J.A. stains and finishes the new sashes.  Hence our kitchen is a mess and not really fit to cook anything in.  AND, we'd spent the weekend at a Scandinavian dance and music workshop, so we'd already been plenty creative.  But, last evening after we got home from the workshop I decided to get involved with the crawfish, cleaned up a corner to work in, and started in on making an etoufee.

Where do you begin?  You put the rice on.  You make a roux. Then you get the bag out of the freezer and open it.  Gulp.  Well, it did say whole crawfish.

My parents are from Louisiana, and I was born there, too.  I've eaten crawfish in Louisiana, in various forms, and I like it.  I've cooked etoufee before, but with langostino which is the closest thing we can usually get to crawfish here in California.  Langostino is always peeled and deveined, so you just pop it into the pot.  I was really looking forward to this, but I've never before encountered the whole beast and couldn't imagine that you would want to fish the whole thing (ha, ha) out of your gravy and take it apart at the table.  So I separated the heads and set them aside to make a bouillon and then I threw the tails into the etoufee. It was starting to look good, so I served it up and selected a nice light beer to go with.

J.A. was game for the challenge of removing the meat from the tails, and he really enjoyed the dish.  I found the etoufee gravy over rice to be scrumptious, but the crawfish meat had an aftertaste that I found less than appealing.  I'm not so sure I like the smell of the broth, either, but we'll reserve judgment about that.

Here's the math...I bought 5 pounds of crawfish for $7.99 (or $1.59 per pound).  Sounds pretty good, right? But, given that crawfish are about 80% head, that means that only about one pound of crawfish tails were in the bag.  We used about 1/4 of the bag for this experiment and the rest is destined to become fertilizer.  So if you look at the amount that was actually eaten (about 1/4 pound), that makes the actual cost more like $31.96 per pound. 

Considering you can buy frozen Louisiana crawfish tails (deveined and peeled, for goodness sake) on line for $16.99 per pound plus shipping, there may be a moral here somewhere about impulse purchases.

On the other hand...
  • we got an evening's entertainment out of it;
  • we affirmed our spirit of adventure;
  • I have a husband who loves me and is amused rather than upset by cooking misadventures;
  • nothing ventured, nothing gained...would you rather have tried and failed or would you rather never take a risk?
  • for every good creation there are any number of failed experiments, but we learn from each endeavor.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Something Red, Something Blue

Not roses or violets, though.  I'm posting a couple of completed projects, first a watercolor that was a class project in simple perspective (paint a box), and then a mixed media journal spread.

Take Out

There's a faint layer of writing from May Sarton's "Now I become Myself". 

We had a lovely Valentine's date last night (involving a delightful restaurant with pasta and red wine) and today I'm going to get off by myself for a little while.  I'm living an enchanted life : ).

We're finally getting some winter weather here in Northern California, so today will be a good day to work on some projects, go to the Y for aqua aerobics, and then head up to the cabin for a nice fire in the wood stove with the rain coming down outside.  I plan to do a little meditation, catch up on some reading, and make a sketch or two.  Maybe watch "The Motorcycle Diaries" in Spanish.  All things that are good for the heart, mind, and soul. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Faces, Faces

I really want to learn how to draw and paint faces, so I've challenged myself to do the 75 faces in 75 days, thing.  During the past week I've sketched ALOT, trying to capture as many kinds of faces as I can.  I've learned some things about light and shadow, and the planes of the face, as well as some things about proportion and symmetry.  I can recommend Suzi Blu's online portrait class as a way to get started, because even though she works with stylized faces, she is very clear about shading technique.  I've just begun and am excited to see where the class will lead.  Ultimately some of these faces will turn into journal pages using her mixed media approach.

I took a trip by train (and home by plane) to SoCal over the weekend for a lengthy meeting, where I sketched in my journal and all over my notes and agendas.  Nice way to pass the time, I have to say, and I was still able to listen and contribute : )  I have a ways to go, but am really pleased with the progress.   Besides, I'm having enormous amounts of fun.  Some of these are from photos, and certainly don't look much like the person that they are supposed to represent, but still were really enjoyable to draw.  Most are from my imagination and are just for practice.

In March, I hope to take a gesture drawing class, and am looking forward to being able to capture more spontaneity and the essence of a person's expression.  For now, though, I'm happy to be learning some things about technique, and hope to be able to transfer the learning to watercolor.