Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Cats: A cave painting breakthrough:

The WARM Show

The WARM (Women's Art Resources of Minnesota) Mentor-Protege Show is coming in October, but the catalog picture and info deadline is August 1. Hence, the race to produce something that either sensibly represents "work-in-progress," or approximates "finished."

Three of the Five Panels

Cats, Parrots, and Owls in Progress
The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul piece will have five panels: Owls, Parrots, Cats, Some Random Birds, and an Elephant. (It's my cave, so I can populate it at will.)

The Owl and Parrot Panels are not quite finished, but the images are all recognizable owls, parrots, and the border hummingbirds (top), and frogs (bottom.)

Cave Cats In Progress

The Cat Conundrum

In life, I answer to two cats, so it would have been impossible to keep cats from the cave walls. But what image(s) to use?

 If you know my work, you'll recall dozens of cats of all shapes and sizes.  I searched my image file and found one that I had used on two of my earliest paintings, Dot Cat and Striped Cat. I made three different sized templates, and "ghosted" them onto the panel with one of the most useful of watercolors, Winsor Newton Davy's Gray.

An organizing principle? A theoretical construct? A plan!

Because the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul are whimsical historical documents, it seems reasonable that the Cat Panel would depict some of our current cats' ancestors. Who is to say that the Great-great-great-great-great-great-great (etc.) Grandpa of an orange-striped tabby didn't have a green stripe?

Other Markings' Research:  

The Small Friends' Research Institute, (sponsor of the bulk of my research into whimsical creatures and publisher of The Small Friends' Chronicles and Meet the LLLamas) tasked its entire staff with emergency research into the markings on Ancient Cats of Minnesota. I expect a report this afternoon.

Related posts, retail outlets, and a web link

Lost Cave Paintings Progress: On to the next level
Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul: for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show

Cave paintings are available at The Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market (Minneapolis) and at Three Sisters' Eclectic Arts (Saint Paul), and from my website.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lost Cave Paintings' Progress: onto the next level


Now a work-in-progress at another level, the Cave Paintings have owls, parrots, frogs, and hummingbirds sketched on two of the boards.

I used traditional watercolors and two big synthetic brushes for this stage. I respect my Kolinsky Sable brushes too much to use them on top of gesso. As between a natural brush and acrylic gesso, the brushes die.


An August 1 deadline for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show catalog photo is looming, so I'll be burning the midnight oil...

The show, Beyond the Surface, will be at the Grain Belt Bottling House, 79 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN  55413 from October 3 - 31. The opening reception is Saturday October 18 from 6 to 9 p.m.  Ya'll come. 

Parrots and Owls Sketched, July 21, 2014.

Related post: Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show (July 14).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show

Women's Art Resources of Minnesota (WARM)'s Mentor-Protege Show is fast approaching. I have plotted and planned for months, and finally have taken gesso in hand to begin.

The Plan


The project will be an installation of an excavation of some of the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul. I began making these paintings in 2012 after watching Paul Boecher demonstrate using gesso* on board at the Northstar Water Media Society's Art-on-a-Line. A piece of his gesso-on-paper looked like fresco, and my mind went immediately to "cave wall."

Since mid-2012, I've made more than 150 large and small cave paintings, and dozens of "friends of the cave" Pandas who inhabit the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul.

* A Word About Gesso: In the modern era, gesso is an acrylic medium as thick as Greek yogurt that artists use to make surfaces either smooth or bumpy. I make textured cave walls with white gesso that I tint with watercolors for small works or acrylic paints for large ones. Historic gesso was made with rabbit skin glue and minerals. I am glad to be a 21st century artist who can skip boiling rabbits and simply buy gesso at Wet Paint or at Dick Blick.

The Flamingo's Last Outing:
Northern Spark at the Vine Arts Center


This 5-foot flamingo has lived in my downstairs bathroom for more than 15 years. I took the paper design to a lumber yard where the staff kindly (without laughing) cut out the bird, made a dozen sets of book ends, and 20 8-inch rounds from the plywood that I purchased.

Flamingo with Magenta-
Tinted Gesso
In the original plan for the bird, I would have covered the body with beads, mosaic-tiled the legs, and created a stained-glass-shard-mosaic for the grass and weeds. Fortunately, it was a flexible plan, and I was very happy with some-beads-and-paint. All of the other flamingo pieces in the bathroom miss their Big Birdy Buddy.

The flamingo's body is now covered with tinted pink gesso, and the weeds are covered with weed-colored-and-textured gesso.


The five aluminum boards (cut and primed with great skill by Jason Najarak), are now a taupe/gray that is a mixture of white gesso and an astonishing amount of acrylic paint. I used sepia, chrome yellow, chrome orange, phalo blue, violet, metallic bronze and gold, venetian red and probably a few more. Each panel is slightly different from the others.


1. Create the templates for the creatures. I have gone into my archive for my favorite images. The original elephant works well on a 5"x7" tiny painting. Making him into a 20"x40"paper template will use all of my cut and paste skills.

2. Paint the creatures, including the dozens of frogs and hummingbirds which will be part of the continuity for the panels.

3. Print and install the maps for the back of the piece. Because this will be free-standing in the middle of the room, it can't have an unsightly "naked" back. I will cover it with maps of Old Saint Paul made from electronic files from the the Ramsey County Historical Society Library in the basement of the Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul.

4.  Print the "Visit Very Old Saint Paul" postcards for the postcard rack.