Sunday, October 24, 2021

And Yet Again


Bird of Paradise, Take 3
12" x 12" Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

I never would have guessed I'd be repeating paintings of the same subjects and even the same compositions. I didn't realize painters did that, but apparently many do, like Andy Evansen. 

Not sure this Bird of Paradise is any better than Take 1 or Take 2 but I had fun trying. It may well be that Take 1 was  better -- that's often the case with these repeat-paintings. When I look at that one now, I like the way those wormy petals look like they're moving. This one, by contrast, is rather static. 

BUT I think I made progress on this one with the background in terms of texture and abstraction. That progress made me go back to Take 2 to darken the background to add abstraction there. In the end, I may prefer the new Take 2, which I guess actually makes it Take 4. See below.

Much can be learned with do-overs and re-visits.  

"Bird of Paradise Take 4"
watercolor on 9" x 9" Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

Thursday, October 21, 2021

We Matter…and Art and Writing Matters


Some years ago, I took an online creativity-coaching course for writers from Eric Maisel, a creativity coach and therapist who lives in San Francisco.

Maisel asked us to do two short exercises daily. First, we were to physically write this sentence: “I matter and my writing matters.” He knew how easy it is to discount our creative instincts and pursuits when there is a living to make, families to raise, other obligations to perform.

He also asked us to pause every few hours, throughout the day/evening, to ask ourselves, “Could I write for fifteen minutes right now?” Amazing things could get done in just a few fifteen-minute sessions a day, he said.

And so I went about making myself believe that my writing mattered. And in between day-job tasks of my own teaching and commercial freelance writing, I worked on my own writing in fifteen-minute increments and, these past few years, my own art projects. Sometimes I found myself on a roll and was able to stretch those fifteen minutes into several hours at a time.

It’s been about ten years since I completed Maisel’s course. And as of last week, my book Skipping Church: Notes from an Accidental Minister’s Wife has just been published.

And it’s my artwork on the front.

Yes, we matter, all you writers and artists out there.

And so does our writing and art. 

(And oh, you can order Skipping Church from Amazon or from the publisher, Shanti Arts.) 

Monday, October 11, 2021

On the Way to Santa Fe

"On the Way to Santa Fe"
8" x 11" watercolor
on Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

As we all know, I like bright. It's tough for me to be subtle with watercolor paints.  

But while driving up to Santa Fe from the south a couple of weeks ago, I was so struck by those muted yellows, blues, and browns. So as I approached this painting, I tried to stay true to the local colors of the land and sky. 

A limited palette helped: Naples Yellow, Prussian Blue, Burnt Sienna, and just a touch of Quin Rose. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

West of Albuquerque

"West of Albuquerque along I40"
Watercolor, 5" x 8" 

Look Ma, no ink on this one. The training wheels are off. 

That's what it feels like to use watercolor without ink lines for definition. 

Even though I may have overdone that shadow across the top of the plateau, I'm kinda happy with this little painting because of the way I captured the muted local colors. 

I'll probably always want those wheels back on from time to time, but I did feel like I was riding free on this one. 


Channel the Inner Hermit But Stay Open

6.5" x 10" ink and watercolor 
on Arches 100% cotton hot press paper

I don’t know how anyone can develop as a writer or artist without learning how to channel their inner hermit. Learning and practicing these crafts requires a considerable amount of solitude, which can be tough to come by with life’s other commitments.

It can be a mad dance to finally eke out the time and space to settle into a piece of writing or a painting. Even then, the creative process does not necessarily switch on easily. There are decisions to make: Do I want to write or draw or paint? What is my subject matter? What tools will I use? It can take a while to finally find a groove. 

Yet there’s also the matter of staying open to the life in front of us. After all, we do have day jobs and families and friends and commitments to our communities. And if we’re lucky, occasional travels, even though there may be no time for creating except to snap photos or make quick sketches or write short journal entries.

Thank goodness. Because while it’s true that creating gives us fuel, it’s also true that living gives us fuel, too, in the form of deep connections to others and material to paint and write about. Life’s other commitments also give us hunger for creative time, a hunger which drives us to dig deep and find creative ways to channel our inner hermit.

The sphere of living helps complete the sphere of creating, and vice versa. It’s all a dance worth learning and practicing—for life.







Monday, October 4, 2021


6.5" x 10" watercolor on 100% cotton Arches Hot Press paper

Back from a 3.5 week trip by car from California to Iowa and back again. Physically spent from all those hours in the car. But also needing to process all the images my husband and I saw in and around Yellowstone Park; the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota; the fields and prairies and woodlands of Iowa; the Sangre de Cristo Mountains rising to the east of Santa Fe; those beautiful red rock buttes surrounding Sedona, and all the shifting landscapes in between. 

I wanted this painting to be better than it is, but it doesn't matter. Spending the two hours on the composition helped anchor in my mind the utter surprise of seeing all those amazing oranges and greens along Hwy 89A as we drove south from Flagstaff. 

What would I do without writing and art to help my mind catch up with my body? Wherever I go, I see, hear, smell, taste, and touch, but it takes writing and sketching/painting to help complete the experience. Sometimes that feels like a handicap, especially if I can't take the time to get out my pens, paper, and paints.

Most of the time, though, I just feel lucky that I have this superpower--when I can get to it--that helps me reflect and savor and marvel.  

More About the Sally Project

I met Sally forty years ago when I was twenty and she was the one in her sixties. I was a waitress at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant on...