From Double Zero Brush

Painted Gemstones: Believe

Painted gemstones: road not taken

My interest in gemstones was sparked during a trip to see The Hope Diamond when it was introduced into the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in 1958. My Mother bravely packed her station wagon with Brownie Scouts, and we joined the mobs who lined up to see it. We snaked through the museum through the Hall of Gems, which was filled with what appears in bodice-ripper fiction as “dripping with pearls.” Inspiring and breathtaking.

But ever-so-slightly disappointing. It was billed to the public and to my tiny 8-year-old brain as the largest blue diamond in captivity. Not knowing that the key word was blueI expected to find a diamond the size of a softball. To my immense disappointment, it appeared to be the size of a quarter.

I missed the career off-ramp to “gemstone cutter,” and now that I’m hewing to my 65th birthday vow of avoiding activities requiring safety equipment or liability waivers, there will be no glass cutting, tile cutting, bungee jumping, and now, no gemstone cutting.

Whimsical wildlife documentarian paints gemstones

It is well within the purview of the Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian to paint gemstones and to apply a 2019 version of Painstaking Exuberance. I have paintbrushes, and I am not afraid to use them.

Multiple advantages of painting whimsical gemstones:

  1. No insurance penalty for using dangerous equipment: paint brushes, even the tiniest, are not lethal unless you are in obscure parts of mystery fiction.
  2. No need to consider the Laws of Physics: I never took physics, so I can plead ignorance.
  3. No need to consider colors that might not exist in nature: in my experience as an artist, nature’s color limitations are highly over-rated.
  4. No need to be limited by cost or size: a real five-pound amethyst crystal would be outside my art supply budget, it would pain my arthritic hands, and diamonds and rubies are out of the question.
  5. No fear of making a costly mistake: the ever-real possibility of dropping and breaking a valuable stone was always a deal breaker.

My first painted gemstone

Pencil on paper, covered with clear gesso. Tiny paintbrushes and Golden High Flow Acrylic. Paints and gesso from Wet Paint (Saint Paul) and Dick Blick (Roseville). Finished with a Micron Pen. #artfun

Painted gemstones. After pencil, paint, and clear gesso, I painted.
Painted gemstones. After pencil, paint, and clear gesso, I painted.                 Painted gemstones. Tiny brushes and more paint.Painted gemstones. Tiny brushes and more paint.
 Painted Gemstone More paint! More tiny spaces! More color! #artfun
Painted Gemstone More paint! More tiny spaces! More color! #artfun


Painted gemstones. More paint and colors. More facets. #artfun.
Painted gemstones. More paint and colors. More facets. #artfun.


Painted Gemstones.More colors into the tiny spaces. Clarified the facets with Micron Pen. #artfun #believeit
Painted Gemstones.More colors into the tiny spaces. Clarified the facets with Micron Pen. #artfun #believeit

Two Fish: learn from mistakes

Two Shiny Fish
Two Shiny Fish


How was it made?

I made this image my Facebook profile picture, and (thank you) got lots of “likes” and some queries about how it was made.

STEP 1. I started with one of the 8″ rounds from the pile that has aged like fine wine under my staircase for 17 years. I used gesso to attach a piece of round watercolor paper, penciled in the tiny box design, painted it with my double zero brush.

STEP 2: I then covered it with an acrylic medium to make it shiny.

Gasp. Screams. Pain.

It dried and I learned a very hard lesson. Just plain watercolor will melt and blur if you fail to apply a protective coating before splodging on layers of acrylic medium.

Starting over.

STEP 1. I did it again. I gesso’d another piece of paper onto the round and made the painting again. When it was finished, I applied layer after layer of fancy French fixative before laying on the acrylic medium to make it shiny. I was going for REALLY shiny.

STEP 2.  After carefully layering the acrylic medium, I kept my own fingers and Max The Cat’s paws away from the piece while it dried.

STEP 3.  Not enough fixative. No “gasp-screams-pain,” just a grim determination to make something of this exercise.

STEP 4:  Calling on my heretofore unknown Inner-Princess, I turned to glitter — specifically Golden Brand Pearl Mica Flake — which covered the blurred spots.

STEP 5:  Glitter wasn’t enough. I consulted with one of my favorite characters from The Small Friends’ Chronicles, Harry Herringbone Fish, to finish the piece. Glad to do something useful in addition to appearing in prints and cards, and co-starring in the book with other fish based on Uncle Leon’s Pewter ashtray, he was eager to make this piece work.


Harry Herringbone Fish
Harry Herringbone Fish

Harry and I tried out three versions, and settled on two fish. I applied the fish with very permanent glue and, finally, covered the piece with the shiny clear acrylic that had been the goal in the first place.  There is just one of these, and it is $60 plus shipping directly from me (, payable through PayPal.

New Worlds #1: watercolor complete

New Worlds #1

Made with Watercolor, Micron Pen, and Painstaking Exuberance, a technique from my earliest watercolor days.

Painstaking Exuberance: a history

Using Painstaking Exuberance, I get to wallow in my lifetime comfort zone of tiny spaces when painting the large and small geometric abstracts that I have called nanoscapes.

Following on decades of doodling, in 2006 I began to make images with (1) a pencil drawing, (2) topped with Winsor & Newton Davy’s Gray,(3) watercolored between the lines,(4) painted over the lines with watercolor, and (5) finished with a painted an outline for the piece.  Knowing just a little about the history of art and its trends, schools, and other ups and downs, and that often artists’ work is celebrated and categorized after they die, I took matters into my own hands. I named this 5-step method the School of Painstaking Exuberance.

During the past two years, Painstaking Exuberance has changed into a three-step process: pencil drawing, painting between the lines (arm the Double-Zero Brush!), and then either paint or Micron Pen for outlines inside the piece.

New Worlds One
New Worlds One


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).