Agecroft Hall and Sunken Garden / oil

My palette knife is in my hand as much time as my paintbrush.

My palette knife is in my hand as much time as my paintbrush.

When I get to my location, it always takes me 1/2 hour or 45 min, to mix up my colors for the day.  I decide what area to work on, then mix light medium and dark values of the colors I want to use. By mixing my colors on my palette with my palette knife, I get them closer to what you see with the naked eye, and avoid the problem of the colors mixing too much on the canvas and coming out muddy.

But one thing I really enjoy a lot, is making thin lines with my palette knife. It’s easier to scratch a skinny line than it is to paint one. If you can get a clear enlargement of this photo on your computer, maybe you can see where I scratched all around this painting to make lines and give it texture.

The way I did the brick wall, for example, was to paint the colors of the mortar first. I painted the wall with two shades of gray in the places I wanted there to be light and shadow. So, the whole wall was gray. Then, when that dried, I blobbed in brick colors on top of the gray and scratched through the wet layer to show the gray mortar color coming though as lines. You get bricks without painting every brick. But people see the detail, and might imagine I painted every brick. It works if you paint in the couch with Maroger Medium and glazes.

I also like to scratch through my brushstrokes to feather the edges, and add texture. For the trees behind the house, I blobbed in three shades of green and scratched through the wet paint so the edges of my brush strokes wouldn’t be sharp, but a little blended. Visually, that helps the background trees recede a little. The trees in front of the house got scratched on the trunks but not the foliage.

It took a long time to finish, and I could still keep on working on it, but I’m not going to. It looks like I painted a lot of detail, but I left out the detail I didn’t want to paint, gutters and downspouts, a planter with nothing blooming, and whatever else you might notice is missing, if you have a photo to compare it to.

It seems like I worked on this painting at home as much as I worked on it at Agecroft. A lot of times, I can mix up some colors there, and paint at home on the more time consuming parts of the painting.

a painting by Helene Ruiz / acrylic

That was a real fun art opening last night at the Petersburg Area Art League

That was a real fun art opening last night at the Petersburg Area Art League

This is my favorite one of Helene’s paintings from her “Skulduggeries” series. Helene illustrates life’s hardships and the strange people you meet, with humor in her paintings.

The show I entered with her group, the Urban Individualists, was titled “Entangled”. It’s a collaborative effort between visual artists and poets. The authors wrote a poem for a painting, and a painter illustrated a poem. The paintings and poems are hung together. And Helene had a section of the gallery for her Skullduggery paintings. The show is GREAT!! in my humble opinion.  If you’re in the area and didn’t get there last night, you should go check it out.

This is my daughter, Sarah, and me standing in front of two of our entries. (my paintings and her poem and story)

This is my daughter, Sarah, and me standing in front of two of our entries. (my paintings and her poem and story)

We also enjoyed the poetry readings and the Latin music !

In Finding the Moon

in-finding-the-moon“Don’t think. FEEL! It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory!”   Bruce Lee – “Enter The Dragon”

The Artistcellar Labyrinth series holds great inspiration for me. The variety of designs is an encouragement to slow down and listen, and to allow their voice to guide you. Or in the words of Bruce Lee, “Don’t think. FEEL!”

So it was, during the last full Moon, with my Strathmore Journal in hand, that I started my next design. I chose the Anasazi stencil. My heart was telling me it was the right one to use.

I stenciled directly on to the page in my Journal with Dye-Na-Flow Midnight Blue. By drying between applications I was able to produce a dappled effect of varying shades. Once the base was complete I layered lunar inspired colours of metallic acrylic. Warm highlights were added to accent and compliment the cool.

It is wonderful to experience the positive aspects of the full Moon by revising goals and setting intentions. Because of this powerful lunar energy, meditation is encouraged. I find just looking at the Moon introduces calm and stillness to what is usually a frenetic life. Mindfulness is highlighted. It is the perfect time to seek the benefit of walking a Labyrinth.

It was my time to put the work together. I’ve mentioned that I am compiling a great collection of images in my journal and from there I chose a watercolour swatch in shades of indigo. I also selected the Open Work stencil from the new Artistcellar Blocks series.  It has become one of my favourites!

The Bruce Lee Estate recently released a series of his 1968 pocket notebooks.  He filled them in neatly written script noting appointment details, affirmations, and his philosophy on life. They are inspirational. Reading through them, you can’t help but see how his life and work were intertwined…the fluid with the sharp, the public with the personal, and the strong with the sensitive. But above all, he had the power to still the mind and allow his spirit to soar. He found the compliment in opposites.

I kept his quote foremost in thoughts while working and allowed the collage to build itself. I wasn’t thinking of technique but rather was permitting the elements to find their own home. I allowed myself just to feel. When my collage was finished, I knew I had discovered a place of deep stillness. And once there I too did not will miss all that heavenly glory.


The Corn God Returns From The Underworld / mixed media


I’m excited because this collage I did a few years ago got a lot of attention yesterday at the art opening of the James River Art League, at the Montpelier Art Center!

It was inspired by the Maya legend and I tried to copy their style of illustration. I have a good book about the Maya titled “The Maya” by Michael D. Coe. One thing I remember from this book is that it wasn’t too difficult for the Spanish who invaded Central America to convert the Maya to Christianity because there are similarities between the two religions, a resurrection being one important story.

This is how the story goes, if I remember correctly. The Corn God was in the Underworld. That’s him, with the green sprout coming out of his head, in my collage. The two guys paddling the canoe are gods who were sent to rescue him. It’s a dangerous trip, and they could all get killed in some violent bloody way. If the Corn God doesn’t make it back to the Maya city, the crop will fail and the people will starve.

The two girls in the canoe are virgins sent to wait on the Corn God. They’re offering him food and water. Later, at their ceremony, the virgins will be sacrificed and the Corn God will be drenched in their blood. Yes, they really did sacrifice virgins. They were a bloody tough tribe that didn’t fear pain or death.

The Maya, never boring, always an inspiration.

Creativity Thrives on Route 15 in Pennsylvania!


Does your heart beat a little faster when you hear the words: Mixed media, painting, pottery, sculpture, photography, jewelry? What if we added tasty local wines, deliciously inventive meals, and cozy, relaxing lodgings to the mix?
And what if I told you these features and more are here for you to explore and experience when you journey through the heart of Pennsylvania by following the Route 15 Artisan Trail?
The newly launched website, Rt 15 By Way of the Arts, is your ultimate guide to all art and tourism events held along the Trail. The website makes planning your journey quick and easy by arranging artisans and events by county. Updated by four daily newspapers, The Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Sunbury DailyItem, The Carlisle Sentinel, and The Gettysburg Times content is focused to bring you the best in uniquely flavored regional arts and entertainment.
Looking for a special gift? Why not interact with the artist as they create? Searching for a charming location to rest, relax, and rejuvenate? It’s here for you on Route 15.
I admit I am biased. I live along the Route and have explored many of the destinations. For this reason I am so excited to share this with you. Even if you can’t journey with us physically, I hope you will take the time to experience what our area has to offer.  The website is a showcase of galleries, theaters, festivals, artists and more.
Creativity thrives along Route 15. Hope you’ll come along for the journey!

The Flying Lesson / mixed media

This is my illustration for a book my daughter, Sarah Hill wrote. An excerpt is posted below.

This is my illustration for a book my daughter, Sarah Hill wrote. An excerpt is posted below.

“Hey Mom,” she said, “Can you teach me how to fly?”

Diana looked up at her and grinned, relief flashing in her face. She clearly wasn’t up for more talking either.

“You sure that’s where you want to start? It’s kinda scary…” Diana trailed off for a moment. “But a lot of fun.” Kayce grinned back.

“Yea let’s start there. I mean once I master flying, I’m pretty sure I can handle anything, right?” Kayce asked nervously. Diana raised her eyebrows, but the smile stayed on her face.

The teenager and the woman stood up and walked out of the room, Diana’s arm over Kayce’s shoulder. “Well it’s not quite that easy, kiddo.” She said, leading the way to the back yard. “But this is definitely the fun part.” Kayce’s heart raced, both thrilled and surprised her mother was so willing to let her attempt such a dangerous lesson right out of the gate.

“Don’t be scared,” Diana said, reading Kayce’s mind. “On Falconera they dropped us off of cliffs when we turned 15.” Kayce’s jaw dropped and her mother grinned and winked. Together the two of them entered the secluded yard, which backed up to the woods and fanned out in a wide, pie-piece-shaped property that hid the other neighbor’s houses on the cul-de-sac behind protective thickets of tall pines.

A few moments later, Diana was standing in the middle of the yard, legs hip-width apart and crouched, her arms out as if preparing to be tackled in a football game. Excitement shone on her face, as if she had been waiting to share this with Kayce her whole life.

“The first thing you need to learn is landing,” she said, still crouched. “Getting up is the easy part, believe it or not, but landing softly isn’t. Falling is not fun.” Kayce assumed the same stance as her mother, and the two women looked as if they were about to start a wrestling bout. Diana crouched low and jumped high in the air, but peaked no higher than a normal person of her stature. However when she was on her way back down, it was almost as if an invisible force was slowly lowering her to the ground.

Kayce jumped experimentally. She landed with ordinary gravitational force.

“It’s a mental thing,” Diana said. “Philippa, Anna, and I all taught ourselves to fly and land differently. I imagine landing on a giant deflating balloon where I can control the pressure. If you picture something sturdy beneath your feet, your body will react that way.”

Kayce concentrated and jumped again, this time with force and effort. Same average rise, same average drop.

“Philippa imagines jet boosters on her feet like rockets. Anna pictures a hook picking her up. I can’t really explain what makes it work. You just have to get there in your mind.” Kayce scowled at her mom and jumped, trying to imagine her mother’s balloon raising and lowering. Then she imagined jet boosters, hooks swinging her into the air, nothing worked. Her heart rate was starting to pick up with the physical effort and the frustration.

When Kayce’s feet touched down again in yet another ordinary jump she let out a frustrated “ugh.”

This went on for hours, Kayce and her mother hopping in the backyard, Diana periodically demonstrating flight on her own, Kayce’s teenage temper flaring after many, many failed attempts. The two of them were both sweating in the summer heat, their dark ponytails frizzing in the humidity and their stomachs rumbling. Diana was just about to suggest they break for lunch, which should have been several hours ago, when Kayce let out a low, angry scream.

“Maybe I can’t fly” Kayce huffed, refusing to meet her mother’s eyes when Diana sat down across from her. Kayce glared at the ground, wishing for some kind of reassurance from her mother but not knowing what she wanted to hear exactly. Up until now, Diana’s mothering tactics have been very positive. Lots of, “You can do it!”s and “Keep trying!”s but Kayce could tell by the silence that her mom didn’t want to lie, and with the exception of Kayce’s inherited super hearing and whatever that was that happened at the hardware store, they had no idea if she had any other capabilities or if she did, what they were.

“We don’t really know what you will be capable of. You might not be able to fly. So much of it we’ll just have to wait and see. We already know you have some pretty amazing hearing, and that thing at Home Depot was definitely speed.” Diana said kindly.

Kayce picked at the grass and tried not to be disappointed. She was a plain old ordinary teenager this time last week. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal to her that she can’t fly; she just found out that was even a possibility.

“Come on.” Diana said, reaching out to her daughter and helping her to her feet. “I have an idea. You have to trust me on this, okay?”

Diana turned Kayce around and wrapped her arms tightly around Kayce’s ribcage. Her face pressed into the back of Kayce’s sweaty neck, and together the two rose slowly into the air, about six feet up with Diana carrying Kayce.

“Mom…” Kayce said nervously, gripping her mother’s hands. Diana tightened her grip reassuringly, and then lowered another foot or so.

“Is this better?” Kayce swallowed and nodded quickly. “Now I’m going to let you go. If you fall, it won’t hurt you, maybe just a bump or a bruise and I owe you a new pair of earrings or a gift card or something. But whatever enters your mind in the instant I drop you, hold onto that, okay?”

“No wait… Mom I can’t do this.” Kayce’s heart thudded and she was sure her mom could feel it beneath the grip on her chest.

“Just try, Kace. I’m not going to let you get hurt.” And with that, Diana let go.

Immediately, Kayce’s back and shoulders warmed, like they had been hit with a direct beam of sunlight. The world was suspended. The hot breeze that was blowing through the trees stopped but all Kayce noticed was the force of what felt like giant wings on her back. Invisible, powerful wings had emerged from her back, right below her rib cage and held her suspended in air. The air did not stir, but the force was there nonetheless; leaving her suspended in midair, inches from her mother’s still arms.

Move up, willed Kayce, and the invisible wings propelled her, carrying her belly-first a few feet up and away from Diana.

Now down, she thought, and she lowered, but lost control and fell too quickly. Her stomach plummeted and her heart raced and the thought of the strong, sturdy wings was replaced with panic as the world resumed its normal pace and she crashed to the ground.

Diana was at her daughter’s side immediately.

“Oh baby I’m so sorry!” She cried, quickly inspecting Kayce’s limbs for broken bones, her skin for scratches. Kayce held her head for a moment, she definitely hit it pretty hard on the ground, before sitting up and saying,

“Mom I think I did it.”

Diana looked skeptical. “You dropped like a rock, Kayce.” Diana said, then realizing the statement sounded harsh, asked, “Why do you think you got it?”

“I don’t know. Everything just kind of stopped and I was able to clear my mind and concentrate for a minute.” She paused, afraid what she was about to say is going to make her sound crazy. “On wings holding me up.” Kayce stood up and brushed off dried grass and dirt. She subconsciously clenched her fists by her sides and looked determinedly ahead at her mother, who looked back at her with eyes full of doubt and pity.

Wings, thought Kayce. I have wings and I can fly.

Her feet left the ground and she saw the shock and delight on her mother’s face, but ignored it, her focus not even broken by the rush of adrenaline and fear.

Up, Kayce thought, and she slowly lifted a few more feet off the ground. Diana flew up to match her level, one knee lifted, her excited smile showing the slightest hint of worry as she studied the intense look on her daughter’s face. Kayce wanted to tell her mother that she knew what she was doing, but was afraid speaking would break the connection to her wings.

Okay, down, Kayce thought, and she started to fall she quickly like before. Slower! She thought, slower, slower… and sure enough, the imaginary wings slowed and she gently touched the ground. Diana touched down next to her.

“Well done, Kayce!’ Her mother was beaming. “I am SO proud of you! It took me months to do what you just did!” Unable to help herself, Diana pulled Kayce into a close, tight hug.

About the story;

Sarah wrote it for the intended audience of teenage girls. She worked at Emory University a few years ago in their outreach program for teens. Teenagers need to see how good relationships work so they can have their own good relationships in life. Reading helps teens figure things out when they don’t get enough guidance from adults, or don’t have good role models at home.

The mother is like Wonder Woman, from another planet. The girl’s dad is Human. The story’s teenage girl is a human, alien hybrid who is discovering she has some super powers.

About the collage.

Sarah told me she didn’t want angel wings on the girl. I agreed, but couldn’t decide how to do the wings. I had it in mind for months, then saw the Latin Ballet and was blown away. They had dresses with yards of pleated fabric attached to sticks which they held in their hands. The fabric was attached to the back of the dresses at the other end. I wished I could examine the dresses more closely. They were so beautiful and graceful as they floated across the stage with their wings. Then I had the idea for the wings, but couldn’t decide how to make them shiny and almost transparent. I considered mylar, but couldn’t find what I wanted. Sarah suggested nail polish and I thought that might work for the wings.

This collage has acrylic on canvas board. acrylic on mineral paper, pastel on different types of pastel paper, oil paint and nail polish


Learning To Be True

the-last-letter-janis“You can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow.” – Janis Joplin

I was just a kid, making my bed and listening to the radio on a Saturday morning. The opening notes of a song caught my ear, but it was when I heard the raspy, passion filled voice, I knew I was experiencing something exceptional. At the time I didn’t know who was singing, and I didn’t know the name of the song. But the vocalists’ raw emotion, the way she held a note…releasing it at just the perfect moment…captivated me.  The song was “Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company. The mesmeric voice belonged to Janis Joplin. The memory of the first time I heard her sing will forever stay with me.

We all know her story…leaving Port Arthur, Texas to discover who she was as a woman and an artist, of her addictions and her need for pushing the limits of her rock-and-roll lifestyle.  But rather than dwell on the tragic I want to celebrate all that was triumphant.

As a confirmed letter writer myself, I loved reading Janis’ correspondence to friends and family. This Janis is the one that inspired me through my awkward (are they ever anything but!) teens and into my twenties. Janis kicked open the door for women in the arts. She showed us anything is possible if we follow our dreams to our authentic self. Her drive to succeed on her own terms…caressing the vulnerable and the beautiful…lead to many mishaps but also to great discoveries.

The quote is a favourite of mine. Before words like “mindfulness” became part of the lexicon, Janis was already a believer. As I’ve recently been working with the wonderful Artistcellar Labyrinth series, my heart and my work have found a brilliant resting place in being fully present and not destroying my “now”.

The newest member of the Artistcellar family is Blocks. I couldn’t wait to start creating! The variety within the four piece set is excellent. I was especially drawn to the Open Work and Cross T designs. I wanted to give my work a 1960’s vibe so I chose to stencil with the colours of the era: hot pink, purple, acid green. It was fun to dab my acrylics through the stencil and see the combinations. I even stenciled a single colour knowing I could add it to my art. As with all of the Artistcellar products, clean up was a snap leaving the stencils in perfect condition.

I enjoyed building the collage. I wanted to give the work a vintage feel and started with a tintype background. I added the layers including the stenciled images, newspaper clippings, date stamps, painted dryer sheets, and finally the image of Janis. I chose this particular photo because she looked fearless, happy and ready to take on her next adventure.

It is easy to be drawn to the heart-rending story of a creative who died before their time. But if there is one thing I’ve gained from following Janis’ much too short career it is this: Be true to yourself, as a woman and an artist, and you will find authenticity waiting to be discovered in that special piece of your heart.


  • PLAID FOLKART METALLIC ACRYLICS: Aquamarine, Champaign, Antique Gold, Amethyst, Plum, Rose Shimmer, Metallic Rose, Emerald Green, Peridot, Blue Topaz
  • PLAID ACRYLICS: Sunflower, Brilliant Pure Orange
  • STRATHMORE Mixed-Media Visual Journal 300 Series- 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • DIGITAL IMAGES – Purchased & Created

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