My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 5 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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I got married very young and my husband was (and still is) very big on hobbies so I delved deeper into art. I was intrigued by pen and ink drawings and he bought me a pen holder and nibs. I also had this book called Rendering in Pen and Ink that I would read and do exercises from. My general interest in the Humanities also grew. We were at 30th Street Station waiting for a train to New York for our honeymoon and spotted a bookstore with used books where he bought me a old textbook simply called The Humanities. I still have my pen nibs and that book so here is a photo of them.

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There was an outdoor art show called the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Annual which took place every June. There was an artist there who drew in pen and ink. I believe her name was Karyl but I cannot remember her last name. Anyway, I took her card and called her and asked if I could bring some of my pen drawings to show her. She was very kind and invited me to her home and looked at my work and was very encouraging. She suggested I try a class at one of the local art schools. One thing about this encounter is sort of amusing to me now. About a dozen years later I found myself not only in the Rittenhouse show but serving on the board and chairing the show for a few years. Below is a pen and ink drawing I did around this time (1979). Thanks to sister number 2 for this!

I worked during the day but signed up for two night classes at Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts). One was a life class and another was a lettering class. I liked the life class more than the lettering class and often asked a friend of ours to pose for me. There was a local drafting school I looked into as well but realized that drafting was far too technical for me.

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 4 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.articular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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When I went to college I choose a school with a very good dietary program but decided not to declare a major right away since I wasn’t really sure. This greatly distressed the school administration so I had to take tests to see where my career interests were. The nun who was my academic advisor read me the results and said I should go into the Arts. I immediately dismissed the idea because I really had no concept of what that meant. My parents really could not assist because all they knew was that it was good to go to college and they really did not care what I went for as long as I attended and graduated from a college. I figured I could just keep taking Liberal Arts classes until I figured things out because I had to take those courses anyway, but that didn’t seem like something the school was crazy about. So I decided to leave school to mull things over, which did not make my parents happy. So I enrolled in another school that had a good dietary program but left there too after a semester of taking more liberal arts classes.

Oddly in that year of school, I never took a visual arts class but I did do art on my own. When I lived at school, I was a little homesick so I remember becoming very engaged in a collage I made on a poster board (to give an idea of the size) of Philadelphia, using old copies of Philadelphia Magazine as material. When I no longer lived at school, I sat at our kitchen table to paint. One particular painting was a view of a street lined with stores. It didn’t really exist, it was something I made up but I think I was challenging myself to show perspective as the stores were on a steep angle and they got smaller as they receded on the picture plane. I recall the name I put on one of the stores “Kathy’s Lingerie”. I was using poster paints so the colors were very chalky, flat and bright and there was a cartoony-folk aspect to it that I think still shows up in my work today. But all in all, it was a terrible painting. My mother hung it up anyway, but not on the refrigerator since I was about 18 or 19 years old at the time.

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My oldest sister (the one from the museum opening), was taking painting classes from an elderly man at a community center. His emphasis was on portraiture and he was a very good portrait painter. I went to a class two or three times but his method really didn’t interest me much because I was not interested in portraits. My sister enjoyed the classes and seemed to get a lot out of them.

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 3 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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In high school I became interested in the humanities, particularly classic literature, poetry and, to a lesser degree, the theater. It is probably worth saying that as a child I dabbled in the performing arts by participating in school and community plays, glee club and such. But it didn’t stick with me. I took art in high school but did not like the teacher who seemed sort of tipsy a lot of the time so I dropped the class.

My oldest sister was a newspaper reporter and received press passes to cover a large event at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; I believe it was the opening or maybe reopening of the American Wing. It was a very big deal and I was in awe of the sheer spectacular-ness of the event which seemed very lavish to me as a 15 or 16 year old. I can’t say I remember any of the art because it was only the grandeur that I remembered.

As a teenager, I remember sitting in my room drawing with great absorption and concentration. Two drawings stand out in my mind: one was a copy of the front of a David Bowie album I had. I can’t remember the name of it but his face was sort of tilted down and you could see a lightening bolt or something like that painted on his face. I did the drawing in color pencils. The other drawing was of a philodendron plant I had in my room with trailing lemony green leaves. It may have been the first thing I drew from life.

Sorry – still no images but later posts will have plenty!

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 2 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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When we moved from the city I went to a middle school that had an actual art room. Only two projects stand out in my mind from that art class – a drawing and a clay project. Though I am not entirely sure, I am thinking that the drawing project had something to do with copying an ad from a magazine. What makes me think this is because of what I choose as well as another student’s drawing that made an impression on me, which is where I will start. I remembered a beautifully drawn picture, in pencil, of two faces that I believe were a mother and child. There was an elegance and maturity about the manner in which it was drawn but at the time, I only could conjure up the idea that the drawing was really lovely and very realistic. So I wanted my drawing to also be very realistic. I choose an image of a long elegant hand, it was probably an ad for hand cream or maybe nail polish, who knows! Anyway, I drew the long elegant hand, in pencil, complete with a shadow showing the finger tips resting on a surface. When I got the drawing back it was graded a ’10’ which was like an A+. (I am finding it heard to believe that I actually remembered that grading system). Anyway, I was very happy and when I was allowed to take the drawing home I taped it to my mirror. At some later point, I decided the drawing needed color so I polished the nails. I am now wondering if I used real nail polish to do that??

The other project was really only memorable for other reasons. We had to make a clay pinch pot and I remember I made this tiny pot with a crooked lid that I painted this sort of muddy rose color and put a blue stripe on it. It was pretty terrible. Now the reason I remember the project because there was a boy that I had a giant crush on that was in the class either before or after mine and I decided I would find his clay project and write a message on the bottom, which I did. It said “Hi Danny From Diane”. Not exactly poetry but there wasn’t much space!

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 1 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. So I will start with my earliest memory and go from there. I will not have much in the way of images for these first few posts.

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My first memory of a visual art experience was when I was about seven or eight years old at day camp. Somebody drew a picture of a boat by a large sunset and I thought it was one of the greatest pictures I ever saw. At some point after that, my family was on vacation in Florida and the hotel where we were staying had an art activity/contest so I drew the picture of the boat with the sunset as best as I could remember it. For my efforts, I was awarded “3rd prize” which consisted of a plastic trophy about 8 inches tall with the name of the hotel on it. I immediately felt like a fraud! Even though it was my drawing, I knew the original idea was not my own. I was too young to understand feelings like inspiration and definitely never heard the saying “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. Well, I am by no means a great artist, but I feel I can at least fall into the ‘good’ category at this point so my guilt has since subsided.

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The next drawings I can remember were cartoon characters that I liked: Fred Flintstone, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Woodstock. The Fred Flintstone one was a challenge. I was copying the front of a Flintstones coloring book and got Fred down fine but was really struggling with the prehistoric bird with its wings wide open that Fred was using as an umbrella.

In grade school, we very occasionally had art. The teacher, Miss Shore, came to our class. I guess it was the same idea as what is now called Art on a Cart. I don’t really remember what types of lessons Miss Shore taught but I do remember that I referred to her with great reverence as a “Real Artist”.

The years this took place were in the mid 1960s and charm bracelets were wildly popular. The idea of charm bracelets was to fill it with charms that were symbolic with things about your personality. Somebody in my family gave me a paint palette to put on my charm bracelet. I must have spent much more time engaged in art that I can recall for someone to notice and give me that charm. Oddly, I do have a photo of that charm bracelet (below). That’s all for now – to be continued.

charm bracelet with paint palette charm

New Artist Book: Kudzu – The Vine that Ate the South

I never heard of it before, which is odd since it was first introduced a the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. Now, it is all around me. Every area has its own invasive species and I knew the ones in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast US. But until I saw Kudzu – a highly invasive vine in the Southeast, I can honestly say I did not know the meaning of the word “invasive”. Kudzu was planted, like many things, with all good intention by the Civilian Conservation Corps to stop soil erosion on slopes and hills. It actually is not a bad looking vine and I can see why it was an attractive idea at the time. But this vine is such that it covers thickets of full grown trees and reaches out from stream banks giving the feeling that you have encountered the plant from the Little Shop of Horrors

Well, I tend to make books about things in my environment that seep into my conscious and don’t leave until I express it. So though it is not quite yet finished, here is my book on Kudzu – the Vine that Ate the South. To make it, I had to block print many, many leaves and glue them onto “vines” I made out of twisted paper. Using mixed media, I made a forest scene that the vines are covering. Below is the almost finished book and images of it in progress.

Kudzu – Artist Book in Progress
Rolling out the ink
Inking the blocks
Prints of leaves drying
Outside cover
Inside in progress
Inside in progress

Stream of Conscious Drawings with Longwinded Captions

Awhile ago I posted a drawing from my sketchbook with a lengthy caption about The Girl from Ipanema. Since then I have done more of this type of sketching and figured I would post a few more here. I will type out the captions underneath because there are good handwriting day and bad handwriting days.

We don’t know what this is but it has been decided that every home should own one.

Who is this fine gentleman and where did he get his hat? Not to mention those glasses. And here is his wife, another interesting character indeed and a tad more refined than he. She used to teach piano lessons but decided to give that up so she could dedicate all her time to juggling fine china.

New Book

Though I keep thinking I am finished making books for my upcoming exhibition at the Hickory Museum of Art in 2022, I find I am still coming up with thoughts that I can’t get out of my head until I make the book. So here is my latest one called Retreat. It is made inside a small box about 4″ x 4″. I had to refashion a cover because it need something pliable.

What are the chances?

Lately, I have sharing my modest knowledge as an amateur botanist with artists from the Plastic Club in a series called “on plants” which takes place via Zoom off and on. Carla Stine, one of the participants who creates beautiful botanical illustrations, had a strange looking object that fit in the palm of her hand that looked like a porcupine. My guess is that it was the fruiting structure to something, but what?? I suggested she send me photos so I could ask the real botanist at work what it might be. So I toddle into work the next day and put my water cup on the shelf I always put it on, and there, three measly inches from where I place my cup is, guess what??? The EXACT same porcupine object!!! In the millions and millions of plants out there, what are the chances that this object would be right under my nose? Now in my own defense, the same shelf contains several objects, many more picturesque than the one in question. Upon picking it up (ouch!) I could see underneath that there was some nut like fruit.

So a short time after this odd discovery, here comes the botanist, who identified this object as a chestnut. He then proceeded to go gather some mounted specimens, including one where the nut was open. A few things to point out on the specimen below: next to the open nut (the female fruit) is a structure that looks like a string of pearls which are the male flowers. In the image under the specimen is its label. Note that there has been a name change, something that happens more often than you would think, sometimes because of mis-identification, other times because the plant has been put into a new genus, sub-species, or some other category based on new knowledge gained.

The reason I love botany is it gives me, as an artist, a visual way to solve puzzles. Why would a chestnut have such a covering? I am thinking as a means of survival. Porcupine like needles are certainly a way to discourage predators from eating up your potential offspring. So concludes our fireside chat today on botany.

This Sunday: On Plants. A Zoom series on plants and the different ways artists relate to them.

Radishes, from the artist book Diary of a Vegetable Farmer

You do not have to be an artist or an expert on plants to enjoy this upcoming series hosted by the Plastic Club. It will kick off this Sunday with a presentation I am giving on looking at the characteristics of leaves with an emphasis on trees. Many people enjoy plant journaling as a way to relax and/or a way to learn about plants. This presentation will touch on this topic as well. It may lean a bit more towards the botanical than the art end of things but if you have any interest in plants I hope you will join us. And, we are looking for future speakers so if you have information to share on plants please consider becoming a presenter. The link to sign up for this Sunday’s event is here.