Painting my way out of a hole. That's how I would describe this painting. When I started it, my feelings were dark, lots of misery, plenty of self pity, I'm sure. Also remorse. Usually I don't paint if I'm not in a good mood, but this time I had to.

I painted with vigor as if I could dump my emotions into the paper if I tried hard enough. Starting with watercolor and some created textures, then adding charcoal, conte crayon, caran d'ache crayons, acrylics..... I used whatever was at hand to help 'push my emotions' out onto the painting surface.

I was so ready to rip it up. I hated the painting, (I thought.) But actually other things were coming to the surface that were the cause of my hateful feelings.

Later, looking at the painting across the room, I was amazed that it had a life and movement of its own, and a positive feeling about it, too! How it got there...where it came from??? Creating art can surely bring about a healing force. Therapy once again.

This painting along with a couple dozen more of my recent works will be in a show opening Friday night (March 28) in Middletown, Ohio's Art Center. My Wednesday morning class will also have works on display at this show. We're planning on having a great time, so if you're in the area, please join us. (See side bar for more info about the show.) Hope you can make it.

"CAVERN" Mixed Media on 80# HP Strathmore Aquarius 15 x 11"



The summer of 1993, I traveled out of state to my brother's to house sit for him, dragging along all my paints so I could enjoy a precious week of uninterrupted painting. First thing I did was load up three oiler boilers (from Cheap Joes) with my three favorite colors at the time - permanent rose, phthalo blue, and hansa yellow.

After randomly applying some miskit to the paper to save some curving white shapes, I headed outside to squirt and splash color on the full sheet of Arches paper. I spritzed the colors to make them run and so enjoyed all the dancing they did as they dripped and flowed together. This is what watercolor does the best, and I loved watching it happen.

Next, I hopped into the hot tub (vacation, remember?) and turned the multicolored, in-progress painting all around to discover how I could proceed. When I turned the paper vertical, I saw that the paint had flowed to create what resembled the profile of a man. His nose was maybe a little too big, but the profile was there for sure, looking downward. The problem was that I also saw a crown of thorns above his head, partially created by the miskited areas. No matter how else I turned the painting, the only thing I could actually see was this profile with the crown.

I slipped into shopping clothes, grabbed my brother's car keys, and drove in the direction of Walmart. NO WAY was I going to paint a religious looking painting. I'd had enough of religiosity recently, enough for a lifetime as far as I was concerned.

As soon as I entered Walmart, I KNEW the name of the painting. THE COST. And I knew I had to go back and paint it.

Back at my makeshift studio, I took out my watercolor pencils and enhanced the hair and crown area, created a beard, and developed more of a mouth. I found a mirror to look in to see how eyes would look in agony..... (and I had a measurable amount of agony going on in my life at that time to help me sense it for the painting.)

Finished. I looked at it again from the hot tub. I was struck by the beauty of the pink drips falling from the crown. It took some time before I could understand the meaning of the name of the painting.

Now I know that I no longer have to strive for 'perfection.' I can stop trying to accomplish perfection as if my life depended on it. When I make mistakes and do things wrong, I know that I am forgiven. That cost has been fully paid.

Many years later, when I look at those fluid, magenta drips, I am still struck by a sadness or agony, but I also feel a wonder, an awe at the touching beauty I see ... very strange and conflicting emotions that somehow work out ok together.

This isn't a religious painting but a painting about being freed. I'm thankful for being given this gift to paint, but I'm most thankful for knowing God's pure love and acceptance through His most precious gift, Jesus Christ.

"THE COST" Transparent Watercolor & Watercolor Pencils on 140#CP Arches 22 x 30" NFS (Available as a Lithograph Print in Several Sizes)



It seems I'm drawn to subjects with strong value changes, and even though color may seem to be an important part of most of my paintings, I consider it secondary to value contrasts. This window in Buck County, Pennsylvania had just the right amount of strong light shapes next to some delicious dark shapes. That's what made me want to paint it several years ago.

I started by 'taping away' the very lightest shapes to keep them pure white. (Notice how much of the white window area is not actually totally white. Click on painting for enlarged pix.) My favorite masking tape to use for this is hard to find now - Manco tape. After I tape the lightest values, I wash a pale colorful wash over the whole page, making sure that I'm NOT careful to paint each 'thing' the correct color.

After the painting dries, I add more pieces of torn masking tape to the next lightest value areas, then repeat another layer of wash exactly one value darker than the first one - and just as colorful. I repeat this for five more layers of tape and washes, each time painting the whole paper one value darker everywhere using almost random color choices.

Obviously here, I made sure to place a lot of warm colors within the inside of the window area. There are also cool colors there along with some small, warm areas outside the window.

It's tedious to tear and shape the pieces of tape to fit the right spaces, and sometimes I cut with a razor blade to create a sharper, straighter line. Everywhere that the tape overlaps there's a good chance the paint will seep underneath it, hopefully creating somewhat of a batik effect. I love the unpredictable texures that happen with this technique, but the process is exceedingly slow.

The best part (and worst job) is to remove the tape after the darkest values have dried to see what happened with the various layers of color. The surprises are so cool. Usually I must make some adjustments or soften some edges. The results are worth the agony, I think.

"FRESH AIR" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Arches 15 x 11" Collected



Yesterday's blog featured an otter, so today I have to give space to my other favorite creature, the giraffe. When they were younger, our kids got to feed the giraffes at a Colorado zoo and loved placing those crackers on their long, dark purplish blue tongues.

This painting, finished many years ago, started out with a wash of rainbow hues across the whole paper. I'd carefully miskited the whites on the giraffe's face, ear, and neck ahead of time, though. After that colorful glaze dried, I miskited the leaves in front of the neck, then added more darks to the neck and face before painting the spots in.

Special attention was given to the edges of all the dark spots so that they did not look glued on. The edges range from hard to soft to disappearing, lending a 'fur-like' effect to this animal's coat.

I love the casual glance these beautiful creatures can give you as they sweep their long eyelashes down. They're so elegant and stately. And it's been said that you should paint things you really like. I do.

"LET'S DO LUNCH" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Fabriano Artisico 11 x 25"



This little guy may be thinking, "Top of the Morning to ya!" Everyone in his hometown of Homer, Alaska calls him "GRANDPA," and I don't think he goes without food too often. He lives in the harbor there and loves to stare you down . . . cute and adorable, too, even though he's capable of eating up to 20 pounds of food a day.

Alaskan otters grow to be almost 5' long, and their fur has well over a half a million hairs per square inch! That's thick hair. They spend almost half their time grooming themselves so that they stay waterproof. (Talk about high maintenance.) Still, they seem so playful. They've been one of my very favorite animals for a long, long time. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

"OSCAR OTTER" Transparent Watercolor on YUPO 19 x 13"



Fluid acrylics painted over collaged pieces of washi papers helped enhance the textures I wanted in this painting. I used rubbing alcohol to rub off some of the dried acrylics to reveal the colors and textures underneath. This painting is on canvas, which makes it easy for the viewer to reach out and touch the textures.

When I started this, I had no preconceived idea of what I was going to paint - my favorite way of painting for sure. Letting the painting lead me is lots of fun and often very exhilarating, allowing expression I could not reach any other way. I also like letting the viewer decide what they see instead of defining it clearly. What do you see?

"OPEN YOUR HEARTS AND SING" Fluid Acrylics over Collaged Rice Papers on Canvas 18 x14" Collected