From Mobius+Rupper Wedge Sharpener

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

Vast Big Box Project: Art Meets Privacy

Vast Big Box Project

Inspired by a disturbing NPR piece about a very modern product called DRTBox that can scoop up data from up to 10,000 cell phones at once, I began the Vast Big Box Project. In the Inspiration Doodle, I imagined tiny boxes and circles representing individual cell phones, and even tinier interior dots showing the data available to DRTBox.

Vast Big Box Project Inspiration Doodle
Vast Big Box Project Inspiration Doodle

What is DRTBox?

The Hacker News reports that it is cell phone surveillance technology that can track, intercept thousands of cellphone calls, and eavesdrop on conversations, emails, and text. The lists one version at $100,000. This is not a tool for a home-grown, backyard-basement hacker. This is a tool for law enforcement.


Law enforcement can buy it. Evildoers can probably steal the technology or build something that can mimic its functions.

Questions for discussion

Scooping data from thousands of cell phone users is disturbing. Why? or Why not?

Just because you can, should you?

If the data that I put onto my cell phone boring and innocuous, what do I have to fear?

What if my boring cell phone is hacked by a Genuine Evildoer, not a basement hacker?

Do I want law enforcement to step in?

What is the Vast Big Box Project?

Beginning with blank canvas, a General Pencil 6-H, and a Mobius+Rupper Brass Wedge Sharpener, each part of the piece will be covered with tiny squares and spaces and even tinier shapes to indicate scoopable data. I will cover the pencil drawing with Liquitex Clear Gesso, which will seal the pencil and prevent smudges, and give me a paintable surface. I expect that this will project will fill a wall, presenting an overwhelming image of the length and breadth of this disturbing scoop-ability.

Big Box Project Tiny Prototype
Big Box Project Tiny Prototype


Thank you, Tracie Thompson, for introducing me to the idea of clear gesso.

Coloring pages have a heart

A Valentine heart coloring page

Drawing the first of the nanoscapes Valentine coloring pages was an unalloyed pleasure, as was painting the original ($100, limited availability at ETSY), and creating a digital print ($25, at ETSY). This 2017 Nanoscapes Valentine Heart is a dollar digital download at ETSY. You have choices: the original watercolor painting (get it before it disappears!), an archival digital print (Epson paper and ink), or a project (the coloring page.)

nanoscapes valentine 2017
Nanoscapes Valentine 2017 Dollar Digital Download at

My pals have urged me to make coloring books for a decade

Adult coloring books stopped being a trend and coloring pages are now a tidal wave. I was a little slow getting to the coloring pages project, but I’m now at it all the time. I go everywhere with a pad of Bristol paper, 6H pencils, erasers, and a tiny brass pencil sharpener.

A collection of coloring pages

Common advice to writers is “go with what you know,” and I followed it. Making coloring pages based on nanoscapes’ designs lets me revisit the tiny shapes and spaces that I’ve explored since childhood with doodles, and with paint since I took James Boyd Brent’s Splitrock Short Watercolor Class in 2006.

Making a book to my satisfaction is much more complicated than I imagined, so I have made these pages into dollar (plus tax) digital downloads at my ETSY shop in the Adult Coloring Page section. Print them onto card stock. Get our your sharp pencils, tiny paint brushes, or pens and markers. Have fun!

Click to see the pages, then dollar download at ETSY

Click on each image to learn more about Orbs (an original nanoscape), Stacked Boxes, Boxes and Dots, Painted Knitted Metal 31, Demented Dominos, Stalagmites and Curves, Find the Owl!, Terrazzo Molecules, Friendship Bands, and Conversations Connections. There are now 24 coloring pages in The ADULT COLORING PAGES of my ETSY shop. I often add new pages.

Mobius+Ruppert best tiny sharpener

Mobius+Ruppert tiny sharpener for my pencils

Mobius+Ruppert Wedge Sharpener: Best tiny sharpener
Mobius+Ruppert Wedge Sharpener: Best tiny sharpener

I spend a fair amount of art time clutching a pencil. When making small shapes and fine lines, a  hard pencil (General Pencil 6-H is my favorite) is crucial. Equally as important as the pencil is the point. The very sharp point. Until I found Mobius+Ruppert‘s tiny sharpener, pencil sharpeners were a necessary-but-not-joy-making tool. I used portable sharpeners, and they ranged from deeply inadequate to modestly annoying when points broke and stayed behind, stuck in the blades.

I love these little brass sharpeners. They are heavy for their size and fit nicely into the small bags that hold pencils, an eraser, and a 6-inch ruler. The tiny sharpeners are easy to clean, and, so far, I’ve not had any annoying pencil-point-breakage.

Professional Pencil Sharpener

Until I saw David Rees’ videos, I had no idea that “Professional Pencil Sharpener” was a gig. He has retired from it, so if you want sharp pencils, you’ll have to sharpen them yourself. With the right tools, sharpening is an unalloyed pleasure.

CW Pencil Enterprise

El Casco BlackChrome Sharpener
El Casco BlackChrome Sharpener

There are some amazing gizmos in the pencil sharpening market, and you would be wise to start your search with Caroline Weaver’s CW Pencil Enterprise. She stocks all kinds of sharpeners, from ridiculously inexpensive (two Mobius+Rupperts) to two versions of the El Casco Desktop Sharpener ($516.00). Yes, I aspire to having one.

In addition to an astonishing array of sharpeners and pencils (#2 and other hardnesses, vintages pencils, colored pencils, specialty pencils, jumbo pencils and pencil sets), you will find erasers, accessories, pencil cases, pencil displays/holders, notebooks, books, and ephemera.

Henry Petroski's The Pencil
Henry Petroski’s The Pencil

Not surprisingly, you will find David Rees’s book How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening.

How to Sharpen Pencils: David Rees
How to Sharpen Pencils: David Rees

She also stocks my long-time personal favorite pencil book,the classic The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski. (If you don’t know Petroski’s work, you are missing a unique opportunity to connect yourself to the engineering of our lives — in the nicest way, of course.)