Playing With Mud and Cows

Who doesn’t like to play in mud? Probably lots of people, but I found a YouTube video and couldn’t resist gathering the supplies to play in my own mud. Sheetrock mud.

I gathered leaves, kitchen gadgets, buttons, a doily ( my IQ seems to drop at least ten points when I say that word out loud), and other odd items. I was looking at hinges on a door to use, but thought that might be going a bit too far. My husband is very patient, but even I would feel a bit sheepish explaining why the door was on the floor (…and would you please help me put it back?) Maybe I could find hinges without a door attached…

Here is a photo of the textures I created. The dribble of black was from an old library stamp. I forgot to clean the ink off first. It all gets covered with paint.

Sheetrock mud fun

Sheetrock mud on masonite

I’ll post again when they are painted.

Very few people know I carry a secret fondness for cows. Not “country” cows, but real dairy and meat cows. I’ve actually had my husband stop the car to take photos of cows. See, I told you he is patient. Here are some Alaska cows to brighten your day:

Pastoral Care 1 web

                                                    “Pastoral Care”

Making Watercolor Pigment from Mud

I’ve been wondering if pigment could be made from clay and I learned that it can from a book called, “The Complete Decorated Journal” by Gwen Diehn. First I used clay from the Matanuska River flowing near us. It is a glacier-fed river with lots of silty clay along the shore.  There is also a stream a few miles away near Sheep Mountain with golden-yellow mud along the bank. Perfect for pigment!

I started by mixing the silty clay with water, then strained it through a fine mesh sieve. That got rid of the sand. Using several layers of cheesecloth, I strained it again. Finally, I strained it through a terry cloth. I tried to use a tee-shirt as suggested in the book, but I couldn’t get anything but clean water to go through it. After allowing the muddy water to settle, I poured the clear water from the top and allowed the remainder to dry to a pudding-like mud, then mixed in several drops of gum arabic.

I used the silty river pigment to paint this scene of the Matanuska River below. I was so disappointed with the deadness of the color.

Matanuska River painted with glacier silt pigment and a little bit of Sheep Mountain mud.

Painting with the river pigment is like painting with…well, mud. Watercolor pigment should be responsive by moving across the paper, not turning to sludge. I repeated the process with the Sheep Mountain mud. This was entirely different! This pigment was rich and moved across the paper beautifully.

The grass in the foreground is Sheep Mountain mud.

This sketch below is looking over the Matanuska River, very near our home. I used some of the Sheep Mountain mud and none of the silt from the river.

Chugach Mountains and the Matanuska River

The sketch below is of a neighbor’s house.

The leaves have been gone for a while, but it was fun to paint them when they were golden.

Bicycles Without Brakes…and Silk

Cactus Blossom Pillow

Painting on silk is similar to riding a bicycle without brakes. The dye races uncontrolled toward disaster unless you know what you are doing and most of the time, I don’t. Master silk painter, Kerry Cline, began to teach me how to paint on silk one summer when I visited Seward, Alaska with my husband. Take a look at her beautiful work here. Her business, Softly Silk, started in New Zealand years ago, but for now we are blessed to have her here.

Kerry would tell me, “Just paint blobs!” I excelled in making blobs.  Her blobs eventually would become gorgeous flowers, but mine stubbornly remained blobs. My husband and I sleep on silk pillowcases decorated with blobs that are beyond ugly, but in the dark we don’t notice and they feel wonderful.

Last week, I read that spraying silk with a mixture of starch and vodka would produce a surface more like watercolor paper. A friend suggested a mixture like that would be called a stiff drink. I placed a piece of plastic inside the case, then sprayed it with the cocktail until it was thoroughly wet, then allowed it to dry. I used a watercolor paintbrush and dye, set them with an iron, then washed out the cocktail, and ironed them again. The treated surface stops some of the wild flow of the dye so the blobs were more controlled. They turned out kind of old-fashioned and sweet. They are going to relatives living in Arizona who get to enjoy these blossoms in April.

An Accident of Stars


Winter Moon 3' x 5'

Here in Alaska, we are fighting the darkness with high beams, vitamin D and little Christmas lights.

I have been painting seasonal panels to decorate the side of our enormous shop. Last summer there were six huge flowers and in the autumn, fruits and vegetables. The snow started falling and my husband rolled them up (very large Fruit Roll-Ups). I had an idea for winter panels, but couldn’t seem to figure it out until last week. I wanted it back-lit, but didn’t know how to make it really glow. I stapled little white Christmas lights inside the perimeter and it looked OK, but it was too dim so I ran them across the back. I stepped back and actually gasped. What a fun accident! Where I thought there would be just more glow were stars and glittering snow. It was magical. There will be more panels, but I wanted to share this with you.

To make one of your own, take a wooden frame and cover it with muslin or any white fabric, using staples to stretch it tight. Use a design with simple shapes. You can use a stencil or decals if you like.  The moon is unpainted fabric, the sky is a thin coat of pale grey paint, and the trees are thick black. You could use any paint, even a white latex house paint if you like and the unpainted fabric will glow. Staple little Christmas lights on the back, particularly around the perimeter. Plug it in and enjoy your creation!

I’m happy to have you share this idea on Pinterest, Facebook and other sites, but please site my name and this blog if you do. Thanks!

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Playing with Paper, Paint, and Paste (Part 2)


Today we will start gluing paper. I hope the instructions are clear and that I’m not mumbling, babbling, or not giving enough information. The nice thing about collage is that you can do whatever you like, although it might not work without glue…

At this point, I can only figure out how to add the video with YouTube. Thank you for your suggestions. I’m always happy to hear your voice in the comments.

Playing with Paper, Paint, and Paste (Geranium Collage Demo) Part 1

It is only paper, paint, and paste, but so much fun! Join me in my studio as we begin. Relax and have fun. This is kids’ play! “It’s all toys in the sandbox,” a friend wisely said when I started painting with oils. This is so enjoyable. Come along to my sandbox…

I’d so appreciate having your thoughts about this demo. Please tell me what is working, and what could use tweaking, or if I can answer any questions.