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Cultivating Curiosity and Workshop Openings

Stepping into 2016, one of the ideas for the new year was the goal of cultivating more curiosity. I am someone who, once I decide to start a project I put my head down and just go, go, go. And often, after several weeks of this, I start to feel…blah. You know, all work and no play…even when the work is making art, I find that I need regular infusions of new things to wake me up. One of the ways that I’ve been trying to weave new experiences into my days is to cultivate more curiosity, to encourage curiosity when it pops into my mind. If I have the thought “I wonder what is down that street?” or “what would happen if…?” I am making an effort to turn down the street, or try the new thing. Does it seem silly that I have to make an effort to be curious? No doubt, this comes naturally to many of you, an unstoppable force, but I can be so practical and habit-driven sometimes that I forget to allow time and space for curiosity. Curiosity can start to feel indulgent with the demands of daily life. So I remind myself.


Milo is always up for an adventure.

What does this have to do with art? I find that curiosity is a habit of mind…if I don’t exercise it outside of the studio, it becomes more difficult to exercise it inside the studio. It’s like trying to run a marathon without training for it. Also, cultivating curiosity outside of the studio is a very safe, gentle form of risk-taking, and for those of us who are risk-averse (yours truly) it’s like yoga for our minds… stretching, so that we can be more limber and willing to take risks in the studio.

View from the Bay Trail, Periphery Walk.

View from the Bay Trail, Periphery Walk.

I also find that new things tickle my brain in a way that encourages new ideas. Landscape is my painting subject, and putting myself in new environments is part of my art practice. My Periphery Project has shown me parts of the Bay Area I had never seen, and triggered so many new ideas in my work. A limber, open mind is fertile ground for new ideas. So, practicing curiosity is a way to invite new ideas.


Road trip

California road trip

One of my favorite ways to practice curiosity is taking workshops. I’m currently taking a 16-week online workshop, and it makes me think in totally new ways.

Come take a workshop with me!


I’m teaching two workshops soon, and I believe there is still room in both to sign up. The first is my “Precision, Layering and Clarity” workshop at Wax Works West, April 30-May 2. This workshop is also available November 19-21. Both classes are currently open for registration.

The second workshop is the 5-day in-depth  “Transparent Layering and Mixed Media Techniques” at Idyllwild Arts Academy, June 27 – July 1. Idyllwild is currently offering an early pay discount of 5% if you sign up by April 15. But if you mention that you learned about the workshop through me, they’ll bump that discount up to 10%! They also offer an ongoing bring-a-friend discount of $50 if you register with a friend. Thank you, Idyllwild Arts! 

Blogging Presence, Blogging Absence


Hi there readers! Oh, wait… do I still have readers? I’ve taken such a long break here. But, yes, my stats tell me that people still come here to read what I’ve written, so hello! Every time I’m away from writing in this space for a while, I have a hard time coming back to it. It’s been a while since I’ve put words on these virtual pages… and here I go, wading in again, hopefully this time with a better-formed sense of purpose. I’m eager to share what I am working on, and what I have planned.

I started writing here eight years ago. Eight years! I was surprised to look back in my posts and see that date. Eight years ago, I had just had an art studio built for myself on our property. I was beginning to work a studio practice regularly after some artistically spotty years spent being preoccupied with raising small barbarians, I mean children. Eight years later, my children are grown and away at college, earning their own artsy degrees, and I am painting full time. There have been ups and downs, and some personal trials, but here I am, posting again. I’ll be writing about new work, my studio practice, upcoming workshops, shows and other events, among other things. I’ll also be writing about the creative process in general. Through my own up-and-down experience, I’ve become keenly interested in how artists create, why we create, what gets in our way, and what we can do about it. So I’m excited to share some of what I am learning about that and also hearing your insights about this thing that we do-noticing things, inventing things, painting things, singing things, writing things, playing things, telling stories, making worlds, making art.

As always, thanks for reading!

Meanwhile, in the Studio…


I’ve created several distinct bodies of work over the last couple of decades, and yet,  when I am making a change, or even just a shift, in my work, it is still both uncomfortable and exciting. It’s easy to embrace the excitement, but I still want to hide the fear and resistance. So here I am, outing myself (and maybe starting a conversation, see below). Sometimes the fear and resistance feels like bees buzzing under my skin, and other times it feels like a dull wall in my mind. But I really think the fear is a good sign, and that I might want to be concerned if it went away completely, because it’s an indication that I’m working against comfort and toward something new.


The process takes persistence, because usually I try a lot of things that don’t work. Sometimes I rewind and start over again, and other times I keep pushing forward, even if I don’t like it, just to see if something new will come from it. I’ve discovered and refined processes and techniques that came originally from making “mistakes”, too, so I try to not think of it that way. I tell myself it’s all just action. Some of it leads to art I like and some of it does not.


The detail above is from a painting that is proving elusive. I just don’t know where it’s going, or what it needs next. I’m trying to find new solutions, and let the Periphery Walks influence this new group of paintings, so I’m trying hard not to indulge in old solutions. That is just too easy. I know if I just trust this process and keep going, the new solutions will arrive.

So that’s it–that’s where I’m at in the studio right now. It’s a bit of a mess, and I’m not sure where I’m going, but I’ll get there. So my question to you is: Do you struggle with starting new bodies of work or do you love it, and in either case, how do you approach it?

*All of these photos were taken in my studio this afternoon, and are a typical snapshot of what it looks like when I have new work developing… Lots of things started, a big sprawling mess, and not a lot finished.

*I started this blog post the other day, and have since then finished a couple of these. If you are interested, check out my Instagram account.

Periphery Project


The last few weeks, I finished walking the stretch of South San Francisco shoreline and started back at Hwy 92, heading south from there. I’m still kind of catching up here with the images, and after this I think I’ll try to post at the end of each week with my favorites from that week’s walk. I’m still fumbling around in the studio, establishing my parameters with new work, and learning how these walks are influencing my painting and drawing. I’ll try to post later this week and let you see what that looks like (hint: it’s a mess). Until then, some photos…


The photograph above was taken from the empty Candlestick Park parking lot, facing northeast…


RIP Candlestick. I did not grow up going to games there, so I don’t have any attachment to the place or structure, but it was fascinating and a little sad, standing in the adjacent field, watching the demolition. Every now and then, a cloud of white particulate would rise from the center, like smoke. This area next to the bay is going to change a lot in the next few years. For now, it is an exceptionally quiet stretch of Bay Trail. A little unnerving, really, with a sense of abandonment.


Back in Foster City last week I walked a few miles of mud flats and tidal inlets.


Some sections of the trail seem bland and unexceptional, but I am always surprised by the texture and color that are there if I slow down to notice.


And of course this, constantly, overhead. Airplanes tracing diagonal likes across the sky. This week I’ll be picking up where I left off and walking in Redwood City. Have a fantastic week!

Looking Back: 2014

“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Only press on: no feeling is final.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Hours


At the beginning of every year, I like to take a look backward at the previous year before looking forward. Last year, I said that 2013 was weird. 2014 kicked my ass. Things, as they say, got real. Winter is always a time of introspection and generation for me, and it’s in this spirit that I offer this look back:

  • We kicked off the new year with excitement about my father’s heart transplant. It was successful, and his recovery was strong. My parents lived with us during his early recovery, and I was able to have lots of quality time with both my mom and my dad. What a gift.
  • I continued to teach, and I even took a class myself, with Laura Moriarty. It was such a treat to be a student again, and to use wax in ways so different from my own. I’ll be learning more from others in 2015.
  • My son and I visited schools in Southern California. I can hardly believe he’ll be going to college in the fall.
  • I took a wonderful trip to New York in July with my husband James, and some really fun friends. Walked the high line. Checked out the gallery scene in the lower east side. Walked the Brooklyn Bridge, drank too much coffee, and generally had a fantastic time.
  • I started drawing again. I drew and painted a series of 50 tiny images in 50 days.
  • Started running again, after a break of many years. I had forgotten how much I love it.
  • In August, a sad thing:  my dad died suddenly and unexpectedly from an embolism.


Okay, I just sat here for half an hour lost in thought while the cursor blinked on the screen. What can I say? Most people I know have lost someone close to them, and a lot of my friends have lost parents, so I don’t feel alone in this experience at all. For me, it felt as though I’d tripped and fallen into a very deep dark hole for several weeks. Reality felt a little slick, and time seemed to slow down for a few months. There was a lot of business to attend to, and family to check in with, and my mom to worry about.

And then, slowly, things returned to sorta-normal.

But they haven’t, not really. And that’s where the lines from the poem above come in. My main message to myself throughout this ordeal was the same one I try to hold with making art: Stay with yourself. Stay with the moment. Pay attention. It’s all okay. It all passes by, and we come out the other end. We are rarely the same person, though, if we are really paying attention. I see that as a good thing. I’m still sad sometimes, and I miss my dad, but I feel more settled in myself as well- more present in my mind, more attached to my bones, with more gravity in my heart.

Life (and art) changes us, if we let it.

Ebb and Flow


I’ve been sensitive to the rhythm of my work lately. More so than usual. I think it’s because I’m pushing out in a few directions beyond my habitual territory—photographing more, drawing, experimenting with new mediums—and it’s uncomfortable. Starting something new is exciting, yes, but it’s also emotionally difficult.


An idea is only a beginning, and what follows the initial rush is usually heavy with failed attempts, self doubt, resistance, and moments of profound lethargy. Sometimes, if I am persistent, this awfulness is followed by hints of something good. This stage is filled with intuitive changes of approach. If I keep going at it, the cycle of thought and action come together with integrity, and a new direction emerges. Then I know it’s time to get up and run with it. Until then, it’s a bit like wading through deep mud.


These ups and downs…I’m starting to embrace the idea that this is just part of the ebb and flow. Adding new things to my creative practice also shakes up my routines, and I find myself re-negotiating my work rhythms, both energetically and emotionally. For instance, I have to be rigorously honest with myself about the difference between procrastination and giving a certain work some space to settle or develop.


When I’m trying new things, procrastination turns into a proper noun. Meet Procrastination, capital “P”. It takes a lot of self-honesty and dedication to have any kind of creative practice. Add fear and doubt to the mix, and Procrastination, and it’s evil twin, Resistance, become my constant companions. So I am daily having to tell them to piss off. I’ve got work to do.


Latest and Greatest

It’s been a while since I wrote here in this space, but I wanted to share a few upcoming events with you… the first is a brief artist talk I’m giving this Sunday:

2014.04 - Emailer KAIR

This is very casual and fun, a quick thing to drop into on Sunday afternoon. If you are in the area, come by and say hello!

The second announcement is that I am teaching a second 3-day class this year at Wax Works West. In my classes, I focus on control, layering, and transparency, and my students have a lot of time to practice and work in the super supportive environment that Judy and Wendy provide. I know this seems that this is really far in advance to be announcing this but my prior classes have filled fast, so if you are interested in joining us, don’t hesitate- check out their website schedule.

Maybe I’ll see you soon…