From Image-a-day

30-in-30 Paintings Challenge Day 2

30-in-30 Day 2: Purple Feathered Yellow Belly

Susan Gainen Purple Bird MN Migrant 30-in-30 Day 2
Susan Gainen Purple Bird MN Migrant 30-in-30 Day 2

Purple-Feathered Yellow-Belly Clyde and his family are honored to appear in Leslie Saeta’s 30-in-30 Day 2 painting challenge. Clyde and his family are climate refugees from windy Southern Kansas. High winds and dense dust storms finally made life there intolerable for this heavily-feathered species. It had become way to hard to fly in one direction, and the high winds make nest-building close to impossible.

Clyde and his family were welcomed by the Pandas and Frogs of the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul. Their temporary shelter is in the Southern end of the Forest.

Climate refugees welcomed

Pandas and Frogs in the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul are aghast at the treatment that thousands of human refugees are receiving as they struggle to find their places in a cruel world, and some attention is being paid to animals whose habits are being destroyed.

But it’s never enough.  Unlike humans, who are throwing up barriers of all kinds, they opened the Forest to any birds and animals that can make the trek to Saint Paul. Some of these migrants are comfortable in the occasionally frozen Upper Midwest, and others will find the adjusting to the climate difficult.

Making a safe climate space

With energy and optimism, the Pandas and Frogs accepted the challenge of making safe and comfortable spaces for newcomers. Fortunately, the Forest sits atop a thermal vent, and with some crafty science and engineering, parts of the Forest will be made quite warm and welcoming for tropical and subtropical species.

30 paintings 30 days January 2017

30 paintings 30 days challenge

California-based artist, author, teacher, blogger, and podcaster Leslie Saeta challenged artists all over to world to a January 2017 30 paintings 30 days challenge. I accept.

The last time I did this challenge, I was lucky enough to be visited by 16 Roosters who promptly invited their friends to my studio and into the book, The Backyard Roosters of Saint Paul. It was a very busy month, and I learned a lot about chickens and roosters.

Exploring climate change in 30 days

Since I came to Minnesota in July 1992, the state has lost an entire climate zone. Asking “How do you lose a climate zone?” I looked for it, but it appears to have moved to an undisclosed climatic location. One result of that change, though, is an influx of whimsical birds who have moved to Minnesota to avoid cataclysmic weather events in their previous locations.

Whimsical bird refugees

Minnesotans have a history of generosity and of welcoming refugees. With some of the birds unused to life on the frozen tundra, the Pandas of the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul welcomed them into the Forest. As you may know, The Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul is located over a thermal vent, which keeps it at a constant bamboo-supporting temperature.

Max-the-Cat, who schedules portrait-painting appointments with whimsical creatures who visit my studio, tells me that the January schedule is full of birds who are new to Minnesota. I can’t wait to meet them.

First of 30 paintings in 30 days

Max cleverly scheduled the new birds for later this week, so it seems right to honor the new year with a nanoscape — a floating molecule in a stacked box pattern. Abstract molecule makes me think that I should have paid attention when I had opportunities to look at stuff through microscopes. Or not. This way, meaning no disrespect to actual science, I can just make it up.

30 paintings 30 days January 1
30 paintings 30 days January 1

Crisp fall day inspires Pink Spring

Spring in Minnesota

Spring is an elastic term in Minnesota. Does it begin with the spring semester (in January)? With the last snow? With pink spring flowers and plants? Since 1992, I have walked to the mailbox in a snow storm on two separate April 15ths. Fun fact: July is Minnesota’s only snow-free month. My favorite sign of spring is the day when I can walk without looking at my feet to spot hazardous stray patches of ice. Certainly not in January or February. Hardy in March or April. Usually in May.

Pink Spring Acrylic

Pink Spring will always remind me of the crisp fall day that I painted it. Returning to the Image-a-Day regimen that I began in 2010, I used two colors of acrylic paint and finger tips. It is a true “nanoscape,” an abstract painting celebrating tiny shapes and small spaces.

It is 12″ high x 4″ wide. Original $45 plus shipping (subject to availability). Print 9″ high x 3″ wide. $20 plus shipping. Contact me directly  at

Pink Spring on a crisp fall day
Pink Spring on a crisp fall day

Abstract Connections work-in-progress

Connections April 19
Connections #7 Work-in-progress April 19


Artists waste no time. While putting in my Vine Arts Center gallery hours yesterday, I took out my General Pencil (6H) and made the pencil drawing. BONUS: see how General Pencils are made.

Late last night, while binging on Death in Paradise (thank you Netflix), I pulled out my double zero brush and began to fill in the boxes.

See this piece (finished or not)

Connections #7 is part of a series of paintings which began as a doodle during conference calls where a group of us strategized about how our dear friend and wonderful judge might be connected to the decision-maker who might appoint her to a difference judgeship. Her constituents are lucky to have her. I am lucky to have made an image that shows everyone and everything is connected.


Connections #7 will be with me during the Saint Paul Art Crawl at the Dow Gallery at 2242 University Avenue West, Let me know if you are interested in having a work like this made specially for you (in your colors, in the size of your choice).

30-paintings-in-30-days: Done!

 A big shout out to Leslie Saeta for the January 2015 30-paintings-in-30-days challenge!

January 2015 30-paintings-in-30-days
January 2015 30-paintings-in-30-days

Beginning the new year with the challenge to sit down and make a painting every day was a great way to begin the year, but not too far out of my comfort zone. I have been posting an image-a-day (with some exceptions) since 2011, but having a group of artists painting along with me in cyberspace gave the project an interesting dimension. Waking up to see other artists’ 30-paintings-in-30-days work on Leslie’s blog was a gift.


And, bravo to for creating an amazingly intuitive and easy place to make this collage — for free. Thank you!

All of these images appear in my 30-paintings-in-30-days gallery. Some are for sale as originals or prints, some are on products at Click on the gallery to explore!  Contact me directly for unique ways to use the images.

Coming Soon:  The Roosters will join a group of more than 35 in a new publication (ebook, etc)., The Backyard Roosters of Saint Paul, sponsored by the Small Friends’ Research Institute which supports all of the whimsical wildlife work.



30-paintings-in-30-days: Day 18


30-paintings-in-30-days: more of the journey

On Day 18, I indulged myself, and returned to one of my many comfort zones: the abstract grid. “Indulged” is the correct word because this basic gridding technique combines sharp focus and incredible relaxation. I can make these paintings for hours at a time.

The original watercolor painting of  Sometimes a square is just a square is 3×4″ and made on 300# paper. I needed to relax, and what could be more relaxing than to create an abstract grid and then to fill in alternating boxes?  Unwilling to leave well enough alone, I scanned it into Photoshop, posterized it, and then imported it to a bright yellow background.

Sometime a square is just a square is a greeting card at


Sometimes a square is just a square
Sometimes a square is just a square    
Original square is just a square
Original Square is just a square












Two related paintings.

Part of a group of two, “The Sail #2″ (33×8”) made in 2012 on 300# Arches paper (sold). Made with Painstaking Exuberance in 2011, “Unmade Bed” captures the whimsical spirit of these paintings. Contact me directly ( to commission a “Sail” or an “Unmade Bed” in a size that works for you.

The Sail #2
The Sail #2



Unmade Bed
Unmade Bed



30-paintings-in-30-days: Black and White Rooster Day 17

Only delusional artists believe that everything works out perfectly first time and every time.

Day 17 didn’t work so well.

Small Model
Small Model

I had a good idea which was to paint a black and white striped rooster. There are many examples in breeders books and in art. It seemed like a good idea. It didn’t work out as well as I would have liked because (1) I didn’t plan or practice; (2) and I didn’t pay close attention to what I was doing. Which is not to say that it wasn’t fun to paint. I love tiny spaces, and this Rooster has a lot of them.

It’s always a good idea to practice, advice that I dispense all of the time. This feather effect needs a lot of practice.







First Black and White
First Black and White Rooster
Framed Black and White Rooster
Framed Black & White Rooster






After scanning into Photoshop, I made some adjustments to the First Black and White Rooster. I cropped out his back feathers to get rid of the mess. I used the Cross Hatch brush strokes filter to adjust all of the black and white feathers.  Neither adjustment moved this experiment close to the effect that I was aiming for.



30-paintings-in-30-days: first 16

Leslie Saeta challenged artists around the world to join her in a 30-paintings-in-30-days challenge. I am always up for a challenge. But for a glitch in my access to this blog, I would have posted these images daily.  This is catchup.

Each image starts with a drawing and a watercolor painting. After that the images go in many directions including being (1) scanned into Photoshop and manipulated, or  (2) slathered with acrylic mediums, cut out, and placed on real or digital backgrounds.

Click on the image to see it larger-than-a-thumbnail. They are all in a 30-paintings-in-30-days gallery at the small friends website. Click on the tag line under each image to take you to the small friends page that tells the story of each image, and welcomes you to purchase (or not, as not all are for sale), or to find that some of the images are on cool products at my zazzle store.

Now, back to the painting table.

Find the Owl 2015-16
Find the Owl 2015-16
Undercover Rooster 2015-15
Undercover Rooster 2015-15







Golden Boy Winston 2015-13
Golden Boy Winston 2015-13

French Steer Larry 2015-14

French Steer Larry 2015-14

Two Colorful Cats 2015-12
Two Colorful Cats 2015-12
Tin Roof Maroon Rooster 2015-11
Tin Roof Marsala Rooster 2015-11









Stained Glass Rooster 2015-9
Green and Blue Stained Glass Rooster 2015-9
Night Rooster 2015-10
Night Rooster 2015-10









Rooster by Committee 2015-8
Rooster by Committee 2015-8




Glowing Rooster 2015-6
Glowing Rooster 2015-6







Backyard Rooster Nine 2015-5
Backyard Rooster Nine 2015-5


No 2 stars are alike 2015-3
No 2 snowflakes are alike 2015-3








No 2 stars are alike 2015-4
No 2 snowflakes are alike 2015-4



30-paintings-in-30-days January 2015
Friendship 2015-1






Quiltish Windows 2015-2
Four  Windows 2015-2
Curious Rooster 2015-7
Curious Rooster 2015-7

Cats and Hippos: celebrate everything!

Cats and Hippos celebrate everything and they will help you do it everyday.


December 2014: Mad creative dash to make tiny creatures: ornaments? gift tags? just for fun!

Most often I’ll use 300# Arches paper, but lately I have started to recycle some of the dozens of original paintings from the nanoscapes’ Image-a-Day files. In 2012, I was busy making tiny abstract paintings and turning them into digital magic. While appreciating and purchasing the digital images, my customers almost unanimously rejected the tiny original abstract paintings which I had carefully framed. I have a lot of them, and they are all made on either 140# Canson or Arches postcard blanks or from 300# Arches paper.

One Cat from an Image-a-day
One Cat from a 2012 Original Image-a-Day

After cutting out the creatures, I’ll paint them with watercolor and then get out my tiny plastic offset spatula to add one or more of the following Golden Acrylic Medium Products: (1)  Glass Bead Gel (the miracle of the century: tiny glass beads in acrylic medium), (2)  Self-Leveling Clear Gel, Iridescent Stainless Steel, Black Gesso, and Black & White Mica Flake. I love “shiny and bumpy” and these acrylic mediums make that possible.

I remain grateful to Bonnie Cutts, the Golden Artist-in-Residence, for introducing me to these products at a WARM Mentor-Protege event in June of 2013. I learn something new everyday that I work with these products.

Artist alert: Should you have the chance to take one of Bonnie’s workshops, sign up and go!

Old watercolors never die

Paper Mosaic Hippo
Paper Mosaic Hippo

In the spirit of the Genus Papyrus (the paper mosaics, including a horse, a cat, a pig, a hippo, and several parrots), I am recycling these tiny paintings into new creatures. Think of it! The fun of creating new images and the delight of freeing up storage. A win! win!

Cats and Hippos are just a few of the Celebration Critters: pandas, pigs (lots of pigs), parrots, frogs, and hummingbirds!

9 Who? Me? Cats
9 Who? Me? Cats




8 Hippos
8 Hippos

Find them!

Find these and many more new small friends for $7 each at the Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market (all year), Vine Arts Center Holiday Sale (December 13 and 14), Banfill-Locke Holiday mART (until December 20). Want one made just for you? Contact me directly. ( or 651.917.0219).

More Tiny Random Shapes Trees

In early November 2012, I began playing with Tiny Random Shapes, and admitted that they were a pleasant and benign obsession. The shapes became six Tiny Random Shapes Trees paintings, and here they are in chronological order.

Each Tree painting is an original watercolor painted on 140# Arches Hot Press paper. Originals are for sale (contact me at and many Tiny Random Shapes paintings’ images are available at zazzle.

Tiny Tree (5×7) and Bigger Tree (7.5×10.5)
Three Trees One (7.5×10.5)
Three Trees Two (7.5×10.5)
Three Trees Three (12×16)
Three Trees Four (18×24)