Hopeful Collage

Dear Liza,

I have been having so much fun experimenting with mixed media! Putting watercolors, other paints, and collage together to tell about a feeling, or a day, just makes so much sense to me.

This piece is from Easter weekend. When I was out walking, I thought about how all springs are new beginnings. But THIS spring, with vaccines making us safer, we are being released from Covid captivity in addition to our cold winter isolation. This spring feels especially free-ing.

I collected some bits from my collage box, including candy wrappers and the little paper sleeve that was wrapped around my ice cream cone from the new Dairy Hill Creamery, down on Hawthorne.


I knew I wanted the ‘sad’ side on the left and the ‘happy’ side on the right, so I put some watercolors down for a first layer.

To show more clearly what made the sad side so sad, I stenciled and collaged some Covid-looking circles, and even spelled ‘Covid’ out in letters. Moving on from the sad, I laid down an ice cream cone wrapper bridge over a river made from a chocolate-wrapper bit of tinfoil.

I needed a happy side to be bright, so I stenciled a sun in a variety of yellows. The city is cut from an on-sale art paper from Collage art supplies. The bird was on a birthday card. The ‘JOY’ balloons are also from the ice cream wrapper.

To finish it off, I outlined the balloons and letters, and gave some detail to the sun. And to remember that this happened on Easter, I put some pretty eggs by the bridge.

Giving it a critical look, I realize that I made the water under the bridge wrong. But overall, I am pleased with the piece. It captures how I was feeling and incorporates bits of the day. I hope you have fun doing art this week!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Still Growing, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Last summer, a few months after the Covid shutdown, I started painting with an online group organized by Ruth Inman. It made sense that we should start painting with flowers…. who doesn’t like flowers?

Step by step watercolor Cornflowers

My skills weren’t very good, and I was scared of making mistakes, but being with an old friend put me at ease. The tremor in my hand got in the way a bit, but I’d just power through, realizing that the wiggly lines could be just part of the picture. Flowers don’t have straight lines, anyway.


Wacky candy wrapper collage

As the year passed, Ruth would give us challenges to use different materials, like candy wrappers or other recycled papers. These let me realize that ART didn’t have to mean making a perfect painting every time. The making, the process, was the main thing. If other people liked it when you were done, that was a bonus. But it was not the main goal.

Fun with Acrylics

Realizing that, I got more confident. I also came to understand that different media work in different ways. Watercolors always show through, so planning is crucial. Acrylics are more forgiving and will cover up mistakes. Collage needs a careful hand but is amazingly freeing. And all of these can be used in the same piece, if you like!


This is my new favorite, a remembering of a drive along the Willamette. As I sat on a bench looking at Mt. Hood far away across the river, I planned out how I would construct it. Watercolors for the sky and ground, THEN the distant mountain (out of a bit of Kleenex box), THEN the flowers/ trees in front of it, then the river and dogs. I found the note in the sky folded up in our picnic table, and wanted to include it.

Close up!

I built up from the background to the foreground, and was pleased with how it turned out. The snow on the mountain is a tiny bit of Posca marker.

I’ve learned a lot this year. Mostly, I learned that I am still learning, which is a good thing.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Lefties and Landscapes

Dear Liza,

As I have gotten more into drawing and painting this past year, I have realized that there has been a whole long list in my head of “things I can’t do”. I’ll bet most people have this sort of list, and it makes decisions for them even when they don’t realize it

“I can’t write an essay every single day!” I wailed to myself, thinking about starting this blog in 2017. I have proven myself wrong 943 times so far.

My latest lefty drawing…

“I can’t draw with my left hand,” I have said since…. well, since I could draw at all. Recently, with practice and an adjustment of expectations, I have proven myself wrong again.

And now, I am tackling “I can’t do landscapes.” I am watching YouTube videos, finding the artists who go slowly enough for me, like Alan Owen, a Scotsman who is lovely to listen to. I am staring at landscape photos and watercolors, looking for the magic so I can reproduce it. And I am practicing. A lot.
With very mixed results.

On my own……

In “All That Jazz”, choreographer Joe Gideon tells one of troupe, “I don’t know if I can make you a great dancer. I don’t even know if I can make you a good dancer. But if you keep trying and don’t give up, I know I can make you a better dancer.”

With Alan Owen’s guidance.

And better is all I’m looking for right now.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Layers and Layers (Part 2)

Dear Liza,

The other day I decided to see just how loosely I could start a picture. The only decision I made was ‘blue’ and ‘circles’.

I swished these down and and left them to dry. An hour later when I came back, they looked pale and flat. I gave them some darker swooshes, and, while they were damp, some splatters of plain water.

Seeing that my scheme was working, I headed to the kitchen and collected my circular implements of art…. a shot glass, a tiny bowl, a bit of Tupperware…. and a tube of chapstick.

Once the paper was completely dry, I started tracing circles in dark blue water color pencil. I wanted to lay down colors in layers, so no black. Yet.

The tracing needs a steady hand, and I did a lot of drawing, stopping, and staring. I wanted it to be interesting but not chaotic, balanced but not symmetrical. I wasn’t trying to make planets, or wheels, or anything, really. Just interesting and pleasing to my eye.

I added a few more circles, the. realized it needed contrast, so some pink and fuchsia came out of the pencil box.

It was going in a good direction. But it was still too pale. Now was the time to get the black out. Auntie Bridgett gave me a size 005 micron pen, and I used it for details.

I think I am almost there…. some more black and maybe some white to pop out a bit, maybe.

I love art! After thirty years of classroom teaching and having to be absolutely sure about everything, it is nice to say “ I don’t know how that’s going to turn out” and be okay with it.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Layers and Layers (Part 1)

Dear Liza,

As I typed that title, I thought of how I am dressing nowadays, and making the bed: Layers and layers. We have had very cold nights and may even get snow tomorrow! But that’ s not what I’m writing about today.

Cool diagonal lines at the beach…

I am still learning about how to make pictures look like I want. I will usually start with some idea or shape I am inspired by.

Plus circles!

Or sometimes I just throw down some color or lines, and go from there.

One of last week’s Art Journal challenges was “Circles”, which I love. I took the diagonal lines of the abstract photo from The Coast last week and added pinkish circles. I liked it!

Better…

But when I looked again a few days later, it looked unfinished. It needed contrast. So I filled in the spaces with blue and black, and I like it better now. It might be done. Maybe. Are the planets dark enough, or should they be filled in?

I’ll let you know when I know. More about layers tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Other Dandelion

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I told you that I had made two sketches of a dandelion, and only used one. Here is what I did (and learned) with the other one.

I put in watercolor green for the distant lawn, but it looked flat and not ‘distant’. And the fence wasn’t right.

But I fiddled with it. I think this ‘fiddling’ is what they call The Artistic Process. Auntie Bridgett showed me how to shade the grass so it would recede, and I played with the fence to make the boards look more like boards.

By the time I was mostly happy with it, Grandpa Nelson was ready to go for a walk. We enjoyed the cool fall sunshine, changing leaves, and tiny weeds growing from our latest rains.

And then I saw it. My mistake.

I had drawn a dandelion and put on the wrong leaf! Dandelions are so-called because someone thought their leaves looked like the tooth of a lion (dent du Leon). And I had put in a leaf that was more of a langue du chat. Could I fix it?

I could try. I picked a leaf and took it home to trace. I cut and colored and placed them as best I could over the wrong leaves. And it is better.


My mother always said that since we got smarter when we made mistakes, she must be the smartest woman on the planet. Today, I learned about leaves, paying attention to details, my own capacity for patience, and the myriad ways to correct errors.

So, educationally speaking, it was a good day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Art Journal and Pictures for Tim

Dear Liza,

I am still making a new piece of art each day for the Art-Ober mixed media challenge. Subjects like “cactus” and “stripes” tickle my brain! And as I gain confidence, I am willing to paint scenes I never would have tried a few months ago.

While this is all happening, I got a note from the wonderful woman who is caring for my big brother Tim. “I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I’ve got about ten small frames from the Dollar Store…” she said. Ah ha! A project!

So I went through the pictures I’ve done so far, picked my favorites, and made smaller copies to fit into her frames.

Tim has always been an outdoorsy type, fishing and hiking and such, so I chose scenes of flowers and forests.

This picture of a pair of jack rabbits nibbling on a sage brush reminds me so much of our old campsite at Vallecito, it makes me homesick. Great Grandpa Lowell took us there for about a dozen Easter vacations, enjoying the desert before it got too hot.

I made sure to write my name clearly in the pictures, so Tim could remember where they came from and know I am thinking of him.

I hope he enjoys them! I will make more and send them off. You can make me pictures, if you like. I’ll bet I could get some frames from the Dollar Store, too.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Painting Islands…. On Fabric?

Dear Liza,

Since I retired from teaching, my brain is like a kid in kindergarten, always finding something new. I opened a cupboard and found things to write about, so I wrote… for months and months.

Writing and writing..

Then I opened another cupboard and there was fabric, so I sewed.

Sewing and sewing…..

And now I have found the paint cupboard. First gouache, then watercolors. And, like a kindergartener, I have friends with ideas that feed my ideas. “Come join my painting group,” said Ruthie. I did, and it has been wonderful. Art, silliness, and learning all come together in the magic proportions that teachers strive for.

Painting little crabby friends….

I posted the islands I was painting and dear Elaine said, “I’ll bet you could put those islands on fabric, and maybe even quilt them.” Well, it turns out that you can paint on fabric with regular acrylic paints if you add a bit of “gac” paint medium. Auntie Bridgett had some, because of course she did.

I spent a day looking at maps of all the islands I love. The Big Island of Hawaii. Tom Sawyer’s Island at Disneyland. Treasure Island from Robert Louis Stevenson. Tiny Gabriola Island in the Strait of Georgia. Neverland. Sketch, reconsider, sketch.

Pencils first….

And finally I started painting my first fabric island. After smooth gouache and watercolors, the acrylic and muslin felt heavy and clumsy, but I kept at it.

The Big Island of Hawaii, as I have it so far…

I am still not totally happy with it, but I will get better if I just keep practicing. It seems a bit flat. Hmmmmm… Maybe I can add embroidery or even some beads. Maybe my friends will give me some good ideas.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Still Growing

Dear Liza,

Ruth Inman

I have been telling you about how life has changed during the corona virus shut down, including re-connecting with my old friend Ruth Inman. She is now an artist, and she lives in Illinois. She does a lot of different kinds of art, and her website is called Brush with Many Colors. You should go have a look sometime.

One of Ruth’s beautiful paintings!

Ruth has started an on-line art group using ZOOM, and I have been attending two times a week. At first I thought I would just watch and chat, because I have never had much confidence in my art skills. I have a tremor that makes my right hand unreliable at times, which makes it even more frustrating.

What my cards looked like before…

But Ruth is such an easy going teacher! She gives good directions but then adds, “But if it does this instead, you can make it work by doing this..” and knowing there are lots of ways to do it right has let me feel more confident. I started painting.

I am using the watercolors we found on the sidewalk years ago, so there’s not much of an investment, except time, which I have plenty of.

Getting better…..

This art class has happened just when I wanted to start making cards and writing letters for the elderly residents at Laurelhurst Village Home nearby, and I have started using the flowers I paint with Ruth and her friends for the cards!

My latest batch of cards

Voila, as the French say.

I have someone to teach me, a way to practice, and a place for my pictures to go and make people smile. It’s a very nice combination.

Love,

Grandma Judy