Thirty in Thirty

 I haven’t posted my recent Thirty-in-thirty results…..but my brushes have been busy. Here are most of the little gems which haven’t been posted yet. I have been out of the studio a couple of days this week to go to Plainview, Texas to see the traveling portion of the 2013 American Watercolor show, a most worthy reason to get behind in the challenge. I will catch up, I’m confident of that for I have returned home on the wings of inspiration. I have seen, studied, contemplated, and been bathed in exquisite watermedia paintings… kind of fun!
Earth Angel-with orange bandanaEARTH ANGEL
Hope is hearing the melody of the future. Faith is dancing to it.

(watermedia/collage, 7X5 inches)

(watermedia/collage, 7X7 inches)

(watermedia/collage, 8X6 inches)
Earth Angel-one wing
(painted clay with embellishments)
We are, each of us, angels with one wing. We can fly by embracing one another.Packet TiesWESTERN PACKET
(collage, 8X6 inches)

(watermedia/collage, 10X8 inches)

Earth Angel-twigsEARTH ANGEL
(painted clay with embellishments)
Let all the angel throng sing thanks to God on High.


Thirty in thirty


Wow, this is day 10……….I don’t know if I have 5 more paintings since the last post. I spent Friday sanding and gessoing six clay angels (no! 5, because I broke one) that had just survived the bisque firing. I also gessoed three cradled panels. For Saturday I have:

Postcard 2                                                                POSTCARD
                                                     (watermedia/collage, 6X8 inches)
For Sunday, there was a Sabbath rest, and for Monday and Tuesday, the 8th and 9th, there are two more:
Light Infusion 2                                                              LIGHT INFUSION
                                                    (watermedia/collage, 16X10 inches)

Landscape Segments                                                          LANDSCAPE SEGMENTS
(acrylics on canvas, 8X10 inches)
And with two more images, I have ten new pieces thus far, whew, it IS indeed a challenge.

Words Create                                                        WORDS CREATE
(watermedia/collage on paper, 11X14 inches)

Smoked, bearing gift
                                                    EARTH ANGEL: BEARING GIFT
(smoked clay with embellishments)

Space, literal space and emotional space. I’m surprised by space in the creative process. In the past I have advised my students to pamper their paintings, especially when they are struggling with them. “Take them for a ride,” I suggest (I literally stick a painting-in-progress in the car with me when I run errands, glancing at them at times when I’m not concentrating on their well-being). Also: Give them a name; tell them they are wonderful; assure them that you are in charge and the outcome will be brilliant. Sometimes I prop a problem painting up somewhere in the house to look at it when I’m “not looking.” I have a good place to prop a painting in the bedroom. It’s become a joke between Allen and me for him to ask, “Who are we sleeping with tonight?” “LANDSCAPE SEGMENTS” got the treatment this week. The space between the telephone table and the faded caramel corduroy chair prompted a new way of looking at the “land forms” that were developing. The emotional space rising out of my sleeping consciousness was enough to facilitate the completion of the little gem.





In September 2013 the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Austin Speech Labs, Shilpa Shamapant, asked me to write a brief article about Casey’s recovery for the annual newsletter. I typed up a few paragraphs, emailed them off to her and promptly forgot about the task. After Christmas, just a couple of  days ago actually, the 2013 newsletter from ASL arrived in our snail mailbox out on the curb in front of our house.
Page one had a brief review of the year, “A Look Back & A Look Forward.” It was followed by a longer article from the Executive Director reviewing the history of the cutting-edge speech labs, crediting the numerous contributions of skills and expertise as well as the many generous and dedicated people who are committed to stroke recovery. Turning her dreams for ASL into reality has included  those in the trenches putting the clients through ground-breaking exercises and practice as well as the medical and scientific research communities who tirelessly work to add to the knowledge-bank for understanding the miraculous human brain and its capacity to to recover from stroke.
I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that I drew in my breath when I was confronted by the paragraphs I had written three and a half months ago. They are in the middle of the newsletter. I thought I would post a link to ASL on Facebook so Casey’s many friends could see it, but when I went to the ASL website the latest newsletter posted there was the one from 2011, so it may be a while before the webmaster gets the 2013 letter on the site. I have decided to share the article with you by posting it here :

On January 3, 2007, in the flash of a moment, the entire right side of Casey’s 36-year-old body was paralyzed and all of his language disappeared. An amazing path of recovery has ensued. From a wheelchair and hand signs, Casey has moved through a series of complex recovery efforts to an astonishing life of independence.
In 2008 he enrolled in Austin Speech Labs’ second Boot Camp. By then, he was walking without any assistive device but was still limited in his communication. He could say some words, but not phrases or sentences. Casey, a mechanical engineer, who worked at a brewery in New Mexico before the stroke, now moved in with his sister, Jeni, in the Austin area and began an intense focus on regaining his former facility and pleasure with the English language. Within the following year, he moved into his own apartment and in 2012, Casey began a part-time job working at Austin Homebrew. Today he’s employed two full days and two half days and faithfully maintains his work at ASL three mornings each week.
The amicable, positive atmosphere at ASL has been the perfect milieu for Casey to succeed. The clear direction and supportive respect from Shilpa and her partner, Shelley Adair, are unquestionably the guiding force he needs. From their sincere belief in him, he is regaining conversational skills and has been propelled into a self- confidence that is inspiring to his family and friends. He now Skypes regularly with another stroke survivor and follows along as his mother reads books to him over the phone. He has traveled alone by plane to visit friends and recently drove with a friend to visit a fellow stroke survivor in Laredo, Texas. Together they engaged in a variety of social activities and challenged themselves on bike trails.
Reaching out to make new friends and enjoy the camaraderie of friendly interaction has resulted from his perseverance in the intricacies of recovery. Casey and another ASL client meet for lunch regularly. Recently Casey stretched his language skills to include texting. He does most of his own banking, pays the bills, uses a computer, works out and keeps tabs on his favorite Formula One race-car drivers.

Casey’s faith and the support from loyal friends and family are stellar components in his motivation to recover. We have grown in many ways and been inspired by him as much as he has been by us. Thank you Shilpa and Shelley for your studied, marvelous expertise and for being an exquisite foundation of grace for us in Casey’s recovery!





Chicago Skyline           It’s been a long-time dream, simmering in my consciousness……ooohhh… visit the Chicago Art Institute. I’ve visited many world class museums, but somehow Chicago Art Institute remained out of reach. I had landed a number of times at Chicago O’Hare to change course directions, and longed to go into Chicago, but it had never worked out until this year.
In recent years, my daughter Jeni was my ace assistant at the Weems International Artfest. That time together, albeit loaded with work and distractions, was our “girls’ weekend.” A couple of years ago when I decided that Artfest would get deleted from my career, we vowed to keep our “girls’ weekend” in other venues. Last year our schedules kept that from happening so this year we splurged on a week in Chicago, a memorable splurge.
Edouard Manet: "Woman Reading"                                               Edouard Manet: “Woman Reading”

Two days at the Chicago Art Institute were boggling, inspiring, and exhausting. We saw much of the permanent collections, and took in the special exhibit “Impressionism and Fashion,” a huge exhibit that had been gathered from collections far and wide.  Manet, Monet, Degas and every other important name in impressionism: they were there! The emphasis was on the clothing worn by the models in impressionistic paintings. Many of the actual garments or similar ones from that era were exhibited near the paintings. A myriad of hats, gloves, bags, and shoes were arranged for viewing. Paintings I had only seen in books simply took my breath away as I encountered them in person. We spent part of both days seeing that show, falling in love with textures and brush strokes; it was just too much to take in with one visit. Indeed we could have spent additional time there, but Oak Park and Frank Lloyd Wright were calling.

Unity Temple EntranceUnity Temple                                                           UNITY TEMPLE

The home Frank Lloyd Wright built for his family is in the Oak Park area among a variety of other homes he designed and not far from his famous Unity Temple commissioned by the Unity Universalist Church. Attached to his home is the studio where he worked with draftsmen, budding architects, and artists and met with clients. Every carefully planned detail contributed to the joy of family life or the commercial affair of architect and client. In downtown Chicago we also toured an office building, The Rookery, so Wright, so decked out with characteristic art glass, heavy solid masonry, and ease of access.

Hotdogs at Wrigley                                                          Hotdogs at Wrigley

                 And Wrigley Field was calling also. What an adventure, from riding the noisy electric train, totally packed with rabid Cubs fans, to classic Chicago hot dogs, to homeruns and a big win for the Cubs over the Brewers….it was a day like no other. Honestly I was being a good sport, I thought, to go since I’m not much of a baseball fan. That afternoon at the historic Wrigley ranks right up at the top with our other escapades……like eating at the Purple Pig, restaurant of the famous chef Jimmy Bannos. Jeni ordered “pigs ear” that day for her antipasti (which I thought tasted like high-class pork rinds and looked a little like tiny twisted french fries) accompanied by extraordinarily delicious octopus enhanced with tasty relish.  I had poached Tuna and a quail dish that had a stuffing with pomegranate. We polished it shiny with ice cream with salted caramel topping…whew!
There were visits to the Tiffany Dome inside Macy’s, a recording session of NPR’s news quiz show “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” eating Chicago’s deep dish pizza at Giordano’s, visiting the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass.
clay sculpture
Melinnium Park was an exquisite connection between our hotel and the Chicago Art Institute. On several days we strolled through there taking in the haunting “Agora” sculptures by Magdalena Abakanowicz  and the playful clay shapes and figures of Jun Kaneko. Agora                                            “AGORA” by Magdalena Abakanowicz

Both the reflecting pool and “The Cloud” attracted many families inviting them into crazy watery  antics and playful distorted reflections. It was a delightful interruption to the big city bustle.
Jeni and the Bean                                  Jeni at the “Cloud,” popularly known as “The Bean”

We polished off our Chicago whirl with an architectural tour by boat along the Chicago River and a spin around Lake Michigan.  Such fun, my inspiration tank is on “full” and my time with daughter Jeni is an unspeakable treasure in my spirit, never to dim or be erased.



Nest Series - Luminis                                          Nest Series: Luminis
(watermedia/collage, 18X18 inches)

                       Refuge, protection, safety, newness, hatchery…….these are a few words of symbolism I attach to the recent series of art pieces I’ve been working on. My new show, entitled THE NESTS will be featured at the Weems Old Town Gallery in Albuquerque throughout the month of May.  Last week I delivered fourteen new mixed media paintings and nine clay “Earth Angels” for the show.
Earth Angel 5 detail







My studio has become a comfortable nest over the years. When I began to work in there in 1979, and the materials started to pile up around me, my husband made some wry comments about my “nesting instinct.” I’m not sure how instinctual it is, but there’s no question that the clutter of colors and textures and shapes are a hatchery, an incubator if you will, for my creative endeavors.
Several years ago my co-teacher, Lynette Watkins, and I began to talk of “new beginnings” as a theme for the class we would teach at the La Romita School of Art in Terni, Italy. That’s when the “nest” symbol began to make itself known in my work along with eggs, which are poignant symbols of birth, hope, creative purity and expectation.  In Lynette’s work symbolic “gates” and “keys” emerged.
Dramatic and powerful changes were happening in my personal life. Some of them seemed not at all like new beginnings but rather like endings. Changes occurred that were making an end to the life I had known and expected to continue knowing. My 36 year old son suffered a devastating stroke that left the right side of his body paralyzed and took away all, ALL, ABSOLUTELY ALL of his language. Two years later I was rushed into emergency open heart surgery for mitral valve replacement and multiple by-passes.  Much changed but I experienced, in the depths of heart-break for my son, and the fright of my own physical broken heart, a rock-solid foundation in my relationship with God. A tiny newness began to nestle around me, a secure and steady glory-of-hope, a nest (if you will) of beginning, the commencement of a new level of living in grace. Imagine that! express that! I needed to.

Nest Series-Packet of Remembrances      Nest Series: Packet of Remembrance
(watermedia/collage, 13X10 inches)

What color is a “new beginning”? and what shape is it? What texture does it have? Creative expression helps to make sense of happenings in my world….. is that what vocations are? or pre-occupations? or “callings”? Are they methods of making sense? I love words and sometimes, often actually, put them in my works. Also I journal, journal, journal. I carry a journal with me at all times, loading book after book with drivel, thoughts, snippets of information and sketches that help me keep my bearings. But when I sit down to string words together into sentences for someone else to read, they aren’t big enough, fitting enough, or just right.
Nest Series - Nesting Notes                             Nest Series: Nesting Notations
(mixed media on a cradled panel, 24X12X2 inches)

And often the creative expressions (paintings, collages, assemblages) miss the mark also, they’re not big enough, or should I say “deep enough” or “expansive enough”? Some of them get close. The creative expressions in the THE NESTS SERIES are my attempt to make sense of the refuge, the safety, the hope, the newness, the expectancy I am experiencing in my life and the life of my family (which includes not just my husband, daughter, and son but also my extended family of relatives and friends, fellow travelers on my life’s journey.)

Nest Series: By GritNest Series: By Grit
(mixed media on a cradled panel, 12X12X2 inches)
Additional images from the Nest Series may be seen on the pages of my website. My son is making a superb recovery. He lives and works in Austin and gets therapy at Austin Speech Labs.


YOU’RE INVITED to MasterWorks of New Mexico 2013!
MasterWorks of New Mexico
Expo NM Logo

April 5-27,

Hispanic Arts Gallery
at Expo NM, Albuquerque

10 am-5 pm
(Closed Mondays)


Please forward this to your friends using the link at the bottom.
(Postcard images are from the 2012 show.)
MasterWorks E-Postcard

MasterWorks of NM is a joint show of 4 different painting organizations in New Mexico.-The Rio Grande Art Association (oils, acrylics and other paintings not under glass)
The New Mexico Watercolor Society
The Pastel Society of New Mexico
-Bardean LLC (representing miniatures)This exhibition, which is in it’s 15th year this year, will feature 141 standard-size paintings
and around 250 miniature paintings (miniatures are smaller than 25 square inches and
are highly collectable). This is one of the premier painting shows in New Mexico!Click here for more information on MasterWorks
and to see this year’s Catalog of Entries (available soon)

Best of Show

Standart Art Division
Iva Morris

Standard Fine Art Officials:
Judge – Juan Wijngaard
Jurors – Ralph Greene, Helen Gwinn, Woody Gwyn
Miniature Fine Art Officials:
Judge – Juan Wijngaard
Jurors – Susan Brooke, Gwenyth Mabry, Greg Tucker

FIRE IN THE BELLY (Masterworks 2013)


The Envelope Series: Journey Gift

mixed media assemblage, 16X12 X2 inches

“A fire in the belly”……..that’s what I’ve been looking for in the 678 paintings I have examined over and over in the past week or so. I’m serving as a juror for the  “Standard Fine Arts” 2013 MasterWorks Exhibit. (The exhibit also includes a Miniature Fine Arts section.)  It’s mission is to “create a venue for the excellence in visual art in New Mexico.” Barbara Lohbeck is the visionary director, coordinator, and all-around devoted laborer for presenting this superb show.  I’m working along with other jurors: Woody Gwyn,  and  Ralph Greene. The judge of awards will be Maggie Price.  It has been a delight to look at all the paintings which have been submitted through three very important New Mexico arts organizations:The New Mexico Watercolor Society, The Rio Grande Arts Association, and the Pastel Society of New Mexico. Much of my jurying, initially, was separating the skilled works  from the unskilled, developing works.  The next step for me was determining if the skilled works went beyond skill and reached for creative expression.
In a conversation with noted painter Bob Burridge a couple of years ago, he told me he looks for the “fire in the belly” when he juries a show.  I tried to pin him down and get him to describe what he sees when he encounters a work that comes from that “fire in the belly.” He replied with something like, “you know it, Helen, when you see it.” It’s true, I do, but it’s a concept that I struggle with.  I want it to be definable, I want it to be an idea that  can be communicated to artists who long to be more expressive.

Circle of Friends

acrylic and combined media, 20×20 inches

          The “fire in the belly” is an esoteric quality that makes an image memorable, that causes it to be more than skillful and creative.
I’m not sure but I think it is possible for a beginning artist to spontaneously paint such an image, but I also think that it would be an extraordinary and rare phenomenon.  “Fire in the belly” paintings come after years of skill building, experimentation, struggle with expressiveness and generally after artists have experienced a variety of life’s challenges. A new richer fire of spontaneous expression rises up on these foundations.
My advice to artists who yearn to make their paintings more expressive is to paint steadily, regularly, and with a focus that may cause you to miss meals or sleep.  Experiment, reach for the exact element, color, “found object,” texture, shape, composition that fits your fancy. Noted international artist, Katherine Chang Liu says if you will paint long hours for three weeks you will have a break-through. She says she wrestles her paintings “to the ground.” Indeed, I think she often literally paints on the floor.
It’s a privilege to look at such an expansive range of paintings and to make selections based on my aesthetic bent.  Lohbeck has made an honorable attempt to be fair and just in all the jurying. Each juror looks at the digital reproductions of the  works alone and ranks them on a scale from one to six in three different aspects.  When we each send in our rankings, they are compiled and tallied. One hundred and forty (plus or minus) paintings will be selected into the show based on the rankings. After the show is hung, the judge Maggie Price will have the task of selecting award winners from the actual works of art.
My applause, is a standing ovation for New Mexico painters. You have worked, you have been inspired and you have been bold to put your work out there for us to see. You make me proud to be a New Mexico painter.
Opening day for the show is Friday April 5, 2013, 5 – 8 pm. Hispanic Arts Building, Expo New Mexico  (State Fairgrounds), in Albuquerque, NM. Awards ceremony at 7 pm. I hope to get to Albuquerque to see the show. I would love to see which paintings were selected into the show and which pieces Maggie chooses for the awards!





Camaraderie of Artists

A dear friend of mine, Judith, called last week asking to bring an artist to visit my studio. She brought Mike Webber an oil painter from Wales, his wife Sue who is also an artist, and his daughter-in-law, Cali, who has recently moved with her husband to Carlsbad where I live.
In recent years when I have had calls like this I have said “sure” and arranged for a time to visit. In the past I bustled around picking up, straightening up, even cleaning up my studio. But I have lost all false pride about being orderly and allowed the truth of my cluttered, messy ways of creating be known. This new way of welcoming others into my studio is more honest, saves time, and doesn’t seem to make a bad impression. We had a delightful visit. Sue had some of Mike’s images on her iPhone so I was able to see what he creates. Mike and I mainly talked about where we get inspiration for our works. You can see some of his works on his website:
Both of us are inspired by the landscape around us, its changing nature. Much of my work is also inspired by my personal spiritual life and my connections with other people including artists. Mike lives right on the waterfront and his habitat has lots of rain. The beautiful rocks in his environment have a similarity in their solid, dense stability, to the cliffs that so inspire me in my desert. His and mine are  quite different in color and shape.
As my guests departed, Judith let me know they would be visiting the studio of Wren Stroud, another artist in the evening and she invited me to join them, which I was most happy to do. What fun, what a delightful contrast. Wren’s studio is quite close to the waters of the Pecos River which runs through our town. Her studio is spacious and clean and beautiful. When we talked of the contrast between her studio and mine Judith commented on our personalities and working styles. Apparently even when Wren works, her tools and media remain orderly and minimal. I can’t remember discussion of inspirations in her studio although I wasn’t always involved in the communications between Wren and Mike. Much of Wren’s inspiration, no doubt, comes from people and their personalities because she has sculpted several pieces of public art with figures and a bit of their environments. She has also painted figures. Her current involvement has been with a large painting inspired by the river. It has a relief sculptural quality in that a portion of the painting, the representation of the surface of the water, is superimposed and raised several inches above the portion which represents the deeper, or underwater portion of the river containing several rainbow trout.
Wren's water image

Wren's underwater imageThe composite image is assembled into a grid, a fascinating look at the expectation of success when the risk of powerful chance is is taken.
Wren's Assembled paintingThe full title of this composition is a quote from the ancient Roman poet, Ovid:
“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.”

An abundance of creative energy and enthusiasm was generated from these encounters with Wren and Mike. Perhaps it could even be called “inspiration” for new works. I’m thinking there’s a source of inspiration I seldom consider: conversations/encounters/exchanges with other artists. I returned to my studio with energized readiness to create. Thank you Judith for these precious connections!
Helen and Judith:Helen and Judith


Museum Show

Two of my pieces have been selected into an exhibit at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, NM. The exhibit honors the idea that “in the end is the beginning.” It is entitled
“The OMEGA and the ALPHA.”
“Commencement” is the word that comes to my mind. We call the rituals of ending studies in high school and college “commencements,” a word which doesn’t mean “ending” at all but means “beginning.” Actually the ending of formal studies in institutions of learning does signal the beginning of a new phase of life.
Other areas of our lives which seem like endings are also beginnings. From the ending of childhood emerges adulthood; from the ending of our lives as singles we begin lives of marriage; for many the ending of a significant illness holds the beginning of true wholeness and health. I can think of a variety of endings in my own life which have marked a beginning.  Some of the endings have been joyous and exhilarating and some have been painful.
Both of my pieces selected into “The OMEGA and the ALPHA” are intended to depict the joy of the Alpha, the beginning that emanates following an ending. Revival                                          “REVIVAL”  (mixed media assemblage, 18X18X2 inches)

The Mayan calendar, which has been keeping track of time for ages, runs out in December. According to statements about this art exhibit, it can be looked upon as “an interface between the present and the future.” Many Christians are expecting a great awakening with many people turning to accept God’s great gifts. Indeed many feel that the awakening has already started. These times can be the balance point between the dark and the Light. The exhibition seeks to be “a doorway to expanding our creative consciousness.”

 The Society of Layerists in Multi-Media (SLMM) has selected this exhibit and arranged for its showing in the Millicent Rogers Museum  in Taos, New Mexico from October 6 through November 11, 2012. The opening reception is Saturday, October 6, 2012 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm.


The Masterworks Class I taught for New Mexico Watercolor Society a couple of weeks ago was outstanding. The workshop chairmen, Kathy Arneberg and Fran Krukar were excellent planners, arrangers and helpers. Dave Collis ran the camera set-up which projected what was happening on my work surface onto a screen so the students could see easily. He faithfully sat through the classes and operated the camera. Hooray Dave! what a gift! The class was full and also full of talented students and full of generous students and full of enthusiastic students and full of diligent students. I even saw some of them staying through the lunch break eating sandwiches and painting at the same time. I know it’s an old saw, but the teacher learned as much as the students. I gave and they gave.

“The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose.” (Heda Bejar)     The fragrance that remains with me following that class is impacting/informing my new work. I’m thankful for students.
Mick LeoNina Adkins
I love to have pictures from the classes I teach but in the excitement of teaching and watching over the class I often forget to use my camera. I finally remembered to take a few pictures during this  class.

Fran, Connie, LanniePosted here are a few works-in-progress from the class:
Kathy's Sunflower

Nina's Image







Mick's PicLift StartMarie's startI’m reminded of Madeleine L’Engle’s statement, “Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it.” The students were definitely rising to inspired heights as they experimented, coped, played, tried, delved and generally grappled with their works. I encouraged them to “have the maximum lack of control,” as Robert Rauschenberg puts it and trust their creative spirits to guide them. It was a delight!