Trashcan Trio

I am in the midst of gathering gifts for my niece Grace. I’m trying to buy as little as possible, not because I am a tightwad (although I am) but as a matter of principle. I’m disheartened by how much our society purchases and how little we actually make. William Morris had concerns that the Industrial Revolution would destroy the craft spirit and I fear he was, once again,  right on target. What is particularly perverse was my instinct to run to the local craft store to BUY craft materials in order to make home-made toys.  Madness.

I did succumb (thus far) to one purchased gift, a book (actually several, but books are exempt from my embrace of stoicism).

It is a charming book , called The Art Room, it’s meant for children my niece’s age, kindergarten through 1st and 2nd grade. Lots of funny craft ideas such as making your own throne *(everyone needs a throne), imaginative button crafts and refashioning  junk shop frames into gilded masterpieces.

What I loved was that most projects started with materials culled from the trash bin and the recycling can. I wanted to make sure Grace would  have as  little trouble as possible  following the instructions so I tested some of the projects in my studio, mostly wooden spoon/junk drawer puppets and what the authors called Portrait Plates-chipped chinaware tarted up with paint and glitter and silliness.

The following are the three puppets I made for Grace, The Trashcan Trio:


The point of the puppets was to use only what I could find in the jumble of my garage and studio, I rummaged through my fabric box, my toolbox, my holiday wrapping center and the garden shed. Fortunately I have a lot of crap and was able to rather quickly cobble together this trio. I think they are funny and I hope Grace gets a kick out of them. More importantly I hope she is inspired to make her own.

Persephone misc junk, lids, spool, printer's rag, holiday ornament, spit and glue.
misc junk, lids, spool, printer’s rag, holiday ornament, spit and glue.
Gerome the Gnomewooden spoon, old boxers, plastic spoons, paint, florist moss
Gerome the Gnome
wooden spoon, old boxers, plastic spoons, paint, florist moss
Aphroditewooden spoon, shredded crepe paper, button, old fabric from my friend Loreen.
wooden spoon, shredded crepe paper, button, old fabric from my friend Loreen.

I also followed directions for a portrait plate, the authors were channeling Picasso’s wonderful ceramics and I’m going to pop a small volume of the master’s work into my niece’s gift box. Never to young to meet Pablo.

Neptunechipped plate, paint, florist moss, varnish.
chipped plate, paint, florist moss, varnish.

This is a lot of silliness, but I hope Grace has fun with it.

She is quite the budding artist, my sister Kat is drowning in her “masterpieces”- that is what my niece very immodestly calls everything she makes. I envy her hubris.

My thought was if Grace had actual examples she might be inclined to craft her own. I hope so.

I will be shipping it all out at the end of the week to Philadelphia, I wish I could be there and have craft time with her personally. This will have to suffice.


I have , after taking Clive’s lead, carved a bookplate for Grace. I will run an imprint in the a.m., eager to see the result.

Until next time,

take care,


“D” is for Dogs

As this may be the last entry for my Primer of New Spain, before the  Alphabet Soup deadline of the end of November, I thought I would base the character upon my favorite beastie.

To the Maya and to the Aztec dogs were, in addition to a foodstuff (gruesome I know), believed to be excellent guides to their owners in the treacherous Underworld.  Apparently they were particularly adept as crossing bodies of water.  As the Mesoamerican dog was bred to be hairless I suppose that makes some sense.

My own pup, and model for this image is a modern day chihuahua, quite hairy and slightly chubby ;a delightful and I think quite handsome fellow. His name is Speck and he hates the water.  I would however be thrilled beyond belief  if Speck was waiting for me in Charon’s barge.



“D” is for Dog

Dogs may have been excellent guides in the Underworld, but in the studio my little fellow was a reluctant model, refusing to hold a pose for very long.

But I fashioned a resemblance of sorts, altering  the color of his fur, he is in actuality a beautiful blonde, not this garish yellow.

A reluctant muse.

Here is the superstar, posing on his own terms.


According to tradition, the dog when imagined as a guide to the Underworld , would be depicted wearing a mask. It is a particularly  fascinating stylization, well suited to my interest in symbolism and dreamscapes.

The following is a local treasure from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), I am particularly fond of it.

Dog with Human Mask
200 B.C.-A.D. 500
Clay with pigment
Mexico, Colima;id=63765;type=101

It seemed fitting that if my little Speck was stuck in the Underworld that he could at least have a jolly time playing fetch with all of the bones lying about. For his unearthly companion I once again made use of my handy demon maquette. 

Lady Demon Maquette

I will continue with the Primer, perhaps relaxing the color restriction a bit, perhaps not.

Well that is all for now,

until next time,

take care,


Athena, fresh off the press


In the final weeks of my printmaking class we have been focusing on relief printing, so far using sheets of linoleum. Of all of the techniques this is the one I have most taken to. I have just finished working on a plate of St. Benedict of Palermo (the Moor); I am eager to run a test print.

Relief printing, contrary to my expectations is well suited to the way I doodle, not the way I draw or paint, but doodling.

I have countless class notebooks filled with my doodling marginalia, I have admired the spontaneity but when I have tried to translate the doodle into another medium the results have been disappointing. The spontainity had been lost and the result was too ironic, too self aware, verging on cartoonish, not at all my intention or desire.

But I have found that when I translate my doodling onto the linoleum block the loose line is retained. The quirkiness is an asset.

The following image of the Grey Eyed goddess was first a loose doodle from my mythology class.  I created her as a prayer card for our recent election day, carving the image quickly before class with very little alteration to the original 30 second doodle.  There are flaws but I like her.  She has an archaic quality that I do not usually explore.  She is reminiscent (at least to me) of an early political poster from the first democracy; at least that was my intention.

I’m heading to the frame shop to have two prints prepared as gifts for my two nieces, Grace Sophia and the still to be born Lulu.

Lulu is expected to burst onto the scene December 15th , she is eagerly awaited ; having Athena in her nursery seems a good omen.  

linoleum cut on paper
9 by 12 inches

Until next time,

take care,


from today’s sketchbook: Sky Hovers Earth

I’m seeing a Jungian. In his rather bleak waiting room he has a nice collection of art books. Most of the books are devoted to art of ancient peoples, Egypt and the rest of Africa, the Fertile Crescent, the Americas,  typical shrink taste ; I like looking through them.  

Today as I was poring over a book devoted to the old gods of the Nile, I stumbled upon images that drove me to distraction in my youth : nubile sky maidens arcing over ithyphallic earth gods.

I felt inspired to make a quick sketch, reversing the roles a bit in keeping with the Greek tradition . I finished the sketch at home, this is the result.

I wonder what the Jungian would say?

Sky Hovers Earth
graphite and pastel on paper
11 by 14 inches

Although not the original inspiration, it is in the same spirit. I think it is marvelous.

Well, must dash, the spouse man’s train should arrive shortly, must pick him up at the station; i sound like a Connecticut housewife.

Take care and happy Thanksgiving,


“C” is for Climate Change

Given the extreme weather we have been experiencing  recently :here in southern California, insanely hot summers and back home in NY and NJ, unheard of hurricanes, climate change has been in the thoughts of many. Even folks who I know to be staunch deniers of climate change are rethinking their stance that perhaps we have had an impact on Mother Earth.

My interest in Meso-American culture has me linked to numerous blogs and I recently received this post claiming the great civilization of the Maya collapsed due to man made climate change which resulted in a “long catastrophic drought”.  The Maya civilization as many know was massive , a complex web of city states ruled by various lord/kings. As power was brokered, each lord would vie with one another in building massive elaborate temples, palaces and public building, all with the intention of giving expression to their magnificence. The architecture, rubble and stone in construction was given a fine white stucco finish. When Cortez and his men first encountered the Aztec they were dazzled, but this magnificence came with a cost.

According to a NASA Science News article twenty trees were needed to heat the limestone in order to create one square meter of plaster. Given the massive scale of these structures and the tropical climate which demanded incessant maintenance, that’s a hell of a lot of dead trees.

All of this course sounds and feels familiar to our own increasingly desperate situation. Clinging to a fuel that is outmoded and toxic to a planet we claim we love. We treat this planet as a resource, not something to be revered.

The Maya have been idealized by many as having been more attuned to the gods of the natural world,  yet  by their hubris they ignored the divine pleas for mercy. Ignoring the pleas had serious consequence. I’m hoping against hope we can learn something from the Maya, sadly I fear the worse. Whereas the Maya left behind enchanted ruins I fear we will leave behind the shells of big-box stores, McMansions and endless freeway system going nowhere.

“C” is for Climate Change.

“C” is for Climate Change
watercolor on paper
11 by 19 inches

“C” is also for Cinteotl, a manifestation of the maize god. Usually depicted as a young man, golden in coloring and wearing a maize head-dress.

I stumbled upon an image of the young god with a distinct resemblance to Apollo. The statue is described as Huastec, 11th-13th c.A.D.

What is notable is his nudity, there are very few depiction of the human figure in its natural state in Meso-American art. Since I have a fondness for nudity he was a suitable model for my letter “C”.

Symbolism for life cut short played a factor as well, but mainly it was due to the fact that he was a comely young man. 

I will be spending the remainder of my holiday catching up on readings and working a linoleum block (this time a Christian saint).

Until next time,

take care,


“O” is for the Owl (& for Obama)

 I had been planning on owls for “O” from the beginning, mostly because they re so darn cute.The Mesoamericans however did not necessarily find them as adorable as our contemporary society seems to find them. According to my ever reliable Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya , owls were a mystical yet fearsome creature. Dwelling in dark caves, portals to the Underworld, owls were  considered guides to dark mysteries and ominous omens of what lurked in the shadows.

 As does western culture, owls were identified with the night, further cementing their connection to the supernatural.

To the Maya the owl represented fertility and death, this dual nature can be seen in the Popol vuh narrative: owls deliver the Hero Twins to the Lords of the Underworld sealing the Heroes doom and also guide the pregnant Xquic out of the darkness of Xibalba. This seems in keeping with the rather consistent duality of Mesoamerican mythic narrative.

The green owl was favored by the artisans of Teotihuacan, appearing in wall paintings, and according to the Dictionary over mirrors (I assume polished obsidian), the mirror itself representing a passage to the unknown. I was happy for the chance to use green as my accent color for this page of the Primer.

“O” is for the Owl
watercolor on paper
11 by 18 inches

I mentioned that “O” was also for Obama, this is because I had intended to work on this painting during the presidential election last Tuesday. I had expect a long anxious evening ; I had hoped working would soothe my nerves. It was a stressful evening, but at some point the dominoes of fate starting falling in Obama’s direction; in no time at all it seemed as if my president would be given a second chance. I began to just feel incredibly giddy, something I have not felt in months. This election has been particularly stressful , full of vitriol and mean spiritedness ; when Obama gave his acceptance speech the little green owl on the branch smiled- and that is how I left him.

Hoorah for Obama, that is the cheer of this chorus of wise little owls.

So “O” is for the Owl and for the president, I can now exhale peacefully.

One of my inspirations for my owls was a funny little Halloween decoration from the 50’s-60’s , very familiar to American baby boomers . I always liked his green and orange coloring and his funny wink, I wanted to squeeze a reference of him into the painting. I hope I captured some of his goofy spirit. 

Halloween decorations from my youth, mid-century.

I have been receiving notifications concerning the Alphabet Soup deadline at the end of this month; I thought I would enclose the following for inspiration.

Until next time, take care,