Elephantine Fun

The original inspiration for this pachyderm painting was Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oh, What a Beautiful Morning. I would paint the elephant and then collage corn as high as, well you know how high and curl a cornstalk in the elephant’s trunk. But once I had laid down my verson of the bright golden haze (way brighter than hazy), I set aside Curly’s song and went my own way. Bye bye, cornstalks; hello, spiky grass.

Don’t ask me what a hedghog has to do with an elephant but           I liked the look of it peering up from its nest.  Had the hedgie awakened to blares of trumpeting? Was the elephant frightened of this little creature—a seeming cross between a mouse and a thorn melon?   Who was on whose terrain?

More pressing for me was what to place in the elephant’s trunk since I’d shucked the corn cob idea. Easy, a tree trunk. I had some bits and pieces stashed away and clipped a few shapes to use as palm leaves.  Now, what about that upper left corner? Leave it blank? Add another incongruity? Why not?

This is the first piece where I’ve been able to say, reality shmeality. Do I care if that rectangle barely resembles a tree top? Or that it’s impossibly suspended in mid-air? No and no. My art, my reality. That’s the lesson of this little elephant collage. Oh, what a beautiful dawning.


Art courtesy of Debra Darvick.

Three Vases Sans Flowers


A dear art teacher to whom I sent an image of this week’s collage, floated the idea that I might have found my artistic voice. “Who would have imagined, the writer is also a paper artist!” I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read her note.  I have always loved pretty papers be it wallpaper, gift wrap, art papers, even gorgeous party napkins.

My initial idea for the collage at the left was to create arrangements of white flowers in colorful vases. But these three papers called out to me and by the time I’d fashioned them into my vases, I realized there’d be no room for flowers and greenery.  The greenery moved up from a supporting role to leading role.  I made it up as I went along, painting the stems and a few leaves and then painting watercolor paper in various greens and then snipping them into leaves and a few odd seed pods and closed blossoms. I am pleased with the outcome. I could pick the collage apart and tell you what doesn’t please me.  Instead, I look at those “misses” as lessons for the next time.

Perhaps my teacher is right, the writer is drawn once again to creating with paper. Collage adheres my sensory loves: beautiful papers, painting, scissors and glue. I don’t know what’s next, and that’s part of the fun, too.





Going to Pieces

The intention in January was to draw, paint or sketch each day.  Once a week is more realistic and gives me the space to come up with an idea, mentally map out the possibilities and then get down to business. Last week’s project was a collage inspired by a small oil painting my husband and I purchased in Moab  (Utah) some years ago during a plein air festival. I love the colors, that entrancing edge where the sky and rock meet, the narrowing of the Colorado River as it meets the distant hills.  Soon enough, I gave myself permission to improvise. Torn paper bits behave differently from oil paint applied by brush and palette knife. Novice skills cannot match those honed over years of instruction and practice.

Before I began, I wrote myself a note: “This is a learning collage.       A potchkeying painting.” Potchkey is this wonderful Yiddish word that calls to mind a child playing in the sand. Or the mud. To potchkey is to make a mess and have fun in the moment while doing it. So I am learning how to tear paper with a clean (not white) edge, unless I want that edge as part of the overall design. I soaked some of the blue foreground paper in water. With the resulting tint   I toned down the bright orange tissue. I learned that closer objects appear darker; lighten them as they edge toward the horizon line.

At first I thought it was a mistake to have left the sky for last —— wouldn’t I mess the whole thing up edging paint against the mountain peaks? I learned something there too. Not everything can, or should, be planned. Serendipity can lend crucial improvements. The blue in my mind’s eye looked awful when I held a sample close. Adding a bit of black to the blue lent some much needed weight.  The flat brushstrokes contrasted crisply with the land formations; where my hand wavered, so what?

Yes, this was a learning collage and a great potchkeying experience, too. I really enjoyed all the cutting, tearing, and gluing. I loved the tactile messiness of it. The best thing I learned? I loved what I was doing. And that’s all that really matters.

Alas, the artist’s name is illegible.


Technically, this photo misses the mark: the netting needs to be erased; the birds’ wings are barely distinguishable from their bodies; their eyes aren’t visible.

Nevertheless, I love the photo because it symbolizes to me decades-strong love. We all have some background years we might want to erase or at least blur a bit. Our bodies have lost definition: curves uncurving; muscles relenting. We’ve learned to turn a blind eye when necessary. These two lovebirds affirm  what matters most — sitting quietly on a branch with my beloved, nestling wing to wing, leaning in for a tender kiss.  Avian or human, that’s what it’s all about.

photo courtesy of Debra Darvick