From history

Still glad to be a 21st century artist

21st century artist loves color

Since beginning with watercolor in 2009, I remain in awe and in deep debt to the travelers, collectors, chemists, painters, manufacturers, and artists who painstakingly discovered and developed the colors that enable my work. The slideshow below has just a few of my favorite celebrations of color.

The Sail or The Unmade Bed
The Sail or The Unmade Bed
Top of the Tall Silo of Iowa
Camouflage Hippo Seeks a Monacle
Camouflage Hippo Seeks a Monacle
Pinky the First From the Clowder of Cats
Pinky the First From the Clowder of Cats
Big Neighborhood 2 Inverted 2017
Big Neighborhood 2 Inverted 2017
Tiny Dots Enhanced
Tiny Dots Enhanced
Klimt Bird #1: A Super Fan
Klimt Bird #1: A super fan
Blue Cave Cat from the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul
Blue Cave Cat from the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul
Climate Crusader Mardi Gras Frog from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul
Climate Crusader Mardi Gras Frog from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul
Friendship #4: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you're lucky.
Friendship #4: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you’re lucky.
Paper Mosaic Parrot 3
Paper Mosaic Parrot 3

In my very first post, I celebrated being a 21st century artist because I didn’t have to go to the ends of the earth to source materials.

My favorite out-of-the-way material is lapis lazuli, dug from the wild mountains of Afghanistan, not a healthy place for travelers. Genuine Ultramarine is created from lapis in a complex process helpfully described by Winsor & Newton (which inspired this post) is yet another reminder of the delight and ease of being able to walk into an art supply store (thank you,Wet Paint and Dick Blick), to talk to knowledgeable staff, make a purchase, and get to work.

If I had to embark on dangerous and life-threatening travel, (carry) smuggle rocks back to the US, grind them, mix the powder with chemicals to turn them into paint, and hope that I had made a paint of quality, that I would go straight back to needlepoint.

Holly Tree Memory

There once was a holly tree

Holly Tree Memory
Holly Tree Memory

There was a holly tree outside the kitchen window in my first “running away from home” apartment. It was tall and wide — kind of dumpy, actually. Bright and green all winter long, it was a high point in an otherwise dreary Washington DC metro winter. Its berries were beautiful. Red and redder than red.

This Holly Tree

I hadn’t thought about that tree for years until This Holly Tree emerged from a stack of “gotta finish this” paintings on my easel. What was left to do? Add the red berries. Done.

Life in the Holly Tree apartment was more or less carefree (except for the general angst of 20-year-olds, my parents’ consternation at this unconventional (gasp!) living situation, my then-boyfriend’s draft status, and my stolen VW Bug.)  This Holly Tree channels the memory, employs one of my favorite nanoscapes designs (tiny random shapes), and makes a shameless pitch for a skinny space on the wall. The original is for sale (5×15″ matted to 8.5×20″, $100) at the Vine Arts Holiday Sale (December 6, 12-5), and from me directly, thereafter. I will have prints, matted to 11×14 for $30 each.

Tiny random shapes on TerraSkin™

Each tiny random shapes piece begins with a very sharp General Pencil (6H) and a deep breath. Sometimes I make them in an order (spirals, straight lines) and sometimes their order is random. I drew This Holly Tree on the most wonderful paper called TerraSkin™ which I buy in sheets from Wet Paint in Saint Paul. TerraSkin™ is a tree-free paper made of 75% calcium carbonate and 24% binder. The combination makes a paper that is very smooth and buttery. Watercolor puddles and dries, making almost translucent color. Because the paint isn’t absorbed (it sits on top of the paper), watercolor paintings need archival spray for protection.



Trilobite Revisits Photoshop

Photoshop has been my friend for a while. At first, I used it to create an archive. Because I started “image-a-day” painting in 2010, I have a HUGE archive of images. Sometime in 2011, I discovered the magic of Photoshop and began to manipulate images.

Original Trilobite

It was easy to identify the original image as “Trilobite” from a dim memory of studying geology. It is 5×7″ and beautifully framed. Thank you, Frameworks.

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Entering Photoshop’s Magic World

Once the Photoshop light came on, I spent hours tweaking this image, learning about Filters and Adjustments. (Working with Layers came much much later.) Surprise! The same person who categorically refuses to make round color wheels, declined to learn to play scales (C sharp? C Major?), also steadfastly refused to take careful notes about filters and adjustments, making it impossible to recreate any of this.

The image with the eye on the right is Teresa Trilobite. The fellow with the eye on the left is Tommy Trilobite. They are featured in The Small Friends’ Chronicles. Here is their story:

Although trilobites who roamed the oceans between 526 and 250 million years ago have long been extinct, The Small Friends’ Research Institute (which funds some of my work) found Theresa (eye on the top) and Tommy (eye on the bottom) living quietly in a small pond in Northern Minnesota.

Theresa and Tommy were thrilled that Trilobite: Four by Five (below) was selected for the Still Point Gallery’s Abstraction Distraction online exhibition (November-December 2011). They are still delighted that they were able to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital by appearing in the Square Inches of Love traveling exhibition.

In 2011, this image was accepted in Square Inches of Love, a giant quilt that was a fundraiser for St. Jude. Want one for your very own? It’s at ETSY.



Trilo 2 four by five

Finishing a lost Lollipop Tree painting

In the beginning

Shortly after I began to paint with watercolor in 2006, I began exploring tiny spaces and creating intricate landscapes. I had a double-zero brush and I loved using it.

Because the earliest paintings were very small (4×6 inches), I called them “nanoscapes.”  Over time, I developed three groups: Kaleidoscopes, Molecular Biology, and Not Quite Botanically Accurate Landscapes. Murphy’s Law Note: One week after I registered “nanoscapes & other visions llc” as my corporate name (and got checks, too!), a friend looked at me, looked at my paintings, and said “I love your work, but I can’t put a postcard behind my sofa.” Tiny “nanoscapes” became larger paintings, pronto.

Kaleidoscope 3
Original, Framed  $100
11h x 14w
Molecular Biology 112
Original, Framed $100.00
8h x 10w”
The difference between Kaleidoscopes and Molecules is that a Kaleidoscope fills a page, and Molecules float. The Not Quite Botanically Accurate Landscapes are — well — just imaginary.
(Not) Up North (6×6)
A Landscape  NFS

Found! A Lollipop Tree Landscape

I was on a hunt for another painting yesterday, and found a lot of things, including the unfinished “Lollipop Trees,” which is now complete.
Lollipop Trees, Original Unframed, $75
Image: 6×6″

Six Winter Socks from the Nanoscapes’ Archive

After four years of above-zero temperatures, in mid-January 2013, Minnesota plunged to a few days of high temps below zero. To celebrate,  I retrieved Six Winter Socks from the nanoscapes’ archive. The tiny original watercolor which was made in 2008, is no longer for sale. This image is on a postcard at

Six Winter Socks

Philodendron watercolor goes digital

In early 2011 I became slightly obsessed by an image that reminded me of large philodendron leaves.

First Philodendron

I made the first Philodendron painting while on a speaking trip in Florida, and I named the series after seeing and huge plant outside my hotel room door.  Before I got cats, I’d been an obsessed houseplant person, and always had lots of philodendron in my house. I also remember being in the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, pointing at a 7-foot long leaf and asking a horticulturist “what is that?” He told me that it was exactly what my houseplant-philodendron would look like if it lived in a greenhouse for 100 years.

I made one large (22×33) and several smaller “Philodendron” paintings, and a few postcards, just for fun. Until this morning, I’d left them alone.

Philodendron: Making the cut

Having worked on a painted Stained Glass Penguin (what happens when triangles go wild?)  for nine hours yesterday, I never quite got around to making a tiny painting for “Image-a-day” so I looked into my archives and found Philodendron 3. I “cut” a piece and made digital magic with it in Photoshop. Find posters at zazzle.

Philodendron 3
Philodendron 3
Philodendron 3 (22×33 $500, framed)

A piece of Philodendron 3
A piece of Philodendron 3
Philodendron Magic
Philodendron Magic 2012 (poster at

Image-a-day: a new digital nanoscapes’ direction

What started as a distraction has become a new direction for digital nanoscapes, and they are part of my 2012 Image-a-Day project.

Blue Tiles

Nanoscapes began as post-card sized paintings because “tiny” was my comfort zone. When a pal said “I love your work, but I can’t hang a post card behind my sofa,” I took the hint and made larger paintings. My new comfort zone became 22×33 inches.

The return of small nanoscapes

The original “Net”

But the small paintings and post cards came back, because I love to experiment, I must paint every day, and their size makes them convenient for a traveler.

Through my consulting business, Pass the Baton, I often speak at law schools around the country. Two years ago, I would carry a 12×16 Arches Hot Press watercolor block and a six pallets with 100+ colors. No more. I take three or four tubes of watercolors, a post card block, a 6H pencil, a ruler, an eraser, and a pencil sharpener. Everything goes through security and the whole kit may weigh one pound.

Painting in hotel rooms
With the best lighting in many hotel rooms in the bathroom, I never hesitate to ask for better light for painting. Kind concierge staff members have delivered new light bulbs and, sometimes, multiple lamps to make my rooms workable for a painter. The collateral benefit comfortable bed-time reading. All too often, bedside table lamps give off barely enough light to barely see the alarm clock.

How are these digital nanoscapes made?
I scan a small painting and then experiment the wonderful toys in Photoshop adjusting color and hue, saturation and more. The magic in these new digital nanoscapes comes from horizontal and vertical flipping which, as you will see, makes a combination with a center, giving new life and more energy than the original.




This painting, originally titled “The Net,” is now the image of mosaic tile work that I would do if it didn’t require safety equipment for tile cutting. When I turned 60, I decided that I should avoid all activity requiring either safety equipment or liability waivers. No skydiving, no bungee jumping, and no glass work.  

Just painting.

Chain Links: a new digital nanoscape

Chain Links 2011
Chain Links 2011

I have a worktable which has been a bad storage solution for so long that I feared what might turn up after excavation. Recycling an old tv, which took up a third of the tabletop, opened the door for a Domestic Archaeological Expedition.

I found long-forgotten treasures.

Among them was “Chain Link Fence,” an original postcard painting from 2006. Cropped, copied, flipped, reversed, and inverted, Chain Links is magic for the morning.

It is part of a group of digital images, work created at the intersection of geometric abstract watercolors and the magic of the technology of Photoshop. Find it on a poster at


Kitchen tools: a quick cure for blank canvas panic

Sushi RoostersSushi Cutter Roosters

If you have run through your check list of artwork starters and blank canvas has induced inspiration-free panic, try looking at your kitchen tools for new beginning.


Full disclosure #1: I am a watercolorist who always travels with paints and paper. Even before the coffee, I am the early-rising house guest who will rifle through my host’s kitchen drawer for inspiration. I always find it.


Full disclosure #2: I know that there are purists who decry tracing as any sort of art activity, but in my constant search for interesting shapes and patterns, I will take my inspiration where I find it.
Tomato Forks
Tomato Forks
Potato Masher #4
Potato Masher 4 print is available at ETSY.


Blank canvas panic


Kitchen tools come in wonderful shapes and all sorts of sizes. Use them to get past your blank canvas panic.

I made the first potato masher painting at my sister Elaine’s house, and I now have a world-class collection  which has inspired four Potato Masher paintings. Part of the engrossing challenge of these shapes is working out the connections between each ring and link, a theme that connects them to all of the nanoscapes’ rings and links, which are hanging at FrameWorks Gallery in Saint Paul, MN until September 3, 2011.

Great Shapes Are Everywhere



50th Birthday Cake Servers FInd a print at ETSY
50th Birthday Cake Servers Find a print at ETSY.


Forest of Fondue Forks
Forest of Fondue Forks

The Sushi Roosters, which are very very tiny, were tricky to trace and to paint. They make me smile.

 The cake servers were part of my 50th birthday celebration, and the Fondue Fork Forest forks belong to my cousin Theda. The Tomato Fork is my own.

While I make no claim to dictionary uniqueness — someone else must do this, too — I suspect that there are not many painters of Fondue Fork Forests, Tomato Forks, and Sterling Silver Cake Servers. 

If kitchen tools don’t inspire you, find a friend with a woodshop or wander around a hardware store.     

Potato Mashers
Potato Masher #1