Jan 07 2017

animating my painting process

Well, I’ve sort of fallen down on my posting habit for quite a while.  So to catch things up a bit, I’m posting a couple of animated gifs of paintings I’ve done.  It’s not quite the same as having a time-lapse video of me painting (I plan to start doing that soon), but it at least gives a glimpse into the process of starting with  abstractly playing with the paint until I find an image:

I decided to title this piece “From Parched Earth”.  (see the static documentation of this piece here).  I was really fascinated with how the painting began.  I decided to create an acrylic pour.  Since my artwork tends to become a bit tightly controlled at times, I’ve really enjoyed the practice of at least beginning a painting in a manner that prevents me from being able to control the process completely.  Acrylic pours are a perfect way to get started if you are excited by seeing what paint does when you mix it with pouring mediums, and it’s a great process for both beginning painters and those who’ve accomplished some skills. 

I’ve done a bit of exploring of the various painting mediums on the market, and have decided that my favorites are Liquitex Pouring Medium (for thinner pours) and Golden’s Self-Leveling Clear Gel (for thicker applications).  I intend to write a separate blog post about this process eventually, but for now, if you are curious, you can view some of my first experiments with it on my YouTube Channel.   (If you are trying it out for yourself, do make sure that your canvas or panel is level first, or much of your paint might end up on the table and floor!)

As much as I love the look of the poured paint in itself, I have a particular orientation towards my art where I like it to be anchored by some sort of imagery.  After looking at the unfinished abstraction for a while, I saw a cactus taking shape in the center of the painting.  So I searched through my collage files for an image of a cactus and found one that was a perfect match for what I was looking for.  It was a tiny image (no more than 2 inches tall), so I set course on painting it while holding it in one hand.  I very much like the way this one turned out! I was glad that I was able to retain much of the poured paint magic instead of covering it all up (which is a regretful practice once I get into painting sometimes). 


This second piece also began as an abstract and quickly evolved into something else.  It’s fun to see how much this one changed from beginning to end.  I started out with a literal explosion of painting abstractly with acrylic paints.  From this came a bursting of flowers emanating from the center of the canvas. I then found myself painting the image of a dreaming woman.  At one point, I also added a layer of stenciled lace in the upper area of the painting, which transformed into a cosmos of moon, stars and a butterfly floating into the scene.  Anyone who has painted faces or figures knows that it is perhaps the most difficult subject of all.  Tiny changes in the face completely alter the expression, and any biological inaccuracies can make the whole painting seem flawed.  For this reason, I spent 90% of the time focusing on her features.  I sometimes regret the fact that painting faces slow me down so much.  But there is a satisfaction in the ability to paint faces that’s hard to describe.  I really get drawn into it.  Since the flowers seemed to eminate from her dreaming, I decided to title this piece “Garden of Her Heart”. 

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Apr 13 2015

Healing Waters


"Healing Waters", by Robin Urton

“Healing Waters”, by Robin Urton


Pulled like a magnet,
she walks in daily journey
to the healing waters.


Enduring spirit, she knows the pain
of a broken body and the heart’s losses
yet constantly pushes through the void.


The cosmos swells within her eyes
to be released as tiny drops
flowing into the stream.


And from this murky water,
seeds of hope are nourished
into a new life of fragrant blooms.

I created this painting out of inspiration from a friend who has been through some devastating losses in the past year.  I wished I could help her, but didn’t know how, other than to listen.  Sometimes all one can do for a friend is to bear witness.  And I’ve been going through my own travails too… yet nothing that compares.  So it made me admire her strength just to get through the daily challenges that she faces, when I am pretty sure I would crumble under the same circumstances.  It makes me wonder why some of us are made to carry such a heavy load.  My only comfort is in knowing that somehow we make it through.  The old adage that what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger rings true most of the time.  But sometimes it feels like empty words.   

I have been told in the past that my artwork has the power to heal.  So I created this as a sort of meditation of healing… for myself as much as for her.  Though I feel that I’ve healed most of my losses, I am very much aware of my inherent vulnerability. Sometimes I am lost in my self-created muckiness, challenged by too many decisions and an inertia that prevents me from clearly identifying my next step.  I blame this lack of clarity on the fact that I am in a period of big transitions, but I realize that I have been stuck in my creativity for a very long time (then again, it feels like I’ve been in transition for a very long time).  I recently came to the realization that there are some stuck emotions that are preventing me from following through on my commitments (of creating my art, expanding my business, taking care of financial matters, and minimizing and organizing my stuff so that I can move on). I find that if I re-dedicate myself to creating my art, much of that stuck energy is resolved so that it is actually easier to devote myself to whatever needs to be done.   Art is almost a magic pill for me.  

I am actually in a phase of deep healing, so it’s important for me to credit myself for the good work that I have done on MYSELF.  I am learning how to really take care of myself for the probably the first time in my life.  I am learning much about nutrition, teaching myself how to cook, and dedicating myself to regular exercise.  My inner attitude has shifted also.  I am learning how to recognize my emotional blocks and deal with them as they come up.  Every day, I walk to a nearby stream and just get silent with it for a few moments.  The sound of water flowing calms me and brings me back to center.

It’s a small coincidence that I chose to paint my friend at the water’s edge.  I’d seen an image of her in this dramatic pose (it was a promo photo for her music, which she had posted as a facebook profile image).  I was moved by the image because of its swooning gesture, so I asked her if I could use it as inspiration for a painting. The idea for painting her laying by the water came to me while I was myself standing at the water’s edge.  After showing her a photo of the painting in its early progress, she shared that she also walks to the water every day, for the same motivation of feeling its healing energies.  Later, when I shared the painting’s progress of her laying by the water, I mentioned that I felt the composition was top-heavy.  She suggested the idea of a single lotus rising from the water. (I chose to include a smaller one as well, to help balance that part of the composition).  The idea just felt so right, especially as I pondered the symbolism of the lotus:  

“In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus is symbolic of purity of the body, speech, and mind as while rooted in the mud, its flowers blossom on long stalks as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire.” (wikipedia)  

I am particularly drawn to the idea of a beautiful flower growing out of the mud.  I believe that it is through transforming the mud of our experiences that our spiritual unfolding blossoms.



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Jan 05 2015

Water… (Acrylic Pouring Technique)

Published by under art,mixed media

I’ve been thinking about water quite a bit lately.  I walk to a nearby river almost every day just to watch it flow and to feel myself in flow. So now I am contemplating how to paint it, and it occured to me that the acrylic pouring techniques that I’ve been exploring are a perfect medium for this.   I tried it out, and was quite happy with the results.  

Here’s a video of my pouring experiment, simulating water.  If you follow it to my youtube channel, you’ll see links to the previous 2 videos where I show how I did this:


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Jan 02 2015

The Nesting Tree

Published by under art,healing,mixed media,nature,poetry

"Homecoming", by Robin Urton

“Homecoming”, by Robin Urton

I am a tree, standing bare,
A gentle perch for your owl’s stare.
An opening within my chest,
I let you wade within and rest.
And as we kiss beneath the bark
Our shadows merge and spark,
While rustling leaves
Reach into a twinkling sky.

Roots suckle liquid stream ….
We glide to the shores of sleep to dream.
Awakening, remove the veil.
The owl has flown.
Again alone, I touch my longing 
To remember a face, a voice,
A smile to ward off sadness.


Gazing at eternal sky, my mind grows cloudy.
Remembering losses, my bark peels open.
Critiquing self, I know
There is no mystery in me.
A compulsion towards self-exposure, 
My naked limbs reveal vulnerability. 
And in this open hole has grown
A nest, awaiting your tired wings.



It’s been several years since I’ve been compelled to write poetry, and I’m finding myself slowly returning to it.  Many poets have asked to use images of my paintings to accompany their poems (or as covers for their publications), and this has given me the idea to also publish a volume of illustrated poems in the future. So, for now I will occasionally release a pairing of poems and images that go well together.  (This poem was written in May 2001 and the painting was created in 2009.  It’s process of creation is documented here.  The painting is for sale on my dreambirdart.com site)

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Dec 23 2014

Process of a Painting: “From Parched Earth”

Here’s a visual documentation of the process of my latest painting of a cactus flower (click to expand images):

12 3 6 7 8.


I began by pouring liquid acrylic paint onto a stretched canvas, then roughly outlined the shape of the cactus and flower with successive layers of paint.  It was important for me to keep as much of the textures from the original paint pour as possible.  The last layers of paint are done in oils.  I like to use acrylics early in the process because it dries quickly and I can create  interesting textures with acrylics.  Later, I prefer the richness of oils, which allows me to create more graduated glazes.

This painting is for sale: Parched Earth on DreambirdArt.com

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Dec 16 2014

Rain Deer Awakening

deer-psychedelicI crossed a deer on my walk tonight. Every time this has happens to me, it comes as a complete surprise and opens me up to the wonder of the moment. And in that moment I realize that my last thought was a significant one… something of a key to unlock a challenge I’ve been experiencing. To simultaneously recognize my higher self’s answer to a conundrum while witnessing a magical moment is electrifying.

I was walking toward it in the rain while he was crossing the street toward me. I crouch down to the ground to appear less threatening, while he circles around me. This lasted 2-3 minutes, with him watching me the whole time, maybe 20 feet from me. Finally, after he passes, he trots down the street, and I become aware that a surge of energy is flowing out of the top of my head. Wow. Crown chakra awakening.

(The pscychedelically altered photo is from a previous walk, a couple months ago. Thinking I might do a painting that attempts to capture witnessing him in the rain).

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Dec 14 2014

naked stream

Published by under art,love,nature,photography,poetry


I am the river, you are the flame
that rises within my naked stream.
Cool, liquid fire floods my banks
that once ran dry.

Holding each other at the river’s edge,
we harness the energies of ebbing and flowing.
Warm and cool waters commingle…
Caduceus serpents in playful writhing.

My body pulses and buzzes
like a hydro-electric generator.
Storing you up within me,
in greedy anticipation of another meeting.

In your absence, awaken at dawn.
My skin recalls the silky sensation
of floating within your arms, your firm tug
pulling me above, below and besides you.

Hovering above, I quiver to withhold your face.
Falling into your gaze, we kiss.
Pulling back, look again.. and again
As we smile into this endless mirror.

No retreat from each others’ eyes.
We’re drunk in the body’s bliss.
Slow and long, gentle and strong.
I am the purr inside your growl.

Robin Urton

4 responses so far

Dec 12 2014

Acrylic Pouring Medium Process: Evolving Tree Paintings

In my painting process, I like to start things off by pouring acrylic paint on the panel or canvas. It gives me something to work with, instead of the blank white staring back at me.  I’m in an experimental mode with how I create these acrylic pours.  Here I am holding the camera in one hand while I pour paint, figuring it out as I go along:

I am in love with the trees in my neighborhood. (Honestly, I think I may be in love with all trees. I spend a lot of time looking at them on my walks). So I decided to use some of my acrylic pour experiments as backgrounds for tree paintings.  



CAM03755 CAM03759



vert_tree1 vert_tree2vert_tree3

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Dec 07 2014

Energy Meditations

I was drawn to walk up to where the river cuts into the west hills tonight.  Once I got to an area where the sound of the water was strong and burbling, I remembered a suggestion to hold my arms open to my sides.  I am standing at the rivers edge, where there is a stand of trees, listening to the water rushing while I close my eyes and hold my hands up to it.  In a little time, I feel a tug pulling my upper body towards the water.  
At first it is subtle, and I am just gently rocking, in a pulsing fashion: toward the water… back to center…. toward the water… back to center.  My body feels like a bowling pin rocking. As I play with it, it gets stronger.  It is intoxicating to feel it.  I had to pull myself away from it as it became so strong that the thought occurred to me that I could fall into the stream.  I’d rather not play out the Ophelia scene of floating down the river.  I’ve always loved the image of her, though I would not choose this destiny..

 (detail of John Everett Millais’ painting, Ophelia)
Further down the path, I’m walking through a park and notice the full moon glowing between the branches of tall trees.  I stand at the base, repeating my open arms, facing the moon, with closed eyes.  This time I feel a pressure against my heart, and it is exactly how I feel when a harmonic partner places his palm in the middle of my chest.  It feels as if the hand could push right through my center.  The energy sinks deeper in, going down my body and into the ground.  And since I am standing on a blanket of moist leaves, I’m very aware of the softness of the earth and my energy as it sinks down into it.
This was all very healing.
Perhaps we are all healers.  We are all here to be healed.  I ask to heal and be healed.  May only peace and contentment grow from this heart. No matter outcomes, I follow as I am led into my own light.

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Nov 09 2014

Light Through the Trees…

Published by under art


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Sep 09 2014

Breaking Through a Creative Funk


I’ve been having a little bit of a struggle getting back into my painting as of late, and this has been going on for quite a while now. This happens to me whenever I am encountering a lot of transitions in my life, and for the past few years, I’ve been in constant transition. Part of it can be attributed to my jewelry business, which takes up much of my creative energy, while an even larger significance is the many geographical moves I’ve been doing. Every time I re-settle, it takes a while to get my bearings again, with setting up a new studio and practice. So I’ve attempted to break through by starting out with some drawings and collages and by creating background surfaces for paintings. I have a number of ideas running through my head, but I was having trouble committing myself to anything that I could run with for a while. I was getting so frustrated at one point that I just decided that I had to do ANYTHING to break out of my current funk. I’ll describe here how following my wild impulses led to my current exploration. (All pictures in this post can be further enlarged by clicking on them).


I was coming home from a community concert one night when I realized I had a huge amount of energy surging through me. I wanted to paint, but couldn’t decide which of the dozens of ideas in my head deserved my current devotion, and my energy was a bit too chaotic to do anything but smear paint around, so that’s what I decided to do. I wanted to be outside instead of in my (very hot) garage studio, so I taped some paper down to the pavement just outside of my studio (with plastic sheeting protecting the cement from spills). I actually started by drawing with chalk, using the full stroke of my arm to make abstract gestures. I even threw some dirt onto it, and rubbed the chalk and dirt into the paper, picking up some of the texture from the pavement. I then started pouring acrylic paint onto the paper. I poured some acrylic pouring mediums over the paint and started pushing it around with a brush. I then put some plastic produce bags into the paint (to be peeled up later). To add more texture, I also added some caulking medium into parts of the painting. All of this was done in a state of ecstatic frenzy, with no concern as to whether this was going to be “good” painting, or even anything that I was going to keep. I simply needed to feel the joy of painting with no intention outside of play. Here’s the key: PLAY will set you free!

After removing the plastic wrap that was embedded in the acrylic paint, I attached the painting to a solid piece of plywood (using acrylic gel medium, and rolling it out to get rid of any bubbles). The surface was covered with another board, then weighted overnight. I did some washes of acrylic color to fill in some of the empty gaps (where the paper tore). I set it aside until I got an impulse for my next steps. In the meantime, I worked on several other painting backgrounds (also to be used later, until their continued progress reveals itself). I started to accumulate a number of background textures, but was still feeling frustrated about what steps to take next. I realized that I needed a bit of structure to keep the progress flowing, so I decided to enroll in an art class as the local college. It felt a little odd to sign up for a beginning art class since I have over 25 years of painting experience (and a Masters degree), but I decided that what I needed most was to pretend that I am a beginner, and to allow myself to be led by some assignments. I got permission from the instructor first, to make sure that it was okay to take a personalized approach to the class (i.e., altering the assignments as I needed to, to allow maximum personal expression).


The first assignment was to create a “Still Life Self Portrait”, where the objects chosen for the painting somehow relate to symbolizing the self. I am not particularly interested in still-life objects (as in objects arranged on a table, per se), but I do like to paint plants, and I have been having a bit of an obsession with these huge artichoke plants that are growing in my neighborhood. The artichoke blossoms towered above me, 6-8 feet tall, and they are so gorgeous that I took several photos of them, to record their forms, and the light and shadows that fall on them during my evening walk. By the time this class started, the blossoms had faded and were cut down, laying in my neighbor’s yard. So gathered a couple to bring to class (since she wanted us to paint an object from direct observation).


I looked at all of my various background textures and decided to use the one that started me on the path of my current exploration, as I still felt a connection to that wild night of outdoor painting. We were also allowed to alter the observational painting by studying a reference photo, so I chose this one where my shadow was also a part of the composition. This also brings out the “self-portrait” aspect of the assignment. I at first painted the shadow a bit too large, so I’m showing how I adapted the design where she becomes a less prominent part of the composition. This might also lead me to explore the idea of “shadow” in a new series.

This painting is for sale: Artichoke Blossoms on dreambirdart.com


3 responses so far

Aug 27 2014

Revelations of an Alopecian (a journey into self-acceptance)

Published by under healing


This post is a departure for me, in that I normally limit my musings to those directly related to the subject of art or teaching. But to some extent, my art has always been related to self-exposure in one way or another. Usually it is about turning myself inside out: revealing the dreams come come through me. 

There’s another aspect of myself in which I’ve felt quite vulnerable throughout my whole adult life, which now seeks to be fully expressed and released.  Since I was a teen, I’ve had alopecia, which caused me to lose my hair.  Alopecia is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune response is to attack its own hair follicles, as if it were a foreign invader.  It is estimated that approximately two percent of the population will be affected by alopecia at some point in their lives (around 5 million people in the United States alone). So it’s really not incredibly uncommon, though many have never heard of it because a great number of alopecians hide their loss.  Examples of famous alopecians include Humphrey Bogart, Princess Caroline, and Christopher Reeves.  It can be emotionally debilitating to lose your hair, and most of us are not comfortable revealing such vulnerability publicly.  Fortunately for most, the loss is temporary…  and for the great majority (98%), the loss is partial (alopecia areata).  I am one of the rarer cases for whom the condition affected my whole scalp and body (alopecia universalis), and its effect has been quite permanent (35 years of my life, so far). 


I feel compelled to tell the story of this loss… and of my growth into acceptance primarily because I know that we all struggle with self-acceptance to varying degrees.  To finally accept myself exactly as I am is a great blessing that I feel is liberating me in ways that I never would have expected. I just turned 50, and at this age many women begin to feel a declining sense of self (at least, if they have not found something deeper than their appearance to create their sense of self-value).  In contrast, I feel that I am finally growing into myself. I feel more beautiful, braver and more self-aware.  I think I am also less likely to let things upset me which are of no great importance.  But it has taken the journey of many years to get here.  Here is my story.


I was all of fifteen when I started noticing unusual amounts of hair falling off into the shower, or left in my hairbrush or comb.  The first spot was dime-sized.  When I started to develop several, I cried to my parents, begging them to take me to a doctor (we didn’t have health insurance, so our parents rarely took us to doctors unless we were really sick).  I thought it was odd that no blood work was done, no tests to determine what caused my condition.  I was simply told that I had “alopecia areata”, that it is an auto-immune condition, and that there was no known cause or cure, but that since I had more than 70% of my hair (at that point), that there were some things they could try.  So began the experimentation with steroid injections, doses of rogaine, and topical ointments that made my scalp burn and itch, in attempt to stimulate hair growth.  None of it did a bit of good and I continued to chase bald spots around my head.  Some spots would grow back in, only to be replaced by other spots, so I tried to cover them artfully by combing my remaining hair over,  and pinning in place.  Eventually, I lost more hair until I was completely bald.  My worse fears had been actualized, and no one could provide me any comfort or hope. 


I started wearing wigs to simulate some sense of normalcy. To go to high-school wearing a wig is the ultimate challenge. Everyone knows its a wig, and no one dares speak of it, unless they are a bully.  And there were a few.  More than that, I could hear whispers and laughter.  I felt humiliated, and I couldn’t do anything about it.  Except to withdraw.  Needless to say, my social growth was a bit hampered during my teens and twenties.  I had a few friends and a loving family who accepted me as I am and who helped me feel acceptable, but for the most part, I survived because I found myself in my self-expression through art.  If I had not found a means to express the beauty within myself, I am certain that I would have fallen into an inescapable depression.


And that’s not to say that I didn’t succumb to occasional bouts with depression.  It’s not easy being different, especially when that difference makes you feel like a space alien.  To reveal this difference was simply too challenging for me for many reasons.  For one, I am generally shy.  I don’t like having a spotlight on me, and this is something that would definitely make people stare if I went around uncovered. There’s a whole range of stereotypes that go along with hairlessness, including cancer (undergoing chemotherapy), being radical, an anarchist, or being butch/lesbian. I don’t identify with any of those stereotypes which is part of the reason it has taken a long time to embraced this fully. To have your hair fall out is quite a different experience from making the decision to shave it.  This is verified by the testimony of many cancer patients who state that losing their hair was THE most difficult part of their treatment. You would think constant vomiting would be more distressing, but no… seeing yourself visually “fall apart” in such a dramatic and physical way is completely devastating, especially when you have no control whatsoever. (At least cancer patients know that the hair loss is temporary, whereas alopecians don’t have this certain comfort).  And each variation of loss is a new struggle: from patchy loss to complete baldness, to losing eyebrows and eyelashes. Each loss needs to be grieved.   And to be told by doctors that there is no cure and that I should just “get over it” and wear a wig for the rest of my life was the ultimate condemnation.  


One of the most horrid clinical experiences happened early on, soon after my diagnosis at the local teaching hospital.  I was sitting in one of the patient rooms, my scarf removed, and was waiting for the doctor to return to the room when, without warning or permission, he brought a dozen interns in to witness the “alopecia case”.  Being bald to strangers as a teen was about as vulnerable an experience as being completely naked.  The doctor apologized when he saw the terrified look on my face, but I never got over how terribly unprepared some doctors are in regards to treating people with anything more than clinical interest. After years of ineffective “treatments”, I gave up on doctors and decided to pretend there was nothing wrong with me.  This may have been escapism, but at the time, it was the healthiest thing I could do for myself.


I learned to live with hair loss, but I was still hiding for many years.  The wigs made me feel more normal, and many people didn’t know the difference.  There are some people who didn’t know about my condition until I revealed it years later.  At the same time, there were many who knew something was going on, yet they felt shy about confronting me as to why I was wearing a wig, and they could see that I wasn’t comfortable talking about it, so it became the elephant hidden under the rug.  Eventually the pain wore off and I could speak more openly about it. Transitioning from wearing wigs back to wearing scarves made it easier for me to approach the subject because I no longer felt like I was hiding.  It feels more natural for me to wear a scarf.  It is more comfortable physically, and I can still pretend the long tail of my scarf is my pony tail (in various and changing colors!)  And I suppose I am lucky that as an artist, I am not expected to look any specific way.  I don’t have to fit into a corporate image of what is considered acceptable attire.  I have a rather bohemian style, and enjoy that this has become part of my personal expression. 


 I wish that I’d been able to find complete acceptance at an earlier age, as I could have avoided a lot of pain.  But the psyche opens up to things only when it is ready.  One cannot force a seed to open or a flower to bloom.  People sometimes tell me that it’s great that I’ve learned to see the beauty within myself. But the truth is that “inner beauty” is not something I’ve felt challenged by. Maybe I’m lucky, but I’ve always seen my inner beauty. What has been difficult for me is to see myself as beautiful outwardly. Evidence to this fact has been my life-long avoidance of mirrors. To accept that I am beautiful is not vain… it is to truly challenge the stereotypes that culture places on us, and changing that perception is a very difficult thing to rise to because we are surrounded by it daily, because it is human nature to be self-critical, especially for women.  


Here’s a story that revealed to me just how important hair is to most women:  I was standing in a check-out line at a grocery store when my eyes fell upon a picture of Demi Moore on the cover of a magazine.  She was completely bald, as it was for a role where she had to shave her head.  I stared at it because I’d never seen such a beautiful, bald woman (save for Sinead O’Connor, perhaps).  I think I may have muttered “Wow, I can’t believe she did that!”… and the cashier decided to share her opinion that she couldn’t either, and that she would NEVER shave her head.  I responded that it was for an acting role and she was probably paid a lot for it, to which she responded that she wouldn’t do it for a million dollars!  So I’m left thinking, “Really? You wouldn’t suffer a temporary loss of your tresses for a million dollars? Is that how much our hair is worth to us?  No one paid me, and I have to suffer this permanently.”  With that thought, I really wished I had pulled off my wig and left her jaw dropping.  I wasn’t ready to do this at that point in my story.  Much later, I did it at a party once, and I can tell you that EVERYone’s jaw dropped!  It was quite liberating, and one fellow told me he couldn’t get over how sexy it was! That was the first time I ever felt that having a bare head could be sexy to anyone, so it was another small step in self acceptance.  Still, exposing this vulnerability for a brief moment while tipsy at a party is not the same as going around exposed all the time.  I still choose to cover up with scarves, but I am feeling more inclined to take it off more often, when in comfortable company.


Here’s another story which illuminates how important it is to be surrounded by those who love, support, and accept you when you are going through anything that is as challenging as hair loss.  By the time I reached my 30s, I had a group of loving friends who wanted to ceremonially celebrate my baldness because I had expressed that I was still challenged in my acceptance of it (even though I had dealt with this problem for half of my life at that point).  So my friends gathered around me and painted flowers on my head, while playing music.  It felt so good to be celebrated!  But there was a fellow there who I didn’t know, who was staring at me critically from the corner of the room the whole time.  I felt unnerved by his presence.  Finally he asked why everyone was painting my head and I said that they were celebrating me.  He simply couldn’t understand why anyone would want to celebrate my lack of hair and said so (he was a long-haired man himself).  Years later, that was my primary memory of that event.  Even with several people loving me, the one voice I heard most is the critical one.  I still ask myself why it is more normal to take in the critical voices than the accepting ones.  It’s simply an internalization of the larger society’s prescription for what is acceptable.  Time to turn the table on that one.  I choose to love myself now and forever.  Through this self love, I have so much more to give to the world!  


 I have noticed other women within my social circle have been going through their own struggles with self image (as expressed in occasional facebook posts, for example).  From this, I realize that my struggle is not completely unique.  We are all challenged by the media representations of what we are supposed to look like.  There are expectations about what is considered attractive in regards to hair, skin, size, age, etc.  And if you don’t happen to fit within the constraints of socially acceptable parameters, you are made to feel less than, or ugly.  So I share my story as a means of example.  We all need to look within ourselves to find our inner beauty and to bring that out into the world.  Because truly, that’s what flavors people’s perception of you most.  And of course, it is important to take care of ourselves…. to treat our bodies with the respect they deserve by getting regular exercise and by eating well.  But beyond that, we just need to learn to love what IS and to not try to fit anyone else’s prescription of what you are supposed to look like.  We are not our hair, our skin, or our bodies.  No matter who you are, you will never be able to meet that standard of “beauty” that is imposed by a culture that is contrived to sell you things that will make you more perfect, beautiful, and sexy.  Learning to love what is YOU, to nurture yourself and to walk bravely in self-knowledge is the ultimate beauty.



September is Alopecia Awareness month!  Feel free to share this article with anyone you feel may benefit from learning about alopecia (or self acceptance, in general).  To learn more about alopecia, or for support for anyone experiencing it, please visit: National Alopecia Areata Foundation


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May 19 2014

Back to the Drawing Board…

I regret that I haven’t had much time to create art lately, but I am finally starting to get back into it. Drawing seems to be the best way to get going, so I decided to create some drawings that were inspired by my recent collages.

cactus-girl2 cactus-girl

This first one is a study from my collage titled “Cactus Girl”. I intend to create a painting that includes this image along with some cacti and birds soon, as this is the one that I’m most inspired by currently.

native-dancer flower-goddess

A couple more studies. Obviously, I am inspired by images of women/girls from indigenous cultures right now. I had an opportunity to use the image of the Native American dancer last weekend when my community had a fundraiser for the local Waldorf school. It brought a lot of people to the plaza to support the school, listen to live music, and see the artists’ work.


Ukiah businesses were asked to contribute funds to support the event by renting squares on the plaza sidewalk. Artists volunteered to draw an image in chalk to advertise their sponsor for the occasion. My sponsor was “Redwood Remedies”, an herbal company. I discovered that it was much more difficult to draw on rough pavement than on a smooth surface, but it was a lot of fun to be able to contribute to the event. It took only a couple hours of my time. When a child told me how much she liked my drawing, I asked if she’d like to help. She drew some flowers and sky, with her mom’s permission. She said she wants to be an artist when she grows up, and I said that she already is one!

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Apr 25 2014

Image Quest Through Soul Collage


I felt I was onto something with my last collages… and I was excited to begin some drawings based on them, to create more personal interpretations before digging out my paints. But my drawing table was full of hundreds of collage images so I had to clean off the table before I could make room for drawing. As I began sorting through the images to put back into their respective folders, I was pulled back into trying different combinations. I ended up making several more collages.


Collage is a very seductive medium for someone like me, who is attracted to the idea of combining images out of context.  It provides a means to play with the relationship that images can have to each other.  When drawing or painting, one needs to commit rather quickly to the composition.  You can always paint over or erase as you work on a painting or drawing, but nothing provides as many possibilities for multiple compositions as collage.  Picking up images and placing them down on top of or adjacent to other images is a seductively simple.  Sometimes the perfect combo of images easily find each other.  Other times, it requires reworking the ideas over and over again.   Sometimes the perfect combo requires only a few images, whereas others require a complex composition.


A friend of mine recently commented on the fact that I seem to have unlimited sources for imagery.  I guess this is true, as I have been collecting photos for painting inspiration for years.  I have one of those portable filing boxes that I have hanging file folders in, with separate folders for many categories (birds, flowers, trees, landscapes, faces, figures, as well as separate folders for textures in various color ranges). I also have folders full of painted papers for some of the backgrounds. For these recent collages, I also harvested images from my Pinterest page (where I have a similar category system for my boards).  So I downloaded many of the images I gathered there onto my computer and printed them out at a laser printer (unlike inkjet, the images never fade). This also allows me to play with some of the images by sometimes shifting the colors, mirroring images, changing scale, etc.  Of course, most of the images are fairly low resolution since they are for the web.  Since my aim was to create small collages to inspire paintings, this doesn’t bother me (the finished size of these collages are usually within 8×10″). Also, if I like a collage and want to see it larger, I take a photo of the finished collage, transfer it to my computer and print a higher resolution image. Then I can tweak and adapt the image even more. 

weirdthing-web wild-rose-webcold-swim-web

I have SO many images that it was necessary for me to limit the categories of images I’m exploring, to develop a theme.  For this set, I am exploring primarily images of flowers, birds, women and children (the latter mostly from vintage photos).  Representing the images in an unearthly scale (where birds or flowers are outsized compared to the figure) shifts the psychological content… where it becomes obvious that the unworldly landscape might represent the person’s inner life.  One reason for using vintage images instead of contemporary ones is for copyright purposes, but I also feel strongly attracted to these classic images.  I think they have a timeless quality. 

bluebird-web offering-web  

I recently wandered into my local bookstore and stumbled upon a copy of “Soul Collage” (by Seena B. Frost). I realized that I’ve been creating soul collages for years, and I bought the book for further inspiration.

Because collage is a form of art that is accessible to nearly everyone (one does not need to have the technical knowledge of drawing or painting), it is a perfect tool for people to explore images that they connect with on a soul level.  The book inspires the use of collage less for artistic expression than  as a personal development tool.  The author explores the idea of archetypes within each collage image, such as the “Creator”, the  “Warrior”, the “Wise Old Woman”, the “Great Mother”, the “Shaman”, the “Hero” or “Heroine”, etc.  By creating a deck of cards from self-created collage, one has a handy divination tool that is very specific to it’s creator.  I have not yet used my collage images in this way. 


I don’t know what my images mean to me yet, and perhaps if they were analyzed, many might belong to the same or similar archetypes, such as “earth mother” or “inner child”. Perhaps I will explore this later, but for now I am more interested in exploring my collages as a way of finding out what I want to draw and paint.  Also, I’m not honestly certain if all of these are going to be developed into paintings yet. Right now,I am thinking of them as “working sketches”.  Some of them call me to bring them to further completion more than others.  And while none of these are completely finished in my mind, I feel a strong desire to share them and bring them out into the world. I expect that some of these images will continue to be reincarnated in a variety of ways, through drawings and paintings…. whereas others might exist only as collage.  I welcome your interpretations and thoughts about soul collage or the use of collage as an image development tool for art-making. (All of the images on this page can be enlarged by clicking on them).

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Apr 09 2014

a few new collages

CactusFlower-web . giving-birth-to-flight-web

I’ve been busier than expected with keeping up with my jewelry business after my move to Ukiah. I guess I half expected that once I stopped advertising or contacting stores, orders would stop coming in and I could have a little artist retreat. Actually relieved that business hasn’t slowed too very much, as I had to purchase a new computer this month. Tax preparation is still looming over my head, but I felt an urgent need to get a little creative work done, so I’ve been plugging away at these collages. My intention was to do some “quick” collages to get the ideas flowing. True to my perfectionist nature, the creative process rarely comes quickly for me. I tend to deliberate over and over about which images to commit to before gluing down. So I decided to alter my process a bit. Did a lot of cutting up and pairing of images, then scanned and altered the images on the computer. I now see that I really need to purchase a Wacom pad if I continue to do creative editing on the computer since using a mouse is a very clumsy tool. But so far, I am liking how these are coming along. Hope to get back into painting soon!


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