Monday, January 31, 2022

Iowa, How About More of THIS?


Snowy Iowa Field
6" x 8" watercolor on Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

Despite objections by many landowners across Iowa, my home state may be poised to approve 1600+ miles of CO2 pipelines to ferry CO2 from Iowa ethanol and fertilizer companies to permanent sequestration—that is, if the CO2 isn’t sold to fossil fuel companies for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). One pipeline might lead to North Dakota and the other to southern Illinois. The proposed route for the one leading to Illinois would go right through this pasture I have painted.

In fact, it appears that a "massive buildout" of CO2 pipelines may be taking place, and not just in Iowa, according to a recent a recent HuffPost article by Dan Zegart. He writes that the fossil fuel industry has gotten behind this technology that they hope will allow continued production as long as the emissions are buried underground.

Yes, we need less CO2 in the atmosphere. Theoretically, carbon capture and sequestration makes sense, but there are so many unknowns to this new technology that it makes me really nervous to have CO2 pipelines crisscrossing the underbelly of Iowa. That’s why I’m doing my research, as I hope all Iowans are doing right now, because this project is moving fast.

Meanwhile, see this snowy field above? It’s a 40-acre grassy plot that together with other grasslands and forests in the U.S., helps offset about 12 to 19 percent of the U.S.’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2017 U.S.D.A. report, “Considering Forest and Carbon Grassland in Management.”

Iowa, how about more of this?

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Holly in the 'Hood


Holly in the 'Hood
8" x 8" watercolor on Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

Holly bushes near our dwelling are all gussied up in reds and greens. They make me smile, as do warm January afternoons spent on the nearby beach with grandsons. Life in northern California is pretty darned good. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

More Time Doesn't Necessarily Yield Better Results

Big Sur Study #3
watercolor and gouache on Arches 100% cotton hot press paper 

If you're looking for a reason to quit a day job in order to pursue your creative projects, note this caveat: more time doesn't necessarily yield better results. 

Yesterday I had time to spare on the two Big Sur studies. Yet the more time I spent, the worse the paintings became. I never did get the rocks right in terms of texture. I re-wetted those areas several times, wiping away paint and then reapplying it. The paint got muddy, as happens easily with watercolor when you go over the surface too many times. 

For today's study I gave myself a shorter time limit as well as a limit re: how many layers of paint I would apply. I also didn't let myself remove any paint. And I switched to hot press paper, just for the heck of it. 

There's still so much to learn! But I feel this is a slightly better study in terms of spontaneity and looseness. I think putting a time limit on it helped. Not crazy about the hot press paper, but now I have a better appreciation of rougher surfaces of cold press papers, which can grab the paint in interesting ways. That is, if you aren't over-painting because you have no time restrictions. 

Time vs. lack of time makes me think of all the (mostly creative-nonfiction) writing I've done in the cracks over the years as I carried on as a teacher and commercial freelance writer. Maybe the writing was better and more focused because it was done in the cracks. 

Maybe there are good reasons not to quit one's day job(s)? 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

A Lot to Learn

Big Sur Study #1
5" x 8" watercolor on Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

Oh, my, yes, there's such a lot to learn re: portraying rocky coastlines. As an Iowa girl, until three years ago I had no idea I'd have plenty of opportunities just ahead to get to the Pacific coast. We're just back from a few days around Monterey, Carmel, and the top of Big Sur at Point Lobos State Park, just south of Carmel. I did some sketching of the water and took reference photos. There's a lot of work ahead, but just for posterity's sake, here's a record of the beginning of the learning curve re: waves and rocks.  

Big Sur Study #2
5" x 8" watercolor on Arches 100% cotton cold press paper


Friday, January 7, 2022

Shout Out to Gretchen Burnette!

(Reminder: Skipping Church can be purchased on Amazon and other online bookstores. It can also be ordered at local bookstores.)

I'm so grateful to reporter Gretchen Burnette of the Mason City Globe Gazette for her article about my book and art. She's a fellow writer and artist and I bonded with her immediately. Thank you, dear Gretchen!

The article was published today and can be found here. I miss all the good people in Mason City, the historic architecture, and the fabulous days of snow-showing out at Lime Creek Nature Center. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Marji's Tree, Revisited

"Marji's Tree," revisited
watercolor on Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

So I went back to the photo of the "Marji's Tree" painting--the one I'd taken before I added too much paint--and decided to crop it into a square shape. I think that helps. I do so love that flaming maple.  

I ordered via Vistaprint some greeting cards of this scene, so we'll see how they look. Maybe this one will wind up in a pop-up shop someday soon.

Now, on to the next project. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022



"Self-Portrait" detail
pencil and watercolor 
on Arches 100% cotton hot press paper

Some years ago friends introduced the idea of selecting a new word for each year. My husband and I have done this now for many years. This year's word is "richness." Our intention for the word is to look back, at the end of each day, and discuss the richness in it. 

Today has already been rich.

I had an hour Zoom session with an ace spiritual counselor, Andy Douglas, with whom I’ve connected every other month for the past seven years. One thing that came up was my disproportionate dissatisfaction with my paintings that go awry—of which there are many. I so want to become a better painter that I get frustrated when paintings don’t work. Andy suggested simply setting an intention, before I begin painting, to accept whatever develops, without allowing disappointment. (Now why didn’t I think of that?) I added that maybe I should also just practice and play more—get back to my sketchbooks and experiment more often.

After our talk I went on to finish a really bad painting that I won’t share here, but true to my new intention, I didn’t dwell on the disappointment. Instead, I penciled in a self-portrait with a soft (#4) pencil and then added color with a triad of Quin Magenta, Phthalo Blue, and Hansa Yellow Medium. Not a masterpiece, but it felt good to play.

I was also interviewed about my book, Skipping Church: Notes from an Accidental Minister’s Wifeby a wonderful young reporter from the Mason City Globe Gazette, since there’s a chapter in the book about living in Mason City, Iowa. She’ll be writing a feature article about the book. As a freelance writer, ’ve been on her side of so many interviews; it truly was a joy to be the one answering the questions. What a gift, her great questions, and the feeling of being listened to so deeply. Thank you, Gretchen!

There’s a feeling of spring in the air this week in northern California as the temperatures have risen slightly. I even saw a magnolia tree in bloom yesterday.

The new year has just begun. What other richness is ahead?  



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