Wednesday, December 22, 2010

split personality

First and foremost a great thanks to a fabulous artist I'm sure you all know, Silvina Day, for sending in photos of her present for the Present and Accounted For project!  Silvina's present is the first present to be mailed out, the #1! :)  And her three photos perfectly embody the spirit of this project!!!  Please check them out.  Thank you so much Silvina!

So, I'm guessing that most of you are doing what I am; scrambling around trying to get those last gifts purchased, gathering holiday recipes...

... shopping for those crazy -why-did-I-decide-to-make-a-dish-that-calls-for-lingonberry-preserves-and-what-the-heck-IS-a-lingonberry-anyway!-  ingredients :)

I was super hopeful that THIS would be the year that I would finally send out Christmas cards since moving four and half years ago, but that is not going to happen...

... since I'm still trying to find a way to get my pumpkins, which are completely and utterly frozen TO my front porch, off my front porch, so I can put more appropriate holiday decor out there!

Before the crazies of the holidays started, I began a larger painting (18x36) of this multi-bow combo with the idea being 'girl power.'

the set up

the sketch
digital sketch to check basic color patterns before painting.

(I'm not trying to plug a product...iphone iphone iphone... but I don't know how I managed without my phone apps that let me do quick sketches, learn Italian, check the weather, be TOLD where best to eat, all while listening to Christmas carols)

beginning of painting.

I started applying paint in what I see as the super juicy spots first.  The very glowing red areas which exist in the inside of the largest pink bow.  I will continue to modify and exaggerate these colors as I go, but this initial pass will give me a anchor to judge my other pinks. 

There is something about the over the top feminine pink, yet super strong tower of bows that really excites me about this painting!  And I'm hopeful that 2011 will bring me the time and energy to get back to this again, but I just haven't been able to jump into the mind frame I need for this painting lately, so I have two easels going and this 12x12 is now in progress.

here is the set up

Start of painting.

Even though I wrapped this present with the idea of an angel, looking at the presents on their respective easels I see something else - myself split....

... one minute feeling like a strong woman ready to take on the world - and the next ... a tiny, lost, almost invisible soul.  Or maybe I'm letting my imagination get the best of me.... or maybe it's those dang Lingonberries!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

more presents ...

Thank you so much to everyone for the wonderful comments and sweet emails about Scottie.  It has helped so much just knowing that you all are out there and care.  I can not tell you how much I appreciate your thoughtfulness.  

I could not ignore the timing of losing Scottie and starting the 'Present and Accounted For' project since one of the main concepts is about appreciating the many gifts of our lives then passing along those gifts we've received.  So it has been difficult for me to think about my next post.  But the flood of requests for presents and the many pictures that have been steadily coming in, are nudging me back.

Before Thanksgiving, I received more request for presents than I had, so I went straight to work making the small army of presents you see above!  

Then boxed for shipping.

Of course no ordinary shipping label or box would do .... 

You can imagine the scenario at the post office with the line of people behind me and my stunned reaction that the postal stickers have to go on top of my carefully handcrafted "bow" labels and "ribbon" tape! :)  

Karen enters post office with fifteen separate packages to ship.  Suddenly all at once, many people get in line behind her.

Postal worker:  How may I help you?
Karen: I have fifteen packages to ship, each going to a different address.

(groans and sighs from the line can clearly be heard as the postal worker prepares the shipping)

Postal worker: This package is going to Canada, you will need to fill out the customs form.  
Karen:  I have five going to Canada
Postal worker:  Then each one will need a separate customs form.

(more sighs and groans)

Karen: I'm not sure what to list under "contents" for the form.
Postal worker:  What is inside?
Karen: Well... it... it's sort of a present.
Postal worker:  If it is a gift, check the box that says "gift" and list what the gift is
Karen: No, it's not actually a gift.... it is... well... it's an art project
Postal worker:  A what?  
Karen:  Well it's a symbolic gift, it really isn't anything..

(people start leaving the line, those that stay put hands on hips and make other visual clues of dissatisfaction)

Postal worker: Well you have to claim how much the contents are worth
Karen: But it only has symbolic value... 
Postal worker: You will have to put a value of some sort...
Karen:  Well that really depends on how well this project does :)

Thanks again to everyone participating!  I have updated Present and Accounted For with new photos, and I have many many many more to post.  I will continue to make and ship presents to anyone interested.  Thank you to everyone, thank you for spreading the word about the project, thanks for the Facebook links!

I have new paintings to post about soon, but until then, my most sincere hope that you do not find yourself behind someone like me in the post office! :)

Friday, December 3, 2010


Over Thanksgiving, my husband and I lost a huge piece of our hearts.  We were out of town for the holiday and our cat sitter caring for our two cats, gave the wrong cat insulin injections.  We are thankful that D-con, who needed the shots, survived, but we are terribly heartbroken over losing Scottie.

He never asked for anything - never meowing for food or treats.  All he seemed to want was to be near us.  He was constantly by our sides and in our hearts, and we miss him.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Present and Accounted for

I had an idea of presents being shared and passed around from person to person, until eventually presents are circling the globe - being documented along the way so that each participant could keep track of just how far their tiny present goes.  Not the most original idea, I know, but one I thought was particularly fitting for me to do.

My recent residency gave me the opportunity to test out this idea, and at first I thought it had been a colossal failure.  People kind enough to come to my reception, were also kind enough to take a present with them as instructed, but weeks and weeks later no photos of presents appeared in my inbox.  But then ...  pictures started coming in!!  Wonderful photos showing where these presents are going and what they are seeing!  I am so excited I can barely stand it!

SO.... I've started an auxiliary blog that I hope will continue to grow with new photos!  The blog is called Present And Accounted For, I hope you will follow along!  The first post is on the new blog now and tells the inspiration behind this idea.  The next post will show how the project developed and the photos of the presents and the participants will be posted as they come in!

Also, I have a couple of extra presents if anyone is interested in participating please email me and I will mail you one.  Do note, it is a symbolic present, there isn't anything inside, but you can read more about this on Present And Accounted For.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Reach Out

Well how can I possibly explain this one! :) Nothing but presents (with the occasional purse or two) for three years of this blog and suddenly Barbie in all her glory.

My very early paintings were large still life ensembles like this painting below, and Barbie made several appearances. I know this does not explain, why Barbie, why now, but here she is... she insisted..... I'm just as shocked as you may be :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I am utterly blown away by synchronicity! I finished this painting two weeks ago and loaded it on my website, but hadn't posted it here. What is amazing to me, is that when I decided on the title two weeks ago, I did not know the overwhelming amount of kindness and HELP that would be directed my way! Thank you so much to Sande Chase from A Gift Wrapped Life who posted my painting "Look At Me." Thank you Sande!

Plus many many thanks you to those who have emailed to let me know my paintings were also appearing on other fabulous blogs too! Thank you to Shelter , Design Darling , Patterson Maker's Tumblr , and Crush Cul de Sac, for somehow stumbling upon my paintings and being kind enough to spread the word! Thank you so much!

When I wrapped this present to paint, I tried to make the arms (ribbon) outstretched as if asking for help. I did not know I would receive it! Now I see that outstretched arms give help too!

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Look At Me" selected for show!

My recent painting, "Look At Me" was selected for the Beverly Art Competition and Exhibit. I am extremely excited and honored to be included in this exhibit!!

The reception is November 5th, from 7-9pm for anyone in the Chicago area. Yea! Now I'm off to celebrate :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010


During my residency I worked on a collaboration project with Mark Toncray, a metal sculpture artist. He suggested working together on a project, so I started brainstorming right away on ideas.

My initial thought was to have only the ribbons of the present constructed in steel. I made this example above using a sculpting product called Paper Clay to see what it might look like. I made a framework out of wire first, then wrapped with the paper clay. I wanted the metal inside not only for support, but so I could suspend the piece off the wall (with nails and magnets) for interesting shadows.

I liked the way the clay piece looked but I felt there was something else I wanted to say with the steel. Journaling and doing tiny thumbnail sketches helps me sort through ideas, it's like thinking out loud. I realized I should incorporate the meaning of the material in some way - steel as a barrier, strong, safeguarding - so the idea for the steel box with chains as ribbon and several padlocks piled on top for a 'bow' hit me! This pic above shows the original idea of how I thought it might look.

Then Mark went to work, and appeared with the real thing! This is a picture taken during the reception. I hung the box on the wall along with the drawing and painting of piece.

The drawing is graphite on Yupo. I loved drawing and painting my chain ribbons! Working on transparent papers during the residency was a way to experiment with ideas about losing the box. And suddenly it felt like the box was saying, "oh no you don't, I'm here to stay!"

And finally the painting, "Secure" which is oil on Yupo.

I love Mark's box, it's a more subtle idea of a present, not as obvious as the multiple locks. But being the obsessive person that I am, and being really excited about potentially a strong visual statement, I made a trip to Home Depot last night for more chains, metal flashing, and 8 padlocks. :) Who knows if it will work out, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


"Blueberry" - graphite, charcoal, ink pens, india ink, and white oil paint.

Lately I've been spending more and more time with the prep drawing portion of the painting - enjoying the process and loving the look of the ribbons and bows in black and white. But the drawing eventually disappears under the painting and I end up wishing I had the drawing too. So for my residency I decided to experiment with drawing and painting on papers, particularly transparent ones.

"Blueberry" was my first drawing to do during my stay, and lesson number one - I will eventually use wet media, so regular vellum is out for me. The wrinkling paper was caused by the ink wash and white oil paint I used, so sad :(

I like this drawing a lot, but as soon as it was finished I felt there was something about it that seemed too something ... not me? Too much of an illustration look..maybe ... too much with all the curling ink lines?? I'm not sure. What do you think? But I really loved the velvety appearance from the ink washes.

"Over the Top" - graphite, ink markers, india ink, white oil paint on multi media vellum

This drawing was next, and even though I am unhappy with how this turned out over all, I really started figuring out how to use the inks.

In this close up, the thin wash and lucky accident of the long triangular drip helped me see how I could manipulate the inks for a look I liked better. I really like the more purposeful graphite lines visible through the ink washes. I loved layering the washes for multiple values too, but when that drip happened .... oh I fell in love! I haven't worked with inks and didn't know that a drip continues where the surface is wet, but stops where the surface is dry. Knowing this I really started to play!

"Pink" - graphite, India ink, and white oil paint on Yupo

"Pink" was next, and Yupo feels like silk, I adore it. I believe it is typically used for watercolor, and I can see why. The ink washes slide right across the surface and layering and drips were easy and fun. It is heavier than vellum, and holds the oil paint well too. Plus I felt it was easier to get darker values with the ink layers.

The lesson here though was the initial graphite lines I like to see peeking through, lift off once washes go on. Spray fixing the graphite drawing before applying washes is what I will do from now on. Even still, this is my favorite drawing of the res.

I LOVED how this long drip made its way all the way down the center ribbon, then just magically stopped!

It is difficult to see from these photographs the effect the transparent papers have on the drawings, but once hung, the shadows from the wall itself contribute to the drawings' values. I hope to continue to play around with this now that I'm home. PLAY being the key word and one of my most important lessons learned :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Residency Video

This video starts the moment I arrived at the Blueberry View Artist Retreat by making my first late night pot of coffee for unpacking and setting up my studio.

In 4:36 seconds I squeeze all the things I worked on while there, plus the inspiration behind these projects, then finally breaking down my studio to hang and prepare for the final reception. I've included the gorgeous surrounding areas I happened upon too - incredible beaches, farmland, and even a hummingbird I was lucky enough to get on film!

I assumed from the residency's name, I would be inspired by the blueberry fields so I ordered hundreds of blue bows shipped directly there. These blue bows and bushes never made it into my main video project, but occupied days of filming in all sorts of weather. I only wish I had ordered 5000 bows .... maybe next time :)


I'm back from my residency, and sooooooo much to tell, I don't even know how to start! But first, to any subscribers out there, I must apologize. I deleted a few older posts yesterday, and apparently this caused posts from 2009 with inactive links to re-posted. Many apologies for the confusion, and thank you to Christine Holzschuh, Chirstine Bray, Silvina Day, and Cindy Revell who emailed alerting me to this problem. Thank you so much for taking time to let me know!!

The residency was INCREDIBLE! So much in fact, I've decided to divide the photos and info over several posts because the experience was so inspiring I have a lot to share.

It is called The Blueberry View Artist Retreat, in Benton Harbor, MI, and is brand new. I was only the fourth resident, which made me feel all the more lucky and honored to have had this opportunity. It is hosted by two incredible artists, Janet Sullivan and Mark Toncray, who generously provide an artist the use of a private complete apartment with a light filled 300 square foot studio. I do not adjust easily to new studios, but somehow Janet and Mark know exactly how to make the studio and surrounding gardens filled with inspiration. They are tremendously hospitable, generous with their own time and encouragement, I could go on and on, and probably will!

I completed four paintings, five drawings, two collages, a small clay sculpture (experiment), a metal sculpture collaboration piece with Mark who is a fantastic metal sculptor, and I completed the video project I thought I would only have time to start! I've also put together another quick video to sum up my two week flurry of activity which is already on my website, but I will post here next. Needless to say, sleep was not a priority and I'm still recovering, so I only hope these posts make sense!

"Blueberry" was my first painting there. It is oil and ink marker on vellum. All of my paintings and drawings were done on papers of some sort, and during the two weeks, I taped finished works on the wall of my studio. However, for the closing reception, I hung all the works using nails and magnets. You can see in this photo the silver round magnets in the corners of the paper and the nails are about one inch off the surface, causing the painting to float off the wall, or in this case, shadow box Mark made (more on this also.)

I am forever thankful to Janet and Mark!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Orange Twist

Well I'm all packed and ready and soooooo excited I'm about to bust! I'm leaving today for a two week residency. You would think by the enormous amount of supplies I'm taking, that I'm staying for months - and this is not even the half of it, I ordered even more bows that are being shipped directly there. Sort of embarrassing, but who knows what color will inspire me once I get there.

My proposal for the residency is to work on a video/installation/drawing and painting project. Which sounds like a lot to tackle in only two weeks, at least for me. But I feel like I have a pretty good plan and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'm thinking that during the day, I'll work on the video and installation portion, and at night back in the studio work on drawings and paintings similar to Orange Twist.

With the drawings I plan on experimenting with more inks and washes, this drawing is a combo of graphite, charcoal, India ink, and gesso on paper.

The painting is a combo of graphite, India ink, and oil on vellum. I am very excited about playing around with vellum and yupo as a surface for paintings. I adore the semi-transparent quality of these papers, and how once hung, the shadows and wall itself can play a part in the painting.

Hopefully I'll have lots of interesting things to post about when I get back. Of course the best laid artistic plans sometimes get side tracked, so who knows how off course all these plans will get once I am there. But this is the plan, and for now, I'm sticking to it :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Look At Me

Today, tomorrow, and for a long time to come, I celebrate finishing this painting and finally having water connected in my kitchen sink! Seeing this painting finished now, I might be persuaded to think that my longing for water (and my 10 months without) had something to do with the choice of color for this painting. Could it be mere coincidence that the polka dot bow was used in an earlier painting "Swim" and the dark blue sparkle bow was "Sprite," (which we all know are water fairies) and the two large bows actually feel like water formed into a bow to me.

The truth is, I'm most excited because in some strange way I feel this painting moves a step closer in helping me figure out my obsession with presents/bows/ribbons. I'm not there yet, so I'll just have to keep working on it :)

This painting has already been spoken for but, I am currently working on several smaller present/bow ideas I can't wait to post next..... but for now, I'm on my way to the kitchen to splash some water on my face and rejoice!! Hope you have a wonderful day!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kitchen renovation anyone?

Yes, sadly it is true, pink tile and all, this was the kitchen window when we started our renovation .... 9 months ago! I did not know then, how determined and focused I would have to be just to get the sink under the window. But I persisted, and with bulldog determination and a plumbing job of re-routing pipes and venting like no other in the history of kitchen renovations, I finally have my sink under the window.
Why, you may ask, am I dragging my personal life into this? Time painting, and therefore posting, hasn't been very consistent this year, and I hate to point fingers but .... all the blame goes to my kitchen sink! :)

Well ... it could also have something to do with the coyote that almost ate my cat and his extended stay in the emergency vet. Or it could have been my poor mother in Alabama who had an undiagnosed broken femur for two months and my visits there to see specialists. Or there was that crazy light pole that fell and crushed our car AS we were driving down the highway.

But I'm going to blame it all on the sink! Because 9 months without a kitchen sink certainly has the potential to make one a bit crazy, or at least derail creative output. And even though I don't actually have counters, faucet, or water yet, I'm confident enough in the progress to feel I might be getting back to normal soon.

Soooo.. with all this positive energy flowing I decided it is time to share new paintings that I'm SUPER excited about!

The small one first, a 10x10. This is the sketch and early color block-in phase. As you can see, I'm pushing some boundaries and really, really, really feeling great about it!

Of course I'm also just overwhelmingly grateful to have this beautiful kitchen, my mom, cat, and our escape from near disaster car crash to complain about, and I hope you and yours are safe and enjoying your kitchen sink wherever you are! :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sizing Up

I'm so sorry for the long delay in showing this finished painting, the bottom line is, I just couldn't come up with a title! Crazy I know.

This painting will be included in a book project of Steve Worthington's to help raise money for animal shelters. It was so much fun to include Steve's mouse in a painting, and I will keep everyone updated when the book is available.

This is the only present painting of mine where I have included another object, and the process was fun to share. It also caused me to contemplate exterior appearances in a new way. Does one only need a costume and cape to be a superhero? Or is it an interior state of mind? I know a pretty new cape always makes me feel invincible. :)

This painting is available, please contact if interested.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Continuing On

The four of us met because we all rented our studios in the Contemporary Art Workshop. The Workshop housed 22 individual artist studios and was owned by Jack and Lynn Kearney, Jack a well known Chicago sculptor, was one of the original founding members of the CAW in 1949. The building was sold in 2008, and all 22 of us had to relocate our studios, with almost everyone in a different location around the city. The loss of our artist community was hard, and many of us tried to maintain the bonds by meeting together at coffee houses at least once a month. The four of us started meeting regularly, and even though our work varies greatly, we are very similar in many ways - one being a common love for Van Gogh and his desire to create his own artist community in Arles in the yellow house that he lived and worked in.

The title of our show, "Continuing On" was to celebrate our continuing on after the CAW, but I would also like to think we are continuing on, in the teeny tiniest of ways, Van Gogh's dream of artists working together, showing together, and helping each other out. And of course the sunflowers in the entry are for Van Gogh.

Kate has quite a fantastic group of paintings in the show, 4 large canvases and 10 mid to small size. Her paintings show the viewer gorgeous interiors, all with her signature drips and washes of color, and loaded with interesting lines and brushstrokes all over the canvases.

Neha has been working this past year on 3d pieces and what she has in the show are several great new works created while in a recent residency at Anderson Ranch. Through the door you can see a glimpse of her installation of diaphanous forms created from paper which are suspended over a floor of turmeric. She also created several transparent ceramic pieces that are shown with a light box.

Joanne has 4 paintings and one large drawing in the show. I think of Joanne's work as almost dream like, she references and explores ideas of memory. The use of text has always been a key part of her paintings but her new canvases are so highly textured that the evidence of lettering is almost buried, which really pulls the viewer in.

Lots more pictures of all of our work can be seen on our Facebook events page, Our show will continue through the first week of May and will be open during Art Chicago's River North Gallery District Reception and Party Evening, next Saturday, May 1st from 6 to 9pm. Please stop by if you live in the area, should be fun!

Here are a few pictures from our opening reception night.

We were thrilled to have as our very first arrivals Jack and Lynn Kearney, what an honor!

I was so excited to have these four ladies come to the opening. A couple of months ago, I had been invited to speak at New Trier, a local high school, for their annual "Career Day." Mark Bowers, remarkable artist and teacher, invited me to speak with his classes, and at the time, I didn't realize it would be the day before our Friday night reception. The entire career day experience was an amazing honor and treat for me, and these four seniors were kind enough to take time out of their Friday night, to see the show! I was blown away!

Thanks so much to everyone who came out to the show, and those who emailed congrats and best wishes. I can not tell you how much I appreciate your comments, feedback and encouragement! Thank you!