Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A demo turns into a painting

Last semester I began a demo in my Editorial Painting class. I wanted to show students the benefits of using Open Acrylics. But I was overly ambitious and chose an image that was way too complicated for a demo. Lost them after the first 15 minutes! I've learned my lesson, but still finished the painting.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Personal Painting in the Keys

On this cold and dreary day in April it's comforting to remember back one month to Sugarloaf Key and painting barefoot. This is the latest in my ongoing effort with open acrylics. The Big Pine Flea Market is a regular Saturday morning excursion for fresh veggies and people-watching.

Flea Market Two for Five

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

School Visit

I made my first school visit last week for The Nutcracker Comes to America! My friend, Sarah Faylor, invited me to present to the Ann Arbor Hills Child Development Center. The kids were so very welcoming and sat still for almost 30 minutes. My favorite moment came when I showed them an unimpressive drawing I did at age 3 1/2 of a whale and a fish (see below). One little boy said he had a book that showed him how to draw a whale and suggested I look into purchasing it – or maybe he said I could borrow his...can't remember. I think maybe I should look into it though!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Nutcracker Comes to America has launched!

Just in time for the holidays, The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition, written by the amazing Chris Barton and illustrated by yours truly is now available for purchase from Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor and at

Deb Pilutti, Deb Marcero and I launched our new books together at Nicolas this past month. It was a pleasure to share the evening with two very talented ladies.

Here's a sneak preview of some of the inside spreads:

Friday, October 9, 2015

Wrapping It Up

Yesterday was the last work day on the mural for me. I am so very thankful that it's finally finished!! Ian helped me haul everything down from the roof last night. On Sunday the Delux crew will be back out to remove the scaffolding. Hopefully, Matt will get a chance to clear coat the top in the afternoon.

Letting paints dry out for disposal here on a spectacular fall afternoon up on the roof. All those beautiful colors! I'm hoping that Mary Thiefels and the Neutral Zone can use some of what remains of our paint stash.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nearing the end

We've been busy on Oxford's roof for the last 3 weeks and yesterday was the last day of painting for my crew of three, Kyle, Andrea and Anna. Now I can stop worrying about their safety, 5 stories up!

With the exception of a few lingering days of intense heat, we've been lucky with weather. The wind was a new challenge. Patrons of Aventura were surprised when on of my laminated reference images floated down during Happy Hour and we seemed to be constantly chasing down paint cup lids. This past week with wind gusts from 20-25 knots, I was grateful that the scaffolding was anchored to the masonry.

Thank you Anderson Paint, for custom matching the sky color that was in my head – now on my fingers.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mural Progress

One of the biggest challenges of this project has been the curb and crushed rock beneath the wall. Right off the bat, we had to eliminated a sissor lift (can't get it close to the wall) and scaffolding with wheels (same issue). A bucket lift was expensive and created difficulties with parking in the lot. That, plus we needed to accommodate four of us working at the same time.
With the help of Delux Rental in Ypsilanti, we came up with a solution – four scaffolding towers that would be moved every week or so as we continue on down the wall. An additional challenge was the concrete wall that has to be spanned at the end of the parking lot. What a hassle, but it has worked out – big thanks to Sean and Paul from Delux. Mary Thiefels of Treetown Murals stopped by with advise in configuring the walkboards, and moving people and materials up and down most efficiently. Thanks so much Mary!

As of the middle of August we'd progressed through two scaffolding moves. I really love painting on cinder block. The texture makes it easier to blend, dry-brush style.

We've been blessed with great weather for the last month and a half, if you don't count 90+ degree days. The painting is a pleasure, but figuring out the rest of the puzzle has me up in the middle of the night. For heat relief, we found some synthetic, loosely woven cloth and configured it to hang from the scaffolding, giving us shade in the afternoon while letting the breeze it. Ahhhh...much better.

Around the first of the month we'd finished the lower mural and were ready to tackle the upper design. The projection and tracing needs to happen before the scaffolding is assembled so onto the scary ladders we go. Thanks to our ground crew, Marcia Maier, we have documentation of the  process.

Waiting for dark on a beautiful summer evening. My husband John, Ron Maier and me.

That's good sport and brave soul, Deb Pearson, and me tracing the projected design.

Next comes the big move to the roof. Up we go with all the scaffolding plus our equipment and paint. Delux moved the big stuff, leaving the rest (including all the paint) to the rope and bucket brigade. Thanks to Kyle, Andrea and Anna for the backbreaking work!

Sean, Paul and he-man helper moving the scaffolding, piece by piece to the roof (on a Sunday!).

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Moving the scaffolding

Delux Rental came out to do the first scaffolding move yesterday. We're starting our march down the wall and it feels good to have a chunk finished. Of course there are a few things I'd like to tweak on the now out of reach images. Ann Arbor sign painter and muralist Zeke Mallory had some valuable advise when he told me to remember that a mural is not a fine art painting. I will have to keep reminding myself of that!

The heat is proving to be a serious challenge. A weeks worth of upper 80s and low 90s on a south facing wall overlooking blacktop – with under-painting tinted in bright orange – has made it necessary to plan our day around the sun. We work on exposed areas in the morning, retreating to work under the scant scaffolding shade as the sun moves to the west. Oxford has provided a GoPro camera taking stop-action shots so using a sunscreen on the front is out of the question. My next research project is to find some kind of covering that we can use on the west end of the scaffolding to keep the late afternoon sun less brutal.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On The Wall

After a shaky start, the mural team of Kyle, Andrea, Anna and Cathy has made progress! I will remind you that I have never painted bigger than my drawing table so this is completely new to me. Hopefully, some of our discoveries and practices will prove interesting and helpful to someone out there.
A crowded parking lot

Finding our footing (literally and figuratively) on painting approaches, responsibilities, scaffolding safety and hydration, we are off and running. We're using the house paint and expertise of local favorite, Anderson Paint. They are the best!

The paint handles wonderfully, except in the extreme heat of late afternoon. No wet blending, we're taking advantage of the quick dry time and blending by dry brush only. Everyone's getting the hang of it. The acrylic painters among us will appreciate the accommodations necessary for the giant dark step in value as the paint dries. It's the charm and irritation of acrylics.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that Benjamin Moore lets you view a small paint sample online for all of their colors. A screen grab lets me bring it into Photoshop and eyedropper it for better matching to my digital color painting. There is still the calibration between media that is vexing but it's a wonderful discovery that I hope will save paint cost and mixing time.

So stop by 210 South Fifth Avenue, just north of Afternoon Delight for a peek. We're having fun!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I've been busy.

It's been almost a year since my last post. (Sounds like the beginning of one of my childhood visits to a confessional)

But I have been busy!

The past year has been both the most exciting and the most exhausting of my freelance career. This coming September will bring the debut of my very first illustrated children's picture book.
This is the scene last January as I was packaging up the paintings to mail to the publisher. The name of the book is The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition and it is written by the amazing Chris Barton. More to come on that later.

After a small breather in March, I learned that I was awarded the contract for a gigantic mural project in Ann Arbor. Commissioned by Oxford Properties, it will be painted on two wall surfaces just north of Afternoon Delight on Fifth Avenue. The lower mural is on the south facing wall of Oxford's office building and measures 125' x two stories. The upper mural will be painted on the 3rd and 4th story walls of another office building directly north of the first wall, owned by Rene Papo. This wall is not so long, ONLY measuring 54' wide. I have never done anything like this in my life but I've learned a lot and will learn a lot more before we finish. It will be a grand adventure!

I'm working with three College for Creative Studies students, Kyle Scott, Andrea Del Rio and Anna Posey. Last week, with the able assistance of my good friend Middy Potter, my son Ian and my sister plus family, we transferred the two-thirds of the design to the wall at night using a digital projector. Scaffolding went up on Friday of last week and we put the first paint strokes on the wall this morning before the rain chased us out. The guys at Delux Rental in Ypsilanti were incredibly helpful to my ignorant self. I now know more about scaffolding that I'd ever imagined possible. This is the boss's son giving instructions to his assistant.
Part of the bid included a proposal for a video of stop-action progress of the painting, with interviews and process added in. I was so very fortunate to find an amazingly talented videographer, Patrick Murphy, who had graciously agreed to take on that portion of the project. Because of Patrick, my idea of a iphone-shot amateur production has suddenly turned into a very professional endeavor!

 I will post as often as I can with pictures and more info as we make our way along the painting process. And now, on to painting during Art Fair. Oh, boy.