Stone Forest Hiatus

Thank you so much for following Stone Forest Studio Notes. Stone Forest is going on hiatus for a while, as I explore a different kind of "forest." It was pretty quiet around here after the birth of that second child, anyway.

Please accept this warm invitation to follow my new blog: Friendly Rock.

It's an outdoor-loving, ad-free parenting blog with camping itineraries, recipes, RV info, outdoor tips, crafts, kid stories, and plenty of midlife reflection. There might be a little art now and then, too.

also on Facebook at

You can subscribe by email over there and never miss a beat, with all the new fun coming straight to your inbox.

I'll leave all the Stone Forest posts in place for now, in case anyone wants to use that nice "How to Paint Clouds" tutorial. And, who knows, the art career could come 'round again. Lots of things do.

Happy trails, happy creating, and I hope to see you over at Friendly Rock!



November 10, 2011 - A Nook of One's Own

Oh, it's been a banner week!  I'm moving into Artful Journey School of Fine Arts. They graciously have agreed to host my burgeoning collection of canvas, paper, and supplies, and to let me use their classrooom space as an open studio.  Lovely, lovely people!

Ergo, on Monday and Wednesday - this week's preschool days - I woke up with the very best kind of Christmassy Morning feeling and spent the full preschool session setting up The Nook. Hereafter, I may re-title this blog Notes from the Nook. Or is that just too too cute?

At any rate, here is my nook, a nook of my own:

I do here sincerely and publicly thank my hard-working husband for subsidizng the Nook, although I am sure he would have paid any amount necessary get all the canvases out of our living room. I think the word "bonfire" was muttered once or twice, albeit strictly sotto voce.

For the balance of this entry, I'm going to re-post last week's update email. For those who kindly consent to inclusion on my email list, this will be duplicate information, except that Poudre Studio Artists and Galleries have posted a great page for Harvest Time, complete with a slideshow of the works on display and an online voting feature.

Dear Friends,

Themes of bounty and gratitude certainly are in order for this Thanksgiving month; many good things are happing here.

First, a real studio space has materialized at Artful Journey School of Fine Arts in Evergreen. After mid-month, that will be my primary working space (and, to my husband's utter delight, my primary art supply storage space as well). I am so excited to work with these fine folks and share the creative energy at their school!

Artful Journey also has invited me to give a class/demonstration on November 15.  Each participant will create an abstract watercolor collage from start to finish.  All materials are provided and all levels are welcome. The regular Artful Journey adult class is attending, but a few extra spots are available for special guests! Just let me know if you are interested.

November features two juried exhibits in which I am honored to be included:

November 12 through December 12 - Art Gallery 3698 Miniatures Show and Sale (Juror: Nancy Wylie)
Opening reception is Saturday, November 12, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

November 10 through 26 - Poudre Studio Artists & Galleries: "Harvest Time" (Juror: Marcy Silverstein)
Opening reception is Friday, November 11, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Finally, new small works are available at special holiday prices. You can view them online at MesArt -- keep watching MesArt for more miniatures in the under-$50 range this month -- or in person at Osmosis Gallery's First Friday event, December 2, 2011 starting at 5:30 p.m. I hope to be there in the early evening, weather permitting.

Best wishes for an inspired fall and safe Thanksgiving travel!


Next project: demo preparation for Tuesday. That should lend itself to some nice blog entries.

October 21, 2011 / Updated November 3, 2011 - Denver, Colorado Area Exhibits (November Deadlines)

Calling all boys - boys
Calling all girls - girls
Calling all people on streets
Around the world . . .

- Queen

And, now, Calling All Artists. 

Today's Open Studio was populated by a) me, and b) one colleague. Was everyone else out partying en plein air? It was a good day for it, if so.

My colleague mentioned that she had a hard time finding local shows. With one toe scuffing the studio lino, I confessed that I keep a nerdy spreadsheet of same.  I'll share it now if -- and only if -- everyone gives me a "get out of jail free" card should I forget to update the listings in the future. Okay? Okay.

Artists, dust off your inventory; here are the Denver/Boulder/FoCo and area shows/exhibits/competitions with November deadlines:

Hot new deadlines added November 3, 2011:

National Screen Print Poster Awareness Month Event
Open call event for silkscreen printers, with spots still available as of November 2 for the Friday, November 4 event. Hosted in Denver by Megafauna.

Poverty Awareness Art Showcase
Deadline: November 15, 2011
Opens: December 7, 2011
This event suffers a severe dearth of Internet publicity, but it's a nice open call with a clear theme and appears to be an established annual exhibit.

LoHi Studios: Hot off the Press
Deadline: November 5, 2011
Opens: Unknown.
Also running an open call for artists at the main LoHi Studios website.

Now back to our original programming:

Heritage Fine Arts Guild "This is Colorado" Annual Statewide Art Show at the Madden Museum of Art
Deadline: November 1, 2011
Opens: January 13, 2012

[There is a rumor of a show themed "Women" at Artistica Art Gallery in Southlands Mall, Aurora, but little information is available online.]

Lakewood Arts Council Holiday Arts & Crafts Show & Sale
(Crafts: All Colorado Artists / Jewelry: Members Only / 2D Art: Members Only)
Deadline: November 5
Opens: November 8

Art Gallery 3698 Third Annual Miniature Show and Sale
Deadline: November 5, 2011
Opens: November 12, 2011

CORE New Art Space: Dreams
Deadline: November 6, 2011 (or up to 2 weeks in advance)
Opens: November 10, 2011

Colorado Watercolor Society: 2012 State Watercolor Exhibition
Deadline: November 15, 2011
Opens: March 2, 2012

The Center for Fine Art Photography: Home
Deadline: November 16, 2011
Opens: March 2, 2012

2012 Telluride Plein Air
Deadline: November 30, 2011
Opens: June 29, 2012

Disclaimers apply.  I don't really track art/craft fairs, I don't follow national calls (yet), and I've probably shorted the RiNo and Santa Fe private galleries, but If I made a properly comprehensive database, I would never ever have time to paint. 

A further note:  it's really not hard to get your work on a wall somewhere that it will be enjoyed. By way of example:

Off the Vine Coffee and Wine Bar, Englewood, Colorado
These folks recently posted a very nice ad on Craig's List calling for local artists. They want to start a gallery night. Yay! Love it! Somebody please contact them! I'd do it myself if I had any available inventory right now.

More new venues added November 2:

Evergreen Retail Boutique
Lookity look, right here at home, a local retail merchant is soliciting local artwork for consignment sale. Artists! Up and at 'em!

Denver Urban Homesteading
Craig's List again! This intriguing venue offers a rotating exhibit/sale opportunity with commission. Thank you, local business, for supporting local artists!

Rotating Exhibit Opportunity at Medical Marijuana Dispensary
All mediums welcome, says the Craig's List advertisement, with a monthly exhibit rotation. Again, props for supporting local artists in Denver!

Please feel free to comment (below) if you have an exhibit to add, and I will update this post accordingly so you can permalink [noun? verb? both?]. Enjoy. Enter. Go paint stuff.

October 17, 2011 - Battling The Kraken

Just do it.
- Nike (technically . . . but see this.)

I'm back from an amazing Arizona art week. My preschooler is splashing in the tub five feet away. At random intervals, she screams "Mooom! Mom! MOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!," necessitating a break in typing, a mad leap to the tub, and a speedy discovery of . . . absolutely nothing.  Sigh. Perhaps I left the kraken off its leash?

Actually . . . that seems an ideal metaphor about less-than ideal creative conditions, so let's go with it.

My daily art hour, which fell into the "way better than nothing" category, has further fallen into the "wayside" category. I stupidly converted my progeny's sleep habitat  from a crib into a "big girl bed." Now I get a 6:00 a.m. personal visit instead of an 8:30 a.m. happy chirp. (N.B. - Next time, that fourth wall is not coming down until the kid's in college.)

So mornings are out, unless I back up to 4:00 a.m., which is not a serious option at the moment. My most wise sister likewise lost her morning painting time. Then, in preparing her house for the market, she recently also lost her painting space.

Yet she manages to paint.  "I'm most creative in the mornings, but that just doesn't work around my house," she says. "So I wait until evening, when the kids have retired to their rooms and Dan is out working on the other house. Then I spread all my painting supplies out on our bed, which is the only flat space in the house, cover the bed with plastic, and . . . just do it.

"I found," she continued, "that if I kept waiting for ideal conditions, the ideal conditions would never occur. And I would never paint. So now I paint in less than ideal conditions. But I get it done."

Sister: one, kraken: zero. You go girl.

October 2, 2011 - Four Birds Flying; Three Birds Nesting

You must stir it and stump it,
And blow your own trumpet,
Or, trust me, you haven't a chance!
- Gilbert & Sullivan, Ruddigore

I've been wildly "stumping it" over the last two weeks. Four birds have flown: two were accepted to the Lakewood Arts Council's juried exhibit, Spotlight on Colorado Artists. Two more, to my delight, were accepted to the Poudre Studio Artists and Galleries juried exhibit, Harvest Time. I'm excited to deliver those in November, because I'll also have a chance to visit my delightful artist/theater/photographer cousins in Fort Collins.

Three birds also have alighted. I've been privileged to acquire works from Carolyn Evans Campbell, Donald Sayers, and Jared Shear. The delicious energy of their fine works creates mandala of creativity that goes 'round and 'round in a happy swirl. I also was honored to help Don Sayers with the Longmont Open Studio Tour in September, where I luxuriated in a day surrounded by fine art and fine folks.

September 2 was a big day for me:  juror Jill Soukup generously selected "Roses are Red" for the second place award at the Mountainside Art Guild's Mountainside Miniatures annual exhibit. I was so impressed by this carefully juried exhibit, and most grateful to the Guild members who are sitting the show on weekends so that people can enjoy it on Saturdays and Sundays.

In the interstices, I've been pecking away at small works for the holiday season and for an upcoming miniatures show. Steve Tracy, my Wednesday Workshop instructor, is graciously tolerant of my flurry of collage paper all over our classroom at the Foothills Art Center (if you visit there, don't miss the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Show . . . and, ahem, the Mountainside Miniatures show next door.)

That's the basic roundup. I have more in-depth blogworthy thoughts to share, but tonight is going to be a catch-up-on-sleep evening in preparation for tomorrow's open studio at Artful Journey in Evergreen. This small but vigorous fine arts school, where my preschooler produces amazing projects thanks to their amazing instructors, has become my go-to for "I've got to get away from these stacks of laundry" local painting days. Insert "luv" symbol here.

In closing, because an artist's blog entry is no fun without artworks, I'll post what I can. My photos are backlogged due to an AWOL computer cord, but said cord was unearthed two days ago and I'll soon catch up.

In the meantime, here are the pieces that will be be on display at Harvest Time in November:

The first is called "3 for $1.00" in honor of our great Colorado sweet corn . . . almost on par with Minnesota sweet corn . . . and, of course, the best way to purchase either is out of somebody's pickup at the side of a dirt road:

The second is called "Sugar Pies" in honor of the season when leaves blaze, skies darken, woodsmoke blooms, and my dear husband festoons the kitchen with from-scratch pumpkin puree:

Now that my camera is back in service, I owe several people several photos of this-and-that. I hereby make a formal mass apology for the delays and formal promises of catch-up emails soon. Thanks for bearing with me!

September 15, 2011 - Endangered Species

My interpretation of the difference between illustration and fine art painting is that in illustration, you paint what others tell you to paint, and you paint what others want to see; whereas in fine art painting, you paint what you want to paint, and you paint what you want others to see. The former is objective, and the latter is subjective.

- Cheng-Khee Chee

My Very Best Client has requested another commission. He even paid in advance. I should be grateful.  But I've been whining about it instead.

Before going further, I should note that the Very Best Client - hereinafter VBC - also is my husband.  My VBC has many, many lovely qualities, but a shared taste in art is not among them.  He nurtures a wicked penchant for photorealistic wildlife paintings, while Rothko is just barely abstract enough for me.

On our last go-round, he gave me a generous work order for an American Bison. I diligently researched, value-studied, sketched, splashed, scratched, glazed, layered, and ultimately procured a Great Big Bison. (If you visited the local Michael's last fall and they were out of burnt umber, that was me. Sorry.) 

Upon viewing the near-final Great Big Bison, however, my VBC mused, "I really like him. But can you make him look . . . smarter?"

Smarter?  Um.  Many words come to mind when I think of the American Bison. Noble. Iconic. Stalwart. Mythological, even. But "smart"? Smart . . . not so much.

But the Client Hath Spoken, so I tinkered and toyed, and ultimately I produced a bison with a Disneyesque gleam in its eye. My VBC chortled with delight and promptly traipsed the painting to his office, where he proudly shows it to all and sundry. I was glad he was happy with his painting and simultaneously relieved that I would never have to do another.

No such luck. My VBC promptly commenced negotiations for a wolf. Dialogue from January 2011:

Artist:  "Now I have all these great new canvases, I should paint with them."

VBC:  "Yeah! Go get a canvas and get started. Are you stuck on what to paint?"

Artist:  "I admit, I am still looking for ideas." 
VBC:  "I have some!"

Artist:  "I know; I know you do. You want an Indian chief and a wolf."

VBC: "Yeah! A winter wolf. A wolf in the winter."

Artist: "Dearest VBC, I love wildlife but I don't like painting it.  And I'm not particularly great at it.  Do you know how much good wildlife art is out there? Scads. Tons. Heaps. From people who love doing it. Why not just buy a wolf? Support a local wildlife artist, for heaven's sake."

VBC: "But it wouldn't be YOUR wolf."

Artist: "Awww, you are sweet. You and your smart buffalo."


VBC: (quietly but undaunted) "Or a mountain goat would be fine too."

Well, I dodged both the wolf and the mountain goat bullets, but somehow I found myself agreeing this summer to paint an owl.

"A realistic owl," enthused my VBC. "And the painting should tell a story. And can you include a baby animal in there somewhere? Oh, and it has to be big, definitely not less than 36 by 36 [inches]."

Hooboy. I haven't cashed that check yet. I am seriously considering referring my Very Best Client to the preternaturally patient Donald Neff.

August 25, 2011 - Aspen Trees Step-by-Step (Part The Last)

This final Step-by-Step installment is a quick-and-dirty because the car is loaded, painting delivery time draws near, and there will be no time for an afternoon update because we will be at Huron Peak for a little hiking (spouse), sniffing (dog), and plein aire (me, I hope).

In Part One, we did prep work and underpainting. In Part Two, we did negative painting and some highlighting on the tree trunks. Now, I needed to blend out the stark white on the lower trees, paint upper trees, balance out the values with final glazes, and add the final "tender touches."

To knock down the gesso white on the lower trunks, I used an almost-dry foam brush and added light glazes in local color. That is, where the underpainting was blue, I glazed over the white with blue. Where the underpainting was burnt umber, I glazed over the white with burnt umber. (This doesn't actually result in polka-dot trees, although it seems like it would.) Here's a before-and-after detail:

Note that, except for wisps around the edges, most of the tree trunk is not painted.  The trunk colors are the original blue/brown/yellow underpainting showing through. If I was working in watercolor (acrylics versus watercolor again!), I'd have made the underpainting even lighter and used some mid-tones to model the trunks.

Now, the bottom trunks were largely done but the tops were absent. The sky looks very white in these photos, but it's actually a subtle mix of cerulean blue and white.

I used a very watered-down ultramarine blue, a small foam brush, and a chunk of kitchen sponge to lightly model the trees against the sky. I didn't want them too dark, because I wanted the primary emphasis on the lower trunks:

The trunks looked nice but needed heft and highlights.  Because the sky behind the trunks was very light and cool, I switched to a cooler color - cadmium yellow pale - and liberally mixed it with white gesso. I laid that on pretty thickly with a foam brush:

Here, i stopped a bit. Usually I am a compulsive overworker. At each stage, I was muttering to myself the good painting adage, "Stop when you feel it's not quite finished." After some pacing and peering, I went back in with the final touches. These are too subtle to photograph, but for anyone trying to step-by-step with me, here they are:

1. Carried some "sparkles" of the cad yellow/white light down into the lower tree trunks . . . just a few, though!

2. Used a little burnt umber to lose the edges here and there in the lower tree trunks.

3. Added very tiny flashes of "surprise" color here and there; in this case, cadmium red.

An instructor of mine once called these "tender touches" - I've also heard them called "jewelry," as a reminder that they should be applied with some restraint.

So . . . trees! Now I let them dry, then went back in with a glazing medium for a sealing topcoat. Late last night, I put on the hardware. The painting won't actually be bone-dry for a couple weeks, but it's safe to transport. So transport it I will . . . with dispatch!

More lovely news:  I already have a purchase offer on the painting. So Mom was right, as Moms so often are. Thanks, Mom!

I must here add a coda about soul. I didn't expect to feel connected to this painting. But it had to be done so quickly, and from such a devil-may-care place, that it turned out to be a really joyous exercise. I had to rely on what I knew, instead of fussing and worrying about whether I was doing things "right." As a result, it ended up being painted very much from the heart rather than the head. 

I guess there's a moral to this Tale in Three Parts:  sometimes love sneaks up on you.