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 !


Black Eyed Susans / pastel study


I worked on my sketch in the shade at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for a while, then came home and worked on it again. It’s for a collage I’m doing for a show titled “Entangled”, happening at the Petersburg Art League, Fri. Oct. 14.

The theme Entangled is a collaborative show with visual artists doing an illustration for an author, and the author writing a poem for a painting. It’s always good for artists and writers to get together and exchange ideas. Artists find a lot of inspiration in in the other art forms.

I’m entered with my daughter, Sarah Hill, a writer. She wrote a book for teenage girls. The story is about a girl who’s mother is like Wonder Woman from another planet, and her dad is a normal human. The daughter has some super powers too, and the scene I’m illustrating is the chapter where the mother teaches the girl to fly. It’s a real fun subject to illustrate. And Sarah is writing a poem for one of my paintings. The poems and the paintings will be hung together.

I need to cut this sketch up into clumps of flowers for my collage, and arrange them in among the trees in their back yard. Then I can work again on my 2 figures floating slowly down to Earth. Doing the figures is kind of like making paper dolls for this collage. Fun stuff!!

If you’re in the area, you should make it to this opening. It will be great. People will be reading poetry and there will also be Latin Jazz and Salsa music.

Maroger Medium!!

My daughter, Sarah, sent it to me for a Mother's Day gift.

My daughter, Sarah, sent it to me for a Mother’s Day gift.

At York Academy of Art our teachers wanted us to paint with Maroger Medium because it’s what the old masters used. That was long ago and I never saw it since then.

As I recall, a local guy was cooking it up for us art students and the lead in it wrecked his nerves. So please be careful making it, Alvi. (like outdoors with a 10′ stirring stick)

It’s not available in art supply store chains. Sarah found it on Amazon.

I’m so excited to have a tube! I already know it will be great to work with.

I slipcovered a chair for Sarah

sarahs slipcover
We had so much bad weather this winter it put me in the mood to sew because I couldn’t get out to paint. I told Sarah if she wants me to sew she should get me while I’m on a roll because I might quit sewing when I can go out every day again.
This is Sarah’s boyfriend’s chair. It was handed down a few times through friends and eventually he got it. They have 2 of these chairs. Brian always liked the chairs but Sarah hated the slipcovers on them made out of leopard print fabric. Brian wanted dark fabric. When Sarah and I shopped in NC for fabric I underestimated the yardage. I forgot to add 1.5 yds. for a bias cut for cording. I looked in the Hancock Fabric store in Chesterfield and they had the same fabric as the store in NC. but a slightly lighter gray. So I bought it to cover the cord and I think it looks like a good contrasting cord.
I think Sarah and Brian will both like the chairs with the new slipcovers. It’s nice to cover an old comfortable chair and make it look like new and get more years of use out of it.

Sarah’s chair before photo

sarah's chair before photo
I don’t know who made this slipcover but I couldn’t follow it as a pattern. I had to cut the fabric the way Jackie Hill taught me so I could be sure it would work out.
The seat is held on to the chair by 3 L brackets so I took it off and stapled the gray fabric on top the original.
In the past I had jobs covering cornices and headboards so I use my electric staple gun sometimes and a slipcover can be partly an upholstery job. I also stapled the fabric to the bottom of edge of the chair.
The barrel shape of the chair is nice to look at but I still had construction problems with the curve that I had to work out. I had to cut the fabric and put in a gusset on the piece on the inside of the back under the seat. I don’t think it’s noticeable.
I run into construction problems with a lot of chairs. It’s the same with sewing and drawing. For every problem there’s an answer. For every mistake there’s a way to fix it. The more different working experiences you get under your belt, the more ways you can think of to make a project work.

Skull of a lion / plastic

the story about the skull

the story about the skull

I unpacked some boxes recently while rearranging my apt. and remembered a strange thing about the skull.

In 05 my daughter Sarah, was an exchange student in Perth, Western Australia at Edith Cowan University. I wasn’t happy about her leaving the USA but I couldn’t stop her so I went along to see where she would live. We saw a lot of Australia and both loved it! I stayed 3 weeks and she stayed 6 months. Sarah had orientation and I had a few days on my own before I had to come home. I like to draw skulls and wanted to buy a skull of a kangaroo for a souvenir, so I looked up a taxidermist in Perth. He told me I’d have to jump through hoops of government restrictions to take a skull home but he had a skull of a lion and a skull of a crocodile I could buy.

Sorry I can’t remember his name. He’s a master of taxidermy. He showed me a Golden Eagle he just finished working on. It looked alive! Not a feather out of place and he said it was road kill. He makes molds of skulls because sometimes customers bring him the hide but not the whole animal. The molded skull of the croc was HUGE! and cost $500. I bought the lion for $200 and took it to the post office in Perth to mail it home to myself. I bought the box and packing supplies there and packed it up and labeled it “skull of lion made of plastic”.

It took 6 months to get to VA. and by then I forgot about it. I wonder how many times it was unpacked by inspectors. What really surprised me is that it arrived at my house on July 25 the birthday of my 2 dear departed Leo friends Jackie Hill and Dick Clayman. I don’t believe in ghosts but sometimes I wonder if God is messing with me because I have a lot of coincidences like that.

I don’t know if I can draw the skull because the cavities are filled in solid plastic.

I slipcovered my chair.

some thoughts about learning from a master, creativity and originality

some thoughts about learning from a master, creativity and originality

I learned to make slipcovers from my dear departed mother in law, Jackie Hill. Jackie learned from her mother who learned from Jackie’s grandmother. When Sarah was a baby she came to stay with us for a week and gave me slipcover lessons. I’m the 4th generation and maybe the last to learn how to make a slipcover fit exactly. Jackie wanted me to have this practical skill but it’s not for a beginner seamstress. She knew I would work independently sewing and find plenty of demand for it. Imagine how much frustration she saved me from by teaching me the combined sewing experience of 3 generations. Why is it different in the art world?

At York Academy of Art our teachers wanted us to study the masters. It’s a discipline young artists don’t learn on their own. They think the secret to being the next great artist is to be creative and original. They don’t want to learn a skill from any previous generation. I read about how to be creative on art blogs all the time and it doesn’t concern me. I read about people asking if it’s all been done before and it’s impossible to be original. It sounds like misguided thinking to me. Maybe because the art universities don’t teach their students the basic skill of drawing they try to compensate by trying to be more crazy than the next guy so they will get noticed.

This is the 4th time I’ve covered this chair and every time it’s difficult but it comes out better than the one before because I find a different way to work out the construction problems. Creativity comes from combining practice and experience to solve problems.

My daughter Sarah Hill is on WordPress now. She’s a writer. She IS the sharpest tool in the shed and I’m not just saying that because I’m her Mom. She’s getting to the top of her game by reading and writing every day. Read about her free spirit and wanderlust. Sarah will make her dreams come true.