Shifting Fragments

Shifting Fragments, 16″ x 16,” Mixed media painting with collage on deep wood panel

We all know you can’t prepare for everything. We want change that is gradual and slow so we can see it coming, but life has way of sideswiping you when you least expect it.

Almost 6 years ago my husband had a “heart incident” as we like to call it. His heart fluttered, skipped a beat and threw a small clot. Even the paramedics could find nothing wrong when they arrived, but he felt a pain like “toothache” in his chest. So just to be safe he went to the hospital. While there was no damage, we discovered that sometimes he has an irregular heartbeat. “Sometimes” was really hard to deal with at first, but now after so much time he just exercises, eats right, and carries nitroglycerine in his pocket.

 I was reminded again of how slowly, and quickly, things change and could change, while hiking the trails in Stone Mountain State Park. The large rock faces with layers and splits big enough for climbing were formed by geological exfoliation. While they seem impenetrable, as if they will be there for thousands of years, the reality may be different. The change to these rocks is climate related and normally happens very slowly, but according to the park rangers because we don’t know the depth of the splits there is always the risk that rocks, particularly those with vertical and horizontal cracks, will shatter and slide. Of course, should there be an earthquake, they could crumble very quickly.

It’s both a bit scary and a bit comforting how human life parallels nature.  Mostly, the changes are gradual, but we are all shifting.




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.




When is a Workshop…Well Not a Workshop? Part 3


I would like to share work of all the artists I met, and I might over the next year. But there is one more for now—Katalin Ehling. I was particularly in awe of this artist whose work I saw daily as I entered the room. Katalin was using hand stitching on organza as her line and applying to her paintings which told incredible personal stories of home and place.

For about 40 years she worked in batik and has also done encaustic monoprints. The hand stitching she produced was so fine I thought she had used a machine, but this was a skill she learned from her mother. You can visit her website at:

World View

Sometimes our view of the world is not so large.

“World View,” 23.5″ x 7.75″, mixed media on deep wood panel


My mother lives in assisted living and has Lewy Body Dementia. Her window looks out over the parking area. She knows when the ambulance comes with a flashing red light, when the workmen are cutting grass, when the aides take their midnight break. What she doesn’t see, she hears.

Her world is much more than the window, but sometimes especially at night when dementia overtakes her, I imagine it may seem that small.

It may seem like the whole world.



Art is Like a Pushup

“Breathing Ground II,” 36″ x 15″, mixed media on deep wood panel, ready to hang

Why creativity and art are even more important as we age

Reason #2 It Keeps My Mind Engaged

We all know the “use it or loose it” theory and I’ve written quite a bit about how art is good for cognitive function. My simple explanation of scientific theory is that it helps keep those connections viable. So whether we play an instrument, paint, or write, we are exercising our brain.

To me it’s like working a puzzle. Admittedly, I don’t always work that fast, but like a lost word, I know the idea will eventually gel. I will know what colors to use, what textures, what markings, and how to put these elements all together for a painting. (To Be Continued)

What We Find

“What We Find”

Sometimes I think most of my small pieces should be named “Trial” or “Error.” I use them quite a bit to try out colors or shapes or line. This small piece was created as I work on a much larger piece. It is my attempt to look beneath all of the layers and see what is there, what has meaning, what I can take away and enrich my life…and my larger painting.

“What We Find”

8” x 8”, mixed media on deep wood panel


Opening the Space Between People



This summer I taught a class called “Visual Storytelling,” a mixed media class based on a wonderful book about journal writing—Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story by Christina Baldwin. Baldwin’s idea is that “story opens up the space between people.” So armed with that thought and the knowledge (as a former writing instructor) that many people find writing intimidating, I designed a class that was visual. The end result was an altered book.

In one class, it is difficult to tell what impact art or the visual process had either on the storytelling or the sharing process, but I think perhaps the art made both more successful and meaningful. Focusing on the visual process seemed to make it easier to reflect on our own personal stories. And sharing what we created had a bit of magic as well; it helped open us to others in the class.

These are pages from a couple students who graciously allowed me to share. None of the books are completely finished, but neither are our stories.