Tuesday, March 23, 2010


The illustration is coming along. It is the biggest I have ever done, not by choice, but because I had to have it that big to have any chance of dealing with the hands. That is the biggest issue with fabric-I can only cut and stitch fabric that is so big-smaller and it literally falls apart. Am finding that the more realistic I want to go the bigger I have to in faces and hands.
If you can see it-the stitch I am using on the face and hands is not a basic whip stitch-have done that and it looks like I have made Frankenstein people. I stitch it at an angle and cover the whole edge- kind of what a surger might do. It can take some time, but have found the whole edge of skin, needs to be covered.
Have been intrigued with thistles and crows for that matter-been watching both along the country roads-Purple and black- being cool colors by nature hopefully will really pop out from the warmness of the wheat field- another way to contrast and bring attention- throw a cool into a palette of warms- or vice versa. I will be finishing the guy last because want to get the crows done before make a decision about his shirt-might have to take the whole illustration to the fabric shop to find the perfect fabric.
I'd say I am about half way done with laying down- don't know how long the crows will take- maybe longer, probably longer than I think- needs to do another row of thistles, this is not going to be enough and then weave stocks of wheat into them- then do the layer of stones and more struggling wheat and then the road-ahhhhh maybe I am not half way done.
I am not working on this all the time- have writing projects am doing as well.

scroll down to other posts to see the progression of  "4seeds"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Yes in our family, you better be wearing green when you wake up...My husband is a Kelly by blood!
But actually I have more Irish family history on my side then he does.
Burns is actually Welsh- but the family migrated over to Ireland way way back when.
James and John Burns came over to the New World from Ireland and first thing they did was fight in the Civil War. James, my great, great, great? grandfather married Bridget and settled in the West.
We took a trip through Wyoming, through Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks, up through Montana to go see my dad in Idaho, last summer and stopped in Butte Montana- for a break.

Butte is an Irish Town. Up on a hill, where the Immigrants mined for copper-it is Irish and it is Catholic. It was very interesting coming from such a Spanish/Catholic influence place like the Southwest. It is amazing in that it is so isolated it has held tight to its "Irish-ness"
One corner of the downtown was a liquor store-well you should call it a Whiskey store- for one whole wall was every brand, size and bottle of Whiskey there was-actually it overflowed to free standing shelves on the floor. The other wall was dedicated to Bourbon-what exactly is Bourbon, a derivative of Whiskey.
We were there about 5'ish and there were several well dress men, making a stops on their way home from work. Something men here would do, but be bring home beer-or wine- think there was a corner, small corner dedicated to a few bottle of other spirits.
Next door was a Celtic store- that we had fun purusing and talking to the owner- who was delighted to find out we were Kellys and invited us back for their Irish Festival. The Parish Priest came in and they actual conversed a little bit in Irish-( I know that is not the right term), think he was heading over to get some whiskey.
So it was a fun detour -got back in the car, having bought my dad some recommend whiskey and headed towards Idaho.
Here is the kicker- we got to my dad's house-told him the tale of our detour and guess what he said- " your great great grandfather lived in Butte, mined there and your great great grandmother is buried there, found her grave and figured out which house they lived in!"
So I walked amongst my ancestors and didn't even know it! I'm sure we will go back.
My g.g. grandfather moved after she died- to Kentucky- and like so often is the case, hired on the neighbor girl to take care of the children- my grandmother and sibling. Well he ended up marry her- Katherine and we always knew her as Grandmommy.
What my grandmother never told my father till almost on her death bed was that Grandmommy was the neighbor girl and not his real grandmother! He thinks she was worried he wouldn't feel the same way about her-he adored her and doesn't understand it, but go figure.
I have Grandmommy's piano and several of her textile work-oh my- tatting and crocheted edged linens and dollies and we named one of our daughter's after her and the first Burns to come to this country.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I have NO natural talent when it comes to music, but it is a good example of my previous post on the "merits of shear practice."- how just the act of repetition builds skill in your very muscle memory.
I have been playing piano for years, did the whole piano lessons- can sight read with the best of them-but have no ear at all-hardly have any rhythm either.
I evolved into playing keyboard for our church for the shear fact I was better than NO keyboard player- after looking at the vacant keyboard as the guitars and drums tried to belt out enough music for about a month.
With the help of my sister, as much of a natural musician as I am an artist, I learned chords-meaning if they were written on a piece of music I could hit them-and started playing with a band.
Here is the key- ( little music pun)- I have to have a very strong musician to follow and then I can do my chord changes, get the rhythm almost-but it is 80% by watching.
Luckily I have a great musical leader in our lead acoustic guitar player who just happens to be our pastor and a really nice guy, who keeps an eye on me, sense we are not talking subdued church music but electric guitars, bass, drums, bongos, three singers on mics....and ahhhh me trying to keep up-with true musicians who are sooooo easily sidetracked in to rapping out, freeform playing- at the first sign of a chord progression that reminds them of a tune from the 60's or 70's.
Mike makes sure I am not left behind- that I have the right chords, that I understand the song progressions, etc. and in play, I can watch him, when his fingers slid down the frets of his guitar to a new note, I move mine, since a wrong chord on an electric keyboard is pretty loud! And when I do mess up, he hears it and kindly points it out to me in a way I understand and the next time through, makes his chord changes even more obvious so I can get it right this time.
The idea of "Following" has its merits. To ride on the wings of someone who has it "all under control", has the skills to get it done and makes all the decisions- it can be a very safe place to be.
The idea of "Following" also can be distasteful, the whole idea of dominance and control. So one better make darn sure the leader they are following is worthy.
The Bible has many ways to describe the idea of "following"- Abiding in the vine, hiding away in protective branches of Christ. The Old Testament talks of the chicks hiding under the protection of their mother's wings and the idea of "Camp"- those residing in the protection of God being in the camp and those who have chosen not to "follow" being out of the camp.
My favorite is from Isaiah- " but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." 40:31
Just like the geese in the air, take turns in the lead- allowing the others to abide in that place the air resistance is less-or bikers in the Tour de France to do the same- being right behind a strong leader ain't that bad of a place to be.
The key- as described best by the baby chicks, who run back and forth to the safety of their mother- is it must be the followers decision to be in that place, with the freedom to leave it- making it not about dominance and control.
I chose to follow Mike and I chose to follow Christ- who has taken me place on the "Wings of Eagles" and though I often wander off, just like the chicks, I can run back to that safe place where the air resistance of the World is a little less.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Had to do some assembling this morning. Had some band posters from a few imfamous saloons scattered around the mining towns in the San Juan Mountains dry mounted and the glass cut- two things I hate to do and am really really bad at, but I put them together with gallery clips. Did it at the dining room table with the morning sun providing more light then needed.
Took me back to Art School- when I only did framing at midnight, the day before artwork was due, when I didn't have everything I needed and if I screwed up, well there would be no more mat board, etc. Made me think of all the things, now at over 40- I find very easy to do, the things that just through time, patience, pratice and confindence I can now easily do, when twenty years ago, I struggled with. 
I remember kneading bread with my grandma, who just touching the dough, could tell me it wasn't ready and would correct my kneading, though I thought I was doing it exactly like she was- now, I find myself testing and correcting my daughter skills in the kitchen and know they have the same thoughts I did.
I actually shared my pondering with my sixteen year old this morning, who was bomping around with her Ipod in her ears, whille I was framing- I encourged her that things she struggled with right now, would eventually come easy to her- and I got the typical teenage cliche response.
Actually I probably am mature enough now to frame- to get the proper tools, take my time and do it right- I just don't have to, I have a great relationship with a framer in town.
Two pluses for my own art are I don't have to frame them- when I do finish them- it is with a fabric backing- and I also don't usually have to think of light source or shading....yeah!
I also know that my draftmenship skills, design skills, ability to execute on fabric what I see in my mind is way better then it was twenty years ago.
I really am not tooting my own horn- I am tooting the boring mundane idea of "practice"- because "practice" and maturity does make perfect. ( well nothing is ever perfect, but hopefully you know what I mean, and you do get closer to the mark than with a youthful coky-ness that hasn't learned yet that skill comes after a lot of work, well unless you are a child prodigy, which most of us are not !) 

All done- I should clarify, wildly into the whole bar/band scene I am not! I like these poster because they really have the "local flavor" of the area and their graphic style.

Was going to show you a lovely picture of spring, where under the trees the snow had disappeared and shoots of grass could be seen....but then it snowed again!! 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


This isn't the greatest picture- but it shows the background pretty well, I really lucked out on the wheat- wondering how I was going to show wheat waving in the the wind- this is a Batik fabric that I cut up and used different directions. It is a mental trip to treat such things as grasses, leaves, hair, flowers in a field as a whole instead of zooming in on the individual strands or stocks and it is amazing what little detail you really needed to convince the viewers brain that they are looking at crows or anything else.
Of course the "Impressionist" were the first to really understand that- looks up close at one of Monet's works and really see how little information you need to provide, to be convincing.
Of course in collage it is a little bit harder to "hint" at a form- much easier with a loose medium like painting. I was really inspired when I came across a book by Michael David Brown, Realistic Collage.  (I can't find a website on him,) which made me realize I could achieve "realism" in collage, though the medium is much more known for a more abstract style.
I guess my goal is to make a picture that the medium I use is second to the the richness and message it ivokes.
Plus the texture I can achieve with fabric and thread is "yummy!"

Sunday, March 07, 2010


Church did not go well today, for me. As part of the leadership, I messed up on a PR opportunity and though I was graciously forgiven, I still feel bad. There is another issue, one I have no control over, no say about but somehow I think I will get some mud on my face with that one as well.
The whole thing makes me think back a decade ago to when my husband, myself, our best friends and three other families decided to start Grace Fellowship, a rather contemporary church in a town that leans on the conservative side. There is a church representing about every denomination and about three Baptist churches for every one of those, one even on the south of town called the "Primitive Baptist", I have always been curious about that one.
We didn't want to start a new church, more often a pastor comes into an area and builds support and starts one. But this time, we were a group of families who saw a need and established a church and then sought after a pastor who fit in with our philosophies and got very lucky!! ( in case he ever reads this)
For many years we were involved in another church, invested in it and tried to help it and basically were pushed out of it with a very ugly smear campaign- in other words we got "churched"
Some did not want my husband to be an elder- so they let it be known that I had a problem with pornography- i.e.- that as an artist I was doing a figure drawing session with nude models.
Looking back, climbing that mountain, I think I left about a pound of my flesh behind, mostly, no actually, entirely from others who professed to be believers.
It is a funny feeling to know that as you are imploring God to bless your endeavors, there are others who are just as fervently praying that those endeavors would fail and that He would protect the world from the heretics, (me being one of those heretics) .
Christendom has always been like this, Paul disagreed with the Council in Jerusalem about many things and sometimes with his own traveling partners, sometimes parting ways for a while because of it.
But to take my art, the gift I so believe God gave me, that saved me through a otherwise rough childhood, to attach something so vile like "pornography" to it, declaring that if I stayed in that church I wouldn't be allowed to teach the children, to know there were meetings to discuss what to do with me, was well... humiliating. As was the little old ladies calling me and begging me to tell them it wasn't true- and I had to tell them it was true, that I was an artist, that I had an art degree and well, yes I did on occasion brush up on my figure drawing skills, like any of the artist that we had talked about from old- who painted wonderful paintings of "Jesus", well they probably also studied the body, did they have a problem with pornography?
Art and children are what I am the most passionate about- so there was no way to cut me deeper. I wasn't alone- many of us got smeared in just as painful ways.
And it strengthened our resolve as a group and Grace is about to celebrate a decade as a church, where the biggest insult we were given at the time, is continually evident- "we will let about anyone in through the doors to worship!" -which has made things interesting~!
But today- as a Christian in leadership, I had to remind myself of something that I started to learn back then- a promise-
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2
I need to try my best, but I cannot be condemned when I screw up! Why- well let me put it this way- Jesus is the "biggest bad-est dude in the universe and I belong to him!" What he is saying here and in other place in the New Testament is that though the idea can be distasteful in our modern era- I am his servant and he is my master- I am under his authority but I am also under his protection, since I belong to him, no one else can condemn me- hands off- he is the only one who can touch me, but he has forgiven me and if you touch me, you answer to him ~~ !
I have sat in front of completely naked models since then and sketched away- asking Christ if it was okay- and fully am convinced it is and that I would have more to answer for if I stopped using the gift He gave me, instead of trying and sometimes failing at using my art and writing for His glory.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

4Seeds-Picking Colors

I am plotting out the steps of my collage making with illustrating the "Four Seeds" so much of what I have beeen doing has been for others and can't share it til it gets published- so in this lull- I can post the progression of this illustration since it is for Spec.
Went to the Quilt Shop yesterday, always fun and picked out the fabric. I usually do that for any big piece, which also adds to my fabric stores- something I love to do with little excuse.
The layout is actually purposeful- if you look at the line drawing above- the fabric is layed out in place- I'm trying to get a feel for the over all color sheme.
The nature of a wheat field, somewhat dictates a "warm" color scheme and the green and purple for the thistles are a bit too cool- meaning the both have more blue in them-cold- then the other color- the purple should lean more towards red on the color wheel and the green should lean more towards yellow-.
I thought that might be the problem in the Quilt Shop- but loved the fabric- I know I have purples and greens that will work better.
Contrast is also importatnt- do the colors pop out from what is around them? The greenish blue square at the top- will be the mans shirt and it is not enough of a contrast to the blue sky behind- or is dark blue jeans- think I will switch to white for the shirt-maybe one with some kind of a sutle stripe in it- light/dark contrast  opposite colors on the color wheel- red/green orange/blue etc. and different textures can contrast. Best way to test contrast is to squint- which takes most of the color away and leaves the value. Value is way more important than color- you can have fun with color as long as the value is right.
I use to be horrid at color- went to a SCBWI conference and was told in a portfolio review by a "Caldacott Winner" that I need to work on my color- I would of appreciated if he had given me some sort of lesson-like I just gave- but instead went on for 5 minutes on how wonderful the portfolio next to me was. So I took a workshop on Color theory- with a weavers group I was involved with - wish I could remember her name- because the teacher was wonderful and taught us all about color with collaging magazine clippings and Sculty clay- that we would systematically cut- and make our own color wheel-light bulb went off!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Babies and Baskets

I just discovered a whole treasure trove of blogs through Shona Cole's wonderful blogs-yes several- a portal to a whole collective of collage artists blogs and a wonderful stroll around the 'net' inspired by her book "the Artistic Mother" Made me think of my days as a young mother-and what I would have done if the internet and such sites even existed. Wow- to sit down at nap time and interact with another 'Artistic mother' in Australia like I did this morning- can't imagine! Jon and I moved to Durango in 1992 as soon as he was done with Law School. Young and well not cautious, we renovated a tiny tiny Victorian in the historical mining district, he sat at an office and tried to get clients and I taught preschool until with the same "Why Not" that had propelled us the last couple of years we decided to start our family. I was thrilled to be home with my little beautiful baby- the one thing I was worried about was keeping my "artistic juices flowing." 5th Ave was just a few blocks from the hub of Durango- Main Street- with the restaurants, bookstores, movie theater, coffee shops and grocery stores and Jon's office- so I often walked pushing an archaic stroller over rough cement sidewalks, muddy alleys and gravel- and I would always take a different route to peer into yards and windows of the beautiful Victorian house Durango is known for. There were two that were my favorites- one had a kitchen addition to die for- with cooper pots hanging above a white marble island- in front of the most glorious Viking chef stove. At night you really got a good view- yes I am voyeuristic. The other house I loved to peer in the windows wasn't so magnificent but inside up against the window was a loom- a free standing weavers loom and I would stop there, pushing my stroller, and think someday I would have a loom too- at the time they were about $5000 dollars- and since I had such a desire to weave and knew I would not be getting a loom anytime soon- I discovered basket weaving. The bookstore had a, one, basket book and through it I tracked down a supplier I could mail order from-all this pre internet even!! And to really push myself, relatively quickly I made up a business "Southwest Basket Company, made tags, pre photoshop- and somehow got into the high end craft Christmas Bazaar put on by the Durango Arts Center.
My studio was the dining room, with plastic tubs that in theory would be neatly stacked in the corner when not working- in theory I say- my husband put up with a lot in a tiny house- basket weaving covers the floor with scraps- But through my baby era- I happily wove, attended conference, showed and sold- being involved with a great group of loom weavers- cause there wasn't a sole basket weaver group in the area. Hugely this all was possible due to a husband that was supportive- and that I purposely dug out this part of my life and held my ground- because it is too easily lost- in the "tyranny of the urgent.
My baskets got to a level I could of approached galleries in places like Santa Fe and Jackson Hole Wyoming- both with wonderful craft galleries- but I had a decision to make- High End Craft- require travel- to several of the big Craft show- mostly on the other side of the Rocky Mountain- in the Midwest- and so I gave up the pursuit, that had keep me feeling like an artist through raising babies- because Now it would keep me from my babies and I was unwilling to do that. Illustrating with Collage, writing and the advance of the internet- I can do my job, correspond with editors in Chicago and New York, via the internet and FEDEX send off my work and truly be able to pick my girls up from school and go off on adventures with them every weekend! I always had a feeling I did have to give up something as an Artist because I had put Motherhood before it- and then just the other day I had an "ahh ha" moment. Yes- I am handicapped as an artist because of the fact I am a wife and a mother- take a survey of top galleries curators- but for me - capitalization to emphasize my point- IF I WASN'T A WIFE AND A MOTHER- I WOULDN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY AS AN ARTIST!!!


Monday, March 01, 2010


The piece I just layed out happens to fit the Illustration Friday theme the best- "Perspective". I realized awhile ago, I didn't have much that has an interesting perspective. This is also my first attempt at a truly Editorial Illustration of a concept-there you go- another example of "Perspective" I tend to be kind of straight forward and really want to get into the Editorial Magazine market- so better start building a portfolio that shows I can. How did I do- any ideas what this is illustrating? Since it is pretty rough- crows are on a road- behind them are rocks, behind them will be thistles and the man is standing in a wheat field. Any guesses?
(if you want to know be sure to click the "email comments" link)