Journal Jam

IMG_1094_2 My sister-in-law Gretchin and I are putting together a series of joint art and writing prompt classes that we are calling Journal Jam. We will be announcing the location of the first workshop shortly. In the meantime, we have both been working on our own journal pages. One of the prompts I love to offer comes from a book by Tristine Rainer called Your Life as Story. In it Rainer gives a prompt on How to be ________. The writer than offers a list of criteria describing how to be ______. Gretchin and I plan to use this prompt in our class and as an example I tried my hand at my own.

The night before I had been visiting Gretchin's house where my three-year-old niece Ellie was dancing around in the buff. I decided to write How to Be Three-Year-Old Ellie Dancing. Here's the result:

How to Be Three-Year-Old Ellie Dancing

Be Stark Naked

Lift Your Arms in the Air


Mold Your Hands into Tight Little Fists

Roll Them One Over the Other

Do Your Magic

Stare Up Into the Sky with a Smug Look of Satisfaction

Burst Into Song

Sing the Theme to Frozen

Twirl Again

Lose Interest

Walk Across the Room, Strutting like a Drunken Supermodel

Turn and Walk Back Toward Me

Shout "Hey Bee, Look at This!"

Twirl One Final Time.

I then went to work on my own journal pages, but as so often happens the preliminary sketches seemed better than the final result, so I experimented a couple of times.

One of the things I love about digital collage and one of the reasons I turned to working in that medium is that nothing every has to go waste. You can always use a "bad" photo or sketch and transform it into something else. I started to do so with one of the iphone pics I took of my sketch.

I had an older picture of Ellie and when I put them together it seemed as if the two were dancing. I am still working on the collage. This is just the preliminary piece. I'm calling it Shadow Dancers or Fairytale 699.

blog shadow dancing

I'm hoping to add a version of this to my journal pages as well.


Ellie Saves the Day or My Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

IMG_1066 I just finished googling “Everest Paw Patrol Action Figure” because my three-year-old niece Ellie is obsessed with the show. Earlier this year I ordered all the remaining action figures I could find from the series when she received only two for her birthday and realized she could not recreate her precious adventures with so few. Now they went and introduced a new member to the Paw Patrol team, Everest. So new, they haven’t even produced an action figure for her yet, though Ellie recently told her mom not to worry, “Bee (her nickname for me) will get me one.”

If my recent Internet search is accurate I probably won’t be able to pull off that miracle anytime soon, but I will keep trying because I understand Ellie’s obsession. She loves Paw Patrol so much that her present hope is that they will produce an episode called “Ellie Saves the Day!” Who knows? As an idol of mine once noted, “There are Always Possibilities…”

When I was three, I would stay up way past my bedtime to watch the Starship Enterprise streak across my television screen and dream of exploring “strange new worlds” as a Starship Captain. I would sit on my backyard swing for hours soaring to those same new worlds.

When I grew older I secreted Star Trek novels and Best of Trek books under my bed because I feared friends would discover them and deem them too nerdy. Little did I know my brother was sharing my stash with fellow Trekkie, his friend Chris, and with that cat out of the bag we began attending conventions together, feeding a mutual obsession. It was at one such convention I discovered our own version of buyer’s remorse after spending $300 to a replica of an original series tricorder—you know that cool scientific contraption carried by Spock to take readings of alien life forms? At 15, it was the most I had ever paid for any one item and after making the purchase I felt nothing but guilt. That tricorder, however, has adorned many a Halloween costume, attended some Star Trek movie premieres, even been worn at a friend’s costume wedding. I think I got my money’s worth. Still, till this day Chris or my brother John can text me at a moment’s notice with the phrase “I have Tricorder syndrome” and I think, oh no, what have they gone and bought now?!

Last Friday both John and Christ texted me almost simultaneously, Chris, in Chicago, John, here in Vermont. “Did you hear about Spock?” both messages read. And, by now everyone has. The actor, Leonard Nimoy, who brought our beloved alien to life, had died. Facebook and Twitter were filled with tributes as fans everywhere tried to express what this actor and this character had brought into their lives.

Long before I was old enough to truly grasp a concept such as tolerance. I remember learning what it meant to embrace the differences in others and the uniqueness in myself through a fictional alien named Spock. I learned that what I valued, the things that make me happy, should not be hidden under a bed but shared with others and in so doing, broaden my world. I learned to embrace Tricorders and Paw Patrol Action figures because these things we see on TV that can seem so childish or frivolous can take us outside our tiny lives and reveal our biggest dreams.

I just hope Ellie doesn’t come home at 15 with a $300 Everest action figure. Then again, maybe that is exactly what I wish for her—to discover the value of her dreams and explore all the worlds where they take her. May these things teach her that one day Ellie can save the day!

Chris, Me and John in Uniform


Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood

Next month, November 7th through December 3rd, my digital collages will be hung in my first-ever solo show at Radio Bean in Burlington, Vt. The opening reception will be on November 13th from 5 to 7 p.m. Curated by ONE Arts Collective, the show will feature 12 of my digital collages in a show entitled Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood. For those of you familiar with this blog and my work, the following explanation is probably not needed as much of it is offered in past posts and in the gallery section of this site, but for those of you who are new here's an explanation of the show and some background on my work: When you watch girls at play you can often catch glimpses of the people they will become. Like fairies and other magical creatures, the inner world of children seems to evaporate if it comes in direct contact with that of an adult. Still, with a camera lens there are ways to capture it, if you stay on the periphery and observe. With little boys who are typically all action and mugging for the camera, this is more challenging. Girls? They frequently have moments of stillness that offer you this chance. The quickness of the lens lets you capture what is so fleeting—images that hint at the future, of the women these girls will become. In these moments, when their secret world becomes visible, there is a maturity, a strength, and yet, also a vulnerability that can make adults uncomfortable. Simultaneously, we see in them both their innocence and the approaching loss of it. We know they stand on the cusp of transformation. To become a woman means to leave the little girl behind. While children long for the future, we look at them and long for what was. We see in them “once and future things.”

My digital collages have been describe as” hand-worked stories” and as a writer and photographer, I couldn’t be more pleased with this. They combine photography with hand drawing in pastel, crayon and colored pencil as well as digital drawing with Adobe Photoshop and embellishments such as embroidery and glitter. I create my collages in Adobe Photoshop using “recycled images’ that maybe weren’t picture-perfect as standalone shots, but work together to create a new vision of the inner word of children and also animals. Most of my digital collages frequently have fantasy or spiritual undertones. I use Photoshop to draw, paint and manipulate the image and then print it out to hand draw, paint and perhaps embroider or add other embellishments before rescanning the image into Photoshop. The finished work is a digital print on photograph paper.

My work has appeared in venues throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. I also work as a freelance writer and writing instructor helping others find their own unique way to tell their stories.

A few months ago, I connected with ONE Arts Collective, when I took part in one of their shows called Spirit Animalz at Burlington Beer Company and am happy to now be a member of their group. I am excited to have the chance to share my work with a new audience and hope all of you will spread the word and stop by to check out the show if you can!

It All Starts with the Children

SONY DSC It was a busy weekend. On Saturday I attended an Open House at author Jon Katz's Bedlam Farm. Sunday, my niece Ellie came down and we went for a hayride at a local pumpkin farm where we got to choose our own pumpkins from the pumpkin patch. Both days were quintessential fall days. The first filled with warm people, sweet song, and sun breaking through the slightly chilled air to create a picture-perfect day. The second? Perfect. How can anything be better than a hay ride through "The Spoooooky Old Woods" as my niece called it to a pumpkin patch to choose the perfect pumpkin? Both days featured beautiful girls and I couldn't resist snapping some pictures to turn into future collages.

My niece Catherine


Moon Child Encaustic

moon 3 Here's my first official encaustic painting. I say first official because the other encaustic works I have done all prominently featured wax-dipped collages. This does too, but at the base of the work is an encaustic painting. I love the texture it created. I wanted to carry the moon imagery through so I created the moon with a stencil and then rubbed oil paint into the wax to create the aura around the moon. I then attached part of the wax-dipped digital collage I created in class using pins. The three dimensional quality was created by putting cardboard in back of the collage. Finally, I used an iridescent blue acrylic paint to the edges, it looks purple. I'm calling the finished product Moon Child.

Textured encaustic painting

Adding the collage elements

Evolution of an Art Project

Blog Temptation My digital collages are frequently works in progress. While the initial digital aspects of the collage don't often take long to create, it frequently takes me awhile to get to the sewing and drawing and to the decision that the piece is complete. I started this collage, which I call Temptation back in March and only recently finished it, or so I thought. Since summer I have been taking an encaustic class in which I work with beeswax or wax medium and pigments to create textured paintings. I wanted to find a way to add more dimension and texture to my collages. I'm still learning and it has been a process. You need to work in a well ventilated space, which means I have only been able to work on my projects while in my weekly class. I've been a little slow at mastering the techniques, but recently came up with a few pieces that I really like. The problem is knowing when they are finished. The thing with digital projects is you can always scan them back in and continue to revise and revamp them. I've learned that the wax medium also allows you several alternatives, so I've been experimenting with some of the techniques. On November 20th, my class is going to have a show. We're calling it an Encaustic Jamboree. I now have several pieces to put in the show.

The piece shown above is not encaustic. It's the finished version of my digital collage. Originally, I was going to have only one image of a girl in the picture, but created the mirror image when I printed the collage out on vellum paper. It created a whole new look. I scanned the vellum print back in and flipped the image, adding it to the original collage so that I now had two girls. I printed the collage on a laser printer and brought it to my encaustic class. There I secured it to a wooden board with PVA, bookbinding glue, sanded the edges to make the image flush with the board and then dipped it in wax. From there I created a stencil of apples on a vine. I cut out the stencils and painted in the apples with red wax, adding green accents later. Then using acrylic paint, I painted the edges of the board cherry red. Below is the final result, which I will be showing in the Encaustic Jamboree.


That same class I also brought in some alternative versions of the print including the image I had printed out on vellum. My teacher thought it would be fun for me to try the vellum in wax and see what would emerge. I loved the results. My instructor also had some wonderful papers. We tried one in back of the wax-dipped vellum print and I loved it. I decided to stitch the paper to the back of the image using embroidery thread, creating an envelope like that below.

Temptation Envelope

Then carrying through with my Eve imagery, I cut up little red apples from a photo I had taken and put adhesive felt on the back. I dropped these into the envelope as well as a scripture from Genesis in which Eve eats of the fruit in the garden of Eden and offers it to Adam. I printed this out and also put felt on the back and dropped it into the envelope.

temptation envelope 3I also added felt to the back of the envelope, punched holes in the top corners, added red eyelets and a wire hanger. I will also be putting this in the Encaustic Jamboree although it is not entirely finished. My hope, once I can return to my teacher's studio is to paint a board with encaustic wax and embellish it with paper apples. Then I will hammer a nail into the board and hang this piece from it. At least that's the plan for now. It seems like my ideas are always evolving.

Temptation envelope 2

Childhood Moments

Dancers at The Artist's Childhood Exhibit, Rose Street Gallery The three dancers skipped over the hardwood floor of the gallery, pretending to catch fireflies. They reenacted childhood, creating through their choreography moments of joy and wonder. I was there showing two of my collages as part of the show The Artist’s Childhood. Each of the exhibiting artist showed work that represented a window into their past. I showed my pieces Blueberry Queen complete with princesses, witches and toads and Recipe for a Fairytale with wolf and moon and dreaming child.

Me and my photos

My two-year-old niece Ellie was there representing childhood first hand. She was mesmerized by the dancers and sat quietly throughout their dance. After, however, she was happy to grab my hands and flit around the dance floor. “See my tutu,” she said grabbing on to her tulle skirt.

Ellie and her tulle skirt

The dance brought me back to the days my grandfather would walk us down the dirt roads by his schoolhouse, jars with punched lids in hand, and allow us to catch the lightening bugs with glowing rumps. It was like catching enchantment in a jar. But these were only memories of childhood, hidden but close to the surface, easy to recall. The next evening I spent a moment in childhood, touring the realms of imagination with Ellie.

After dinner she insisted on visiting Best Buy, entering the store with the declaration “Let’s check out what I want for my birthday.” She then ran down the car stereo aisle, pressing every button and turning every dial. She stopped at every camera instructing me to “say cheese” as she lifted one eye toward the lens. She made me say “cheese” at each and every one.

"Say cheese!"

Then we hit the painted circle in the middle of the store. “This is my swimming pool,” she declared, getting down on the floor in her pretty green dress, hiking it up and exposing her pull-up.

Wiggle, wiggle


“I think it’s a store, Ellie,” I said, “you should get up,” feeling like I at least owed her parents an attempt at keeping her off the germ-ridden floor.

“Nope, it’s a swimming pool,” she declared. “Wiggle, wiggle,” as she kicked her legs and moved her arms, swimming on the dirty floor.

“Let’s do yoga,” she said next, reaching her hands to the sky. Soon she was leading customers and staff in downward dog. “It’s a swimming pool,” she said again, dropping to the floor. And, it didn’t end, not quickly anyway. And, in those moments she stole me from the adult world, away from the realm of responsibility and memory in which we remember childhood from afar. Better than any magician or any choreographed moment, better than any picture or recipe I could concoct, she whisked me into her world of spontaneity and freedom where there were no stores, no dirty floors, just endless depths of possibility waiting to explore.

Catching the Moon



Something New

Over the last year my photographs have been chosen for two Healing with Arts shows at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at DHMC in Lebanon, N.H. At the last show a fellow artist told me about a four-week class on encaustic painting or painting with pigments mixed with hot wax. We had discussed this before because we were both interested in introducing new elements to our art. The digital collages I make end up being 2-D prints of my work, but I am always interested in introducing 3-D elements and texture to see what they add to a picture when it is once again scanned and compressed into a 2-D image. I thought wax might be an interesting option. Me in front of one of my photographs at the last Healing with Art show.

The class has been a lot of fun in spite of the fact that I've had to relax during the learning process, something that is not easy for me to do, and be willing to make mistakes. The first night we took a square wooden board and covered it with wax and experimented with various techniques to add texture, carve into the surface and to add stencils. Our teacher taught us two different stenciling techniques to add decorative designs to our pieces and I, of course, chose to add pugs. As an aside, the instructor noted that she was very impressed that I could create stencils of pugs on the spot from memory (oh, how little does she know!)

Step 1: My first encaustic experiment.

For week two, the instructor suggested that we bring in some of our own images that we wished to use in our encaustic works. I brought in several of my photo collages.

My Photo Collage: Recipe for a Fairytale.


She taught us two dipping techniques for covering the image with wax and then had us experiment by using some other materials she had in her studio such as Papilio Metallic Transfer Paper and Saral Transfer Paper. We also used National Geographic to transfer images to our work.

Papilio Metallic Transfer Paper.

Saral Transfer Paper

I used the Papilio Metallic Transfer Paper to add gold scarabs to my waxed-dipped collage and the Saral Transfer Paper in white to combine two images from National Geographic, placing them at the bottom of the piece.

Waxed Dipped Collage with Transfers.

While working on the image in class I already began to formulate some ideas for what I wanted to do with it when I got home and could experiment in Photoshop. I knew I wanted to keep elements of the original collage such as the colors and feel, but that the new elements were more of a distraction than a complement. I loved, however, how the bottom portion of the image looked. I decided that I would cut it out either literally or in Photoshop and then put it on a new background. Once I got it in Photoshop, however, I began playing around with blurring the background and adding new elements to the image. I had originally planned on waiting to sew on the wax, which has an unique feel and appearance, before manipulating the image in Photoshop, but I couldn't wait and ended up really liking the result. I used both the image of my waxed-dipped collage and my encaustic painting on wood, merging them in Photoshop to create a more textured background. I then began experimenting by adding photographs I have in my "materials" folder in Photoshop. I am far from finished as I want to still print the piece out and experiment with thread and paint and drawing and may even change the piece further or create a whole new one as I progress in my next two classes, but wanted to share with everyone what I have done so far. The instructor is supposed to teach us how we can set up our own encaustic studios or workspaces, which I hope I can do (You need a space that is well-ventilated) because I like the texture it adds to the collages, but also think I could produce some interesting traditional pieces as I learned the techniques better. I'll continue to post pictures as the collage progresses.The friend who introduced me to the encaustic class often prints  her work out on aluminum and I am considering doing so with this piece when it is complete.

Working Draft Digital Collage: Prayer

For now I'm calling it "Prayer."

Bike Path

IMG_6506 The thing about paths is you never know where they might lead. Who knew that when I finally mustered up my courage last year and got back up on a bicycle after 30 years off that less than 10 months later I'd be cycling in my first ever fundraising event—The 6th Annual Lund Bike Ride for Children. Sure, it was only a four-mile family ride, but it was a ride. Me, who used to twist her ankles  and cut her legs until they'd bleed just to get out of gym class, doing something that didn't just resemble something athletic, but that was public at that! I don't know if I could have been more proud of myself if it was a 100-mile marathon! Sure, we had some trouble making it up the hills—my sister-in-law was toting her 40 lb. toddler—but we took our time and congratulated ourselves at the effort. We also got to be outside enjoying a beautiful day and some wonderful scenery.




Unless you've been one of those uncoordinated, overweight or ungainly kids who just couldn't seem to do anything from hit a baseball to score a basket, you can't understand just how monumental it is to not only take part in something like that, but to begin to think of yourself as something other than one of those kids, to begin to see yourself not only as someone who can ride a bike, but ride a bike for a cause. You can't know what it feels like to find yourself taking enjoyment in such an experience and not worrying if others see you or if you fail. This might have been called a Ride for Children, but I found myself on Sunday morning doing it for one child in particular–the little girl inside me who used to duck her head at duck, duck goose and pray she'd never have to get up and run and the little girl who used to love to ride her bouncy ball horse across the lawn before anyone told her what she couldn't do or that she didn't measure up. I pedaled my bike up and down those 4 hilly miles for that little girl and for my niece beside me, so both would know that we could do it and that it was fun!


Tucked In

Chesne, Christian & Paul Almost every other weekend for almost 18 years I have had the privilege of tucking a certain young boy and then a young man into bed. Okay, we haven’t called it tucking in for a number of years now, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been there to turn down the TV or turn off the light long after he has fallen asleep. When my nephew Christian was little I used to pull the GI Joe action figures and micro machines out from under the covers so he could roll over without crushing them. Today, it’s more likely to be the remote control and corn chips, but I still sneak in to check on him. He’s grown from a slim sliver of a child into a broad shouldered man, once a tiny comma in the same bed his father once occupied, now a long, slender exclamation point.

Today, he set out to leave his mark on the world, enlisting in the National Guard. His parents, my brother Paul and his high school girlfriend Chesne, traveled with him to watch his swearing in. For months I tried to talk him out of this, wait until you are older, are you sure this is what you want? Not because I’m not proud of him, I am, but because he is our little boy and I never want him to come in harm’s way. I felt the same way about his father, when he, at the age of 33, enlisted last year. They are always our little boys, but, me, and his mother, and his Nana, know that for Christian to become a man we need to let him make his own choices. Every good parent learns this, every good parent feels its sting and ultimately, its payoff.

We will never let go of this kid, but we will let him go off into the world. He carries the best of us with him. It took a whole family to raise him: his grandparents, his parents, their partners, his aunts and uncles, even the family dog – when our pug Buffy died at 12, it was Christian who said “she raised us all,” and she did. We poured all our love into this kid and he’s grown to hold it all.  Such love can be smothering, if you’re not strong enough to bear it, he’s iron and honey, steel and grace. He will serve his country well.

And, I will sneak into his room. I did last night after the recruiter drove him away. I found his television still on, so I rummaged for the remote, buried in his unmade bed and turned it off.  He will serve his country, but I will continue to serve the boy, long after he has grown, long after he has become a man. I will forever be checking to make sure he is safe.