Monthly Archives: February 2021


When we type words, we can give emphasis by using italics, or a larger typeface, an exclamation point, or maybe using a different font or color.

When we want to give importance to an image, we can place it in a mat or frame. This border around the image sets it apart from the rest of the world and draws attention to the piece. A larger frame gives it more status, and says pay attention.

This is important.

Part of this

No brushstroke, regardless of the color or shape, will ever be a pumpkin or a tree. It will always be a smear of paint on some surface. As an artist, you need to decide what makes that application of paint represent what you want to convey.

It is not always necessary to fool the eye (trompe l’oeil) into believing that this paint is an actual balcony or telephone. For some people, the test of a good painting is whether it can pass as a photograph. I heartily reject that criteria. I have a camera that can make something look exactly like a photograph in a fraction of a second. To make something look like a painting, painted by a human being, is something that artificial intelligence is now trying to emulate.

You and I (assuming you, my dear reader, are human), have the ability to produce human art simply by dipping our brush into the paint and applying it to our surface of choice. It really requires no talent, human. It only takes action. It takes doing. You can make a mark. A handprint. A line.

And you will have left a record of your presence.

Some paint smearers are applauded for the precision of the shapes, colors and values in the paint they leave behind. You can learn from what they did, as you can learn from anything. What matters is what soaks so deep into you that it comes out again in the way you smear paint or make mud pies or draw on your cave walls with sticks from the fire.

Because someone else did something beautiful doesn’t mean your voice is less. There is so much more to be said. So much more to be thought about, and so much more to be expressed.

Trust your voice to know what to say, and trust your hand to know how to say it. I believe we were formed to do this. To look up at the night sky, or out across the water and see something far bigger than us. Pondering how small we are, we come to realize, no.

We are part of this.


Construction on my house was underway while I was under construction in the womb, and we were both unveiled in 1960.

I’ve lived longer in this house than I have lived anywhere else, and I have lived in this house longer than anyone else ever has.

My house and I are the same age, and we’ve been together for half of our lives.

I’ve lived other places for shorter times. Places that have had a huge impact on me. They were my homes because they were my parents’ homes.

This one is my children’s home because it is my home.


I’ve been doing this here and there throughout the house. One friend said my house was like a rabbit warren. When another friend said these textures reminded her of hieroglyphics, I could see how its corridors and chambers were a little bit like an ancient Egyptian tomb. But in a good way.

A difference

Payton and I had another enjoyable mentoring session tonight. It’s amazing to me how art and storytelling can enable two people from different generations connect and enjoy one another’s company. We both have a passion for communicating through the genre of comics.

We’ve been meeting officially through
In Progress for one month now, and we have decided to continue our friendship beyond the duration of the paid schedule.

It took me many decades beyond age 14 to understand a fraction of what Payton already articulates, and so I want to be there to see what he does and hear what he thinks about when his prefrontal cortex actually develops. I want to share with him the things it took me so long to start to crack open on my own.

I don’t think we meet people by accident.

I believe that certain ones merge into our lives when the time is right.

This is why it doesn’t matter if your art, or your story doesn’t connect with everyone, or if someone doesn’t get it, or even criticizes you. Those people might make you question your art, and that might help you make it better. One day, maybe when you least expect it, someone will get it. Someone will connect, and you can make a difference.

When Autumn Comes to the Pumpkin Patch

Mixed media on paper.

Kun syksy tulee kurpitsan laastariin (When autumn comes to the pumpkin patch)

My (Finnish) great grandfather had a garden where he grew pumpkins. When he harvested his pumpkins, he lined them up or arranged them into a pile and photographed them. I did not know this until November of 2020 when I finally opened the stack of photo albums I had inherited, which were once his. At that very time, the pumpkins and gourds I had grown that season were arranged on my table and on our porch. It was only a couple of days after Halloween.

Herra kurpitsa pää ja Sylvia (Mr. Pumpkinhead and Sylvia)

For nearly thirty years, I’ve been making up stories about Mr. Pumpkinhead. For several years, I have been publishing them to their own blog. Click here to visit

ruusunmarjat ja kurpitsa (rose hips and pumpkins)


I had a bit of an epiphany this morning when a friend explained that he understood why I paint trees the way I do. He said he was looking out his window at the trees in the moonlight and he saw the structure of the trees against the night sky. I am honored even to be one of the thoughts a friend has when they lay in their bed in the stillness of the night.

Growing up, I had those How To Draw books. They taught us to think of a pine tree as a simple cone shape first. Or a cat as a group of circles. I don’t do that at all.

When I paint a pine tree, I sort of paint it the way it grows. I paint the trunk, and then I paint in the larger branches and then the smaller branches and needles. I don’t start with the outline of the tree.

I had never thought of this before. Because this had never crossed my mind, I had never thought that someone else might do it differently. Or that someone who doesn’t paint might not even have a method of painting a tree.

He also talked about the purpose of a frame around a painting. Again, as a painter, I know that this is the border of my composition. If I am painting from the natural world, the frame, or the edge of the canvas delineates my painting. It selects, from the entire world, what I choose to show. In nature, the story just goes on and on as far as the eyes can see, and much, much further. So while some artists may be very good at representing a view, a detail, a tiny snippet of nature with paint, it’s really not like the real thing at all. It’s an illusion… an impression… a memory.

It is partly this understanding that frees me up from the need to make my paintings look exactly like the real thing (they never will) or the need to make my paintings look like a photograph (I have a camera for that).

I want my paintings to look like paint.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it hit me emotionally because it was so validating. I realize that with all of my writing I am actually fighting really hard for everything in life.

My friend’s comments were so meaningful to me because they had substance. They spoke to my process, and they gave me a new insight or perspective on my own work. There are things that are so basic that I don’t see them. Something obvious to someone else can be absolutely invisible to me.

For all of my assertions of I paint for myself, I still value and crave conversation with friends and other viewers about the work.

Abstract Series: A Rainy Day In The Pumpkin Patch

Sateinen päivä kurpitsa-laastarissa

There are 14 paintings in the series, mostly 5×7, a couple are 8×10. They are acrylic and mixed media on watercolor paper.

keltainen sateenvarjo (yellow umbrella)

sadesaappaat ja Ämpäri (rain boots and Bucket)

This reminds me of the haphazard way my grandson leaves things on the ground when he is done with them. The toys he plays with at the end of fall might stay right there until spring if I don’t make a sweep through the yard before the snow comes.

vihreät tomaatit (the green tomatoes)


In August of 2009, I did a show at a local art gallery, and included in the show was a triptych of three nudes. One included a penis.

The pose was relaxed… seated. A figure study. You know, the kind from a life drawing class. The brushstrokes were loose, the colors were bright, not human skin colors. (continued)

I found some photos from the opening reception for that show

Let me point out that I am very sensitive to inappropriate sexual expression. My daughter was sexually abused prior to coming into my family a couple of years ago. Because someone used their body in a criminally improper way, doesn’t mean we should deny the existence of bodies across-the-board. We need to face things in order to release their grip on us and move on.

After the show was over and had been taken down, I heard that someone (I believe it was one of the board members) made a complaint about that painting, though no one said anything to me.

The comment made after my show has gnawed at me for twelve years because I haven’t examined it until now.

It really makes me wonder what people have against the human body.

I personally do not find the human body offensive. I don’t find it inappropriate.

Besides, this was not a penis. This was a few marks of acrylic paint. True, they were intended to represent a penis. Not an erect penis. It was not a sexual image.

It’s the amazing power of art that takes a few lines of paint and lets everyone see a penis where there really isn’t one at all! Even our ancient ancestors realized that they could make a few lines with a stick from the fire on a cave wall, and it would conjure in everyone’s mind, the thought of a buffalo.

Maybe the person who made the complaint doesn’t like penises and thinks no one should have one, see one or like them, either.

This wasn’t a painting about a penis, it was a painting about a human, but the complainer made it all about the penis. In fact, he or she made the entire show about the penis.

I remember another show in that same gallery featuring photographs of naked women when no one took issue.

Is Michelangelo’s David inappropriate? Is it pornography? There are probably those who think it is. I’m glad they are not the ones curating global public art.

My show brought in a good deal of money for that gallery, and it was a show that I was proud of.

They haven’t had me back.

Thank goodness I do not care one bit about uptight, self loathing, modern day puritans who fail to see the beauty of the human body. They attempt to blind the rest of the world along with them in some misguided moral superiority.

Look at the history of art. You don’t have to look very far to see that the human form has a rightful place on gallery walls.

It’s stupid that I’m even defending this, and unfortunate that we have such uneducated people serving on art boards in our county. It’s not really an art board at all, but a historical society board, so there you have it.

As often happens, I find that the detail that hooks me is attached to another, larger issue.

I can circumvent all of the arts organizations in this county, be they commercial or non-profit and find success in my art on my own terms. I’m not interested in the petty agendas, the broken promises, the fragile, puffed up egos and fund raisers. For me, what’s happening is a grass roots movement where artists are joining hands in support of one another without the ever more irrelevant organizations.

You don’t need all that red tape to be an artist. You don’t need the bureaucracy. Well, I don’t.

I inherited my grandfather’s printing press. I have a friend who is a master printer, and generous with advice. I have another friend who loaned me a potter’s wheel and enabled me to get started on my lifelong dream of making ceramics. He saw my passion for it. I have painter friends and cartooning friends. I have writing friends and drawing friends, and we share what we know and what we do with each other. For free. And it takes away nothing from any of us, because what comes out of us, comes out with our unique flavor. Each one of us and the world is richer when we collaborate and love and inspire not only each other… the branches keep reaching out and dividing and reaching out some more.

More texture

I’m doing more of that texture, and trying to make paint look like glaze. This time, it’s on heavy watercolor paper, in a few layers of paint and acrylic glazing medium.