Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reflections and Goals

End of 2015 - my studio is clean and waiting for me.

Today, at the end of 2015, I am setting goals for the coming year. Perhaps a reflection of my age, I want to spend more time with family and friends and my flower garden. That leaves less time for painting. It has taken awhile for me to figure out the best use of my painting time but I have listed my thoughts below.
1. I find I am no longer as interested in comparing my work to the work of others so I have drastically cut back on entering competitions and exhibits.
2. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been represented for many years by six good galleries but I am now reluctant to use my time traveling to the rotate my work so I have “retired myself” from several of the galleries.
3. Painting pretty pictures has become less interesting to me. I find myself gravitating to the essence and emotion of a visual story rather than a detailed description of each word/stroke. I know how easily I am drawn back into detail and traditional painting. To maintain my focus of how I might paint in the coming year, I have unsubscribed/quit following the online work of many of my peers.
4. For each new medium there is a learning curve, then a time that is comfortable with enough surprises to keep me on my toes. That is followed by a settling-in and a productive time when I think of it as my primary medium. This period may last for years but eventually I become bored. I seem to need a new challenge and switching to a new medium does that for me. I like to start a new medium with a know subject so it is only the handling of the medium, not the subject of the painting that I struggle with. I plan to try a new medium in 2016.
5. Painting is a solitary business. Teaching satisfies the need for interaction with other artists and I truly enjoyed my twenty years of teaching workshops. The past few years, I have mentored several students in person and online. I’m still interested in doing that in some capacity for those experienced with pastel. Perhaps a Suggestion Session for paintings near completion?
6. Last Fall I saw a notice in our local paper about a painting group at the nearby Community Center; the group turned out to be two people who paint “for fun.” I spent most of the first session asking myself what I was doing painting there, under fluorescent lights, amidst tables of chatting/card playing seniors instead of in my lovely studio. I was uncomfortable at first; it felt like I was giving a demo that no one was interested in. But once I let it go and focused on my work, I found that painting outside the security of my known space made me a more careful painter. Each Friday for several weeks I painted small pastels that I was very pleased with and I became acquainted with the other two artists whose attitude and perseverance I admire. I look forward to continuing the challenge of painting there.
7. One of my long time goals has been to write a book. I thought it would be about my life based on my nearly fifty years of handwritten journals but earlier this year when I began to review them I realized that to get to the happy and funny parts of my life I would have to plow through the sadness and struggle. I didn’t want to revisit those times so I shredded all but a few journals from the early years when my babies were born. I think a better idea for a book is to focus on my art journey illustrated with images. I’m working on it.
My online presence is important to me both as a communication tool and as a retrospective view. I plan to continue posting on my Art Journal and Golden Years blogs. I also will have paintings available for purchase through several online venues. Thanks to all who have followed my work this year. Let’s keep in touch!
Wishing you a wonderful 2016,

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The tree is up!

I have NEVER put the tree up this early but here we are, the Saturday after Thanksgiving and our great room is all festive. I may even get Christmas cards out this year. Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Inspire Yourself

On my Art Journal Blog I've posted many ways I keep myself motivated and inspired to paint. I've spoken of keeping a computer file labeled "Inspiration" where I place images of other artists' works and recently I wrote about being inspired by the painters at my local community club. This week I discovered another source of inspiration and perhaps this is the most valuable...myself.

Six months ago when we moved to our new home, I purged art supplies, books, frames, and 25 years of painting history including show acceptance (and rejection) paperwork, award certificates and ribbons. Two items I kept are a Best of Show ribbon and my IAPS Master Circle medal. I also saved my art journals of notes, sketches and printed images of my work. Now, as I organize my studio to paint again, these objects have become my inspiration. When I peruse early journals I am happy to see that my work has matured and it inspires me to continue my painting journey to see where I might end up.

In the years ahead, I will continue to need inspiration so I've started a new journal with notes and current images. It takes a little time to print images, make a few notes or jot down thoughts but I believe that documenting your art life and work is part (an important part) of being an artist. If you sometimes feel you need inspiration, instead of looking outside to the work of others, review your own work and look how far you've come!

Monday, October 26, 2015

A special birthday gift

Our view of the lake this late October morning shows the shockingly low the water level. After a record-breaking dry summer the lake is the lowest it has been in more than 25 years. We could probably walk across the "Boot" from one side to the other if we didn't get stuck in the mud. The photo above shows high muddy ground where water should be. We're looking forward to January and a full lake again.

This is always a reflective time of year for me because I celebrate another birthday. Seventy-two years ago, on the day of my birth, Grandma and Grandpa Benedetti and my aunts and uncles each thought of me for a moment because they got the news that I was born. My birthday seemed like a good day to visit their grave sites at the nearby Black Diamond Cemetery.

I paused at each of their headstones, pulled a few weeds and stood by Grandma and Grandpa for a prayer and one verse of Holy God We Praise Thy Name. I thanked them for living so that I might live. I felt close to them as I remembered each one.

As I was walking back to the car, I was contemplating that I have lived 72 years! That seems so long. I know Grandma was 98 when she died but I wondered how old grandpa was. When I got into the car I tried to do the math of 1950 less 1866 with my finger on the steering wheel but couldn’t so I reached for my cell phone intending to find the calculator icon. I pulled the phone out of my purse, looked at the black screen and touched the button at the bottom to bring up the Home Screen so I could search for the calculator (which I never use). However, immediately after I touched the bottom button, the next screen image was the Calculator, open and ready to go.

WHHHAATT?? Who opened it for me? Grandma? My Aunt Evie or Aunt Nita? I sat staring at it for a minute trying to understand what just happened. I've heard spirits can communicate through electronics (as Ida the Ghost did at the Glidden House where I stayed in Cleveland) but cell phones? Hmmm...

I wanted to hold onto the moment; to share and document the experience with someone who knows me well, so before heading home I called my daughter, then my sister. At home, I told Jay what happened. He said, "Consider it a birthday gift." So I am!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Mid September 2015 Update

Shortly after my last post here, I jotted down thoughts for the next post but suddenly, it is the middle of September, we have been in our new home 4 months, and I never got back to posting.

My thoughts then:

I have down-sized my inventory of art supplies and I am fairly clear on how I want my art business to be structured, at least short term. I don't plan to enter competitions and will cut back on gallery commitments to concentrate on smaller work for my Daily Paintworks Gallery.

I love being here on Lake Sawyer and am amazed at the varied moods of the lake as the weather changes. Sunny, bright and sparkling. Gray and drizzly and cozy. Serene, or busy with activity. I should paint that! The problem is, I can see it, feel it, enjoy it, LOVE IT but I can't imagine painting it. I tried yesterday. It was artist torture. This morning, while preparing breakfast, I imagined a painting. I could see a mental image of a painting.

That's where I left off. I went on to paint that imagined painting and spent the month of August painting many more local scenes. I posted them on my Daily Paintworks Gallery and sold most. Yesterday I shipped the last one, a painting of one of the old local houses that has been overtaken with brambles.

Brambled, pastel, 6x6 inches
Our lake water level is very low due to the long hot summer. Our noxious weed lily pads are on the way out (forever, we hope) so painting lake scenes is on hold until later in the year. Our grandsons returned to school, both at Kennedy this year, and are celebrating another birthday. Life goes on.

I continue to love my new community. We went to our first Sons of Italy meeting last night at the lodge where my grandparents were Charter Members and it was all I expected it to be. In fact, my feelings were in print in this morning's newspaper about the Colbert interview with Biden. Biden, in speaking about his religion: " enormous sense of solace. Some of it relates to ritual, some of it relates to just comfort in what you've done your whole life." Being in a room full of Italians reminded me of Sundays at my Grandma Benedetti's house near here in Morganville. Comforting. Familiar. A part of my childhood that made me who I am today.

Tomorrow, we will attend a neighborhood gathering here on the lake. We have great neighbors and a sense of community that is new to me. Next weekend we will host our first "To Family" gathering. I hope to make that a tradition. Life goes on and we cherish each day. I paint when I can and look forward to teaching art again in one form or another.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

First Critique at the Lake

Seven members of our Critique Group spent the day together at our new home/studio on Lake Sawyer. We met here for lunch then spent several hours in our usual critique. After a walk to the nearby boat launch, we went to a local restaurant for dinner and four of the group spent the night.

These are good women, good friends, good artists. I am lucky to call them my friends. Left to right, Teri Hamilton, Paula Parks, Kay Dewar, me, Sueellen Ross, Sheila Theodoratos and Iris Stripling.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Our Critique Group: 20th Anniversary Show

Twenty years ago three of us started a Critique Group of about a dozen artists. A few members have left us and we have invited others to join our bimonthly meetings. When we began the group everyone worked in colored pencil and even though some have gone on to work in other mediums we continue to value input from all and enjoy the camaraderie of long-time friends. Many thanks to American Art Company, Tacoma, WA for hosting our show.

They were accomplished artists when they first got together, and when they joined ranks, something magical happened. They met in each others’ homes to give and accept advice and encouragement. They honed their skills, appeared in shows, wrote and illustrated books, taught art, won awards. They shared contacts and opportunities. They commiserated, they supported each other. They became life-long, close friends. And now their Artists Critique Group proudly presents Pencils and Palletes 20th Anniversary Show.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


When I started this blog in November 2013, I gave up writing in my paper journals but I kept them - boxes and boxes of them! I thought I might like to read them when I am old. I moved them to our new house and after two months of looking at them stacked in my little office I started going through them to pick out funny stories about our two grandsons. The problem is, the funny stories are sandwiched between all the other stuff and all the other stuff is either boring or brings up feelings I don't want to experience again. So, above is a photo of all my journals except a few from when my children were small. I gained a little space in my office and I'm happy no one will read all that tedious contemplation of life. Getting rid of STUFF.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Being HOME

Being Home. What does that mean? It means knowing in your heart that this is where you belong right now.

I grew up in Auburn, WA in a little house my father built on "M" St. Definitely home to me as a child, it is where I felt safe but when I turned 21 years old, I couldn't wait to move to Seattle to attend Burnley Art School where, when I walked into the classroom and saw easels and all things art, I almost wept with the feeling of belonging. When I married, had children and moved to our 13 acre Vashon Island farm, it quickly became home to me. I remember sitting in the tall grass of one of the pastures feeling so happy that the farm was ours. We belonged there.

Now once again, here in Black Diamond, WA I have that blessed feeling of being home. There is no place I would rather be. I am slowly learning where rural roads go and connect. I know how to drive to Morganville and past the house where my Grandma and Grandpa Benedetti lived. I hold dear the memories of being "up the house" with my Italian relatives and remembering the sense of belonging with those people.

This weekday morning I attended Mass in the 1911 St. Barbara's Church in Black Diamond and then drove the short distance to the Black Diamond Cemetery. While I was there, I received a nice cell call from my daughter on her way to work. The nostalgic past and the present. The sweet, bittersweet and the difficult. I find perspective and comfort in being home.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Uncle Sam lives here

I finally cleaned up the Studio enough to post a few photos. Here is the link to the first Studio shots.

Hot, hot, hot days on the lake and we are loving our lives. This morning I attended mass in the 1911 St. Barbara's church in Black Diamond. It reminds me of the church of my childhood.

I find it pretty hilarious that Jay is going to be Uncle Sam in the Lake Sawyer Fourth of July water parade. I guess he is supposed to throw candy and apparently he can expect to be pummeled by water balloons. Happy Fourth of July to you!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sluggo and Marci

So much has happened since I posted last, I don't know where to start. We moved to our new house and have been unpacking, hauling dirt and planting ever since. This is s a photo of me and our neighbor Marci (Marci and Ken). She is nice, she is clean. I'm holding my container of Sluggo just before application to my new lettuce bed.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


One of my art goals has been to earn the title of Distinguished Pastelist with the Northwest Pastel Society. That happened yesterday when Juror Michael Chesley Johnson awarded my painting "Path to Gold Creek" the Directors' Award at the NPS 29th Annual International Open Exhibition. I'm happy.

To obtain DP status is especially meaningful to me because I have long felt that once I accomplished that goal, I would quit entering NPS competitions and instead, sponsor an award. I put it on my to-do list with our tax man for next year.

Another milestone this week: our house has passed the final inspection! I spent yesterday weeding the flower garden under the maple tree near the lake. The French doors to the lake were open and I could hear the business of the painters inside. I am in awe that I will get to live there! I'm not sure how to explain the contentment I feel knowing that my Grandma, Grandpa, aunts and uncles rest in peace in the Black Diamond Cemetery not far away. Also, I know what roads to take to drive by Grandma's house in Morganville. I'm happy. Mill Pond Cottage Blog

Another milestone: Years ago I discovered Frappe mix at Costco. YUM. caloric. YUM. I began making coffee in a French Press to mix with the Frappe for a morning mocha. I became one of the those people who HAD to have my morning mocha before anything else could happen. Then, one day, it was GONE from my local Costco. When I inquired I was told it was discontinued at all Costco with the last delivery at a Costco about 20 miles away. I called, they still had some; I raced there and bought 18 lbs of mocha mix. At checkout, the Costco employee told me a woman was in the store buying multiple 3-lb bags because she couldn't live without it. That was my story too.

I have always kept a backup bag (or two) so when I began packing up for our move, I packed the 18 lbs in a moving box and took it out to the garage to the growing pile. Then, last week I ran out of mocha mix. Aarggh. I found it on Amazon but it is $28 for a 3-lb bag. I just can't do that but I also can't find the box in the garage. Jay saw my pain and ran to the store and bought me a substitute. Not the same, not even close.

So the next morning, I made a cup of Lipton tea with sugar and the only milk I had - Evaporated Milk. Voila! It is the exact cup of tea I remember from my childhood at my Aunt Evie's house (312 J Street - within walking distance of our house at 509 M Street). Now I think of her every morning and am beginning to crave the sandwich she made for me: a piece of Wonder bread with real butter and sprinkled gritty, granulated sugar, folded in half.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Happy 27th Wedding Anniversary

Surprise! Early morning flowers from Jay. They sit beside the sawyer man wood carving we unearthed at our new home on Lake Sawyer. I imagine someone carving and painting him in honor of the saw mill that was nearby, long ago.  He was buried in our mud but he will sit on our fireplace mantle in a few weeks.

We had a wonderful 27th wedding anniversary. I spent the day inside, packing up the pantry - in part to avoid Jay's 3-day garage sale going on outside. We also had a surprise visit from our grandson William (Noah) and his father, Drew. They are logging driving hours in preparation for William's drivers license at the end of summer. He is driving my 1993 Volvo 940 station wagon - my favorite car ever - the color of my tricycle, and this day complete with sticky cherry blossoms. Drew has been keeping the car in good repair the past 12 years for this day.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Rosewood Rocker

My latest furniture repair - the Rosewood Rocker. When my first husband and I purchased a 1903 farmhouse and 13 acres on Vashon Island in 1974 from Mr. Art Shane, we also purchased his round oak table, roll top desk and the rosewood rocking chair. My daughter has the table and desk and eventually the rocker will go to my son. I am finally getting around to doing something about the horse hair and miscellaneous stuffing in the seat. I left the horsehair in place but removed the hay/straw, dirty rags and other strange fabric.

Original stuffing Rosewood Rocker
Original seat stuffing
Rosewood rocker with new stuffing, leather-like cushion and small back cushion.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My biggest fan

Illusion, colored pencil, 2002
Yesterday, Jay and I had the pleasure of meeting with my biggest fan, Ginny, and her husband Bill to deliver my colored pencil drawing, "Illusion" to them. Over the years she and her husband have acquired quite a number of my paintings and drawings and I am so pleased to have Illusion join their collection.

Ginny surprised me with a gift of one of her beautiful silk quilts embellished with glass beads. Thank you Ginny!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bookcase...the end.

I've come to the end of my furniture refinishing for now - two weeks was long enough. Besides, how far can one can of red paint go? Mama's bookcase - after and before (see photo below). Everything old is new again.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Maple Table Complete...whew!

Ten days ago I started work on the maple table and today I'm finally done. This has been a labor of love that included a lot of trial and error. I thought I could use MinWax Polyshades Maple but it looked terrible so I had to strip all that off, wash the table, sand the table and begin again. I finally bought some MinWax Wood Finish Maple stain then a coat of Johnson's Paste Wax on top. There is also a leaf that isn't shown in this photo of the table in the waxing stage. I'm calling the table good for the next 50 years.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Green Again - Grandpa's Chair

Well, it took some doing but the little green chair is done. First I painted it a "better" green but it looked like an Easter object - matte and pastel and wrong. I finally realized that the best outcome for the little green chair would be for me to put it back to the way I remember it; the way it was before I started altering it. So, I painted it a better bad green. I sanded some edges for wear to honor it's age of more than 100 years and I sprayed it with satin polyurethane. Here it is, drying outside in our March sunshine.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Green Chair

When I was growing up, we had a chair that Mama said her father carved by hand. She was proud that it was fit together without the use of nails.  It was green (Mama’s favorite color). A really bad green... so, when I was old enough to use a hack saw on the wrought iron bed (aaarggh) and was able to open a can of paint, I painted it black. Next, I painted it beige. I took it with me when I moved out at age 21 and at some point I was inspired to strip it back to the wood. Stripping was not successful though so for the last 27 years it has been stored in Jay’s garage.

I am determined to actually USE all the old family heirlooms in the new house so the chair is in my studio now awaiting its remake. I tried my favorite stripper on it but no luck. So, I’ll paint it, and in honor of Mama and as penance for my furniture sins, I’ll paint it GREEN again.

There are some numbers on the bottom of the chair - I won't paint over them - but what does it say? 1892? My sister didn't remember the chair at all but after I told her Grandpa carved it, she suddenly remembered standing beside him as he worked. Jay says now we have an idea of how old my sister really is.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cool red, warm red

Fifty years ago my first table came into my life*. It is maple, drop leaf. I painted the legs red. I did art projects on it in my Broadway apartment when I was in art school in Seattle. We ate a thousand blackberry pies on it when we lived in the beach house in Magnolia. My two children sat at this table while I spooned homemade baby food into their mouths and they painted their first watercolor art here and scribbled with crayons on paper and onto the table in Leschi. It went with us to the farm we bought on Vashon Island. It has been with me all these years in Renton and is about to take up residence in the breakfast nook of our new home in Black Diamond.

The only problem is the red - it is too blue. Today I began painting the legs a warmer red that will complement our Rustico Cotta tile floor. The photo above shows the old red and the new red. After the paint,  I will flip it over and refinish the table top. I won't remove stains and nicks that show it has been well used but it really needs a good cleaning after its participation in many annual pasta making parties.

*When my former husband, Bill Iles was twenty and we were dating, he worked as a delivery person for Van's Furniture in Kent. I was able to purchase this table because the original owner bought a new dining table to replace it. Originally, there were two ladder-back chairs that eventually fell apart but recently I found two beautiful vintage maple ladder-back chairs on Craigslist.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

First week of my sabbatical

It was just a week ago that I declared myself to be on a sabbatical from painting. I have unsubscribed from art blogs - even Daily Paintworks - and I check into Facebook only occasionally. Today I subscribed to a gardening blog. I have some new favorite things to share.

REALLY good book to read for fun (thank you Aunie):
REALLY good advice book for furniture projects:
BEST stripper I've ever used:

My current project:
This little bookcase sat in the living room of my parents home on "M" street. It was piled with TV Guides, the phone, phone books, a little vase of plastic flowers and whatever else anyone dropped there while passing by. Then, it was with my mother in her assisted living apartment until 2004. I brought it home and it has been in my studio ever since, once again piled with miscellaneous items. Now that I'm on sabbatical, I have time to give it some attention. This week I stripped it and after washing it with a neutralizer I'll repair scratches, prime it and paint it...maybe green, Mama's favorite color.

Monday, March 9, 2015

March 2015 Update

I'm on sabbatical...FINALLY. Read more about it here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

February 2015 Update

Wow, time flies. It has been a month since I last posted.

I've been working on another version of my 2005 pastel, Dappled Path. I want to reuse the glass and frame and rip up the old painting. To prepare, I've been using the old painting as a reference for painting small studies of the scene. They look quite different from the original because my stroke and color choices have evolved in the past 10 years. (I'd be worried if they hadn't changed!)

I completed seven little studies. You can see them here or on Daily Paintworks when I post them for purchase.

My studio is in complete chaos as I pack for the move. Most of my pastels are packed away and my easels are squished over to one side of the room. There are bags of shredding sitting around waiting for more boxes to pack up china. Anyway, in the midst of this mess, I have been painting small studies aiming for a loose, abstract quality. And, I think the mess actually helps me be less careful, less contrived, less concerned about the outcome. That's a good thing for my work but when I look around it makes me crazy.

When my studio is all clean and I attach a blank piece of paper to my easel and look over at my million pastel sticks, I want to do my best. What is my "best." Oh well, that is another subject.

Progress on our house continues and we hope to be in by mid May. When we opened the door to the house a couple days ago we were met by this cute guy on stilts. I asked if I could take his photo and he seemed happy to oblige. You can check the progress of our house here.

Back to it. Happy Spring to you!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

graffiti in the family

My 13 year old grandson, Elias, had the opportunity to practice his graffiti on a building his father will be demolishing (NCompass LLC). Elias is a sweet boy and very talented in so many ways, you saw his work on this blog last July when I let him graffiti over one of my old paintings.  I'm happy his father gave Elias the opportunity to express himself on a larger scale. Thanks Drew and Elias for sharing this art.