Sunday Salons Feed

Sunday Salon: Painter, Sculptor, Teacher - Susan G Holland at 73

I’ve recently been in contact with Susan Holland, an 73-year-old artist with the energy and enthusiasm of someone closer to 37.  Hailing from Hoodsport, Washington, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Susan describes herself as a well-worn mark-maker who just wanted to tell me how the blog post, Why Moving Backward Can Be More Powerful Than Moving Forward, had been particularly cathartic for her.  

"I am going on 73, and getting in touch with my old self in this way.  I have influences all around me that are shrieking paint to make money...and the abysmal current state of the economy is one of those influences." (Spp mango sea contoured top view 2Image left: Mango Sea Colored Bowl)

I appreciated her attitude - this is no senior citizen who dabbles in art to fill her afternoons.  Through a series of emails a Sunday Salon began to emerge.

"Could it be that we need the stress of this pull between chic and sale-able products and real art? As you suggest, the contemporary art around us informs our current personal mark-making.  We can no more ignore that than the sort of spirit of our current times.  And our subject matter will reflect our times, too, no doubt.

I try not to think overmuch about the urgings of my benefactors who would have me paint multiples of successful works just to make some money.

I fight with them sometimes, and get very angry.  And then I think, sometimes, they are right.  Why not do the giclee on canvas thing, and put on final touches? Then I think of sweat shops with hired brushes dabbing textured paint on dozens of prints and selling them for fifty bucks in poster frames. And I stick to my guns.  I will paint it fresh each time, from scratch, and in the spirit of today - not yesterday, and certainly not guessing about tomorrow.

Silk Purse array at Shelton Farmers MarketRight now the season is on for my new Silk Purse project (see set-up at left - Silk Purse array at Shelton Farmer's Market) – working with wooden bowls. The bowls are from a source in Seattle.  They are hand carved by other artisans and the rejected ones end up in the discard pile.  I pick and choose from that pile and rework the bowls that have a second life in them.  This is a great opportunity for me - I am the only one doing this with these bowls, so they are really one-of-a-kind, and special because of the recycled nature of the business.  The bowls are a celebration of wood - of the tree, and the nature of wood.  The carving is somewhat rustic, but very skillfully done.  Carving a root is not an easy business.

SPP STIppled mango key bowl  I am working especially on small dishes out of Cunninghamia Lanceolata - fir/cypress, rootwood, and also on contoured turned bowls of Mango wood.  Color is insisting on making an entrance into these natural materials... I am using various kinds of tools and combinations of paint media to come up with exciting decorative pieces. It's important to me to retain the characteristics of wood - its nature - and hopefully to draw attention to it. All products are finished with a sealing coat of varnish or wax oil. (Image: Stippled Mango Key Bowl)

I find I’m fascinated with the collection of Peit Hein's "Grooks" that I’ve discovered.  If I can, I shall get his books-- now out of print and very expensive.  Grooks is the name Peit Hein, Danish scientist and poet, gave his little poems.  Some of them are so wonderful; they will be welcome in people's homes.  This is a direction I may take in my art-making, whether it evolves on carved wood bowls or in paintings.

On the back burner right now is a very viable plan to set up a plein air group here in the Hoodsport area.  It will not be as a class, but rather joining with others to utilize the beauties of this part of the forest with them on a regular basis.  I have passes to get into lovely parts of the Lake Cushman area, and there are all sorts of great places to set up an easel and have at it. 

I do have small works (8 x 10, - 11 x 14) planned for my next season of painting.  Not only am I limited in space for painting here, but the economy lends itself to people buying small, I believe.  They will likely buy a small original rather than frame up a large print...and the prices seem to be about the same.  Why shouldn't my small framed items be on people's walls?  So...I have boats, and trees, and grasses and mountains roughed in on clayboard ('s really a wonderful, versatile, and archival surface to paint on.)  Oils, temperas, mixed media.

So for the time being I have sets of types of art in my studio - small tempera local scenes for local sales,  infrequent large non-objective decorative works in case some hospital needs something for patients to gaze at while waiting,  and then the real art - that's the stuff that says what I am thinking and feeling, and which I want to do exclusively.  They come out without strategy - aside from how to arrange it all on the canvas - and they just work, somehow, without blood, sweat, or tears.  They are keepers, and they live comfortably on any wall for a good long time."

WIDE MANGO FRONT VIEW BLACK W BRN RIMIf you would like to find out more about Susan's Silk Purse Project, to purchase a bowl or painting, or for any other reason you can contact her through email:

or through snail mail:  Susan Holland, PO Box 1138, Hoodsport WA 98548

See what else Susan G Holland is doing here.

 Above: Wide Mango Bowl, Black with Brown Rim


Sunday Salon: Architectural Sculptor Patrick Gracewood and His Inspiring Manifesto

Architectural Sculptor Patrick Gracewood recently emailed with the following observation: “I’m a sculptor in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been enjoying reading your blog, especially when I saw your manifesto link.  Sadly, not too much there yet.”

ST-Francis1Well, no, I admit, I haven't worked on the Ancient Artist Manifesto, so the page is rather pathetic - especially in light of what Patrick wrote.

 I’d like to share my manifesto with you,” he added.  “A manifesto is by definition (mine anyway) a public declaration.  Here’s the background setting.  For the past 20 years, I’ve been working creating architectural sculpture for historic restoration and new construction. Sadly the business closed last year, another casualty of the recession.

I was so angry at the lack of paying work, the competition for new sculpture, which is done on computer and machines, and my own loss of earnings that I wrote my manifesto.

Writing it was good, because it helped me get clear on what mattered, and what I wanted to do.  Artists need to be skilled at re-inventing themselves!

 Image: "St. Francis" cast stone relief panel on steel frame 56 x 24 x 24 inches, © Patrick Gracewood, used with permission. 


Here is Patrick's Manifesto.


I LOVE creating architectural sculpture. For 20 years I’ve helped restore historic terra cotta building facades and designed new architectural ornament for new construction. Most of the relief sculptures were of plants: grape vines, laurel, oak, acanthus leaves, swags and garlands of fruit and flowers. 

All these are symbols of living nature. They represent patterns of wholeness that have been with us, on our buildings, for thousands years. Think Roman, no, think Greek, think Egyptian art. This long tradition is art about nature, art that says we are directly connected to nature, still a part of it. I believe there is still a need for this kind of art.

In a sterile world of steel and glass buildings, concrete, and increasingly virtual experiences, I want this tradition, this art and craft of making buildings that reflect nature back to us, to survive.

I want to see and make art that bears the direct handmarks of its making.

I want to see and make art that might not be flawlessly perfect (because machines are now doing that) but is much more humane, because it's made by the living - and so stands a chance of becoming a living work of art that will speak to future generations.


Surprisingly,” Patrick adds, “the manifesto was much easier to write than an artist's statement....nothing like the juice of real emotion for fuel. If I can’t work on architecture," he adds, " I'll create my own architectural fragments (I love Romanesque art).  The good news is that as artists we get to create new realities for ourselves and the world.  Hopefully some new financial ones too!"


I really relate to Patrick's statement about wanting to create a living work of art, reflecting nature back to us.  I'll be adding some his thoughts to the Ancient Artist Manifesto page.  Please click here  if you would like to contribute your thoughts to this growing Manifesto. 

Here are links to Patrick Gracewood's Website and Blog:

Shadows on Stone 



Recently the emails indicating updates to Sue Smith's Studio have gone awry.  Feedblitz says it has to do with an incorrect RSS code, but after hours spent click-and-pasting codes and trying to follow the instructions provided I found it necessary to delete the email delivery for that particular blog. 

I know that receiving these emails with "links to nowhere" has been frustrating and irritating to quite a lot of you and I apologize. Sincerely.  I have always appreciated your support and the interest in my work by fellow artists.

I hope you will choose to follow the blog either in a Google or similar reader, bookmark, or as a "follower."  Here is the link to Sue Smith's Studio for your convenience. 


Sunday Salon: Sitting Down with Linda Bray

  ATT2 Oregon artist Linda Bray isn't letting anything slow her down.  We "met" through twitter, and when she emailed about participating in the Sunday Salon, she said, "I am currently 70 years and counting." A professional artist for more than ten years, Linda works in both watercolor and acrylic.

"I have started a whole new adventure with my art.  This is the most exciting work I've done so far and it truly has a mind of it's own.  I cannot wait to start painting each day," Linda says on the homepage of Linda Bray Fine Art, where you will see her painting, titled Second Banana, a Finalist Winner in Fine Art Studio Online's BoldBrush Painting Competition for September 2010. 

Her journey is inspiring.  I hope you enjoy what she has to say.


 "Banana Dance" shown left, copyright Linda Bray, used with permission.

What did you do before starting to work as an artist?

Hmm, I think I've always thought of myself as an artist, but I finally got on the ball and started to actually "work" at it in 1992.  Before that I was busy raising a family and pretending to be something else.  I tried my hand at clothing design, jewelry making, and photography.  Maybe I was afraid to commit myself totally to art, for fear I might find out I didn't have what it takes.  Art was always in the deepest place in me.  It was the secret longing, if you know what I mean.

Who or what has encouraged you or helped you the most?

I've been lucky to have tremendous encouragement from my whole family.  Even when I first started to get back into painting, my family cheered me on.  I can look at some of my very first efforts and as lame as they were, my family loved them all and they still hang on some of their walls.  Humility is a big part of being an artist.

How do you define your work?

Art is the only true way for me to open my heart.  Before I start any painting, I have to "fall in love" with the subject.  This is something I learned while working as a photographer.  When I would have a model sit for me, I would keep looking through the lens at different angles and lighting until I had that moment when I just caught my breath.  Then I knew I had found the absolute core of the beauty of that person.  It's the same with any subject.  I don't paint it until I fall in love.

ATT3 "Top Banana" shown left, copyright Linda Bray, used with permission.

Are you involved in any projects or creative ideas you would like to talk about?

Right now I am painting a series on Banana plants.  I first fell in love with a photo of a Banana plant I found on a Google image search.  I seldom fall in love with someone else's photo, but this one was so perfect.  I wrote the photographer and asked for permission to use it as a reference for a painting.  She wrote back and seemed thrilled to comply.  When I finished it, I entered it in an on line competition and it won an award.  I sent Jill the news that our little Banana plant had gained some notoriety and we both celebrated.  I mention her contribution on my web site.  I have since learned that Banana plants are being threatened by some kind of mold which could eventually wipe them out completely.  (I hope not)  So, suddenly, as I am painting them, I have this feeling that they are having their last celebration of life and that I am to show their spirit of joy in the work I'm doing.  (Who knew Bananas have thoughts?)

I have been trying to locate some Banana plants where I live, (Eugene, Oregon) and finally had some luck last week.  Two glorious gardens only minutes away and the owners so willing to let me wander about taking tons of photos.  I only paint from photos for two very good, make that three.  One, the weather here mostly sucks.  Two, I need to be at home to take care of my husband.  He had a stroke last November.  And three, I just like to paint from photos.  Life's too hard as it is, and painting is one of the hardest things of all, so I try to make it as pleasant an experience as possible.  I like Helen Van Wyk's quote, "Nobody cares how much you suffer."  (She meant as an artist.)  So, I ignore those who say we must stand out in the rain in order to capture the truth of the moment.  Besides, nobody cares how I painted it.  They either like it or they don't.


Linda's story - as well as all the stories shared in these Sunday Salons - affirm that it is possible to live an artistic life on our own terms.  I hope that you will share your story in a future Sunday Salon.  You will be inspiring countless people who are starting on their own unique path. 




Sunday Salon: Sitting Down with Fiona Morgan

I met Australian artist Fiona Morgan in response to my open invitation to artists to participate in the Sunday Salons at Ancient Artist.  She introduced herself by saying, “I'd love to be part of your Sunday Salon. Do I have to be an ancient artist to qualify? I'm not over 50, but I certainly haven't followed the usual path of art school straight after high school. My path is the self taught one and I have made the switch to full time artist later in life after a career in commercial design (medical graphics and animation).”

Meatless-Meals_Middle-Eastern-Roast-Vegetables I peeked at her website and was immediately smitten by this talented artist with her fresh-air approach. I mean, who could resist the invitation to "have a stickybeak around" on a website titled "Where Fish Sing - because the world smiles with possibility", or a blog titled "Spaces Between the Gaps"? She describes herself as Creative. Geek girl. Artist. Food. Oil painting. Found Objects. Sustainability. Environmental art. Symbolism. Myth. New technology. Animation. Add all & simmer...Hi, I'm Fi. The artist of "".

Image Above: Chunky. Spiced. Easy. Versatile.This food painting artwork is 30 by 30cm acrylic on textured Hahnemuhle 300 gsm paper.  Image used with permission. Copyright belongs to Fiona Morgan. The recipe is for Middle Eastern Roast Vegetables. Yum!

Here is what Fi has to say about art, food, living life and being her own person:

"My reason for blogging is to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity that the internet has given artists to make connections. Technology is a boon to artists for meeting with like minded folks without the blocks of geography or necessitating a gallery as middle man. Finally we can be in control of how we and our art is presented. We have the choice to shine our personality and chat about our influences to people who are interested. And people are interested. Most people are fascinated with creativity and want to know how a picture came about. There are so many beautiful images out there.  If anything we now suffer from image saturation. People need a connection to a picture to have it stand out. Which is why I think shining our personality and telling the stories, the why behind a painting, our influences and inspirations are so much more important than ever in making that connection with our collectors. This is why I blog"

Meatless-Meals_Pumpkin-Soup "My current project is the "Art Filled Seasonal Cookbook that happens to be Vegetarian". It's a year long project of seasonal meatless meal recipes posted freely on my blog 3-4 times a week. Each recipe has an original accompanying artwork. The recipes are not just for vegetarians. The aim is to have people swoon with yum and not care if the meal was vege or not. Because pretty much everyone knows a vegetarian nowadays. If a raving carnivore needs to cook a vege meal, they usually don't know where to start. This collection is for them as well as the full time non-meat eaters."

Image Above: Easy. Homely. Liquid. Gold. Pumpkin Soup, artwork is 30 x 30cm oil on canvas. Image used with permission. Copyright belongs to Fiona Morgan.

Fi adds, "The artworks for each recipe are originals that aim to capture the essence of the dish. They art all a modest size of 30 x 30cm to fit onto a wall in even the tiniest modern flat."

Is your interest peaked?  Mine certainly was. I’ve included some of my favorite art pieces and links to Fi’s recipes, and I know you’ll find favorites of your own, too

All the most up to date information on the cookbook project, including a Table of Contents can be found at Where Fish Sing.

Meatless-Meals_Creamy-Spinach-Pasta Image: Creamy. Delicate. Fresh. Light. Creamy Spinach Pasta. Artwork is 30 x 30cm acrylic on paper. Image used with permission. Copyright belongs to Fiona Morgan.

If you would like to see more of Fiona Morgan's art, visit WhereFishSing's photostream.  The blog for is Spaces Between The Gaps. 





Sunday Salon: Sitting Down with James English Babcock

I "met" California artist James English Babcock through Facebook.  Recently, he posted a video for his fans. I thought it was such a great idea that I asked if I could share it on this blog.  

How many of us have enjoyed art openings and wondered how we could promote our art beyond the standard email or postcard mailing, or wondered how we could make our blog posting more interactive?  We hear lots of ideas about promoting our art, but how are those other artists  doing it?

James English Babcock took the opportunity at a recent art opening of his to create a YouTube video interview with himself, which he then posted to facebook as well as on his blog. It takes a bit of planning, learning how to make and post a video to YouTube, and then arranging for the time at the gallery space before the crowds.  But wouldn't it be fun to include some of the crowd action, too? 

James English Babcock "is a self taught landscape artist with a focus toward realism," as the bio page on his website will tell you, but the images of his very large format paintings felt to me to be the equivalent of "being there."  I particularly enjoyed reading about how he prefers the back roads and out of the way views of his California Wine Country location, rather than painting the vineyards. I hope you will check out his work.

Here is the link to The Art of James English Babcock website and the link to the blog is here.

Sunday Salon: Growing Up on the Hem of My Mother's Skirt: The making of an Art Quilter/Fiber Artist Winifred Sanders, by Catherine M. Lamkin

I recently posted Sunday Salon: Sitting Down with Dawn Goldsmith, about a talented woman who "quilts" with words and marvels at the serendipitous way important connections flow into her life.  So it's no surprise another serendipitous connection came as a result. 

Catherine M. Lamkin immediately emailed to tell me about her mother, a traditional quilter who "kicked traditional quilting to the curb and became an art quilter.  At the age of 68 she had a two women show in an art gallery and sold over $1,000.00 worth of her work.  She is 77 years old now and I am very proud of her. Her work is featured in Quilting African American Women's History. I am in that book as well. If you go to and click on Collaboration Quilts and click on Winifred Sanders you will see my mother's piece titled "Hair Hair Hair or Maybe Knot."

You will also see Catherine M. Lamkin's collaboration quilt, titled "Cotton Eyed Joe for Nina Simone." Another serendipitous connection, since Nina Simone has long been an inspiration of mine. 

I love celebrating the accomplishments of "Ancient Artists" and both Winifred Sanders and her daughter Catherine M. Lamkin are true inspiration.  So I contacted Ms. Lamkin to see if I could host her mother for a Sunday Salon.  She graciously replied by sending me this fascinating essay:


Growing Up on the Hem of My Mother’s Skirt: The making of an Art Quilter/Fiber Artist   Winifred Sanders


    When my mother came to Charleston for my father’s memorial service she presented me with the apron that I made in sewing class in l966. I can remember how proud I was when I brought it home and showed it to my mother, the professional seamstress. To me this pink apron with the embroidered tea cup on the pocket was a gorgeous apron. Looking at it in 2003, it seemed crude with its uneven stitches. This gift from childhood brought back so many memories of sewing and literally growing up on the hem of my mother’s skirt, poncho, evening gown, you name it. .... 


    Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouths and grow up in a life of privilege, others are not. My mother was one of those others. If she could have been born with anything in her mouth, I would have to say it would be a silver needle. The granddaughter of a quilter she was born in 1932 in Harlem Hospital. The daughter of Gullah Geechie parents who migrated north from James Island, carrying suitcases packed with southern traditions and the promise of a better life without Jim Crow. My grandparents did not find the hope and the promise they were looking for, but instead, found two broken hearts. Splitting up, when my mother was three, my grandmother returned to South Carolina leaving her daughter in Harlem. Two years later my grandfather died in the T.B. outbreak, leaving his mother Delia Deas Smalls and his sister Anna to raise my mother. 

    My great grandmother was born in 1886 and died in l980. Upon arriving in Harlem in the mid 1900 she worked as a domestic, her daughter Anna Smalls worked in a factory until she lost her right arm in an accident. Despite the loss of her right arm, Anna Smalls who learned to sew and quilt from her mother continued to do so throughout her entire life. It was these two women who taught my mother how to sew and how to create.  

    I cannot remember a moment in my life when my mother was not making something.  The hum of her Singer sewing machine was my lullaby, gently rocking me to sleep stitch by stitch as she sewed deep into the night. Stitching and mending, hemming, and sewing, but most importantly always creating. I believed sewing was her first true love, long before she met my father.  At times I was embarrassed by all this creativity.  As embarrassed as a teenager can get after spending one’s entire life shopping in Macy’s Department store for fabric. Macy’s elevator, back then made an announcement as it stopped on each floor. “Fourth floor women and girls department”. I always wanted to get off on the fourth floor, but we never did. Always departing on five, greeted by bolts of velveteen piled sky high. My dreams of shopping for real clothes, were buried deep inside pattern books.   As if the clothes my mother made were not real and beautiful. As if she did not pour more love than any factory worker could ever pour into the skirts she hemmed for me.  Of course my clothes were real but I believe everyone experiences a moment of stupidity in their life. And that was mine. Thinking my mother’s creations were anything less than real, and having the guts to tell her so. I hope she has found it in her heart to forgive the teenager in me.   Every now and then you will find my twelve year old daughter and I in Hancock searching through fabric and pattern books.


    My mother attended Central Needle and Trade High School now known as Fashion Industries High School. Today, graduates attend Fashion Institute of Technology; when my mother graduated in l950, girls went straight to the Triangle Shirt Factory. My mother went to work in a panty factory, and hated every moment of it. She quit that job when she married my father, but never gave up her first love. In the 1970's she began to work outside the home teaching sewing and crafts to seniors. This experience transformed my mother; she discovered the art within her soul. In l989 she began to make cloth dolls. Watching my mother create in this way was fascinating for me, but not as fascinating as what was to come. She joined Women of Color Quilters Network and began using her sewing machine as a paintbrush creating wonderful art quilts. Was this my mother the professional seamstress, daughter and granddaughter of traditional quilters cutting loose, breaking from tradition and her “sewing roots”?  Non- traditional quilter in the house! In l998 after learning of her niece’s death, filled with sadness, my mother turned to her art and created a piece for me representing the three most important women in her life. This is a delightful piece full of hope and love. The three women in the artquilt are her grandmother, aunt and daughter.   Each is wearing a black and white dress made from fabric from my great grandmother’s and aunt’s clothing.. We are all dancing.

    On June 20, 2003 my father died, two days before their 51st wedding anniversary. Throughout my mother’s artistic transformation, my father was her greatest supporter. In the last year of my father’s life, my mother put her art on hold. Every now and then she would say, “I can’t really do much with my quilting now that your father is ill”. The desire to create burned dimly during my father’s illness, bursting into flames months after his passing. Her first art quilt after his death was exquisite.  


    Often my mother would call me to share an idea, or tell me about a project that she was working on. Rarely did she ask me what I thought; clearly she knew where she was going and how she was going to get there. In 2000, at the age of 68, she had arrived; she was offered the opportunity to participate in a two-woman show. This was a major turning point in my mother’s life, the fiber artist. A point of validation, selling several pieces of work.  It was a proud moment for this fourth generation quilter. I too have cut lose, broken from tradition and consider myself a budding art quilter.  But as my mother would say, we all started off as traditional quilters, keeping a little bit of tradition close to our hearts, but moving to new heights, moving on.

    On Sunday, November 19, 2006 my mother and I attended the closing reception for “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”:  Quilters of Color of New York exhibit at the Fuller Craft Museum, in Brockton, Mass. This is the first time that I have exhibited my work and the first time that I have exhibited my work with my mother. Like mother like daughter.


Catherine M. Lamkin, lives with her husband and daughter in Charleston., South Carolina.  She has written poetry and has been published in numerous anthologies



Sunday Salon: Sitting Down With Dawn Goldsmith


I recently connected with Dawn Goldsmith, a warm and talented free-lance writer who authors two excellent blogs: Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles, and WordsoGold.  She requested a guest interview with me about Ancient Artist for her Subversive Stitchers blog, and I agreed, but only if she returned the favor and let me post about what she is writing about, what inspires her, and how synchronicity plays such a valuable role in her life.  I think you will find her as warm, generous, and inspiring as I did. (Viewing Tip: you can easily enlarge the type on this blog by holding down the CTRL key while pressing the +  (plus) key several times.  To reduce the size, use the CTRL key and the - (minus) key.)

100_06651 I'm a nut about synchronicity, and where it leads me. If I pay attention and ACT upon the messages that come floating into my life, I am enriched!

My Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles blog is an act of synchronicity. The title came to me for a piece of fiction I 'needed' to write. But the novel didn't come together. I didn't want to forget the name. I didn't want to lose the connection it gave me to stitchers throughout the ages. Madam Defarge, Ruth McDowell, the line of women on both sides of my family tree who made utilitarian quilts with their prayers and beliefs and messages stitched in them. The Red Cross Quilts and Temperance Quilts and Abolition quilts and myths of Underground Railroads, and the symbolism of quilts including Celtic quilts. Quilts have offered comfort in every war. Every disaster and illness. I like to be connected to that aspect of quilts as well as the beauty they offer. Even ugly quilts are beautiful. And then there is the community of fabric lovers, not just quilters; fabric and yarn seem to bind us together in a community of extreme caring and generous spirit of sharing.

I knew quilts and I were to walk the path of life together when I hung my grandmother's 'fish and baskets' quilt on my living room wall. My boys named it 'fish and baskets' because one of the baskets turned sideways and looked like a fish. It reminded them of a Sunday school story and reminded me of Grandma's belief that nothing should be perfect. I imagine she turned that square sideways to achieve imperfection. One night I could not sleep, it was a full moon and the living room was nicely lit. I glanced at the quilt and it was different. The fish and baskets were gone and in its place I saw Greek urns and a different pieced background. The moonlight reacted with the background fabric making it step forward and the baskets disappeared into the shadows. I awoke the whole house to see the transformation. None of us look at quilts quite the same way after that.

So the Subversive Stitchers seemed a natural progression after a few essays sold to Christian Science Monitor about Real Men knitting and going to quilt shows. These are still my most favorite personal essays. I would love to do a full series of real men essays - of course the 'real man' is my husband, Derrol. He's also frugal in a generous way - he has always been my best subject for profitable essays.

Let me just clarify that I don't see myself as a creative person, which may explain my awe and adoration of the things people are doing who are guest blogging at Subversive Stitchers.  I am, if you haven't figured out by now, not a very good maker of quilts. The one I actually made - an Irish chain quilt - was burned up in a house fire. My collection of finished projects is quite small, but my stack of UFOs has been growing since I started Subversive Stitchers. I get inspired and then I find another guest blogger and get inspired again. And again. Someday I may finish them.

100_09635 I make things that serve a purpose or for gifts and those are for people who want things to serve purposes, so I rarely just create for the sake of creating. I took a class with Lyric Kinard about Playing with Paints and realized that I absolutely do not play enough. 

If we are talking about fabric creativity then I would say being an observer has been a detriment. Art is hands on and jump right in and do it. See what others are doing; get tips and technique help, perhaps. But the best way to get a feel for the materials and equipment is to use them. The more I do, the more I grow.

100_08342 As I mentioned in the blog, I have very little of my own work. If I actually make anything I give it away. Or as with the one bed quilt - it burned up in a house fire. I've attached photos of several projects that are in various stages of construction. The only one finished is the red and white nine-patch/red-work little quilt and the table runner. My 'art' is more with words.

I'm a freelance writer. I’m always writing or thinking about writing. But my priorities are at a strange intersection. As my husband’s health threatens to make him stop working, I need to be finding a money-making line of writing. Yet at the same time, my need to focus on creative writing keeps pressing me to devote more time to fiction. I have not resolved this situation. Ideally writing a best selling novel would take care of both needs. In all honesty, as the situation with my husband’s health continues, it becomes harder for me to think of anything but him. It is difficult to summon the energy or the focus to act upon any inspiration that might hit me on the head.

Normally my inspiration came in synchronistic or random pairings of events, words, thoughts, things. For example a discussion with a distant cousin where we reminisced about Grandma Molly’s house and the plants that the kids brought from school – arbor day handouts. They planted these in her yard which reminded me of heirloom plants and that led to an essay about the heirloom ‘plants’ growing on the family tree.

A thing that motivated another essay was a simple knitted potholder. Another inspiration – the scar on my thumb reminded me of conversations while washing dishes with Mom. Another inspiration – the neighbor woman, in her 70s or 80s, on a winter day came to our house, dropped down in the yard and made a snow angel in the fresh snow. It was her last visit, she was dying. And how the snow angel connected to death and dying with dignity. Watching the shuttle launch from our back yard for the first time reminded me of how I’ve grown up with the space race.


100_09713 Any advice I can give may only work for me. But I suggest finding the story of small things and how they connect to the most surprising things. The pot holder connected to gender roles. An early Christmas gift related to the change in the relationship between parents and adult children. Watching sandhill cranes chase the neighbor’s cat reminded me that I live in a Dr. Seuss world…. All of these thoughts were explored in essays that sold to The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, NBC News, Catholic Today, Birds and Blooms, etc. etc. etc. And as some of my favorite authors suggest: Butt in chair and write!

In writing, observation is part of the job since the majority of my writings are nonfiction for newspapers. But at the same time in writing the only way to become a great writer is to write. So there’s a balance between observing and doing.  

Now that I have reached a certain age and place in my life, I’m trying to find my way back to ‘play.’


Perhaps I just need to heed a poem by John H. Rhoades that I found on a very strong synchronistic day, titled Do More:


Do more

Do more than exist; live.

Do more than touch; feel.

Do more than look; observe.

Do more than read; absorb.

Do more than hear; listen.

Do more than listen; understand.

Do more than think; ponder.

Do more than talk; say something.

                                        ~by John H Rhoades


                                                                                       ~ Dawn Goldsmith, November 2009


Please visit Dawn's excellent blogs - you will find inspiration, laughter, camaraderie, and...synchronicity.  You won't be disappointed.

Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles




Sunday Salon: Eva Zeisel, courtesy of Aletta de Wal

I thoroughly enjoyed this TED talk by Eva Zeisel, a ceramic artist who has been working successfully for most of her long and fascinating life.  She is an inspiration to those of us who wonder if there's still time enough left to do what we dream of doing.

My thanks to Aletta de Wal, from ACT, Artist Career Training, for sending me the link to this TED talk so that I could share it with you. You can see what else Aletta has to offer emerging and aspiring artists by following this link to her website.  I've taken a class from Aletta, I receive her newsletters, and I always find new information by exploring her site. 

Sunday Salon: Sitting Down with Tamara Hocker

    This is an unusual Sunday Salon, in that I want to introduce you to a poet - an artist who uses words as her medium. 

    Tamara is a friend, a colleague, a stained glass artist, but her primary love is the written word.  Like many of us, she explored poetry in college, but life began to filter into her days and she set aside thoughts of working at her craft.  It was something she saved for those rare days when she had time to stop and contemplate her thoughts. 

    Now, not quite old enough to be an Ancient Artist in age, but certainly one in creative spirit, she has returned to her writing with sensitivity and clarity.  I asked her permission, and she agreed to let me share with you one of my favorites from her most recent work. 

Bus Ride Home

A face is pressed to the glass, the eyes
fixed blankly on blurring, golden fields.
October corn and swallows fly by
like distant memories fleeing
as the quilted earth covers her
in troubled sleep.
          There is a girl making a hole for a seed,
          but she is the seed, she is
          the soil, sun and rain.
          She plants herself.
          The scent of peaches is everywhere.

A deep haze darkens the sun, the eyes
catch the bright globe's speedy withdrawal and
she knows that she's been a foreigner,
like sweet fruit attempting to grow,
buried here in the wrong season
in hardened sod.

                               -- Tamara Hocker @ 2008

Sunday Salon: The Dust-Up at AWS and the Continuing Relevance of Duchamp

Apparently there's quite a scandal brewing at the American Watercolor Society.  Recently, they awarded the Gold Medal to an artist who allegedly used copyrighted photographs which were not her own and passed them off as original acrylic "hyper-realism" paintings.

The bare bones of the argument

The underlying argument - setting
aside the ethics of stealing someone else's work and passing it off as your own -- is whether or not this artist actually painted her image or printed it off after manipulating the photographs and passed that off as a painting. 

Such fraud could easily be detected by submitting the work to a conservator.  An analysis of the pigments -- or inks -- used would solve the mystery -- or fraud -- quite easily.

But this argument leads to another equally important question: is the use of technology such as Photoshop to manipulate images legitimate in the creation of art? 

Duchamp vs Thiebaud

Duchamp will always be remembered for his "Fountain" challenge to the art world, raising the question of whether something is "Art" simply because we say it's so.  Duchamp said, "The word 'art' interests me very much.  If it comes from Sanskrit, as I've heard, it signifies 'making'" ( Artist to Artist by C. Brown, p10).

So, if an artist uses technology in the "making" of her art, isn't it legitimate according to Duchamp's analysis?

But Wayne Thiebaud has this to say: "Art is one of the dirtiest words in our language, it's mucked up with all kinds of meanings.  There's the art of plumbing, there's the art of almost anything that you can say.  My own sense of it is that it means something very rare, an extraordinary achievement.  It's not delivered like the morning paper, it has to be stolen from Mount Olympus" (Artist to Artist by C. Brown, p10).

Wouldn't this argument suggest the artistic necessity of drawing on some inner inspiration in the making of art, to reach deep and hard,  and not rely on the conveniences of technology ( "the morning paper" )to create desired visual effects?

Is it Art?

With this in mind, I'm showing you a few examples of my new body of work.

Cutout "Nest, painted with a limited palette and flattening spacial arrangements" 

Underpaint,brush accented edge,stroke "Exaggerated Brush Stroke Landscape Painting in a hyper-impressionist style"

Spotlight directional "Dramatic Night Time Painting"

Acented edges "Art Patron"

Girls "Girls"

Artistic,underpainting,brush, watercolor "Very Interesting Modern Figure Painting"

Actually, I completed this entire body of work in under two hours.  Amazing.  But more amazing -- if you click on each image an enlarged view will appear.  Look closely at these images. You will probably recognize the styles of some very successful painters.

This isn't to argue either way whether we should considere this acceptable technique or not -- particularly as I was shocked at the color, composition, and beauty in some of these images and may actually paint one or two someday.

But here is my problem with using technology: for me, it takes too much of the human element out of the act of creation.  Technology is addictive. Further, you are relying on the work of someone else --the code writer who programmed the filters in Photoshop. In the end, it has the feel of little more than filling in a coloring book.

For example, looking at the enlarged image, you will see how Photoshop has actually given a road map for values, colors, edges, form.  One could easily upload such an image into any of the on-line giclee services and get back fairly decent prints on either paper or canvas, hand embellish here or there and pass it off as original art.  As long as the original photo is yours, there are no copyright issues.

But is it Art?

Certainly art is the product of each generation.  If nothing else, we live in the technology generation.  Why wouldn't we expect public taste to prefer images that mimic computer generated animations and glossy commercial graphics?  Isn't this an extension of the themes first explored by Warhol with his giant screen prints of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell Soup Cans? 

Look around and count the number of influences in our daily lives that are created through technology.  Now look at the number of art museums.  Even our art history classes rely on photographs -- technology reproducing reality -- to acquaint us with the incredible diversity and talent of past masters.  Is it any wonder that people would be captivated by "artistic output" that offers a technologically perfect version of reality?  To the point of awarding it the "Gold Medal" in one of the most prestigious shows in the world?

But it isn't an argument with an easy answer.  As a visual tool, being able to manipulate your images with a photo editing program can be extremely useful.  I have used the grayscale often to solve value issues.  And since I am still struggling to "see" what it is that I'm trying to capture, I was immediately struck by the last image, shown again here along with the original photograph and a gray scale version:

Artistic,original101_0687 copy

Artistic,underpainting,brush, watercolor
Artistic,underpainting,brush, watercolor copy


But in reading some of the discussions at Wet Canvas, I realized that artists are not just using manipulated images to help them "see" better.  Artists are printing out gray scale versions and painting over them - a modern take on the traditional techniques of the Old Masters or the lazy artist's guide to painting without learning to draw?

What do you think?  How far is too far in relying on technology in our artistic endeavors?

My thanks to Shanti Marie for mentioning the ASW story about Sheryl Luxenburg at David Darrow's Daily Painters Discussion Group.  You can read the details here and also here.  It's an education in copyright infringement as well as artistic ethics.