Positive from Negative


Unfinished paintings making positives using negative space.

“What do you do with everything that is cut away?” she asked Tilman, thinking now about the negative space of stone sculpture, the stone that is discarded, thinking too about how she had thrown away huge pieces of her own early life…”
from The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart.

 With both my only parent and only sibling ill, there is a lot of sadness in my life right now, weighing me down, making it hard to focus on anything—even art. But because art keeps me sane, I have turned to it in bits and pieces, usually ending up in a mess of color and movement. For days I let these paintings on paper lay around, but this past week I decided to find out what if anything was important in these painted, collaged pieces.

So I started with grey paint and the basic rules of visual composition, reminding myself that positive space was the primary focus of a picture and the negative space was the background or the space between objects. I had always thought of negative space as quiet space, but obviously less important than the positive shapes.

But the more I painted, the more I wondered: Should there really be a difference between positive and negative space in importance? Can you have one without the other? In order to tell a complete story, don’t you need both? None of the pieces that are pictured are finished or may never be, but the exercise reinforced to me how critical negative space is in my paintings and how it can highlight the positive.





No Destination

“Untitled,” 16″ x 20,” mixed media collage on deep panel

The week has just started and I am tired. To say it has been difficult to concentrate on art the last few weeks is well…an understatement. Illness, my own upper respiratory infection and my elderly mother’s increasing anxiety, has consumed me.

Finding myself the bad guy is not a new role, just one that comes and goes. And no matter how you feel at the moment, you really don’t want it to return. You want all hatchets buried, all peace pipes smoked. But usually, life doesn’t work that way even with the most optimistic outlooks. To keep my own head about me, I paint.

Lately, I have been working on paper, which doesn’t create my usual amount of texture. But it still allows quite a bit, just more visual than tactile. And because there is less preparation, I can work in the moment. Luckily, most of the layers also dry a bit more quickly as well.

This one, as yet untitled, is likely part of a new series. I feel myself moving a brush, a pencil over the paper as if it is a landscape I want to explore—even though there is no definite destination.

Do we need one? Can’t we just begin a journey and see what will happen, where we will go if we follow a line?



Let Your Paintings Lead Another Life

On the left, a detail of my 4-sided painting “Seeing In A Different Light III,” in early 2016. On the right the same painting with a bit of “collage” paper created by an archival copy of another small painting.

What I’m doing today: using materials I already have to make an earlier painting better. I was cleaning up today, getting ready to work on another large piece when I spotted a color copy (archival) of a painting I had just completed. Looking at the colors, I realized I could use it to make another painting or when I looked across the room, another painting better. You know the feeling, that painting was one that was “finished,” but I wasn’t quite happy with it. Well, now I am because it has the perfect detail.

By using pieces of this “collage” paper, an image I had already created, I changed a painting. Of course, I added a couple other bits and pieces when I got going, but I’m finally happy with the painting months after “completing it.” The other alternative would have been to use that color copy as the “jumping off point” for a new piece.

So if you have paintings you love or portions of paintings you love, let them “dress up” and lead another life!


Disconnected from Time  12″ x 12″ x 2.5″, mixed media on deep wood panel

When I travel and wake up in a strange place, it sometimes takes a few seconds to realize where I am and to connect myself with my surroundings. Memories can be the same way. Often when we run into a friend from childhood or college, we can pick up right where we left off. There is a sense of the familiar.

Other times, not so much. Either we have changed or the other person has changed, but we feel disconnected and can’t seem to pick up where we left off. This piece depicts that estrangement. As Carly Simon once said, “One of us is changing or maybe we just stopped trying.”




Experiments in Simple Printmaking


Overprint of black on canvas paper with deli paper.

A couple months ago I found a tutorial on a blog by Jane Davies. She is a mixed media artist and teacher and is gracious about sharing quite a bit of her work and techniques online. When I saw this one that was similar to a technique I’d used, I had to try it and compare with my own. These are the type of imprecise, organic results I love.

Jane Davies calls this deli paper print. I had taught something similar in my own classes on “Building a Painting,” but I used the technique on clear plastic such as a paint drop cloth. We were also able to transfer the leftover paint to another piece of paper or a canvas using soft gel medium. I wanted to see the differences.

The Technique

Using any color paint (I used black.) make lines, circles, squares, whatever on the deli paper or plastic. Do not put this on too lightly or too thick. Jane Davies’ blog suggests that you use an extender if you were planning to do several. Once complete, turn the deli paper or plastic over and lightly press it to your surface. You can use an object like plastic knitting needle or the edge of an old credit card, etc. and make markings that will also transfer. Keep the pressure light so you don’t get a heavy glob of paint.

Deli Paper

Deli paper is thinner, and it appears that it would be more absorbent, only allowing for a few prints. This was certainly my experience (although I admit I added paint on a third pull). My photos show the results in black on paper canvas.


I tried this on 80# drawing paper as well as watercolor paper. The visual results seemed much the same (see photos) though the plastic gave a little heavier print with texture. One advantage of the plastic may be it doesn’t tear as easily  as deli paper and the leftover paint can be transferred via another technique to canvas or paper.

I have yet to try this on my boards covered with limestone paste, but I will.

Black paint and markings on deli paper
Black paint and markings on plastic
Overprint of black on watercolor paper using plastic for printmaking.
Overprint of black on drawing paper using plastic.

Links: http://janedavies-collagejourneys.blogspot.com/2014/01/deli-paper-prints.html

Using Faux Encaustics

“Peas In A Pod,” 12″ x 12″, Mixed media on deep cradle

Recently I‘ve been exploring new techniques with mediums and found several variations of faux encaustics (I don’t trust myself with anything that’s hot). I used a pourable recipe developed by Sandra Duran Wilson (Acrylic Painting for Encaustic Effects) on this painting,“Peas In A Pod.”

While it’s not as heavy as her spreadable recipe, my opinion is that there is more clarity for transferred images with the pourable recipe. Of course, Wilson encourages readers to try their own variations.

The World Is Too Much With Us

So today I needed quiet; I needed to lock out the world. I’m sure you’ve felt that way.

a simple collage on watercolor for a quiet day

“The world is too much with us,” wrote William Wordsworth. What would he think of us today? Even in our own homes we spend hours in front of a computer, responding to emails, posting on facebook,or updating an internet marketing sites. (Yes, I know I am blogging!)

I found this post reassuring and will use it any day I only want to paint. Like today!!