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Month: April 2020

A Series of Nine x 2

A Series of Nine x 2

Close up Dried Flax Leaf

One of the mottoes I chose for this year, long before any of us knew what this year would be like, was “use what you have.” Months ago, when things were “normal” I was working through a Jeanne Oliver online class called Wild Awakening which got me using supplies I had but didn’t know what to do with. Last week I was trying to finish up a series of nine mixed media pieces from that class, before I started another online workshop.

3 of 9

The nine items were pretty much done, but the watercolor paper had rippled and they needed to be mounted on something. I considered using stretched canvas but I would have to order them and my pages were 11in. x 14.5 in. not the standard 11 x 14. So, I went through my house and the backyard storage building, and found a half box of those storage boxes you get at office supply for file folders. The lids were the right weight of cardboard and there were nine of them.

3 more of 9

After trimming them to size, I still had the problem of how to hang them. I had come across some old wooden blind slats while searching for the cardboard. The slats had holes in them for the cords. I trimmed them so the hole would be in the center and they would be an inch wider than the 11 in. paper.

Close up of hanging bar

I used waxed linen on either side of the slat, tied an overhand knot, and left the cords three inches long which was inserted between the paper and the cardboard when I glued them together.

The rest of the 9

I put weight on each piece for two days, hoping to keep them flat, but the gluing wasn’t perfect. I inserted glue into the blips along the edges and clipped them with clothes pins to dry overnight.

Closeup of dried flax leaf

Once these nine pages were mounted, I added a dried-up flax leaf to each one. I had trimmed the New Zealand Flax plant two weeks ago and I’m fascinated how some of these leaves bunch up in the center, each one slightly different.

Series of 9 in living room

I lined up all nine on the living room floor so I could see what they looked like.


Meanwhile, I had cleaned out my drawer where I keep seed packets and found some heirloom tomato seeds, I had saved on paper towels, probably about six years ago. On a whim, I planted a few from each towel in small cups. To my delight, some of them sprouted.

Tomato seeds sprout

By last Friday, the tomato plants needed to be put into larger pots. I searched in the garage and tool shed for some bigger pots, but I haven’t saved any pots when I buy plants the last few years because I haven’t been starting seeds. It didn’t seem worth the effort for the return I was getting.

Then, I remembered I had seen the neighbor across the street planting something from small pots earlier in the week. I called them and asked if they had nine pots I could use. His wife brought them over to me and we had a short visit at the curb.

Tomato plants in bigger pots yesterday

I know it is late to be starting tomato plants, but it stays warm until October or later where I live.

Now, if I can devise a way to keep the squirrels from stealing my almost ripe strawberries . . .

This is a really good time to creatively use what you already have – we are all inventors.


Using Mini-Collage to Get Inside Your Mind

Using Mini-Collage to Get Inside Your Mind

Collage made in January 2020

In January, I set up a drawing board with supplies to make a series of small 5.5 in x 5.5 in. collages, with the hope I would make one a day if I wasn’t working on a larger piece of art. The first one is the photo above. I had done some of these several years ago and enjoyed the activity.

I started cleaning up the yard and working on organizing my shell collection, so I managed to make the great sum of two mini-collages by mid-March.

When the collage artist, Crystal Neubauer, offered a free online workshop beginning the last day in March, I decided to participate, hoping to get myself making some kind of art, as I began to switch from winter cleanup to spot weeding and enjoying the first flowers in my yard.

Crystal had us working on 4 x 4-inch watercolor paper, and assembling one from a pile of scrap papers in, Gasp! five minutes. My first one did not get done in five minutes, but I think it does reflect our national state of mind on April first.

4 x 4-inch collage April 1, 2020

Her videos are archived, so I was viewing them the next day. In the second session, we were to use only neutral colors.

4×4-inch neutrals collage
Neutral collage lesson 2

On the third lesson, we were to paste up two during the five minutes. The idea is to quickly select the scrap we are most drawn to and glue it somewhere in the square, then add other scraps that catch our attention to fill the space. These 4 x 4’s I used had some splotches of paint on them from some old work, and I glued the scraps so that some of the paint color was seen.

4×4 inch collage with under lying paint

I still wasn’t able to do them in the five-minute time because I was using very small pieces. I noticed that I started by gluing a scrap I liked at an angle to the edges which left me with small white spaces that needed to be filled. But Crystal usually used only three or four pieces and filled up the corners first.

Lesson 3 second collage

The next lesson she talked about using some mark making on the pieces to add interest. We did a 4 x 4 as a warm up.

Warm-up 4×4-inch collage lesson 4.

Then we were to make a collage on 8 x 8-inches, using only three large pieces, again in five minutes. Mine turned out so awful I won’t even take a photo of it. Again, I had put things at angles to the edges and they didn’t connect in the center.

During all these sessions, Crystal was telling us to pay attention to the voices in our head that were saying things like “don’t use THAT piece, it’s too special, save it for later.”

The last video is where we slowed things down. Before the lesson we planned out what we wanted to use in an 8 x 8-inch, but didn’t glue. We looked at it in the next lesson before we glued it down, to see if we still liked it or wanted to change something.

8×8-inch collage glued in lesson 5.

I’m still thinking about what I’ve learned about my usual approach to art making. One idea this workshop generated is that I don’t have a ready selection of neutral papers to use for collage so that the accent or “special” material can really stand out. Gathering a box of neutral papers is a good place for me to start, because my collage box is loaded with the accent pieces.

I have also become more aware that I have a huge variety of materials to use all over my house. Estate sale finds, fabric scraps, shell fragments, rusty yard finds, lace, paper, old books, and basket making materials to name a few, but I have trouble focusing on what is inside my consciousness that wants to be given expression.

Crystal’s free online workshop is still available for another week or so if you want to check it out at Crystal Marie: Canary Rising here.






Tulips along a path

Where have I been?  At home, of course.

I have just spent the first three months of this year / decade getting my yard cleaned up from last fall. While my energy is much better this year than it was last year, I find that everything takes more time than it used to. Some of this is because I’m moving slower, being careful how I move about, so I stay upright.

Lavender and freeway daisy

I’m so thankful for my lovely flowers all blooming now – a perfect place to be when I can’t be anywhere else. Having been here for 23 years, I’m watching each tree and plant put on its spring finery, one after the other, in perfect order, just as they have in previous years.


It occurred to me last week that perhaps our Father in heaven has grown tired of our noise and nonsense, and lowered the volume. I’m not suggesting that God is responsible for the virus, but like many of His creatures, He never lets an opportunity go to waste.

This idea came to me as I noticed last week that my house phone was silent after years of constant daily robo calls. The junk mail has mostly stopped. I don’t watch TV, so perhaps your home is not as quiet as mine.

And it’s not just in the U.S. that life had become frantic. Although we barely hear anything about the rest of the world, Israel can’t get a government together, Venezuela is a disaster, Great Britain is tied up in knots, and everywhere there is unrest and uncertainty.


After I got home from Florida last summer at the end of June, I’ve been mostly at home, so my days now are not much different than they have been the last nine months. When I considered travel for this year, none of the gatherings I might attend were in places I wanted to go. I registered for a weekend with the basket makers in Visalia, but we’ll do it next year instead of this month.

I spent August and September cutting back a wall of ivy that I had neglected for too many years. I reorganized closets and drawers, donating clothes and household linens I no longer used.


I have a whole set of new routines that take up my time. Near the end of 2019, my dentist told me I had a gum infection. I have had crummy teeth since I was six years old. Seventy years later, I only have front teeth left and the uppers and lowers don’t come together in a useful way, which limits what I’m able to eat.

My dentist, bless her, is trying to make things better. She removed the tooth which was the source of the infection, and has installed braces on my lower teeth. Braces are different now than they were when I was fifteen. I’m spending a huge amount of time putting on wax to minimize pain on my lip, removing wax, cleaning up residue from the wax, and threading floss between the wires.

I’ve been using gummy vitamins for several years now. After the arch wire slipped out of the bracket on the end tooth, I decided I shouldn’t eat them, at least not whole, so now I’m cutting them up in teeny, tiny pieces every day with the kitchen scissors.

Don’t know this bulb’s name

When I’m not in the yard or dealing with my teeth, I’ve been reorganizing the sea shells that I have collected for over fifty years. I’ve started reading those books that I keep saying, “I’ll get to someday”.

I had planned to work in my studio this winter when it rained, but it didn’t rain. So, I’m still trying to balance the yard time with the art making time, and so far, the yard is winning. The one thing I’m missing is meeting with my mixed media friends twice a month.

More daises

Individually and collectively we have been given an opportunity to reflect on what our lives have become, what we truly value now, and how we might want to make some adjustments. Let’s not waste it.

Tulips my grandson helped me plant years ago