Tile layout at Cougar Ridge

CRtiles2We’re looking at the finished tiles from Cougar Ridge for the first time.  I can imagine what it must have been like for the artists working on the original Wizard of Oz, once the colors were painted onto the films.  You’ve been working with the absence of color, and voila! Like magic, the colors appear and bring the artwork to Technicolor life.

We are in the process of designing the layout and preparing for installation.  Stay tuned!

For more on how we made the tiles, see my earlier posts, Glazing Tiles at Cougar Ridge, and Cougar Ridge Elementary.



whack-a-mole: the perfect metaphor for working in a series

whack-a-moleWhack-a-mole is one of my favorite metaphors for life.  We can all relate to the rhythm of trying to keep a handle on all things at once, and no matter how actively you manage things, those pesky moles keep popping up.

No matter what kind of work you do, we’ve all done a great job on something ONCE.  The challenge, for professional artists, is to create a series, or a body of work, in which every artwork is amazing and unique, but they all clearly go together.

Curators like to see a “style” in an artist’s portfolio.  They like to see a grouping that makes sense together.  If you submit a bunch of random artworks that don’t go together, your proposal gets tossed in the bin.

That’s why I like to work on several artworks simultaneously, so that hopefully, by taking a bigger picture view of the collection, as opposed to working on one piece at a time, start to finish, they will all go together.  It’s easier said than done.  And it’s a lot like “whack-a-mole.”


“One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong … ”  – Sesame Street

Yesterday I added a bit of red cloth to one of the artworks.  It was amazing, and added just the right touch of depth and warmth in the deeply recessed landscape.  I looked at the other artworks and sighed.  It’s so different it stands out.  Now I have to introduce this new element to ALL the artworks in the series.  WHACK!  The very thing that makes each piece a unique work of art must be replicated in each of the artworks without making them all look the same.  WHACK!


Getting feedback on creative work is also akin to “whack-a-mole.”  It’s necessary to hear from others because they come to it with fresh eyes.  Usually people will see something that I don’t, or focus on something that I wasn’t intending, etc.  As the Plumage Show approaches, (April 19) I’m getting close to finishing this new series, and I’m excited to show it to my artist friends and colleagues, and hear their feedback while I still have a little time to incorporate the suggestions.

Some of the feedback is great, and easily incorporated into the work.  But, like those pesky moles, some suggestions sound an awful lot like “START OVER” because what they are suggesting is so different than what I’ve been trying to do with this series for the past two months.  Yes, I COULD do a thousand different things ….  I could paint it all black and call it “La Nuit Noir.”  I could wrap it all up in white muslin and call it “Blizzard.”  And then hike it up to the top of Mt. St. Helens and throw it in the caldera and call it “Ode to Pelé.”  Whatever, er, thank you for that suggestion.

But I guess that is the nature of creative pursuit.  Every time you get in a good whack, another pesky mole pops up.

time travel passports

timetravelpassport5As part of our Kids Create travel-themed art series, we created time-travel passports using old Altoid-type tins as a base.

Students started by imagining where they would like to go – anywhere in the world or universe, any time period, past, present or future.  Some children chose to illustrate trips to real places they have been with their families, and of course some children chose to create from their imaginations.  After sketching some scenes from these trips, the students were ready to decorate their tins.timetravelpassport2

timetravelpassport1We took a picture of each child, and created small passport books that would go inside the box.

Every child made a stamp, representing a country (or planet, or …. )  All of the children’s stamps were available to be used at the stamping station, and kids were invited a few at a time to stamp in their passport books, using stamps made by everyone in the class.

timetravelpassport3   timetravelpassport4

timetravelpassport6Students were also encouraged to create small treasures and souvenirs to keep inside the box.

To see our other travel-themed projects from this series, check out duct tape luggage, and watercolor travel journals.

Happy travels and adventures in art!


Remembering New Mexico: an Enchanted Watercolor Travel Journal

These paintings were inspired by our trip to Northern New Mexico and the Enchanted Circle last summer.

watercolortraveljournal_1First, I used blue painters tape to mask off sections of the paper.

I painted a watercolor wash background, right over the tape.


watercolortraveljournal_3Using the photos from our trip, I sketched mini thumbnail sketches in each section with a pencil, outlined in a fine tip Sharpie, and then added watercolor over the top.  I wrote captions on the tape, as a practice for what I would later write in the white margins.

Wait for the paint to dry before removing the tape.

watercolortraveljournal_4Note:  A couple of workarounds for folks who think that everything turns out perfectly the first time

The hanging chili pepper bouquet in the lower left didn’t turn out so well.  I glued a new paper on top and tried again a couple of times (see below), but it always looked really weird and goofy.

I ended up cutting out the squares that I liked from that page and mounting them on another paper.


Then, when the lettering for “New Mexico” got funky, I scribbled black Sharpie around the letters, and added a moon and stars to turn it into a night sky.

I bet you wouldn’t have known that was what some people would call a “mistake.”  I don’t use the “m” word.  There are no “mistakes” in art.  My students would all say, “WE CAN FIX IT!”  It’s my standard response to any complaint that starts with “I don’t like ….” or “Uh oh ….”  or “I can’t ….”

Art teaches us to be open to possibilities and to focus on what IS working, while letting go of what’s not working.  Another profound lesson for life.


Thank you to Cloth Paper Scissors for the project idea!

Recycled robots at Kent Kids Art Day 2013

robot2What could be better than making stuff out of junk and duct tape?

Dumpster diving divas Nadine and Nicole were back at Kent Kids Art Day with Recycled Robots, and we brought everything AND the kitchen sink ….




Every child left with a unique work of art.


Thank you to the City of Kent for sponsoring public art in the community, and to ReStore and Earthwise Architectural Salvage for the hook ups!